Posts Tagged ‘traffic’

Spotlight: How a Hands-On Creative Retreat Builds Community Online

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Ever wonder how other organizations run their web projects so successfully? Learn through Talance Client Spotlights, where you can connect with peers to pick up inspiration and proven tips you can apply to your website or online course.

Liz Engelman

Liz Engelman

Liz Engelman’s greatest enemy is the unexamined question. As a dramaturg, her job is to identify the questions a play asks, and the questions to ask of the play. She’s a bit like the confusion police; identifying the difference from good and bad confusion –anything from intentions, to anachronisms to logical gaffes. With her help, a play can be closer to the playwright’s initial vision. In short, she helps make plays become their best selves. For anyone who’s thinking, “There’s no part of my life that wouldn’t benefit from a little dramaturgy,” have hope. You can apply to Tofte Lake Center, a nonprofit creative retreat that looks a little more like your most idyllic summer camp fantasy in Ely, Minn. TLC’s purpose is to apply the principles of dramaturgy to all artistic pursuits. Read on for more about how a very in-person organization builds community online.

How does one become a dramaturg?

“I learned that just because another organization used their website in a particular way, it doesn’t necessarily apply to mine.”

I first heard about dramaturgy when I was a junior in high school, when I was taking a class called Madness in Literature. My teacher said, “Liz, you should be a dramaturg,” and I said, “Dramawhat?” She replied that I had the ability to look at the big picture and relate it to the specific. And vice versa. And I thought, “That’s cool, but how is that a job?”

Later, when I concentrated in theater at Brown, my professor suggested that I create an independent study in dramaturgy. I thought, “Okay, two different people are telling me to do this; I better listen…” So I did.

How did that evolve into Tofte Lake Center?

After 20 years of working as a dramaturg, I began to realize that there are ways of telling stories other than through the theatre. Each media has its own narrative, its own way to tell a story. I wanted to create and environment for these different types of stories to emerge. Often we hear about starving artists who live miserably in a garret somewhere creating their life’s work, and I thought there had to be a way to live as an artist without a struggle – to be nurtured and inspired and surrounded by beauty in the process. So I did what a dramaturg does: articulate the intention, build the story, take yourself seriously… and the dream starts to form.

What kinds of artists visit the center?

I like to say creative thinkers rather than only artists, as many creative people don’t identify as artists. However, most people who come are: they are playwrights and writers of all genres, (novelists and poets), musicians, visual artists, dancers and choreographers. The Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theatre Company has been in residence each of our 4 years, and have become a community face for the center. Our artists have come from all over the country (and Australia!) for their weeklong residencies, and we have been fortunate to receive funding from the Jerome Foundation to support our emerging artists program for artists who reside in either Minnesota or New York.

How do you represent a decidedly in-person creative retreat in the online world?

At first it was hard to think of how to translate an experience that’s very location-based onto a screen. Then I started thinking about how to communicate TLC’s values–conversation, innovation, community, creativity, sun and water. When I thought about how to share the impulses of and behind TLC’s story, the role of the website became clearer.

The website has become a way of maintaining our off-campus community. The site has been a way of deepening and broadening it, to partner with artists and make connections, using the site as a conduit for conversation. I used to think of a website as a static thing. I thought of our old website as an online brochure. Now it’s malleable, evolving — a way to tell our story.

I’ve found images as a way of building partnerships and interest, too. One of the artists whose images we included in our Flickr gallery thanked me for sharing his work. Letting people know I could link to their profile was a major way of building traffic to the site. The partnering opportunities have been more helpful than I’d imagined. I want to continue to find ways to use more photos as an attractor to the site.

Tofte Flicker

A collaborative online gallery of Tofte Lake Center artists

What are some of the most helpful parts of your website?

Putting our applications online has been most helpful. I was getting submissions via e-mail before, and I would have to send each e-mailed application to our review panel, one at a time as I received them, and they had the most difficult task of having to keep track a hundred incoming individual applications. An applicant might resend something, and the panelist might forget where they put it, and worry that something got lost. It was thus immensely time intensive on my part. Now applicants can submit online, and it’s all stored on the website. I heard from someone who applied last year who was so happy to see that the application was now online. It was a mature professional step up.

Tofte Application

Tofte Lake Center's online application for artists

What did you learn through a major website redesign process?

I was not expecting to learn as much as I did. I had been thinking more about the result than the process. It took longer than I thought, and this turned out to be extremely informative. The process was completely dramaturgical: identifying what I was trying to do and the best ways to structure and say it. Working on a website is a continual process. The story keeps evolving.

I also learned that just because another organization used their website in a particular way, it doesn’t necessarily apply to mine. They made certain choices in how to tell their story, but that’s not my story. Realizing that: that’s what a dramaturg does.

Spotlight: How One Organization’s Planning Lead To a Traffic Boost

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Ever wonder how other organizations run their web projects so successfully? Learn through Talance Client Spotlights, where you can connect with peers to pick up inspiration and proven tips you can apply to your website or online course.

Caitlyn Slowe

Caitlyn Slowe

Caitlyn Slowe is a master juggler. She’s the go-to person to manage what’s published and when on the Health Imperatives website, a health agency in Brockton, Mass. As her organization has discovered, the items that appear on the site receive a huge boost in traffic, so hers is a key position. Here’s how she manages the homepage and about 20 smaller sites on top of her other job duties. Hint: organization really matters.

What’s your title, and how does that fit in with managing the website?

I’m the Manager of Special Projects for Health Imperatives, and one of the “projects” that my title refers to is our new website. Health Imperatives has about 40 different program sites ranging from family planning programs to a domestic violence shelter to GLBT youth services and so on.

My title was created last year when we were preparing for the launch of the new website. In addition to managing the website, I still continue to do my previous responsibilities like grant writing, event coordination, budget tracking, report writing, etc., for several Health Imperatives programs.

What areas of the site are you primarily responsible for?

I manage all of the main page content for www.healthimperatives.org and about half of the program sub-sites (some programs manage their own). On the main page, I find and post content for “In the News,” create the Slides for the slideshow (and usually the pages that they link to) and post program updates under “Announcements.”

I also manage all of the main Health Imperatives social media sites, which currently include Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

How do you keep up on learning website manager skills?

I love NTEN’s (Nonprofit Technology Network) blogs and webinars on web design and management, and Mashable also has some excellent articles and tips on managing websites and social media. The Nonprofit Facebook Guy has great info geared specifically toward nonprofits. I’m fairly new to web management, so I basically try to read anything I can find relating to nonprofit web design or social media!

What does your day-to-day strategy look like for keeping the site updated?

One of the challenges I have with managing the website is that it is not my only job responsibility, so to make it more manageable for myself, I create a calendar for each month and map out how/when I’ll update the three sections of the main page (News, Slides, and Announcements).

February Website Calendar

A snapshot of Slowe's planning calendar

I seek out and write the News blurbs and design the Slides in advance so that I can spend a minimal amount of time dropping them onto the site when their day comes up on the calendar. It’s worked well so far!

I try to update at least two different main page sections per week to keep the info fresh, and I leave each item up for at least one-two weeks (unless it is time-sensitive) so frequent site visitors will see as much new content as possible.

For social media, I rely heavily on HootSuite to help me keep up to date. I aim to do at least one tweet per day, and I limit Facebook to three posts per week (usually Monday, Wednesday, Friday). HootSuite allows me to schedule a week or more worth of Twitter and Facebook updates in advance, which is a huge time-saver!

HootSuiteforTalance

Hootsuite is a huge timesaver for Twitter campaigns

It’s been half a year since the new site launched. What trends do you see in usage?

We have seen an exciting increase in traffic to our website since the new page launched, and it seems that people are enjoying the new format. Google Analytics is a great tool to show results in real numbers – for instance:

In 2011 between 1/29-2/28 we saw 1,580 (unique) visitors

In 2012 during that same time month-long period we’ve had 4,123 (unique) visitors (yay!)

We’re also seeing an increase in new users (vs. returning users), which tells us that our website is reaching a broader audience than it has in the past.

We’re finding that events/trainings that are advertised on our main page slideshow are receiving drastic increases in attendance. For example, a recent recurring training saw a 150% increase in registration after we advertised it on the main page slideshow. Very exciting to see these results, and we’ll definitely continue to advertise this way!

What’s the most useful part of the site?

I’d say that the slideshow has been the most useful part of the site, because it’s the first thing visitors see and can help us direct them to certain program sub-sites that otherwise may not have gotten as much exposure.

The Shopping Cart has also been a very useful tool, as it allows people to make donations to specific programs and also lets them register for trainings or events online, which is definitely the preferred method for our web-savvy visitors!

Simple Tip for Attracting Attention

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

How many times have you been in a restaurant or bar with a TV in one corner that keeps snagging your eye? It’s a human response to follow movement, and video is a proven attention-getter.

If you want to call attention to something on your website, you can apply the same techniques through video. Thanks to services like YouTube and Vimeo, it’s pretty easy too.

Think of who your visitors are and create a simple video that appeals to them in just 30 seconds or a minute in length. See how traffic changes on your website before and after you add a video.

Keep experimenting until you find what works with your audience. Check out this video from ReadWriteWeb on NPR’s experiments with social media.

NPR’s experiments with social media from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

Six Party-Planning Tips That Make Your Website Rock

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

You’d never throw a party without sending invitations. Who wants to sit alone with four dozen spinach triangles and a couple cases of beer? (If you just answered, “I do!” then you might want to get out a little.)

That’s effectively what you’re doing if you’re like one of the many people I talk who aim to have an “interactive” website but don’t kick-start the festivities. They expect people to start participating, yet they don’t tell anyone what’s happening or make it a destination worth visiting.

It helps to think of your website as a venue where the party never ends. An always open house. How do you do this? By applying some of the same principles you would to any bash you host.

1. Send out invites.

If you know how to reach them online, you can invite them through e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, listservs or however you normally chat with them. Are your partygoers the type to read a paper invite over an electronic one? Put it in the mail. The point is to invite them. Check out 18 Ways To Promote Your Website for ideas.

2. Keep inviting.

Remember, you website isn’t the one-time event of the year. It’s the ongoing event of the decade. Inform people they’re welcome to drop by any time. And then keep inviting them. People forget, have dentist appointments, get interrupted, so you need to keep the invites coming.

3. Plan something fun.

You don’t have to whack a piñata every time you throw a shindig, but people minimally expect snacks, drinks and good music. Why would they come to your website if there weren’t some kind of payoff? Make it worth their while, and they’ll keep coming.

4. Take pictures.

You know how weddings nowadays have disposable cameras in the middle of the tables? It’s because everybody likes to see themselves and their buddies participating. That transfers to your website too, whether it’s actual photos of the people you know or representations of them.

5. Make it pretty.

Picking up the dirty socks from the sofa and doing the dishes translates into fixing broken pictures and links and correcting typos. Read our Spring Cleaning guide so you can get everything sparkling before the party starts.

6. Plan for amounts.

In the event-planning world, you need to know who’s attending your party so you rent a big enough space, have enough canapés and staff appropriately. If you have the kind of website that’s likely to receive a surge in traffic, make sure you’re expecting it. If you aren’t, people might receive a message that the website isn’t available. Up your hosting account, talk to your webmaster about planning for what happens if 100 people try to click the same thing at once.

How To Tell If Your Website Is a Success

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Simply launching a website is a success in itself, but how do you know if it’s hitting the mark with your audience? It’s a crucial question to ask so you know that the time, effort and money you put into your investment is paying off.

The key is to set goals before you even begin on your website project, and then break those goals into measures of success. For instance, your goal may be to transmit your message to more teens. Ways you can measure the success of that goal might be:

  • More registrations from people aged 13-18
  • More website referrals from teen-centric partners or resources
  • More repeat visits from people in the 13-18 age range.

It’s a good idea to quantify each of those bullets to match your audience share.

Just as each of your goals will be unique to you and your organization, so will the measurements of success. Generally speaking, though, here are some other ways you can tell if your website is doing what it should:

Increased traffic.

Sign up with an analytics account (I like Clicky and Google Analytics) and see if your traffic goes up.

Repeat visits.

Increased traffic isn’t the same as repeat traffic. You want people to find your site and keep coming back.

Increased sales or donation ratio.

Start counting how many visitors you need to make one sale or donation. If 1 in 100 visitors makes a purchase, your sales ratio is 1 percent. If you’re successful, this so-called conversion rate will increase.

InterfaithFamily.com’s Traffic-Boosting Tweaks

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Innovation is one of the first things on the chopping block during tough financial times. Understandable, especially if organizations are being asked to fund something that’s risky. But innovation has a partner up there with its neck also extended, which is marketing, I’m very sorry to note.

What many people don’t realize is that marketing is necessary for keeping your organization afloat, no matter what your organization is. John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing fame says, “Every business is a marketing business.” That goes the same for nonprofits, because you’re constantly trying to stay in front of the people who believe in your cause.

And what is a website if not one of the cheapest forms of marketing out there?

“The Internet is the cheapest and most successful form of marketing around,” says Micah Sachs, Director of Web Strategy at InterfaithFamily.com, who I interviewed for an article that will appear in an issue of The Forward next month. He’s been using bargain basement web marketing to great effect. Namely, he’s instituted a few changes in SEO (search engine optimization) and Google Adwords.

After InterfaithFamily gave itself a modest marketing makeover about a year ago, its traffic immediately increased 63 percent. It’s seen a steady increase, and Sachs said that up through June 2008, he never saw less than a 40 percent increase.

Here are a few of the easy steps he followed to boost his traffic:

  1. Give each page a unique title
  2. Create URLs that match the article titles
  3. Add article keywords on web pages

At first, it required a significant time investment, and he company brought in an intern who spent about 40 hours per week for 10 weeks writing in descriptions, adding keywords and generally optimizing the site’s old articles.

“But now it’s part of our culture,” he says. “Any time we create anything new on the site, we don’t even think of something as additional work. We create keywords, create title tags. It’s just a part of what we do.”

Once your organization has figured out a system for creating these three main changes, an increase in web visibility should come naturally and simply.

“This is all stuff that’s simple and straightforward,” he says. “It’s amazing how many sites of major orgs aren’t search-engine optimized. It will cost them no money; they just have to ask their webmaster to make some changes.”