Make Your Website Promote Itself

Building a website is only half the job – promoting it is the other half, and it never really ends. Luckily there are several things you can do to make your site promote itself, freeing you to do more relationship-building and hands-on promotion.

Here are some things you can add to the site to encourage people to visit and share what they find there.

Add a Tell a Friend feature

Sure, you can encourage people to tell their buddies about your site, but you might as well make it easy for them. Create a tell-a-friend feature that makes it simple for them to forward your site or a resource they found there to a multitude of readers at once.

Add a Link to Us page

Empower your visitors to create links to your site, replete with your site icon, on their site with a Link to Us page, available on every page. Provide the HTML coding they’ll need, and make sure it includes well-formed SEO links (including a full title, alt and anchor text). Put together a variety of text links, images of different sizes and everything someone would need to link back to you.

Maintain an engaging blog

The single best way to build engaging information on your website that attracts a following is to start a blog. I mean, you’re reading this right now, aren’t you? So give people a reason to keep coming back. Just make sure it’s tightly focused and worth reading.

Encourage people to follow your social media

Once you’ve got a blog, tell people how to follow it. The beauty of blogs are RSS feeds, which let people receive updates of articles as soon as they’re posted. (See how to get updates of this blog.) This is the same for Twitter updates, which is really a microblog, and any social networking accounts you have, like Facebook.

Present tools for sharing

If you have an article-rich site, give people tools for sharing your resources with their friends. Try some little buttons like this:

Share Toolbar

Ask people to spread the word

Remind people, again and again, to tell their friends about you. Sooner or later, they’ll act on your request.

Add a calendar

Show people you have stuff going on that’s worth tracking. Your calendar might have trainings, appearances, fund drives, special events – surely you’re doing something that people can react with.

You should never stop promoting your site once you’ve built it, but invest smartly in tools that do the heavy lifting for you. While you focus on other promotional activities, your investment can multiply.

Reader Question: Can you lock down updates on Twitter?

[Have a question you’d like answered? Use the comments form at the bottom of this page to submit it. We’ll review your question before posting (don’t be shy about asking!) and get back to you with a response.]

A blue lock for George

[Photo credit: A blue lock for George by Darwin Bell, on Flickr]

E-mail lets you send a message to one person or a list of people you select. A discussion board lets you post a message to a group of members (usually). Twitter, on the other hand, lets you post a message to anybody in the world who wants to read it.

This got a participant in our recent presentation Does Twitter Matter for Nonprofits? asking:

When you broadcast, can you broadcast only to people who are following you?

It’s a great question, and one that we’re frequently asked. The short answer is yes.

Twitter explains best with this passage (which I shortened a bit. You can read the whole explanation here):

When you sign up for Twitter, you have the option of keeping your account public (the default account setting) or protecting the account to keep your updates private. Public accounts are visible to everyone. Protected accounts aren’t. Only approved followers are able to see these profile pages.

To protect your profile:

  1. Log in to Twitter
  2. Click Settings
  3. Scroll down and check the box next to “Protect my Updates”
  4. SAVE your changes.

When you navigate to your home page after protecting your profile, you’ll see a notice reminding you that your profile is now protected.

If you have a public account and you protect it, all updates after the time of protection will be protected.

Assembling a Web Dream Team

When people at an organization start sharing information about their website, they’re generally surprised at how much their ideas differ. That’s one of the key reasons you need to assemble a reliable website committee to guide your organization through the process of building or redesigning your website. These people can help you decide who your audience is, clarify the purpose of your site and determine how it meshes with your organization’s mission.

Put together a group of people that represent different parts of your organization. Maybe this is the executive director, volunteer coordinator and office manager, along with whoever is part of your communications committee. Don’t have a communications committee? Get one.

Having a Web dream team helps you gather feedback in an organized way, without everybody’s opinion overwhelming you. But remember that it’s imperative for successful projects to have one person who can give the nod on development, and then have one person who can give the nod on an ongoing basis. Make sure you appoint a leader to your dream team who is a master of organizing and moving things forward.

Volunteers are great members of your dream team. Frequently, your supporters know how to do more than you think. I guarantee you have marketing, communication or technology specialists who are fans of what you do. Recruit them to help.

All (successful) development projects work with a team of people who are able to work together on a single goal. They’re the keepers of the project and can steer it in the right way, so borrow from what works.

How To Create a Dysfunctional Website

In preparing for an upcoming presentation on how to create functional websites, and it’s got me thinking about all the dysfunctional sites I’ve seen recently. There’s no single feature that makes a website completely unusable, but there definitely are trends.

Below, divided into three categories, are the chief gaffes you should follow if you really feel like creating a website that doesn’t work.

Market Positioning

Build your website without thinking what you want. “Yes, we need a website!” is a lousy reason for a website, yet it’s the one too many people follow. First, make a list of all your organization’s goals, and then think about how technology might help you meet those goals. Then from that you can start to think about shaping your website around your needs.

Don’t think about who’s looking at the site. If your audience is made of 50-year-old women from the Midwest, why would you create a zippy website built to attract college students? If those people are interested in volunteering, why would you load the homepage with information on grants, staff bios and news releases? Think about what the people coming to your website want or need to see, and then give it to them.

Design

Ugly artUse lots of clipart. Ooph. Steer clear of crummy clipart. Go for real pictures, even freebie stock photography, rather than goofy cartoon drawings. Check out the Creative Commons images on Flickr or Stock.xchng for good resources.

Include pictures of empty rooms. What’s welcoming about an echo-y chamber? Put some people in there!

Use flashy splash pages. They look like ads and have the same effect. People click off splash screens and never get to the meat inside. It’s like going around with two hats on. The top one doesn’t matter and makes people think you’re nuts.

Use a microscopic font. You know how on TV ads, they put all the stuff they don’t really want you to read, but are required by law to display, in teeny text at the bottom of the screen? It’s because no one can see it, and they ignore it even if they can. Small font does the same thing to your website, but the whole website.

Honestly, tell me how readable this is.

Usability


Shroud donation processes in mystery.
Heavens, if people want to give you money, make it easy for them. Here, take this big bright Donate Now! button and put it on your homepage. (Right-click and choose Save As.) A gift from Talance to you.

Donate Now!

Glom onto every widget you can find. A real danger with the proliferation of widgets and plug-ins and add-ons is that you have a website that looks like a carnival. All flash, no focus. Choose wisely with anything you add onto your site, and make sure it follows your directive of achieving your goals.

Add 50 items – or even 10 – to your menus. People’s eyes cross when they see more than seven items in a menu, so stick with that magic number.

Put the most important info at the very bottom of the page. People look at the top left of web pages to pick up the most important information. If there’s something you really want people to read, put it up there and not down below.

Solid Gold: Nuggets from the Archives

Don’t forget these gems from a year ago, June 2008, on the Talance Web Tools Blog:

Technologically Impaired
How many of the nonprofits we come into contact with are struggling to keep up with technology

CMS Surveys
A few good ways to find out how and why other organizations are using CMSs

Meet AskMeFi – My Favorite Forum
Nothing says “huge brain” to me more than MetaFilter

Reader Question: Is it really OK to scroll?

[Have a question you’d like answered? Use the comments form at the bottom of this page or click here. We’ll review your question before posting (don’t be shy about asking!) and get back to you with a response.]

A reader asks:

I’ve heard from so many places you shouldn’t put anything below the scroll. Is it really OK?

There are so many rules in Web design that you really shouldn’t break. It’s a shame that the Do Not Scroll rule has gotten so much long-standing traction.

Back when we all started designing web pages, we noticed that people tended to look at pages in one glance, and then move on to a different site. The theory was they wouldn’t make the modicum of effort to use the scroll bar to look at the bottom of the page.

This fed the idea of packing as much information at the top of the page as possible, often with nothing at all below. It lead to a raft of websites that could fit on postage stamps, a favorite new refrain of “Keep it above the scroll!” and a deep-seated fear of putting anything on the lower part of the page at all.

Then there came blogs.

Blogs are all about scroll, with the most recent postings at the top of the page and story after story trailing down the page. I’ll bet you, reading this right now, will give this blog a good scroll so you can see what else we’ve written about recently.

Yes, people do tend to look at the upper-left-hand corner of the page more carefully than other places on your website. But it really is OK to put information at the bottom of the page. It’s sure a lot better than fitting everything you can into a postage stamp.

Take a look at these glorious examples of pages that contain loads of information well below the scroll, pulled at random from the Web browsers open on my machine:

From Last.fm
From last.fm

From Oprah.com
From oprah.com

From Weather.com
From Weather.com

From SlideShare
From SlideShare

30 Ideas on How Congregations Can Use Twitter

Congregations have been wild to know what Twitter can do for them, proven by the powerful turnout at two presentations I’ve given on the topic.

The uses are many, but here’s a quick run-down of what I’ve found in my work with churches and synagogues, divided into clergy members (rabbis, preachers), administrators and youth group leaders. Find more tips by following Talance on Twitter, and of course, send your own.

Clergy

  1. Inspirational thoughts – quotes from scripture or elsewhere
  2. Motivational thoughts – calls to action and service
  3. Be available to those who need you, when they need you
  4. Learn more about your congregants
  5. Reach out to people who aren’t able to attend your services
  6. Network with other clergy members
  7. Gather ideas for sermons
  8. Send prayer requests
  9. Identify needs for support in your community
  10. Get feedback on sermons and programs

Administrators

  1. Call for volunteers
  2. Notifications of schedule changes
  3. Event notifications
  4. Event follow-ups
  5. Promote newsletter
  6. Promote blog
  7. Promote website
  8. Find out about successful events at other churches or synagogues
  9. Organize events by communicating with volunteers and staff
  10. Poll members on success of programs and services

Youth Group Leaders

  1. Reach out to texting-addicted membership
  2. Drive people to your Facebook group or MySpace page
  3. Send reports to parents while on youth trips
  4. Send reminders to forgetful youth
  5. Make it easy for teens and kids to tell friends about events
  6. Tell kids about programs
  7. Send congratulations and kudos to members
  8. Make it easy for shy kids to communicate with the group
  9. Share camp stories and pictures
  10. Send birthday wishes

Stellar Idea for Taking Donations

Asking for monetary support should be integrated into every website belonging to a non-profit, synagogue and church. But there are other ways to let your members give than just writing a check.

Web developer Jeff Robbins had a great idea you can replicate for your charitable organization. He has developed a slew of tools for web developers for free, but for those who want to show their gratitude, he created an Amazon wish list full of tools and trinkets from all price ranges that he wants or needs:

Ask for gifts

And he’s getting them. His fans have bought him books, podcasting equipment, and other tools that he uses in his work.

It works because sometimes it’s easier for people to give support when there’s a tangible goal in mind. It’s the same reason I prefer to give my niece and nephew an actual gift for their birthdays rather than a check. I can picture them using the gift instead of simply absorbing the cash.

Money is great, but supplies cost real money, so you might as well make a list of them and ask for donations. Does your organization need a netbook, printer, digital recorder, books, hanging file folders, office printer, snacks for the lounge – anything that Amazon sells, which is basically anything? Set up a wish list, and you might be surprised at what you get.

YouTube and Volunteer Programs

Come to the 2009 Massachusetts Conference on Service and Volunteering from the Mass Service Alliance June 4 in Marlborough, MA, and you can hear Monique Cuvelier of Talance, Inc., present on how to use YouTube in your volunteering programs. You’ll see some examples of organizations that are doing it well, and how volunteers can help spread awareness.

It’s the special session on social media at the end of the conference. We’ll also be doing a drawing for a $300 Talance gift certificate, which you can use for web development or web strategy consulting, and a copy of Jill Friedman Fixler’s excellent book Boomer Volunteer Engagement: Collaborate Today, Thrive Tomorrow, published by Volunteer Match.

Plus you can pick up a free – yes, free! – copy of our 2009 Massachusetts Non-Profit Social Media Report at our table in the poster session.

Hope to see you there!

June Talance Newsletter: YouTube, Conference, Blog Favorites

[Welcome to the Talance Friendly E-mail Newsletter. This is text of the issue our e-mail subscribers just received. Sign up on the lower right-hand side of the Talance homepage.]

Hi, Friends!

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is a video worth? And how much is that video worth if it travels virally, propelled by someone other than you, and saves you effort and boosts awareness of your organization?

In short, a lot.

Many of you have figured that out already. You turn to YouTube to learn about other organizations, for tutorials and movies from your friends and colleagues. And you’ve seen that free and wide-reaching video-sharing sites not only let you tell a story through moving pictures, but they open up the conversation to your fans. This means they can sing your praises for you, and you have a chance to build a stronger relationship with them.

Mass Service AllianceWe’re so excited to be presenting on just this topic at Massachusetts Service Alliance’s 2009 Conference on Service and Volunteering on June 4 in Marlborough, Mass. Learn more and register here: http://www.mass-service.org/

Our own Monique Cuvelier will be presenting the closing session, Using YouTube in Volunteer Programs. We hope you can come and learn a bit about engaging volunteers through video and share some of your stories. We’ll also be holding a drawing for a $300 Talance gift certificate and a copy of Jill Friedman-Fixler’s book Boomer Volunteer Engagement: Collaborate Today, Thrive Tomorrow.

If you can’t make it, but you’re on Twitter, you can follow the discussion at #MCVS.

Twitter Webinar – Free

Remember that Talance is offering a 30-minute free webinar on Does Twitter Matter for Non-Profits?, Tuesday, June 23, 2009 from 2-2:30pm Eastern. Learn how you can make sense of this madly growing tool and how it applies to you.

»Register for this free webinar now!

Reader Q&A

Have a technology question? Ask it, and we’ll answer! We answer a reader question in the blog every week for the benefit of everybody. We’ll review your question before posting (don’t be shy about asking – no question is stupid!) and get back to you with a response.

»Ask a Tech Question

Blog Favorites

The most popular recent posts on Talance Friendly Web Tools Blog. Make sure you’re reading http://talance.com/blog and sign up for the news feed.

Reader Question: How Do People Find Me on Twitter?
Description of a few ways people might be finding you on Twitter.

Do Your Own Social Media Survey
The best way to figure out what social media to invest in is to ask the people you’re trying to reach.

Spring Clean Your Website
How to tidy up the messiness that worked its way into your website over the winter.

Who Uses YouTube
Everybody knows it’s full of 15-year-olds lip-synching to pop songs. Right? Wrong.

Why is your synagogue using Twitter?
It’s happening ever so slowly, but more and more synagogues are beginning to experiment with Twitter. Why are you?

Make a Better Website with a User Survey
Set up a questionnaire survey to find out what your audience thinks is most important.

Every Door on Your Website Is an Entryway
One of the mistakes people often make is assuming visitors come to a website only through the homepage.

Working Your Out-of-Office Reply While You’re Away
Get a little fancy with this message and do a bit of promotion while you’re at it.

Need Some Help?

Talance has helped clients launch scores of projects, ranging from websites to online newsletters to CRM projects. Please click here to schedule a time to talk about your next project or to request a proposal.

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