Which is Better for Your Congregation: Facebook or Twitter?

Undeniably, social tools like Twitter and Facebook can help your congregation. But which is better? Take two nanoseconds and give us some feedback on our poll. We’ll report our findings.


18 Ways to Promote Your Website

Advertising people will tell you that before anyone will act on an ad, they have to be reminded 18 times. That’s a lot of dead-horse beating. It’s all the more effective if you can find online and offline places to promote. To get you started, here are 18 ways you can tell people to visit your website:

  1. Put your website address on your return address labels
  2. Mention your website on your voice mail recording
  3. Add your site to your e-mail signature
  4. Mention any new development any time you talk to someone
  5. Update your business cards with your address
  6. List yourself in directories
  7. Ask partners to display literature with your website
  8. Open a Facebook, MySpace and Flickr page and send people back to your website
  9. Create a custom background on Twitter and make sure it has your website on it
  10. Wear your web address – have it printed on T-shirts, hats, bags or even cheap buttons
  11. Put a custom magnet on your organization’s car
  12. Send out press releases
  13. Encourage paper newsletter subscribers to read issues online
  14. Send an e-mail with your new website to everybody you know, and as them to forward it to anyone they know
  15. Have a website launch party/fundraiser
  16. Start a blog – more pages means better online coverage
  17. Add a Send This Article to Friends button on your website
  18. Hang posters with your web address

On Twitter? Make Sure People Are Listening

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[Photo credit: Megaphone. by Mal Cubed, on Flickr]

Twitter messages (aka tweets) may be limited to 140 characters, but have an impact greater than your typical sentence. Follow these tips to make sure your efforts aren’t the equivalent of online mumbling. (Curious about what Talance is saying? Follow us @talance.)

Make sure people are listening.

Just because you’re tweeting doesn’t mean anybody knows about it. Make sure to tell them. Announce it in your bulletin. Mention it during meetings or services. Upload your contact lists to see who in your network is using Twitter. Take steps to make sure people know about your Twitter initiative.

Say something worth saying.

Even if everyone in the world is listening, they’ll tune out if you don’t say anything worthwhile. Plan what you’re going to say, and make sure it’s worth saying. This doesn’t mean you need a daily Twitter script, but it does mean you should think about what topics you’ll be covering. I keep a sticky note on my monitor that has a list of the topics I want to make sure to cover in Talance’s communications.

Repeat your tweets on your website.

Your website should be the central hub for all your communication. This means that any Twitter, Facebook, e-newsletter, etc., project you have should lead back to your site. Since you can keep deep stores of information on your site, this is your opportunity to point people there for more details. In terms of Twitter, this means showing your most recent tweets show up in a Twitter feed, and also providing a link back to your Twitter account on the homepage.

Repeat your tweets everywhere else.

Most social networking services, including Facebook, Delicious, LinkedIn, MySpace, WordPress blogs, all have Twitter plug-ins, which allow your most recent tweets to show up on those services. Use them!

Energized?

Start bragging about your tweets by telling us about it in the comments box below.

How To Start a Blog in 14 Steps for Congregations

The blockbuster conference for the Union of Reform Judaism was a somber affair, the JTA reported. Namely because synagogues are suffering attrition, budget cuts and shakier unions (the URJ was recently restructured).

Now is time for congregations – no matter the faith – to take a lesson from the conference, delivered by URJ President Rabbi Eric Yoffie. Set up a blog:

A big aspect of the URJ restructuring involves greater reliance on the Internet. In his Saturday sermon, Yoffie asked Reform congregations to set up their own synagogue blogs, which he said should be used to stimulate real conversations between members “and not be just an electronic version of your temple newsletter.”

I’m so glad to hear this directive come from the top, because if you were to devote yourself to only one social media tool, make it a blog. This is true for just about any nonprofit looking to build a wealth of knowledge and resources for its community, but it’s especially true for any congregations.

They’re useful because they give you a forum for writing articles. Each article gives you the chance to expand on your synagogue or church’s mission while soliciting comments from your community.

But knowing you’re going to do it and doing it are two different things. Here’s a quick overview of how to start.

  1. Define your audience.
  2. Decide what you’re going to write to your audience. What makes you unique?
  3. Decide who will write blog postings. It doesn’t need to be a single person. Share the load across your organization.
  4. Review other successful blogs to see what you like.
  5. Choose a good blog name.
  6. Choose a good domain name.
  7. Choose a reliable web host (like Talance!).
  8. Decide if you’ll be hosted on a service like WordPress or through your website.
  9. Work with a designer for a professional design, or integrate into your existing website
  10. Place an RSS icon at the end of single posts
  11. Organize your categories
  12. Offer email subscriptions
  13. Add Google Analytics or Clicky and track your stats
  14. Stick with it! Blogs take time, but they become more valuable with the more dedication you give them.

21 Ways Volunteers Can Help with Your Website

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[Photo credit: AVP Volunteer 2 by yuan2003, on Flickr]

As any charitable organization knows, volunteers are superstars. They give love and expertise and don’t ask for a dime in return. They can be especially helpful if your organization has a website. Bearing in mind that an entire Web development project is long-term and requires dedicated knowledge and commitment that you’re better off hiring someone to do (upshot: it’s easier to fire someone whose work you’re not happy with), there are still plenty of other tasks you can assign out to people who want to help. Here are a few.

[BTW, did you read Engaging Volunteers in Your Marketing Efforts or Volunteers and Website Management?]

  1. Social networking cheerleader
  2. Add comments to blogs
  3. Contribute blog entries
  4. Participate in discussion on bulletin boards
  5. Data entry (i.e., cutting and pasting info into a new site)
  6. Website promotion
  7. Adding your website to directories
  8. Writing news updates about events
  9. Website literacy workshops
  10. Checking for dead links
  11. Updating old content
  12. Convert press releases for websites
  13. Usability testing (i.e., make sure everything works in a logical way)
  14. Bug reporting (i.e., look for and report errors or problems)
  15. Identify requirements for new development
  16. Browser testing
  17. Taking pictures for the website
  18. Formatting and uploading pictures
  19. Making videos for the site
  20. Uploading videos onto a service like YouTube or Vimeo, and adding them to site
  21. Help manage wiki

Anything we missed? Add your ideas below.

Healthy Website Checklist

This little gem has been hidden on the main Talance website, but we thought we’d bring it to wider attention. Use this checklist every three months or so to make sure your website is still up to date and healthy.

Site Content

  • All links work
  • All downloads work
  • All forms work
  • Contact information on homepage and accessible on every other page
  • Addresses organization’s goals
  • Has a favicon

Usability

  • All images have ALT tags
  • Custom 404/page not found page
  • Each menu has no more than seven choices
  • Home link in navigation
  • User-friendly page titles

Readability

  • Font size not too small
  • Wide margins
  • Good use of bullets, subheadings and bold
  • No underlines except for hyperlinks
  • High contrast text and images

Operation

  • Looks OK in most common Web browsers (IE, Firefox, Safari, Opera)
  • Uses limited Flash to comply with iPhone and iTouch
  • Images are sized correctly (i.e., big image not squeezed into small box)
  • Colors and images are consistent
  • Loads quickly
  • Looks OK in different screen resolutions
  • Looks OK with various screen color settings
  • URLs work without “www”

Security

  • Pages requiring SSL access are accessible only via SSL
  • No one has access to restricted areas that they shouldn’t have

How to Scrap Your Paper Bulletin

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[Photo credit: Tree of Light by JPhilipson, on Flickr]

If you’ve been thinking about how to scrap your paper bulletin (and you should be), but you’re not sure how to sell it to your members, take a page (virtually, of course) from this ad I spotted in InformationWeek:

InformationWeek
Worth more than the paper it’s printed on.

InformationWeek will be carbon-neutral within 10 years. As part of this commitment, four 2009 issues will not be printed – instead they will be available to our readers as interactive PDF downloads.

What’s more, we’re working with nonprofit organizations to protect and restore the world’s forests. InformationWeek will plant a tree for each of the first 5000 downloads of every green issue.

Please join us. To find out more or tell us what you think, go to informationweek.com/green

There’s so much I love about this campaign. First off, they realize that paper publications rank with junk mail in most households. No point in going directly to the recycling bin. Think about that the next time you stuff an envelope with your bulletin.

Secondly, they’re giving their readers lots of notice and letting them know these PDFs are “interactive” – added value and preemptive marketing! So start, notifying your members that you’re going digital, and tell them about the benefits of shifting to online pubs.

Thirdly, they’re planting trees. Who on earth would have a beef with that? Makes you want to go download a document. It’s good for the planet.

Finally, they’re providing more information and asking for feedback. I’ve talked with many organizations that say they absolutely cannot afford to let the paper bulletin go. But if they ask their members what they think, they often find they don’t care one way or the other.

This is a simple campaign, and one that can save you a fair bit of money too. By the time you save postage and printing, you can probably hire someone to help layout your digital version and attract more readers along the way.