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Our Digital Club, Part 1 - "Getting Your Club Noticed"

posted Oct 14, 2014, 6:03 AM by RotaryofNorristown   [ updated Feb 17, 2017, 10:27 AM ]
Two years ago, District Governor Tony Janetta visited the Norristown club and participated in the monthly board meeting. He had come prepared and he already knew that, other than a new Facebook page, the Norristown club was not showing up in web searches and was conspicuously missing in the world of social media. He pointed out that by not establishing a club digital footprint and web presence, the club was missing a huge opportunity to be found by potential candidate Rotarians. So he challenged the club.

The club responded by forming a small web committee and building a web site using Google Sites (we had no budget at the time and Google Sites is free). Sites is a very reliable, robust platform. The development tools included are extremely powerful, easy to use and flexible. Once our public website was functional, we built another private site area for “Members Only" (requiring login and used for club administration) and a third site focused specifically on "Membership Building" and “Speaker Planning”. Aside from purchasing a domain name, we incurred no costs.

Since the time the website went live, we have also licensed Club Runner, but mainly to augment our other services with online attendance, dues management and eBulletin publication. With the website functioning, we also setup a LinkedIn account and a Twitter account. On the homepage we advertise a Google Voice phone number (also free) established for the club where people can call or leave us messages. These can be screened, emailed, routed and forwarded to any phone.

Two years have passed. We have accumulated followers and we are learning to use these internet channels to inform, advertise, market the Rotary Brand and attract Rotary member interest. It is a lot of initial work and time investment but, it is starting to pay off. In fact, our most recent member and most recent prospect found us through the internet, and we have had numerous interested candidates find us and inquire this past year. The membership chair receives an email indicating when someone has filled out the inquiry form. We get on average, half a dozen membership inquiries per year. Anyone inquiring is offered to be added to our newsletter and invited to lunch. A portion of the club's public website is dedicated to marketing the Rotary brand so that others understand what Rotary does and can make their own membership decision. We also registered our physical meeting place address as a business with Google Places, so that the club would start showing up on Google Maps (see Part 2).

A club website is the internet gem of every club, even though other channels are more socially engaging, the website is the compendium of organized club knowledge. So our other channel posts (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) usually include a link to direct internet visitors back to the related website club story where the complete story and a lot more comprehensive Rotary brand information, can be found. Website stories are our club blog. It’s hard to keep Rotarians still enough to photograph without posing, they love to pose. But large "action" pictures generate more interest. Once they are directed to the the web homepage, visitors can also get the big picture about Rotary. In fact, multiple internet channels can point to the very same web site story, drawing an audience to the website. This is a common technique used with web blogs to grow a blog audience. Twitter is very effective at this.

The cardinal rule of any website is to keep information current and updated or refreshed regularly. If web visitors see the same content they saw on their last visit or it is obsolete information, they will never visit again. The Norristown Club site is updated twice a week. The club tweets on Twitter at least once or twice a week (usually with pictures, and we often get retweeted by others) and we have found that once we have followed and attracted about a hundred Twitter followers, it gains momentum and people begin finding and following us on their own, unsolicited. The same is true for LinkedIn which is updated weekly. Progress is measured using Google Analytics to report the number of web visitors that come to the site and which pages get visited.

Example using numerous social media channels to engage and ultimately direct people to the website

Engaging in social media and making it work for you, is not something you can do overnight. But if you plan ahead and commit to maintaining and updating what you build, sooner or later, the benefits of club visibility and web presence will get your club noticed.   

Digital Club is a collection of Rotary social media and computing topics published at the Rotary Club of Norristown website