Series of Tubes

This workshop focuses on the most useful and relevant technologies for bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organizations.  It will cover databases, online event registrations, online systems and tools, list serves, web 2.0 technologies, RSS feeds, content management systems, and so much more. Ensure your organization is embracing all opportunities to connect with your members, increase your membership, and raise funds effectively.

The web is a huge but fractured market.  Building a great web site and creating compelling content is the first step in successfully promoting your cause online.  The next step is to collect and connect your content to the myriad of social networks that will connect you to millions of users.  Using these tools, we increased our web hits to our Bike to Work Day site 7 fold (from 1 Million in 2008 to 7 Million in 2009)

  1. All Roads Lead to Rome
    The Web is a fractured community.  There are a myriad of social networking services and each user has their favorite.  Most users will have a primary service they rely on to get news and information on their friends and organizations.  By syndicating your content across several web platforms, you'll reach a much wider audience and increase participation from your membership.  Here are the basic services you'll need for an effective web presence:
    1. Website - The primary source for your organizations information.  An online Content Management System (CMS) will allow your staff to create and edit your web content from any browser.
    2. Really Simple Syndication (RSS) - A service that sends each update to your website to users who subscribe to your feed in an RSS reader.
    3. Twitter - Beautiful and Simple, Twitter is RSS with concision (144 characters per update or tweet).  It extends the functionality of RSS by allowing users to respond to your tweets and retweet them to their followers, which allows for a more conversational style than RSS which is a one way broadcast.
    4. Facebook Page - There are many social networks out there, but Facebook is by far the largest.  A Facebook Page is an improved form of a Facebook Group, which allows you to share updates with your Facebook followers.
    5. Linked In Group News Feed - Add an RSS feed to a group discussion in Linked in using the News Feed option under the Manage menu.  While smaller in scale, linked in groups help you connect with a more professional crowd who may have funds, expertise or connections that can support your orgnization.
    6. eBlasts - There are still many people that prefer to receive updates in email digests.
  2. A Place for Everything and Everything is in it's Place
    By creating and storing each type of content you create (text, images, video...) in the right place, you can save time and effort by making it easier to find and syndicate.
    1. News and Text - Content Management System (CMS)
    2. Events - Google Calendar possibly also Facebook Events
    3. Video - Youtube
    4. Images - Facebook (and name those in the picture so they'll share the pics with their networks)
    5. Points of Interest - Google Maps
  3. Don't Recreate.  Syndicate.
    Content should be created once and then shared across all your web properties using syndication.  There are several services that allow content you create in one place to be shared across all of your web properties.
    1. Really Simple Syndication (RSS) - An essential tool for every website that publishes any new content you add to an RSS feed, which can automatically update other services with that content.  RSS feed capability is the most critical feature of any CMS.
    2. Facebook - RSS Graffiti - Facebook has changed their permissions so that you can no longer subscribe to an RSS on your Facebook Page's notes.  RSS Graffiti is a free service
    3. Twitterfeed - Your RSS feed from your website can also automatically update your twitter account through the Twitterfeed service.
    4. Facebook Photos - Posting photos to Facebook is the most effective way to ensure that others will share them with their network.  Make sure to name the people in your pictures and make sure that none of the pictures would offend the people named in it.  They will get a notification that they have been marked in a picture in their notifications and will be much more likely to share the pic with the rest of their network.  Make sure to tweet about the photos you've added as well.
    5. Youtube Badge - Adds a selection of videos that is updated each time a user visits that page.  On Facebook, add the Youtube App to your page.
    6. Embedded Google Calendar - Adds a small list of your upcoming events to your website that automatically updates.
  4. Make it Count
    Web statistics are a powerful tool for demonstrating the success of your programs and promoting your organization to potential funders.  Here are some tools for measuring the impact of each of your web presences:
    1. Website
      1. Google Analytics - Free industry standard web analytics tool.  Provides great insight into the volume and nature of user visits to your site.  Just sign up for a free account and set up your CMS to add the tracking code to each of your web pages automatically.  Here's a Guide for setting up Google Analytics
    2. Facebook Page
      1. Fans - Total number of people who "like" (aka subscribe) to your page.
      2. Insights - Free service provided by Facebook graphs the total number of fans and fan activities on your site (posting, commenting, etc.).  Sample from the Bike to Work Day SF Bay Facebook Page
    3. Twitter
      1. Followers - Number of people subscribed to your tweets
      2. Twitter Search - Quick way to search for references to your organization and events.  Advanced search lets you limit the time frame and geographic area of the search.  Very useful for measuring reaction to your events and campaigns.
      3. - Find trending topics in your town.  Another way to determine the success of an event.  Making the top ten list of trending topics is an indication that a large portion of twitter users in your town are talking about your event.  Great for bragging on reports.
      4. Tweetstats - A visual record of how often and how much you tweet.  It's a good way to check to see that you're updating your content frequently enough.  If your site doesn't change often enough, it won't draw traffic.
      5. Twinfluence - A measurement of the influence of your Twitter profile.  While followers are the primary metric for how much influence you wield, twinfluence gives you insights into the number
  5. Creating the Conversation
    1. To get your message out to the largest number of people, you need to be responsive.  A good social media campaign is like an extended conversation with your audience.  Here are some quick ways to achieve an active dialogue:
      1. Thank users who reply to you promptly and publicly.  Make sure to include their @username on twitter in your response and quote their original post if possible.
      2. Retweet topical comments from your followers and from other closely affiliated groups to inject yourself into the conversation with their audiences.
      3. Ask your audience to share their experiences, photos, videos, etc.  Then make sure to thank them and highlight the best ones by posting about them in a timely manner.
      4. Post live as an event occurs and make sure to name your followers in your posts so that they'll retweet you.
      5. Determine which of your followers are "Connectors" with large networks and engage them in conversation often.  Their responses will connect you with their followers, further expanding your reach.
      6. When your fans comment on your wall, respond with a quick thanks or funny rejoinder.  Don't ever let them feel that there's no one on the other end of the conversation

  6. Work Within Your Capacity
    1. Maintaining an effective social media strategy can quickly eat up a lot of time.  Take stock of how many hours you're willing to put in and take steps to ensure that you choose a strategy that fits your capacity.
      1. If you don't have the time to check your Facebook Page daily, turn off the ability for users to post to your wall.  Unscrupulous spammers will post messages about their own products or sites which will dilute the quality of your page posts and drive fans away.
      2. It is possible to turn off the ability for users to post but still allow them to comment on posts, which helps a lot to cut down on spam while giving users a chance to share their thoughts.  Spammers rarely comment as they are limited to just text.  Still, if you find that you can't occasionally inject yourself in the comment conversation, it may be best to limit your wall to just posts from your RSS.
      3. Don't overpost.  The quickest way to drive followers away is to post more than 1-3 times per day.  Fewer higher quality posts are usually the best way to go.  You should have something worthwile to say 3-5 days at minimum on your social media presences.