Creating an Online Presence for Your Group: Some Basic Steps

Cat Rambo reports for duty!Trying to set up an online presence for your group or organization? Here’s some basics to think about.

One: Include a blog on your website that has new content on a regular basis.

This first step is key to a better social media presence, because it influences your search engine rankings. Better search engine rankings draw more traffic to your site, as do good keywords, and if your blog features information about the group, it’s pretty much guaranteed to have the appropriate keywords.

Establish realistic criteria for “regular”: daily? weekly? biweekly? What can you actually expect to do?

Figure out how you will generate such content. Some suggestions:

  • Group member announcements, interviews, and guest posts.
  • Group events and news.
  • Posts drawing on other social media, such as announcements of new videos on the Youtube channel (see point 4) or Pinterest boards (see point 5).
  • Calls for volunteer positions and interviews with volunteers.
  • Yearly best-of lists or review columns.

This blog should drive the group’s presence on social networks. Posts should automatically propagate to other networks, thereby relieving the pressure for someone to be managing and posting to individual streams, such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as presenting a more unified and consistent approach.

Two: Keep your Facebook policy simple and free.

Social networks rise and fall, but currently Facebook’s attempts to monetize itself by making you pay for messages or pay extra to reach people is making it less useful to those of us who want the most bang for the buck. Simply put, recent changes make is so not everyone who’s liked your page or followed you is seeing your posts.

Basically all you need is a public Facebook fan page to which blog posts (generated in point 1) are automatically posted and which people can “like” in order to receive news of the organization via that social network. Here’s a sample of my writerly FB fan page and one I did for a recent book. (Feel free to “like” them!)

Three: Use Google+.

As Facebook’s popularity falls, Google+’s is rising, particularly internationally. There’s space to be innovative here. Set up an open community. Certainly blog posts should get propagated to here, but make the most of Google+ technology and encourage people to use Hangouts, share documents, etc.

Four: Use Youtube.

Users like more than just text, and video is one way to get more interest, if your group is one likely to generate videos of events, gatherings, speeches, etc. Each time a video is put up, there should be a blog post with a link and brief description, thereby generating blog content.

Five: Use Pinterest.

Use Pinterest as a way to access content visually while building brand name. For example, I recently put together a board that features all the posts in a particular year’s of Aqueduct Press’s reading list series.

Six: Make it easy for your group members to connect.

Make social media information, such as Twitter or Facebook handles, available to users. Provide directories of alumni on the various networks. For example, someone joining Twitter might find a list of all group members currently on Twitter useful. Here’s my list of Codex members on Twitter.

Seven: Make it easy for your group members to create community.

Provide a way people can upload announcements to the blog for a moderator to check and post on a daily or weekly basis. Encourage people to reply to each other’s posts and pass them along on social networks by noticing and rewarding community efforts as well as by leading by example and being an active and responsive community member.

Eight: You don’t need forums or mailings.

Creating a log-in for a forum or subscribing to a newsletter is one way for people to reach you, but social media has the advantage of reaching out to new as well as established community members. It’s as easy — in some cases easier — for someone to check your group’s Facebook page as it is to log into a forum. Physical mailings are costly; e-mail lists need to be maintained.

Nine: Use the community.

Your members include people who are invested in the organization and are also social influencers. The organization should be making the most of this. Here’s some possible ways to do so.

  • Create social media posts that include calls to action, asking people to pass along information.
  • Generate guest posts for the blog from the community by calling for volunteers to write them.
  • Generate Youtube videos and Pinterest boards via the community by issuing calls to collect images or videos for a specific event or contest.

Ten: No matter what, have a succinct and coherent plan.

Figure out what the social media mission is (perhaps increase membership and establish brand). Establish (again, realistic is important) criteria for success in the various social media, such as number of website hits via Facebook each month, number of Twitter followers, etc. Check the success rate on at least yearly basis, perhaps better every six months or even three, given how fast social media can change.

Give things a unified feel. The background on the group’s Twitter page should be the same one used on Facebook or on the blog. Use the same font where possible.

Have someone who’s in charge of all this, rather than trying to do it by committee. Having someone oversee things makes sure that gaps don’t get missed.
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If the topic’s one that interests you, check out my online class, Establishing an Online Presence for Writers.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 100+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and Tor.com. Her short story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her story collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012.
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