Four harsh truths about union websites
There’s been a lot said about union websites – here’s four things we all know but are worth saying again.
You’re not engaging anyone
Your website doesn’t engage your members. Even if you allow comments. Even if you create a union “blog”. Even if you add a “share” or “tweet this” button to the bottom of each page. Your media releases aren’t of interest to the majority of your members – nor are your tweets or Facebook updates that are just links to your media releases.
Your website shouldn’t be solely a broadcast tool. You shouldn’t just use it as an opportunity to tell your members (or potential members) how good you are, how great your campaigns are or how bad employers are.
If you do enable comments, don’t be affraid of negative comments – welcome them. If your dissaffected members aren’t bagging you out on your website, they are doing it somewhere else (like one of a million forums, or on Facebook, or on Twitter) where you won’t get the opportunity to respond and give your side of the story.
You won’t get a million hits
If you build it, they won’t come. Your members aren’t waiting at their computers for your latest site update. Just uploading your latest media release or a PDF copy of the union newsletter won’t result in large numbers (or even small numbers) of people swarming to your website to read the latest editorial from the union secretary.
Just because you are on the web doesn’t mean that everyone gets told when you’ve updated it. Just because you’ve put a link out on Facebook, Twitter or on email, doesn’t mean that anyone will visit your site. Just because you’ve discovered Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), doesn’t mean that loads of people will visit your site from Google.
The long and the short of it is, most people will only visit your site to find contact details on how to call or email someone in the union. You will have to work very hard to get people to visit the site on a regular basis, such as having a union blog that is updated daily (or more often). Even then, it’s unlikely your union website will be getting loads of hits.
(Quick tip: if you want 1000s of hits per day by “cheating”, set your union’s staff’s home pages to the union website.)
Your union secretary isn’t a web expert (unless he/she is)
Your union secretary should have an opinion about the website, but unless he or she is a design and useability expert, he or she should stay out of decisions relating to functionality, design and useability. You don’t get a layperson to advise a rocket scientist about the aerodynamics of the spaceshuttle, or a brain surgeon about brain surgery. The union secretary shouldn’t get bogged down in the minutiae of the website. They should be involved at a strategic level.
The bosses will read it – get over it
And so will other unions. Seriously.
Be careful about what you put on the site, but don’t live in fear that your every word will cause a libel courtcase. The last thing you want happening is that your website never gets updated or has no content because you’re affraid that the bosses will read it and “uncover” your strategy, download special “delegate only” material or read training manuals for activists. Most employers don’t give a damn, and those that do are unlikely to use what they find on your site effectively.