Nine ways to promote your union’s website

So, you’ve taken the steps to create your union’s website… but what do you do now to get people, your members, supporters and potential members, to visit it?

This is the challenge that many unions face: bringing in new traffic for a purpose. After all, that’s how you will recruit more members, encourage more supporters to your union’s cause, and win campaigns.

Here are nine proven ways to get some public illumination for your union’s website, whether it is your main homepage or a campaign site.

1. Search engine optimisation

SEO is the process of increasing your union’s website’s visibility in search engine’s (like Google, Yahoo or Bing) organic results through optimising certain parts of your webpages with the “keyword” phrases you think people are likely to search for.

Think about it: when you search for something in Google, do you typically go beyond the first couple pages of results? Probably not, and neither will your potential customers. In fact, the vast majority of Google users never go past the first page. That’s why getting to the first page of search results for your specific “keywords” is important.

Some popular ways to improve organic search results are through editing existing content, removing barriers to indexing activities of search engines (some types of content management systems allow you to “block” search engine indexation, so be sure to check), increasing the number of backlinks or inbound links (links your website receives from other webpages — which indicates the popularity or importance of your website).

Search engine optimisation at a basic level is very easy to do, but can be a very technical enterprise in some cases. Most “out of the box” content management systems (like Drupal or WordPress) have good built in SEO or high quality free plugins. You want to get at least this level of SEO on your site. Custom built or proprietary CMSs should also have SEO settings — and the consultants or design agency that sets up your site should be able to demonstrate to you that your site’s SEO has been set up.

If you’ve never optimised your site for SEO, it can be worth getting specialist consultants to do it for you. If you have a very competitive “SEO” market (for example, during elections or for keywords that are highly prized by multiple organisations), investing in SEO assistance can be worth it. Make sure the consultants you hire can demonstrate past success, and avoid any that talk about “black hat” options.

2. Blogging and guest blogging

Blogs or regularly updated news sections are excellent ways to bring new visitors to your union’s site. A union blog creates content for visitors to share, is attractive to Google (which prioritises new content over old), and demonstrates your expertise to potential members. For example, blogging about current industrial issues, or your union’s position on controversial news items (like the mining tax or internships) can help draw new visitors. Getting delegates or members to blog about issues they face, or other guests (for example, former officials who may now be members of parliament, or leaders of other organisations) can encourage those guests to promote your site through their own networks.

3. Pay per click (PPC)

Most affordable online advertising (such as through Google) is “pay per click”. It can be an inexpensive way to target a specific group of people to draw them to visit your site, whether its your main site’s join page or your campaign site. Here’s how pay per click works.

You pay a fixed price for every click your ad gets in the search engine, and your ultimate goal of the click is to “convert” that person to do something on your site (e.g. join, sign a petition, join your email list, etc). With Google AdWords, there’s no spending requirement — you can set a budget of as little as five or ten dollars a day (you could have a monthly budget of $140 for ads, which would equate to $5 per day) or a maximum cost of ten cents for each click, for example.

You get to write the words of the ad, and choose the website the person is sent to when they click the link on your ad. Your objective is to make sure the person who clicks the ad actually does the thing you want them to (i.e. converts), so choosing the right “keywords” is important, as is having a good landing page.

4. Facebook ads

Facebook ads are a kind of pay per click. With over 75% of all Australians possessing a Facebook account (the highest users in the world), and over 800 million world-wide, advertising on Facebook can be an effective way to promote your union’s website, especially campaign sites.

Facebook ads help you create context, and target social activities, not just searches. They can target specific demographics, friends of people who are already fans of your union’s Facebook page or specific locations. And they work just like other pay per clicks, where you set a daily budget and overall campaign budget.

To give a quick example, when I worked at the NTEU, I organised Facebook ads targeting current students of RMIT, where the staff were on strike. The ads promoted the strike to students, linking to a special page written for students explaining the strike. I also did another Facebook ad targeting international students considering attending RMIT, promoting the RMIT staff’s grievances. I was able to target only these people because Facebook taps into the wealth of social information that Facebook users enter into their profiles.

5. YouTube

You’ve probably heard of Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 video. With over 68 million views, it shot Invisible Children into the mainstream spotlight and drove millions of people to visit their website. All from a You Tube video.

While Invisible Children spent over $2 million on their video, a well made YouTube video can help encourage people to visit your website. Not only does Google index your YouTube content, but it allows people to share it on their own sites, or through social media.

Most union videos are unlikely to reach the “viral” status of Kony 2012, but even without millions of views, videos are still an important way to get people to your union’s website.

For your union’s YouTube video, it’s important to invest in a good camera and good sound equipment. Ideally get a professional to film and edit it for you. If you can’t afford that, try contacting film schools and asking students to help you out. Make sure your video includes a strong call to action, that tells viewers exactly what to do once they’ve finished watching. Should they visit your website? Join? Sign a petition? Non-profit YouTube videos can include interactive buttons inside the videos.

You can also advertise inside YouTube by buying ads — so that’s another way to promote your own videos and your union’s website.

6. Email campaigning

I’m a firm believer that email is an essential tool for online campaigning. I’ve even written a free e-book about it.

Email is a fantastic tool because it ubiquitous and action oriented. You can use email to encourage people to repeatedly return to your site to interact with new content, for example: new campaigns, new blogs, new updates, new brochures or newsletters, and so on.

Websites can also be easily set up to obtain peoples’ email addresses, including sign up forms. Unions are lucky in this regard because most unions will have their members’ email addresses. Make sure you use a good email marketing service, like MailChimp, so it can connect to your analytics, social media and Ad words.

7. Word of mouth

Word of mouth ranks high on what influences people choosing to buy a service. For unions, it’s very important to build a “buzz” in a workplace — to generate word of mouth — about the union and its campaigns. People are likely to trust the views of friends, family and colleagues.

Encouraging your existing members and supporters to promote your union’s website is a great way to increase site traffic. The easiest way to encourage your members to do this is to ask them — using email or social media, or through traditional methods like stickers, posters or leaflets.

8. Social media

Similar to email marketing, social media helps you communicate with your members and potential members. The key to successful social media is ensuring it has a purpose: recruiting new members or supporters, getting donations or selling union t-shirts (etc). Check my Social Media for Unions e-book here.

Social media also lets you see what members or people in a workplace are talking about, the things they’re concerned about. Because social media operates in real-time, it is also useful for responding to crises, whether internal, or a crisis taking place within one of your employers or campaign opponents.

9. Public relations

Public relations encompasses the traditional tool kit: media releases and media kits, special events (a public launch of your site), press conferences, lobbying, and so on. The goal being to get your website in the press. The mass media is still relevant and will help drive the “virality” of other elements of your website (your YouTube video for example). Journalists may also refer to your website for their articles.

New media and online campaigning is all well and good, but don’t neglect the tried and true traditional PR methods as well.

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