August 28, 2012


new coat of paintAre you in a group that wants to retain and add members? Here are steps to become more effective online. The focus is on nonprofit, volunteer-run groups.

The actions are free or low cost, easy to maintain, and with measurable results.

Do they work? See for yourself. A similar process was used at Goodyear Toastmasters during my 2011-2012 presidency.

Step 0: Web domain

imageGet a web address. If you don't have one, buy one through Google Apps, which will also give you free email and other niceties without mastering terminology like DNS and CNAME.

Consistency helps. Use a service like NameChk, CheckUsernames or NameChecklist to find a name that’s available for multiple sites. This may not be easy or possible. Do what you can.


Step 1: Gmail

Your free Gmail account is your passport to the online world. Even if you're using Google Apps, the following steps will rely on having a basic Gmail account. Where possible, use Google services. They're free and probably help with the ever-important search engine rankings.

Step 2: Twitter

Twitter is essential for broadcasting what your group does. Follow all your members and encourage them to follow your group account. Twitter gives a way to promote members and the group.
You’ll need your Gmail address to activate your account.

Example: @gytm81 (since @goodyeartoastmasters is too long when tweets are limited to 140 characters)

Step 3: Google Analytics

imageOnline, you can measure results and trends. Google Analytics is free, easy to use and widely supported. You’ll need your Gmail address.

Step 4: Blog

A blog shares the expertise of members with the world in a way that search engines love. Use Google Blogger to setup an account with your Gmail address. Connect to Google Analytics, even though Blogger already has analytics.

Draft and publish a post to make your blog live before completing the next steps.

Use Disqus for comments (and an indirect way to get traffic).
AddThisFor sharing content, use AddThis (or ShareThis). There are plugins that go into your blog template. If you don't understand how to use them, you may need help. It's good to get these features incorporated at the outset before your content and traffic grows: mistakes and changes will have minimal effect.

Use Google Feedburner to make your content available by email and newsreader. Connect your Twitter account so that tweets go out automatically when a new post goes live.

Example: (a weird web address but short and consistent with Twitter)

Step 5: YouTube

YouTube channelCreate a YouTube channel using your Gmail account. This is the place to post your videos. You can then embed them into your blog posts and other places.

Example: (long but relatively easy to find on YouTube)


Your group probably has a website already. If not, at least have a placeholder. Add life by using a design that incorporates your tweets.
If your needs are minimal, your blog can also be your website.

websiteExample: (“obvious”, which helps with web searches)


To show your content is believable, create accounts on
  • Klout: measures online influence (login with Twitter)
  • TrustCloud: gives a ranking of trust from 1-1,000 (like a FICO score)
Your scores will be low in the beginning but should grow over time. Add them now so that you don't need to worry about them later and to start your history early.


MeetupThere's more you can do.
  • Facebook: page if relevant (example)
  • LinkedIn: business page (embedding Twitter), discussion group (post links to blog posts and encourage members to Like them; may wish to make this private)
  • Pinterest: if your group uses visuals (for photos, Google+ or Flickr may be better)
  • Eventbrite: if you have events with admission
  • Meetup: to attract guests, issue tickets, and allow member discussions (example:


You're not done and never will be. There are challenges with
  • maintenance: easier with volunteers, ideally more than one
  • participation: if members don't participate, the online efforts will fail or place a burden on the few participants
Depending on your technical skills, you may need help from other members. Consistent branding is also worthwhile but not essential prior to launch.


There’s an important side benefit from renovating your group’s online presence: members may follow your lead and improve theirs. That’s a nice way to retain members and attract more.


PS What would you add or change?

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