A while back, we offered up 4 Reasons Why You Should Be Blogging. We suggested that a blog can help promote engagement with existing members, volunteers and prospects. It offers a great communications channel that keeps members coming back. In addition, a blog can put a human face on your organization, building trust and enabling two-way communications. And it can also improve your website’s search engine optimization or SEO.
In fact, there is apparently data to indicate that reading blogs impacts a consumer’s purchasing decisions. So it’s not a stretch to suggest that an effective blog can help grow your membership and influence your existing members’ or supporters’ behavior too (e.g., increasing participation, renewal, additional donations).
Getting started with your membership blog
So if we've convinced you to launch a membership blog, where do you start? In the post - Lifting the Fog of the Blog: 8 Strategic Questions Before You Write 1 Word - Jay Baer (Convince &Convert) outlines the key questions you need to ask and the steps you should take to start a blog. You can check out his full blog post and Slideshare presentation, but here are the 8 questions:
- Why do you need a blog? (What business objective are you addressing? – awareness, sales, community, loyalty, humanization?)
- Who will read it? (define and segment audiences)
- What do we want them to do? (create & prioritize calls to action)
- How will they know about it? (build a blog marketing plan)
- Who will write the blog? (commit to a schedule; one voice or many?)
- What will we write? (figure out point of view in advance)
- How will we extend it? (deconstruct and repackage your ideas)
- How will we measure it? (metrics depend on goals)
We can’t touch on all of these important points in one blog post, but here is a collection of information, tips and advice to help get your membership blog off to a great start this fall.
Who’s writing blog posts and when?
Before you get excited and start drafting your first blog post, you need to understand that a membership blog (unlike a personal blog) takes commitment and planning. You need to commit to a schedule; figure out who will write the blog posts and who will manage the process.
While one volunteer or staffer can act as the blog manager or editor, you need to think about who may be able to contribute posts so you have enough content to keep the blog going. Likely blog writing candidates might include:
Alternately, you might want to simply use these folks as your editorial board to offer up ideas for blog posts, outlines or drafts that your key blog writer can fine-tune.
- Board members or at least the Chair or President;
- the Chair of your events committee;
- Membership Manager or Committee Chair;
- Fundraising or Project leaders.
Ideas and tools for creating an editorial calendar:
Once you’ve gathered your team, the next step is to create a schedule or editorial calendar. As Angela Stringfellow (unbounce) suggests,
“An editorial calendar is a virtual “To Do” list. It helps you be accountable to dates and concepts that you decide in advance – often in a content brainstorm. … How in depth you go, depends on you and your goals, but the more detailed it is the more efficient it can become.”
At its most basic, your editorial calendar can be drafted using a spreadsheet or by creating table in a word processing program. But for those of you may want to check out some other tools, here are some resources to consider:
Ideas for blog content:
So you’ve created a blog, identified some contributors and you’re drafting your editorial calendar, but you need some content topics. Here are a some ideas to inspire you:
- In a Slideshare presentation – Telling Your Story Through Blogs, Photos and Video – Andrea Berry (Idealware) suggests that non-profits can use blogs to:
- show your expertise
- show your donors what they are supporting - and allow volunteers, staff or supporters to tell their story
- show a behind the scenes view - show what makes your organization interesting and unique
- join a conversation
- Quickly summarize and point to other articles on the web that are relevant to your audience.
- Include audiences (or selected audiences) in conversation on critical topics
- Invite experts in your field or issue area to contribute as guest bloggers
- Get timely information out without tech staff or web designers. You can even do “real-time” reporting from a conference, field visit or legislative session
- Cross-promote and re-use all the content you create for your website, print magazines and e-newsletter.
- In 25 Blog Ideas for Associations, Curt Moss (WebLink) reminds us “that timely, relevant and frequent content updates on your blog helps your business association be found in more searches, helps to position your organization as an expert and can create additional value for your members.” He offers 25 ideas for association posts – here are 5 of the 25:
- What phone call did you get today that you should share with your audience?
- What was the last event you had? What was discussed there that should be shared?
- What’s the biggest misconception about your association?
- What members have you helped to grow their business? How many jobs were created?
- What members recently made the news that you can share?
Building a blog following:
With contributors, content and a schedule in place, you can turn your attention to getting attention for your blog. After all, members or supporters won’t just magically find your blog and if they do happen upon it, you want to make sure they keep coming back. Here are a few ideas for promoting your blog and encouraging readers to engage with your posts:
Promote your blog:
- On your website – make sure your blog stands out in your navigation bar/button and publish blog headlines on your homepage
- In your newsletters – include the “top posts” in your monthly newsletter and be sure to link to pertinent posts within newsletter articles as well.
- In your email signature – add the link to your blog post on the email signatures of staff, board and other key volunteers.
- Through social media – be sure to include social sharing buttons (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+) or widgets on your blog - like these (on our blog).
Set up an RSS feed:
An RSS feed offers a summarized text and metadata such as publishing dates, authorship and a link to that blog post. Through an RSS feed your readers can subscribe to regular updates, delivered automatically via a web portal, news reader, or email. This means your readers are alerted when new posts are published on your blog – building a healthy subscriber base.
If you are a Wild Apricot client using the auto blog feature, you can activate the RSS feed so that your subscribers receive email notification of each post as it is published in your blog.
Blogging isn’t just a means of sharing information, you also want to enable two-way communications as well. This means you need to offer an opportunity for your readers to comment on a post. It also involves the blog writer or administrator responding to those comments. Many blog platforms (including Wild Apricot’s) enable you to turn on comments and also to enable anti-spam settings (such as Captcha) that prevent automated software (spambots) from bombarding your blog with spam comments.
These are just a few ideas to get you started with your membership blog. You can also check out our “How to Create a Blog” guide in our Membership Knowledge Hub.
If you are new to membership blogging - tell us your biggest challenge in the comments below.
Image source: Blog concept in word tag cloud - courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com