The importance of website content for your chorus
In the crowded marketplace, how do your prospective members and patrons find you? It’s likely not on the supermarket bulletin board or community newspaper anymore. When looking for local barbershop choruses most of us increasingly pull out our smartphones and Google for help or turn to Siri, Alexa, Cortana or other virtual assistants.
This makes your website vitally important. It is the primary resource for anyone seeking information about your chorus … location, meeting night, upcoming shows, community involvement, etc.. It is your face to the world!
With potentially thousands of people just a click away, your website needs to be attractive, informative and easy to use. Even if you don’t consider yourself an internet expert, there is no need to reinvent the wheel to create a great website.
There are “tried and true” practices you can keep in mind while laying out or revamping your chorus website.
The first step to designing a great website is to make sure it answers the most basic questions that someone wants to have answered. When is the next day and time that your chorus meets? Where do you meet and how do you get there? Are visitors welcome? What time should I show up if I’m visiting for the first time? How long do you meet and what does your chorus typically do during a meeting. Don’t clutter up this page with too much information or the visitor to your website will be frustrated trying to quickly find what, where, when and how.
For more detailed information provide an FAQ link to another page where you can list more detailed answers to a list of questions that relate to your chorus, barbershop harmony, membership requirements and whatever else is relevant to your chorus.
Provide an email address and, if possible, a phone number for anyone who can’t find the answer they’re looking for. This can be a dedicated chorus email address or a member’s personal email … just make sure it’s going to someone who will respond within a day or two with an accurate and welcoming response.
In addition to providing basic information about your chorus, incorporate an area on the website that includes the history of your chorus. Most of us have members that go way back to when the chorus was formed … ask them to recount the early days and put together a good story about how your chorus started. Recruit a good “wordsmith” to help put this down on paper … not just a list of dates and events. Include your chorus “Chapter Mission Statement” in a prominent location (hmmm, might be time to update that). Give the reader a good idea of what your priorities are as a chorus … casual singing, contest participation, community activities, shows, festivals, fundraising, music education, youth outreach … this is “who you are” as a chorus.
Media coverage, by your local newspaper, radio or TV, can be a more powerful marketing tool than buying advertising. Anyone can buy an ad. Getting a journalist to write or broadcast a story about your chorus, community activity or show will give your chorus credibility and pay dividends far beyond what a paid advertisement can.
If your chorus is committed to earning media coverage, it pays to showcase it on your website by including an online newsroom. It is, however, very important to keep this updated with current news. It’s surprising how many chorus websites I’ve visited that are still showcasing an “upcoming” show they had months ago … when I spot that, I’m closing their website and moving on. Include information and features that make it easier for journalists to build their story.
Try to include: Links to any media coverage your chorus has received; press releases; high resolution, downloadable photos of anything relevant such as a recent chorus photo, Chorus logo, BHS logo, RMD logo, contest photos, show photos and community involvement photos. Short video clips are also great for highlighting special events, shows and competitions. Also, be sure to include links to the RMD and BHS websites as well as any social media sites you maintain.
Be sure to include a page dedicated to your chorus newsletter and make it easy to view, download or print. This also makes a great place to archive all of your past newsletters, just list them from newest to oldest and embed a link to open each one by just clicking on the date.
Ease Of use
No matter the quality of information on your website provides, if visitors to the site cannot find it or access it in a timely manner, it is basically useless. Keep it simple. An overly complicated website increases the chance that visitors will not stick around when they can’t easily find the information they want.
When designing your website, you need to keep in mind how people will view it. More people than ever are accessing the internet with their smartphones or tablets. If your website doesn’t accommodate viewing it on these, small screen devices, you’re going to lose potential visitors.
Finding Your Website
Finally, if people can’t find your website, you’ve spent a lot of time creating a resource without inviting an audience. Don’t just assume that an “internet search” will lead people to your website. Include your website address on everything your chorus prints … show programs, show tickets, business cards, printed flyers, banners, posters, correspondence. Also, include it on your email correspondence, electronic and printed advertising and especially on any chorus social media sites. Encourage your members to pass out chorus business cards, with your web address, to anyone who may have an interest in attending a show or visiting your chorus. For members who maintain a social media site, ask them to include your web address in any chorus related post they share. If your social media allows you to embed the web address into a photo, logo, graphic or story, this will automatically direct viewers to your website whenever they click on anything with the link.
That “One Guy”
Most of our choruses don’t have the financial resources to just “hire out” someone to build and maintain a website. The best scenario would be to have an expert member in your chorus who will step forward and take charge of your website. If that’s the case, you’re all set and should be on the way to having a great website … right? Well, in a perfect world, that would be nice. For the rest of us, we’ve got to look around and find that “One Guy” in the chorus that is willing to dive in and make it happen.
This isn’t rocket science … just about anyone who’s used a computer can do this if they have the time and are willing to learn how. You will find many website platforms out there … some better and some worse. WordPress is one of the more popular ones and is very user friendly. It’s only eight bucks a month for their Premium version and provides a lot of on-line help. Once you have someone building, running and maintaining your website, try to support him any way possible by contributing stories, photos, videos, any content relevant to your chorus.
Too Many Cooks
You may be tempted to form a team of people to run your website. While it’s a good idea to have a, second in command, or at least one apprentice who can step in if your webmaster quits or leaves for whatever reason, only one person should be running the website. Limit editing access with a strong password and share that password with only a couple members who need it. Speaking from experience, my chorus lost our webmaster a couple years ago and we had to scramble to pick up where he left off. We had three or four members who jumped right in and attempted to figure it out. After a couple weeks of having too many cooks in the kitchen, the website was hopelessly broken. We could no longer access certain pages, content disappeared, links were no longer working, it was so useless, and we finally took the website down to start over from scratch. It’s still a work in progress but, we’ve finally got a website that functions again. This doesn’t mean you can’t allow more than one person to run your website but, be sure they really know what they’re doing.
Check Out Other Websites
A good place to start is by checking out what our other chapters are doing. You can find links to every Rocky Mountain District Chapter website by going to RMDsing.org and just click on “Directory” at the top of the opening page. Select the “chapters by State” and, if the chapter has a website, it will have the link shown when you click on the name. Decide what you like about their website and incorporate similar features in your website.
This is just scratching the surface when developing your website so … let me know what you’ve found helpful with developing your chorus website. Share some of the more useful features that work well for you and the pitfalls you’ve experienced. If I get enough feedback, I’ll quote your comments in the next newsletter.