Boost your online presence: 15 digital resources for community groups

February 7, 2019 Tags: , ,

I’m Marie – I support Birmingham Community Matters with blogging, social media and email marketing. If you’ve chatted with BCM via Twitter or Facebook or emailed us lately, the chances are you got me (hello).

When I saw the Media Trust had joined forces with Google to run a digital skills masterclass in Birmingham, I signed up straight away. I was keen to build on my knowledge, and see what information I could bring back to benefit the small community groups that BCM helps. As we all know, it is important to have a credible online presence when recruiting volunteers, promoting events or approaching funders, yet many groups (understandably) lack the time and resources to invest in digital activities.

It was an inspiring day, held canal-side at the Bond Company complex in Digbeth. Not only was the event free to attend, the organisers had allowed time for networking in the morning, at lunch, and during mentoring sessions in the afternoon. I was lucky to chat to representatives from Edward’s Trust, Emmaus UK and Wildgoose Rural Training, as well as putting faces to names of people I’d seen on Twitter. (Hi, Pauline Roche!)

Image courtesy of the Media Trust

Two masterclasses were led by Ian Thomas from Google Digital Garage, who focused on 1) writing for social media and 2) analytics. The content was logically delivered and useful, giving me new ideas about using data effectively, and refreshing my thinking around copywriting and branding.

Here are some resources and tools I gathered that might help you too:

Support and training

1 Media Trust
This innovative charity encourages the media and communications industry to share time, knowledge and creativity to benefit charities, communities and young people. You can view future Media Trust training events here and sign up for the newsletter here.

The Resource Hub shares communications news, online learning and tips on writing, campaigning and fundraising. There is even the potential to access a media volunteer when you need extra support.

2 Google Digital Garage
Google offers free online courses you can take at your leisure through learndigital.withgoogle.com/digitalgarage/courses.

Registered charities may qualify for grants towards Google ads. The Media Trust has created a guide to applying.

Branding and communications

3 Google My Business
You can set up a free profile for your community group. This is especially useful if your organisation doesn’t yet have a website.

4 Grammarly
An app which helps you eliminate errors and redundant words when writing online.

5 VSCO
A photo editing app which allows you to create consistency in colour tones, so that the pictures your organisation shares are recognisably yours.

6 Canva
A drag-and-drop design tool with a vast bank of images, fonts and photographs, allowing you to create good-looking flyers, banner images, social media posts and other graphics without needing to call on a designer.

7 Wordswag
An app that allows you to paste stylised text over your photos, creating shareable posts. I made this one to show what can be done by a non-designer in three minutes with the free version of Wordswag (you could do better!):

8 LSI Graph
A keyword generator which allows you to research relevant niche keywords for your sector. This is useful when writing for the web because it helps you understand which words and terms have a stronger chance of being found in online searches. You get three enquiries a day with the free version; more when you sign up to the newsletter.

9 MailChimp
An email marketing tool offering design facilities, list management and email distribution. It’s free (you only pay when sending out larger volumes of email) and offers insightful analytics about who opens your newsletters and how they engage with your content.

10 Bitly
A handy URL shortener for when you need to share an unwieldy web link neatly. Creating a shortened URL in Bitly has the added benefit of allowing you to track its use, including in spaces known by techies as ‘dark social’ such as direct messages (WhatsApp, SMS, and so on) which are otherwise hard to monitor.

Analytics

11 Google Analytics
A powerful tool that allows you to track your website traffic, giving deep analysis on how many people visit your website, how they found it, how long they stay, and what they look at, and more. Tracking this kind of data over time can help to inform and improve your online marketing efforts no end. It’s easy to set up: you simply place a piece of tracking code into your website.

For information on Google Analytics and privacy considerations, I think this Cookiebot article is useful.

12 FollowerWonk
FollowerWonk (“These tech companies are running out of names” said Google trainer Ian, earning much laughter) is a Twitter analysis tool, allowing you to get useful data about your followers – such as what times of day they tweet, and who are the biggest influencers.

Miscellaneous

Here are a couple of things I picked up while chatting to other delegates:

13 Brum Charity Hour
This Twitter hour is managed by BVSC (Birmingham Voluntary Service Council) and takes place on Thursdays from 12 to 1pm. Simply tweet about your organisation using the hashtag #BrumCharityHour and it’s likely to be retweeted for others to see. We’re going to try it – see you there?

14 Charity Catalogue
The hosts of this website curate free tools and resources like those I’ve listed above. It’s a great place for picking up new ways to make your communications work more impactful.

15 Online questionnaires
SurveyMonkey and Google Forms were mentioned in our Introduction to Fundraising workshop with Get Grants recently. Both are useful for gathering people’s opinions and feedback which, in turn, can be used to create quantitative data in funding applications.

What can you recommend for boosting your group’s online presence? We’d love to hear about it: tweet us (@brummatters) or find BCM on Facebook.