|Posted on December 3, 2013 at 11:25 AM|
Even if you build it, they still may not come. If no one in the community knows about the community website then it is not going to be utilized very often and management or the board of directors won’t benefit from any of the time management and communication advantages it provides.
Of the over a hundred and fifty different community association websites that we have designed and maintained in the past few years, there is a definite correlation between website traffic and newsletter production. In other words, those associations that have regular newsletters also have the most traffic on their community websites. Those associations that do not have a newsletter, or publish it infrequently, have very low levels of website traffic.
A community website and a regularly published newsletter are both required elements in an effective proactive community association communication program. The newsletter compliments the website and visa versa. But what is equally important is the marketing opportunities that the newsletter provides when it comes to getting the word out about the community website to members and residents. When I talk about ‘marketing’ the website I intend it to have the same connotations that would apply to marketing any product or service. Merriam-Webster defines marketing to mean “the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service.” When discussing community websites, the newsletter is the most effective tool to promote the site, sell it’s advantages and distribute its location (URL Address).
There are certain maxims of marketing and advertising that relate to guiding people’s behaviors in a certain direction in order to obtain a desired result. One of these is that the average person needs to ‘see’ an advertisement at least seven times before they internalize the ad enough to develop a desire for whatever the ad is promoting. Effective marketing means getting the word out over, and over, and over again, before any change in consumer behavior occurs. You cannot over-communicate!
Marketing a community website is no different than marketing soap. Before an owner is likely to internalize the benefits and opportunities that their community website will provide them, they have to be told about it repeatedly. Just as before any consumer is likely to buy a certain brand of soap, they are going to have to be convinced that the certain product meets their needs better than the other brands of soap available, owners have to be convinced that their community association experience can be greatly enhanced through the use of their community website. That convincing can only be achieved through repeated exposure to the product, or in our case, the community website. That’s what a regularly published association newsletter can do. Here’s how:
1. Whenever owners or residents are asked to contact management, list the community website address in addition to phone numbers and email addresses.
2. An informational article about the community website should be in every issue that lists some of its features and advantages.
3. List the community website address in all important numbers or contact areas of the newsletter.
4. At the top or bottom of every newsletter page, note the community website address.
If a newsletter is sent out on a regular basis, doing those things will increase the owners/residents awareness of their community website. If they know it is there, there is a much better chance that they will visit it. It may just take some time to get them to know it’s there, so be patient and be persistent.
The newsletter, although the most effective marketing tool, is not the only way to get the word out about a community website. Here are some other suggestions:
1. Have the community website address printed on all letterhead and correspondence going out from the association.
2. Print the website address on monthly billing statements that go out to owners. Associations that use coupon books to pay their assessments should have the website address printed on them.
3. List the community website on any bulletins or handouts (such as meeting agendas at the board meetings) that are given to owners.
4. If there is a voice mail box dedicated to the association, be sure to announce the site address.
5. Whenever communicating with an owner or resident, be sure to mention the community website. If it is via email, list the website address at the end of the email. Always encourage use of the website as an alternative communication option.
6. Take advantage of social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) to help drive residents to the community website. Posts should contain links that go directly to the site.
7. At the Annual Meeting, add an agenda item that allows a management representative to discuss the advantages of using the community website and provide an appropriate handout that attendees can take home and post on their refrigerator, computer, etc.
8. Encourage word-of-mouth promotion among owners and residents. Remind board and committee members to get in the habit of discussing the site with their neighbors.
Creating a community website and making sure that it has all the features necessary in order to achieve our goal of helping to reduce reactive time spent in managing the association is only the first step. Making sure the owners and residents know about the website is the most important step. If no one knows about the site, no one is going to visit it. It doesn’t get any simpler than that!
Help Create Community in your HOA, download a free version of "Creating Community: The Art of Empowerment in Community Association Living" at http://myhoa.webs.com/creatingcommunity.htm then order multiple copies for use in your HOA education program in hardcover, softcover or ebook at all online booksellers or at http://myhoa.webs.com/creatingcommunitybook.htm