This morning a guest at Club Awesome Toastmasters, who came in the door ready and willing to join, answered this way when we asked how she found us: “Well, I saw this was the club closest to me, and then I looked at your website — and I was sold!”
That was music to my ears, of course. One of the things she saw coming to our website was a lot of recent activity, conveyed through the blog. For example, recent posts celebrate wins by our members at an area contest, as well as a series of videos previewing a presentation one of our club leaders will be giving at the district conference.
What blogging software gives you is the ability to post new content more easily, using a web-based word processor. Blog posts are automatically organized with the newest content first and presented in a search engine friendly format that tends to make your website rank higher. Having new content on the blog is how we show prospective members that we have a lot going on, that Toastmasters looks like fun, and that ours is the right club for them.
You use your blog in concert with social media, creating posts to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and whatever other social sites you use that link back to the content on your website.
This was the reason we switched, several years ago, from hosting our club website on Free Toast Host (the default service used by most clubs) to basing it on the WordPress blogging software. While I have invested countless hours in custom programming to add Toastmasters specific features, the social media marketing and recruiting boost we get for our club is something we get for free by taking advantage of WordPress. I particularly like how easy it is to include video in a post and to cross-promote content on social media.
I also believe club officers who learn to use WordPress are learning a professional skill, since WordPress is a serious website management tool used by publishers like The New Yorker and The Atlantic, as well as marketing organizations like Disney. Getting proficient at managing Free Toast Host isn’t a skill you can apply anywhere else.
My approach is to have one website that includes the blog, all the other basic information about our club, plus important meeting and member management functions. If people find their way to one of our blog posts, I want all the information about where and when we meet and why our club is so awesome to be just a click away.
There are a few other strategies to consider:
- Create a blog using a free service such as WordPress.com (run by the people who created the software) or Blogger. Link back and forth between the blog and your “official” website, which might be Free Toast Host. If you have an established website you’re happy with and feel no particular pressure to up your game in online marketing and recruiting, this could be a reasonable compromise (though it pains me to say so).
- Create posts on LinkedIn or Medium. Both of those service include what are essentially blogging tools. Link back to your official website from those posts. This may be a supplemental strategy you want to use to reach a different audience, even if you do have a WordPress blog. Ditto for a Facebook page or group.
Footnote: the custom software I have created is not available within the WordPress.com service. Lots of different websites run on the open source software available through WordPress.org, but WordPress.com is a free blog hosting service operated by the creators of the software, and it only supports a subset of all the plugins and themes (designs) available from the open source community.
Although my software is not available on WordPress.com, I have come up with something similar to their free website offer, specifically for Toastmasters clubs, through this WordPress for Toastmasters website. (I am asking for advertising and donations to support the project, but so far the costs are low enough that I can support this out-of-pocket). I also make the underlying software available for free to run on other hosting services that support WordPress.
If you already have a WordPress.com website, it’s possible to export content from there and import it into a WordPress for Toastmasters website.