A word about marketing local Ruritan Clubs

From the desk of the Rapidan District’s Publicity Chairperson, Linda Bradshaw:

I’d like to discuss publicity for a few minutes with our Ruritan Clubs today.

Whether we like to think about our Ruritan Clubs as businesses or not, they are, in fact, a type of business.

Target Market (free clip art)

Target Market (free clip art)

The primary goal of any business is to stay in business! In order for our Ruritan Clubs to “stay in business,” we must increase and maintain our membership!  We must “market” our clubs to the right “target market” in order to do that!

In order for our Ruritan Clubs to grow, we need to appeal to the younger, more technologically savvy generations. Those generations are our “target market.”

One of the most effective methods to market anything in today’s technology-heavy world is by using the Internet’s Social Media platforms.

Social Media (free clip art)

Social Media (free clip art)

Ruritan National workshops held at conventions advised the attendees to use websites, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to promote awareness and membership in our local Ruritan Clubs!  There is little doubt that Social Media is THE KEY to the future of Ruritan membership!

I would like to encourage each club to have BOTH a website and a Facebook Page.

Facebook (free clip art)

Facebook (free clip art)

Consider this:  Everyone that reads Facebook uses the Internet, but not everyone that uses the Internet reads Facebook!  Only 25% of Facebook users are in the United States, and 25% of Facebook users are under the age of ten. Although Facebook is still a valuable resource, there have been several articles this year that suggest that Facebook’s popularity is waning.  Of my own personal circle of family, friends, and neighbors, the majority of them have Internet access but refuse to join, or use Facebook. Yet they all use the Internet’s Google’s Search engine to find information that they need.

Internet - man searching online (free clip art)

Internet – man searching online (free clip art)

Having a “real” website that has the proper keywords built-in will help people find the information they are seeking about your club quickly and easily without having to search multiple posts through a long timeline on Facebook. “Real” websites can have “search” features and multiple pages that Facebook simply does not have. Don’t get me wrong – Facebook is a valuable supplemental resource that can enhance the publicity and marketing of a club. A “real” website, however, is the keystone of an Internet marketing campaign.

Sharing options on WordPress websites

Sharing options on WordPress websites

One useful feature of some websites I’ve developed (using the free, easy, user-friendly WordPress platform) is that they can be set up to automatically cross-post to their associated Facebook pages.  This is done on their “Sharing settings” page under the “Publicize” option (see photo above.) They can also be set up to cross-post to other platforms as well, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus, and more! That feature eliminates duplicity of work.  You can publish a post to the website, and be done with it! The information goes everywhere you can possibly want it to go!

Calendar of events (free clip art)

Calendar of events (free clip art)

The websites can also have calendar of events features, so your club can use it as a resource to publicize upcoming meetings and events.

Now, I understand that some clubs may have concerns about the costs and technical difficulties of buying, creating, and maintaining a website.  Not very long ago, websites WERE expensive, and difficult to buy, create and maintain.  Today the annual cost is very affordable.

For example, GoDaddy is selling domain names (dot coms) this month for $2.99 for the first year. Their renewal fees typically are below $20 per year.  (The prices vary, depending on sales and promotions at the time.)

Internet (free clip art)

Internet (free clip art)

By having the local clubs purchase their own domain, the local clubs can maintain total creative control over their own websites, and can create as simple, or as complex, a website as the club desires. The WordPress platform is free, and easy.  The WordPress Platform can be used to create a static page website for a club that only wants to have one or two pages that don’t change, or it can be used to create a blog-style, dynamic web page that can be updated with posts about current news and events.

The Rapidan District Cabinet will purchase a “real” domain name for the District, and purchase the web hosting service plan that will allow the Rapidan District to host unlimited websites on their server. The Rapidan District is offering to host the websites of local clubs within the Rapidan District on the District’s server for free. This offer applies to both existing sites, and new sites.  Hosting the local club’s websites on the District’s server will save local Ruritan Clubs a significant amount of money each year. (GoDaddy’s least expensive web hosting plan is $84/year, although it sometimes goes on sale for 50% off.)

By putting the local Ruritan club’s website on the District’s server, the local club can then spend the money saved on some other important Community Service Project! That is a win-win situation!

workshop (free clip art)

workshop (free clip art)

One free workshop was held in July 2014 to help local club’s volunteer webmasters understand the basics of creating a WordPress platform website.  Another free “make-up” workshop will be scheduled in the near future for those clubs whose webmasters were unable to attend the first one.

If your Rapidan District Ruritan Club is interested in participating in a future  free (yes, free!) workshop, please use the contact form below to express your interest and to advise when your volunteer webmaster would be available to attend a workshop!

At The Crossroads

Crossroads (free clip art)

Crossroads (free clip art)

The following article is the sole opinion of the Lt. Governor, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the entire District Cabinet, or of Ruritan National, although some of the ideas set forth are an interpretation of workshops and meetings about Publicity and Membership from the 2014 Ruritan National Convention in Branson MO.

An opinion from the desk of the Lt. Governor:

As the Ruritan Clubs look to their future, more members are realizing that their local clubs are at a critical crossroad, and difficult decisions must be made. Some clubs are struggling with membership loss for a variety of reasons, and are finding it challenging to recruit and maintain their clubs at charter strength. If the clubs are to survive, the clubs need to find a way to recruit and retain younger, enthusiastic, energetic members.

Those younger, energetic members, are members of the generations often referred to as the “Generation X” and “Generation Y” (or “Milleniums.”) Successfully marketing Ruritan to these groups of people is critical if the local Ruritan Clubs are going to survive.

Online published articles about marketing research about the Generation X target market, and marketing research about the Generation Y (Milleniums) from a well-respected source known as CRM (Customer Relationship Management) makes it clear that both of these generations are extremely technologically savvy, and are very involved in social media. Links to articles about that research are provided in the previous sentence; you can click on those links to see the articles.

These two generations are the real future of Ruritan. If Ruritan Clubs want to survive, then the clubs need to embrace that as the truth, and market themselves to those two generations. These generations use dynamic social media, such as Facebook, and Twitter. They are more likely to be attracted to a responsive, dynamic, blog-style webpage that has a calendar of upcoming events on the home page, categories, widgets, and frequent, updated blog posts about the most recent club happenings than they are to a static webpage that is essentially an announcement of “hey, we exist, come check us out” page that is attractive to previous generations. The blog-style webpage is similar in appearance, and feel to Facebook, and most of the people in these generations use Facebook a lot.

Static webpages have served their purpose well in the past, and it is understandable that the clubs might be reluctant to change them. After all, we are comfortable with them, they are our creations, and we hate change! But change is coming, whether we like it or not, and we must adapt, or cease to exist.

Some of the components of those static webpages can be preserved by creating a “sticky post” on the home page of the blog-style websites, but in the current Internet environment those completely static webpages are not going to perform as well in Google Search Engine Results Pages, Domain Authority Rankings, Google Page Rankings, Bing Rankings, Alexa Rankings as the newer blog-style websites will perform. The blog-style webpages, if created correctly, and maintained faithfully and correctly, will be more effective at reaching the Generation X and Y target markets.

There is no reason that a Ruritan Club cannot have multiple websites, targeting different markets! If the club already has a static webpage, and is happy with it, the club can create a new blog-style webpage and link it to a new or existing Facebook page. There is nothing that says a club can only have “one” webpage!

Many Ruritan clubs are at a crossroads. These clubs need to decide whether they want to attract younger members into the clubs so the clubs will survive, or if they want to just let the club memberships drop below charter level and eventually lose their charter. If the clubs want to attract younger members, then the clubs would be well advised to market their clubs to the technologically savvy, younger members through the Social Media that these younger members already use – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and blog-style websites in addition to newspapers, radio, television.

Resistance to evolution is futile. If Ruritan Clubs are to survive, we must study the changes and adapt to them, or we will not survive.