Today’s tech-savvy world offers an abundance of tools, often free, that can help you manage and publicise your choir. Even if you’re a total technophobe, you cannot afford to ignore the power of the internet. I’d like to persuade you that with a bit of time, and an openness to new learning, the internet can help you run your choir.
Where to build your online home
How are people who want to know about your choir – to join it, book it or attend a performance – going to find it? They’ll probably do exactly what you or I would do: open up a browser and type the name of the choir into a search engine. If they don’t know the name of the choir, they’ll probably type ‘choirs in location’. However much or little time you want to spend developing your choir’s online presence, you need to ensure that you can capture those enquiries.
I know of some choirs that don’t bother with a dedicated website and choose to run their whole online operation on Facebook. There are advantages to that approach. You can have a public page for enquiries, a private group for members and events for rehearsals and performances. You can post unlimited photos and people can “like” you so that they get information about you in their news feed.
There are, of course, disadvantages too. If you put everything on Facebook (or any other social media platform), you’re at the mercy of their rules, which can change at any time. You just need to be aware that if you want to build an online presence via Facebook, you’re unlikely to do it for free these days. Never forget – if you receive an online service for free, you’re the product, not the customer.
I favour having a proper website with a domain name that I own. You can buy a domain and hosting very reasonably. As an example, our choirs website costs £6 a year for the domain and £40 a year for the web hosting.
There’s absolutely no excuse these days for having a hideous, hard-to-navigate website, although there are still plenty of them around. There are several options for easy, works-out-of-the-box websites, but I recommend WordPress.org. It’s ubiquitous, incredibly easy to set up and has a huge online community of users, which makes problem-solving a breeze. If you have money to burn, you could look at a more managed solution like Wix or Squarespace.
Designing your ‘shop window’
For some basic design principles, you can check out my article here on graphic design for your choir. When you’re building your choir’s website, remember that less is more. People don’t want to read great reams of text. Keep everything simple and to the point.
One of the most powerful things you can include on the front page of your site is a testimonial (or several). In the offline world, we usually select goods and services on the basis of ‘social proof’, ie we are more likely to trust a brand if our friends or family recommend it, or if we know that hundreds or thousands of other people use it. The same principle applies online, but it’s trickier to employ. Testimonials demonstrate that someone else has booked/joined/heard the choir and thinks it’s awesome.
A huge proportion of online searches are now made from smartphones and tablets, so make sure that any website you create for your choir is ‘responsive’, which means that it will re-size automatically on smaller screens.
Social media campaigns
Depending on your location and the demographic your choir covers, you may want to think about publicising auditions, performances etc via Facebook, Twitter or another social media platform. We don’t do a lot of social media campaigning for our choirs because we have an older demographic and we’re based in a village that’s quite self-contained geographically. We find that we get more interest from posters and word of mouth. If you have a younger membership and you’re based in a city, you may well get a lot of benefit from posting and tweeting about upcoming events. Take a look at our friend Dominic’s Chaps Choir for inspiration.
I have a couple of words of warning if you do go down that road. First, don’t try to do everything. Facebook and Twitter are pretty ubiquitous, but you could also consider Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Google+ etc. It can all seem very daunting and it’s unlikely that you have the time to cover all bases. Go where your audience is most likely to hang out. Secondly, always be polite. If you want to be controversial and get stuck into political discourse online, by all means do so. Just don’t do it in the name of your choir. And don’t forget that it’s sometimes very difficult to convey tone in posts and tweets. What you might think is pithy and amusing could come across as plain offensive.
As in all things, if you act with integrity and in good faith, you’ll be just fine.
I hope this post has given you some ideas about how you can manage your choir’s online presence. Next week, in the final instalment of this series, I’ll be looking at planning your very first rehearsal.