Helping out a non-profit in Isaan with its online presence

Seems NGOs over here in Thailand are even worse than those back in Blighty – but for very different reasons. Having allowed someone else with a conflict of interests to run her site the volunteer coordinator of Mundo Exchange left herself open to some pretty big potential for problems which have now been corrected. Without going into specifics trust is a major factor when you allow someone to represent your organisation online. Here are five basic tips on how you should approach your online presence – all of which promote free tools.

Firstly having little more than a rudimentary knowledge of formatting is essential in today’s multimerging environment and utilising social media is at the forefront of any person wishing to remain in the game of being found online. Search engine optimisation is not rocket science, it is however hard work. Pumping fresh, rich and appropriate content onto your site regularly will work wonders without you having to worry about coding or pushing it through illicit means. Knowing how to hyperlink, naming images and formatting a post correctly is about the height of expertise one needs. There certainly is more if you wish to be cutting edge about it however there are simple videos directly from Google’s top dog which detail how to refine your presence in a puppy-dog fashion which are very easy to understand.

Secondly if you are going to store private information online – keep it secure! Secure means behind a lock of some description not just a URL that anyone could guess or find by snooping. Does this information have to be online? Can’t Google Docs or even your email provide better security? Knowing what should or should not be online is well documented within the UK and people’s private data and their trust in someone to protect it is paramount almost to the point of absurdity. Have policies of the highest standards when you are working globally and never bend a rule when it comes to data protection.

Three – know your audience, cater for them and expand upon, and from, them. Google Analytics is a free tool which allows you to see who has come to your site, from where they have came and for how long they stayed. It does much, much more than this however for a starting point this should be enough to interest you. Once you see which parts of your site are popular, which ones people spend most of their time on and how they traverse your site you can think about encouraging the popular parts and altering the poorer parts. Adding comments allows for interaction directly with your audience – a question asked openly from one person might very well be a question many others have thought of and have gone away because of it not being resolved. Knowing your audience and answering their comments humanises the experience for them and allows for reflective structured development to benefit your online presence.

Fourth tip – Social Media. Each visitor to your site holds their own amount of social capital. If you can tap into their social network then you promote yourself using them as valued nodes to pass your message along.  Many people use Twitter, Facebook, Youtube or the new Google Wave and if you can get them to discuss their findings on your site openly then you have just informed others of your presence and increased your audience significantly. Having a hook with which to excite people is key here; run a poll, create a competition, write something controversial and open for debate, post a funny picture or video. Generating subject specific hype will have your visitors sharing their thoughts about it with their friends – it could even snowball into a viral event. As Oscar Wilde so eloquently stated: The only thing worse than being talked about it not being talked about. Get talked about.

Finally – use a framework. I have much respect for those who get into the guts of coding to achieve a particular task. Serious kudos to those who innovate and put their effort towards solutions. Coders regularly share their work enabling others to build on and further their solutions. When there are openly available, free for use and incredibly useful solutions available – use them! Frameworks such as Drupal, JoomlaWordPress and tons more offer a way of creating, updating and displaying your content without all the hassles of coding a website. Use them. WordPress is incredibly simple to use and has a massive community to aid you should you find yourself ever needing it. It was recently voted overall best and I would recommend giving it a whirl if you wish to employ all of the previous tips in one solution. Content can be exported and imported between all these frameworks should one present a better solution for you. Use them.

Mundo Exchange now utilise a WordPress blog, are tied into plenty of social media networks, have various people to write and reply to comments, use proper formatting with their posts and images, can see how effective their traffic is and know to keep potentially sensitive information away from the net. As long as they post often with original, creative, relevant content they will be successful at handling their online presence.

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