How to launch your digital communication, for free

If you are a small charity, a startup or a music band launch your digital communication can be overwhelming. Where to start? How much will it cost? What to say?

The chances are that your budget is limited and the money vital for some other aspects of your venture. The good news is that it can be free. If it must, it won’t cost you a single cent. But as always, what is free is either not the highest quality, take a lot of time or lack functionalities…

Where to start? I wrote a little step by step plan for you. These are meant to be low-level advices. This guide could be muuuuuch longer and detailed. But for now I’ll stop here. I will detail every single part in future posts. So stay tuned and subscribe to the newsletter.

1. Write a short strategy

This part should be kept short but it is fundamental. It will help you not loose your focus and head towards the right direction. It should provide you guidance on which platform to be present for example.

What is (or are) your objective(s)?

Here are a couple of examples:

  • Selling more products
  • Get more donations
  • Attract your fans to your concert
  • Establish yourself as an expert in a specific field

Who is your target audience?

Are those french speaking lifestyle journalists or maybe young couples who need a new kitchen? Try to be precise and focused. Hint: everybody/grand public is not the good answer, never.

Where is your audience?

Almost all age groups are on Facebook, but not everyone reads Bilan nor posts picture on Tumblr. Try to figure out where your target audience is active online. Which web service they are using?

What is your message?

How do you want to be perceived? What must you audience remember? Your message can be carried with words (name, slogan, texts) but also with visuals. An old polaroid or a very clean studio photo do not carry the same emotion.

How will you measure your success?

Define Key Performance Indicators (KPI) but try to avoid vanity metrics. Most of the time the number of visitors or fans on Facebook are not good indicators. They will just make you feel “liked/famous”. What you need to measure are important indicators for your organisation. Metrics that indicate that your are in the right direction to reach your goals defined previously.

Some example:

  • Number of new contacts you received via your contact form (leads, requests for conferences, mentions on newspaper’s websites)
  • Number of donations or the ratio of donation vs Visitors
  • Number of people who attended your shows which heard it via your site (could be measured via an offline survey at the entrance)

Read more about this topic: Vanity vs Actionable metrics

Edit: I’ve extended this part in a new post: Define your Digital Communication Strategy

2. Build a small website

In almost every case you will need a website. But not always. In case of a band you could limit yourself to social media account and a newsletter without even having a proper website, in the beginning.

  • Define one main goal for your site. This could be the following: Get donation, have visitors subscribe to your newsletter or have them follow you on Facebook.
  • Quickly define an architecture. What pages do you need and how they will be linked together. The need to support the goal defined above. The simpler, the better.
  • Write the content for every page and gather the related media (pictures, videos)
  • Choose a platform (see below).
  • Choose your template that will help carry your message.

The platform

A lot of website nowadays do run on WordPress. It has the big advantage that if you need a professional help there are plenty available. Another tool is weebly.com. In both case there are a lots of limitations. But you can do the basic stuff.

Other paid (cheap) options include squarespace.com or wix.com.

Domain name

If there is one thing I would advise for, is to get your own domain name. It won’t cost you much and it will be much better for your brand. Plus, in the long run, the age of your domain name does count. It will cost you around 8-12 CHF per year for the domain name itself. But if you want a WordPress.com site with its own domain then it is 99 USD.

3. Produce appealing content

Everything is about content. You cannot send a newsletter nor post anything on Facebook if you don’t have something interesting to say or share.

Go multimedia

Photos and videos are usually the content that work best on Social Media. If you are really not good with any of those, get some photos from a professional photographer. This will really give an other dimension to your communication.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

A lot of your possible online customers journeys start with a question to Google. Then almost everyone clicks on one of the first 10 links. But a lot of other website owners want to be ranked there. Chances are small that you will appear there for short and generic  keywords (ex: band, charity). You will need to focus on more specific keywords like “swiss rock band lausanne” or “children charity working in Yemen”.

This subject is complexe, but you can start by reading a Guide from Google.

3. Engage on Social Networks

Go where your audience is. If they are on Facebook, be on Facebook. If they are on Snapchat, go on Snapchat.

  • Post often, but do not spam
  • Post interesting and helpful content
  • Optimise your posts. For example if you post a photo, if relevant add a description and link to your site. Make sur the content is adapted for smartphone users too.
  • Use tools to simplify your life. Hootsuite can help your manage all your accounts in one place. Buffer will help “schedule” posts on different time. Iconsquare will let you know which hashtag to use on Instagram.

4. Send out newsletters

Newsletters are a very powerful tool for communicating online. For a while they got the second role while Social Media was on the star. But you should not skip it.

  1. Ask permission to send news. Nothing is more annoying than receiving email from someone whom you’ve never gave the permission to send you those. This is called SPAM. Chance are that you already have some addresses lists. If the haven’t given your permission to send them messages. Ask it first. You could this method.
  2. Allow people to subscribe via your website or Facebook page.
  3. Give regular news. Make sure to regularly send them news above
  4. Provide interesting and adapted content. Try to keep your emails short and focused. And above all make sure the look great on smartphone.

5. Spread the word

Some ideas in bulk, unstructured.

  • Add the links to your website and social media accounts in your email signature.
  • Contact bloggers and websites in your industry and make sure they are aware of your existence.
  • Add your URL onto your flyers, posters and business cards
  • Advertise. Sponsoring posts, Ads on Google or Youtube are very efficient to get visibility, but I would advise to get in contact with a professional before you use them. If your campaigns and landing pages are not optimised you will be throwing money out of the window.

Mailchimp is a most known tool. They have a free version in exchange the will add their little logo at the bottom of your newsletter. Highly recommend. An other one: sendinblue.com.

This is limited information. But if you need guidance with your online communication strategy, I’m always happy to help you.

 

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Yann Graf

I am an experienced Digital Strategy Consultant based in Switzerland. After over seven year respectfully crafting and improving the digital presence of Terre des hommes, Nautilus and G-Star Raw, I am now a freelancer. Please have a look at my Portfolio