This posts documents a small digital side-project to connect kitesurfers in Geraldton. Some of the tools and approach may be relevant to you, if you run any sort of group, club or team. Enjoy!
Some of our starting assumptions with Geraldton Kite Crew were that:
- People with hobbies enjoy it more and are safer if sharing with others,
- Most people want to enjoy their hobby, not administer it for others,
- Any administration or communication should be as cheap and easy as possible for all,
- Investing a little upfront in setup will save a lot later in hassle for everyone.
So, for Geraldton Kite crew, we used a bunch of free online tools to make it easy to: find other kitesurfers; collect their contact details, needs and wants; enable them to coordinate sessions with each other; share news and updates as necessary; and, grow a community.
Below are the tools in the order that we set them up and used them. The notes relating to each explain their use, benefits, but also why or how we came to use them. The hyperlinks take you to the examples of our ones, and from there you can navigate to setup your own.
Facebook - a free page was created on a social platform that everyone already uses, so that the group can be found easily. As we're not actively selling anything or heavily recruiting, we don’t invest much time in the page and content. We've customised some buttons and links to encourage people to join the mailing list.
MailChimp - we use MailChimp to send bulk, well-designed emails to contacts who have opted-in to receive them, and can manage and updated their preferences. The detailed analytics (percentage of people who opened etc.) provided by MailChimp allow us to see how engaged recipients are. We've also automated some follow-on emails after people sign up encouraging them to complete a survey, join Slack etc.
Google Forms - to understand our members better we created a survey. This is sent to all new subscribers and will stay open to keep collecting results ongoing. After the first time sending out we got a 20% response rate and that's now up to more than 50%. The survey allows us to data on members age, where they kite, and what other groups they are already part of, and how they can help out with the club. It's proven really useful data, including help us identify that most members were already on SeaBreeze.com so we didn't need to re-create that buy and sell or forum functionality.
Canva - this online design software makes it easy to create and tweak a logo and other graphics for social media, posters etc. As with most of the software we use, multiple people can be invited to collaborate. When deciding on a logo we used their new feature to create a web-based view of 7 alternative designs.
Gmail - after initially creating the above accounts with our personal email addresses, we then created an email address for gerokitecrew[at]gmail.com to use as the main contact point, and update as the default login account for the other software. If you are doing something similar, I recommend doing this step first. We set up forwarding and ability to reply from other accounts, saving administrators from having to remember another login, check or reply from additional accounts.
Slack - our survey and discussions suggested that we needed some way to communicate amongst members, with sub-topics. Facebook, Messenger, Seabreeze discussion topic and other options were considered, but we trialled Slack and it seemed to work. So we've created a dedicated 'team' and some 'channels' allowing local kiters to instantly message the group or specific individuals to organise sessions, trips or share news and tips.
bit.ly - many of the links to surveys and mailing lists are lengthy with random numbers and letters that can make people hesitate to click and the links difficult to remember. We used bit.ly to create some customised shorter links (like http://bit.ly/GeroKite_survey ) and it also allows us to see how many people have clicked on each.
About.me - with all these links and info, we needed a 'home' on the web to collect them all and direct inquiries. About.me creates single-page sites. While often used for professional's online profiles it works well for a club or group. It takes only a minute to setup, add some text and links to the mailing list and social media.
Vimeo - in joining other Slack teams and online forums, we noticed the signup process can be a bit tricky, and communicating the purpose and ethics in writing wasn't that effective. So recorded a short movie with our iPhones and Quicktime (for screencasts) then edited with iMovie. While creating the video took time, we have had zero signup issues, and reckon we have saved many hours (collectively) of: frustration from new members, correcting misguided usage, or administrators having to deal dealing with individual issues. And, we got to communicate the purpose of the group and give it a human face.
Zapier - we've used some in-built features in most of the software to link to each other and automate tasks e.g. RSS news feeds from Kitesurfing sites into a Slack Channel, automated folow-up emails to new subscribers. In some cases we want the software to talk to each other e.g. when we get a new email list subscriber send a reminder to an administrator to invite them to join Slack, or when someone joins Slack send them a welcome message. Zapier makes that possible, and has made welcoming people so much easier.
Google Drive - while these tools have reduced much of the administration burden, we do have some documents and things that we need to share. We created a shared Google Drive and set up folders to save versions of our logo, event plans, constitution and the details of all the software and systems so we can all jointly access and edit.
So, there it is - a quick rundown on the tools used to enable communication, coordination and administration amongst our group.
It's worth noting a few asides or disclaimers to put this in context:
- I have created or administered other groups using Meetups, Podio, LinkedIn, buddypress, Google/Yahoo Groups, Gaggle Mail, Facebook and others. In this case, none were appropriate as the chosen combination.
- Luckily there is a basic level of digital literacy amongst the core crew who wanted to make this happen, so it made this all very quick and easy. If you are new to these tools, consider that investing in learning how to use them may prove relevant and helpful in other professional or social contexts.
- While doing all this does require an upfront investment of time and consultation with fellow administrators and members, the end result has many features and benefits that save future time and effort in the future and hopefully enable those that share our hobby to do so more safely, more enjoyably, together.
Given all that, I'd love to hear any thoughts or feedback on this setup - just post a comment here, or on Twitter.