Online Community Product

Make Your Newsletter a Microsite!

By Luke Zimmer posted May 20, 2014 15:20

  

Note: this post was developed based on my presentation for Higher Logic's second annual Client Showcase: The Coolest Thing I've Done With Connected Community. Please contact me with any questions.

Greetings fellow HUGgers! Today I’d like to tell you all about URMIA’s use of Higher Logic microsites. We’ve found the microsites useful for all kinds of URMIA projects, namely our monthly newsletter, URMIA Insights, as well as our member resource guide--appropriately titled the URMIA Resource Guide--and, most recently, for our 45th Annual Conference website. To begin, I’ll tell you a little bit about why URMIA chose the microsite format for our newsletter, then I’ll review how we build out a newsletter microsite, and then, finally, how we market the microsite to members.

We were first introduced to microsites and chose to purchase the microsite module when URMIA joined the Higher Logic family a few years ago. At that time, URMIA used several systems to maintain our members’ resources, and as we moved to consolidate these resources in the Higher Logic system, it was determined that the microsite function would be the perfect platform for hosting our monthly online newsletters for a few reasons: first, the microsite function allowed us to create the newsletter in an HTML format that could be updated and corrected without having to re-send the newsletter email. Second, the microsite allowed us to expand the functionality and flexibility of URMIA’s newsletter design. And, finally, the microsite format lets URMIA easily archive past articles for quick access by members. Keep in mind, though, that the microsite platform is not perfect for everything, and should be used primarily for sites that need to follow a different navigation structure or design than your community sites.

To build our monthly newsletter, we began with a basic microsite template wrapped in CSS (cascading style sheet) developed by our website and database administrator—if you don’t have a web admin or designer to create the CSS for you, the Higher Logic Users Group is a great resource for finding freelance designers. We recently hired the services of Justin Prevatte, a self-described “CSS Jedi,” to design the CSS for our annual conference microsite--you can find Justin using the HUG Directory. After applying the CSS, building the microsite is a matter of determining the basic structure and navigation of the site and which user controls and content you want to make visible on the site. For microsite set-up and editing resources click here, or you can always input a support ticket to the HL team.

After the basic design, structure, and navigation are determined, it’s time to develop, add, and distribute content. To develop content, we solicit articles and announcements from our members via our discussion boards—almost all of the content in URMIA Insights is written or developed by our members—about 3 weeks before the next edition is to be released. After the content has been gathered, we put all of the content into a text-only Adobe Dreamweaver file and save this file to our web server. We then send the text-only file to our Executive Committee for final edits. While the text is being edited, I create the folder structure for the next month’s edition in Higher Logic’s microsite module. Once all of the edits are received, I can then make these changes to the Dreamweaver file and simply copy the HTML from the Dreamweaver file into the HTML editor in Higher Logic. As long as the CSS rules match-up between the Dreamweaver file and the CSS on the microsite, then all of your headers and paragraph fonts should look exactly as you want them to without having to edit any of the HTML in Higher Logic. After the text has been input as HTML, I generally use the WYSIWYG to make small changes to the content and to add photos.

Finally, after the content has been added and the microsite looks perfect, we develop a Constant Contact email message that looks almost identical to our newsletter landing page. With Constant Contact, or almost any email service these days, we’re not only able to quickly and easily market the newsletter to a large audience, we’re also able to track view and click-thru rates by each of our member types, giving us a breakdown of not only which of our members are making use of the newsletter, but also where and how they view content on URMIA Insights.

To recap, the Higher Logic microsite platform has proved invaluable for URMIA in many ways, and, with a little patience and help from HUG, we’ve been able to create a newsletter platform that is long-lasting, flexible, and, if we can toot our own horn a bit, a hit among our members—our Constant Contact open rates consistently track at or above 25 percent. If you haven’t already, we would highly recommend exploring Higher Logic’s microsite functionality for your organization today.

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Jun 10, 2014 12:58

I think this is a really strong suggestion. Driving traffic to the platform benefits SEO. Users/members will appreciate having an always-fresh news resource. Of course this assumes it will be managed daily - always a challenge to find time. Thanks for the Blog, Luke!