In addition to being a marathon runner, I also recently started skating with one of the top ranked roller derby leagues in the nation, the Denver Roller Dolls. In addition to skating, every member of the league must serve on a committee. When I joined in January 2009, I made the simple choice to join the PMS committee (public relations, marketing, sponsorship), and quickly got involved on the website redesign project that was taking place.
The project was fun because it was well within my comfort zone, yet I got to sit on the “client” side of the table for once. I’ve been able to derive and execute on strategy with almost complete support from others. It’s an ongoing effort, but it’s certainly been enjoyable thus far.
The site design and development was already underway before I joined the committee: Ryan Lee of Think to Make came up with a great design, and pulled in developer KC Tunstan of 525Creative to make it come to life. As a recovering developer, obviously I’m the worst sort of client, but I was really impressed with KC’s work and his dedication to the project. The guys did a great job at incorporating a few of the last minute suggestions I threw in: adding news to the homepage and a twitter feed to the fans section.
The site was built with Expression Engine, and KC provided great documentation for updating the site. As a result, we’re no longer limited to having a few individuals with HTML experience updating the site. Because we’re an organization based on events (bouts, service projects, appearances), it was important that information could be added easily and expire automatically. KC also created three RSS feeds for us: News, Events and Bouts.
Two weeks ago, the Denver Roller Dolls were featured on Fox 31 news, and we decided it was time to “flip the switch”. The new site was live: now, did anyone know (or care?)
Before each bout, we give away a few pairs of tickets via social media. This month I ran a twitter promotion that encouraged individuals to “tweet to win”. Yes, after reading the ReadWriteWeb article that basically called this sort of promotion “spam”, I feel bad about it, but at the time I felt it was a great way to introduce our new site – people visited our site for contest details, and hopefully explored it further.
The RSS feed I mentioned earlier? Of course I created a widget from it, to make it easier for our fans to receive updates about our activities. I run the RSS feed through Feedburner so that I could monitor subscriptions and item use.
With the ease with which we can now do site updates, I’ve been eager to ensure our news is getting pushed out to our other online outlets. I don’t maintain our MySpace, Facebook or Twitter profiles, but I’ve been working with Jersey Trouble to figure out how best to use these sites. We recently created a ping.fm account to ensure consistent messaging across several of the platforms, and just make it easier on ourselves to continue to offer our fans fresh content.
Just as I preach to clients that you can’t simply build a great website and expect people to flock to it, my current focus is to drive people to our website. The other day University of Denver film student Beca Freitas-Wolfe posted “Rollermama” on Vimeo. This was a film she produced with fellow students Jason Bach and Kim Crane, featuring some of our players. Rather than pointing people to Vimeo to view the great short, I pulled it into our own video gallery and promoted Rollermama on the Denver Roller Dolls website instead.
The fun part about a side project is the lack of constraints, the challenging part about a side project is the lack of accountability. I have plenty of ideas to further enhance the online presence of the league, but I want to ensure that I’m being responsible to the league and their overall objectives and not acting independently. Still, it’s been a fun project thus far and I look forward to continuing to work on our organization’s digital initiatives.