An Online Communications Rule of Thirds?
Way back in 2008, I blogged about balancing your time and money between websites, email, and social media. I hypothesized a rule of thirds: that you should spend about a third of your energy and money on your website, a third on email communications, and a third on "online outreach". Note that I say "money and energy" -- whether we're talking about time or money or both depends on the organization. You could hire a consultant to do it all -- which would then cost a lot but take little time on your part-- or you could do it all in house -- which would cost less but take a lot of time.
Is this "rule of thirds" still valid? Stephen Blyth asked us this question on Facebook, provoking a lot of thought over here as to what we would recommend, and, in fact, what we do ourselves. The decision was that we do indeed think it's still a useful rule of thumb, at least in thinking through what you're actually doing, and what you want to prioritize.
To help you think it through, here's what it looks like here at Idealware:
- Website Communication: The time we spend on our website varies a lot by what resources we have going out, but probably averages about one to two hours per week to update and add content (that doesn't include actually writing the articles, of course -- we spend way more time on those!). We look at website analytics as a separate process -- maybe about two hours per month there. We then plan on a small enhancement phase to create new features about a twice a year-- at maybe $1000 in consulting fees and maybe eight hours each time. The website platform itself we use is free and open source. So if we count our time over here as, say, $30/hour, that comes to about $5500 per year. Wow, it adds up, huh?
- Broadcast Email: What about email? There, we average about two hours a week in figuring out our email schedule, actually creating and sending emails, managing our list, checking stats to see what worked, etc. Stephen in his question pointed out that organizations really ought to be doing testing and experimenting with email, as well as just sending them. I agree... but we're not doing that much. We really should be strateging different subject lines, trying a different format every once in while, and then tracking. So let's add in about 4 hours a month to do that. Plus the actual cost of our broadcast email tool -- about $150/month for our volume of emails. So that comes to about $6000, again counting our time at $30/hour.
- Outline Outreach: And then there's online outreach. For us, that primiarly means posting and trying to build community through Facebook, Twitter, general listening, and experimenting -- we spend 4 to 5 hours a week on that, but no money. We're not doing anything with Google Ads, though I'd like to be (we're still waiting, hopefully, for a Google Grant). I'm not sure how to account for our blog in this -- we use it as much to provide content towards our mission as to actually do outreach. We probably spend about three hours a week on that, including staff posts -- let's say one of those hours goes to outreach. So that's about $8000, with our time at $30/hour.
So what does that come to? Roughly 30% of our online communication resources to our website and our email communication, and then about 40% to our social media and online outreach.
Not too far from a rule of thirds... What does it look like for you?