The Top Five Lists: Improve Your Website

Your website isn’t a static entity. It’s a living, breathing, work-in-progress. We believe that even the best websites always have room for improvement. Here are some of our top ideas.

  1. Use Google Analytics to troubleshoot.
    Take the guesswork out of your content by using Google Analytics that's integrated into the Gateway website system. Using this data, you can troubleshoot: Are certain pages not being viewed? Are people leaving other pages in high numbers? With the cold, hard facts, you can make the necessary changes.
  2. Anticipate the viewers’ needs.
    Once you figure out what your viewers want using analytics, make sure that you provide multiple access points of access to pages of interest. Then they can easily find what they are looking for.
  3. Organize your press releases.
    Instead of using the default and organizing your releases by date, take a more creative approach and organize them by content. Then push those content-specific releases to the corresponding sections in your Issues sections. So when you have a press release on the environment, it will show up in your  Environment section automatically. Your viewers will appreciate it.
  4. Update photo rotator and prominent images frequently.
    A picture is worth a thousand words, so don’t keep using the same ones. Frequent visitors to  your site want something new to look at, especially on your homepage, so don’t disappoint them.
  5. Speaking of images. . .
    Make sure your images, on the homepage and elsewhere, link to other pages. Yet another way to increase interaction and keep your visitors coming back.


The Top Five Lists: Improve Your Constituent Gateway CRM

Our CRM was designed to make your life simpler. Why not take this to the next level? With a few tweaks and a little effort, you can streamline your process to save even more time. We know that everyone uses it a little differently, but here are our top general suggestions.

  1. Personalize your folders for optimum efficiency.
    For those drowning in disorganized personal folders (like legislative correspondents or caseworkers), get organized using filtered folders. Filtered folders are basically saved searches so you can quickly access the records you look for most frequently.
  2. Get organized with columns.
    Are your correspondence activities coded and ready? Now add, remove, rearrange, and group by columns.
  3. Use personal codes to tag your constituents.
    Create unique codes to make constituents more easily searchable. A VIP? A person who attended every event in one location? Apply tags to these individuals so you can find them when you need them.
  4. Use keyword searches for more efficient sorting.
    Word searches mean less work. Now when you start to see incoming correspondence with the same text or phrases, it will search for those automatically — even before people have sorted it.
  5. Use the electronic approval system within the CRM.
    Create and apply Workflow definitions that allow you to account for every step of a letter approval process. When you complete your step and it’s approved, the next staff member will get an email notification that they’ve received a new workflow item in their folder.

GovTrends to Join the iConstituent Family of Companies

November 21, 2011 – iConstituent is excited to announce the acquisition of GovTrends. Alongside with iConstituent, GovTrends is a leading provider of online communications tools and Congressional websites to elected officials in the United States Congress.

“We have always been impressed by the quality of GovTrends’ work, innovation, dedication to customer service and overall passion for the use of technology in Congress," says Zain Khan, iConstituent’s CEO. “Ab Emam, GovTrends’ founder and CEO, has cultivated a dedicated staff bursting with talent and energy.  Overall, Congressional offices will benefit from this union.” says Khan.

Ben Shichman, iConstituent’s CTO adds “There is a complimentary fit between GovTrends existing product offerings and the Constituent Gateway eCommunications product suite – one that will benefit our customers through increased choice, integration and innovation.  We’re very excited to be working with this talented group.”

Stuart Shapiro, iConstituent’s President, sees the GovTrends culture as highly complementary; “GovTrends’ company culture is what attracted us to them the most," says Shapiro. "Like iConstituent, they are quick to adapt to change and innovate.  We don’t want to change what makes them unique in this marketplace.  In fact, GovTrends will continue to be a force on the Hill and in Government.”

With the acquisition of GovTrends, iConstituent will maintain two distinct brands in the Congressional marketplace.  “GovTrends will continue to produce top-flight Congressional websites and offer an open source Content Management System, while iConstituent will continue to focus on our proprietary website platform, eNewsletter system and robust CRM as part of our industry-leading ecommunications suite, the Constituent Gateway.” Khan says.

About iConstituent
iConstituent was formed in 2000 in California by group of entrepreneurs dedicated to improving constituent communications. Headquartered today in Washington, D.C. with nearly 70 full-time professionals, iConstituent’s products and services are used by over 50 percent of Congress as well as statewide office holders, legislative caucuses and various non-governmental organizations.

An approved Congressional vendor, iConstituent is the only company in Congress that provides a full spectrum of products and services to meet the needs of the most demanding Congressional offices.  

About GovTrends
Since its’ founding in 2004, GovTrends has become a leading developer of dynamic, custom websites for Members of the US House of Representatives. With nearly 100 Member websites under management, GovTrends has earned numerous awards for its contemporary design. Recently, GovTrends was awarded Alexandria’s 2011 Best Small Business of the Year Award, the 2011 Web Awards presented by the Web Marketing Association as well as a number of Congressional Management Foundation Awards.

GovTrends specializes in providing socially engaging web and mobile solutions for clients so they can operate their organizations more efficiently and. GovTrends joined iConstituent’s family of companies on November 17, 2011.


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The Top Five Lists: Improve Your Newsletters Today

Our products are packed with features that can help your office run more smoothly. Why not take advantage? When you do, you’ll save time, create a clearer picture of your constituents, and be able to target them accordingly.

Here’s the first in our three-part series on ways you can do more in less time, giving your office a boost using the technology already at your fingertips.

  1. Use the new “Compare Mailings” feature for AB testing
    A new feature rolled out in the latest update, Compare Mailings allows you to compare up to five mailings at a time. Not sure what subject line works best? Select a few people, try out two subject lines, and compare the results. Easier targeting, less time wasted.
  2. Use Surveys to increase constituent engagement.
    Anything that encourages constituents to interact with the newsletter is a good thing. Surveys boost constituent interaction, subscription rates, and help generate mailing lists that you can funnel them into lists for micro-targeting.
  3. Utilize the social networking share buttons and tell a friend to increase your viewership.
    Share buttons are your friends. They aren’t just to be nice:  Sharing things like articles will add to viewership and reach people you wouldn’t reach on your own.
  4. Create targeted mailings to reach particular groups based on location or interest.
    It’s great to send mailings to subscribers. But why not reach out to people within your subscriber base who have already expressed an interest in a particular topic? Or send a targeted list to a specific geographic location letting them know about an upcoming event? These are surefire ways to keep the subscribers you have engaged.
  5. View reports
    Reports are more than the Executive Summary. In fact, you can create over 65 reports that deliver information about your viewers and how they interact with your mailings. Create reports on who shared you on Facebook, see a Google map of your viewers, or view who is clicking through or viewing mailings at certain times of day. The more information, the better.

 We want to know:How can you improve the effectiveness of your newsletter?

Next: How to improve your website.

Save Money and Time with An End-Of-The-Year Upgrade

The family vacation plans, the holiday music, the lists of things to do. It’s happening: the end of the year is approaching. For offices, this means planning for 2012. That’s why it’s the perfect time to think about integration, says Steve Raffaelli Jr, iConstituent’s vice president of sales. “That is the number one subject that people are talking about right now to save money.”

Consolidating your email, website, enewsletters, telephone town halls, and means that you can avoid inefficiencies, save money, and stay consistent with your messaging.

If you are wary of switching over, think twice: Raffaelli estimates that leaving your legacy vendor could save you between $5,000-$10,000 a year.

Working with one vendor has more than financial advantages: you get one tech support, one help desk, and a dedicated company that knows all facets of your organization.

If you are looking to invest or consolidate vendors, take the step:  iConstituent has very attractive end of year pricing. We also offer clients specials throughout the year.

Life is complicated enough at this time of year — let us help you simplify. Call us for more information.

Want to Save Cash? Introducing Edu-Bucks.

We spend a lot of time packing our products with features that save you time and separate you from the rest.

But with politics moving at warp speed, it’s often easy to procrastinate — and hard to prioritize — going to a training when you are busy putting out fires.

We’ve come up with a solution to this problem: a new initiative in November called Edu-Bucks. The name says it all: we’ll give you bucks to educate you.

Pick whatever course fits your needs, whether it’s a basic tutorial on our core products to advanced applications of all our products. Our full-time training staff, whose sole job is to make sure our clients have the most comprehensive training available, teaches classes.

Once you’ve taken a class, get your Edu-Bucks validated. Then your office will get a credit to be applied on an iConstituent invoice. It’s a win/win: you save money, boost productivity, and maximize efficiency.     

We want to know:  This is the first initiative of its kind on the Hill: what do you think?

Friday Five: Five Twitter Tips

Using Twitter isn’t always just about tweeting 140 characters. Along with the ability to tweet comes an amazing number of apps that can make your tweeting more efficient, reaching the most amount of people as possible and maximizing your efforts.

Here are five tips to boost your Tweets:

Don’t tweet in vain. Twylah prolongs the life of your tweets by displaying them on a Twitter brand page — so your followers can read everything at once without having to laboriously study your stream.

If you’ve wondered when is the best time to tweet, look no further. Tweriod analyzes the data for you, based on your past tweets and your followers tweeting patterns.

Now that you know the best times to tweet (see Tweriod, above) Buffer posts your tweets at the best time of the day, and spaced out. And once you use it, check out the analytics so you can figure out how many people clicked and retweeted.

Think of Twilert as Google Alerts for Twitter: you can set up any term and it let you know when activity hits. This is perfect for your boss or office, especially if you don’t spend your days scouring Twitter but need to stay in the loop.

Search other Twitter users using different parameters, such as influence, engagement, or popularity. In this way, you can  connect with the right people and strategically build your network.

We want to know:  How do you maximize your Tweets?

The Most Important Thing

When it comes to online communities, don’t lose sight of the most important fact: you need to stay interesting.

You wouldn’t choose boring real-life friends or choose to go to a boring movie. So why would you relegate your online community to the ho-hum? Take a step back to examine if this is slowly happening; it can be a gradual backslide or a precipitous drop. Here are a few tips on how to keep it interesting:

  • Find people to contribute who are passionate about your boss and your subject. Their passion will shine through.
  • Don't avoid controversial topics. As long as it is respectful, a little controversy can spice things up.
  • Focus on something people can get behind: a new piece of legislation or an upcoming event. In other words, keep things exciting and give them a reason to come together.
  • Keep things fresh: don’t let discussions, blog posts, and articles get stale.
  • Engage people directly so they feel personally invested in the community with posts, discussions, and direct questions. People love seeing themselves in the spotlight!

We want to know:How do you keep your communications stay interesting?