I provided this guide for attendees at the Federalist Society Leadership Conference. It discusses all of the way chapters can use the Internet and Web 2.0 to help promote their chapters on campus, and in the legal blogosphere. I hope others can use it. Guide, after the jump.
Although most law schools provide Federalist Society chapters with a homepage, they usually have limited capabilities and are tedious to update. You can easily set up a free blog for your chapter. WordPress.com is considered the industry leader, but you can also use Blogger.com or Blogspot.com. All of the instructions I provide are for WordPress.
There are many benefits of running a blog:
- Advertise upcoming chapter events and meetings.
- Post podcasts, vlogs, and discussions of previous events. Be sure to include lots of pictures.
- Allow chapter members to write blog posts on topics of local and national interest. Additionally, chapter members can write summaries of events, and ask the panelists for comments afterwards. This is an easy way for students, especially 1Ls, to get experience and generate writing samples.
- Ask faculty members to contribute blog posts about articles they are working on. Professors will take any opportunity to promote their scholarship. This is an easy way to generate content.
- If you develop an interesting post, be sure to send it around to the leading law blogs, like the Volokh Conspiracy. If you receive a link, expect a traffic explosion.
- Blogs offer RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, which provide an easy way for readers to follow your posts without actually visiting your site. Be sure to ask all of your chapter members to subscribe.
Recording podcasts of events and discussions is quite easy. While you can simply position a laptop with a microphone near the event, I would recommend you invest in a cheap digital audio recorder that connects to the laptop. They start at $40. A small recorder on the podium will be unobtrusive, and will likely generate a higher quality recording.
Once you record the audio file, you will need software to convert the file into a podcast. If you have access to a Mac, Garageband is a free program that is quite easy to use. If you only have access to a PC, take a look at Podcast Generator (http://podcastgen.sourceforge.net/index.php?lang=en) or PodProducer (http://www.podproducer.net/).
After you have created the audio file, you will need to upload the file. WordPress places limits on the size of files you can upload. If the podcast is rather long, say over an hour, you may not be able to upload it to wordpress. In that case, you will need to sign up for a free web hosting account and upload it elsewhere. Take a look at http://www.yourfreehosting.net/. They offer 5 GB of disk space, and you can upload all of your podcasts there.
Once the file is uploaded, you will need to embed it onto your site. For a tutorial on publishing a podcast with WordPress, see (http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/how-to-publish-podcast-on-wordpresscom).
Additionally, you should submit the podcast to iTunes. To simply submit the podcast, follow this tutorial http://www.ehow.com/how_2027326_publish-podcast-itunes.html.
If you wish to create an iTunes Podcast channel, where people can automatically download your podcasts to their iPods, you will need to follow several steps.
- First, log into the WordPress Dashboard. In the WordPress Dashboard, click Settings>Permalinks. Make sure the common settings are set to default, so that items are identified by a unique number, not with words.
- Second, in the WordPress Dashboard click Posts>Categories. Add a new category called “Podcasts.” “Podcasts” should appear in the box of categories on the right. Click on “Podcasts.” At the end of the web address in the address bar of your browser, there should be something that says “tag_ID=” followed by some number. Keep track of that number. This number is your Podcast category number. Note: Whenever you publish a post with a podcast, be sure to select the “Podcast” category.
- Third, using your podcast category number, you can generate your Podcast Feed URL. It will take this format: http://yourblogname.wordpress.com/feed/?cat=XX Replace “yourblogname” with the name of your blog, and “XX” with your Podcast category Number.
- Fourth, you will need to submit this Podcast Feed URL to iTunes. When you click this link, http://bit.ly/rDNys, iTunes will open. (If you do not have an iTunes account, create one now). Enter your Podcast Feed URL into iTunes and click submit.
- Apple will usually take a day or two to approve the Feed. Before you submit it to Apple, be sure to have at least one podcast submitted. They will not approve your channel with any podcasts. Once you are approved, you will have an iTunes channel link. Users who click this link will be able to subscribe to all of your podcasts in iTunes.
If your school does not offer video recording equipment, I would highly recommend the Flip UltraHD. You can buy a new one from Amazon.com for $150. It produces high quality HD video, and is extremely simple to use. Plus, it comes with free video editing software.
If you have access to a Mac, iMovie is an easy-to-use program to create videos. On the PC, Windows Movie Maker is decent, but is quite limited.
Create a YouTube account for your chapter, and be sure to upload all vlogs to your account. Additionally, you should embed your videos onto your blog. Check out this easy tutorial http://en.support.wordpress.com/videos/youtube/
In addition to recording events, you can also live stream it. I would recommend http://www.ustream.tv/ If you have a laptop equipped with a web camera (most Macbooks have them) simply turn the laptop around, and point the webcamera towards the event. The microphone is not very good, so be sure to keep the laptop as close as possible to the event.
If you have a high profile guest, like a Supreme Court Justice, publicize the livestream in advance, and notify blogs like Volokh or How Appealing. Blogs will frequently link to livestreams of important events, and generate great publicity for your chapter.
Every chapter should have a Twitter account. Be sure to follow all other Federalist Society chapters, leading conservative and libertarian groups, as well as prominent legal bloggers. When you follow someone on Twitter, they may follow you back. This is an easy way to build membership. Additionally, ask all of your members to follow your chapter. This is a great way of keeping in touch with your members, and announcing events.
You should also become familiar with the use of Twitter hashtags. Hashtags are like keywords that allow people to find your tweets. You append a hashtag with a “#.” For example, if you put the phrase “#fedsoc” into your tweet, people searching for Federalist Society tweets will find your tweet. Other popular hashtags include “#tcot” (top conservative on twitter), “#tlot” (top libertarian on twitter), “#scotus” (Supreme Court), etc.
You can also livetweet events. If a guest speaker makes a good comment, tweet it with appropriate hashtags.
Every chapter should create a Facebook page. Facebook used to call these Fan Pages, but now they are simply called “Pages.” Log into facebook, and click this link http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php? and create an official page for your chapter. Be sure to invite all of your members to “like” your page.
When you host an event, also create a Facebook event, and invite everyone in your Facebook group to attend.