Housing Association Websites are Unvisited
Any quantitative comparisons between every Registered Social Landlord are difficult because some are small resident led co-ops and others are substantial nationwide agencies. Accessing sensitive performance data, where it is even collected, is impossible and where it does appear in good news reporting it is impossible to benchmark against other housing providers. The one metric they all have in common and is available to everybody is their Alexa website traffic ranks. This is a daily updated performance metric, relative to all other active websites in the local territory and globally. It shows intra and inter sector site performance and is a simple device for comparing whole sectors against each other as well as individual organisations.
The headline is that most organisations, for instance Housing Associations with theirsubstantial client groups, have both absolute and relative low site traffic. This indicates that popular online services are of secondary importance to online public relations data and that focus is on who is visiting the site and not how often and by how many, specifically how many service users. Secondly it indicates that operation of their websites is not an executive coordinating role, such as by an editor, but a supplementary task for the ICT or Communications sections. Thirdly staff and managers have no need to visit the website themselves to access information, to post content, to engage in public forums et cetera and that they have not received training or had an opportunity to make the most of their website.
1. The website is not a core business tool of the executive
2. Staff and managers don’t have the training and direction to fully utilise the website.
3. The two website user groups lack a purpose for revisiting the website.
The questions answered by directing that the website is properly operated by trained staff and managers as a serious business tool to monitor performance of the online offer to engage residents are firstly do we know what online content engages residents, secondly does our online engagement compare favourably to that of other Housing Associations, and thirdly does the online engagement by Housing Associations compare favourably with that of other sectors, such as Trades Unions and Chartered Institutes? The minimal cost and strategic benefit of offering online content that is more engaging than that being offered by other Housing Associations and other entire sectors makes traffic rank a critical performance measure for housing providers and authors of public policy.
The effect of tracking website traffic rank is to notice that organisational change, not just technical and administrative change, needs to take place. It can't simply be the responsibilty of the communications and ICT staff to operate the website, the community development/engagement and neighbourhood management staff and managers have to be fully engaged in operation of the website. They need to both supply content and fully utillise engagment tools such as forums and events calendars. The website must feature people, profiles, similar to LinkedIn and direct methods of communication; and unless there are good reasons for individual anonymity, all front line staff, managers and the senior management team should be producing content under their own names and be directly contactable. Human relations are absolutely critical as a way breaking down barriers between service users and service providers that cause poor customer relations. Website anonymity must be minimised and website personalisation must be a beacon of distinction. All online actions also must be fully intergrated with the customer services’ relationship management (CRM) system such as with the free CiviCRM.
All Housing Association websites need a residents’ forum. Most have Facebook pages but some have turned off their Visitor Posts or Reviews function, such as A2Dominion, AmicusHorizon, Peabody, and Circle, which is the most critical purpose of Facebook. All the big residents’ associations each need a website of their own as a contact centre is no replacement for dialogue between residents. It will be negative, as demonstrated by those with Facebook pages and an activated comments function, but issues will be addressed and resolved more effectively and more publicly; a significant volume of a Parliamentarians’ casework is caused by the experience of the service provided by Housing Associations. Residents’ Association websites, such as Vantage Point RA, would be a platform for residents in almost the exact same way that the Housing Association’s website would be for staff and managers. This would be a social leadership role that would facilitate quantifiable social leadership in staff and in residents. It would be the basis of effectively addressing the needs of increasingly online residents to develop communal neighbourhood.