By Jesse Robitaille
This is the first story in a multi-part series exploring the importance of an online presence to numismatics’ survival.
Coin clubs at all levels – local, regional and national – must maintain an online presence to survive in today’s Internet-focused world.
Whether it’s with a website or through social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube), this online presence is paramount in promoting a club’s visibility. Using the Internet, it’s now easier than ever for numismatists to reach like-minded people – researchers, historians and bankers to name just a few – but it’s all for nothing if their online presence is out of date or not engaging.
“The bottom line is that what you get out of your website or Facebook page is directly proportional to what you put into it,” said Saint John Coin Club (SJCC) member Kevin Day-Thorburn, who’s also a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association (RCNA).
Beyond club promotion, an up-to-date website with relevant and engaging content is one of the best ways to promote the hobby in general.
“Larger organizations, such as the RCNA or the ANA (American Numismatic Association), are starting to realize this,” said Day-Thorburn.
“They are setting up committees to make certain their online presence is professional, informative, timely and in line with the association’s mandate. Let’s face it, numismatic web content is really still in its infancy and everyone’s just waking up to the fact that it’s necessary to maintain the hobby’s very existence.”
MOST RCNA MEMBERS RECRUITED ONLINE
The RCNA’s website – rcna.ca – is where upwards of 95 per cent of its new members are recruited, according to Executive Secretary Paul Johnson.
“That’s the main way to get members. A lot of people go to the website looking for information and to learn more about coin collecting, and then they join, which you can do through the website.”
The website is also helpful for promoting the RCNA’s various programs, including its “Young Collectors” initiative aimed at finding and developing the next cohort of collectors.
“Having the programs out there on the website certainly enhances the overall look of the programs,” said Johnson. “People get on the website and know what we do. Everything seems to centre on websites these days, so the more we have on the website the better.”
While the RCNA also uses Facebook – facebook.com/TheRCNA – its website is the primary way of promoting the association’s annual convention and other events like grading seminars, Johnson added.
STRENGTH IN SASKATOON WITH 310,000 VISITORS
Last year, the site showed up in nearly 5.3 million Google searches and boasted more than 310,000 visitors. In addition to regular website staples (like club history, events and more), it offers comprehensive content with dozens of articles and presentations covering a range of numismatic topics – all available for free.
“I’m not sure how those numbers compare to other coin clubs in Canada, so although I think the numbers are good, I don’t know for sure that they are,” said MacKenzie, who added he uses these numbers “as an indicator of the health of our website.”
The club’s hosting company – rebel.ca – also lists visitors by their country of origin.
“It is intriguing to see that we get visitors from all over the world,” he said, adding the club’s website has attracted people from Serbia, Norway, Portugal, Cameroon, Trinidad and Denmark.
These results lend to the Internet’s positive impact on the hobby, including club membership numbers and meeting and show attendance, MacKenzie added.
“In our case, we think it has helped. Since we resurrected our website, we are seeing a pretty slow but consistent increase in attendance every month, and we get a lot of new people saying they didn’t know the club existed until they came across our website.”
SAINT JOHN CLUB SEES SITE AS ‘VITAL’
While the SJCC website “operates at a pretty basic level,” according to Day-Thorburn, it plays an important role and has seen more than 43,000 unique visits and 93,000 page views in the past year.
“It’s there to serve as a web presence for the club, something to direct visitors to meetings, provide some information about the club’s history and allow them to contact someone if necessary,” he said.
“At this point, it’s important but not necessary for the demographic of our current members.”
There’s also a private members-only page, where the club newsletter is uploaded.
“This method work great when you don’t have a ‘Jim MacKenzie’ to keep large amounts of information up to date and add lots of fresh content,” said Day-Thorburn. “If a club is going to have a dedicated website, it’s vital that it is kept up to date.”
“They’re also available for technical support when needed. Despite the site’s limited use, it gets good traction online.”
Day-Thorburn also suggests more than one club member should have access to a club’s site to limit the risk of a sole administrator becoming inactive or losing access.
“When this happens, the site is now a liability because anyone visiting it may see that the site is stale or, worse, provides inaccurate information,” he said, adding a Facebook page is “a very good alternative” for clubs lacking a webmaster.
Regardless of whether it’s on a standalone website or a Facebook page, it’s important to ensure the information is up to date and includes consistent posting with fresh content.
While the SJCC uses both a website and a Facebook page (facebook.com/sjcoinclub), another club – the Canadian Banking Memorabilia Society – was launched by Day-Thorburn last year solely on social media (facebook.com/bankingmemorabilia).
“It’s a big deal, and organized numismatics doesn’t seem to be taking much notice,” added Day-Thorburn, about the power of social media to the hobby.
In a future issue of CCN, this story will continue in Calgary and Winnipeg, where local coin clubs are developing a strategy to take advantage of the Internet’s benefits.