Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Who's Your Point?

"Pigeon Pt. Lighthouse"

When talking about investment in social media, most people concentrate on the money aspect.

Yes, it's cheap to get into social media in the sense that most platforms (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) don't charge for membership. Conceivably, you could create a dozen online social media accounts for your small nonprofits and all it would cost the agency is time.

Wait a minute... Time's not free, is it?

Dang right it isn't.

Still, once you've gotten an account on all the relevant platforms and created all the profiles and done all the linkage, it shouldn't be hard to sustain it, right?

Excuse me while I get over my laughing fit.

When it's all set up is when the real work begins. Someone has to monitor all those communities and reply to questions and concerns. Someone has to write tweets, blogs, wall-scrawls, short blurbs, upload pics, send congrats, collect information, etc.

And for that, you need a point person. Someone who will stand like a beacon of light and information for your community (like the way I tied that into the pic of the Pigeon POINT lighthouse? Okay, moving on.).

In a small nonprofit, staffers generally wear more than one hat. I get it - I've been there and had a whole closet full of chapeaux. But this isn't just another task to be "gifted" to the nearest admin assistant or marketing intern.

The whole point (there's that word again) of social media is interaction to build community. Nothing else. Not to get names and emails for newsletters or plea letters. Not to solicit and manage volunteers. Not to publicize fundraisers or other events. Community. Because when you have community, you get volunteers and donations and people who want to attend your events. Everything flows from community.

So the person you want tweeting or blogging or posting pics and interacting with your community is someone who gets it. Someone who not only understands your mission but knows how to communicate that passion to their friends and "followers" in social media. This someone can have other jobs, like the rest of the staffers, but furthering your social media strategy should be his/her primary job.

A point person is one who points out the way for the rest of the group; moves ahead of them and scouts ahead for threats (more on that in another post) and opportunities. Make sure that you have a social media point person and that he or she has the support needed to do their job.
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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Do You Consider President Obama a Whippersnapper?

Happy January the 20th 2009Image by m-c via FlickrI've learned that our new President is really digging in his heels on giving up his Blackberry or giving up on Tweeting, despite the concerns of both the Secret Service and the White House Counsel (lawyers). Can't blame him - as I've discovered in the past few months, Twitter is both fun and useful.

If you've been holding off on using Twitter or other social media for your small nonprofit because you've been under the impression that it's primarily used by kids, you'll have to re-think that decision.

This week Sarah Perez wrote that the Pew Internet & American Life Project is reporting the number of adult users has quadrupled in the last four years. In 2005, only 8% of adults had social networking accounts and now 35% do. Here's the breakdown (from the Pew Research Center):
  • 75% of online adults 18-24 have a profile on a social network site
  • 57% of online adults 25-34 have a profile on a social network
  • 30% of online adults 35-44 have one
  • 19% of online 45 to 54 year olds have a profile
  • 10% of online 55 to 64 year olds have a profile
  • 7% of online adults 65 and older have a profile
The biggest users of social networks are adults 18-34, who are people your small nonprofit definitely needs to connect with. But look at the other percentages, which are much higher than I would have imagined.

A large group of adults 35-65+ have embraced social media: people who may already be familiar with your nonprofit and your mission. People who could be your evangelists in your online community, forum leaders and moderators, volunteers and volunteer managers. These are people who, like their younger counterparts, have joined social networks to stay in closer contact with the people who matter to them and to whom they matter. In fact, the top three reasons given for joining a social network are to connect with friends or make new friends. And the fourth? "Organize with others for an event, issue or cause."

With this information, it becomes a lot clearer why President Obama wants to keep his Blackberry and his Twitter account: he knows it's a great way to stay in touch with his friends and what they care about. Maybe you should follow his lead.
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Thursday, January 15, 2009

To Community or Not to Community?

Juggling Animals via The Teacher's Journal

I've been writing in the space and talking a lot outside of it about the need for small nonprofits to pay attention to social media.

The reasons have been discussed at length in many places and some of the larger nonprofits such as the Red Cross are showing the way.

I'll keep on evangelizing social media because the potential for return is very high compared to the investment. But I'm currently concerned about how the economic downturn may be affecting the small nonprofit's ability to reach out through social media.

Almost every small nonprofit I know is drilling extra holes in its belt to accommodate a much thinner budget.

All small nonprofits are used to doing more with less - their staff people believe in the mission and extend themselves above and beyond so often that the improbable becomes SOP. But many of those small, overworked staff have had to lose one or more members, leaving the rest to shoulder the extra burden. This is the time when they most need to be able to realise the benefits of a social media community, but because they are even more short-handed than usual, they may not be able to.

You Gotta Put Work In to See Any Result

It takes effort to set up and nurture, maintain and grow, a social media community. Community means give and take, an exchange of ideas. And six staffers doing the work of 12 just don't have the time or energy for it.

What About Volunteer Help?

Certainly, interns or volunteers could help get the ball rolling, but interns and volunteers leave and if there isn't a strategy in place and a social media policy, and one or two staffers who can commit to participating, then when that intern or volunteer leaves, the community will collapse.

Now, when so many small nonprofits are fighting for their existence, is when they should be reaching out to embrace new methods of communicating with potential donors and volunteers - potential community members. But now is also the worst time for them to find and allocate the needed resources.

What to Do

I've got a couple of ideas that might help, which I'll discuss more fully in future posts. In the meantime, if you've got ideas, put them in the comments. Let's see what we can do together to come up with potential strategies to help the small nonprofit keep all their balls in the air.

Animation of 3 ball cascade , also known as a ...Image via Wikipedia
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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Who Are Your Influencers?

image by me

Let's talk about influencers on one of the hottest of social media platforms going right now: Twitter.

It's a name that's just beginning to make itself known in the non-tech world, yet its growth is phenomenal. Last year, Twitter usage grew greater than 750% over the previous year, and greater than 75% of that population is 20-49 (the current and future donors and volunteers you're looking for). At the very least, those numbers make Twitter worth looking at as a social media tool.

Over the last year, there have been an explosion of applications helping Twitterers make sense of their Twitterverse conversations - organize, group, auto message, and follow and unfollow. (If you don't know what these terms mean, you might want to see this.) One of these is TwitterGrader.

What is TwitterGrader?

If you are already on Twitter, you probably know about TwitterGrader. You give them your twitter ID and they give you a report about your "ranking" in the twitterverse (based on an algorhythm that takes into account the number of followers, among other things).

Twitter Elite

Once you have your report, you can review the suggestions for people to consider following or look at the "Twitter Elite."

The Elite have thousands of followers. Because of the number of people their tweets reach, they're consider major influencers. And most of them (right now) are in high tech/social media.

Since they're in an area that doesn't have much to do with your nonprofit mission, you may be inclined to dismiss following any of them, a decision that can be supported by the fact that many of them don't follow back in any meaningful way and the center of Twitter's attraction is the opportunity to converse, which is why it's often described as an online cocktail party.

Part of Why I Follow Some Elites

I used to work in high tech, and I'm a self-described geek, so a lot of the names in the Elite listing are familiar to me. And even though I expect few follow-backs and a limited-to-none interaction, I choose to follow some of them because their tweets keep me up to date on what these tech influencers are doing, looking at, who they're working with, and who they consider influencers. Okay for you, you say, but not for me.

My answer to that is, mostly not. But not completely, and for the same reasons.

Did I Lose You?

Well, recently on @Twitter_Tips, @Boris said that "FaceBook is about people you used to know and Twitter is about people you'd like to know better." Or know at all, I would add.

A lot of the influencers will be working on things that will change the social media landscape. While they're formulating their strategies and thinking up innovations, they'll be gathering information. This gives you the oppportunity to get an idea of upcoming trends, ask questions, and contribute your own viewpoint.

I Predict

My first prediction is that most nonprofits will come to rely on social media as a great community tool, so while you're looking to connect with people in the nonprofit sector, they aren't the only ones you should be paying attention to. Pay attention to the marketers too, because they'll help you make the most of social media opportunities. And pay attention to the tech innovators, because they'll be creating the next social media application improvements and platforms.

If you feel most comfortable at parties when you stick to what you know, the foregoing advice will probably whizz right by you. But if you're willing to engage in conversation with people outside your area of expertise and experience, you can learn a lot.

And my second prediction is that those nonprofits that don't learn from social media use it to the best of their ability, will not survive.
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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Return on Investment

PenceImage by tstadler via Flickr"Return on Investment." This is a phrase that's probably going to come up again and again when small nonprofits talk about investing in social media.

At the best of times, a small nonprofit has to watch its pennies. In this economy, you'll be squeezing the them so hard, Lincoln will complain about a sore neck.

So why even consider putting time and effort into social media when you're debating whether to give up coffee or bottled water service?

Because you can't afford not to.

David Alston at Marketing Profs uses a lot of great examples about how social media has improved the fortunes of companies using it to connect with their customer bases and improve customer service (read the article). But for small nonprofits, the real payoff is in reaching your future customers - those people between 18 and 34 who most use social media.

You won't find them by putting ads in the newspaper or through newsletter lists (your own or purchased): your future donors and volunteers don't read them.

But they ARE looking for you. Recent research shows that the younger generations are as interested and passionate about contributing to a better world as any other generation, maybe more so. But to be part of your mission, they have to be able to find you, which means that you must go to where they are.

As David Alston points out at the end of his post, it's valid and necessary to consider the cost of investment in a new strategy and tools, but when you're talking about social media, you should also figure in what NOT being involved can cost you.
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Friday, January 2, 2009

Blogs to Subscribe to in 2009

arrow found the targetImage by melilab via FlickrObviously, I'm just getting started with this blog, that focuses on how small nonprofits can use social media, but there are a number of other social media blogs out there and not a small number are also interested in how SM can be used to the advantage of a nonprofit.

Here are a few that I think anyone interested in social media for nonprofits should be paying attention to.

Beth's Blog

Beth Kanter's posts are always meaty. A contributing editor for BlogHer, Beth gives you tool reviews, insight, and presents case studies by using the tools she discovers to benefit causes. Subscribe to her to find out the newest social media applications and plug-ins and the real-life results of using them.

Getting To the Point (Katya's Non-Profit Marketing Blog)

Katya Andresen, author of Robin Hood Marketing, shares practical tips to do your best marketing for your nonprofit. Her posts include advice like ways to get people to sign up for your newsletter, but she also generously shares fundraising e-books and the other goodies she finds on the interwebs. She mines other sites like that of the Center on Philanthropy for hard data that she then translates into informative posts we can all use to step up our game.


This blog's name doesn't seem to have a lot to do with social media or nonprofits, but being successful with community is something that Richard Millington knows a lot about. Based in the UK, Richard provides great advice at a furious pace. His advice is oriented towards anyone who wants to build a community, including businesses, but these days any nonprofit that wants to keep its head above water should be paying attention to the community surrounding it. They have the lifeboats - you have to connect with them.

When you read Richard's posts you just can't help yourself from thinking, "Yeah, he's absolutely right."

I'm sure there are a lot more great resources for nonprofits - small and large - looking for ways to improve their social media reach. I'll be looking for them during the rest of the year and sharing with you as I find them.
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