Monday, November 30, 2009

Oh ROI, Oh ROI - Is That Your Horse?*

image via Pulp Creative Paper

Sometimes I hate social media because of how fast stuff moves.

This morning, before I was really awake, I saw a Tweet or an FB post about a quote from someone whose branding expertise I appreciate. And of course, when I went to write this post, I couldn't remember who made the original quote and who passed it on. Gah. And by then, the tweets had scrolled away and so had the FB updates. (Sometimes it's a real pain being an INTP - I can always remember the data, but not who I got it from.)


The quote was about Return on Investment (ROI) and how one should not be asking about the metrics on ROI for using social media but for the taking of a specific action. It was a condensation of what I had been thinking about every time I thought about ROI.

With Social Media, Don't Question the Strategy, Question the Tactics

Social Media is a given, or should be, in terms of the overall strategy for supporting your mission. Which platform you use (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) or the combination you use to connect with your constituency is tactics, and that's where you should be looking for your ROI.

Are You in The Right Place?

This means that you should be evaluating where you're spending your time in social media and whether the followers or fans or members you attract are those you want to attract. If you're not attracting the "right" people, maybe the horse you rode in on isn't the right one for you or you're calling it by the wrong name. Could be:

  • You're in the wrong place
  • You're putting out the wrong message
  • You're trying to control the space instead of letting the members have it
  • A combination of the above

Tweak your tactics in specific areas and look at the results to determine if you're achieving the ROI you targeted, or at least that the metrics show you're moving in the right direction. And please remember that "messaging" doesn't mean you talk and they listen, but the reverse.

If you aren't evaluating your individual actions - your tactics - you're undermining your social media strategy and that "big white horse" could easily become a big white elephant.

*Lyrics borrowed from "Long Tall Texan" (Beach Boys version)
Hey, I think I got the quote from @thebrandbuilder via @shannonpaul on Twitter!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thankful/Not Thankful - Nusuth

Light meat or dark? Yes, I know it's just wrong.

Since this is Thanksgiving week here in the U.S., I thought I'd do the obligatory thanks giving post. With a twist.

I truly do have a lot of things to be thankful for and oddly enough, many of them have to do with things I am most decidedly not thankful about.

For one thing, I'm not thankful for the guy who thought it would be okay to put his arm around my niece at her place of business and make a remark about the size of her chest. I am grateful that such incidents are more rare than they were when I was starting out and that advice like my mother's about not letting a man corner you in the stock room alone is no longer required.

I'm not thankful for hypocrites in politics, religion, or business and am grateful I don't personally know any.

I'm not thankful for overpaid, over-appreciated celebrities in sports and entertainment, but I am grateful for the number of them who donate time and money to both large and small nonprofits.

I'm not thankful for the number of idiots who think it's offensive to spay or neuter their pets and I am very grateful to the number of caring people in the world who give of themselves to help find loving homes for all those unwanted animals.

I am definitely not thankful for the liars, scammers, and thieves who think the best way to get rich is to steal the money from someone else. And I am grateful for the hard work and honesty of the majority of people who won't take what they haven't earned.

As Ursula K. Le Guin made clear in her book The Left Hand of Darkness (from where I get the word nusuth), you can't appreciate the light without the dark. And you cannot recognize darkness without light. 

I am grateful most of all for the lessons I have learned in my life and the ones I have yet to learn. I would not know real happiness without the pain I've experienced and I would not be able to recognize pain's lessons if not for the happiness that has followed.

Enjoy the holiday as much as you are able. Store up the light against the coming darknesses and let yourself travel gently through the darkness, knowing it will once again turn to light.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Event's a Success - Or Is It?

So you've raised some good money and your attendees had a good time. Your nonprofit event is a success, right? Maybe. I know I definitely used to think that way - that success within the community was the whole definition of success for a nonprofit. But I learned better, and recently an article by CEO Nancy Lublin of Do Something reminded me. 

Even if everyone attending the event was happy and sufficient money was raised to cover costs and benefit the mission, if it didn't get good buzz outside the community, it didn't do as well as it could have. 

Ms. Lublin is a little more cynical than I - as when she talks about using celebrities to get "exclusive" coverage from the media because it helps their "bleeding heart brands" - but she's a thorough professional in event production and her tips on getting your event good press can be used by any small nonprofit with a little tweaking. 

Plan For Photo Ops 
Before the event, frequently review your RSVP list to see who’s coming. What you’re looking for is someone whose interests tie in somehow. Ms. Lublin’s example was that a celebrity attendee had a pet named after a TV character played by an actress who would also be at the event – getting a picture of them together would have been newsworthy. Maybe you’ve got a donor who recently gave a large gift to a specific project and one of the beneficiaries of that project is also coming. That’s a good opportunity to communicate your mission via a photograph. 

Feed/Make Your Own Papparazzi 
One of the event staff fed cupcakes to the paparazzi at Ms. Lublin’s event, but your small nonprofit is more likely to have a volunteer or paid photographer. To me it’s a no-brainer to make sure they are looked after, but I’ve been told that some photographers and musicians are told that the food and beverages are strictly off limits to anyone but the paying guests or guests of honor. Ignoring courtesy for the moment, a volunteer is more likely to re-volunteer if he feels his efforts are appreciated. 

When I was working as director of an in-house design/print shop, I was often able to get special consideration from corporate shipping because I’d taken the time to get to know the mail room and shipping people and appreciate the work they did. Paid professionals will be touched by your consideration, even if they don’t take advantage of it. 

Encourage your attendees to take pictures and video with their cell phones. 

Use Your Social Media Network 
You have a Facebook fan page, right? You have a Twitter account, right? Make sure someone or more than one person is posting updates during the evening, including pictures. If you see an attendee taking pics, ask them to email a copy of their pics to your nonprofit or if they’re going to post them to Facebook, ask them to post to your fan page. Make sure staff knows what to say if someone asks what the Twitter hashtag for the event is. 

Take Advantage of Opportunity While You Have It 
A friend of mine once made the decision to wait to see a movie until after the crowds had thinned. He was puzzled about why he didn’t enjoy it as much as everyone had told him he would, but half of the fun of seeing a blockbuster is seeing it with everyone else – feeling the anticipatory excitement, the shared discovery. 

Make a point to get event staff in a room as soon as possible after the event to share any interesting information they might have picked up that could be used to generate more publicity. If there’s lots of opportunity happening, I’d say gather info at least once during the evening; social media moves fast and many times an opportunity is lost if it isn’t seized immediately. Traditional media and blogs can wait a little longer than Twitter, which waits for nobody, and even a Facebook update can be a little stale if it happens after the event. You want people not attending to feel the excitement and shared discovery of those at the event. 

As Ms. Lublin points out toward the end of her article, follow-up should not just be about what, in project management, we used to describe as the project post mortem. It’s not just about what went right and what went wrong. It’s also still about opportunity. Look for those mentions of your soiree in online and traditional media, then re-tweet, re-post, Digg, Stumble Upon, forward and everything else you can think of. Share the photos with the people in them by sending out a post-event email to the attendees to thank them for being there. Make sure your post-event good news includes links to posts, Flickr albums, fan pages, Twitter hashtags, etc. If you’ve made new connections, welcome them. Invite them into your social media community. Their participation will enrich your community as well as increasing it.

Inclusion of new energy and new ideas to further your nonprofit mission is a success in itself. 

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Here, Check, Check, Check. It's Simple, It's Easy; Why Aren't You Using It?

image from tinyfarmblog

After writing the post about 5 Common Design Mistakes, I thought it might be nice to talk about something simple that could save your nonprofit career life. Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but if you've ever seen something in print that you put together and only then noticed there was something important missing, you know that "OMG - I am so fired" feeling you can get.

Your website, brochures, plea letters, tweets and FB updates - any communication you have with your constituents and stakeholders should have a consistency that makes them easily identifiable as coming from your nonprofit. However, we sometimes we focus so much on the consistency of style and voice in presenting that we forget about the "duh" stuff, which is way worse than not using the right typeface in all the right places.

What "Duh" Stuff?

The really simple stuff that you know has to be there. For example:

  • Logo and organization name
  • How to Donate
  • Website address
  • Contact information

You can see where leaving out any of this information could hurt you, but you'd be surprised how many times it happens. I've even seen invitations to fundraisers where the date was left off. Or or even the address. And one time, both.

There is an easy tool you can use to avoid ending up in that situation too often; it's called a checklist.

Checklist. Are You Kidding Me?

Nope; in the words of the immortal Jack Paar, "I kid you not." I told you it was simple. We've all used them, especially when starting out in a new job. They come in different flavors - when I worked as a software project manager, I used WBS charts and Gantt charts, which were just complicated versions of checklists. But for most purposes, a simple list works best.

Unfortunately, as we become more familiar with our jobs and duties, familiarity starts to breed contempt for the once-indispensable and we give up the checklists; we become cocky. Oh yeah, I know my job; I don't need no stinking checklist...

But you do. 

Check This Out

Crafting a communication isn't easy. Knowing the right tone to take, being clear on the action you want the person receiving it to take, supporting the message with appropriate graphics, and making sure the whole thing flows like water takes thought and editing, editing, editing.

And sometimes, when we're editing, things get lost. Important things, like the items in the list above. Having a checklist will make sure they get back in.

When I started in technical writing back in the days of clay tablets, one of the first things I learned from the guys who had honed their craft during military service was a military maxim: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

A checklist is simple, and it can certainly keep you from looking stupid. Of course, it only works if you use it, but if you make it a habit, it can keep some mighty unpleasant chickens from coming home to roost.

How do you keep track of your "duh" stuff?