Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy 2012!

Okay, I'm early. But I'm taking the week off, so I'm really on time. Anyway - enjoy the remainder of the holiday season. See you in the new year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Investment or Influence? It's Not That Simple

I know most blogs focus on providing a solution with a viewpoint that backs that up, but I've come to realize that one person's solution can be another person's headache and that, like social media platforms, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all answer. Nor is the world easily divided into this versus that.

Let's look at ROI, for example.

Return on Investment/Influence

Here's the thing: I read a blog post by someone who had read a blog post about how businesses using social media should be measuring influence rather than investment. The author had a problem with that because he felt that, ultimately, what businesses want to know is: 'will this post lead to a sale?'.

An Aside

One of the things I appreciate most about social media is that I perceive a sea change around how businesses do business and social media was the catalyst. As another article I read pointed out, salespeople used to be the gatekeepers between people and products/services. They had competitive knowledge about features and were always ready to tell you why their brand was better than the other guy's. This is no longer true: with the internet and social media, we can research on our own and then crowd-source opinions (friends, family, and strangers) to get a clearer perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of the items we're considering.  The ol' razzle-dazzle doesn't work on us much any more and - as multiple examples have shown - beating a bad vendor publicly with a stick is a lot easier these days.

No one wants to deal with a fake smile or shake the hand of someone whose other hand is trying to pick your pocket, so borderline flim-flam artists in business are becoming extinct. The emphasis is on authenticity and the best way to be authentic is to have a good product; one that doesn't require excuses.

Because business must focus on, well, business, and social media is where the business is, companies have had to learn to embrace it. Nonprofits were some of the first entities to use social media to advantage and business has been a little slow to catch up, probably because they depend heavily on conversion, which leads us back to ROI measurements.

Investment or Influence - What's the Difference?

Investment = money. We put out an ad or started a campaign which cost us $X and netted us $Y. If $Y is greater than $X, the investment was more or less a success, depending on the rate of conversion.

Influence = engagement. We put out an ad or started a campaign which cost us $X and netted us: Y, where Y = participation, loyalty, prestige, advocacy.* These are considered soft values because they can't be easily translated into monetary figures. Therefore, measurements have to be taken by other means like monitoring channels for comments or counting up how many people responded to a post and how they responded.

My Thinking

There used to be more controversy about measuring Investment versus Influence, especially when businesses were just beginning to enter social media. A lot of that seems to have died down, but there is still the idea that Investment and Influence are apples and oranges. I don't see it that way. Investment might be a Jonagold and Influence might be a Fuji, but to me they are both apples.

Regardless of whether you are a for-profit or a not-for-profit, you need both measurements. The hard values affect the soft values and vice-versa. No one lives in a world where they can ignore how much money they spend for what they get back or how much effort they expend in return for new/lifelong customers/volunteers, advocates, and donors.

For-profits and not-for-profits can learn a lot from each other, especially in this (relatively) new world of social media. Neither should assume they live in such different worlds, because they don't.

What are you measuring and how do you measure it? Tell me by leaving a contribution in the comment box.

*based on Social Media Today, Return on Influence


"Don't follow trends; follow results." Brian Solis

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Nonprofit Idea Roundup

I came across several very interesting articles this week which had little in common except that they were good ideas or good news or just something I didn't know. Here they are (in no particular order):
  • Facebook is testing private messaging for Pages: If you had a brand Page in the olden days (like last year), you could privately message the people in your community. When FB did its re-vamp, that ability went away. Now it may be coming back, and with some extras.
  • Twitter rolled out a new look, but you may not have seen it applied to your page, yet. This is because - as I just recently found out - only people with smartphones (ios or android; 38% of the population) can get it. Next up will be the iPad, with the plan to provide a consistent look across all platforms. If you don't have a smartphone, well... you just have to wait.
  • Even though yours is a small nonprofit, you may (we hope) find yourself in the enviable position of not being able to sustain your community via FB another platform, or you may just want to interact in a different, more idiomatic way. In which case, you may have to think about creating your own space. Here are Fifteen Best Practices for Managing Your Web Development Project at Social Signal. As someone who has worked as a project manager, I think this article covers the areas that need covering and provides some insights to setting limits and expectations.
  • Throughout 2011, a common thread among all social media predictions and advice has been community. To me, this means seeing yourself as part of the whole. Now, maybe you think you've always done this, but I'll argue that social media has redefined the term to include people you might not have considered. In this thought-provoking article, NPQ examines how social media has made 'outsiders' part of the community.
In particular, I'd love to know what you think about social media providing people not normally or regularly involved with you or your staff (i.e., outsiders) with the ability to affect your planning or tactics. You can do this by leaving a contribution in the comment box.

A Good Idea: PDF to HTML

I haven't tried this tool, yet, but I will. Sometimes you have a perfectly nice document in PDF, but you need to be able to have it in another format. You can always upload the PDF onto a website, but maybe you want to do more with it. Or maybe you want to send it to someone who wants to use parts of it or modify it and you don't have Acrobat's full version. OCR is iffy and doesn't maintain the formatting, which supposedly this tool does. As I've said, I haven't used it, but if it seems like something you might find handy, try it and let me know how it worked for you.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Innovation As a Rolling Donut

Rolling Donut via Glob-a-Log
As the latest PR disaster rolls out across the internet, we can take a moment to congratulate ourselves and our small not-for-profits that we've actually embraced social media and seldom make fools of ourselves with it. Or by underestimating it.

How Late Were YOU to the Party?

Did you see the possibilities in social media marketing for your nonprofit early on, or was it something else? If it was something else, what did it for you? Word-of-mouth? A Jones for the Next Big Thing? Simple curiosity?

I know it wasn't hard data, because there wasn't any. No flashy infographics, no software providing  measuring tools for your ROI (dollar-wise or engagement-wise or other-wise).

Could any delay on your part be chalked up to fear? Or are you one of those folks who claims to embrace innovation (which I define as creative change to a product, a system, or a process)?
Okay, yes - the standard dictionary definition is different, as is Wikipedia's. And we could argue nuance all day long, but it's my blog.
Everyone Wants Creative People on Their Team - or Do They?

From boardrooms to classrooms with arts education nonprofits as cheerleaders, we hear that innovation made us great and innovation will return us to greatness. And to my mind, there can be no innovation without creativity.

But according to a couple of recent studies, creativity can make people nervous. That is, a creative idea or person can make people feel uncertain - fearing the unknown and untried - which is something people generally like to avoid, so to avoid feeling unsettled, they reject the creative idea. This goes a long way in explaining why there are so many scoffers and why my ex-boss was always so quick to say, "Let me tell you why this will not work."

Early adopters of creative ideas (like some well-known nonprofits) have derived a great deal of benefit from embracing the uncertainty of social media. Others, as in the PayPal example, can use the internet to deliver product and still miss what it means to be able to really connect with the people they serve.

Innovation as a Rolling Donut

So what am I arguing here - that you take a figurative leap at any innovative donut* that rolls along in front of you? Not a bit of it. All I'm saying is that if you find yourself resisting a creative idea, you might want to take a moment to ponder whether it's because the idea doesn't sound so innovative or - because it does.

Innovation comes holding hands with uncertainty. As someone who works at a small nonprofit, you deal with uncertainty a lot though you may try to mitigate the sense of it with strategic plans, metrics, and case studies. Accept that to exceed your own expectations, you're going to have to embrace uncertainty. You don't have to marry it, just get used to having it around. It's an indicator that you're taking a certain amount of risk - and innovation only becomes success through risk and effort.

When did you start using social media for your small nonprofit? How is it working for you? Leave a comment in the little box!

*From the film Battleground (1949) script by Robert Pirosh where one soldier tells another "He can take a flying leap on a rolling donut."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Be More of a Difference

What with our own expectations, traditions, and the constant admonition to make this the "best Christmas EVER!" the whole season can quickly degenerate into a mass of anxiety-ridden desperation.

The quickest way to help you feel better is to make things better for someone else!

Today I'm volunteering tweets to the Adopt a Family Project in Santa Cruz County, California and devoting this week's post to spotlighting family needs.

If you live in the area, think about enriching your own Christmas by helping to make another family's Christmas a happy one. If you don't live here, I'm sure you can find similar programs in your area - or ones that can easily take its place.

Regardless of religion or politics, the end of the year is usually a time of reflection on your efforts and what you hope for the future, to be grateful for what you have and be generous to those who have less. Though you're part of a small not-for-profit, you're not exempt from this consideration. On the contrary...

For those of you running small nonprofits - consider what you can do to help other small nonprofits engaged in assisting local families during what's often the toughest time of the year for them emotionally.

Staff could adopt a family and the NP donate the occasional tweet or FB post to local agencies serving family needs for the holidays.

I know you've got your own year-end campaign to deal with; just don't get so caught up in the details that you forget about what else you can do as a nonprofit or as an individual or a group of individuals.

It's been said that Christmas is for kids. I think the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve is for reaffirming one's connection to the rest of the community and recognizing that even as we do the work of improving one area, we can still contribute to the betterment of others. Using our knowledge of social media and nonprofits, are we not uniquely qualified?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Groupon Update - the Ugly Side

Back in April, I wrote about Groupon and it's near-instant popularity. The post included some things to consider before your small not-for-profit jumped on the bandwagon. Here's an update from someone who learned the hard way:

"Without doubt, it was my worst-ever business decision."

As I said; it's a look-before-you-leap proposition.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Following Back is For the Birds

Image from Coloring Pages for Kids
I read a rant (a good one) today by Rob Cottingham over at the Social Signal about the expectation that if you follow someone on Twitter, you should be followed back.

I joined Twitter on the 22nd of January, 2008, which means that I've had an account almost since it really took off in 2007, which has given me kind of a historical view of this issue.

I left the following comment on Rob's post today (with a few updates made):

In the early days of Twitter (when Guy Kawasaki actually wrote his own tweets), it was worthwhile to follow everyone that followed you because there wasn't anyone there who was not interested in tech and social media. It was easy to converse because you usually had common interests and time: minutes would go by without the twitter stream being updated with a new post. You had leisure to get to know one another and there was no such thing as a focused stream (except maybe for Scoble, who more or less left Twitter in May 2008). So it kind of became a custom to follow back those who followed you.

Much has changed since then.

Frankly, I don't understand people who follow back automatically anymore. Stephen Fry used to do this until his follower count got close to 100K (maybe he still does). I've got far fewer followers than he does, and I know I miss some of the posts I'd like to see (like those from Stephen). Can't imagine what Stephen's stream looks like and doubt he's even seen it in a while. Not to mention that all you have to do now is include a word like 'pilates' in a post and five 'bots for Pilates instructors will follow you immediately.

I read a quote that went something like, "other people's opinions of me are none of my business." Probably this won't work for a brand, but for just us folks, it works fine. You don't have to like me and you sure don't have to follow me on Twitter, even if I follow you. People who think otherwise are using Victorian etiquette in a rocket-ship world.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"I've Been Re-Framed"

image from ScrapbookScrapbook
I heard from a friend of mine that someone had bought a very nice piece of art; an oil painting that he couldn't wait to get home after he took it to a framing store and had the frame replaced because it didn't fit the artwork. This probably happens more often than you might think and some people don't look beyond the frame to the art, so a beautiful piece will languish in a gallery or show instead of going home with someone.

You ever think much about the way your small not-for-profit is perceived in terms of context in your community. I mean, how do you frame the issues that you're about?

I got to thinking about this today when I read this article at NPQ about how an advocacy group is urging LGBT groups to stop asking for gay marriage as a rights issue, but reframe it as a love and commitment issue.The group seemed to feel that it was seeing the proposed legislation as a rights issue that was causing it to fail and that if the proponents would only appeal to the common desire of people to share romantic commitment, the cause would do better.

Why Framing is Important

This is one of those areas where we may think we've got the question and answer right without remembering that there's more than one way to ask a question - or frame an answer. The right frame helps you craft the right message and everything you do to support your NP in social media has to target that message. You're tweeting or posting that message; you're interacting with others in a way that reinforces that message. And yet, so many times we think the choice is obvious, simple, and we don't think it any farther than that.

Don't kid yourself; the frame you put around your goals is important.


NPQ had another article in the same newsletter I found interesting because I saw it as being related to the rights/commitment reframing issue. This article dealt with how corporations are using programs and even nonprofits to market to children in schools. The article uses Kohl's as an example, where they had a program to give money to schools based on how many votes a school could get on FB. Parents and supporters voted and found themselves on Kohl's mailing lists. NPQ also points out how marketing is done using a corporation's charitable arm, which makes it seem less like marketing.

The corporations are re-framing  their goals through a concerting marketing push, resulting in a perspective that puts a very positive spin on them.

I hope it's obvious that I'm not advocating using framing to avoid being clear about what you're trying to accomplish. But I'm saying that there may be more than one way to state your case to your community and you might want to give some thought to whether or not you're using the right one for your nonprofit.

How did you decide to frame your small nonprofit? Let me know by leaving a contribution in the comment box.

Tip: Google+

Google has now opened Google+ to branded pages for institutions, businesses, and nonprofits. Here's how to create your small nonprofit's page on Google+.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I'll Take It Up With My Stakehol...uh,, Base? Umm...*Those* People

Image via IsraBox MP3 Downloads (band: Incognito)
A couple of years ago, Seth Godin started talking about 'tribes' and the online folks got all excited. It was an interesting concept and generated a lot of discussion. I never took to the word*, which was contextually (loosely) defined as people who gather around an idea or a leader. So it's not a term I use in my writing when talking about small not for profits and the communities they serve.

Whaddya Call 'Ems

But lately, I've been thinking about what to call this group of people:
  • Constituents
  • Stakeholders
  • Donors
  • Customers/Clients
  • Community
To me, constituents has a political sound and I've never liked stakeholders (maybe it's just me, but when I hear or write this word, I always get an image of Van Helsing looking for Dracula). Donors works well, but only in particular circumstances. Some people receive your nonprofit's services, so they aren't donors in the sense that they donate money, although they may donate time or contribute in other ways, and let's face it - it's a rather clinical sounding term. Customers sounds retail and Clients could be anything from people who see therapists to people who see hairdressers. I like community because it has a friendly sound, but does it encompass everything you want to say about the people who use your services, those who contribute to those services with their time and/or talents, and those who support those services through donations?

If You Are Looking For An Answer Here, Keep Looking

No, I don't have an answer. It may be that the social networking environment is affecting this as it has affecting marketing, sales, publishing, politics, and many other niches. Everything seems to be spilling over into everything else and the virtual pigeonhole desk where we kept the labels is (has?) become obsolete.

We have, umm, talks (yeah; that's what I'll call them) about genres in writing groups all the time. I'm of the opinion that eventually people will be able to find a book to read by typing in the tags they want: nonfiction, fish, fossil, etc. I'm not sure how this will translate to brick and mortar, but with genres crossing all over the place, there just doesn't seem to be a lot of sense in trying to label a work of writing as just this or that, when it's actually this and that.

Which brings me to an underlying observation that I've made before and probably will again - whatever you come up with to deal with the changing landscape, will eventually have to be changed again with the changing landscape. There's nothing static here, people. The future has always depended to a certain extent on how flexible you and your nonprofit can be in facing different situations. That will be more true than ever as we move forward.

In the meantime, what do you call your - Tell me by leaving a contribution in the Comments box.

*But then I was never fond of his other word inventions like Squidoo (and Lenses) and Purple Cow (for a great idea).


Pamela Grow is showing a very nice video thank you on her blog. You might want to give this a try!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Craig Newmark - Income, Nonprofits and Social Media: a Study

Perhaps because relationships are at the heart of a nonprofit's mission, NPs seem to instinctively get that social media transactions are conversation, rather than conversion. When people feel they know you and that you know them, they are more likely to support you.

Money in the Equation?

But money always comes into the conversation sooner or later, and probably some have wondered if the ability to gain friends and followers is somehow connected to how much money one has.

Craig Newmark's Craigslist Connect team took a look at this question by reviewing the top 50 nonprofits in terms of income and their social media standings and came to this conclusion:
"The bottom line is that income does not increase a nonprofit's visibility and interactions in the social media world."
As always, what counts is how you talk with others in your network; what you share and how you respond.

Maybe you don't consider yourself a social media person. I know a small business owner who wants to sell his product online to the people he knows will like it. He's worried about SEO and the ranking of his domain and how he can improve his Google search results. Quality, not quantity, I told him. His website is set up with a forum for discussing racing - his passion and the base of his product. But he isn't comfortable with computers or social media, so the forum languishes. No conversations, no links exchanged, no excitement or interaction. And somehow, he can't understand that you can't go to a party and stand in the corner, not talking, and expect people to engage you or understand what you do.

Make an Effort

If this is you, get with the program. Make an effort. If you truly can't deal, then find someone who can and hire them. The "bottom line" that Craig Newmark notes is good news for very small nonprofits, because it means that social media is an area in which you can compete with the big dogs and still come out on top. Your small nonprofit can engage your community, build a base of supporters, create a whole new level of participation - make a win for your mission. But you can't win, if you don't try.

What are you doing to improve your social media outreach? How is it working for you? Tell me by leaving a contribution in the comment box.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Blog Action Day - Food For Thinking

Illustration via Guru's Feet
Food. Is there any topic more tempting and more wholesome and yet more ripe for argument and controversy?

Right now, people are eating at home, on the run, or in cafes. And people are also starving to death. Some are advocating for a meat-free diet and some are talking about choosing food on the basis of the type of energy you want to encourage in your body.  Some are trying to reduce the amount of food they eat, while others are trying different combinations to better control their health. Many will shop for organic food and others will shop as they may because they can't afford the extra cost of organic. There will be arguments for and against genetically modified food and there will be other arguments about the benefits of raw foods. In one house, someone will be throwing away spoiled food from their filled-to-capacity refrigerator and someone else will be looking at a refrigerator that is nearly bare and wondering what to feed the children. And somewhere, someone will get food poisoning.

All this is happening at the same moment on the same planet.

What we eat and how we eat it are influenced by the society in which we live and the family into which we were born. Home-cooking means different things to nearly everyone. As a kid, I spent a lot of time in donut shops and greasy-spoon diners with my mom, who couldn't cook. I always got plenty to eat with my dad, though he couldn't cook, either. But at least he didn't burn the TV dinners. For years, comfort food to me meant a Swanson Turkey dinner with peas.

Food is about more than what we eat, though. It's also about where we get it, who grows it or catches it, and even how it is killed and what may be killed along with it by accident. There is another question that is gaining importance as the world population climbs closer and closer to 9 billion - how long will it last? What are we eating now that, in a few years, won't be available? What will happen to the people who sell that food to buy their own?

Most of the time, we think of food in an individual way - what we like and don't like; what we want at the moment or for next week; what we crave that we know will make us fat or ruin our arteries.

In the world before most of us moved to the cities for work, we knew our food. We lived with it on the farms and in our back gardens. It was part of our daily life. It still is.

Today, I'm asking you to take a few minutes and think about food in your life and in the lives of others. Think about what you eat and what you serve. Think  about what you prepare with your own hands and what others prepare for you. Food fuels action. How does it fuel yours?

Food for Thought:

Genetically Modified Food
Modern Meat
Food Borne Illnesses
Understanding Food Cravings
Food or Fuel for the Winter?

Food Nonprofits:

Food Day USA
World Food Day
Feeding America
Closed on Mondays
The Hunger Site
Farmers Feeding the World

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Facebook As Your Small Nonprofit's Dance Partner

Here's an interesting thing to think about. As you must remember that your donors are not numbers, so someone else must remember the same about you and your small nonprofit brand and network.

When you're focused on your mission, some things will slip your peripheral vision. Like the fact that you - and your social media community - are a commodity.

com • mod • ity

Something useful that can be turned to advantage or profit

A lot of folks are PO'd at Facebook for ringing in the changes on their accounts with small warning. The charge of fogeyism has been leveled at some of the protesters - "It's a free service; what do you want for nothing?" being the usual question with the implication that those made inflexible by age and infirmity are the ones being the noisiest complainers.

As usual, I think both sides have a point.

Remember That Story About the Free Lunch?

Facebook is free. Underneath their logo, they say so and assert that it will always be that way. Taking the irritating with the pleasing is part of the exchange. You get to hang out with your family and friends and Facebook gets to organize their space how they please. But just because you don't pay Facebook to use Facebook doesn't mean that the service is really free, does it? It's only free for you in the sense that "Ladies get in Free on Wednesday" is free. We all know this, and yet, unless FB does something that stirs people up, most of us prefer to forgeddaboudit.

Every day you and your social network are being marketed to advertisers and salespeople. And most of the changes that FB is making are driven by that. You need a fun place to hang out, so they improve your ability to have fun and share. Yes, it's all about the sharing. Removing the discussion tab from a business/nonprofit page means that the sharing will now be done on the Wall. Why? Because the Wall is where the Edgerank analytics are, and would-be advertisers will base their FB content on the information contained in those analytics. Facebook sells advertising and they will try to get the most data for their advertisers as they can without making people so mad they'll leave in the kind of rush Netflix recently experienced.

There is a danger that FB users will end up sharing more than they want to, especially since many don't understand how FB works, they just use it the way they just drive their cars. This also means that Edgerankings will mean even more as businesses and nonprofits must work harder to derive authority (being seen as a leader through how many people engage with you) and content that drives engagement in order to get into the Top Story rather than fall into the Recent Stories category, since FB (and Google and Bing) use authority as part of their ranking criteria. Some parts of FB's 'frictionless sharing' will stay, others will go, but changes will continue in social media, where the marketing life is still evolving.

It's All a Dance

And dancing alone in social media just isn't done. FB can't afford to forget you and your network are more than just numbers. That's why some of the recent changes reflect features in Google+ that people found useful (like being able to share with some, rather than all in the network).

Balance remains important. Your small nonprofit needs to stay up on the latest moves, petition the bandleader when the tune isn't right, and always remember to dance with the one that brung ya.

Please leave a contribution in the Comments.

Update - Resource of the Week: BigDuck

A very good guest blog and a gaggle of useful information posts from Big Duck this week!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It's All About Facebook This Week

You aren't surprised, are you?

Everyone and her sister is talking about - or complaining about - FB and the changes there. Many people, uncomfortable with change, are irritated, while businesses and nonprofits scramble to get a bead on how the changes will affect what they do.

There's so much information out there that I don't feel it's sensible for me to act as a third-party interpreter, so I'll just give you a round-up of the opinions I think are worth taking a look at.

John Haydon (aka The Nonprofit Facebook Guy) often has good information about what's happening on FB and how you can make use of it for your small nonprofit. For obvious reasons, he's created a recent flurry of posts and here are a couple about the Subscribe feature that I found useful:
At Nonprofit Tech 2.0, Heather Mansfield gives you the rundown on the changes, how they affect Places and Community pages and how you can deal with them in 10 Recent Upgrades to Facebook Your Nonprofit Needs to Know About.

What Else is Happening?

Well, over at The Online Community Guide where Richard Millington of Feverbee blogs, the word is that Facebook is useless as a platform for community building: "As a community platform, Facebook lies somewhere between awful and redundant."

Richard thinks interaction is limited by nature on branded pages and that people don't interact with each other on them. He's right. But he's also talking about large communities. No online community starts out large - they start out small and put a lot of work into growing the community. A lot of hours. In a post from last month, Richard says, "The biggest cost of a community shouldn't be the platform (...) The biggest cost is the manpower. You need someone working full-time on the community."

And manpower is the thing your small nonprofit probably has as its most scarce resource (besides money). Which is why I have said that starting out on Facebook (FB says, "It's free and always will be.") is a good way to go for a tiny nonprofit. It is, after all, where you can find community and if your community gets huge, you may be able to use that growth to get a grant for a full-time community manager. In the meantime, you have a social media presence in addition to your website and a chance to learn at a little slower pace about what it means to engage people and build community. So, if and when you are ready to hire a full-time person, you'll know what you're looking for.

In a Nutshell

Amongst all of the news about the FB changes, what they are and how to deal with them, I continually saw one thing repeated: content. Nothing in the changes is going to improve or degrade what you post. It doesn't matter whether it's called an update or a story, it's still going to be content and it's still what is going to make your page someplace people want to be. Or not. Yes, you need to stay informed about the changes and that will be a little tricky because FB seems to like to make them. (At least this time, they gave people some warning.) But your community is dealing with those changes at the same time. Maybe it couldn't hurt talk about them on your page. Who knows? It might be the start of a beautiful subscription.

If this post has made you think, please leave a contribution in the Comment box.

Resource of the week: The Nonprofit Facebook Guy  (website) and The Nonprofit Facebook Guy (on FB)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Keep Your Nonprofit Mind Open,But Don't Let It Slip Away

I listened in on a webinar a couple of weeks ago where the talk was about how owned media (blogs and websites), paid media (advertising and pr), and earned media (customer relations) were all coming together. There's been talk on other blogs about whether or not this is a good idea and how and why it might be implemented and some posts that address the shift as though it's a done deal and y'all better get onboard. Social media is the catalyst - it's given businesses and nonprofits unprecedented access to potential customers/donors and the independent PR, Marketing, and Customer Relations groups now find themselves overlapping. Yes, things are changing and I find myself in agreement with Todd Defren that it would be a good idea to take a careful look before combining them all - especially if you're a small business or nonprofit. But a micro nonprofit is different.

My Nonprofit Staff is Me, Myself, and I

The thing is, you've already combined those 'departments.' The head of marketing, advertising, and customer relations is you. There's probably no problem with overlap, you just have to be careful to choose the best avenue for the project at hand and not just the one you're most comfortable with. So why bring this up at all?

More Work?

I think it's a good idea to know what the pros are doing and talking about, what worries them and excites them. It's good to know what they're trying and there's always the possibility that what they're doing can be scaled down and find a use at your very small nonprofit.

It's also good to become familiar with industry terminology and how the pros set goals and measure success. When applying for a grant or talking with a possible partner or sponsor, knowing how to 'speak the language' can be an asset.

I know it's more work, but you didn't get involved with this nonprofit to take it easy, right?

However far you roam in search of new ideas though, please stay you.

Mind How You Go

I collect slang. I'm particularly fond of Soda Fountain slang from the 20s through the 50s. But it's not something one can inject into a modern conversation without appearing very strange. I don't think there's a great likelihood that you'll start talking about alignment and case studies and so forth. But ideas are powerful (like the idea for a very small nonprofit). All I'm saying is, don't get so caught up in new ideas for reaching out to the community that you separate yourself from that community. They aren't numbers, or data, or conversions, they're the people who care about what you care about. Use the new ideas to reach them, but always remember that the focus is relationship. If it doesn't further the relationship, then it's not worth your effort.

If this post made you think, please leave a contribution in the Comment box.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Captain In a Crunch: Cereal Killers & Your Small Nonprofit


Creamy or crunchy? I'll always take crunchy (unless it's a See's truffle, then I'll take pineapple). So I like Grape-Nuts cereal. But I guess not a lot of other people in my area do, so my local market has stopped carrying it and its store-branded knock-off version. As Mike Meyers used to say, "I was verklempt." So, being the digital flaneuse I am, I went online to the Post website and asked if the cereal was being discontinued. And this is what I got in reply:

Dear Robyn McIntyre,

Thank you for contacting us regarding Post Grape Nuts Cereal. We are sorry to learn of your difficulty in locating our product in your area and appreciate this being brought to our attention. This product is still in distribution, unfortunately we currently do not have a method for determining where this product can be purchased in your area.

Let me assure you that our sales force does their best to convince retailers to stock as many of our products as possible. However, it is up to the independent retailer to make the decision as to which products they will carry. You may wish to ask your local store’s Manager if they will stock the product you are looking for, or perhaps special order the product for you. Providing them the UPC code on the bottom of your cereal carton may help in your endeavor.
Your request for this product is important to us and although we cannot make promises, I can assure you that information about your request will be forwarded to our Sales team.

Again, thank you for contacting us. We appreciate your loyalty and patronage.

Kxxx Xxxxxx
Consumer Response Representative


Say What, Now?

Yes, it seems like the Mad Men era is alive and well in the Consumer Response department of Post Cereals. I guess I should feel lucky they use email.

The stilted and formal business-speak: let me assure you, your request for this product is important to us (and the incredibly friendly) Providing them the UPC code on the bottom of your cereal carton may help in your endeavor just don't make me feel, well... LOVED.

In terms of communicating information, the first paragraph might seem reasonable until we get to the part where they write that they currently do not have a method for determining where this product can be purchased in your area. Really? I'll bet your sales department has one. If someone wanted to buy my product, I'd be glad to let them know where they could get it. And I'd give them a coupon for a discount on buying it there.

...our sales force does their best to convince retailers to stock as many of our products as possible. I'll bet they do. Right here is where I would expect to see something about my question being forwarded to someone specific in the Sales Team to find out what the deal was. Instead, they ask me to hit up the store manager and ask them to special order it for me. This, of course, was something I'd already thought of, but I think it should have been one of the last things they asked me to do, especially if they thought - as I do after Googling Post Grape-Nuts - that the store manager might say it's because of low demand. Low demand. If the cereal is this unpopular, maybe I shouldn't be looking for it.

We appreciate your loyalty and patronage. If this closing was any more stiff, it would be eligible for real estate at Forest Lawn. Then we get a name, title, and a great coded entry that who knows what the heck it means.

Where's The Beef?

All of the above aside, where is the invitation to follow Post on Twitter or connect with them on Facebook? Pringles is kicking ass on Reddit and Reese's and Oreos have got great social media people on FB.

With all that they have going for them in this chance to deal positively with some inbound marketing, this - THIS - is what Post's Consumer Response comes up with? No wonder Grape-Nuts is hard to find. I'm surprised Post itself isn't.

Maybe they're just not as crunchy as I thought.

Tool of the Week - GoalStacker

As someone who manages projects, I'm necessarily a list-maker. I have To-Do lists, but I generally use my WBS or Gantt chart for a complicated project. Some projects aren't that complicated or could benefit from the simplicity of being a sort of expanded To-Do list focused on a particular day. Say, today. GoalStacker allows you to do that by letting you work with the time you have available during a specific day. You can schedule, collaborate, track time, and get reminders. Accounts start at $1.99 for five projects and go up two levels to "Determined" at $5.99 for 25 projects. Investigate getting Inspired, Motivated, or Determined.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Numbers Racket and Your Small Nonprofit

Art by Andrew Tosiello
Last week I mentioned I'd be attending a meetup on SEO and that if the info was good, I'd share. It was, so I will.

Search Engine Optimization is a fancy way of asking, "What can I do to make sure that when someone is doing a Google search* for my kind of stuff, that my stuff shows up on the first page of results?" Note that showing up on the first page of results is extra-special good because most people click on links there and don't bother with pages two through whatever.

Kevin Bates is an SEO expert, practicing from his website, We've Created a Monster. His job is to make your content (blog, store, company, etc.) more findable. Imagine the Las Vegas Strip, with its innumerable neon signs blasting away into the night. Kevin tweaks your sign to make sure that it stands out more than most of the others - if possible, more than all of the others. He's apparently pretty dang good at it, since he's in demand for talks to groups that don't understand SEO, except to know that they need it.

Two Rs and an A

The thing I liked about Kevin's presentation was that he didn't do the numbers thing - you know, 63 Things You Need to Know About Needing To Know.  About half of the blog posts I read have lately had those kinds of titles and I'm pretty sick of them. I hear numbered lists are popular with readers, but if I liked numbers I would have done better in algebra. Instead, Kevin presented these topics for focusing your SEO efforts:

  • Research - know what keywords (i.e., search terms) your audience is looking for

  • Relevance - ensure your content targets (uses) the high-opportunity keywords you identified in your research and make sure the writing is original (Google hates duplicate content)

  • Authority - quantity of visitors (numbers again) is nice, but quality is better. If high quality (which seems to equal numbers again) sites such as YouTube like you, your authority rises to match and so does your search ranking

Since he's the expert, you should get the details from him. He's got a blog with posts about SEO and he's sorta kinda planning a e-book. Those who subscribe will get the word first, if he does write one. Learn more about Research, Relevance, and Authority.

*Bing notwithstanding, Google remains the non plus ultra of search engines.

And Now For the Rant

It's possible that you understand search engine ranking or at least the need for it. It's likely that your small nonprofit's website and/or blog could benefit. SEO, like social media, can be great for improving your find-ability. But only you can determine how much effort to put into the numbers racket and how important those numbers are to you and what you're working to accomplish.

Among the numerous (get it?) blog posts sent to me this week were several focused on metrics - measurements that tell how many people are looking at/interacting with your page or site or Twitter account, etc. For large companies looking for conversion (converting visits to sales) or even large nonprofits (converting visits to donations or volunteers), using the array of tools for collecting bits of information and transmuting them through analysis to numbers in order to pinpoint trends and learn what sorts of content trigger conversions is a necessity. Business thrives on numbers.

But with a small nonprofit, metrics can be less strict in the sense that they can be less traditionally defined than in businesses. A rescue organization, for example, might define a program as successful if just one wild animal's life has been saved by it.

As I've said, numbers are not my thing, and I'm sure others will say I ignore them at my peril. But I don't ignore them. I recognize they have a place, it's just that in my system, their ranking is lower.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Seriously? The Future of Social Media Birdbrain

My analytics say that several people a day visit this blog. Yet, no one completed my survey. Hmmm. I guess no vote is a vote just the same, and I'll take this information into account as I consider the future of this blog.

Tomorrow I'll be attending a presentation on SEO - a subject that is about as near and dear to my heart as indigestion - and if I learn anything I think might be of use to small nonprofits, I'll share.

In the meantime... I read a post by a very passionate person about how social media (particularly Twitter) seems to be mostly about patting each other on the back and giving encouragement and sympathy, rather than asking the tough questions. I suppose that there may be a prepondonerance of niceness in my stream, but I also see requests for clarification, help thinking something through, and even arguments here and there. I don't get why a tool has to be this way or that way, anyway. The user decides how to employ a tool and how effective the tool is for the purpose. If you like to ask hard questions on Twitter, then ask them. But expecting everyone else to understand that they should be using Twitter the way you think it ought to be used is just asking for disappointment. Personally, I use Twitter to share/find information, have a laugh, and connect with others (I spend the majority of my time alone). I particularly like encouraging people or sympathizing with them when things aren't going so well, since - even in a crowded office - one can still be alone. And here I will border on the salacious by saying, "It's your tool; play with it how you want."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Can You See It? Social Media Wins and Your Small Nonprofit

Picture via Children's Vision Coalition
When I walked into my friend Ann's house last week, her daughter was on her laptop. Laura, knowing my interests, was quick to tell me about a thread that had shown up on the Pringles brand FB fanpage. A customer had asked why the Pringles can had a reusable lid, since - as their advertisements pointed out - no one could stop eating until all the chips were gone. Pringles had responded that many customers liked to use the empty can for other things and found the lid useful. They thanked the customer for the comment and said they'd pass it along to the rest of their team.

My friend said basically, how nice. I responded, "Are you kidding? That's social media gold." "It is?" Ann asked, doubtfully. Laura then confirmed my opinion by telling me that the thread had been posted on Reddit and gathered thousands of comments (not unusual for Pringles, which has a gajillion devoted fans).

My Point

I realized it might not be that easy for people who aren't as enthusiastic about social media to recognize when something important has happened... and you might be one of them. You've got a lot of things to do for your small nonprofit and keeping track of trends and memes in SM might not be one of them - at least not on a regular basis.

But then you might miss an opportunity for your organization to capitalize on an opportunity.

The Short Answer

Train yourself to recognize lessons and opportunities. Twitter has a list of "What's Trending" hashtags and there's always You might even want to give a friendly social media enthusiast permission to tell you all about what's happening in the SM world, or you could start watching late night television again, since Jimmy Fallon and lots of other folk regularly reference social media memes these days.

Sorry this means extracurricular activity, but social networking is only gaining larger and larger pieces of territory; it only makes sense to understand the landscape. Then if someone hands you a social media gold nugget, you'll be able to tell what it is and use it to do good.


A Little Help, Here

There's very little interaction on this blog, and I'd be lying if I said this doesn't bother me. I sometimes wonder if I'm shouting into the wind or if the 600 or so people who subscribe or check in to the site every week just don't find it engaging. Maybe I don't have enough gravitas (credentials, authority) to be taken seriously, I don't know. But I need to find out, so I can decide whether to keep working here or turn my attentions somewhere else. So here's a little survey - four questions - answer them and help me decide.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Experimenting With Your Small Nonprofit

In the world of social media, very often what we hear about new tools or platforms is like a politician's version of science: here's the conclusion, what facts can we find to support it?

As a small nonprofit, you probably read about these debuts and their numbers (Google+ with 10-18 million subscribers) and you wonder if you should exert the effort to get an invitation and set up an account. But here's the thing: you have no idea whether your effort will return much of use to you. After all, a tool or platform is only as good as its results and like mileage, your results may vary. So, what to do?

Design a Small Experiment

Pick a tool for your experiment. For the purposes of this post, I'll recommend two that deal with smartphones:

The first tool is kind of an easy pic if you don't already have a mobile version of your website. If you do, you could choose qurify! and generate a QR code that simply resolves to your website, but I'd suggest you stretch a little more and figure out something to do with the QR code. Perhaps you have a campaign or an event or even a meeting coming up. If you're sending out an email about it, why not include a QR code with the details of location, time, etc.?

From Science Buddies
Or pick another tool that you've been interested in and haven't tried yet. Now apply the Scientific Method:

The Scientific Method*

The question is, will this tool work for my small nonprofit (and define work as measurable good results)?

For the purpose of this post, we'll assume you've done the background research by coming up with the tool you want to try.

In constructing the hypothesis, you could go lots of ways, but I'm sticking with a simple it does (or doesn't) work for my small nonprofit.

Design Your Experiment

Decide how long or how much to use the social media tool and what data you will gather to be analyzed later. DO NOT design the experiment with a particular result in mind, but rather with the object of gathering the most information possible. Once you're satisfied with the design, perform the experiment.

Analyze the Results

Look at all of the data you've gathered and see in which direction it leads you. Does it support your original idea that, for example, your small nonprofit's base are not smartphone owners? Maybe the results are inconclusive or turn out to be partially supportive of your hypothesis.

Document the Conclusion

And form a new (and hopefully better) hypothesis to experiment with.

In these small steps you can try something new without fully committing your limited resources. Plus, you'll have hard data that you can use with future experiments with other tools. And when you finally go to the Board with a strategy, you won't be guessing at all.

So, experiment with your small nonprofit, you'll learn what works and you won't be jumping to anyone else's conclusions.

*Definition of the steps for the Scientific Method can vary (try Googling it in images), but this one seemed most appropriate for this post.

Tool of the Week:

The favicon is the tiny picture next to the site name on a browser tab (mine is a red robin head). A lot of sites don't take advantage of this opportunity for branding, even when the platform they're using (like Blogger or WP) allow them to and provide instructions for how to do it. But first you've got to have the picture and it has to be in the .ico format - you can't just rename a .jpg or .png., which doesn't require registration, lets you turn a picture into a favicon and save it in the .ico format. Tip: the simpler the pic, the better.

Monday, August 1, 2011

What I Wish More People Knew About Me

I've mentioned that I like Amber Naslund's ideas over at Brass Tack Thinking. A while back she wrote a post about what she wished more people knew about her and I was so impressed by it and the follow-up posts that I committed to writing one. So if you're thinking this post has nothing to do with your small nonprofit, you're right.

Many times since I said I would write this post, I've thought about not writing it. I'm sure I've worried and wondered over it much more than it deserves, since there's a likelihood that fewer than my three regular readers will ever see it and judging by the number of comments I usually get, this post will probably go largely unremarked. Anyway, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it. So, here goes.

What I Wish More People Knew About Me

I'm an introvert - expending energy in social situations, rather than acquiring it. In real world terms this means I usually have to be dragged to parties involving people I don't know and I always feel like I have three heads at networking events.

Katherine Hepburn gave me poise. I admired her strength, so when I got into confusing social situations as a girl, I would ask myself what I thought she'd do, and I'd do that.

I'm not as fearless as my friends and family think - or as transparent. Most of the time if I'm doing something that seems to take courage, it's only because I don't see any other alternative. If I'm transparent, it's because I believe it saves time and sanity to not have multiple faces. But this doesn't mean that I don't get anxious or that I don't withhold things. Sometimes I'm withholding the fact that I'm anxious.

I'd rather not be the leader. Some people like that role, but I'm not one of them. I prefer to work as part of a team in a collaborative style. If the team I'm on can't collaborate their way out of a paper bag, I'd rather work alone. If working alone isn't possible, and there's a leadership vacuum, I'll lead and I won't complain. Out loud, anyway.

I hate being singled out, having my picture taken, or thanked in public. Praise the team, please. I very much enjoy having someone tell me I did a good job - but in private.

Geeks and nerds are my people. I love, love, love technology and computers. I think this is funny, because when I was in college, computers were programmed using punch cards and I couldn't care less about them. Then I tried my first word processing program, and I was a goner. I'm also a history buff, a political scientist, a typography junkie, a foodie, and a captive of the Oxford English Dictionary and Chicago Manual of Style. I love space and science fiction, like to watch operations and had lots of fun diagnosing cause of death on the U of Edinburgh's online autopsy site. I collect slang and word origins, adore Japanese anime and rock music and think puns in Latin are funny. If I could go back in time to see one thing, it would probably be the moment that our species began its evolutionary path.

I'd always rather know the truth, even if it hurts. If I know the truth, I can take an action to deal with it and move on. I hate finding I've expended a lot of useless effort because of a lie.

I use personal anecdotes as illustrations. If I tell you a dark story from my past, it's not to get sympathy or because I think we've become best buds, it's because it's relevant to a point I'm trying to make, that's all. It's something I've dealt with and it's become an abstract for me. What's still painful to me, you will never hear about, unless you are a very, very, very good friend.

Animals and small children are important to me and for the same reasons. They are helpless for the most part and don't know how to ask for what they need. To me, all pets and children should have loving homes. People who can't give them one, shouldn't have them. Period.

I contradict myself. I love other peoples' vacation pictures, but I won't look at pictures of your kids unless I know them. I have gone out of my way to comfort a stranger, but fired people for poor performance and been unmoved by their pleas. I dislike artifice and snobbery, yet will set the table by the book. I love people, it's humanity I can't stand.

Finally, if I could do anything in the world and be anyone in the world, I'd do exactly what I'm doing and be exactly who I am. Only I'd make a little more money.

Tool of the Week: 25 Ways to Use Twitter to Improve The World

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

When Form Follows Function - And Puts Donors Off

Image via Destiny Assoc.
As my friends from Twitter know, I am a Digital Flaneuse (thank you, Dr. @AmyPalko). While I was flaneusing around Twitter, I came across this post by Patrick Woods about a survey he made to show that people respond better to requests for donations if the request is graphically appealing. (Note: Patrick's post was in support of his product, 5MinuteFundRaiser.) Having been in UI when digital graphics were still made up of @ signs and the like, I commented that the user experience should always be uppermost when designing a donation form (online or hard copy). This is not something that usually happens.

The Usual Suspects Form

Most nonprofits are primarily concerned with getting the details right. Because of transparency and laws affecting their reporting and actions, it's important that any donation be clearly understood and applied as the donor wants it to be. But this can lead to an - unfortunate - bland, unengaging and even off-putting appearance:
Yikes. One wants to do good, but why do some places make it more difficult than it has to be? Tiny buttons to be checkmarked, cramped lines of text to be filled out, seemingly miles of information to be read, understood and dealt with.

"The Lord Loveth a Cheerful Giver" but this would make a cheerful giver sigh. And possibly put off the task. Then who knows when they would get back to it. If ever.

Here's another one:
A Nice Background Is Not a Substitute for Usability

It's rather pretty in a subdued, purply kind of way. But it has the same problems: cramped spaces and tiny boxes, lots and lots of detail. People with diminished eyesight will not thank them for this. It gets credit for making their mission clear, but that's not enough to save it from being meatloaf at a prime rib banquet.

Now For Something Completely Different

How nice is this? Once again, the Red Cross shows us how to get the job done, cleanly and invitingly. Oh yes, the donor will end up filling out the necessary information, but it won't seem like so much of a chore because the tasks are broken up into smaller jobs and the text to be absorbed on any one of the pages won't be so daunting. And here's a mobile version of a donor form:

Electronic Versus Hard Copy

This seems to be to be the heart of the problem with donation forms. When you're using an electronic donation form, you can afford to be generous with white space and graphics and color. All of those things add up to extra cost when you have to print and mail.

Naturally, I'm not going to suggest that you go totally digital, unless you've done a survey of your constituents and the results merit it. That day is probably coming, though. With most on Facebook and at least connected to the internet, paper donor forms are in the twilight of their usefulness. In the meantime, you can still look at your paper form and see if there are areas that could be addressed. For instance, instead of listing out all your programs, you could have a line titled "Instructions". It's been my experience that if a donor wants their money to go to a specific program, they have no problems with writing that out in a note or in the check memo line.

And why not encourage your donors to move to online donation by highlighting your online presence in your hard copy materials? You - are - highlighting your presence on FB or Twitter or other social media sites, right?

Beauty is Skin And Pixel Deep

In the tech world we used to say "it's all about the user." Same here, only substitute 'donor' for 'user.' People want to identify with your mission. They want to support it. Make each avenue for doing so as attractive and pleasant as possible.

Tool of The Week: BookmarkQ

I often like to share quotes or pieces of information I come across while being a Digital Flaneuse. This bookmarklet gives me an easy way to do that. All I have to do is highlight the quote I want to share and click the bookmarklet button. I then get a short url that leads directly to the quote or I can choose to share via FB, Gmail or Twitter. Check out BookmarkQ here.

Friday, July 8, 2011

What and Who You Love - Emergency Succession Planning

Via Hubcap at

I've been spending the last couple of weeks in reflection since my nephew was killed in an accident. This is my habit when someone close to me dies; to think about what they meant to me and how they affected my life - to recognize their contributions and express gratitude and to learn what I can from what has happened.

In some ways, losing someone in an unexpected way is more horrific than having to let go of them slowly. Regardless of when or how it happens, you can never really be prepared for it. I was just as shocked by my father's death from cancer as from my nephew's death from a freeway accident, even though I knew my father's condition was terminal. But at least with an illness you may have a small window of opportunity to prepare, to take care of some things ahead of time. With a sudden death, you don't even have that.

Everyone is a Hostage to Fate

My point is that, despite all your planning for the future, your destiny is not assured. I doubt that my 29 year old nephew had a will or a large enough insurance policy to cover his wife and children, though he may have - he was a rather forward looking and dependable man. This post is not about urging you to do those things. Your decisions regarding your private life and family are your business alone. But if you haven't thought about how your small nonprofit would fare should something happen to you or a key member of your small staff, you ought to.

Lives may stop for a while, but the mission your small nonprofit was created to serve, will go on. And staffers, board and constituents will all be able to do so more confidently and easily if a sudden loss of a key person has been planned for.

  • How will people be notified?
  • Who will succeed in the role, at least temporarily and how will duties be parceled out in the meantime?
  • What areas will be most affected and how?
  • If the person lost was driving strategy, is there someone else who knows his/her plans or where to find them?

I'm sure there are other questions that will occur to you once you start thinking about this in relation to your own nonprofit, including what information you consider vital to be passed on should the lost person turn out to be you.

This is where I add the obligatory insurance/mortuary business line about how we all hope such preparations won't be needed, but for the sake of your loved ones' peace of mind... only in this case, it's your nonprofit. It's important to you - you've devoted a lot of love and energy to it. And don't think that the brain fog won't happen if the sudden loss is someone else or someone close to someone else, either. People who work closely together develop a symbiosis - what affects one will affect the others. Do them and your small nonprofit the favor of planning ahead of an emergency and review your plans on a regular basis. If you do, you can continue to help them even if you're no longer there.

Tool of the Week: Google+ and GoDropBox

You'd have to be under a rock in the social media world to not know that Google has rolled out Google+. So far, I like it but how useful it really is remains to be seen. Early days yet, for sure. Still, if you're wondering about it and how the roll out may affect your small nonprofit, check out this post by Amy at NTEN as she looks at the privacy context of Google+ and which of the new SM platform's features might be useful to nonprofits.

GoDropBox may be useful to you if you're already working from the Google Docs cloud and find you sometimes need to review large files in concert with a small group of other people. Check it out here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tell Someone You Love Them

No post this week because of a death in the family.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Going A Different Route With Your Small Nonprofit's Message

Via U of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Very recently, I wrote a post where I said that nearly every piece of social communication you create for your small nonprofit should relate to the key message you're trying to send. The important word in that sentence is nearly.

Don't Be a Slave to Your Marketing or Branding Strategy

This is where I tell you I don't take my own advice. Since I don't blog more than once a week, it's important that I try to stay on message. You can get Keepin' it Real in the Whole Foods Parking Lot from anyone, you don't need it from this blog, too.

But if you're engaging with your community a lot (or as often as you can), then it's okay to take your social media vehicle off-road once in a while.

Know Your Community

Even if you're just getting started with your social media gathering places, you probably have a sense of what the people in your community like. After all, they wouldn't have joined in the community unless they felt a connection with your mission, right? Chances are, a lot of the stuff you find interesting, they will find interesting. So you come across a piece that's not directly related to your work, but sheds some light on an aspect of it. Share it with your community along with why you find it worthwhile.

And if one of the folks in your community shares something that relates to your nonprofit at kind of a tangent, resist the temptation to remove it. If they're sharing, that's a big plus. Don't give them a reason to stop just because what they posted isn't directly to do with your small nonprofit.

Interaction is what you want - a place where your community feels safe exchanging views and information.

Off-Route is Fine, But Keep Your Map Handy

It probably doesn't need to be said, but I'm going to say it anyway: whatever you post has got to relate in some way to your mission or your community. This means that no matter how cute that video of a cat pretending to play the harp is, if your small nonprofit is not engaged in animal rescue or harp-playing, then resist posting it. Even supporting kids' music programs would be a bit of a stretch, here. Would the people viewing  it on your site or account end up scratching their heads about why it's there? Then don't post it.

Practice makes for better judgment. The more often you post and engage with your community, the better sense you'll have of what and what isn't appropriate material. Go the F*#k to Sleep is funny stuff to most people and many parents can relate, but it is obviously Not Safe For Work. Some things may not be as clearly unsuitable, but when in doubt, don't.

Refreshing the Ride

In California, Highway 5 runs inland down the state. It's the fastest way to get from the Bay Area to Southern California. But it is boring. Except for a few places, the scenery is monotonous. If one has the time, it can be refreshing to take one of the back roads for a while, gain a new perspective and a boost in energy. This is what I'm proposing for your social communications. Adding the occasional not-quite-directly-related post keeps you and your passengers from dozing off and can lead to greater understanding and interaction.

Tool of the Week:

They provide tips and tools for making life/work easier. I've found the information shared to be interesting and usable. If you didn't know about them, give them a look. Note: they have two looks to their site. I prefer to blog view, but that may just be me.