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

Via Mr.Breakfast.com

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.