Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I'll Take It Up With My Stakehol...uh, Tribe..no, 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 to...deal 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 - donors.clients.customers.stakeholders.constituents.community? 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!