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."