Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Re-igniting Your Fire Using Social Communications

Everyone can feel a little down from time to time. Especially after a big push or a big disappointment. We've talked a lot about how you can use social communications to get your message out, to share your triumphs, to ask for assistance. But have you ever thought of using it on those days that are a little bit darker - when it's a little harder to get out of bed, you're a little slower getting started and the list of things TO DO seems a little too long?

I felt that way this morning, wondering if I'm making any kind of impact or doing any kind of good. Then I got this:

This was created to celebrate the re-opening of one of the world's greatest museums. I was enthralled watching it, thinking of all the work that went into it: costumes, animals, timing, paperwork, actors, acrobats, stuntmen, artists... the list goes on. And it came together so beautifully to remind Nederlanders (the Dutch) about the wonderful art they are heir to and how that art can impact our modern lives.

No doubt many people unfamiliar with Rembrandt's work or the Rijksmuseum now know something about both and from the comments on the many sites that embedded this video, art is a lively topic for conversation.

Although it would be nice for a small nonprofit like yours to have such a viral video, even without one, you can benefit: you can be inspired, you can share your own ideals and have conversations in social media places that encourage you, give you ideas, provide both reward and respite.

As Teddy Roosevelt said, "Do the best you can, where you are, with what you have." I am grateful for the work you do every day to try to make the world a better place, doing the best you can with limited resources in a world that knows no end of need. You inspire me.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Four Requirements for Successful Social Communication

The hooha about the new medium in town is long gone. People are turning to subjects like big data and still looking for ROI. In whatever shape or form it takes in the future, social communications are here to stay.

Over the years in this blog, I - and hundreds of others engaged in the subject of social media - have overlapped each others' messages about what's important in establishing your social media presence. I hope by now that experience has taught you what all of the lists and slideshows and doodles and videos in the world could not: that if you want to use social media effectively, successfully, you must fulfill these four requirements:

  • Time
  • Commitment
  • Real Content
  • Care


If the hundreds of thousands of discarded Twitter accounts and Facebook pages are any measure, most of us have learned that it takes time to become an overnight success. Sure, some people's content has gone viral but even Stanford's d school can't give you a formula for doing the same. For most of us, if we are lucky, we will spend a career turning out solid performances, but never have a break-out hit.

And that's okay.

Your small nonprofit isn't showbiz, and if you put in the time to getting to know your on-line community, even if you don't become an overnight sensation, you can build a respectably-sized audience for your message. On the internet it's seldom a case of 'if you build it, they will come,' but more of a case of 'they will come, after a while.'


Social communications isn't something you can toss at the nearest warm body. It has to be invested with personality, passion, and a certain amount of perspicuity (irony, don't you love it?), some strategy and some tactics. It needs to live with someone who gets it and likes it. After all, you don't want to put the person who hates customers in charge of customer relations.

Real Content

Conversation, not commercials disguised as news. Honest ownership of errors and celebration of wins. It's not the agency that's important, but the people the agency serves. Their victories, losses, and challenges are shared and everyone learns and benefits.


Taking care to get it right. Taking care of the stories you have been entrusted with. Taking care of the community you build through social communications and continuing care in nurturing its growth and seeing it through difficult times. Respecting those you serve, those you work with, and those who disagree with you. When you truly care, it shows in your communications.

Time, Commitment, Real Content, and Care. If your social communications have these, you're already a success.

Related Content:

Target's Show, Don't Sell Content Strategy


4 Best Practices for Finding Images You Can Use

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Creating Visual Quotes for Your Small Nonprofit

Last week was a post on some new tools for presentations and it included the idea of using sketchnotes rather than text notes to present ideas. The idea intrigued me, so I bought the book about creating SketchNotes by one of the best known proponents, Mike Rohde. Called the SketchNote Handbook, it argues for presenting information via text augmented with visuals. I'm reading through it and will review it at a later date.

In the meantime, let's talk again about visuals for social communications:

Visual Quotes

I mentioned Tweegram in last week's post because it's quick. You select an image, and add in your text and it has easy sharing capabilities. But you can also use Publisher, Photoshop, or any type of application that lets you put text and a picture together. If you're going to do this, though, keep the following in mind:
  • Picture
  • Number of words
  • Typeface
  • Positioning


It should go without saying that you need to use something that you have the rights to or that allows fair use rights or that you've licensed. Don't just find something on the internet and appropriate it. You can find gorgeous and funny images on Flickr that are Creative Commons licensed and if you find a really great picture or illustration, you can approach the artist for licensing. Also, there are now some sites that specialize in finding Creative Commons images, like Wylio.com, which allows you to download or get code for a picture with the correct credit attached (see the wisdom poster, above). You'll find some other great ideas for usable pictures in this post by Richard Byrne, 9 Places to Find Creative Commons & Public Domain Images.

Most of the pictures you find online won't be high resolution, but if you use one that is, you'll probably have a little trouble uploading it to sites like FB because it's too big to load or load quickly.

Number of Words

Don't use a long quote unless it's really important to use that particular quote. The best part about a visual quote is that it's easily absorbed and it's easily absorbed because it's usually short. Plus, a lot of words will end up obscuring the visual, reducing the impact of the whole thing.


Just because you can use any typeface doesn't mean you should. I once saw a lost cat poster that used a very unique typeface (I know most people say 'font' nowadays, but it goes against my training). It distracted from the seriousness of the message and made it both hard to read and understand - not in the best interests of either the poster or the lost cat. This isn't to say you should never use a typeface more interesting than either Times Roman or Helvetica. The right one can enhance your message and make the package more appealing and therefore more worth sharing. But if you are caught between interesting and clearly readable, always choose readable.

In addition, consider the leading (space between lines) and kerning (space between letters). You can make text feel cramped or more spacious by how those spaces are adjusted. There are tweaks even more subtle that can be affected through ascenders, descenders, and ligatures, but that's probably more than you need know about unless you want to get more into typography.


Make sure that the position of the type doesn't obscure the core of the visual you're using and dilute your message. This is where your choice of typeface, alignment, spacing are going to be tested. In the U.S., it's standard to start text in the upper left and read to the right. This may not be in the best interests of your quote and visual, though. You'll have to play a bit with the placement and maybe try a few different looks to see which one gets the most impact.

You may also want to address the color of the typeface here. Maybe the message stands out more using colored type or maybe the visual should be converted to black and white or sepia or greyscale or monotone for best effect. None of the following would make my final cut, which would take time and lots of consideration. But if the visual you're going for will be an important one for your small nonprofit to send out into the social world, the investment may be worth it.