Thursday, May 30, 2013

Not Content With Content - Four Things a Nonprofit Can Learn from the Private Sector

Image via

Business people on nonprofit boards often support attempts by nonprofits to apply business-acumen to the public sector. In recent years, there's been a decided push in this direction to which some nonprofits  have dug in their heels. Me - I'm always in favor of balance, which doesn't always mean 50-50. I think each nonprofit has its own definition of balance that encompasses what they're trying to achieve and how much useful transformation they are willing to deal with to get there. And I also believe that business can offer the small nonprofit valuable information, if they can get beyond the sales conversion perspective and see the possibilities. In this post, let's look at the possibilities for nonprofits in how for-profits use online content:
  1. Your Nonprofit is a Brand
  2. Your Brand is a Publisher of Content
  3. Content Must Entertain and/or Add Value
  4. Content is More Than You
Your Nonprofit is a Brand

You should know this already. In the public eye, your small NP is not necessarily your mission. As Patricia Tan points out in her article on branding, many NPs are reluctant to think of themselves as brands. She believes that this "stems from a narrow understanding of 'brand' as a marketing tool rather than as a core organizational tool."

So, what a brand? Here's my favorite definition via AMG Media, Inc.:
It is the emotional and psychological relationship you have with your customers. Strong brands elicit opinions, emotions, and sometimes physiological responses from customers.
When potential clients, donors, or volunteers see your logo, what emotions or opinions do you think they have? How has your brand strategy (or lack of it) contributed to that viewpoint?

Your Brand is a Publisher of Content

Your social media communications - what you post on your website, Facebook, Twitter, etc. - is your content.

Content Must Entertain and/or Add Value

To be worth commenting on or sharing, your content has to catch the viewer's attention. If your content emphasizes "this is what we do" or "this is what we are doing", you are not leaving much room for your viewers to engage with you beyond a simple "We were there, we had fun" or "Like."

If your content doesn't evoke laughter, sympathy; if it doesn't inspire, encourage, incite, solve a problem or otherwise provide some benefit (value) to your viewer, then it could probably stand improvement.

Content is More Than You

Take an oblique perspective. For example, your NP is sponsoring an artist in residence. The artist holds informal classes for children in an underserved community. You could take pictures of one of those classes and post them, but that's not as engaging as it could be. What if you had video of those children answering questions about their art? Major difference, right?

Another example: your NP delivers warm meals to the elderly and housebound. Which is better - a well-designed infographic of how many meals have been delivered in the last 10 years or a story, with pictures, about how a friendship has developed between a volunteer and a housebound veteran?

Strategize around your brand. Look for ways to associate it with the human emotions and thinking that embody your mission. Design and write content to spotlight that emotion and thinking. It's marketing, but it's also revealing at a deeper level, a non-verbal level, why your nonprofit exists.

Want some examples of not-for-profit brands doing content right? Sprout Insights has a few.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Five Tools for Your Social Media Intern

Via Unpaid Intern
Summertime... and the interns are easy... Well, not really. But if you've made it known that your small nonprofit would like to entertain a few interns for the summer and/or fall, you've probably got a couple interviewed and ready to start. And given that Social Media is a big deal that many small nonprofits can't afford a full-time manager for, you're probably thinking of letting one of those interns spearhead that effort.

As I've mentioned in a few posts, I'm not a big fan of giving your social media efforts over to an intern. By the time they're able to do a really good job, it will be time for them to leave. But I'm not stupid enough to believe that a small nonprofit won't find their youthful knowledge of SM and their attractive salary (often zero dollars) a big draw. Out of necessity or a desire to provide practical job experience or both, a social media intern may be in your future.

Knowing SM Doesn't Mean Knowing YOUR SM

Therefore, let's give them the tools they need to do the best they can for you in the smallest time possible. Not providing a clear roadmap for them will cause them to be frustrated at which point they'll lose all motivation. What do they need?
  • Education
  • Strategy
  • Goals
  • Calendar
  • Face Time

This is a duh item, isn't it? But don't neglect it and don't give your intern the cookie cutter version, either. First you need to know what they know about you. Then you need to know what they think they can do for you using SM. Once you know those two things, you'll know what they need to know in order to do their job. You know?

Seriously, it's not just your mission. This is also where you need to be clear on your social media policy. Will the intern write all of the content, some of it, none of it? Must all posts be reviewed before happening or only some? Where is the intern allowed to use critical judgment skills and where not? Where are the boundaries? Your intern needs to understand how your small nonprofit interacts with the community and its hopes for the future of that interaction. Which leads us to -


Lay it out for your intern. What's your big picture plan for using SM to increase visibility, interaction, donors, volunteers? Are you working at gathering specific data? What's the major priority and where are you putting your focus?

Goals (Should jibe with Strategy and Calendar)

Without goals, your intern won't have anything specific to shoot for and will be at a loss to know whether or not they are doing a good job. What specific goals should your intern be working towards? How are these folded into the tactics you want to use to implement your overall social media strategy? Work with your intern to come up with a workplan for reaching those goals - let the intern do a little research and come to you with an idea of which platforms would work best for meeting those goals and how much time should be devoted to each (Pardot has got a great infographic about this).

Calendar (Editorial)

Don't leave your intern out of the staff meetings. If you've several programs going on, the intern should know who is running them and what the major events will be so pre, during, and post social media tasks can be planned. Your intern also needs to know what the programmatic goals are for those events because time is a major factor in social media and the more the intern knows what you're hoping to accomplish, the better the planning to take advantage of the time windows.

Face Time

You might want to start with daily check-ins until your intern has settled in and then go to every other day and then weekly. These meetings will steady your intern and assure that you take the work seriously. Naturally, you'll be dropping in on your nonprofit's social media accounts to see how things are going; if responses are timely, opportunities for interactions taken, content appropriate to the goals set. You'll also want your intern's opinion (and that of the program manager) about whether the current goals are working and how they should be tweaked for better results.

At this point you've realized that handing over your social media accounts to an intern may not be as easy as you thought it would be. And that's good because it's not just about you getting some help, it's also about providing a worthwhile experience to a young person starting out - a young person who might choose to stay in the nonprofit world and - depending upon the experience - might even choose to continue supporting your work. So if you're going to hire an intern, make sure it's a good experience for both of you.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Battle of the Sexes and Other Interesting Crossed Lines of Social Communication

Thought by Jason Griffey, Photo by Pierre Metivier (Flickr)
Maybe you've heard the story about the Philosophy 101 student who wrote 'everything is everything else' and got an A for the class term. Yeah, it sounds kinda woo-woo, but to me at least, it makes sense. Especially when talking about the internet and social communications. To illustrate, let's take a look at a few things I found while flaneusing the WWW this week.

New Data on How the Sexes Use the Internet Differently

Some new data came in about how men and women use the internet differently, especially social communications platforms. I've already seen two infographics about the results and both of them are headlined: "Battle of the Sexes"! I guess that makes for a good hook to get you to look at the associated infographics, but it's really disingenuous. Seriously, it's not like we're engaged in some sort of contest to see who uses which platform more. Colour me cynical, but I think the headline writer was more interested in getting eyes on the page than in accurately describing the infographic.Which leads me to advise that it's worth it to work a little harder on your headlines - creating an attention-getter shouldn't mean grabbing the first cliché that comes to hand. (Note: I am an INTP, and have a thing about accurate descriptions.)

Different Strokes for - oh, you know

The data each infographic chooses to highlight is different, however. In both, Pinterest is called out as being dominated by women. However, No 1. Infographic calls out what women prefer on the site and how Pinterest drives sales referral traffic, while No. 2 says that retailers and lifestyle sites are reaping the most benefit and that Pinterest is of no interest to men (not completely true, obviously). Both infographics agree that LinkedIn is preferred by men rather than women. However, No.1 shows three mini graphics showing the breakdown of what men use LinkedIn for, while No.2 sticks pretty much with just showing how many men use it along with a funny little piece of trivia about a recent poll on LinkedIn (note: if LI is preponderantly men, then isn't the result of this poll a little skewed?).

Just Who Are They Talking To?

It seems evident to me that what each site chose to highlight in their infographic is tied to who they think their audience is. Infographic No. 1 is from a marketing site specializing in mobile marketing information and Infographic No. 2 is from Mashable. When you have time, compare the two and decide who they think they're talking to. Then next time you have data you think might look good in an infographic, remember to think about your audience and what they might find important versus what your small nonprofit thinks is important AND what you would like to have them think about and how your infographic might persuade them to do so.

Politics and Online Engagement

The results of another study - this one by Pew Research Internet and American Life - says that political activity via social sites is up by a significant amount. Well, who cares? you ask - nonprofits aren't allowed to be political (usually). Well, there are two things in this article that struck me (emphasis mine):
Pew's study also sheds light on the often-asked question of whether political involvement in the online world translates into offline action: 43% of social media users told Pew they decided to learn more about an issue they first discovered on social media, while 18% took offline action on a political or social issue after reading about it on social media. 
[...] the typical American who is politically active engages with political content across a range of venues—online, offline, and in social networking spaces," continued Smith. "Social networking sites offer a space for individuals who are passionate about issues to share that passion with others, and their engagement with those issues often bleeds over into other aspects of their lives." 
I take this as meaning that, if political and social issues are debated and discussed on the internet, you should be part of that discussion rather than staying in your own yard. Be scrupulous about not advocating for any political 'side', but engage through the issue about your mission and goals and your social communications reach could grow into new areas.

Social Media News of the Strange

Digiday, which is about digital media, advertising, and marketing has a really interesting article about how sites use the data from people searching for porn to increase their SEO rankings and focus content. I never would have contemplated this, but according to this article, ComScore reports that six of its 10 top search-term referrals for March were sex-related [...]" and that sites like Funny or Die use that data to serve up content. Warning: there are lots of porn related terms used in the article, so if you're easily offended, don't go there. I don't have any insight to offer regarding this information. The article just reinforced my position that everything is connected in some way.

A Different Kind of Annual Report

Oscio, which reports on marketing and advertising for social causes, showed how Calgary Zoo in Canada created an entire Annual Report for posting on Instagram. If you're looking to connect with more Millennials, you might take a... photo... from their book. They had help from professionals, but there's no reason why your small nonprofit couldn't do something like this and it might pay off.

Take some time to wrap your head around some of this stuff and consider how you might step up your social communications game by using the data in the infographics (or other infographics on the same subject) and data from studies to focus your engagement and content and determine the package it ought to come in. Or packages. There are myriad ways to go and innovative things to do. Try something different. If it doesn't work, try something else. It's all connected and it's all up to you.