Wednesday, June 26, 2013

FB, Hashtags, and Your Small Nonprofit

Copyright Jon Hart Studios

So Facebook is now allowing hashtags. People who have hated seeing them in their newsfeeds, claiming the Twitter phenomenon had no place in Facebook land, will now have to suffer more of them. But actually, this is a good thing for your small nonprofit. Really. It can enhance your social communications. How? Well, first let's look at what a hashtag is and does.

Where did the hashtag come from?

Hashtags were developed by Chris Messina, an open source and open standards programming advocate, who wanted a way to monitor interests on Twitter. The hashtag is interactive on Twitter, which means if you click on one, the stream will show all of the posts containing that hashtag. I saw this function used effectively during floods in Australia when the police and other agencies used hashtags to disseminate necessary directions to the public and to get immediate responses to needed help.

How will it work on Facebook?

As with Twitter and Instagram, the hashtags on FB will be interactive - when you click on one, a pop-up window will display, showing you all of the recent posts using that hashtag. You will also be able to write a post directly to that stream. For a good run-down on the how and why of hashtags on FB, I refer you to this post by Ignite Social Media.

Why use hashtags?

With limited resources, most small nonprofits have probably invested more heavily on Facebook than on Twitter, so using a hashtag will take a little getting used to. But it's worth it, because what the hashtag does for Twitter users is threefold:

  • Allows them to narrow the stream down to a specific interest
  • Allows them to interact more effectively with those following the hashtag
  • Allows them to collect real data on specific interests

Now your small NP will be able to do the same thing for disasters, for events, for campaigns.

How to use the hashtag

Pre-event. Use the hashtag to initiate and then follow something specific over a period of hours or days. For example, if you are having things happen in a countdown leading up to a big announcement. Then you might do a post or two a day with the hashtag. My last post was about rolling out a new look. This would be a perfect opportunity to post pictures and teasers leading up to the grand unveiling.

Reporting. Use the hashtag to report on something happening, like a disaster you are helping out with. Several animal rescue groups did this during the tornadoes in the midwest: they shared information about rescued animals, shelters, and needed supplies.

Information. Use the hashtag to find out what your community thinks about a specific issue, like pending law changes that could affect how your NP operates or your own recent policy changes.

Fundraising. Use the hashtag to highlight a current campaign, stories about the work you're doing, how much the campaign is raising, how people can help, etc.

Recognize. Use the hashtag to spotlight volunteers and staff members who have stepped up during the year to provide support above and beyond what was expected.

Monitoring. Search on a hashtag created by someone else to find out what kinds of conversations are going on around the subject. For example, I keep a column on Tweetdeck open for the hashtag #nonprofit for news and links.

How not to use the hashtag

Frequently. Be sparing in your use of this tool. It will work best for you when it's not over-used.

Finally, here's are two uses for the hashtag that I never see mentioned: identification and humor.

When I use hashtags, I will sometimes use them to identify the subject of my post. For example: #writers. This lets the people reading it know it's directed specifically at writers, so non-writers can ignore the link or picture I may have attached to it. I've gotten adroit at recognizing these in other peoples' posts and ignoring them when they don't apply to me, which saves me time.

And a lot of people on Twitter use them to make jokes or indicate they are not serious about the post. On Twitter, we're familiar with #justsayin, #failwhale, and others. If you can create your own, specific to your NP, you'll have added value to your posts and your brand.

Are there other uses for hashtags on Facebook? Very likely. If you know of some I haven't covered, please mention them in the comments.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Rolling Out a New Look for Your Small Nonprofit

Maybe your logo's look takes viewers right back to the days of Miami Vice - all teal and purple with shadows reminiscent of neon or totally simplistic because at the time you had to design it yourself and you only had 6 typefaces to your name and a black laser printer. So you go out and get yourself a look more relevant to the time; something that reflects how your small NP has grown. Now you gotta present the change to the world. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Build it up with social media
  • Repeat, Repeat Repeat
  • Website, website, website
  • Follow-Up
  • Some people will hate it

Build It Up With Social Media

Get people excited about the change by introducing the topic ahead of time. Maybe you've gotten some comments about your visual branding - now's the time to trot them out and address them. Use hints, use a meme, if possible (what would Gordon Ramsay say about it?), then lead into an announcement about the coming change. Allude to the reasons for the change and what you hope to accomplish with it, but save the details for the blog. Keep your tweets, FB posts, Pinterest pins short, intriguing, funny and link to the blog for details.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Remember the most of your followers are not on the same schedule as you. If you're using an auto-post application, set them to repeat the posts one or two a day at different times in the days leading up to the change. They should not dominate unless the visual brand change is a HUGE deal for you, but should be repeated to make sure they have more reach. And don't forget to ask people to pass the word along.

Website, Website, Website

A small nonprofit I know of had everything ready; stationery, signs, biz cards, roll-out events, etc., but the website wasn't done on time. This meant that their new domain had to have a redirect to their old site. Lame. Plus, some antivirus programs are set to shut down attempts to redirect to another site. I know you're busy making sure all of the people you've invited to the events can be there and you can't move the dates, but you might want to consider adding in some padding to the schedule for the build of the new website just to make sure, so that when you announce the new name, new site, the new site works.


As with the lead up to the roll-out of the new look, you need to repeat your posts about the changes to improve your reach and avoid WTH? comments from people who were on vacation or whose streams move faster. "Just a reminder - we have a new website:" And popular email addresses that have changed should also have reminders: "Contact Events Manager Susie at her new address -". Set the auto-posts as you did for the roll-out, a couple every day at different times. Hint: if you have analytics that tell you the time of day when most people view your posts, you're ahead of the game.

Some People Will Hate It

Just a fact. Some people hate change. No matter how many others LOVE the new look, there will be a few who dislike it intensely and aren't afraid to post comments saying so. Keep your replies simple as "Sorry you don't like it. Hope it will grow on you," and leave it at that. Post updates that highlight how the new look is working great (assuming it is), how versatile it is, how people are embracing it, why (almost) everyone thinks it's great. And for heaven's sake, DO NOT get into a public discussion trying to convince a hater that the new look is worthwhile. It won't do your relationship with that person - or your small nonprofit - any good.

Change is the only constant in the world. If your small nonprofit is making a visual change to the brand, keep these things in mind and hopefully you can present your shiny, new face with the confidence it deserves.