Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Is That Your Best Line?

Because I'm a writer, I often click on links to writing productivity ideas and tools and insights for making my writing better. While clicking on a few of these links, I found some good information on subject lines and lead-ins.

Defining the Term

By better writing, I mean writing social media posts. We can all use tips on writing better blog posts, better appeal letters, better grants, but that's not the focus here. Social media gives you a better opportunity to reach a larger audience, but the price it comes with is the description or the tweet, or the words containing the link. Also, for the purpose of this blog post, I consider an email subject line and the text you use to get someone to click a tweeted link or a Pinterest picture to be the same.

If you were going to use one of these as your subject line in an email or to lead in to a link on a Twitter post, which would you choose?
Help make a child's dream come true
This child needs you
Well, according to SurveyMonkey, if you chose the first one, you'd already be under a handicap because it contains the word 'help'.

Leaving aside such icky terms as 'best practices', what kinds of things are clickable?

Telling is Clickable

As SurveyMonkey points out, in their post takeaway, 'don't sell what's inside, tell what's inside'. I'll second that. I get what looks like an endless parade of subject lines for newsletters in my inbox and I don't bother to open most of them. Use the subject line to tell me why I should. Don't tease me. And while we're at it, keep that subject line fairly short (SurveyMonkey says 50 characters or less is good to aim for). My Gmail screen won't give me much more than that in the preview, so if you haven't got me by then, you probably won't.

Emotion is Clickable

You want me to do something - make a donation, volunteer, spread the word. But you need to engage me, first. Get me to care and I will open your newsletter or click your link. Once I've done that, I am one step nearer to making that donation or signing up to volunteer. And I will certainly retweet or share or post on Tumblr. MobLab says you should go for a reaction, and I'll say that it applies as much to subject lines and link descriptions as it does to video. And note that they also say that though a strong, positive emotion is 30% more likely to result in sharing, the most important thing is the strength of the emotion. I don't believe this applies as much to descriptions and link lead-ins as it does video because you have a lot less time to make an impression using text versus pictures. But keep it in mind as you're developing that text - the stronger you can make it emotionally, the better.

Self-Interest is Clickable

Even though people want to help, helping is not as much of a driver as you might think (witness SurveyMonkey's data on low click-through for the word 'Help'). You will be more likely to get the shares you want if sharing the item will reflect nicely on the person sharing it. MobLab says that data shows that getting people to watch a video is all about emotion, getting them to share it is all about their own personality - the "viewer's desire to achieve personal gain from sharing the video." I interpret this as making the content different or interesting or compelling enough that the sharer will feel happy about having 'discovered' it and want to share it with friends and family. And here's the thing: your content can be all that, but if you haven't gotten them to view it, it's wasted.

Telling, emotion, self-interest - that's a lot to keep in mind when putting together a very short lead-in to a Tweet or even a slightly longer Pinterest image description or G+ or FB description. Don't force it, but definitely try to keep these things in mind as you're sending your small nonprofit's communications out into the social world. In an environment where you are competing against really big nonprofit players for a share of quicksilver attention spans in a fast moving stream, every word can count.

PS: Interested in what Adestra has to say about subject line keywords? Go here.

Related Article: Foolproof Formula to Incredibly Catchy Blog Titles

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Making Video on a Shoestring: Videolean - a Review

Video (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We've been talking about video and infographics lately, so I was interested when I came across the blurb for Videolean on

It's not really video so much as it is slides that are surrounded by video. For example, video of someone swiping across or up and down an iPad on which your text and graphics are shown.

Ease of Use

It was fairly easy to use. You pick a template and you enter your text for each slide, then pick a picture to go with it:

You can pick from an impressive selection of possible origins for your picture, too:

Once you've selected a picture, a picture editing tool comes up and, after setting the size and image placement, you can tweak the image with the usual tools like contrast and brightness, but you also get some tools I wouldn't have expected, like 'stickers' and 'effects':

You repeat this process for all of the available slides.

A soundtrack selection screen then displays, but you don't get to see how it will work with your video, you just have to guess. If your video is long, the music loops. You can opt out of music by clicking to play a piece, then clicking on the volume button to silence it. Further, there's no radio button or box indicating which music you've selected, so I guessed that whatever was playing when I clicked 'next' would be what I got and I was right.


Editing is a little clumsy; there are several steps involved, not including the edits themselves. Each time you edit a slide you have to go through the step of going back into edit mode, rather than staying with the index of slides until all your edits are complete.


In a short time, your video is ready to preview. Videolean warns you that it will be low quality and watermarked with their logo until such time as you purchase the video for $29.00.

You can, if you want to, share the preview video for three days via a link so you can get feedback on it and maybe make more changes. This link is to my completed video and it's only good for the next three days. So if you want to see it, click away: Videolean Test. If I'm understanding their terms correctly, you can continue to make edits and download the video another three times after purchase before you will be required to purchase it again. You, of course, own the downloaded version.


As I mentioned, getting a high quality version of the video without watermark will cost you $29.00. Interestingly, their legal page doesn't seem to match what the site does now. In the Terms and Conditions, it says the free tier is entitled to one download and they had other tiers including "pay per use", "agency," and "marketer". But all that's available is the "buy now" button, which takes you directly to PayPal.

Whether or not this service would be cost effective for your small nonprofit depends on how often you would use the video and how often it might need to be changed or scrapped and a new one made. If you decide to give it a try, let me know what you think of it.

Note: Videolean is in public beta and seems to have originally oriented towards providing startups with a low cost video elevator pitch.
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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A View From a Different Window - Curating Content

Image via
Art and museum curators are professionals at putting together exhibits. Basically, what a curator does is to show you the art the way she sees it: underlying themes, ideas, context, relationships. In social media, content curation is slightly different:
"Content curation is the process of sorting through the vast amounts of content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme.  The work  involves  sifting, sorting, arranging, and publishing information.  A content curator cherry picks the best content that is important and relevant to share with their community." - Beth Kanter
 For me, curation is more about finding context within the information, providing a different perspective. For example, I often reference articles written on subjects other than social media, with an eye to how the information could be used in a different way by a small nonprofit. Last week's post on how keeping specific things in mind when communicating is an example. It was written from the perspective of a Human Resources professional, but had some good things to teach a small nonprofit about using social media for engagement.

This is something your small nonprofit could do when providing content to your community. Not every post or tweet or status update has to deal directly with you or your mission. It can be about anything at all, as long as it can relate back to the ideals and goals of your small nonprofit. What if you re-pinned this great illustration from Matt Rockefeller with the comment "We know the feeling!"?

Illustration by Matt Rockefeller

Give your community a break from the here's-what-we're-doing-in-our-neighborhood posts and give them a view from a different window. Seeing the vista from another perspective could turn out to be just what is needed to regain vitality in your social media accounts. Like a breath of fresh air.
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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Interaction and Asking in Social Media - 9 Things to Keep in Mind

My online friend and fellow Santa Cruzan, Kevin W. Grossman is a thought leader in human resources and recruitment. The other day he posted a link to an article by James Bowley about personalizing the HR transaction.
The challenge isn't just about the existence of information [...] It's about whether your [HR] message reaches its intended audience, and when it does if it's engaging enough that they'll pay attention.
 Although Mr. Bowley is talking about HR communicating with employees and managers, I realized that his points are just as applicable to interactions between you and your supporters on social media platforms. There are nine categories in the article, which I've divided up into Interaction and Asking. Let's take a look:

This is when you're monitoring social media and looking for opportunities to start or join a conversation that touches on your mission. 

Speak On Their Terms
General messages don't reach people. Know who you are trying to reach. If you have someone who regularly shows up in your feed, address your posts to them without using their name. If you don't have a regular, use this trick from my theatre days; imagine someone in the audience, someone particular and play to that person. This will help keep your posts from sounding one-size-fits-all or like they came from a bot.

Speak in a Localized Language
While you should avoid agency or nonprofit jargon, if your audience is a group with a bit of language of their own (think farmers, educators, etc.), then don't hesitate to sprinkle a little of the phrases most commonly heard in the community. Not so much that you come off like a wannabe, but enough that you don't come off as an outsider, either.

Learn From The Questions They Ask (and What They Do)
Are there follow-up questions to something you've posted? They might present opportunities for adding to your knowledge or show up gaps in your information or how you've presented it. If you've put out a link, are they following up on it? Ask why or why not. What posts are being shared or liked? What do they have in common?

Promote the Organization
Each time you enter into a conversation with someone online, it's an opportunity to tell them not just about the subject under discussion but how it fits in with what the nonprofit is doing overall. For example, when the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz hosts its annual Human Race kickoff breakfast, they aren't just telling groups how to fundraise with the event, but making a pitch for community collaboration.

This is when you need help from the community - volunteer, funds, or just sharing a post.

What You Want Them to Do
Be very clear and very specific. Don't ask them to donate, ask them to donate to a specific program or even a specific part of a program. Donations of pencils can be easier to come by than nonspecific donations of office supplies because it can be visualized easier.

When You Want Them to Do It
Leave something open-ended, and it will be more easily overlooked. If you ask for boxes of crayons to be donated by the date that the first drawing class is to start, you'll have a better chance of getting just that.

Tell Them Why You Want Them to Do It
From Indiegogo Campaign: Keeping Hunger at Bay
Naturally, it's a good thing you're asking them to do, but give them some kind of reward they can visualize, like the smile of a child being able to open a new box of crayons or the expression of an elderly, house-bound person opening a Valentine's Day card. Tell them how their action will help specifically. Even better - use a photo, a video, a slideshow, or a gif.

Enrich Decisions With Analytics
Show how their decision will impact the nonprofit. We've all seen the commercials where the narrator tells how each dollar amount translates into real help. These translations aid people in already seeing themselves as helping in a concrete way. Use figures, infographics, and cite studies or experts and provide links, particularly as you follow-up during the campaign: "Because of the volunteers signed up so far, we estimate we'll be able to host 50 tours this year - but we would LOVE to be able to host 100! With your help, we can get there by February 15th! Please share."

Whenever you personalize and use specificity in your social media interactions, you're increasing your chances of getting that one more bit that can put you over the top and help you make your goal.

Crowdsourcing/Social Media fundraising Win: Shakespeare Play On
In three months, they managed to raise enough money to fund their 2014 season. If possible, I'll find out how they did it, and write about it here.

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