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Archive for August, 2008

Nonprofits—Begin to learn about the social media

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

In this post, I want to repeat what I mentioned in my first post: Set aside time every week to learn more about the social media. Nonprofit communicators have a unique opportunity to employ any of an array of social media tools – these are low-cost (often downloadable for free) and very often effective. Here are some suggestions:

Combat your biases: Shel Holtz, marketer par excellence and observer of social media, warns in a recent podcast about communicators who have a “visceral” reaction to social media and therefore don’t explore it. The emotional reaction is palpable: it often has something to do with feeling “old”, perhaps out-of-step and feeling self-conscious about it.

New resource: Every Dot Connects is a group originating in Austin, which has opened a store online (via Facebook) to help you with social media:  Every Dot Connects.

FIR produced by Shel Holtz – Go to the latest podcast and see what you can learn about social media applications: FIR.

Pass “Go:” When you identify a tool or platform that might have an application to your campaign, you can pass go after you do some thinking and planning. Example: If you work with the fundraising unit (or person) at your nonprofit:

(1) Define your audiences and their preferences,
(2) Identify all the media to be used and sketch out some deadlines, and
(3) Set your financial goal. Be sure to include a build-up in your marketing plan.

Example: Think about how to “reel in” your audiences, i.e., inspire interest and potential loyalty. Entice donor prospects with not only new information but also real-time, breathtaking reports about the issues you represent. You have to build your audience’s loyalty step-by-step, decide how you’ll identify the point at which you can make your “ask.” Think hard about how to ask, what medium to use, and what sort of repetition will work for you. If anyone has examples of the “step by step” to increasing loyalty to your nonprofit, please share.

Alerting NASA: Planet 2.0 Discovered

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Imagine a world where your personal and professional contributions are measured by the perceptions of your peers. Would you act differently? Would you become more extroverted or covert in day-to-day actions to avoid getting judged or eliciting potentially negative feedback? Can you fathom a world that no longer measures you on your productivity but rather defines you solely on the assessments of your peers? Could this be the future for all of us in Planet 2.0?

If everything was riding on the words of your peers, would there be a cultural change and would your friends and colleagues become virtual informants? I pose these questions at 2 am on a Friday night (and my first blog submission is already two weeks overdue…) attempting to understand the future implications of Web 2.0. According to Tim O’Reilly, “Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them, harnessing collective intelligence.” For those of you unfamiliar with Tim O’Reilly, he’s widely credited for coining the term “Web 2.0” amongst his many other achievements.

As a marketer, I am completely fascinated by human behavior, not only buying habits of certain segments but the surge in popularity of viral marketing and the  prominence of highly networked influencers. These people who are classified as “influencers” tend to be just like you and me in physical form and appearance but walk through life possessing clout and credibility that causes others to take action. Tim O’Reilly would be classified as an influencer who through his books and efforts has made certain technologies top-of-mind in many circles.

With my first blog submission, I am by no means attempting to influence you to remove your profile from Facebook or never again critique a book on Amazon.com, but I want you to understand that despite the brilliance of Web 2.0, there are cultural implications of social media that we do not yet understand. I leave you with a question: what are the cultural and social implications of Web 2.0 and does society have a contingency plan or simply a crisis communications plan if as reviewers and auditors of those around us we become too exposed or inaccurately portrayed? The personal brand that you once owned now ceases to exist and metamorphoses into something beyond your control – are you ready for a disaster recovery of yourself? Or, in order to generate positive assessments from colleagues and peers, you start to modify your behavior to such an extent that you eventually lose sight of your own uniqueness. As you can see by these extreme scenarios, the implications of social media are both exciting and petrifying.

My biggest fear is that with all the advancements within social media, we are nearing a long term cultural shift where opinions become the qualifiers of greatness and the human spirit is put into question. Our new web enabled reality is almost like a new planet; let me coin it, “Planet 2.0” for our immediate purposes. Whether it’s a film or book review, Facebook photo, or comment on LinkedIn, your words have the power to permeate cyberspace so be extra careful with your words. The old adage still applies, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Final comment: social media is viral and operates on a virtual microcosm of influencers. Please take precautions when posting.

Nonprofit Marketing – Using a Plan, Considering Social Media

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Hello nonprofit marketers. This short article will review the benefits of a plan, encourage you to engage in planning and help you understand where social media may fit in. See the rudiments of nonprofit marketing in my earlier post Nonprofit Marketing Really?.

A red flag goes up for me when a CEO puts off the idea of communications planning. Or she says, “This (being strategic) is my communications manager’s responsibility.”  Communications planning is by its very nature an organization-wide, integrated enterprise, concerned with constituencies inside as well as outside our agency.

A marketing plan is not a “ho-hum” one-time event. It is a dynamic way to track your progress toward defined outcomes (quantifiable or qualitative) and keep you from tumbling off your seat when additional demands on your time occur. For once, it is a way to be proactive – not reactive as most communications managers find themselves.

Nonprofits fail to realize there are economies to be realized in a strategic multi-layered plan. They sometimes don’t realize they can leverage existing materials to support different marketing needs. Planning helps you identify these opportunities.

Example of using what you’ve got: A national mental health organization was funded for some years by one large federal grant, a risky prospect for a nonprofit. As the grant was about to end, the urgent need to generate new and diverse sources of income put the senior staff in crisis mode.

Staff had initiated a few webinars as a customer relations-education effort. In a strategic planning meeting, their attention turned to webinars as a marketing tool for cultivating other audiences such as clinicians and educators. Staff realized there was a strong match between the professional development needs of busy care providers and the expertise of the organization.

Thus, recruiting and enrolling eager clinicians in webinars (at a minimal cost to participants) provided the basis for generating a council of allies, who could in turn champion the training kits published by the nonprofit for use in a wide variety of settings. These allies can also serve as informal ambassadors for the agency’s mission. Later, social media can be employed, in conjunction with the webinars, to bring together people with similar questions or concerns, consolidating their relationship to each other and to the organization.

Recognition of these potential, interlocking opportunities and the leveraged use of available tools and resources requires strategic thinking. A plan puts boundaries around your strategic thinking and gives you a road map.  Here are a few ways to take steps toward developing your marketing plan.

Become a trusted channel – Like any for-profit, your agency will gain from a disciplined marketing effort. A recent webinar offered by Forrester Research and Umbria refers to being a “trusted channel,” meaning this: Make your organization a trusted communication channel for your audiences. If you gain their trust, you can better guide their thinking and even their actions.

Optimize by using the Internet and social media - In your agency, a marketing or communications budget per se may not exist. You can optimize your scarce resources by using social media. This is a Web 2.0 world – the huge variety of social media (Facebook, Basecamp, iTunes, blogging, etc.) that are advancing communications across the world – and rapidly transforming business, politics, medicine, public health and all the human services. Many of these platforms are free or low-cost. Here are a few key things to think about and execute.

• Know thy audience. Conduct a brief survey or a few focus groups to clarify and confirm your constituencies’ needs and, importantly, how they receive and use information.

• Second, create an informative Web site and have a strategy to tell people about it. Include ways to bring your customer closer (something interactive such as a sign-up for an e-newsletter). Resolve to measure traffic and think hard about ways to increase it.

• Third, reconsider your direct mail. If you are as well resourced as The Nature Conservancy or the Mayo Clinic, print mailings may make sense. Perhaps you are so local (or Internet is unavailable in your area) so that distributing regular mail is a sensible approach.

The humanitarian effort profiled in my first post is now using Basecamp to work collaborative in working groups on new ideas (deliverables) for the next summit meeting.. Discussion, co-writing, communications is all organized by Basecamp. This means no matter where one is – or what time zone – it’s possible to look in on the activity and provide input.

Social media – yes! Skeptical about Web 2.0? Over half of adults are buying services online and a much higher percentage of young people use social media on a daily basis.

And for you skeptics – There is growing evidence that Web-based communications launches a pervasive word-of-mouth, ultimately encouraging the transmission of information in the old-fashioned way – face-to-face. 

How does this happen? When you get an open invitation to a local fundraising event, you might forward this to a dozen or more friends and colleagues. This quickly builds interest in the event or the cause. Recipients can click on the agency’s Web address for more information. This sort of “fast-forwarding” can produce new inquiries for a nonprofit. It can lay a foundation for a conference call to discussions issues in greater depth, or an important breakfast meeting with new donor-prospects.

If your agency’s funding doesn’t grow on trees, consider reducing your direct mail and print budget. You will save trees, and more importantly, probably be more effective. Revert to online communication. Try a brief, focused electronic newsletter, archived and indexed on your Web site. Minimize the graphic art so that it downloads easily, especially by someone without a color printer. Consider offering the option of a text-only file

Think before you leap - The Web may be wonderful for some, but a small nonprofit may solely focus on a strong relationship with the local news media because newspaper coverage generates just the type of inquiries it seeks. On the other hand, for those of us ready to reap the benefits of a lively Web presence, avoid the pressures to blog or to incorporate any other social media unless these tools are imbedded in a well-thought out communications strategy. Compelling narratives about your services or  advocacy effort will stimulate people to sign up for more information. See www.imcworldwide.org as a good example of this.

So, put your toe in the water - You are not behind the curve – yet. It’s safe to say that we in the nonprofit sector are still sorting out the best social media tools to use. Facebook master Chris Hughes said, keep it real and keep it local, mirroring the offline world. Think of the Internet as simply the connective tissue.  Internet aside, on-going your agency’s meaningful one-to-one relationships with clients, the quality of care and your nonprofits distinctiveness and relevance will determine if your organization stays on top.

A final thought - If you push marketing to the bottom of the priority list, you will always feel like you’re not doing enough or that you’re constantly playing “catch up.”  If you have this nagging feeling, your communications manager or your board’s media committee may not be the culprit—the absence of careful planning is.

Consider the biggest hurdle to marketing success in the nonprofit sector: organization-wide commitment to setting strategic goals, developing a marketing strategy to support those goals, and identifying the funds to support the marketing effort. Jump this hurdle and you are well on your way to reporting to your board that your goals have been met.

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The views and opinions on this blog are solely those of the contributors and do NOT necessarily reflect the official opinions of the Boston Chapter of the American Marketing Association.