Category Archives: social media

What’s Your Medium?

medium-show_7024What’s the ROI of annual reports and other publications? It’s a negative if no one is reading them (no matter how well they are written and designed).

In a guest post for The Communications Network, Ory Rinat, who leads digital strategy for the Heritage Foundation, makes a strong case the “the PDF is dying.” For the first time in 2015, the foundation published its 2015 Index of Culture and Opportunity entirely on Medium, replacing the original format of a print book and a PDF. Take a look — it’s a LOT of content but easy to skim and get key points.

Rinat explains, “The Index has a wealth of valuable data, but…we doubted that many of those who received the book read through a majority of it…What about those who were interested in just a few of the data points, or even a single indicator? Asking them to read through an entire book to get the information they need is simply unrealistic.  We knew that if we didn’t make the information easy to use and find, our audience would look elsewhere.”

Completing the “publication” took less than a week from setup to launch, Rinat says, and “the end result was exactly what we were looking for: a de-facto microsite that looks and functions as well as a custom-built destination.” And it attracted 20,000 views in the first month.

Compare those results with a study by the World Bank that examined the ROI of its policy reports. While the reports are intended to inform and influence the development community, more than 32 percent of its reports had  never downloaded. And only 13 percent of the reports were downloaded more than 250 times. Almost 87 percent had never been cited by another source.

The study’s authors note, “Knowledge is central to development. The World Bank invests about one-quarter of its budget for country services in knowledge products. Still, there is little research about the demand for these knowledge products and how internal knowledge flows affect their demand.”

Not that the World Bank has asked me, but the format of reports is just part of their usefulness and readability. It’s telling that the second page of their study lists 36 acronyms that are needed to understand World Bank jargon.

In my organization, these days we’re talking less about channels (websites, blogs, and social media) and focusing more on content. There are many ways to market content, and the medium (pardon the pun) is only part of the message.

 

 

 

Nonprofits: Now Where Do We Go With Facebook?

fbLogoCh2In a new “Social Good” podcast, Allison Fine and guest Frank Barry, director of digital marketing at Blackbaud, take a look at Facebook a year after the company went public. Describing Facebook as “the social network so many people love to hate,” Allison asks: “Is Facebook more interested in us as a product than customers?” and “Is Facebook shifting more to shareholder interest than user interests?” My answer is yes. And yes. Listen to the podcast.

Several years ago, when I first heard that Facebook was going public, I expressed concern about what that would mean for nonprofits. So many charities were finding creative ways to leverage the free tool to engage and expand their supporters, but were also facing challenges because Facebook was making decisions that seemed less about meeting the needs of their users and more about developing revenue streams.

The truth is, Facebook will continue to make changes that are good for its bottom line. Many of those changes will also be good for nonprofits, but that will simply be a side effect. In 2010, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes launched Jumo — a social network created specifically to allow people to follow and support causes — which some described as “a Facebook for causes.” At the time, I wondered, “Why can’t Facebook be a Facebook for causes?” (Despite Hughes’ success in raising $3.5 million in grants, the vision and execution of Jumo was flawed from the start, and magazine publisher and digital platform GOOD bought Jumo in 2012 for $62,221.)

As algorithms change for news feeds, what works one day might not work the next. What used to be free may now require a fee. But nonprofits have more influence than they may think, Barry says in the podcast. “If we started using the platform in different ways instead of just consuming it in the way they serve it to us, it would set off signals on their end that the users are changing, and we need to adapt.”

Listen to the podcast for other tips about how to leverage Facebook as it continues to evolve.

The Best Platform for Brands? a) Facebook, b) Twitter, c) G+, or d) none of the above

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According to a new study by SumAll, Instagram is the “clear winner” as the best platform for brands for 2013, beating out Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Why? Because Instagram’s increases in fan and follower engagement is almost triple those of the other platforms, said SumAll CEO Dan Atkinson. “If a company has a visual product to sell and it’s currently not on Instagram,” Atkinson said, “that company is missing out on significant brand awareness and revenue.”

For businesses that use all four networks, Instagram showed the largest increase in new followers and engagement. The revenue impact of Instagram for U.S. businesses ranged from 1.5 to 5 percent.

With Facebook and Twitter becoming the big players, look for other platforms like Instagram, Vine, Tumblr, and Pinterest. And soon we’ll be talking about networks that don’t exist today. Which brand do you think is best for businesses and nonprofits?

Social Media’s Influence on Fundraising “Modest” But Growing

Social media is playing a bigger role in connecting donors to nonprofits, according to the latest donor research just released in “The Burk Donor Survey…Where Philanthropy is Headed in 2013.” The report is the fifth annual survey by Penelope Burk at Cygnus Applied Research, and the second to explore the role of social media in fundraising.

Conducted in 2011 and 2013, the research shows that social media is not yet a major factor in directly driving more donations, or larger donations. But through social media, nonprofits are successfully attracting people to events, enlisting more volunteers, and turning supporters into ambassadors for their cause. Even though the hard data doesn’t exist, it’s reasonable to conclude that social media is indirectly leading to more gifts and larger gifts by engaging supporters in these and others ways.

I asked Penelope about some of these trends.

Q: Your report calls social media a “modest player” in donor communications, but with 57 percent of young donors following nonprofits through social media, do you think it’s gaining traction?

A: Yes, it is gaining traction. It’s only a modest player when fundraisers look at the end goal in fundraising, which is raising money. But indirectly, social media offers the two-way communication platform that is essential in building relationships with young donors and potential donors. Young donors do not respond well to direct asks absent of the opportunity to engage.

Q: Should organizations factor volunteering, event attendance, and other types of engagement when they’re measuring the ROI of their social media efforts?

A: Absolutely, since young donors prefer a multi-faceted route to giving. The opportunity to be directly involved and then have a good experience volunteering, or being part of a discussion group for example, is what then inspires them to give. Older donors are more used to giving and leaving the decision-making to those who run the charity.

However, given the high rate of donor attrition and dissatisfaction with uninformative appeals and communications, young donors may be onto something. I think they are demanding a kind of relationship from the start that will ensure a better flow of information and a more inclusive approach by not-for-profits. This should bode well for donor retention and generosity once they do start to give.

Q: Your 2011 survey suggested that being seen as an “expert” helps attract social media audiences for nonprofits. But you also said it’s not enough to just call yourself an expert. How can a nonprofit position itself in a credible way?

A: It’s commonplace for not-for-profits to declare themselves as the first, the biggest, or the best at what they do absent of any objective information that confirms that assertion. So statements like those are meaningless to donors at any age level and are actually viewed as suspect. It is much more effective to simply state an achievement your organization has made, a goal you have reached, or a new initiative you have undertaken in specific terms, reporting how you got there and the impact it has had on the people you serve. That allows readers to conclude for themselves that you are expert, which is a much more powerful way to establish credibility.

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Download a free executive summary or purchase “The Burk Donor Survey…Where Philanthropy is Headed in 2013” at www.cygresearch.com.

Online Civility, Part 4: How to Design for Civility

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Photo by stepnout

Part 4 of 4

In a thoughtful essay “How Can Communication Technology Encourage Civility?” on the website Big Questions Online, Derek Powazek examines the question, “What is it about online comments that makes us so awful?”

He reviews a number of studies on this topic, including one from 2006 in which a common room in a workplace had a refrigerator stocked with drinks. People who took a drink were encouraged to make a voluntary donation into an “honesty box.” One set of people had a box with a photo of flowers on it; the second group had a box with a photo of human eyes on it. Even a photo of eyes — the concept of being watched — influenced their behavior. After being monitored for 10 weeks, the people who saw the eyes were nearly three times as likely as the others to make a donation.

Now think about how that applies to the anonymous world of the Internet. But Powazek points out there are ways to make people feel part of a group that’s watching — for example, avatars of other community members who are reading or have read a story online. I think he’s on to something, because there are websites where I feel more or less anonymous, and it definitely affects what I say and how I say it.

This and other studies leads him to conclude that there’s no way to eliminate bad behavior online, but says the people and organizations that who create digital experiences can “design for civility.” Specifically, he says that civility can be improved by doing these things:

  • Use community managers and software to weed out bad apples.
  • Design features to show that people are watching.
  • Make sure the visual design reinforces the interaction with color and shape.
  • And do everything you can to make people feel in control.

What sites do this well, and how are you “designing for civility”?

Online Civility, Part 3: Ranting is Hazardous to Your Health

Part 3 of 4
rantCivility on my own Facebook page took a hit in late 2012, after the contentious presidential election ended only to be bumped from the headlines by the shooting at Sandy Hook — and the accompanying debate over gun control. Many of my friends shared my perspectives on both events, but I was quickly reminded that my 1,300 friends are a diverse and opinionated group.

After I posted a few items that I didn’t think were provocative or controversial, my page was full of comments and arguments — between people who didn’t even know each other. I realized that reading political attacks (on both sides) and reactions to my own posts was bringing me down. I decided to be more selective about my posts, and how I worded them. I don’t like to unfriend people, but I also hid several people from my news feed — and almost immediately felt a sense of relief.

It turns out there’s a scientific explanation for what I experienced, because research shows that “Ranting on Websites May Just Make You Angrier.” Several studies published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking show that people who rant online often feel better after posting, but feel more anger generally. And reading and writing negative comments is associated with negative mood shifts.

Lead author Ryan Martin explains, “The Internet brings out impulsivity problems more than anything else. It’s too easy to respond right away when you are most angry.” The anonymity of the web makes this problem even worse. “People are angry at big groups of people — Democrats, Republicans, illegal immigrants. People want to feel like they’re doing something and think just expressing their feelings to the world will help.”

Martin said there’s nothing wrong with feeling anger, but it’s healthier and more effective to get involved, solve problems, and try to make a difference.

How do negative comments and posts affect you? And what have you done to minimize negativity?

Online Civility, Part 2: Haters and Your Reputation

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One of the best ways to protect your own online reputation from “haters” is to steer clear of negativity yourself.

In “The Connection Between Online Anonymity and Civility” on reputation.com, Shelly Wutke warns that online haters can damage your internet reputation and gives tips to steer clear of online hating. She says the best way to protect your own reputation is to “leave the online hating to others.”

You can’t control what others post, but you are in charge of your own online behavior. Wutke advises that you:

  • avoid posting negative comments to celebrities and large corporations;
  • don’t pretend to be someone you’re not; and
  • think twice before sending a negative tweet or comment (specifically, wait five minutes before hitting “send.”)