Saturday, July 24, 2010

Making Waves

As the "do-good" conference season sputters and slows in the mid-summer heat, here are eight new social media tips and takeaways from the recent National Conference on Volunteering and Service in New York:

* Message shorter. There is one big "missing" in the use of social media, says Twitter co-founder and Chairman Jack Dorsey. Too many groups get their messaging wrong, he says. "You're more successful if you focus on simplifying your message," he told NCVS conferees. "Make sure the message is in as few words as possible."

Get analytical. Many nonprofits, social enterprises and social service
organizations don't have a good sense of analytics, Twitter's Dorsey adds. "Ask yourself: Where are we today? Where do we mark today and where do we plan to go? If you don't know where you're coming from or going to, it's hard to figure out if anything is actually moving or not inside your organization. On the outside, your members and supporters want status updates. They want to know -- before they throw money over the wall -- that you're making progress. It's very, very important to constantly show a sense of momentum and a sense of movement. It can be as simple as updating people in a simple message."

Compete harder. Sure, collaboration is all the buzz and today's holy grail. But Joe Rospars, a founder of Blue State Digital and on the social media team that put President Obama in the White House, says that for him, two questions come into play for organizations having trouble mobilizing people -- especially "during these in-between times between crises and big moments." His advice? Make sure you're adequately communicating "not only the reasons people should be involved in your cause -- but also why people should choose your organization over another fighting for the same cause." Rospars says most groups get the first part right but miss the second.

Work harder. Your supporters want to help but they don't want to phone it in -- nor want you to do that, either. "Oftentimes, signing a petition isn't enough to ask," says Rospars. For some people, it's too insignificant. People know when their time is being wasted, Rospars says -- "when things are being phoned in by the staff who aren't thinking about things very deeply." Rospars says if you lose your enthusiasm, so will the people you're trying to engage. "Even on the worst, most busy days, it pays to remember that your responsibility is to the people out there who only have an hour to give," Rospars adds. "Don't waste their time. Make it worthwhile. People will know the difference if you're passionate and urgent and authentic about engaging them."

Get clear on ROI. "The term, ROI, is widely misused," says social media marketing strategist Paul Gillen. "It's a financial metric. It's not a number of followers, or number of page views, or number of unique visitors. Those things are results, not returns. A return is a financial metric." But don't despair. According to Gillen, anything that can be expressed as a result can be expressed as a financial metric. Next time you're asked what the value is of raising your organization's visibility, do a standard marketing study called a "lift study," Gillen says. "If you have historical data that says that the last time your organization's visibility increased by 5 percentage points, the amount of giving increased 20 percentage points, then that is an ROI," Gillen says. "You can say that if this social media campaign to boost visibility succeeds in raising your visibility by 5 percentage points as determined by a lift study, then you can expect X amount of return for each speaking engagement. It's all in the math."

Measure the dollar value of your donors. To see how much money a member or a donor is worth over the course of their lifetimes, says Gillen, take the total value of giving to your organization in a year and divide it by the total number of members/donors during that same time period. "If you can draw X number of new members as a result of a social media campaign, you can say that the campaign will yield a specific lifetime value," Gillen says. "When you start to think in those terms, ROI becomes much easier to forecast."

Measure the dollar value of your followers. Look at the total number of visits to your Web site per tweet stream over a given period, then look at the percentage of those visitors that converted into donors and the value of their donations over any given amount of time. Says Gillen: "Move all of that back up the spreadsheet and see that the value of a follower is, let's say, 2.5 cents. It's a matter of mapping the numbers that you use to see the impact they have on your bottom line."

Push or pull leaders into the pool. Don't keep social media in a corner. Make it everybody's business, starting at the top. According to Twitter's Dorsey, organizational leaders need to be participating in social media use every day, to make it a part of the culture. "Your leader will make mistakes and will learn from them but what's most significant is that he or she is sharing the learning curve and the lessons throughout the organization," Dorsey says. "Assigning someone else to look at social media can only go so far; it won't speak to the spirit of what your organization is trying to bring to the world." Dorsey also said that leaders must be willing to try new things themselves, both in their personal lives and in their organizational leadership. "It's an attitude and a willingness to jump in that makes all the difference," says Dorsey. "A leader's passion is clear and contagious. Don't shut out the leader or underestimate his or her power, both outside and inside the organization."

Got any tips to add? Let us hear from you.

-- Marcia Stepanek


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Anonymous Touching Souls International said...

I am glad that I found this post, which has lots of information specially for a small nonprofit organization like ours, it is a great help.

July 24, 2010 at 11:56 PM  
Anonymous Becky said...

This is a great compilation! Getting the message short & simple is not so easy...

July 26, 2010 at 4:22 PM  
Blogger Marcia Stepanek said...

Becky - very true! But often, it's tough because there is a lack of clarity over mission and goals, as well as what one's organization offers over others. It all comes easier once these questions have been answered. Hope that helps!

July 26, 2010 at 5:58 PM  
Anonymous Melissa Winkler said...

This is great advise. As a consultant I don't try to Tweet about our products and solutions but rather try to connect with non profits. Social media has helped me learn more about our industry and I am now more update to date on the trends, tips etc.

Great article!

August 12, 2010 at 1:52 PM  

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