Musings on various things

Pennings 6: the final three and a wrap

This is the final blog post summarizing the content of a webinar I attended on the 12 mistakes that non-for-profits make make in social media given by Heather Mansfield, owner of DIOSA Communications. Earlier Pennings (3, 4, 5) refer to the other 9.

Mistake #10 – Having unrealistic job descriptions.

There is no question, social media takes time. It takes skill. It is not fair to simply add it to someone’s already-full plate… and we all know NFP staff plates are usually full. If you can’t think now about adding staff, start to think about it for next year’s budget. If you’re doing things according to a plan, you must have some monies that are going to be freed up due to lessening print costs via SoMed? (think newsletters, annual reports, etc.).

Mistake #11 – Ignoring the mobile web.

This is one of the fastest growing trends. In fact, some are calling it Web 3.0 – the mobile web. Smartphones now outsell PCs and soon the same will be said about tablets. Take a look at your website on a phone – how does it look? Not so pretty? Is it time to rethink it with the help of an expert?

Mistake #12 – Not tracking the return on investment (ROI) of your social media efforts.

If you have entered in the social media space, do you know what tools are working for you? Is it Facebook? Is it Google+? Is it Twitter? Other?

If nothing else, keep a simple Excel spreadsheet that notes each month what your website traffic is; and what your blog traffic is. How many Facebook fans have you gained? Have your events attracted more attendees – why? If the numbers on any of your stats are not growing, something is wrong. The key is recording it on a regular basis so that you can start studying the results to know what’s working and what’s not.

I know. There’s a lot to consider here. My hope was that by splitting the content into bite-size segments, it would be easier to digest.

Each and every one of us in not-for-profits are challenged each and every day by what’s on our plate – both in terms of what we have to accomplish and by what we have to know about our area of expertise.

My intent in generating this content summary is to help you get a handle on some of the common pitfalls that other not-for-profits are making and to assist you as you consider (or consider growing) your presence within the social media space.

As part of my ongoing listening, I thought the content and the time spent on this webinar were well worth it and hope that the summary that I have provided helps you as you think about your own social media presence – now or in the (not-too-distant) future.


Penning 5: Tortoises, storytelling and photo-journalism

This blog follows Pennings 3 and 4 and is based on learnings in a webinar that I participated in last month; see the details in earlier posts.

Mistake #7 – Not being an early adopter.

Association and not-for-profit staff, as mentioned, have been slow on the uptake of social media. If you do not intend to engage immediately or are still developing your strategy – at least reserve your name, so that when you do get “out there”, your brand is yours – not someone else’s.
Mistake #8 – Not blogging.

Often times NFPs and associations that have become engaged in social media are missing out on one key piece – blogging. Nothing helps you tell your story better than a well-written blog. There are numerous blogging tools and they’re simple to use. And if you think blogging once a week is good – not so. According to measurement stats, anything older than three days isn’t getting you anything – accept perhaps resentment that your blog is old!

What blogs do you follow? Why? If you aren’t already reading blogs – start! And if you are reading, find what appeals to you as a reader. What works? What doesn’t?

Mistake #9

Not building your digital library.

With most phones having the capability of taking pictures, you really have no excuse for not being able to capture moments in your association’s life.

Social media managers need to think of themselves as reporters for their NFP. These images will help you  tell your story. Chances are you do events? Or conferences? Or stakeholder recognition of some kind? Capture these moments. That being said… spontaneous activity is hard to catch and you have a limited opportunity to do – but make sure the photo is more than a black square and that there are identifiable objects within! If you know you are holding an event, have someone from your organization designated as a photographer – so that spontaneous and planned photo opps stand a better chance of being captured.

I’m an amateur photographer – so I will try to use some of my own photos in my blogs. With apps like Instagram it’s easy for anyone to make content that looks interesting.

And, if you’re thinking about #8 – blogs look better (see mistake #2 – good design) with illustrations and make a whole lot of text easier on the eye.

So… this is the end of part 3; the final three points of this four-part blog post will be posted tomorrow. Hope you’ll come back!

Penning 4: Automation, exploration and reputation

Rideau Canal, Ottawa

In Penning 3, I introduced you to three common mistakes that organizations make in their SoMed engagement efforts. These errors and potential solutions/suggestions were all introduced during a webinar given by Heather Mansfield, owner of DIOSA Communications and author of Social Media for Social Good. Here are the next three common mistakes made. See how you fare.

Mistake #4 – Automating content.

Nothing says “I couldn’t care less” about my social media efforts than using an automatic content generator. Stats have shown that auto posts decrease the likelihood of likes by approximately 70%. If you are using one of these auto-post tools to manage your workload, a suggestion is to log out periodically and post manually – just so that the “social” of social media is maintained.

Mistake #5 – Not taking the time to explore and test social media tools.

It would seem that there are new social media tools every day – something that can make your life easier or more complicated. Or existing tools are changed – like the recent news about the separation of Twitter and LinkedIn. Or the frequent (unannounced) changes to Facebook.  It’s important to keep your ears and eyes open to new tools and new twists for precisely these reasons. To be a participant in the social media world, you need to speak but you also need to listen. That’s why people liken it to a conversation. Push-pull. Back-forth.

Mistake #6 – Depending solely on volunteers or interns for your social media presence.

The best social media managers have years of experience. Just because someone has some free volunteer time on their hands or is a student doesn’t necessarily make them the best social media person for your organization. Talk about risking your reputation! You, as staff, need to take an active role/interest in the social media participation of your association. If you do need to rely on volunteers, make sure they know what your strategy is and make sure they are trained – both in the tools and in your association’s culture.

Two more segments follow – come on back tomorrow for more.

Penning 3: Some non-profit mistakes (a dozen to be exact) when using social media

ImageI had the opportunity to participate in a recent webinar “12 Common Mistakes that not-for-profits make in social media” given by Heather Mansfield, owner of DIOSA Communications and author of Social Media for Social Good.

While I am tiring of “the 5 worst”, “top 10 best”, “The most useful 7…” captioned/themed/titled blogs because everyone seems to have adopted these titles and it’s quickly becoming stale, this webinar did provide lots of good reminders and takeaways that, really, are just good common sense.

A lot of this content is good to remember even if you’re not in a not-for-profit environment but are engaged in social media. My comments here will relate to a not-for-profit environment as that is where I have spent much of my working life but you can use outside this context easily.

As a preamble…not-for-profits have been slow to use social media; recent studies (including a benchmarking study done by the Canadian Society of Association Executives – CSAE) show that there are a lot of associations and not-for-profits skulking in the weeds and still not ready to take the leap in to the pool of social media).

What is the hesitation? For many associations it’s the risk factor – risking or exposing their reputation. For some it’s the lack of a strategy (good on them for even thinking that they had to have a strategy… but don’t wait too long!). For others, it’s a fear of the resources that will be consumed by social media. There are countless reasons. Perhaps the most pervasive, and the one that lurks behind every reason, is fear of the new and unknown.

It’s incredibly important that as a not-for-profit (NFP) association that you fully consider your tactics and strategies. Do what best suits your needs and your resources and don’t get over-commit to social media practices that are better suited to large corporations; it won’t work – either from a creator or a consumer point of view as the (lack of) resource issue will catch up with you and it will show.

All of this being said, here are some thoughts and some helpful tips as you think about launching or tweaking your own social media presence.

Mistake one – not practicing integrated marketing. Way back when the Internet was new, it was considered a broadcast medium. People sought you/your association out by doing research; and you broadcast information via your website to your various audiences. Now, people are landing on your Website, in many cases, from another social media tool – Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Your website needs to reflect these changes. A blog, with meaningful content, can be introduced via Twitter and Facebook and then it brings people to your website… where they might hover over other content once there. Make your Website visitors linger by presenting them with more pictures, larger fonts that attract attention and interesting content. Should I say that again? Interesting content. There – I said it again.

Mistake two – not investing in good graphic design. This follows on mistake #1. If people come to your Website and see crazy, sloppy design work, clip art from 1982, or no design what does it say about you as an organization – that you can’t be bothered? That you aren’t professional? You don’t want to give your existing audiences these impressions, nor do you want to give new and random visitors these impressions (‘cos they won’t come back). If you can’t afford a full service graphic design firm, there are always students looking for portfolio work – who might be great candidates for this type of work at lower (or no?) cost.

Mistake three – still with me? Posting boring content is a huge turnoff. (See mistake #1) Just as you may have had to tweak your Website for the 2.0 social Web, you need to tweak your content. Get good at telling your story – to both your existing clients and to your as-yet-unknown, future clients. Don’t post heavily marketing-oriented or fundraising content all about you… that’s boring! For you to be all bookish and wonk-ish – that’s boring! Comments like “did you know we’re also on Facebook?” don’t cut it! And, if you’re on Facebook or Twitter and your posts are getting no feedback via “likes”, commentary, or retweets – that’s a pretty good indicator that your content needs an overhaul.

To change this, think about how you can tell your story through the eyes of a member or client – and get them to tell your story via YouTube. What does your association means to them? If your NFP is involved in advocacy, build a story around a success story. What it has meant for one of your existing customers? Or, what could a change in policy mean to that same customer or client?

Come back tomorrow, I’d love to share the next three mistakes/ideas with you.

Penning 2: Anthropomorphize to ascend

Recently, I attended a webinar with two social media personalities with super social status (more on that later): Mari Smith and Guy Kawasaki.

I found out about the webinar by chance – while searching for additional listening posts in the not-for-profit and social media world. My listening quest took me to the webinar. I immediately signed up for the 7 hottest social media business trends. While the content was focused on business trends, I think the seven carry over into member-based organizations and their use of social media (SM).

Big brand bypass

Sure big brands are still important but within the SM context, the opportunity now exists to connect directly to the consumer. Individuals can now create audiences and build communities without big brands (or smaller ones). Members may not need to come to you anymore for connections to their clients – they can do that online. Brands need to be part of the community that they hope to connect with and not be seen as marketing to them but rather connecting to them via the ideas being circulated within. Are you listening to what your community is talking about? Or are you simply shouting out random thoughts?  By engaging, you may earn the right to occasionally add your marketing content to the conversation. Has your language and tone changed as you participate in these dialogues? If it hasn’t, you may be left by the curbside because you’re constantly shouting “look at us, look at us, look at us”.

Humanize to monetize

SM has delivered the ability for organizations to conduct themselves in a more human way – no longer are you a nameless, faceless body – you can have a personality. In the same way that people connect face-to-face, they connect with organizations – they either like you or they don’t based on your personality. Are you pushy and loud? Or are you introspective and quiet? Do you have a sense of humour? What’s your organization’s personality? By making your association seem human, and likeable, you have a chance at success.

Cause-based consumers

Whatever your cause – be it animal welfare or the environment – what do you stand for? For your communities, you, as an organization, need to be transparent. You need to have a handle on what your real mission is. Just because you exist, and have for generations, doesn’t mean that people are obligated to buy whatever it is you’re “selling”. Listen to what people are talking about “out there”. How does your organization fit? People will follow when they see a connection. The growth of SM has made it easier to connect people and causes; don’t miss out on your opportunity to relate to their needs.

Super social status

The growth of SM programs like Klout has made it easier for people to check out and determine the influencers…people like Mari Smith and Guy Kawasaki. The influencers don’t get there by being disingenuous. They get their clout by connecting with their communities – saying and doing things that matter now, making is relevant to their audiences. What are you saying and doing that people might repeat to others? Twitter, and SM in general, makes the old Herbal Essence commercial reality… “I told two friends, and they told two friends and so on and so on…”. You want your story to be passed on; so say or do something that is worth repeating… Or don’t, and risk being engaged in a monologue.

Awesome versus flawsome

One of the fears that organizations have had with engaging in SM is that they fear being wrong. In fact, with SM, this has become another way that organizations have become more human. Consumers are more accepting of organizations making mistakes. It’s OK to be wrong … but do correct yourself… apologize, be humble, be HUMAN. Without some mistakes, people become skeptical about you.


Decisions are increasingly made on the fly. The quoted number during this webinar was that 5 to 1 decisions are made via mobile devices versus computer-based decisions. That’s HUGE! Is your website mobile-optimized? If it isn’t, consider this as the growth of mobile devices is not slowing. If you have a smart phone, take a look at your website – what might you want to change?

Privacy paranoia

Sure the tech world has brought along horror stories…think privacy breaches in data capture which make consumers apprehensive about sharing data. The most popular SM site, Facebook, it seems to me is constantly tweaking its site to conform to privacy concerns. Because of its vast numbers and popularity, Facebook seems to have stirred a heightened sense of privacy concerns. Within this context, have you done a privacy audit of your organization’s data capturing and storage? The privacy commissioner of Canada has useful tools on their site for assessment purposes. Bearing all this hypersensitivity in mind, do an audit; make sure you’re good to go and then state, to the world, what your privacy policy is – loud and clear and up front.

I hope my reiteration of the content, as I heard it, proves useful to you as you think about your own community and how you can further engage for growth. To me, the overwhelming message was: be human, be real and the rest will follow.

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