Tag Archives: Beth Kanter

Should Facebook administrators always comment?

Aliza Sherman's model of fan loyalty and advocacy

Everything that I read suggests that acknowledging positive comments on an organization’s Facebook page is considered best practice. Guy Kawasaki made this a major theme in his recent book, Enchantment: the Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions, and Beth Kanter has spent the last couple of weeks echoing the importance of the ABC’s (always be commenting).

Why commenting makes sense

Facebook is a social medium, not a bulletin board.  If you say something nice to a friend, you at least expect a smile or a nod.  Maybe they’ll eventually figure out a button that Facebook administrators can use that winks as if to say “back at ya.”  But for now, commenting back is the only way to have a brief exchange.  (Responding to negative comments is a subject for another post.  Most advise responding to negative comments as well, but of course the execution is different.)

Nonprofits need to encourage comments by others because that’s how they’re going to gain exposure to people who aren’t already fans.  Even people who are fans generally don’t seek out your Facebook page to see what you have to say.  They read your posts when they are published automatically to their wall.  What you really want is to get people so excited about your mission and their relationship with you that they spontaneously post to your organization’s Facebook page.  That shows a lot of engagement, but it also means that their post publishes to all of their friends, even if they haven’t “liked” you.  (One hitch: depending on your EdgeRank score, which is determined by Facebook’s black box algorithm, your posts may not make it into “top news” feed, requiring people to click on “most recent” to see your posts.)

Do as I say, not as I do?

It’s hard to go to a conference where someone isn’t extolling the importance of actively commenting back on organization pages.  But when I recently checked some of the organizations I thought would be most active, I was surprised they don’t comment back as often as I expected.

American Red Cross, for example, has a huge Facebook presence, with over 300,000 fans.  Posts generate not only “likes” but comments by the dozen.  Looking at posts by the organization for the last couple of weeks, however, I didn’t see any comments in response to posts by fans.  They didn’t remove a comment that was anti-semitic, or acknowledge one guy who went so far as to outright solicit his friends on Facebook: Please give to the American Red Cross. They help during disasters when no one will. Donate by calling 1-800-HELP-NOW. Your $$ monetary cash donation will help the American people better than donated supplies. Thank You!

If you’re in a growth mode, you had better be commenting back!

It’s possible that when an organization becomes really successful on Facebook, it is no longer practical to try to acknowledge all comments – even positive ones.  How do you “smile” back at one comment and not acknowledge others?

Most organizations in this town, however, are still trying to grow their Facebook presence.  They may have a goal of achieving 1,000 friends on Facebook, for example.  They need to grow the number of fans a steady 5-10% each month.  And one of the most practical ways to do that is to recognize Super Fans, as suggested by Aliza Sherman (hat tip Beth Kanter).



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Nonprofits: what is the best stuff to post on Facebook?

National Wildlife Federation is one Facebook page I "liked" just to watch what they do

Yesterday I shared some new research findings aimed at answering important questions about how best to increase Facebook engagement, an increasingly important objective for nonprofits.  Part one of this two-part series focused on how long posts should be, and when to post them for best response.  Today’s post is about what kind of content is most likely to engage people.

Today’s tips, based on Buddy Media’s research:

1. Posts that end with a question have a 15% higher engagement rate.  I wonder why that is? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

2.  The best question words are: “would,” “should,” “when,” and “where.”  Buddy Media suggested that “would” may have the greatest response because people often use the “like” button instead of answering yes.  You know – one key stroke vs. four!  “What” is a commonly used question word, but it had the lowest engagement rate.

3.  Be direct and ask for the “like.”  By using simple instructions about what you want friends to do – “post this” or “like this” – you stand the best chance of getting them to take an action.

4.  When running promotions – something that nonprofits are increasingly trying on Facebook, too – use terms that don’t sound too “salesy.”  Words that were associated with higher “likes” or “comments” were:  event, winner, win, offer, new, brand-new and “entry.”  Words that were negatively associated included: promotion, coupon, discount, exclusive, and limited.

Beth Kanter adds these tips based on feedback from her extensive contacts with social media managers:

5.  Don’t use a tool like HootSuite to pre-schedule publishing of posts.  Facebook’s mechanism for selecting items to appear in the News Feed discriminates against posts that come through third-party applications.

6.  Remember your ABC’s: Always Be Commenting.  Reward people for posting by responding to them as quickly as possible.

7.  Don’t be afraid to re-post content that had great engagement.  As Beth points out, not everyone reads everything that is posted (like me!).

And while I’m on my Beth rave, be sure to check out her blog post with 25 ideas for SMART social media objectives.  Some great, measurable ideas here… although (as she notes), it can be very difficult to know what you should be benchmarking against, to choose the right quantitative targets.

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Nonprofits: when is the best time to post on Facebook?

If you’re a Facebook user, you may have noticed some time back that you weren’t seeing posts from some of your friends anymore.  Facebook has added filters to allow users to “improve” their experience, but default settings mean you may only see content that is the most engaging (“top news” posts that generated the most comments or reaction) rather than the “most recent” posts.  That could matter a lot to a non-profit that is trying to use Facebook to build engagement.

Beth Kanter’s blog post today turned me on to a new (free) research report available from Buddy Media.  The research is intended to help answer the questions: 1) when should you post and how often; 2) are there certain words or content that will generate response; and 3) when are people engaging with your content?  The findings are based on data from 200 Buddy Media clients (note: primarily not non-profits).

Buddy Media looked at different approaches to managing Facebook content as they affected three success metrics: 1)  Number of comments as a percent of fan base; 2)  Number of “likes” as a percent of fan base, and, 3) Engagement rate – which is a function of 1 and 2.

Today, let’s look at what the findings said about optimal post lengths, and times/days to post.  And be sure to read to the end of this post for an important caveat about industry differences.

1.  Keep posts to 80 characters or less (posts of <80 characters have 27% greater engagement rates).

2.  When you post a link, use the full-length URL rather than a shortened one (full-length URL’s had 3x the engagement rate of shortened URL’s).  Buddy Media hypothesizes that people use the cues that are in full-length URL’s and are more likely to engage if they know what the topic is, and it’s of interest.  Man, is that counter-intuitive.

3.  Consider posting outside of business hours.  Posts in the pre-work morning hours, at the end of the business day and late at night had 20% higher engagement rates.

4.  Concentrate posts at the end of the week – especially Thursday and Friday.  Engagement rates on those days are 18% higher than other days of the week.  Buddy Media suggests that the less people want to be at work, the more they engage on Facebook.

But… and here’s that caveat… Buddy Media also notes that not all industries are created equally.  Retailers, for example, should think twice before posting on a Friday and consider Sundays instead.

Check back tomorrow for a post on what the research – and Beth – says about content that increases engagement.

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9 things I’ll be adding to my social media taxonomy

Does the social media world feel like a food fight to anyone else?

Almost a year ago, I blogged about a social media taxonomy chart I created to sort through the cacophony of noise about social media.

I found it useful on a couple of fronts.  First, it helped me to understand more clearly what were tools for using social media, and what were the actual channels where two-way (or every-which-way) communication was taking place.  Secondly, it gave communicators and marketers a birds-eye view of the huge range of stuff in the social media bucket so that they could identify aspects they needed to check out and understand.

It proved to be useful during a conversation last week — or, it would have been if it had been up to date.  Things have changed!

As I begin working on the updated taxonomy, I’m turning to one of my favorite (and most prolific) sources:  Beth’s Blog.  Beth Kanter’s material is always provocative and current.  Search for tagged content, and you’re bound to find posts that will be informative and helpful.  But she writes so much and so consistently that her blog is actually a great research source.

Besides thinking about specific tools or media that I might add to the taxonomy, it struck me that several forces are driving change in the evolution of social media:

Technology innovation:  Geo-locational technology is starting to have an effect on communications, community-building and fundraising.  The adoption of mobile devices such as iphones and ipads also opens up possibilities to connect, converse and fundraise.

Social changes: It would take a sociologist or anthropologist to tell us why, but, despite the recession, there is a group of people who have been activated to try to make a difference in a very personal way.  Terms like “citizen philanthropy,” “peer-to-peer fundraising,” “individually-based fundraising,” “fundraising communities,” “charity chains,” are some of the labels that are being used for this phenomenon.  Closely related is “crowd sourcing,” efforts that encourage people to find and share stories.  And, in a tactic that may be rooted in the social appetite for celebrity as well as competitive spirit, “vote for me” or “vote for my cause” contests have provided the impetus for millions of people to reach out to their network of friends and ask them to get involved.  Lastly, some people speculate that social expectations of charities is undergoing change.  Beth Kanter, in a nod to Peter Dietz, founder of SocialActions, commented:  donors in an age of social media, will come to your organization with the expectation of being full partners in your work, not just an ATM machine to be tapped when cash is needed.

Business model changes: We all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but many social media enterprises have lacked a means of raising adequate revenue to cover expenses.  Ning, a tool for creating like-minded groups, ended its free lunch earlier this year, affecting many schools and non-profits who had relied upon it as a platform for community-building.  Some new social media approaches involve a trade that solves the business model problem: you give me something valuable (like your shopping data), and I’ll do something you value (like give money to a charitable cause).

I’ll be revisiting my social media taxonomy to figure out where these specific tools or examples fit:

FoursquareI like what Beth Kanter had to say about itThink of it as a social network where your status up(date) is not what you’re doing, but where you are.  Think about how dogs update their location. At the Self-Directed Learning Circle meeting last week, David Lowe of KVIE declared himself mayor of building where the Nonprofit Resource Center has its office.  In the same vein as Foursquare, Gowalla.

Green Map marries crowd sourcing with mapping technology and lets eco-minded folks co-create a map of eco-friendly spots.  (Sacramento Tree Foundation, be thinking about this!)

CauseWorld uses geo-location technology to arrange an exchange between merchants and cause-minded shoppers; karma points are earned by shoppers when they walk into stores, which the merchant converts into donations to a cause.

The Facebook “like button” that effectively turns any website – any registered URL – into a Facebook fan page.  By “liking” a page that has been registered, the organization publishes right into Facebook update streams.

Zoetica is collecting tons of information about causes and making it available via an itunes app.  If you’re familiar with mashable.com (which I love), it’s kind of like mashable on itunes.  What’s social about it is how people share and comment on the content.

Twitcause says it helps nonprofits get discovered on Twitter.  Beth published an interesting guest post in January that’s worth checking out.

Then there’s a bunch of tools that support peer-to-peer fundraising:  Ammado, firstgiving, SocialAction (and MySocialAction).

Facebook is now the 800-lb. gorilla.  Though it’s not a reality yet, here’s the backlash product I’ve been watching for, Diaspora, a Faceb00k-like tool that puts you in control of the privacy of your data.  An article about it is the headline on mashable.com as I write this.

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Answers to questions I’ve been wondering about, thanks to Beth’s Blog

Beth's Blog with Kevin Gilnack's post

Beth's Blog with Kevin Gilnack's post

When Kim of 3Fold Communications sent me a nice compliment on my 100th blog post, I told her that I get far more than I give from the professional community that puts their stuff out there in the form of blogs.  Beth Kanter proved the point today with a guest post from Kevin Gilnack of the Providers Council, an association of health and human service providers in Massachusetts.

Here are a few excerpts – the answers I’ve most wondered about – but I strongly suggest you read the full post on Beth’s Blog.  The italicized portions are direct quotes.  (And while I appreciate your checking out what I’ve got to say, if you’re time pressed and you only can read ONE blog, read Beth’s!)

How often can you toot your organization’s horn on Facebook, Twitter, etc?

… (T)ry not to tweet about your own org on an average of more than once every seven or so tweets. You will also find your followers engage you more if you engage them.

If I just tweet/post about fundraising appeals or events, will people potentially lose interest?

Yes, they will lose interest quickly. Look beyond what you need people to do (whether it’s giving money, volunteering, taking action, etc.). Before you can effectively get people to respond to those requests, and to build an audience in an opt-in system like Twitter, you need to show you’re there to add value to your followers as well as advancing your mission. Talk about how your spending their money (e.g. the goings-on and successes of your programs), news relevant to your organization, RT posts from other orgs and individuals, and respond to interesting/relevant tweets your followers are sending.

How do you find people on social media who are interested in your cause?

…Twitter search RSS feeds to a Google Reader can provide some great insights. …(T)hink of all of the names, things, words that would help you find conversations of interest. You can also consider using the localization feature of Twitter searches. Finally, don’t forget that Google Alerts have web and blog search features in the comprehensive mode.

How do you get people to post on your blog or in your forum? 

If it is a struggle to get people posting in your forums but are finding Facebook and Twitter conducive to conversations, it may be worth evaluating what the value of those forums are and if it might be more worthwhile to drive traffic there for interaction. However, you might find that posting something like “That’s a great point, we actually have a thread going on this topic here [link to forum]” and/or asking key volunteers to do the same. You may get more comments on your blog by using Twitter and Facebook to drive people there, as well as by promoting posts in your e-newsletter and other outlets. Also, I’m not sure if this is true, but one stat I saw said to expect 1 comment / 100 views (though I assume they pick up significantly after the first comment is left).

Thanks again, Kevin, for putting it out there – and, Beth, for not only the amazing output of your prodigious brain, but your ability to collect and broadcast great thinking from practitioners across the country.


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An incomplete taxonomy of social media for communicators

An incomplete taxonomy of social media:  comments welcomed!

An incomplete taxonomy of social media: comments welcomed!

We amateur cartographers have been trying to map the changing landscape of social media.  While lots of smart people have put together some visually interesting taxonomies (including this nebula-like graphic just about Twitter, created by Brian Solis as shared by Beth Kanter), I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around how to classify and organize these things in my head.  When there are 19 Twitter clients, and counting, it can be daunting (maybe even impossible) to try to keep up with every new entrant in this rapidly changing arena.  Any list or directory that you create is out of date in about a day.

I’ve been using this Powerpoint chart (handily available on SlideShare) as a means of charting the territory that communications professionals really need to understand.  We need to know how people are communicating with one another, finding people with like interests, and sharing interesting content.  We also need management tools.   We need convenient ways of scanning social media, finding people of interest, listing ourselves in directories, organizing our stuff and so on.  And, of course, we need ways of monitoring communications and measuring the impact of campaigns.  Understanding the range of social media tools and tactics can help us do a better job of efficiently and effectively implementing strategy.

My taxonomy is an attempt to think about social media and tools in terms of how they function and what we do with them.  As the web – and particularly mobile – technologies evolve, there will be new functions.  So many of the buckets on this Powerpoint chart arose in response to problems people encountered in their social media experience.  For example, at one point I said something like, “Ack!  I’m overwhelmed with the blogs I’m reading through my email!  What do I do?”  I started using an RSS reader.  As soon as you hear someone complaining about something, like more SPAM coming through Twitter, you can bet someone’s developing a new tool that solves that problem.  Maybe someday there will be something that doesn’t feel soldered on.

Any PR agency or corporate communications department should have someone who is familiar with and actively using at least one channel or tool in every single bucket depicted on this taxonomy.  There’s simply no excuse to be unfamiliar with these capabilities.  They’re too important.

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Searching for Mr. Right Now: my top 5 tips for non-profits

Read this!  (Image thanks to 427 via Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Read this! (Image thanks to "427" via Flickr, Creative Commons license)

There’s Mr. Right, and there’s Mr. Right Now.  The blogosphere is rife with opinions about the very-most-important tools and tactics for non-profits.  When working with small, local non-profits, it can take six months (or more) to implement the very most basic of basics.  While I think that Facebook in particular is an important part of the marketing mix, it’s a “Mr. Right” but not necessarily a “Mr. Right Now.”

Here are my top five nominations for “Mr. Right Now” when it comes to non-profit tactics:

  • Website – All roads lead to the website, or they should.  Whether people stumble across you through search, or are looking for your website to respond to something, you need to make sure your website is prepared with the right content to inform people, the right look and feel to move people, and the right navigation to help people.  Websites are digital brick and mortar.
  • Email/e-newsletter – Even if Facebook traffic now rivals emails, many of the constituents who will give to your mission still prefer email.  Email and enewsletters are also superior for their ability to target both cultivation and appeal messages.
  • Blogging – In my experience, this is the hardest sell.  Misconceptions abound: blogs are full of snark, blogs are a waste of time, blogs will send forth droves of creepy stalkers after me or my staff.  Blogs are a great, immediate way to collect and share stories about the work your non-profit is doing.  They are also one of the very best ways to keep websites fresh and attract search traffic.
  • Media relations – This now incorporates both traditional media and online media.  It’s hard to beat the boost in credibility that comes with a feature story.  I’ve written a lot about how non-profits need to begin to identify who blogs about their issues locally, given that most traditional news outlets have had to make radical cuts in staff.  Online newspapers, like Sacramento Press here, are also gaining steam.
  • Messaging – OK this doesn’t fall into the tactical bucket; it’s strategic.  Many bootstrap non-profits have poor names and rely on their mission statements to communicate their value.  Short of name-changing, it’s vital to have a brief – like seven words brief – tagline or statement that informs and inspires.  No wonder America’s Second Harvest changed their name to Feeding America.  It’s also important to put appeals in a context by “campaignizing” them.  How much do you need now, by when, and why?  In today’s turmoil, people need a really good reason to part with their dough or get involved.

I blogged back in April about John Kenyon’s perspective on chicken-or-egg dilemmas when it comes to non-profit marketing.  John’s a strong believer in website and emails being top priority.  Yesterday, Beth Kanter published a guest post from Jordan Viator who interviewed David Neff of American Cancer Society’s High Plains division for the Connection Cafe.  David’s top five includes website and email, but he also puts Facebook, videos and file sharing on his list.  About Facebook, he says, “If you concentrate on one social networking tool that’s out there, I would say get on Facebook and make sure you make your presence known.”  You’ll find David’s tips explained best in the video embedded in Jordan’s post.

I’m recommending Facebook, too, but often in the second six-month period of a plan, after the very-most-important pieces are in place.

What’s in your top five?

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Don’t skip to tactics until you know what you’re trying to do

The Camppaign for Female Education took 13 years to build its list to 10,000 supporters and is now picking up 5,000 members a day on Facebook Causes

The Campaign for Female Education took 13 years to build its list to 10,000 supporters and is now picking up 5,000 members a day on Facebook Causes

Non-profit social media rock star Beth Kanter is making a cross-country move.  Rather than taking a hiatus from blogging (as I did last month), Beth wisely lined up some cool guest bloggers.  A post today by Brian Reich, author of Thinking About Media, got me thinking about what’ s been missing in several non-profit marketing plans I’ve seen lately:  a hypothesis about what will cause a desired action to happen (be it donations or advocacy) and a strategy about how to achieve that momentum.

The plans I’ve seen are a bucket used to hold a bevvy of popular tactics (including social media) – with no educated guesses about how they will contribute to the desired outcome, and no prioritization.  I’d call them a listing more than a plan.

Brian’s post is focused on Facebook Causes, about which he’s skeptical, but his comments go to the heart of my concern about lack of strategy:

You can’t expect your audience, no matter how passionate they are about your work, to make an online contribution only because you ask – or to continue to make donations after they became involved through an event or opportunity.  Those are all actions that you, as an organization define.  Your audience, and particularly those who donate, want to be directly involved in your work and empowered to help support your efforts in the ways, and using the tools, they feel most comfortable with…. Stop developing new features and tools until you have found ways to get your users more invested in the setup you already have.  Find ways to better educate and support all your nonprofit members, as well as the users that power your success. I’m not suggesting you stop innovating or improving your tools, but the needs of your audience should drive that work, instead of the technology driving how the users are able to get involved.

Many of the organizations I’m working with as a pro bono consultant haven’t clearly defined why the world needs to support their organization or cause, nor have they raised awareness.  To use Brian’s suggested five-part process, they have to start by listening, introducing and educating their target audiences before they turn to engagement and mobilization.  His process is a variation on a traditional marketing communications pyramid model (from awareness building to preference, trial, use and loyalty) but it’s a nice update for the non-profit world.

If you’re thinking about Facebook Causes or any other form of social media, read Brian’s post first.


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Highly recommended: two day workshop in S.F. on social media

NTEN, a great organization, and Beth Kanter, one of the great social media minds out there, are presenting a two day workshop in San Francisco on February 12th and 13th.  It’s billed as “The Social Media Starter Kit for Non-Profits“; based on what I’ve seen both NTEN and Beth do, I bet it will be worth every minute and every penny.  I would kill to attend this one but I am hosting an appreciation party for larger donors to a favorite non-profit of mine, River City Community Services.  Someone go and debrief me later!

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