Tag Archives: digital communication

How to make a blog for nonprofits

Choosing what tool to deploy next can feel like this/gsbrown99 under CC

The virtual shopping aisle of digital communication tools is worse than a visit to Best Buy.  Where do you begin when you don’t understand half the features they’re talking about?  Redo your website?  Start with a Facebook page?  Begin with Twitter?  What about that new “plus” thing Google just launched (Google+)?

Each organization is going to have to consider its communications objectives, strategy and resources and then figure out how to begin chipping away.  A blog is a great communications utility to have in the mix (maybe not as fantastic as a universal remote, but worthy of investment).

Why blog?

1.  Blogging is good way to attract traffic to a website. As I’ve mentioned before, websites are still the best place to tell your story and convert the interested into the active.  If you incorporate keywords that people use to search, you have the potential to attract new visitors to your website.  (Click here for SEOmoz’s good beginner’s guide to Search Engine Optimization, the technique for identifying and building on keywords – hat tip Mashable.)  Blogs can be embedded right into a website.  Every time you publish a fresh story, voila!  Your website page is updated, too.  (It doesn’t even have to be your blog you embed if it’s relevant to your cause.  All it takes is an RSS feed.)

2.  Blogging is a great way to capture content, especially stories.  It’s best, of course, if community members share their stories directly, but that doesn’t usually happen right off the bat.  So you’re going to need to listen for and then relate stories.  And content is what you need to feed the every growing appetite of social media.

3.  Shortened blog links make great attachments to Facebook and Twitter posts.  If your message is interesting enough, you’ll get new people to look at what you have to say.  The “sharing” norm of Facebook and Twitter rapidly multiplies the people who are exposed to what you have to say.

How to get started blogging

A blog is dead easy to start, and free if you don’t count staff time.  You can set up a blog in 2-4 hours.  (It’s maintaining the habit that’s hard.)

1.  Choose your platform.  The biggies are WordPress and Blogspot.  Here’s one of the many debates out there about which is better.  Philanthrophile runs on WordPress, as do two other blogs I write.  In the fashionista community, there’s a general belief that Blogspot, because it’s a Google product, is preferred in Google searches.  I recently helped my son set up a blog on Blogspot (not published yet) and found that I preferred WordPress.  But maybe that’s because I’m used to it.

2.  Choose keywords.  In your Internet search bar, type “Google Adwords Tool.”  You may have to create a Google account if you don’t already have one, but this is a free tool you can use without signing up for Adwords.  Think of some phrases you might consider and input them, one per line.  Do NOT click the box “only show ideas closely related to my search terms.”  (The good stuff is the stuff you don’t think of.)  The tool will serve  up 100 results.  Pay attention to the “local monthly searches” column if you’re locally focused.  P.S. the original title of this post was “How – and why – to start a blog.”  I took my own medicine, did a quick Adwords search, and used the phrase “make a blog,” which would not be natural phrasing for me.  See the top 10 results from my Adwords search at the bottom.  P.S. key words are now critical for ANY form of communication that is shared digitally – from tweets, to website posts, to press releases.

3.  Set it up with one of the dozens of handy template options.  It’s easy.  Really.  It’s time for me to update the style of this one – maybe I’ll take my own medicine on that soon (the photo is one I took of clovers in Ireland – kind of a luck o’ the Irish talisman).  Take the time to enable widgets with a click – especially those that relate to sharing and subscribing.  In WordPress, they’re under the menu item “Appearance.”   I enabled the tools for email subscription (which almost no one does these days), RSS feed and social sharing.  It’s now easy to set up your blog to auto-publish to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Also take a minute to look at the tools for ipad and mobile.  I love the way my blog about my Dad looks on ipad (http://thehenrychronicles.com/)!

4.  Choose an idea, write a strong lead, and develop it.  Keep it short – less than 500 words.  (This one’s over 1,000 because it’s a tutorial.) Think what journalists do: give people a reason for continuing in the first 2-3 sentences.  Everyone has A.D.D. these days.  I chose to get into today’s topics with questions, for the same reasons that questions tend to provoke more engagement on Facebook.

5.  Add a photo at the top, which adds interest.  The photo does not have to be yours.  You can search for photos on flickr that are licensed for general use under a Creative Commons license (used the advance search feature to see only these).  They’ve made it a little trickier to find and use the URL, but it’s there under the “share” buttons (grab the link… you may have to fiddle a little.)

6.  Tag it.  Take full advantage of features like the ability to customize your own excerpt and tag your post with key words so that others may find it through organic search.  (I use categories, too, which are like file drawers, whereas tags are like file folder labels or cross-referencing labels.)

7.  Preview it, seriously.  If you don’t have someone to read your posts, then use the gift of time.  Save the draft and come back to it in an hour or two.  Review it with the preview feature before you press “publish.”

8.  Keep blogging.  Don’t think that you have to write the Constitution.  Some of my posts have been very short – literally 5-6 sentences introducing something I found interesting.  Just get in the habit.  Try it, maybe you’ll like it.

If you lose interest for a while, don’t drop it. It’s amazing to me that I haven’t killed my blog when I’ve ignored it for up to six months at a time.  If you’re writing good stuff, people will start to find it and link to it.  External links bring you followers even when you’re ignoring them.  Not that I recommend the practice… I’m just saying don’t give up!

And links to your own earlier blog posts can help your page ranking a little, meaning that you’ll come up higher when someone searches for topics you’ve tagged.

WordPress apparently understands that the interest of new bloggers may flag (even old bloggers like me).  When I published a post about my Dad this morning, up popped the screen below. Thanks, WordPress, but I don’t think I’ll be writing a post about what I’d do with a magic wand anytime soon… but then again…

Keyword Local Monthly Searches
blogging 368,000
free blog 301,000
how to make a blog 246,000
make a blog 246,000
make blog 246,000
how to do a blog 201,000
how to design a blog 135,000
how to get a blog 135,000
start blog 110,000
how do i start a blog 110,000

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Filed under Blogging

Blogs: not close to extinction yet (what I want is “Friend Suck”)

Steve Rubel's Future of Blogging Mind Map

Steve Rubel's Future of Blogging Mind Map

Steve Rubel of Edelman Digital has taken a shot at describing possible evolutionary futures of blogging in the following mind map.  His prognostication, expanded in his Mashable post:  “One possibility is that blogs remain the primary social hub for many of us on the web but turn into lifestream sites that syndicate our content to and/or aggregate it from anywhere.”

Now, to be honest, that was a bit of a “huh?” for me.  Especially “lifestream sites.”  (I betcha Edelman has service marked that one already.)  But let me ‘splain what I think he means with this example.  Right now, I have several tools that I use to support my relationships in various spheres of my life including Facebook for friends and family, and LinkedIn for professional relationships.  LinkedIn is my professional hub.  I installed their wordpress tool so that this blog shows up in snippet form on my public LinkedIn profile.  I joined a couple of LinkedIn groups, such as the Social Media Caffe.  Highlights from that group show up on my LinkedIn page, as do publications and recommendations that are posted by people in my network.  I’ve found some of these updates and recommendations to be useful, although there’s a bunch that I consider to be SPAM.

I’d love it if there was a way to see all of my social media at once.  Thus far, I haven’t seen anything that, in one screen, gives me windows into the various social media places I hang out.  I’ve seen people experimenting with their own RSS feeds/displays (kind of like Mashable, but personalized).   Tools like TweetDeck are nibbling around the edges by allowing you to see real-time status updates from Facebook (it shows up in an added column), but you can’t feed LinkedIn updates that way.  And, of course, TweetDeck wants you to love Twitter best and just bring other social media as second fiddle.  Amplify and Friend Feed let you share stuff you’ve read and liked across social media platforms, but they don’t work in reverse.  I guess what I need is a social media vacuum, but something called “Friend Suck” just doesn’t sound right.

In foreseeing the possible demise of blogs, Steve ignores the important role they play in Search Engine Optimization.  Blogs keep website content fresh, and have a big effect on natural search results, at least the way that the Google algorithm works right now.  Blogs as we know and love them aren’t going away any time soon.  But I can hardly wait for “Friend Suck” to deliver my favorite blogs and social media status updates in one place.

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Filed under Blogging, Social media, Uncategorized

Chicken or egg dilemma for nonprofits – what’s first: website, email, Facebook, Twitter?

 

Kathy Gill tweets - what's first?

Kathy Gill tweets - what's first?

I listen when the universe sends me the same message twice in one day.  Yesterday morning, I saw the Twitter post (pictured) from Kathy Gill, University of Washington’s social media senior lecturer.  Attending NTEN’s “Effective Online Communications,” John Kenyon, consultant, asked (and answered) the same question about which online communications component should come first.

Here’s what he said:  “Your website and email are the foundation of your online strategy.”

Here’s what I had tweeted back to Kathy earlier in the day:  “For commercial co, optimize website 1st, then blog and newsletter.”

Came across a summary of a new study (hat tip:  Mack Collier) that suggests blogs are going to play an even bigger role for commercial enterprises going forward.

For a nonprofit, I agree with John.  Make the website sing, and build off of that!  (Kathy, if you happen to see this post I want to know what answers you received from your Twitter followers!)

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Filed under Strategy, Websites

Yes you can fix stupid: Janet Fouts explains Twitter at Nonprofit Technology Conference

Followed the recommendation of the We Are Media blogging session and went to Flickr to snag this image

Followed the recommendation of the We Are Media blogging session to snag this image; THANKS Ann A Liese!

(Hat tip to Ron White.  While redneck humor isn’t really my style, I do appreciate his bit about things you can fix and things you can’t.  I guess you can fix my lack of education when it comes to Twitter.)

Just came from great session at NTEN.org’s NTC 09 conference in San Francisco (with 1,400 of my new best friends).  From the speaker, Janet Fouts, who prefers the term social media “coach,” I took away 15 tips – count em!  Her overall message:  make Twitter a part of an overall integrated marketing strategy and don’t get carried away with tweeting drivel.  (Yes, you can tweet that you just ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but followers will quickly grow bored if you don’t find something more interesting to say.)

  1. Fill out the bio:  “think of something compelling to say in 50 words” (hmm, note to self) and choose a background that has something to do with your interests/focus
  2. If you’re twittering for an organization, you can list the org’s URL on your Twitter profile.  But if you’re promoting a specific fundraising campaign or event, change it to the specific URL for that activity.
  3. If you’re doing a Twitter-based fundraising campaign, install a Twitter widget on your home page and be sure to time-limit the campaign (<1 week).
  4. Use hashtags.  Those are those keyword phrases preceded by the pound sign, a la #09NTC.  As other people pick up the tags, it connects the dots between people who are interested in that topic.  Make one up about your hunger or cause, e.g. #sactree.
  5. Janet’s favorite app for collecting money for a Twitter-based fundraising effort is tipjoy, partly because she thinks the transaction fee is reasonable ($.30 per transaction plus 2.5%)  I’ve blogged about it before, here.  I got to ask my question about the possibility of fraud:  could someone pose as your cause and siphon off dollars meant for you?  It could happen, but I guess I’d call it low risk at this point.
  6. Always say thank you when someone replies to your tweet, and say “please” when you ask someone to retweet
  7. The average number of Twitter followers is 75-ish.  When you get up to about 100, start expanding the topics you tweet about, e.g. hobbies
  8. Twitter isn’t a water cooloer.  Be circumspect.  And remember that you can delete a tweet but it will live on in Google’s search database for two weeks.
  9. Post opportunities, not just yours.
  10. Set up a schedule to review people who have started following you.  Decide if you want to follow them; thank them at least.
  11. Don’t auto-tweet blog posts.  Janet recommends composing your own tweet and linking to your blog.
  12. Don’t use Twitter to regurgitate news releases (in short messages).  It’s one-way and it will irritate people.
  13. With all of the traffic that’s out there, keep in mind that your one lonely little post per day will get lost in the volume of tweets.  Tweet more often if you can, but have something worthwhile to say.
  14. Janet likes hootsuite for organizations that want to have multiple tweeters under one account.  Side benefits:  shortens URL’s, gives you statistics about your tweet and enables you to schedule tweets at a time that it’s convenient for you to look for responses.
  15. Use Twitter to form tweet circles.  Use a hashtag in your posts and then search to find people who are talking about that.  Follow them and contact them!

End note:  Twitter is not an end state for a relationship; it should be a beginning.  After you connect on Twitter, find other ways to engage outside of Twitter.  Remember the phone?

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How are coalitions forming and evolving to lead visionary change, in new ways, through the Internet?

I stumbled across the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s listing of grant-recipients of its “Community Information Challenge.”  The Foundation’s five-year program was established last year as a matching fund for community foundations interested in projects that would use media and technology in new, creative ways to keep their communities informed.  A few of the funded programs aim to bring together a large number of organizations to collaborate on a particular issue.  One example is “The Green Table Virtual Meeting Place” in Buffalo, NY.  Here’s the project description:

 

The more than 170 groups concerned with western New York’s environment are splintered and isolated, with no effective way of knowing what each is doing. In order to improve community dialogue and – ultimately – help revive the region centered around post-industrial Buffalo, the community foundation will create a new website for information exchange. Known as The Green Table, the site will feature discussion groups, resource directories, event calendars and job or volunteer opportunities. In addition, The Green Table will invite citizen participation through a pledge wall for a greener community and tools such as carbon footprint calculators.

Historically, it’s been tough sledding to convince organizations that “all boats rise” if they are able to create awareness of a problem or tackle a problem by working together.

Though it’s no panacea, the Internet and social media open up new opportunities for collaborative campaigns to tackle issues.  In a time of draconian budget cuts, the challenges we face require more than producing a report card as a means of tackling problems.

What are you seeing in terms of collaborative, Internet-based campaigns?  I’m interested in learning: 

·         How they got started

·         Who underwrote the development cost (if only the time to create the campaign)

·         Whether organizations or individuals – rather than foundations or grant-making organizations – are finding it worthwhile to act as conveners and campaign leaders

·         What elements they’re incorporating:  just a website, or traditional public relations and other tactics?

·         Whether they’re working – or working better than an organization working alone – in terms of raising awareness of an issue or solving a community problem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cave man (or woman) listening – a critical tactic for small non-profits

I love reading what’s happening at the forefront of 2.0, and about the comprehensive approaches and new tools that are being used by sophisticated non-profit biggies like the American Red Cross.  It’s like the early days of the Space Race.  (And I am not talking about a promotional event at Ikea.)  But here in River City, where many non-profits are small and don’t have dedicated staff that can spend part or all of their day surfing the ‘net, we have to find practical, low-tech ways to listen to what’s being said about our organizations and categories — because it is important.  If the American Red Cross is in the Space Race, those of us who work on or for small non-profits are in the Stone Age.  So I call this approach “Cave Man Listening.”

Beth Kanter today posted findings from a longitudinal study of college admissions offices’ use of social media for listening purposes.  54% of these offices actively listen, and most start with a humble Google search.  (And, yes, they do check out social networking sites to learn more about particular students.)

Of particular interest are the comments flowing in from Beth’s healthy readership.  Here are a few excerpts:

From Cortney, of the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center:

We generally search manually because there is not a high volume of discussion in the area that we serve.  We’ve been able to answer questions for people who want to donate blood but don’t know the rules, or who have misconceptions. When we found someone who’d had a negative experience at one of our facilities, we were able to respond to her concern and hopefully leave her with a good feeling about our organization.

Kate Bladow offers:

Although not under the auspices of our organization, I found out this week that a colleague and I both listen to social media channels on “legal aid” and “pro bono” for several reasons. (Interestingly, we independently started doing this and picked different channels – LinkedIn for her and Twitter for me.)   First, we want to know if anyone is reaching out and looking for legal aid. For those people, we can direct them to http://www.lawhelp.org where they can find legal information as well as referral information for legal aid and pro bono organizations.  Secondly, we can pick up on people who are talking about doing pro bono legal work, want to do pro bono legal work, or may need support while working on their pro bono legal case.  For my personal blog, I also listen. As one of our projects, my co-blogger, Matthew Burnett, and I aggregate access-to-justice news stories and post them to the @accesstojustice account on Twitter. By searching blogs, Twitter, Google news, and other places, we are able to capture quite a few of the stories and share them with a growing number of people. And we make certain to follow people who are talking about legal aid, pro bono, or other access-to-justice issues.

Marty Kearns wrote via LinkedIn Q/A:

I and my staff are listening on many different channels (rss, linkedin, facebook, listserves) we all pick up ideas, recommendations and connections via our listening chennels and we share them all the time with each other as staff and also blog on them to point our members toward resources we find.  We listen to let the network of our friends filter information for us. Saving us time and making us smarter.

Saul Kaplan of the Business Innovation Factory shared:

BIF’s current Nursing Home of the Future project has taught us a lot about how to include the voices of elders directly in our collaborative effort to design a better elder experience. We are integrating social media platforms directly in to our design process at BIF.

Cynthia writes:

I began using social media on a volunteer basis for People Helping People (www.phpnw.org)approximately two months ago because I wanted to convince others at the organization of its importance.  In that time, I have used Twitter, followed RSS feeds and commented on blogs. When I first began, I couldn’t find our website via Google search, and that has recently changed. Via Twitter I made a connection with someone who has just joined our Board. I’ve had an offer to write an article about one of our programs for a disability focused webzine.

Tune in tomorrow and I’ll offer my draft “Cave Man Listening” tips based on these posts and my own thinking and experience…

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Filed under Blogging, Crisis preparedness, Social media

More basics: how to get blogs in a reader (it’s easy) and best free software of 2009

Recently, a friend called to say she’d finally gotten around to checking out “Philanthrophile”, having been told about it last October.  She explained she was already on overload.  We all know that feeling:  I-just-cannot-handle-one-more-thing-in-my-email-inbox.   While I initially preferred that most of the blogs I read deliver to my inbox, I’m migrating to Google Reader.  When I enable Explorer, it automatically comes up as Google Reader, with the top 2 or 3 lines from new posts created by the blogs I follow.

Last month, I stumbled across “The Best Free Software of 2009” posted by PC Magazine (worth a read on its own), and learned that Google Reader got top marks in the “reader” category.   The Google Reader folks have posted a helpful and brief (<2 minute) video that explains how to get started using their reader, or any reader service, for that matter.

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Filed under Blogging

Does the Internet have a destructive side to society?

Sarah Palin complained yesterday that “Bored, anonymous, pathetic bloggers who lie annoy me,” but for non-profits, blogging is a crucial part of the marketing mix.  Recently, the executive director of River City Community Services attended a workshop put on by an agency that supports non-profits.  The number one message?  Blogs are REALLY important. 

But is the Internet a panacea for all of our communications problems?  No matter what our beliefs or opinions, I think it’s important to read, watch or listen to thoughtful opposing views.  (That’s why I still listen occasionally to Rush Limbaugh — until the bile gathers in my throat, anyway.)

Enter Lee Siegel.  Last year, Siegel wrote “Against the Machine:  Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob” (Spiegel and Grau, 2008).  No Luddite, he nonetheless pulls back the curtain and reveals some things about “the Wizard” of the Internet, things that all of us should at least bear in mind.  In his introduction, he likens the Internet to the automobile of the 1960s, when the car was considered a marvelous, near-perfect invention.  Cars did revolutionalize our lives, bring convenience and status.  But until Ralph Nader published Unsafe at Any Speed in 1965, automakers were able to dismiss criticism about the 50,000 people who died every year in crashes; remember, no seat belts.  Until then, injuries and deaths were considered an inevitable and acceptable cost given cars’ benefits.  So Siegel begins:  “But the Internet has its destructive side just as the automobile does, and both technologies entered the world behind a curtain of triumphalism hiding their dangers from critical view.”

He calls into question a number of “truths” about the Internet:  that it democratizes information, that it fuels creativity, that it promotes individuality and self-expression.  He argues that the driving force behind the Internet is popularity for popularity’s sake and that it is forging a mass consciousness rather than individual creativity.  What we see on the Internet, he argues, is the “mob-self,” in which just about every idea is derivative of someone else’s.  He also charges that it has “created a universal impatience with authority, with any kind of superiority conferred by excellence or expertise.”

So, yes, the non-profits we support should be using blogs.  Blogs, and the variety of communications forms shaping up on the Internet, can make a real contribution to the mission.  But it’s worth taking a moment to consider the social and cultural context of the web.

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Filed under Blogging

“Help me help you”; or is that help you help me?

What do you know?  What do I know?  What does anyone know?  No, this is not a philosophy blog…

 

I’m launching this “philanthrophile” blog in the hope it may help you to more effectively market and communicate about ideas and causes, and in the selfish hope that it will help me as I try to support some important and needy causes – like hospice, hunger and troubled youth.  I pledge to try to make the topic of each post clear at the outset so you can decide if you want to read on or press delete.  You can decide after reading the bullets below if you’re interested in the same general stuff, or not.

 

You may know my backstory.  Career in healthcare marketing and strategy, with a thread of innovation on behalf of consumers.  I’ve worked in advertising agencies, public relations agencies and been a marketing/strategy exec in two very large organizations.  Then three years ago, I retired to care for my now 92-year-old Dad, who is something of a walking miracle given the three heart attacks, two open heart operations and two strokes that he has survived quite nicely.  My jump off the corporate freeway has not quelled my appetite for marketing, or for community service.

 

So, this is my “Captain’s log” (apologies to Trekkies) about what I’m exploring and learning in my latest iteration:  pro bono marketing capability developer for selected causes.  Since philanthropy is a new application of my professional skills, I am on a binge, drinking in everything I can get my hands on.

 

Here are a few examples of things I’m interested in:

 

  • The philanthropy sector’s interest in systematic approaches to innovation, which look an awful lot like the innovation/new product development model my team and I created at my last corporate gig
  • How small, unsophisticated not-for-profits can improve their website’s “natural search” rankings (cheap and basic Search Engine Optimization techniques) as well as improve useability
  • Ideas about the life cycle of a donor, and how one develops a relationship from the first gift… through more major contributions (Customer Relationship Management)
  • The power of story — through words, photos and video story telling – as a means of engaging constituents and encouraging donations
  • Innovative partnerships between business people and philanthropic causes, and efforts of MBA programs to offer management guidance on a pro bono basis (such as the Kellogg Action Lab)
  • Digital communications opportunities, from website functionality to blogging, to e-newsletters, social networking and online engagement
  • Evaluation and tracking of online campaigns (particularly web analytics), as well as benchmarking studies
  • The emergence of donor marketplaces such as NetworkForGood
  • The intersection of traditional public relations and online marketing techniques

 

As you can see, my interests are about a mile wide and an inch deep.  As I pass along new nuggets, I’m hoping you’ll share what you’re seeing and learning.

 

And if you’d prefer not to ever, ever see this blog again – no harm, no foul.  Just unsubscribe!

 

As for schedule, I’ll blog when I think I have something worth sharing.  Let me know if it gets to be too much.  Thanks for playing!

 

Quote for the day:  “While the range of issues they can support is almost limitless, the number of tools that philanthropists have at their disposal is rather small. They have really 7 things to bring to the table: money, knowledge, time, expertise, connections, patience, and independence.”  Lucy Bernholz, Philanthropy 2173 (a favorite blog)

 

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