Tag Archives: social networking

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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Idealware Facebook research: what it’s best at

Idealware's webinar slide regarding its new Facebook research

See the sneak peek

I’m listening to Idealware’s free webinar, through which Andrea Berry and Kyle Andrei are walking participants through the highlights of their recent research survey of over 500 professionals who were using Facebook for their nonprofit organizations.  Here are a few findings that I found of particular interest:

  1. Organizations that are spending less than 2 1/2 hours a week monitoring and posting on Facebook don’t feel they’re having much success. (See screen shot of slide, below.)  On the other end of the spectrum, at some point there are diminishing returns for time spent, but more than 50% organizations spending 9 hours or more per week on Facebook rate their efforts as successful.  NTEN’s 2010 Nonprofit Social Network Survey of more than 11,000 professionals recently found that the majority (61%) allocate at least a quarter Full Time Equivalent to managing their social networks.
  2. One of the things Facebook does best is drive traffic to websites.  Those who reported success with their Facebook social networking efforts were most positive about FB’s ability to drive website traffic, and move people to action.  Kyle nudged listeners: are you giving constituents what they want to see on your website, or do you still have a website that’s been the same since the 90s?
  3. Facebook is best at generating lower level commitment, especially event attendance.  (See screen shot, below.) “It’s a very good entry point,” reminded Kyle, especially compared to its effectiveness at driving volunteering or donation behaviors.  Andrea chimed in, “They’re there to be social online but also offline,” so events are a good way to engage Facebook fans.
  4. While Facebook isn’t that great at generating donations, it’s a good place to let constituents know how your campaign is doing as another touchpoint.
  5. Facebook does help to raise awareness of an organization or its mission, in particular by enabling people to spread information more widely.  85% of respondents reported “some” or “substantial” success getting Facebook fans to spread information.
  6. Kyle and Andrea recommended Facebook Insights, the free, built-in administrators’ tool, as a starting point on a measurement program.  Unfortunately, they said, most of the respondents reported that they don’t have a formal measurement system for evaluating success.  Kyle also suggested measuring website visits from Facebook referrals through Google Analytics.  “Facebook is one of the biggest referrers to nonprofit web pages,” Andrea echoed.
  7. Surprising, a large number of respondents reported that they weren’t seeing a positive impact from their Facebook efforts.  Andrea speculated that organizations may have unrealistic goals, or they may be measuring the wrong things.  She reminded the group, “Social media is really uncharted territory.”

As you might expect, you can join Idealware on Facebook!

UPDATE:  Here is the link to the full set of slides from the seminar: http://seminars.idealware.org/social_media/Facebook_Research_1106.pdf

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What’s a good level of growth in Facebook fans?

Key (read from the bottom up on the chart)

1 – Loaves and Fishes; 2 – Susan G. Komen; 3 – WEAVE; 4 – American Red Cross; 5 – Volunteers of America; 6 – Salvation Army; 7 – River City Food Bank; 8 – St. John’s Shelter

Benchmarks have really been on my mind this week, including reporting the median number of unique website visitors for small-to-medium sized nonprofits from a recent study.  Today I’m thinking about Facebook benchmarks.  A little over a year ago, someone asked me, “So what’s a good number of Facebook fans for a local nonprofit?”  I blogged about my unscientific survey in a post here.

The organizations I chose to examine then were suggested by United Way’s Steve Heath as larger, active nonprofits.  I noted that the two with the largest fan bases had big initiatives underway: the Crocker was working on its big expansion, and Loaves & Fishes had undertaken a big capital campaign.

This week, I took a look at the same nonprofits to help get at the question, “So what’s healthy growth for Facebook fans?”  NTEN’s 2011 Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report found that the average fan base grew 161% between 2009 and 2010.  Although the study was based on information provided by more than 11,000 nonprofit professionals representing organizations of various sizes, the findings weren’t broken out by organization size, so it’s of limited use to our small, local nonprofits here in Sacramento.  I did find it interesting that 89% of nonprofits in the study reported they have a presence on Facebook.

In the chart above, I excluded the Crocker because they are so far above the norm and put a ton of resources into promoting their new expansion and opening.  They grew from a fan base of 4,561 in March 2010 to 9,952.  Yay, Crocker!  (I also want to acknowledge that the decline in Facebook fans I report above for the American Red Cross makes me wonder if they had a different page name/type a year ago.)  So, some data observations:

  • Four organizations had fewer than 500 fans 15 months ago.  Their growth ranged from 122%-347%.
  • Three organizations had between 500 and 1,000 fans.  Excluding American Red Cross, their growth was 117% for Susan G. Komen and 169% for WEAVE.
  • Loaves & Fishes and the Crocker, our stars a year ago, are still growing.  They grew 78% and 118%, respectively.
  • The organization with the fastest growth was St. John’s Shelter, with that whopping 347% growth.  Go, St. John’s!

I noted a year ago that there was little apparent relationship between the number of posts per week and the size of the fan base.  I still think that’s true based on some other sleuthing I’ve been doing.  Based on my reports earlier this week about the importance of content in generating engagement, and the value of timing, I’ve begun investigating the value of links to/from partners and other organizations, which show up on a fan page as the organization’s “likes”.  I’m also looking at the relationship between the number of photos and videos posted and fan engagement, and the relative prominence of the Facebook badge or “like” button on the organization’s website.

I used to work with a crusty former reporter who always looked for the “so what” in a news release.  “If that’s so, she said, then so what?”

The “so what” for me, in this case, is that local nonprofits — for the time being — should strive for at least 5-6% growth per month in new fans.  Shoot for 10% growth per month and you’ll be in the neighborhood of 185-200%* growth over the course of a year.   That would be aggressive, and if it were me, I wouldn’t commit to it unless I knew that there would be promotional dollars and resources to support a campaign.  It won’t happen by just posting away on Facebook.  (*I refused to pull out my Texas Instruments calculator to look at compounded growth, but my chicken scratchings should be close enough for targeting.)

At some point, the market for Facebook “fanage” may diminish, and it won’t be realistic to target growth in the 100%+ range, but for now, adoption still seems to be growing.  Local nonprofits should also be cautioned against simply adopting a growth target.  Benchmarks for should be chosen in the context of the average fan base of successful peer/similar organizations or industry-wide averages.

You should also keep in mind your end game with Facebook presence.  Besides the number of fans, active fans, new fans, etc., you should be tracking the number of Facebook referrals to your organization website through a tool like Google Analytics.  You want people engaged for a reason:  volunteer, donate, etc.  Your website is your involvement center.  (Google Analytics is free and makes it very easy to examine how visitors got to your site.  People who looked for you directly through your URL, and organic search through Google, will likely be the top two sources, but after that you should look for Facebook referral traffic… it may be down in the data details a waze.)

As a side note, Twitter adoption by nonprofits seems to have leveled off at about 60% according to the NTEN benchmarking study.  I don’t know if that’s a reflection of Twitter fatigue, or just that the consensus seems to be that there is better return from Facebook resource investments.









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How Sacramento non-profits are using social media like Facebook

That's Jordan, second from the left, participating in the Social Media panel discussion

My friend Jordan Blair, a fellow volunteer for River City Food Bank, participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Sacramento Social Media Club on Tuesday, November 17.  Representatives of three organizations — RCFB, Center for AIDS Research Education and Service (CARES), and the Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce — participated in the panel hosted by the Sacramento State College of Continuing Education, along with Lesley Miller, Media Director for 3Fold Communication.

Laura Good (a fitting name, given her beat) posted a story about the panel on SacramentoPress.com.  Oodles of detail.  Check it out.

You can check out the live tweet stream that was generated by Ira Cohen during the event by searching the Twitter hashtag, #SMCSac.

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Get out there and get messy!

Ms. Frizzle of Magic School Bus has always been one of my heroes, especially for her encouragement to “get out there and get messy” – her way of encouraging kids to explore science by messin’ around.  As media collapses, it’s more important for non-profits to take Ms. Frizzle’s advice by participating online where people already are — on Facebook, on news websites, on Twitter, etc. (More here about collapse of media and consequences/strategies for non-profitsand here.)

When you comment, you are often asked to identify yourself, to complete a profile, or to list a URL where more information may be found about you.  We’re all hinky about privacy issues, but as a representative or advocate of a non-profit cause or organization, you want people to get to know you, at least a little.  So that means you should have a URL where you list a profile.  I usually use my blog URL, but I also have a profile on LinkedIn and I’ve also created one on the Sacramento Bee site since I’ve commented on the editor’s forum there.  I also created one on NTEN Connect, an interactive site set up to complement a conference I’m attending.

David Meerman Scott of Web Ink Now reminds us that you can create a basic profile on GoogleFollow this link for more info and to get started.

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Want to stay current? Know about these 2.0 innovators

Ten days ago, Fast Company published a great list of innovative web 2.0 companies.  We’ve talked about some of them – like Facebook and Twitter – but you really should be familiar with Digg and Yelp.  I also think Ning is promising, but it’s premature to build this build-your-own-social-network tool into your non-profit marketing strategy.  Check it out!

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Introducing “Cave Man Listening”: a guide to low-tech “listening” for small non-profits

Some large non-profit organizations have both staff and technology to support an increasingly important activity:  listening to what’s being said over the Internet about one’s organization, cause and category.  If large and sophisticated non-profits are already in the Space Age by virtue of the technological tools they’re using, it’s still the Stone Age for small, resource-strained ones.  Hence, this is my first stab at a “how to” guide to social media listening, especially for small non-profits.


If, after reading this, you conclude that even “Cave Man Listening” is beyond the reach of your organization, at least encourage your staff and volunteers to establish LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter accounts and tell you when they come across conversations of interest to your cause or organization.  And get out there and comment!


1.                  Get your objective(s) straight


Think about your organization’s situation and strategy.  What are its most important aims?  To raise awareness of an issue?  To recruit volunteers?  To attract friends and donors?  As a starting point, choose your MOST IMPORTANT need and focus on that.  You can broaden out your listening efforts once you’ve figured out a basic approach that works for you.


2.                  Google your organization, your competitors, and the best keywords you can think of for your cause.  As a place to begin, include your geographic identifier, e.g. Sacramento.  (Experimenting with keywords and noting the number of Google results will tell you something about the most popular keywords.)


You’re not doing one search.  You’re doing several that relate to your organization and your cause.


3.                  Dig through the results – really dig, down to the 20th page or so.


The deeper you dig, the more you will begin to uncover the informal networks of people who are involved in your cause in some way.  You may find individuals who are blogging about events they’re sponsoring for a competitor.  You may find favorable, or not so favorable, comments about your services on yelp.  You may find people who are talking about your cause in more general terms, who may not know who you are and what you do.


If you can’t spend that much time – don’t worry about it.  Do what you can do, even if that’s just the 6th page of results.


Notice where the conversations are happening.  Are they on yelp?  Community boards?  Blogs?  Twitter?  LinkedIn?


As a place to begin, pick three venues that you want to track more regularly.


4.                  Recruit helpers if you can.  (If you can’t, skip to #6)


Once you’ve identified the priority “places” to listen, divide and conquer.  Who can help?  How about a new Board member who’s eager to get involved, especially one who is younger and uses social networking already?   A volunteer who’s a communications professional and wants to stay current with social networking trends?  Remember that they should participate as individuals, with (at least) an avatar to differentiate themselves from individuals and organizations that shamelessly use the ‘net for self-promotion; ideally, your helpers will feel comfortable identifying themselves with a screen name and potentially a photo.


5.                  Establish a goal and (softly) an accountability.


If the work is being divided, it needs to come back together.  And if you’re reading this “Cave Man Listening”, tag, you’re probably “it”.  Ask the helpers to experiment with listening for one month.  Ask them to “listen” at least once a week, and copy and capture what they learn in an email to you.  Very likely they’re helping out of the goodness of their hearts, so don’t make it a command.  Let them know that what they’re doing can really help the cause.


If you’re not pushing your luck, create a list of what to capture so that you can analyze the results later (see “Analyze” below).


6.                  Add just a little technology; at least sign up for Google Alerts.  As Google Alert Help explains:  Google Alerts are emails automatically sent to you when there are new Google results for your search terms. You can also choose to have your alerts delivered via feed to the feedreader of your choice (e.g., Google Reader or add the feed to your iGoogle page). We currently offer alerts with results from News, Web, Blogs, Video and Groups.  Go for the “comprehensive” option if you want alerts re: news, websites and blogs aggregated into a single email.  Amy Sample Ward has a great slideshow she’s posted online that walks you through what Google Alert and other online tools like Technorati and Google Blog Search look like, and how she uses them.  As Amy notes, if you start following certain blogs, you’re quickly going to want a way to aggregate the postings.  Google Reader ranks among the best RSS readers and it’s easy to subscribe.  Remember, if you don’t read posts when they hit your reader, you can always search/scan later… so don’t panic when you start to feel buried by all of the information coming at you.


7.                  When you turn up discussions about your cause or organization, carefully consider opportunities for response.


Each “hit” is an opportunity, but sometimes no response is the right response.  If the post/message is already favorable about your organization, you may be able to comment with encouragement and let the individual know about your organization’s recent success stories or upcoming opportunities to get more involved.  If the post/message is negative, first consider whether you are likely to get “flamed” by commenting; don’t take the bait if bloggers are into bashing, degrading, satirizing or ranting.  For other negatively leaning posts, follow the rules of good public relations:  acknowledge the individual’s concern/experience, respectfully provide correct information if you think that’s appropriate, and follow-up if needed.  Tone is important and so is taking action to investigate, at the very least.  Network for Good is just one organization that says they have successfully converted nay-sayers into some of their biggest advocates.  If the post/message is just about the cause/issue, and not your organization, offer information about your organization as a way to get involved and make a difference.


8.                  Analyze:  what do the results “say”?


In a more resourced world, you’d be able to analyze the data several ways with a tool:  according to key words, active individuals, sources (websites, blogs, etc.) and so on.  At the most low-tech end of the spectrum, print out or review the emails you’ve received.  What’s the gestalt?  Do you detect a pattern about where/how groups and individuals are communicating about issues or organizations related to your cause?


If you’ve got the time, .xls isn’t a bad way to create a database of entries, with columns for key factors such as:


Key words (look for core key words like “hunger” and “hungry” as well as phrases like “feed the hungry” or “fight hunger” – and don’t forget more general key words like “charity” or “volunteer”)


Favorable/unfavorable/neutral (overall opinion being expressed)


Individual names (e.g. the blogger’s “handle”)


Individual organizations (e.g. the organization the individual is promoting or referencing, including information groups or coalitions)


Individual or organization blogs, posts etc. at… (many profiles and comments allow individuals to specify whether they have a blog or website)


Source (URL if you’ve got it)


Mentions of other organizations or collaborators


“Ask” (what is the individual asking readers/followers to do?)


“Tell” (what critical bits – facts or ideas – is the individual sharing?  This includes complaints, warnings and suggestions.)


9.                  Refine.


Based on the results, prioritize the best “places” on the Internet for you to continue to listen.  Re-up your volunteer helpers if you can.  Based on results, you may eventually find that acquiring a more sophisticated tool, like Radian6, would be of use to your organization.



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What can non-profits learn from the campaign?

I started to write a post about title tags (sounds boring, but they actually matter), but I am just too excited to focus on something that granular.


Several weeks ago, Lucy Bernholz, who writes Philanthropy 2173, asked:

What can philanthropy learn from political campaigns?


Her post is worth reading, but here are three of my take-aways about what the most recent presidential campaign demonstrated:


1.     The message matters. 

A powerful message isn’t just dressing up an idea in new clothes.  It comes from understanding underlying values:  what people really want, and what they are concerned about.  Savvy product marketers and advertisers understand this when they sell cars as reflection of personal identity rather than a set of features.  With its message of “saving lives every day,” the American Cancer Society understands that people want hope.  The Humane Society understands that many people care deeply about the animal-human bond.  The Elizabeth Hospice in San Diego, which must talk about death in a culture of youth and invincibility, speaks to the underlying value of comfort that people have found in hospice when facing terminal illness:  “We listen, we care, we comfort.” 


I don’t want to pick on any specific philanthropies, but often organizations are too abstract (“expanding horizons through the power of one-on-one friendships”), too focused on describing what they do (“a powerful voice…”) or too focused on the features (“we are the crucial first link in the system that…”).  We fail to move people.


2.    The message-carrier matters.


One of the first things that a crisis communications expert does is to identify the spokesperson – someone who will be seen as credible, and who at least offers a sympathetic public face.  That’s why nurses are preferred as hospital spokespersons rather than old white guy administrators for many issues.  On more proactive messages, some of the best message carriers are the beneficiaries of the organization’s efforts.  March of Dimes understands the power of personal stories, and has found an innovative way to collect and share them through its “Every Baby Has a Story” interactive story map.  CARE uses videos and testimonials from women around the world as part of its “I am powerful” campaign.  Going in to this election, voter turnout was running less than 60%, in part because many groups felt disengaged or disenfranchised.  Who better than Barack Obama to convince people who felt cynical about the political process that their vote – their one vote – could matter?


3.     Finally, the medium matters.


Showing a grasp of electronic communication and social networking was crucial to attracting younger voters (even ones not all that young).  And that isn’t just because these voters use and prefer these modes of communication.  It’s that a candidate simply isn’t seen as “with it” if he or she doesn’t demonstrate a level of comfort through their campaign organization.


So what can philanthropists learn?  Too often, we restate or spice up mission statements as the basis of our message, rather than identifying and speaking to underlying values with evocative language.  Too often, our executive directors are the voice of the organization, rather than spokespersons who not only carry the message but live the issue or problem.  And too often, websites and social networking are seen as less than critical because we think that our donors are older and aren’t using electronic communications.  Not only do we miss an important part of the communications equation, but in doing so, we’ve just told a whole segment of the market that we aren’t “with it” enough to engage them.


What do you think non-profits and causes can learn from the election?  What organizational or cause-related websites convey a powerful message, and demonstrate that they’re “with it”?


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“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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