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Tending Your Social Media Garden

August 12, 2010 by MemberPath posted in: Social Media

Social media requires attention to ensure continued success. Luckily, this attention takes next to no time to give! Social media maintenance is easy: just post new content every now and then and make sure to interact with your followers.

There’s a lot of great free tools available to help you measure the ongoing success of your social media presence. Here’s just a few:

1. PostRank (Originally called AideRSS) allows you to enter a feed URL and it returns statistics about its posts, including which are the most popular based on how many times they are shared on a variety of social bookmarking sites (Google, Digg, Del.icio.us).

2. Google Analytics and Feedburner help analyze your company’s blog traffic, subscriber count, keyword optimization and additional trends

3. Xinu is a handy website where you can type in a URL and receive a load of useful statistics ranging from search engine optimization (SEO) to social bookmarking and more.

4. Bit.ly is a URL-shortening service that also offers a lot of powerful click-through tracking features
 

Hopefully some of the tools we've linked to above will help you get started with keeping your social media campaigns well-tended, as well as help you measure their success!

Do you have a favorite analytics tool? What do you think is the best way to measure the success of your social media campaigns? Tell us about it in the comments!

Social Media's ROI for Non-Profits

It's one of the biggest social media topics discussed on the internet today: Return on Investment. "How do you measure ROI for social media campaigns?" is the question that gets asked over and over again. However, that's really not the right question to be asking initially, especially for non-profits. A better question to ask first is, "Should we be trying to measure and quantify our ROI for social media?"

One of the most important things to take away about measuring ROI for social media is that there is no universally accepted metric or system for measuring ROI. In fact, it’s a mistake to think of social media as a plug-and-chug, “if you build it, they will donate” kind of solution.

The most important part of exploring social media’s ROI is your goals. However you choose to measure ROI for your organization’s social media campaigns, it is absolutely essential that it matches what your goals for the campaign are. If your goal is to increase awareness of your organization, you should measure your “ROI” in terms of something like percentage increase in monthly unique visitors to your website. The biggest mistake you can make is to only think of ROI in terms of literal dollar amounts – this concept simply doesn’t apply to social media. So instead of traditional ROI metrics, try measuring your social media success based on things like number of followers/friends, quality of conversations, click-through rates on your links (see the next section for information on some tools you can use to measure this), or number of interactions.

While it may seem like there’s a ton of articles published about using social media for fundraising and advertising, we would caution you and your organization against focusing too heavily on social media’s uses for fundraising purposes. Social media’s true value lies in the increased awareness and recognition it can provide, as well as giving your organization a more personalized image.

ROI is a tricky subject, not least of all because it's often what boards of directors and committees want to hear about as a "bottom line." However, its important to keep it in perspective when talking about social media - evaluate your organizational goals first, and decide if it's even right for your organization to be attempting to measure specific ROI for your social media campaigns.

 

How does your organization measure the success of its social media campaigns? Tell us about it in the comments!

Best of the Rest, Part 3: Myspace and Ning

Today's "Best of the Rest" installment is a little different. It's the final post in our series (read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here if you missed them!), and today's two featured social networking sites are actually, in our opinion, usually best avoided. However, we recieve lots of questions about them, so here's our take on Myspace and Ning:

Best of the Rest, Part 3

 

5. Myspace

Myspace is one of the larger social networking sites on the web. However, we would caution nonprofits against trying to use Myspace for increasing awareness or for fundraising activities. In our experience, the only organizations that Myspace would be a good choice for are those with a very young (early teen) target demographic. In nearly all other cases, we’ve found Myspace to be less than useful for nonprofits.

 

6. Ning

Another service we get a lot of questions about is Ning. Ning is an online platform which allows users to create their own social networks based around specific interests. Users can choose and customize the features and visual design they want.

While Ning may sound like a great idea, however, in recent years the company has been at the center of a lot of controversy. One of the most disturbing developments was when Ning notified its network creators that Ning would be emailing their entire membership bases with marketing emails – however, most members were not even aware that the network they were part of was a part of the larger Ning network. Even worse is that Ning network creators often pay a fee to keep Ning promotional ads off of their sites – so the idea that Ning would bypass that completely by sending marketing emails straight to network members is unsettling.

Furthermore, social networks already exist for just about everything under the sun. Why try to do something better than the market leader? Facebook has already done all the work of creating a huge network with a lot of features, so why not just use theirs?

 

So now you've gotten our take on the major social media sites - what's yours? What do you think of the "Best of the Rest" websites we've discussed? Are there any we missed that you'd like us to talk about? Let us know in the comments!

Best Of The Rest, Part 2: Flickr and Email

July 15, 2010 by MemberPath posted in: Education & Best Practices

Today, we're continuing our "Best of the Rest" mini-series on some social media and web presence options that aren't as frequently discussed as Facebook and Twitter. If you missed Part 1 last week, check it out here!

Best of the Rest, Part 2

3. Flickr
 Flickr is a photo-hosting website with a very strong community focus. On Flickr, users can upload and share photos with friends, family, and the Flickr community as a whole. Philanthropic nonprofits can use Flickr to share high-impact photos with donors and other interested parties. Memberships, on the other hand, can use Flickr to post photos from events and member-provided images.


While Flickr accounts are individual accounts, Flickr’s group feature allows groups of users to share related photos and post on a discussion board. For nonprofits, we recommend having an official individual account controlled by a designated person within the organization, but to also have a dedicated group. Groups can be either public or private, and public groups can be either invitation-only or open membership.


4. Email

Although many advances have been made in other areas of social media, email is still king. Everyone who uses the internet uses it. In order to maintain a strong online presence, nonprofits should also make sure they investigate the use of email for raising awareness and helping drive fundraising campaigns. Email marketing is one of the easiest and best ways to reach members and donors. It is quick, measurable, and cost effective.

One of the best tools for setting up email campaigns is a free web-based tool called MailChimp. MailChimp is simple, user-friendly, and highly customizable and effective.

Try setting up a fake MailChimp email campaign to send to yourself. Go to www.mailchimp.com and test out their customizable campaign creators.

 

How do you think nonprofits can use photosharing websites like Flickr? How does your organization use email marketing to promote your cause? Tell us about it in the comments!

Best Of The Rest, Part 1: LinkedIn and YouTube

Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace are the giants of the social media world. But what else is out there? Today, we’ll be starting a short series of blog posts discussing the “Best of the Rest” – which other social media outlets are also worth nonprofits' attention, and why?

Best of the Rest, Part 1


1. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social networking site for business and professional networking. Site users can build a network of business contacts that they either know personally or know through a friend. One of LinkedIn’s unique attributes is its focus on a reputation-based system – users vouch for their “connections” (contacts), and the implication is that one’s connections are people that you know and trust in business.


LinkedIn also has a feature called “LinkedIn Groups.” LinkedIn Groups are similar to Facebook groups, but with a business focus. Groups can be formed in any subject matter – for example, alumni groups or industry groups. With Groups, LinkedIn users can find new contacts in relevant areas of interest.

LinkedIn can be especially useful for nonprofits because of its professional focus. It also has a recently-released applications platform that will allow you to integrate your blog content, slideshows, upload files such as resumes or whitepapers, and even display your business travel plans.

Getting started on LinkedIn is easy. At www.linkedin.com, just enter your information into the signup form. After you’ve entered your basic information, you’re also able to upload a resume, import contacts from your email address book, join Groups, and update your profile.

 

2. YouTube
YouTube is a site for posting, sharing, and commenting on videos. YouTube users can upload videos from their computers, create playlists of other users’ videos, and watch and comment on videos. Recently, YouTube has launched special channels specifically for nonprofits. The Non-Profit Channel Program features increased uploading capacity, as well as built-in donation integration.

YouTube in particular can be useful for nonprofits because of its widespread reach and accessibility of medium. Videos can add a personal, yet professional touch to a fundraising campaign. They're also more eye-catching and attention-grabbing than other, more traditional forms of online media.

Signing up for YouTube is, unsurprisingly, just as simple as signing up for LinkedIn. Just go to YouTube.com and click the "Create Account" link in the top right-hand corner. Enter your information, and the on-screen instructions will guide you through the rest of the process of uploading videos.


Do you use LinkedIn? What about YouTube? What, in your opinion, are some of the characteristics of good videos? Should nonprofits be exploring alternative media on the web, such as video? Tell us about it in the comments!
 

Tweetcabulary

July 01, 2010 by MemberPath posted in: Social Media

Today, we'll be taking a little bit more focused look at some specific linguistic quirks that are unique to Twitter, the microblogging network. We've talked about Twitter before - you can read about it here.

One of the most intimidating things for new Twitter users is the new vocabulary they have to learn. Twitter’s 140-character limit has led to a whole slew of abbreviations and specialized Twitter-lingo that can be difficult to pick up at first. To help with that, here’s a quick glossary of some frequently-used Twitter terms:
 

Basic Tweetcabulary

Tweet: n. the name for the 140-character maximum posting that a user makes to their Twitter account. In its most basic form answers the question “What are you doing?”, but can also be statements, links, anecdotes, questions, etc.; or v. To tweet: The act of writing a tweet and posting it to Twitter
Follow: vt. To “follow” someone on Twitter means to enable their updates (see: “tweets”) to show up in your timeline
Timeline: n. The chronological listing of tweets of those whom you follow that comprises the majority of the Twitter homepage when signed in.
RT: vt. To “ReTweet” is to copy and paste someone else’s tweet verbatim (or as close to verbatim) as possible. Follows the format “RT @username text of original tweet,” or “text of original tweet (via @username)”
DM: vt. To “Direct Message” is to send someone a private message that only they can see. Direct Messages do not show up in the public timeline.
@-reply: n. a way of directing public tweets to specific users, or of mentioning users by name in a way that links others to their Twitter accounts. Ex. “@username did you see that article in the NYT yet about Twitter?”, or “Grabbing a quick bite to eat with @username!”
 

Advanced Tweetcabulary

Hashtag: n. a way of organizing groups of tweets about particular topics. Commonly used for disaster relief, memes, and location reference. Ex. “#sandiegofire 300,000 people evacuated in San Diego County now”, or “Where’s a good place for sushi in #rva?”, “#welshfilms Breakfast at Mythanwys”
Tweeps: n. pl. A portmanteau of “Twitter” and “Peeps (people)”, “tweeps” is what many Twitter users call their followers
Twitpic: n. a third-party service that allows users to post photos from cell phones or email to Twitter
Trending Topics: n. pl. Topics that are being mentioned frequently by many users. Trending Topics are searchable and tracked by Twitter.
Tweetup: n. When Twitter users meet in real life.

 

 

Hopefully this glossary can help clear up some of the confusion you can have when you first start using Twitter.

Do you use any other Twitter terms? Give us a definition in the comments and we'll add it to our glossary!

 

 

Getting Started With Twitter For Nonprofits

June 21, 2010 by MemberPath posted in: Social Media

So: your organization has decided that it wants to explore social media, and you’ve decided on using Twitter as one of your avenues of communication. However, starting out with new technology can be intimidating and overwhelming. To help with that initial startup anxiety, we’ve put together this guide to getting started on Twitter for nonprofits.

1. Create an account and set up your profile
The easiest, and also the most important part of the whole process. All you need to do is go to Twitter.com and click the big “Get Started – Join!” button. Fill in the required fields, and bam! You’ve got a Twitter account.

Next, you have to set up your profile. Make sure to add a photo – you can either use a personal photo of the person who’ll be updating the account, or your organization’s logo. Make sure to post a link to your organization’s blog or website in the “Web” section, and add a brief (very brief – 160 characters is the limit!) description of your organization to the “bio” section. Here’s some examples:

“Official twitter stream for the American Red Cross. Follow us for disaster and preparedness updates.” - @RedCross
 
“Create The Good is the network to connect AARP members, friends and families with ways to make a difference.” -@CreateTheGood

2. Build your network
Post one or two introductory “tweets” – maybe a link to your blog or website, and a brief introduction. Then you can begin to build your network. Use the “Find People” feature to check for people in your email address book who are already using Twitter. You can also use the search feature to search for people who are tweeting about your area of interest – for example, you can search for “poverty” or “hunger” to find people tweeting about those topics, then you can follow them. Often, people you follow will follow you back.

3. Listen!
Once you’ve built up your network a little bit, you need to listen! Before posting frequent tweets, take the time to see what your followers and the people you follow are talking about, and how the conversations flow. Get an idea of the culture that your particular field has in its Twitter presence before jumping in.

4. Engage
After you’ve figured out how the conversations are going, it’s time to engage. Join into conversations with your followers, post facts about your organization, updates about upcoming events, interesting links, etc. Make sure that everything you post has some sort of value to your followers. Encourage followers to join in with a call to action – ask them to “retweet” your posts, tell a friend about your organization, and so on. When people become engaged, you’ll develop relationships that can build a great deal of value for your organization.

Blogs vs. Forums vs. LISTSERVs

One of the most frequent questions we get here at MemberPath is “What’s the difference between a blog, a forum, and a listserv?” For someone new to social media, all these things can seem interchangeable and confusing – in reality, however, they all serve distinct purposes.

Blogs
The word “blog” comes from a contraction of the words “web log,” and a blog in its most basic form is just that: a log of whatever the author choose to write about. Originally, most blogs were online journals of individuals, dedicated to their daily lives and whatever else they wanted to write about. Today, while that type of blog is still very common, the most successful blogs are usually centered around some specific topic – they can be location-based (like “Dining out in Richmond, VA”), interest-based (like “Awkward Family Photos” – really!), or anything else the author has the desire to write about.

With blogs, one person (the blog’s author, or “blogger”) has control over the content. They can post what they want, when they want. Most blogs allow other users to post comments, but the blogger still has control over what gets posted and can choose to delete any comments they want.

Forums

A forum is an online meeting place or discussion board, where users can start conversations (or “threads”) with new topics, or contribute to already-existing threads. In a forum, all members are created equal – except for the moderators. Forum moderators are people with administrative power, who keep an eye on the forum’s posts and watch out for abuse and off-topic content. Forums can be public or restricted, general or specific, and ___. Forums are much more community-based than blogs are.

Forums can be organized into different areas for different things – for example, a forum about pets could be organized into sections for “dogs,” “cats,” “small mammals, “birds,” “reptiles,” etc., and then each of those categories can have many different threads, like “what’s the best type of food for 2-year-old Labradors?” or “Are parakeets good pets for children?” etc. Forum members can then share their knowledge and experience with each other. Many forum threads are based on questions from members, but they can also be media-based (“post pictures of your pet turtles here!”) or informative (“list of links about Siamese cats”).

LISTSERV
A “LISTSERV” is a commonly-used name for an online mailing list. Technically, it’s actually incorrect – the term “LISTSERV” refers to the specific computer software developed to help create and manage mailing lists – but to many people, the terms are interchangeable. The way a mailing list works is simple: a user sends an e-mail to the mailing list address, and the listserver (software that is being used to manage the list) distributes the message to everyone who is subscribed to the mailing list.

With a mailing list, typically one or a few people are writing, and many are listening. There are two main types of mailing lists: “announcement lists” and “discussion lists.” An announcement list essential functions like a newsletter – information is distributed in one direction to people who are subscribed to the list. Discussion lists, on the other hand, are more like forums – while one person may start the conversation, list subscribers are all able to contribute and reply to everyone else on the list.

Other types of personally-published online content...


Podcasts: a “podcast” is an audio recording that usually has the same type of content as a blog, but can also be interviews, roundtable discussions, etc. podcasts are typically produced in mp3 format (as it’s the most commonly used audio filetype), and made available for download through the iTunes music store or on a blog or website.


Vlog: a “vlog” is a video weblog. Again, the content is usually the same as a blog/podcast, but in video format. Videos may be uploaded to YouTube or a similar service, and then posted on blogs and websites.


Wiki: a Wiki is collaborative informational website that allows users to upload and edit content. The most widely-used and well-known wiki is Wikipedia, a massive online encyclopedia.

Further information

A great video about blog basics, by Lee LeFever of the CommonCraft Show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NN2I1pWXjXI

Another CommonCraft Show video, this one on wikis: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dnL00TdmLY
 

What companies and organizations are using social media well?

Sometimes the best way to gain inspiration for how your organization should use social media is to look at other companies and organizations that are using it well. In this post, we’ll look at two for-profit companies and two non-profit organizations that are successfully utilizing social media to accomplish their goals.

For-Profit: Whole Foods & Comcast

Two for-profit corporations that have really taken social media to heart are Whole Foods, a healthy grocery chain, and Comcast, the telecom giant.

Whole Foods uses Twitter and blogging to connect with customers. On their Twitter account, they post about new things going on with the store (“just launched bicycle delivery for downtown Austin!”), respond to customer complaints, and host giveaways for things like tickets to Bonnarroo, a huge folk and rock music festival. Whole Foods uses their blog to write about a variety of subjects. They have different contributors, who all go by their full names – giving their blog just the right level of personal touch. They post about everything from summer skin care to the difficulties faced by cherry growers to progress with their “Local Producer Loan Program,” a program initiated to help local farmers raise the funds they need to grow their crops. Their posts always have a connection with the store (their post on the health benefits of probiotics mentions that Whole Foods offers lots of foods and supplements which contain the bacteria, for example), but it never feels like an in-your-face sell. You can check Whole Foods out on Twitter at http://twitter.com/wholefoods, and their blog at http://blog.wholefoodsmarket.com/

Comcast has gained some media attention lately for their use of the @comcastcares Twitter account. @comcastcares is the Twitter account run by Frank Eliason, Comcast’s Director of Digital Care. Through the @comcastcares account, he responds to customer complaints and service requests. This personal touch and individual attention has helped smooth a lot of ruffled customer feathers. You can visit Frank’s Twitter account at http://twitter.com/comcastcares.
 

Non-Profits: Create The Food & The National Wildlife Federation


On the non-profit side of things there’s Create The Good and the National Wildlife Federation.

Create The Good is the AARP’s community network for connecting AARP members, family, friends, and volunteers. They use Twitter in a highly effective manner to coordinate volunteers, disseminate useful information, and interact with people. They also use Facebook to post videos and links to other blogs and organizations. Create the Good is on Twitter at http://twitter.com/createthegood and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Create-The-Good/60336535038.

The National Wildlife Federation is also using Twitter in a great way. In an article on Mashable.com about 26 non-profits on Twitter, the author writes “Not only has The National Wildlife Federation embraced Twitter by tweeting under some of their own brands like @greenhour and @wildlife_watch, they’ve mobilized the troops to tweet under their own identities to help promote the mission. They also have a Twitter search stream on their website for people to see what other wildlife watchers are twittering about.”* The National Wildlife Federation’s main Twitter account is at http://twitter.com/nwf, and you can read about who’s behind the tweets at http://blogs.nwf.org/arctic_promise/2009/01/nwfs-staff-on-twitter.html

So, in short, social media is a great tool for non-profits and for-profit corporations alike, and many organizations are using it in new and creative ways. How does your organization use social media? Leave us a comment about it!

*26 Charities and Non-Profits on Twitter." Mashable – The Social Media Guide. 19 May 2009 <http://mashable.com/2009/03/19/twitter-nonprofits/>.

Blogging about Blogs: Self-Publishing in the Digital Age

Blogging is an absolute necessity in today’s web-driven business world. Long story short, you MUST blog. Luckily, it’s not a hard habit to pick up!

First, you must choose whether you want to launch a blog within your own website or use a free blog service. Both choices have pros and cons – launching a blog within your own site means your hits stay on your site, you have absolute control over design and content, and your blog is streamlined with the rest of your site. However, you’ll have to find a solution for updating and editing your blog that works for you, and it won’t be as plug-and-play as most blog services are. Using a free blog service can help simplify the blogging process, which can be helpful for new users. Many blog services have excellent templates so while design won’t be identical to your site, you can definitely get close. However, most free blog services support themselves with ad revenue, so you might have advertisements on your blog. Furthermore, users will have to leave your main site to access your blog, and the domain won’t match yours.

Once you decide what platform you want to use to blog from, you must think about what to blog. Always, as with anything you publish online, keep your goals in mind. Provide fresh content that is relevant to your goals – and provide it frequently. Blogs should be updated at least twice a month, but weekly or bi-weekly posts tend to be a good, manageable frequency. Make sure your content provides some sort of value to your audience, and has some relevancy to your organization’s industry, field, and goals.

Another thing to keep in mind while blogging is how to increase your audience. Blogs can be a great way to drive traffic to your site, as they can often receive unique hits of their own, and even gain their own followings. So search out where people are gathering and talking about the things you post. Find other bloggers and link to their articles, or find forums centered around some topic you’ve written about. If you can increase your blog’s traffic, you can also increase your website’s traffic!

Always include links back to relevant areas on your website. For example, when we here at MemberPath blog about things related to increasing your website’s traffic, we like to mention our TrafficGrow program, which you can find more information about here. This keeps your audience searching around the site, and points them to information within your own website that might be useful to them (for example, did you know that we do FREE TrafficGrow consultations? Request one now!).

Finally, empower your audience to spread your message. Enabling comments on your blog posts can spark discussions and get people talking about what you write. Get people fired up about your message! Every time someone says “Hey, I read this great blog post the other day…” about something you write is another chance to gain a new visitor to your site and possibly a new donor or customer!

So, to sum it all up: Blog. YOU MUST BLOG. Whether you blog on your own site or use a free blogging service, make sure you’re always thinking about how to increase your traffic and always linking back to your own site (and other sites!). And finally, empower your audience to spread your message. Happy blogging!

 

How do you use your blog to increase traffic to your website? Tell us about it in a comment!

Writing for the Web

May 13, 2010 by MemberPath posted in: Education & Best Practices

Web Effective Copy Writing

As more and more people turn to the internet for information, products, and services, the ability to write effectively for the web is becoming increasingly more important. These days, anyone with an internet connection and the motivation to do so can start a website or a blog – it’s not like print media, where journalists and writers go to school to learn how to write well, and magazines hire teams of copy editors to make sure everything’s correct. When you write for the web, you have to be your own copy editor, and believe it or not, it’s a whole different ball of wax than writing for print.

Writing for the web has its own unique set of difficulties and idiosyncrasies. One of the most important factors to keep in mind while writing for the web, aside from simple readability, is Search Engine Optimization (“SEO”). While writing content for your blog or website, you must keep in mind how best to optimize (See our blog post “Is Your Website Optimized?” for more information on optimization) your words.

One of the best ways to help maximize the effectiveness of your writing online is to recognize that many different people, not just people with a knowledge of your industry, might be reading what you write. And if you want a wider audience to be able to find you and your website, you need to cut down on industry jargon and use broader, more reader-friendly terminology. People often search with familiar language, so try to think of how you would say what you’re writing if you were just speaking to a friend or relative about the topic. For example, most people might search for “Nursing Home” rather than the industry standard “Assisted Living Facility,” so to gather more search hits, you might want to use the former rather than the latter. It can often be a fine line between political correctness and familiarity, though, so be careful and use your own best judgment based on knowledge of your field.

Another thing to keep in mind when writing for the web is to use keywords in headlines and page titles. Search engines such as Google place an increased amount of importance on words used in those areas of a web page, so be sure to be descriptive and accurate there. Be careful not to overdo it, though - maintaining clarity is much more important than trying to cram as many words as possible into a title.

Next, you’ll want to keep in mind your overall keyword density and variety. Use important keywords multiple times throughout a content area – be careful to keep it natural, however, and not overbearing. Also, try to use different variations of key words and phrases where you can – that way you’ll be able to capture even more traffic as users search for slightly different things.

Finally, make sure different sections and pages of your website remain clear and consistent. Consistency is crucial, because you don’t want different pages of your website to say different things. This can be confusing to visitors and might frustrate them with your site and your organization – even worse, it might lead incoming traffic astray and cost your website hits.

These are just a few tips and tricks for improving your web copy writing. What techniques do you use to make your words stand out on the web? Tell us in the comments!

Want more help and ideas with increasing your site’s traffic? Contact us today for a FREE TrafficGrow consultation!

Is Your Website Optimized?

Are you optimized? “Optimization” can mean many things, but when we talk about it in a web development sense, we take it to mean something a little more specific. At MemberPath, we refer to a website as “optimized” when it does an effective job of driving traffic and visitors to the places and pages where you want them to go. When your site is optimized, you are utilizing the tools you have available to you online to their utmost efficiency in a way that successfully directs web users to your website. 

 

So how do you know if you’re optimized? For starters, there are 5 main questions that your organization needs to be able to answer. If you can answer all of these, then chances are you’re well on your way to being optimized!

 

1. What are the top 3 goals that your website supports for your organization, and how do you measure its success?

In order to have a successful web presence, you need to start with the basics: your goals. By having a strong knowledge of what your organizational goals are, you can utilize your website and social media to support those in the best way possible. 

 

One of the key characteristics of good goal-setting behavior is the ability to define goals in quantifiable, measurable ways. Being able to measure the success – or failure – of your goals is an essential part of optimization.

 

2. What other sites send the most relevant traffic to your website? 

Another important aspect of optimization is knowing where your traffic is coming from. This question, and the next one, are both answered best using a measurement tool such as Google Analytics. When you know where your traffic is coming from, you’re more easily able to fine-tune your website to cater to those visitors. Or, if it’s not coming from where you want it to, you’ll be better able to decide how to fix it and what changes you should make to attract the right traffic.

 

3. What search terms have you utilized on your website, and more importantly, how do you know they are the most effective search terms?

Google and other search engines are a powerful means of obtaining traffic for your site. Through Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you can figure out what search terms people are using to find your site, and then make sure to utilize them to the utmost in order to capture as much potential traffic as possible. Again, tools such as Google Analytics can help you discover what search terms are leading the most visitors to your site – and the results may surprise you!

 

4. Who are the top bloggers in your field or industry, and what are you doing to help them?

Bloggers are increasingly becoming a strong force in the web industry. Many people now turn to blogs for information, reviews, and even news before they turn to other sources. Bloggers work hard to build up a reputation in their field, and it’s a good idea to seek out the top bloggers in your industry who may have already built up a following of people who could be interested in your organization, product, or service. By linking to blogs from your website, you’re helping those bloggers gain more traffic from your visitors. And, in turn, this can catch their attention and they may link back to your site, giving you more traffic as well. Regardless of whether they drive traffic back to you or not, however, by linking to well-known blogs in your field you show your visitors that you are actively engaged in the community built around the common interest of your industry. 

 

5. What online forums and social media sites are people going to looking for information you can provide?

Finally, the last piece of the optimization puzzle is seeking out where your target audience is already congregating on the web. By figuring out where people are talking about your field, you’ll have a much better idea of where you should be targeting them. Is there an active forum about your field? Are people talking about it on Twitter? Or is Facebook where your target audience congregates? Knowing where your audience is will tell you where you should be – if they’re on Twitter, you need to be on Twitter. If they’re on Facebook, you need to be on Facebook. 

 

Optimization can be a tricky concept to grasp, but it’s extremely important for the success of your website. Want more help and ideas? Check out MemberPath’s “TrafficGrow” service, and contact us for a FREE TrafficGrow consultation!  

Social Media for Philanthropic Non-Profit Organizations

The use of social media for philanthropic non-profit organizations (NPOs) has been well-documented on blogs all over the internet – it’s rapidly becoming a more widely-accepted tool for promotion and (sometimes) fundraising.

The best use of social media from a charitable org perspective is for raising awareness. Just like many for-profit companies are using it to raise brand awareness, non-profits can do so as well – often with great success. Some great examples of this are the American Cancer Society and the 1010 Project. Both organizations use Twitter to raise awareness of their cause (Cancer and poverty in Kenya, respectively). The American Cancer Society tweets facts about cancer and news about the Society, while the 1010 Project tweets facts about Kenyan poverty and interacts with followers.

Another great use of social media for philanthropic NPOs is to recruit new volunteers. This is closely linked to raising brand awareness; as more people become aware of your organization, your pool of potential volunteers widens. Plus, with social media, you have an easy way to contact them. In the case of Facebook in particular, people who become supporters of a “Causes” page are those who already have some interest in the organization – so the likelihood that they’d be interested in volunteering is significantly higher than that of a random person off the street. Social media enables you to target volunteer coordination efforts specifically to people who are already interested. 

Social media can also be used to get current volunteers and interested parties fired up and active about your cause – having a near-constant level of contact about your efforts keeps the cause fresh in people’s minds. On Facebook, your organization can create groups and events to connect volunteers with one another. It also enables you to listen and respond to supporters, giving you feedback on what they’re interested in, how they can help, what they think of your organization, etc.

Two companies who have really gotten social media in a philanthropic sense right are the Nature Conservancy, and, surprisingly, the for-profit corporation Target. Chances are if you’ve been on Facebook at all in the past year, you’ve gotten an invitation for an application called (Lil) Green Patch. This app, which was developed for The Nature Conservancy, enables users to trade virtual plants with each other, and for every ten plants a person receives, sponsors contribute money to save one square foot of rainforest in Costa Rica. The Nature Conservancy’s social media strategy is simple and effective: “find where people spend time online and engage them in those places.”*

Retail giant Target has taken a slightly different approach. Target gives 5% of their income to charity, which amounts to about $3 million per week. For their “Bullseye Gives” campaign, Target allowed Facebook users to vote for their favorite charities. They then divided the $3 million according to the percentage of votes – for example, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital received 26.6% of the votes, so they received 26.6% of the money ($797,123).

While social media is a great tool for philanthropic organizations, it does have limitations. The main one is that it really is not an immediate donation-gathering device. Many organizations tend to think that “if we build it, they will donate,” which simply isn’t the case. Social media users are wary of being “sold” something, even if that something is a cause to donate to. Social media is much stronger as a tool for raising awareness – and through increased awareness eventually increased donations can come. Plus, social media may simply not be the right market for soliciting donations. Michael Nilsen of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, an industry research and advocacy group, has said that “These sites are attracting younger people who probably aren’t in their giving prime yet,” he said. “But it’s a great way to spread awareness and build relationships that could lead to donations in the future.”**

So, social media can be a great (and powerful) tool for charitable non-profit organizations. It’s excellent for raising awareness, coordinating volunteers, and getting people fired up. While it does have limitations, they are certainly possible to overcome with a strong social media strategy and a little bit of time and energy.

How does your favorite non-profit use social media? Tell us about it in the comments!


*Chaudhuri, Saabira. "Innovative Giving: The Nature Conservancy and (Lil) Green Patch." FastCompany. 15 Dec. 2008. 28 May 2009 <http://www.fastcompany.com/node/1112956>.

**Hiskes, Jonathan. "Facebook, Twitter, MySpace become latest way for organizations to connect with potential donors and raise awareness." Charlotte Business Journal 31 Oct. 2008. BizJournals.com. 28 May 2009 <http://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/othercities/seattle/stories/2008/11/03/focus6.html?b=1225688400^1726170&brthrs=1>.

Do’s & Don’ts of Social Media for Nonprofits

Social Media is a swiftly rising trend in online communications, and nonprofits are jumping on board right along with everyone else. But it can be difficult to figure out what the best practices are, at first. To help alleviate some of that difficulty, we here at MemberPath have put together this short list of what we believe to be the most important "DO'S & DON'T'S" of Social Media for Nonprofits.


DO: 

Listen, Listen, Listen
When you’re just starting out with Social Media, the most important thing you can do is to get a “lay of the land” and a feel for how the community interacts. So for whichever type of social media you employ –Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc. – take the time to observe and listen before jumping in. That way, your interaction and relationships will be more sincere and more tailored to the audience.
 
Be Personal
One of the greatest things about social media is in the name itself – it’s social. People like it when they feel like they have a personal connection to an organization. So be personal in your communications. Focus on individuals, and the relationships that are formed between them.

Be Honest, Open and Sincere
Nothing bothers social media users more than insincerity and dishonesty – and they’re incredibly quick to sniff it out. Always be honest and upfront about your affiliations and intentions – several large companies (Sony and Wal-Mart, most notably) have been burned when trying to pass off corporate-sponsored promotion blogs as being unrelated to the company.

Participate – but not right away
After you’ve spent some time listening and observing the online community, participation is key. Interacting with other community members will increase your reputation and creditability. Engage in conversations and develop relationships.

 

DON'T:

Use Social Media as a push-sell method
Social Media is not actually the most effective way to sell a product, or solicit donations and memberships. Since social media is more about relationships, users tend to dislike blatant sales pitches and donation solicitations. The real value in social media lies in promoting awareness and visibility for the organization – from that, the rest can follow.

Spam
Never, ever, ever use social media to send out identical mass messages over and over. Sending the same thing out more than once isn’t going to make more people read it – if anything, it will alienate your audience and create hostility.

Neglect Social Media accounts once you start them
If your organization is unwilling or unable to put in the time and effort to maintain a social media account, then simply don’t. Starting an account that then doesn’t get actively used can make the organization look like it doesn’t care, or like it’s unresponsive to members.
 

What other "DO'S & DON'T'S" do you follow when using social media for your organization? Tell us about it in the comments!

Social Media for Associations

Social media may seem like an obvious tool for charitable organizations – after all, its uses for awareness and fundraising have been well-documented. However, social media can also be implemented with great success for associations as well. The top 3 most useful social media tools for associations are Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace.

Facebook is one of the largest and most popular social networking sites on the web. One of the best tools for associations on Facebook is the “Groups” feature – you can create a “group” and invite members to join. They (and you as an administrator) can then post messages on the wall, upload photos and video, and have forum-style conversations on the discussion board. This can build a sense of cohesiveness and community. Furthermore, groups can be organized at several different levels of detail – you can have a national or global group for your association, or a more localized, regional group. That way, members from the same area can connect, as well as members from across the globe.

Another useful feature of Facebook is the ability to create “events.” With Facebook events, you can inform members of upcoming conferences, conventions, meetups, etc. Like groups, events give members and administrators the ability to upload multimedia like photos and videos.

Another powerful social media tool for associations is Twitter, a “microblogging” service that allows users to post short, 140-character updates. With Twitter, associations can post updates on current news and events within the association, as well as carry on one-on-one conversations with members.

One interesting and more unusual use of Twitter is the concept of “livetweeting” events – that is, posting Twitter updates from events as they’re happening. Not only does this keep attendees in the loop as to what’s happening, but it can also give members unable to attend a sense of connectedness to the event. The Vans Warped Tour, a national music festival, has used Twitter at concerts to facilitate secret giveaways – they’ll tweet things like “2 free tickets to see [a band] – look behind the stage left speakers!” and fans with Twitter-enabled mobile devices can then participate in the giveaways and other contests.

Finally, there’s Myspace. Generally, Facebook and Twitter are stronger tools for associations, but if your membership base has a younger demographic, then Myspace might be the right social media outlet for you. Although the general consensus of Myspace is that it’s populated by a high-school age group, statistics have shown that, much like Facebook,  Myspace’s fastest-growing demographic is the 34+ age group. Really, the most important thing to do is to examine your target market – if they appear to already be using Myspace, then it could be worthwhile to explore as a possible option. Much like Facebook, Myspace has a “groups” feature that can be utilized to connect members.

In addition to their uses as connection media, all three of these social networking sites can be used to help raise awareness of your organization – which can lead to an increase in membership and participation. These are just a few of the social media options out there - the three sites we've talked about are the biggest. If you’ve not already done so, your organization should absolutely explore social media as an option for promoting and enhancing your image and connecting members.

How does your association use social media? Let us know in the comments!

See Also: “Is Social Media Right for Your Organization?
 

What Type of Social Media Should Your Organization Use?

March 10, 2010 by MemberPath posted in: Education & Best Practices

One of the most difficult parts of using social media effectively is deciding on which type is right for your organization. Many organizations hear about “social media” becoming the next big thing, and are in such a rush to get in on it that they don’t stop to think about whether it’s actually right for them or not. Even if they do take the time to analyze whether their organization needs social media or not, they often fail to take into account the vast differences in scope and audience between the different types of social media available. This post will examine the different types of social media and what sorts of organizational goals they’re best suited for. (Note: If you haven’t already, you should check out our post “Is Social Media Right For Your Organization?)

The most important thing that must be done in order to determine what type of social media is right for your org is to evaluate your goals. What do you want to get out of your use of social media? Some common goals are to raise awareness of your organization, to connect members and coordinate volunteers, to publish news updates, and to raise funds.

If your goal is to raise awareness of your organization, then really many types of social media are well-suited for you. Facebook and Myspace have the largest number of users, so they’re great places to start. The Facebook Causes application (there’s a similar app for Myspace as well) is great for nonprofits, while the Pages feature is better for for-profits and associations.

For connecting members and volunteers, Facebook is without a doubt the best. Creating groups on Facebook allows members to connect with one another, post comments on the Wall and in discussion boards, and to post pictures, video, and other multimedia. It also gives your organization a centralized list of members, volunteers, and interested parties, as well as a designated mode of communication with them.

As for publishing news updates, the best avenues are blogs and Twitter. Blogs give you the flexibility to post anything you want, with no constraints. Twitter, while limited to brief 140-character updates, is also great for publishing short updates. Twitter has the advantage of being able to reach a much wider audience than just those who specifically visit your blog – and you can always use Twitter to direct people to blog posts, if you feel you can’t say it all in 140 characters!

While it may seem like there’s a ton of articles published about using social media for fundraising and advertising, we would caution you and your organization against focusing too heavily on social media’s uses for fundraising purposes. Social media’s true value lies in the increased awareness and recognition it can provide, as well as giving your organization a more personalized image. However, if you do decide you want to use social media to help accomplish fundraising goals, the best site to use is Facebook’s Causes. It has built-in donation capability, and is already set up and integrated for use with fundraising. Another possibility is Youtube, which has recently launched non-profit-only channels with built-in donation integration as well.

Social media can be a great investment for your organization, if you take the time to evaluate your goals and decide what type you want to use. Another important thing to keep in mind is your audience – where is your target market already gathering? Rather than trying to bring them to you, you should be going to them. Engage your market in the places they already gather. With a strong concept of goals and audience, you can easily choose the type (or types) of social media that will be best for your organization, and accomplish your goals effectively.

What type of social media does your organization use? Why did you pick it? Let us know in the comments!

Is Social Media Right For Your Organization?

March 04, 2010 by MemberPath posted in: Education & Best Practices

Social Media is one of the fastest-growing trends on the web today, and many organizations are convinced that they need to jump on the technology quickly or risk being left behind. While in many cases this is true, sometimes social media simply isn’t the right avenue for an organization to pursue. But how can you tell whether your organization should utilize social media or not?

1. Evaluate your goals
What do you want to accomplish with social media? Do you want to attract new members/donors? Get people involved or fired up about your cause/org? Connect on a more interpersonal level with current members/donors? Identifying your goals is a crucial first step to deciding whether or not social media is actually right for your organization.

Even if your goal is to solicit more donations or gain more memberships, that’s fine too – however, you must be aware that you may not see direct results from social media. Rather, social media is much better used to increase awareness and visibility – which, in turn, can lead to higher donations and membership rates.

2. Look to your audience
Perhaps the most important indicator of whether social media is right for your organization is your audience. Is your audience younger or older? Tech-savvy or less technologically inclined? Does your audience already use Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, or some other social network?

Compare your target market to the main demographics of the most popular social media outlets. For example, if your main demographic is 35-54, social media may be a viable option for your organization; Facebook cites the 35+ demographic to be its fastest-growing segment, and about two-thirds of their users are outside of college (Source: Facebook). However, if your main demographic is in the 55+ range, social media is obviously not the best place to be focusing time and resources.

3. Acknowledge & Accept the Time Commitment

Speaking of time, though, brings us to the final factor in the social media decision-making process. To successfully utilize social media to its fullest requires a time commitment. Not a huge one, but a definite time commitment nonetheless. If your organization is unwilling or unable to put in the time and resources necessary to make social media work for you, then it’s not really worth even dipping a toe into it. Neglected social media accounts can make organizations appear unresponsive and uncommunicative – so it’s better to not have one at all. But, on the flip side, social media is becoming such an integral part of the web experience that you can't afford NOT to do it!

Does your organization use social media? Tell us about it in the comments!

Fistula First Breakthrough Initiative Launches Redesigned Website

October 12, 2009 by Chris Busse posted in: Site Launches

 

MIDLOTHIAN, VA (October 1, 2009) – The Fistula First Breakthrough Initiative (FFBI) launches dynamic 508-compliant website www.fistulafirst.org
 
“Everything you want to know about Fistula First is now easier to find on FistulaFirst.org,” said Jay Wish, MD, FFBI Clinical Consultant. “The redesign provides a fresh, user-friendly look and feel. The website is easy to navigate, attractive and accessible to all visitors, including people with visual or other physical disabilities.”
 
The redesign includes a new Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) page with resources for primary care providers, as well as an extensive bibliography of articles that will help increase AV fistula rates and an archives section that will help keep featured items current. The site also features a growing community of links to a number of related websites. 
 
“I find great value in the Best-Demonstrated Practices section and hope that others will submit successes that they’ve experienced in reaching their AV fistula goals,” said Lynda Ball, MSN, RN, CNN, Quality Improvement Director for Northwest Renal Network, who led the redesign. “This website is the perfect venue to share success stories.”
 
Lynda was assisted by Peggy Lynch, BSN, RN, CNN, Medical Quality Manager, ESRD Network of New England, Inc.; Nancy Gregory, RN, CNN, Quality Improvement Director, Mid-Atlantic Renal Coalition; Kim Deaver, BSN, RN, CNN, RN Administrator Coordinator, University of Virginia Augusta; and Gwen Williams, CDE, CKD Project Coordinator, FMQAI.
 

Check out the new FFBI website http://fistulafirst.org

 

Chris Busse interviewed by Thinkhaus

September 24, 2009 by Chris Busse posted in: Community, Press

I was interviewed by John O'Neill of Thinkhaus Design for an article in their blog about Socially Conscious Entrepreneurs in Richmond. Also interviewed was Green Duck, a Richmond-based company that aims to "make biodegradable products easily accessible to help create a healthier environment and cleaner communities."

MemberPath donates Ltd. Ed. Helvetica Moleskine to RVATwestival charity auction

September 13, 2009 by Chris Busse posted in: Community

We donated a Limited Edition Helvetica Moleskine to the Richmond VA Twestival held on September 11, 2009 in support of Tricycle Gardens. Faith, always a good sport, made this nifty video to highlight the item prior to the auction:

 

 

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