Tag Archives: social media

Thoughts on Nonprofit Land’s “Social Media Pitching”

About a week ago I decided to do a Twitter search for “nonprofit” and found people tweeting “Nonprofit Land >> Social Media Pitching“.  With the number of people tweeting the link, I thought I would see what was there.

Adrienne Royer discusses the usefulness of social media to effectively fundraise and build relationships.  She brings up how Twitter can be particularly useful in establishing and building relationships with the local media.  However, she oversimplifies the strategic use of Twitter and other social media tools, thereby lending support for her argument against the usefulness of social media consultants.  This is a troubling considering that most of the people I know who work for nonprofits are a bit more old school—still heavily relying on stuffing envelopes and print press releases!

A few disagreements:

  1. Royer isn’t sure if nonprofits will ever be able to connect tweets with the bottom line.  This is already happening with for-profit businesses using Twitter.  While one tweet isn’t likely to snag the big fish, the building of a relationship over time may yield a positive response to an ask.  This can all be tracked through Google analytics or another web analytics program.
  2. Twitter is good for building relationships, but it shouldn’t be thought of as exclusively for reaching the local media for two reasons.  First, not all of the local media is on Twitter and also (I’m speculating here), that someone on Twitter is more likely to reach non-traditional media makers like bloggers, podcasters, and videographers.  Those who read my entry earlier this week on the Boston Globe may know my bias: nonprofits need to effectively use online channels because it is the way the world communicates and it will be more cost-effective.   Building relationships with the media, while important (and traditional), isn’t the be-all, end-all of success.  Building relationships directly with the people who care and believe in what you do is more direct and more effective.  Nonprofits are usually very savvy and creative when building communities; and building a following on Twitter or on another network online should be a natural progression.
  3. Yes, Adrienne Royer is correct that there are a lot of social media consultants out there selling their services, but I disagree with her that they don’t serve a purpose and their services are “pointless.”  While nonprofits are veterans at building communities, they aren’t always the most internet savvy.  Their work serves the public need and they have experience building social movements in their specific disciplines.  However, most of this has been done at cocktail parties, fundraisers, speeches made on soapboxes, and a few connections from graduate school.  The internet and the various social outlets are populist, but strategic planning with the help of an “expert” may spare the amateur efforts notably seen when established organizations begin their first foray into more non-traditional outlets.  I discussed this previously when talking an article in the November 2008 issue of Fast Company.
  4. Royer oversells how easy it is to do. “Social media is no different from real conversations. You don’t need to create elaborate new strategies on how to reach social media users. Just think of social media as a very large townhall or church. Information spreads on the interwebs the same way that it does in real life. In fact watching a message get retweeted is a lot like playing the playground game of telephone.”  While tools like Twitter and social networks like Facebook are free, the time it takes to develop compelling content and build the network is substantial.  Everything is measurable.  Through click-paths, an organization will know how many people are coming from Twitter and completing some kind of online transaction.  Web analytics can tell an organization how many people came from a specific link and if that traffic is yielding results.  A consultant who is worth the money will work with the organization to establish metrics and to define success.

Royer linked to Bulldog Reporter’s “Superior Social Media Pitches” which mentions two suggestions “Dive in and engage—test different social media tools” and “Admit ignorance—ask before committing social media snafus.”  Since nonprofits are traditionally understaffed and under resourced, and prioritization and maximization of time are essential, there simply may not be a staff member who has the time.  The people I know who are working for nonprofits, like baseball players, are creatures of habit.  If something isn’t broken, they don’t fix it.  If something has worked, they are reluctant to change, especially if the resources are not easily available.  The old guard of nonprofit management executives that have built the organizational structures around the United States that encourage charitable giving are be visionaries; they should not pass up opportunities to innovate.

If someone on the staff of a nonprofit—particularly the marketing, communications, and public relationship staff members—doesn’t know the tools, strategies for communication, or time hasn’t been allocated to do this, it’s already too late.  The time was yesterday and it’s time to catch up and integrate social media into the overall marketing and communications plan.

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Abusing Social Media in Fast Company, November 2008

The November 2008 edition of Fast Company has a great article (“Abusing Social Media”) about how companies are experimenting with the latest technology tools and, instead of reaping the rewards, are embarrassing themselves online.

“Thanks for nothing, Web 2.0. With each sexy bit of social media that catches fire with users, lame companies get another fresh opportunity to pretend they know how to connect with customers without understanding what they’re doing. No business is abandoning traditional advertising in favor of these gimmicky, halfhearted efforts. They’re just abandoning any self-respect they once possessed. Whee!” “Abusing Social Media”, Fast Company, November 2008.

What’s unfortunate about these major failures and their use of social media is that other organizations are hearing their stories and are staying away or making the same mistakes.  Companies aren’t investing the time to learn how to do it right.

Take Twitter for example.  I am quite fond of this extremely popular microsharing service.  My recent tweets are posted on the sidebar of my blog.  Through using TwitterFeed, I’m able to link new posts on my blog to Twitter.  Facebook has an application where my tweets are posted as status updates.

All of this makes me more efficient in my distribution.  However, it doesn’t automatically make me a better communicator.  Improving those skills takes time.  I need to listen to what is being said to me and thoughtfully respond.  And, I do mean, thoughtfully.  With the constraint of 140 characters the requirement to be concise, brief, and effective is definitely a good thing.  I’m often teased for being long-winded.  I respond to those jabs with: “I just like being thorough in my communications and conversations!”

The Fast Company article brings up companies that are tweeting their press releases rather than using it to build relationships and community.  Note to companies: This isn’t building a relationship, it’s broadcasting.

The embarrassing usages of social media aren’t about how the technology isn’t good or an effective use of time (remember time equals money). Instead it is about forgetting how to communicate.

These companies as well as many non-profit organizations still believe that the internet is just a broadcast medium–if they put their information out there, of course, everybody is going to read or listen to it.  You can’t just “blast” it out there and hope for the best.  This isn’t a Field of Dreams “If you build it, they will come” medium.

What these companies have forgotten is that they have to do some listening to their current customers and some research to discover where they hang out online.  They have to spend time to cultivating the relationships.  It isn’t enough to just have your information or event posted online, you have to make sure your constituencies can find you.  To solve that, maybe you should do some inbound marketing.

Over the weekend I started reading Groundswell.  There was an interesting thought about ratings sites that I’ll paraphrase here:  If company starts to receive negative reviews about the product, it isn’t because people are out to get the company.  It may actually be that there are problems in the product.

The same holds true for internet marketing.  If you have an event on a social media site that only a few people have RSVPed for or you don’t have that many followers on Twitter, or your patrons are ignoring you online, it may not be because they aren’t interested or that they don’t like you.

Instead, it may be that there are problems with your strategy: You’re broadcasting instead of communicating and building relationships.

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2008 Boston Theatre Conference Wrap-Up

Last Saturday, I attended StageSource’s 2008 Boston Theatre Conference “Raising Our Standard.” While the highlight was listening to A.R.T. incoming Artistic Director Diane Paulus discuss theatre along with Peter DuBois of the Huntington Theatre Company and Curt Columbus of Trinity Repertory Company, I also had the privilege to co-moderate a session titled “It’s a Blog Blog World: Theatre Journalism, Audience Development and Web 3.0”.

I worked with with Charles McEnerney (Marketing Director of ArtsBoston) and Sooz aka Susan Kaup (Web Marketing, Event Planning, and Photography).

In 2004, I attended the first Boston Theatre Conference. It was the weekend after the Red Sox had traded away Nomar Garciaparra. Despite being a building full of artists and arts administrators, the Red Sox had created significant buzz.

We all know what happened a few months later, too.

In 2004, I attended the session about marketing and the internet.  I was disappointed.  Much of the session was spent being an Internet 101 class.

Unfortunately, this was the state of the using the internet to market theatre in Boston in 2004. I imagine that it wasn’t an atypical experience around the country.  The theatre community was still learning.

When Jeff Poulos called and asked if I would participate in this year’s conference I was honored and excited.  Corresponding with Charlie and Sooz in planning the session and brainstorming on the subjects to cover and that people may ask about was equally thrilling.  The synergy was wonderful.  It reenergized me.  So many opportunities exist for using the internet to building arts audiences.  It is marvelous to have such gifted colleagues whose brains I can pick.  Truly great.

Whenever I discuss technology with arts organizations, I do my best to humanize it.  Too often technology is thought of as something cold, inanimate, and unfeeling.  Simply, it is not thought of as creative and artistic.  However, the hardware and software are toolls. It is the people behind the screens and at the keyboards who are passionate, quirky, fun, and full of humanity.

On Saturday, the turnout we had for the session was great.  The group was lively, smart, and responsive.  Boston has come a long way since 2004.  Attendees’ curiosity was palatable.  Everybody wanted to know how they could leverage the technology for their own organization.  They wanted to know what the opportunities were.

Some organizations were already dipping their toes into marketing on the internet:

At the A.R.T., we’ve been doing some innovative online outreach, too:

Ever since I joined the Boston theatre community in 2003, I have always felt energized and inspired when I had the opportunity to discuss ideas with colleagues from other organizations.  Jeff Poulos has been a central hub to building that community.  He’s been a true leader, and I appreciate him including me in Saturday’s conference.

Now is the time for the Boston theatre community to leverage collective knowledge and experience of members who have been using the web to market their shows.  As a community, we have to commit to investing in using the internet in this new way.

The time for business as usual has passed.

I came out of this weekend inspired and ready for the new season of theatre.

I’m sure that I’m not the only one.

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