Tag Archives: twitter

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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Obama vs. McCain, Debate Night at the Brattle Theatre

Last night the Harvard Bookstore hosted a panel discussion and a debate party at the Brattle Theatre. Unfortunately, I missed the discussion beforehand but was fortunate enough to make it inside.

As a self-proclaimed political junkie, just the idea of a movie theatre-sized debate party was intriguing, exciting, and thrilling to me.  I’ve been watching the debates with friends and family members, but watching it in a dark theatre with a room full of strangers was going to be a different experience.

It’s October 2008, and it’s, once again, the nexus point for two events that I watch closely: A Presidential Election and October baseball.  Back in 2004 when asked, a member of the theatre community said the best theatre of 2004 was the Red Sox versus the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.  You really couldn’t get a better script than that.  If you’re a New Englander, that is.

I’ve found sports and politics to have the same type of entertainment appeal to me.  Baseball players are playing a game–the same game they did as children–for an exorbitant amount of money.  We should all be so fortunate, right?

These days, most political events are heavily scripted with carefully constructed talking points.  Occasionally, the script is interrupted with off the cuff reactions or gaffes.  We watch the debates for these moments just like a Sox fan watches for the sheer thrill of seeing David Ortiz launch one into the Boston night.

Last night, the Brattle was packed.  The audience was surprisingly diverse.  No age group appeared to dominate the crowd. The younger people weren’t necessarily students either.  No obvious, simple demographics.  I was pleasantly surprised.

The Harvard Bookstore served pizza and sodas while the transition was made from the panel to the movie setup.  You could feel the excitement in the theatre.  There was a sense of freedom and, perhaps even curious, anticipatory fun.

The Brattle Theatre is in the heart of Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Given those facts, you can imagine the political profile of the crowd.  For full disclosure, include me in that group, too.  Any candidate who has an Arts Plan (pdf) is a friend of someone who has worked for non-profit arts organizations for the past seven years.

I didn’t know what to expect. I had watched all the other debates on CNN. On HDTV there were the pundit scorecards along with what Bill Maher termed the “candidates life force.” Uncommitted Ohio voters weighed in with their instant approval or lack thereof.  Watching previous debates on CNN, many opportunities existed to instantly learn how other people were reacting.  Now that I’ve spent time on news sites like Talking Points Memo, I see that CNN had a split screen view so viewers could see how the other candidate reacted as they listened to their opponent’s responses.

To me, pre and post debate chatter is a lot about listening to what mass media experts are feeding the uncommitted voter.  At all the small debate parties I’ve been to, once the candidates stop talking my companions and I do.  Later on, I go to my favorite blogs, Twitter searches as well as their Election site, and the mainstream media sites for a roundup.  After the first debate, a friend dubbed me the “Human RSS Reader”.

My friends and I were surprised the Brattle was showing PBS’ coverage of the debate through New Hampshire Public Television rather than a mass media outlet.

Soon after the debate started, the lights were turned out just like a movie.  The candidates were announced and the crowd reacted with applause.  People were fairly active and vocal with hoots, hollers, clapping, and laughing, so much that one section started hushing others so we could all hear the answers.

Cheers broke out with relative frequency after Obama’s responses.  And, not to be a completely one-sided group, there was some scattered applause and cheers for McCain.  A friend assured me that it was just one person.

I don’t know if there’s a comparable experience I have had in a movie theatre.  The only one that comes to mind is when I saw Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911.  The audience at that one seemed more homogeneous because everybody was aware of the narrative.

During the debate I was having a collective experience with strangers in a dark room.  The audience was, of course, well informed.  Everybody knew the subjects that may come up (William Ayers and ACORN) but, of course, there were surprises, too, like John McCain introducing America to “Joe the Plumber.”

I’ve spent a good deal of my professional life contemplating audiences who gather in dark rooms for live performances.  Just like this time, I’ve watched the splitscreen shots of the carefully selected uncommitted voters from swing states on television as they watch the debate as a group.

I’ve seen great drama on stage.

I’ve been riveted by cinematic experiences.

I’ve seen heroes like Bob Dylan close in intimate venues.

I’ve seen the Red Sox come back against the Yankees at Fenway Park.

This was something completely different: A shared experience with total strangers, a moderately-scripted theatrical event with potential for sparks and spontaneity.  This event along with others had and has the potential to change the present course of our country, our economy, our world, and our lives.

Thank you to the Harvard Bookstore and the Brattle Theatre for creating such an experience.  It is a true public service.

Yes, indeed.  I am a political junkie.  And, I do love great theatre, too.

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