Fri, August 15 2014
Are your social networks full of friends being doused in icy water? You’ve witnessed the #IceBucketChallenge.
The “Ice Bucket Challenge” has taken the world by storm, prompting people across the nation to take note of, promote, and donate in support of research and assistance for those diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). Challengers throw down the gauntlet to their peers: dump a bucket of ice water on your head or donate to support the ALS Association. It’s an unusual request that has a lot of people taking notice. Ethel Kennedy even challenged President Obama to join in, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has dared Bill Gates to do the same.
How has any of this helped the charity? The ALS Association shares how this viral hit has helped to grow their audience—and their donation totals (over $4M so far). This represents a 1,000% spike in donations compared to the same time period last year.
So, why do campaigns like this take off? How do they tap into the part of us that shares, supports, and acts? Here are seven basic reasons why the Ice Bucket Challenge is so successful. (Note: These factors can also help make your next campaign more effective.)
It’s social. We’re social creatures, and we tend to do what other people are doing, whether we want to admit it or not. It’s who we are. We look to social norms to guide us. It’s peer pressure…for good.
It’s personal. There’s just something about hearing and seeing your family, friends, colleagues, and public figures speak and take action. This powerful personal trigger combines with social norms to inspire action. It wouldn’t have the same effect if a complete stranger (or an organization) asked you to take the challenge.
It’s simple. The ask is pretty clear: dump a bucket of water on your head or give. That’s the choice. There’s not too much to think about there, which is the hallmark of an effective marketing message. Some may argue that an even simpler choice would limit the option to only one: give. In this case, the ask is important, for sure, but the reason this has spread so quickly (and, in turn, raised so much money for ALS) is due to the stunt. Your ask may be easy, important, and necessary, but remember that it still needs a vehicle to reach your audience.
It’s slightly irrational. Sometimes we are more likely to give when a stunt is more unusual, painful, or downright weird. Want proof? Look to Christopher Olivola’s experiments from The Science of Giving.
It’s direct. Instead of issuing a blanket plea, the challenge is built around publicly calling people out. By name. When you want people to pay attention and take action, it makes a difference when you identify an individual vs. asking “everyone” to help.
It’s consistent. Instead of deviating from the script, each participant in the Ice Bucket Challenge focuses on the same challenge and specifically supports the ALS Association. This provides a common experience and goal, which helps build momentum and community. The same wouldn’t be true if the actions or causes were randomly selected.
It’s different. Let’s face it. It’s hard to stand out on social media, but we know that photos and videos of our friends make us linger for more than a few seconds. And people doing silly things like dumping freezing water on themselves? America’s Funniest Home Videos can’t even compare!
With all of these things going for it, the challenge does have some critics who say the stunt is merely slacktivism and doesn’t represent a real avenue for fundraising. I’m glad to see some good conversations around this, as I think it’s important for fundraisers and marketers to understand the opportunities—and the limits—of these types of campaigns. That said, as Justin Ware (The Social Side of Giving) points out, if an effort leads to 7-figure fundraising results, it’s difficult to dismiss this example of “slacktivism” as a dead-end street. Justin also smartly clues in on the real opportunity: being able to further engage and retain these new supporters. In his recent Selfish Giving newsletter, Joe Waters underscores the importance of leading with engagement before making the ask. This is where these types of social campaigns really shine.
What do you think of the Ice Bucket Challenge? Love it, hate it, or getting your bucket ready while you’re reading this? Chime in below and share your thoughts!
Wed, July 30 2014
As of September 2013, 73% of online adults use social networking sites. If your nonprofit isn’t active on at least one social network, now is the time to get moving! A quick Google search will provide you with tons of best practices and tips for using social media but in this video, you’ll find that I stuck to actionable tips that go beyond the latest fad or algorithm to help your nonprofit excel (and have fun) with social media.
Take your social media outreach to the next level. Download our free guide, 101 Social Media Posts, for content ideas that you can use for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more.
Wed, July 23 2014
The power of imagery is undeniable. Visuals have a way of emphasizing a message and motivating viewers to act. Watch as I share some examples and walk through the best ways to stimulate and engage your supporters and donors through images.
Wed, July 16 2014
At this week’s Social Media for Nonprofits conference in Washington, DC, Avi Kaplan, Director of Online Strategy for Rad Campaign, challenged organizations to think about how they can break through the noise on social media when we live in a BuzzFeed world. Avi says the key to standing out is to focus on the right audience in the right context with awesome content. Here are just a few of the tips he shared with the crowd.
Connect with the right people.
Keep in mind that your social media universe is comprised of three segments: your die-hard supporters, people who are likely receptive to your message, and those who just aren’t that into you.
Get more from your database. Look at your current donor list, email list, and social media followers. What do they have in common? Seek out “lookalike” populations as you connect with influencers and use this insight to inform paid social promotion.
Prioritize. Don’t waste time on audiences that aren’t in your sweet spot. Focus on the people who are already passionate about your cause, interested in your issue, or are supporters of your organization. They will help you reach more like-minded folks and create ripples from your social media efforts.
Understand the return on investment for specific audiences. Some segments of your audience are great sharers and likers, but other segments might be more likely to take actions like making a donation or volunteering. Learn the behaviors of each of your segments and plan your outreach accordingly.
Connect in the right context.
Being timely, relevant, and top of mind means hooking into the bigger picture. What else are your supporters interested in or talking about? Find appropriate ways to capitalize on trends, breaking news, and even memes to tap into the familiar.
Don’t miss your opening. Social media conversations move fast. What may be timely today may be passé tomorrow. If it takes you a few weeks to create, approve, and publish content, you’ve missed the moment. Create a social media system nimble enough to react quickly and find your organization’s share of recent news or trending topics.
Plan ahead. If you don’t have an editorial calendar to help you plan your content for social media and beyond, it’s time to create one. Avi shared that as part of your content calendar, you also need a “context calendar”—this is a space on your editorial calendar where you’ll plot out holidays, key milestones, seasonal topics,and more. Unlike breaking news or unexpected memes, these are events you can prepare for well in advance.
Optimize timing. Tools like Buffer, Followerwonk, and Tweroid can help you understand the best times to reach your audience and schedule your messages for maximum effect. This is especially important if you have limited time to spend on social media management and content creation. You need to get the most out of the effort you’re putting in.
Connect with awesome content.
Once you’ve zeroed in on your primary audience and understand the power of context, it’s time to think about the content that you’ll share. Go beyond reposting the same pieces again and again and get creative with visuals and topics that are top of mind.
Steal. Are you down with OPC? Other people’s content, that is. Some of your best social media interactions will come from curating content from other sources, or creating derivative works. Reach out to collaborate, offer credit, and use discovery tools like crowdtangle to find amazing stuff to share or emulate. (Social media coach Andrea Vahl offers some other ideas for finding compelling content to share.)
Learn what’s working through analytics. Don’t just mindlessly blast your followers with updates that are boring them out of love for your nonprofit. Measure which channels and topics result in the most engagement and action.
Experiment and take risks. Put a plan in place to manage your social outreach, but remember these platforms are flexible and forgiving. Since the flow of social is much faster than other channels, you can learn quickly and adapt. Try new things to see what works with *your* supporters.
Need more ideas for social media content? Download our new guide, 101 Social Media Posts, for suggestions that will help your nonprofit connect with supporters on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more.
Wed, July 02 2014
You feel it. I feel it. Every nonprofit communicator and fundraiser out there feels it. Social media pressure, that is.
Whether the source of this anxiety (Am I keeping up? Do I have a billion Facebook likes or Twitter followers? Is my Instagram strategy driving action?) is your immediate boss, board chair, or colleague in programs, it’s there. The pressure to generate a social media miracle.
Breathe—There Is a Solution
You can boost marketing and fundraising impact, and you can deflate that pressure. Here’s how:
1. Get to know your people. Research, via online survey or calls, where your current supporters are when it comes to social media.
2. Use your marketing/fundraising plan to remind yourself exactly who your prospects are (the people who are most likely to take the actions that will drive your marketing or fundraising goals forward). Then, use your supporter research to project where similar prospect groups are on social media.
3. Assess if and where to invest in social media, even if your organization has been there for years. Probe whether the most-used social media channels are useful in helping you achieve your broader goals. Ask yourself two questions: Does the interaction in that channel mesh with your calls to action and goals? Is your investment in each of the most-used channels likely to be profitable?
4. Focus your energy and time on the single most-used channel, but only if the return on investment (ROI) seems to be there. Note: It will be far more effective to use one platform well, rather than use multiple platforms in a half-baked way. That’s been proven time and time again.
5. Invest the time. Block out at least 30 minutes, twice daily, for social media if you are using just one platform. I urge you to get that one channel to work—or realize it’s the wrong one—before you take on another platform.
6. Create some incremental benchmarks so you get a sense of how your investment is or is not paying off. That might be retweets and followers for Twitter or likes and shares for Facebook. Request that your colleagues ask those who do take action—to give, register, or spread the word—what influences sparked them along the way.
7. Like or follow five to 10 colleague or competitive organizations on that channel, be it Facebook or Instagram. It’s important to see what folks who are competing for your supporters’ and prospects’ attention and dollars are doing. You can also find some relevant models by watching what organizations similar to yours in approach or issue—but not competing with you—are doing.
8. Adapt your approach as needed on an ongoing basis. Build into your work plan an ongoing analysis of what is and isn’t working, a review of other organizations’ successes and failures, and a revision of your own approach. Social media, including websites and blogs, is a communications channel that requires ongoing evolution. Otherwise, don’t use it.
Take these steps to make your social media efforts meaningful and measurable for your nonprofit. How are you making social media matter for your cause? Chime in with your ideas below!
With refreshing practicality, Nancy Schwartz rolls up her sleeves to help nonprofits develop and implement strategies to build the strong relationships that inspire key supporters to action. She shares her deep nonprofit marketing insights—and passion—through consulting, speaking, and her popular blog and e-news at GettingAttention.org.