This is a guest blog by Darian Rodriguez Heyman. You can read more about him in the short bio at the end of this piece.
You may not have heard
about Lara Stockman's "25 Days to Make a Difference" blog, or how, after
profiling different nonprofits, random acts of kindness, and community-driven
efforts she mobilized an audience of 25,000 readers after just a few
weeks. So what, you may ask? Well, when it all began she was just only ten
The point is that social media is the great equalizer. Gone are the days of the megaphone-the era of
the top-down broadcast approach to big advertising is slowly fading away, as
evidenced by the fact that more people saw Volkswagen's Darth Vader commercial on YouTube than at the Superbowl, by a longshot.
But more to the point,
what are the implications for nonprofits, and how can social change
organizations harness the viral marketing potential that draws so many causes
and companies online?
Recently I've written
about what I call the "Kevin Bacon effect" and what I consider to be the "Two
Keys to Social Media Marketing Success" - see Katya's Non-Profit Marketing Blog and the Huffington Post, respectively. But given
TechSoup's focus and audience, I thought I'd dig into something a bit sexier:
I've been traveling
around the country with our Social Media for Nonprofits conference series (coming to San Francisco on
11/4 with TechSoup's Marnie Webb
keynoting, Atlanta on 11/17, and NYC on 1/30/12 - save $20 with "TechSoup" code) and promoting my new book, Nonprofit
Management 101. I've heard
leading thinkers like Beth Kanter, Geoff Livingston, and Guy Kawasaki provide nonprofit execs with practical tips and tools-actionable
insights nonprofits can use immediately to raise more money online, market
their organizations, and affect policy.
One thing that I find
not enough folks talk about on stage is the integral role that data plays in
online marketing efforts, and in particular the three ways that the nature of
accountability fundamentally changes once you get on the web.
Online, accountability is complete, direct, and immediate. Indulge
Think back to those
megaphone guys: Coca-Cola, Visa, you name it. When they get ready to run that Superbowl, World Cup, or Olympics ad,
they want to make sure they get the best, most compelling commercial in front
of those millions of eyeballs.
So what do they do? Focus groups. They ask people what they think
they'd do after seeing this ad vs. that one (FYI, Shakespeare invented the word
"advertisement" from the Latin ad verto,
or to "turn towards).
And how many people form
their "representative sample"? A couple
hundred, if they're lucky and well resourced.
And finally, how long
will it take them to crunch the numbers and turn data into knowledge that can
drive decisions? Weeks, if not months.
Oy, what a mess!
Now let's compare and
contrast the difference when a marketer, any
marketer, goes online and leverages free and simple tools like Google
Analytics, which any nonprofit can get for free.
In short, online you can
easily look at what the entire audience reached ("complete") actually does ("direct")
in real time ("immediate"). This
enables savvy marketers (yes, that includes nonprofits!) unparalleled
flexibility to test campaigns, creative, messaging, and imagery-something that
any cause or company needs to take full advantage of, especially in a down
The online fundraising
experts at Network for Good recently turned their donate button from gray to red and immediately
saw a 30% increase in donations. Just think about how that impacts their ability
to serve the community.
So instead of taking a
"spray and pray" approach to your next campaign, carve out a few small slices
of your mailing list, try out a few different subject lines, photos, lengths,
and layouts, and go beyond guessing and work
with what works. Whether it's your
next newsletter, the color and design of your donate button, or the copy you
use to describe your efforts in the search engines. The key to success is
strategize, test, and optimize.
Then it's time to break
out your own personal megaphone and go as big as you can.
five years of service, Darian recently stepped down as Executive Director of Craigslist Foundation. While there, he
helped launch Nonprofit Boot Camp,
the Environmental Nonprofit Network, and the Next Generation
Leadership Forum. He recently launched the nationwide Social Media for Nonprofits conference series and his new book, Nonprofit Management
101: A Complete and Practical Guide for Leaders and Professionals, includes practical
tips and tools from 50 recognized experts across 35 topics. He is a public speaker, executive coach, and
consultant, as well as a guest blogger for the Huffington Post and producer of the Advancing Social Impact blog
on Skoll Foundation's Social Edge. Follow
Darian Rodriguez Heyman on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@dheyman.
Becky Wiegand is the Webinar Program Manager at TechSoup.org @bajeckabean on Twitter
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.
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