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Nonprofits often struggle with creating effective content and engagement strategies. It's not enough to just share stories about your impact — how do you mobilize and engage people who are passionate about issues you're working on? NetSquared DC organized a panel discussion on Engagement Strategy: Empowering Champions* and Influencers* on November 3, 2015, to delve into this question.
The panelists included
NetSquared DC Engagement Strategies Panelists — Maddie Grant, Andrew Nachison, and Dale Pfeifer (left to right).
Here are some of the key points shared during the discussion, plus a couple of our own thoughts.
Your audience will respond to stories that immediately grab their attention. For example, a story that begins with a big emotional impact will leave the reader asking questions and wanting more information. It will keep them reading, and that's what you want!
One of the best ways to do this is to tell the story of someone who has been impacted by your work. Interview people who are your influencers and champions, and find out why. Create meaningful relationships with both of these groups. Write their stories exceptionally well (hire someone for this if you need to; great stories told well are priceless). Share their stories with your audience.
As a society, we are drowning in stories, so you have to break through the noise out there. Besides producing great content, and writing about your champions and influencers, we have a couple of other tips that can also make a big difference.
In terms of the length of stories, keep it brief or go in-depth. Your stories can be told different ways across multiple mediums. Blog posts will be longer pieces, whereas Facebook posts will be much shorter. Tell the same story in multiple ways.
Give readers an action they can take after reading your content. When it's engaging, your readers want to know what they can do to help. It doesn't have to be a big donate button. It can link to another piece of the story or a petition, or you can offer the option to send a pre-populated tweet. Whatever you choose, the link should go to your website or social media channels. Check out this article on How to Craft a Strong Call to Action on Social Media in GoodWorld's Social Giving School.
Not only should the members of your audience be able to share your content with the click of a button, they should also be able to add their own comments to what they share. And it should be obvious when they share the content where it came from. Brand it and test it. If you're using out-of-the-box online tools, change the code if you have to. Or, find a new tool.
Ultimately, you want your audience's friends to also share the content. Once people in your audience shares it, you have a better chance of getting their friends to share it. People trust and react to something shared by people they know (because it already has an endorsement from someone they trust), rather than something shared by an organization.
Think of a team, group, community, or organization that you're really passionate about. What makes you so engaged with it?
If you're having trouble thinking of something, just think of your favorite sports team or band and how excited you are to go and cheer like crazy for it. What makes you so excited at an event or on social media?
That is how you want people to feel about your organization — to be a cheering, raging, and super expressive fan. However, there seems to be a disconnect between how we feel about engagement individually (like a team or band) and then how we communicate it as an organization (likely from a media office). But it has to be a two-way relationship.
We talked about millennials, admitting that there are actual problems with the term "millennial" (or those referred to as Generation Y, or those born between 1980 and 2000). But in general, many millennials want things to be easily accessible on their phones. They tend to have strong values and believe deeply in a cause. Hence, a call to action is critical for this group. And giving them a way to have their voice heard and make a difference is essential.
Even though we're spending a huge amount of time talking about connecting with champions and influencers online, don't forget word of mouth marketing. It can be even more powerful, and, depending on what your organization does, it can be what makes the difference between success and failure. Even entrepreneurs that run their business almost solely online offer plenty of webinars. They want to be able to connect with you.
Ideally, however, you'll be talking about your organization with your audience in many ways — rallies, meetings, focus groups, or ambassador programs. You can't beat that in-person connection. People remember how you make them feel, though, so be authentic and enthusiastic.
Don't get lost in the numbers. Determine your ultimate goal and focus on that. Your ultimate goal isn't the number of likes, retweets, or email subscribers you have. Instead, there's a meaning behind those numbers. Figure out what actually happens after you send out an email, and evaluate your approach based on that. And remember, it's quality over quantity. An email list with 1,000 subscribers with only 20 who regularly read it is worth a lot less than an email list of 500 if 100 of them always read it.
Responsive websites and emails are important, but what's more important is that you look at how your audience is visiting your website. Are they really visiting through a mobile device, or are you just listening to everyone else talk about how everyone is on mobile? Look at the analytics and see for yourself. And if that is where your audience is coming from, configure your website and emails with this in mind. Also, consider whether you should create a text messaging list or a mobile app, depending on how you want people to engage with your organization.
Use Google Analytics, email list analytics, and social media measurement tools to understand where you are getting the most traction and interest. As much as possible, segment your list and tailor your messages to what people care about the most. For example, you can find out what topics interest people when they are registering for your email list.
You can also segment your list based on how people connected with your organization. Did they attend a workshop? Did they make a donation? Did they sign a petition? You can also use tools like Attentive.ly to get a better understanding of how your supporters are using hashtags that relate to your organizations' work.
We invite you to share your own digital strategy tips and questions.
This post was authored by Roshani Kothari and Heather Ratcliff (co-organizers of NetSquared DC) and was originally published on the NetSquared blog.