The Non-Profit Idea Portal: Your Website

photo by Faith Goble

photo by Faith Goble

A while ago, Jeremiah Owyang wrote about the irrelevant corporate website, and offered suggestions for change. One of his suggestions was to integrate customers into the website, including allowing their views about the corporation, good and bad. 48Web, contemplating the corporate website in five years, suggests that “corporations will be “crowd-sourcing” their corporate website, bringing down the wall, and letting user generated content flow to the top – whether good or bad.” Risky strategy for the staid blue-chip corporation.

Or is it? Not in the day and age of social media, where public opinion flies around the internet quicker than you can ask “who typed that?” Bravo to the corporations that have acknowledged that customers are the ones who sustain them and support them. The customer is the business’ best critic, sidekick and evangelizer.

Which is why it was heartening to find a few large companies boldly asking for feedback, in a very public way. This is how you turn a customer into an evangelizer, and a complainer into an asset. Good corporate examples of this are are

  • Starbucks’ My Starbucks Idea, where customers offer ideas, vote on them, shape them, and find out how Starbucks implemented them
  • Dell’s Ideastorm portal, which is very similar to My Starbucks Idea, but allows unregistered viewers to see comments. The first three comments I viewed were quite negative. Kudos to Dell for not censoring discussion!
  • Oracle’s Oracle Mix, where customers can share ideas, vote on them, comment on them, and ask Oracle tough questions.

(These companies also have community networks, affinity customer groups, and plenty of website space for community discussion. The focus of this post is the idea portal.)

One noted government (public sector) idea portal is Barack Obama’s citizen website, Change.gov. The website asks citizens to submit ideas on issues the new administration will face, comment and rate them, and the best ideas will be submitted weekly to Barack Obama in a “citizen briefing.”

I searched far and wide for a non-profit website that asks for ideas, suggestions, improvements and critique in the same upfront manner as the companies cited above.  (I do not mean offering a community forum, which is not the same as the idea portal.) I found none.

Non-profit corporations are known for putting the customer first. Their missions are usually centered around a customer group: improving schools for child education, advocating for healthy communities, offering services to the elderly, etc. However, it is just as scary for the non-profit to open up its virtual doors for critique as it is for the corporation. But Do It. Open up your doors and invite your customers in. BOLDLY.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Mimic Starbucks, Dell, Obama and Oracle: create a separate portal for your customers to enter, ask questions, and offer ideas.
  • State portal guidelines: comments must be thoughtful and constructive. (“I called 20 times and never received a call back. Due to this, I won’t be using your services again.” or “I loved the last newsletter, but the font was too small and the page too crowded.”)
  • Update website readers: respond publicly to comments on the site, and offer status updates about the suggestions regularly. You will lose customer confidence if you do not respond to the comments and ideas transparently.
  • Why not offer incentives or prizes for the most constructive suggestions? Or the best ideas?
  • Promote your customers: highlight the most recent ideas, the best ideas, the ideas that help your organization save money or do its work better.
  • Re-focus the idea portal several times a year: specifically ask for creative fundraising ideas in the spring, customer service suggestions in the summer, new services or products in the fall, etc.

Forrester Research calls this “energizing.” It is talking to your customers directly, and interacting with them. It is preventing unwanted bad press elsewhere. It is taking that “irrelevant corporate website” and giving it some relevance, responsiveness and corporate transparency. It offers tremendous opportunities for your organization. It is exciting!

Change the world, one idea portal at a time.


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Social Media Etiquette Roundup: Understanding Cultural Norms

photo by Jaycross

photo by Jaycross

There seems to be a favorite type of blog post addressed to the new social media user: “What To Do On… (name of social media network).” Along with blog posts, there are FAQs on almost every forum, listserv, and social network. Why do we need these posts? Each participatory media has its own culture and cultural norms. Part of the beauty of participatory media is that the participants actually want you to participate and reap the benefits of participation.

The culture of each social media network is entirely different. I would never write a blog comment with the same informality with which I’d write on a Facebook Wall. Not even to the same person. A Facebook friend always starts his updates with “…has just updated his professional blog. Check it out!” He acts similarly on Twitter. He doesn’t know that participatory media means…participating and not advertising.  A little bit of cultural orientation would probably increase his business three-fold.

Non-profits often make the same mistakes as people. Many smaller non-profits that I work with are just beginning to dive into social media, but are intimidated by the cultures.  They want to engage meaningfully, but don’t know how to start.

I want you to create meaningful conversations with your stakeholders.  I have compiled a list of etiquette and cultural orientation advice about using each of the  major social media networks and tools on the web.

Enjoy and, if you appreciate these tips, pass them along. If you have additional links or tips, please let me know.  I look forward to conversing with you on the web!

Twitter Etiquette

14-Point Guide to Twitter Effectiveness (and culture):Writing My Twitter Etiquette Article: 14 Ways to Use Twitter Politely

Chris Brogan: Social Media Is No Place for Robot Behavior

Mashable’s Top 10 Reasons I Will Not Follow You In Return on Twitter

Great cultural tips from Twitip (and a good twitter resource): Use Twitter for Your Business the Right Way

Blog Etiquette

Good overview of blog etiquette: Blog Etiquette

The cultural norms for blog comments: Blog Etiquette and Commenting

Nice roundup of blog etiquette from several blogs: Blog Etiquette or Blogtiquette

Good tips on making your blog look & conform to the cultural norm: 10 Mistakes That Could Be Killing Your Blog

Culture of blog linking: Why No One Links to Your Blog

Facebook Etiquette

A whole blog only about Facebook etiquette here!

A personal coach’s experience of the two cultures: Twitter vs. Facebook culture

Friending on Facebook: The Facebook Commandments

Facebook etiquette for the college crowd:The Dormdelicious Guide to Facebook Etiquette

MySpace Etiquette

Suite 101 Roundup: MySpace Etiquette Tips

Nice perspective from the college crowd: Cyber Etiquette: The Do’s and Don’ts of MySpace

Bebo and MySpace etiquette: Bebo and My Space–Yes, My Love…There are Rules

LinkedIn Etiquette

From a reputation management expert’s perspective for both the business and the individual LinkedIn Etiquette: Five Do’s and Don’ts

Good LinkedIn and Networking Etiquette Post: Etiquette for LinkedIn and the Professional Networking World

From LinkedIn Blog: 7 Rules of LinkedIn Etiquette

Social Bookmarking Etiquette

Mashable’s great tips on using StumbleUpon and understanding its community: How to Get the Most Out of StumbleUpon

Thoughtful guide to social bookmarking etiquette, in general: Social Bookmarking Etiquette

YouTube Etiquette: Be A Good YouTube Commenter

Podcast Etiquette

Podcast Etiquette: How To Make Your Guest Look Like a Star

Very comprehensive overview of Podcast Culture (note: cannot find more recent information): Podcast Culture — Made by Podcasters

What NOT To Do On Social Media Sites

Interactive Insight Group’s Superlist of What Not to Do

What not to do with each social media tool: The Ultimate Social Media Etiquette Handbook

Additional Reference

Interactive Insights Group’s 100 Resources to Boost Your Social Media Savvy in 2009 is a wonderful resource for using social media.

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The Virtual Kitchen

photo courtesy of fooferkitten, Flickr

photo courtesy of fooferkitten, Flickr

The kitchen is the social hub of the home, and the epicenter of important family decisions. When I was a community organizer, I would knock on doors and ask people if they had a minute to talk. I knew I caught their interest when they invited me into their kitchen. If they offered me something to drink, I was even happier, because that meant that they had time for a real discussion. My goals, in order, were to get invited in, get into the kitchen, get a cup of coffee, get them to engage meaningfully, get them to join the organization. Once I was in the kitchen, usually everything else followed.

The questions I’ve been asking myself lately is:

Where is the virtual kitchen? Where do online stakeholders hang out socially?

Time, I believe, is the key metric to use when seeking the “kitchen.”  Social networks, I believe are the kitchens: they are the social hub of the internet, and  where people get information they trust to make important decisions. Therefore, I think of the metric thus: time spent on social networks overlaid with demographic information about each network.

The chart below, compiled by Hitwise, offers fairly recent information on US trend. A good comparison to this would be the slide show offered here, using ComScore statistics, that analyzes time spent on the top ten social networks from July 2006 to July 2007.

Average U.S. Time Spent for August 2008 (in minutes & seconds)

Rank

Name Domain

Aug-08

Aug-07

YoY % Change

1

MySpace http://www.myspace.com

30m32s

30m52s

1%

2

Facebook http://www.facebook.com

19m30s

15m50s

23%

3

MyYearbook http://www.myyearbook.com

28m57s

26m22s

10%

4

Tagged http://www.tagged.com

24m03s

26m06s

-8%

5

Bebo http://www.bebo.com

26m04s

29m34s

-12%

.
Source: Hitwise

If I were developing a communications strategy, I would cross-reference my target populations’ demographics with analysis of time spent on social networking sites.

For example, if my organization were running a youth group, we would be interested in MySpace, YouTube, PhotoBucket, and Facebook. However, if we were interested in asking Baby Boomers to advocate for legislation, then we would most likely connect with them through a friend-finding site like Classmates.com or a professional network like LinkedIn. This chart compiled by Rapleaf is a great resource for identifying the age and gender of social network users.

When you want to find your stakeholders, and really engage, you want to be in their kitchen, the virtual portal where they spend the most time. You want to be in the place where they are spending their time socially online, sipping their cups of coffee. Hopefully, this post helps your organization find your stakeholders’ kitchens. Enjoy the coffee!

Enjoy the Coffee! (photo by Jones G Gallery)

Enjoy the Coffee! (photo by Jones G Gallery)

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Online Giving and Clicks

photo by Daquella Manera

photo by Daquella Manera

Blackbaud has just released its preliminary research and findings on 2008 Online Giving Trends. I am considering this report alongside Steve McLaughlin’s earlier blog post, which contemplates the number of website clicks it takes for someone to donate to your organization.  How can we use social media to take advantage of these two trends ?

Use social media to direct donors to many channels. Use social media to increase website “stickiness.”

At least those are my conclusions. Here’s why:

  • A multi-channel strategy  (such as web, email, direct appeal, events, etc.) is the successful approach to building an online fundraising winning strategy.  To support this, Blackbaud reports that “organizations using the Internet mostly for donor acquisition and without integrated strategies usually see higher attrition rates than other nonprofits.” With social media, there are many different methods available to solicit and remind lapsed donors, as well as direct them to all your other fundraising channels!
  • McLaughlin also ponders the number of clicks it takes for someone to donate to your organization. It is anywhere from one to ten. Chris Garrett, interviewed here, says that “we all know it takes multiple “touches” of a prospect before they will open their wallet, on occasions up to seven times.” He refers to keeping customers on a site as increasing the “stickiness” of the website.  Obviously refreshed content on a blog brings customers/donors back for new information, but how to make websites less static? Why not cross-reference social media to your website?

Here are a few ideas to increase the “stickiness” of your site using social media, which encourages more page views and return visits. They all involve refreshing content with social media:

  1. Link your site with each blog post; refresh the home page material with the newest blog post.
  2. Create a Twitter stream that periodically mentions something new on the website.
  3. Keep visitors on the site by leading them to other social media applications your organization uses (see Social Media Map) and back again.
  4. Link to your website in your e-newsletter (e.g. “if you want to see the event, go to the You Tube video by logging onto the website.”)
  5. Create multiple entrances to the site with unique landing pages from each social media application. (e.g. “you’ve reached our organization from LinkedIn! Here are some additional facts about our organization.”)
  6. Obvious but not done: post comments from users/connections/friends about the organization on your home page. This encourages people to check out your other social media homes but also keep them coming back to see the recent feedback. Maybe it’s them!

What about using your social media activities to cross-reference, bolster and lead people to all of your different fundraising channels? A few off-the-top-of-my-head ideas:

  1. Send donors a member-created vlog highlighting a great project of the organization. Try to create viral buzz or tagging. Follow up with phone solicitations.
  2. Recognize important contributors on the blog or in a community forum.
  3. Create a Facebook or MySpace challenge to bring people to your offline fundraiser.
  4. Tweet from the offline fundraiser itself!
  5. Create a fun, interactive challenge asking each supporter to bring one friend to your Twitter stream, blog, website or online group. This will increase your donor pool.
  6. Donations via the Facebook or Myspace causes application.

I’d love to hear of how organizations have cross-fertilized fundraising channels with social media. I’m looking for research on using social media to create traffic for the website or increase the number of times an individual will return.  Thoughts? Food for another blog post!

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The Social Media Map

I’ve been thinking about two things this week:  further contemplation of  the Personal Branding post and learning about Lifestreaming, a tool which compiles social media usage into real time streams in one place. Together, they inspired me to reconsider the Site Map.

Why not update the standard website site map? Site maps are useful, of course, both for SEO optimization with Google and for your visitors who want to navigate your site, buy items, etc.  But where is your organization’s “social media map?” How do you communicate how your corporation/organization interfaces socially on web? The Employee Bio might elaborate how your employees interface with the web while at work, but what about the corporate interface? Here are some thoughts:

The Old Way

You work at a non-profit (or a for-profit corporation, for that matter) and you’ve decided on a communications strategy that includes social media.  Great! How might you inform your customers that you are engaged in social media? You can:

  • Link to your blog, feature recent blog posts on your site’s home page, or create a page on your website for the blog.
  • Place icons on the home page indicating that staff can be found on Twitter, Friendfeed, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc., or place the icons on the staff pages.
  • Post interesting articles or video onto your website.
  • Link to online communities under a “resources” header, or just as a “link” on the website.

I have to admit that I checked out the websites of several corporations and non-profit organizations whose CEOs and Executive Directors use Twitter. I found no Twitter links or promotions of this valuable social media tool. I have seen social media affiliations featured prominently on a number of consultants’ blogs, however, which makes sense given their profession. But why aren’t corporate staff’s social media activities more visible?

The New Way: Create a Social Media Map on Your Website

You work at a non-profit (or a for-profit corporation, for that matter) and you’ve decided on a communications strategy that includes social media.  Great! What about creating a Social Media Map on your website? There are many ways to set up the page, but I envision it similar to the “Press/News” page on many websites. In that spirit, you could create a website page entitled “Our Social Media Map.” The Map would list the interactive communications activities of the staff and organization, by social media application. Here are a few examples of how one might word it on the page:

  • FLICKR: go the the our organization’s Flickr photos for photos of recent events. Photos include…
  • TWITTER: corresp0nd with and follow our CEO on Twitter, username@our organization. Also, these other staff tweet… We look forward to the conversation!
  • SLIDESHARE: look through our slide show presentations on Slideshare. We just posted a slide show presenting our 5-year strategic plan. Our username is “TBA for Good” — feel free to mark your favorites, share, and invite us to connect with you.
  • YOU TUBE: here  will find clips from our annual meeting; feel free to tag, share and comment. Were you there? What did you think?
  • LINKEDIN: links to every staff member’s LinkedIn profile and relevant LinkedIn groups.
  • BLOGS: Organizational blog (link) and blogs of other staff as well. Also, here are links to blogs of note in the industry.

Additionally, with the advent of Lifestreaming, you could add a Lifestreaming-type page. For those new to Lifestreaming (like me), it’s a place where all your social media activities are streamed in real time and added to the site as they occur. You could combine all the social media usage of your employees and corporation into one STREAM page that readers can view. This is a totally new concept for a corporate site, but the streaming page might create some visual confusion for those website visitors unfamiliar with Lifestreaming. But…it could also add real excitement to a website. In any case, this concept could be adapted and utilized to give your customers a real-time view of your organization’s social media activity. (There is also a blog about Lifestreaming that appears to cover all the related technology, as well as an interesting new post on new Lifestreaming developments here.)

The goal of the Social Media Map is, of course, to further your communications strategy. Consider your goals, of course, such as: do you want to recruit more volunteers or deepen relationships through your social media activities? I’d love to hear how/if visitors to the Social Media Map page are converted to subscribers/followers/contacts in the various media streams listed on the page.


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Your Social Media Advisory Board

photo by Stussy2k

photo by Stussy2k

When I was a Business Consultant, I often taught business plan development classes. One of the highlights of the class was when I’d bring in a “serial entrepreneur” as a guest speaker. My favorite was Steve. He started his first business at 21, while still in college, and today is running his seventh business in as many different industries. When asked by students to what does he credit his success, he always said, “A great advisory board.” He advised entrepreneurs to throw away their inhibitions and invite the people they most admire to serve on their start-up advisory board, complete with “free pizza once every other month or some such thing.” As a rule, he said, ask those from outside your industry or field, and listen to their advice.

I was thinking about Steve yesterday and it occurred to me: what about a Social Media Advisory Board?

What Would An Advisory Board Do For You?

  1. Give your social media strategy focus. Most organizations, especially non-profit ones, just don’t have a Social Media Guru on staff.  An Advisory Board can help you plan and implement your strategy effectively. Don’t forget that they can help determine the elusive benchmarks.
  2. You don’t have to do it alone. Sometimes the thought of starting all those conversations can be intimidating. Your Board can talk you through it and possibly volunteer to take on some of the work.
  3. Tell you what you’re doing right and wrong. As Steve said, you need to listen to their advice. They don’t just help you create your strategy, but they are there for you. Hold meetings regularly and don’t be afraid to hear their honest opinions about what your organization is doing. That’s what they are there for.
  4. They will re-direct and HELP YOU. Every strategy hits a bump. Every online group has an agitator or flamer. Every blog gets bogged down. Your Board can give you advice on how to deal with all the bumps in the road.

Who Should You Recruit?

Intel formed an Insiders’ Social Media Advisory Team made of of “a diverse group of social media activists.” (The whole article is wonderful and thought-provoking.)  Entrepreneur Steve chose people from outside his industry. I always advise business owners to seek out missing expertise. Do you need a technophile on board to help you choose appropriate tools? Do you need the marketer’s perspective? Chris Brogan notes that you can ask intelligent people who you admire, or those with whom you’ve formed a relationship online and those who are professionally successful. These are great ideas. However, for the non-profit, I’d advocate this mix:

  • a savvy technology expert (with the patience of a saint) who will certainly be called upon to advise in selecting the right mix of technology for implementing any social media strategy
  • at least on PR professional. Consider both PR professionals who specialize in non-profit PR and traditional corporate PR companies. They have ties to media and a plethora of experience transmitting information to many channels and audiences.
  • representatives from at least two user groups. In the non-profit world, these could be volunteers or clients or members or activists. Whomever you will target to be an end user of the social media should also be a player in creating the strategy.
  • a fundraising professional. Let’s face it, in non-profit work, you want to find the money. A development professional will always give you that point of view and the development possibilities within your strategy.
  • a maverick. You need someone who thinks outside the box and will come up with the totally wild (and and often great) ideas or critiques. Mavericks are the most interesting thinkers you will come across, and should not be written off.
  • a social media user and professional in the field. This is the obvious one to find. Make sure your volunteer Advisor fits into the group and can work respectfully with others that may challenge his/her ideas.

How Would You Do This?

Ahhhh…there is the easy part: offer food! Don’t forget to set expectations: how often the Board will meet, what you expect them to do for the organization, how you want them to contribute, how often they will meet, and how long they are committed.

When you do this, I’d love to hear about it. What worked? Who did you invite?

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Branding the Staff?

photo by Pingu1963

photo by Pingu1963

I came across an interesting slide show entitled “Non Profits and Social Media” by Ed Schipul, which he presented at the International PRSA (Public Relation Society of America) Conference this year.  The particular slide that caught my attention me was entitled “Personal vs. Non Profit Branding.”  I then flipped to his company’s website, Brandtobedetermined, and found the company’s Personal Branding page.

Personal branding within an organization has  huge potential for the non-profit sector. Most often, the organization fails to consider its staff as a connecting point for social media. This is where the idea of “personal branding with social media” could be helpful.

When non-profits jump into social media communication, they often initiate a blog,  foster a social network (creating or joining a Facebook-type group), and add social bookmarking tools to site (see the bottom of this post as an example).

The typical “About Our Staff” page on a non-profit website lists the employees, telephone or email and a short bio. But if your non-profit is trying to send the message to your stakeholders that it is engaging in social messaging, then why not update the “About Our Staff” to a “Personal Branding Page?”  A non-profit staff bio could also include offline professional networks, online social networks where he/she is active, the staff’s public social bookmarks, possibly a professional blog, and of course interesting links that reflect the employees’ point of view. There is so much more, of course, but it is framed by the employees’ personalities and time limitations.

To tie into the employee’s personal brand, what about re-creating the predictable business card?

Employees could give out a “social business card,” such as the ones SpinningSilk Media uses. I give credit to their Harmonious New Media blog for inspiring this connection. On the back of the business card, why not repeat some of the information from the Personal Brand page of the website? This sends a clear message to your stakeholders that the organizational culture has embraced social media and wants to advertise its many opportunities for engagement.

Here’s how my Personal Brand page might look:

DEBRA ASKANASE

(insert short bio. Shorter than the one for this blog!)

(A bit about my consulting work.)

You can find me on LinkedIn, Twitter, and delicious. I engage in conversations on the the Social Media Mafia LinkedIn group, several yahoo groups and Digital Eve Israel. Some of my favorite bloggers are Beth Kanter, Chris Brogan, Jeremiah Owyang and Floyd Norris (NYT). I am most inspired by those who are discovering their real potential!

Tell me what you think. How should it be tweaked? What are the obstacles?

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