140+: In the Moment


“Duh! I Shoulda Thought of That!” LinkedIn Version

Duh! I Shoulda Thought of That: LinkedInLast week I was fortunate to have the opportunity to drive through a whirlwind tour of my favorite social media system, LinkedIn, with enthusiastic members of the Maryland Chapter of PRSA. We were having so much fun, (or at least I was having so much fun) covering some of the “Power Tools” I use to light up LinkedIn, that we lost track of time, and never got back to the slides in the formal part of the presentation.  Here are just a few of the bonus tips I intended to cover. (Can be found in the presentation itself on my site.)

“Duh! I Shoulda Thought of That Tips”

1) You must have a keyword-rich, interesting and remarkable profile.

2) Use your vanity URL.

3) Ummm… This is SOCIAL media! That means you sorta need to be open to connecting with people. (Hello?)  make your profile PUBLIC and accessible! Check and update your settings!

4) Increase your connections. Make it a goal to add more each week.

5)  Join 50 Groups, set up notifications so they come to your email, and READ and comment on them.

6) Create your Company Profile, add your products and services, post jobs, and ask employees to use the official company name so they show up as employees.

7) LinkedIn allows you to add links on your profile to your website, blog, and other sites. Use them, and name the links appropriately.

8)  Update your status at least several times a week. If it makes it easier, link your Twitter account to LinkedIn or use Sharaholic, HootSuite,Sesmic Desktop, or Tweetdeck to post on LinkedIn and Twitter at the same time. Time saver!

9) Make friends with social media “Power Tools” like Sharaholic, HootSuite,Sesmic Desktop, or Tweetdeck (and others) to make power-posting possible.

10) You have a smartphone… Use it! Put the LinkedIn app on your iPhone, BB, or Android and use downtime (standing in lines is my fav) to post.

11) Get to know the Learning Center on LinkedIn and subscribe to the LinkedIn Blog.

12) Follow LinkedIn on Twitter.

13) The final “DUH!” Tip:  Publicize your personal and company LI presences on your site, on print materials, on other social media sites, and on your forehead, if all else fails!

Want more? There are two more slides of tips in the bonus material in the presentation:

That was fun! More next week?

The “M” Word: Marketing is Not a Dirty Word

January 2The M Word: Marketing Is Not A Dirty Word011 is the time to get over marketing-phobia!

Did you grow up with the notion that it’s not nice to toot your own horn?  Do you feel uncomfortable marketing your products, your organization, or, if you are a consultant, marketing yourself?  How has that played out in your professional life?

Some people think marketing is distasteful. In some industries and communities, marketing has become a whisper-worthy word. Leaders in many non-profit organizations and small businesses think their programs, products, and services are so good and so needed, they just simply sell themselves.

Get over it! Time to face facts: If you don’t tell people about what your organization, products and services are all about, they can’t use them. In fact, if you don’t market, you may not have employees, advocates, volunteers, funders, clients, or customers. Every time you have to tell people about yourself, your products,programs or services, you are marketing.

If you are one of those who just are not comfortable or interested in marketing, it’s OK. What’s most important is that you acknowledge that someone needs to take responsibility for promotion. This is the perfect time to take stock of what you can do to improve your outreach and start attracting people who need what you have to offer. Download our New Year 10 Point Marketing Assessment to evaluate how your organization is doing!

So, take the marketing assessment and leave a comment: tell us about your challenges! Or, tell us about your biggest marketing fears.  I’m sure we all have felt your pain, and some of us may even have a few good ideas that might help you find your way in 2011!

UPDATE: Facebook Fail: Nonexistent Customer Service (via 140+: In the Moment)

New update to my post, Facebook Fail: Nonexistent Customer Service about being unable to resolve a payment issue that caused Facebook to disable my account.

I know will be accused of exaggerating, but I promise that I have tried to contact Facebook more than 30 times to arrange for payment to for a mistake I made! Really! I’ve used their online forms and the specified email addresses, only to be met with a 5 of my emails to every 1 canned responses from Facebook. The responses do not respond to or correspond with the text of my email, and if I am lucky enough to get a response, it arrives with a 3-5 day delay.

At this point, it is just too funny to be frustrating! It’s one big cycle that demonstrates complete disregard for customers.As a marketing geek with considerable experience in SaaS management, including customer service, I am intrigued by just how low the Customer Service at Facebook can go. When you compare the historically horrible customer service offered by Dell, Microsoft, Verizon, and Comcast, and they come out looking like customer service heroes next to Facebook, you know there is a problem.

I wonder if the playground posse at Facebook even has a Customer Relationship Management System (CRM). I appears that my cases are brand-new each time I write. Do the FB kids know about CRM? Or are they too busy thinking of the next great way to socialize our universe to worry about such mundane and 20th century concepts as customer service?

Facebook Fail: Nonexistent Customer Service Poor Facebook. The company has its hands full. With relentless Congressional pressure to stop abusing our trust and peddling our privacy, the “leadership” at Facebook probably doesn’t have time to think about providing customer service to paying customers. The Facebook kids are so busy planning to build a totally social universe where it is at the center, they can’t be bothered to provide even passable customer service to those of us who pay for … Read More

via 140+: In the Moment

Cross-pollinating with Hashtags on Twitter

Cross-pollinating on Twitter?  What is she talking about now?

I’ve blogged about the joys of Twitter as a tool in non-profit organizations (specifically early childhood education) and mentioned hashtags before, but today, let’s go a little deeper to see how hastags can help unrelated twitterers (or Tweeps) connect through common interests. The Twitter Fan Wiki explains that “Hashtags were developed as a means to create “groupings” on Twitter, without having to change the basic service.”

First, the basics:

What is a hashtag?
Hashtags refer to the practice of placing the “#” symbol prior to a “tag” (or topic category) to indicate that a tweet will be of interest to anyone who is interested in the topic.

Here’s a sample tweet to help illustrate hashtags:

What you see is a tweet with information that would be interesting to anyone who is following the topic #ece (or early childhood education),  #teachers, #education, or #educationcareers.

Hashtags are very helpful because you can easily find information about topics that interest you without wading through lots of tweets that are not interesting to you.

How do you use hashtags?

If you are not already “following” topics, you can easily do so by using the search function on Twitter or your twitter client by entering the search term you want to follow. If a tweet about information that interests you is posted, but you are not online at the time to see it, you can see it whenever you search.  For example, I am interested in #leadership, #nonprofit issues, #fundraising, #socmed (social media), #marketing, early childhood education (#ece, #earlychildhood, #NAEYC, #PreK), #parenting, women’s issues (#women), progressive issues (#p2), and #advocacy, among other topics. So I keep my twitter client (Seesmic) set to search for those hashtags. Whenever I start up Seesmic, I can quickly scan to see what’s been posted.

You will rarely find a tweet from me in which there is not a hastag. I just believe tweeting without hashtags is like shouting into the wind. The only way someone is going to see it is if they happen to be online, or if the organic tweet includes a commonly searched term.

Now onto the cross-pollinating concept:
I use hastags very strategically to allow people who are interested in one topic discover other related topics and communities. For example, I often read information related to leadership from which  managers or people who follow #management might benefit, so I add #leadership #management. I also see tweets with #ece that parents might like, so I retweet with the #parenting and #parents hashtags.  Also, I really want to make sure the ECE community becomes aware of social media and technology resources, so I not only add #ece to my social media tweets, but I also created the hastag #ecetech. (How did I do that? I just started using it in my technology related tweets along with ece, and people started picking it up, and now we have a little group. COOL!)

Hashtags are great for live tweeting or creating chats at specific times. For example, there were a lot of tweets from the NAEYC conference with the #NAEYC_AC hashtag. It was great to stay on top of what was going on.

Hashtags can help you participate in Twitter chats. Let’s say you want to have a conversation about a specific book. You would just post a tweet like:

Hey, Tweeps: #booktitlechat at 8 PM Tuesday, 4/13. #topic #topic #topic

  • #booktitle = the title of the book
  • chat indicates that there is going to be a live Twitter chat
  • #topic= a related group or topic that people might find interesting.

Of course, to make the chat really work, you have to give people a lot of notice and tweet about it a lot…right up until the time you are ready to start. Notice that the various #topic hashtags help cross-pollinate, and  bring various groups of previously unrelated people together. As the chat gets underway, the various Twitterers can find more people with whom they might like to connect, and then follow them.

Does cross-pollination on Twitter make sense now? Add a comment if you have other ideas or if you think I am just plain nuts!

The Top 3 Dirty Little Secrets of Social Media Marketing

Money on social media hype image

You’ve heard it all from passionate presenters and evangelical bloggers…There’s tons of hype about the power of social media.

Let’s get real. Social media  offers a lot of potential for marketing. Companies and nonprofit organizations are experiencing success using social media for marketing, outreach, advocacy and fundraising. Lots of us internet marketers think it’s the best way to engage with and establish relationships with customers and constituents, and perhaps (if we have done a good job) get them to transact with us. BUT…In the heat of the moment when social media passion has taken over, there are (at least) three secrets social media marketing evangelists might fail to mention:

1) Social media marketing is just not right for every business. Face it: If you are marketing niche products or services into a very traditional sector, it just might not make sense.  Using any marketing medium effectively requires putting the message where the target audience is, and where they want to engage with you.

Are farmers really going to make Facebook their first stop for information when they need to buy a tractor? Are they going spend a lot of time engaging in an exchange of ideas information about equipment on social networking sites? (Hold on there, farmers! I know you use social media. Stick with me for a minute!)  I’m just saying social media should not be the primary tool in the marketing mix for some businesses. The fact is, there are better ways to market some products and services. To be effective with any marketing strategy you have to  pick the right mix.   Social media marketing is a powerful tool, but true geeks like me must be strong enough to admit when social doesn’t make sense.

Don’t buy the hype if the person offering the advice  is not thinking specifically about your products or services and your core market.

2) You simply cannot push your message. I know this is not really a secret. Seth Godin, Chris Brogan and Guy Kawasaki and lots of other smart social media marketers constantly tell us social networking is about all the things we learned in Kindergarten about making friends.  But if you follow social media it seems like a lot of marketers are treating the medium like advertising, alienating their audiences, and making it obvious that their brands are not really customer-centric.

Social networkers expect two-way or many-to-many conversation and real engagement. That means you must share interesting conversation, establish value, and give your audience a chance to chat. You have listen to them and you must respond, just as you might if you were in their living rooms at a party. Because, indeed, this is SOCIAL (as in the companionship of others) media.

Would you invite people to a dinner party and start pitching the minute they arrived? Even if it was a business-related event, you would have to at least engage in a conversation or two. And if you feigned interest, the other guests would consider you a phony. HELLO! Social networking is where your company will be tagged as relevant and interesting or doomed to be like a narcissistic outcast because the content is just pitch after pitch. Boring. Useless. Irrelevant. Crass. Just like a bad party host.

3) Social networking is not easy and immediate. I’m sure you’ve seen the books and blogs that Get more followers imagepromise dramatic and immediate results from social media in just a few minutes per day.  Those plans use technology and tactics that can automatically build an audience, but the technology cannot deliver the right audience or build meaningful relationships with them. Onceyou’ve found your core audience, engagement with those people must authentic– a real person must respond authentically.  It takes a lot of time and patience to build followers, friends, and fans.  It requires authentic interest in your audience and commitment to sharing.

If you do not have at least 10 hours a week (that’s a .25 FTE)  to spend on social media and no money to hire someone, you probably should not plan to use social media as a primary tool in your marketing strategy. You can set up a presence on a social media site with less of time investment, but you can’t expect significant results.  And, even with someone devoted to social media for a quarter of their time, you should expect it to take at least 6 months to build up meaningful results. And, ROI? Bonus Dirty Little Secret: It’s not your mother’s ROI any more! ROI in social media is gauged differently now… But that’s a post for another day. Stay tuned!

So, what? I know it seems like I am a social media Scrooge, but I’m one of the social media-crazy evangelists who sometimes gets so carried away that I forget to offer these important footnotes.  But I do think it is important to know how and when to use the tools that fit the job.  You deserve pragmatic advice.

So, what do you think? Am all wrong? Leave a comment and tell me why!

Social Media? Give it to the Intern! (NOT!)

Today, just for fun, I searched the job listings in online for “social media.” 9 out of 10 of the results were for Interns. I was pretty surprised, and a little bit ticked off.  Do managers think social media is something to relegate to Interns?

WAIT: I am pro-Intern!  As a matter of fact, I routinely hire Interns and have found incredibly talented, insightful, and productive young people who are capable of producing amazing work . But…

There’s a common misconception that just because young people are often use social media to connect with their peers and organize their social lives, they are perfectly suited to take on social media for companies. That’s like asking a 16-year-old licensed driver to drive an 18 wheel tractor-trailer on a highway at rush hour.

The skills needed to devise a well constructed social media plan and execute it every day are more complex than just putting out a few tweets and posts on Facebook. It is true that some Interns do understand how to use social media tools with great depth, but they probably are not:

  • subject matter experts on your organization’s mission, products, and services;
  • aware of the competitive landscape in your field;
  • familiar with the buzzwords and language that are specific to your field;
  • capable of writing well-constructed posts that will cause readers to take action;
  • marketing experts  with understanding of engagement;
  • able to craft the goals for your social media plan and implement them without supervision.

These are critical skills needed for any social media program. You should seek those skills in the professionals you hire to manage your social media.

Don’t get me wrong, Interns are often very talented and are capable of executing the day-to-day basic tactics. But you should not expect to turn over the keys to social media to Interns without careful direction and supervision by a professional with more in-depth understanding of marketing basics and your products and services.

So, rock on, Interns! Direction is the key!

UPDATE: For more information about how to select the right candidate for your organization’s social media program, read:Is the Right Person Doing Your Nonprofit’s Social Media?” on the Wild Apricot Blog

Nurturing Donors Online is NOT Magic

Have you ever been disappointed with the results you are getting with your online fundraising program because you thought it was going to be so easy? As you began the process, you might have thought you’d put a donation button on your web site, and suddenly the donations would start flowing. That is a common misconception, and it’s one that often sabotages online fundraising. Getting donations online requires some effort, some  creativity, and a few key tools.  Of course, you must have online donation software that actually processes the transaction, but that’s only a fraction of the story. You have to set all of the action into play! You have to ask for donations, remind supporters about your great work, and then ask again. Online fundaising should one tactic in your overall fund development toolkit, and should be combined with other strategies. But, if you are asking for donations through postal mail and events, you may miss opportunities to engage donors on the spot, in the moment that they are considering your well crafted appeal. The immediacy of the connection between an email that links to your donation button offers opportunities to capitalize on the natural need for immediate gratification. There’s a natural cycle involved in engaging donors online. It looks like this:

The Online Fundraising Cycle

The Online Fundraising Cycle

What are the two most basic tools you need to make the online fundraising cycle go around?

  1. You’ve got a great website (check?) (Think carefully about what “great” means!)
  2. You are using well designed, high-impact, regularly delivered email newsletters and email blasts to keep your supporters, donors, and constituents informed (check?)(No? Download The Nonprofit Email Marketing Guide from Network for Good.

If you are missing either of these elements in your online fundraising toolkit, it’s time to get to work! Here’s what you can do to improve your organization’s chances of becoming an online fundraising superhero: Your Website and your DonateNow pages When was the last time you took a look at your site as if it was the first time you visited? Sit down at the computer and pretend you have never been there before.  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the site provide information that is compelling, complete, and tells the story of your organization’s work?
  • Does it include a form for visitors to complete if they want to learn more about your organization or subscribe to regular email communication from your organization?
  • Do you ask visitors if they would like to receive an email newsletter?
  • Do you know how to capture those addresses and use them to contact potential supporters?

Take a look at the sites of other similar organizations. How does your site look compared to the “competition?”

  • Is  your site as attractive and does it look as professional as the other sites in your field?
  • Are you proud of your site?
  • Would you be proud of your site if a potential grantmaker visited?

Ask a friend to take a tour while you watch. See how that friend gets around and be prepared to ask questions.

  • Is it easy to find your donation links?
  • Do your DonateNow pages tell your story?
  • Can your friend easily describe your work and tell you why your cause is important and worthy?

How did your site stack up? If it did not meet your expectations, don’t worry! Maintaining a website is an ongoing process.  You should expect to care for your site regularly, and do a significant facelift every 2-5 years.  It doesn’t have to be expensive to make sure you are hitting the most important elements. If you need help, take a look at these resources: Web Sites 101 on Fundraising 123 by Network for Good 10-Point Basic Website Checklist for Nonprofits Is Your Website a Tool for Doing? Your Email Newsletters and Email Announcements If you are not using email to communicate with potential and current donors and supporters, it’s time to think about subscribing to a professional email provider. If you already are using a system, consider the following tips to optimize your results:

  • Make sure to place the email newsletter sign-up form in a very visible place on every page of your website.
  • Be sure to ask for donations and link to your donation page in every issue or announcement.
  • Refresh your email list every time you send an announcement or newsletter with the new addresses that have been entered since the last time.
  • Plan an editorial schedule with topics that your donors and supporters are likely to want to know.
  • Be flexible with your editorial schedule. If an emergency or natural disaster occurs, you will want to include information that is interesting and relevant.
  • Write compelling stories about the impact your organization has had. Make them as personal as possible. Think like a donor….they want to know that their donations have had an impact and made a difference for the cause.

There are literally thousands of e-mail marketing systems. Here is a list of a few of them:

MailChimp

VerticalResponse

ConstantContact

EmailNow (Nonprofit Organizations only)

iContact