Want to Go Viral with Your Videos? Check Out this Report

Via Mashable, comes this report from Tube Mogul, Web Video Marketing--Best Practices.

Some key take-aways:

The "Secret Formula"
They've devised a "secret formula" for developing an online video:

"Secret Formula"  - .5C + 15.M + .20T + .15P = Success

50% C = Content and Production - this is storyline, style lightning,  production, etc.
  15% M = Metadata - the text title, keywords, descriptions,  and categories that help people find your video
  20% T = Thumbnail - the packaging which draws people in when  displayed on the page
  15% P = promotion - just good old fashioned marketing

In other words, about half of what goes into creating a successful video is making sure you have great content that's well-produced. The other 50% comes down to your packaging and marketing of the video and the strategies you use to help people find it.

Content
Apparently these are the things that "sell":

  • Humor
  • Avant-garde videos
  • Talent
  • Celebrities
  • Kitsch:
    • Special effects - the Ray Ban sunglass catching video is a great example.  In general, any video that generates debate generates viewers
    • Animal/pet tricks - man is drawn to animals just as he is to fire… it's hard to explain, but it seems to have to do with primitive wiring in the brain
    • Cute kids - one of the draws of online video is that real people capture real moments, and nothing is as straightforward as a child just being herself
    • Repetitive, catchy music - certainly not a new concept, but with infinite channels come many more opportunities to put up the experimental jingle
    • Physical injury - thank goodness it's not me!
    • Pranks - thank goodness it's not me!
    • Spoofs - ride the coattails of the tried and true
    • And of course, sex always sells

Lots more info where that came from. When you read the report, be sure to check out the chart on different video-sharing services, particularly the demographics column. 


Lessons Learned from Calculating My Online Identity Score

Online_identity_2 From Career Distinction comes a nifty little tool that will calculate your "online identity score" and help you determine how effective your online personal branding efforts have been.

When you go to the site, you're instructed to run a Google search, enter in the total number of results returned, determine how many of the results on the first three pages relate to you and then how well you think these results represent your personal brand and the calculator will give you your score. Mine, as you can see, was a 9 out of 10.

I was pleasantly surprised that it was this high and had to take a look at what got me there:

  • This blog--which is the number 2 result returned for "Michele Martin" after the Michel Martin from NPR. (Note that her name is spelled without the final "e,{ making me the number one Michele Martin--with an "e"-- on the web)
  • References from other bloggers
  • Slideshare presentations I've uploaded
  • My LinkedIn profile
  • My Building a Better Blog site

So what's interesting about this? For me, it's a few things.

First, I'm controlling my own online identity for the most part by what I'm creating and putting onto the Web. Links from other bloggers are obviously out of my control, although those links are complimentary, so I'm happy to have them. But the rest of these references are things I've put together myself, giving me ultimate control over my identity. At least right now.

What also strikes me in this is the powerful role of Web 2.0 and social media.  Every one of these references is coming from some sort of social site, not from a traditional web site, newspaper stories, etc. I have essentially become the number one Michele Martin on the Internet through the power of personal publishing and social connections.

Now, of course, all it would take would be one bad newspaper story or Digg reference and all of this goodwill would be buried in a second. I am also benefiting from the fact that apparently I'm the most active Michele Martin on the web, at least for now. But I do find this little experiment an interesting one. It says a lot about how we can control our own online destinies through the power of what we're creating and sharing. Yet another reason to start using these tools if you haven't been doing so already.

UPDATE--Reader Bruce Fulton makes an excellent point in comments that when you use the Online Identity Calculator, you're giving Career Distinction your email address and the right to email you for marketing purposes:

"Reach and the authors of Career Distinction will use your email address to email you recommendations for your online identity and periodically share news of special personal branding events and offers. "

For me, the delete key works well in dealing with this kind of thing, but if you'd prefer to not receive this kind of info at all, then you might want to think twice about using the tool. Thanks for pointing this out, Bruce. 

 


Launch Your Nonprofit Blog with a Bang!

Launch Thinking about launching a blog for your nonprofit? How would you like to get 6,312 subscribers to your new blog in one day? This Copyblogger case study from Brian Clarke offers some powerful lessons in launching your blog with a bang, based on the experiences of Tom Kuhlman and Articulate, a company that sells rapid e-learning software.

Offer Value to Existing and New Readers
There's a tendency for most nonprofits to think that talking about themselves will be enough to bring readers running when they launch their new blogs. Not true in most cases, particularly if your blog is merely another thinly-disguised attempt to raise money.

Your first step is to figure out what blogging content you can provide to readers that will add value for them regardless of whether or not they do something with your organization. So an environmental blog might offer daily tips on how to live a more environmentally-friendly life. Or an organization that serves youth might provide resources for teachers and parents to use in engaging young people. The goal is to have a blog focus that isn't just about reporting on what your organization is doing. You should also provide value-add beyond just being an online newsletter.

Create Cornerstone Content
Prior to launching Articulate's Rapid E-Learning blog, Tom Kuhlman created two series of posts, one on Rapid e-Learning 101 and one on 5 Myths of Rapid e-Learning. He posted these to the site before they even announced the launch. This gave readers immediate, meaty content with which to interact when they visited the blog giving them a greater incentive to subscribe and to continue visiting. Compare this to the usual blog launch which consists of one or two entries that often sound tentative at best or that aren't particularly interesting because the blog is just starting up.

If you want to get the most from launching your new blog, you have to give people solid reasons for visiting and subscribing. This means having a fair amount of content already on your site when you do the launch. This also takes us back to the previous point of "value-add." When you're developing that cornerstone content, it should be material that is immediately engaging, interesting and useful for your target audience.

Provide an Incentive to Subscribers
In addition to great blog content, it also makes sense to provide subscribers with a "bonus" for their subscription. Articulate's Tom Kuhlman developed a free e-book, The Insider's Guide to Becoming an E-Learning Pro, that RSS subscribers received immediately when they subscribed to the blog. Again, this was value-add info related to the purpose of the blog that was only available to subscribers.

An e-book is one example of a "freebie." You could also provide some kind of "tip sheet" (10 Tips on Making Your House More Eco-Friendly), a video how-to, or a podcast of an interview with someone important to your target audience. The point is to give subscribers a value-add extra that they can only obtain when they subscribe to your blog.

Send a Launch Email
To get the word out about your new blog and the availability of free content, develop a short email announcement to send to your mailing list. The purpose of the announcement is not to sell the subscription, but to send them to the landing page (see the next item), so it should be brief and to the point and enticing enough to persuade them to click through to the page. Be targeted in sending your email--the freebie and the blog should be of interest to the audience you're emailing, so you may have to segment your list.

Create a Landing Page
The landing page will sell your subscription incentive and provide people with the means to subscribe and receive the free content. It should include a brief description of what you're giving away and how it would benefit the reader. It should also include a statement that lets the reader know they are subscribing to your blog, a call to action, an email form, and a “no spam” statement. Here's the Articulate Landing Page to give you an idea of how it would look. 

A few key features for you to note from Articulate's example in putting together your own landing page:

  • The friendly, personable tone. Nonprofits often sound a lot more institutional than they mean to as they try to sound like "professionals. But people relate to other people, so your landing page should make you sound approachable.
  • Subscribing is easy--just enter your email address. Don't make people look too hard for a way to subscribe and use a familiar method like email so that you can broaden the number of people who will respond.
  • The "no spam" statement is friendly, too--"Don't worry. We hate SPAM as much as you do and don't do it."
  • The description of the e-book that focuses on benefits to the reader in a few key bullet points. Don't go overboard on the landing page and be sure to focus on how the material will benefit your audience.

You'll also note that when you visit the Articulate blog, the e-book offer is prominently displayed so that new readers can also subscribe and receive the content directly through the blog.

Pull Together Your Delivery System
Articulate uses the Feedburner Email system for subscriptions and the Wordpress RSS Sticky plug-in to deliver the e-book. If you don't use Wordpress or you're offering a multimedia "freebie" like a podcast, then you may have to do some further exploration to find the right automatic delivery option. That's an area that I intend to research a little more in the next few weeks. I'll share with you what I find out. Or if you have some ideas, email me or leave them in comments.

The Last Step--Start Blogging
Now it's time for the fun stuff--or the really hard work, depending on your perspective--the blogging. At this point you should already have some great content  on your blog, based on the cornerstone content you posted earlier. Keep building on that. If you've been successful in driving traffic to your new blog then you can also use your audience to help you identify topics to explore, information they'd like to receive, etc. A major point of blogging is to engage your audience and in this process you should have created a pretty large one to start.  Now have fun with it.  

Photo via Jurvetson


Is Your Website 1.0 or 2.0?

Last week I posted on RSS-enabling your website so that visitors can subscribe to your regularly updated content. As I mentioned in that post, and as Laura Whitehead brought up in comments, RSS only makes sense, though, when your website actually provides timely news and information. If your site is simply an online brochure, then RSS isn't going to do much for you.

This got me to thinking about the fact that many organizations are still trapped in a Web 1.0, one-way approach to developing their websites. They haven't moved into the Web 2.0 approach, which emphasizes two-way communication, collaboration and feedback and websites as a service. This isn't surprising or a criticism--many organizations are still struggling with how to fit into this new world. But it is a suggestion that we need to look at the situation more carefully if nonprofits hope to transition with the way the rest of the world is moving.

Are You Website 1.0 or 2.0?

Tim O'Reilly is credited with the first articulation of Web 2.0 and its principles. You can read his discussion of that here. But that feels a little too complicated for the point I'm trying to make, so I went looking for some other ways to explain the differences.

The best one I found came from darrenbarefoot's blog:

Joe (one of our clients) has written a little comparative analysis of Web 1.0 vs. Web 2.0:

  • Web 1.0 was about reading, Web 2.0 is about writing
  • Web 1.0 was about companies, Web 2.0 is about communities
  • Web 1.0 was about client-server, Web 2.0 is about peer to peer
  • Web 1.0 was about HTML, Web 2.0 is about XML
  • Web 1.0 was about home pages, Web 2.0 is about blogs

He has about 15 such points. Here are a couple more, off the top of my head:

  • Web 1.0 was about lectures, Web 2.0 is about conversation
  • Web 1.0 was about advertising, Web 2.0 is about word of mouth
  • Web 1.0 was about services sold over the web, Web 2.0 is about web services

A couple of others that I would add to the list:

  • Web 1.0 was about getting everything on the home page, while Web 2.0 is about design and usability that is clean, simple and easy to navigate.
  • Web 1.0 was about pushing information to the masses, Web 2.0 is about pulling your own customized info.

Why Should I Care About Having a Web 2.0 site?
Our expectations of an organization are increasingly being set by their web presence. Google has become the way that most people do initial research and the first place most people will look for you is on the web. As people use more and more Web 2.0 sites, they come to expect certain things--a certain look, particular functionality, the ability to engage in 2-way conversation and to customize their interactions. If an organization's web site is merely an online brochure, then it's less likely to get people's attention. And if it looks like a home page from the late 90's, you'll look like your organization is woefully out-of-date.

So How Do We Go 2.0?
The question is, how do you take your site to the next level? Or if you're putting up your first site, how do you make it 2.0? Here are a couple of resources that will give you some ideas:

Don't worry about doing everything all at once. You can sketch out where you want to go with your site and then add features and functionality in a phased process. The point is to start changing your mindset from a 1.0 "brochureware" approach to a 2.0 "site as service" approach. Keep thinking about how your site can help your visitors DO something (Kathy Sierra calls it "helping users kick ass")  and you'll be on the right track. And don't forget--your organization needs to be Web 2.0-enabled, too.

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Serializing Your Content With FeedCycle

I was checking out the Open  Learn project this morning (a topic worthy of its own blog post) and came across their competition to remix/reuse their content, which led me to an interesting little tool--Feedcycle

Feedcycle enables you to publish serialized RSS feeds. In other words, subscribers can sign up to receive a series of blog posts, podcasts, videocasts, etc. automatically delivered daily. As subscribers sign up, they will be sent the first item in the series, then the next, etc. regardless of when they sign up for the service. Subscribers can use any of the most popular readers, including Google Reader, Bloglines, Netvibes, etc.

Feedcycle_image_3 As you can see from the example, your subscribers will get details on the length of the series and items to expect. They can also add to their preferred reader using a chicklet.

This is a great way to provide chunks of content that should be in some kind of linear format (for example staff training, blog series, etc,). It's also obviously a great way to tell a story. It works best for content that isn't "fresh"--that is information that would be valuable to offer in a serialized format on a permanent basis.

There's a free version that's pretty generous, as well as premium/paid versions. More on pricing and features here.

I haven't had a chance to give it a try yet, but this TechCrunch article is pretty positive about the service. I'll be off for the next several days, so I may use some of that time to think more about how to use this for some projects I'm working on and to do additional research on the tool. Mostly wanted to share because it looks like such a cool option.


Screencasting with Screencast-O-Matic (with Some Wikis Thrown In)

Next week I'm going to be teaching a client how to use Typepad to maintain a simple website I developed for her organization.  I was looking at pulling together some reference materials to leave behind after my demo when it occurred to me that the best reference material would be a screencast of how to use the site. Enter Screencast-O-Matic. (Note if you want the entire lowdown on screencasting, check out Beth Kanter's Primer on Screencasting)

First--some background. For those who are wondering what a screencast is, it's simply a video that captures action on your computer screen. Usually you can record audio narration too, so you can basically show someone how to navigate through a website, use a particular web application, etc., explaining things as you go along.

What's cool about Screencast-O-Matic is that it's web-based--no software to download to my computer. You can record and upload a screencast of up to 15 minutes with the tool--for free. You can choose the size of your screen to capture and whether or not to include audio. Once you've recorded your screencast, you can encode and upload your screencast to the site where it's available to others to view, either through a link or by embedding the code of your screencast into your site or blog, similar to embedding a Youtube video. To learn more about how it works,  check out this screencast (made using the tool).

So this is why I'm excited. I didn't have a lot of time to learn how to use a software program--I just wanted to be able to record some simple instructions and leave them behind for the client. I'd bookmarked Screencast-O-Matic awhile ago and decided now was the time to test it out. And it really worked like a dream. Within 20 minutes, I'd recorded and uploaded an 8-minute tutorial on how the client could log into the Typepad account I created for her and then create and edit posts. The whole thing worked pretty seamlessly. A few little glitches in the playback at points, but it was my connection, not the software.

So why am I not sharing with you my screencast? Because I created one that was personalized to this particular client (including using her username and password). But that's also the beauty of the thing. In the time it would have taken me to type up some instructions for her, I was able to actually SHOW her how the site works. And I could make it just for her, including making a few jokes and comments specific to her organization.

A few other features worth noting--

Screencast-O-Matic lets you add notes into your screencast after it's finished. So as you watch the screencast (before you upload it), you can put in a sort of Table of Contents to the videot. That way if a person wanted to skip your instructions on how to log into a site and move directly into how to create a post, they could click on that note and be taken to that part of the screencast. Pretty nice.

Also, I can embed my screencast in the same way I might embed a Youtube video. So this means I could create a wiki and include a screencast directly in the page. Or I can paste the screencast into my blog or website.  Another nice little feature for training. You can create a wiki to follow up on or supplement a staff development session, include links and resources in the wiki, and embed your screencast right on the page. Think about how cool it would be if your organization's policies and procedures were in a wiki and then you could embed a screencast showing staff exactly how to enter customer data into the computer system. How cool would THAT be?

To me what was great was this was a really down and dirty little tool for creating a quick screencast of reasonable quality. There was virtually no learning curve and I was able to do something personalized for my client in the same time it would have taken me to create handouts. In fact, it was so easy to use, I could see staff creating their own short screencasts to share computer tips they've learned, etc.  I definitely recommend checking it out.


The Psychology of Email--Two Studies

A couple of interesting studies re: email use and our responses to it, via Jeremy Dean of PsyBlog.

The Impact of Capitalization and Emoticons on Perceptions of Email
Apparently, depending on your personality type, proper use of capitalization and the use of the smiley emoticon can make you seem more likable. According to one study cited by Dean (Byron and Baldridge, 2007):

They found that, sure enough, using correct capitalisation and emoticons tended to make a better impression on readers. The reader's personality also influenced how emoticons and capitalisation were perceived. Readers high in both extroversion and emotional stability were likely to rate sender's emails as more likeable if they had correct capitalisation. As for emoticons, readers higher in emotional stability were likely to rate sender's emails more likeable if they used emoticons.

The opposite was also true. This meant that for the introverted and emotionally unstable, correct capitalisation tended not to affect the sender's likeability, perhaps even lowering it. Similarly, emoticons had little effect on the emotionally unstable.

Communicating Persuasively--Email or Face-to-Face?
Another study indicates that email tends to work better in persuading men than it does women:

Persuasion research has uncovered fascinating effects: that men seem more responsive to email because it bypasses their competitive tendencies (Guadagno & Cialdini, 2002). Women, however, may respond better in face-to-face encounters because they are more 'relationship-minded'. But is this finding just a gender stereotype?

While this appears to be related to gender, there may be more value in looking at the nature of the relationship, says Dean. If you have a competitive relationship with a person, then you might be better off using email to make your case. If your relationship is more cooperative, then face-to-face may be the better way to communicate.


Robin Good's Ten Ways You Can Use YouTube to Promote Your Online Content

Robin Good has a nice guide to using YouTube to promote your organization. His suggestions:

  1. Create and customize your own channel.
  2. Choose your niche.
  3. Create short form viral content.
  4. Tag and categorize.
  5. Create niche-targeted playlists
  6. Promote your video with YouTube email and bulletins.
  7. Leave video responses.
  8. Join or create YouTube groups.
  9. Chat in the streams
  10. Use active sharing.

As always, he has good examples, clear instructions and additional resources. Even if you're not currently using YouTube, it might be worth a visit to see if maybe you should get it on your radar screen.


Four Ways Your Small Nonprofit Can Get Online for an Investment of $60 and A Few Hours

Small (and not-so-small) nonprofits have a lot in common with small business. They have work--a lot of it--that needs to get done and they don't usually have the time, energy or resources to devote to their online presence. At the same time, they know that since most people go to Google to find just about anything anymore, they recognize that if they aren't online, they have a problem. A great post by Seth Godin sums it up this way (just insert the word "nonprofit" where you see "business"):

The web has changed the game for a lot of organizations, but for the local business, it's more of a threat and a quandary than an asset. My doctor went to a seminar yesterday ($100+) where the 'expert' was busy selling her on buying a domain name, hiring a designer, using web development software, understanding site maps and navigation and keywords and metatags and servers...

These are businesses that have trouble dealing with the Yellow Pages. Too much trouble, too much time, way too expensive. So, should local micro-businesses just ignore the web? Or should they become experts in the art of building and maintaining a website?

We're talking about people who don't like to tweak. About local businesses that are struggling to be found by people a block or a mile or five miles away. Entrepreneurs who can't be bothered to understand typography or HTML. Why does my dog's vet have such a lame website? Why do basement waterproofing sites sit moribund? Do they all have to become experts and spend the money--or sit it out and lose out?

Sound like your nonprofit? I thought so. Here are four tips from Seth (with some of my own commentary and a bonus tip) to get you online with minimal time and fuss and an investment of about $60/year--or even for free!

1. Set up a blog through Typepad

For about $5/month, you can set up a Typepad blog. Says Seth:

Pick a 'quiet' and professional blog layout. Your first post should include the name of your business, your address, your specialty and your hours and phone number. Click the button that says "Feature this post." From now on, this post will be at the top of your blog (which is really your 'website', so first time visitors will see it front and center. When you go on vacation or stock a new line of products or have a story to tell, just blog it.

The beauty of this first step is that for $5 you have a web server, a professional layout, no worries about design, a site you can edit yourself in no time and no hassles with weird domain names.

If you want to go even cheaper (although there's a bit more of a learning curve), you can't beat "free," which is what it costs for a Wordpress blog that also offers professional-looking templates, a web-server and the ability to edit your site whenever you need to without the hassle of going through a webmaster.  You can also find a TON of plug-ins to improve the look and functionality of your site and many nonprofits swear by Wordpress. But again, going this route will mean a bit more of an investment in time and learning, so if you want to minimize both, you may want to stick with Typepad. (For some tutorials on using Wordpress, try this series on using WordPress for Church Websites  and The Instigator's 6 Basic Tips on Using Wordpress)

2. Build a Squidoo Lens About Your Nonprofit
Full disclosure here--Squidoo is a company started by Seth. The jury's still out on the effectiveness of Squidoo, although you'll find that 1) Squidoo is doing a lot with and for nonprofits and 2) starting a lens is pretty simple, so it's probably worth the time and effort to check it out and build a lens.

Again from Seth:

Build a Squidoo lens about your business. List your hours and stuff. Then insert a google map of where you're located. Put in a list of books if you think your potential (or current) customers will benefit from an understanding of what you do. Insert a guestbook so your favorite customers can give you testimonials. Put in an RSS feed from your blog, so every time you update it, it will show up here, too. If this is too tricky, have your smart next-door-neighbor do it for you. You won't have to do it again.

3. Get Some Photos on Flickr
Flickr is an easy-to-use online photo-sharing site. Nonprofits all over are using it to tell their stories visually. Beth Kanter of Beth's Blog is the nonprofit "Queen of Flickr," so if you want to see how to use the site in your nonprofit, I suggest you start with her great resources. If you're starved for time, start with this post and pick out the topics that interest you. But be sure to browse through the rest of what she has, too--there's some great stuff for when you're ready to get more advanced. Also check out this article on the Top 10 Flickr Hacks for Public Relations.

4. Engage Your Donors, Volunteers, Customers, Staff, Etc.
Once you're up and running, involve other people in the process as well. Get people to mention your organization on their blogs. Ask people to pose for photos that you can post on Flickr. Or have someone give you a testimonial that you can share. You don't have to invest a lot of time and money in learning new tools if you don't want to. Just start making good use of these basic options. Stay on top of telling your stories through words and pictures and your online presence will grow.

Bonus Tip---Add a Widget
If you find that you are ready to branch out from the basic steps above, here's one more to consider--adding a widget. A widget is just a snippet of computer code that you can embed in the blog you created in Step 2.  Someone else writes the code (don't worry--you don't have to be a programmer) and you just find it and put it on your site. Typepad has a bunch of widgets that you can install with a few clicks of your mouse--no cutting and pasting required. (You can access the widgets through the "Design" Tab in your Typepad account.) And Wordpress has widgets here. Another great resource for widgets is Widgetbox.  Just don't go crazy when you get there. Also check out Beth's Blog to read about how she used a widget to raise $100,000 for charity and how to build a community of supporters using widgets.

So there you have it. Seth's (and my) suggestions for getting online for $60/year (or even for free!) and a few hours a month. Doesn't get much easier or cheaper than that!

UPDATES--Check out this article by Sean Carton "Seven Ways to Get the Most out of the Web on a Budget."  Also, if you want to get a little fancier with your Typepad blog, check out this "hack," "How to Create a Landing Page." It will walk you through how to set it up so that the main info on your company is always on your "front page."


Using Facebook in Your Nonprofit

Facebook_logo_2 I spent yesterday with my college freshman daughter who revealed to me the extent to which FaceBook has taken over the social lives of teens and twenty-somethings (with the "older folk" coming on fast). Let's just say that if it's not happening through FaceBook, then it's not happening. By sheer coincidence, I'd used the train ride into NYC to read (among other things)  Fast Company's profile of 22-year old (!) founder, Marc Zuckerberg.Then this morning this post by Rob Cottingham on the Turn It Off! British Columbia campaign he launched on the site slid into my inbox. Clearly I'm being told by the universe to blog a little about FaceBook. So a few resources . . .

What is Facebook?
FaceBook is a social networking site, an Internet site that allows users to post online profiles (including photos, information about themselves, etc.) and then connect to other users who share the same interests, experiences, etc. Zuckerberg threw up FaceBook while he was a student at Harvard to provide an online avenue for students to find one another. It has since morphed into a social network for everyone.

Why Facebook (or any social network, for that matter)?
The first question to ask yourself is why use social networking at all? What can a nonprofit get from the experience? According to this TechSoup article, "What Can Social Networking Do For Your Organization?" the answer is that you can get quite a bit:

"Social networking platforms give nonprofits a forum for meeting like-minded organizations and potential supporters, and provide a medium for spreading their messages beyond the immediate community," says Alan Rosenblatt, Executive Director of the Internet Advocacy Center.

In other words, social networking can expand your reach and help you find volunteers, donors and supporters for your cause inexpensively and relatively easily.

So you've decided to consider social networking. Why Facebook? There are tons of other social networking sites on the Net, including MySpace, Ning, Idealist and Change.org. But as Katrin Verclas of NTEN noted in a March post, Facebook is where it's at right now. It has the most traffic and the biggest reach, and, as she points out, "it's infinitely less annoying than MySpace." (Agreed!) It's your best bet for finding people where they're already congregating online, especially if you're trying to reach the 18-24 year-old set. (Although as this article indicates, the 35-54 year-olds are coming on strong, with about 33% of Facebook users in this age group.) It's much easier than trying to create your own social network (ala Ning), where it can be difficult to attract and maintain users. It also makes sense to go where people are already engaging socially. It's the difference between going to the party and talking to people about what interests you or trying to throw a party that people might not even want to attend.

How Can I Use Facebook?
Besides the TechSoup article above, here are some good resources to check out:

  • Start with Fast Company's slideshow, "Eight Things You Can Do With Facebook". You'll see that you can connect with like-minded users, promote events, start your own groups, etc. You might also want to take a look at this profile of Facebook (scroll down to the features section), which gives a decent overview of the different Facebook elements.
  • Read through Rob's article on how he started his campaign and how he went from 8 supporters to 60 in a few days.

Whatever You Do, Avoid Looking Clueless
The one thing you CAN'T afford on a site like Facebook is looking clueless. No one sniffs out inauthenticity faster than a social network native. As the Chronicle's article reports:

"Any organization interested in leveraging communities on MySpace and Facebook must learn about them firsthand," Mr. Gammel says. "You will come across as clueless and wooden if you try to make a big splash in either place before you really understand their culture of interaction."

He recommends looking at social-networking profiles of other nonprofit organizations, examining how they interact with people online, and reading their blogs to get a sense of the tone and content online.

So your first task if you want to explore using Facebook is to join and observe the culture.Check out Martin Lemeiux's article on getting started with a Facebook profile.  I'd suggest having a staff person join on their own and then do some research for you. You might also consider talking to young people and asking them how they use the site and how they react to various nonprofit messages.

In addition to seeing how other nonprofits are operating, I'd also suggest looking into how your "target population" interacts online. I noticed, for example, that my daughter and her friends (the 18-24 year old set) are drawn into groups that use humor and off-beat group names.  One of her favorite Facebook groups is "You Know You Grew up in the 1890's When . . . " Yes, I typed that correctly--the 1890's. This group puts up hilarious "fake" posts about "Where Were You When McKinley was Shot?" and "What Should We Do With Kaiser Wilhelm?" This isn't the "normal" way that nonprofits would position themselves, but for a culture that really thrives on smart humor, you may need to think differently about how you market your groups and ideas in a setting like Facebook.

Finally, you may want to jump in cautiously at first, rather than going "whole hog." Set up a basic profile for your nonprofit, but then try using it at first to promote a specific event or online activity (signing an online petition, for example). This article on running ads on Facebook has some helpful ideas. Also see the Lemeiux article I mentioned above for some other options.

OK, so there you have my basic primer for using Facebook in nonprofits. If you're going to go the social networking route, this may be your best bet. It will take you less time and is easier than starting your own. It gives you another way to engage your volunteers, supporters and donors. And it's probably where you'll eventually need to be anyway. Online networks are a fact of life now and even if a lot of our constituents aren't using them yet, I think it's only a matter of time. Do you want to be ahead of the curve or behind the 8-ball.


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