April 26, 2013

Social Fundraising Tips for Nonprofits

imagesFundraising can be a challenge for any nonprofit. Convincing people to part with hard-earned cash is always tricky, even if the organization’s cause is a good one. Despite the challenges, 2012 proved to be a big year for social giving, with nonprofits seeing higher engagement and more donations directly related to their social media efforts.

2012 Social Fundraising Success

An infographic released by MDG Advertising shares the success that nonprofits saw using social media, comparing 2012’s results with years prior. Below are some interesting highlights detailed in the the infographic:

Twitter generated almost ten times more money raised. Average total online donations using Twitter were $225.90. Without Twitter, the average total of online donations was $22.97.

• Using social media on #GivingTuesday resulted in impressive numbers. Normal online donations average $62. In comparison, #GivingTuesday resulted in higher average donations at $101.60.

• Donors posting about contributions resulted in even more engagement. Friends who see these posts are likely to learn more about the charity, ask for more information, repost the donation request, and even donate themselves.

• Three trends to watch out for: (1) Nonprofits will use Facebook more to pursue donations, (2) using Google+ will help social giving by allowing charities to integrate their pages with other Google features, and (3) Twitter hashtags will increasingly help nonprofits spread the word about causes.

What Nonprofits can do on Social Media

How can you get some of the same success for your nonprofit? Here are five tips to help push your audience into becoming donors:

1. Encourage donors to post about contributions on their profiles. As stated above, this results in donors’ friends learning more about charities and may even lead to more donations. After receiving a donation, ask a donor on your website’s “Thank You” page to Tweet or post about the contribution.

2. Jump on the #GivingTuesday bandwagon. In addition to the impressive results above, The NonProfit Times reported that the charitable sector’s Black Friday was already trending on Twitter well before businesses closed on Monday. Be sure to leverage the giving spirit that comes with this day.

3. Provide links to your profiles. Add either links or widgets that lead to your social media profile to your “Thank You” page and emails. Encourage donors to follow and like your pages and profiles to stay up to day on the latest news.

4. Create and share behind-the-scenes content. Use videos and images that gives your audience a sneak peek at what the donors are helping to build. This creates a sense of ownership for the donors. Engaging content like photos and video are also more likely to be shared.

5. Only occasionally ask supporters to donate via posts and tweets. It is important to first build your community, then raise funds second. Nonprofits Tech 2.0 suggests the guideline of asking for donations only twice a month. We also suggest asking leading up to a big applicable event or holiday.

With these tips, any nonprofit should be able to bolster its social presence and motivate supporters into becoming donors.

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April 17, 2013

Should My Brand Use Memes?

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According to Urban Dictionary, the definition of an Internet meme is “A word, phrase, expression, iconic imagery or recognizable reference popularized amongst online communities such as on forums or in online games.” You’ve mostly like seen these Internet creations floating around in places like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, and you might have wondered if you could use them to promote your brand or campaign. The short answer is, “Yes!”

Memes are a great way to connect to your audience — especially Millennials — through the use of humor.   They can go viral if they are really funny, as users deploy them within their social networks. And if something goes viral, that means you’re generating more awareness of your brand.

However, there are some things you should consider before using memes. You should first decide if they are appropriate for your brand, then think about the merits of creating your own versus using existing memes.

Reasons Your Brand Should Use Memes:

  • Memes are easy to share
  • Memes humanize your brand, adding ingenuity and humor
  • Memes jump to attention and get noticed

Tips for Using Memes to Promote Your Brand

1. Opt to use newer popular memes. Keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter for new memes that are popping up, since newer ones automatically garner attention. Unless you use an older meme extremely well, users will be quick to point out that a it has already run its course.

2. Tailor the meme to your brand or campaign. When you find that perfect, already-existing meme, don’t be afraid to tailor it to fit your to your needs. You can use photo editing software like Photoshop or sites like MemeGenerator.net to construct your own message.

3. Don’t blatantly promote your brand. The goal of creating a meme is to see it spread virally. What can hinder that is being too obvious with company promotion. So if you’re going to put a company’s name on it, make sure that it is small type across the bottom of the image in the style of a photo credit. The same goes for logos. Put a small icon in one of the lower corners. And don’t put it in a place where it can be easily cropped out. If people can crop it, they will.

4. Keep it recognizable. Memes are depictions of popular culture. For an example, the “McKayla is not impressed” meme hit the Internet with full force the day after McKayla Maroney made her famous stink-face at the Olympics. With this iconic moment captured and the world watching the Olympics, this meme spread fast with McKayla being unimpressed with many things.

5. Keep it relevant to your audience. If your audience can’t relate to a meme, considering it dead upon arrival. Reflect on the information your audience typically consumes and use its interests and problems to find common ground for your humor. Also, memes sometimes walk a fine line between funny and offensive. Be cautious.

A Word of Caution

Memes can be freely copied and altered. This means that your attempt at a viral campaign to gain brand awareness can turn against you quickly. If your company makes a misstep or has unpopular practices, its memes can be repurposed, causing you to lose control of your message. So while memes are fun and can cement a brand in the public consciousness, they can also turn into a nightmare for any company’s social media manager.

Suprised baby

Carefully consider using memes to avoid a social media nightmare

However, if used correctly, memes can be a really fun way to gain awareness. Just make sure the memes you select are humorous, targeted and brand appropriate. For more information on viral content, read our previous blog post Organic vs. Viral vs. Paid Reach for B2B Facebook Pages.

April 16, 2013

Five Ways Pay Walls Impact PR

Image courtesy of Digital Trends

As readership continues to shift from print to online, newspapers have begun to embrace pay walls (as opposed to free online content) as a way to regain some lost revenue. But how will pay walls impact public relations? Some might worry about reduced exposure for a client or reduced ability to research reporters, but PR professionals shouldn’t worry. It’s likely pay walls won’t hurt PR, but they might change it. Let’s examine how.

Why are online papers using pay walls?

Print readership is in decline. In response, many online newspapers have beefed up online content and tried to add online advertisers, but that might not be enough. Figures from the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism show us that for every dollar newspapers earn digitally, they’re losing seven in print. That’s why they’ve turned to pay walls.

Besides the obvious bump in revenue, pay walls offer newspapers three main benefits. First, though charging for access might cut down visitor numbers initially, those that are left will be more loyal to the brand. Charging for access opens up a whole new revenue stream and allows publishers to serve up more targeted content and ads. It also benefits journalism itself by requiring the news organizations to produce unique and high-quality articles to convince people to pay.

How will pay walls impact PR?

1. Pay walls create a shallower pool of potential readers, but the remaining audience will be more engaged. Online newspapers see a drop in readership after implementing pay walls, but their remaining audience is typically more loyal and more engaged. When someone pays for content, it can be assumed that they actually want to read the content. And for PR pros, we want people to actually read the content about our clients.

2. Content marketing will become more important. Content marketing is presenting brand content in the style of journalistic reporting rather than regular marketing copy. Being blocked from some content, readers may turn to brand websites for more information. In this instance, it’d be important to write content as it would appear in a media outlet, or as a reported piece.

3. Most pay walls allow visitors a generous number of free clicks. Most online newspapers allow visitors free access to a certain number of articles before having to pay. For instance, the Los Angeles Times offers 15 free stories per month while The New York Times offers 20 free stories. Most website visitors will not reach this threshold; however, this could have an impact on researching beats of reporters.

4. The potential for articles going viral is not likely to be affected. Content accessed via links shared from social media platforms don’t count toward the monthly limit. In case PR pros have reached their monthly limit for free content, this is another route for them to conduct their media research and review articles for free.

5. Online newspapers will likely be more interested in running a story as an exclusive. It might be enticing to offer an exclusive if papers can run a story as “exclusive subscriber-only content.” If their paper is the only place readers can get a story, then they’ll be more likely to get more people paying. 

As we can see above, pay walls will not negatively impact PR. There might be some changes, but there will also be added benefits, including survival of print newspapers. And if they survive, there will be more opportunity to secure original articles for your client.

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March 4, 2013

Facebook Fatigue: Are Users Really Leaving Facebook?

fbfatigue

Facebook fatigue: The dreaded two words that suggest users might be done with Facebook and that you might have to learn another social media platform. I mean, if users are dropping Facebook, then they must be going somewhere else, right? You’ve probably read about Pew Research Center’s report that Facebook engagement is in decline, but there actually might not be anything to worry about. At least not yet.

Findings About Lower Engagement

In a December 2012 survey of more than 1,000 social network users, Pew found that 28 percent of respondents claimed that Facebook is now less important to them than it was a year ago, and that a third of U.S. consumers now spend less time on the site than a year ago. Pew also found that more than a quarter of Facebook users said they plan to spend less time on the site over the coming year.

This is compared to only 12 percent that said Facebook is more important, and 13 percent that said they plan to spend more time on the social network than a year ago. This might sound troublesome, but consider the fact that Facebook already has a tremendous amount of users. That, among other reasons, is why it might appear that engagement on the site might be decreasing.

Why We Shouldn’t Worry

Accordingly to Pew’s findings, 69 percent of online-connected American adults are already on Facebook, and 20 percent of those who are not currently on Facebook have been on it at one time. So the best argument against Facebook fatigue is that the social network really can’t grow much larger. But here are some other reasons not to worry according to the digital publication StrategyEye:

• Users already spend a huge amount of time on the social network, leaving little room for growth

• The rise of mobile social networking may mean that users visit the site more frequently, but for shorter periods

• 41 percent of Facebook’s users access the site several times per day, up from 33 percent in August 2011

• Facebook is competing for users’ time with other social networks, such as Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter

Where Facebook Should Worry

While Facebook is the dominant social network in the U.S., it does have a few reasons to worry further down the road. Findings suggest that it falls short with teens and young adults. A recent survey found that 61 percent of 13 to 18 year olds use Tumblr regularly. This is compared to 55 percent who said they use Facebook regularly. The social network also faces increased competition against other social networks and must innovate to stay competitive.

However, in the face of innovation, users of social networks are a notoriously fickle bunch. They like the appearance of simplicity but like to have direct control over their experiences. They also like innovation and the feeling of a fresh experience. However, they’ll complain about any changes that happen until about one week later, when they finally get used to them.

facebook-cartoon

What this Means for Brands

It’s important to stay on top of the latest social media trends and know where to reach your audience. You may even find that it’s more appropriate to reach out to them on social networks such as Twitter or Pinterest. However, no matter where your audience is, it is especially important to offer engaging content to maintain interest in what you have to say. With engaging content, you should be able to keep your audience on Facebook and especially on your page. So don’t worry about Facebook fatigue, at least not yet.

For tips on creating engaging social content, read our previous blog post How to Get Around Facebook’s EdgeRank or see these entries:

Four Social Media Tips for 2013

How to Get Started Measuring Social Media Engagement

February 13, 2013

Getting Started with Pinterest’s New Business Pages

Pinterest is taking steps to be more brand-friendly by rolling out new business pages. After creating a business account and verifying your company’s website, these types of accounts will offer your organization some new and unique capabilities compared to its regular accounts. Whether your business is new to Pinterest or looking to get in on the action, let us show you how to get started with your business pinboards.

Business Features

Business pages will be functionally the same for business users compared to regular accounts, but they offer two new features that organizations will find helpful. The first and most obvious change is they break away from the first name, last name format, and allow brands to instead add a business name. The second change is the addition of widgets that allow companies to embed pins and boards onto their websites to drive visitors to their Pinterest page.

These changes reflect the different needs of businesses and increase brand recognition and interaction across multiple social platforms.

New to Pinterest? Consider these Tips

If you’re just starting your business page on Pinterest, or if you’d like a refresher on some best practices, we’d like to recommend these tips to you:

  • Share your business’ values and what it cares about
  • Highlight special promotions
  • Ask questions with pins
  • Promote your pins on other social media sites
  • Share pins around seasons, holidays and events
  • Take the time to write a good description for your pins
  • Link to useful webpages
  • Add the Pinterest follow and share buttons to your website

With Pinterest’s new business pages, you are given extra tools that can help you reach your audience across even more social platforms. If you’re already on Pinterest, you can easily convert your existing account to get all the expanded benefits of a branded page.

January 18, 2013

Want More Press Release Views? Use More Visuals.

Cats love videos, too.

While perusing the latest newspaper, you’ve probably encountered a choice. Either read the article that’s all text, or read the one with the interesting photo. Out of the two, you’ll probably read the one with the photo first. This same principle applies to press releases. A November 2012 study by PR Newswire revealed that press releases with visual elements are nearly 10 times more likely to be viewed compared to text-only releases.

Read further to find out how adding more visuals can increase your release views.

Study Methods and Findings

PR Newswire looked at 100,000 press releases published in 2011 and 2012, tracking their views and content. A release was “viewed” when someone clicked on the headline and opened it. Their findings suggest that the more multimedia elements there are, the more likely a particular release would be viewed.

Here’s a break down of how different multimedia elements affected views:

  • Text + Photo = 1.8 times more likely to be viewed over text-only
  • Text + Video = 4.3 times
  • Text + Photo & Video = 7.4 times
  • Text + Photo, Video & Downloadable Content = 9.7 times

Clearly, more multimedia drives more engagement. This is great news for releases with visuals, especially considering that, according to a 2010 Forrester study, one-fifth of the viewers of press releases were journalists or bloggers. That’s the very people you want seeing a release, and hopefully they’ll write about it later.

Get Started: Add Multimedia to Your Releases

Photos: Add a photo to a release when it supports your content. If possible, use an infographic.

Videos:  Include videos for product demonstrations, a personal story or interview, or for a viral campaign.

Downloadable Content: To offer more information to viewers, attach PowerPoints or PDFs.

People like pictures and they especially love videos. But putting them together (especially with downloadable content) creates a winning combination for your next big news announcement.

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December 21, 2012

Learn from Obama’s Successful Email Campaign

Image courtesy of PixelHead Studio

“Join me for dinner?”

“It’s officially over”

“It doesn’t have to be this way”

“Hey”

The above quotes might sound like they would come from a friend, but these actually represent a few of the email subject lines used by President Obama’s re-election team. Maybe you would expect something a bit more formal coming from a politician, but the campaign proved that these subject lines were very effective. In fact, most of the $690 million dollars raised came through emails.

Wondering if similar tactics could work for your email campaigns? Read further to get a closer look at the strategy that made the Obama campaign a success.

Obama Campaign’s Email Experiments

After the election, the Obama campaign provided Bloomberg Businessweek with the secret recipe to its email campaign success. What made the emails so successful? Through trial and error (and a large team of analysts), the campaign found that casual messages were most successful, resulting in a greater number of click-throughs and people following through with calls to action. They discovered the effectiveness of being casual after testing out different messaging, subject lines, amounts of money in asks, and even formatting. Using different variations yielded surprising results:

• Casual tones. The campaign found that subject lines that reflected an actual person’s “voice” resulted in the most click-throughs.

• “Hey.” This simple subject line saw the most success over the duration of the campaign.

• “I will be outspent.” Suggesting consequences got a lot of attention and caused many to act.

• Mild profanity. Curse words such as “Hell yeah, I like Obamacare,” got big clicks.

• Ugly, basic text is surprisingly effective. Simple emails beat out those with a fancy design.

• MAJOR FINDING: High email frequency threshold. No matter how many emails were sent, people rarely unsubscribed. However, unlike politicians, businesses have a greater unsubscribe risk when flooding a prospect’s inbox. Try to find a balance between too many and too few messages.

Obama’s most successful subject lines.

Experiment with Your Emails

Even if you don’t have access to a large analyst team, you can still find how best to reach your audience with a little testing. Separate your audience into groups and send them different styles of messages, then measure the results and see what will work best for your next big campaign. Experiment with different styles of subject lines, messaging, calls to action, formatting, and even test a variety of image styles.

Lastly, don’t rely on your gut: “We were so bad at predicting what would [work] that it only reinforced the need to constantly keep testing,” said Amelia Showalter, director of digital analytics for the President’s re-election efforts.

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November 28, 2012

How to Get Around Facebook’s EdgeRank

Recently, George Takei caused some controversy when he was critical of Facebook’s key algorithm EdgeRank. Because of that algorithm, he noticed that not all of his posts were reaching those who like his page. Other pages with similar amounts of likes may be seeing this happen with their pages as well.

What is EdgeRank?

Photo courtesy of Business 2 Community

EdgeRank is an algorithm that decides who will see a post in their newsfeed based on who’s most likely to share, like or comment on the news. According to Facebook, with EdgeRank, the average post is only sent to 15% of newsfeeds. This creates a problem for brands that are trying to communicate directly to their audience with the greatest possible reach. But don’t feel discouraged just yet. There are ways to work around this setback with one way being to promote posts. But if you read further we’ll share less costly ways to extend your reach through EdgeRank optimization.

Working Around EdgeRank

Encourage Your Fans to Opt-In

If you’re comfortable suggesting directly to your audience to opt-in to see all your posts, then this tactic might be for you. Have your fans mouse over the “Liked” button for your page, then have them click “Get Notifications.” They will then see all the posts from your page.

 

Facebook confirmed that this method will work in a statement made to Inside Facebook:

“We are currently rolling out the ability for people to receive notifications from specific pages, friends or public figures that they are connected to. This feature will help people keep up with the people and things that they care about most.”

EdgeRank Optimization for Your Page

If you’d like to take a more subtle approach and still get your message across, we recommend that you consider optimizing the content of your page to bump up your rank. Here are some tips on optimizing your content:

1. Post Photos. Pages get more fan engagement from photos than links or statuses, so get creative with them. For example, if you really want to link to a video, you may want to post a thumbnail of your video along with a link to the actual video. But be sure to not let the video preview show up—click the “X” button when it appears.

2. Create Photo Albums.  In newsfeeds, photo album posts show up as several photos, so they’re likely to get users’ attention.

3. Write More Text. With longer posts, there is a “see more” option that users click to read the rest of the text. Readers can help boost your rank each time they click because it shows they spent more time on your post.

4. Use Post Targeting. You can segment your fans and sort them into different groups based on things like age, gender, interests, education, location and more. The more targeted your posts, the more likely you are to increase post engagement.

By diversifying and adding more engaging content, you will likely increase your EdgeRank ranking and increase the likelihood that more of your audience will see your content. If you are interested, you can go so far as to use EdgeRank Checker, which is a free application that monitors your rank.

November 7, 2012

Get the Most Out of Your #Hashtags

Photo courtesy of 30 Day Books

If you’re on Twitter you’ve undoubtedly seen the # symbol floating around attached to words or phrases. In the Twitterverse, that creates the social media platform’s unmistakable “hashtag.” While they seem easy to use, you might have wondered how best to leverage them for your business’ tweets. If so, keep reading to learn how to use them effectively.

What’s a #Hashtag?

To review for those who are unfamiliar or unsure, a hashtag is a word or phrase immediately preceded by a # symbol. In Twitter’s early days, they were primarily used to categorize tweets by topic, allowing other users to search for the hashtag and see similarly tagged tweets.

Today, the hashtag still has its original purpose but has evolved into something more. Users are now using them for humor, play on words, and even poetry. For businesses, they also offer valuable metadata to tweets, letting others know #whatthetweetisabout. Now that we’re caught up to speed on the hashtag, let’s cover effective ways to use them.

#Hashtag Tips for Business

Hashtags can and should be incorporated into any business’ social media strategy. Mashable and Small Business Trends recommend using them for organizing tweets and plugging a product. This encourages your followers to know and also use your specific hashtags.

Whether starting new or looking to tune up your Twitter program, consider the following five best practices for optimizing tweets with hashtags:

1.    Create a Hashtag. You can create your own business-oriented hashtags to emphasize events, products, keywords and more. If you tweet out news, tips or problems that relate to a product, don’t be afraid to end it with a mention of #YourProduct.

2.    Jump into Conversations. If a popular hashtag is trending, go ahead and use it to tie to your business or product. However, practice caution about jumping into conversations about sensitive topics, such as politics or disasters.

3.    Categorize your Tweets. If you’re tweeting a lot, you may want to include a regular hashtag on topics you tweet about frequently. This helps other users follow these keywords and see a list of them by clicking on your hashtag.

4.    Keep it Simple. Avoid long and complex hashtags. Instead, opt for something that others can easily adopt themselves, like the name of a #NewProduct.

5.    Don’t Overload Tweets with Hashtags. While hashtags might have their advantages, too many can clutter your message. #You #wouldn’t #want #to #read #something #like #this #would #you?

With these tips, start experimenting with hashtags and measure your results. Over time you’ll get a feel for what works best for your business.

May 23, 2012

How to Engage with Millennials on Facebook: Tips for Businesses

Growing a social media presence isn’t an exact science with a perfect formula of what to say, where and how often. It takes a lot of effort to identify the most impactful activities for your business. And even then, these tactics will need to be continually refined to yield the greatest results. If that’s not enough of a challenge, businesses targeting hard to reach audiences – like Millennials – face even more difficult obstacles.

PR Daily recently looked at why this group can be difficult to reach on Facebook. Turns out, Millennials stick close to their circles and mostly:

  • check friends’ profiles
  • chat
  • update statuses
  • upload photos or other content
  • play games
  • keep in touch

What’s missing from this list? Millennials rarely visit fan pages. Bummer for brands, right? Nope, you just have to work hard to gain entry into this coveted group.

The first step is creating an engaging community in which Millennials like or are entertained by the content you share so much that they share it with their friends (…and those friends share with their friends and so on so forth…). Below are some ways to start this kind of a chain reaction of shares:

  • Offer content on Facebook that can’t be found anywhere else (i.e., contests, pictures, product previews, behind the scenes information, etc.)
  • Stimulate conversation (promote product feedback, ask questions, and be conversational, humorous and/or fun!)
  • Know your audience (Are they content creators? Are they critics? How do they consume information?)
  • Share links from your webpages and from other relevant sources (your links drive traffic to your webpage and utilizing other sources adds credibility to your voice)

All these tips, along with an ongoing commitment to measure and adjust strategy, will help companies expand their presence with Millennials. But there is a word of caution as social media users of all ages are quite fickle.

Once people like your brand, they may not continue liking it. In a recent story, Social Media Today warned that people will leave pages or groups if they find that the notifications are annoying or excessive.

With that in mind, it is important to track your results and to listen as well as speak. Monitor what people are saying about your content. And if you’re just starting out, try a lighter touch then play around with different tactics to see what best promotes your goals. On the flip side, if something works – keep doing it!

Now go forth and tackle those social media channels!