Check out TheSocialObserver

Sorry to have disappeared, our current class has started a website I have been guest blogging there and will continue to do so until December. Come by for a look!

The Social Observer is loaded with information and connections to social media information. Check it out!

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Social Media – A Mobile Future

I remember being a teenager and having all the answers, that was a while ago.  At lunch the other day my teenage son challenged me to ask a question that he did not have the answer for while he held his cell phone, this gives a new meaning to having all the answers! Our teenagers have more information in the palm of their hands than is even imaginable, and they use their cell phones to answer any questions they may have, using the increasing number of wi-fi hot spots. Fact is in 2011 teens tripled their data use and used their cell phone more than any other source to reach the internet.

So how can mobile help a nonprofit and why take a look? My colleague at shopsocial4good makes a very good case with an example from the Red Cross where an appeal received 4.1 million mobile responses valued at $10 each from mostly new donors, just in case you are in shock yes that is $41 million dollars, from a campaign experiment!

If you are active on Twitter, you may find your cell phone useful to stay connected,  I would even go as far as saying essential, if you follow more than a few people.  When you see something interesting an instant connect is essential, or are you the type to carry around paper and write down links to check later?  So with many nonprofits now connecting on twitter it make sense that a harder look at mobile technology is not too far into the future.

The real challenge for a nonprofit is how to make mobile an extension of existing applications instead of a whole new game that requires more resources, that are probably not available.  Using feeds from your website or a blog through a mobile application, such as AllAware discussed in more detail in an earlier post is an interesting option to consider. There are hundred of mobile options, this one happens to offer a test drive to introduce you to the concept and to help get you thinking, and AllAware’s focus on nonprofits get to the point fast.  Mobile may be starting slow but as our teens enter the working world we will see it grow quickly and with little effort even the Red Cross was surprised to find 4.1 million already active! It may be time to consider a few experiments, have fun and remember to keep it simple – mobile should not mean more resources. Don’t worry if your focus is in the for profit world, there are many innovative leaders finding mobile has real promise too!

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Transparency – How Important is It?

We have all seen scandals with companies both nonprofit and for profit. Many have had friends lose savings, retirement and donate funds to poorly managed companies. Today company transparency is probably more important than ever,  especially as we consider handing over hard-earned funds for someone else to invest, just how do you know those smiling faces will ever received anything?  Today there are many tools to help you evaluate a nonprofit before you donate, you can start with the organization’s website, search the internet and check in with a number of third-party firms that evaluate performance and transparency – you may even see badges from some of these on nonprofit websites such as Charity Navigator, The Better Business Bureau, Guidestar, Greatnonprofits, GiveWell and JustGive.

Can we get the feeling that we are in this together, making a difference? My feeling is yes, companies need to openly share on their websites details about projects, what has been spent and what is planned for spending so we know we invested in something real, something big that is making a difference. Myself, along with many other people, need for nonprofits to be open about what they do so we know funds are well spent and we feel a connection to the organization. Myself I appreciate the thank you letter, and file it off for taxes, but more I love a short email every month or two to let me know how the project I invested in is going, with some real life stories and impact facts, it makes we feel part and want to do more.

Many of the third-party charity evaluators began as organizers for 990 tax filings but today most have began to looks at organization performance factors.  A good example comes from one of the largest, Charity Navigator as they celebrate their tenth year of service:

For an organization to be transparent I believe this commitment has to start with the Board of Directors; next for the organization to be able to list every project or program they are funding; this list should match an organization’s financial chart of accounts – because if it is not being tracked financially, ROI can not be evaluated for any reporting. Finally an organization should be evaluating the impact of their programs, how many are served, for how many service hours, if the aim is to get people to work what percent did work? Each program should have a visible set of goals and annual objectives, the organization should report how it did and what are the next set of goals.  Third party evaluators can help by setting standards for program best practices to help measure effectiveness.  Just be sure standards are set for the area or country being served.

A nonprofit is no different from a for profit business in the need for annual goals, financial tracking and evaluating performance.  As a donor you should be able to ask questions and get answers, many nonprofits are reaching out to better connect with their donors through various forms of social media, many of which offer great platforms to ask questions that you probably share with many other people.  Do not be afraid to ask about your donations, actually if you need to ask too much you may want to find a new charity that is sharing before you wonder!

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Social Media Planning Excellence – The Humane Society

The Humane Society of the United States has been dedicated to using social media because of a positive ROI, the result of engaging current supporters and from attracting new ones. In December 2010 the author of Social Media for Social Good, Heather Mansfield posted a Blog about the Humane SocietyNonprofit Example of Social Media Excellence” based on an interview with Carie Lewis, the Humane Society’s Director of Emerging Media. Carie has helped us to update the original post and to look at changes over the past year and a half.

In 2010 Facebook was the prime social tool for the Humane Society, and remains so today with close to 1.4 million likes. Today the organization’s staff of 6 people spends about 70% of their time on Facebook and it returns the best ROI of all their tools.  What has grown in the past two years is pictures, with both Filckr and Pinterest with people sharing pets and animal causes. The use of video, through YouTube, has continued to grow now with over 13 million video views.

By 2010 the organization had found Twitter to be an important listening place and customer service tool, this has not changed. On Twitter Carie, shown, says it is the most real-time account we have of what’s being said about the Humane Society and that everyone who comes via social media with a legitimate question or concern gets an answer. Earlier she had stressed the importance of listening to find your audience and what they are talking about as the guideposts to planning any social media program. With about 134 thousand followers on twitter and well over a million on Facebook, there is certainly a lot to be heard.

There may have initially been resistance to social media at the Humane Society, but not today, as Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO leads the way in Blogging and with his own Facebook page. Wayne’s Blog is sometimes used as a response to issues, or in sharing the latest concerns and focus for the organization. With the President out there it becomes easy to share the “official word” and engage supporters to ask for feedback in the Blog and on Facebook.

So with all this great activity it appears that LinkedIn, with only 2,500 followers is not the platform for engagement. Carie agrees the contribution is small but that it has been a great vehicle for finding new employees. Most Humane Society employees have profiles on LinkedIn so people know who they are and that they are accessible. I had to ask how they use Foursquare, it is a niche but has come in useful for event check  at conferences and protests. Now maybe there is an application for fundraising auction check in, will have to look into this further.

As for mobile apps, there is HumaneTV and many local affiliate sites, just search for these apps in your phone’s market place. In addition, as always, you can sign up for text alerts. But as of yet the mobile world has not been a big space for the over 11 million supporters and lovers of animals. Although growing daily, many supporters are not yet involved in social media  so email still is a critical elemnet in fundraising.

The organization is a big believer in transparency with the highest rating by CharityNavigator, a Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance Charity Seal and were named by Worth Magazine in 2010 as one of the 10 most fiscally responsible organizations in America. Policies and financial reports are available on the website, a fresh and active hub for this organization. The Humane Society has learned to listen, so they are constantly reviewing what supporters want and trying to stay one step ahead of the technology curve. Carie concluded with saying the investment in social media is building engagement and relationship building that leads to member trust, which leads to their goals of advocacy and fundraising.

Thanks Carie Lewis for sharing The Humane Society’s story, a great place to engage and support a great cause!

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Does Social Media go with MBA?

So what do you think – should an MBA curriculum include some social media?

Last year watching my teenage boys my response would have been a simple no – they grew up in social media. Then I decided to add to my own MBA a Master’s Certificate in Social Media. Now about half a year into the experience and being thrust into this ocean of tools I find my teenagers have been useless in helping with my homework. Sure they are active on Facebook, Skype on a regular basis, why one follows Nike and can tell me about the latest on soccer cleats from around the world, and yes they can text like wild-fire but they do it because this is how they communicate with friends. The idea that it can be useful to market a product around the globe; that there are thousands of tools out there and that different people like different tools; and how great it is to be able to see what customers think of your products, good and bad, is all foreign. The most I got was that blogging is not for high school and it did not get much better seeking help from a few college students.

So lets step away from the teens and talk about job interviews. My background is in industrial manufacturing and as you know I have a soft spot for caused based nonprofits. Well I think if you took your MBA to a consumer or retail company, they would certainly expect some experience in social media, or at least you would be more likely to get the job, with it. The same is probably true of larger nonprofits, who are quickly learning engagement is great for improving the lifetime value of a donor. A smaller nonprofit may see the potential, with some fear and excitement, again social media experience will likely improve your odds.

Now we come to B2B, there is increasing activity on some sites like LinkedIn for sure, but if we judge from my last 2 interviews I am not sure if social media is an edge or a flag of concern – at best it will depend on the company. Despite this I think most companies may think some marketing experience would be good for an executive and being able to understand customers even better. Now that I am engaging and seeing the unbelievable power to be able to network around the globe – I have drawn the line.

The industrial business to business sector, with no consumer engagement, has always been slow to engage in brand management. Still for many, unfortunately, it will be a PR issue that spreads like a wild-fire across social media channels before the front office gets curious. Social Media is part of being serious about customer service and delivering a better experience, those on board will be ahead of the curve.

So my vote is YES!!!!! if you are working on an MBA do yourself a favor and add a marketing class with a strong social media element. It is the best way to engage with customers and employees regularly and to learn what is important to them and where they talk. Then find a way to deliver; before they announce to the world just how well you are performing. If you already have the MBA, I would suggest getting engaged, and a little push with a class may help you find the time and remove all the excuses!

So what do you think, do you agree or have a different position?

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Trends + Utility – Brand Listening

Desktop Nexus

Take a breath, relax and just spend some time just listening to the social media buzz about your brand or cause. Well that sounds simple enough but in practice it may take a little time and exploration but you just may be surprised how interesting listening can be. Not only can you learn what people are saying but what platforms they are using for discussion. You will begin to define the trends in your business and see a social media coming into focus.For a nonprofit, or any small company, I would recommend starting with a few basics such as: a simples web search; then test out a couple free sites such as Addict-o-matic and Socialmention which take a broad sweep over a vast number of social media platforms.The first question will be what to search. A good place to start is your organization’s name. Start with a simple web search, Google,Yahoo, Bing… your favorite engine is fine.You may find your company name is shared by many organizations but that you are the only one in a specific location or providing a specific service. Then branch out to your brands or projects. Finally check on your competitors or for other organizations serving a similar need or ones in a similar service area. Repeat your searches on Addictomatic and Socialmention. Discover where the activity is, on what sites, and what the buzz is or isn’t about your organization.

When you have built some confidence and some search criteria spend a day exploring. A great source for Listening channels is a wiki started by Ken Burbary with over 200 monitoring sites, some are free and some are paid services. If you are small and strapped for funding settle on a few free options. When you have picked your channels, schedule appointments on your calendar to listen in for maybe 15 minutes every day. Ok if daily does not work schedule in time at least once a week. With some services you can also set up e-mail or text alerts. As your customers or donors get active pick up the frequency, or if you get big enough you may need to branch into a monitoring service – but you still need to listen!

So what will we learned from listening? First you may find nothing or you only find your website on page 3 of a web search, then you know you have work to do – neither you or your customers or donors are talking about you. Another discovery may be page after page all about the organization, but all created by you – so you like to talk, the question – is anyone listening? So what is ideal – a balance of sites, a balance of information and people sharing excitement, feeling part of a bigger cause and providing suggestions. Excited people love to share, with friends, family and anyone who will listen at work, the gym or even an elevator. Engage these people, they are buying your product or supporting a project bigger than you both, share the credit! There will be people with suggestions for improvement, lets not be all protective and defensive, take a deep breath and listen, try to understand, make contact and improve. Most important get started there are hundreds of tools – so no more excuses – go forward and explore!

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Differentiating Water

About 1 in 8 people in the world, that’s more than 1 billion, do not have access to safe drinking water. Many women and children will carry 40 gallon water jugs on their backs for hours every day, as the role of water collection falls to them. Many will head to muddy rivers, to bring needed water along with bacteria and disease. Now can you picture what a well in the backyard would mean! For children time for school, better hygiene and less disease, smiles…

In looking at the industry of delivering water, especially to Africa, I found two (2) great nonprofits: and together they have funded about 7,000 well projects in the past 5 years and both are expanding at an exponential rate to deliver more. The key to this success for both has been in a large part social media.

Both feature campaigns like this one from charity water depicting “pure” water for African babies. Both organization have solid and informative websites based on water projects, sharing just about everything they can on individual projects including locations, cost and many picture of the people who are being helped. On both sites when you donate you are immediately linked to a project and share in progress and ultimate success in completion. Each site also has the ability to further engage with personal fundraising pages. Both sites carry complete financial data for every year of operation. They each prominently display links to other social media sites. 

One of the most active social media locations for both is Facebook. Charitywater takes the lead with 232,925 likes, while thewaterproject has 11,565. In looking at both organizations charitywater thinks more of themselves as a technology based company and is far more active in linking their social media activities and growing more connections.  For example, although both organizations are active on twitter charitywater hosts several accounts including the newest @cwyellowthunder – a new drill rig tweeting its coordinates as it moves to new well drilling locations.

Both organization are also active on YouTube, but again charitywater is more active and to explain why they are more tech is founder Scott Harrison:

Both organization have blogs, but hosting on Feedburner for thewaterproject seems disconnected and may benefit with better linking or a move to the main website when the organization is ready for regular posting. Let’s not forget Flickr too. The bottom line for the two groups, on their fifth birthdays, is that both have benefitted tremendously from the social world with charitywater raising close to $5M and thewaterproject at $1M annually (source: 2010 annual reports) and both continue to grow at exponential rates thanks to being social and fun for a great cause!


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