Time and resources are scarce at most nonprofits, making social media efforts even more important as a way to reach potential advocates for global and local causes. GlobalGiving and TechSoup are two organizations doing just that, and doing it very well.
You can find the webinar slides on Slideshare and the video and transcription below. Thanks again to Alison Carlman and Michael DeLong for an hour full of great tips and fascinating case studies!
Jill Carlson: Good afternoon or good morning wherever you are. My name is Jill Carlson. I’m the Inbound Marketing Manager at Argyle Social and thanks for joining us for this social nonprofit. We’re thrilled to have two very skilled professionals with us co-hosting today. Welcome, Alison Carlman, the Unmarketing Manager for GlobalGiving.
Alison Carlman: Thank you.
Michael Delong: Hi.
Jill: You can go ahead and find all of our Twitter handles below our names. Today’s hash tag is going to be #socialNGO. The details, really quickly, some logistics: I’m going to lead questions and answers at the end of the call so go ahead and send those throughout the presentation. Also, if you’d like to save them until the end it’s up to you. We have someone monitoring the stream here. If you could tag your tweets with #socialNGO we’ll be sure to catch that. We’re definitely recording this and we’ll be sending out a follow-up email to everyone who’s been registered with the recording and the slides so you can share that far and wide or check it out at a later time.
Before we get started I just wanted to do three 15-second commercials. Like I said, I work for Argyle Social. We’re a social media management software company. We power your social media strategy. We do have special non-profit rates so if you’re at all interested in managing your different social properties with a really powerful and intuitive tool, visit us at ArgyleSocial.com. Alison from GlobalGiving is also here.
Alison: I just want to double-check. I don’t actually see the slides changing. Does anyone else?
Michael: I don’t either.
Jill: Are you serious? Okay. That is good to know. Let’s go ahead. Yes, I absolutely do see that. We are stuck on the first slide.
Alison: Well, I can go ahead and talk. I don’t need a picture. I’ll get started. This is Alison from GlobalGiving. I’m the unmarketing manager at GlobalGiving. GlobalGiving is a online platform for philanthropy. We help nonprofits of all sizes from all around the world connect to donors of all sizes all around the world.
So that means everything from a $10 “text to give” donors to million-dollar corporate partners. We handle all the customer service and donation processing for our non-profit partners, but we also do regular training and one-on-one support for online fundraising strategy development, a lot of which involves social media.
Jill: Excellent. That was perfect timing because I do believe you can see me now. Is that right?
Alison: Yes, we can.
Jill: Excellent. So there we are. We’re back up and running. Thank you, Alison. That was perfectly concise. The GlobalGiving site is absolutely beautiful and there’s so much information so please do a deep dive and check them out. Michael, tell us a little about TechSoup.
Michael: Yes, hi. I’m Michael Delong. I’m a Senior Manager of Online Community and Social Media for TechSoup Global. TechSoup Global is a capacity-building non-profit. We’re working towards a time when every non-profit and NGO on the planet has the technology resources and knowledge they need to operate at their full potential. We do this through a variety of ways which include donated technology products, educational resources and community. What I do is oversee a vibrant community, which is both offline and online, through a variety of channels including social media, discussion forums and on the ground events.
Jill: Excellent. Actually my first run-in with TechSoup was about a year and a half ago when I was working with Room to Read and I participated in your digital storytelling project, which we’re going to go into a deep dive today. It’s so great to have both of you here. Thanks for joining us.
Great. Today what we’re going to go ahead and talk about is number one, non-profits have a very tough time with time and resources and they’re very limited. We’re going to talk about making the most of limited time and resources in social media. We’re going to talk about how you figure out what content is right to share with your audience, how you balance calls to action with educational content and, lastly, we’re going to talk about how TechSoup and GlobalGiving have done a fantastic job of integrating social media into their already existing marketing, fundraising and other strategies. At the very end we’ll take Q&A.
First, let’s talk about working with limited time and resources. I think when we start thinking about all the different networks out there, it’s really important to figure out where your audience is and how they want to interact with you. Alison, how did you guys at GlobalGiving first decide where you needed to be?
Alison: We primarily work on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and Instagram right now. We basically just tested out where most of our audience is and where they’re already having conversations. We developed a bit of a strategy for each of them differently. Would you like me to go into that? Or is that a good answer there?
Jill: I think that’s a great answer. This was actually a slide that we had for our niche network webinar that we had because people go to Facebook for completely different reasons than they go to Instagram, Pinterest or Tumblr. You guys have such a rich, visual content library at GlobalGiving that I think you work across Instagram and Pinterest very well, as well as all the calls to action on Facebook. I think you guys do all of these very well. Clearly, something like Foursquare might not make sense for GlobalGiving.
Jill: Absolutely. I think a huge takeaway here is that niche networks are becoming increasingly popular. But just because they’re popular doesn’t justify investment. You really need to make sure that your target audience, whether that’s folks that you’re fundraising from or folks that you’re trying to help or serve are actually active on that network. I wanted to share GlobalGiving’s Pinterest page because, first of all, I love the Earth-changing adorability. Also, you guys use Pinterest for discovery. Can you explain about how that works?
Alison: Pinterest, for us, we started it out as an experiment. We said, “How is this going to work for us?” We built a couple goals in there saying, “We’d love to see if Pinterest is going to drive new traffic to our site,” but we also just think it makes sense for us to be there because the target market for Pinterest is women ages 18 to 35 who are interested in pretty things. That happens to be our same demographic at GlobalGiving. That works out for us well. We set up some metrics to see if people are coming to our site. Are people donating based on clicking on some of the pins? The answer has been “not really.”
However, we found that actually Pinterest, while it was more work at the beginning to set up some of the boards, is actually low-lift for us now so we just use it basically as a landing board. When we need to put an image somewhere or when we find a great image on our site we think people would enjoy, we pin it to our boards. So we spend maybe 30 minutes to an hour a week on it. But it’s a way that people who maybe wouldn’t otherwise know about GlobalGiving and have a chance to see such beautiful imagery might find us from there. They might learn to like our brand a little bit more because they think we’re cool for being on Pinterest.
Jill: Right. Especially if you’re just spending that much time after the initial outlay of time and resources, it seems that it’s pretty low maintenance. Is that right?
Alison: Yeah. It is. It’s a great tool for us, too. Because sometimes you have content that doesn’t live anywhere else on the internet but you want to link it.
Jill: Absolutely. Michael, I know you guys work with a lot of partners. When Pinterest first came out, people rushed to it. It was the hottest new thing. Are you seeing folks rushing in without strategies or possibly wasting time or resources on networks where maybe they don’t need to be?
Michael: Speaking of ourselves personally, we’re very interested in Pinterest but we didn’t have a strategy meeting about that and it was when we were in the deep crunch time for our digital storytelling challenge which, in some ways, did have a lot of potential with Pinterest. But we decided to shelve that for the time being until we were able to sit down and figure out, as Alison said, what our key metrics would be and what our strategy would be.
We didn’t have the time to do it right and to do it well, so we decided to put that off until we actually had the time to approach it in that way. That was the point I really wanted to make there that just because a network exists, if you don’t have the time to do it right and do it well, it might be better to wait on that and just focus on the networks you’re on and using well.
Alison: I think that’s good advice.
Jill: Instead of thinking, “We’ll do Pinterest in addition to…”, I think it should be “Pinterest instead of…” and really recognizing that your resources can be finite, especially time and human capital. Alison, you said that your main platform is Facebook and then Twitter and you guys do a great job of posting relevant content on your Facebook page. I wanted to dive in a tiny little bit and go over EdgeRank and how you contemplate EdgeRank when you’re posting on your Facebook page.
We won’t spend too much time talking about it, but that is the beautiful algorithm in front of you that is designed to show you the content you like and when you want to see it. We’re going to go ahead and replace all those beautiful letters in that formula. All it means is affinity times time times time decay equals your EdgeRank.
If folks have interacted with your content before, they have a higher affinity. If you post a video or a photo, it has a higher rate versus just a plain word status update. Time decay, there are varying degrees of what people think is the half-life of a post, but people post on average one or two times a day. I believe that’s true for you guys over at TechSoup. Is that right, Michael?
Michael: That’s correct. We really try not to go over that because we’ve noticed that if we do go over two posts a day the number of likes and comments go down and the number of unfollows or blocks goes up.
Jill: Yeah. Absolutely. I forget the number, but essentially, folks aren’t coming back to your page after they like it. So you really, absolutely have to reach your fans in their news feed. You guys are doing an excellent job of doing that. Alison and I love this example. What are we looking at here?
Alison: We’ve actually spend a lot of time thinking about how to best take advantage of EdgeRank. We have this love-hate relationship with it because I would love to use Facebook to share really important news about the important work that our partners do all over the ground. But sometimes it turns out that our Facebook followers aren’t always interested in that deep, heavy stuff. This is an example from last week that just makes me laugh. We’ve been experimenting with contests. We posted this picture of a nose. It’s kind of obvious it’s a giant camel nose. We said “Good luck. Guess what this is. Can you guess?” We had 60 people in a row guess camel. It was so bizarre because you would think that after 43 people had guessed camel, someone might not think “maybe I should put my guess into the hat, too” but people just loved it.
It was just so funny because even after, on the right, you can see “Oh, you’re right! We told you it is indeed a camel” and people kept guessing and people really engaged with that post and so that post actually was seen by 25% of our audience on Facebook, which is kind of discouraging because I’d rather them see something really important. But, now we have that higher affinity with some of them that next time we post something important more of them will see it. You have to work with what works in each medium. We do a lot more visuals and a lot more photos on Facebook working with EdgeRank and not as much heavy educational content that we might do on Twitter.
Jill: Absolutely. I think the point you made about how your affinity increased with every single person who liked it. You also had, what, 24 people who liked it as well as all those comments? So you have all those touch points which increase your affinity with every single one of those people. Next time you do post some content you want in front of their eyes, it’s actually going to surface which is fantastic. I also like this example because when we spoke yesterday, you said, “It’s not rocket science. It’s just would you click it?” I think it’s important for folks to wear their user hat instead of their work hat or nonprofit hat. Essentially, would you click on this if you were looking at Facebook and scrolling through it?
Alison: I can’t say honestly that I would have said camel again.
Jill: You don’t think you would have been number 63 or 62? That is pretty funny people kept commenting. I think we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the brand new promoted posts which are brand new to Facebook and it is the opportunity to get your content in front of the right audience. It’s very similar to the Twitter promoted tweets platform model. We definitely use it here at Argyle.
That short link at the bottom takes you to a fantastic post on SocialFresh. You can start to see that you can more or less purchase higher EdgeRank based on different price points. That’s a new change to Facebook and I’ll be curious to see how it changes folks’ strategy over time.
Alison: I would say, we’re going to be experimenting with that, too and our number one thing is to make sure that whatever you’re promoting is actually interesting content because if it isn’t and you’re paying to promote stuff that nobody really wants to read anyway, then you’re only going to do damage to your brand.
Jill: Yeah, and you’re paying for that.
Alison: Yes. And you’ve lost 20 bucks.
Jill: You’re out 20 bucks and a lot of followers. Michael, I would love for you to talk about TechSoup on Facebook because I know you guys, like GlobalGiving, you guys are at the epicenter of this huge web of partners. You often have to decide when and how to post and who to say yes and no to. I would love it if you could dive into that.
Michael: Sure. We have 47 donor partners, 39 global partners and a number of other initiatives, such as Guide Star International, Net Squared and NGO Source. What this amounts to for us is a really packed amount of social media content. The place where we really tend to fall short on, like a lot of nonprofits, is time, but also using these social media properties as real estate.
Earlier, we were talking about that there are different ratios that people use. The 20-40-40 rule, the 20-80 rule, the 5-3-2 rule and that sort of thing and that becomes really difficult when you have so many partners and so many initiatives because if only 20% is going to be about your own organization, all of those partners and all of those initiatives count towards that 20%. It really becomes a balancing act of how to negotiate that.
One of the things we do at TechSoup is we convene a weekly editorial board meeting. We meet with the marketing team, the content team, the product donation team and a number of other teams across the organization to make sure that we’re aligning on messages and themes and we brainstorm all different ways that we can cross-promote each other’s work.
Jill: I think that’s definitely a challenge that a lot of nonprofits face. This is something we talked about. We had a webinar about a month ago with universities and higher education institutions and they expressed a lot of the same challenges. That is, back in the day, your website and your homepage used to be the place to post your most important content. If you wanted it to be seen, you’d put it on your homepage. If you had to say no to something, eventually it might end up on Facebook.
It’s completely opposite now where Facebook, Twitter and all your social media properties are your prime real estate and you need to defend them from internal challenges and external challenges. These are some of the ones we talked about with the universities. I was curious if either of you ever face any kinds of pressures from the inside when you have so many partners?
Michael: Certainly. One of the things I can speak to here is the fact that I feel that Twitter is very different from Facebook in that Twitter loves content. You can push tons of content out onto Twitter. In fact, I think it’s more likely that someone would unfollow you on Twitter for not posting enough rather than posting too much, which is the opposite of Facebook. For a lot of people, a lot of partners and internal stakeholders, Facebook is what they think of when they think of social media. If they’ve asked you to promote it and you’ve tweeted about it 20 times, they look at the Facebook page and say “Well, you haven’t promoted my thing.” You have, but Facebook is the thing they immediately associate with social media. There’s internal training and teaching and advocacy that you have to do to show people what the different channels are and how they work.
Alison: I think a great tool for that is Facebook Insights. If you can come up with an example of some things you’ve had to post begrudgingly and show how poorly they do, and you just say, “Look, only 3% of people engaged with this content. It’s killing our brand.” I think that really helps. Everyone likes to see numbers and nobody wants to be promoting stuff that nobody likes.
Jill: Absolutely. Nobody wants to be hurting the cause. How about this last challenge? Can you appeal for more donations again? I know you probably have different funding models. I imagine that’s one people face all the time. I know when I see in my own news feed, friends consistently asking for pledges for marathons and such. How do you guys coordinate with either your development team of your fundraising team to make sure that everything is synced up? Alison, that might be more relevant to what you all do.
Alison: Yeah. I kind of am that person that actually is driving the donations to the site. Fortunately, I get to battle internally with that and I don’t have a lot of internal pressure to ask for donations. But we do have pressure from all of our partners to promote their projects which are on our site. We’ve actually come up with a reward system for how we rate partners. The ones who perform well and report well are more likely to get promoted on our social media.
Jill: I like that.
Michael: That’s really interesting.
Jill: Meritocracy. I like it.
Michael: I can speak to one of the ways. As you’ve said, we have a very different sort of funding model. It’s almost more of a revenue model. With our product donation program, one of the ways I’ve dealt with this is to find creative ways to wrap the recommendations for those particular product donations into a tech tip. That way, it’s content and a promotion at the same time.
Jill: I like that. I’m guessing that resonates and it’s a little more stickier content for folks. Is that right?
Michael: Yeah. It gives them something useful. It gives them a takeaway.
Jill: Absolutely. It was funny. I think it was Zack Barnett, director of web communications at the University of Oregon. He said, “I don’t ever find ways to say no. I find creative ways to say yes.” It’s like a boring online newsletter saying “Hey, can you link to this,” he tries to find the one story in it and primes it with a call to action or a question so it actually performs on the channel.
Another challenge folks face, this is with every brand that’s on social media, are the external challenges, which is misinformation posted on your page, a PR crisis or also the negativity or obscenities. Lots of those things can be solved with terms of service or filters and alerts. Also, so long as you have your social media actually rolled into your crisis communications plan or existing marketing plans. Is that something you both have at your organizations?
Alison: It’s something that we’re working on developing as it happens. Sometimes the crisis happens in traditional media and sometimes it happens on the social media itself. I think your solutions there are very similar to what we have. If somebody addresses us on that platform we usually like to address the problem publicly as well on that platform. We usually respond within the same medium. If they email you, email them back. If they post on Facebook, post on Facebook back. If it escalates from there we try to take everything offline because usually it’s not appropriate for social media.
Jill: Absolutely. I love that. We love that here at Argyle. We call it symmetry of response and it’s really important. You’re tweeting at US Airways and no one gets back to you and all that. It’s important.
Michael: One of our favorites here at TechSoup, it’s an oldie but goodie, is turning naysayers into yaysayers. We actually find that we do that quite a bit because our social media does act often as a form of customer service. When people have issues we’re accessibly responsive, polite and helpful and sometimes there’s people who initially lodged a complaint who end up becoming your biggest fan or advocate because they were so impressed with the way you responded to them.
Alison: I think that’s great.
Jill: You have a chance to turn them around. Alison, you guys do some pretty amazing things on Facebook by connecting your different organizations to one another. Can you tell us about that?
Alison: A couple years ago we started these Facebook groups. Groups of nonprofits who were on the site that are participating in a challenge, for example. We realized that sometimes they could answer each other’s questions better than we could or more quickly than we could because they’re on the other side of the globe or that they would have insight to share with each other.
We’re all about building better feedback groups on the site and through all the different channels we use so our Facebook groups are private groups for project leaders who are on our site. They share tips with each other, either about online fundraising, which is what GlobalGiving is helping them with, but also with stuff that’s not exactly that related but it’s a network for people to share that have something in common. It’s been great for us and it’s also helped with our customer service stuff, as well.
Jill: I had to crop this. There was a much longer thread. This was a conversation that went back and forth between the person asking the question and multiple folks helping this person. I was impressed that it’s really working in that forum. It’s actually working.
Alison: We are, too. All the time. We get so excited to see people helping each other that they don’t know and they have better ideas than what we could come up with. So it’s great.
Jill: Is that lady holding foxes in that picture? Do you see that?
Alison: It’s very possible. We do have a fennec fox project on our site.
Jill: Oh, wow. I think the takeaway there is that your time-strapped and resource-strapped so make sure you connect them to one another because they can help each other. Lots of times they can do it more quickly and more efficiently than you can because if you’ve got two folks in Australia and Indonesia together and they’re both awake and checking Facebook at the same time.
Let’s go ahead and shift gears a little bit and talk about how you view your content. I love this next example. Number one, because it was the first way I got to know TechSoup, but also because it has just grown tremendously and really taken off. Michael, can you tell us about TS Digs, what you guys call your digital storytelling challenge?
Michael: The digital storytelling challenge is an annual campaign. We designed this with the idea that creating a compelling story is one of the most valuable skills for nonprofit, library or other social benefit organizations can have today. This helps nonprofits in terms of marketing, fundraising or even clarifying their own brand mission for themselves. We built a campaign around the spirit of friendly competition with technology prizes and expert judges. We built a curriculum for learning how to build, shoot, write, edit and share a digital story. We accomplished this through a series of webinars, tweet chats, an interactive online talk show and our discussion forums.
We really wanted the campaign to be cross-platform, both in order to reach the different members of our community where they are, but we also wanted to encourage folks to try different channels that they might not actually be using at the time. We created the hash tag, #TSdigs, and that sort of ties the campaign together.
The campaign has a number of different social media components. One I really want to highlight is the social sharing component of the contest. The week after submissions closed, we opened up community voting for a special audience choice award. This year, we were actually giving away an iPad, courtesy of our sponsor. The community voting, it’s largely based on the organization’s ability to get the word out about their digital story.
So we shift the educational focus from the writing, shooting and editing to social sharing. We’re teaching nonprofits and other social benefit organizations how to build their own campaign around using their digital story to spread the word about themselves through their newsletter and social media. So this becomes such a strong focus because what we realized is that even the best digital story isn’t going to do a lot of good if nobody sees it.
Jill: Yeah. What I love about this is you’re asking folks for a pretty serious time commitment here, but you’re asking them to sit down and create some real value for their own organizations. You give them so many different places to participate. That’s what I love about this challenge because you guys provide so many entry points, that all different skill levels and all different platforms and mediums for the audience to participate. I think that’s why you’re seeing this really take off.
You provided these beautiful screenshots of the first place video and the first place photo of this year. I think the thing I love about this competition is that it really shines a spotlight on how great a job you guys are doing in connecting people to one another. You’re sharing the spotlight with other charities and nonprofits, but in doing so, you’re really proving your own value as an organization. When you guys first envisioned this, did you ever expect it to be as big as it is now?
Michael: I’m sure that we hoped. I’ve just been with TechSoup a year, so I’ve just been through one digital storytelling challenge. I know when it started, there were only two people on our team and our team has actually grown quite a bit, as well. I believe when it started, social media wasn’t really happening the way it’s happening now. A lot of what our team was doing was focused on our online community and second life and our other online community in our discussion forums. So as social media has grown, we’ve continued to add more social media components to the campaign and the campaign itself has then seen growth.
Jill: You guys also have the live even that comes along with it and you have folks dialing in from Romania and all over the world. I just think you guys do such a great job of sharing the spotlight with multiple causes. To show folks how much it’s grown in terms of how many submissions you have, how many votes you had, look at the vote increase. It’s really taken off. Especially this page. I love TS Digs. I think it’s a fun way for nonprofits to create their own value and to own their own stories. Also, there’s some great prizes. Thanks for sharing the case study, Michael.
Michael: Of course.
Jill: Alison, I’m really excited about this next one. When we first spoke about this, you were talking about integrating online and offline and how you incorporate social media into it. Can you tell us about the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund you guys started?
Alison: Sure. A little bit of background: a couple years ago, we sort of had a shift in our organization away from a marketing approach to an unmarketing approach. For us, that meant not doing so much traditional PR and writing press releases and media relations sending things out to the masses. Instead, we’re really focusing on social media engaging in conversations. That happened a couple years ago. Then a year ago, when the Japan earthquake and tsunami hit, we were one of the first people to set up a relief fund and got that out on Twitter right away, and the text to give number out right away. Actually, traditional media picked that up on Twitter and put it on television. Our social media actually drove traditional media. A year later now, we’ve become the tenth largest donor to Japan after the earthquake through these ten to twenty dollar small donations and then corporate matching donations to Japan.
That was our internal social media success story. We’re saying “It really works if you’ve built this audience, then you’re ready and poised when the time is right.” The story with us is that a year after the disaster, our president and co-founder went to Japan to visit the people who had benefited from the fund that GlobalGiving had sent. We decided we wanted to figure out a way to engage the people again because they’ve been getting updates and stories and photos about how their money was used but we wanted to give them a chance to reach out again, especially since we had somebody meeting beneficiaries face to face.
We asked people through email, text messages and on Facebook to leave a message for someone in Japan who had been a survivor of the earthquake. It was actually really beautiful. We were shocked at how many people wrote these really touching messages for people. We actually printed those out in English and had some interns translate them into Japanese for us. We folded hundreds of paper cranes in our office on our lunch hours and put them into these cards. So you can see the stack of cards there. That’s me holding one of the cards. These are all Facebook messages that became paper messages that we sent with our president to Japan.
Then she hand-delivered them to people who had benefited from the fund. These are people in Japan who got to receive these messages. It was just a real beautiful way for us to continue to engage people who had given to us a long time ago and probably forgot about it, but also to bridge the relationship between some of the people who wouldn’t have otherwise known that there were actually so many people out there who had a lot of beautiful things to say to them.
Jill: I just love this story. These cranes are just beautiful. When we first talked about this, I thought about are people just writing “Our thoughts are with you?” Lots of these messages are very in depth. You guys have done an amazing job of connecting both your online and offline activity.
If folks want to learn more about the whole history, you have two different stories on the creation and delivery of the paper cranes. Man, you guys post through YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr and you incorporate the SMS giving. These stories are really beautiful. I encourage anyone who’s on the webinar to make a mental note to go visit the stories later. The great thing is that the content then lives on so folks can go discover the GlobalGiving blog or discover your Pinterest page based on everything you’ve already linked to in Storify. Do you guys use Storify?
Alison: Yeah. Storify is a great tool. Go ahead.
Jill: I was just going to ask if you use it and if you encourage your partner organizations to use it at all to capture it. It’s hard to capture the nonstop stream of the firehouse of social media content but this is a great way to solidify it and hold it in time.
Alison: I just started using it to show other people in the organization that there were conversations that were interesting that were happening and it was easier than cutting and pasting into an email. We just create a quick Storify and email that to my boss or whoever just so that it was a great summary and then it became also a bigger tool because it has its own sort of following.
Jill: Absolutely. You guys have done a fantastic job of showcasing that beautiful story. Thanks for sharing that, too.
Alison: Thank you.
Jill: We’re going to go in and talk about how when you integrate all of these different platforms, you need to figure out whether or not where you’re posting where your audience is and if you’re reaching the right people. These are just some questions that we think lots of folks should ask as they get into social media and the different platforms. Alison, you’ve been collecting lots of different data on the social media metrics on the networks that you guys have been active on. You have been very generous in sharing how you measure your success. Can you walk us through how you determine whether or not you’re successful on Facebook or Twitter?
Alison: Sure. This is my little metrics post that I just typed up yesterday. I’ve been at GlobalGiving for about a year and I kind of came up with a system to measure what I’m doing every day so I know whether something is successful and I should do it again or if I should stop doing something. I measure both our Facebook and Twitter posts in four different ways. First is applause rate. How many people liked the post content itself enough to engage with it. So on Facebook and Facebook Insights there’s a metric called lifetime engaged users, so that’s the number that I track for Facebook for the applause rate. On Twitter that’s the number of people who click on a URL or on a post inside a tweet.
Then there’s conversation rate. So, I also am curious about how many people are further engaging after clicking. They’re replying or doing something. On Facebook I measure that through the metric that Facebook calls “People talking about this.” Then there’s also the virality number that they have. Then on Twitter, I measure that through counting @ replies and mentions. I don’t actually sit and count these. I use tools to count them for me, like Argyle Social.
Then another one is amplification rate. Because people are engaging it, how many people are now further seeing the content. On Facebook, that’s the weekly total reach number in Facebook Insights. On Twitter, that’s the number of retweets.
I would say all three of those are return on engagement numbers. The final one I would say is return on investment. We track donations that come that are driven by our social properties.
Jill: Absolutely. For anyone who’s a little confused about PTAT or lifetime engaged users or what any of those mean, we did a webinar with Jeff Widman of PageLever and he went through all of this in great detail. If you go to http.://ar.gy/FB101, there’s kind of a little cheat sheet that you can have when you look through Insights. Do you use this information to kind of benchmark what is an average post, an above average post, a below average post then?
Alison: Yes. I do this on a quarterly basis where I sit and do the numbers for the whole quarter, but then I come up with averages for last quarter so I can say today when I post something on Twitter, I know what the average number of retweets of a good post would get. I then can benchmark on a post by post basis “Oh, that one was good. That one was not good” because Argyle Social tells me on a minute-by-minute basis of how many people have clicked on a post, I can see right away that it was good and maybe I should retweet it later in the day or modify it and do it again. Or it was bad and I should figure out what went wrong with that. I do have some benchmark numbers for all of these. I redo them every quarter and they’re just off the top of my head. I know if 4,000 people saw a post on Facebook then it was better than average.
Jill: Wow. That’s great. Michael, I’m guess this might look a little bit different, especially ROI for TechSoup because you guys do have different revenue models. Is this something you guys are also looking to implement, almost like a scorecard or report card?
Michael: Yeah. We have an entirely separate analytics department. I don’t get my hands as dirty with this kind of stuff, although I’d love to. We do work closely with the analytics department so we do have different things that we’re tracking on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis. We put Google Analytics tracking codes for anything that points to the types of site, so we do a monthly report on how our social media efforts are driving traffic to the site and how that compares to the way the newsletter and other avenues are driving traffic to the site.
In terms of our life, for us, that would be the way that social media efforts are effecting the product donation program. That’s another report we work with the analytics department on pooling on a monthly basis. I’m fairly new to the job, so I love hearing this stuff that Alison is talking about because this is the program that I’ve been brought on to build. As we talked about yesterday, I loved hearing that it took her almost a full year to really refine the process. I know I’ve been in this seat for about two months and I feel like I’m at just the right place now building these systems.
Right now, we’re tracking more of campaigns on a one-off basis. TS Digs, obviously, we track very closely. We have another campaign called Donate Your Brain, which is a campaign that we use to get people’s tech questions answered and to connect them with experts and with each other to cross-
pollinate our discussion forums with social media. We look at the way that campaign drives traffic and also qualitatively, how quickly and how well questions get answered.
Jill: That’s great. Alison, do you guys use campaigns, as well?
Alison: Yes, we do, actually. Everything I post, I put into a bucket so I can see how one campaign is performing against the other.
Jill: Do you do that based on projects, you do that based on content, or a mix of both?
Alison: I do it on the content bucket. So, I have a shameless self-promotion campaign, then I have partners or thought leadership or things like that. What I’m really interested in comparing is the actual content of the post itself.
Jill: Okay. Great. To see what’s out-performing the other posts?
Jill: Great. Did you come up with the applause, conversation, amplification? Those are your own rates, is that correct?
Alison: I did a lot of hunting, so I’m sure I pulled all of that from different sources somewhere.
Jill: I love that. I love it.
Alison: It’s all from Beth Kanter and her web of interesting posts on her blog.
Jill: Her blog is fantastic. You mentioned here the clicks per post. These are the two drums we like to beat at Argyle, measuring clicks per post and clicks per follower because it can tell you if content resonates. That second bullet is one that we get asked nearly every single day. What time should I post? What day should I post. People are kind of obsessed with making sure they’re optimizing exactly when they post and I think the question there is whether or not time of day impacts your engagement. But to be able to do that, you need to be looking at your clicks per post to see what’s resonating and what kind of variables you can account for.
The other thing we like to look at is clicks per follower because lots of folks are really obsesses with the “We need 10,000 followers. We need 1,000,000 likes.” But it’s important to see the quality of those followers and fans and to see whether or not your performance is increasing or decreasing. If you’ve got multiple handles or pages, how they’re performing against each other. Then, how you stack up to other organizations. So, if you want to read a nice little blog post on that, there’s a short link to that as well.
You guys have both talked about how it’s important to define success. It’s going to be different for every single organization. It’s going to be different for GlobalGiving and the Red Cross and Leukemia and Lymphoma and TechSoup. All the different organizations as well as University of Oregon and higher education institutions. It’s important to set those benchmarks for your own company or organization and reiterate. As we know, Facebook changes things pretty often. Twitter is changing things more quickly as well. The rules of the game are consistently changing. Do you have to revisit what you’re looking at, Alison, based on what Facebook Insight allows you to have insight into?
Alison: Yeah. Absolutely. I did this whole thing in November of last year and everything changed on Facebook and I had to start all over again. Several hours of Christmas break wasted, but it was a learning process.
Jill: This is great because we have about 12 minutes for Q&A. If folks have any questions, go ahead and hash tag them with #socialNGO. Again, we have Alison Carlman here from GlobalGiving and Michael Delong from TechSoup. I’m here from Argyle Social so please send in your questions. I’ve got these three or four here already. Michael, this one’s for you. When you talked about meeting with the management team to make sure everything was synced across channels, how did that first start? How did you get the management team on board to meet about what’s being posted on social media?
Michael: Right. Well, I was very luck to have come into an organization where that editorial system was already put into place. Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for that. But fortunately, I didn’t have to do that hard work to make that happen. I work with a very terrific senior marketing manager named Lara Franklin and she really put that into place. I do a lot of meetings every week and it’s consistently the one that I look forward to actually attending. I can’t take credit for that, but I’m so grateful for it.
Jill: I know that’s a challenge for folks to get by at the c-level.
Michael: You’ll have to do a whole other webinar with Lara some other time.
Jill: Yeah. How to make the case for social media. This one is for either or both of you. Are your chief executive CEOs or executive directors active on social media? If so, is there a policy or a manual for them to follow?
Alison: For us, yes, they are. I think that was a huge reason we had the shift away from marketing to unmarketing is because they were using it and understood it, as well. So a lot of people on staff use social media and communicate in that way. I do think that helps. I do understand it can be so hard if they don’t because I’ve also come from organizations where it was the opposite.
Jill: Your executive director, I’m guessing, tweets? Is that right?
Alison: She does tweet, yeah, and is on Facebook. Then we have a Facebook group for staff and alumni, too, that she’s also very involved in, which I think if great. Then everybody understands, too, what they’re asking when they ask us to post stuff going back to those earlier “protect your properties” conversations.
Jill: Absolutely. Michael, I’m guessing the folks at TechSoup are pretty active?
Michael: Yes. We have three co-CEOs and all of them are on Twitter and Facebook and active, too, to varying degrees. In terms of policy, we do have social media guidelines that we created. They’re probably a bit out of date and could use some sprucing up at this point, but we’ve really found that most of the people here really do understand social media almost in a native sort of way. And, so, the policies really act sort of as a loose guideline. We’ve often used them less for our own use and more for when other organizations turn to us and say, “We’re writing social media policies. What kind of resources are out there?” We share ours with them, but we haven’t really found that people internally need to turn to it as much.
Jill: Great. Alison, this one is for you. Someone is saying you said that Twitter is for thought-heavy content more than Facebook, which seems a little bit counter-intuitive, given the 140 characters. Can you elaborate?
Alison: Yeah. I think because you can do hash tags and you can target people with certain topic information, we use Twitter a lot more to share links to news articles, which just wouldn’t go over very well on Facebook. Facebook is so visual, EdgeRank rewards you for using videos and photos, that if you’re sharing a news article that doesn’t have that same visual appeal, it just doesn’t work as well in Facebook. So you can actually have more conversations that are targeted about certain topics on Twitter and, like Michael was saying, if it doesn’t apply to people they just pass it by, where on Facebook, you actually hurt yourself when it doesn’t to people and they don’t engage.
Michael: I’ll add to it. I think on Twitter, people really expect almost every tweet, obviously there are some conversations back and forth, but a majority of tweets, people expect to have a link out to other content anyway. I think that’s a big part of why Twitter is a place for news dissemination.
Jill: Yeah. If folks just leave status updates without a link, that’s just looked down upon a little bit. Someone’s asking what’s the best way to combine all the metrics that were back on that slide? So what’s the best way to combine all the metrics? Do you do it manually through Excel? Any tips on how to combine these?
Alison: It depends on what your dashboard is looking like. If you’re someone who’s asking how often you check in on it and how do you see it all, but Facebook Insights does that for you. They create these graphs and so does Argyle. You have the graphs on there, so everyone’s metrics might be different. These are what I’ve decided were my key ones. If you don’t feel like you have the time to go through and figure it out, what Facebook and Argyle provide just out of the box are really helpful. You can see trends change over time and things like that. On a day-to-day basis, when I’m comparing if it was a good tweet or bad tweet, I just look at one thing: I look at clicks.
Alison: Then the same thing for Facebook. I look at reach.
Jill: Okay. Great. This is a great question and I’m glad someone brought it up. Any of the face speakers, what tools are best for those of us who don’t have the budget for Argyle Social? Before I let you guys answer that, I do want to stress that we do have very competitive and special rates for nonprofits. They’re actually pretty new rates. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us because we’re always willing to be helpful. I know, Michael, you and I have spoken a little bit about this. You guys are not an Argyle Social client, so can you go ahead and tell us what you use?
Michael: I am actually a big spreadsheet fan. It does get to be cumbersome. It’s very manual, but you can pull these insights from different places and you can look at things like Topsy or Twitalizer. The Facebook Insights, the clicks on Bitly, which is the link shortener we use. Now we’re actually moving over to Owly. At any rate, I compile these all on spreadsheets which is how I get an overview of them. Two of the tools that I really find indispensable, although it’s less for measurement, this is what you and I were talking about earlier, are NetFlyers and HootSuite. Which I really use as listening dashboards.
For any nonprofits that are getting into social media or doing social media already and are strapped for time, it’s really a great way. So much of social media is listening and we haven’t necessarily talked about listening today. But a big chunk of your time on social media should be spent listening. These dashboards, especially for an organization like ours where we have so many initiatives and partners, it really cuts down on the amount of time it takes to look at all of that information from a high-
Jill: It’s difficult to keep your eyes on your feet, but also on the horizon in terms of staying in the stream every single day and also taking these metrics and looking at them in aggregate. I think these success metrics that Alison has here are just an awesome benchmark to start, for sure.
Alison: I would just echo that. I think if you didn’t have anybody for anything, I think the Facebook Insights and either Tweet Deck and HootSuite and Bitly, you can do a lot with those. Everything else, there’s a random tool that does one thing. If you’ve got the time or if you have an intern who wants to build a dashboard using seven different measurement tools, you could also do that.
Jill: Chances are it will begin with a TW, right? I’m really glad that you brought up budget because someone is asking what is your suggested social media budget for a nonprofit? Or do you recommend sticking with free resources? Alison, you kind of addressed that just now, saying piecing it together. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Alison: Other than Argyle Social, which is a tool I use everyday, we don’t have a budget besides my salary. I think you can do it without. It obviously takes a lot of staff time, so that needs to be considered part of your budget, but apart from that, I don’t think you need to be spending a lot of money. If you do spend money, make sure it is on something you use every day and it is really helpful for whatever your work is.
Jill: Absolutely. I totally lost my train of thought. This is exactly it: Alison, social media is just one part of your job. It’s not your entire job. So when you’re talking about your salary, it is clear that you’re the unmarketing manager, so your responsibilities extend far beyond that as well, is that correct?
Alison: Yeah. I do all communications and marketing or PR-related things. Then I have a colleague, so we’re a two-person unmarketing team. My colleague does a lot of our social media stuff as well as customer service. We really see, as Michael was saying earlier, a lot of our customer service as an extension of our unmarketing strategy.
Jill: That’s great. I think, let’s see here, it looks like folks have some tool-specific questions in terms of opinions, but that is something we could have an entire other webinar on. I will hold that for now. Thank you so much, Alison and Michael. This has been so much fun talking about the success you guys have had in social media and I really look forward to following GlobalGiving and TechSoup. I’m big fans of both of your organizations and I can’t wait to follow you into the future on all these different platforms. Thank you so much for your time today.
Alison: Thanks for having us. It’s been really interesting.
Michael: Thank you. I had a great time.
Jill: Good. Me, too. We’ll be sending out a follow up email with slides and a blog post and everything that you can share far and wide. I just want to say thank you one last time. Thanks, Alison and thanks, Michael.