Hear Ye, Hear Ye! Bringing Event Promotion to Social Media

Back in the day when someone was hosting an event, they sent out flyers or letters. Nowadays things are a bit different. Gathering large groups of people together requires communication across multiple channels, and successful events are promoted in a coordinated, strategic manner. One of our client's hosts a large dance festival every year in downtown Manhattan, and one of our challenges is to use social media to effectively promote the event and garner a large audience night after night.  Engaging the audience on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and tapping into the network of each participating dance company is the key to reaching all of the right people for this unique event.

Pre-Promotion

Before promotion of the event even begins there were several steps to prepare: 

1. Brand the Event- One of the key elements to this year’s festival was the name. Every festival has a unique name that immediately brings up an image of what that event will be like. Firefly, Bonnaroo, Warped Tour, etc.  The event should have a name that would be strongly associated with the characteristics of the event, its history, and its future. 

2. Develop a Marketing Plan-  We outlined our goals for the campaign, our target audiences, the channels we would be activating, the goals for the social media posts and our overall strategy for the campaign. We tapped into data collected from past festivals to establish our audiences.  The social media effort for the 2014 festival reached over 300,000 people, so we set a higher audience reach number for this year.

3. Establish a Timeline- This was a key step in the planning for the festival. Within the marketing plan we created a timeline of social media posting: when to begin, how often to post, and all of associated art and copy needed deadlines. This timeline is our roadmap through the festival promotions and if there is ever a question or concern we can refer back and make sure everything was on schedule.

4. Create Posts and Gather Assets- The next step for the client was to reach out to all the participating dance companies to gather photos, videos, and information on their pieces so we could write knowledgeably about them. To draft and approve copy and images we used an edit calendar built with Google docs with the different channels listed on each date.  All post copy was written and a system put in place for client approval of copy and image, so that no media would be posted without client approval. 

Begin Posting

Two months before the festival we began posting on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Each channel carries its own tone and was used differently to promote the event.

1. Facebook- Facebook doesn’t have a limit to how long posts can be so we used it to give full descriptions of each of the companies and the pieces they would be performing. We made sure to tag any of the companies' Facebook pages and communicate with them so they could share the posts with their own audiences.

2. Twitter- Twitter has a 140 character limit so we had to keep the posts short and sweet. We applied the hashtag to every post and linked back to the website with all the festival information. We also retweeted and engaged with any users who were talking about the festival to further the hype.

3. Instagram- Instagram is all about the beautiful image. We made sure we had feed-stopping images from all of the festival participants and attached 15-20 hashtags per post to capture the attention of people outside of our follower base.

During the Event

The dance festival is a six-night event free to the public,  so there is an opportunity to engage with new audiences every night. We continue posting during the festival by announcing each day’s lineup, and posting live during the performances. This is a strong way to continue the conversation and garner a larger audience.


During the 2014 festival our social effort brought the client 285 new Facebook likes and 48 new Twitter followers, and the hashtag reached nearly 100,000 people. Social media can be an incredibly effective way to bring people together and promote incredible events all over the world. 

 

Photo by Darial Sneed

Instagram: How To Stand Out

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When working for a digital marketing agency you have to expect the unexpected. Projects can range from optimizing Facebook ads, to writing copy, to my most interesting task: an Instagram account for Jordan’s one-eyed dog. When I was first presented with the idea I sort of chuckled and looked at Jordan as if he had two heads, but then I started to think about it. This wouldn’t be like any other dog account on Instagram (of which there are literally thousands), this would be a feed full of inspiration, motivation and a positive outlook on life through the eye of an adorable little mutt named Squint. I was tasked with two major undertakings. 1. Craft and post photos every day and 2. Gain followers and likes. You may think you have the greatest pictures on all of Instagram, but if you can’t get followers, no one will see them. We called it @squintsadventures!

Luckily I had experience doing something very similar on a personal project of mine. In April of this year I began a new Instagram account specifically to help develop my photography skills and decided to call it @FoxBowPhotos. I wanted to capture a sense of adventure, exploration, style and American heritage and tell a story through pictures. I knew I was competing with hundreds of photographers and fashion bloggers hoping to accomplish the same thing so I had to earn my share of the marketplace. Through my own trial and error with FoxBow and my new undertaking with Squintsavendures I found the best practices for going viral on Instagram.

1. Have a Clever Handle- Instagram allows you to create a handle that’s different from your actual name. You want to pick a handle that gives followers an idea of what your account is going to be about and a little taste of who you are. When deciding the name for my photography account I made a list of words that I liked and I thought helped explain the aesthetic I was going for. I listed words like arrow, wolf, bay, sail, tie, anchor...anything that came to mind and mixed and matched them till I found something that rolled right off the tongue. @FoxBowPhotos. When deciding on the handle for Squintsadventures Jordan and I were originally toying around with things like @squinttheoneeyeddog, @squintoneeye, @squintthedog, etc. but after a fair bit of brainstorming we shifted toward something that lent itself towards Squint’s story and his positive life. We settled on @SquintsAdventures. Take the time to brainstorm a name that captures exactly what your Instagram will be.

2. Research your Space- Before you even post your first picture, you have to know what everyone else in your space is doing. For FoxBow I looked at a bunch of fashion and photography accounts to find how they edited their pictures, the language they used, what kinds of pictures they had, and the frequency with which they posted. I wanted to make sure that when I launched FoxBow I was in line with the people I wanted to compete with for likes and followers. Some of my biggest inspirations were Kiel James Patrick (@kjp), Adam Gallagher (@iamgalla), and Erick Dent (@erickdent). A designer, blogger, and photographer respectively these three guys manage to capture an entire lifestyle in pictures for millions of fans to see. For Squintsadventures I had to look not only at dog accounts, but at inspirational accounts to find the right mix of fun and motivation. Some of the accounts I looked at were @hellomrchips, @marutaro and the extremely popular @marniethedog. Squintsadventures wasn’t just going to be pictures of an adorable dog, it was going to be a place where people could come for a little positivity to jumpstart their day.

3. Hashtags- The most powerful tools on Instagram are hashtags. Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post, and although that may seem like a lot, I often use 20-30 hashtags per post for FoxBow and Squintsadventures. Finding the right hashtags to use was part of the initial research and an ongoing project as I maintain the account. There are certain hashtags that I use on every post, for example for FoxBow I always use #style #styleblogger #adventure #explore and for Squintsadventures I always use #dogsofinstagram #puppiesofinstagram #cutedog #inspiration, etc. Consistently using these hashtags allows people to repeatedly see your photos when they search the hashtag. An easy way to get likes and follows fast using hashtags is to use #likeforlike #followforfollow and when someone likes your photo, you go and like one of theirs, or if they follow your account, you follow back. This give and take allows you to gain new followers and make new connections.

4. Liking and Following Other Accounts- One of my daily tasks is to like and follow other dog related accounts in an effort to get them to follow us back. The likelihood of the account following you back decreases as the number of their followers increases. If i see an account that has 1800 followers I know they don’t need new followers so they won’t follow back, but if I see a fairly new account with 100-200 followers they will usually follow me back and like my pictures. This can be a bit time consuming but it's a proven tactic.

5. Post Great Content- At the end of the day, you can hashtag until you’re blue in the face and follow 300 related accounts, but if you don’t have good content you won’t be successful. Take high quality, feed-stopping-pictures, take the time to edit them on third party apps, and craft clever and creative captions. For editing apps I recommend VSCO and Afterlight. They both have a ton of great features that will boost the quality of your posts. Taking the extra time to make sure it looks exactly how you want it to could make the difference between 30 likes and 100.


Instagram is my favorite social networking app. Because I am a visual person I love seeing stories told through pictures and it’s an opportunity to not only see what my friends are up to, but to connect with people I may have never encountered otherwise. I follow fashion designers, actors, magazines, cute dogs, and everything in between so my feed is always full of amazing photos. Making FoxBow and Squintsadventures stand out is not an easy undertaking, but I get to be a part of a network of a million stories and bring everyone a little adventure and positivity.

Paid Social for Social Impact

Facebook these days is a mix of Buzzfeed quizzes, articles from Elite Daily, baby pictures, and of course: ads. Advertising on Facebook has become a key marketing strategy for brands ranging from tech start-ups to fashion icons and everything in between. But this form of advertising isn’t just for companies with multimillion dollar marketing budgets. Facebook’s advertising technology allows for managed set daily spend limits fit for any company’s budget. 

    Nonprofit advocacy is an excellent use of Facebook ads.  Nonprofit companies can use Facebook to create awareness and action for their mission as well as reach people who may not normally engage with their message. Let’s take for example breast and ovarian health awareness. We work with a client whose mission is to educate people on the prevention of breast and ovarian cancer. One of their educational outreach tools is a quiz that allows women to quickly assess their cancer risk and take steps towards healthier living. We used Facebook advertising to drive people to this tool and encourage them to complete the quiz. To create a strong and effective campaign we worked through a series of steps before placing and optimizing the ads. 

1. Understand Your Target Market. As with any campaign, it is essential to know who you’re trying to reach. We worked with the client and researched the women most likely to use the risk assessment tool, and thereby developed several different personas spanning a large age range and covering a broad variety of interests. Within each persona we researched several areas of interest including music, clothing, media and more to develop a full picture of exactly who each persona was and what they are interested in. 

2. Create Contextual Copy. Each Facebook ad allows for only a few hundred characters of copy, so it is key to develop clear directions and several variants of copy to be used in the ads. There needs to be a decisive call to action and the right amount of description so that people know what it is you want them to do and why you want them to do it. 

3. Pick the Perfect Newsfeed Stopping Images. When we scroll through the newsfeed a stellar image will always catch the eye. When choosing the images for our risk assessment campaign we had to find pictures that would speak to each persona individually, while also delivering the message of the campaign: assess your risk today. 

4. Implement Interests as Targets. When placing the ads you need to create exactly the right target audience for each art and copy combination. By using the personas we were able to organize the interests and behaviors we researched to target the ads so we could easily track and observe which ads were effective with which persona. 

5. Test and Learn. Test the images, test the copy, test the targeting. Once the ads were placed, we tracked which ones were performing the best and driving the most conversions. We then created more ads similar to the high performing ones and optimized our conversion rate. 

    The campaign was a tremendous success. We were able to drive tens of thousands of clicks to the website and achieve an 85% completion rate. Millions of people saw the ads and with that alone we raised awareness. As with any online tool, those who completed the quiz would often share it with their friends and spread our reach even further. With a reasonable daily spend we were able to successfully raise awareness for breast and ovarian health through Facebook advertising.

By: Molly Barson 

Podcasting: Where It’s Been, Why It’s Back, and Where It’s Going.

If you went five years into the past and told America that in late 2014 they would all be spending hours talking about a podcast, most people would scoff. Yet here we are all attached to our phones downloading episode after episode. And not just the older generation wanting to listen to NPR’s This American Life, but millennials and college students all frequently visiting their podcasting app of choice and downloading hundreds of episodes of their favorite podcasts.

As you read this, a particular podcast is probably coming to mind: Serial. The podcast that has swept the nation. Listening to Serial has the same sense of urgency associated with watching a gripping TV show. “Have you seen last week’s Scandal?” is synonymous with “Did you listen to this week’s Serial?” Podcasts have become water-cooler conversation. Serial is unique in that it tells one story week by week which keeps listeners coming back to stay in the social zeitgeist. It tells a human story with characters everyone can relate to, and an unpredictable outcome as we listen to the case unfold in real time.

Is Serial the only podcast capturing the attention of millennials? Not quite. A sci-fi dramedy called Welcome to Nightvale has caught the attention of many high school and college students. With a cult-like following, the podcast has capitalized on their “fandom” by performing live shows around the globe which sell out in seconds. I know what you’re thinking: live performances? What’s appealing about sitting and listening to someone read a podcast? Well, I’ve been to a Welcome to Nightvale show and it was honestly one of the most entertaining things I’ve ever seen. The actors who portray the roles on the podcast were animated, entertaining, and engaging even as they read from scripts. Welcome to Nightvale has proven that the market for podcasts is expanding and has applications beyond just listening on our phones.

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly why podcasts are suddenly so popular, but there is a somewhat simple explanation: podcasts are cool. And I don’t mean the popular girl in school started listening to them so now everyone is, I mean they have truly cool content and are dealing with topics that people want to hear about. Commuter culture is also a factor in the rising power of podcasts. People are taking trains, cars, and boats to work at longer distances every day and they crave new entertainment for those commuting times. Story podcasts like Serial keep people’s attention throughout their commute, and gives them something to talk to their coworkers about when they get to the office.

To look at the future of podcasting, look no further than Alex Blumberg and his company Gimlet Media. Blumberg was a producer at NPR’s This American Life and decided to leave to start a podcasting company. He documented his entire startup process in a podcast, aptly named Startup. He gave his listeners an inside look into what it takes to start a company and the mistakes he made along the way. One of the important things to note about this podcast is that Blumberg was able to raise over $1million in venture capital funding. What does that mean? It means big name silicon valley investors are interested in podcasting as new media. They gave a $10 million dollar valuation to a company whose sole mission is to make podcasts. Thats a huge win for this genre. Gimlet Media already has one podcast up and running and they are working on more every day. They are also working with the Google Ventures team to build a podcasting app to rival Itunes.

Podcasting is growing every day. More and more companies are introducing podcasts as a part of their media offerings, and providing Podcast buttons alongside the now-standard social media connectors Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  This fast-growing form of content is worth a listen.  

By: Molly Barson

3 Digital Trends to Look for In 2015

Social media in 2014 was the year of mobile expansion, integrated advertising, content marketing and a variety of new social networks. Companies had to make decisions about what networks they would attempt to use, how much money they would spend on social media, and how to monetize their properties. So what is going to happen in social media in 2015? Here are a few predicted trends to look out for:

1.Stepping back and evaluating efficiency

In a recent article Techrepublic said “brands will spend less time investing in new platforms or developing content, and more time looking at metrics to sort out what's working and what's not.” Some networks work for certain companies but not for others. An electrical equipment manufacturer may not find much success on Pinterest, but a clothing company may find it to be a highly efficient outlet for spreading the image of their brand. Companies will have to take a moment and get rid of the networks that aren’t working so that they can extend the power of the networks that do.

How do companies evaluate efficiency? While there is a decent amount of debate about this, there are a few key ways to measure it. One key metric is the engagement rate. For most big social media sites, especially Twitter and Facebook, there is a way to look at how well your posts have been performing. Companies can also download this data and analyze it by their own standards. The engagement rate is the lifetime reach of the post divided by the amount of users who engaged with it (meaning liked, commented, shared, favorited, retweeted, etc). If companies see consistently high engagement rates or a steady increase over time, that particular network can be considered efficient and they will focus their energies there. If a company sees low engagement or a decrease they may decide to pull back on that network or perhaps re-evaluate their strategy and implement a new tactic.

2.Branding through storytelling

As avid twitter users, we love when we tweet at a brand and they respond to our tweets or engage with us in some way. Users want to feel like they know the company and can connect with them in some way. Brands need to tell their personal stories through their social media rather than just selling their products or services. Customers will connect with their favorite brands on a personal level and be more likely to buy from that company.

A great example of this technique is the clothing and accessory line Kiel James Patrick. KJP uses himself and his friends as models and spokespeople for his company which creates a personal connection to the product. His story is that all of his products are American made and he promotes a preppy, adventurous lifestyle. He also engages with his followers on Instagram and Twitter which makes his customers feel like they know him and are therefore more likely to trust him and buy his brand.

3.Visual Branding

Back when Facebook and Twitter started, it was all about using words to update your friends about your day. Now, images are much more powerful and plain text statuses are often among the lowest performing posts from any given company. When we analyze a company’s posts, images and videos perform better and reach engagement levels 10% higher than plain text posts. Companies will need to curate photos and videos that will draw users in and make them engage.

Two other social media networks that will gain power in 2015 due to visual branding are Instagram and Snapchat. Instagram is an easy and quick way to disseminate images to your whole audience and present them in a professional but accessible way. Companies can use Instagram’s built in editor to make their photos stand out and help spread the word. Snapchat is a picture sharing app where the pictures disappear after you view them. No app is more in tune with the shorter attention span of the millennials than Snapchat. Companies can capitalize on this by uploading pictures to their Snapchat story where their followers can see pictures or watch short videos of products, promotions, or everyday life within the company. Snapchat is proving to be an extremely effective tool in social media marketing and will only get bigger in the coming year.  

Every year the social media industry grows and changes. Companies have to work to keep up with the ever-changing landscape and sometimes it’s hard to keep track, but you don’t have to do it alone.  

By: Molly Barson

 

Crowdfunding for Nonprofits Best Practices - A Case Study

Last spring one of my clients, Church Street School of Music and Art, suffered a terrible flood due to a fire in an upper part of the building they rent. Thankfully no one was harmed, but the administrative offices were completely destroyed. Computers, desks, files, sheet music and instruments were all damaged.

While insurance will cover most of the basic infrastructure repairs, the school needed to replace all valuable items as quickly as possible to continue operating and providing services to their students.  For an immediate way to raise funds surrounding a specific event, Church Street School of Music and Art decided to create a crowdfunding campaign and activate the local community.

There are five main variables of a crowdfunding campaign: cause, platform, metrics, which are essentially the length of the campaign and the monetary goal, perks to contributors, and communications.  

In this case the cause was given to Church Street School of Music and Art in the form of an unfortunate accident.  So our first task was figure out what platform we would use. We looked at several options but quickly narrowed our choices down to Kickstarter or IndieGogo. There are many different variables that can make choosing a platform tricky, such as fees, platform rules, funding requirements and the ability to make contributions tax deductible.

We chose Indiegogo because the donations could be made tax deductible through FirstGiving, and Church Street School would still receive funds even if we did not meet the stated goal (however the fees paid are higher if your campaign falls short of its goal), and Indegogo does not require the campaign to fund a "project”. Kickstarter, the biggest crowdfunding platform, requires that all campaigns be a project towards a specific outcome, such as a film or a product. We felt this effort was too general to meet that criteria.

The length of your campaign and how much to raise can be tough decisions. Make sure your goal is achievable, as you don’t want your community to feel overburdened or put off by your ask, but don't be afraid to go for what you think you can raise, and even a little extra. If you make your goal you can add bonus goals and associated perks to your campaign.

When creating perks to give to contributors, play to your organization’s strength. What can you deliver that's fun, unique and contextual to the effort?  In the case of Church Street School, we asked our students and teaching artists to create some one-of-a-kind perks. Remember, creating and delivering perks will add cost to the effort, so keep them inexpensive and scalable, and don’t give away the store.  The type of perk should be attached to the value of the donation.

No campaign is successful without a solid communications plan. In addition to promoting the campaign via the usual channels: email, social media and blogging via the Church Street School properties, we also reached out to bloggers.  We contacted over one hundred NYC “mommy bloggers” and local press outlets. We got about a 10% response rate and those mentions were very helpful in spreading the word about the campaign and the School.

Although this campaign happened online, it’s important to remember direct touch points as well. While the money was being raised online, we leveraged the built-in audience of the school’s recital season for in-person appeals. We also created fun craft projects for kids to take home. One of them was a folding paper boat project: the SS Indiegogo!

People are more inclined to give to a campaign that has momentum, so line up board members and other donors to kick off the contributions on launch day. Open with a bang and build on that. Don't panic if the middle weeks of your campaign are quiet, keep up with your communications plan and get the word out consistently throughout your campaign.

Points to remember: find the story that makes your campaign unique, be realistic but optimistic with your goal, create relevant perks for donors, promote your campaign consistently online and in person, and thank everyone for their efforts at the end of a successful campaign.

BabySafe Project and #KnowYourExposure Campaign

Acres Media Group is proud to have been a part of the launch of the BabySafe Project – a public awareness campaign of Grassroots Environmental Education and Environmental Health Trust, designed to help pregnant women understand the developing science that strongly suggests a link between exposure to wireless radiation and behavioral problems in children, including symptoms of ADHD.  

Acres Media Group is happy to support all of the digital media communications for the BabySafe Project, including website design and social media strategy.

Follow #KnowYour Exposure, take the quiz and learn more at http://www.babysafeproject.org/


Teaching the Next Generation of Artists

I recently had the honor of guest lecturing at the Dancing to Connect Institute, an intensive program developed by Battery Dance Company. It is designed for students who wish to translate their passion for dance into a sustainable career, offering them the opportunity to extend their craft beyond their university and into the community around them. 

Participants came from Lehman College, Oberlin College, Rider University, Slippery Rock University, University of Rhode Island, and from as far away as Northern Ireland and India.

In the two hour session we discussed how dancers can use storytelling through digital and social media to promote and further the impact of their programs.


How to Create the Best Infographics

I’m sure you’ve noticed infographics as you go through your daily life.  They’re popping up in magazines and online, and if you watch a documentary these days infographics are impossible to avoid. An infographic, a visual representations of information including data, is a great way to emphasize a point or explain a concept, and they can be very effecting in helping to spread your message.  But what makes a good infographic, and how do you make one?  After working along side the folks at GOOD and creating infographics for several years, I have outlined some best practices. 

Any infographic has to give a clear message and explain the information it contains.  A good infographic:

  • Starts with understanding the desired message, and the audience.
  • Creates a clear picture of the data.  Great infographics at the most basic level are data-visualizations. They are successful when the data can compare X vs Y,  A% vs B%, growth over time...etc. Data needs to be verifiable, sourced and annotated.
  • Has a strong creative concept.  For example, use a wheel of cheese to tell a story about dairy production, or a mock subway map to tell a story about public transit. Neither of these are earth-shatteringly innovative examples.  A creative idea is great, but don’t let the message get lost in the artistic concept.  An infographic must immediately connect with the audience, and good design is not louder than the message is it meant to deliver.
  • Is created by an talented illustrator or graphic designer.  The backgrounds, icons, charts and character sets in an infographic are usually created by an illustrator, although an assembly of photos can be used as well.
  • Is assembled and managed by a single point person.  The images, data, text and approvals should all pass through the point person, to streamline the process and ensure the infographic keeps the intended message set out at the beginning of the process.
  • Includes a strategy for dissemination online.   Planning for the launch of an infographic usually includes a blog post or article that gives context and elaborates on the message of the infographic .  Infographics should have a smaller browser version and the ability to click to view a larger version.  Buttons to share on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, etc., enable easy sharing, but don’t depend solely on social media sharing.  It’s important to have a plan for sending out the final product to as many outlets as possible. 

Here are a few examples of effective infographics: (This one is interactive after you click to open the larger image.)

Why Are Students Not Finishing School and At What-Cost 

Car Land - A Century of Motoring in America

On Currency - A Latte Exchange

 

How to Define Your Digital Goals

By Jordan Ruden

When I meet a prospective client, one of my first questions is “what are your goals?”. For me goals seem to be the logical place to start. While some businesses and nonprofits have clear goals in mind, others may know they want to increase a specific metric, but are not sure how to tie that desire into to action items and turn them into actionable goals. 

A goal can be as simple as increasing website traffic or Facebook followers. Others goals could be more involved, such as increase website conversions for a desired action, such as inspiring a donation, the purchase of a product or generation of a lead. 

Whatever your goals are, they are the first step to outlining a successful digital media strategy. Once the goals are set, then you can move on to understanding your audience, creating the right content & context for each platform, developing a story-based editorial calendar, and reviewing, analyzing and adjusting based on engagement performance. 

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Each organization is different and requires a different approach to achieve its goals. Only through a thoughtful discovery process can you truly understand how to approach a problem. This does not mean you need to spend six weeks flushing out a grand strategic plan. Most business and nonprofits don’t have the bandwidth or resources to dedicate to that kind of work.  However, most organizations, with the right tools and guidance, can, in less than a day, define goals and success measurements. Once this is in place, the next steps become more manageable. 

My Hyper-Targeting Obsession, It’s Like a Video Game

By Jordan Ruden

Over the past few months I have been asked by several of my clients to help with social media marketing. We have been executing efforts to increase the number of followers, drive traffic to specific landing pages and increase engagement on specific posts. It has been really fun seeing how we can use social media to achieve these goals.

As we have shaped these efforts, one of my favorite exercises is to dial in the audience we want to target. For me it starts with research. It’s not just about understanding whom you want to reach, but knowing the best place to find them.

This is where the power of social media comes in. For example, Facebook allows you to not just target interests such as flying, but also really drill down to find people who like Cessna aircraft or flight safety. We can then narrow down even further to location, age, marriage status, and if they have children. The list goes on and on and this is where the game begins. 

It’s really fun to tailor all of the variables to see your potential audience size. The ability to do this in real time and then make adjustments is unprecedented. For under $100 you can get a clear picture of what works by modifying audiences, images and copy and then create a campaign that works. 

The balance comes by creating the right size audience so that your money is well spent and reaches the ideal amount of potential customers, donors or volunteers, while making sure you target your message and distribution to drive the most qualified leads. 

Take a crack at it. It's fun to see how precise you can get, and then test, measure, adjust, test again and finally execute. 

Pro tip: Use Facebook search to see the pages that those who like your page also like. To do this, type the following into the Facebook search bar: Pages liked by people who like Your Page

Demystifying Social Media for Nonprofits Roundtable

By Jordan Ruden

One of the joys of consulting is the variety.  I get to work with different organizations and consult on different aspects of digital media.  I recently led a round table discussion: Demystifying Social Media for Nonprofits. The event was run by the Yale Non Profit Alliance and by hosted at the social enterprise cafe COFFEED in Long Island City.  The evening's topics included:

  • What Is Social Media and Why Should Nonprofits Care?
  • The Social Media Landscape: Platforms and the Digital Media Audience
  • Defining Digital Goals and Creating a Story

The presentation was followed up with a panel discussion, which included Emad Salem of Battery Dance, Cara Chard of City Growers, and Brad Fleming of Brooklyn Grange Farm. It was a terrific event.  Like a watering a packet of assorted seeds, this talk is my way of helping several organizations blossom in their social media practices.

 

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Twitter: It’s a Conversation Not A Billboard

By Jordan Ruden

I am often asked “what is the best way to promote my business or nonprofit on Twitter?” And my response is “don’t use twitter to promote your business, use Twitter to have a conversation about your business.”

Twitter is a conversation, not a billboard. That does not mean that you can’t use Twitter to share what is happening at your store or within your organization, but do it with context. The beauty is the brevity that Twitter requires.

Here are some tips to create conversations on Twitter.

  1. Look for hashtags within your universe. You don’t necessarily need to create a # around your event or cause. See what’s trending with in your context. Then join that conversation by replying and adding quotes to retweets.
  2. Tweet @ someone. This is a great way to generate a conversation. Again do this with context. Don’t tweet to Justin Bieber about your gluten free cupcake bakery on Long Island; you likely won’t hear back. However you can find like minded people in your area such as baking clubs or nutritional counselors you can engage to build a network.
  3. When it does come time to promote, keep it simple and see if you can draw in a reason to generate a conversation around the promotion. For example:

Always think about what you want to see in your feed. Like any good story, be contextual, entertaining and unexpected.

Here's a great example of creating engagement combined with a promotion for a Film Festival client. 

 

 

How to Write and Publish Stories Quickly

Life is hectic, especially if you’re running a company. I know how busy I can get, even though I try hard to spend time every day meditating or gardening. 

I assume my clients are just as busy.

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In June, I gave you tips for how to tell a great story. One of those tips talked about following an act structure, just like in plays. While I’m still convinced that’s a great technique, I also know it takes time, both for the writer and for the reader.

In this post, I want to talk about telling a story as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The quickest way, of course, is by using Twitter, where you can’t help but be brief since you only have 140 characters.  But not all your clients are going to be on Twitter, and it’s easy for Twitter feeds to get cluttered, and worse, your tweet gets pushed down the queue as the people you follow post their tweets above you.

So when Twitter isn’t an option, your blog is.

When you’re trying to write your quick story, consult a newspaper (yes, they’re still around!) for inspiration. Newspaper journalists, particularly those who cover politics, crime and education, are trained to write the shortest stories possible with the most information possible.

If you’ve ever taken a journalism class, you know that the technique reporters use is called “the inverted pyramid.” They start off with a paragraph (or lede) that pretty much tells the reader everything he or she needs to know up front, then gives more detail later.

When you’re writing a lead, it’s best to include the five W’s and the one H:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • How?

For example, you run a non-profit organization that raises money for Lupus research. You just had your big annual fundraiser, and raised 1 million dollars, your biggest haul to date. While you may be tempted to start your story describing the decorations, the food and all the amazing items up for silent auction (you know, setting the scene), that’s called burying the lede. Try something like this instead:

“Fighting for a Lupus Cure raised a record $1 million for patients at Quincy Medical Center last night during its annual gala at the Regent Biltmore in Boston. The largest donation, of $250,000, came from longtime FFALC supporters and Cambridge residents Neil and Priscilla Foffington-Smythe.”

This covers the basics, and even the busiest reader will stay with you long enough to absorb that. Once you get past the lede, you could quote the president of the association saying how thrilled they are, go into who else attended, and gush over the music and food. It’s not that the band sounding great isn’t important, it’s that the most important thing is how much money you raised, who you raised it for, and who the biggest contributors (you want to keep them happy) were.

Now, a note about placement: In newspapers, the biggest story usually appears above the fold. By this, I mean that story is the first thing you see when the paper, which is usually folded in half, appears on the newsstand. The same principle should apply on your website. Make sure your biggest story appears right under your banner, and that the whole lede can be read without needing to scroll down the page. Again, you are targeting your busiest readers. They simply don’t have time to scroll!

I know that learning to write like this can take some time. But going back to Twitter, that is a great way to practice. The less characters you have, the more efficient you have to be (but please try to avoid text-speak!).  Also, reading a newspaper or two (in print or online) can help you hone your skills.

Happy writing! I’m off to my garden. 

 

Photo by  ToniVC's via Flickr

Writing For an International Audience

To say that the Internet has completely changed our ability to communicate would be an understatement. This is the first time in history that humans have had a medium where anyone, no matter who they are, who has a computer and a web connection can give and receive information instantaneously and internationally.

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Okay, so that is a longwinded way for me to tell you that whatever you put on your company’s website won’t just immediately reach your local customer, but also potential ones on the other side of the globe.  Don’t believe me? Even the smallest blogs, ones who get a hit once or twice a day, report traffic from countries as far flung as Madagascar.

Now, your company may not be big news in Antananarivo, but chances are you will attract readers from Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and Australia. And, depending on the nature of your business, you may want their business. That’s why you need to consider how your site may be read by an international audience.

For example, you run an inn or a B&B in a popular resort town. Recently, your town’s been attracting a lot of tourists from China. You want them to book with you, but for some reason, you’re not getting a lot of Chinese guests, even at the peak of the season. What could it be?

Well, maybe it has to do with the fact that your inn, The Four Corners, has the number four in the title. The number four is considered bad luck in China, since when it’s pronounced with the wrong tone, it sounds like the word for death. Not that you’d want to change the name, but don’t be surprised if the Eight Gables Inn across town is doing a roaring trade. Eight is a lucky number for the Chinese, and many Chinese-American businesses try to get an 888 toll-free number because of that.

But even the Eight Gables Inn could make a faux pas with its Chinese guests by featuring a couple on its website where the husband is wearing a green baseball cap. “Man in a green hat” is a Chinese euphemism for cuckold.

I bring up Chinese customers because they have been a growing market for the last decade, but don’t forget other countries. Being sensitive to cultural differences is never a bad idea. For that matter, these potential international clients may not even be tourists, just recent immigrants. Why alienate them when they’re in your backyard and may need your services?

If you’re at a loss for how not to offend that potential client from Suriname, I suggest you check out some travel books. Frommer’s and Lonely Planet usually give tips on local etiquette. Embassy and consulate websites often do the same.

You’re not off the hook with the former English colonies either. A few weeks ago, I quoted Oscar Wilde in my entry on how to get bloggers to write about your business. If I may quote him again:

“England and America have everything in common these days, except for language.”

The same word may have different connotations depending on where you are, and I’m not just talking about England, but also about Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Say your business makes luggage. You also have a line of backpacks, purses and fanny packs. If you aspire to start selling in the United Kingdom, you may want to change the name of the fanny pack line. The word fanny means something quite different over there.

And it’s not just about verbal gaffes. If you sell clothing, it’s a good idea to include not just American sizes. Or measurements that are only in inches and feet.

The measurement issue also comes up if you’re running a food business. When you include recipes on your site, remember that an American cup may not be the same as an Australian one. Or that Canadians measure liquids in liters, not gallons. Or that some ovens measure heat according to Celsius, not Fahrenheit. If you don’t want to clutter up your recipes with all the conversions, consider linking to a conversion calculator, or to a version of your recipe with the alternate measurements.

It may seem like a lot of extra work, but the benefits make it worthwhile. Before the Internet, smaller enterprises didn’t have the resources to become a global brand. Now they do, and there’s no reason why you have to repeat the cultural gaffes the big companies have made in the past.

Or continue to make: Video game giant Nintendo recently delayed the release of its latest Mario Brothers game.  Why? Could it be that their Chinese audience might object to Luigi wearing a green hat?

 

 

Yelp! I have a negative online review!

The Internet has brought us many wonderful things. Endless pictures of cute animals, the ability to access the news 24/7 and many, many places where we can talk with people all over the world about pretty much anything we want.

It’s also a great place to gush or complain. Everyone’s a critic, or at least aspires to be!

Over the last few years, lots of websites have cropped up to cater to those wannabe critics, like Yelp, Trip Advisor and Angie’s List. Even Amazon allows its users to rate products and sellers.

When you have a small company, getting a positive review on one of those sites is a great way to build business. But what happens when that review is lukewarm, or even negative?

What do you do?

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First, don’t panic. One bad review shouldn’t sink your business. Hopefully, potential customers will also read the good reviews around it, and make an informed decision.

If it’s your only review, that may be a problem. Or if other reviews say the same thing, that may be a problem. But not all is lost. There are ways to turn this around.

First of all, allow yourself to get angry. After all, your enterprise is something you’ve poured your heart and soul into, and few people have the ability to criticize constructively.  On the Internet, where you’re not face-to-face and anonymous, it is much easier to be mean and rude. And let’s face it: There are a lot of jerks on the Internet.

Just don’t engage with that rude person while you’re still angry. Most of the sites I mentioned above allow the business that’s been critiqued to respond, but doesn’t recommend coming at the critic with guns blazing. If you are rude or even profane back, your response may very well be removed first. 

 Step away, and do something else until you’re calmer. And once you’re not as angry, think about whether the critic may have a point. For that matter, do all the negative comments touch on the same problems? This is your chance to evaluate what you could improve in your business.

If they’re entirely off base, you can still respond to them, but keep it polite, so they seem unreasonable in contrast. If their critique is libelous, you can contact the site administrators to have it removed, but be warned: You’re going to have to prove your side of it.  It’s unfair, but that’s how it works. In extreme cases, you may have to hire a lawyer, but hopefully it won’t come to that.

Resist the urge to seed the site with good reviews you wrote yourself. Not only is it tacky, but sites like Yelp have filters that flag multiple positive reviews from the same computer. This can also work in your favor if you have a competitor who wants to fight dirty.

Getting good reviews can be as simple as asking your satisfied clients to go online and write them. Most people will not take offense at such a request, and if they like what you do and want you to stay in business, they’re happy to help.

All you have to do is ask. Just don’t be upset if they don’t do it right away, or at all.

Oh, and when you do get those well-deserved glowing reviews, don’t let it make you complacent.  Believing in the hype is the road to mediocrity.

I hope this helps you feel more comfortable with the possibility of online reviews!

  

 

Should You Allow Comments on Your Company Blog?

So, you’ve decided to add a blog to your company’s website. Great! Blogs are a wonderful way to let clients and prospective clients know what you’re up to. But now, you have to address the question all bloggers eventually have to answer: Should I allow comments?

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Allowing comments is one way to get immediate feedback on how your business is doing. It’s also a terrific way to build an online community that is solidly linked to your enterprise.

For example, say you have a business that sells boating equipment. A lot of your customers are active in the local sailing scene. You decide to not just use your blog to promote your products, but also talk about races and teams and nautical events. By inviting your regulars to comment on your entries, you encourage them to build a virtual hangout where they can discuss issues and exchange information. The more popular your hangout becomes, the more the public will see your company as an important part of the community and a go-to for their boating needs.  Also, keep in mind that for every reader who posts a comment, there may be 10 other readers who just like to follow the ensuing conversation in silence.

But popularity does have its drawbacks.  Once you decide to allow comments, keep the following in mind:

  • You need a good spam filter. Even the smallest blogs get spam comments every day. Sometimes, those spam comments are three times longer than your blog post! The worst ones may even include malware. Make sure your blog platform (WordPress and Squarespace are good for this) has a way to deal with spam before it posts, whether it sequesters it in a special mailbox or filters it out completely. Your readers will thank you.

  • You get to set the tone for your commenting section. For example, are you going to allow adult language? If not, make sure your blogging platform has filters in place to catch any objectionable words before they’re published. Are you going to allow commenters to speak to you or other commenters in a disrespectful way?  To derail discussions with off-topic subjects? How about adding links that may lead to malware-infested or otherwise objectionable sites? If not, you need to be able to ban the habitual offenders.

  • Deleting someone’s comment is not unconstitutional. Remember, the First Amendment states that the government cannot prevent people from speaking their minds. Your business is not a branch of the government. Nor is it a public space. Think of it this way: If someone came into your brick-and-mortar store and started throwing the merchandise around and threatening other customers, you’d kick them out, right? Commenters may be a vital part of an online community, but they are still there as your guests. Bad guests should be shown the door.

  • If your blog starts getting more comments than you can handle, consider appointing a moderator or ambassador. A moderator can empty the spam folder, clear any legitimate comments that got labeled spam by mistake, and rein in any unruly discussions before they get out of control.  If you don’t have the budget to pay a moderator, consider getting a social media intern.

I hope the above tips don’t discourage you from inviting the public into your blog! But if it does, that’s okay. You have to think about what will work best for your business. Besides, you can always change your mind!

Photo by Adikos via Flickr.
 

How to Connect With Bloggers to Tell Your Story

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about,” Irish playwright Oscar Wilde once wrote, “and that is not being talked about.”

Wilde may have died more than a hundred years ago, but he’s absolutely right. Being talked about, especially while you’re growing your business, is really important. And if the person talking about you is as influential in their field as Wilde was in 19th century literary circles, so much the better.

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But how do you approach such people? You get on the Internet, and find their blogs. In the last decade, bloggers have become huge influencers, often eclipsing people in print, radio and television.

If you’ve been in your field for a little while, you’re probably already familiar with the bloggers who could help you. But if not, search engines are your friends.  For example, Google has a tab that exclusively searches blogs, and that is one way to find out who is writing about your industry.

These could be individual or group blogs. Often, group blogs, with many writers, will have a larger readership. But don’t discount the one-person blogs. If Oscar Wilde were alive, he would definitely have a blog.

Also, don’t discount traditional media. Newspapers, radio and TV stations have websites that employ bloggers. Getting them to talk about you might be easier than getting that stressed editor or reporter to talk about you, so it’s worth a try.

Once you’ve identified a few bloggers that could help you, here are a few things to do before you approach them:

  • Read the blog. Really read it, don’t just skim. It will give you an idea of what they have covered, what they haven’t covered, and how you might fit in. What is their tone? Helpful? Happy? Critical? As influential as they may be, would them talking about your business be good or bad?
  • If they have a Facebook fan page, like it. It they have a Twitter account, follow it.  Bloggers use social media to promote their work.  Remember, they’re trying to build an audience too. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be part of it.

  • Lurk in the comments section. Remember, the blogger is just one part of the equation. By getting to know the people who comment, you are getting to know the blog’s audience, and by default, your potential future clientele. On some commenting systems, like Disqus and Facebook, you can click on individual names to research their comment history. Maybe GalaxyBoy16 was talking last week about needing the service your company provides. You never know.
  • Become a commenter. After all, this blogger is writing about your industry, and you may have things to say. If your comments are well received by fellow readers or even the blogger, that’s a great in. Just keep it civil, and don’t self-promote unless the comment thread actually asks for it. Also, don’t add hyperlinks to your comments, because that usually lands you in the spam folder. However, many systems will allow you to add a hyperlink to your commenter name.
  • Figure out the best way to contact the blogger. Some have links to e-mail addresses, while some prefer to be tweeted or Facebooked. If the answer isn’t obvious, this is something you could ask about in a comment. Consider it a pre-pitch. 

Once you’ve done your homework, and have figured out which blogger you want to pitch, consider the following:

  • What is in it for them? You know what’s in it for you, but why should they take the time and bandwidth to help promote you? Coming up with a good reason is your job. Also, if you have your own blog, add theirs to your blog roll, so your readers can find them. The web is all about mutual back scratching.
  • Don’t be vague, and don’t ramble on. Be brief and very specific about who you are and what you do. Keep in mind that the influential bloggers get thousands of messages a week, and just don’t have time for a long pitch.  If you’ve interacted with them positively through comments, be sure to mention that up front.
  • Don’t be a pest. Send your pitch, wait a few days, then follow up. Being overly aggressive or acting entitled to their attention will backfire. They may deliberately ignore you, or ban you from comments. They might even decide to write a negative entry about you. Sure, that is one way to be talked about. But it may not be what you had in mind.

If you are successful, and the blogger writes something about you, congratulations! But there are still a few things to do.

  • Don’t forget to thank them. You don’t have to send a handwritten note and a fruit basket, but a nice e-mail, or a well-placed comment, is always welcome.
  • If they made a mistake, correct them politely. Keep any issues you may otherwise have with their coverage (they didn’t write enough about x!)  to yourself. You are being talked about. That is what counts.
  • Promote their post in your own blog or social media.  Don’t paste the whole thing, just part, and be sure to include a link to their blog.

Hopefully these guidelines will help you as you grow your web presence, and get more and more people to talk about you. And if you think this is hard or feel like you keep messing up, think about something else Oscar Wilde once said: “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”

 

 

 

How to Find the Right Team for Your Project

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By Jordan Ruden

I am always flattered when people come to me for advice. I spoke with two colleagues this week who are in the midst of job transitions. At the same time these colleagues gave me guidance as I formed the idea for One Eyed Acres. One theme that was consistent in these conversations was finding the right job for your personality. Some folks are great at focusing on one project at a time, others like to juggle multiple concurrent projects or manage teams of people.

The same applies for finding the right team for a project. Some people make outrageous viral videos, write short punchy copy, create beautiful info-graphics or create music. Success comes much easier when you connect a creative person’s strength with the right project. Some creative people really understand nonprofits and their special needs, others excel at delivering the perfect branded corporate message.

I have had the pleasure of working with many different talented folks in my career. It is so much fun to brew up the right chemistry to staff a project. One of the core ideas of One Eyed Acres is to bring together all of the talented creative people I have met and match them with projects that are the best fit for their talents.