Hi everyone and welcome to this afternoon’s session at the Texas Nonprofit Summit. I’m thrilled to be here.
I’m Michael Wilson, the founder and CEO of Small world Labs. Small World Labs is an Austin-based technology company that provides an online community platform to nonprofit organizations to help them further their causes by enabling them to connect and engage with their supporters online.
We specialize in working with all types non-profits, working with large multi-affiliate organizations like the American Heart Association, UNICEF, the American Cancer Society, and the United Nations Foundation as well as smaller organizations like Greenlights and the Texas School for the Deaf Foundation, who are both based here locally. Also, as you may know, Greenlights is launching their own community today at this conference, the 501community. It’s a great resource and I encourage you to check it out on your phones, laptops, or over at the Greenlights booth.
Before I begin, I’d like to tell the story behind Small World Labs and how it got started.It all goes back to my parents…
That’s me in the middle, getting squashed by my dad.
To me, my life wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. As kids, you pretty much adjust to whatever your environment is.However, when I got older, moved on to college, began working, and started to meet new people, I began to realize how our family was different.I grew up in a family household with two deaf parents.And what struck me later on wasn’t just my parents deafness, but the impact it had on their social networks and sense of community and inclusion. Due to linguistic barriers, my parents lived relatively isolated lives. They pretty much had each other, my brother, my sister, me, and the occasional relative or deaf stranger that they would run into once or twice a year.And because of this my parents formed a lot of opinions and made a lot of decisions based on very limited information. All of that word of mouth and experiential information that we gain from talking and meeting with those around us, and take for granted, wasn’t available to them.But fast forward to the 94 when the Internet went commercial, and a few years later when the first vestiges of social media and web 2.0 started, which at that time consisted largely of flat-thread forums and online chat rooms. And the world opened up for my parents.My father was a database programmer for the department of defense, so he was computer literate, and he became an early adopter of these new technologies. And the Internet has changed all of our lives, but the impact it had on my parents was an order of magnitude larger. Suddenly, the world had opened up for my father. He could meet new people, learn what they liked to do for fun, what products they liked and didn’t like, and all sorts of other things.Fast forward to 2005, and I had just come back from a 2 year stint in South America. And I came across a few, relatively unknown destination websites that had new communication and connection technologies. Back then Facebook was still open only to college students, but I had an alumni account through my university and I was able to login and check it out.What I saw first were a lot of girls talking about the cute guys in class, and a lot of guys talking about how much beer they were going to drink the next weekend. But when I looked beyond the topics, which were obviously sophomoric (it was a college social network after all) what jumped out immediately was the level of engagement between people. An inflection point in engagement that reminded me of my dad and the first times he logged into a chat room.And it was at that time that I decided that if I could start a company that could provide and extend upon these types of connection, collaboration, and communication tools, and work in partnership with purpose-driven organizations that were trying to connect together their communities and support base, that we could really make a difference in peoples lives. And that’s how Small World Labs was born.
Now, back to session’s topic. Today I’m going to talk about how nonprofit organizations can build and nurture communities online, the tools that enable this, and the best practices for using them.For those of you that use twitter:I’m @wilsonmichael, and I work for @smallworldlabs
To effectively carry out their missions, nonprofit organizations have to attract and collaborate with a wide variety of constituent groups.
You have your supporters, who may be donors, volunteers, advocates, or event participants
As well as your staff
The people (or things, animals, policies) that you help… your beneficiaries
And.. often there may be partner organizations that you may work with on a common program
And there are a lot of options for you communicate with your constituents
Today we’ll be concentrating on these online communication tools for community building
And our goals in using these tools to build community are to:Attract as many supporters as possible, to broaden our support base…
- Move them up the engagement pyramid…
And benefit from and realize the positive outcomes that come from this increased engagement & collaborationAnd these outcomes vary by organization, whether they be:Increasing donations and volunteer hours Gaining new referrals through existing supporters Or helping connect together the people we help and providing them with a support base
So, where do we start?We start at the bottom of the engagement pyramid.
You want to make it easy for people to stay in touch your organization and that starts with basic contact forms, like the one you see here from UNICEFBut notice that they also give you a reason to sign up with the little link “why subscribe”
Which takes you to a page, where you can still sign up (it doesn’t take you outside of the conversion path)And clearly explains:The benefits to signing upAlso provides more information sharing options - zip code – for geographical targeting - mobile phone for text messages3. And also lets you know how they will use and not use your informationAnd these contact forms are often neglected, but optimizing them can have a significant impact on broadening your base
One example of this whether to have a button to sign up versus an inline form on the page. Awebber Communications, an email marketing agency, made the modification above to one of their client’s web pages, which started with what you see on the left: a button to click to go to a request information form and changed it to the inline sign up form that you see on the right.This simple change, moving from button to inline form, produced a 73% increase in subscriptions
And I’m sure you’ve all come across our friends, the light box.While these can be perceived as interruptive or annoying, the reason they exist is because they are very effective.The lift from lightboxes varies, but many organizations have reported a 7X increase in subscription rates when moving from an inline form to a light box form.Source for 7X increase: Mike’s Life blog: http://www.mikeslife.org/content/using-lightbox-increase-subscribers
Now that you’ve built out your contact list (also known as a house list) and you have thousands of people that want to hear from you, it’s time to use it.And using it starts with email. There are a lot of information and best practices out there so I’ll just concentrate on the basics and the items that have the biggest impact.The first think you have to accomplish is to get people to open your email. That’s based on having an effective; From Name From Email Subject Line Preview panel text
Make sure your From Name is recognizable, that typically means your organization’s name. Only send it from a person’s name if there are widely recognizedAnd use the same From Name consistently. Don’t send it from generic names like “info” or “admin” or “webmaster” or “marketing”
Also be sure to send it from an actual email account. People will reply to your emails. Some organizations make the mistake of using donotreply email addresses that are unmonitored or don’t exist. This causes a breakage in the potential engagement loop.
Extra time spent on the subject line text is worth it.50% of readers decide whether or not they are going to open an email based on the subject line alone.Make it descriptive, accurate and short
And check your introtext. Many email programs have default templates that automatically add pre-header text with words like “having trouble reading this email, view it in a browser”But look at how it appears in the email list. The email at the top is losing an opportunity to communicate and providing no additional reason for why the recipient should open the email
While this email from the American Heart Association provides text that helps place the email in context.The AHA email is more likely to be opened as a result.
And when people click, be aware that most of them will see your email without images. Images are important to include in emails, but make sure that your pre-image load view is still understandable and legible.
And after you have all of that optimized, make sure that you’re using email not just to ask for things, but also to engage.Mix in updates that let them know how their contributions are making a difference. Mix in updates about what your organization and its supporters are up to.Give them avenues to respond and to engage with you
This email from the Scottish Rite goes out every month.It includes no ASK, there is no request for donations or moneyIt includes options for sharing the email with others:Via a forward to a friend email link Social sharing buttons to share to recipients social networksAnd is filled with content and links to the Scottish Rite’s online community (the Freemason Network), where recipients can engage with the organization and with each other
And the results are fantastic.These emails are consistently opened at 2X the non-profit industry average rateAnd have 3.4X the number of clickthrough’sFurthermore, we found that after including these emails in the Scottish Rite’s overall online communication strategy, the open rate actually increased for their ASK emailsThat’s building community. People now want to hear from you.
Next we are going to look at social media. There are dozens of sites out there, but today we are going to concentrate on only the two largest ones: Facebook and Twitter
And just to cover the basics with Facebook, and this is enforced by their terms of service:Profiles are for real people, much to the chagrin of young Ranger Rick who had his account removed back in 2007Pages are for organizations - so that’s what we are going to concentrate onGroups are for smaller private gatherings that you don’t necessarily want to be public
Who in the audience manages their organization’s facebook page (show of hands)Ok great, then you know that Facebook Pages contain a number of additional features beyond what individuals get…
Facebook pages come with administrative capabilities to:Include multiple page admins & admin levels Permissions for how people can interact with your page The obvious capabilities to add photos, status, videos, links, and other content…
Facebook also provides reporting so you can see how people are interacting with your page, which Facebook calls Insights
There is a lot of potential for building initial engagement with people on Facebook. There are over 955 million of us on there.One of the key concepts to building community on Facebook (and across all channels) is to make your content and your updates engageable.Here we have a pretty creative image that’s been uploaded by American Heart Association.Notice that they aren’t bashful about asking for engagement. Their request to “Share this post if you’ve ever felt this way” lead to 2,154 likesThey’ve also taken advantage of the “highlight” option to make the image span both columns
Another best practice for building engagement on your Facebook page is using images,Notice the two posts by American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life on the same day, both contain links to pages on the cancer.org websiteThe one on the left doesn’t contain an image The one on the right does The posted link with the image gained 25% more likes and 187% more comments.People react more when some sort of visual queue is included.
And to take that comment even further, when you add images, be sure to include associated links. Here you can see on the Small World Labs Facebook page, instead of sharing a link, which brings in a smaller image & autopopulates a link and description, we uploaded a photo and linked to their online community in the text description area.And you’ll notice that we ended the post with an interaction “Let us know if you’ll be there”. Always encourage engagement.But there is no guarantee that anyone is going to see this post. The reason for that is something called Facebook’sEdgerank
Have you ever wondered why some organizations’ and some people’s posts and don’t appear on your personal Newstream?Facebook uses an algorithm called EdgeRank that it uses to determine this.The specific algorithm is confidential, but it calculated by the product of:Affinity – which is a numerical value of the relationship between the viewer and the creatorWeight – which is based on the interaction the update has (how many likes, shares, comments, etc.)Decay – how long ago the original post was made
And because of all of that, it can be difficult: to make your posts appear on their newstreams.to keep people coming back to your fanpageOnly 16% of your Facebook Page’s fans see your posts, on averageAnd less than 5% of them ever visit your page after liking it
And that’s one of the reasons whyit’s especially important to use a strong linking strategy to accompany most of your posts, to convert fans from on Facebook, where you are competing with hundreds of other updates, many from friends and family that have a much higher affinity tham does your organization…Where possible, you want to convert initial visitors from Facebook to your website, your registration form, and your online community (if there is one) where they can engage with you further, and you have 100% mindshareThe average time a user interacts with your organization on Facebook is measured in seconds, often single digit seconds or even fractions of a second.However the time they spend on your website or your online community is much longer.
How many people in the audience have their own twitter accounts?How many have tweeted in the past week?How many run their organizations Twitter account?…[okay we have a pretty good mix here/ savvy crowd here ]For those of you new or relatively new to Twitter, it’s a microblog platform that allows you to send messages across the twitter network in under 140 characters. There are a little over 500 million Twitter accounts which is just over ½ the number of Facebook accountsAnd it got it’s big push at SXSW interactive, here in Austin, in 2007Each update on Twitter is called a “Tweet” and rather than bi-lateral connections like individuals typically have on Facebook, twitter permits unilateral or bilateral relationships.If you “follow” someone, then their updates will appear in your stream (similar to Facebook’s “subscribe” feature they rolled out about a year ago).If someone follows you, they are your “follower”You can also create lists of people that are relevant to you, and view the updates from that list.The beauty of Twitter is its network. It’s tools… not so much…
And for that reason most Twitter power users utilize a twitter compatible client for making updates.The most common ones for organizations are:HootsuiteTweetdeckMarketMeSuiteWhich are free.There are also paid services like:SproutSocialThey all give you a lot of options, with the most widely used ones being team accounts and the ability to schedule tweets
To build community on Twitter, you want to do a few things.First, find people to follow. Find people that are releveant to you, like your donors, volunteers, and affiliate partnersEveryone loves to see their name in light, so use @ mentions in your tweetsGive out retweetsUse hash tagsProvide valuable information when you’re just posting updatesBe ready to converse. You only have 140 characters to do so, but it happens. And it happens a lot.And finally, remember to be human. Don’t try to stand up on an unusually large soap box. Act like you’d like to be acted towards.
On twitter, engagement for a given tweet is typically measured by the number of replies or retweetsIf you want retweets or replies, you need to do a little mathTwitter limits you to 140 Characters TotalYou need leave 6 characters plus your username for retweets, as well as room for commentsSo if you have 6 characters, plus 15 for the username that’s 140 – 21 = 119General Rule of Thumb <110 Characters. Under 100 if you can manage it.
Next, we have some Twiter statistics:Overall, 5% of tweets are retweeted and virtually all of those happen within 1 hour of the original tweet There is a slight inverse correlation between tweet length and retweet frequency, with tweets under 100 characters being interacted with 17% more often Links are big, having a link tend to increase engagement by 86%, and if you’re including links, remember our comments from before, the more you can link to your web properties and content, the better hash tags are big as well. Having a hashtag produced a correlation to the largest engagement lift, doubling the averageSysomos - http://mashable.com/2010/09/29/twitter-replies-retweets/http://www.seomoz.org/blog/calculating-and-improving-your-twitter-clickthroughrate
Next we’ll look at online communities.In contrast to accounts on 3rd party social media sites, an online community is a collaborative, social environment that is owned by your organization
It contains full branding…
And exists as a part of your organization’s website so you have 100% of your visitors mindshare while they are there…
It includes the ability for people to:- Register, provide you and each other with their information, and create profile accounts
- The ability to connect with your organization and other supporters
Share tips & tricksAs well as information & best practices
Access resources and assets that your organization has created, but also engage with them, ask questions, and provide feedback
Enables an online environment that can be fully open, without logging inFully closed, with everything behind a registration & login wallA mix of the two
Users can also contribute their own content, including files, videos, and images to help build out your resources
Engage in discussions around topics related to your organization and its cause
Join and create specialty groups that enable more concentrated collaboration on specific programs, events, or departments
Using your organization’s segmentation schema, the community experience can be personalized by varying:What information & announcements appear Access to specific areas Recognition with badges and levels And other personalization options
As an online community is owned by your organization, that also includes all of the valuable constituent data that is collectedIncluding contact information, profile data, and user activity information about members that can be used to further understand your supporters.Your organization has rights to all content that is added by members (including the images, videos, files, and testimonials), which are then available for use in your organization’s educational, promotional, and marketing materials
And all of this information added remains forever. There is content permanency, which can be searched and found easily.
And all of these capabilities are designed to deepen the engagement level that your supporters can experience within your organizations website
So as I just described, online communities are environments that enable deeper, more focused engagementHowever, the fact is that not all of your Facebook Page fans or your Twitter followers want a deeper connection with your organization. But that inner core of supporters, those supporters that are commenting on your posts, responding to your tweets, and clicking your links, that inner core is often looking to engage at a higher levelNext we are going to talk about two techniques, called seeding and harvesting, that can be used to help connect an online community with your organization’s accounts on Facebook and Twitter (and it’s followers) and make all of them more effective.
By seeding, what we mean is proactively originating your content, like a discussion, photo, video or file into your community…
And then sharing that content out to your organization’s social media site accounts.The links from the shared content, that point to the discussions, videos, files, and photos on your online community serve as conversion points, that lead your social media followers to a place where:You can capture their information (which can be used for proactive email marketing efforts)Introduce them to an environment that is tailored to them, and gives you 100% mindshare with the visitorAnd begins to move them further up the engagement pyramid.So there’s no extra content to create here, you just change the work flow & seed it in the community first, and then share it out to your social accounts.
Harvesting is very similar, however rather than your organization seeding the original content in the communityYou pull interesting items that have been added by your community members, and then share them out to your organizations’ social media accountsThings like:- interesting discussions
And share that out to your social media accounts
And there is a virtuous circle.When we compared harvested content that was promoted via the organization’s social media account with similar, but non-harvested content, The harvested content has on average a 250% increase in engagement in the online communitySo there is definitely a positive engagement bump to using social media and online communities together
And if you add social sharing buttons, so your members can help you with the sharing process…
You get a multiplier effect
So, all of this talk about contact forms, social media, online communities and engagement.Why does it matter?
A little while back, Marc Pitman, the founder of FundraisingCoach.com asked a question on LinkedIn to donors. He asked:“As a donor to charity, what do we nonprofits do that REALLY annoys the tar out of you?”He received over 108 responses.
I’ve included one of those responses here:“My biggest pet peeve is probably the lack of engagement for anything other than asking me for money… much comes from my frustration as a donor - that I am not asked for my opinion, my dreams, my ideas. “Everything we just went over today is geared to make the difference for the HildyGottliebs of the world out there.
Hildy wants to be engaged with.
And she’s not alone.We’ve found that the average online community member spends 300 to 900% more time on your organization’s web presence…
And those same community members tend to: Refer 78% more supporters & constituents Contribute 437% more dollars to your organization Become more loyal over the long term, exhibiting a 10 times lower attrition rate for annual givers versus non-community members And tend to volunteer over twice as muchAnd sometimes people may ask why create an online community, why not just Facebook and Twitter.These statistics are the reason..
Skip to next slide
I’d also like to help announce Greenlight’s online community 501community. It’s a community for you, non-profit professionals, to connect, share best practices, and learn from each other. If you haven’t logged in already, I encourage you to do so. You can also check it out in the Greenlights booth.
They also have a Texas Nonprofit Summit mash up page available at: http://www.501community.org/txns
And on that page you can find a link to discussions on all of the presentations.If you end up having a question later that you forget to ask today, you can ask it there and I’ll get it.
And we’ll open it up for questions…
Building and Nurturing Community Online
Building and Nurturing Community Online@wilsonmichael #TXNS @smallworldlabs
Building Community Online About Small World Labs #TXNS
Identifying your Constituents Supporters • Donors – individual and corporate • Volunteers • Advocates • Event Participants #TXNS
Identifying your Constituents Staff • Main Office • Local Affiliates • Board of Directors #TXNS
Identifying your ConstituentsBeneficiaries #TXNS
Identifying your ConstituentsPartner Organizations #TXNS
Communication Channels & Tools• Face-to-face• Over the phone• Sign Up Forms• Email• Social media• Online communities #TXNS
Communication Channels & Tools• Face-to-face• Over the phone• Sign Up Forms• Email• Social media• Online communities #TXNS
Goals: Acquire Supporters Follow on Social Media Provide Contact Info Visit Website #TXNS
Goal: Move up Engagement Pyramid Participate in Groups Ask & Answer Questions Share Information Sign Up for Online Community Reply on Social Media Open Emails Follow on Social Media Provide Contact Info Visit Website #TXNS
Goal: Achieve Outcomes Non-Profit Leader Referral Source Consistent Contributor Donor Volunteer Participate in Groups Ask & Answer Questions Share Information Sign Up for Community Reply on Social Media Follow on Social Media Open Emails Provide Contact Info Visit Website #TXNS
Email Marketing: Before the OpenDo: Use a consistent, recognizable From NameDon’t: use “info” or “admin” as your from name #TXNS
Email Marketing: Before the OpenDo: Use a consistent, recognizable From NameDon’t: use “info” or “admin” as your from nameDo: Use a monitored return path email addressDon’t: Use <firstname.lastname@example.org> #TXNS
Email Marketing: Subject LineDo: Be descriptive, accurate, short• 50% of readers decide to open based on subject line aloneSource: Vertical Response #TXNS
Twitter: Starting to Build Community• Follow People – Donors, supporters, affiliates• Give people props – Use mentions: @username• Give retweets• Use hashtags #• Provide valuable information• Look to converse, as much as possible• Remember to be a human #TXNS
Twitter: Sharing• If you want retweets, do the math 140 Characters Total – “RT_@username:_” (6 characters + username) – Room for comments• General Rule of Thumb <110 Characters #TXNS
Twitter: Engagement Stats• 1 in 20 Tweets is Retweeted• 97% of Retweets happen within 1 hour• Tweets with 100 characters or less have 17% higher interaction rate• Tweets with links are retweeted 86% more often• Tweets with #hashtags have double the engagementSources: Sysomos, SEOmoz, Buddy Media, Bit.ly #TXNS
Online Communities Community Profile UserAccounts Contributed ContentConnections Topic-Based DiscussionsKnowledge Group Sharing Management & CollaborationInteractive Assets Personalized ExperienceUser Access Levels Constituent Data #TXNS
Online Communities Community Profile UserAccounts Contributed ContentConnections Topic-Based DiscussionsKnowledge Group Sharing Management & CollaborationInteractive Assets Personalized ExperienceUser Access Levels Constituent Data Content Permanency #TXNS
Online Communities Community Profile UserAccounts Contributed ContentConnections Topic-Based DiscussionsKnowledge Group Sharing Management & CollaborationInteractive Assets Personalized ExperienceUser Access Levels Constituent Data Content Permanency Deepening Engagement on Your Organization’s Site #TXNS
Online Community: Overview• Extra level of engagement• Generally for your more involved supporters• Acts as source for shared content• A social hub to connect your various social media followers #TXNS
SeedingSeed In Community Topic Discussion Training Video Photos from Events Files and Forms Other Resources & Content #TXNS
SeedingSeed In Community Topic Discussion Training Video Share Foursquare Flickr Photos from Events Files and Forms Other Resources & Content #TXNS
Supporters Want Engagement, Not Just AsksAs a donor to charity, what do we nonprofitsdo that REALLY annoys the tar out of you? #TXNS
Supporters Want Engagement, Not Just AsksAs a donor to charity, what do we nonprofitsdo that REALLY annoys the tar out of you? My biggest pet peeve is probably the lack of engagement for anything other than asking me for money… much comes from my frustration as a donor - that I am not asked for my opinion, my dreams, my ideas. #TXNS
Engagement Pyramid Non-Profit Leader Referral Source Consistent Contributor Donor Volunteer Participate in Groups Ask & Answer Questions Share Information Sign Up for Community Reply on Social Media Follow on Social Media Open Emails Provide Contact Info Visit Website #TXNS
Online Community Engagement Deeper Engagement 300-900% Page Views Increase* Actual Small World Labs Client Results #TXNS
Leads to Outcomes Referrals • 78% increase Donations & • 437% increase Purchases Deeper Engagement 300-900% Page Views • 10X attrition/churn Increase Retention reduction • 228% increase in Other KPIs volunteer hours* Actual Small World Labs Client Results #TXNS