For the third time this week, a software vendor salesperson made sure to slip in how one of their fancy clients do things with their software. They don't just come out and say, "Obama endorses our software." Rather, they say, "when the Obama team logs in, they enjoy the following features...". Wow, Obama for real? I guess the software must be great!
Normally I just ignore this stuff like I ignore annoying radio talk show billboards on the highway - you know the ones, where the sleezy male DJ has his arms draped around some swimsuit models. But the last vendor to do this actually dropped a name of one of our clients. And, this client is actually dissatisfied with this product, and has been for almost a year now. Whoa, back up there! I found myself asking lots of questions to the vendor about the tools this client "enjoyed" in the system, and what makes this such a great fit for them.
Donning the hat of a real SPY (Software Private eYe?), I made sure to stay underground, never divulging my connection to the client. As I mined into the questions, I realized the salespeople knew nothing about how the client actually uses the system. As it turns out, the client has never worked with these sales people. The sleezy vendor is just using this client as a billboard to sex up their product, and its all a complete lie.
After ratting them out to my client, I felt a little better, and a little sadder. It left me wondering, how many consultants and vendors name drop with such impunity? I mean, should I just show up at, say, Apple's doorstep and lob a marketing plan at them, then run? They might never know what hit them... I guess FivePaths could claim to have contracts with Comcast and AT&T;, and we have received significant praise from major banking institutions telling us how valuable we are to them. Who cares what these contracts are, or whether the praise came in the form of credit card junk mail?
Maybe we should do a term search across the websites of all known consultant and software vendors to see how many of them claim to work with the same big names? Hey, we could aggregate all this in [insert favorite CMS here] and allow comments! Snopes for name droppers. Thats what we need!
NTEN is taking a look at how nonprofits' systems work together (if they do at all) with their first Data Ecosystem Survey. They plan to analyze this data and provide a report to help you start to evaluate the systems your organization uses and how they connect.
As you may know, we at Idealware launched our Facebook fan page on Wednesday, September 16. Now that we have been trying to nurture the page for over a week, I thought you might be interested in what we’ve seen (so far). A disclaimer before you continue: we are tracking results, but don’t really know what they mean yet, it has only been a week after all.
Before I dive into Facebook, let me take a quick second to introduce myself. I (Kaitlin LaCasse) am Idealware’s Communications and Social Media Specialist. At Idealware, I will be researching and writing on social media, and will also be taking the lead on our own social media and communications strategy. Neat facts about me: this is my first ever blog post ever, I did Teach for America in Texas for two years, and I’m excited for a New England winter. Ok, enough about me.
Some Facebook background…
Our target audience for Facebook is nonprofit staff or board members who are looking for help making software decisions. We are hoping to use Facebook as an outreach mechanism, to share resources (both Idealware’s and others), to help people navigate our resources (I would love to see questions like, “Hi Idealware, I’m looking into broadcast email software…do you have any resources on that?” and comments like, “The seminar this afternoon was great, but it would have been helpful to go a little more detail into X.”), to help figure out what resources are still needed (crowd sourcing), to announce new resources or upcoming events (Idealware’s and others), and to use the page as a living case study so that people can learn from our experience.
We have a six month strategic plan in place, and are intending to see that through with only minor adjustments so that we can better analyze what works and doesn’t works at the end. Results can take a while to happen, and understanding the implications takes even longer.
What happened week one?
At the launch of our Facebook, Laura and I invited all of our friends on Facebook to join, we tweeted about it, had a blog post announcing it, and also sent out personal emails to some partners and the board. I know of at least two RTs on Twitter about the launch. It took just over 24 hours to get the necessary 100 fans to receive a /Idealware url. As of Friday, September 25, we had 170 fans. (I know that this isn't a gauge for success, but after pressing refresh for 3 days straight, I was pretty excited).
We have had some interaction (by which I mean either a thumbs up or a comment by someone other than Idealware staff) on the page, which is good. My goal was to have interactions by 10 unique fans, we had 14. People reacted most (and commented back to each other) on a question I posed about thanking for RTs on Twitter (what is the proper etiquette anyway?). We had more response to that on Facebook than on Twitter, which is interesting. Not a big surprise, but the more self-promotional items like upcoming seminars didn’t garner any response.
Initial reflections and questions to ponder…
I suggested to all of my 690 friends on Facebook that they become fans, 50 joined so far and they continue to trickle in. This means that nearly 30% of our fans are also my friends on Facebook. I use Facebook for primarily for personal reasons, and was surprised at the folks that actually accepted the invitation. While some of those who became fans are in a position where they could benefit from Idealware’s services (my friends working for nonprofits), most are not. My 13-year-old cousin is extremely capable, but I’m not sure he is interested in helping nonprofits decide which software to use. In fact, some of my friends who I think really would benefit from our resources haven’t become fans yet, so I’m wondering if a different, more targeted approach might be better in the long run. I love my friends, and appreciate their support, but besides bolstering up our Fan page, will they engage with it? Does it matter? So far three have, but one of those, in the effort of full disclosure, only responded because I asked her to get the ball rolling.
Laura’s Facebook friends are almost entirely professional relationships, and quite a few of her friends also became fans. It will be interesting to see how our different networks interact and engage with the page.
So far, our fans on Facebook tend to be more supporters and partners than people who might use our resources. It will be interesting to see if that changes over time, and I think we will have to further hone our outreach approach to best reach our target audience. And, if we do get those people to be fans, we’ll need to make sure that our Facebook page is speaking to their needs.
Also, my goal of having a certain number of “interactions” is along the right idea, but I would like to tailor that even more. Is a thumbs up really an interaction? What does engagement look like? I’m hoping that with time, a close eye on what is happening, and some experimentation with different strategies will help us answer some of these questions…and more.
I don’t really know what all of this means yet, but I’m hoping that as we continue to track what is working or not on our page, we’ll have a better idea.
What do you think makes a fan a “good” fan – and does it matter? What does engagement on a fan page mean to you?
If you want to be part of our experiment and see how we are rolling out our Facebook strategy on a daily basis, visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/idealware.
The popular theory is that, with social networks like Twitter and Facebook serving as link referral tools, there's no need to setup and look at feeds in a reader anymore. And I agree that many people will forgo RSS in favor of the links that their friends and mentors tweet and share. But this is kind of like saying that, if more people shop at farmer's markets than supermarkets, we will no longer need trucks. Dave Winer, quite arguably the founder of RSS, and our friends at ReadWriteWeb have leapt to RSS's defense with similar points - Winer puts it best, saying:
"These protocols...are so deeply ingrained in the infrastructure they become part of the fabric of the Internet. They don't die, they don't rest in piece."
My arguments for the defense:
1. RSS is, and always has been about, taking control of the information you peruse. Instead of searching, browsing, and otherwise separating a little wheat from a load of chaff, you use RSS to subscribe to the content that you have vetted as pertinent to your interests and needs. While that might cross-over a bit with what your friends want to share on Facebook, it's you determining the importance, not your friends. For a number of us, who use the internet for research; brand monitoring; or other explicit purposes, a good RSS Reader will still offer the best productivity boost out there.
2. Where do you think your friends get those links? It's highly likely that most of them -- before the retweets and the sharing -- grabbed them from an RSS feed. I post links on Twitter and Facebook, and I get most of them from my Google Reader flow.
3. It's not the water, it's the pipe. The majority of those links referred by Twitter are fed into Twitter via RSS. Twitterfeed, the most popular tool for feeding RSS data to Twitter, boasts about half a million feeds. Facebook, Friendfeed and their ilk all allow importing from RSS sources to profiles.
So, here are some of the ways I use RSS every day:
Basic Aggregation with Drupal
My first big RSS experiment built on the nptech tagging phenomenon. Some background: About five years ago, with the advent of RSS-enabled websites that allowed for storing and tagging information (such as Delicious, Flickr and most blogging platforms), Techsoup CEO Marnie Webb had a bright idea. She started tagging articles, blog posts, and other content pertinent to those working in or with nonprofits and technology with the tag "nptech". She invited her friends to do the same. And she shared with everyone her tips for setting up an RSS newsreader and subscribing to things marked with our tag. Marnie and I had lunch in late 2005 and agreed that the next step was to set up a web site that aggregated all of this information. So I put up the nptech.info site, which continues to pull nptech-tagged blog entries from around the web.
Recently, I used Twitterfeed to push the nptech aggregated information to the nptechinfo Twitter account. So, if you don't like RSS, you can still get the links via Twitter. But stay aware that they get there via RSS!
But I'm pretty dull -- what's more exciting is the way that Google Reader let me create a "bundle" of all of the nptech blogs that I follow. You can sample a bunch of great Idealware-sympatico bloggers just by adding it to your reader.
We’re hard at work over here on our Field Guide to Software for Nonprofits: Marketing, Outreach and Communications – a small reference book that will help nonprofits think through what types of systems would be effective for them based on the processes that they need to support and their current technology level.
We’re taking on 39 different types of software for that, including a few areas that we have little prior research about. As part of our guerrilla research process for this, I thought I’d put some of them up here for your comments. Did we get it right? Are we missing important things? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Many thanks to Mark Sansone at See3 Communications for helping us out with this piece– though any mistakes are our own, as he hasn’t seen this version!
If you want to create videos or podcast with even a basic level of polish, you’ll need editing software. These tools allow you to cut out pieces you don’t want, splice together different sections, and overlay things like titles onto your piece. For a podcast, you may want to edit an interview down for length, cut out “um”s and pauses to add a more professional polish, and then add some music and a voice over introduction to the beginning. For a video, you might cut an interview with a constituent together with scenes of your program participants, and put a title screen at the beginning.
While good editing takes time and some skill, a number of low-cost and straightforward editing tools have put the software within any nonprofit’s reach. If you’re using a Mac, iMovie (which comes free with the computer) is a great editing tool for straightforward movies. The free editing software available for PCs (like Windows Movie Maker and Pinnacle Systems’ VideoSpin) often impose substantial and confusing limitations (like what formats you can import and output, or insistent front-and-center ads), but Adobe Premiere Elements ($15 for nonprofits on TechSoup, or about $140 retail) provides friendly features very similar to iMovie.
Found that you’ve outgrown the low-cost options – for instance, you want to create more robust animations or special effects? On the Mac, Final Cut Express or Final Cut Pro provide logical stepping stones; Adobe Premiere is also a widely used on either PC or Mac. These products, all under $1000, are likely to provide all the power that a nonprofit is likely to need before it makes sense to hire a professional video editor.
On the sound editing side, both GarageBand (for the Mac) and Audacity (for the PC) are free and solid tools that provide all the functionality a nonprofit is likely to need for in-house work.
We're thrilled to release today the Consumers Guide to Data Visualization Tools - this 30-page independent Idealware report provides an overview of the types of graphic formats that might work for you, and then compares eight low-cost tools that can help you create them.
How do you transform your data into charts, graphs, and maps that will help your audience understand the data and move them to take action? This report will help you understand the considerations, and walks through the software that can help - including Excel, Google Docs, DeltaGraph, SmartDraw, ManyEyes, Swivel, Google Maps, Microsoft MapPoint, and more. Read the report now (free registration required)>
I'm a metric junkie. If I could spend all day just hitting the refresh button and watching the numbers go up, I'd be happy. And metrics are wonderful things: they can tell us what we're doing right, and when we should stop and try something else.
But metrics are also dangerous things. As the old adage says, you get what you measure. If you don't define meaningful metrics, it's very easy to get wrapped up in a number that's not really tied to anything that matters to your organization. How many site visitors do you get? How many clicks on your emails? How many Facebook friends or Twitter followers? While all of these things can be very useful to make tactical changes, none of them measure the *effectiveness* of your communications. Only measuring actual *outcomes* - actions, changed behavoir, donations - can tell you what's actually effective.
So it won't come as a shock that Seth Godin's recent post about nonprofits really pissed me off (I'm not alone: Beth Kanter has a terrific summary of the responses, which also got a ton of insightful comments). He observed that nonprofits are unwilling to change in order to effectively use social media. Based on? A few conversations, the fact that there are no nonprofits in the top 100 Twitter users, they don't use Squidoo (the obscure social media platform HE OWNS), and that they continue to send those darn old school direct mail fundraising letters.
Are nonprofits more or less effective at using social media than other types of organizations? I don't know. Effective to what end? Maybe; certainly no one would argue that there's room for improvement. But his data sucks.
I will say boldly and proudly: If we at Idealware spend a single dollar or a single minute trying to be one of the top 100 most followed Twitterers, we're wasting the resources that our constituents have entrusted to us. Trying to do massive broadcast communications with millions of people is not our mandate. I don't believe there are that many people in the world on Twitter than are likely to 1) benefit from our services or 2) take any action to help Idealware serve our mission. Like 95% of all nonprofits in the world, we have a niche audience. We shouldn't be trying to reach EVERYONE. We should be trying to reach the people that matter to our mission.
Don't get me wrong: we're using Twitter (and it takes a lot more than a minute a day). And we've in fact found Twitter to be helpful in reaching the people that matter to our mission. But the type of follower is as important as quantity.
And frankly, that's the point of marketing. No marketer worth his/ her salt, whether in the nonprofit or business world, is trying to just broadly reach EVERYONE, and none of them make decisions based on anything other than actual outcomes. You don't just decide which method sounds the coolest. You figure out what works.
Speaking of what works. His point about Squidoo (again, the obscure social media platform HE OWNS) is that although they often give away $10,000, not that many nonprofits try for that. Great. I'm really pleased by that. Nonprofits too often chase money that isn't likely to come through. Let's say it takes you 4-5 hours to create a great Squidoo list to give you a shot at that $10,000. Not even Seth claims that you'll get a good outreach return, so let's focus on the money. Let's say you have a 1% chance of winning the money (I've just pulled that out the air, but it seems like pretty good odds for a public contest). So your expected return if you did lots of these would be $100 each time. But it took 4-5 hours. You could do as well with a bake sale. Could you raise more than $100 in a single hour by picking up the phone and calling your supporters? I bet you could. Maybe a lot more.
Why do nonprofits continue to send those old school fundraising letters? Because they work. If they were measuring based Seth Godin's coolness meter, they would make different decisions. But then they would raise less money and make less real change in the world.
As a research organization, here at Idealware we like to think things... sometimes a lot... before we do them. But thanks to our fabulous Communications and Social Media Specialist, Kaitlin LaCasse, we've launched our shiny new Facebook fan page with a bang. Join us on Facebook(http://bit.ly/1eSpum)
In addition to using the site to answer questions, share information, and promote webinars, we are also using it as our very own case study on Facebook strategy. So there will be a lot of information forthcoming from us as to what's working for us, what's not, and the lessons we're learning.
Plus, there are several upcoming opportunities for Fans to win free webinars, so make sure you watch out for those special promotions!
We'd love you to join us, or to help spread the word as we grow our Facebook community.
We're really excited to announce our Boston Email Fundraising Bootcamp, in partnership with Third Sector New England. It's one of our first live events, and a new format for us - a combination of expert-led training with lots of hands-on work on your own strategy, to ensure that you'll leave prepped to setup your own campaign in time for year end. Experts from Idealware, Firefly Partners, and Database Design Associates will not only share their knowledge but work with small groups and individuals to ensure that everyone gets individual advice tailored to their own organization.
At only $125, and with a cap of 45 participants, it'll fill up. If you're in the Northeast, sign up today! Learn more or register>
Idealware's blog is not the best place for me to talk about my kid. There's Facebook and Flickr for that sort of thing. But I want to talk about him anyway, and open a discussion, if possible, about children and the nptech community.
My career is in nonprofit technology (nptech). My plan is to continue working for nonprofits (or, if for profit, a for profit with a mission and a socially beneficial bottom line) until I retire or expire. While my ten year old boy's stated goal is to become a NASA engineer, and that's great, I want him to understand why I chose my path of purposeful work and understand what's involved in it, should he, at age 15 or 25, decide that NASA isn't the only option.
A few year's back, former NTEN CEO and current MobileActive CEO Katrin Verclas suggested adding a program for teenagers at the annual nonprofit technology conference. This is a brilliant idea. We have a great opportunity to educate children in the work we do: advocating for social justice and good; raising funds and resources in order to act effectively and independently; and collaborating in a supportive community to accomplish our varied, but sympathetic goals. Whatever our children end up doing with their lives, we have something worthwhile to teach them.
When I was a teenager, I was active in a youth group called Liberal Religious Youth (LRY). LRY was an independent group affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association, but it was not a particularly religious group. The themes were more along the lines of addressing social concerns and building community. At ages sixteen and seventeen, I was creating flyers, renting facilities, giving presentations, leading sessions, planning menus and taking a leadership role that prepared me far better for my current career than high school actually did.
When I look at our nptech community, I see a similar environment, where our commitment and excitement regarding our work is bolstered by a natural adoption of supportive camaraderie and peer development. We definitely model something of value to our high school age kids who will face career choices and challenges like ours. We can develop a mentoring program that passes on our expertise in resource management, activism, fundraising, community building, nonprofit technology and social media as a social activism tool. This would provide them with an early introduction to the skills that will be needed when we retire to continue the important work that we do. As much as a grant, donation, or volunteer effort, this is an investment in our work and our world that we should be making.
I want my son to develop his skills and community with socially-conscious peers and mentors. I want his generation to be more effective than we are at solving problems like poverty, pollution and social injustice. It's not enough for us to try and save the world. We should be prepping the next generation to keep it protected.