Social media: Are we doing it right? #socialconvo

I went to an unusual event yesterday. Unusual because it felt like the start of a conversation. I didn’t even tweet much on the day (I know!), I was thinking…

socialconvo

What the hell is going on with Facebook?

In a room of around 12 people, at an event about social media, there was no love for Facebook. There was a lot of positive talk about Twitter but, for Facebook, just disdain.

Why?

Facebook is an incredibly powerful tool but it got no traction in the room. Because it is too reciprocal. Too filtered. Too, well, too Facebook.

I don’t suppose I disagree with any of that. I don’t use Facebook as me. But as the brands I have worked for I have used it a lot and I’ve seen Facebook used to build a sense of community and deliver “value” where before there was none. For example, using Facebook groups to build a team/community for several 100 marathon runners who are spread across the country.

Are we dismissing Facebook as a tool simply because our annoying cousin is too heavy with the selfies and complement fishing?

Are marketing and communications teams getting it all wrong?

The language and culture of marketing, and the media focus of communications teams, are largely unhelpful. They bring to the table pre-set ways of thinking and doing things that are not right for the brave new social world. Marketers are too shouty and needy, storming onto twitter and screaming “like my crap, like my crap”. And their colleagues in comms are just as bad. They just want to post links to their latest press releases when they should be having a conversation!

Or do they? I think you can easily encounter this sort of behaviour but you can also encounter the opposite. Perhaps though, we can agree on what poor marketing and comms looks like on Twitter; Too corporate, not human.

What’s wrong with all our organisations?

The room felt that social media (if we must call it that) was of huge significance for any organisation that wants (or needs) to reach/engage/consult a public audience. But no one thought any organisation was good at that really. Not one. Local government was thought to be especially poor.

I felt organisations where painted the enemy of progress. The bastions of mediocrity where control, risk aversion and dull content live. Part of the problem.

But the problem is hard to define. It might be that “there is no  punishment for mediocrity”, that the culture is wrong. That the powers that be have the tools to change the world but not the digital leadership, or will, to make that change happen.

There was a sense, or hope, that the diverse voices found on the twittersphere could collaborate is some way to challenge “the old way” of doing things. But also a sense we need help to do this. We need more people to collaborate with. Too many legends of life on land are not online. We need to get them involved, to improve the quality of the democracy people are finding on Twitter and to enrich it. But how?

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“Fundraising isn’t something they want to be seen to tweet about”!

A tale of a hard-working fundraiser trying to make the case for use of digital in fundraising.

I like helping out past colleagues, it’s a good way to stay in touch, chew the fat and talk a little shop. But I was a bit surprised by what I heard when a fellow fundraiser recently.  We worked with back in the day and he got in touch to see if I could help out with a few issues with the head of digital at the charity he works at now:

“ he doesn’t like me tweeting @charity or me tweeting from my account. They like to tweet once a day, and fundraising isn’t something they want to be seen to tweet about”

And this was the HEAD OF DIGITAL!? The hive mind was not impressed by this at all:

Here’s what else my old mate had to say:

“The other weekend we had the largest fun run in the country and I was the only one to tweet about it….I think this was a great opportunity to engage with supporters and I wanted to Storify it but I was only one getting invovlved”

There’s gold in them there hills

What was clear is that a good cause was missing out on some pretty great opportunities to engage with its supporters and that their fundraisers where putting their hand up to help them do this. Gold! Gold I tells ye!

So other than moaning about their head of digital (who I suggested consider a career change), here are the more constructive ideas I had to influence this muppet chap and break down some of the well established friction points found where comms meets fundraising.

I began with a couple of general points to try to erode the “we shouldn’t tweet about fundraising” rubbish. I thought it would be useful to remind him what digital in the third sector (all sectors, perhaps?) should be doing:

“Any organisation which isn’t leveraging the expertise of its digital team to change the ways of working and spread digital skills across the organisation is, in my opinion, going to be left behind”

That was from Laila Takeh pondering who owns digital in charities.

I also pointed out that a lot of experienced and senior fundraisers expect their team to get involved with social media – its part of their job.

“My team and I are all using social media at work and are always encouraging our supporters to fundraise online”

That was Gary Kernahan reflecting on what he learned at the IOF national convention.

Then I got down to some specific examples of good fundraising being expressed in some way digitally.

Some ideas that may help convince the naysayer

  • People who know their stuff are encouraging other fundraisers to use Twitter, “Jump in, the Twitter stream’s warm!”, they say
  • charity: water is probably the go to digital case study from the US, but they are pretty unique. Unique though they are, they are all about digital and  all about fundraising.
  • This is a great campaign, pretty much a one band (Mark Horvath — aka @hardlynormal)  who raises awareness of homelessness via social media and uses it to fundraise. The At Home Campaign has already raised over $36k and Mark is spreading the word about a very important issue digitally (On any given night, nearly 633,782 people in the United States experience homelessness — over 60,000 of them veterans)
  • But remember, fundraising and social media isn’t all about the Twitter  you need to make all the channels work together. A great example by Beth Kanter here, she raised over $5k in memory of her dad, Earl #OceanLoveEarl.
  • If all this compelling digital story telling wasnt enough, I also threw in a stat, courtesy of Just Giving, “just one share on Facebook encourages between £1 and £18 in extra donations.” Cha-Ching!

At this point I ran out of ideas and went back to work, but I can assure you my fundraiser buddy felt well equiped to fight the good fight.

What other tips would you have included?

How to fail – my top 5 mistakes (plus an infographic of some things I did right)

After six years and quite a few job titles, the time has come for me to move on from the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign to an exciting new role as Director of Fundraising and Marketing for Dignity in Dying. In my last few weeks of an epic three month notice period I took stock of what I have learnt.

What I learnt, was how to fail.

My top 5 #Fails

1. I late adopted

Sometimes the “next big thing” is the last thing we want to hear about. When you are a one and a half man digital team (half of me, one web manager) you don’t want another profile to manage. For this reason, I was very late to the Twitter party – what opportunity did I miss when my head was buried in Facebook?

I think I made up for it later, and a combination of getting colleagues posting their own content on Twitter coupled with a bit of content curation (like Storify)  is paying dividends now. But it all should have happened a year sooner I think.

LEARNING: You’ve got to be in it to win, fail fast

2. I made my mind up

I’m stubborn. Once I have decided something is a waste of time, it is a waste of time.

I would tell people not to waste time messing around with Google+. “Meh to Google+” I would say, *tumbleweed*. But the goal posts are always moving, especially in digital places, and a closed mind will fast go down the path of making big mistakes. Is it time for a rethink?

Fortunately I often caveat my Google+ advice by saying,  “if three people ask you why you are not on there then, perhaps, you should consider it”. So I might just wriggle my way out of that one. But I am still questioning my thinking on it. I am a fan of Google products and have heard the Google+ described by a very smart man (smarter than me, as I have forgotten his name but it was in a Google+ hangout at BarcampNFP) as “a platform unlike any other”. Also I recently read that Google+ is Google. Deal

LEARNING: Beware a closed mind

3. Nothing is optimised for mobile

Not one stinking page on the sites I looked after. It’s all pinch in, pinch out, thumb around and pinch again. I know how important it is, but I have failed to make it happen. I’ve included it in my handover, but that is lame. Utter fail.

LEARNING: Try harder, it’s always possible/worth it

4. I spend more time capturing data than analysing it

So much bloody data! Email data, web analytics, Facebook insights, social media monitoring, direct mail response rates, dashboards, heatmaps, reports, income forecasts…will it never end!

But what did I do with it all? Did I notice what the data was showing me and recommend the right way forward?

Well, some of the time I made good changes and some of the time I spent ages crunching numbers, slaving over a hot spread sheet only to realise I don’t know what the bloody hell is actually going on. But I can make a nice graph.

LEARNING: Always be clear about the difference between reporting and analysis?

5. I work too hard (no really)

I wanted to prove how vital adoption of digital tools and tactics to an organisation like MDC was and is. To a certain extent, I think I may have, but in doing so I have made my remit and workload too large. After an intensive three day handover with my replacement, it dawned on me how much stuff beyond what is the core of my job I do.

I’m always sticking my nose into other people’s problems to – I like to fix things. I like to show people how to do stuff – I’m part trainer/part coach and I love that. But it does mean to get all the core work done, you have to read draft copy on the way in to work, arrive a bit early, leave a bit late, skip a proper lunch break and tweet from the train on the way home. I’m a victim of the ease of mobile working. (Got your violin out yet?)

In all seriousness, no matter how good someone is at their job and developing their role, the more they do that the harder they are to replace and the bigger the risk of them leaving is to your organisation. I know one (or perhaps two) small organisations that might very well close shop or shrink dramatically if one key member of staff left. That’s a genuine concern for the our sector I think.

LEARNING: Stay focussed, delegate something

Final thought (and the promised infographic)

A recent study has shown that if you want to learn from failure, the path to learning is to forgive yourself after you make a mistake. Sometimes that is easier than others, but I can always take solace that I did do some things right. To mark some of those things I did do right (I think) at the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, I have created the infographic below.

It is by no means a masterpiece. I cobbled it together using Hubspot’s  Marketer’s Simple Guide to Creating Infographics in PowerPoint. But what it does do is mark the end of a huge part of my life and the start of an exciting new chapter in my career.

Thanks to all the people at MDC, who made this infographic possible 🙂

Digital Vs Direct Mail #IOFNC

I like direct mail, I like digital. But which is better…

Okay it’s not about which is better, but is it possible for digital media to completely replace print for fundraising engagement and conversion in five years? That’s the subject of debate for what could be a cracking session at this year’s Institute of Fundraising National Convention. I’m torn.

Firstly, I’m a big fan of AJ Leon, so much so his last IOF appearance, unFundraising, was the subject of my first ever blog. He is a great fundraiser and speaker, but the area of my job that brings in the most consistent ROI is not my digital work, it’s our direct mail programme. And by a long way. So, for me at least, digital has got a long way to come to deliver the same conversion and ROI.

So Mr Pidgeon, who I have not heard speak but has all the credentials to give Mr Leon a run for his money, has some solid numbers to build his argument on I imagine. It’s going to take more than  just a few solid case studies to knock that down. However, we’re talking about what is going to happen in five years time. Digital already has print licked for reach, engagement and scalability. And it is evolving…fast!

There are organisations making digital work for fundraising now . According to CEO Scott Harrison when interviewed in January this year, 75 percent of charity:water’s donations come from the from the Web. In February, when I was at The Good Agency’s Social Media Week London event, Social Giving – fundraising’s “third way”?, Paul Young, charity:water’s Director of Digital, quoted 80 percent.

I admit, charity:water is the exception and not the rule. And it’s a pretty unique cause; they take no transaction fees from gifts to cover processing costs – 100% to the cause. But could their model or similar become the norm and how long will that take?

In five years, who else can catch charity:water and what tools will they have?

How well AJ Leon can answer that question, will decide if he can convince me that the very solid numbers Stephen Pidgeon can quote, can be beaten by digital within five years.

Personally, I hope digital makes that kind of impact as soon as possible.

Image credit: http://www.nationalconvention.org.uk/session.php?ref=12002&ret=s