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…


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.


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?


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 🙂

You don’t need a microsite, you need a message!

People often ask me about building a fundraising microsite and I’m happy to help them. But, the thing is, I think they are asking the wrong question. Maybe they should ask, “what tools do I need to fundraise online?”

The microsite delusion – if you build it, they will come

Is there a cause you are passionate about and you want to raise funds for them? Great. Here’s a tip for you – you don’t need a website, you need a message.

A message and an audience. So where is the biggest audience, like, ever? Facebook.

“Alough the website was useful, the most effective tool was Facebook”

Phil Szomszor, Fundrasier for St Michael’s Hospice

Hell yeah it was.

Now I know Phil also said his website was “useful” but this is a guy who works in Technology PR, so he probably had skills and resources that most people don’t. And, even then, the most effective tool was still Facebook.

So don’t go about building a website unless you are slinging them up left, right and centre faster than a boy scout can pitch a tent. Otherwise it is simply too much effort for what you will get out of it – not enough bang for your buck, a mediocre return on investment, a sub optimal cost income ratio. Getting the picture?

Fear not, Facebook is an awesome tool

Facebook works great for fundraising – spreading your message, hosting events, sharing photos, video, links to press coverage. It does pretty much everything a website can do. Not Convinced? Then ponder these facts:

  • A spontaneous Facebook campaign resulted in the NSPCC gaining 50,000 new supporters and around £100,000 in donations in just 48 hours. The number of visitors to the children’s charity’s website also shot-up up by 500%.

NSPCC tweet

  • 27% of Just Giving donations are from Facebook and that was in 2011, it’s probably gone up.
  • Facebook completely outstrips other soical networks for the number of donations it provides

(Many thanks to Just Giving for those stats, you can find our more in their fundraising infographic.)

That’s right – you don’t need a fundraising microsite

You need a message. A story. Something people can identify with. I can’t tell you what that should be, but you will know it when you see it.

I would advise though not to rush into the raising awareness and spreading the word about your fundraising until you have worked out what your story is. It is very important. People learn through stories and if you want them to listen to you and take action, you need the right message. The right story.

Once you have a message, then you can think about the most effective tools to spread the word and what might work for you. I would only consider three in the 1st instance and in this order

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Blogs

And I probably wouldn’t bother with the blog to start off with.

Once I was happy that I was spreading my message, telling my story effectively, I might consider adding in some other elements to build upon that. Perhaps a little content curation but only if I thought what I was doing was working. By “working” I mean spreading my message, getting people to help out, getting some press coverage, getting people sponsoring or sending in ££. Things I could count, measure or spend.

If you are Facebooking and Tweeting away and you still don’t think you are getting the results you want, you might need to make sure your message is working for you. Do people “get” your story?


All of these things, Facebook and wot not, are just tools. It is your story that is doing the fundraising because your story is the most powerful way to get your fundraising message across, social media is just a way to share the story.

So, what’s your story?

“But there is no control over what is said”

Some thoughts on the challenges social media poses to care professionals providing info, support and advice and some ideas on how I (and perhaps you!) can help them…

Part of what I do involves training people on how to use digital tools to get things done. Things like fundraising, PR and, now, service delivery. Soon I will be parachuted in to a small (ish, around 13 staff) national charity to spend half a day with their fundraising team and half a day with their services team. The fundraisers are already using social networks to support their work, but the services team are not out of the starting blocks…yet.

Now I know a bit about service delivery, mainly through by work as a trustee at Bexley Moorings Project, but I am by no means an expert. So I’m not going in there with any preconceptions of how they should use social networking to help support their client group. What I am going in there with, I hope, is an understanding of the skills they will need and the questions they need to answer to work out what their strategy should be and what procedures they might need to make that happen.

I have one concern though, how far can I take them toward their end game of informing families about how they can help and providing them with the most relevant support?

They have already begun thinking about this (my title comes from their notes) and have identified areas they want to look at and, of course, they know well how to support their client group. So what happens if they quickly grasp all the tech? At that point they may know everything I know which is relevant, but I will be lacking the understanding of nuances of their work. What happens then? I think need help.

Can you help?

Any advice in the form of a comment below would be grand but what I would really love is for someone with relevant knowledge and experience – I’m thinking perhaps someone involved with service delivery for people with disabilities, someone from a social work background or maybe someone who works in an advocacy service – to drop in on the training via Skype (or Google+ if you’re down with kids) for a good old chin wag. Are you in?

A beginner’s guide to #BarcampNFP

I didn’t know what to expect of an ‘unconference’ before I went to Barcamp, if only there was a handy beginner’s guide…

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It’s not a conference

It’s an unconference! So don’t be surprised if you don’t get registered the moment you arrive. You might turn up at a session with no one leading it because they got caught up in something else. So?

That predictable stuff is for boring conference dwellers, at an unconference you just get stuck in: “as no one seems to be leading this, shall we just start chatting about social media fundraising.” So we did.

Out of chaos comes order

There is no pre set agenda, that as much was clear beforehand, but exactly what was in store I did not know until I got there. But then again, no one knew.

“One of the major rules of each barcamp is participation. This is exactly why the organisers almost expect all attendees to prepare to contribute to the day with their insights and willingness to take part in discussions. From this point of view all attendees are speakers! “

This actually made me a bit nervous, I’m often the person in the room who knows the most about digital/social media (it’s why I get invited to meetings) so this room filled with expertise had potential to intimidate. A bit.

But it was fear of the unknown really, the atmosphere was friendly and welcoming, the knowledge on the floor varied and so the emphasis on participation felt right, not daunting. I started to learn stuff.

Bring Questions, take answers

Because the day is free-form, you can help shape it. A great chance to really make use of the experience of others to help you do what you do. I took the opportunity to throw out a few questions underlining some of what I’m working on at MDC.

Getting to know how other people approach explaining digital tools and why they should use them to the “non techy”, how to show the value and impact of social media (if, in fact, it should be called that) and how to go about managing a website with multiple contributors. These where all things I got help with.

Share answers, take questions

I especially enjoyed Laila Takeh’s lunchtime session called if digital is integrated – who owns it? It covered a lot of ground, I enjoyed being involved but what I took away were questions. Who does own digital? I hope it’s me.

Learn stuff

I learnt a lot of stuff and have a bunch of ideas to take back to the orgs I work with, stuff like this.

I hope this beginner’s guide will be useful to someone; if you have any questions, just ask.

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Give your fundraising tweets the #XFactor!

I have a simple formula for making a fundraising impact with Twitter,

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Something + Twitter = Success

And it doesn’t really matter what the somehting is. By which I mean Twitter is at its most effecive when it is combined with other activty, other media; something else that is going on right now. In this example, it is the X factor.


I’m not the biggest fan of the X Factor, as I believe it possible that Simon Cowell has killed pop music and now he’s doing something unpleasant to its corpse. But my opinions about the “repulsive” Cowell and reality TV aside, the X Factor is a Twitter phenomena that creates an immense amout of conversation, so there is an opportunity there for charities if you can be relevant to the conversations they are having.

I was very impressed the job the Blue Cross did when they were on undercover boss, so when I heard the Lloyd family, who live with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, would feature on the X factor I thought it was an opportunity to raise awareness of the work Muscular Dystrophy Campaign does funding research and supporting people with MD. So that is what I did, and we got some of the most re-tweets we ever have:

X Factor re-tweets

Pleased as I was about this, the real win came months later when I spotted one of our fundraisers tweeting about their Just Giving page and I read some very interesting stuff about why she was fundraising in her story:

You might remember seeing the video on the X factor showing the Lloyd family and 3 brothers affected by this disease. I was inspired by seeing this, and meeting individuals from the charity, to help & raise money for this worthwhile charity.

I got in touch with Jill to find out a bit more:

So I cannot claim that it was all about the tweeting; it was a magic combo of the X Factor, tweeting and some face-to-face contact that got Jill inspired by the work of MDC. But none-the-less, I’m delighted by how the methods the charity are using worked in harmony here to draw in a new supporter by explaining to them what we do and the kind of people we help. Jill could have fundraised for the hospice that was featured in the X Factor or perhaps a Duchenne specific charity, but she didn’t.

I’m putting this down the magic formula of something + Twitter = Success.


Perhaps Simon Cowell ins’t so bad, he did have a hand in this and the awareness really means a lot to a small (ish) charity. So some humble pie for me, but I did learn some things about fundraising and Twitter.

Be relevant

You cant just rock up on Twitter and start asking people for cash on eviction night. Well you can, but it won’t work and it most likely make you look like a spammer. But if you know something is going to be on TV that is related to your cause, the people you support, or the work you are doing; live tweeting during the show is a great opportnity to make connections with people, raise awareness and perhaps fundraise.


When I got back to the office on Monday, I had measures to share. Very important for convincing anyone who thinks social media may not be all its cracked up to be or a bit wishy washy. These people exsist! And sharing your measures with them is a powerful way to get them on board.


This post would not be here if I didnt hear what Jill was saying on Twitter and take the time to read her story on Just Giving. Those sections of Just Giving are a goldmine of great stories – mine that gold and share!


I tweeted about Jill’s fundraising, asked questions and blogged about it, it has all helped me to learn more.


Although I didn’t ask Jill for money, someone from the chariy went to her work and asked for support. This wasn’t an accident, Jill was asked and because she knew about the impact DMD had on the Lloyd family, she wanted to help.

And finally…

I would like to thank the Lloyd Famliy, the X Factor, my charity colleagues, Together4ShortLives and Jill, of course. They all had a hand in this, I just wrote about it.

And don’t forget, you can still sponsor Jill!


Jill’s event was postponed by snow until Sunday 19 February, so she took the opportunity to do a bit more fundraising and thanking her donors on Twitter. This blog also got a mention. Good luck Jill!

She did it!

Well done Jill!

Twitter fundraising in action – Listen, connect, thank!

Call it what you want – “social listening”, “keyword monitoring” – you can use social media to boost your charities fundraising. And it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!

1. Listen

You don’t know whose fundraising for you until the fundraiser tells you. Today, Sunday 8 Jan 2012 I was listening to the charities Twitter feed and I heard “I’m Skydiving for Muscular Dystrophy on 29th Feb Please sponsor me here & RT @TargetMD xx”

And when I say I was listening, I was listening to lots of different lists, filters and time lines on Tweet Deck.

Use Tweet Deck to listen

My advice is find lots of ways to listen.

(I have a life, honest, but I couldn’t resist a bit of tweeting on a Sunday for a fundraiser ready to dive out of a plane)

2. Connect

I hit re-tweet.

Plus did a bit of extra sharing:

Share things and connect people, it helps people fundraise

Sharing is always good. Sharing and storytelling help you to connect people.

And then…giving happened:

I've #justsponsored Charlotte Gazzard on @JustGiving. Support them and Muscular Dystrophy Campaign @…Thank

3. Thank

And finally, and most important of all, I said

thank you to the donors”

(I used storify to say thank you)

The bottom line

This was a good result but it might need to happen 100 times a day to fund a research project.

The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign is on Twitter because it is a fast cheap and friendly way to interact with people, and you can use that for many different purposes. Advice, info and support are the big reasons to use social media – people want us to be there because they are.

So social media isn’t just for fundraising but it is still a good idea.