Tuesday, June 30, 2009

OrangeGerera Presents on Social Media and Non-Profits

Last Friday I was asked to give a 15-minute primer on Social Media and non-profits to Seattle-based OneAmerica. My initial reaction was "Sure! Piece of cake." After all, I've been working with some form of social media professionally for over nine years. I could do it in my sleep. Boy was I wrong.

After about five attempts at an outline, it occurred to me that what I was trying to do is similar to describing what it's like to drive a car to someone who has never seen one before. I realized that I've been taking the subject for granted for all of these years and in order to legitimately consider myself qualified to speak on it, I should be able to easily describe social media to laypeople.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a lot of time to prepare, so I did the best I could with the time I had and have vowed to continue to refine the presentation over time. In the end, I'm told that the presentation was well received, informative and made an intimidating subject more approachable for the group. Whew! Goal accomplished.

After the usual introductory stuff about who I am and who in the room had heard of or used social media, the presentation went something like this:

1. Social media represents the democratization of control over the flow of information. For centuries this control has rested with those in power—religion, government, and big businesses. There were some key advances along the way, but not until the Internet became mainstream did this really start to change.

2. Even in the 1990's, however, with the exception of the few who had HTML skills and the necessary hardware, or the money to source them; the masses were still largely unable to publish freely and help to control the flow of information on large scale.

3. Then along came Web 2.0 and the desire to build websites that focused on the user and their ability to interact with, share, and contribute to the dialog. I compared the difference between the one-to-many orator model and the many-to-many social model by using the analogy of a party where people identify with one another by the labels they project. There are social media and networks where individuals can discover others with similar interests, and others where simply joining a specific group indicates your shared interests with others in the group.

The remainder of the day's agenda was devoted to an in-depth introduction of specific social tools, so I avoided highlighting any specific tools, except to list a few by name and general category.

4. I then turned the focus to how social media has the potential to impact non-profits. This is where my personal experience was lacking. Sure, I'm aware of many of the ways non-profits are using social media and networks to drive donations and awareness, but I hadn't conducted any of these campaigns myself, and hadn't yet experienced the other options.

Fortunately I found an excellent summary article by Beth Kanter of Beth's Blog titled 4 Ways Social Media is Changing the Non-Profit World, which lists:

1. Deepening relationships and engagement
2. Individuals and small groups are self-organizing around non-profit causes
3. Facilitating collaboration and crowdsourcing
4. Social change behind the firewall

I walked the group through examples of each of Beth's items which got people's attention. Thanks to this article, I was able to make social media relevant to a group who had largely considered it the domain of teenagers.

The questions I received were mainly regarding specific terms or concepts that I hadn't clearly communicated in the presentation, or hadn't gotten to yet. In addition to adding an ounce of visual appeal to the slide deck, I've made a note to do a better job of defining key terms and avoiding those that aren't relevant.

I'm already receiving requests to possibly give the presentation again, so I should set aside some time soon to make improvements. Once I have, I'll be sure to post an update here.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

OrangeGerbera.com Launches!

It's been two years since we founded our business, OrangeGerbera, and Ashley has been so busy working with clients, and I with my day job as Managing Director at Catalysis, we hadn't taken the time to think about marketing our business. While being so busy is a great problem to have, we knew that our long-term success would require giving some serious thought to how we would grow the business.

Over the winter of 2009, we focused our efforts on developing a high-level marketing plan that included OrangeGerbra and Devo in a Box, a fundraising toolkit designed specifically for small non-profit organizations. One of the first things we wanted to do was build a basic website that would at least describe who we are and what we do, and allow people to contact us for more information or to schedule an appointment. After a few weeks of development, the site launched last week. Please check it out and let me know what you think!

We designed and produced the site ourselves, but outsourced the code to an impressive group of development professionals based in India, who go by the name Webgrity. We found them via one of our new favorite resources, elance.com. If you have a need for skills that you don't have readily available, I highly recommend elance.com.

Being big believers in the power of Google Analytics (not to mention the free price tag!), we were sure to include the analytics tracking code in our site. This was a simple matter of our developer including a small piece of code from Google to each page. This allowed us to begin measuring the visits to our site right away.

As the site was to be our primary marketing vehicle, we wanted to start driving traffic as soon as possible, so a couple of days after launching the site we kicked off an initial pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign on Google.

Having extensive experience measuring the efficacy of marketing campaigns while at Catalysis, I knew that we wanted to start with something simple and establish a baseline for measurement. I built the initial campaign with only one generic ad, a handful of relevant keywords, a geographic filter limiting our ads to the local market, and a budget of only $20 per day. By keeping it simple at first, we not only have a solid baseline against which we can begin measuring the effects of future changes, but it's easier to see what works and what doesn't because there are fewer campaign elements to manipulate. Once we learn the combination of elements that results in the highest conversion of visitors to leads, we can think about adding more elements and attempting to increase our conversion of visitors to leads, and eventually to new clients.

Acknowledging that we were starting out small, we knew not to set our expectations too high. We decided that we would be happy receiving increased traffic to our site, and considered the possibility of someone contacting us so soon to be unlikely. Much to our surprise, however, we received two new business leads within four days of kicking off the campaign. Having spent less than $80 for paid clicks at that point, we were very pleased with the activity.

We're following up with the leads now and will report on our progress as things develop. If you're interested in the finer points of our PPC campaign, our small business marketing strategy, learning more about our experience working with outsourced developers halfway around the world, or want to discuss anything related to non-profit fundraising, please leave a comment.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

So what is Devo in a Box?

Since 1993 the founders of Devo in a Box have successfully run development and marketing functions for dozens of companies, both for profit and not. In 2007 we were seeking a way to extend our expertise and work with a more diverse and in-need collection of organizations, so we began working as independent non-profit consultants and founded OrangeGerbera, Inc. Visit our site at www.orangegerbera.com.

As our client list grew, we noticed an emerging trend among most organizations we worked with. Most were in some state of chaos, be it the result of budget uncertainty, the turn-over of key staff, or a major change in their giving environment for reasons that were out of their control. In each case, we found ourselves recommending or delivering on the same basic steps before any real strategic work could begin.

Devo in a Box began as an attempt to streamline many of these early steps and to give our clients an easy-to-follow set of processes and tools with which to gain visibility into their actual circumstances. With these steps out of the way, we’re better able to support our clients’ strategic needs. We’re currently working to evolve this suite of tools to better encourage and support the strategic elements of running a successful development function and look forward to offering them to non-profit organizations in a concise CD kit form. If you would like to be notified of when the Devo in a Box suite for Small Non-Profits will be available, visit www.devoinabox.com, register to receive the first free sample document "Individual Donor List Valuation", and check the box that corresponds with this notice.