Guerrilla Good: Reflections on Non-Profit Marketing & Social Media

Posted on Wednesday, August 26th, 2009 at 11:18 am by bryna

42-16610980Yesterday I put together a small challenge telling people that if @wvcanadanews, or World Vision Canada, got 200 new followers on their Twitter profile by midnight, I would donate $100 to the cause. Not a huge donation, but as I explained that wasn’t really the point of it. The point was to encourage community. It was also to serve as an experiment in ways that messages spread on Twitter, and how we can help our clients by exploring the implications of these trends.

Lessons Learned

  1. Social media spreads the message, but it doesn’t necessarily produce buy-in. Our unique hits were way up on the website yesterday after this post got spread. Unfortunately that didn’t translate into 200 new followers for @wvcanadanews. They only got 45. However, people’s values have to line up with the cause. I support World Vision because international aid is something I’ve seen first-hand; it’s affected me. Not everyone feels the same way, and that’s a good thing. It keeps non-profits, and marketers, accountable.
  2. Quality takes precedence over quantity. Although @wvcanadanews only got 45 new followers, my hope is that those are 45 people who believe in the cause enough to do something about it. We need to value those people as brand ambassadors. Then we must encourage them to take the next step; to give, volunteer, or get involved with a broader campaign.
  3. World Vision is a global organization with high brand recognition. We need to consider this when translating social media marketing to our local non-profits. Their online communities won’t have the same following. But we can still use the platform to drive traffic to their websites, especially during campaign time, with a little creativity.
  4. Trust and reputation mean a lot. Without RT’s by some key individuals with solid followings in the social media world, this challenge would never have spread. Special thanks to @DannyBrown, @ChrisBrogan, @BJMendelson, @LenKendall, and @Barb_G for taking the time to give us exposure. These people all have  Twitter ‘celebrity’ status.  Being prolific bloggers, authors, and communicators, they are opinion leaders in the field. Their reputations go before them, and that is very important in the SM world. I really appreciate their help and constructive feedback.
  5. We get by with a little help from our friends. Building community is all about quality relationships. If you’re going to use Twitter you need to appreciate that you’re dealing with real people. Their time and opinions are valuable. Be thankful when they RT you. Congratulate them on their successes. Help them spread their messages. And realize that because we’re working with a variety of personal values, some of your followers will agree with your message and others won’t. That’s ok. Be open to being challenged. Friends like @charlottehrb, @brettkopf, @chuckhemann, @NeilGasson, @ShannonBoudjema and @Ariel54 did a lot of the leg work in promoting this challenge. Thank you all so much!
  6. Testing the waters is necessary. We just don’t have enough case studies and metrics on the effectiveness of social media marketing to see which methods work best to add value to our organizations. We can have a million followers without increasing our sales, or securing donations. The future of SM will be in discovering what works and what doesn’t. Taking chances is the only way to do it. With experimentation it will be easier to set realistic goals for our clients’ online marketing campaigns.

Social media is a small part of the marketing pie, but the inherently relational nature of the medium makes it a great forum to work with. We need to question the SM platform as it evolves, and use it accordingly. As a professional, I’m eager to see the results of campaigns like which take social media and community to the next level by producing measurable results.

What are your thoughts on using SM for non-profit clients? What is the future of community and giving online? We’d love to hear what you and your organization are doing.

Special thanks goes out to the whole @wvcanadanews team: @AlexSancton, @WV_Andrew and @alicians. (The donation is yours, despite the fact that we didn’t reach the goal.)

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{ 10 comments to read ... please submit one more! }

  1. Bryna,

    The challenge was a great success no matter which way you look at it. For WV, they gained 45 new individuals that will listen and support them and help spread their cause (hopefully). And for all the unique people that read your blog yesterday, they are now that much more aware of the cause and although they might not have taken immediate action yesterday, whose to say they won’t in the future. Any effort to help an organization is a success in my opinion.

    You brought together a community yesterday of inspiring people that are willing to help causes they believe in whether that is WV specifically or social good in general. All of these efforts no matter how big or small are working towards social good and that’s an incredible thing to be a part of.

    I’m so excited to have been to inspire and create awareness about WV with you. You’re an inspiration all on your own Bryna.

  2. Personally I think you should encourage people to all donate a dollar instead of getting you to give $100. Seeing as you have Chris Brogan and the like, WV could have done a lot better. Food for thought.

  3. Charlotte, thanks so much for the words of encouragement. I know you share a similar notion of using SM for good causes. I appreciate your comments. I hadn’t really thought of the fact that increased awareness might not produce immediate results, but plants a seed that could result in future action. That’s an important fact. I just found out that the WV Canada site had more people come from Twitter than in the past. A small, but significant percentage. We have to take all the wins, and view them in context. It’s about learning. It seems to have inspired, and generated conversation between some like-minded folks online. Community building can’t be underestimated either, you’re right about that.

    Local Fan: So true!! I didn’t even think about it. Mainly because I didn’t want other people to have to do anything too complicated. I wanted the process to be quick, easy, and immediately measurable. I think it might have given the WV people some ideas to work with and expand on. Let’s see what they come up with! They could’ve done a lot better. I hope to see that happen in the future.

  4. Let me add to point 1. It’s true that SM does not necessarily produce buy-in ideologically. But to hone the point further, it is more difficult still to produce active or financial buy-in (i.e., getting others to take off-line action or donate to a cause). This is where so many pure marketers have trouble with SM. Successful SM campaigns take a lot of time, nurturing and patience (see points 4 and 5). It’s instantaneous communication, but it is far from instantaneous results in terms of off-line advocacy and fundraising.

    In a similar vein, I could not agree more on point 2. I would rather have 100 interested, invested followers rather than 1,000 “me-too” followers who don’t pay any attention to my tweets, much less take any action on them.

    Then again, maybe I’m subconsciously justifying my anemic following on Twitter. 🙂

  5. I have endless thoughts on this:)

    My initial reaction is the the “Get Followers” endeavor is misguided and should be avoided. I consult with local non-profits in their SM strategies and I’ve never, ever told them to use promo to entice a following. I would suggest two reasons for this; one is that the followers are very possibly useless, in that many people follow indiscriminately. The second is that it might be measurable, but it dilutes the non-profits’ brand. It turns them into a beggar instead of a thought leader.

    Via Twitter (and other SM like FB Pages, etc) the easiest thing for people to do is NOT follow or join. It’s to converse. They are there to engage with people they find interesting, and the more personal and engaging those conversations are, the more likely it is they will become invested in their counterparts.

    Non-profs have an advantage, because we all know they have altruistic motivations. A level of trust already exists. But non-profits create brand evangelists by becoming a part of their community. Target people who are already having the conversation you’re hoping to have. Engage them without asking for a thing. Offer them something valuable. Include them in your thinking, campaign planning, and ask for feedback.

    I think the fact that @ChrisBrogan showed the link to 100K people, and 45 latched on speaks volumes about the way that this medium is different. More and more people (myself a good example) are becoming VERY discerning as to who they follow; the value of their experience depends on it. That’s not discouraging…it’s just the playing field.

    I know measurable results matter a lot. Building a following isn’t useless at all, but I think building a position within a community that encompasses a clear message and an open approach to engagement will build the QUALITY of that following.

  6. WV_Andrew: You bring up the point from which I tried this experiment to begin with. I’m trying to add value to my organization, and to my clients’ businesses/non-profits, using SM and feeling at times like I’m hitting a roadblock. But I won’t give up on the idea because I think there’s some hidden truth in it in terms of genuine marketing potential. I need this conversation (and think it benefits us all) because dissecting the issue will help to bring out the truths. That’s my hope, at least.

    Buy in isn’t numeric. You’re right. Via Twitter, it can be even less solid and dependable. I agree with you that online campaigns take time to nurture. Like DShan states, it’s much better to “build a position within a community that encompasses a clear message and an open approach to engagement.” This is how we need to use SM to get our message to stick.

    And that isn’t automatic. It takes the kind of passion and community building that people like @ShannonBoudjema, @DannyBrown and @ChrisBrogan have blogged about.

    DShan: I appreciate your critique so much. This was a quickie one time deal to see what kind of conversation and numbers could be generated. But you’re right about diluting the brand. It’s not necessarily a strategy I would repeat. I don’t think in this case it hurt. If anything, it’s serving to generate the dialogue I think is most needed. The term ‘value added’ keeps running through my head. Where is the value for clients?

    As I quoted from your comment, it’s in community building. Ok, so even after yesterday we’re seeing a ‘community’ of sorts unfold; people who’ve commented here or via Twitter. If nothing else, this has served to help define a tribe that I belong to, that World Vision belongs to, and that many others do as well. The community that uses SM for good. What are the next steps in mobilizing that force? Exactly what you said: offering them something valuable and including them in your culture.

    Thanks for the great comments everyone! You’ve really got me thinking. I hope it’s helping you as well.

  7. Thanks for your reflections Bryna. I appreciate the need to debrief after these ‘experiments’. I use the word experiment because I personally feel we have such a long way to go in understanding how SM, in particular twitter, can mobilize and motivate our audiences. But that’s what makes this such an enjoyable way to communicate, the challenge to improve and make the most of what we have access to.

    Is it about how many followers we have? Certainly not. I agree with the past comments that it’s about quality not quantity. But I also feel that quantity can lead to quality if it’s done correctly.

    At the end of the day, I think the challenge you created was a learning experience, and in that sense it will always be seen as a success, because we learned something.

  8. Thanks @wvcanadanews for being the subject of said experiment. Learning is key, especially in any developing technology. I don’t pretend that Twitter, Facebook or any social media platform will serve all our needs, or even function in the same ways 6-12 months from now. However, if the discussion leads to learning, which leads to creating new ways to use the tools we have as marketers at our disposal, then great! Success!

  9. First of all, congratulations on your social success and your social lessons. There’s definitely a steep learning curve with new media for all of us. I think your goal of 200 more recruits was a bit high. Not that there is anything wrong with that. It’s important to go after unrealistic goals. How else are we going to break reality and piece it together into what it should be?

    But, I’m vexed by the point of it all, still. Especially in regards to the twittering. I am dipping my toes into the water, but I haven’t put my swimming trunks on, as it were. This is coming from someone that has enjoyed using World Vision and their catalogues for several years now and never seen a need to broadcast my connection with them. I trust them. And I help them in my way without following them.

    There are a million other things I would like to do with my time besides reading what other people are doing. That’s not mine. That’s from my sweet beau.

    But all the same, we are born in order to live, not to watch others live, or ‘follow’ other’s lives. So, I think the heart of the matter is still there. Yes, in order to change the world we need to form these communities so that we are aware just how massive and powerful these goodwill movements are. And I guess another tool to make this happen is social media. It’s a way of getting people to respond immediately. Well, maybe not by midnight, but almost immediately :-).

    But if social media becomes the goal, then is the world really changing for the better, or are just more people ‘linking up’? Like the equivalent of a charity-one-night-stand—“Oh yea, I still get notifications from them, but I don’t really pay attention.” That’s not exactly taking action.

    And as well, how many commenters said something along the lines of “…already a fan of WV…”? That’s not exactly a new convert then. A lot of the commenters have brought up these points already anyway, so this feels more like just adding another voice to a choir. But oh well. Trying.

    If it’s only going to be some other metric we use to measure and quantify our ‘conversions’ then we are only really getting data to say who is on ‘our side’ so we can feel good. And that data is only for people that have already bought into the social media thing.

    Unless I’m mistaken. Quite possible. I’m too long-winded / long-worded for comment boxes, but I hope this came out clear enough. I’m late to this game anyway.

  10. Reluctant Blogger:

    Thanks so much for taking the time to thoughtfully comment on this post! We always appreciate the feedback. You aren’t too long-winded at all. I think that new media, it’s uses and abuses, is a topic we’ll be discussing at length in the future (and my hope is that in forums that are much more academic than a blog post).

    You’re right–the goal of 200 new followers was too high. Also, from a marketing stand point, ‘100 follower for $100’ would have been more fluid. However, in the end that hasn’t really been the point. I know you get that though.

    I did struggle with broadcasting my giving to the ‘world’ as small as my reach might be. I don’t think that the reason why we should give is to get kudos or recognition. I appreciate your involvement with WV without thought to what’s in it for you. I certainly didn’t put it out there for accolades. My cause was to start a conversation about social media and how it might benefit/not benefit non-profits.

    First, I think you have to give Twitter a chance. A lot of what’s shared is not simply just ‘What I’m doing today’ stuff. If it was, I don’t think I’d see the point either. Twitter is less about social networking and more about information sharing. I learn a lot from the people I follow, and we all learn from each other. I wouldn’t be able to dissect even a piece of the information I do in a day now, before I had Twitter. This is important.

    However, without real action, it is pointless. I get that. That’s why I don’t just ‘follow’ people online. I meet them. We talk. We create relationships and community. We have a plan, and we’re committed to following through with it. (ie. Engine will be helping to coordinate a publicity/fundraising tour for the Mully Children’s Family in the fall, and we connected via the web.)

    Social media can’t be the goal. I think what it can be likened to is Times Square–lots of people, lots of information, lots of confusion (at times), but in it is a real, dynamic, human element that we can’t ignore. How best to use that is anyone’s guess. It’s evolving. I just want to be part of the conversation.

    I also want to be part of the movement. It sounds like you do too! Consider letting your guard down a bit, and being a part of the Tweeters who aren’t simply in it for themselves, but for the betterment of others. I’m not sure what the final results will be, but I can say for certain I’ve met some of the most dedicated, passionate people I know via this medium.

    (Also, google Generation M by Umair Haque. I think you’ll identify!)

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