Thursday, November 17, 2011

Social media postings

I am presenting at LI philanthropy day tomorrow and the subject is social media on a shoestring. Or rather, the title. The good news is that there is a ton of material, the bad news is that I really don't know who I am presenting to and so picking 75 minutes worth of it for an unknown audience is a bit concerning.

As I was sorting through the piles of material and thousands of ideas that I have assembled, I realized one of the most key challenges is getting and maintaining the social media conversation. So I looked at my own conversations and what attracted me to respond to posts and I realized why it is so hard to get folks to read institutional/organizational postings: They are boring.

No really, they are. I manage a couple of sites and if I wasn't responsible for posting to them, I would pay minimal attention to much of what I put up (sorry for that...) the basic problem is that it isn't personal. We all have that friend who posts everything they do - what they had for breakfast, that they then brushed their teeth and then made lunch to take to work etc.... Most likely you also have that friend whose posts just shill for their Pampered Chef side business. In any case neither of those are folks you interact with, they just provide that background noise factor.

Conversely, those friends who you respond to, post a variety of material, sometimes relevant, sometimes not. Sometimes about themselves, sometimes not. In any case, they mix "me" and "not me." We need to let go of the institutional need for it to relate directly back to us and just carry on a conversation about the world. That is how you achieve full social media engagement.

Friday, November 4, 2011

How to reach them (a mini case study)

We recently launched an online community and discovered a couple of interesting things: Today's alum has no worries about creating a profile, having their information "out there" on the web like folks did a decade or so ago. They are very capable of logging in and creating a profile, following directions (so long as the directions look and act like facebook)to do so with minimal help.

What they don't do is pay attention to the marketing for it.

The product is a basic online community for an institution that has not had one for internal political reasons. It provides directory, broadcast email, giving page upgrades, class notes and online event registration. Of those, we already had an Email Service Provider and an online giving page (albeit a 1998 version of one)as features that we had access to outside of a community.

The original plan was to do an email based beta launch mid October to the 14,000ish alumni who are actively engaged with the university (defined by donations, email opens and event attendance.) We planned to ask them to help us push it to their contacts via personal emails, engagement tools within the directory and social media as we know that our alumni are more connected to each other than to us.

This was to be followed a week later by a print letter sent presort first class to that same population reinforcing that same message. At that same time, a letter was dropped at the non-profit rate to the balance of the population ~130,000 alumni. This was expected to arrive between 10 and 17 days later providing a naturally staged launch to be reinforced by the alumni e-digest announcement of the launch in that same time frame.

The reality was a series of production delays that meant the first launch of the product was the e-digest announcement to 53,500 constituents where this was the lead story. Out of that, 5,600 read the digest, 102 clicked through to the community and 62 registered. The following day, a single point email was sent to the same list reinforcing the community launch. 672 folks registered in the next 12 hours.

The letters are in the mail and history tells me that we will see 3 or 4 times the responses to that as to the stand alone email. That said, the interesting point for me is the comparison between the reaction to the single message email and the e-digest. With a almost 10:1 difference in response, it demonstrates what I have held for a long time as a basic belief, what folks tell you they want and how they act don't align.

By that I mean that everyone tells you they are overwhelmed by email and they want digest format information. The problem is that they are overwhelmed by information and digest formats are just too much more. By providing information in small bites with a clear purpose and call to action we dramatically increased the portion who took the action we were seeking.

I will update this in a month once the mail results from both campaigns are in. Keep this in mind - where is your calendar year end ask? Does it have legs of its own or is it part of a multi-themed message? Can you afford to have it where it is?