Tag Archives: promotion

Getting More Viewers for Your Organization’s Online Videos

Videos are a great way to represent your organization’s work, to show you make a difference, to promote a message or action that relates to your mission, etc. But just uploading a video isn’t enough to attract an audience. Also, your time is precious – it takes a lot of work to produce and upload a video, so shouldn’t that work get a payoff with a lot of views with potential supporters, current clients, and others you want to reach?

Getting More Viewers for Your Organization’s Online Videos is a new page on my site that offers specific steps that will get more views for a nonprofit, NGO, charity, school or government agency’s videos on YouTube. Note that many of these tasks would be great for an online volunteer to undertake, with guidance from an appropriate staff member.

Also… have a look at my YouTube channel. There are dog videos!

Also see:

schedule social media posts? use with caution

I’ve been using social media before it was called social media: I was a heavy user of USENET newsgroups back in the 1990s, and moderated the soc.org.nonprofit group for a few years. USENET was all about interaction with others and networking – but in text-based formats. As a result of that experience, I learned early so, so much about using the Internet both for promotions and for engagement: it gave me terrific grounding for using modern social media tools (and least I think so). As a one-person shop with no permanent agency affiliation, no best selling book and no big media splash, I’ve done pretty well at attracting followers on both Twitter and Facebook.

I use tools like Hootsuite to pre-program tweets to Twitter and status updates to Facebook and GooglePlus, but I don’t overly-rely on those tools: I still take at least a couple of hours every week to scroll through those I follow on Twitter and to read updates, to retweet things, to reply to posts, etc. I also pick one of my Twitter lists every week to read through and do the same. I wish it was as easy to do that on Facebook, but that’s another blog…

That said, I do use Hootsuite to pre-program tweets and Facebook page posts. I do this days, weeks, even months in advance. And I’ve been doing something in the last several weeks that seems to attract a lot more likes, followers and interactions for me: choosing my own social media theme for a day, and programming posts, especially tweets, once an hour around that theme, for 4-5 hours on that one day.

Creating tweets and other social media messages around a theme for the day doesn’t require me to create new information: I choose themes based on pages on my web site and posts on my blog that I would love for people to visit or revisit. Some days, I tweet about the same web page or blog post four times, but always with different keywords and a different description.

Some of the day-long themes I’ve tweeted around:

  • ethics in international volunteering
  • how to get a job in or experience for a job in humanitarian aid and development
  • controversies regarding not paying interns
  • using Twitter
  • ethics in communications
  • safety in volunteer programs
  • resources regarding volunteer firefighters
  • virtual volunteering
  • competing online with breaking news
  • welcoming volunteers (and how you might be making them unwelcome)
  • digital/IT-related volunteering
  • conflict, free speech, reconciliation
  • social cohesion, building understanding

Your nonprofit, non-governmental organization, school, government agency or other mission-based initiative can do the same: look through your web pages that are focused on educating people about your cause or mission or reaching clients and potential clients in particular. Do you see themes emerging? What about UN international days that relate to the mission of your initiative – could you build a day-of-social-media-messaging around that theme?

On a related note, if you have an event, or an approaching program deadline, or some other time-sensitive information or announcement, don’t rely on just one tweet or one Facebook post to get the word out. You need to come up with reasons to post multiple times on Twitter, even in just one day, about a key event: each post could feature a different photo, a different keyword, and slightly different wording.

Oh, but doesn’t that mean followers keep reading the same message over and over? No. That’s because most people aren’t sitting and looking at one Facebook page or one Twitter feed all day long. I’m very lucky if one of my followers just happens to be looking at Twitter when I post – it’s very likely most WON’T be. For my followers to see a message, they either have to be staring at the screen the moment I post, to go specifically to my Facebook page or Twitter feed to read only my social media posts, to see the message when it’s reposted by someone else, or when it uses a keyword tag that they follow.

The only way scheduling messages for later posting to social media works, however, is if it’s coupled with live, in-the-moment interactions on social media: liking other people and agency’s content, responding to that content, asking questions regarding other people’s posts, etc. If I don’t show interest in the social media posts of others, why should they show interests in mind?

And whatever you do, do NOT use Twitter only as a gateway for your Facebook posts. No one is going to click on that truncated message on Twitter to read the rest of it on Facebook. It shows a profound laziness on your part.

I can still inspire old school

Months ago, I did a Volunteer Engagement 101 Workshop in Portland. Here’s feedback from such – which shows I can still inspire old-school action regarding volunteer engagement (not just the cutting edge Internet stuff):

I recently attended your volunteer management training for AmeriCorps
members in Portland…

Before Photo Vol BoardI just wanted to email you some before and after photos of my bulletin board at work. This bulletin board sat empty for the first almost 2 months of my service.

It wasn’t until your presentation that I knew exactly what I needed to do. I needed to let everyone know that walks through our doors who to contact if they’d like to volunteer, how to sign up to volunteer, and what vol opportunities we have.

After Photo Vol BoardSo, I took this information and created a large volunteer board. It’s very large and it’s one of the first things people see when they walk in our doors. It’s a work in progress but I wanted to share. Thanks for sharing your time and knowledge with us! You were very inspirational and informational!!

Thanks again,

Lynn Foster, North HELP Center, Volunteer & Resource Specialist, AmeriCorps OSSC

I try. I really do.



Brag about it

Once upon a time, I was the publicity director at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. I was in charge of all marketing and public relations for this major national summer theatre festival. And believe it or not, merely having Sigourney Weaver or Stockard Channing in a production wasn’t always enough to sell tickets. The Internet was far from mainstream in those days – there wasn’t even a World Wide Web yet (just newsgroups, gopher and what not) – so we were doing all marketing and PR by newspaper (remember those?), radio, TV, posters and postal mailings (oh, those bulk mailings…. I don’t miss those).

A tradition that started many years before I had this role was the brag board: one very large bulletin board in the hall way that lead to the costume department and backstage. I (and every publicity director before me) used it to post any newspaper articles about or mentioning the festival, as well as newspaper advertisements for the festival.

It’s one thing to get print outs of articles, neatly presented in a folder. But that board was a very powerful visual for the work I was doing (supported by some wonderful interns). Too often, people just see a full house and think it somehow happened magically. The brag board was my way to say, “Hey, this is what it takes to get those seats filled.”

That brag board not only reminded my co-workers and supervisors about what I was doing, it also reminded the actors, directors and other artists the importance of doing the press interviews I was asking/would be asking them to do. Some actors get annoyed by being asked to do interviews (Ms. Weaver never was, in case you were wondering). This was my way of reminding the artists just how vital it was for the festival that they say yes to publicity activities.

That brag board was internal marketing. And it’s why I had a great summer as publicity director – because everyone knew what I did, and they valued it.

For a few years after that, I forgot that important lesson about internal marketing: I assumed the head of the organization, the heads of other departments, the receptionist, and others knew what I was doing because it was so clearly presented online. It’s all there, on the Internet – everyone sees that, right? It took a woman I admired tremendously, who always made me feel valued at her organization, to take me aside one day and remind me of the importance of internally marketing yourself. It’s of vital importance that you communicate to everyone at your organization about your role, what you do, and what the results of your work are – otherwise, you will find your budget being reduced, your department staff getting cut – and maybe even see your job get eliminated.

Having your work so prominent online, or among your professional associations, is NOT enough to ensure your role is valued at the organization that employs you.

Create a brag board. Put up copies of newspaper articles, blog posts, emails, a compilation of tweet mentions – anything that shows your organization is getting noticed or lauded. Print out and post photos on it that your volunteers are taking while volunteering and posting online. Put the board in a break room or hallway – a high traffic area where employees, consultants, volunteers and visitors will see it – or, if that doesn’t get approved, in your office. Keep it neat, well-organized, and frequently updated!

Keep forwarding links and emails to all staff – hey, look at this! – but don’t ever let that be a substitute for a big visual representation of the work you are doing.

learning from a campaign that went viral

Sweeping the Internet this week: a viral video campaign by Invisible Children to make Joseph Kony, a terrorist leader in Uganda, a household name, and thereby get the media and politicans to pay attention. Viewership is through the roof, #KONY2012 is trending on Twitter, and the press is all over it. Even Lord Voldemort is on board:

voldemort protests kony

The video is here; jump to 10:30 on the video if you want to get to the heart of the video, and watch until 27:00, to get a sense of what the campaign is trying to achieve and how it will do so, without having to watch the whole thing – it’s 16 or so minutes of your life worth spending, both to learn about an important human rights campaign and to see how to make a campaign go viral.

This is already a wildly successful activism / digital story-telling campaign – but it’s not a campaign that can be easily replicated by *most* nonprofits.

Here’s why it is working:

  • it’s an easy-to-understand cause
  • it’s a cause that gets an immediate emotional-response by anyone who watches the video
  • it’s a slickly produced video – very well edited, compelling imagery, excellent script
  • it offers both simple and ambitious ways to get involved: at the very least, you can like the Invisible Children Facebook page, share the video with your online social network, and help get the word out further. At the other end of the spectrum, you can organize an event on April 20, per Invisible Children’s guidelines for such, garnering press coverage and participation on a local level for an international issue.
  • it builds up to a specific day – April 20
  • it has a wide range of items for sale for activists to wear and display on April 20, which will help publicize the event and help make participants easy to identify the day of the event, and the sale of those items helps fund the campaign
  • there are Invisible Children staff engaging with people on Twitter and Facebook for hours at a time – not just tweeting one link to a press release and hoping it catches on
  • it has an easy-to-remember Twitter tag that isn’t in use by anyone else: #KONY2012

It’s having that specific day of action and a video that creates in-depth awareness about a specific issue that, IMO, makes this go well beyond slacktivism/slackervism.

What did it take for this campaign to be successful:

  • money. Yes, I’m sure a lot of things were donated and a lot of expertise was give pro bono, but it still took money to pay for people and their time and knowledge to make this happen.
  • wide-ranging, deep relationships with key people (media, corporations, celebrities, politicians, communications strategists). These relationships took many months, even years, to cultivate – more than some tweets and email.
  • a very detailed, well-thought-out strategic plan. Somewhere, this plan is in writing, no matter how spontaneous the feeling this campaign is conveying.
  • a LOT of people to undertake the necessary outreach activities via traditional and online media. This isn’t just sending press releases; this is also engaging with people on Twitter and the phone for hours at a time. It took people to design the web site, to design the materials, to distribute those materials, to talk to the press – and it took those people MANY hours of work to do so, and it’s taking even more time to respond to all of the press and critics now focusing on the effort.

But while there is a lot to learn from this campaign for nonprofits and NGOs, this is not the campaign most should aspire to.

  • Most nonprofits and NGOs do NOT have the resources to make something like this happen – and never will.
  • Your nonprofit is probably engaged in something that’s only local, or that is a more complex issue to explain, and that doesn’t garner an immediate emotional response.
  • Your nonprofit might not be able to survive the incredible attention and scrutiny that a campaign like this would bring.

That doesn’t mean your nonprofit is less worthwhile than Invisible Children – it just means that having a video go viral nationally or internationally might not-at-all be what is best for YOUR nonprofit.

As you read about this campaign and see it get so much attention, think about what you really want from donors, volunteers, the press, politicians, clients and the general public regarding your organization.

Think about local celebrities, local policy makers, local leaders (both official ones, like elected officials, and unofficial ones, like prominent business people or local leaders of religious communities) and local activists – what do you want them to say about your organization, and how might you get them to?

Also see this TechSoup resource on Digital Storytelling.

Another lesson to learn from this campaign: don’t spam celebrities. I’ve seen a lot of celebrity Twitter feeds over-run with tweets from people begging for that person to follow or mention this or that nonprofit or cause. George Clooney probably gets 100 of those tweets in just one day! Don’t make George Clooney dislike your organization because you keep tweeting him, begging for a mention.

One of the things that has been amusing to see is the stampede of smug aid workers and other smugsters to condemn the campaign – the theme of the pushback falls into four categories:

Here’s why a lot of these criticisms are bogus:

Americans are some of the most globally-unaware people on the planet. I moved back to the USA in 2009 and have heard things every day by neighbors, people I volunteer with and people on TV that have reminded me of this every day. And this ignorance about the world leads to some profoundly ridiculous statements and actions by my fellow Americans. Maybe this campaign will help make a few people, particularly young people, aware of the world beyond the borders of the USA. BandAid/LiveAid did that for me once-upon-a-time – don’t laugh, but it did. I was a teenager in Kentucky as ignorant as a box of hammers. That record and that concert set me on a path for a lifetime.

Also, in the USA, no human rights movement has ever succeeded without a lot of outside pressure and support – and anyone who thinks apartheid was removed as an official policy in South Africa only because of pressure and evolution from within South Africa isn’t paying attention.

Some of the arguments I’ve heard about why the USA should not be focused on Uganda are the same arguments I’ve heard from China and Russia about why the world needs to not “interfere” with Syria.

Compassion for one thing breeds compassion for other things. No one – NO ONE – is saying, “Don’t be focused on local issues – instead, care about what’s happening in Uganda!” As this campaign ends, the people that have gotten caught up in it, particularly young people, are going to have a taste for advocacy and wanting to make a difference. If your local nonprofit is jealous, then start thinking now about how you are going to leverage what’s happening. Is there going to be an anti-Kony event at your local schools or in your local community? Then start designing the handbills you are going to give out at anti-Kony-related events to tell those energized young people about your local cause and how and why they can get involved.

By all means, offer legitimate criticisms of this campaign and Invisible Children. But some people are trying to kill this campaign – and I question their motivations in doing so.

Also see:

Use Your Web Site to Show Your Accountability and To Teach Others About the Nonprofit / NGO / Charity Sector

How to Make a Difference Internationally/Globally/in Another Country Without Going Abroad

Ideas for Leadership Volunteering Activities to make a difference locally

Advice for volunteering abroad (volunteering internationally)

No more warm, fuzzy language to talk about volunteers!

Volunteers are neither saints nor teddy bears.

But you would never know it from the kinds of language so many people use to talk about them.

Back in November 2009, I got a mass email sent out from United Nations Volunteers to several thousand people that illustrates this oh-so-well. It said, in part:

This is the time to recognize the hard work and achievements of volunteers everywhere who work selflessly for the greater good.


And then there are those companies that sell items for organizations to give to their volunteers, with phrases like:

Volunteers spread sunshine!

Volunteers… hearts in bloom!

In a word – yuck.

Not all volunteers are selfless! Yes, I fully acknowledge that there are still some volunteers that like to be thanked with pink balloons and fuzzy words – but could we at least acknowledge that there are many thousands of volunteers who do not respond to this way of being recognized?

Volunteers are not all donating unpaid service to be nice, or to make a difference for a greater good of all humanity or to be angels. Volunteers also donate unpaid service:

  • to gain certain kinds of experience
  • for a sense of adventure
  • to gain skills and contacts for paid employment
  • for fun
  • to meet people in the hopes of making friends or even get dates
  • because they are angry and want to see first hand what’s going on at an organization or within a cause, or to contribute to a cause they feel passionate about
  • to feel important
  • to change people’s perceptions about a group (a religious minority in a community may volunteer to demonstrate to the majority that they are a part of the community too, that they care about other people, etc.)

NONE of those reasons to volunteer are selfless. But all of them are excellent reasons to volunteer, nonetheless – and excellent reasons for an organization to involve a volunteer.

These not-so-selfless volunteers are not less committed, less trustworthy or less worth celebrating than the supposed selfless volunteers.

Let’s quit talking about volunteers with words like nice and selfless.  Let’s drop the fuzzy language and start using more modern and appropriate language to talk about volunteers that recognizes their importance, like


Let’s even call them mettlesome and confrontational and demanding. That’s what makes volunteers necessary, not just nice.

In short, let’s give volunteers their due with the words we use to describe them.

And don’t even try to say volunteers save money, because that starts yet another blog rant…

Get your 2012 events on Facebook NOW

Facebook continues to be the most popular online social networking tool, and while that will surely change eventually – just as it did for AOL and MySpace before it – right now, and for the next few years, Facebook cannot be ignored as an effective communications tool for nonprofit organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), schools, government agencies and other mission-based programs to get the word out about events.

A terrific microvolunteering assignment for an online volunteer is to have them input all of your organization or program’s public or semi-public events for the coming months on the Facebook calendar. He or she should input the name, date, time and a short description for each event. Events you will want to share include conferences your organization is hosting or organizing, an open house, a class your organization is hosting, all volunteer orientations, or any other public event or semi-public event, such as an annual volunteer meeting (making it clear that a person would have to be a currently-registered volunteer to attend).

Even if you invite people to events in other ways – via email, via a special meeting web site, via whatever online calendar you use, etc. – put your events in Facebook as well. This will serve as a reminder to people about the event, as well as potentially attracting more attendees (as appropriate).

Here’s an example of what an event on Facebook looks like; note that the example is a virtual event, one that doesn’t require physical attendance. However, you will want to also post events where people will be in a particular time and place, onsite or online, in order to participate.

Once the volunteer has completed the assignment of posting your 2012 events on your Facebook page, invite all of your organization or program’s Facebook friends – volunteers, donors, partner organizations, clients – to each event via Facebook, as appropriate. If they mark that they are attending on Facebook, all of their Facebook friends will be able to see that intention, and they may decide to attend as well (as appropriate).

Make it clear if RSVPing via Facebook is or is NOT the official way to RSVP; attendees may still have to RSVP through traditional channels (filling out an online form on your web site, calling the organization, paying a registration fee, etc.). Also make it clear how public the event is; if someone needs to already be a volunteer that has gone through an orientation, or a season ticket holder, or a registered student, note that on the event.

Be explicit about any fees or costs associated with attending!

If the event is not fully public – if children will be present, and the only people permitted to attend are registered, screened volunteers and employees – then leave out the location of the event, and note on the event description what an adult has to do in order to be able to attend.

Don’t invite people to more than two events at a time (say, within one week); people don’t want to receive invitations to all of your events in 2012 in one afternoon.

Encourage your employees and volunteers that use their Facebook accounts for work or volunteering to do the same – but do NOT require anyone to use their Facebook accounts in this way – many people keep work or volunteering activities off their Facebook account. Recognize those that do by thanking them on Facebook, or at your next staff meeting.

Monitor your Faceobook account, and respond to comments made on the Facebook event, as appropriate. It’s imperative that you respond to comments the same day they are posted!

This is all easy to do – and a great way for an online volunteer to help your organization if your current staff or onsite volunteers don’t have time to do this. The only requirement for you is that you provide very detailed information about your events for the year, and you review the information after the volunteer has uploaded it, to ensure the information is correct. If you need to make changes, you can do so, without going through the volunteer – and you can easily take away administrator privileges you have to give to a volunteer to undertake this assignment.

Get busy! And keep your info up-to-date!

Slackervism on Facebook again

Back in January of this year, those of you on FaceBook probably saw lots of female friends, family and colleagues posting a colour/color in their status updates  — just one word, or a group of words, like “pink” or “blue” or “nude” or “white with black trim.” It was the color of the bra the posting person was wearing. Some people claimed it was an effort to raise awareness about breast cancer.

However, there is no data whatsoever saying that this what-color-is-your-bra campaign increased the number of women getting medical checkups regarding their breast health, doing self-examinations regularly, etc. There’s no data whatsoever that says someone knows about breast cancer now and how it impacts women that didn’t already know that before the campaign. Yes, Susan G. Komen for the Cure said they got some donations they think may have because some people followed up their bra color status with a link to its web site. But others reported no donations at all.

Lately, people are changing their Facebook profile photos to a cartoon character. They say this is to raise awareness about child abuse. Yet, there is no information offered on child abuse, no information offered on how to prevent such, etc. And there’s no data whatsoever that says someone knows about child abuse now that didn’t already know that before this “campaign.” No one is discussing child abuse; they are discussing cartoon characters.

I think it is yet another example of slackervism, where people clicked something online, or did something equally simple online, and walked away thinking, “Wow, I really made a difference”, but they didn’t. My fear is that these people then do not do what’s really needed — like volunteer or make a donation to an organization like Parents Anonymous, or Prevent Child Abuse America or know how to report suspected child abuse — because they think what they’ve done on Facebook has real impact, that that’s enough to make a difference.

And it’s interesting to note that when I challenged friends and colleagues about this — when they would post the cartoon photo and say, “This is to raise awareness about child abuse”, and I would post a comment asking “how”, people because very defensive, claiming that I didn’t care about child abuse or was “spoiling the fun.” Yes, it’s a lot of fun to change your profile to something silly — I do it often on my personal FaceBook page. But creating this false sense of activism is dangerous. Here’s what so many people are thinking as a result of campaigns like this: Why make time to volunteer or why reserve any money to help others when just clicking helps someone somehow? I can change the world just by clicking something or changing my Facebook status, right? Have a look at the Community Service section of YahooAnswers or similar online fora to see how often people ask for ideas for “just click and help” web sites, because they “love helping without having to really do anything(do a search on FreeRice if you doubt me).

I made recommendations regarding the bra color-to-raise-cancer-awareness last year, detailing what would have taken this from slackervism to real activism. So, what would have made this cartoon-charater-as-a-profile-pic a true social marketing/health marketing campaign, with real impact (changed behavior, new awareness, etc.) regarding child abuse?

    • Encouraging people to not only change their profile picture, and not just saying it’s to prevent child abuse, but also, to link to a web site for more information about child abuse, including specific aspects of such: child neglect, shaken baby syndrome, child sexual abuse, etc., and information on what to do if you suspect child abuse.
    • Having a banner on the home page of your child abuse-prevention or information site saying, “Did you change your FaceBook status photo to a cartoon character?”, which links to a page focused on educating people about child abuse and encouraging people to participate in the campaign.
  • Having a FaceBook fan page specifically associated with this campaign, and using it to not only educate about child abuse, but also, to survey fans about the impact of the campaign regarding their actions (did they have a discussion this week with friends about child abuse, or just cartoon characters?)

Online volunteering / virtual volunteering is not slackervism. Here’s more on what ROI for online action really looks like. Also see the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) status updates on Facebook from Nov. 25 – Dec. 2, 2010, for an example of an EFFECTIVE online awareness campaign using Facebook regarding preventing and responding to abuse of women.