Non-Profit Marketing and Social Technologies: Who’s doing it well?

I am a firm believer in the power of social technologies like blogs, podcasts, Twitter, etc., to help organizations like non-profits tell their stories to the world.  Businesses have lead the way into the world of social technologies and marketing.  Where are the non-profits?  Who is out there using these new technologies to connect with their stakeholders?  A couple of examples I know of are Epic Change and their use of Twitter, YouTube, and blogs and The Nature Conservancy‘s use of podcasting. What organizations do you know of that are using social technologies well? What seems to be working and what isn’t?

Marketing 4 Change Podcast – Episode 3: Your responses to my question about non-profit marketing.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond to my blog post about non-profit marketing. This episode of the podcast features your comments and my responses.

To download this episode, right click the button below and “Save as”

The Marketing Wisdom of Kung Fu Panda

My wife just took me on a study break field trip to watch Kung Fu Panda. It is a cute movie that is definitely worth seeing. Aside from enjoying a night out with my wife, I came away with three pieces of wisdom that most definitely apply to marketing in the age of social media. If you haven’t seen the movie and are really concerned about not having the plot spoiled, stop reading now. Everyone else, read on.

1. Let go of the illusion of control.

In the movie, Po’s master, Shifu, is taught by his master, Oogway, that he must give up the “illusion of control” when it comes to the Dragon Warrior. Master Oogway might as well have been talking to the marketing departments of corporations and non-profits alike who think that they can still control the message. Just as Shifu could not control who the Dragon Warrior would be, organizations can not control the message that people hear about their organizations. Sure, they can try, but with the rise of consumer generated content and the death of mass media looming on the horizon, what’s being said about the organization will carry far more weight than what the organization is saying. The much more sustainable approach in this social media environment will be for organizations to stop trying to control the message, and instead, join the conversation in a real, honest manner.

2. Be yourself. Following what seems to work for everyone else won’t work for you.

Po, the pudgy, seemingly inept Panda, couldn’t do the most remedial of the traditional training exercises the kung fu masters could. As a result, his master thought Po could never be the Dragon Warrior…that is until he discovered what motivated Po. As it turns out, Po was motivated by food. When Shifu realized that he would have to train Po differently than the others, Po’s training took off. Like in the movie, realizing what your organization’s “motivation” is will go a long way to making your marketing more effective–not to mention more fun. Too many organizations are adept at throwing around the latest buzz words when they are discussing their marketing plans. What they seem to be unpracticed at is being honest about who they are as an organization and what they really have to say. What I would suggest to those organizations is forget who you think you should be and be yourself!

3. Their is no secret ingredient.

Po finally became the Dragon Warrior when he realized that the dragon scroll held no secret and that being himself was enough. What, you ask, is the secret ingredient organizations seek after? Well, I’m glad you asked. I know I’ll get into some trouble for attacking this sacred cow, but, in my opinion, organizations spend way to much energy and effort thinking and talking about “brand.” “Brand” is a metaphysical construct that is increasingly loosing its relevance. I say good riddance to “brand.” The idea of forgetting about “brand” is almost directly related to letting go of the illusion of control. However, forgetting about “brand” goes a step further. Forgetting about “brand” means that an organization realizes that who they are perceived as varies from person to person and can change with each interaction they have with someone. Forgetting about “brand” can only happen when organizations start to realize that they themselves are citizens of the world that are on a level playing field with their customers/constituents. Forgetting about “brand” means organizations must come down from their ivory towers. To do this, they have to stop “communicating” and start “conversing” with their markets and constituencies. They must do so in a human voice, and, more importantly, they must listen.

The power of suggestion in social media marketing: here is what I suggest.

Below you will find a suggestion that I made for a Father’s Day gift on the website ThisNext.com. I just found the site because of a contest to give away a Vespa. However, I am intrigued by the possibility user-generated marketing in this way. It took me a second to decide what I would recommend via this site, but I finally came up with what you see below.
**************************************************************

Charitable Gift Giving | Donate a Goat to Heifer International

Want a great Father’s Day gift? Purchase a goat through Heifer International and help provide nutrition for a family that desperately needs it. What better way to celebrate someone who provided for your lazy ass for so long than by providing for a deserving family in your Dad’s name? It’s a great way to make up for those seven years you spent in college drinking away his hard-earned money. I promise that he will love it! (via Heifer International)

Delta Skelter — Delta Airlines shows us how to NOT join the conversation.

Ok…Let me start by saying that I am currently 120 pages into Joseph Jaffe’s book Join the Conversation. I am trying frantically to finish it tonight (I’m a horribly slow reader) for my paper that is due on Monday morning. I highly recommend the book to anyone looking to help their organization remain relevant in a networked world.

With that being said, I have spent the last day wondering what exactly Joseph Jaffe’s Twitter avatar meant.
delta airlines, bad customer service
From the start, though, I knew it wasn’t good news for Delta. This intrigued me as I have already booked a flight on Delta for next Thursday. I am flying to Seattle with my wife to look for a house there. I am excited about the trip, but pretty skittish about the flight, now. When I finally got a chance to check out Jaffe’s blog, I found out what the avatar was about. I suggest giving it a read.

As illuminating as the post is about the failures of Delta’s customer service, the mistake that jumped out at me the most was the way Delta chose to respond to the blog post. Here is Delta’s comment:

Hi Joseph,

It’s Katie from the Delta Blog. My apologies for your experience.

You may have noticed when checking out our site that our Customer Care department has recently attempted to outline the most efficient processes to help resolve our customers travel complaints.

Nancy wrote one post on this topic a few weeks ago that comes to mind (it responds from a Delta perspective to an article by Joe Brancatelli at Portfolio):
http://blog.delta.com/2008/05/19/ten-tips-for-resolving-a-travel-complaint/

As she outlined, the first step is to email our Customer Care department so that they can address your situation and make it right:
http://www.delta.com/emailus/servlet/EmailUs?cmd=go

I hope this information is helpful. Let us know if you have any suggestions for future posts on this topic or others?
http://blog.delta.com/contact-us/

Best, 
Katie

That, in my mind, is the perfect example of how to NOT join the conversation.  To scold a customer for not following Delta’s preferred channels, no matter how cordially, is one thing, but did she not realize she was scolding Jaffe in front of the world?  What would have been wrong with engaging the conversation in a real way?  How about addressing the issue right there on the blog for all of the readers to see?  Is transparency too much to ask for from corporations?  

Someone might say that too much transparency would lead to people trying to “game” the system to get free flights.  In that case, I would say the real problem is Delta’s service.  Fix service issues and you will have no reason to give away flights.  Be honest and transparent when things do go wrong, and you will get PR and marketing that you just can’t buy.

*****************************************

UPDATE

Here is another example of how command and control in communications is viewed by customers in a networked world (example via Twitter):

I have a question about Non-Profit Marketing

My question is this, “How does Non-profit marketing differ from for-profit marketing?” Are there specific challenges, goals, or restrictions that non-profits face? Are there any ways in which non-profits have an advantage over for-profits when it comes to marketing? I want to know what you think. I will be talking about this topic in the next episode of the Marketing 4 Change podcast and would like to include your responses. Whether you have an idea, a theory, or a 1500 word rant, I want to hear it. Thanks!

The real value of social media in Non-Profit Marketing.

When it comes to the value of social media to non-profits, you can talk about the power of user generated content, viral expansion loops, etc. While those topics, and others, are definitely worth talking about, I think the most value comes from social media’s ability to deeply engage people.

In his book Join the Conversation, Joseph Jaffe says, “A central hypothesis of mine is that the more time consumers voluntarily elect to spend with a ‘brand,’ the more likely they are to be favorably predisposed toward that brand, and hence the more likely they are to purchase that brand, recommend that brand, or both.” While Jaffe uses “brand,” I think non-profits could very easily insert more non-profity (I enjoy making up words) terms into the above quote. For example, “…the more time people voluntarily elect to spend with a cause/organization, the more likely they are to be favorably predisposed toward that cause/organization, and hence the more likely they are to give time or money to that cause/organization, advocate for that cause/organization, or both.”

I think this should lead organizations to review their efforts at marketing and development in light of the question, “What are we doing through our marketing and development to encourage and enable people to spend more “time” with our organization/cause?” This may seem overly simple. To that I would reply everything else is overly complicated.

Simple is honest. Simple is authentic. Simple works.

Indeed, Viral Marketing is Bullsh*t. Adoptive marketing is the future of Socially Responsible Marketing.

I have had to take a few days to digest Sam Lawrence’s Go Big Always post on viral marketing.  Don’t get me wrong, I was in full agreement with what he was saying from the moment I read it.  However, it did take me a little bit to really understand what it means for social responsibility in marketing–especially when it comes to non-profits and social change organizations.

Viral marketing, as Sam points out, is manipulative. In short, it seeks to trick people into viewing an advertisement. In my opinion, this manipulation is inherently socially irresponsible. It stems from organizations viewing new media in the same way that they view television and print media–as nothing more than vehicles for the delivery of advertisements. This view of media is still heavily influenced by the broadcast model of media that is largely uni-directional. In the case of viral marketing, marketers see new media as nothing more than a TV with a forward button that allows consumers to pass along their ads for them.

Adoptive marketing, Lawrence points out, is focused on the product. In the case of non-profits and social change organizations, that product is, in fact, social change. Lets face it, if you are so unable to get people to feel strongly about your message as a non-profit that viral marketing is your best bet, you need to rethink your organization’s message and mission. It saddens me the number of non-profits and social change organizations that are throwing the “viral” buzzword around. Just use the word “viral” in a search of jobs on the website Idealist.org and see the results.

Rather than viral marketing, organizations need to be spending their resources engaging their constituents with their mission. An example would be creating opportunities for people to be involved with issues on a personal level, such as asking them to create videos about the subject or take a hands on role in the movement. This type of “adoptive” approach is the intersection of socially responsible marketing and social media marketing. If organizations will be willing to forgo the seemingly quick and easy allure of viral marketing and embrace the more organic adoptive marketing approach, they will ultimately be more successful in building constituencies that are engaged and enthusiastic about their causes without having to trick them.

Social Media and Non-Profits: How can organizations find their human voice?

I had the opportunity to meet with an outstanding organization yesterday to talk about social media.  This organization is a faith-based group that is focused on social justice and eliminating poverty.  They already have a rather large presence in the world of traditional print media and are looking to expand into the world of social media.  The group has a lot of great ideas to use social media to affect social change while simultaneously accomplishing their marketing goals.

While the ideas shared in the meeting for user-generated content and social media organizing were great, I did walk away from the meeting with a concern for how organizations such as theirs can learn to, well, forget they are organizations.  I agree whole heartedly with the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto that, if you want your communications to succeed, they must be spoken in a human voice. And, according to the book, “They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.” This is definitely a hard thing for organizations to do when they have so much concern about brand management and message control. Unfortunately, the time is here when message control and brand management can no longer be done through top-down mechanisms—that is as long as the organization wishes to remain relevant. Organizations must let their people be people and be heard.

So, how does an organization empower its people to speak to the world? First, it must give more than permission to speak…it must encourage it. An organization with members that are fully engaged in the mission is a much more attractive organization than one that appears to be no more than an institution with employees. If you want active constituents, you had better start in your own office.

Second, the organization must forget about controlling what is said and concentrate on authentically living out its mission. Authenticity should take care of the messiness of open communication. If this seems unreasonable, the problem is with authenticity and transparency, not with communication or message.

Finally, the organization has to forget about how this communication will fit into its business plan or how it will be measured. It has to trust that authentic communication will benefit the organization in ways that can not be measured. Organizations that continue conducting their marketing and PR in the new networked world as if the old rules of marketing still apply are going to be in for a healthy dose of irrelevancy really soon.

I am hopeful that the organization that I met with will do great things with their social media ventures. I am sure they will experience a lot of successes along with the obligatory educational failures that come with such experimentation. My hope is that some of those successes will come in the form of open, human communication from the organization.

Social Media Marketing – Are you an “Animateur” for your brand?

No, that is not a typo for “amateur”.  

The word “Animateur” is certainly a new one on me.  I barely got through two years of high school Spanish and, quite frankly, don’t remember my first two years of college.  So, needless to say, my French is completely non existent outside of being able to order a filet mignon.  The word is one that my school advisor put me on to and I think it deserves a lot of attention from us social media types.  

Animateur: to animate, to bring to life, to enliven, to spark, to create, to produce

This is the definition according to an article on the orchestra musician’s website Polyphonic.org.  The article, entitled An Animateur’s Journey: A report from the field, describes the work that the Philadelphia Orchestra does to bridge the gap between the orchestra and its audience. Each experiment in bridging that gap described in the article is nothing more than social media marketing.

I have witnessed a great deal of discussion as of late on Twitter about “community managers” and what their roles should or shouldn’t be within organizations. Social Media Marketing rockstar Jeremiah Owyang even lays out what he feels to be The Four Tenets of the Community Manager. As I observe the twitter discussions and read Mr. Owyang’s blog post, I am tempted to say that social media marketing types need to abandon the term “community manager” in favor of the term “Animateur”.

I say this for two reasons. First, the word “Animateur” seems to better capture the essence of what everyone seems to want in a “community manager.” Secondly, “Animateur” carries with it more passion and zest than the term “community manager”. Ultimately, I believe it will be easier to inspire a CEO, Board of Directors, Executive Director, VP of Marketing, etc., to fully buy into the benefits of social media marketing with a position that doesn’t sound as sterile as “community manager”.

If you are looking for an example of an “Animateur”, look to Stacey Monk of Epic Change. From the standpoint of social networking and social media marketing, Stacey is doing far more “animating” and “bringing to life” than “managing”. As a result of her role as “Animateur”, her organization has hit the radar of a huge number of people in a short amount of time.

For more info on Stacey and Epic Change, click here to listen to episode 2 of the Marketing 4 Change podcast.