COM0015 Post #4: Out of the Box

We have focused primarily on best practices in a very new and evolving field, what unexpected applications have you found in the field of online marketing and social media?

I would say the most unexpected application I have found in the field of online marketing and social media would have to be crowdposting. I find it is still a lesser known tool, but platforms such as Nouncy are helping both individuals and organizations amplify their message by allowing their stakeholders to write a message to be posted through their Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. Then the organization can wait until they have a certain amount of posts entered, and launch the posts all at once so those networks are flooded with posts about that organization’s cause/promotion. I have used this twice before, and it seems to be pretty effective.

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Screen capture from the Caring and Sharing Exchange’s 2015 Nouncy Campaign

Here is a campaign my organization did last Christmas. Each tweet or post could be composed by the individual, but was prepopulated with a link that had to be included in each post. Most of the posts were made by staff, board members, and campaign cabinet members from 2015. With only 34 posts, we were able to reach up to 18,786 people. Pretty incredible! The campaign is now closed, but you can get a sense of the options available to organizations, and the best part is, this service is FREE.

COM0014 Post #7: Personal Reflection

This course has helped me further understand the value of telling a story to audiences in order to engage them in a personal, compelling way. Storytelling is key when creating digital content because without it, audiences do not have anything to connect to. Content presented without a story is cold and hard to relate to. In the non-profit world, storytelling is essential for engaging new donors by sharing a story that helps them feel compelled to donate and support the cause. Broad statements and statistics and who we help only goes so far, it is the stories from recipients and fellow donors that our donors really connect to.

Some of the other stories I hope to share with our stakeholders will focus on the impact we have in the community, particularly through our Coordination Service, which saves hundreds of community partners thousands of dollars annually, allowing both them and us to help more of those in need. I will also continue to share the story of our history, as I believe this sets the organization apart from other charities in the city and helps instill a sense of trust in new donors. I will strive to incorporate testimonials from recipients into more social media content, as they are currently mainly used for direct mail campaigns and e-mail blasts.

COM0015 Post #3: Professional Networking

Over the next 6-12 months, I plan to increase my engagement online and off in order to build my professional network. Online, I plan to post more consistently on Twitter and LinkedIn, as these are my only public accounts and yet are the ones I use the least. I would like to begin to use these accounts to engage with other professionals in my field and become more recognizable in the online community.

Offline, I hope to begin attending networking events more regularly. I attended the season opener for IABC Ottawa last year, but have not been to an in person networking event since. Sometimes it comes down to cost, as many of them have a cost associated with their events, but others are free or low cost and I think my main reason for avoiding them is that I am shy around new people. It is hard for me to go to an event like that alone, so I am hoping to engage a friend of mine who I know is currently on the job hunt in our field to join me.

COM0014 Post #6: Do People Know Your Story?

The question from the article that inspired my post was, ‘What is the greatest challenge your business must overcome?’ Since 1915, the organization that I work for has been well known in Ottawa as the Christmas Exchange. In 2011, the charity did an amazing thing. There was another charity in Ottawa that ran a back-to-school program and they were no longer able to sustain it. They asked the Christmas Exchange to take it on, and the organization decided to start helping those in need at another key time of the year.

The problem they faced was this – how do you fundraise for a back-to-school program with the name Christmas Exchange? The solution proposed was to create an umbrella name for the organization. At this point, the Caring and Sharing Exchange was born, and the Christmas Exchange became one of its programs, along with the new Sharing in Student Success Program.

While this was a good solution in theory, it brought two problems with it. First, the reason behind the name change was not explained properly to many older donors who had been giving for years or even decades. As a result, many assumed the charity had ‘ditched Christmas’ in order to be more politically correct, which tainted the organization across the community and the effects of this are still felt today. Second, the new name is still not well known, and it is pretty hard to carry 96 years of familiarity over to a new name.

This is a charity that was created during the First World War to help families of soldiers who were away fighting during the holidays, a charity that celebrated its centennial just last year, and many people who knew the Christmas Exchange still do not recognize the new name when they hear it.

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This is an article that was published in a local Ottawa paper in December, 1915

COM0014 Post #5: Personal Brand

Had I been asked to define my personal brand a few years ago, my focus would have been entirely on my writing skills. I consider myself a writer first and foremost, and I have always hoped I would find a job that allowed me to write and edit for the majority of my day.

That being said, while working at the Caring and Sharing Exchange for the last few years I have become a jack-of-all-trades in the field of communications. As I am solely responsible for the communications of this organization, I would say that I am now capable of filling nearly any position on a communications team.

I am highly valued at my organization, and have been praised recently for my work in several different areas. In June, I wrote a direct mail piece with an emotional appeal that stunned my colleagues. The response from our donors was incredible. In August, I wrote a media release that brought in amazing media coverage for the organization, in addition to writing an article for the Ottawa Citizen about our cause. That week we were overwhelmed with online donations from hundreds of brand new donors.

I am not normally one to point out my own accomplishments, but I can’t help but feel proud when something I do makes the difference between having 850 kids on our waiting list for assistance and having enough funds to help every single one of them return to school with a backpack and school supplies.

On reflection, I suppose working in the not-for-profit sector has become a part of my personal brand, even though I never planned it that way.

COM0015 Post #2: Strong & Weak Organizations

The two organizations I have chosen are United Way Ottawa and Volunteer Ottawa.

United Way Ottawa has an incredible social media presence. They post original content very regularly, interact with their followers often and share content from other charities and organizations in the Ottawa community. They also recently launched a new campaign called #MaketheMonth which features an interactive online tool that allows users to see the tough financial choices faced daily by those living in poverty in Ottawa.

Volunteer Ottawa on the other hand could use a more powerful social media presence. While they tweet about once a day, their Facebook page is updated sporadically at best, with new content about twice per month. With more than 3K likes on Facebook, they are missing an opportunity to find volunteers for the many roles they have available by not interacting with this audience more regularly.

I feel they should start building their social media strategy by aiming to post at least once per day on Facebook, including sharing posts directly from other charities/organizations. It actually seems as though they used to post more regularly and stopped a few months ago, so it may just be a matter of making social media a priority in their organization again, or assigning that task to one person in order to ensure it does not become neglected. Another recommendation would be for them to evaluate who their audience is and start to take a more targeted approach when composing posts and tweets in order to ensure they are making an impact where it matters most.

COM0014 Post #4: B2C Case Study

The company I have chosen is Indigo/Chapters. They have a very consistent, organized online presence that is both smart and fun for fans of the brand.

While a lot of the original posts on their Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram are focused on promoting a new book, product, or simply advertising the brand as a whole, they also have a very smart hashtag campaign in place.

The first hashtag I will talk about is #IndigoFaves. The brand encourages fans to use this hashtag to share their current reads, which not only acts as an advertisement for Indigo within the private accounts of its fans, but also causes customers to self-identify as consumers of this brand and its products. This allows Indigo to gain valuable information on who their customers are without having to do much of anything. It also enables them to interact directly with their customers, which can forge a stronger bond between the consumer and the brand.

This also gives Indigo access to amazing real life content to use for its own promotion, without having to create a thing. By reposting photos that were shared with their hashtag, they again forge a stronger relationship with that customer, while presenting a relatable visual to other customers.

Another hashtag they have been promoting lately is #IndigoWeekend, which is in itself promoting this brand as a way of life, and fans also get entered into a contest by using this particular hashtag.

They are encouraging people to use this hashtag to share their ”Indigo Weekend”, and again are making use of this content to promote products. For example, they recently tweeted an ad that showed 5 images from Instagram with their respective poster’s usernames displayed below, and the text of the tweet said “See what some of our top fans are loving and get inspired to have the perfect #IndigoWeekend! SHOP: ‪indig.ca/p6Qy304Hqjm”.

When you follow the link, you find a page of books that have been recommended by fans using this hashtag, and just below those you will find a bunch of other products like reading socks and big mugs to complete your ‘Indigo Weekend’ experience.

Overall this campaign is a genius use of social media. They are interacting with their customers in a fun, relevant way, and then turning those very customers into an ad campaign, which not only brings in new customers, but also makes the original ones feel like they are special.

COM0015 Post #1: Tools & Sources

For my organization, Hootsuite, Facebook Insight and Twitter Analytics are my best friends. As a non-profit, we cannot afford to pay for social media monitoring tools, and for such a small, locally based organization these free options are great for getting the level of insight that we need.

Using these tools we can see who is listening, and either adapt our messages to suit their interests or alter our messages to attract a different audience if the one we currently have is not our target.

For news and updates, I prefer to focus on local media outlets like the Ottawa Citizen in order to stay up to date on what is happening in the community that we serve. This helps us stay aware of what other charities are doing, as well as what the important issues are those in need and those in a position to give.

COM0014 Post #3: Target Audiences

When reevaluating the digital audience of my organization, I am constantly surprised by the continuation of a certain trend. As a charity, it is easy to suspect that our audience is mostly middle-aged women and seniors, as these are the groups who are considered most likely to donate. Based on the audience we actually have however, this may not be the case.

Our current social media audience (Facebook and Twitter) sits somewhat comfortably within the stereotypical charity audience, made up of between 64-70% females, most of who are in their late 20s to early 40s. It is not surprising that seniors are not highly represented in a digital audience, despite the fact that many of our donors are seniors.

What is surprising is that our website traffic consists of slightly more than 50% men, and most of them are in their 30s or early 40s. This implies that while women are happy to like and share our social media content, they are perhaps less likely to actually go to our website and make a donation. Since our ideal audience for recruiting new donors is those in their 30s and 40s, we are clearly doing something right if this group makes up the bulk of our web visits.

According to our Twitter analytics, the top interests of our followers are business, news and politics. Since we are a local charity and our target audience is the Ottawa community, I think that sharing more local ‘good news’ stories would help boost our engagement, and perhaps posting more visual posts on social media with links back to our website (or directly to the donation page) would help bring some of our female fans closer to becoming donors.

COM0014 Post #2: Storytelling and Communication Styles

It is no secret that people are more likely to understand and retain information when it is conveyed to them in a story. Simply listing a bunch of facts and details that you are hoping to share with the world will not make for engaging content.

This is part of the reason that I feel that the humanization of a company’s online presence is so critical in today’s digital world. I find it difficult to understand why any organizations would opt to communicate in a serious and professional tone online, unless their sole purpose is to communicate with other businesses.

For companies that hope to reach individuals with their messaging, it only makes sense to allow a bit of personality to come through in their posts, as this allows the effectiveness of their storytelling to truly shine.

I myself do the communications for a local Ottawa charity, and I try to humanize the organization as much as possible, especially through social media. I use we pronouns when engaging with our followers, and try to keep all updates conversational and fun when the situation allows for it. This makes telling our story much easier and more importantly, relatable.

I find this helps to encourage the audience to engage with us the way they would with a friend rather than an organization. This in turn fosters a stronger bond between us and our community, which is crucial for a charitable organization.

I mean, when a friend asks for your help, what do you do? You say yes, of course!