Ninja Tips for Engaging Your Audiences

Layla, Lynn, and Elizabeth’s ninja tips for engaging your audiences:


  • Don’t auto-post everything to everywhere, but do learn how to selectively auto-post in your chosen platforms.
  • Check out the administrative interface of every platform you use – you’d be surprised at how much information is available on things like which links got clicked, who likes you, what they’re doing, etc.
  • Use URL shorteners and your regular web analytics tool to track how effective your posts are. (Are people clicking on what you want them to click on?)
  • When people contact you (@ replies, direct messages, posts to your FB page’s wall), respond.
  • Don’t forget about direct mail, which is still the most effective way to reach people, and email, which is still the most effective online way to reach people.
  • Figure out ways to reward your most ardent supporters, and make sure they’re ways that are meaningful to them.
  • Don’t ask LESS of social media in regards to ROI than your other communications channels…but don’t ask MORE, either.
  • Make sure more than one person in your organization knows something about your chosen tools – you don’t want everything to come to a screeching halt if s/he chooses to leave.
  • Dial back your efforts on the platforms that aren’t helping you meet you goals, so you can dial up your efforts on those that are.
  • Regularly revisit your goals to ensure your tools and efforts are still meeting your needs.
  • Follow thought leaders to keep up on the newest tools and new features your existing tools may have added.
  • Promote your top social media outlets in your e-mail signatures and business cards to drive visits and use.
  • Tag your items using searchable keywords and include those in descriptions whenever possible. That’s how people will find your stuff online.


  • Understand Twitter’s #hashtag power – they spread your words far beyond your followers – and use a tool to track how far your tweets spread.
  • Use general hashtags (#nonprofit, #marketing) to help your tweets get more exposure.
  • BUT don’t use more than 2-3 hashtags per tweet.
  • Use a real picture of yourself for a personal account and a logo for a branded account.
  • If it’s taken you a while to respond, RT the original tweet in your response. It will help give the person you are responding to context.
  • Check the trending topics every time you log into to Twitter to see if there are any ties you can make to the association’s content.
  • Thank those from your target market (i.e. potential or current members) for following you.
  • Create a general hashtag for the profession or trade and use it religiously when you have any content that relates to the profession. Avoid weird spellings or shortenings if possible to make it easier for them to appear in Twitter searches.
  • Identify in the Twitter bio which employee(s) monitor the Twitter account to give others a sense of who they are talking with.
  • Don’t forget to brand your Twitter background. Use it as an opportunity to inform other Twitter users about your other channels or as a place to promote upcoming events.


SEO for Not Much Dough

In the fall of 2007, I had the opportunity to talk to Layla Masri, president of Bean Creative, about search engine optimization (SEO).

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a complex discipline. Entire companies specialize in ensuring that clients’ sites appear in the top five rankings across a host of search engines and portals when any of the terms the client has identified as key are entered. And some organizations pay thousands of dollars a month to take advantage of that highly specialized and focused expertise. But if that’s out of your organization’s price range, does that mean you’re forever consigned to page 25 of the Google listings for the industry you serve?

“Absolutely not,” stated Layla Masri, president of Bean Creative, an Alexandria-based web design and programming firm that focuses on the not-for-profit market.

“If an organization can’t invest the kind of money necessary for a full SEO engagement, they can still accomplish a lot just by investing some staff time.” Masri continued, “Five years ago, an association could be assured a good ranking in most of the search engines just by including the right title tags on their web pages. But companies like Google, Yahoo!, and MSN have gotten much more sophisticated about their rankings, so your organization needs to be more sophisticated in its approach as well.”

What are the top five inexpensive steps not-for-profits can take to improve their search engine rankings?

  1. Update your content frequently. One of the easiest ways to do this is to add a blog to your site. But, as Masri noted, “this requires a significant investment of staff time. The technology for creating a blog is easy. The hard part is making sure someone is adding well-written, relevant content on a regular and frequent basis.”
  2. Encourage people to link to you. Again, one of the quickest mechanisms to accomplish this is to create a blog that includes a blogroll (the sidebar list of links featured on many blogs), which makes it easy to exchange links. “Request link exchanges with like-minded organizations,” advised Masri.
  3. Become a recognized expert in your subject area. “One of the best ways to generate visibility for your website is to create something like a ‘top 10’ list or an authoritative article on a current topic that gets widely disseminated across the web,” noted Masri.
  4. Become active on relevant listservs and discussion forums. “This keeps your association top of mind in your market. And, as increasing numbers of these forums are archived on the web, it increases your chances of generating links and becoming a recognized expert on topics of interest to your constituents,” remarked Masri.
  5. Finally, make sure your web content is highly relevant to the focus of your organization and uses key words and phrases regularly. “Today’s more sophisticated search engines consider the quality of your content as well as its existence. If your organization’s key focus is women’s networking groups, make sure that wording and other similar phrases are used liberally throughout your site,” advised Masri.

What do all of these suggestions have in common?

They all represent great ways to get your members involved. Younger members sometimes shy away from the level of commitment required by committee or board service. However, they are precisely the members who are most comfortable with emerging technologies like blogs and social networking forums. While they might not be willing to volunteer for several years hard labor on your finance committee, they can be tapped to write occasional posts for your organization’s blog, to link to your association blog from their own personal or professional blogs, and to participate in discussion forums and listservs as a representative of your organization. And an involved member is a loyal member.

So let’s say you do have a budget, albeit small, to spend on improving your search engine position. What will give you the most bang for your buck?

Google AdSense,” stated Masri immediately. “Google AdSense is an easy way for website publishers to create ads that will be displayed on other relevant sites. Because the ads are related to what users are looking for on the sites they surf, AdSense allows you to get the word out about your association while allowing the owners of the sites on which your ads are placed to earn some money and enhance the content of their own pages.” Because the site owners get paid when someone clicks on one of your ads on their site, you can set a cap as to how much you’re willing to spend, which makes it easy to stay within your budget, no matter what its size.

Masri offered some tips to get the best results from AdSense:

  • Make sure your ads are posted on text-rich pages (not “Sponsored Links” or “Advertisements’”)
  • Make sure your ads are placed “above the fold“
  • Match the colors of your ads with the color scheme of the site on which they’ll be posted
  • Make is easy for the site owners to blend your ads with their pages by using a transparent background and removing image borders

“The most important thing to remember is that all of these items take dedicated staff time, energy and focus. If you want to improve your site’s rank, you really do need to put in the leg work or pony up the cash for someone else to do it for you. There are no free rides!” concluded Masri.