Twitter Story: Fundraising

I have to admit, I don’t have a story to relate about using Twitter for fundraising. And in fact, the whole issue of social media and fundraising is a bit problematic, to say the least.

A lot of cause-related nonprofits were really excited about the potential of the Facebook causes app – until they realized that, while it’s pretty easy to get people to join/be a fan of your cause, it’s not so easy to actually get them to open their wallets – Facebook causes provide a very weak sense of affiliation.

Blogging is a great way to raise awareness of issues (just Google changeblogging if you don’t believe me), but again, most blogs don’t see enough traffic to generate a lot of cash (and I’m not even talking about fundraising asks here – I’m talking about ads, product placements, and endorsements).

You know what’s still the most effective way to fundraise? Direct mail. You know what’s still the second most effective way to fundraise? Email campaigns. No skool like the old skool.

But some organizations have experienced success using SMS, and that leads us to Twitter. Much like it’s older sibling, Twitter can be a great way to raise microfunds. Now for the average association, microfunds may not be worth it – the funds we need to raise tend to be more in the major donor/capital campaign arena or be related to advocacy work (which comes with a whole range of legal requirements that would be tough to verify in 140 characters), so getting $5 here and $10 there may not seem worth the trouble.

But Twitter provides, as always, another platform to get the word out. Are you going to recruit a major donor through Twitter? Probably not. But you can use it as another method to maintain your relationship with an existing major donor. Can you run a capital campaign entirely on Twitter? Probably not. But you can use it as another way of spreading the word about your campaign and providing campaign updates. Can you do your silent auction 100% on Twitter? Probably not. But you could allow people who aren’t present to bid via tweet. And if you have a compelling story and a connected group, you’d be amazed at what you can accomplish in a short amount of time.

And I haven’t even touched on the concept of Twestivals.

What is your organization doing to get the word out about your fundraising goals? Could Twitter help?

Twitter Story: Marketing

I’m back from my blogcation, and continuing my Twitter tales. This one focuses on using Twitter for marketing.

Three exemplars of what can be done with Twitter to market your organization are:

  1. Dell
  2. Zappos
  3. California Tortilla

All three companies use their Twitter presence for a combination of marketing and customer service/interaction.

California Tortilla provides periodic free giveaways to their Twitter followers – everything from burritos if you say the secret phrase to Twitter-only coupons to periodic swag bags. The main Zappos account is tweeted by CEO Tony Hsieh. He drops in tidbits like “follow the link for FREE LIFETIME VIP CLUB status” (hey, that’s a good offer – and there’s still one day left!) amongst a little personal news and a series of interesting quotes from various famous people. Dell also shares a lot of online only coupons, pre-sales and other deals, in addition to running a CheapTweet store.

OK, you’re probably not going to attract the 1.5 million followers Tony Hsieh has, or the 1.4 million Dell has. But you don’t need to, because you probably don’t have 1.5 million members. California Tortilla has more like 2200 followers, and they’ve done it through word of mouth because of their great deals.

What great deals could you offer? Could you offer a special discount to an upcoming event, or a free preview of a forthcoming publication, or information about a “secret” chat with an expert in your field to your Twitter followers?

What are you doing to market your association and your products and services through Twitter?

Twitter Story: Broadcast

Although social media can facilitate conversations and relationships, it can also be used pretty effectively as a broadcast mechanism, Twitter included.

One of the truisms of association management is that our members don’t pay attention, don’t read what we send them, and often don’t know what’s going on, even when it’s something that *should* be really important to them.

Twitter can provide an additional platform to get the word out.

I’m going to call myself out here. I never seem to know when the ASAE calls for presentations for various conferences open and close. Yes, ASAE sends emails and posts the information to the web site, and yet, somehow, I always seem to miss it (see above re: not paying attention, not reading what they send me, and not knowing what’s going on, even when it’s something that’s important to me). You know when I spot the announcements? When asaecenter tweets them out (i.e., Nov 9th tweet about AM2010 call, which I actually spotted and am currently working on a submission as a result).

Guy Kawasaki is the master of Twitter broadcasting. His use of Twitter is somewhat controversial, but he’s up front about the fact that he uses it as a medium to broadcast his answer to the question: “What’s interesting?” It’s not a conversational mechanism for Guy.

This is not to say that it has to be all one or the other – I would hope by now that it would be clear that Twitter can fulfill a number of functions at once – but could your organization use an additional platform to get the word out about what you’re up to? Could Twitter be useful for that?

Twitter Story: Member Engagement

We all know that the Holy Grail of Associations is member engagement. Engaged members care, participate, evangelize, volunteer, and, most importantly, renew. There are LOTS of ways you can engage your members, and you should do as many as your level of staffing and organizational culture can support, but Twitter can be one of them.

My favorite current example of member engagement through Twitter is the American Academy of Physician Assistants. Rather than having a faceless organizational Twitter account, they’ve chosen to have 3 staff people tweet officially for the association as individuals: AAPALynn, AAPABrooke, and chemonesiacjan.

Twitter is a good platform for AAPA because of the demographics of their members, who trend heavily to GenX and Millennials and work in healthcare, so they’re on mobile devices all day rather than sitting at a computer. And Brooke, Lynn, and Janette certainly use the platform for other functions – broadcast, marketing, etc.

But in a recent conversation, Lynn Morton (AAPALynn) shared with me a few examples of how they’re using Twitter to facilitate actual conversation and connection both between physician assistants and between the PAs and the association. My favorite? A PA student tweeted Lynn in a panic, not knowing what to wear to a critical interview. She re-tweeted it out to everyone who follows her, and the student got some useful advice to help her choose a good interview outfit. Sounds trivial, right? But I’ll bet that PA now feels a deep connection to her association due to what, for her, was extraordinary customer service.

What are you doing to provide extraordinary customer service for your members and other constituents? Could Twitter help you create those magic moments that turn people into evangelists?

Twitter Story: Conferences

I am definitely not the first person – and I’m sure I won’t be the last – to have my Twitter epiphany at a conference. Mine came at Great Ideas 2009.

I seem to have developed a tradition of being a relatively late adopter of social media technologies, and then caving to peer pressure at the Tech Conference. My 2008 cave? Facebook and LinkedIn. My 2009 cave? Twitter. After being pestered to get with it for at least 6 months, I finally did. But I wasn’t quite Getting It until Great Ideas.

“I Get It!” #1 – I gave up on the Twitter interface and installed TweetDeck. If you’re still using the basic Twitter interface to try to manage things, don’t. Get TweetDeck or Hootsuite ASAP. Actually, there are lots of great apps that can help you manage (and have fun with) Twitter. But, if you do NOTHING else, at least upgrade your own user experience.

“I Get It!” #2 – Tweet the main points any speaker is making in any session you attend. Your own tweet history = instant session notes!

“I Get It!” #3 – I was tweeting away during a session given by Lindy Dreyer and Scott Briscoe using my shiny new TweetDeck install and I noticed that I had a new follower – @jeffhurt. And he was @ replying me a question for the presenters. And not only wasn’t he in the room, he wasn’t even at the conference. And I asked it and got an answer for him and @ replied back.

Now I know what you’re thinking: if everyone can get the content through Twitter, no one will come to my conference. Nope. Because they still miss the networking and hallway conversations. As a matter of fact, if *some* of the goodness of your conference gets out on Twitter, it could potentially increase attendance, as more people see what they’re missing.

I know what else you’re thinking: what if people don’t like the speakers and say mean things? And I’ll be honest – that could happen. But we’re back to the standard answer that’s always given to the “what if they say bad things about us?” question: they’re saying it anyway. Wouldn’t you rather know? The real problem with the feedback mechanism is that most presenters (I include myself) lack the ability to pay attention to the crowd in the room, keep the flow of the presentation going, and pay attention to the Twitter stream, which might tell us that we’re missing the mark before it’s too late and the presentation is over and we get back our evaluations weeks later and it turns out, people weren’t getting what they came for and if only we’d known we might have been able to make some adjustments. (Also, most of us save the really catty comments for direct messages 🙂

So how are you using Twitter to make your organization’s meetings better and/or enhance your own experience as an attendee or virtual attendee?

Twitter Story: Advocacy

One answer to the “why” of Twitter: advocacy campaigns.

This past spring, a little issue popped up. You may even have heard something about it. “Health care reform” ring any bells? Sure, we all knew it was on Obama’s agenda, but we didn’t realize it was FIRST on his agenda. We figured he’d be busy settling in and house training Bo for a while, but the man can multi-task. Another concern? Kids and kids’ needs were pretty much being ignored. Seeing as NACHRI is an association of children’s hospitals, you can see how we might be a little worried.

Grassroots campaign to the rescue!

Now normally, in a situation like this, you fire up the ZIP-targeted direct mail for key Congressional districts and blitz people with email action alerts. Only our members are the hospitals. And it’s not like we could start calling up members and asking, “Hey, we know you’re really busy and stuff, but could you possibly send us the names, emails and snail mail addresses for every patient and her/his family you’ve treated in the past 3 years? Kthxbai.”

So how else were we going to reach people? Power of social media, aka Speak Now For Kids.

Twitter has been primarily a broadcast mechanism for the campaign to date. We didn’t have any connection to the grassroots, but there are a lot of medical people, a lot of moms, and a lot of journalists on Twitter. The Speak Now Twitter account has served as a great way for us to bring attention any time a key vote or action is going on. We can’t send you an action alert asking you to contact your representatives, but we can tweet it. It’s also a great way for us to get the word out when new videos, pictures, and written testimonials are posted to the site or to our YouTube channel. It also allows us to share quotable information like the fact that 17,000 kids have died in the past 20 years from lack of health insurance.

Sure, we’ve made some mistakes. First of all, the Twitter handle is probably too long – takes up too many characters in re-tweets and via and @ replies. Early on, we weren’t remembering to include the http:// on our URLs, with the result that they generally weren’t clickable. And we weren’t using URL shorteners to make our tweets easy to share. And we were using #speaknowforkids as the campaign hash tag (that’s been shortened to #hcr). It’s still mostly broadcast rather than conversation. But we’re learning and fixing things as we go. And Twitter had allowed us to reach 2200 people we otherwise wouldn’t have had access to and ask them to raise their voices in support of kids’ health.

How is your organization using social media to support your advocacy efforts?

Forget the “How” – Worry about the “Why”

Leslie White and I did a two hour (well, actually 1:15 after you took out the breaks and the fact that the predecessor session went long) session on Twitter at ASAE’s social media workshop last week. We had planned to talk a little about the mechanics and a lot about what associations are actually doing with Twitter. But we got bogged down in the how – how do I set up an account, how to I protect/unprotect my tweets, how do I use re-tweet, @ messages, via messages, direct messages, URL shorteners, etc. I was not thrilled at the time, and upon reflection, I’m even more dismayed that we got so sidetracked, not least of which because I’m sure a certain percentage of participants were totally bored.

The biggest problem is that, if you lack a solid answer to “why,” no matter how easy the “how” is, it’s too hard. And if you have a good answer to “why,” you’ll figure out the “how.”

When I asked how many participants had Twitter accounts, probably 75% of the room raised their hands. When I asked how many had tweeted within the last month, maybe 25% still had their hands up. When I got to how many had tweeted within the last day or hour, it was pretty much down to just the presenters.

Now why is that? Is it that it’s SOOOOOO hard to go to, compose a 140 character message, and hit “return”? No.

But if you haven’t a good answer to “why am I doing this?” ANY “how do I do it?” is too hard. Because you know what’s easier 100% of the time? Doing nothing. You need a reason to move. And without that, any “how” is too much trouble.

And the thing is, the “how” of Twitter is really, really simple. (And yes, I know I’m techno-friendly, but I’m definitely not a bleeding edge early adopter type. And I’m not a rocket scientist, by any stretch of the imagination. Which means that if I can figure it out, so can you.)

Step 1: Sign up for account.

Step 2: (recommended but not required) Set yourself up one of the management platforms.

Step 3: It’s a cocktail party.

You wouldn’t charge into a party where you don’t know anyone and start making loud declarative statements, would you? (I hope not.) You’d start by listening to what’s happening, getting a feel for the room, and then joining a conversation that sounds interesting. Twitter’s the same way, only online and in 140 character bursts.

Oh – and all those “cool kids” comments? While there are some genuine social media rockstars (and no, I don’t mean Ashton Kucher or Oprah), I’ll tell you the secret to becoming one of the “cool kids” (and I won’t even make you pinkie swear that you won’t tell anyone): get on the social media platforms (blogs, wikis, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.), talk to people, and say interesting things. That’s it. It’s a total meritocracy.

See? Easy how.

So what’s the why? You have to answer that for yourself, but I’m going to try to help you, by relating some stories of ways I’ve used – or seen others using – Twitter to engage people and benefit their associations over the next few weeks.