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NFP Social Media League Table

From the old blog.

Earlier this month, research consultancy NFP Synergy, published a social media league table for UK charities. This league table measures social media presence – the number of likes a charity has on Facebook, subscribers on YouTube, followers on Twitter and so on. You can download the report for free from the NFP Synergy website.

Of course, mere presence and even follower numbers, are far from being the only indicators of social media success. For some organisations, a small but loyal fanbase, keen to donate, volunteer or take other actions on behalf of the charity may be much more beneficial. As the researchers say, ‘It is not an easy thing to measure the social media engagement of an organisation, and even more difficult to compare it to that of another organisation.’

That said, there are some interesting findings here. Charities, it seems, may be quicker than businesses to adopt and use social media. According to the researchers:

When the top 25 fundraising charities are compared with the top 25 FTSE companies by market capitalisation, charities are far ahead in terms of use of social media, with three times as many YouTube subscribers, eight times as many Twitter followers and ten times as many Facebook ‘likes’ on average.

Out of the top fifty fundraising charities, the Royal British Legion tops the social media league table. On their website, they have a Legion Interactive page which details ‘ways you can participate in online activities associated with the Legion or show your support in this digital age’. There’s also a separate website which brings all their online community-building work together.  Interestingly, they’ve set up their Twitter account as a character named Poppy who acts as their official voice, rather than using the name of the charity or one of its staff members. It’s also interesting to see that while Poppy has almost 5,000 followers - people who think her updates are worth subscribing to – she’s only followed back less than a thousand.

There’s also a section in the report on those not-for-profits who don’t make the fundraising top 50 list, but who still have a high level of presence on social media: organisations such as the V&A MuseumBeatbullying Bullying UK and Greenpeace. The great thing about social media is that it does let charities with less fundraising income - and smaller businesses for that matter – punch above their weight. Indeed, it’s often those that manage to be nimble and responsive to their followers, rather than those with excessive set up and sign off processes which can make the most of these new media channels.

For anyone who wants to know how UK charities are using Facebook and Twitter, YouTube and blogs in 2011, the NFP Synergy report is definitely worth a look. I’d love to hear what others thought of the results. Were they as expected? Any suprises? Feel free to leave me a comment below.

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M&S Foursquare Promotion

Saturday the 16th of April, or to use the American date format 04/16, was Foursquare Day. I only discovered this because of another promotion. Over the weekend of 16-17 April, UK retailer, M&S, were promising to donate £1 to Breakthrough Breast Cancer for every Foursquare user who checked into one of their stores. According to their site, there was also a £5 off voucher for the first 25,000 people to check in.

So there I was, bright and early on Saturday morning, needing to buy some brown rice for the new baby weaning project. I could’ve gone to Sainsbury’s or Tesco Express, but the breast cancer promotion meant that I wanted to check in at M&S sometime that day and I figured I might as well do my grocery shopping at the same time.

M&S check in

I’ve tried to use my mobile inside the Merton High Street M&S before, but there’s been no signal – which would’ve made checking in on Foursquare fairly difficult. So, before I went in to the actual store, I located the venue on Foursquare, added a comment as you can see here, took a photo of the sign on the side of the building to prove where I was, and virtually checked in.

At this point, a security guard came up to me and asked why I was taking photos of the store. This is apparently not allowed. This is kind of a shame in the world of social media, but I figured I better play by the rules and when I got home, I looked up how to delete the photo from my history and thus from the store’s page on Foursquare.

Anyway, having checked in, I got a notification that I’d just earned the Foursquare Day badge. Not what I was there for, but nice nonetheless and something to share with the three million or so other users who checked in somewhere that day (according to this tweet). I still haven’t heard anything about my £5 voucher, either via Foursquare or by email – and when I read the promotional copy again, I’m not sure whether I was supposed to spend £30 on clothing on the day I checked in to receive the discount. I’m not particularly bothered about this, though I guess other people checking in may have been, so it’d be good to hear if anyone else has actually received a voucher code.

I just hope that my check-in did earn Breakthrough Breast Cancer a £1 donation from M&S – because that’s an interesting corporate use of social media for a great cause. There are clear benefits here to b0th the charity and the business, and as location-based services such as Foursquare become more popular, I can only wonder if it’s a fundraising model that will be increasingly used in the future.

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Greenpeace vs. Facebook

On Beth Kanter’s blog this week, there’s a sneak peek into new Idealware research on how not-for-profits are using their Facebook fan pages. For those working in the charity sector – and perhaps for anyone familiar with Facebook – these initial results won’t be that surprising. Charities, it seems, are finding Facebook fanpages useful for increasing event attendance, driving traffic to their websites and encouraging online action (such as signing petitions), but having less success with using their Facebook presence to attract donations or volunteers.

Kyle Andrei from Idealware writes:

…more than 65% said that they’d had some success with moving people to take some form of action for a cause, like signing petitions or other advocacy actions. Online petitions and other political or advocacy actions are easy to do, demand little time, and are easily spread through Facebook and other social media.

A good recent example comes from Greenpeace. Greenpeace seem to just get online campaigning. Back in the middle of the last decade, they launched the Green My Apple campaign, drawing in Apple’s own loyal fan base to pressure the organisation into upping the green credentials of their products.

This year, for Earth Day, they’re asking Facebook to ‘unfriend coal’ and instead use clean energy sources. The campaign’s been run on Facebook itself. There’s a fanpage with a slick 30 second video introducing the campaign’s key message, and a welcome screen in a number of different languages. There’s a date target of April 22. There are regular campaign updates and fans are encouraged to add their comments.

I took the screenshot below this morning (14 April 2011). At that time, this post had 81,007 comments.

Unfriend coal

What’s Greenpeace doing right here?

There are presumably thousands of IT companies who are not using clean energy. They’ve picked the one with 600 million users. These are people who use Facebook, which means, whether or not they’re interested in the deeper issues of climate change, they’re on the platform already. These are people who get how Facebook works, who can leave comments or upload photos and who are spreading the word virally amongst their friends.

Greenpeace recently asked fans to help them set the world record attempt for the most comments on a single post – and achieved the goal within 24 hours. After all, it doesn’t take a lot of effort for a fan to leave a comment. It’s going to take far less time than volunteering for the cause. It’s doesn’t require the financial commitment of making a donation. And it’s exciting as well, to be part of a global movement like this, to say that your comment was one of over 80,000.

For those fans who are interested in learning more about the cause, there’s also a non-Facebook microsite. Interestingly, the blog post there, Greenpeace supporters set world record for most Facebook comments, has – as of when I’m writing this – no comments. Again this is proof that, in many cases, it’s better to take your organisation to your fans rather than asking your fans to come to your organisation.

With just over a week to go before Earth Day, it will be interesting to see how this campaign develops, and whether there will be any official response from Facebook. For now, it’s an interesting case study on how Facebook fanpages can motivate supporters to take the low-level actions highlighted in the Idealware research.

I’ve liked it.

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Running a competition on Facebook

From the old blog.

Competition entry formOver the past couple of days, I’ve been reading up on running competitions on Facebook. This new interest was prompted by a single sentence in a blog post by Leyl Master Black called Top 5 Facebook Marketing Mistakes Small Businesses Make. Leyl’s post is useful reading in general, but what caught my attention was under the section on Violating Facebook’s Terms:

What are the most common violations? Some build a community on a personal page instead of a proper Facebook Page. Others fail to abide by Facebook’s rules around running contests. Read more.

So what are Facebook’s rules around running contests? I’ve promoted contests on Facebook in the past, but haven’t run one. I’ve also entered competitions on Facebook in the past – liking pages, leaving comments – but haven’t won one.

The official Facebook promotion guidelines seem to be located somewhere in the help section of their site, but I have to admit, it was much faster to find them through Google. There’s quite a lot in there, but basically the main rule is: don’t use any of Facebook’s features to run a competition on Facebook. It’s okay to limit competition entry to fans of a certain page, but you can’t ask them to enter by commenting on your wall, uploading a photo to your page, giving a thumbs up to a particular status update or anything like that. You also can’t pick a random fan to win a prize, or contact the winners via Facebook’s messaging service.

To run a competition on Facebook, it seems, you need to need to use a third party application – something that hasn’t been created by Facebook – to collect entries and the entrant’s personal data. There are applications which have been created to run competitions for you (a list can be found on the Social Media Examiner blog post on this subject). Alternatively, you could commission an agency to create a bespoke competition application which can live on one of the tabs of your page.

When people can upload photos and videos and add comments so easily on Facebook, it does seem fairly frustrating that they can’t use those features to enter your organisation’s competition. However, Facebook’s just a platform, and I guess legally they may need to distance themselves from how marketers use it. And of course, you don’t need to run your competition on Facebook at all. You could use your page or even a Facebook advertising campaign to link through to a competition that you’re running on your own site or elsewhere on the web, as long as you don’t violate any other aspect of Facebook’s terms of use.

As I look down my Facebook news feed, I’m constantly being asked to comment or like something to win the next great prize – holidays, iPads and so on - so it seems that a lot of organisations aren’t yet aware of these regulations. However, as the rules from Facebook say “we may remove any materials relating to the promotion or disable your Page, application or account if we determine in our sole discretion that you violate any of our policies”, it does seem that they are running a risk.

Competition entry form image courtesy of

Note: The Facebook promotion guidelines were updated  slightly on May 11, 2011. See this Social Speak Blog post for analysis of the most recent changes.

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Deleting social media channels

Earlier this week, I Googled myself. It’s been quite a while since I’ve done that, and I was surprised to see how the various social media channels I’ve created over the last five years had crept up the results list. Channels that I set up to promote my newly published novel back in 2007. Channels that I originally used to create groups for various organisations that I’ve worked or volunteered for. Channels that I no longer update; the ones where I’ve been ignoring the ‘new comment’ and ‘new friend request’ emails. There they all were on Google, looking abandoned and unloved.

In the world of social media, having an abandoned or unloved channel is often worse than having no channel at all. The content quickly goes out of date. Followers drift away or become frustrated when they get no response. Given that I didn’t want to start updating them all again – I’m sticking to this blog, and my main profiles on Facebook and Twitter for now – I decided they had to go.

Farewell message from Twitter

Try to delete a social media profile, and you get a lot of ‘Are you sure?’ screens and the occasional begging email. They’ll ask if they’ve offended you, tout their privacy settings, try and convince you that you’ll be really missing out if you hit that final delete button. However, I’ve been strong. My accounts on Bebo and MySpace are scheduled for deletion. I’m no longer in their target audience – if I ever was. That extra twitter profile I set up for a #4change chat, the one that ranked higher in Google than my official profile, that’s gone too.

I probably should have done this years ago. It would’ve definitely be easier to do so. Wait to delete a channel that you’re no longer using, and the ‘last updated in 2007′ messages aren’t your only problem. I’d registered with email addresses I no longer had access to and ones that no longer existed. I’d forgotten my passwords. Twitter had temporarily suspended my account settings. In short, it was way more difficult than it needed to be.

The lesson here: delete your social media profiles as soon as you’re sure you’re done with them. They’re probably not helping you or your organisation by being inactive, so let your friends or followers know if you’ve gone somewhere new, and then shut them down. I’ve Googled myself again today, and some of the old profiles are still there, but I’m hoping they’ll disappear over the next week or two.

In the meantime, I’ll be trying to update this blog more frequently with my thoughts on all things online. Feel free to leave a comment if you’ve got any questions or want to share your own experience about trying to delete a social media channel.

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Starting a new social media channel

From the old blog.

Social media bandwagonI’ve recently started a new job, and along with the new colleagues to get to know, the new computer systems and the new tea rules, I’ve also got the opportunity to start up a new social network. It occurs to me that this is a rare privilege. Too often, it’ll be a matter of taking over a Twitter profile or Facebook fan page that someone else has started. Or, even if you have set something up yourself, once a year or two has passed, it’s all too easy to get into the habit of doing what you’ve always done: interacting with your fans or followers in a certain way, writing the same sort of posts, and so on.

The fresh start has allowed me to consider the challenges of social media with fresh eyes, to plan and prepare before I begin. In doing so, I’ve jotted down some questions which may be helpful to others in a similar situation – whether they’re starting a new channel or reviewing something established.

1. What do you want to say (and perhaps, do you have anything to say)?

While I don’t believe in scripting every tweet or having every blog update scheduled and approved months in advance, it can be worth having some sort of content plan. What are the themes you’ll be covering on your channel? Is it for your entire life (if you’re a person) or your entire organisation (if you’re setting up the channel on behalf of one of those), or for a particular interest or project? In the early days, it may help to plan out what kind of updates you’ll want to post and how regularly, and put these dates into a calendar as reminders.

2. Who is your audience?

Once you’ve decided what you want to say, it’s worth working out who (if anyone) wants to hear it. It’s all well and good tweeting your thoughts about what you had for breakfast into the internet void on a personal account, but if you’re doing this as a job, there are likely to be things like targets or KPIs for user interaction (and if there aren’t it might be worth nominating some – see point 5 below). So, who do you want to reach? Are they end-users of your product or service, or other organisations in your field? How old are they? How computer literate? How often do they get online – and when they do, what sites do they go to first?

3. How can you reach them?

One thing I’ve learnt over the past ten years is that, in most cases, it’s far easier to go where your audience are than to get them to come to you. So, thinking about the previous question, how do your audience behave online? Are they on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr? Are they asking questions on Yahoo! Answers? Do they belong to a particular online community? Sometimes it may be easy enough to set up your own profile in these spaces to interact with other users, but in other cases, you may need to get permission from a community moderator or website owner before you make your first post.

If you’re still keen to set up a blog or community on your own website – and there are lots of good reasons to do so – then it’s still worth doing research into how best to reach your audience. Do you see your potential audience members commenting on other blogs? If so, it’s worth noting what sort of posts they feel motivated to comment on, the regularity of the postings, etc. And of course, it’s worth remembering that for a lot of people the internet is still all about email, so building up a list and sending monthly updates remains a perfectly valid way of spreading a message and driving traffic to your website.

4. Who’s going to do the updates?

People say social media is great because it’s free. Technically, in many cases, this is true. However, it doesn’t account for the huge amount of staff time that needs to be spent to set up and maintain a channel. Social media is about conversation. If you go quiet, you’ll be ignored. So, who’s going to do your updates? And who’s going to do your updates when that person is on leave? And who’ll be the person who can provide sign-off on anything controversial or out of the ordinary? Because that’s another side-effect of having a conversation – you’re never 100% sure about what that other person might say.

5. What does success look like?

For some, the opportunity to broadcast a message will be enough. For others, the end goal will be the online conversation itself. There definitely is some reward in being part of a community, in being generous and interacting with your fans and followers, learning from their updates as you shape your own, passing on their messages, leaving comments on their blogs, following them back.

However, for most, there will be some form of measurable action that you want your friends or followers to undertake. This may be visiting your website, signing an online petition, volunteering or donating to your cause, registering for an event or a myriad other options. It is this conversion from conversation to action that, for me, indicates real social media success. It’s what can be monitored as you go along and, through regularly reviewing the answers to the earlier questions, what you can aim to improve.

There’s a real excitement in new beginnings, but what I guess I’m realising anew is that it doesn’t have to end there. I’m looking forward to seeing how this project grows.

Image courtesy of Matt Hamm.  Used under Creative Commons licence.

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Reflections on the #moonwalk

Originally written for the YouthNet blog

Last Friday, after work, a group of us from YouthNet walked down to Liverpool Street station for a twitter-organised moonwalk in memory of Michael Jackson. Given the instantaneous nature of the Internet, I’m almost too late to blog about the event itself. All over the web, you can read about how a tweeted idea became an exercise in mass participation, involving the police and Network Rail, announcements over the loud speakers at the station, and thousands of people bobbing up and down to Jackson classics. There are plenty of photos on Flickr, videos on YouTube, and a twitter stream using the #moonwalk hashtag where you can see how it all came together.

However, what’s more interesting, from my point of view, is the questions it raises for charity marketers, campaigners, press people and others who spread the word about a cause. It’s too easy for social media campaigns to fail – despite the best planning and the most inspiring causes – because they just don’t catch on. For all that we may believe that re-tweeting a message about one of our causes doesn’t take much effort, I’m beginning to wonder if it actually does. People have to be logged into Twitter to see the message in the first place, they have to pick it out of all the other tweets they’re receiving, they have to understand it, engage with it, and choose to pass it on. And that’s only one social networking tool.

It’s also easy to be impressed that the event went from concept to implementation in one day. And while the moonwalk wasn’t actually held in Liverpool Street Station in the end, and while there wasn’t actually room for much moonwalking in such a large crowd, the fact that it happened at all is testament to the power of social media to turn buzz into action. As charities, do we have the ability to be this spontaneous? If the mood of the public was to turn in the direction of our cause on a particular day, would we be able and ready to react? And, would it be appropriate for us to do so?

Finally, when you’re pressed up against people, it’s easy to overhear their conversations. A woman behind me was asked why she was there. “I’m actually more a fan of Twitter than Michael Jackson”, she said. And while, like many children of the 80s, I did bop around my room to Billie Jean, the same applied to me. What we had then was a crowd of people who used Twitter or who know people who used Twitter or read reports of people who used Twitter. While there were some real fans, I’d guess that a significant amount of people had come along to see what was happening and be part of it. If we were going to organise a charity event via social media, would that matter? Raising awareness is a goal in itself sometimes, but if some people are ‘there for the sake of being there’, is that enough?

Would be great to hear your thoughts.

First published on the YouthNet blog

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Who will organise the data?

Originally written for the YouthNet blog.

Earlier this afternoon, I attempted to clean out my inbox. I didn’t get very far. Old newsletters could be deleted easily; so could old invitations to events, sales emails, and spam. However, I found myself distracted by an emailed link to this half-forgotten YouTube video, entitled The Machine is Us/ing Us.

The video is from 2007, and of course, the internet has moved on over the past two years. However, I was struck by the continued relevance of a question which appears three minutes and one second into the animation: ‘Who will organise all this data?’ And the answers, ‘We will… You will.’

Last week, I was invited to get involved in a Twitter chat about using social media for social change (using the ‘#4Change’ hash tag). While I’ve been using Twitter since mid-2008, this was the first time I’ve participated in an organised, on-Twitter event – and another opportunity to reflect on this ‘who will organise all this data?’ question.

Earlier in the year, I went to Twestival, and in a crowded, dark and noisy warehouse in London, I commented to a fellow attendee that it was so much easier to find people on the internet. Back then, in the distant days of February, I was talking about finding them via Google or perhaps through using the Technorati blog index. I meant by searching for people or organisations based on the words they’d used on their websites or other online content. I still do that.

But, increasingly, Twitter itself is becoming one of my major communication tools. It’s often where I hear breaking news – both on the world stage and in the lives of my contacts. It’s where I can ask questions, get advice. However, with millions of people now twittering, and even with only 200 of those people on my personal follow list, it’s often a case of too many people speaking at once. To make sense of it all, I’ve found that I need start categorising my contacts, using tools like TweetDeck. There’s my ‘all friends’ list; then there’s those I talk to on a day-to-day basis. There’s another column for direct messages, one where I can monitor updates relevant to work, and so on. Often it’s just as important to say, ‘What can I ignore, what’s not important for me to know right now?’

The #4Change hash tag is another way of organising/filtering information – a way of bringing together information on a particular topic: in this case, information how people worldwide are using social media for social change. However, it’s not just the # that makes things happen. It’s also us. It’s Tom Dawkins from Ashoka, who had the idea, defined the hash tag, recruited regional organisers. It was setting a time when people worldwide could join in (even if this was between 10pm and midnight here in the UK!) It was sending @ messages to particular contacts, in the hope that it would make the tweet about the chat stand out amongst all the other tweets they received – and the excitement of, later in the day, seeing some of those people join in the discussion.

Twitter is another social media tool. It might be the next Facebook, it might never really catch on. That’s not important. What seems increasingly important though is how we individually make sense of the data we receive, how we filter this information, what we chose to trust and why.  As representatives of charities and other not-for-profit organisations, we also may need to consider how we can reach out through this barrage of information to raise awareness and support for our cause. It’s something that I’m sure will continue to be discussed in future #4Change chats.

For now though, it’s back to my email sorting. Who will organise all this data? Much as I sometimes wish I could give others the responsibility of adding ‘okay to delete’ tags to my inbox, that’s just not practical. So, who will organise all this data?

In this case, I will.


First published on the YouthNet blog

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