Nonprofits Need Marketing, Too

You may have seen an article I shared recently from the New York Times on my Facebook page explaining that nonprofits need marketing just like any other business. It’s so true! As I thought about this article a bit more, a recent example came to mind that I thought I’d share with you.

As a marketer, I work with a wide variety of organizations. Many of them are for-profit businesses with the goal of increasing sales or brand recognition. I also have several nonprofit clients as well. I find it incredibly rewarding to be working with an organization whose mission I am fully supportive of and whose work betters our communities. It’s even more rewarding to give them huge wins on social media that don’t end up costing a fortune. (Actually, successful content marketing typically doesn’t have as large of a price tag as most of us might imagine!)

An example of a recent success for one of my nonprofits starts with the screen shot below:

Facebook Video Stats

These insights are from a 48 second video I created in less than 20 minutes using Lumen5. The video was very simple with images, background music and overlaid text that told the story of this particular nonprofit’s cause. I’m not going to discuss the actual nonprofit itself as that really isn’t relevant (and goes against my general rule of not discussing my clients with others). As you can see though from this screenshot, the stats were pretty impressive for a nonprofit in a community of less than 20,000 people.

I also didn’t put any promotional dollars behind this video. No boost, no ad, just a post on a business Facebook page. Clearly, this video really resonated with the local audience! This screenshot shows 265 shares but I recently checked and we’re well over 315 now–and counting.

I have to admit, my mind was blown by this as well. But when you really think about it, the video was clear, concise and extremely relevant to the nonprofit’s audience. It struck a chord, illustrated the importance of their cause and made people pay attention to a huge community issue.

This video is by far the most widely shared piece of content on that page to date, and it cost next to nothing to make. Lumen5 (at least for now) provides free images, music and video content along with a free platform you can use to create polished videos. Remember, the post also wasn’t boosted (though I later created a separate Facebook ad from it, not reflected in the stats above). So the only cost was my time spent creating the video–which was already included in the annual marketing package I set up for the organization.

If you take one thing away from this post, I hope it is that your nonprofit needs to be actively marketing itself. You as a director or manager can be in charge of this or you can place a trusted staff member in charge. And yes, you do have the option of outsourcing your marketing efforts to a trusted consultant. Whichever route you choose, please make sure to invest some time and a bit of funding into marketing for your nonprofit.

Your organization and your cause are worth it!

Hashtags on Pinterest

Hashtag

I must admit, I’ve been neglecting my business Pinterest boards a bit lately (oops!). However, I logged on for a moment this morning to pin a really interesting infographic about social media posting times from CoSchedule that I happened upon as I was sipping my morning coffee. As I was creating a caption and giving props to CoSchedule for their work, I ended with a couple of hashtags as I typically do with my pins, and suddenly: a pop up!

And I’m not talking about one of those annoying, fill-the-entire-screen, can’t-find-the-little-x-button pop ups either. This was a very exciting pop up! Take a look:

 

Pinterest Hashtags

Hashtags on Pinterest!

 

You’ll notice that red arrow pointing to a list of hashtag suggestions along with the numbers of pins containing each hashtag. Amazing, right? I can’t wait to dig in a little deeper, but here’s the quick version of why you should care if you’re on Pinterest for business: Hashtags let you get discovered more easily when people (prospects!) are searching for your product or service.

Choose the right hashtags, get in front of the right people (aka ‘target audience’).

Do you use Pinterest for business? Does this new feature brighten up your day like it did with mine?

Negative Feedback on Facebook for Business

This is something that’s been on my mind for awhile and is taking shape as an informational blog post. Picture this:

You’re scrolling along through your Facebook newsfeed. You’ve had one of those annoyingly frustrating days at the office and just aren’t in the best mood. As such, you decide that a post from one of the business pages you follow just isn’t something you want to read at that moment. So, you simply hit ‘hide post’ or ‘hide all from {Page Name}.’ No big deal, right?

Actually, it is.

Anytime you choose to hide a post or hide all posts (unfollow) a business page, you’re negatively impacting that page. If you ‘unlike’ a page or mark something as spam (yes, even accidentally) you’re also hurting that page. In fact, it’s been estimated that negative feedback like this outranks positive feedback (such as a comment or share) on Facebook by 100 to 1. That’s huge!

That being said, I know there are lots of pages out there that publish content that sucks, to be blunt. So I can understand unliking or unfollowing a page if you find out their content is not what you thought it was. There are legitimate reasons to provide negative feedback to a page.

Sometimes pages get negative feedback because they ‘earned’ it with irrelevant posts and sometimes, someone just doesn’t realize that hiding posts hurts a page’s future organic reach (and more). With that being said, here are some alternatives:

  • Don’t accept invites to like pages if you really aren’t interested in that page at all. It’s okay to ignore those invites!
  • If you see a post in your feed that you’ve seen before, simply scroll by it.
  • If there’s a post you think is irrelevant , you’ve seen too many times, or could provide constructive criticism on, send a private message to the page.
  • When you comment on a post and then get bombarded by notifications, simply turn off the notifications for that one post rather than unfollowing it.

I’m not saying there aren’t perfectly appropriate times to unlike or unfollow, but I’m sending this out there as more of a public service announcement. In my experience, many people just don’t realize the negative impact these actions have for businesses on Facebook.

Did you know about Facebook’s point system for positive and negative feedback for business pages?

You Should Post Less Often on Social Media

Social Media Overwhelm

Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?

There’s no doubt that using social media for your business is a good idea but between the various algorithms and the sheer amount of content people and businesses are pushing out every single minute, I think it’s safe to say we all are experiencing a bit of content overload.

I typically offer a Facebook posting package for my clients with 2-3 posts per week. Yes, you read that right–per week, not per day. There’s such a case for content overload that I don’t believe they should have to pay me to come up with daily posts that end up getting lost in the jungle of algorithms.

When I handle social media for my clients we stick to fewer posts and really try to make them relevant to our intended audience. Depending on the business’ goals, we’re on social media to grow a community and increase brand awareness. We want to be providing content that’s valuable in some way, shape or form to our target market. In my business, I don’t believe that includes bombarding them with several posts per day.

In fact, there are other social media marketers out there who definitely agree. Inc. published an article about two major ideas in social media that made me sit there and nod along as I read it. (Okay, maybe I cheered a bit too..) In today’s world it seems that a fairly large segment of marketing agencies preach about posting more often and repeating the same content over and over again.

While the second half of that plan does have some value (note: some, but that’s another blog post), I have not been totally on board with the high amount of posts many marketers have been recommending. Granted, I may not have as much experience as some but I do believe in quality and respecting my clients’ time and budget constraints.

So what does this mean for your business?

You can breathe a sigh of relief! Instead of worrying about how in the world you’re going to find something to post to your business’ Facebook page multiple times per day, you can relax your posting schedule a bit.

I recommend starting with two posts per week, or even one if you are just starting out on social media. As you start to get the hang of posting and navigating social media for business, you will start to see that finding and posting valuable content is not so difficult. Then, depending on your schedule and your business goals, you can ramp up to three posts or more per week.

What do you think? Is posting less often a good idea or do you disagree? I’d love to read your comments!

Images for Business

I recently attended a morning session of Social Media Breakfast that got me thinking about images for business use. There are so many legal implications if you use a photo or graphic that you didn’t create (and don’t have permission to use) and this presentation gave some examples, not least of which included lawsuits against businesses.

I found it especially interesting that many attendees depend on Google images for any photos or graphics they might need for social media. A quick query using your favorite search engine will no doubt turn up thousands of fantastic images, but they aren’t necessarily okay for you to use.

When pondering the idea of how to use images legally and appropriately on social media sites or for blogs, some people suggest just taking your own photos to be safe. This is a fantastic idea that eliminates many potential issues…except it also poses problems of its own. What if you don’t have time to create perfectly posed, quality photos? What if you’re a travel blogger writing about tropical beaches and you need a photo of palm trees, ocean waves or sandy seashores…and you live in Minnesota? (And it’s March, when you look out your window and see snow or brown grass.) Or maybe your photography skills are just terrible (hey, it happens).

What then?

There are a few sites out there that allow you to subscribe or purchase images and grant you a sort of license to use them. There are also completely free sites you can use! While I’m no expert on copyright laws, I do know I sometimes just need a photo that I have permission to use and doesn’t require me to have to mess with fees. As a fellow business owner, blogger or person interested in the exciting topic of legalities of using other peoples’ images, I thought you might appreciate having a few resources to tap into the next time you need an image for your marketing efforts.

First, a disclaimer though. You need to read through and understand the licensing rights (or lack thereof) on each of these websites before using the images provided to you. I’m not advising you on anything legal (or otherwise) or telling you anything other than that these sites exist.

So, take a look through them now and do your homework on the licensing rights. That way, you’ll already know how you can or can’t use the images from these websites.

Happy image searching!

Are You Using LinkedIn? (Updated)

This is an updated post. Read the original blog. 

When it comes to LinkedIn, are you using it? And no, I’m not simply asking if you have a profile. Or if you’ve added any connections in the last year.

I’m wondering if you’ve followed up after connecting with anyone: have you commented on any articles or sent a private message to a connection? Even more daring–have you published any articles?

LinkedIn now has more than 500 million users, according to Fortune. That’s a lot of people that could potentially read your article! With regard to the number of user profiles on LinkedIn, relatively few users are actively utilizing it. This is definitely an advantage for you, or anyone considering posting a few articles. Just think of the connections you have currently: you could engage many of them with just a quick post about your business or other helpful information.

Need some help brainstorming? Start by thinking about some common questions your clients come to you with. Take one of those frequently asked questions and expand on it a bit. LinkedIn articles don’t need to be lengthy–in fact, short and to the point can be a really good thing! By using LinkedIn’s Publisher feature, you have the ability to educate potential clients about your business and your brand. Plus, if you consistently post you’ll start to position yourself as an authority in your industry.

What are you waiting for? Start writing, and make sure to post a link in the comment section below so I can read it!

One (Completely Free) Way to Increase Your Facebook Page’s Exposure

One way for Facebook

We’ve all heard it before: Facebook is now pay-to-play. While that is for the most part true,  there are still a few things you can do to help increase your business Facebook page’s exposure.

As you can tell by the title of this post, I’m going to focus in on just one of those things today. This one thing, if you keep it up, will help get your business’ name out in front of other businesses. Here it is, here’s the big tip:

Make sure you’re ‘liking’ other business pages as your page.

It’s quite simple, really. You’ve ‘liked’ business pages with your personal profile and this is the same concept. If you take a moment to ‘like’ pages that you’re interested in, have done business with or want to do business with, that’s a win-win for everyone. You provide that page with an additional follower and in turn they provide you with (hopefully) useful content to populate your page’s newsfeed.

Want to know how? Follow the screen shots below:

Facebook Business

Step 1: Head to your business page and click ‘See Pages Feed’ on the right hand side.

Facebook Business

Step 2: Click on ‘Like Other Pages’ Button

Facebook Business

Step 3: Search for the page you want to ‘like’

Facebook Business

Step 4: Click ‘Save’ button

That’s it! It’s as simple as these four steps. Now, go ahead and repeat for any other business pages you’d like to see in your business newsfeed. The more, the merrier!

Copy & Paste Social Media: Bad for Business?

Social Media

As I was sitting at my desk this morning, sipping my coffee and scrolling through my LinkedIn feed, I came across a familiar post–a very familiar post. I’m not talking about a sense of deja vu either, folks. I’m talking about an identical, word-for-word carbon copy of a post from an insurance agent that I’ve seen on at least 10 other agents’ pages in the last month alone.

The funny thing is, these posts were meant to describe a recent award received by each person’s specific agency. Odd that multiple agencies owned by different people decided to write the same exact social media post, yes?

My question is, Why are they bothering to post this at all? 

I get it, using social media effectively for an insurance agency is hard. There are compliance issues along with state and federal regulations to contend with. More than likely, the insurance company (or companies) you sell for have their own brand standards that dictate what you can and cannot say about your award.

But think about this for a moment. LinkedIn is a place to connect with other business professionals, right? As an insurance agent, if you’re doing your job and connecting with others on LinkedIn and offline, you’ll have built up a decent network. Within this network, your connections have other connections, who have additional connections, and so on. Do you really think that your agency is the only one they’re connected with on social media? No, that is unrealistic. Why, then, would you choose to copy and paste a generic status update about an award (or anything, for that matter) that you know every other agent with your company has also posted?

By all means, share with your connections that your agency has been recognized. But do it in a way that is different than every other agent out there. Explain the recognition in your own words. Include a picture of your staff members who played an integral part in helping you win the award. Differentiating yourself through your social media post announcement, even though you won the same award as several other agencies, will catch more attention than an exact replica of a photo-less, text-only status update getting recycled on LinkedIn.

Social media and insurance agencies can be a tough mix, but there are ways to be successful with it. For starters, quell the urge to just ‘copy and paste’ your status updates. Your agency will benefit from it!

Local Networking Opportunities

I sometimes hear people comment on a perceived lack of networking events or ways to expand their business locally (in or near Willmar, Minnesota). While we aren’t quite a bustling metropolis like Minneapolis or St. Paul, there are plenty of networking opportunities within our community for businesses to take advantage of.

It can be somewhat difficult to find information on networking events, especially if you’re not very familiar with the community. In light of this, I thought I’d compile a list (which is by no means all-inclusive!) of regular events happening within Willmar and the surrounding areas:

Chamber Connections

The Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce coordinates Chamber Connections just about every Friday morning. Bring $1 and your business card and meet at a local business each Friday at 7:30am. You’ll learn about that business, drink some coffee and you’ll have a chance to network with upwards of 40 (we’ve maxed out so far at 153!) other business professionals. You’ll also have a chance to introduce yourself and your business each time.

Business Network International (BNI)

BNI is a referral group, filled with business people who intentionally help each other grow their businesses through referrals. They are always looking for visitors, and you’ll be able to check out each of the three Willmar chapters twice. Some visitors have been known to receive qualified referrals, but at the very least it’s a great way to introduce yourself and your business to others in the community.

Polka Dot Powerhouse (PDP)

Don’t let the name throw you on this one. This dynamic group for women is all about building relationships and empowering others to succeed. Building relationships is one of the best ways to create business and expand brand recognition, and while referrals are not the main goal of this group business most certainly happens. In fact, I don’t know that I would have been able to make the leap and take my business full time without many of the connections I made through PDP.

1 Million Cups

This networking event happens each and every Wednesday morning at 8:30 in downtown Willmar and focuses on the entrepreneurial spirit. Here you’ll meet business people, entrepreneurs, retired business people and even some of our local high school students. Entrepreneurs present their business and invite the audience to ask questions or offer advice. St. Paul is the only other chapter in the state of Minnesota, so Willmar is rather fortunate to have this.

As I said, this is only a partial list of the networking events offered here in Willmar. There are many, many more ways to meet business people and grow your business. These four earned an honorable mention since they offer up relatively easy–and highly effective–ways to get out and meet other business people and expand your business’ name recognition.

Happy networking!

Make 2017 the Year You Get Serious About Networking

Oh yes, I said it.

Networking.

It’s not as bad as it first sounds. In fact, it’s good for you to get a little uncomfortable; it means you’re growing.

You’ve tried it all, right? Blogging, social media, newspaper and radio ads. But you’re still not getting as many new clients as you’d like. If you’ve been wondering how to reach new prospects and earn more clients, but you’re not sure what else to try: networking may be the answer. One word of caution before we dive in too deep though…building your network takes time. And it takes even more time to see results. Stick with me a minute and we’ll talk about why that’s a good thing!

It may help you to think of networking as just getting to know people, because that’s exactly what it is. (Doesn’t sound as intimidating when you phrase it that way, now does it!) People generally don’t do business with you unless they know you, or their friend or family member referred them to you. Getting to know someone is all part of relationship building, which takes time. Eventually you build up a bit of trust with new connections; this takes even more time. The good news is that building relationships leads to creating trust, which will lead to business–over time. People who know you, like you and trust you will want to do business with you. They are also much more likely to refer their network to you once they feel they know you.

I know many people are intimidated by the entire concept of walking into a room full of people, especially a room full of strangers. If you’re one of those people, take a minute to brush up on a few tips to help you get the most out of networking.

First, realize you’re not attending a networking event to sell something. That may sound backwards to you right now but the point is you cannot immediately launch into your sales pitch at these events. If you do, you will turn people off and they won’t give you the chance to get to know them, let alone earn their business.

The next step is to locate an event that you will feel reasonably comfortable attending. By reasonable I mean you won’t be standing in the corner trying to disappear because you’re in a roomful of 500 people. If you hate large crowds, choose an event with limited seating and a more structured agenda so you have a better idea of what to expect during the time you’re there.

It will help you to prepare beforehand, so take a few minutes the night before to research the event. What kinds of people will be attending? Is it a business casual lunch or a more informal happy hour social? Dress accordingly and make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to get to the event. This should go without saying but do make sure you have plenty of business cards on you.

As you attend the event remember that you’re there to meet new people, so don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation. There will be other people there that are new and quite possibly as uncomfortable as you are; go talk to them! Ask for that person’s business card so you can begin building up your new network. You may know someone who needs the product or service your new connection provides, and they may know someone who could benefit from working with you and your business.

After the event, don’t just toss the business cards you collected into a pile to be forgotten. Look up the people you met on LinkedIn and send them a personalized connection request. Consider entering their contact information into a spreadsheet or another digital format you’re comfortable with. That way, when you think of a referral or have a question for that banker you met, you can easily pull up your spreadsheet and find his or her email address rather than slogging through a stack of unorganized business cards.

Don’t just stop at one networking event. Keep attending the ones that interest you and don’t forget to introduce yourself to new people. Always be expanding your network!