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How to successfully market your non-profit online

It can be challenging running a charity or not-for-profit organization in the digital age. With so much information available on the Internet, how do you get your message across? How do you make people care about your cause?

Last week, Women’s Post attended Digital Leap 2016, a digital marketing conference for non-profits. The one-day conference was hosted by Stephen Thomas, a Canadian agency that produces and develops marketing campaigns for charities and not-for-profit organizations. The focus of the conference was three-fold: how to embrace the digital realm, how to be brave enough to think outside the box, and how to optimize and brand your work.

For not-for-profits and charities, the concept of a digital campaign can be difficult. Even more questions arise: Where do you start? How do you drive people to your website? How do you ensure people take more than 30 seconds looking at your work?

The first thing to remember is that it is all about content. A banner or square advertisement on a webpage doesn’t get nearly as many hits as marketed content. Peter Coish, founder and lead strategist of Toronto marketing firm Kuration, asked the following question at the beginning of his keynote speech: “How many people actually click on a banner advertisement…on purpose?”

The answer was almost no one. Curated and original content is the key to a campaign’s success. The content must be entertaining, but it also must inform and activate. Make a plan that outlines your organization’s goals, target audience, and campaign themes so that content isn’t being created in the last minute. Digital marketing takes time and if you don’t plan accordingly, it won’t be successful.

Fifty per cent of your content should contain relevant information about your cause or organization, but according to Alice Ferris, founding partner of GoalBusters Consulting, “sometimes, you just need a picture of a squirrel.” It’s important to make sure your content is entertaining and interesting. If you don’t, people won’t follow your work on a regular basis.

Now you have great content, what’s next? Getting your message across to the general public is the next challenge. There is so much noise on social media nowadays that organic reach is not really possible. It is necessary to spend some money pushing out your content on the Internet. This may mean buying Facebook advertisements and creating sponsored posts to bring new readers and donors to your cause. Knowing your audience is key: do they consume media on their mobile phones or do they watch a lot television? That will make a difference on how you spend your advertisement budget.

At the same time, Coish says that email is your biggest resource. Contacting your supporters directly — or people who are interested in your organization’s work — is the most productive and effective way to reach your audience. Don’t completely rule out traditional media as well. Mail is now considered a novelty, so if someone gets a personal letter with information about a specific cause, there is a higher likelihood they will actually read it.

Lastly, it’s important to be authentic. As Simren Deogun, Director of Digital Innovation at Stephen Thomas, says: “These are real missions and real causes and we are trying to create real change. Be real and authentic. That is almost more important than anything else.”

“Digital is not the future,” Deogun said in her panel. “It’s happening around you. From the small charity with three employees to the multi-million non-profit, it’s the fight. It’s not size that drives their bravery.”

It takes a lot of courage to approach your CEO or charity founder and propose a digital campaign. It requires a lot of creative thinking, knowledge of the return, and an ability to take a risk. While making your proposal, remember to take your audience into account and tailor your content to their interests. If you plan, write informative yet entertaining content, and drive your cause out on the appropriate social channels, there is nothing you can’t do!

Do you have any tips for digital campaigns? Post them in the comments below!

What we can learn from 18-year-old Instagram Star, Essena O’Neill

We’ve all been known to exaggerate on social media once in awhile, especially as a millennial. With the use of an Instagram filter and the right caption, we now have the ability to make a slice of cheesecake look glamorous. The question is; why do we do it? Is it for the likes or the affirmation? Or is it, in fact, to have a life beyond our 9-5 jobs and textbooks?

Eighteen-year-old Instagram star (apparently that’s a thing) Essena O’Neill may not have found the answer to this question, but what she did realize was that social media is not worth it. The realization went so far as to provoke the Australian teen to delete her Instagram account. In turn, she launched a website called Let’s Be Game Changers where she now posts videos – on Vimeo – ranting about the problems with social media and the beauty of becoming vegan. Cute. O’Neill then went on to challenge her followers to go without social media for one week. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and any other website ”where you can see others online”.

She has since created a so-called “social revolution,” which has gone viral. Obviously, O’Neill’s project has garnered positive feedback, but the question arises as to whether or not her and her followers have responded to this realization too dramatically. With millions of accounts on Instagram today, it is unfair to come to the conclusion that everyone on the social media site is unauthentic.

Despite her intention of creating ”social change”, O’Neill was criticized as a fame-grabber: for deleting her account for reasons other than sending an important message—but to get more attention. The accusations don’t seem like they are too far from reality. The fact of the matter is, if your Instagram account is making you feel miserable, you are not using it properly. As an 18 year old with over the half a million followers, O’Neill was bound to get a little overwhelmed trying to impress her fans.

So instead of deeming her a social media queen or a hoax in the making, it’s best just to commend her for her efforts in taking control of her mental health. However, we hope that O’Neill takes this opportunity to learn not to get too involved with virtual reality. Of course, it’s not for us to judge whether deleting her social media account is the right solution. In fact, all we can do is yearn for a time where Generation Y can find a balance when it comes to using social media platforms.

It’s a fun challenge to take on—to stay off of social media for a few days. In a world where we get our daily news from our Twitter feeds and lust over actors and actresses while we scroll down on Instagram, cleansing ourselves from social media can make us see the beauty of the outdoors. Remember what grass feels like? Bottom line; don’t dismiss O’Neill because she’s 18. Celebrate her because she is.

She may be a special cause—not every 18 year old has 500 000+ followers — but it is a good indication of the challenges Generation Y faces in terms of distinguishing social media from just being social. We hope O’Neill finds happiness and contentment in her new project. Good luck to everyone!

5 reasons to put down your phone

A true test of patience is when you’re telling someone an intense story and their nodding and smiling – while looking at their phone. Suddenly, instead of focusing on the details of the story, you’re trying your best to keep your hands at your sides, and away from said person’s face.

Fear not, fellow humans. There is a small but very effective way to decrease our dependency towards these addictive pieces of technology. Next time you’re out to lunch or dinner with your friends or family, take responsibility and confiscate everyone’s phones, putting them where everyone can see it. If anyone checks their phone during your time together (that includes the torturous wait for our food), they’ll have to pay for everyone’s meals. That’s one very expensive text to check. But is it effective?

I was at a friend’s dinner party where I had just got acquainted with her guests; people I hadn’t had the chance to meet before. I didn’t think they would feel comfortable giving me their phones and frankly, as an extroverted introvert, meeting so many new people made me forget as well. It was only after everyone started browsing their newsfeeds and instagramming their food, that I realized the effect turning off your phone had during mealtime. Conversations went from profound topics about our thoughts on current events to bantering about the latest viral video. You know, the one where that guy falls off that thing – again? Candid opinions and comments were downgraded to snorts and laughter driven by a 30 second video clip with essentially no real substance.

In order to avoid these moments and have conversations without the help of your screens, here are 5 reasons to put down your phone – now!

1. Ignorance is Bliss 

When you’re constantly tweeting and updating your status, the only thing on your mind is usually how many people are liking your status, or reading your tweets. Without a certain number of likes or retweets, it’s easy to feel neglected and lesser than the rest of your followers, whose network is 10% larger than yours is. Disconnecting yourself from social media, even for just or a few hours, allows you to forget about your statistics and focus on more important things. Perhaps getting your family to like you more?

 

 2. My Eyes Are Up Here   

You’re missing out on a lot when you’re spending so much time behind your screen. Emoticons might express your feelings well, but the expressions on people’s faces just cannot be captured into a yellow face. Put your phone down and have a face-to-face conversation instead. Or go on a date with yourself. It gives you a chance to spend some alone time, build your oral skills, make some memories, and have more candid moments with your friends. Chances are, the person you spend time talking online with for many hours is actually a lot different in person. (And they respond a lot faster, too.)

3. Two Can’t Keep A Secret   

No matter how good you think your breakfast, lunch, and dinner looked on Saturday, not everyone cares. (sorry!) Sometimes, it’s rewarding to enjoy your meal without the constant need to update your virtual friends about it. Spark conversation with the person you’re sharing the meal with, or take yourself out to lunch. Time with yourself is not only refreshing, but also it helps you connect with your thoughts and boosts your confidence.

 

 4. Cure Your Writer’s Block 

Sure, exposing yourself to the comedians and makeup gurus of the World Wide Web can spark some creativity, but original work comes at the most unexpected moments. It may come during a walk in the park, or even in the shower (stand back, Beyoncé!). Real life experiences drive our creativity. It encourages us to think about the events that occur during the day and avoid distractions caused by the latest updates on our phones. Distract yourself off your phone by trying a new activity. Whether you’re burning calories at a fitness class or taking a walk down the streets of downtown, turning off your phone is sometimes all it takes to turn on your creativity.

 

5. Sleep longer, feel better 

If you can’t put your phone down during the day, try putting it down an hour before you go to bed. If you’re anything like me, going to bed with your phone in hand can end up with you browsing your feeds, attempting to beat your Tetris score, or spark late night conversations with that insomniac we all know on our friend’s list. Thus, bed times fail and circadian rhythms are skewed, resulting in the distaste of mornings to begin with. Scientifically, the brightness of your screen tampers with your sleep (and beauty- gasp!) as well. And well, you can’t argue with science.

Whether you’re telling the world about your day, or sending your best friend a SnapChat that cannot be processed by the human eye, it seems we’re all about about our screens today. When we’re not updating, we’re thinking about ways we can be updating. Small changes can make a big impact on our daily lives. It is only after you start disconnecting every once in awhile that we start to realize about everything else that the world has to offer. Whether it’s for half an hour or an entire day, it’s important to take some time for ourselves.

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Councillor Norm Kelly is Toronto’s #1 Tweeter

If you’re not following Councillor Norm Kelly on Twitter, you’re not following the right people.

Whether you’re looking for a daily dose of rap lyrics, Toronto culture, or some solid life advice, scroll through Kelly’s tweets. You may be surprised to know that they’re all written by the 73 year old himself.

And that pretty much makes him cooler than any of us will ever be.

His tweets have very little to do with politics, other than small tidbits on how to drive on the controversial HOV lanes , that is. (Note taken, Norm)

His lack of the conservative persona that many other politicians possess is seen through his light-hearted pokes at the law. In just 140 characters, Norm never fails to put a smile on your face. Or an idea in your head.

Norm’s unexpected knowledge of popular culture has struck a chord with millennials and… rappers? 

It’s safe to say he’s Drake’s #1 fan. Nothing prevents Norm from speaking from his mind. A valid quality needed for someone in politics, we’d say. While everyone’s busy being politically correct and trying not to offend anyone, Kelly is front row and center on debates he feels strongly about. He chooses sides openly and proudly, even when it comes to celebrity feuds.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B: Norms tweets picture of a full battery in response to Drake’s diss track “Charged Up” #teamdrake 

And on days when rappers are calm and quiet and you might just need a quick pick-me-up, this Councillor will always be ready to cheer you up.

What a thought provoking question, Norm.

We even share the same taste in fine cuisine. Let’s not forget the time Norm fought for equality after finding out Reese’s Peanut Butter Spread was only available in America.

After months of anguish, Norm took another step into ensuring Toronto is provided with the best service.

He sought out to validate the information so we wouldn’t be left heartbroken. 

And with great leadership, comes great success. 

 

Well done, Norm. Well done.

It seems you always have our best interest at heart. Not to mention, you feel the same pain we feel. The empathy, my friends, is real.

The man is a man of many hats. He’s your Councillor, he’s your rap enthusiast, he’s your source for the latest happenings, but most importantly, he’s your friend.

Let’s grab coffee, Norm!

Follow Councillor Norm Kelly on Twitter @norm.

JK Rowling Slams Serena William’s Hater

After a fellow Twitter user made a rude comment about Serena Williams, J.K. Rowling swiftly defended the tennis champion, and her response was absolutely magical.

Serena Williams on Saturday won her sixth Wimbledon championship and 21st Grand Slam title.

In celebration, Harry Potter author Rowling tweeted using the hashtag #SerenaSlam, renaming “Grand Slam” in honor of Williams’ achievements.

 

Cute, right? Well things got ugly when a critique made a not so stellar comment about the athlete’s physique.

Rowling defended Williams by tweeting a photo of the tennis player sporting a curve-hugging red dress and killer heels, with a sarcastic comment.

Here’s the response:

The tweet has been making entertainment headlines and was retweeted over 90K times. Meanwhile, @Diegtristan8 was taken in by his fellow haters to express their sentiments on being ‘bullied’ over his ‘accurate comment.’ Aww…sorry about that, man. We’ll be over here drooling over Serena if you need us.

#AskELJames Tweets Turn 50 Shades of Awkward

It all started with one naive publicist and their decision to get author EL James to do a live chat on Twitter. What came next was an hour more awkward than watching 50 Shades of Grey with your grandma.

Despite being dubbed the highest earning writer back in 2013 with $58 million and counting in her bank account, it seems the EL James, author of the highly popular erotic novel 50 Shades of Grey, has as much critics as she does fans.

As the Q&A session progressed, more and more people took to Twitter to #AskELJames about her preference towards misogyny, rape culture, and below average writing skills. Although she didn’t directly answer the questions that were asked, at the end of the session, James thanked everyone ”for an interesting hour.” And an interesting hour it was.

Below are our choices for the best questions asked during the  chat. Warning: These tweets may cause feelings similar to that of engaging in BDSM. (Ouch!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yikes! At least movie night with Grandma ends in a couple of hours. These tweets will exist longer than EL James herself.

Despite the live chat session being more interesting than the novel, it was also refreshing to see the public taking a stand against the message behind the unnecessarily popular trilogy. However, with a new movie set to release in theatres soon and an additional novel in the works, it seems that 50 Shades is about to get even more popular.

Guess James still gets the last laugh because, in the end,  it’s still her that is sitting on her pile of millions. Well, at least you can celebrate your rise to Twitter fame with those favourites and retweets, folks.

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Social media exposes all

Love it or hate it, social media is having a huge impact on the world and it is one that I view optimistically.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram are the newest forms of communication and they are working to build better communities. There are some interesting trends that have developed over facebook in conjunction with Twitter and Youtube, that are causing people to be more reflective, more compassionate and better informed.

Take for instance #ThrowbackThursdays – this is a general call for users to post old pictures of themselves to share with their community.  It requires people to dig through their past and gain  little reflection in the process. Or the growing trend to capture everything on video. From kittens wrestling to puppies playing, video producers are everywhere adding a creative drive to new media that is reshaping the entertainment world.

But perhaps the most significant impact of social media is its ability to allow knowledge to grow and expand. No longer can editors act as gate-keepers, deciding what is important and what is not. In a world were pictures, videos and words can be shared with the click of a button the opportunity to learn has never been more accessible. Social media is a powerful tool that can be used as a weapon, or a form of defense – think of all the videos that have come out exposing assault, pushing people to be more.  The real strength of social media rests in its ability to expose injustice and the hidden messages that rest just under the surface.

Take for example politics. Over the past century land developers have influenced politicians to build infrastructure that will increase their property values. They might push for a railway station that connects to their property in order to increase their property value, or they might go further and influence the design of the entire rail line to have fewer stops in order to increase their land value even further – the demand for space near the stop will be much greater. However social media can easily expose this sort of corruption. Property ownership is easy to find online, connections between developers and those who created the design can be easily exposed. Can you imagine the damage that could be done to a politician promoting a rail line with few stops through the city if social media exposed that the design for the line was created by developers with property at those stops?  No longer can a group of land developers push through a poor design. No longer can politicians get away with paying off their sponsors. Social media is just starting to shape the way our society moves forward and I for one am looking forward to the impacts it will have on our future.

Women of the Week: Sarah Jean Aguinaldo

Sarah Jean Aguinaldo, also known as Serena Jean, is the founder of Lifeward Choices Empowerment Centre. With over 15 years of experience, she is skilled at helping people uncover their life focus areas and guiding them to empowerment.

Her interest in this field (as she defines it, a “humanitarian interest”) started very early in her life, and she retained it throughout her schooling.In fact, as a teenager, she received the University of Women Award for her volunteer work.

“I was very passionate about helping others grow and experience quality living,” she says.

When it came time to pursue higher education, her path was easy to choose.

“I wanted to help people experience improved living/great quality living, help people take care of planet…wanted to be a part of finding solutions to making this happen,” she says. So, through a double major in Environment and Resource Management and Urban, Economic and Social Geography, Aguinaldo was able to explore the many important global issues humanity is currently facing.

After completing her BA, Aguinaldo went after a B.Ed, before starting work as a teacher. It was here, she says, that she fully realized her desire to work in the life coaching field.

“There is nothing more important in life than personal betterment and helping others grow – the two go hand-in-hand and such care is needed to help our planet become healthier and more wonderful. These things are all interconnected.”

Thus, in March of 2013 she launched the website for the Lifeward Choices Empowerment Centre. The Centre, she says, “sees life coaching as a two-way and collaborative process; learning and development occurs for both parties involved.” Through each interaction, both the coaches and the clients are given the opportunity “to learn from one another/from other’s experiences and constantly adjust our self-views and worldviews.”

As well as offering access to skilled life coaches, the Centre reaches out to clients in unique ways through its conventions and mentorship programs.

The conferences, Aguinaldo says, “build rapport and genuine community,” which in turn creates “long-term clients who are satisfied clients, and they further recommend the business.”

On the other end of the spectrum, the mentorship program (which Aguinaldo calls “extremely fun”) sees coaches reach out to adolescent girls through social outings designed to increase their self worth.

“It is wonderful to witness their transformation into strong aspiring ladies who love themselves and their lives,” she says.

Furthering her reach, Aguinaldo is currently working with YourDailyMentor.com “to provide online mentoring and coaching to reach the deaf community through subtitles and sign language” and is planning to launch a line of coaching videos, translated into multiple languages, in October of this year.

As a life coach, Aguinaldo has found her niche. Not surprisingly, when asked what her most important piece of advice is, Aguinaldo quickly responds,  “Ensure you are genuinely going after your personal passion, what naturally calls to you, and not simply what societal norms is directing you to follow; thus, success is already yours from the outset.”

Wise words indeed.

A name that counts

There are a few things that let me know that spring is officially here: sun shining, birds chirping, kids playing in the park, and an incessant barrage of telemarketing calls from companies offering to help me with my landscaping and duct cleaning.  Ahhhhh, spring!

One of the many companies that have contacted me over the past week or so has stood out from the rest, and it had nothing to do with the communication skills of their telemarketer, their price points, or their service quality.  It had everything to do with one principle that made me take notice: “If we’re not there when we say we’ll be there, we’ll do the job for free. We would never waste your time while expecting you to pay for ours.”

Now, I’ve dealt with my fair share of landscape and construction companies, and in an industry where time and energy is everything, their willingness to risk that spoke volumes for their credibility, and made me listen to everything else they had to say.

So, I started researching other companies who have risked something significant in order to build a credible name, and I learned something quite significant.  Of course, I know that credibility, especially in a service business, is paramount to success in whatever industry you’re in, but my focus has always been on providing quality service, marketing that quality service, and expecting clients and customers to do their part as well by spreading the word and building my brand. On the other hand, some of the biggest names in business have built their own credibility not only by providing a quality service or product, but by putting themselves at risk to make sure that their superior quality was immediately understood.

Amazon.com was one of the first online retailers to allow their visitors to write negative reviews on their own site, essentially giving up power and control, and simultaneously lending immediate credibility to any positive reviews written on the site.

And the most dramatic example I found?  The president of an identity-theft protection program who ran ads with his full name and social security number, to prove his own personal confidence in the service his company was offering.  Wild!  But, also so effective in building consumer confidence in what you’re doing before they’ve even tried it.

Apparently, the more you put at risk, the more credibility you build for your brand.  I’m not sure how to translate this message into something that works for me just yet, but I certainly intend to.  There’s nothing more powerful in business than a brand that people believe in.

 

Adventures in blogging – Does this make sense?

With the blog site in place, the fun part of blogging had begun. What a wondrous opportunity for a writer to compose, present and collect feedback, in real time. Not yet convinced blogging was the right method of exploring my writing voice, I dove in anyway. Producing content was tougher than anticipated. Finessing the words was pure joy. When rules began interrupting the creative flow, the experience became something else entirely.

I expected the odd creative block and therefore mitigated the risk by collecting an abundance of material for one to two posts weekly. My challenge was sticking to the rules for ‘successful bloggers’ gathered through internet research and referencing social media stars. After navigating the plethora of advice, I narrowed it down to 10 key points.

10 Content Rules for Successful Bloggers

1. Specialize in one topic per blog. A clear vision of content attracts a more targeted and loyal audience.

2. Catchy titles. Have yours be the enthralling headline that drives someone to click and read.

3. Consistent post frequency. Some amount of consistency is best to keep new followers, whether posts are daily, weekly or biweekly.

4. Avoid venting. Use your power for good. Very few people can garner a faithful following of their complaints.

5. Subtitles, bullets and pictures. Organization and succinct thought presentation make for easy reading, especially for those who scan first before reading.

6. Promote comments and feedback. Creating a conversation with your followers generates three benefits: valuable feedback on content, follower retention, and new followers wanting to weigh in.

7. Make it easy to share. Provide easy ability to ‘share’ and ‘promote’ within social media sites.

8. Subscribe capability. Keep RSS feeds and email notifications ‘opt in’ prominent on the page.

9. Under 1000 words. The ‘sweet spot’ for most blog readers is between 600 – 1000 words.

10. Credibility. Display relevant credentials, awards and accreditations so readers have confidence in your content.

 

Broken Rules:

The internet offers an overwhelming amount of information about social media. I have handled the abundance of advice the same way I manage parenting tips. I read through material that interested me, and decided what made sense before drawing my own conclusions.

Without creating a number of separate blogs, I could not follow rule number one and stick with one topic. Since my blog goal was to find my writing voice, I needed the ability to explore a number of avenues that were incompatible and would attract different audiences. While the blog name “JustMomSensations” suggests impressions from a Mom, it could not be a well-targeted Mom-blog alone. It also needed to include short stories, snippets of manuscripts in development, business ideas, and favourite works of other writers. I broke blog rule number one and I moved on with a chaotic collection of topics.

Rules Followed:

With the exception of rule number one, the rules were easier to follow. My posts have not been as consistent as planned but it is balancing out over time. Since my first entry in September of 2012, I have averaged 1.5 posts weekly. I’ve managed to save my venting for journals and my husband, along with the occasional leak of steam on my personal Facebook page. The remaining rules guided me to structure the site and enable gadgets, all with the purpose of maximizing promotional opportunities to gain followers.

Results:

The inconsistency of post numbers reflects my chaotic approach to topics. The most popular post is a short story called “Picture in a Wallet” – a cautionary tale about unsuccessful child abduction. Short stories top the leader board in posts and shares, providing the feedback I was looking for.

I had fewer than 100 viewers when the blog first launched. I shared posts on my personal Facebook, and emailed family and friends. To increase my audience I needed to engage my existing marketing skills, and learn new ones with social media. Social media became my late night companion for weeks. Within a month my viewers topped 500, then 800, with consistent growth from there.

At first glance, social media appears to be free. One can use most tools without spending a dollar. The real and significant cost is human resource time to create an authentic presence in each of the tools. Each site had its own nuances, tricks and etiquette rules.

My education in going social continued as I learned how to use tools to push and pull viewers to my blog. ‘Build it and they will come’ is nice dream. Commitment and persistence is the reality of gaining blog viewers.

 

Next column: The Push and Pull of Blog Promotion