Credit unions’ fractured focus on social media

first_imgIf credit unions had the national or world spotlight turned on them for three days straight, would the industry know what to do with that attention? Bad news, good news, any news….what would the social media world come away with?I was thinking about this while watching the tragic terrorist events in Paris on all of my feeds. The issue became more than religion and more than the country of France – it became a focus on free speech issues and massive rallies supporting the writers, cartoonists and staff at the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo who were specifically executed. It was, and is, a tough time of healing and understanding going on while, at the same time, people are trying to grasp the balance of sensitivity and satire when it comes to religious issues.I’m not talking about crisis communications and public relations messaging here. I’m talking more theoretically and organically. What would be the social media impression left on the world by that kind of focus? Would the world understand the message behind credit unions and cooperatives to rally around?So many questions, I know.I’m not asking, like so many others have, to push for a national credit union campaign. I want to know what the common social media message is that’s being shared to all of your different (some would say “fractured”) audiences.I did some research to find what words are being associated with “credit union” over the past 14 days. Here are the top 5 words/phrases being associated with the industry: “Rates,” “difference between banks and credit unions,” “job openings,” “weed,” and “suing Wells Fargo.”While this list made me laugh a bit, it also confused me. This, my friends, is what I call a “fractured focus.” Meaning, the industry appears to be spreading its message, but it’s a lot of different messages. This is where “social (media) collaboration” and “crowdsourcing” could do you some good.Try CrowdsourcingWith many CU leagues merging, this would be a great time to get all of your credit unions trying a focused crowdsourcing campaign. First, just ask your members one question: “What do you want?” Take those answers back to the league and do some audience research (it’s not as dull as it sounds) and use those finding to poll members on Facebook, Twitter, Google+. Of course, you should offer some incentive to get members to vote.Those results will become branding gold – and will help create a consistent and strong message that all CUs can get behind in that league. And a message that was basically crafted by your membership!I’ll write up a full “How-To Crowdsource” piece for you to use over at michaelloggedin.com and I’ll share it here with CUInsight.com because, you know what? CUInsight is a fantastic collaborator and sharer! We’ll get into social media collaboration specifics next time.Until then, go back through your social platforms and read what you’ve been posting while asking yourself, “Is my credit union standing for anything?” 4SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Michael Ogden Michael has been in the social media business for more than a decade inside the credit union, technology, financial and food industries. He’s the founder of For3, LLC, which … Web: www.for3forgood.com Detailslast_img read more

Arellano brushes off San Beda for second PVL win

first_imgView comments LOOK: Venues for 2019 SEA Games LOOK: Loisa Andalio, Ronnie Alonte unwind in Amanpulo for 3rd anniversary WATCH: Streetboys show off slick dance moves in Vhong Navarro’s wedding Arellano University took down San Beda in straight sets, 25-22, 25-21, 25-18, to keep an unblemished slate in the Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference Wednesday at Filoil Flying V Centre.Eunika Torres dealt the final blow for the Lady Chiefs as they improve to 2-0 while the Red Spikers slipped to 1-1.ADVERTISEMENT Brace for potentially devastating typhoon approaching PH – NDRRMC SEA Games in Calabarzon safe, secure – Solcom chief Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. UPLB exempted from SEA Games class suspension LATEST STORIES MOST READ Filipino athletes get grand send-off ahead of SEA Games PLAY LIST 01:27Filipino athletes get grand send-off ahead of SEA Games00:50Trending Articles00:59Sports venues to be ready in time for SEA Games01:37Protesters burn down Iran consulate in Najaf01:47Panelo casts doubts on Robredo’s drug war ‘discoveries’01:29Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university01:35Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games E.T. returns to earth, reunites with grown-up Elliott in new ad  Read Next LOOK: Retired NBA, WNBA vets confirmed as cast members for upcoming film ‘Uncle Drew’ Catriona Gray spends Thanksgiving by preparing meals for people with illnesses The Lady Chiefs, though, had to battle back in the third set after San Beda got the early lead in the final period.“That has always been our problem whenever we get two set, we start to dip in performance come the third,” said Lady Chiefs head coach Obet Javier. “So I always tell them that the third set will be crucial for us.”FEATURED STORIESSPORTSWATCH: Drones light up sky in final leg of SEA Games torch runSPORTSSEA Games: Philippines picks up 1st win in men’s water poloSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutoutArellano was down 8-6 early in the third set before Regine Arocha converted on a service ace to cap off a 7-1 run and give the Lady Chiefs a 13-9 lead.Arocha had a game-high 16 points to lead Arellano while captain Jovielyn Prado added 13 with Mary Anne Esguerra chipping in 10.last_img read more

Kiva in Second Life: Interview With Official SL Volunteers

first_imgKiva.org, a micro-finance organization, has funded nearly 17,0000 loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries and last week crossed the $11 million rank. Kiva.org has already had a very big year, funding about $9 million worth of loans so far, and having been featured in the mainstream media including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Oprah and on ABC News.  With the assistance of dedicated volunteers, Kiva also maintains a presence on different social networking sites and has recently established a presence on Second Life through the Techsoup Nonprofits Commons Project.I discovered this when I clicked on Skeeboo Tammas’s profile while chatting with him in Second Life.   His profile said.Do good at Kiva.org! For $25, you can help fund a small loan to someone in need in a developing country. Kiva is not a charity. You get repaid and e-mail updates as the business succeeds! From there you can withdraw your funds or lend it back out. You can also donate Lindens to one of our Fundraisers, or drop it into the donation box at our virtual office here on Second Life. Click on the Picks tab above to teleport there! For more information about this amazing social lending network, visit Kiva.orgThat’s only one method they use to help educate Second Life users about Kiva’s work.Skeeboo Tammas (or Joe Alamo in real life), a volunteer who also runs KivaFriends.org, Kiva’s MySpace page, their Change.org profile and created the kiva.org browser bar.  that the staff does not have time to manage.Julles Boucher or (Julia Bailey, PhD) serves as kiva.org’s Second Life Coordinator on a volunteer basis.   She entered Second Life because of her relationship with kiva.org, but has purchased land and operates a shop called Garb the World.  She is scientist in real life and a self-described philanthropist who has invested $5,000 plus in kiva.org.   She is interested in technology and is an owner of an Internet-based business.I sat down with to learn more about their efforts on Kiva’s behalf in the virtual world.What is kiva.org doing in SL?Expanding marketing and awareness. We had an office a while back that someone donated but it disappeared, so we got a booth at 1st Life Aid, a few other places and we are just starting to set up a presence with the Nonprofit Commons Project. We think it is a good idea to be located with other nonprofits.Why do you think Second Life  is important for nonprofits – particularly fundraising?Second Life is a good way to disseminate information.  There is a large audience and it has been very helpful for other volunteers to work on kiva.org projects in here.  For example, one morning I worked from my home in California with Joe in NY and a volunteer in Belgium in setting up an information booth. We also had help from the preson who runs the booth and who is in South Africa.  It’s exciting to meet other people in world who care about kiva.org and work together.What are your goals for having a presence in SL with an office?Exposing the Kiva organization to new people in this interesting digital world and raising money to fund loans.  The strategy is kind of loose at the moment for us as we feel our way around this world.  We’ve set up a booth and got 15 loans (at $25 each), but donations really started pouring in when wwe got the first Life Aid booth.  Mostly we’re attending events and doing virtual guerrilla marketing.  There is another group that has raised $300 USD for Kikiva on Second Life and we also work with them. Given your experience with managing kiva.org’s presence in other social networking sites like myspace, how do virtual worlds compare in terms of the ROI?Second Life is 3-D and very interesting in things can be done in terms of virtual marketing. It can go beyond a standard web page and we’re taking advantage of that.  I think it’s been very good. Kiva has had it’s biggest year ever and our digital marketing has had a big role in that. Maybe not as big as Oprah, but still …What advice would you give to nonprofits just starting off in second life?Start a team to figure things out, invite your volunteers/donors to help and empower them as the Official Second Life volunteer, look for gamers who are already familiar with these virtual worlds.  Attend lots of meetings and talk to people and ask questions and get help.  There are lots of people in Second Life who want to help and there are many users here hanging out who would love to volunteer for a non-profit.Source: http://beth.typepad.com/beths_blog/2007/09/kiva-in-second-.htmllast_img read more

Media Habits of 12-24 Year-Olds vs. 25-54 Year-Olds — Key to Shaping Your Nonprofit Marketing Agenda

first_imgCare GREATLY about sources of news and information onlineNurture your brand — it’s vital for these folks Like mobile for voice (and a few for data) but do not see their world on mobile phonesI think this is going to change very soon, pay close attention to this factor Source: http://www.gettingattention.org/my_weblog/2007/10/media-habits-of.htmlAbout the AuthorNancy E. Schwartz helps nonprofits succeed through effective marketing and communications. As President of Nancy Schwartz & Company (http://www.nancyschwartz.com/), Nancy and her team provide marketing planning and implementation services to organizations as varied as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Center for Asian American Media, and Wake County (NC) Health Services.Subscribe to her free e-newsletter “Getting Attention”, (http://www.nancyschwartz.com/getting_attention.html) and read her blog at http://www.gettingattention.org/ for more insights, ideas and great tips on attracting the attention your organization deserves.NOTE: You’re welcome to “reprint” this article online as long as it remains complete and unaltered (including the copyright and “about the author” info at the end), and you send a copy of your reprint. For first time willing (2005) to pay for digital content-never beforeInventory your information assets and think about options for distribution Will never own a land-line phoneWill not watch television on someone else’s schedule much longer, and much less interested in TVTV ads won’t work, unless they’re part of the show (how about cause placement?) Use IM. Think email is for their parentsLife of a 25-54Still read offline newspapers and magazinesCast your op-eds to this group, boomers and seniors Little interest in the source of information and most information aggregatedEverything will move to mobileMore than advocacy and fundraising alerts, and make it interactive please Aggregate information online and use RSS (though few know the term)Community important for tasks, much less so for socializingTrust experts on factual information but rely heavily on reviews of peers on hotels, electronics, etcStart to use social networking with these folks, they’re on the path of increased reliance on audience-generated content I recently read the 2007 Digital Future Report from the USC Annenberg School’s Center for the Digital Future, and am still digesting. Take some time to dig into the summary of findings that’ll help you shape your communications choices to today’s (and tomorrow’s) digital habits.Here’s are some crucial takes on habits of those 12 to 24–juxtaposed with those of audiences 25 to 54–and how they’ll impact your nonprofit marketing:Audiences 12-24Will never read a newspaper but attracted to some magazinesSo op-eds don’t reach them, at least in print Heavy into email Trust unknown peers more than experts/community at the center of Internet experience/want to be heard (user generated)Stop ignoring social networkinglast_img read more

Seven Steps to Graphing Your Facebook Strategy

first_imgThere is an article on TechCrunch by Dave McClure called “7 steps to Graphing Your Facebook Strategy“.Here are seven major aspects of Facebook you can use to increase the visibility of your startup, business, product or service:1. Set Up Your Graph: Profiles & Privacy2. Make Connections: Networks, Groups & Events3. The Need for Feed: Your [Shared] Social Activity Stream4. Share Your Content: Share & People-Tag Your Stories & Media5. App to the Future: The Facebook Platform, APIs, & Applications6. Pay to Play: Ad Networks, Sponsored Stories, & Paid Distribution7. Show Me The Bunny: Gifts, Points, & Virtual Currency[Editor’s note: For important Facebook demographical information that can be crucial when starting or redesigning your Facebook strategy, view this slideshow posted by Beth Kanter on her blog.]Source: http://beth.typepad.com/beths_blog/2007/10/seven-steps-to-.htmllast_img read more

Combining Mission, Benefits, and Personality: The Importance of the Message Triangle

first_imgBefore attempting to raise funds, it is important to be very clear about the elements of the Message Triangle. Confusion or disagreement about any of these three areas can lead to ineffective fundraising or worse, fundraising that erodes donor loyalty.THE THREE SIDES OF THE TRIANGLEMission:Why you exist. This is the core issue, the central reason your organization exists.Competencies/Benefits:What you do. Your organization’s attributes or competencies. These are the concrete things your organization does that are meritorious and worthy of support.Personality/Strengths:Who you are. Think of this list as the way donors would describe your organization if it were a person. In this area are the things that are fundamental to the personality of the organization the attributes that seem hard-wired into the organizational DNA. This side of the triangle is very important because of the emotional component it contains.For best results there needs to be internal agreement on these three important components. Then there needs to be agreement with your fundraising counsel.THE ROLE OF EMOTION IN FORGING DONOR LOYALTYOne big mistake made by many organizations is forgetting the importance of the emotional component when attempting to appeal to donors. Unfortunately, most organizations keep trying to appeal to the rational mind alone, instead of to reason and emotion together. Rationality assumes that behavior is determined exclusively by conscious awareness, reason, and the ability to calculate something’s worth. The most recent discoveries in cognitive neuroscience sharply contradict this notion.Research shows that human behavior is influenced by the combination of reason and emotion, and that reason only functions well when it is supported by the presence of an adequate emotional state. So, while focusing on conscious awareness and reason may work to spark interest in a cause or an organization, it fails to produce the emotions required for true engagement.Emotions are the mechanisms that set people’s highest-level goals, including what causes they decide to support. While donors often forget factual information, they almost always remember their emotions, both good and bad. And when it comes to deciding whether to donate again to a certain cause, negative emotions are often remembered more vividly than the positive.This means that the process of deciding whether or not to stay on board also depends on the emotions experienced while donating and supporting a cause. So, apart from performing its intrinsic functions, a “cause brand” carries profound emotional connotations for donors. At the beginning, middle, and end of every transaction, emotional engagement is at its heart.Just as there are three kinds of customer loyalty, there are also three kinds of donor loyalty:Forced Loyalty, which is imposed by a monopoly and lasts only as long as the monopoly does. When another organization emerges to compete, donors have a choice, and will defect unless they have connected with you on a deeper level.Bought Loyalty, which is directed at a captive audience and fueled by premiums or up-front freemiums. This type of donor loyalty lasts only as long as the organization is willing to pay the price. Loyalty that is bought does not run deep, either.Emotional Loyalty, which can go on indefinitely. The good news is that this type of donor loyalty is a renewable resource that is virtually inexhaustible if wisely cultivated. However, unless you focus on emotional engagement, you will not be able to persuade donors to stick with you for the long term.For all these reasons, it is important for organizations that care about donor loyalty to pay attention to all three sides of the Message Triangle, and to make sure that all three sides reinforce each other.Source: Merkle Orange Papershttp://www.merkledomain.com/site/PageServer?pagename=orange_messagingCopyright © 2007 Merkle Inc.All rights reservedlast_img read more

The Future of Online Fundraising

first_imgI received an email from a college student asking if he could interview me about ePhilanthropy and the future of online fundraising.The questions gave me an opportunity to think creatively about the application of some web 2.0 concepts, such as tagging and feeds, and how they can improve our practices.His questions and my answers follow.> * How did Internet change the way nonprofits fundraise?Maybe a better question would be, “HAS the Internet changed the way nonprofits fundraise?” Because for a lot of organizations; it still hasn’t.There are certainly plenty of new tools, but most nonprofits (outside of universities and hospitals) are traditionally very slow to adopt new technologies. This is for a few reasons, including: budget, being “people focused,” lack of staff/resources, and budget (did I mention budget?).Still, for those organizations that are on the ball, technically speaking, it has broadened their tools for appeals. The most obvious direct items are “Donate Now” buttons and email. The less direct way is using the ‘net for promotion, communications, and visibility.Email can be used for a direct appeal, or for newsletters with indirect asks. But, again, limited budget and staff to implement these has kept most smaller and medium sized organizations from fully realizing the potential benefit of these tools.I mention budget a lot. Email is cheap to use, and scales cheaply, but can be costly to implement effectively (opt-in systems to avoid spamming, software or ASP’s beyond the basic MS Outlook, and the staff to actually manage lists and write the messages).> * Is traditional fundraising still part of the fundraising mix?Most definitely so. For the reasons listed above (slow implementation, budget, etc.), but also because of human nature.While online tools are fabulous for meeting new donors, and younger donors, there is nothing that can ever compare to the personal touch of the in-person ask.Even snail mail has a place, as it’s far easier to make an emotional connection with a photo you can hold in your hand than with an email that may or may not properly display images based on the user’s software settings and operating system.In the area of Foundation grants, the worlds are merging somewhat as more and more Foundations accept online applications. It is traditional fundraising in terms of the skills required for completing the applications, but they are adapted to the online world.For that matter, you could say that all online fundraising is just an adaptation of traditional methods. It’s the medium that has changed – or expanded – not the message or the appeal.> * The future of online fundraising?More effective integration of cause and effect using tags and feeds. For example, it’s entirely feasible for a news website to automatically match stories (IE: flood in India) to donation opportunities (IE: International Red Cross).They do this now, manually, with major disasters. But with proper use of tagging, RSS, etc., it’s entirely possible that even “minor” local stories (IE: car crash kills drunk driver) can automatically linked to local causes (IE: local United Way or MADD or AA chapter).What I’m saying is really, technology gives us the opportunities to be more pro-active and less passive in our efforts. Rather than waiting for a potential supporter to come to our web site or sign up for our email newsletter, we will be able to find them based on what they’re reading and hook directly into their online experience.> * Why are many nonprofit are still waiting with their online fundraising?Money, or the perception of no money. While many of these tools are low or even no cost (use of blogspot.com as a communications platform), they are loath to give even the impression that they are wasting resources.Example: An organization I know of that was given very nice, high quality office chairs from a defunct dot-com. They were not allowed to use them because it gave the impression that they were extravagant. Many nonprofits live in this poverty mind-set.Any assets must go to the clients. Anything that doesn’t directly benefit them is seen as a waste. What they don’t see is that a small investment in online tools will create a return that can be used for mission and services.> * What will make a website a good ePhilanthropy site?See “the future” question above. It’s the integration of information and ask. Don’t make the potential donor search for the means to give.Have the opportunity linked directly into the inspiration. This is the answer.Source: http://nonprofitconsultant.blogspot.com/2006/12/future-of-online-fundraising.htmllast_img read more

Using Social Networking Tools: Best Practices from SaveGuimaras

first_imgI interviewed Tuesday Gutierrez from SaveGuimaras over at blogher.   What I didn’t include was the in-depth conversation we had about how she has explored and used social networking tools. SaveGuimaras is a group of individuals who are dedicated to raising awareness on the recent oil-spill tragedy in Guimaras, Philippines.  Because the international community and media have failed to respond to this environmental disaster, they are bringing the campaign to the Social Web.  Their goal is to mobilize grassroots participation by using online networking tools and their blog.If you check out their blog, you will notice that the group has a presence on myspace, friendster, YouTube, and few other communities. Tuesday shared some of her learnings with me about using these tools.  She has been the most successful when the tool matched her audience and outcomes.  And, she had to go through a bit of experimentation to learn that!1.  How have social networking tools helped spread the word about  your cause?   Friendster is a very popular social network in the Philippines.  Almost  everyone I know has a Friendster account and its very easy to find people, influential or otherwise in Friendster. When I opened a saveguimaras account, in less than two weeks, we had 200 people who signed up. What´s good about Friendster is that everytime a “member” of your group posts a new entry on your blog, you receive it on your email/ and you see it right away on your Friendster page. This led me to stumble upon Roy Alberto/Joseph Alberto who was a co-founder of 1 fish entertainment who was promoting a rock gig for Guimaras and that was how our relationship started.MySpace hasn´t taken off like Friendster because the Filipinos I am targeting there are based in the US. To invite people in Myspace is also painstakingly difficult unlike Friendster that you just click a button and invite.  Myspace avoids spamming so the members usually blocks people from adding them directly unless you know them personally or their email. So what I have been doing is sending out mails one by one!YouTube is also good in finding videos about Guimaras. Its pure luck too.  Project sunrise, the provincial government led organization (supported by Canadian Urban institute) happened to post their videos and I was given permission to post them in the blog. The IFCP (Independent Filmmakers Coop) in the Philippines just had their Guimaras Short Film project which was shown on television and some moviehouses in Manila. Unfortunately, there were some short films that were censored by the Movie Television Board (which I want to say is one of the most conservative board of censors in the world! and is really stifling Pinoy creativity) and some directors uploaded some movies on Guimaras (some will upload more videos soon.) YouTube would have been more helpful for my cause if people in the Philippines have home videocameras and if they have a fast broadbandwidth.  Unfortunately, the journalists on the field are still using pen and paper technology which explains why there are not a lot of videos about Guimaras.  Because regional flights are more expensive,  people from Manila who are supposed to be more technologically equipped do not come to Guimaras to shoot videos/photos which also explains why there is a lack of photos uploaded in Guimaras at Flickr.  I rely on photos sent to me by the filmmakers and some journalists on the field.Mobile technology is more popular in the Philippines and we are looking  into how we could use this platform. The only difficulty I find here is that SaveGuimaras is not a non-profit org and is simply running as a webblog therefore, mobile networks might not trust us enough to collaborate with us.Care2.com has been helpful  in a way that other social networks have not been.  Although it is difficult to find people or connect with care2.com members, what’s good about their system is that you can send out letters to ten members each and for me its much better to send out ten letters once than sending out letters one by one. And yes, I’ve painstakingly sent out letters to care2.members ten at a time.I’m only discoveriing about Flickr. Personally I think Flickr is useful if you are two or three in a group but if you’re only one person like me running a blog for a social cause, you need something faster.2.  How has your blog connected you with people to help with your cause?  Through this blog we´ve met so many wonderful people who all have the passion and the drive to help the victims of Guimaras.  Some have their  own projects already in place before they´ve contacted us  but we´ve also managed to link people with  the same agenda and get them to collaborate with each other. Some organizations have also written expressing their willingness to collaborate with SaveGuimaras and its partners.For example, Chromatic Experiment, a Filipino band contacted us thru our blog. They are willing to play for free for future rock gigs planned by the team of Joseph, Sazi and Laura (There are more people involved behind this team, but for the sake of brevity we will only mention these three).   3.  This is the bonus question and please do not take offense.  I’ve noticed  that a lot of folks from Phillipines are really into social networking   apps  and lots of wonderful communities in places like  YouTube, Flickr, etc.  Why do you think that is?Filipinos are very warm people and like to belong always in a group. Thats why these social networks are working for us. Add to this the fact that Filipinos are the no. 1 labor export of the country and there is a diaspora phenomena happening with us so we really need these networks to make us keep in touch with our families. We hate being alone and despise isolation which usually happens when youre living outside the country. A lot of Filipinos wouldn’t want to leave if only the government is doing its job but the future of the Philippines is very bleak.BTW, we are the  no. 1 text messaging capital aside from the fact that sending out text messages is always cheaper than making an actual call.Source: http://beth.typepad.com/beths_blog/2006/11/meet_tuesday_fr.htmllast_img read more

Why You Must Use RSS – And How to Start

first_imgIt’s come to the point where nonprofit staff who aren’t using RSS aren’t really doing their entire job.I know, I know – you don’t believe me, and you don’t care.You already use the Internet, so why take time you don’t have to learn some new way to get the information you already get? Especially when the first thing an evangelist says about RSS is that it’s actually like 11 different data formats and nobody can even agree what the acronym means?I know because I’ve been there. It was about 1995, and the .sig files people used on Usenet started saying “Visit my page on the World Wide Web!” I ignored it for months, because who needs some crummy new platform when I’ve got all the text-based newsgroups goodness my heart could ever desire?The answer, then as now, is that it will totally change the way you relate to information. It’s like being myopic and then putting on glasses.If you’re resisting RSS, that’s understandable. Only a minority of Web users have adopted it, and that’ll probably be true for some time. But it’s the thought leaders, the proverbial creative class (dreadful term), that are using it … and if that’s the kind of organization you have or the kind of career you’re building, it’s time to get over that resistance.If You’re a Nonprofit Manager Right Now and You’re not Using RSS, You’re Falling BehindYou’re not getting information – about your cause, about your people, about your profession – efficiently enough, which means you’re not getting enough information, period.And someone else is getting that information, or will be soon.They’ll know when someone writes about your issue or blogs about your cause or has something to say about your organization, and know it without refreshing dozens of links and scouring dozens of mailing lists so their hands are free for the other hundred things they have to do.If they know it, you’d better know it too.Luckily, it’s easy as pie.Ready? It might seem daunting, but RSS (used interchangeably here with the word “feed”) is really pretty simple to use … sort of like adding Tivo to your Web experience. You’re about to go from zero to RSS expert in three easy steps.1. Get a Feed AggregatorYou need an email application to read email, and you need a feed aggregator to read RSS. (Note: Newer generations of Web browsers actually have RSS-reading capabilities baked in. For tracking large numbers of feeds, it’s still more efficient to use an aggregator … and to the extent the two drive towards convergence, everything else in this primer will hold for either.) Like mail programs, some are Web-based, and some are locally installed. If you’re starting, don’t get bogged down in feature sets as the essential elements are pretty generic; just pick one and go.The old Web-based standby is Bloglines. The new hotness is Google Reader. I personally dig SharpReader. There are lots of others.The end result for almost any option is probably going to look something like a mail reader: a list of feeds subscribed to, a list of headlines for a particular feed (or folder of feeds) you’ve selected, and the text of a particular story you’ve selected from the headlines.And this is where the payoff is.Your list of feeds will highlight themselves when there’s new material in them, and your headlines present scanable registers of material into which you can quickly drill without maneuvering around banners, clicking through subsections, or losing track when something interrupts you. Now, instead of a hundred different Web sites with different navigations and update schedules, you’ve got everything in one place.2. Find Some FeedsCongratulations! You’ve done the hard part. Now you just need to start locating the feeds for things you want to track.It might take some getting used to, but once you start looking, they’re everywhere … although often in disguise. Increasingly, the icon above is becoming a standard RSS symbol – and looks sharp; you’ll often see it in the browser bar, where it’s a clickable link. For instance:Instead or as well, you might find feeds linked as plain text with a title like “subscribe” or “syndicate,” or as clouds of linklets like this:That’s a confusing hash of ingredients, but like casserole, it’s all ending up in the same place. The branded links (Bloglines, NewsGator, My Yahoo) allow one-click selection if you’re using one of the associated services, but you’ll undoubtedly want to subscribe to someone – like, say, us – that doesn’t trifle with that sort of thing or doesn’t happen to support yours. Fortunately, the “long” way around is one whole additional click.You don’t need to care about the distinctions between RSS, Atom, XML, and the rest, any more than you need to care about the distinctions between an HTML page and a PHP page to browse the Web. Just click on one of the links so named – it won’t look very nice, but don’t worry; it’s not meant to be read by you in this form – copy the URL, open your feed reader, select “Add” or “Subscribe”, and paste in the URL.3. Repeat Step 2 (Times 20, 50, or 500)There’s no need to use RSS if there’s only one blog you read. The value is in culling information from all over the Internet, alerting you of updates, and allowing stories from multiple sources to be quickly scanned and sorted.So now, you start adding. What to add?All the Major Bloggers in Your SectorWhoever you normally read that writes about your issue or your line of work that’s interesting, persuasive, or simply widely read.As this pool grows with the blogosphere, just keep adding them to a common file. Keeping up with the daily output of 40 bloggers is a lot less daunting with RSS.Whoever Is Blogging Against YouOpposition research made easy: Use the same process to keep tabs on the most influential voices opposing you.Bloggers Who Write about Your Particular Line of WorkNetworks of blogs – about, say, fundraising, or media work, or organizing – are a copious professional-development resource that are easy enough not to get to if you have to click a bookmark every day but an absolute trove when RSS is doing all the work for you.Webzines in Your SectorIt doesn’t have to be a blog to have a feed. Most publications that are more like traditional news outlets, now a feed of their own that updates when they publish – whether that’s monthly or repeatedly throughout the day.Everything pretty easy so far? Now, we get a little more interesting.Persistent Web Searches on KeywordsLet’s say you’re doing work on health care and you want to know every time there’s a news story about health care. A few years ago, you’d need to be a relentless human information aggregator. Today, it’s a snap.1. Start with a site that channels news from all over, like Google News.2. Search on “health care.”3. Click the RSS link. (Or Atom – remember, it all amounts to the same thing.)Add to your feed reader.Voila! Google lets you know every time it adds a new article with that term.(More verbose descriptions of this procedure at NetSquared and The Bivings Report.)And on Tags, and on…The same trick can be employed with searches almost everywhere, and once you get the hang of it, it’s an amazingly powerful way to keep a searchlight trained on the obscurest crannies of your cause.For instance, you can get a Technorati feed of the search “health care” to see every time a blog mentions it.Maybe that’s a lot of dross. You could instead limit it only to blogs with a lot of authority (for instance, those that are frequently linked to by other blogs) – and subscribe to a feed of that search.You could get every del.icio.us bookmark tagged “healthcare.”You could keep tabs on the results pulled up by a search on “health care” so you know every time they change.And maybe you’d want to keep an eye on Craigslist “health care” job listings in your city.For an example of how this might look in practice, you can visit this small public demo of health care feeds I just set up in Bloglines. Of course, this public display doesn’t give you all the features you’ll have with your own feed reader.This Quick Start Guide for Educators (PDF) can guide you through the basic setup of increasingly specific persistent searches of various kinds – on particular sites and in particular newsgroups, for instance.You don’t have to go to that level of detail to start. One or two basic searches on obvious keywords are like a whole new universe when you haven’t been doing them. That might be all you need, or you might find yourself adding more over time.But don’t worry as you start about eventually having to drink all the RSS kool-aid on offer. There’s a ridiculous amount of low-hanging fruit available at the most casual and readily comprehensible level of adoption.All you have to do is take it. With RSS, 90 percent of success is just showing up.This article originally appeared on the Web site DemocracyInAction.org, which provides affordable e-advocacy tools to other nonprofits.last_img read more

Why Open Rates are Dropping and What it Means for You

first_imgOpen rates are dropping like flies. When we examined data from 15 national non-profit groups for the eNonprofit Benchmarks Study [see PDF below] earlier this year we found a steady, striking decline in email open rates across all the groups over the past two years. Average open rates for the groups fell by 6%.This decline may sound like terrible news for any organization that communicates with its members, constituents, activists, or donors online but please don’t commit hara-kiri yet! Happily, we did not find a corresponding decline in page completion or response rates. At first glance, this discrepancy seems truly puzzling. Shouldn’t fewer people be responding to these emails if fewer people are opening them in the first place?Some believe the recent drop in open rates is a result of “list fatigue” – what happens when formerly enthusiastic supporters become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of email in their inboxes and no longer rush to open and respond to email calls to action, requests for money, or event invitations. Although the fear of “list fatigue” may haunt online organizers, fundraisers, and marketers, it cannot explain away the discrepancy between open rates and response rates. If people are too tired, overwhelmed or unmotivated to open an email message, they’re certainly not going to take action, donate money, or reply to it. Clearly something else is to blame.Could Image Blocking Be the Culprit? Is it possible that just as many people are opening emails today as were opening them two years ago but that not all of them are being counted? The most compelling explanation for both the decline in open rates and the discrepancy between open and response rates is that new image-blocking software is interfering with open rate tracking and causing open rates to be significantly under-reported.In response to the rise of spam in recent years, many email providers have implemented new systems that allow users to read the text of an email while blocking all the images in the message. Image blocking is now used by Gmail, Microsoft Outlook 2003, and AOL 9.0. In fact, the default for both Outlook 2003 and Gmail is to block all images, automatically eliminating images for anyone who is not tech-savvy enough to change the default setting.Open rates are tracked using a very small (one pixel) image embedded in the body of the email message which this new image-blocking technology prevents from loading and being counted by the tracking software. Therefore, image blocking is causing the number of email messages actually opened to be underreported. The Detective Work Begins To determine the impact of image blocking on open rates and to gauge how accurately open rates currently represent the effectiveness of an organization’s online communications, we conducted an in-depth analysis using messaging data from three major national nonprofit organizations: Human Rights First, The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and The Wilderness Society.We examined three messages from each organization – two email advocacy messages and one online fundraising appeal – that had been sent to the organization’s full (or nearly full) email list between April and June of 2006. Analyzing the data from each message enabled us to determine how many of the recipients who had clicked on a link in that specific message were actually tracked as having opened that specific message.Mystery Solved! The data from these nine messages revealed that an astounding 20% of the people who had clicked on a link were not reported as having opened the message.If 20% of the members who clicked on a link in the email were not counted as having opened the message, what does that imply about the people who open and read an email (without downloading any of the images) but who never click on a link?On average, we estimate that open rates are being under-reported by at least 20% for these three organizations. This may not be true of all organizations and may vary depending on the percentage of email providers specific to the make up an organization’s constituency base. For example, if a larger percentage of an organization’s email list uses Gmail, their open rates may be lower than an organization whose list members use primarily Yahoo and Hotmail.To test out this theory, we examined the combined messaging data by email provider. Gmail led the pack in the percentage of click-throughs that were not reported as having opened the emails. A whopping 37% of the clicks coming from Gmail users were not reported as having opened the email message. Emails with the .edu extension also seemed to have an unusually high percentage of click-throughs that were not reported as opens. Also note that only 2% of the clicks from AOL were not reported in the number of messages opened. This may be because this study only looked at all people with an AOL address extension, many of whom may be using older versions of AOL (anything earlier than 9.0) that do not automatically block images. Another reason why these AOL users do not exhibit a significant discrepancy between open and click-through or response rates is that GetActive, the email messaging vendor for many of the study participants, is whitelisted with AOL. If the sending email service provider is from a trusted sender on AOL’s enhanced whitelist, (as GetActive is) AOL overrides the image blocking default setting for users of 9.0 and above. Although end users can still set image blocking locally for AOL-whitelisted senders, few do.What Does This Mean for You? No matter how you cut the data, open rates are a flawed statistic. In addition to the significant under-reporting caused by image blocking, open rates have another much better-known limitation – the “plain text problem.” Because opens are tracked through the loading of a one-pixel image in the body of a recipient’s email, open rates can track only the HTML versions of a message. The exclusion of the plain text versions of the message makes open rates inherently limited and incomplete.While we’re not suggesting that you stop looking at open rates altogether, there are more reliable statistics that can provide a more accurate picture of your online communications. For example, if the email in question includes links, why not look at click-through rates? Click-through data tells us even more than an open rate can. When comparing messages A and B for example, you may see that message A has a higher click-through rate, but a lower open rate, than message B. Given that open rates are not always accurate, you’ll know to pay more attention to the click-through rate.Response rates are also far more telling than open rates. The ultimate goal of a fundraising or advocacy email is to motivate the recipients to take action or make a donation, so the response rates will better reflect how effective the message was.What Are Open Rates Good For? Despite their limitations, open rates can be useful as a comparative statistic. For instance, open rates can help you determine which of two or more mailings sent in the same rough time period was more successful. Open rates are also very useful for determining which subject line will be the most effective — you can test several subject lines with identical copies of the message on small, randomly chosen segments of your audience to see which subject line produces the best results prior to sending out the full mailing with the winning subject line.However, in both cases, we’d still suggest you consider the click-through and response rates for each version of the message in making your decision about which subject line to use. It’s possible that one subject line might provoke a higher open rate but result in less click-throughs and, therefore, less actions or donations or sign ups.In the case that you send out anemail message that does not include any links at all, such as a reminder, update or enewsletter, open rates can provide you with some limited information about the performance of your message. Overall, we’d recommend that you keep the limitations we’ve outlined above in mind when reviewing open rates. No need to abandon them so long as you take them with a grain of salt!Source: http://www.mrss.com/last_img read more