Networking a non-profit on the web should use all the free, open source software and connectivity that is currently available: Facebook - the social networking mainstay; Twitter - the news feed, community building micro-blogging site; Youtube - the video sharing website; and last but not least, the non-profit's own Website.
Used together effectively, all these can produce a 'Buzz' that can spread news about a low-budget event, in the same way that a high-budget professional ad campaign does.
What is 'Buzz'?
A buzz is created when someone enjoys an experience online (or in the real world) and they tell a friend about it; and those people tell their friends - and so on. Over a short period of time the circle of people who are talking about 'it' grows in an exponential manner.
Why does this happen?
Human Beings are social, individuals. When they come across something they like or find interesting - they share it - either because they love that person - and think that the 'new thing' will help that friend (and that Act strengthens the friendship); or they love themselves and through the Act, hope everyone will come to love them as much as they do (or don't love themselves, and hope the Act will help everyone love them as much as they imagine people might be capable of love).
That sharing (for whatever reason) is 'Buzz'. It is ancient, soft wired, self motivated, empathic networking.
When large corporations spend lots of money on advertising - it is all about creating and harnessing a 'Buzz'. This sharing by word of mouth is impossible to buy - all Ad Agencies can do is spend millions on advertising that they hope will then create the conditions that are likely to produce a buzz.
The internet social tools make creating that priceless buzz, free (almost). Which is perfect for non-profits.
Now we know what a Buzz is. But to make a Buzz online, one first has to understand how the Internet works.
How does the Internet work? Answer: How does 'Search' work?
Search Engines like Google (and to a lesser extent BING and others) work by mapping HOW all the places on the web are connected. Companies and individuals create brands using words, images and sounds; but to this point in the development of the world wide web - words are the only searchable thing. So the only way to create an internet Buzz is through words; so in creating a brand on the web, organizations must choose key, words --- or 'keywords'.
The more places the Brand (a Community Centre for example) is on the web, the better Search Engines will respond to 'keyword' in searches - thus maximizing the networking potential of the 'keywords' an organization has chosen.
Connecting all those places is key too - because the Search Engine does not only search for words, they also search for combinations of words; and how those combinations of words are connected (keyword networks); and how those keyword networks' web addresses are connected one to the other; and what other kinds of networks are connected to the keyword network.
And all this has a temporal quality as well (new connects are ranked higher than old connects).
The key to optimizing one's impact on the web can be simply put: Choose keywords that say exactly what you want to say - to the people you want to say those things to; link everything you put up on the web, to everything else you put up on the web --- and tell Everyone.
In other words, do as much as possible to make your target user's experience as deep and as 'intuitive' as possible. To do this make sure you tell them Who, What, Why, When and Where. And do that in as many ways as you can think of - using as many forms of media as you can. Tell them what you're Going to tell them; Tell them, then tell them what you Told them --- repeat.
LINK, LINK, LINK! (and check you haven't missed a place where you can link again)
ALWAYS CONSIDER THE END USER'S EXPERIENCE (from various devices and operating systems)
More simply said than done
Linking everything to everything else means having Event web pages individually addressed; and that address optimized so it helps get the page top posted in search, and according to keywords chosen by the event organizers.
For example, the Ralph Thornton Centre (RTC) 'Community Matters' series of public town halls is a series of events organized by the RTC. Each Event has a different title, subject matter and speaker / presenter - but the same header keywords - 'Ralph Thornton Centre' and 'Community Matters Town Hall'.
So - for example, the last Community Matters event was titled: "Where Will Our Children Be Able To Live?" - which was addressed by the folks at RTC quite well: www ralphthornton.org/community-matters-town-hall-tuesday-march-5-2013-where-will-our-kids-be-able-to-live/
I would suggest a couple of small changes - move the date to the end of the address and separate word using the upper-case dash '_':
---> www ralphthornton.org/community_matters_town_hall/where_will_our_kids_be_able_to_live/2013_03_05/
The reason for pushing the date to the end (or not including it at all) is that the date is not important to the internet user / possible attendee. The event Title is the changing, or temporal, keyword - after the backbone, or everlasting keywords, 'Community Matters', and 'Ralph Thornton Centre'.
The date is likely what the person is looking to find out - rather than a piece of info they already have - and would use in search Although the date may help webmasters in archiving the event page inside the websites database, it is not a 'keyword'; plus, Search Engines add date and time to new pages when they are published. Date in the address is not necessary, or helpful, to online networking.
A search of the title gets top placement in search - because the web address and the title of the event are the same - so in the first 25 words that the web crawler crawls, the search term is found twice - thus pretty well guaranteeing top posting for that key word search.
The seeker may not have the title of the new event, but may remember the 'Community Matters' keywords - that too gets top search placement - because it too, is in the address - and the title, mention it in the first words of the copy and that's three times - absolutely guaranteeing top placement in search.
So now we understand that the keywords in this example are 'Ralph Thornton Centre' + 'Community', + 'Matters'. Now we have to make sure Community Matters appears somewhere prominently on the landing page of the RTC website.
Getting SpecificChanges to the Landing Page
In the images below I've moved "What's Happening" moved from Last to First (right after "Home" - which is always first).
Moved "Who We Are" from first to last. For someone who has searched and found RTC - "Who Are We" will likely be the last question they're looking for an answer to.
Someone doing research on the other hand, will expect the "Who Are We" to be somewhere innocuous - like far right, or in the blog's 'footer' (bottom).
"What We Do", "Use Our Space" and "Have Your Say" are fine where they are.
|RTC Landing Page (original)|
|RTC Landing Page (Edited)|
Drop Down Menu
The Drop Down Menu is an opportunity to high-light events you want to high-light. Re-occurring events - like the "Community Matters" town halls - should have their own linked Title. The image below is the RTC home page with the Events tab hovered over, to reveal the drop down menu. I've photo-shopped "Community Matters Series" onto the drop down menu - these words should be linked to a "Community Matters Town Hall Series" Blog page.
|RTC Landing Page - Drop Down Menu changes|
The website's StructureOn-Going Event's should have a "Home Page"
The "What's Happening" drop down menu Title link for Community Matters should go to a Community Matters Home Page - where all the events that have happened in the series are posted - most recent at the top.
This is how the different pages relate to each other:
- (The Community Centre's Web page) Ralph Thornton Centre: ---> www ralphthornton.org/
- (Home Page for the Series) Ralph Thornton Centre | Community Matters Town Hall ---> series www ralphthornton.org/community_matters_town_hall/
- (A specific Event in the Series) Ralph Thornton Centre | Community Matters Town Hall | Where Will Our Children Be Able To Live? ---> www ralphthornton.org/community_matters_town_hall/where_will_our_kids_be_able_to_live/2013_03_05/
Networking your websites' Brand to the worldElements of a Web Presence
(a muti-platform, multi-media presence)
The public relations around an Event should start with an Announcement Blog Post at the RTC website - addressed in this order: website; series home page title; specific event title; date:
---> www ralphthornton.org/community_matters_town_hall/where_will_our_kids_be_able_to_live/2013_03_05/
The Event Announcement Blog Post should include all the media that the organizers want the social networks to copy, share and link-to (Brand copy, Brand image icon, Event video embed; event posters, event twitter hashtag, Facebook "Event" page) - in order to make sharing easy; to enable the 'Buzz' that will grow the Brand.
The "Ralph Thornton Centre" should have a Facebook "Page" (which it does) - AND a "Community Matters Series" specific, "Event" page for each event in the series. The Facebook Event page for "Where Will Our Kids Be Able To Live?" will start with an announcement post (the same copy, images, video embeds, posters as the The Event Announcement Blog Post) - and should link to that page at RTC.
The Facebook "Event" page should be titled:
"Where Will Our Kids Be Able To Live?"
A Ralph Thornton Centre "Community Matters Town Hall"
Tuesday March 5, 2013
Ralph Thornton Centre
765 Queen St E
Toronto, ON M4M 1H3
Google+ The New, Better Facebook
Google+ should be treated in a similar way to the way networking is accomplished in Facebook.
Google+ is better than Facebook: it is not silo-ed - Facebook is (your network in Facebook is likely determined by geographic location - like Toronto - if you search inside Facebook you get results from inside your network) - while Google+ is not silo-ed at all - it networks via word search of the entire web - just like everything on the web - except applications like Facebook.
For Branding I'd rather have access to the planet, than have a company's application architecture limiting my audience.
Twitter is at it's best, is a 'tribal' news feed. Using search inside Twitter you can narrow down your feed stream to a very specific kind of news or breaking news event. For example, I can tailor my stream to only news about Yacht Racing, or I can tailor it to stream only Tweets about a Natural Disaster that is unfolding in real time - like the Great Haiti Earthquake of 2010.
For a Community Centre advertising an event like the Community Matters Town Hall - Where Will Our Kids Be Able To Live? - Twitter gets the message out to people who are already following Ralph Thornton Centre's Twitter account.
Add a "Community Matters" Twitter Account - link back to the RTC Twitter account - and use a specific hashtag for each event.
For example "#WhereWillOurKidsLive".
These 'hashtags' are used by the 'Twitterverse' to have conversations inside Twitter about the event; to spread news about the event, to spread video and images during the event; and to link all that after the event too.
Follow-up posting after an event is as important in a series, as the networking before the event. All this helps sustain the Buzz - it maintains and strengthens, links in the Buzz community after the event; thus adding to the mass of possible audience that may join the Buzz for the next event.
A video sharing application account is special - very much like Facebook is special. You don't need a Youtube account (or a Facebook presence) to market effectively - but they are both such powerful tools you should use them (imho).
Ralph Thornton Centre should have a video sharing application account in order to post all the videos there that it has embedded on it's portals - otherwise one leaves the contents accessibility up to someone else's whim (they may chose to take down a video as some point, that you have embedded on your site).
You can use either Youtube or Vimeo (the two most popular video sharing sites) - but in Vimeo content is 'rich' by default - and not effective with slower connections.
You don't need an account to post video's of events - one can embed any video from anywhere. But to maintain the good user experience at all of your multi-media internet portals - all the videos you're going to post about the event (both before and after) should remain up. Otherwise user's leave with a bad taste in their mouths. Because you didn't give them what they wanted - their imaginations start to make up reasons; some people's reasons will be reasonable - some people's reasons will be very unreasonable.
Even if a video of an event is up online - uploaded to whoever's account - RTC should ask them if they may copy it and post it in the RTC Youtube account.
All this is easy to do - and Youtube also has an in-house editor - with which, one can produce slick looking media from rough raw footage.
Choosing Brand-able Keywords
In my opinion "Where Will Our Kids Be Able To Live?" is a long, cumbersome event title. It is especially hard to work with in Twitter (which in my opinion, is key to effective internet networking).
Organizers should keep in mind the social tools when choosing an event title - especially important social networking tools like Twitter.
During the initial planning meetings they should ask themselves,
- 'How will the title work in Twitter?'
- 'What will our hashtag be for the title we choose?'
- 'Is there a single word in the title that describes the whole idea?'
- 'Is that word a good hashtag in Twitter?'
- 'Is that word already being used as a hashtag for something else in Twitter (that will drown out the event tweets because of the volume of the other subject's Tweets)?'
All of the above applies to Search Engines as well a Twitter.
Check your keywords in several different search engines. If there is a set of keywords that are close to the one's your thinking of using - and that would would drowned-out your keyword searches by shear volume; or represent a subject matter you don't want to be associated with - tweak you keyword set, and check them again.
[edited 'Choosing Brand-able Keywords' - 2013-04-07]