Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Social Media Advice to Non-Profits Part 2 - The 5 Step Process

Now after a long sabbatical filled with job applications and interviews and other fun activities I am back to continue my advice to Non-Profits regarding social media outreach. Last time I tried to address some of the latent fears many in Government and non-profits may have regarding social media. What needs to be remembered is that Social Media is like any outreach tool, its purpose is to make your outreach easier.

One of the easiest ways to foul up your social media outreach is to go into the process blind; with no plan. Wielding social media without a plan is like a grandmother trying to start a campfire with a lightsaber in the forest - you aren't really sure what you have, you aren't using it properly/effectively and you can really look strange in the process. There is a really quick five stage process when developing an outreach strategy that uses social media that most consultants and professionals use in some variation. The five stages are; Preparation, Implementation, Launch, Analysis, and Adaptation and the stages repeat with the same outreach campaign in the future, or with new ones you develop.

In the preparation stage of the process it is the proper time for the organization to, as a whole, set their over all goals when it comes to the future of their organization. Is there a specific issue they work on that they want higher national recognition? Is there a target donation amount for their upcoming budget they need to raise? Do they just want to increase awareness of their organization as a whole? This part of the process is known as the "Why are we here" portion where the organization as a whole has to declare their overall goals. From here those goals can be developed and broken down into smaller goals and even metrics to measure success. For example, if an organization's overall mission statement is to conserve national open spaces, then that goal could be broken down to consist of an overall image campaign to increase the national awareness of their organization and the perception of the importance of open spaces, behavior modification to change the relationship between the constituency and open spaces, fundraising, and even more specific, targeted conservation campaigns. Now let us just focus down this path on increasing the national awareness of the organization in question. This could be broken down into; increasing national traffic to the website, increasing reach of stories to nationally syndicated papers, and possibly being consider a part of the conversation leadership. This process can be long and arduous but eventually it will allow you as an organization to have a clear set of small and achievable goals to help you achieve your mission statement.

When setting goals and preparing the early stages of the outreach plan the most crucial step is to figure out your Target Demographic. This is applicable to any campaign strategy basically it means figuring out who would/should be interested in your campaign. When you figure out your target demographic, say for example, young students and parents concerned about tuition increases and class sizes, you can figure out where they would most likely be acting in an online sense. You can figure out that if your target demographic is more likely to be more engaging in the social media world, say those age 21-35 who are progressive with some sort of blog interaction, that it will be easier to have them buy into and promote your campaign. These elucidations can lead you to the various platforms you should be using and how you should be cross-promoting your campaign between them.

In the preparation step, you also have to start thinking about the timeline of your organization, do you have a big fundraiser that you want to maximize? Are there some key Legislative moves that you need action on from your constituents? Are there specific holidays that you want to capitalize on to gain more attention for your organization? All of these factors need to be taken into consideration when developing your social media strategy. All of these factors, events and actions are things that can create valuable and interesting content for your social media platforms and serve as catalysts of engagement with your constituency.

The preparation step is also the appropriate place to set up your social media guidelines and best practices. This document should be internally developed by whomever is in control of your social media and should be used to teach your employees and volunteers how to effectively and properly interact through social media platforms. It should also be used to set up certain minutia of how to operate and utilize the platforms, such as, your organization should have a minimum of 2 blog entries a week and 2 twitter posts a day.

The real point that I hope can be gained from all this is that each social media plan is unique and has to be, because it is just a tool that will help an organization reach its outreach goals.

When your social media platforms are and have set up your own guidelines and best practices the implementation should be really straightforward but there are a few quick things to remember that will make things much easier in the long run.
  1. Set up a backlog of blog entries that will post automatically.
  2. Make sure that your platforms are linked together so that when there is action on one, all are alerted.
  3. Make sure that you are listed in the appropriate web aggregators such as Dig, Technorati, etc.
  4. Make sure you attach analytical elements to EACH platform you create that also contains traffic sources information. This is key.
There are a few other tips and tricks but they again, are so specific that it really depends on your over all strategy and goals. I am in big favor of focusing your implementation in a way that includes partner groups.

There are two main ways of approaching the launch, the soft and the hard. A soft launch, which mainly consists of edging into the various conversations across the variously platforms in a way to give the impression that you have always been there is very subdued and not really advertized. The hard launch usually is a celebration. "We are here, you should be excited." The hard launch usually is attached to a branding or website redesign and should have a lot of pre-launch promotion and even should include a party of some kind. This can be a huge content generating event and should be joyful; remember, setting all this up should have been a hard and lengthy process so you deserve a party. Again, all of this is highly specialized depending on your own organization, your image and what you want to get out of your social media interaction.

The best way to measure your goals and keep track of your metrics is through analytical programs. There are various free methods such as Google Analytics, or other analytical programs that come with the platform itself but for those with the resources it is usually a good idea to pay for analytic programs, such as Radian6 or Scout Labs or the like. What every your tools are, your social media manager needs to keep at the forefront of new technologies and new methods to find out how you are affecting your constituency.

You have planned, you have launched and you have analyzed. You have had successes and, in all likelihood, some failures in your outreach. This is the point in the process where you are learning from your mistakes, where you already have an idea of where you are going with your next launch. From here, look at where your highest traffic was from and concentrate on that platform. Look at where you are getting the least, examine it, and ask, can this be improved? or should it be liquidated.

These are just brief glazing over of these steps and again, for the third time, each depends heavily on your own outreach plan and goals. In the end, the only one who can tell you how to effectively communication with your constituency is you, others can only give suggestions.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Egypt part two; Global warming and homeostasis

Many reasons have been blamed for the explosion of political movement that is sweeping the Arab world. The political change in Tunisia and Egypt spreading to parts unknown (hopefully Libya and Yemen) can be said to have many root causes, first and foremost are the horrible human rights conditions and lack of political freedoms.

It actually seems to be the perfect political storm of the right age demographic in an oppressive regime with the right technology. 8-ball, corner pocket and it all comes tumbling down. One of those straws that broke this camel’s back must be declared as Climate Change. This a direct correlation between the effects of Climate Change and Political Unrest and the thing that we must understand is that this is just the beginning if trends don’t change.

The logic is that Climate Change causes adverse effects on crop production in the world. This causes the supply of food to decrease, this mixed with increased populations (demand) and fuel prices increase food prices significantly to the point where many in the world cannot afford food. In a world where you cannot find work, your government is oppressive and you cannot even afford food anymore even if you had a job, protest on a massive scale must occur.

While this has, in a way, happened before, if we remember riots from 2008, and how that got better, things are going to get much worse before they get better folks. We have to remember; these are the birth-pains of a better world. These instabilities in the oil rich nations and 3rd world nations are going to increase oil prices. This is going to make Wall Street fearful. This is going to increase other prices. Transportation will go up, food will go up, it will be scary. Just a few quotes;

The oddest thing about the situation is that the riots are fueling the fire for the price increase. The market hates uncertainty and reacts poorly to political unrest. This causes prices to go up. In fact "Rice, wheat, corn and soybean futures gained in Chicago on speculation governments in emerging economies will boost imports after soaring food prices spurred protests in Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Yemen. The unrest may worsen because grain hoarding “will intensify,” according to a report yesterday from New York-based Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Cocoa surged 10 percent, the most since September 2009, on signs supplies will be disrupted from the Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest grower."

Now, in the long run this means that hypothetically, once the riots subside, speculation will cause the prices to normalize eventually and food will become cheaper than it is now giving who ever gains controlled political clout and the credit for the lowering. This is, however a temporary thing. As population continues to rise, and global climates change, causing more and more difficulty to generate enough affordable food, something will eventually have to give to get us back to homeostasis and many fear that something will be massive population loss.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Egypt Riots Part One: Modern Day Domino Effect

The Egyptian "crisis" is a very interesting situation to watch. While we have gone into other countries on the auspice of instilling "democracy" our largest ally in the region besides Israel has been headed by a dictatorial ruler. What we are witnessing in Egypt is a massive movement being pushed by a coalition of the Muslim Brotherhood a traditionally anti-western and anti-Israel organization and the liberal unionists trying to enact change.

The biggest tip off to me, which made me side completely with the Egyptian people (and I believe the tipping point for most of the western world) was the closing of internet. Shutting down a huge means of conversation is just screaming dictatorial rule. No matter what you believe or what background you are coming from, this is a fact, it is the action of a government who doesn't want its citizens to freely express themselves.

There are those, most who are already under the impression that Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon are controlled by Israel, who feel that the entirety of the Middle East will revolt including Israel and that these riots are showing their anger at Israel. Part two of this piece will go over the reasons behind this, but obviously they are wrong, if this has anything to do with Israel, it is a minimal spill over from the Muslim Brotherhood rhetoric.

What is truly interesting here is the reaction from Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Palestine. This thing seems to have the potential to spread like honey through the land, depending on how hot things get it can be a quick spill or a cool crawl. This possible domino effect started with the toppling of an Arab dictator in Tunisia and issues starting up in neighboring Syria.

Twitter and Facebook campaigns calling for protests have already taken over the net and one group has "called for a "day of rage" on Saturday, similar to the Jan. 25 demonstrations in Egypt that sparked the current uprising there. Another Web page with more than 6,000 members calls for protests in Damascus on Friday and Saturday."

Jordan's King actually fired his entire cabinet which is not puzzling based on the fear of some sort of insurgency. The interesting thing here is that Jordan is rather progressive and westernized. Not only is the regency (including the lovely Queen Rania who is gorgeous, brilliant and an amazing humanitarian) progressive on women's rights and dealing with the West and Israel, they rate really low on human rights violations; lower than Mexico and only slightly higher than the United States where Egypt is considered one of the top 20 offenders.

Alarmed by the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, the Palestinian Authority has finally agreed to hold local elections.

In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority agreed to hold local elections for the first time since they were cancelled in 2006 and were supposed to take place last June. But the PA controlled West Bank is very different from the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip who have "denounced the idea, asserting that the PA does not have the right to call for such elections." This is a slightly scary situation for Israel since instability has a tendency to be bad for neighboring countries.

The IDF has been keeping a “watchful” eye on the West Bank. This is mainly out of concern that Palestinians will launch demonstrations similar to the ones in Egypt. This instability will make it easier for terrorist groups will try to launch attacks against Israel, which is focused on Egypt.

As with any middle east conflicts, there are not only those who see these riots as an expression against Israel, but there are those who blame Israel itself for instigating these riots. But Israel and the United States have a lot to loose if the Egyptian government fails and is replaced by an Islamist, anti-Israeli and anti-American regime. The United States would lose a foothold and ally in the region for strategic movements if the past agreements are not kept valid. Israel could exchange a timid ally with a fierce enemy with a vast arsenal. Ha-Aretz, the official Israeli newspaper puts it best;

While in other countries many are watching with satisfaction at what looks to be possibly the imminent toppling of a regime that denied its citizens their basic rights, the Israeli point of view is completely different.

The collapse of the old regime in Cairo, if it takes place, will have a massive effect, mainly negative, on Israel's position in the region. In the long run, it could put the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan in danger, the largest strategic assets after the support of the United States.

I view this as an opportunity for the United States and Israel to gain a foot hold in the new regimes. Show that they are on the side of the Egyptian people through aid and other support. It is even an opportunity to possibly modernize Middle Eastern Islamic countries allowing for the moderatization of the region to flourish. As a high-ranking White House official once said, “Rule one: Never allow a crisis to go to waste.

Allow the United States and even Israel to push the brotherhood out of the leadership and give the power to more leftist union leaders and other political options, separating themselves from previous regimes.

If we look at who is rioting we see that; "the formation of young rebellious groups of students and intellectuals from outside the traditional partisan framework of the opposition, which was granted some margins of freedom by the regime in the last few years in order to contain popular anger."

The political message is about oppression, the economic is about food and jobs. Spin the message so that the people will not stand for replacing one form of oppression with that of religious oppression and that the United States is not the same one that supplied Egypt with tear gas canisters but we are now the friendlier, more supportive America of hope and change. Israel can show that they are not to be feared or hated, but can help the people of Egypt and even the Palestinians shirk off the oppressive and corrupt regimes that don't really care about their people. That is really just my two cents for now, watch out for part two and three of this analysis on the Egyptian situation.