Content Curation – Why Should Your Nonprofit Bother?

This is Part Two of a Multi-Part Series on Content Curation, see other installments linked below

Part One: What is Content Curation (and why should Nonprofits practice it)?

It’s not really a big stretch for most nonprofits to get into content marketing. In many ways, most nonprofits have been doing this for a long time. We have created countless newsletter, written op-ed columns, developed informational brochures, penned direct mail appeals, and issued press releases. Most of us have files of news stories, professional journal articles, curricula and lesson plans we have created or borrowed (or stolen) from others. Becoming an effective content curator isn’t so hard, or so different than what we have been doing all along, and yet it will help us tie everything together, and even better, to proffer our content to those we serve and care about.

Content curation allows you to add value to all of your social media efforts. Integrating your messages across your Twitter feed, your Facebook page, your LinkedIn account and your email campaigns potentiates the effect of each of these efforts and insures that you reach the widest audience possible with your important information and message.

As an effective content curator, you become the “go to” source on the web for those seeking information about topics relating to your nonprofit’s mission. Delivering quality content on a regular basis leads to becoming recognized as an expert, trusted as a resource, and appreciated as someone “who has my best interests in mind”.

An effective content curation strategy has intrinsic value as well. As you build up your list of resources, you develop a rich, useful repository of information that you and all of your staff can refer to constantly to help you do your work effectively, efficiently, and successfully. You will also find that you can engage your staff by encouraging their participation in content creation and discovery, stimulating them to become constant students and researchers, improving their professional skills and contributing to their development.

Content curation is a very subtle marketing strategy. By answering questions and providing information, methods and or strategies that are relevant to readers’ interests or helps them overcome challenges or teaches them something new, you (at the very least) tie these valuable experiences to your organization’s name, brand and mission. In some cases you can tie content you find or create directly to your products and services, effectively marketing without being heavy handed. Your audience will always be most interested in what you can do for them, and delivering good content answers that question in a very important way. With content curation, you stop being an “Outbound Marketer” pushing your sales pitch or message to a giant audience, most of whom are either not interested or so bombarded by similar messages that drown out everyone. Instead you become an “Inbound Marketer”, meaning that your market comes to you, because they know they will find answers that they seek. They identify themselves to you as possible customers, clients, and supporters.

The process of curating good content (which we will describe in detail in a later installment) is deceptively simple, straightforward and relatively inexpensive. So, even a small organization has the potential to compete on this stage with much larger groups which might otherwise prove to be daunting competitors. Particularly if you serve a niche market, or focus your attention on a few specific issues or a well-defined geographic area, you might find it even easier to provide personalized content that your customers actually want.

The delivery of compact containers of content is perfect for short postings on a regular basis on a variety of platforms. Whether you are creating a blog post, penning a new post to your LinkedIn platform, or writing in any of the different ways that you need to in order to optimize your time and space on Twitter, Google+ or any of dozens of other social media stages, curating content allows you to consistently provide your audience with regular, fresh, up-to-date facts, observations, or lessons. This always renewing source in turn gives people a reason to keep connecting with you over and over. The marketing journey has changed dramatically over the past couple of decades, with buyers/users taking individualized and often circuitous paths to a decision point – whether to buy a product, use a service, decide to financially support an organization. Because of this, the old methods of moving a buyer from point A (I know nothing about you) to Point B (I am ready to engage fully with you) is no longer dominated by advertising or marketing methods that used to be the mainstay of any business. Too, the massive changes that have occurred in how people get information means that large corporate behemoths (think TV, newspapers, radio) are no longer in charge of what gets published or broadcast. Now we have dozens of ways to connect with others, most of them are free or very cost effective, and we are in charge of what information is shared, not the media moguls. We are the publishers, we are the editors, we are the broadcasters. Those who learn how to stay on peoples’ radar and wave a sign gently in front of them day after day are the most likely to succeed.

If the above is not enough to encourage you to make your organization into a content curator, I’m not sure what will. I’m sure there are still some skeptics, and if you’ve read this far, stay tuned for our next installment where we will outline the strategies and tactics of effective content curators. You’ll see how embracing a few principles and deploying some relatively simple approaches bring the benefits of content curation into every nonprofit’s reach.

Nine for Nine – Smart Twitter Tips

It’s February 9, 2015 and although I don’t publish Innovaision’s “These Nine Things” newsletter (subscribe here) on Mondays, I thought it would be appropriate to extend the NINE theme into today’s article. Herewith, then is a list of Nine Twitter Tips for Nonprofits that many readers will find interesting. Note that these tips are valuable for most any business!

1. Avoid jargon and abbreviations that will not be easily understood by people outside of your industry. The brief nature of a tweet might encourage this, but if you want to communicate across a wide spectrum, make sure your message is intelligible to the greater audience.

2. Use hashtags wisely. Sure, the #hashtag can draw attention to your message topic, and also make it easier to find tweets on a particular subject, but too many hashtags negate the value. Common wisdom is to use no more than two hashtags in any single message, lest your readers start to think of you as a spammer. Also, make your hashtags short words – #goodadoptions is much better than #findingsafeandhealthyhomesforkids.

3. If you are using a Twitter account that is designated for your nonprofit (and we recommend that you have one for exactly this purpose) use your nonprofit’s logo or an avatar (the small square picture in the upper left corner of your profile) based on that logo on your account to strengthen organizational “brand recognition”.

4. To encourage retweets, and allow followers to add their own brief comment or thought, consider putting 100 – 120 character limit on your tweets. If use the full 140 characters available on Twitter, there is no room left for any additional notes from the re-tweeter.

5. Tweet some interesting fact about your area of focus that will lend itself to being retweeted by your followers. Examples could include things like “The average American diet requires almost 1,000 gallons of water per day – more than the worldwide average for all uses, including diet, household use, transportation, and energy” or “A single drug-addicted person has a significant impact, often negative, on the lives of 4 to 10 other peoples – family, friends, co-workers, etc.”

6. Use Twitter lists (see instructions here) to keep your followers organized into logical groups such as Financial Supporters, Volunteers, Board, or Professional Colleagues. It will help you in so many ways!

7. Put a Twitter “follow button” that links to your nonprofit Twitter account on everything you post online. Blogs, newsletters, web pages, downloadable document are all good places to give people an easy way to connect with your account and become avid followers. Suggest that all email correspondence originating from your nonprofit staff include a link to the company Twitter account in the signature space.

8. Spread your tweets out over the course of the day! Twitter is like a stream running by your reader’s front yard, and they aren’t sitting out in the yard all day. If you bunch all of your tweets in the morning or after dinner, the chances that they will be missed entirely goes up astronomically. Send one message early, then one at midmorning, noon, mid-afternoon and so forth. This increases the chance that more of your followers will see at least one of your daily postings. If you are writing interesting content, they are likely to click through to see what else you wrote today.

9. Follow your followers, and follow people you hope would want to follow your nonprofit. It’s all about networking. When you follow a person or organization you think you might want to do business with, or ask for help from, they are more likely to follow you back. Similarly, following your followers and reading what is on their minds is a great way to get inspiration for your future tweets, to insure they are relevant and READ.

Never send to know for whom the phone rings…

…it rings for thee.

Apologies to both John Donne, and Ernest Hemingway, but let’s face it – the smartphone revolution is upon is, with great vigor. Just think of what these little devices have done since their introduction only a few short years ago, if you, measure the key date as 2008 – when the first iPhone was introduced and the helldogs of Android were subsequently unleashed.

Smartphones have, for all intents and purposes, replaced digital cameras, GPS devices, laptops, handheld scanners, tape recorders, compasses, iPods and even flashlights (and virtually put out of business the product lines and sometimes companies that produce these items)! Most smartphone manufacturers make tablet devices as well, and now many are making smartphones a little bit bigger, which could likely kick their own tablet lines to the curb. The smartphone is making a good run at replacing other devices as well, including televisions, small ones at least. My smartphone can be programmed to function as a tv remote at the very least!

And this is just the device end of it. With the proliferation of Apps and the rise of cloud computing as a trusted place to store and retrieve information, the disruption is becoming logarithmic. The taxi business is being shattered by Uber and Lyft, credit card companies are feeling the pinch from companies like Softcard and Apple Pay, ATM machines could someday be a thing of the past, and Rand McNalley – when was the last time you bought a globe, or a road map? All of these once thriving businesses are falling to the portability, convenience and consumer control that is being made possible by the Holy Trinity of phone, app, and cloud.

The smart businessperson should be asking “How long will it be before the smartphone puts US out of business? Already entire occupational categories are threatened, including the guys who drive those cabs (although they can always go work for Uber), fleet managers, schedulers, logistics specialists, reference librarians (all librarians!), meter readers. And phones, apps, and data-in-the cloud is being used to upend the worlds of higher education, financial planning, and even medicine. Some of the top mHealth apps out now, for example, help us monitor our weight, set up a fitness program, track our heart health, provide first aid information and treatment recommendations, manage and treat our diabetes. Taking pictures of skin conditions or our eyeballs and sending them to a physician can avoid a trip to the clinic or emergency room and make the cost of such a visit cheaper when it is needed, and mental health apps can provide us with calming advice or connect us with a therapist around the clock or around the world.

The new technologies, wondrous to behold and use, are letting us do things we never thought we could do so conveniently, effectively, and cheaply. But make no mistake, it is also threatening almost every major institution in the world of work, business and commerce. If you understand that the bell is tolling for you, it’s time to start thinking about how you can participate in the digital revolution. Resistance, in the long run, will likely be futile. Don’t become a bookstore.

No “Laurel Resting” Allowed!

An interesting article appeared in the Wall Street Journal this weekend. Entitled “The Future of Medicine is in Your Smartphone”, Eric Topol – the author and a cardiologist – reviewed a lot of current and future developments in health innovation, most of which revolve around personal digital tools that interact with the cloud via your smartphone, collecting data from wearable devices, connecting you with apps and databanks that will, in the end, probably shift control of personal medical care from physicians and the healthcare “industry” to individuals. You can access the article online here.

One sentence that caught my eye as I read this story was “Someday, socks and shoes might analyze the human gait to, for instance, tell a Parkinson’s patient whether his or her medications are working or tell a caregiver whether an elderly family member is unsteady and at risk of falling.” It has probably only been less than 18 months since I read about a similar technology development, which I have since often incorporated in talks about healthcare innovation. In this earlier version, sensors are implanted in or under the carpeting in heavily travelled areas (e.g. the hallway between a bedroom and kitchen) of an older parent’s house, which would analyze the steps of the resident and provide feedback to their caregiving child, or even a professional caregiver. As I recall the earlier discussion, the premise is that foot-dragging due to weakness in the legs often precedes Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA) or major strokes. The feedback from the carpet system might give everyone a valuable head start on detecting and treating the causes of stroke, and allow damage to be minimized!

Now, just a few months later, the concept has evolved from a system that would probably be quite expensive to install, certainly disruptive during the installation, and which provides a detection system that is confined to a very specific area of one’s home into a system that is theoretically less expensive, not at all disruptive (“here’s a new pair of slippers”) and would be active any time the individual has shoes or socks on, anyplace they go – at home or out. In short, the improvements would be manifold.

This single example is a reminder that, despite the innovative changes that are happening all around us, if someone has a good idea, someone else is probably already working on another idea that is one or two or more generations ahead of it.

I’ve seen this same thing happen with one of Innovaision’s major conceptual products – Avatar Assisted Therapy. Having received a lot of attention from publications including Popular Science magazine and awards like the Lockheed-Martin “Innovate the Future” prize, it would have been tempting to rest on our laurels. But what we have done instead is continue to evolve the concept, including the utilization of an entirely different game development platform within which to develop the hard tools used, and many changes and additions to the functionality of the technology and the areas of practice in which it can be utilized. In addition, we continue to create additional collaborations with others on both ends of the spectrum (technology and end users) which keeps the concept advancing.

The lesson for us all is that creative, innovative ideas, no matter how great they are, are only as good as their latest iteration – and there are always people working on the newest, greatest version of your good idea. This is reality, and it is as it should be. So, what’s an innovative company to do? Well first, don’t ever rest on your laurels. In addition, try some of these suggestions to keep you on the cutting edge:

Read and research. Keep track of what is going on right now in your industry, and what the most imaginative people in your field are talking about. Fortunately this becomes easier with online search tools (like Google Alerts). Curate the most valuable information you encounter. Also, read extensively outside of your field of endeavor. Some of the best advances have come from repurposing ideas from dissimilar areas.

Be a part of the conversation. Look for ways to collaborate with others. Seek out conversation pits like LinkedIn groups relevant to your work and become an active member of discussion groups, both online and elsewhere.

Listen to smart people. Whether they are colleagues or involved in completely unrelated projects, conversations with intelligent people are always a wise investment. Take a genius to lunch!

Tell your story. Tell it as often as possible, to anyone who will listen. The more you talk about your good ideas, the more you will see them evolve and improve. The questions and feedback you get from your listeners will be invaluable.

Pay attention to discontent. Within your organization or from your customer base, listen to complaints or concerns. People will tell you what isn’t working as well as it should and steer you to new good ideas.

More than ever, the adage “If you aren’t moving forward, you’re falling behind” is true. So work for success, celebrate your wins, and get up the next morning and head back out for more.

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