The Latest Blog-buster

I have been pondering Jason Falls’ presentation at the Dallas Social Media Club meeting last Tuesday. (Sorry, been a busy week.) He was jolly, open, and authentic. I liked what he said about the business of blogs. He asserted that his most recent research indicates that the largest segment of blog traffic comes from first-time visitors—debunking the common myth that blogs appeal primarily to a devoted cadre of repeat visitors. Instead, based on Jason contends we actually should approach the blog as we would a standard marketing piece—core marketing messages.

Jason advises that the blog’s primary business purpose should be to “win search results,” so SEO/keyword strategies are mission critical. Most visitors find your blog when they are looking for information. Doesn’t that really help clarify the whole blogging conundrum, that question I hear all the time—What should I write about? Fuel your blogging journey with topics that resonate with your target audience. Develop messaging in an informative style that will trigger comments and engagement. The bottom line—deliver information-rich, intriguing content that promotes what you sell.

On Jason’s own blog, 69% of traffic comes from first time visitors—perhaps from the search term, “social media.” Falls surveyed 300 blogging companies, and for B2B respondents, 65-68% of visitors had landed for the first time. For business-to-consumer blogs, up to 80% were virgin clickers.

As in the traditional marketing world, knowing your audience is what it’s all about. So, the essential question is, “Who is reading your blog?” It may not be your enthusiast community or virtual cult of personality you imagine, but it merits your attention. Jason’s Social Media Explorer is considered one of the most prominent voices of the social media chorus.

He’s a such a teddy-bear sort of guy’s guy—so unpretentious. In fact, after seeing Falls and Brogan in action, I’m noticing a trend. It’s interesting to me that the pioneering minds of social media seem to be these affable-bro types. Chris Brogan, Jason Falls, Giovanni Gallucci, and even Clay Shirky (with some professorial polish) are the kinda guys you expect to see gathered around the big screen at the neighborhood sports bar—just regular guys. I don’t know what I expected, but I wonder how it evolved this way. Maybe it has something to do with the “cool geek factor” of the technology side.

Why does social media leadership seem to be such a boys’ club in general—when women are instinctively wired to find and nurture social relationships. Men, hunter/gatherers. Women, nurturers of home, hearth, and connection. Aren’t women the original social networkers? Could it be that social media is blurring these gender lines of communication? I pursued this a little further to discover that only about 12 of the approximately 63 “featured bloggers” on Social Media Today homepage appear to be women.

I think about my best gal pals from my early career, college, and high school. Many of them have resisted diving into Facebook much longer than the guys I know. They said they just didn’t have time—perhaps because they experience the same social engagement achieved online through their in-person activities, such as work, book clubs, PTA meetings, Saturday afternoon soccer, Sunday school, and Bunko groups. I think about my own entry into this wacky social media world. It was quite by accident. I joked in a recent job interview that I earned an “independent study” Master’s degree when I went to work for YourCause.com, which is now a distant memory for me. Beth Kanter has been forging the cause-focused social media trail much longer than I have, so I suspect the message had more to do with our involvement that the medium.

I wonder if this is because women really do know how do to make connections innately, and this new media frontier gives the “bros” an easier, less intimidating way to bond and relate. Hmmm. Interesting notion.

What do you think?

ElaineGantzWright’s blog is for people interested in using the Web and online marketing to drive social action. Elaine covers social media for education, nonprofits, philanthropy trends, online giving, cause marketing, random life musings, and more. Contact her — elgantz @yahoo.com

Finessing Facebook

facebook-currency
ElaineGantzWright’s blog is for people interested in using the Web and online marketing to drive social change. Elaine covers social media for nonprofits, philanthropy trends, online giving, cause marketing, random life musings, and more. Find her at SocialFuse.

Randi Zukerberg of Facebook delivered the keynote address at the recent Summer of Social Good Conference hosted by Mashable! It was the quintessential industry summit for social media and cause geeks. Randi’s presentation was covered by the Wall Street Journal – conjuring up the ubiquitous question I hear in the field – “I have a Facebook page. Now, what?” And that is the $64,000 question, isn’t it? Actually, $4000 would be nice—or even $40, for that matter.

Given this conundrum, one of the most interesting announcements was Facebook’s plan to pilot “virtual charity giving” to users. Initially, the proceeds will support micro-lender Kiva, Project Red, the World Wildlife Fund, and Tom’s Shoes. Plans are to roll out the feature more broadly after testing.

In a test starting this week, these alpha organizations will each offer 1-2 gifts at $5 or $10 each. Facebook users will be able to buy these gifts for friends, and the proceeds will go to the charity associated with the gift. This is essentially an extension of an increasingly popular offline concept – the idea of giving a gift to a recipient’s favorite charity as a present.

This isn’t the first time Facebook is experimenting with virtual gifts for charity—earlier this year, they launched a similar initiative upon hitting the 200 million member milestone. However, as Facebook moves further into gifts and payments, perhaps rivaling PayPay, charity gifts may become a staple of the site.

According a Facebook, “This is an alpha initiative and is not available to other charities at this time, but we may open up the program to new partners in the future pending the results. It is our goal to give our users a way to support the causes and issues that are important to them on a global scale.”

Still, nonprofit blogger Beth Kanter reported, “Skeptics in the audience tweeted about the limitations of tool-centric campaigns and wondered if, at the end of day, there was any on-the-ground social change. Or was it all hype?” To these folks, I say that the tools are only as effective as the strategy which drives them. They are just hype if they are not seen as an integrated component of an overall engagement strategy.

It’s really all about expectations. A one-off viral campaign may pull in a thousand dollars, a couple of hundred, or none — but the process of building awareness and affiliation for the duration should be is a core value. Creating real commitment takes time—and typically, a variety of contacts and “touches,” a we say in development. As a seasoned nonprofit professional, I cannot overstate the importance of the cultivation process. Seldom do you meet a new visitor at the door for your museum and say, “Excuse me, can you give me $50,000, today.” You date before you marry. Yet, there are cause sites on the web that are attempting to raise money in more of a “one-night-stand” style. “Hey, you know me. I like this organization. Give me money.” But to be effective in the long term, organizations must learn to capture that casual flirtation in the Facebook discussion sting and weave it into the overall cultivation effort. That’s why seamlessly integrating the Facebook page with the organization’s website is so important.

After all, Facebook has exploded in popularity, because it gives our intimacy-starved lives a way to forge and maintain human relationships in a frantic, chaotic world of drive-thrus, drop-offs, and pick-ups. We are communicating but not interacting. Though they may seem trivial at times, these online conversations are feeding us and the things we hold dear. But after all is said and done, nonprofits must first state their cases for support—then ask for investment.

So, even with the newest “virtual giving gadget” on Facebook, I still believe the gold in the online interactive community is just that – interaction. We are offering like minds and hearts ways to connect around life-changing missions. Isn’t that what we truly thirst for—shared passion and an authentic soul connection? You may be thinking, “Golly, Elaine, it’s a stretch to consider that self-actualization is a viable byproduct of Facebook, but the act of participation can help donors and advocates move along that path more rapidly.

Here are a few other high-level thoughts:

• Don’t rely on groups on Facebook. Be sure to create a “Fan Page” to take advantage of the viral potential. See the example of my SocialFuse landing page.

• More than 8 million Facebook users become “fans” of new pages each day, and the site’s fastest-growing demographic is users over 35, who are more involved in fundraising efforts.

• Be a little less “formal” and try a few fun updates and other content that communicates truth and personality sans spin—especially photos and videos.

• Try not to clutter your pages with too many applications. Leave room for conversation.

In addition, big companies, including Target, Intel and Kellogg, have been polling the site’s 250 million users as to where they should be donating money or goods, so an engaged Facebook fan base can benefit organizations on many levels.

What do you think? Let me know how you are using Facebook?