Tag Archives: audience research

Selfish Sharing is Still Sharing

One of the most interesting and timeless types of sharing is charitable giving. I’ve been fortunate to correspond with Joe Waters, director of cause and event marketing at Boston Medical Center (BMC), about how he thinks new technologies have impacted fundraising and development. Before reading on, I suggest you check out his blog, Selfish Giving.

Header for Joe's Blog, "Wings," courtesy of Gapingvoid (http://www.gapingvoid.com/)

Header for Joe's Blog, "Wings," courtesy of Gapingvoid (www.gapingvoid.com)

At what point did you become an adopter? When did you realize that communications channels were undergoing an irrevocable “e-shift”?

For me it’s really not about a shift, but what’s effective. And there is clear movement out there to new forms of media, whether it is blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I’m interested in staying effective and that’s where I need to be.

Of all the technologies you employ, which has yield the most response?

I think my blog has been a great tool to educate potential sponsors about cause marketing and to position myself as an expert in the field. It’s almost an online resume/notebook that I’m constantly updating with new ideas, accomplishments, and projects.

Asking donors to share their time, talents, and money is as old as the Catholic church, and probably older. But fundraising has typically been based on the idea of relationship building, and many would argue that online relationships tend to be inherently less personal than face to face cultivations. Has the internet helped or hurt (or both)?

Fundraising exclusively online is not a development strategy; it’s a tactic. To be successful raising money you need a comprehensive strategy that involves many different types of communication, including online. Online can be very efficient and effective, but it’s not a standalone. Just like cause marketing shouldn’t be a standalone. It needs to be done within the full suite of development activities (events, major gifts, foundations, etc.). The Internet can help nonprofits so long as they recognize they can’t stop doing all the other things they’re doing. Unfortunately, it won’t replace many of the things they are already doing. But it will enhance the success of those efforts.

Building on this question, you said: “Some people have asked why I gave my blog the rather irreverent name of Selfish Giving. I meant it as no offense to the practice of cause marketing or philanthropy, both of which I hold in high regard. But cause marketing is giving with an agenda, so why not call it what it is?” I agree that frankness is the way of the online and blog worlds. But probably not everyone in your industry does. Any backlash stemming from this conflict by people who don’t get it?

No one has ever said anything negative about my blog’s name. Of course, now that I say that I’ll probably have ten negative comments tonight! But really, people usually laugh when they hear the name. I think it also fits with my no-nonsense approach and witty tone on the blog. People know when you’re being sincere and anyone who reads my blog knows that I admire companies that give. I should add that there is plenty of unselfish corporate behavior that the press just doesn’t want to see right now.

So, BMC gala invites are distributed online this year. Interesting…

Necessity is the mother of invention, right? It was the tight economy this year that prompted us to rethink how we spent our money, especially for a big event like the Gala that involves 1,300 guests. One of the great things about a recession is that it makes you really question everything you’re doing, and when we looked at how most people heard about the Gala it wasn’t from the invite. We also cut the save-the-date card and the gala program (which I always thought was a big waste anyway). And we’ll save $15k by not having flower centerpieces at the event. Flowers are beautiful and great, but we think it sends the right message to our donors that our patients come before petunias.

The Rabbi Chaim story, to me, is one of depth vs. width. One of the comments on you blog makes valid point: “My guess is that the Rabbi’s SM is an active community with much participation in conversations. You need to build a similar community, now that you see how effective one can be. It is not about the cause, it is about the community around the cause.” Do you have advice for cause marketers in making their online sharing efforts authentic and community-based?

I think you have to try to make the online experience just as real as you can for donors. For example, we have a Boston Marathon team and while these folks raise tens of thousands of dollars for BMC, many just don’t have the time to visit the hospital to see firsthand the work we do. So instead we bring the hospital to them. Using a Flip video camera that cost us a couple hundred dollars, we’ve taped a series of interviews on our food pantry, cancer care, etc and then shared them with our runners via a weekly email newsletter. While we would still love to have them visit, we’ve tapped technology for a second option that is easy, cheap but effective in delivering our message of hope, health, and inclusiveness.

**Special thanks to Joe Waters and to Jessica for helping me coordiante this interview.**



Filed under Charitable Giving, Interviews

Overheard Sharing Part 2: Where’s the beef?

I’ll admit it. I like (some) street meat. So there, you know. Now whether you think I’m normal or nasty, here was a dialogue I heard between the female customer in front of me and the peddler last week:

And example, but not the exact man I discuss. (Love his signage.)

And example, but not the exact man I discuss. (Love his signage.)

“Oh, ok, thank you,” replies the vendor before he folds up the sheet and tucks it above his head in what reminds me of a visor in a car. “I can keep this one, right?”

“Sure, sure” said the girl. Then, she ordered her dirty water dog and went on her way…without paying.

Next is my turn and I ask what that was all about. Apparently she was informing the peddler of Columbia’s academic calendar. His days off coincide with the school’s.

Makes sense, but imagine that: A face-to-face exchange between two uncommon dealers dictates one man’s work schedule. Who knows when this relationship started? They clearly didn’t know one another besides this, but it seemed to suit both of them just fine. Huh. Only in NY I suppose.

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Filed under Case Studies

Get out your Sunglasses and SPF

sunglasses-lincolnTo combat today’s snow, I’m paying more attention to the Sunlight FoundationEllen Miller, co-founder with Michael Klein, made time after her weekend at Transparency Camp to answer my email inquiries about projects, e-innovations, and how the org measures its sunlight strength:

CP: Sunlight boast so many fascinating projects; if you had to pick just one (or two), which do you think fosters the best open dialogue? In other words, which allows for the best exchanges, the smoothest networking, and the easiest sharing between and among political figures the public and/or the public?

EM: Sunlight’s work is mostly about transparency of government data, particularly the date that concerns money, power, and influence. But the site that fosters the best open dialogue would be OpenCongress, which allows you to connect with others over legislation that you might both have an interest in. It allows you to create your own pages (via the My OpenCongress features) and allows you to share things you are reading (through My Political Notebook features). My second choice would be Congresspedia—a wiki just on congress. The latter project is being merged with OpenCongress.

CP: The internet came into play mid-career for you. Can you recall at what point you realized the communications channels and overall information dissemination model needed to shift?

EM: I realized the power of the technology—for communication in particular—pretty much from the beginning. I’ve been an early adapter, as they say. Our first home computer was the 1984 “Baby” MAC. It’s been a long love affair with technology since then. But, a seminal article by Tim O’Reilly, “What is Web 2.0“, was a real eye opener when I read it in the fall of 2005.

CP: Many of my 20- and 30-something peers are hesitant to adopt emerging technologies…

EM: Really?  Hard to imagine!…

CP: …yeah, so I can’t imagine the resistance you have gotten from even more deeply tradition-laden lawmakers. Any particularly funny responses you would be willing to share?

EM: Well, responses we get from members of congress (MOC) are not so amusing as they are horrifying.  One member told me, when we were discussing the possibility of putting daily schedules online, “That’s more information than anyone needs to know.” Mostly the responses we get are ones of bafflement—MOC in large part just don’t understand the technology and what it can do for (and to) them. They know email is overwhelming now and so they hate it. But this is changing. More and more MOC are on Twitter, for example. The few early adopters in the House and Senate are pusher others into it. As one colleague puts it, most MOC don’t get the difference between a server and a waiter.

CP: How does Sunlight measure its impact?

EM: We have specific metrics in terms of media mentions, email list subscriptions, op ed endorsements, visitors, and searches on sites that we both run and that we fund.

CP: Do you track who (demos or otherwise) makes up your audience? What, if any, evaluation methods are in place to measure not only the amount of sunlight you are shining, but what audience(s) are “soaking up the sun”?  

EM: We have done a survey of users. But honestly we can’t do enough. I think we have to do a better job of deciding who our audiences are and targeting them more directly. (We believe they should be journalists/bloggers, the online engaged citizen activists, and elected officials.)

*Special thanks to Ellen Miller for her time and to Elizabeth for helping me coordinate this interview!*

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Filed under Fostering Sharing, Interviews

Mouthing Off…

Imagine you asked an open-ended question about how members of an audience learned about a concert. Imagine you came up with these responses.

duck-to-duck-to-duck38- Word of mouth
31- Listing/review
29- Website
27- Print Advertisement
21- Email
18- Poster
16- Postcard
7- New York Times
4- Friend of an artist
2- Just walked by
1- block association newsletter

Thinking beyond the numbers, “word of mouth” permeates more than it initially seems. Why? Because “word of mouth” is not only words from lips. Recommendations, references, and interpersonal info dissemination come in forms beyond face-to-face and vocal. Here is my calculation of who really learned of this event because another human shared:

38 are self-reported “word of mouth” people
+ 15 (at least half of the “listings,” since these critics are trusted people)
+ 10 (half of the “emails,” since people, not just companies, send emails)
+ 4 (friend of the artist-this one is just a more specific “mouth”)
+ 1 (block newsletter could easily be considered friendly social gossip)

This really is 68 instances of social sharing (aka word of mouth)! (Though I wonder if we should be labeling it either of these terms.)

Line items on most arts marketing budgets (and probably most all marketing budgets, for that matter) and job descriptions are not in sync with the ranking above. Could it be because we cannot easily measure money allocated to and effort on behalf of sharing?

I would argue that measurable output is more important than input, especially today. We can cut budgets all we want, but providing customers with a megaphone undoubtedly gives organizations more bang (be it good or bad) for the buck.

So how can we spend time and money on social sharing? How can we make the shift in our budgets and job functions? (This goes for nonprofits and for-profits.) Here are two ideas, one simply and one not:

  1. Make every touchpoint sharable, via incentives, AddThis buttons, whatever.
  2. Think of every annoying audience member as a potential opportunity. (If someone is bugging you it is because they care. Even if they care only about themselves, in their mind it is still in relation to you. If you show you care back, they will notice and still care. If you don’t care back they will care even more. (Haven’t we all been here?) There is a chance they will tell others either way; at this point you cannot stop them from caring.) Here are some unconventional steps one arts organization took after embracing annoyances.

So now I ask, what could this be called in our budgets and on our job descriptions? CRM? Fire-fighting? WOMing?

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Filed under Fostering Sharing

If a tree falls in a forest…

Someone once told me that advice is only advice if it does not matter if the person on the receiving end follows it or not. That was good advice. But does the same go for sharing?

In my opinion, and for the purposes of this blog, I think not. To me, it’s more about the receiver(s) receiving (and hopefully processing and appreciating) than the sender sending. It’s market focused. In other words, sharing is not so much deontological as it is teleological/utilitarian (to harken back to intro class terminology…sort of).

Here are some instances of each. Let’s make this an on-going list:

Facebook in general
Really good blogs
Google docs
This American Life
Permission marketing

Blogspot letting me use my WordPress identity to post comments

Not sharing:
Lazy emailing
Bad websites
Many Facebook status updates (i.e. “little junior has green vomit today”)
4th Generation iPod Nanos not supporting Firewall changing
25 random things
Endless reply-alls

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Filed under Defining Sharing

Seriously? Seriously.

I was performing maid of honor duties last week. I intended to email an article to my bride-to-be sister, so I clicked on “Bookmark & Share,” which yielded this:

The Knot

Did my sister get the article? Yeah right. This myriad of sharing options set me way off track (aka Facebook). (It also gave me the idea for this blog. You see, I plan to explore some of these little items over the course of the semester to figure out what audiences use which ones to share what kind of info and how and why? So stay tuned. But I digress…)

It seems this website is trying so hard to be all-inclusive in their options that their efforts might cannibalize each other. The Knot might do better after research to determine which, say, 5 or 10 of these are most common amongst its visitors. Or, at least they could differentiate between “share” (1 to 1, or even perhaps 1 to many) and “bookmark” (save) in their clickable offerings.

Then again, maybe there isn’t such a thing as too many options when it comes to helping audiences spread online buzz. Still, the variety amazes me. Crazy.


Filed under Digital/Social Networks