I’ve been watching with interest the evolution of Social Actions, a relatively new service that helps you find things you can do right now for the causes you care about. The site aggregates “actionable opportunities” from 30 different social action-oriented sites like Change.org, Idealist.org, Kiva, DonorsChoose.org and others. With the proliferation of so many cause-related social networking sites, it’s helpful to see everything in one place. The Social Actions Labs folks have also been putting together various web applications that help to spread the information farther, such as a widget to put on your website or blog that uses keywords to offer actions related to the topic of the webpage (see left sidebar) and a Twitter “Social Actions PSA feed” you can have post to your own Twitter account daily for your favorite cause.
So when fellow blogger Britt Bravo invited me, along with other nonprofit marketing bloggers, to help her help Social Actions to market and communicate its mission more effectively, I was happy to help. After looking over the website, here are some of my thoughts:
- The focus needs to be centered on taking action — that’s what the mission is all about. But a look at the home page pulls me in many different directions. If I am a person wondering what I can do about my favorite cause, it should be obvious at a glance how to find that information. It took way too long for me to notice that the small search box at the top left that says “Find an action” is where I should start. The home page should be focused on the search box, with it being as easy to find as the box on Google’s search page.
- Nowhere do I see anything about the specific issues I care about — just a lot about the features of Social Actions. The key to good marketing is looking at your product and communications from the viewpoint of your audience; answer their question “What’s in it for me?” They have made a good start, with using the words “you” and “your” in a couple of places, and providing a menu of options as “I would like to…” Show examples of featured issues and related actions. Let me see what your application does for me, rather than just talking about it.
- The home page is also missing the heart and emotion of why people come in the first place. They are passionate about getting involved, in making a difference. They don’t necessarily care about “increasing the scope and impact of the citizen sector.” They want to save a life, rescue the planet, help someone out of poverty… and they want to do it in 5 minutes or less. Emphasize the impact they can have, the ease of participating, and the range of choices they can use to find an action that’s just right for them.
- Even when I select the link that says “I would like to…Find ways to take action,” I am confronted with four text-based choices that are still not entirely clear for the person who is just looking for how to help stray cats. The language under the option “Find an action by location, cause or keyword” is far too techie for regular people: “Our mashup aggregates actionable opportunities from 19 social action platforms.” How about just “Find an action you can take for your favorite cause”? (And the number of social action platforms listed ranges anywhere from 19 to 30, depending on the page!)
- Help your users continue to use and spread the word about Social Actions once they have been impressed by the range of action options for their cause. On every search results page, offer an easy-to-find RSS feed so that people can learn about the latest action related to their issue immediately. Offer the code to add a widget to their blog, Facebook profile, or MySpace page with actions on the cause for which they just searched. Add a link that says “Got Twitter?” with instructions on how to use the Social Actions Twitterfeed. Hand it to them rather than making them search your site for these tools.
- And finally, focus on your mission and whom you are serving. Some of the options on the home page let you look at the nonprofit jobs and internships board, hire a nonprofit consultant, and help foundations develop a micro-philanthropy strategy. Social Actions seems to have a split personality, unsure whether it is serving the individual activist or the nonprofit sector. These two missions can coexist, but not on the same web page. There should be a separate site or section of the existing website for nonprofit professionals or it gets too confusing. Each group has very different communication needs.
I hope that using the Social Actions website as a case study helps you look at your own website with a new eye. Do you have any other suggestions to help Social Actions?