Taking Social Actions

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?

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The Tip Jar – 5/28/08

It’s been way too long since the last installment of the Tip Jar, my collection of recent odds and ends from the world of social marketing to pass along to you. So let’s unscrew that jar and see what falls out…

  • How much effect would you think a checkbox would have on someone’s decision whether or not to become a potential organ donor? When the checkbox on the form at the DMV is “opt-out” versus “opt-in” to the organ donation program, consent rates are much higher. In both cases, people generally adopt the default option, but with opposite results, even among people with similar characteristics. This is an example from Dan Ariely’s blog, linked to his new book Predictably Irrational, of how people are influenced by environmental and emotional factors that unknowingly affect our choices and behaviors even when we think we are making rational decisions. I think the field of behavioral economics holds a lot of lessons for social marketers.
  • Don’t miss the special free supplement in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine with a treasure trove of articles about the (now defunct) VERB Campaign. This great example of using branding to persuade preteens to get physically active had full-scale evaluation data showing how effective it was, and the articles in this supplement help round out the case study.
  • Another classic social marketing brand, the Truth Campaign, seems to have gotten off-track with its latest TV ad. Called out by AdRants for being anachronistic, I have to agree that basing the commercial on a tobacco company executive’s statement in 1971 — 37 years ago — is irrelevant to today’s kids. A 14 year old today was born in 1994 (yikes!); 1971 might as well be 1871 to them. Hope the campaign will lose its obsession with old tobacco industry documents and get back in touch with what connects with youth now. They used to be great at it.
  • I found it interesting that the Democratic National Committee is requiring the caterers for its convention in Denver this summer to use healthy, environmentally friendly ingredients. The food must be local, organic or both, and must include at least three out of the following five colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple and white. Fried foods are out. Individual bottled drinks are a no-no, as are styrofoam plates. This will be a challenge for the caterers, as one said, “We all want to source locally, but we’re in Colorado. The growing season is short. It’s dry here. And I question the feasibility of that.” The costs for the committee’s 22 or so events may be at least doubled by these new requirements (not a happy prospect given their money woes, I’m sure). If they succeed, though, I’m sure this will be a model for other future events.
  • It’s worth checking out the podcasts of the panels from the Making Your Media Matter conference, presented by the Center for Social Media. They include topics like games for social change, telling difficult stories, hip-hop as a medium, crossing cultural boundaries, and emerging formats and distribution strategies.
  • Global warming gadfly Bjorn Lomborg wrote a thought-provoking piece in the Wall Street Journal on how to think about the world’s problems. Can we set our priorities based on straight cost/benefit analysis of what will be most efficient in saving lives? Maybe we could, or maybe the vested interests would get in the way. On Friday, a panel of the world’s top economists will release a prioritized list showing the best and worst investments we could make in 50 solutions to the biggest problems. That should be interesting to see, and even more interesting will be the reaction to it.
  • Are you a sworn officer of the grammar police like I am? Misplaced apostrophes drive me bonkers. Misspellings make me want to stab people with a red sharpie. PSFK points us to a Chicago Times article about two guys who decided to get militant and do something about it. They traveled across the US as the Typo Eradication Advancement League, stopping wherever they saw typos or grammar mistakes on signs and either asking the owner to make the correction or fixing it themselves. My heroes!
  • SocialButterfly has compiled a comprehensive list of the latest social marketing-related events coming up on the calendar this year all over the world. There’s something for everyone there.
  • Speaking of social marketing events (ahem), next week is Social Marketing University in Washington, DC. Even if you’re not coming to SMU (though there still are a few seats left if you register immediately), if you are in the DC area please join Andre Blackman (of the Pulse & Signal blog), me and many others at the first Social Marketing Blogger/Reader Dinner and Meetup. It will be on this Tuesday, June 3rd, 6:30 – 9:00 pm, at the Capitol City Brewery (1100 New York Ave, NW). Come by for all or part of it, and eat, drink or just schmooze. If you are on Facebook, you can let us know you’re coming on the event page, or send me an email at weinreich at social-marketing.com. Hope to see you there!

Photo Credit: waheedaharris

Nonprofit Info Smorgasbord

Do you have a huge number of blog and news feeds in your feedreader that you can’t possibly keep up with on a daily basis? Or, on the other end of the spectrum, have you resisted deciphering those three little letters, RSS, and continue to check your bookmarked links regularly to see if your favorite web pages have updated?

Now there is a new — and incredibly simple — solution. Guy Kawasaki, whom I used to read in Macworld Magazine when he was the original brand evangelist, recently started a new network of websites called Alltop.com. Based on the popurls model, the sites — each focusing on a specific topic — show the latest five posts from a wide range of news sources and blogs covering that topic, all on one page. Topics include celebrities, health, “green,” social media, small business and many others.

I suggested to Guy that he create a “nonprofit” topic and worked with him to identify news and blog feeds that should be included. And that’s how nonprofit.alltop.com was born.

Like a smorgasbord, you can eat as much or as little as you want. Scan the headlines to see what looks good. Hover the mouse over a headline to get a taste of the full text. Or click on an item that looks especially yummy and go to the original site to eat the whole thing. Maybe you’ll even discover some new sites you didn’t know about before.

Photo Credit: WhatCouldPossiblyGoWrong?

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Osocio Arrives!

Just in time for Hanukkah and as an early Xmas present to us social marketers, Dutch blogger Marc van Gurp has unveiled the successor to his earlier blog Houtlust, which had become the go-to site for nonprofit advertising campaigns from around the world. After a 5-month hiatus, the new website Osocio is online and off to a running start.

Osocio takes the best of what made Houtlust such a great resource — daily examples of advertising from international social marketing and other nonprofit campaigns — and adds a number of other features that make it the online hub for anything and everything social advertising. Marc has added profiles of nonprofit organizations, a list of relevant workshops and events, a dictionary of terms, news and feeds from other blogs (thanks for including mine, Marc!), and free banner space for nonprofits on the sidebar. Several other bloggers are contributing posts besides Marc, including Virtualpolitik‘s Liz Losh and Another Limited Rebellion‘s Noah Scalin (I am not familiar with the others, but look forward to reading their contributions and international perspectives).

Marc’s recent Facebook group protest against Facebook’s use of the term “Social Ads” reminded me of my constant battle to retain clarity around the use of the term “social marketing.” I recently wrote about why naming is important for these fields as a guest blogger on the Influential Marketing Blog, while Rohit Bhargava was off becoming a daddy again.

Am I the only one who has the song Sussudio in their head now? O-so-so-socio!

(Will you ever forgive me?)

The Tip Jar – 11/26/07

After about 2 months of not posting a Tip Jar roundup (less blogging=more sleep, which I’ve decided is healthier than less sleep), I’ve saved up enough links to fill a barrel. I’ll try not to overwhelm you with them, and have selected only the finest of the lot. Before I let them sit around long enough to age in the barrel, I’m going to get this first batch out and try to post more very soon (it’s already been a week since I started writing this post).

  • If you have a great idea for spurring positive social change, consider applying for the Echoing Green fellowship, which provides up to $90,000 of seed money and technical support to make the vision a reality. But don’t wait too long to act — the applications for the 2008 program are due December 3rd.
  • Nora Barnes and Eric Mattson at U Mass Dartmouth surveyed the 200 largest nonprofits and found that they are adopting social media at a much faster pace than the business world, with 75 percent using some form of social media like blogs, social networking sites, podcasts, wikis or other formats. Makes a lot of sense, given that these tools are mostly free or low-cost, and yet so effective.
  • Via Beth, I found out about the Advocacy Progress Planner, a click-and-go tool to create a logic model to plan policy-focused advocacy campaigns. I would love to see something like this for social marketing programs, but our issues and strategies are not that simple and straightforward. At least, a well-designed social marketing program based on research with the target audience could not just click a few choices and be ready to go. The model is quite appealing though — perhaps it could be used for preliminary planning.
  • It’s always nice to hear or read stories about how a social marketing campaign saved someone’s life. And this British Heart Foundation ad is credited with saving at least nine or ten other people as well. Of course, every life saved is worth more than the cost of the campaign, but just remember that anecdotes are not necessarily proof of effectiveness.
  • I guess this is one way to make sure that your country is full of only fit people. Not a very nice or intelligent way, but a way nonetheless.
  • Download an interesting ChangeThis Manifesto called Change the Way You Change the World, which talks about what nonprofits can do to achieve wide-scale social change. It’s written by Leslie Crutchfield and Heather Grant McLeod, authors of Forces for Good.

More soon, I hope…

Photo Credit: ltflux

A Social Marketing Book Club!

Consummate bookworm CK has announced the next round of the Marketing Profs Book Club, and the featured book is one of my favorites for nonprofits who want to do social marketing — Robin Hood Marketing by Katya Andresen.

You might remember that I did a review of the book last year and thought it was a great guide to developing a marketing mindset in your nonprofit communications. For more on the book, read CK’s interview with Katya. I’m looking forward to many stimulating online discussions at the Book Club, which will start November 13. Sign up by October 12 to be part of the Book Club, and you will be entered to win one of 50 free copies of Robin Hood Marketing!

I was honored to be asked by CK to put together a short introduction to social marketing as a bonus to be offered to all Book Club participants. This free eBook, Social Marketing at Your Fingertips: A Quick Guide to Changing the World, is now available for download. It briefly explains what social marketing is and isn’t, outlines the social marketing mix, offers an abridged review of Robin Hood Marketing, and provides a list of resources for more information. I hope you find it helpful!