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Web Marketing for Charities

From the Horse’s Mouth – HorseWorld’s winning way with Social Media

patty the donkey painting

Patty - HorseWorld's painting donkey - was a Facebook hit

We’re delighted to see our client HorseWorld shortlisted for the Communicator of the Year award at the prestigious Bristol Post Business Awards next week.

It’s particularly pleasing for us as we’ve followed them through their journey with social media, from tentative first steps to it being a key part of their communications strategy.

We advise a lot of clients on social media strategy, but HorseWorld are one of those who have really grabbed the reins (pun intended!) and created something that we now use as an example in our social media workshops.

Like most clients, HorseWorld were a little unsure of how to approach social media when we first met them – and even whether to do it!

With a strong marketing team already getting results through existing channels and working flat out, there was the question of capacity – who would actually do it? – and also understandable caution at opening up public communication channels without the experience of managing it.

High percentages

They needn’t have worried – after taking the plunge, HorseWorld’s team have delivered a level of social engagement that puts many bigger organisations to shame.

As we tell all our clients, it’s not about the numbers – in two years they have gathered close to 4,500 Likes on Facebook, a good number but still plenty of room for growth.

What they are great at is turning those likes into conversations and actions that benefit the charity. The level of interaction is remarkable – at any one time, as many as a quarter of those Likers are actually active: talking to HorseWorld, sharing posts, having a conversation.

To put that in perspective – HorseWorld’s usual interaction rate is between 15-25%, compared with the Facebook average for even well-known brands (with huge social media budgets) of 1.4%.

In fact, while a rival horse charity has 5 times as many Likes, the level of active users they have is no higher than HorseWorld’s – and active users are really all that matters.

Managing conversations

Social media is not about marketing, it’s about managing conversations and turning those conversations into actions.

HorseWorld’s Facebook page has seen them re-home horses, increase visits to the point that they are almost at capacity, generate national press coverage – and even get one of their animals on Britain’s Got Talent!

They’ve done this with the same limited social media capacity that most charities have – and they’ve done it by not thinking about the technology or trying to come up with gimmicky ideas, but rather just by having that winning formula all conversations need in order to flow – “be interesting, be interested”.

They know their audience and share their passions, and they talk to them – it is simply people talking to people about stuff that interests them both. Sounds easy, but it takes a certain talent to pull it off as effectively as HorseWorld.

Their online community feels listened to, and knows their opinion is important and that the people at HorseWorld genuinely enjoy interacting with them.

HorseWorld MD Mark Owen told us: “Social media has helped HorseWorld establish a real-time two-way communications dialogue with our supporters from all over the world at extremely low-cost.

“We have been able to truly engage with the public and involve them in every step associated with our Charitable work of Rescuing, Rehabilitating and Rehoming Horses in need.

“We are also able to quickly garner options from our visitors, supporters and Equestrian enthusiasts about our work and the Equine Welfare sector in general – which is invaluable feedback when planning for the future.”

The Bristol Post Business Awards are being held on Wednesday 27th June.

Grassroots engagement in Ealing

MP Virendra Sharma with Claire Sully (pic by Dinesh Kargathra)

I’ve just spent a sunny Sunday delivering a talk on charity online engagement at an innovative charity fayre organised by Ealing Southall MP Virendra Sharma.

The event brought together a wide group of charities from his constituency – from Age Concern and Friends of the Earth to real grass-roots organisations operating in this culturally diverse area of London.

The fayre is the start of an ongoing initiative to bring together the more than 185 local charities to share knowledge and work together to make real improvements in the area.

Mr Sharma invited me to the event to talk about what we call the “digital gamechanger” – how the use of digital technology has ripped up the rule book for the way charities and community organisations engage with their supporters and each other.

The web – like this event – is all about communities of shared interest, and digital technology is the most effective tool empowering organisations to share.

It was great to see a real grassroots inititive like this taking shape, and we will be following its development closely over the coming months.

New website for Luton Culture

We’re celebrating the launch of our latest website – a powerful and user-friendly site for Luton Culture, a major urban arts and culture charity.

Luton Culture manage manage 12 venues and provide cultural services to more than 250,000 people across Luton and surrounding area, with more than 300 employees.

The site promotes events at the 12 venues, as well as providing an online cultural community for the region.

The site, built on our open-source based Hummingbird platform, includes complex online event listings for multiple venues, as well as e-commerce, social media integration and e-marketing management.

Detailed planning, usability and accessibility testing went into creating a site that works for a highly diverse audience across multiple platforms, and provides Luton Culture with a highly-flexible, easy-to-use website for managing all their online communications.

We were also briefed to ensure the site ensured each venue kept its own identity and worked as a stand-alone area of the site, while ensuring ease of use and a sense of a single organisation working together.

We conducted user-testing with a wide range of subjects in Bristol and Luton, as well as planning detailed wireframes and paper-prototypes to ensure the finished site delivered the marketing aims of the organisation.

The site is now up and running, and can be seen at http://www.lutonculture.com/

Resistance is futile – how the Social Media revolution overthrew your website

Social Media RevolutionThe world’s biggest annual social media survey has just been published, and it shows that, for charities, the tipping point in the communication revolution has now been reached.

Among the figures the Wave survey – published by ad agency Universal McCann* – throws up are these:

  • Over the last two years, the proportion of Net users visiting brand sites has dropped 10% (down to 74%)
  • Over the last year, the proportion of Net users connecting with a brand in social networks has increased 20% (to 30%)
  • Just under 50% of people have joined an online brand community

Brand? That means you. It means any organisation that seeks to create a community of engaged and connected followers. For businesses, it means potential or actual customers – for charities, it means potential or actual supporters.

It’s the end of the WWWorld as we know it

What do these figures mean? Along with all the other figures showing the sheer scale of social media engagement, they mean that your website has stopped being the centre of your online world.

For most charities and businesses, their web presence has been defined by their website. It’s where the “brand” lives online, how they communicate online, where they point people to for information – it’s the “official” web presence of the charity.

All that is about to change – in fact, it already has. The web is no longer about sites, its about content. Content doesn’t live on a site, it lives online – in social media, in tweets, on Facebook, emailed between friends, mentioned, social bookmarked.

Conversation not destination

It is no longer enough to concentrate your online marketing around your website, with perhaps a cursory nod to Twitter or Facebook. Your charity no longer exists online as a destination, but as a conversation.

Social Media is becoming the first place that people will find you online. It’s becoming the place where they will donate, fundraise, discuss you, support you, engage with you.

The way people use the web is changing radically – Social Media is intrinsically wound up in the way people move around online. They can Like content in Facebook without being on the Facebook site. They can sign into discussions via social sign-in, or write or comment on blogs. They can follow discussions and topics on Twitter. The revolution is being televised – on YouTube, which has become the second biggest search platform after Google.

Increasingly, they’ll stop searching for you online, and instead you – and the issues that matter to your charity – will find them.

All this is breaking down the walls that kept content – and brand – tied to a single website.

Not an option

Social Media is no longer an add-on, or an option, or a means of driving traffic to your site. It is your site – it’s everyone’s site.

When you are thinking about your website you now need to think of your web presence – the way you engage online is changing, and so must the roles of the people in your organisation that support your website.

Just like you did for your website, you need a strategy for social media engagement that directly supports your organisation’s aims. You need measurable goals, and people to ensure that those goals are met. As much as anything, you need a change of mindset away from having a website manager or team and towards having an online engagement team.

10 years ago, there were still charities that didn’t have a website. Now, no serious charity would be without one. In a lot shorter time than that, no serious charity will be without a web presence that has social media at its heart.

* apologies for those of you who clicked the link to UniversalMcCann – yes that really is the world’s most unusable site

Charlie Simpson shows charities the power of Twitter

What have one of the world’s oldest and most influential humanitarian organizations and a seven-year-old boy from Fulham got in common?

Both have shown in recent days the power and potential of using Twitter as a fundraising tool.

Twitter, and other social media, have become the front line for many third-sector organizations when it comes to bringing in donations – and have been used with great effect by the American Red Cross and Charlie Simpson.

From a single Twitter message, the American Red Cross was able to attract more than $35m online and mobile donations – more than for the whole of the Asian Tsunami and Katrina Hurrican appeals combined.

The appeal worked despite the charity not having a huge number of followers to receive the initial Tweet. But with careful targeting (including celebrities with massive followings, and other high-profile Twitterers) the ARC were able to leverage the power of social media to go viral very quickly.

Meanwhile, in the UK, seven-year-old Charlie Simpson raised £125,000 (and counting) for a five-mile charity bike ride he had hoped would raise £500.

And that was without any publicity other than a post on the JustGiving webite and a request to retweet from Unicef – the body he is raising funds for:

unicef_uk: Pls RT:Seven year old Charlie Simpson is doing a sponsored bike ride for UNICEF’s Haiti Appeal- You can sponsor him at: http://bit.ly/70mwpZ

Charlie’s fantastic achievement highlights Twitters ability to engage beyond the online world and into – and back out of – old media.

Once it became clear that Charlie’s fundraising campaign was taking off online, television and the newspapers picked up on it. The subsequent publicity drove doners to the web – where they not only gave, but carried on spreading the news. Old media keeps a very close eye on the web for potential news stories, and was quick to pick this one up.

There are some clear reasons why Twitter works so well in this way.

Twitterers, by their nature, like to share and spread information. The more they engage with others the more followers they are likely to get.

So, helpfully, the most popular Twitterers are often the most likely to retweet anything of interest. And a charity message – particularly one with a strong human element like Charlie’s story – is an ideal message to pass on. Firstly, it makes the sender feel they are doing something good, and secondly they know it will be well recieved.

So active Twitterers with large followings will retweet to others who have followings of their own.

The rapid snowball effect of this is what allowed an organization like the Red Cross – with a relatively small following – to rapidly spread its message through targeting the right Twitter users.

Smaller, or more specialized, charities can sometimes be put off Twitter by the feeling that they would struggle to build a significant following. But this example – and many others – shows that it is not necessarily quantity but quality that counts in terms of who is following you. Even if you are only being followed by 100 people, in reality your potential audience is closer to 100 million, as long as you know how to leverage it.

The ease of online giving is also an important factor. You can put out as many news reports and television appeals as you like, but the key is to make people respond to that call of action in the brief window where you have their attention.

If people don’t pick up the phone, or actively go online, while that window is open the chances are you’ve missed your opportunity.

Getting a Tweet – by its nature – means the reader is online, or using their mobile device. So you capture their attention and at the same time put in front of them an easy, quick and painless way to donate – ie a JustGiving page or other online donation facility.

This connection between message and call to action leads to a higher conversion rate – and more money for your cause.

As social media becomes more and more the default medium for spreading news quickly, Twitter for charities, not-for-profit and other third sector organizations is becoming less an option and more a necessity in the battle for hearts, minds and donations.

If you want to donate to Charlie Simpson’s charity bikeride – go to http://www.justgiving.com/CharlieSimpson-HAITI

To donate to the Red Cross – go to https://www.redcross.org.uk/emergencysite/Campaign.aspx?id=88917