Engaging Volunteers Through Social Media

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International

Takeaways: Engaging volunteers through social media offers many opportunities to motivate and inspire volunteers to support your organization. Focus on their interests and skill sets to design activities that will engage them more.

Last year I wrote a short article about Ten Ways to Engage Staff with Social Media. It was designed for large and mid-sized organizations seeking ways to get staff to support the larger organizational initiatives. We continually hear that the key challenge organizations have is not in creating the strategic plan and identifying the strategies and actions, but “implementing” the plan at all levels in the organization. How do you tap into the hearts and minds of your staff to motivate them to support these strategies while they perform their daily work commitments?

These 10 techniques I suggested in the article are also relevant for non-profit and charitable organizations with limited staff and which rely on volunteers to do much of the organizational work. This occurred to me the other day as I led a group of volunteers through a review and update of an association’s social media plan. We generated many ideas, but haven’t identified who will execute and how they will do this. So we face many of the same challenges as well.

In these busy times when everyone is over-tasked with work and family responsibilities, how do you get those same people to commit to helping your non-profit organization grow? How do you get your board members to actually do the work rather than just show up for meetings?

Social media offers a variety of platforms to keep volunteers engaged and informed. It’s important to think of creative ways to help them share information, to inspire them to action, to make the volunteer work fun, rather than a chore. Here are five ideas to help you understand and inspire your volunteers.

  • Think about who your volunteers are. What’s the average age? Do they work full-time in high powered jobs? Do they have long commutes between home and office? Or do they work from home or have flexible hours? Do they have young families or elderly parents to care for? Are they fully committed on weekends to soccer and football matches, ballet and music lessons, or elder care concerns?
  • What time commitment is needed to achieve your outcomes? Let your volunteers know what the expectations are. Can they support the organization while commuting to and from work? Social media can help them do this. Does their employer support volunteerism and give them time and budget dollars for this? Social media offers many ways to promote that organization’s support of your non-profit.
  • What are your volunteers’ other interests? Think about how you can weave support of the non-profit into their daily lives and interests – through contests, online games, online auctions, sharing stories, etc. Create platforms that are easy and fun to use, making it enjoyable to participate. Share heart-warming stories that inspire them to be involved.
  • What are your volunteers’ individual talents? Ask each one to identify their one specific talent, something they excel at doing and therefore really enjoy. If they could spend 8-10 hours a day doing just that, what would it be? Then build the volunteer activities around those skillsets. That way you have people pursuing their own passions rather than agreeing to take on a task they don’t really want because no one else has stepped up or that’s the vacancy that exists. Focus on their skills and interests, and you’ll eventually fill the needs for the major job functions and then some. With their help, you may find creative ways to outsource some of the more mundane, but necessary tasks.
  • Ask your volunteers to manage one of the social platforms – the one they use the most. You may find several agreeing to manage together as a group because they understand that platform and use it every day for themselves and/or their work. Set minimal criteria for branding and messaging, but give them creative license to create fun and interesting ways to engage others. Set challenge stretch goals with rewards to turn their activities into fun competitions with other volunteers. Regardless of our age, we all love to win!

Those are a few ideas I hope to implement with my social media committee. Perhaps I‘ve stimulated other ideas in your mind. If so, please share. If you would like a copy of my article about Ten Ways to Engage Staff With Social Media, click the button below.

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Social Media Apps Make Sharing Easy

Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International

Takeaways: Many social media apps exist to make content sharing easy.  Choose the right ones for you to stay connected with your audience and enhance customer engagement with your brand.

Are you using any of the smart phone apps to post while on the go? There probably are hundreds but you don’t need them all – Just the ones that make it easy to post, share and engage with your audience when the inspiration strikes.

Social media apps make sharing easyObviously, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, and Google+ have their own. So do Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Foursquare, which now switches you over to their new app, Swarm, for social location sharing.

Then there’s Instagram, which Facebook owns, to make it easy to snap photos and videos and share with your friends. And Twitter has Vine which makes it easy to record and share short videos. Snapchat and Whatsapp are two popular apps for instant messaging with friends.

Beyond these are others which make it easy to share from your smart phone across multiple social sites. These are some of my favorites:

Pulse – now owned by LinkedIn, the app on your phone makes it possible to customize just the news sources you want, browse current stories and trends, and share them across multiple sites.

Bitly – primarily a url shortener, it also lets you connect a variety of social profiles to share your shortened links. Set up your account from your desktop, connecting your social profiles. Then download the app to your smartphone so you can share those shortened links while on the go.

Buffer – This is an app which installs in your browser enabling you to share content as you’re visiting various sites online. You can either share instantly or use Buffer’s robust algorithms to choose the right time to share on the various social sites you’ve connected. Buffer lets you connect two sites for free.

Hootsuite – useful on desktop computers, this app connects up to five of your social profiles for free letting you schedule messages for times you choose. You can share, comment, message, and interact on all those sites just using the one app. No need to visit each social profile to see what’s trending. It all shows up within Hootsuite, and it uses its own ow.ly url shortener.

LinkedIn Connected – have you seen this app? It makes it easy to stay in touch with your connections, congratulate them on recent job anniversaries or new promotions, send them messages, etc.

What are some of your favorite apps for social sharing and customer engagement on the go?

5 Social Media Trends Affecting Business in 2015

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International

Takeaways: Social media is evolving rapidly. Organic Facebook posts are disappearing in order to reach wider target audiences. New tools are being developed to give marketers better insight and tracking of their social networking interactions. Social everything is the new normal – from ecommerce, to payment systems to improved customer service.

You may have seen this on LinkedIn. Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, published a post about The 5 social media business trends you need to know for 2015. The pace of social media impact is projected to expand even more this year than last. According to a Duke University study on social media, businesses are projected to triple their marketing budgets for social media this year, from 9 percent in 2014 to nearly 20% in 2015. Yet many businesses have difficulty showing the impact that social media has had on their business.  The five social media trends Holmes cites are:

Businesses must pay to play on Facebook

Facebook organic reach is droppingOrganic reach on Facebook is trending down. Historically its proprietary algorithm reached about 16% of fans, but lately it’s only about 6% according to Ogilvy PR researchers.

That means if you want your posts to be seen on Facebook by your target audience, you must invest in paid social ads and promoted posts and/or spread your messages to other platforms.

Better Social media measurement tools

New tools like uberVU, can now tell you exactly which social sites are generating the most clicks, shares and traffic. Like the Bufferapp, these tools can also autoschedule posts for the optimum time on each social platform you use. Hootsuite has integrated a social CRM app called Nimble, which lets you track and conduct conversations with customers directly from within the Nimble app.

Social ecommerce is here

We’ve seen and may even use mobile payment tools like Square and PayPal Here which let us pay for goods and services using our smart phones. Apple has launched its own payment app as well. 2015 brings the launch of SnapCash by the mobile message app SnapChat, which allows users to transfer money to one another via text message. And apparently Facebook has developed its own app to allow members to transfer funds to one another via its Messenger service. Look for that to launch later this year. Peer-to-peer payments like this are just the start, however. Look for retailers to dive into this technology by sending offers as Tweets or Facebook posts which you can activate or purchase with just a few taps on your mobile device.

Customer satisfaction increases with social media

Three McKinsey principals authored an article citing results of a 2012 ecare study of 2000 telecom customers in France. The survey showed that customer satisfaction improved when handled via social media because it was more personalized. Businesses that handle customer issues well get instant recognition on social media. The reverse is true, as well, as we’ve seen with many examples of poor customer service resulting in viral social media promotion across many networks. The authors of A World Gone Social list several examples of social media mismanagement in their book, including a music retailer’s massive layoff in 2012 which was broadcast via Twitter by affected employees using the hashtag #hmvXFactorFiring.

A new option this year which Ryan mentions in his article is the development of personalized Tweet-to-call links. If a customer tweets about a specific problem or issue, the Tweet-to-call technology enables the company to Tweet back with a custom link for that customer alone. Clicking on that link takes the customer to a customer service rep who can handle the specific issue.

Social media innovations will come from your employees

The cloud has put technology control in the hands of your employees and customers. This trend will continue as people continue to find social apps which help them do their jobs more efficiently. Examples are Yammer, which facilitates internal social networking and communication, and Google Hangouts, which enables people to hold instant online video conferencing. To see which new apps are trending in your company, Ryan suggests checking out the laptops and mobile devices being used by your newbie just out of college staff or 20-something interns.

Google Hangouts Used in Creative Way

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International

Toyota has launched a creative way to use Google Hangouts to build their brand. Not that brand recognition is necessary for the #1 car manufacturer in the world. But I’ll bet this helps sell more Corollas.

Toyota has taken hangouts to a new level making car buying a fun and easy experience, done from the comfort of your own home. Through their ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, they approached Joystick Interactive to create a Collaborator App for use on tablets and mobile phones using Google Hangouts, that would enable people to customize a car. It was launched in November 2013.

Here’s the deal

Using the Toyota Collaborator App, you invite a group of friends to join you in a private Google Hangout and collaborate on customizing a Toyota Corolla. Choose color, wheel rims, interior, and even take it for a test drive.

Launch Collaborator App

Now, think about how you might use Google Hangouts with business colleagues? What kind of a collaborative hangout might you launch?

Perhaps you invite team members to join you on a Google Hangout to resolve a customer service issue. Instead of color and wheel choices, you have service options to choose and vote on. Google Hangouts allow up to 9 webcams live simultaneously, so you can see one another, transfer the screen controls back and forth, and record the session for those who couldn’t attend. Assign someone to take notes, document poll results, etc.

How might you use this to build a product, re-design packaging, solve a challenging issue? How can you make it a fun experience while getting the work done? That’s the secret to what Toyota has created with their collaborator app using Google+ Hangouts.

Of course, they didn’t build it themselves. But wouldn’t it be cool if Joystick Interactive and Google collaborated to make such a tool available for the rest of us to use in our businesses?

Social Media vs. Social Networking

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International   March 19, 2014

Takeaways: Social media is different from social networking. Social media are the tools you use to communicate online. Social networking is the content you share to inform and communicate with your target audience.

What is Social media? How is it different from social networking? Think of social media as tools you use to communicate with your target audience.

Your mechanic uses tools to fix your car. You use social media tools to inform and communicate with your prospects and customers. They happen to be called Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter,  and so on.

Social networking, by contrast, is the act of communicating using these tools. You do this by sharing content that is relevant and of interest to your audience. Perhaps it’s a new contest your company is sponsoring to get more likes on Facebook or to add to your email list. Or maybe it’s a post on LinkedIn announcing a recent promotion or success your company has had.

What you say and do using these social media tools and when you do this are key steps to building a following and engaging with your customers and prospects. Understanding who your target audience is in terms of their age, income, family status, and hobbies, and researching which tools they tend to use, help you determine the right tools to use at the right time.

Just as with traditional media (print, radio, TV), your customers and prospects are not watching TV, listening to the same radio stations, or reading the same publications all at the same time. You need to know what media they read, listen to, and watch and which times of day and days of the week are the best to reach them. The same is true for social media. Knowing who you’re trying to reach and when they will be online and which tools they will be using are critical components to having success with social media.

You can find a host of social media resources on our website to help you research and manage your social media strategy. And for tips about improving your own social media efforts, just click this link or fill out the form below. I’ll send you an email every 2 weeks with a key tip to help you improve your presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Social Networking High Among Internet Users

By Jeri Denniston, Denner Group International, November 11, 2013

Takeaways: Social networking is most popular among adult internet users. Those who use social networks are most likely to shop online. Facebook users have a high trust level. Social ties are stronger among social networking users than those who don’t use social networks.

A May 2013 research study by Pew Internet on Social Networking generated some interesting facts and implications for business. According to  the study, 72% of  all online adults use social networking and 18% use Twitter. This is split almost equally between men and women. While the large majority are between the ages of 18-29 (89%) and 30-49 (78%), 60% of internet users aged 50-64 also use social networking sites.

Most are college educated and earn more than $50,00 annually. 71% earn more than $75,000 a year.  Accessing social media sites via mobile phones is highest among the 18-49 age groups and also among Blacks and Hispanics. These individuals also tend to be college educated with annual household incomes of more than $50,000.

Most adults use social networking sites to keep up with close social ties. According to the study, they have more close ties and are half as likely to be socially isolated as the average American. So that debunks the idea that social media tends to isolate people. In reality, internet users, and social networking users in particular get more support from their social ties than non internet users, according to the study.This is especially true with those who use Facebook.

What does this mean for businesses?

The majority of online adults have the discretionary income to purchase products and services. Most do their shopping online….or at least their comparison shopping online. They also ask their friends on social networks for their input and check out online reviews on sites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor and Google+.

As a business owner or senior executive, you need to ensure all employees are trained in how to use social media for your company and what information is OK to share. Consumers want to talk to the people at the business who can answer their questions or solve their problems. So it’s more important that everyone in the organization be equipped to respond, rather than relegating social media to the IT or Marketing department. Customer service people need to be trained in how to respond to customer inquiries. Product managers should be responsive to customer suggestions and queries about products and services. CEOs and division heads need to be aware of what their staffs are saying on social networking sites. They also should be sharing with their peers about company innovations, promotions and successes to engage them and generate interest. Marketing and IT don’t have all the answers.

This means HR needs to include social media training as part of the new hire and ongoing employee training programs. Learning how to respond to consumer questions or complaints, understanding how consumers will interact with your brands and services, and creating effective marketing strategies that include social media promotions to engage the public are more important than ever.
And managers need to understand how social media can impact the bottom line – either positively or negatively.

Social media is evolving into a powerful tool that enables companies to get closer to their customer. The businesses that embrace social networking and create programs and policies to manage it smartly will be the winners in the new social networking age.

Facebook’s Graph Search rolls out today

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International   July 8, 2013

Takeaways: The Facebook graph search tool is opened up to everyone today. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s Facebook’s entry into the search arena. Change your privacy settings before you use the tool.

Facebook opens up its new graph search tool to everyone today, and this could mean another level of encroachment to your online privacy – unless you change key settings before you use the tool. The new graph search allows users to search every piece of data on Facebook – that means everything you’ve entered about your photos, your posts, your interests, etc. – could be available to those you don’t know unless you carefully change your privacy settings.

This Business Insider article by Kevin Smith walks you through the steps you should take to change your privacy settings before you use graph search.

Why should you care?

One reason is that your entire timeline is visible to everyone if you leave it public. That may not matter depending on what you’re posting and your reasons for being on Facebook. On the other hand, I know of people who have been “found” by people from their past whom they preferred not to re-connect with. So if you’re one of those, then review your privacy settings carefully.

Also review the photos and posts in which you’re tagged. Are you comfortable with those images being shown online? If not, then follow the steps to have them removed. Facebook has made it easier to do than in the past.

As always, remember that what you post online is there forever, so think carefully about the content you post before you share. This is especially important for young people who have their careers ahead of them. Future employers check out your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles before they hire you. Your past posts could be a reason you don’t get that job you really wanted. It’s a judgement call the employer makes when they consider job candidates. So think about he future consequences before you share that photo or dis someone or something. It could come back to bite you in the derriere!

Instagram Adds Video

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International   6/2013

Takeaways: Instagram, a photo sharing app available for iPhone and Android, recently rolled out the addition of video. No surprise. Since Facebook purchased the company last year for $1 billion, and already offers video uploads, it’s only natural that feature would be added to Instagram.

Old News: Facebook buys Instagram for $1 billion in April 2012
NEW: Whitehouse and Michelle Obama join Instagram


Instagram is a social media smart phone app that lets you instantly upload photos, and now videos, to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other social sites. Started in October 2010 by two Stanford grads, and quickly grew to more than 35 million users. That, among other things, brought it to the attention of Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, who purchased the company in April 2012 for $1 billion. Smart phone apps are the new frontier, and Facebook was falling behind in that area. With Instagram in the family, they have a leg up on social photo and video sharing. And now that the White House and First Lady have set up accounts, the rate of new users will likely increase.

This app lets you easily edit any image by applying filters to create unusual and interesting images before you upload, then just hit a few buttons, and bingo! It’s uploaded. Try it, and let me know what you think.

Social Networking Pros and Cons

 By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International    6-16-2011

Takeaways:  Social networking mini-breaks help relieve boredom, increase productivity, and encourage team building.

Social Networking at WorkAccording to a 2010 study by Brent Coker, “Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing,” workers who social surf up to 20% of their total workweek actually increase their productivity 12%.  These mini-breaks from the mental challenges of work relieve the brain of tedium and help to clear the mind.

The above study was cited in the June 2011 Costco Connection magazine. According to the study. researchers found that participating in social networks online actually helps build additional knowledge to help further company growth.

The article also quoted a Costco member as saying, “Use of social media is essential to team building, well-being and a sense of collective purpose, especially in smaller companies where staff may be isolated at different sites.”

Social networks are also a quick way to get answers at work. I recall a technical computer problem I had that I spent hours trying to resolve, including support calls to Microsoft, with no success. I posed a question on LinkedIn and within minutes, received the right answers from several high level technical experts which helped me resolve my issue.

Some drawbacks

Allowing staff to openly use social media can lead to leaks of confidential information, poor brand image, and even customer service concerns. The article cites the example of Pro footballer Antonio Cromartie who was fined $2,500 for “breaching NFL rules for tweeting that the poor food served to players on Virgin Atlantic was linked to poor performance.”

According to the article, Deloitte’s 2009 Ethics & Workplace survey found that 74% of employed Americans say damaging a brand’s reputation like this is easy. Consequently, it’s important to have a social networking policy and ensure that all staff understand the parameters of that policy.  Check with your Legal Department before implementing it, though, since monitoring employee social networking activities raises legal questions about employee privacy vs. company rights.

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