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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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.

Change is difficult

By Jeri Denniston, Denner Group International November 12,2014

A World Gone SocialI’m reading A World Gone Social by Ted Coiné and Michael Babbit, and it grabs you in the first few pages. Right at the start the authors give several examples of how social media is creating a sea change in how companies operate. It has caused major challenges for many companies, including two well-known companies, Abercrombie & Fitch and Barilla (known for their pasta). Both situations were the result of comments by the CEOs which before social media would have gone largely unnoticed by most people.

The A&F CEO candidly commented in a 2006 interview that “In every school there are the cool kids and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids…..we go after the cool kids.” By 2013, the company had experienced seven consecutive quarters of declining sales and declining stock value, and angry consumers were buying used A&F clothing and donating it to the homeless in support of a hashtag campaign, #FitchtheHomeless. This year, the CEO was asked to step down and the company is looking for a buyer.

On the other extreme, the generosity of a New Hampshire Panera restaurant manager has resulted in a 34 percent increase in same store sales, more than 800,000 likes on their Facebook page, and nearly 35,000 comments. This, because of a Facebook post by the mother of Brandon Cook, who contacted the Panera  manager to see if he could buy a bowl of clam chowder for his grandmother who was dying of cancer.

Here is the Facebook post Brandon’s mother shared on Panera’s Facebook page copied from the book, A World Gone Social:

My grandmother is passing soon with cancer. I visited her the other day and she was telling me about how she really wanted soup, but not hospital soup because she said it tasted “awful”; she went on about how she really would like some clam chowder from Panera. Unfortunately, Panera only sells clam chowder on Friday. I called the manager, Sue, and told them the situation. I wasn’t looking for anything special just a bowl of clam chowder. Without hesitation she said absolutely she would maker her some clam chowder. When I went to pick it up they wound up giving me a box of cookies as well. It’s not that big of a deal to most, but to my grandma it meant a lot. I really want to thank Sue and the rest of the staff from Panera in Nashua, NH just for making my grandmother happy.  Thank you so much!

It makes you all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn’t it? All because the Panera manager did something nice that was not part of store policy or on the menu for that day and it was shared on Facebook.

Social media has had and continues to have major impacts on how people communicate. The consumer now has the power and the voice, thanks to social media. It brings in the human side of business and enables the average consumer to influence their peers and talk directly to executives. without the traditional political barriers of old.

This change is difficult for CEOs and executives who are stuck in the days of how we always did it before.  Top-down command and control is not longer effective nor efficient.  Thanks to our digital world, knowledge (and the power that goes with it) is available to anyone willing to do a Google search – it is no longer limited to the few at the top of the corporation. According to Coiné who participated in one of the World Strategy Week panels last week, companies that fail to embrace social will be gone in three years. The old ways just don’t work anymore and resisting the change is just stubborn arrogance, something that was beautifully displayed off the Irish coast in 1998. Many of us have heard this story before, but it’s worth repeating:

Irish: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the south, to avoid a collision
British: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the north to avoid a collision.
Irish: Negative. Divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.
British: This is the captain of a British navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.

Irish: Negative. I say again, you will have to divert YOUR course.
British: This is the aircraft carrier HMS Britannia! We are the second largest ship in the British Atlantic fleet.  We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers, and numerous support vessels. I demand that you change your course 15 degrees north. I say again, that is 15 degrees north, or countermeasures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship and her crew.
Irish: We are a lighthouse. Your call.

 

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.