Answering the “What?” Question; What Do I Blog About?

30 12 2009

OK so you are experimenting with Social Media as a marketing tool, you’ve spent oodles of time (and therefore money) trying to catch up to this trendy, flavor-of-the-month approach to telling your story, but you are wondering:  now what??!?!?!!

First off, let me congratulate you on your foray into these untested waters.  It can be overwhelming getting started and yet you persevere.  Fear not my compadres.  The best is yet to come.  For you may not realize it, but you have the chance to be present in THE conversation ~ It all depends on the conversation in which you intend to participate.

Which brings us to the subject of the subject; the “What” to blog about question.  Its easily answered if you step back and think for a minute.  No matter what your interest, you have a very simple task at hand:  conjure-up content that captivates your constituency.  But HOW?!?!?

The plain truth is, there’s relevance all around you.  I am going to list some key items here that will help you or anyone seeking to market their business in Social Media platforms.  Namely, Blogging, as it is popularly known, is really a throw back to the age-old discipline of Journalism.  And there-in lies your key to unlocking the mystery of solving the “What?” question.

You remember from 6th grade the “W’s,” right?  Who, What , When, Where, (How) and Why?  For this post we are focusing on the “What?”

The “What?” is the issue(s) that surround your business development.  Of course, your main objective is to improve sales or increase revenue but there is another layer to the element of Development that strikes at the heart of every business endeavor:  That is, “What are your customers, clients, contributors looking for?”

The answer is Credibility.

That’s right.  Credibility.  Its a function of Trust but it also goes to the heart of the question:  Do I trust this business to solve my problem?  There are many ways of creating that sense of credibility in a potential client.  In this instance, let’s consider how reaching out to the public in general, through a blog-post, might bridge that credibility gap.   More importantly, let’s list What to blog about to attract those potential customers to your business, so they are interested in you, talking about you and referring you to their friends and family.

  1. Current Events.  These are happening Locally, State-wide, Nationally, and Globally.  Anytime these current events impact your business to the extent that it enters the public discourse, blog your opinion!  Don’t be shy.  Say what you really feel.  Sometimes being controversial is good for publicity.  SEIZE that opportunity.
  2. Regulatory developments.  If the law is changing, or being bandied about for a potential change, jump in and holler.  Post a blog about your professional thoughts and be sure to visit places where the fevered vent themselves.  Leave a link to your site and encourage discussion whenever possible.
  3. Be technical.  If you have an area of expertise that requires you to answer the same questions over and over again, start archiving them in a blog.  Soon you will have a rich help wiki, that can afford you better customer support.  An added value to this is that you will naturally expand your customer base outside of your local zone as customers seeking help in remote areas are likely to find your source helpful.  Be sure to have your online sales support ready because here they come!
  4. Celebrity.  Leave it to the rich and famous to keep things interesting and, while you are taking note of what they do, comment on what is right or wrong with it all.  Chances are, if you keep your ear to the ground of pop culture, you will have plenty of reasons to pipe-up and proclaim your expert opinion to those that follow.
  5. Rant — It’s OK.  Spout-off about a thing that irks you.  Whatever you do, be passionate about your point of view.  Sometimes a little salt in the air makes for good breathing, for all of us.
  6. Listen to your constituency.  They are just dying to let you know what they really think.  Don’t shy from constructive criticism.  The best ideas win.  Compete with naysayers EVEN IF they say something negative about your product or service.  The old adage “the customer is always right” is malarkey!  Go ahead and educate your public and maybe you can prevent problems from arising unnecessarily.
  7. Listen to others in the blog-o-sphere and cast your opinion.  Don’t have nothin’ nice to say?  SO WHAT?!  Just say.  If you are right, they will love you for it, if you are wrong, you learned a valuable lesson about what your public really thinks.
  8. Invite guest speakers that have clout.
  9. Incorporate media into the fray.  You should always have a good photo in all of your blogs ~ A picture says a thousand words, right?  But don’t hesitate to post video and/or audio too.   Its a mandatory element of any blog these days to at least have video once in a while.
  10. Above ALL else, blog with purpose.  Don’t write crap for the sake of it.   AT ALL TIMES BE GENUINE.  Write from the heart and you can’t fail, just don’t let it all get too stale.

Web 2.0 Workshop for Nonprofits Monday, November 10th

7 11 2008
Come to my Training November 10, 2008

Don Peterson

8:30AM – 12:30PM

Chico Campus of Butte College

To register call 530.891.1150 ext 23 ($60) or register online

This half-day class provides volunteers, staff, directors and board members at any level of technological savvy to re-invigorate their charitable mission by improving communications, marketing and fundraising efforts with low-cost, easy-to-use Internet software.  Whether its techniques for research or tools for advocacy the modern state of the Internet provides a multitude of resources that improve nonprofit objectives:

  • Learn to integrate your organization’s website with marketing efforts
  • Gain confidence in using Web 2.0 web sites for fun and fundraising
  • Expand your network ~ Using Social Networking sites including:  blogs, Facebook, Youtube and hundreds of other sites that (when used properly) will become a catalyst for collaboration, improved community outreach and expanded charitable service.

For only $60, this 4-hour class, you will learn to bring people together without the expense of massive ad campaigns, expensive events or annoying telemarketing strategies.  Through innovation and exploration, your nonprofit team will experience a renewed invigoration that comes with using these simple and mostly FREE Internet software tools.

Join Donald Ross Peterson on a journey outside the confines of your office where a fantastic landscape of solutions and inspiration awaits in the world of Web 2.0 Internet software technologies.  The course will offer anyone of any experience level a chance to solve the real issues their organizations face; you don’t have to be a tech-geek to enjoy this class.  All are welcome to attend in any area of philanthropic service.  It should be fun and informative ~ Join us!

Nonprofit Video Marketing Strategy

14 07 2008

After a break, I am back with my latest call for a technological solution to low cost, high ROI marketing approach for nonprofits: video marketing. For those close to me, you have likely heard my incessant nagging for nonprofits to bring short, concise videos to their website audience.

The reasons are many:

  1. People don’t read ~ they scan text ~ but they will sit through a 2-5 minute video with a latte and danish if the content is relevant. On average, that’s about 400-1000 words of content ( @200 words per page) you probably didn’t want to type anyway, so efforts to reach your audience in the video medium are greatly enhanced.
  2. Video is persuasive, visceral and when well crafted, a timeless snapshot of your organizational values, service to the community and mission in general. People relate better to other people (on screen) than they do to text.
  3. The cost to produce video is low and the general population has the technological infrastructure to view, send and receive these types of files now. Simply buy a miniDV camera for less than $300, and if you are not lucky enough to have a newer Mac, pick up some simple video editing software (which I found for free at wikipedia’s open source software list ) and BAM you can create video for your website in no time. That means for less than a dollar a day, you can create video! Ads in your local newspaper can’t compete on a cost effectiveness basis!
  4. Capturing an organizational event like a fundraiser on video and using that to analyze and evaluate it is a great benefit for planning future events as well as archiving previous ones. In the event of staff turnover, your new event planner will no doubt be grateful to see the evolution of your community events to inspire new growth in the program. PLUS, if your production quality is good enough, put the whole thing on a DVD and you have a low cost give-away OR, you can create a new revenue stream by soliciting sponsors to advertise. For orgs like the Special Olympics or March of Dimes, this is a brilliant way for the community to remain involved long after the event and likely a fantastic resource for further event development. (My brain is just bursting with ideas at the possibilities here!)
  5. Posting video content on social sites like YouTube, Google Video, MySpace, Facebook and (if it is super short) Flickr, can help bring traffic to your regular website, thus creating inbound links which are a major component of findability in search engines like Google. Wouldn’t it be great if the introduction to your org by a searching citizen was a short and sweet 2 minute video that asked him or her to join your cause? Chances are they are more motivated by a happy smiling person, than they are to a bunch of dense, if not rambling, text.

So, I know what you are thinking: IF I am such a big advocate of video, why am I not shooting this and posting it in a video podcast? The truth is my camera quality and computer are not quite up to speed with the technology yet. Hopefully, one day soon, I will convert to a hybrid version of video AND text where I draft my content in written form, shoot the video and post them both. That’s coming soon, so stay tuned…

In the meantime, if your organization can afford it, give it a try. Its fun, but more importantly, its really the next level of for your organizational message, and as I said, the benefits are too many to foresake.

Sustainable Marketing: is Web 2.0 the Solution?

12 06 2008

After this quarter’s NVCF Council meeting today, I found myself in a strangely optimistic yet frustrated state. One of the attending directors asked desperately: “How can we reach out to the community with a more effective return and yet without all of the direct mail that often is mistaken for junk mail?!?!?!”

My heart leaped out of my chest! This is what I have been talking about for months to this community and yet the message has not penetrated. What is the problem, people?!??! I have been trying to demonstrate how to get your mission, message and success standout among the constant barrage of other competing messages for months now! From pizza coupons to credit card campaigns, the direct mail thang is really not sustainable and arguably not viable if a 1-3% return is all one can expect. We all know we need something more, but what?!?!?!?

DUH! Its Social Networking with the Internet, right? Or is this a pipe dream that will never be implemented?

Without the present state of Internet technology that is so cost effective and easy to use, it would be blood, sweat, tears and elbow grease that throttles an effective, exhaustive and exhausting outreach campaign. BUT NOW, given the many opportunities to maximize and archive your efforts with Web 2.0 applications like Facebook, Myspace, Flickr, YouTube and Twitter, you can do it with style and grace (your brand and logo) without the need for much more brochures, postage or bill posting. Collaborate with similar nonprofits to share ad space in traditional media and you effectively increase your outreach at a portion of the cost.

But what really frustrated me was the fact that here is this executive director, (who probably didn’t attend my previous speech because it wasn’t about “money” as in Annie B’s Fundraising campaign) and here she is crying out for tools and solutions. Damn! What a crazy mixed up world! I have been giving the cow away for free at this blog for 4 months now and she is still oblivious. Not to mention anyone of the nonprofit blogs I link to in my blog roll have ooooooooooooooooooooooooooodles of resources that are begging for attention. If you are a nonprofit executive director and you have a question on how to handle something, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Ask the blogging community, and I bet you a Billiondy Gazilliondy Dollars there is an answer out there for you. No need to get rhetorical in public, get the solution at a blog and share it!

That is why we also need to research (at least 15 minutes a day) other nonprofit blogs to find out what works and share your findings at your own blog. Research, Learn, Share, Rinse, Repeat ~ I believe this is the way; so, why aren’t more people adopting these often free tools for their outreach strategy? I am mystified!

Therefore, I pose the question: are Web2.0 tools a sustainable outreach solution? or am I missing something here? RSVP in my comment space!

Is Your Organization Ready for On-line Social Networking?

29 04 2008

GuideStar Article excerpt:

Now that user-generated content—blogs, video, discussion groups, chats, and so forth—is the norm and users expect their Web experience to provide interactivity in addition to information, many nonprofits are faced with deciding when and how to use on-line social networking as part of their Web presence.

The simple brochureware site (one that just contains information about the organization) and direct donation site of the past are no longer enough. Fortunately, it is not necessary to build your own on-line social networking site. But you do need to know how to become part of an existing community, and tie it to your existing Web presence, to use social networking effectively… Read the entire article here

OK… This is a good jumping off point for me to comment.  This article hammers it out plainly for all to see that a new paradigm of content creation and interactivity is now a mission critical approach for any organization wishing to grow; public, private, for-profit or not, its time for all of us to dedicate ourselves to creating interactive content at our websites.

This is going to be difficult for some of us.  As I said before, most people over the age of 45 that I talk to claim to have difficulty understanding the big picture here.  Although I urge them to punch their way out their paper-bag-learning-curve, some of the comments I hear rise to a level of technophobia–making it difficult to communicate and instruct people on what is really a simple concept:

Research other website content, tools and resources

Model the best examples in your approach

Trumpet your organization’s message in these ways

Share and post often

Adopt appropriate technologies to save time like RSS feeds and Feed Readers

If you pay attention and take it as it comes, eventually you will be a BlogStar!  Developing audience increasing participation and learning from other organizations will help your org improve possibility frontiers going forward.

Then again, you could always take the wait and see approach.  But trust me, doing this stuff really is fun and extremely helpful.

Social Return on Investment

18 04 2008

In the age of “accountability,” Return On Investment (ROI) is a crucial exercise. So I found this blog site and wanted to share it with y’all. Looking forward to learning more about evaluation methodologies for philanthropic enterprise… Click on the image below to visit Social Return on Investment:

Social ROI blog

Does Your Website Suck?

17 04 2008

During a recent workshop I was asked: “How do you know if your website needs an update?”

[HA! I laughed to myself; of course it needs to be updated!]

Thats when I brought up a favorite site of mine: Web Pages That Suck

At that site you will see a couple of cool checklists if you want a source beside the one I provide below…

Website content should be as warm and wonderful to behold as a loaf of fresh baked bread. Not necessarily everyday updates (even though many sites update to the minute these days), but frequently enough to give your audience relevance to your mission, service and success. While most nonprofit institutions have not gotten savvy to the role of Social Media in trumpeting their mission; there are other concerns that might also interfere with delivering a message to new website viewers. Unfortunately, underfunded webmasters often don’t independently evaluate their design according to these standards:

Access for disabled users

Aesthetic appeal






Consistency in layout


Error support

Engages Users




Intuitive Interface








User-Centered approach

If you use this list to guide you as you look at your site, you might become overwhelmed at the amount of work needed to refresh it–especially where it comes to have your audience interact with your site. Go through every link on every page and ask yourself: “Is this how to represent my organization in the best possible way?”

Don’t fret. Its all part of the ongoing struggle to attract people to your mission & service. Success will come if we all recognize the need to constantly question our digital identity. Now, let us break bread and celebrate your fresh, new website!