Category Archives: Charities and Non Profit

Rebooting the association

While media budgets are squeezed still further as we trudge onward under the cloud of recession, trillionesque debt and the massive public spending cuts gathering on the horizon, the focus on social media ROI grows ever sharper, but less energy is expended looking at the benefits that focused online communities can bring to businesses.

Communities for not-for-profits and membership bodies have a slightly different flavour to those developed for commercial entities. While commercial brands answer to shareholders or private owners, NFPs and membership bodies exist for the benefit of their constituents. There is already a genuine, real-world community or shared interest in place – just as there isn’t (really) between me and say, Sainsbury’s – so a digital community is a natural fit.

But that doesn’t mean it’s any simpler, nor is the transition to deeper member or supporter engagement any less challenging for the organising bodies than a renewed focus on customer engagement is for businesses. There is a lot of overlap. An event I attended at the Law Society on 6th October, “Surviving in a Recession – What Member Organisations can Learn from the Commercial World” addressed the challenges and opportunities in this area.

One of the things I liked about it was the way it set online communities in a longer timeframe than we’re used to talking about. Many membership bodies have been around for 50-200 years. Most started out when enthusiastic and committed people come together informally – usually in a bar room, hotel or coffee house – to improve and professionalise emerging crafts and knowledge.

Fast forward to now, and these bodies occupy grand buildings, wield influence with governments and business, and provide letters after your name. But are they achieving their original aims? How close are they to their members today, and how can a geographically dispersed membership benefit from the knowledge and experience of their fellow members and the wider interested audience? In other words, can we re-boot the association?

The event was co-hosted by Sift – who are the technology and consultancy supplier for CIMAsphere, the online community I manage – and Madgex. Rather than reading a re-cap of the discussion, you can watch the presentations from two of the speakers that morning.

First up is Adam Cranfield, my former colleague, who was at the time Digital Media Manager at CIMA.

The second presentation is from Lawrence Clarke, Head of Consultancy at Sift. Sadly you can’t see his slides in the video, nor Adam’s in his. But the stand-out points for me were Lawrence’s thoughts on the tendency of subscription-based associations to rely on inertia and top-down, one-to-many communications, and how that is being undermined by the connectedness and transparency the web brings on the one hand, and recessionary pressures on the other.

That talk is a companion piece to this post Lawrence wrote a month earlier on the Sift blog. Highly recommended.

SXSW notes: Using RSS For Marketing

I dipped into this session on Sunday 11th March 2007 a little after it began, and the panel was already in full-flow. The session overall was an interesting elision of technology and marketing, and drew a 200-strong audience – pretty good going for a 10am slot!

While I left knowing feed adoption was certainly on the up, a strong sense prevailed that the technological and design issues around it were also hampering its growth.

Anyway, onto the report. Discussing the uses of and issues around RSS for marketing were a very insightful and affable panel…

PANEL
Emily Chang – IdeaCodes / EmilyChang.com
Bill Flitter – CEO, Pheedo (blog)
John Jantsch – Duct Tape Marketing (blog)
Greg Reinacker – CTO & Co-founder, Newsgator (blog)
Chair: Tom Markewicz – EvolvePoint

Difficulties around tracking RSS user statistics and data were first on the agenda, and Greg Reinacker of Newsgator was stressing that they do have good data, but that what they don’t have is data on people using Firefox and Outlook for their feeds.

John Jantsch said their clients and prospects are getting information in lots of different ways. There’s a segment that want it in RSS and he wasn’t worried by the adoption rate. The trick is to easily enable all the ways people want to get information.

Emily Chang countered that we don’t get good data. However NBC are already using RSS internally to send out information; and many people may be using RSS without being aware of it.

Bill Flitter of Pheedo said that last year (2006) saw a huge spike from clients and brands in the automotive industry; there was a 500% increase so it is going towards the mainstream via these hobbyist channels. Last year when Google Reader and some Microsoft products launched, he added, there was another big spike.

It’s the plumbing stupid…

The moderator asked if RSS will remain a specialist term like POP Server, etc, or will it go mainstream like “email”? And if there’s a difference between RSS and Atom, can we use RSS as a generic term?

As browsers and other products integrate RSS into the toolset we will need the term less, reckoned Chang. It’s about receiving information by subscribing to content, Reinacker added, “RSS is just plumbing.” Just like no-one knows what SMTP is, he observed, RSS is under the hood and will stay there.

If you look at things like Pageflakes, there are widgets pulling information in. What excites him is the example of a publishing site that is putting all the content reconfigured for RSS through XML mark-up [not sure that I noted this correctly - will check podcast and amend if required].

RSS moves to enhance your marketing

What marketing is being done, Markiewicz asked the panel. Jantsch noted that on Pageflakes you can set up RSS feeds on different topics and areas around news stories. Reinacker observed that you don’t need to build your own RSS reader; rather, there’s a big cloud of content out there and you can access everyone’s content the same way using a desktop aggregator to tap into the cloud and pick stuff out of it.

Or if you’re in an industry sector for example, Reinacker continued, look at all the content specific to your area and pull bits of it into your site [eg. via a widget]; this way you can become a thought leader by leveraging others content.

Ford are doing blogs for auto shows (eg Detroit, NY), Flitter explained. They’re sending a person there to cover the show, not just to write about Ford but to write about what’s happening in the industry. They’re creating content on their blog and then looking to get that content syndicated elsewhere, leveraging the written word to build affinity with customers. Understand the power of content, Flitter stressed.

Markiewicz reflected that as with any aspect of marketing, you need to measure it. With marketing as a discipline there are no pre-defined answers, but with RSS you can know instantly if people are paying attention.

Search, SEO and indexing content

Jantsch added that you can use RSS to get better search results. It’s very easy now for a company to build upon their content to get better search results by having themed pages that are re-published as feeds – a really powerful way to get some nice rankings and hopefully some traffic!

Chang concurred – if you have your pages optimized, Google is rapidly indexing all feeds already. Flitter agreed – better indexed content begets better found content than all the merely beautifully designed sites out there.

You can repurpose content from your own site, Jantsch interjected. You don’t have to go out to the world. Markewicz took it a step further positing that you can use RSS as a content management system.

The truth about full versus partial feeds

So what mistakes are being made? What are publishers doing wrong, Markiewicz wondered. They’re being too stingy with their information, Flitter reckoned, by putting just the headline out, or a partial feed.

But are their audience ready for full feed content? The difference in response on full feeds and partial feeds is marginal, Flitter argued. There’s something inherent in the way we interact with feeds in that people want to poke around and see what else is there. So for response rates and marketing / branding impact, think about being more generous.

If you want to secure your feeds, Reinacker said, http authentication works across the board; secret URLs don’t work, because Google, Newsgator, etc will index it anyway! Jantsch added that as marketers we have to make it easier to subscribe. He’s been using AddThis which means he can avoid using all the little chicklets [the little branded buttons for Feedster, Bloglines, Netvibes etc].

Covering all the bases

Markiewicz said we should be consistent if we want subscribers because an RSS subscriber is going to be a lot more valuable over the long term than an email subscriber – so make it so that you can auto-subscribe.

Chang commented that the problem is where people think that your RSS strategy is something different from your overall content strategy.

Flitter raised the instance of where the reader is just looking at lines of text; they may open all their feeds in one long river of news, but then it all looks the same. How then does your information stand out? For every article, start it with your company name at the start of the headline so when it’s syndicated your brand will be visible there too and you’ll also benefit in the search realm too [this idea did not appeal at all to me, but that's the dormant journalist thinking, I guess ;-) ].

Tracking, content and objectives

The question was raised as to regularity of feed posting by an audience member. Markiewicz stressed consistency. Chang said if your company is doing product updates, then at least make it once a month, like an email newsletter.

Jantsch argued that it all comes down to goals. Reinacker said put quality before quantity; you can’t put garbage out there with the occasional nugget. Jantsch disagreed – get a PDA and note down everything interesting you hear, it’s not that hard!

Are there tracking tools other than standard web tracking, someone asked. This can get done in-house, responded Markiewicz but there are services like Feedburner that can package that data for you.

Approaching it from a marketing perspective, remarked Flitter, it’s all about how to leverage feeds and what to do with them. Do you have campaign-specific objectives and data needs, or overall objectives? Feedburner is good for general and publisher feeds; Simplefeed is good for the enterprise; and Pheedo is suited to marketers. Is it impressions, views or clicks that you seek? These tracking packages are just a guideline for measuring feeds.

From chicklets to auto-discovery

If you have a built-in fanbase, an audience member asked, and they’re mostly not technically skilled, how do you make RSS easy to use if it’s positioned as plumbing?

If you have a large target group you know how to speak to them, Markiewicz replied, and you need to make that effort. Customise your language to your audience, said Chang. So if it’s a cookery site, say “get a daily recipe”. People should also be able to subscribe to your feeds by email, Jantsch suggested.

Reinacker differed regarding the orange RSS button. If you don’t need it that assumes that your site supports auto-discovery. But major aggregators like Google, Newsgator and others don’t support auto-discovery, so leave the chicklets and the orange button there, and also support auto-discovery.

You should probably do your first reach-out via email, added Chang. The orange button was created to remove the need for multiple chicklets. It was created for the early adopters – to get them to use RSS and spread the early adoption take-up. From a marketing perspective, Flitter said, keep testing to figure out what is the best way to get uptake.

Video descriptors in feeds & breaking the US stranglehold

Dealing with video was the next question raised from the audience. If your content has a lot of video, and you have a one minute or thirty second spot, would you recommend a short description of it that’s not actually visible on the site but is to aggregators and search engines?

While you don’t have to transcribe every word, Flitter reckoned, you should have a summary of the content, both from a marketing standpoint and from an indexing standpoint.

Use Flash or an embedded YouTube / other trusted player, recommended Reinacker. Make sure you see how your feeds render in all the top news readers; so be careful of putting shiny little objects in the feed.

A French man in the audience got the last word in. He remarked that all this stuff about plumbing is just a big turn-off; we should be talking about stories, not the technology. He said that he used Feedburner and that all the stats are very US-centric, but in the morning you get more RSS readers from abroad. With services like[Vancouver-based] NowPublic, he observed, you actually get a different audience.

—————- 

This is the first of my reports from SXSW Interactive 2007. No doubt, like last year, it’ll take me another 10 months to get all these babies written up! In the meantime, here’s some other good coverage and commentary on this session:
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/sxsw_using_rss_for_marketing.php
http://www.darowski.com/tracesofinspiration/2007/03/11/sxswi-using-rss-for-marketing/
http://christopherschmitt.com/2007/04/03/sxsw07-rss-for-marketing/

UNSUBTLE HINT…
If you found this report of interest, then can I (Amazon-stylee) suggest that you might also like these upcoming events…

Chinwag Live Media Widgetised – 16 May 2007, London
http://live.chinwag.com/mediawidgetised
“How will the growth of widgets, aggregators and web-feeds effect the online media landscape?” Speakers from eBay, BT Retail, nooked and Eircom / Sleevenotez [disclosure: I've organised this event]

Widget Week! – 14-22 May 2007, London
Chinwag Live: Media Widgetised on 16th May is part of the inaugural Widget Week – the world’s first co-ordinated cluster of events to focus on the widget phenomenon and explore its business, marketing and cross-platform potential. Move over Silicon Valley – the UK and Ireland is where the best of media and technology intersect! Brought to you by Chinwag, NMK (Beers & Innovation) and MoMo London

Upcoming listings:
If you like to watch, share or just aren’t sure yet, your needs are catered for on these Upcoming pages:
Chinwag Live: Media Widgetised – 16th May 2007
Widget Week 2007 – 14th – 22nd May 2207

Round up of my NMK events

While at NMK as Editor, I gradually (and unexpectedly) became the developer and organiser of many of its regular events.

NMK (New Media Knowledge)As NMK is a publicly-funded organisation that exists for the benefit of the digital media industries, in order to fulfil its accessibility remit, reports of these events (and conferences) were also produced by me and posted on the website.

I hope these reports have been, and to some extent continue to be, useful for practitioners, researchers and students of digital media.

They’re also historical records of a group of very interesting discussions and debates that happened at a time when the UK digital economy finally emerged from the long, nuclear winter of the first dotcom crash.

The reports are linked to at the end of every event page listed below, with the following exceptions…

Reports for Beers & Innovation numbers 5 and 6 (+) are available here on my blog. There is no report for Beers & Innovation 4 but part of the event was captured on this video by Ian Forrester of BBC Backstage and others have blogged about it.

EVENTS I DEVELOPED AND PROGRAMMED:

Charities: Making Digital Gains – 26th May 2005
http://nmk.co.uk/event/2005/4/4/charities-making-digital-gains-nmk

Blogging: A Real Conversation? – 28th June 2005
http://www.nmk.co.uk/event/2005/5/8/blogging-a-real-conversation-nmk

New Directions In Search – 8th September 2005
http://nmk.co.uk/event/2005/4/26/new-directions-in-search-nmk

User Content: The Real Deal? – 8th November 2005
http://www.nmk.co.uk/event/2005/9/29/user-content-the-real-deal-nmk

Beers & Innovation 2: User Generated Content – 30th March 2006
http://www.nmk.co.uk/event/2006/2/24/beers-innovation-2-user-generated-content-nmk

Beers & Innovation 3: Mash Ups & Web Services – 27th April 2006
http://www.nmk.co.uk/event/2006/3/30/beers-innovation-3-web-services-mash-ups-nmk

Beers & Innovation 4: RSS Frontiers – 12th September 2006
http://www.nmk.co.uk/event/2006/6/20/beers-innovation-4-rss-frontiers-nmk

Beers & Innovation 5: Aggregators & Upsetters – 17th October 2006
http://www.nmk.co.uk/event/2006/9/14/beers-innovation-5-aggregators-upsetters-nmk

Beers & Innovation 6: Social By Design – 14th November 2006
http://www.nmk.co.uk/event/2006/10/2/beers-innovation-6-social-by-design-nmk

Beers & Innovation 7: Do Agencies Innovate? – 30th January 2007
http://www.nmk.co.uk/event/2006/11/14/beers-and-innovation-7-do-agencies-innovate-nmk
(with input from Zoe Black)

CO-DEVELOPED & PROGRAMMED WITH NICK WATT OF NMK:

In The City Interactive – 7th June 2005
http://www.nmk.co.uk/event/2005/4/6/in-the-city-interactive-with-nmk
(also had conference steering committee input)

Rethinking Digital Branding – 10th October 2005
http://www.nmk.co.uk/event/2005/1/18/rethinking-digital-branding-nmk

Beers & Innovation 1: UK Start Up Culture – 9th February 2006
http://www.nmk.co.uk/event/2005/11/24/beers-innovation-nmk
(with thanks to James Governor and Tom Coates)

Content 2.0 – conference 6th June 2006
http://www.nmk.co.uk/event/2006/2/14/content-2-0-nmk
Content 2.0 website
(also had conference steering committee input)

In The City – Manchester music industry conference, 30 Sept-2nd Oct 2005
(co-programmed 3 digital panels and a keynote)

In the City 2005: mPod The New iPod?
http://nmk.co.uk/article/2006/4/17/in-the-city-2005-mpod-the-new-ipod

In The City 2005: Digital Creativity & A&R (Ralph Simon keynote)
http://nmk.co.uk/article/2006/4/17/in-the-city-digital-creativity-a-r

In the City 2005: Tomorrow People
http://nmk.co.uk/article/2006/4/17/in-the-city-2005-tomorrow-people

In the City 2005: The Digital High St
http://nmk.co.uk/article/2006/4/17/in-the-city-2005-the-digital-high-st

CO-DEVELOPED & PROGRAMMED WITH EXTERNAL PRODUCER HILARY KELSH:

New Directions In Mobile – 3rd October 2006
http://www.nmk.co.uk/event/2006/7/3/new-directions-in-mobile-nmk

—————-

During my time at NMK (Dec 2004 – Oct 2006) we also held many further events that I wasn’t involved in developmentally, but I helped market and promote them via editorial, social media platforms, attending external events and general outreach to the UK scene and beyond.

I’m listing them here as much for my own reference as anybody else’s

[NB. Some internal links within the pages above are broken as the NMK website has been redesigned since I left and the URL structure was changed, ie. persistent URLs were not maintained]

Jobs at NMK

My former employer NMK – based at the University of Westminster – has three roles available all at once.

They are currently seeking:

A Web Editor

A Community Manager

A Product & PR Manager

The closing date for submitting applications is 10th November 2006.

New media awards with social impact

It's a relief to know that (sometimes) there's more to awards ceremonies than glitz and revenue-driven one-upmanship.

The good people who recently brought us cyberpunk legend and net activist Bruce Sterling uncut in a pub in Belgravia (with podcast) are also running an awards event which you can nominate in – but this Wednesday 31st May is the deadline for nominations!

I'm talking about the New Statesman New Media Awards, and if you're quick you could still nip in there and make a nomination.

Innovation, usability & efficiency

According to their site:

"The theme of this year's awards is The Power of Ideas – with a special emphasis on innovation, usability and efficiency. New media can have a positive effect by pushing boundaries and making information widely accessible.

"We are seeking nominations for any UK digital, web or mobile technology project that is creating positive change. It’s free to nominate and you can nominate as many projects as you like! Simply fill out our short, online nomination form."

"The New Media Awards celebrate those UK new media projects that benefit society, government or democracy."

The nominations so far are pretty interesting, but maybe you have something to add…

Beers & Innovation @ Content 2.0

Beers & Innovation is having it's next outing as part of the Content 2.0 conference on 6th June 2006.

This time, Anthony H. Wilson will be taking on chairing duties for the night. Anthony who?

Well, it's the same Tony Wilson who set up Factory Records (Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays…) and who is the co-founder of the UK's annual music conference and convention In The City. He was seen most recently playing himself in the film adaptation of Tristram Shandy directed by Michael Winterbottom – A Cock & Bull Story.

Joining him will be Stephanie Newman from Amnesty International. The human rights campaigning organisation launched a music-led global campaign Make Some Noise in December 2005.

User-created content & human rights activism

Having been granted exclusive rights by Yoko Ono to a number of classic John Lennon tracks, Amnesty have collaborated with a number of international artists – including Snow Patrol, Black-Eyed Peas, and The Cure – to re-record the songs for sale with all profits going to Make Some Noise

Amnesty are now looking to integrate user-generated content into the campaign and Stephanie will be talking to Tony about this new approach.

Entry is included in ticket price for Content 2.0.

The daytime schedule runs to 5pm at the RSA, while Beers & Innovation @ Content 2.0 kicks-off 10 minutes walk down the road in the airy surroundings of Albannach, 66 Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DS at 5.30pm.

The event will run 17.30 – 19.15, with the chance, as per usual, to stay on for further drinks and mingling afterwards.

For more details check out the full conference programme