5 Little-Known Factors That Could Optimize Your Nonprofit’s Online Engagement

Are you confused by all of the “must have” online marketing options? It’s a virtual online storm of choices out there, raining tweets and posts and pokes and pins and stumbles. Weathering the storm requires forethought. But armed with the proper rain gear – and these 5 little-known facts — you can happily create a whole chorus of supporters merrily singing in the rain.  Just holistically integrate search (SEO), content marketing and social media. You’ll be well on your way!
 Let integration — search + content + media — be your umbrella.

  1. SEO is changing. It’s not all about keywords for search engines any more. 
Google has been a game changer (cool infographic alert).  Today blogs are favored over websites because they’re updated more frequently and they also contain relevant content. It’s still good to think about keywords, but optimization now takes a holistic approach by digging into what your customers care about.  It’s about customer information needs, and the content you should produce to meet those needs.
            I find this to be incredibly good news.  It’s like being validated at school for working hard and effectively, as opposed to being a good sucker-upper who self promotes.  There are no tricks involved here.  Just provide good content your clients/customers/supporters care about.  Simple. You don’t have to be a techie to do it. And what do folks care about? Read on…
  1. People search for knowledge. They’re not always looking to buy or give.
    • They search for answers to problems.  Check out this blog post about the hospitality industry in New Orleans, and what they did to reassure customers it was safe to come back to the city after Hurricane Isaac. Why not optimize your knowledge base with similar insights into what’s happening in the news?  Or FAQ content?  Or “how to” lists?
    • They search to be “in the know.” It makes them look good to their own social networks. This is good for you, because it gets folks to share your content with many more folks than you could otherwise reach. Why not feed them enticing bits of “behind-the-scenes” information. Or great infographics or videos?  Or photos/live tweets of what’s happening in the field?
            Again, good news!  Because by the time you come to conversion you’ve an informed group of customers who’ve optimized themselves!
  1. You’ve already got most of what people want. Look at your existing content. 
Who’s it for? Who’s the optimum audience for that content? Do some research within these audiences. Take note of what questions people are asking. See where conversations are happening on the social web relevant to what your audience cares about.  Get a sense of what’s possible.
            Yippee! All we have to do is talk to the front-line folks (e.g. receptionist; program manager) and ask them what their FAQs are.  Or simply google FAQs for your industry. That’s what folks want. And it’s probably your core material and already in writing somewhere. In a course, brochure, hand-out, research paper, speech, script, etc.
  1. Optimize channels based on your best customers. Resources are limited, so don’t try to be all things to all people in all social channels.
Once you’ve figured out your most favorable audiences you can optimize for them.  Have empathy for how your audiences discover content.  What are their consumption preferences? Phones? Tablets? Desktops? Mail? Images? Audio? Video? Quick tips? Tutorials? What kinds of topics and content types will motivate them to take the actions you want them to take? Segment as much as you can.
  1. When you give people what they want they return the favor. Pay attention to where this is happening for you.
Are your Facebook posts getting shared? Are people commenting on your blog? Responding to your tweets? If so, great. Do more of this.  If not, rethink your channels and your content. Attract. Engage. Arouse.  Win folks over and they’ll become your ambassadors because they’re inspired by you.
Here’s where to be careful.  Before delivering content to your channels, ask:
§ Why would anyone care about this?
§ Is there anything about this someone might want to share?
§ Would this make people want to come back to us and stay connected?
§ Is there something here that would make constituents invest time/express loyalty?
§ Is this content making us appear like experts in our field?
§ Do we have a plan to deliver content consistently?

Remember, being online is not about the act of being online.  It’s about sharing relevant content and engaging in meaningful dialogue that’s mutually beneficial. If what you’re doing is not of value to both you and your audience, then do something else. Media guru Brian Solis, who also authored The End of Business as Usual, notes that an online engagement plan that is one-sided ignores the value of listening:

Following the path of social is a journey towards relevance… 
 Listening leads to a more informed business. Engagement unlocks empathy and innovation. 
But it is action and adaptation that leads to relevance. And, it never ends.

We’re all in this together. Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain… and you’ll never walk alone. Just be sure to bring your umbrella.

What do you do to optimize online engagement?
If you’re generating dialogue, please share your tips!

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  1. Thank you for this great article, stumbled across your blog through LinkedIn, shows how interconnected everything is!

  2. Great points to remember as you evaluate and plan your content. Thanks.

  3. The number one thing I do to optimize engagement (and recommend to my clients) is to pay attention.

  4. Thank you for realizing and writing about the fact that there is much more to being online than SEO!

  5. Great tips…I'm looking forward to this shift in how google ranks posts. Great analogy of the umbrellas!

  6. I really appreciate ALL your points in this. So well articulated. In my recent class on blogging, we had a good discussion about SEO and the benefits of blogging. I think so much of this gets down to the purpose of any and all communications strategy – especially, not being all things to all people. Fantastic information!

  7. And this interconnection is the very reason we need to thing through our engagement strategy on multiple levels. Otherwise, we're just hanging out. Thanks for ENGAGING!

  8. Thanks for engaging Clay. :-)
    And, yes, sometimes the most common sense suggestions are the best.

  9. Thanks so much Ericka, Natasha and Emily. Blogging really has become "google juice", but if the content isn't tasty no one will really want to drink it.

  10. Claire, I return to this post again and again when I'm looking to make our communications better and more engaging. Do you have a post that talks about e-newsletters? What should be in them (besides engaging content)? Are there some guidelines or orgs who produce e-newsletters you like?

  11. Good idea Stephanie! I haven't written one yet on e-newsletters per se. But I definitely have a lot of thoughts on the subject. I'm going to put that on the list — so keep your eyes peeled.

    Meanwhile, if I can be helpful in any way feel free to connect with me via my contributor profile contact information on this page, or via LinkedIn.

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