How to Bring Facebook Fans to Your Nonprofit Blog: Part 3

Lori Halley 11 February 2010 2 comments

This is the third and final part of a series, written in response to a reader's question about how to get her lively community of Facebook fans more engaged on the nonprofit’s own blog.

As we discussed in Part One, there are compelling reasons to make your nonprofit’s blog or website your online “hub” or “home base,” rather than putting all your eggs in a third-party social network. But it’s not as simple as “build it and they will come” so, in Part Two, we took a closer look at the motivations of your Facebook fans:

What are people are seeking when they go online, and what attracts them to Facebook in particular?

The more you can learn about your own Facebook fans, the better equipped you’ll be to compete for their attention by speaking to their specific needs and wants. It all comes back to these two questions:

  • How does Facebook reward your Fans?
  • How can your nonprofit do it better?

Facebook offers its users an opportunity to share their photographs, videos, and other media and favorites; to tell others what they’re doing and thinking; to share links to things they find interesting; to comment on what others have posted; to express their opinions; to stay in touch… and that’s before they tap into the dizzying array of apps available in the Facebook applications directory.

The successful Page administrator will monitor what “works” and what doesn’t, and customize accordingly to meet their fans’ preferences, so there can be a lot to learn through observation of other nonprofits’ Facebook Pages as well as your own online community.

The bottom line on Facebook’s appeal is user-generated content. The fans not only create the community around a Page, they define in large part how they want to experience it.  And there are two sides to web content from the user perspective: they can consume content or create it. That is, there is web content that users read, watch, hear, or otherwise consume more or less passively; and there is web content that enables and encourages the active participation of users in creating their own community culture on the site.

So here’s the first half of the equation:

How can you make your nonprofit’s web content appeal to the widest possible range of fans?

Mix it up!

Your nonprofit's web content might take any number of forms, including:

  • Blog posts
  • Website pages
  • RSS news feeds
  • Newsletters
  • Email blasts
  • Spreadsheets
  • FAQs
  • Reports and ebooks
  • Charts and graphs
  • Maps
  • Photographs
  • Cartoons and illustrations
  • Videos
  • Audio/Podcasts
  • Webinars
  • Slideshows and presentations
  • etc.

Variety of content delivery methods, as we know from many studies of internet usage, can increase the level of user engagement with your site. Novelty is part of it, but not the whole story. Different people “learn” in different ways — some people are more visual, some are more oriented to language — and there are accessibility factors to take into account as well, especially if your nonprofit serves people with differing abilities.

There are plenty of free or low-cost tools to try out, and we’ve talked about lots of them already: from Animoto to Mofuse, and from custom campaign maps to eye-catching charts, and including cross-platform tools like Twitterfountain that brings Twitter and Flickr together in a nifty widget.  We’ve also looked at tools to help your readers to dig into your content more deeply, such as site search widgets or custom newspages, as well as various RSS tools for delivering that content to your fans in the ways they’ll find most convenient.

Useful new free or low-cost tools are coming out all the time, so keep your eyes open for something fresh to try!

The second half?

Let your fans create their own content.

Run down the list of content delivery methods you’re already using — or are considering for your website or blog — to see how you can enable readers and fans to participate more actively.

Let’s take your blog posts and website pages, for example. How might your fans take a more active role there?

Share it

Social bookmarking buttons like AddThis, ShareThis, and similar services give you a snippet of code to paste into your blog or web page, so visitors can easily bookmark your post or page and  recommend it to their friends. (This can be a terrific traffic-builder for you site, too.)

Rate it

Who doesn’t like to give an opinion?  A simple ratings widget like the excellent five-star widget from Outbrain or one of PollDaddy’s rating widgets (they offer both five-star and thumbs-up/down styles) may be a good addition to your blog, particularly if your nonprofit serves teens and young adults.

Discuss it

Comments are the undisputed Big King Daddy of user-generated content, so you’ll want to make sure that you’ve enabled comments on your nonprofit’s blog unless there’s a compelling reason not to do so. (Part Two suggested a few good resources to help you get more comments on your blog and use them to build a sense of online community.) And it’s easy enough to enable the comment function of most blogging platforms.

But what if you’ve got a static website — web pages without a built-in comments function? Consider adding a guestbook, chat room, or forum to let your site visitors share their ideas and opinions (see 5 Quick Free Ways to Set Up Your Own Chat Room and the “Discussion Forums/Online Communities” section of 100 Online Tools for Nonprofits for some options there). Alternatively, you might look at a “social commenting” system like Disqus or IntenseDebate which can be installed on both blogging platforms and static HTML websites.

Suggest it

One of the most effective ways to engage someone in conversation — on blogs or in the real world — is to let them pick the topic that interests them most. Could you use one of the many free tools for creating your own polls and surveys to check in with your fans about what types of content and topics they prefer?

Or ask your fans to help you crowdsource a list of web resources. SlinkSet, for example, lets you set up your own Digg-like social link-submission and voting site — with a handy feature that is not often mentioned: the ability to create a widget to show the top-voted links in your sidebar.

Write it

Guest posts?

Well, you get the idea…

Next, do the same with photographs, videos, whatever other kind of content your organization publishes online — look for ways that your fans can take a more active role in creating that content. YouTube Direct, for example, is one tool we’ve talked about already that lets you create a (moderated) video channel to share your community’s videos on your site.

And remember the big conference of association professionals in Toronto last summer? The ASAE annual meeting website ran a Twitterstream of #asae09 tweets throughout the event so people who weren’t able to travel could be “virtual attendees” and follow along. Couldn’t you do something similar for your own events, through the magic of RSS?

Ask your members what other platforms they may be using to publish their own content (Slideshare? Flickr? VoiceThread?) and, if appropriate and feasible, consider showcasing that member-created content on your organization’s website… The possibilities are virtually unlimited!

One Final Note:

Nonprofits do have a fine line to walk with user-generated content, true. While individuals, entrepreneurs and small business folks can be a bit more adventurous with their website content, nonprofit communicators must answer to an executive board, donors, constituents, other stakeholders — and, oftten, the general public — all of whom are likely to have very strong opinions about what is appropriate content for a nonprofit site.

Those stakeholders may be understandably nervous about allowing user-generated content on the site, but measures such as forum registration and comment moderation, guided by a thoughtful social media policy, can go a long way to keeping the content family-friendly and relatively spam-free.

What is your nonprofit doing to help your blog or website compete in an age of social networking sites? As always, please share your experience in the comments.

p.s. If you missed the first two parts of this series, you can catch up here and here.

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Thursday, 11 February 2010 at 5:55 PM

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Comments

  • uberVU - social comments said:

    Thursday, 11 February 2010 at 9:37 AM

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by rjleaman: just posted > How to Bring Facebook Fans to Your Nonprofit Blog: Part 3 http://bit.ly/bFfNCz [Wild Apricot Blog]

  • Computer Repair said:

    Friday, 12 February 2010 at 4:36 AM

    Rebecca,

    Thank you for this series.  I really have enjoyed it and taken away a lot of good advice.  In this particular post I like that you allow for others to add to the discussion and post on walls.  It is a risky thing to do, but I would agree adds for far more participation and motivation in learning more about your cause.

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