Posts Tagged ‘web2.0’

Nearly all organizations are feeling the pull to be communicating more.  Quality, of course, matters, but the shear quantity and frequency of communications that most organization seek to produce has increased dramatically, whether its blogs, tweets, commenting, web site updates, collaborations, cross posting, press releases, or good old print brochures.  To stay abreast your organization needs to maximize its capacity for communication. At a time when there is no way you are hiring additional staff, that means making the staff you have as efficient and effective as possible. How do you do that? We recommend you: clarify your strategy, invest in automation, and get everyone participating. Here’s the first half (plus a bonus one!) ways to increase your organization’s communication capacity – come to the NTEN session to hear the rest!

Clarify Your Strategy
Before you hit the accelerator, you want to make sure that you know where you are going and the car is pointed in the right direction.  If you have already done the strategy work, now is a good time to make sure you have shared it with everyone (not just the communications department). Here are some specific actions to take to clarify your strategy:

1. Define Your Audience – If you define your audience as everyone, you are wasting your time. Your cause might affect everyone, but it is more relevant for a more narrow demographic, such as single women 32-36. Pay attention to who you are communicating with so you can maximize the impact of your efforts.
2. Find out where you audience is and go there.  Don’t waste time with channels that might be the next big thing (or a past big thing), if your target is using the old standby.  Whether its print, social media, or conferences, be strategic about where you are spending your time.
3. Clarify your key messages.  Take the time to clarify your primary and secondary messages for each of your targets.
4. Use research to establish your keywords.  Google adwords has a great free tool for assessing the search frequency of your keywords. If you haven’t done your research, your keywords might be words no one else is using. Jargon anyone…?

Its not an easy time to make investments in technology.  However, if your organization is functioning without a content management system and a relationship management system that serves all your database needs, chances are you are wasting time (re)entering data, recreating communications every time, or waiting on someone with the technical capacity to take care of content and communications tasks.  If all of your web updates have to go through a single person, thats a pretty tight bottleneck on your capacity.

5. Stop entering data.  Definitely stop entering data twice. A good constituent relationship management (CRM) system should be able to receive imports which you can leverage to have your users enter data in a form that has a spreadsheet and then import it or have it flow in directly via an API. If you are using different databases for different stakeholder groups, its likely you could realize efficiencies from centralizing information around certain processes and people in the organization. Check out tools like Google Spreadsheets (which can generate a form) if you don’t have anything available today for data collection.

6. Use an RSS reader to keep on top of news and trends.  A well defined RSS feed will keep you up to date without wasting your time going to different sites or repeating the same searches.

7. Cross post.  Tools like ping.fm and hootsuite.com allow you to post to Twitter, Facebook and more at the same time. Make sure that photos posted to Flickr and videos on YouTube come up on your Facebook page.  By taking advantage of cross posting, you can make a limited amount of activity look like more and ensure that people coming to one site see more of your recent posts  (but don’t abuse this – we want you in the conversation!).

8.  Schedule communications. Block out a chunk of time each week where you can take care of several communications posts at once. You can schedule blog posts, tweets, and site updates for future dates, so that you can sit down and write three posts, but have them trickle out over the course of a week.  A regular Twitter stream is more effective that 3 posts a week, all at the same time.  By scheduling out updates, you keep your communication regular and you can repost, without spamming the airwaves.  Use a tool like Hootsuite to schedule your tweets.  This prevents tweets from interrupting your day, create and schedule many tweets all at once.  Of course, you can also send real time!

Get Everyone Participating
A key aspect of increasing your organizations capacity for communication is increasing the number of people communicating.  Communications can no longer be the realm solely of the communications department and the executive director.  Since most of your staff has no formal training in communications, you have to make it easy!

9. Create templates for regularly used communications.  Press releases, newsletters, thank you letters, and case studies all have a predictable format.  People find it easier to fill in the blanks rather than starting from a blank slate. Templates also make sure that less experienced writers include all relevant information.

10. Have a centralized filesystem to store media.  A reusable bank of success stories, “about us” paragraphs, bios, photos, videos, and statistics make it easier for people to respond in the moment and ensure that you brand and message are clear. Google Docs?

11. Teach writing for the web.  The last time many of your staff wrote regularly was in university.  College essays make bad web copy, but furthermore its easier to write for the web.  Using fragments, bullet points, and top loading content is contrary to how most people were taught to write.  A good writing for the web class may take only 90 minutes and will free your staff from the tendency to craft complex and grammatically varied sentences that will never get read (check out our overview at: http://www.ifpeople.net/learn/website/writing-for-the-web ).

12. Make communication part of everyone’s job.  Its not enough to give people the ability to update the web site. It should be written into staff responsibilities that they complete basic tasks like updating the web site, writing blog updates of their work, and posting relevant information.

13.  Use checklists. You never want a press release to go out without a link to your web page.  Make sure this doesn’t happen by having simple checklists for different communication tasks.  Everything from campaign emails to event postings can benefit from a check list.

For more great ideas on how to increase your organizations communication capacity, join our session at NTEN!

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Every week new sites pop up that are built on user-generated content. These “Web 2.0” sites encourage people to become users on the site and then share all they got. Other users can then comment, rate, and connect. Fairly basic scenario that has been repeated in everything from photographers to graphic designers and knitters!

While the site owners are always pleased to see the explosive growth in content (and usually clicks ==> ad revenue) that can come with a growing user base, the result in the content isn’t always beneficial for users. Here’s a simple example to illustrate what I’m talking about, should take about 5 minutes for you to complete (unless you get very distracted on step 2!).

First, check out this clip from NPR from this past week on the Do-it-yourself user community site instructables.com Click here to listen to the story.

Hear something intriguing? Hopefully! Now head over to the website they were talking about and pursue whatever that interesting nugget you heard about was at instructables.com .

What happened?

If you’re like me, you got totally overwhelmed by a massive quantity of content and quickly got lost in some not-so-good stuff. For example, I saw laptop stand on the front and thought – good idea, beats the random object propped under by laptop this evening – what can I do? My first click gave my 15 different howtos on laptop stands and pretty soon I saw there were actually over 50 on the site! Those 15 were just the featured ones…and even using metadata on the faceted browsing (not a bad interface), I wasn’t able to get it down to just “give me the good stuff”. I went from pursuing something that I thought could be useful to quickly realizing I was going to spend more time sorting through what was useless (for me) and what could be useful than it was worth. I need a distilled version, a search that reads my mind, or just less options.

This is a challenge for content-rich sites that are populated by user-generated content. It’s great to have a forum for getting this information out – what amazing creativity and enthusiasm the users have for the site! But it puts a high burden on site owners to provide proper tools to experience the site in a way that doesn’t make it useless.

What sites have you tried to use that have dealt with this well? What have done it poorly?

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