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8 Simple Tips That Can Help You Stand Out on Social Networks

It’s not easy to stand out among a million posts and messages on Twitter and Facebook these days. And it actual...

It’s not easy to stand out among a million posts and messages on Twitter and Facebook these days. And it actually gets harder each day as these and other social networks continue to grow.

Luckily, I had the honor of interviewing some of the top industry leaders, and asked them to share their secrets for doing just that.

If your business is going to invest in Twitter as a social media marketing channel, you should make sure it is worth your while.

To get to the bottom of what really works on Twitter

The result?

Advice from 31 experts such as Jason Keath, Adam Braun, Britt Michaelian, Kim Garst and many more.

Here are some of the key lessons that I’ve learned.
1. Add Value First

Pay special attention to this point, because most of the experts I spoke with shared that you can’t skip this step. In order to stand out, start by giving back to your fans. “You have to constantly go beyond their expectations and deliver something of true value to them” says Jason Keath.

One of the ways to check yourself on whether you are offering value is to consider your perspective. Are you just “doing social media” stuff or are you behaving like a human?

Humans help one another. Humans make each other laugh. Share things that are informative, instructional. Humans respond to questions and service issues. “Just doing social media” or “being social” is a mindset that quickly reduces the value you have to offer.

Value is what gets your audience to trust that you have something important to share. According to Jeff Bullas, you can create value by developing a memorable brand or great content.  
2. Care More

Here’s a great tip by Britt Michaelian: “Treat your friends and followers with kindness and gratitude and show them you care about who they are. Do this consistently and you will not only stand out, but you will feel great.”

I agree!

 
3. Ask Your Audience What They Want

Adam Braun, a New York Times bestselling author and the founder of Pencils of Promise, sends personalized messages to his followers every day. He makes an effort to learn more about his readers and build meaningful relationships with them.

I can personally attest to this: he was willing to take some time out of his busy schedule to respond to me. I learned from Braun that if you don’t know what your audience wants, don’t guess. Why not just ask them?
4. Reply To Questions

Simple right?

Don’t you get annoyed when you see people or businesses who don’t reply to some comments simply because they feel those people are “irrelevant” according to their “data”? Jenny Brennan has made being responsive part of her identity: “Make sure you respond to every comment, tweet and interaction.”

Your responses need to be meaningful, too.

Brennan explains, “it is also important to do your research” to “find out more about the person who has taken the time to reach out.” If you craft a tailored reply, you’ll stand out from anyone who simply responds for the sake of responding. When you respond, people appreciates it. Here’s an example from a happy customer of KLM.

5. Have a Personality

Here’s a mistake most of us make: we share content without adding any personal touches.

As Marsha Collier puts it: “Sharing good content is a given, but that is not enough. Show your personality in your posts, don’t just quote titles, add interest!”


8 Simple Tips That Can Help You Stand Out on Social Networks
by Aaron Lee on Aug 14, 2014
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8-simple-tips-to-stand-out-in-socialIt’s not easy to stand out among a million posts and messages on Twitter and Facebook these days. And it actually gets harder each day as these and other social networks continue to grow.

Luckily, I had the honor of interviewing some of the top industry leaders, and asked them to share their secrets for doing just that.

If your business is going to invest in Twitter as a social media marketing channel, you should make sure it is worth your while.

To get to the bottom of what really works on Twitter

The result?

Advice from 31 experts such as Jason Keath, Adam Braun, Britt Michaelian, Kim Garst and many more.

Here are some of the key lessons that I’ve learned.
1. Add Value First

Pay special attention to this point, because most of the experts I spoke with shared that you can’t skip this step. In order to stand out, start by giving back to your fans. “You have to constantly go beyond their expectations and deliver something of true value to them” says Jason Keath.

One of the ways to check yourself on whether you are offering value is to consider your perspective. Are you just “doing social media” stuff or are you behaving like a human?

Humans help one another. Humans make each other laugh. Share things that are informative, instructional. Humans respond to questions and service issues. “Just doing social media” or “being social” is a mindset that quickly reduces the value you have to offer.

Value is what gets your audience to trust that you have something important to share. According to Jeff Bullas, you can create value by developing a memorable brand or great content.  
2. Care More

Here’s a great tip by Britt Michaelian: “Treat your friends and followers with kindness and gratitude and show them you care about who they are. Do this consistently and you will not only stand out, but you will feel great.”

I agree!
 
3. Ask Your Audience What They Want

Adam Braun, a New York Times bestselling author and the founder of Pencils of Promise, sends personalized messages to his followers every day. He makes an effort to learn more about his readers and build meaningful relationships with them.

I can personally attest to this: he was willing to take some time out of his busy schedule to respond to me. I learned from Braun that if you don’t know what your audience wants, don’t guess. Why not just ask them?
4. Reply To Questions

Simple right?

Don’t you get annoyed when you see people or businesses who don’t reply to some comments simply because they feel those people are “irrelevant” according to their “data”? Jenny Brennan has made being responsive part of her identity: “Make sure you respond to every comment, tweet and interaction.”

Your responses need to be meaningful, too.

Brennan explains, “it is also important to do your research” to “find out more about the person who has taken the time to reach out.” If you craft a tailored reply, you’ll stand out from anyone who simply responds for the sake of responding. When you respond, people appreciates it. Here’s an example from a happy customer of KLM.

5. Have a Personality

Here’s a mistake most of us make: we share content without adding any personal touches.

As Marsha Collier puts it: “Sharing good content is a given, but that is not enough. Show your personality in your posts, don’t just quote titles, add interest!”

Add your personality by including a little of YOU and your story in everything you share.

6. Be REAL

Most of experts shared this tip, so listen up: Be authentic. Be genuine!  

Kim Garst describes how there’s simply no faking this: “You have to be authentically passionate about what you do and who you serve. True passion is contagious.” Speaking of contagious, -you can tell that Kim’s passion really is irresistible.

7. Know the Trend

Here’s a valuable tip I learned from Mark Ivey: constantly look out for trending topics.

When Ivey (who co-founded gluten-free food company Ivy’s Garden) found out that Jimmy Kimmel’s digs at the gluten-free lifestyle were going viral, he wrote a post that would capitalize on the buzz.

However, he didn’t just hop on the bandwagon–he showed that Ivy’s Garden cares about and provides value for people following a gluten-free diet. Snickers does this well, too

8. Think Visual

Five experts shared this tip: Play up the visual element.

According to Stacey Miller, “images catch our attention, keep our attention, and are digested faster than text.” Zach Kitschke from Canva says, “the best brands have a strong visual identity on social media” and advises us to be consistent in what we post and in our use of colors, fonts, photo filters, and icons or logos.

BONUS. Know What Works

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Here’s a secret that the team at Post Planner uses: We have a powerful feature in our app called “viral photos,” which allows us to find and share some of the most popular photos out there. Using this tool, we are able to increase our reach significantly. Here’s a sample of one of our recent photo that had over 4.7 million reach and 60k shares:

In addition to these eight tips that you can use to stand out, here’s yet another a bonus tip from me: be patient. It takes time to stand out, and it’s not something that you can achieve in a single day or even a month.

What’s YOUR best tip for standing out?

8 Simple Tips That Can Help You Stand Out on Social Networks, August 14, 2014, SocialFresh, by Aaron Lee

The Uncomfortable Ask: Board Members and Fundraising

Show Me the Money… We all remember that memorable line from the movie Jerry Maguire starring Tom Cruise. ...

Show Me the Money…

We all remember that memorable line from the movie Jerry Maguire starring Tom Cruise. While the context was clearly different, the essence was the same. Credibility is established by putting “skin in the game.”

In today’s philanthropic marketplace, the nonprofit Board is the place where the credibility is built. If the Board does not give, many will hesitate to participate, yet others simply will refuse. This is not a scenario that any nonprofit in today’s hyper competitive environment wants to face, let alone create.

We are all agreed that Board members are invited to serve for their expertise and their ability to bring programmatic and political assets to the table. In some more traditional circles Board members have been recruited for their ability to “give time” which, at one time was considered an asset on its own with a currency equal to money.

The key difficulty is that you cannot pay the bills with time. Therefore, the thematic message of this post is that every nonprofit must ask every Board member, as part of their fiduciary responsibility, to make a meaningful gift to the organization they are leading. It just makes sense. If a Board member isn’t supporting their organization financially, how can they expect someone less connected to their organization to follow a lead that is not demonstrated.

So how does an organization do this?

    Start with the Board President – he or she must buy in to the idea that all Board members must give. This is not yet a given, even today.
    Create a deadline for Board commitments, along with a suggested gift range that is motivational but accessible by all.
    Make fundraising a part of every Board meeting agenda, and make Board Giving a prominent part of that discussion. Unlike in public forums, respectfully call names and ask why people haven’t yet participated.
    Set a firm goal of 100% participation by each and every Board member in the nonprofit’s Board Giving Program.

And that last imperative is doubly important because increasingly foundations and other institutional funders are limiting their support to nonprofits that can demonstrate 100% Board participation in giving. From their point of view, why should they support a nonprofit whose own leadership won’t set the example? Secondarily, they may question why Board members are not giving – asking themselves “what do they know that we don’t.”

Bottom line … according to a recent Board Source Report, as well as the National Center for Nonprofit Boards, and the National Governance Survey of Chief Executives, only 46% of Boards today report 100% participation. It is not surprising that those same sources list the inability to raise money as the major weakness of many nonprofit Boards, while only 5% listed fund raising as a demonstrable strength of a Board. Fundraising ranks #1 among board areas needing improvement.

Yet actual dollars contributed truly matter less than fact that every Board member makes a gift. And again, while this seems to be an intuitive organizational direction, the notion of “giving time” still carries weight in some places.

One way that some Boards are working their way toward 100% participation is trying to put the fundraising onus on every Board member through a “Give and Get” or Give or Get” approach, often providing a minimum that every Board member needs to “produce” in order to fulfill their responsibility. There is an important difference between these two strategies.

Those organizations that employ the “Give or Get” approach, which still absolves Board members from dipping into personal funds for even a token gift, are unwittingly letting their leaders off the hook. Needless to say, we vigorously endorse the “Give and Get” strategy which requires each Board member to begin by investing their funds as “skin in the game.”

And just a note on “Give and-or Get” approach, even this is waiting to get deep traction in the nonprofit arena. The 2012 Not-For-Profit Pulse Survey found that 77% of Boards do not have either type of policy in place. Further, of those organizations that have “Give and-or Get” policies in place, 35% require less than a $5,000 cumulative commitment from Board members.

What, therefore, becomes the expectation when recruiting members for a nonprofit Board?

In the process of recruitment to a nonprofit’s Board, Board service should be presented and framed as an honor and a privilege, and that honor includes giving. The expectation of Board giving should include a stipulation that Board members will be removed if he or she refuses to make even a token gift.

Looking at it a bit more positively, when Boards actively lead the fundraising activity, nonprofits are more likely to reach their fundraising goals. According to the 2012 Nonprofit Research Collaborative Study, only 52% of nonprofits without a Board level development committee met their 2011 fundraising goals, compared with 63% of those with a stated commitment to development through a Board standing committee exclusively for that purpose.

And if we look at Board giving “by the numbers,” once again from the 2012 Not-For-Profit Pulse Survey and the 2012 Nonprofit Research Collaborative Study, we find the following:

    Board average 74% participation in giving
    68% of nonprofits have a policy requiring Board members to make an annual gift
    Among the organizations that require a minimum Board Gift, the median was $1,000
    Nearly 3% of nonprofits require a gift of $20,000 or more to be donated or raised by each Board member

In conclusion, let’s reach back to close the loop with Parts I and II, particularly the importance of measuring ROI in our competitive and entrepreneurial fundraising marketplace, and reiterate the fact that Board giving is a multiplier for attracting and obtaining broader and increased giving. In this way a nonprofits greatly expands the probability that it will succeed on the short term and in its quest for growth and sustainability.

Let’s further restate that GIVING is the operative word and basic goal of every successful nonprofit, and the expectation of members of its Board, and that these should be the standards:

    Fundraising is a primary responsibility of any and every nonprofit Board
    Leading by Example is the primary responsibility of each Board member; every member should be able and prepared to say “join me” to friends and associates
    Board members should designate the organization that they serve as one of the principal recipients of their generosity
    Nonprofits should, if needed – and to prepare their leaders for the expectation made of them, invest in training to make Board members more effective advocates (and yes) fundraisers
    Many Board members are uncomfortable asking for money and seek to opt out of fundraising responsibilities, and should not be let “of the hook”

As a nonprofit leader or executive you should always be comfortable saying “Show me the Money,” but should also be prepared to make it happen. Today’s nonprofit leader and major donor will understand the value of investing to increase return. Not investing, not engaging your Board members, and running your fundraising on parallel tracks is, in the final analysis, racing toward the cliff. That solution is not recommended.

The Uncomfortable Ask: Board Members and Fundraising, August 18, 2014, eJP, by Avrum Lapin

External Influences on Nonprofit Management: a Wide-Angle View

I will ask readers to bear with me as I try to take a wide-angle lens to the external influences on nonprofit managem...

I will ask readers to bear with me as I try to take a wide-angle lens to the external influences on nonprofit management. They are many and complex, but they also may be simplified—which I will try to do by looking for what, to my mind, is the core design principle we are facing.

Complexities “R” Us

All organizations are affected by the cultures and social structures from which they emerge. Dominant paradigms, shared belief systems, and personal politics create mental models about the way we want—and are sometimes blindly driven—to structure and manage our work.

Our organizational management styles and structures are affected by the following:

    The fields in which we work—in the arts, for instance, dual leadership models that place artistic and business leadership side by side are common.
    The regulatory environment in which we function—for instance, in Head Start programs, regular audits measure a specific and very long checklist of items, including the governance structure, accreditation standards for teachers, and the resources available in each classroom, among many others. Such stringent accrediting measurements administered directly by a funder tend to affect what management focuses on.
    Our communities’ spoken belief systems—for instance, feminist organizations of the 1970s experimented with structures that were less hierarchical because they equated hierarchy with paternalism.
    Our communities’ cultural norms and dynamics—for instance, our ethnic community relates in certain ways to other ethnic communities around it, much as our geographic community relates to its region, state, nation, and the world.

These are larger systems of which our organizations are a part. Of course, within organizations there are often also a set of norms and dynamics put in place by the epic stories we tell of, say, organizational birthing or near-death experiences, or by the model of leadership exhibited by culturally influential leaders or founders. The surfacing of the mix of these internal and external effects on organizational management has always been fascinating work for those who like the anthropological exercise of trying to figure out the assumptions beneath why people in organizations do what they do.

It is complex stuff, but stuff that may just have been made a little easier—paradoxically, by a major era change.

Because, with all of the ways in which external factors affect how organizations function, it has generally been assumed that organizations are systems separated from one another by clear boundaries. In fact, one of the definitional requirements of a system is that it have those boundaries to set it apart. So what happens to the notion of organizational culture when institutional boundaries become more porous overall, and the people associated with the system are working virtually, or are transient or contracted? And what happens to the nexus of management? Does our estimation of where leveraging and management actions are taken change significantly? Might it neutralize differences between organizations to some extent and move the loci of change and cultural influence both up into larger systems and down to much more local levels?

About Dominant Paradigms
In this life, those of us who are actively involved in trying to make complex systems work are always dealing with contradictions—or dialectics, which, according to philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, is the constant conscious playing out of those contradictions to create progress. So, for instance, even as individuals or organizations we are at once attracted to the control of a situation and the active exploration of the possibilities and limits contained in the situation—in other words, to stability and chaos.

Encroaching chaos is uncomfortable for many managers, who by definition tend to like predictability. We are comforted by “I do this, and that happens.” When that kind of predictability begins to be hard to come by and we are beset with disequilibrium, we are challenged to step outside of the system as we have been living in it and try to take a longer view: Has something big changed for good? Is this the system we need? Is it doing what it is meant to do? What ideas can I try? Who else should we be talking to who can be partners in a change bigger than the usual? How do I intervene, and at what level? These are the questions that many of us are faced with now.

Thankfully, often what at first appears to be chaotic because it is still finding its order, later becomes increasingly familiar—game rules, underlying assumptions, and all. Once we have had a chance to observe and experiment with the essence and the patterns of something new, and to realize where practical and ethical questions emerge, we may become surer of our footing even if we cannot yet answer these questions.

But what if we are far from that kind of semi-stasis? What if we are facing a generation or more of greater than usual change?

If we were to assume that organizations mimic the assumptions and operating dynamics of the overall environment, and that these change from economic era to economic era, you would expect the dominant paradigm we have for forms of organizations to change, too. This does not happen overnight, even in today’s sped-up environment. There has been a generation or two of time during which the industrial era has slowly been crumbling—with its artifacts and archetypes becoming almost cruelly comic in their extremity.

But the seeds of this transition to a technology-driven, knowledge-era economy have long been present as the ascending pole of the dialectic. The industrial era, too, was driven by advances in technology, which allowed for the large-scale production in big factories—through the use of machines—that we have come to identify as the rise of industrialization; and the factories needed large amounts of capital to establish themselves, thus consolidating the means of production, and also needed large numbers of wage earners, who made themselves relatively dependent in return for a measure of security. But every revolution carries within it the seeds of its opposition, so—

What Formula Is Driving the Era Change?

If we were to see this economic era as a fractal—“ a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole”2—the basic form being replicated might be stated as follows: “We reject: kings, presidents, and voting. We believe in: rough consensus and running code.”

We refer to this short statement—attributed to David Clark, who is often called the founder of the
Internet—because it succinctly expresses the formula by which this era is defined. As Lawrence Lessig wrote in “Open Code and Open Societies: Values of Internet Governance,” what is being described here is not chaos but rather a bottom-up control of development based on an open systems orientation.3 Within this concept, he goes on to say, is the idea of “open forking”: “Build a platform, or set of protocols, so that it can evolve in any number of ways; don’t play god; don’t hardwire any single path of development. Keep the core simple, and let the application (or end) develop the complexity.”

Lessig goes on to say, “Good code is code that is modular, and that reveals its functions and parameters transparently.”

But before we all cheer about the image we are building of networks of locally based action connected on a global stage working for human rights and sustainability, remember that there are still significant issues to work out in the form of reinforcements and defenses of the old way of consolidation. Growth capital still tends to flow to large systems in the nonprofit as well as the for-profit sector; this ghost may haunt us for some time. Many nonprofits are limited by siloed funding as well as funding that does not necessarily lend itself to constant reevaluation and change.

And then there are those pesky, unintended consequences of the new era, which is likely to be equally as good and tragic as the previous one.

Our Networked World and What It Does to an Era Change

There are a number of factors that are distinctly of this age and conspire to reinforce the sense that we are actively evolving a new economic era:

    There is an ever-greater push for transparency and a growing assumption of need for institutional accountability. We now have iconic events—epic stories that anchor the need for and possibility of greater transparency in the public consciousness and imagination. Enron and the mortgage crisis, among a number of other scandals, anchor the need, and WikiLeaks anchors the inevitability.
    There is the ever-more-rapid ability of one group of stakeholders to mobilize quickly to influence another. This allows stakeholders without direct resource control over an organization to affect those with resource control. It is not that this was impossible before, but it took much longer and required more central control. There are any number of stories NPQ has been tracking that describe this kind of spontaneous stakeholder alliance-building online. The unbelievable and wildly diverse power bloc that sprang up overnight to oppose Susan B. Komen for the Cure’s defunding of Planned Parenthood is one example—Komen’s losses have been enormous, rolling out in a series of broken relationships and cash losses.
    There is much less reliance on cradle-to-grave relationships between people and institutions (no longer the standard). And more free agency and greater reach of communications technology require stronger and more consistently engaging attractors. Maybe a core image here is that of the contracted and relatively unprotected worker—the worker with multiple short-term jobs, or the employee who commutes remotely. Socially concerned people are replicating these shorter term, more tenuous relationships—taking their energy to a Habitat for Humanity construction project one month, a race against hunger the next, and participating in a campaign against constrictive web legislation in between. If you want to compete for people’s attention and money and names, you had better be giving them something that they can get very interested in and over which they can feel a sense of accomplishment and partial ownership. They do not always need to do the work themselves, but they do need to feel engaged at a spirit level.
    Social media makes every “local” organization national and even international in certain ways. A small local organization that tries something new can get noticed as a model: its strategies can be replicated and its mistakes avoided. The Internet also expedites realization and expressions of common cause across vast geographic and cultural boundaries. Small local work can build to big work in this way. Swarming may occur, as it did in the anti-landmine campaign. And the friction that occurs at the boundaries sparks odd new thinking—always good for innovation.
    The Internet is perhaps the influential operating system of the era—acting as a model to grow and develop a field on the margins and incremental embroidery on a basic protocol that is near-universally accessible.

But again, the consolidation of power and capital is extreme, even in this sector, as is the urge to stake out spaces where capital can be secreted. We are in the midst of an election that is characterized by the consolidation and secretion of election capital, and we are witnessing the truly phenomenal growth of charitable gift funds. The latter recently prompted Agnes Gund, president emerita of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, to comment, “We need to better comprehend this environment and learn how to participate in it. The arts are slow at developing donors online, where much fundraising now happens. We have been slow to attract the new money—the hedge fund and social-media crowds, the new inheritors of wealth. We need these people in the arts, but we are not getting their attention. Large amounts of money are going into donor-advised funds; we scarcely know how to reach those funds. We are late adapters of social media, of the interactive ways of dealing that are now common among the young.

“As fundraisers, we are not good at collaborating; we argue for one symphony or one dance company or one museum at a time—without appealing for the arts as a whole, significant sector in American life. And as institutions we haven’t learned to combine tasks, to find common ways of solving problems, to enlist new thinkers in our business.

“We are trying to do business as usual, when—in fact—the usual is gone. There is a new usual. We need to make it work for the arts. Without the arts, we would be people without inspiration, without ideas, without ideals. That’s why successful fundraising for the arts in the new economy is essential.”4

What Does This Mean for Organizations?
Is Management Dead?

If we cannot predict our variables in the near future, is all hope of effective management dead? Clearly not, but the style of managing must be so much more fluid, and the actors so much more diverse—and actively thinking and gathering information wherever they sit in and around the organization. The organization must be listening to these actors and processing information in a way that looks for patterns of the emerging order that will need to be addressed. And only then should they feed the scenario back out, so that the actors can help with the next steps of the design.

Thus, participants in and around the cause get the running code—which is likely nothing more than the purpose and vision and principles of the organization (or cause) as it is placed against the challenges of its environment, and rough consensus is reached and experimentation and innovation at the margins is encouraged to flourish.

The course is rough, not smooth. It cannot be sized up with a tape measure (though perhaps measured, at times, with a Geiger counter) as we fall while trying to scale new challenges on a new terrain with a new partner. But there is something exhilarating about it all. Benoît Mandelbrot said that “roughness” is a part of human life, and that there are many different kinds of mess but there is always order in that roughness to be found. And it is all very complicated and simple at the same time.

So here are some more questions:

Do we believe that a swarm of small things can bring down a big thing with any sort of regularity? Do we believe that it can be done “the right way,” without being tightly and centrally controlled? Can we change our orientation from top-down to bottom-up? Can we shift our evaluation and planning practices to ones wherein active communities help define the outcomes that they want and provide data on the results?

And is organizational defensiveness an enemy of the state we want to be in? If our future is based on open networked systems that communicate toward greater effectiveness, are we managing and developing our work toward that end?

External Influences on Nonprofit Management:  a Wide-Angle View, August 15, 2014, Nonprofit Quarterly, by Ruth McCambridge