This is the thing about online apps and mobile: they are the next big thing for nonprofits today. Even if your organization doesn't have the budget or human resources, you might like to know what you could do if the budget fairy left you a surprise gift.
Last week I attended a session on this topic at the Women Who Tech TeleSummit. The session was entitled Apps and Tools to Energize your Base. This session was an interesting look around the ever-evolving universe of online and mobile tools used to mobilize people online. Divided into three sections, it began with a look at the importance of text messaging by Jessica Bosanko of M+R Strategic Services, then went to apps and tools, discussed by Shana Glickfield of the Beekeeper Group and then wrapped up nicely by Amy Sample Ward of NetSquared who discussed measurement; both what and how. What it didn't cover was the strategy behind mobile, how to choose the right tool for your campaign needs, or anything related to mobile fundraising; that's okay though -- this session never pretended it would cover those topics. It delivered on exactly what it said it would: the tools and apps. It was like looking around a store, seeing what other people buy, and thinking about what you want to or might buy, and perusing the merchandise.
Here's the recap of what I learned:
There are generally five types of text messaging: 1) for fundraising; 2) for advocacy; 3) to distribute information; 4) driving traffic to websites, and 5) text replies (where people respond via text to an issue, or send a text requesting more info). Download the e-benchmarks study for all the analysis.
- Some stats about text message users: over 80% come from email lists.
- Growth rate is at about 49.5%, though churn is at 31%.
- The response rate for text messaging where people are asked to make a call to a decision maker on the organization's behalf is 4.9%. That's six times the rate of 'call-in' emails (0.82%).
The Human Rights Campaign used text messaging in an innovative campaign in which they asked supporters to text back the word 'shop' and the name of a company, and HRC would send back a score from their Corporate Equality Index, telling them how supportive of LGBT issues that company is.
The question I have is: if your an organization that doesn't do advocacy, or has an older constituency who would likely be less proficient with mobile phones, is there a place for text messaging for you? Even though mobile is the next big thing, is it the next big thing for everyone, or will some types of organizations be left out of this medium? If so, does it matter?
Tools and Apps
Shana talked about the top tech trends of the day: social media, mobile tech, and location-based, social commerce (such as Groupon and Livingsocial). The tools that fit these trends are real-time and have a gaming quality to them. She then discussed the importance of geo-social, data visualization and crowd-sourcing.
Here's a breakdown with definitions:
Geo-social: it means your smart phone finds you on a grid and geo-tags or codes you on a map. It's popular b/c it integrates the top tech trends listed above. Using geo-social apps for nonprofit-based causes (advocacy, for example), are low-cost, can help build loyalty, and are real-time. But beyond just being real-time, such apps can be used in a few seconds. So 'in a moment to spare', you can take action on an organization's behalf. For example, someone can use FourSquare in a few seconds and engage in a way that could reach a huge number of people. Using Foursquare you can create badges, prizes and mayorships to keep your constituents engaged.
Data visualization: mashups and APIs that display information in innovative and creative ways. Data visualization is modern storytelling, and people often find infographics helpful. Examples include word clouds, charts and graphs and photo collages
Unconferences: participant driven conferences, these are innovative ways to gather grassroots activists together to share ideas, make use of new technologies, mobilize around an issue and inspire collaboration.
Two pieces of advice Shana had for the listeners was to only go into these emerging technologies once you've tapped the others. So if you still don't have a facebook page, or social media strategy in general, don't start here, start with the basics, and once those are in place and well-managed, then branch out into into these innovative tools and apps.
In this part of the session, Amy Sample Ward focused on the back-end. Monitoring and measurement leads to knowing and understanding your impact. What tools are you using to monitor and measure your social media efforts? What tools do you need to monitor, measure and analyse your impact?
The tools she likes:
Google Analytics: for web analytics. see where people are coming from, what's driving traffic to website. From that, determine where and how to engage people. Also, look at longer-term metrics and beyond the homepage: traffic to the donation form, the 'how to get involved' page are two good examples.
Facebook Insights: this offers free data about your Facebook community. Additionally, set up Google Analytics for your Facebook page.
Nutshell Mail: If you like getting your metrics via email, use this tool from Constant Contact. It has statistics on Facebook, twitter and more.
Google Alerts: this is another great free tool to stay on top of what's being said about you. There's no limit, and you could start with your organization name, and move on to getting Google Alerts for your major issue areas.
Listening Dashboard: one example is Netvibes. This lets you have both a public and private view, so you can use it as an online headquarters for both your team internally, and for all your supporters as well. Use it as a centralized place for all rss feeds, Twitter tags you follow, Google Alerts.
She discussed the role of the influencer. While it's subjective and depends on your objective, we still know that influencers are critical, and you should have part of your social media strategy focused around growing this group of people. But the qualities you're looking for are engagement, loyalty, and level of activity. Beyond that you need to tailor your metrics to your objectives.
So coming back to my questions above, while mobile geo-social apps and text-messaging might not be relevant for your organization, everyone should be measuring and monitoring their own activities and efforts. A lot of these things may fall into the 'nice to have' category, not 'need to have', but nevertheless it's important to know I think the bottom line is that while some of the tools in this toolbox might not be for you, others are or will be at some point. And with social media in general, it needs to be considered and analyzed in terms of the value to your campaign/issue/organization, and not as a channel on its own.
Social media is what you make of it, and these apps and tools are only as good as the people behind them who are paying regular attention to developing them to their best capacity, and the people on the other side -- the users of the tools and supporters of your organization, who will use the tools you make available in creative, engaging and innovative ways on your behalf.