Nonprofits: Tips for Driving Traffic to Your Website

 Image by Oran Viriyincy via  Flickr

Image by Oran Viriyincy via Flickr

Why is a website so important for nonprofits? 

Firstly, a website allows your target audience to find you. It legitimizes your organization and provides a platform for promoting your cause. 

A website is also important for building your community. It allows partners and supporters to easily promote your organization simply by sharing a link. 

Finally,  a website gives supporters a hassle-free way to donate funds. Simple, secure payment forms are easy to set up and make the donation process easier for you and your contributors.

While these benefits may be clear, actually getting people to visit your website can be hard work. Here are a few ways to increase your monthly traffic and get your website the attention it deserves:

Make It User-Friendly

The primary job of your website is to deliver information. First and foremost, it should be straightforward and easy to navigate. This won't just encourage people to stick around once they visit your site, but it will actually help get people there in the first place. Websites that follow a clear, logical structure are easier for search engines to read and more likely to appear in search results.

Within about thirty seconds of arriving on the site, visitors should be able to grasp the basic purpose of your organization. A site tagline (i.e. 'Improving the lives of Seattle's youth through the great outdoors') is great for this. Next, visitors should easily locate the specific information they're looking for in the site's main navigation menu.

The most logical websites are also the most user-friendly. When designing your website - whether you're working with a web developer or building it yourself on a platform like Wordpress or Squarespace - it's important to consider how the site will grow over time. Every new page should have a logical home.

Avoid cluttering the site by building overarching category pages (i.e. 'About Us', 'Community', 'Contribute') that can accommodate sub-pages as you create them over time (i.e. 'Our Mission Statement', 'Resources' and 'Volunteer Opportunities').

Consider Search Engines

Search engines, primarily Google, are the Yellow Pages of the Internet. They are how your audience finds you online. Make sure people can find you in search engines by including relevant keywords in your website copy.

Think about which search terms people are likely to type into Google when looking for an organization like yours. For example, if you run a nonprofit focused on heart disease research, include the keyword 'heart disease research' throughout your website. The more content you have on your site, the more keywords you can target, such as 'heart disease statistics' and 'heart disease charity running event', etc.

Use Google's Keyword Tool to discover which keywords related to your organization are the most commonly searched for. Though SEO may seem technical, it actually boils down to knowing what questions your audience is asking and making sure you have the answers.

Create Content That Interests Your Audience

Develop a content marketing strategy that provides your audience with useful, shareable information. The more valuable content your site contains, the more opportunities for people (and search engines) to find it. Here are just a few ideas for content that will boost traffic to your site:

  • Blog Posts - Writing (and regularly updating) a blog on your website is one of the best ways to drive new traffic to your site. It gives you a legitimate, non-promotional reason for directing Twitter and Facebook followers to your site and also helps you rank for a wider number of search terms.
  • Competitions - Appeal to people's love of competition and free prizes by hosting a giveaway on your website. Of course, the giveaway should be relevant to your cause (i.e. 'Win a cookbook with heart-friendly recipes' or 'Register for our 10K event to be entered to win a new pair of running shoes').
  • Events Calendar - Keep your audience updated on all upcoming events by including a calendar on your website.
  • Downloadable PDFs - Make sure all of your existing content - research reports, brochures, leaflets, etc. - is available to download from your website.

Promote Your Content

Once you've created or uploaded content to your site, spread the word! Share it on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, pin the images to Pinterest and link to it in your email newsletters.

Sharing your content won't only help drive direct traffic to the site, but it will help increase your visibility in search engines. Google takes into account how many 'social signals' (i.e. Google Plus-Ones, Facebook 'Likes', Tweets, etc.) direct back to your site. The more popular you are across the web, the higher you'll appear in search results for relevant terms.  

How do you   drive traffic to your website? Any hints and tips? Let me know in the comments!

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Nonprofit Press Release

Nonprofits rely on press releases to promote events, communicate new fundraising campaigns and report any new research relevant to their cause.

Primarily written for journalists and members of the news media, press releases tend to follow a standard structure. The typical press release is written in 'pyramid-style' (the most important information first) and tends to be quite straightforward and to the point.

Though most press releases take on a similar  structure, there are ways to make yours stand out from the rest. Here are five easy ways to make your press release pop:


1. Target a Niche Audience

The goal of a press release is often to get your message to the largest possible audience, so it may seem counter-intuitive that the best way of doing this is to narrow your scope. However, targeting too broad an audience usually means nobody hears your message at all.

Instead, direct your press release to a niche audience. Ask yourself, 'who is this information for?' and write it for them. Don't just list the facts and figures, but explain why it matters to that niche group. Give community journalists and bloggers a reason to believe the information is specifically relevant to their readers.

You'll likely find that the information serves more than one niche audience. In this case, write a separate press release for each group. For example, if you're promoting a music concert fundraiser for an environmental nonprofit, write a press release targeting potential concert-goers (music fans, the music media, etc.), but also write a press release targeting the eco-conscious community (environmental bloggers/journalists).

2. Add a Human Interest Element

 As a nonprofit, the driving force behind your organization is the community you serve. To help your press release resonate with its audience, humanize the cause with a story about the person or people who stand to benefit from your efforts.

For example, if you're promoting a charity event, don't just mention the amount of money you hope to raise for 'research' or 'to fund new programs'. Write about a specific individual or group of individuals that will benefit from the event, including quotes and images.

3. Incorporate Social Media

Ideally your press release will have a ripple effect across the web. To achieve this, integrate your social media campaign into the text. Let readers know how they can get involved through your various social channels.

For example, link to a Facebook giveaway you're running in relation to the topic, include a hashtag in the headline or encourage readers to follow your Instagram account to see real-time images from the event. 

4. Include an Image, Video, Widget or Infographic

Quality content is the currency of the web. You can 'pay' journalists and bloggers for their service by including an engaging image, video, widget or infographic in your press release. The cooler the content, the more likely they are to share it with their readers

Most reputable online press release distributors give you the option to submit multimedia releases, with images or videos embedded directly into the text. You may also choose to simply provide a link to the visual content within the press release. This can be a great way to drive people to your website.

5. Write a Catchy Headline

While it may seem absurd to spend 80 percent of your time writing a 10-word headline, the title of your press release definitely deserves the majority of your time. A well-composed headline is what catches a journalist's eye - it's what drives the decision to click and read, rather than keep on scrolling. An excellent headline is:

  • Not overly-promotional - Something like 'Amazing Concert Set To Be the Best Music Event of the Year' isn't going to convince anyone. Flowery, promotional language reduces the credibility of a press release and isn't likely to get picked up by journalists.
  • Jargon-free - Avoid industry buzzwords and headlines like 'Action-Driven Fundraising Framework Proves Successful With Charity Stakeholders'.
  • Informative - Pinpoint the central message of your press release and make that your headline. For example, something like 'Lady GooGoo to Headline Seattle's First Carbon Neutral Concert July 25' manages to get the essential information across in just 11 words.


Press releases are an age-old method of getting the word out, and it can be tempting to rely on them too much. In today's busy media landscape, it's best to use a multi-channel approach - so try not to throw all of your eggs into one press release basket. Still, as part of a wider PR strategy, a well-written press release can be very effective.

Any tips for nonprofit press releases? How do you make sure your press release gets picked up? Let me know in the comments! 

Tips for Nonprofits on Google Plus

It hasn't permeated our daily lives to the extent of Facebook and Twitter...yet. But Google+ continues to grow, and its users are becoming increasingly active. 

Designed to turn all our online activity into a social experience, Google+ combines many of the real-time functions of Twitter/hashtags with the visual components of Facebook.  However, unlike its competitors, Google+ is far more successful at integrating into all areas of our digital routine. 

Here's a brief overview of Google+ and its benefits for nonprofits:

What is Google Plus?

Google Plus (primarily written as Google+ )  is a social network which integrates with your existing Google accounts. Since its start in 2011, it has gradually grown and overtaken Twitter to become the second-largest social network in the world with more than 500 million users (235 million active users).

In many ways, Google+ is a lot like Facebook, with a rolling newsfeed, 'shares' and status updates. However, the way Google+ integrates with other Google accounts - Google search, Gmail, YouTube, etc. - makes it unique. Google describes Google+ as a 'social layer' that personalizes all aspects of a user's online experience.

Does Google Plus work for nonprofits? 

Certainly! Google+ is a fantastic way for nonprofits to connect with their audience and raise awareness of their cause. Here are a few ways you can use Google+:

For more information, check out this 'hangout' with tips for nonprofits on Google+


Why should I create a Google Plus account for my nonprofit? 

Just like any other social network, Google+ helps brands and nonprofits build and strengthen their relationships. Google+, however, has an additional benefit because of its integration with Google search.

Users that are signed into a Google account, who then search for something on Google's search engine, receive personalized search results based on their Google+ profile. If you share links and images via your Google+ account, those images and links may be more likely to show up in the search results of those who follow you. 

Being active on Google+ can also have great benefits for your nonprofit SEO strategy. In recent years Google re-worked its search algorithm to place a greater emphasis on social engagement. If your website is shared and 'Liked' a lot, Google picks up on those social signals and raises your website's rankings for relevant search terms. More than ever before, Google +1s (the equivalent of a Facebook 'Like') have a major influence on search rankings. If your website pages or blog posts get a lot of +1s, they're more likely to rank higher.

What are some examples of nonprofits on Google Plus? 

Charity: Water

Since 2006 this New York City nonprofit has been devoted to bringing clean, safe water to people of developing nations. On Google+, Charity: Water participates in hangouts, uses hashtags to get involved in trending conversations and shares inspiring videos of the many individuals who benefit from its work.

National Parks Conservation Association

The NPCA is dedicated to keeping America's national parks brilliant and beautiful for generations to come. The nonprofit uses Google+ to host 'hangouts', share photos, update followers on projects and encourage them to get involved. Recently they asked their followers to contact local representatives to make sure those local reps support the Parks.




Light the Night Walk - Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

One of the main ways the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society raises awareness and money for its cause is by hosting 'Light the Night' walks around the country. The events are so popular and successful that the nonprofit has given 'Light the Night' its own website and social media presence. Light the Night has a strong Goolge+ page, regularly updating it with great social content. Recently they posted about their partnership with Lulu Luxuries - a great example of the benefits of partnerships.


Are you on Google+? Do you find it useful? Let me know your ideas for how nonprofits can benefit from such a comprehensive social network.

Nonprofit Marketing: Forming Local Partnerships To Achieve More

All organizations, nonprofits in particular, stand to benefit from building strong partnerships. No matter how successful a nonprofit is, there will always be at least one area of the organization that could use more support. 

 Whether it's gaining access to a larger or different community, or borrowing resources you couldn't otherwise afford, there's much to gain from collaborating with local organizations. So, how should you go about making these vital partnerships? Read on to find out.

 Image by woodleywonderworks via  Flickr  

Image by woodleywonderworks via Flickr 

Whether you're promoting a nonprofit event, initiating a new awareness campaign or simply hoping to reach new communities, here are some tips for how to work with local organizations to achieve more:

1. Look for organizations that focus on the community

Libraries, schools, community centers, youth clubs, neighborhood groups, local governments - these are the types of organizations that you can look to for support. Why? As a nonprofit, it's these small, local organizations that are most likely to relate to your mission. Unlike large companies or corporations, they also might stand to gain a lot from partnering with your nonprofit.

2. Find a way for you to mutually benefit from collaborating

A partnership should be just that - a genuine alliance in which both parties support the other and benefit from the pairing. Take a 'if you scratch our back, we'll scratch yours' approach and always hold up your end of the bargain. Even if you can't think of a way to immediately reciprocate the support an organization gives you, always thank them and extend an open offer to help them out in future.

3. Take a genuine interest in their cause

When you reach out to a local organization, be mindful not to focus solely on the needs of your nonprofit. Even if it's your cause they're supporting, don't forget to take an interest in them as well. The last thing you want is to make another organization feel like you're using them.

4. Pool your resources

When working in partnership with another organization, identify both the strengths and weaknesses of each group and work together to fill in the gaps. For example, your nonprofit may have a large, active audience but lack the facilities to host a successful event. On the other hand, your partner organization, while lacking a large following, may have access to plenty of great spaces. 

5. Celebrate your success together

After a successful event or campaign, let the organizations you partnered with know how much you appreciate their support. Whether it's a celebration barbecue in the park or simply a bouquet of flowers delivered to their office - invite them to share in the feeling of accomplishment.

What are some examples of Seattle nonprofits that work well with local organizations? 

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

 Image by Kjetil Ree via  Wikimedia Commons

Image by Kjetil Ree via Wikimedia Commons

 One of Seattle's most notable charities, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has taken on some large goals. Their main mission is to reduce poverty and poor health conditions in developing countries and to improve the U.S. education system.

While the charity's impact may be far-reaching, it has relied on partnerships with local Washington state organizations to succeed. It works with several local organizations, including the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and the Washington State Department of Early Learning to name just a few.

The Puget Sound Blood Center

 Image by Seattle Municipal Archives via  Flickr

Image by Seattle Municipal Archives via Flickr

Western Washington's primary blood bank, the Puget Sound Blood Center is one of the region's most well-known nonprofits. The organization has over 250,000 registered donors and collects around 900 units of blood each day. 

Part of the reason so many of us Seattleites support the PSBC is because we were introduced to it quite early on, during our high school years. The Blood Center partners with local high schools, hosting blood donation events for students who meet the age requirement. As a result of their High School Partnership Program, they inspire young adults to become life-long blood donors.

  What is your experience reaching out to other local organizations? Share your tips and success stories in the comments!

Publicizing Your Nonprofit Event: 4 Key PR Tips

Recently, I've been putting my public relations skills to the test  to help promote an upcoming nonprofit event here in Seattle. Throughout the process, I've learned a lot about what it takes to really 'get the word out' with a limited budget and an even more limited time frame.

If you're planning an event for a charity or nonprofit, here are a few tips you may find useful:

 Original image by Hans Hillewaert via  Wikimedia Commons

Original image by Hans Hillewaert via Wikimedia Commons

Target Niche Communities/Localize the Story

There's no real harm in setting your sights high. For us optimistic types, it's not unusual to think things like "Wouldn't it be great if CNN picked up the story?" or "Maybe news of our event will go viral!!".  Still, the stark reality is : the chance of a small-scale nonprofit event getting press on even the local TV news is quite low.

High hopes aside, it's precise, niche targeting that will actually take your event details from a press release onto the radars of local journalists/bloggers and eventually into people's calendars. Think of a reason why hyper-local communities (neighborhoods, church groups, school districts, community centers) would take an interest in your event and target your PR campaign to them.

Remind People What's in It for Them

A good cause should be enough to get people off their sofas and over to your nonprofit event - right? Yes, it should be, and for your existing supporters, it will be. However, a good cause simply isn't enough to get those less gung-ho folks to attend.

Appeal to their competitive spirit and turn the event into a competition (i.e. "The neighborhood that raises the most, gets a free barbeque hosted by us in the park") or appeal to everyone's love of 'free' things by giving prizes away to participants (i.e. free t-shirts for those running in a charity race). The perks don't have to be large or costly - even suggesting that attendees compete for a title - such as 'best costume' or 'greenest neighborhood' - is enough to get people's interest.

Make the Journalist's Job Easy

Some journalists and bloggers see a press release as an opportunity for a great story. Most see it as a big block of text that's primarily too promotional and not newsworthy enough to turn into a valuable news story. In their eyes, a bulky press release is a lot of work for potentially quite little reward.

To convince these local news-makers to write about your event, you have to make it easy for them. Contact them directly, offering to guest-write an engaging blog post on the cause behind the event and why it matters to their readers. Provide them with visual content, such as images, infographics and video. Offer to arrange for them to interview the chair of the event. No matter how inspiring you find the subject, journalists and bloggers want one thing: quality content to share with their readers. Make it impossible for them to refuse you by giving them everything they need upfront.

Build-In Social Media from the Start

It's nice to think of social media as a generator of free and spontaneous publicity. While it may be free, social media may be far less spontaneous than you'd think. If a conversation starts 'trending', there's often a dedicated PR team (or at least some sort of organized group) behind it. When planning your event, it's up to you to kick-off the conversation on social media.

Consider social media engagement during the event's initial planning stage. Include a hashtag in the event press release, as well as any other promotional content you plan to distribute. Create a Facebook event, and consider promoting it through targeted Facebook ads. Share video by using popular apps like Vine or Instagram.

What do you think is the key to successfully promoting nonprofit and charity events? Have you found that a 'good cause' simply isn't enough? Share your tips in the comments - I'd love to hear from you!

Vine as a Marketing Tool? Brands and Nonprofits That 'Vine' Right

 Original image by Kelly Nigro via  Wikimedia Commons

Original image by Kelly Nigro via Wikimedia Commons

To Vine or not to Vine, that is the question. Is Twitter's 6-second video-making app just hype, or will it soon be planted firmly in the social media landscape?

Let's take a look at Vine, and whether any brands are using it successfully.

I mentioned Vine as a cool real-time marketing tool in a previous post, but I must confess that I only created a personal Vine account very recently. I liked what I'd read about it, and certain Vine videos I've come across, but hadn't tried it firsthand until last week. The verdict? I'm already hooked!

So fun and easy to use, Vine certainly has the potential to become as addictive as Twitter and Instagram. Speaking of addictive, the website Vinepeek, which randomly airs Vine videos in real-time, has an incredible way of holding your attention way longer than it should.

As with any new social media craze, it's worth considering how Vine can be used as a marketing tool. Here's a brief breakdown:

What are Vine videos?

Vine videos are 6-second clips, often comprised of multiple short video snippets, taken with the Vine app and shared via social media, primarily Twitter.  

Can Vine be used as a marketing tool? 

While there's an obvious appeal to sharing short snippets of video to friends and family, the question remains: should businesses and nonprofits start using Vine? The answer is a tentative 'yes'. If used right , Vine   can be a fantastic way for businesses and nonprofits to engage their followers and 'softly' promote their brand.

Which brands are using Vine successfully? 


Hardware store Lowe's may seem an unlikely fit for Vine. Most Lowe's customers spend their time outside the virtual realm, getting their hands dirty with tangible DIY construction projects. What could their customers gain from following them on Twitter? Well, as it turns out, Lowe's treats its social media audience to quite a lot of handy tips via Vine. Their 'FixInSix' Vine campaign offers genuinely useful, visual tips on how to make simple household tasks easier.

The social media team at Lowe's clearly recognized the growing desire among Internet audiences for 'lifehack' style content. The trend of offering simple DIY solutions is popular on Pinterest, blogs and now, Vine. For example, take a look at their 6-second tip on how to remove a broken light bulb.


As a communications / social media contractor based in Seattle, I love looking to local businesses for inspiration. Last week, I blogged about Seattle brands with great marketing strategies, and though I didn't mention fashion retailer Nordstrom, the way the brand has successfully taken up Vine-ing could have easily earned it a spot on my list.

Nordstrom mainly uses Vine just for a bit of fun, rather than to directly promote products. This Vine vid of theirs is a perfect examples of how you can take your offline marketing strategy and digitize it by sharing it through social media. By showcasing one of their cool in-store features, they're enticing their online followers to visit the store and get shopping.

Chelsea FC 

OK, English Premier League football club Chelsea has it a bit too easy. Access to star footballers, breaking team news and, of course, hundreds of thousands of devoted fans is pretty much all you could ask for as a social media professional. However, you have to hand it to the team for taking advantage of these perks and sharing some real, quality content with their followers.

When former Real Madrid manager José Mourinho returned to the team earlier this month, the official Twitter account released this cool 6-second clip of him accepting his Chelsea shirt at a press conference. It was an ideal way to boost excitement among fans during the off season.

Diabetes U.K. 

Looking again to our friends across the pond, Diabetes U.K. is an example of a nonprofit that's using Vine really successfully. As much of my work involves doing social media and communications for healthcare nonprofits, I am happy to see a healthcare charity that's making the most of Vine.

Diabetes U.K. is excellent at using the app to thank specific followers with special video 'shout-outs' just for them. Modest, yet genuine, their simple 'thank you' to a follower who raised £90 for their cause really helps personalize their fundraising effort and was quite inspiring (it's even inspired a few copycats!). Another example of the charity's savvy use of Vine is their announcement of the winner of one of their competitions.

Are you on Vine? Do you love it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  

Marketing Lessons from Successful Seattle Brands

 Original image by Bala via  Wikimedia Commons  

Original image by Bala via Wikimedia Commons 

As a marketing and public relations contractor based in Seattle, I  am often inspired by this city's many successful companies. There's a lot to be learned from how these Seattle success stories strengthen their brands through savvy digital marketing strategies. Let's get inspired by taking a look at some Seattle companies that are doing it right:


It's incredible to look at how much has transformed since its go-live date back in 1995. Over the past two decades, Amazon has successfully grown, diversified (most recently expanding into the grocery delivery business)  and become one of the biggest brands in the world. As it's progressed, it's maintained its core mission to make online shopping easier and delivery faster.

That is a key lesson for marketers to keep in mind: get the basics right. Amazon has been able to grow into so many new sectors because it had a strong foundation to spring from.

Pagliacci Pizza

You know it has to be good if thrift-shop-loving Seattleites are willing to spend $25 on a pizza. But in addition to being objectively delicious, this local pizza chain has earned its loyal following through some pretty genius, and generous, marketing.

Pagliacci gives its call center (still Seattle-based, not outsourced) staff free rein to give regular customers their pizza order for FREE. Yep, if you order from Pagliacci enough, eventually they'll deliver it to you with a friendly little note explaining that dinner's on them. The result? Plenty of stuff like this:

Wow - just proof that a little really does go a long way. Why spend millions on a marketing strategy designed to bring in new followers, when you could reward and engage your existing customers and let them sing your praises? Well done, Pags!


If you've ever taken to Google to find that perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, or maybe just some healthy dinner ideas, than chances are you've come across Seattle company Not only does AllRecipes always rank super high in Google (thanks to plenty of high quality, user-generated content), it also entices people to click on its search results by using rich snippets for reviews (read more about how these can increase your click-through rate in my post on DIY SEO).

Also known as 'structured data', rich snippets are what allows the 5-star reviews, as well as an image of the dish and the number of calories, to show up for each recipe in Google's search results. AllRecipes' successful use of rich snippets is a reminder that it isn't just high rankings that matter - the way you appear in search results can also greatly influence the likelihood of people visiting your website.

Theo Chocolate

Based in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood (you can tour the factory!), Theo Chocolate sells organic and Fair Trade ("from bean to bar") chocolate bars in a range of scrumptious flavors. It's won heaps of awards, not only for its delicious chocolate, but also for its commitment to remaining sustainable and giving back to global communities.


It's easy to see why Theo has earned many loyal customers. However, the fact that it has over 21,000 Facebook 'Likes' is certainly also a result of a dedicated marketing strategy. Most notably, the company runs a blog on its website and updates it regularly with real quality content (including delicious recipes that incorporate their different chocolate bars). They then share this content via social media to engage their audience and really encourage them to participate in the brand.


So, as these Seattle companies have shown us, optimizing your search results, blogging regularly, rewarding your customers and simply getting the basics right are all important aspects of a successful marketing strategy. It's also no coincidence that consistent with all of these companies is a genuine commitment to customer service - whether online or off.

What are some of your favorite Seattle brands? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Also, remember to check out my Seattle-based marketing and PR services to see if I can help your small business or nonprofit grow and engage its audience.

How to Succeed at Real-Time Marketing

If Oreo's epic Super Bowl tweet (which I've discussed before) taught us anything, it's that social media is truly meant to be a real-time medium. Yes, certain digital marketing tools that allow organizations to schedule Tweets and Facebook updates can be very useful, but real-time marketing should be what brands really strive for with their social media strategies.

Read on to find out why and discover tips on how to succeed with this on-going, narrative approach to marketing.

 Original image by libertygrace0 via  flickr

Original image by libertygrace0 via flickr

Why Real-Time?

Engaging your audience in real-time often makes a larger impact. It's the difference between speaking at your audience and having a genuine conversation with your audience. This is where the value of social media lies. With real-time marketing, you're sharing your take on news or events happening right now - something your followers can relate to and participate in. Real-time marketing helps humanize your brand by creating opportunities for genuine, spontaneous connections. 

Real-Time Tips

Be Agile

As the words 'real-time marketing' suggest, your posts should be as instantaneous as possible. There's really no time to put together a brief, take it to the various internal stakeholders for input and get sign-off from the bigwigs.

Oreo were able to strike gold with their Super Bowl tweet because their marketing agency happened to be in a room with their brand team during the game. As soon as the power went out, they quickly created the 'Dunk in the dark" image, got immediate sign-off and posted it on Twitter within minutes.

Planning to have the decision-makers together with your digital team during these big events is clearly very smart - but it's perhaps not always practical if you really want to make real-time marketing a priority. So, what's the solution? See my next paragraph...

Trust Your Marketing Team

In order to achieve the agility you need to succeed with real-time marketing, you really must hand over control to your designated social media manager/team. With a firm social media strategy in place and a solid understanding of the brand to go off, your team should be fully capable of making smart, real-time decisions.

Keep in mind that scheduling social media updates in advance can be just as risky as giving your social media staff free rein. In the midst of the 'horse meat' scandal in the U.K., supermarket chain Tesco sent out a notoriously poorly-timed tweet that read: "It's sleepy time so we're off to hit the hay!" After receiving complaints from their Twitter followers, Tesco apologized and admitted that the tweet had been scheduled in advance - before news of the horse meat situation had hit. Would this have happened if Tesco simply let its social media team tweet in real-time? Probably not.

Focus on your audience

In other words, don't always make it about you. Though for small businesses and nonprofits, the occasional "Check out how we've decked out the office for our Christmas party" update is charming and harmless, it's important to remember that, for most brands, social media is not an opportunity to chat about life around the office. Sometimes including the names of staff in your real-time updates can make the posts more personal and relatable, but remember to keep the focus on your audience first and foremost.

Real-Time Tools

In addition to the old favorites, Facebook and Twitter, there are a couple of other social media tools/platforms that work especially well for real-time marketing, including:



You may have noticed more and more of these short, 6-second video clips making their way onto your Twitter feed recently. Vine, Twitter's mobile video app, allows users to create and post miniature-length movies to their various social networks. Why is it taking off like wildfire?  Well, just as Twitter posts are restricted by 140 characters, Vine's 6-second cutoff is just enough to grab people's attention without demanding too much of their time. It doesn't leave room for monologues, but rather encourages individuals and brands to start conversations.



 A picture really is worth a thousand words - at least for Instagram users, who socialize and communicate with each other through images alone. The photo-sharing platform, known for its hip image filters that make everything look like a 1970s polaroid, was purchased by Facebook for $1 billion last year after attracting over 100 million snap-happy users. From the 'Insta' prefix in its name to its tagline "fast, beautiful and fun", Instagram was designed as a platform for real-time engagement. It's a fantastic way for brands to become visual storytellers.

What do you think is the key to real-time success? Do you trust your social media team to make smart, split-second decisions? Let me know what you think in the comments.


Should your nonprofit be on Tumblr?


Tumblr, the microblogging site that's more popular with teens than Facebook, made headlines this week after Yahoo bought it for a hefty $1.1 billion. 

The high profile purchase, combined with an incredible number of global users (the site received over 13 billion global page views last month alone) may have you wondering: Should my nonprofit be on Tumblr? Read on to find out.

What is Tumblr?

Tumblr is a blogging platform and social network that continues to rise in popularity. It combines the visual component of Pinterest with the microblogging function of Twitter, while also allowing individuals and brands to have their own personal page/profile - similar to Facebook.

Does Tumblr work for nonprofits?

Yes! Just like Pinterest, Tumblr is a great way for nonprofits to visually engage their audience and raise awareness of their cause. Now in particular could be the best time for nonprofits to get on Tumblr, as the site's main user demographic matures, goes to college and begins supporting the causes that matter to them. 

Tumblr is also yet another platform for you to share all of the images, videos, gifs, etc, you're creating as part of your content marketing strategy. By getting your content shared ('re-blogged') on Tumblr, you can increase the social signals directing back to your site, helping drive SEO.

So, as long as you have the time and resources to update it frequently, creating a 'Tumblr blog' is an excellent idea.

How can nonprofits sign-up on Tumblr?

At the moment, Tumblr doesn't have a separate sign-up process for businesses and organizations. All Tumblr users can create a Tumblr blog the same way, by entering an email address, username (this will also be the first part of your Tumblr blog's URL, followed by a and password at the site's registration page.

Once you're signed-up, customize the look of your Tumblr by choosing a theme (Mashable has put together a list of good themes for small businesses, many of which would also work well for nonprofits) and adjusting the colors to suit your brand.

How can nonprofits be successful on Tumblr?

  • Be Visual - For the most part, Tumblr is not a place for large chunks of text. It's not even the place for small chunks of text. Stick to posts that are purely visual, with a 2-sentence caption at the most. Quotes are also extremely popular on Tumblr, as well as a great way to inspire your followers.
  • Be Current - Find ways to link your organization's cause with the trending topics that interest Tumblr's core demographic. Or, if there isn't a particular news item that relates to your cause, simply design your post in a format that Tumblr users like. For example, if you run a diabetes nonprofit, rather than uploading PDF reports on diabetes statistics, post images of delicious sugar-free meals and set the click-through link as a corresponding blog post containing the recipe (Tumblr is a great tool for making your marketing content go further). 
  • Be Your Brand - While Tumblr is a great opportunity for your organization to engage its audience in a creative, visual way, don't let the pizazz of this youthful platform distract you from your brand. Only post and 're-blog' content that truly represents your brand and speaks to your audience.

Are any nonprofits already on Tumblr?

Plenty of nonprofits have created Tumblr blogs, including Doctors Without BordersFair Trade USA and the World Wildlife Fund. Click here to view some examples of organizations that are making the most of this exciting blogging platform.

Do you use Tumblr? Do you think it can be useful for nonprofits? Let me know what you think in the comments.