Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Boston Strong and the 100% Model

Bostonians rushed in to help in the wake of the devastating explosion that ripped through the festivities at the finish of Boston Marathon on April 15, 2014. Bystanders aided the wounded, storekeepers offered shelter, and first responders ran toward the chaos. Others of us simply sat in front of our TVs, watching in horror as events unfolded.  As the day went on it became clear that many of the injuries were extremely serious and would require multiple surgeries and long-term rehabilitation.

The philanthropic response was a model in several ways. Boston had a 5-term mayor and Massachusetts had a 2-term governor who took quick action. The next day they announced The One Fund to aid victims. Their names lent credibility as did the involvement of large Boston firms like John Hancock. By the end of the week a simple website was up, accepting donations but warning that the organization had not yet applied for 501(c)(3) status; that is only now in process. All the publicity surrounding the fund emphasized that administrative costs would be covered by separate fundraising with all donations going directly to victim assistance—the 100% model.

Responses have been many and varied—from the Boston Strong t-shirts sold by Emerson College students to a fund-raising concert to many efforts in social media. Twenty million dollars was raised within the first week. In July 2013 the fund was able to distribute almost $61 million to victims under the direction of well-known mediator Kenneth Fineberg. Another distribution is planned for this July. In the meantime, the first Boston Marathon to be held since the bombing will include a One Fund charity team. Many private fundraising events are anticipated.

To the best of my knowledge no whiff of corruption has been attributed to the fund itself—no mean feat for a hastily assembled effort. Of course, it brought out the scammers but from an outside perspective it seemed this was expected and swiftly dealt with. The fund appears to have raised over $70 million to date.  

Writing in the Able Altruist blog Stephanie Kapera lists 5 lessons from this success:

  1. Act Quickly
  2. Leverage Online Influencers
  3. Use a Multi-Channel Approach
  4. Use Hashtags
  5. Use Visuals.

Does the success of The One Fund support both the importance of the 100% model and the speeding up of the fund-raising cycle? Probably. It also may support the difficulty of maintaining the 100% model. A recent announcement said that the salary of the new executive director of the fund would be paid from donations.

Any success has imitators and smaller charities can’t match the personal leverage of Boston’s power structure. This was recently brought home to me when I donated to a small non-profit. I was asked to add a small additional percentage to cover administrative costs. The platform was YouCaring., which says it remains free because administrative costs are covered by donations.

This was totally transparent and the extra amount was editable and optional. To me, however, it is not truly an example of the 100% model.

Thinking about it, I wonder if the lesson is that the model is best sustained by a single, often charismatic, individual not by a somewhat-faceless organization. Charity:water remains true to the model, but it is not clear that many others do.

Does anyone have direct experience with or thoughts on the subject?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Creativity is Indispensable in Social Media Too

Here's an interesting tweet from a UNICEF campaign in the UK. Matt Rhodes from Fresh Networks retweeted it, saying it's at the edge of social media. It was a UK campaign; I did not ever see it in the US.

I agree. It's a compelling call to action, and a reminder of the limits of social media.

Or is it a reminder of the reach of social media?

Either way, it is definitely creative fund raising!

If you are interested in creative campaigns in social media, here is a recent list, all of which have thought-provoking aspects. 
First published on April 23, 2013. Updated February 21, 2014.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What is the Role of Blogging vs Newer Social Platforms?

There is no doubt that business blogging is an essential part of content media strategy whether the target is B2B or B2C.  The immediacy and ability of blogging to communicate detailed information and to provide deep links to website content or other calls to action can’t be matched. However, new platforms like Pinterest and Instagram and even tools like infographics cause some to question the value of blogging, even in B2B.

As an individual I started blogging “early days.” Candidly I was afraid my brain would atrophy when I retired from full-time teaching and blogging seemed a way to keep it alive. It turned out to be even more—a way to learn about the emerging discipline of social media marketing. I kept the diy-Marketing blog going for several years, until it was so content heavy that its response was unacceptable. I started another strategy blog and found an interesting response to a series of Social Media for Good posts. However, by that time my primary professional activity was the Internet Marketing textbook, providing updates for adopters of the text and thinking about a 4th edition. Blogging proved to have less value in that context.

I have a new Google+ page each year so Internet marketing instructors can search current material for their courses. Debra [Zahay, coauthor of the IM text] has a Google+ community and a Facebook page for the book, and I contribute to both. I have 3 Pinterest boards and Debra and I share another. I have been amazed at the way people pick up on my Pinterest postings even though I have done nothing to promote them beyond the users of our text. I try to see most of the posts from all the platforms are fed through to my Twitter account.

So what? In doing all of this I’ve come to have strong opinions about where content curation fits in and the role of content creation.

Content curation specifically keyed to our textbook (objective of  2014 Internet Marketing Update G+ page) the has the potential to fill an important role for the users. Since personal brand development is no longer a huge objective for me, curation doesn’t do a great deal for me personally.

Creation of original content, as Debra has often pointed out, contributes to visibility on the web in a way that mere curation does not. Even more important to me personally is that my blog is my voice on the Internet. It is my creative opportunity to say what I believe and to try to make a contribution to the discipline. Consequently, I have started this new blog with a limited focus. “Social Technology for Good, or for Mischief” allows me to continue the postings which received favorable attention in the earlier blog. There is plenty of mischief around but it is the personal privacy implications that particularly interest me. I’m working on visibility for this blog because I want people to find it. My rule is only to write a post when I can make a contribution, even if the contribution is only careful research.

That brings me to infographics. I like them and have a Pinterest board for infographics. However, they are so numerous that they litter the Internet landscape. Many have no lasting value. They represent visual curation, not the creation of original content. Consequently, I do not agree with those who regard them as a substitute for blogging. If the blogger has a point of view and a message, that requires a verbal argument, not statistics with pictures.

Even with careful attention to distributing and optimizing content, there is only so much any one individual can do. That is the point of the graphic. Some platforms lend themselves to original content—websites and blog postings because they do not have length restrictions, videos (short or long form) because they are inherently informative and engaging. Many of the platforms that have become popular recently are really “announcement platforms” They are invaluable for distributing content but for business use they usually need to link to more detailed content like a blog post or a web page.

Likewise there is only so much any given brand should do. The old rule is still just as true—the choice of communications platforms depends on objectives. As you choose just factor in an additional consideration—curation vs. original content! 

Originally posted February 18, 2014 as final post on Social Media Marketing Strategy blog.

Friday, February 14, 2014

MFA Shares Love of Impressionism Across Digital Platforms

An email invited me to participate in a contest. The “Boston Loves Impressionism” exhibit would be curated by MFA members, who would select the paintings to be exhibited. It was a great concept, well executed.

I saw the original email, but I’m not much of a contestant, so I hadn’t tried it out. Making a visit to the MFA during the contest, it was hard to avoid. This card graced our table with a QR code connecting to the contest page. Each week for 4 weeks a set of impressionist paintings was posted and visitors to the page were allowed to vote for their favorites. The museum has a set of computers that allow visitors to look for information—great idea--and it was easy to vote from them and people seemed to be doing so while we were there.

Your vote not only counted in determining the paintings to be hung, it qualified you for an invitation to the opening weekend. The MFA has built an entire weekend of activities around the opening. There are valentine-themed activities as well as gallery talks about paintings and painters featured in the exhibit. I should note that the special Valentines Day dinner at the Bravo cafĂ© is already sold out! The MFA has long been a meeting place for upscale singles as well as having many family and children’s features.

The invitation email featured all of the above as well as a link to the Pinterest posting of the paintings to be exhibited—just in case you can’t make it to the museum. Note that the newsletter has the usual sharing icons. It mirrors the page on the museum site which also prominently features sharing opportunities. As might be expected this “crowdsourced” exhibit drew considerable favorable publicity. The Globe reports that 10,000 people voted in  the third week of the contest.

This contest made great use of MFA resources and its digital marketing abilities. It has been a wonderful membership engagement—and thank you—activity. I have just two suggestions.

I forget things like going to a site to vote. When I first voted, I would have happily opted in for email reminders each time a new set of paintings went up. In terms of voting itself, the number of votes for each painting were displayed on the page. I would suggest hiding the current vote tallies until the visitor has voted. Seeing them while you are voting makes you wonder how much you are being influenced, even if you are trying hard not to be.

I repeat. It was an excellent concept in the annals of social media for good. It was well executed, and I’m sure the exhibit, which of course starts on Valentines Day, will be a great success!