Social Media

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It might seem like outrageous comic website The Oatmeal, and online fund-raising for nonprofits have little in common. And they didn’t—until this week.

The result is a case study about for nonprofits on social media monitoring, message amplification and word-of-mouth-marketing. And what a colorful little case study it is!

It all started last year, when Matthew Inman, the comic artist behind The Oatmeal, wrote a blog post complaining about a website called FunnyJunk, that had been posting his original content without permission or attribution.

On Monday, The Oatmeal revealed that he'd received a cease-and-desist letter from a lawyer for FunnyJunk, indicating that he had defamed the website and used the blog post to boost his own search engine rankings. [Editorial comment: Huh? How exactly does that SEO strategy work?] The letter concluded by saying the Oatmeal would be sued unless he paid $20,000.

In typical irreverent fashion, The Oatmeal’s response was to instead start a campaign to raise an equivalent amount of money—and donate half to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and half to the American Cancer Society.

He created a fund-raising campaign on third-party site Indiegogo and alerted his 602,000 fans on Facebook and 275,747 followers on Twitter. The fund-raising page itself was shared by visitors through embedded social sharing links: 4,500 likes on Facebook and over 1,000 tweets on Twitter.

It raised the $20,000 in 64 minutes. Within 24 hours, the campaign had surpassed $100,000. At the time of this posting, donations are nearing $153,000.

It's an incredible show of support for Inman and his site and, of course, a nice windfall for the charities he chose to support. But what larger lessons can non-profits learn from the story? Here's what I think:

  • Social media is about listening, not just talking. This campaign is raising funds for two non-profits—neither of which were involved in its creation or even notified before it was launched. But the NWF paid attention and by the next day had posted grateful responses on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Your fans can amplify your message. Keep the story of your good work visible and fans will help you spread the word. Give them opportunities to share their participation with you with others. Stay top of mind and you may be the organization chosen to benefit from an independent fund-raising campaign.
  • New audiences can be found anywhere. The Oatmeal’s campaign was funded by over 7,000 contributors. Many of them may already have heard of the NWF and the American Cancer Society but some may have not. Another recent example comes from popular comedian Louis C.K. Last year, he independently released a downloadable concert video for $5 and contributed a portion of the profits to 5 charities, including The Fistula Foundation, a less well-known cause to which he had a personal connection, granting them one of the widest audiences they’d had to date.

Once the campaign concludes, the Oatmeal will no doubt post more updates, giving these charities further opportunities to interact with his thousands of fans.

You never know where the spotlight on your nonprofit may come from, but you can be prepared to shine when it does.

CDG Interactive provides social media strategy and management; Contact Us today to find out how we can craft your social media plan. Our training site, PowerUp Social, teaches small to medium businesses how to harness social media for marketing and promotion.

All non-profit organizations using social media share at least one goal: using these platforms to both reach and amplify their audience.Cdg-performing-arts-twitter

Whether you’re looking to increase awareness of your mission, gather signatures for a petition or drive online revenue—donations, tickets, sponsorships, membership—the more people you reach, the better.

This goal becomes complicated when your audience largely overlaps with (or is possibly even the same as) other organizations that share your mission.

It’s especially complicated for arts organizations whose audience is usually geographically constrained as well. The pie being sliced is an even smaller one.

So how should arts organizations interact with one another in social media?

If you follow other arts and culture organizations, even share their messages, are you sending potential ticket-buyers away to a competitor, or does amplifying the arts community overall grow the base of customers for everyone?

Chad Bauman, director of marketing and membership for the Smithsonian Associates, and formerly of DC’s Arena Stage Theater, has addressed these questions in posts both on his own blog (here and here) and for DC Theatre Scene.

In them, he argues for a collaborative effort for DC’s theater arts community in both production efforts and in marketing.

As he points out, it is only to the benefit of theaters to work together to expand the pool of audiences. More theatergoers overall means not only more individual ticket sales but more potential season subscribers, a theater’s most valuable customer.

For our part, we’ll be asking other DC area arts and culture organizations how they tackle these issues of competition and collaboration in our next PowerUp Social Media Roundtable this Wednesday, June 6, at 8:30 a.m.

If you’d like to join us for this morning of networking and shared learning, Contact Us to sign up.

We’ll be following up later this week with a blog post to share what our attendees had to say about leveraging social media in the DC performing arts community.

Harness the power of social media to promote your business or organization. Get started today at PowerUp Social, our online learning center for social media marketing.

Your Turn

  • How does your organization use social media to grow your customer base?
  • Does your industry foster collaboration or competition?

Social media pyramidSocial media can seem like a hungry beast, one that demands more care and feeding with each passing  day.

First you had to figure out how to add time in your daily marketing schedule to devote to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

But just when you felt like you’d gotten the hang of hashtags and retweeting and growing your fan base, along comes the next shiny thing in social media, like Pinterest or Tumblr or Google+, and you hadn’t even figured out your LinkedIn strategy yet.

What’s a small organization to do?

That’s where the idea of social media discernment comes in. Discernment simply means evaluating the options and making specific choices. Just as in other marketing programs, not all channels or platforms are equally appropriate for your organization. It’s OK to pick and choose.

Here’s how:

  • Know your goals. We say this every time we talk about social media strategy. Why are you using social media? What is the expected outcome? Each platform has different strengths and weaknesses; match the platform to the goal. (Need help differentiating? Use the Social Media Site Comparison tool at PowerUp Social).
  • Know your audience. A second crucial factor to use when determining which social media platforms are best for you is to know what audience you’re trying to reach. Pinterest, for example, heavily skews female. LinkedIn’s audience is predominantly college educated. Choose the platform your audience uses.
  • Look at your numbers. Past performance can also predict future success. If you need to make room in your schedule for a new platform, review your site analytics and evaluate the performance of the existing ones. If Twitter drives traffic but those visitors don’t convert, cut back 1 day a week and try Google+ on that day instead (or whichever new platform you’ve identified using steps 1 and 2 above).

Speaking of site analytics, you’ll want to keep a regular eye on them. Platform value can change over time. Are the existing accounts still performing? To what degree are the new ones succeeding or failing?

Based on the data, you can change the mix of your daily social media efforts.

Keep in mind, too, that you don’t have to spend the same amount of time everywhere. Again, based on performance data, you can weight some activities more heavily than others. (For a sample schedule of a social media “diet,” see the PowerUp Social Media Pyramid.)

Your Turn

  • How do you decide which platforms to use and how much time to spend on them?
  • How do you measure the success of your efforts?

Visit PowerUp Social to learn more about each social media platform and how to build them into your organization’s marketing plan. While you're there, sign up for the free 8-week course on social media marketing and strategy.

With all of the sexy new upstarts in the social media space (ahem, Pinterest), it’s easy to forget about the stodgy older kids on the block—specifically, MySpace.

“MySpace? People are still on MySpace?” That was the reaction from one of the participants in CDG’s social media roundtable earlier this week. “That’s the most surprising thing I’ve heard in a while,” she said.

It’s true, MySpace is creaky and aging, and to be honest, its long-term prognosis just might be terminal. But it’s not dead yet. As recently as last November, MySpace attracted nearly 25 million unique visitors; that's more than Google+, Tumblr and Pinterest.


It’s also worth noting that those 25 million people are disproportionately young and diverse and less affluent than the general population. According to a recently released Pew Internet study on teens and social media, MySpace—along with Twitter—is one of the most racially diverse social media networks. It’s most popular among Latino teens: 35% of Latino teens who are active on social media have a MySpace account, compared with 22% of Caucasian teens. Also, MySpace accounts are more prevalent among social-media-using teens whose parents did not attend college.  Thirty-two percent of those teens have a MySpace account, compared with just 18% of teens whose parents have at least some college experience.

These statistics are worth considering not because MySpace’s influence is likely to increase. Truthfully, unless there’s a drastic shift in the social media universe, MySpace will never again touch the dominance of a Facebook or a Twitter. But in 2012, ignoring MySpace altogether can work against you—particularly if you are trying to reach a niche audience that still has a significant presence there; for example, Latino kids between the ages of 13 and 18.

The larger moral of the story? Although things change at lightning speed, be sure to keep your eyes on the entire social media landscape and not just what’s emerging on the horizon.

For more guidance on social media channels and tactics, check out, CDG’s new resource about social media for business.

This past weekend I spoke on a panel at the DC Science Writers conference about measuring return on investment for social media. It’s definitely a hot topic. With all of the time and resources organizations are pouring into in social media, they’re naturally asking—how do we know if it’s all worth it?

There’s no shortcut to getting an accurate picture of your ROI. It takes planning, consistency, and ongoing engagement. But don’t get too worried, here are 4 steps to help you start assessing your social media ROI.

Continue reading "Assessing Your Social Media ROI in 4 Steps" »

Apparently there's a newish and troubling trend of employers asking job candidates to share their Facebook passwords. Savvy job hunters (and smart online citizens) are diligent about setting their privacy settings and controlling what information is public, and which stays private.  Some employers want to see what they are missing. Here's why it's an incredibly bad idea to open this particular can of digital worms.

Why Employers Shouldn’t Ask

First of all, it’s a violation of Facebook’s terms of service to collect other users’ information without Facebook’s permission (which they have already explicitly stated that you don’t have). 

More important, if a job seeker has done his or her due diligence about keeping certain information private, they've probably done it for a reason—if only because they don't want to share their wedding photos or weekend plans with the masses.

If you, as a prospective employer pry into that secured space, then you might inadvertently discover that a candidate is a member of a protected class (based on religion, sexual orientation, race, disability, etc.). Any hiring decision you make based on that information can make you liable to legal action. And even if you know that information had no bearing in your decision, the job candidate might not believe you and take action anyway.

Why Candidates Shouldn’t Tell

Technically, it’s a violation of Facebook’s terms of service to share your password, but we all know that's not the real issue.

If employers ask for your social media login once, they're implicity telling you that they don't trust your "public" self and feel that they should have intimate knowledge of your private affairs. In very specialized cases, say, if you are seeking security clearance from the government, then that level of scrutiny is appropriate and necessary. But in most cases, you should be awfully troubled by an employer who needs that level of access to your private life.

If you think about it, a company that expects you to share your Facebook password is likely not the kind of company you'd want to work with. Do yourself a favor and politely end the interview after the question has been asked.

Why CDG Will Never Ask (and will be really disappointed if you did tell)

At CDG, we will never ask for your private passwords. And sharing them shows an appalling lack of understanding of password security. (Frankly, we’d wonder what other information you’d be comfortable sharing with others.)  Are we going to check your public social media profiles? You bet we are. Because we would much rather see you demonstrate a good understanding of privacy settings—and good judgement about what kind of information to share publically—than ask for your personal information. 


Clean_currentsCDG has a history of providing interactive solutions across a broad spectrum of dynamic industries. Few industries today are more dynamic than the energy sector.  With the advent of deregulation energy companies—and their consumers—face the challenge of understanding how energy consumption is changing, evaluating options, and exercising responsible choices. Mike Koch, CDG's Director of Business Development and owner of Firefly Farms takes a look at what’s on the horizon for the energy industry and discusses how interactive media can help bring the picture into focus.

I am a small business owner, interactive marketing professional, capitalist, and committed environmental protectionist.

Over the last few months, these sometimes conflicting passions have led me to educate myself on an industry that touches our lives and wallets virtually every moment of every day: energy consumption. 

One of the big questions consumers are asking themselves is: “How can I ensure what I consume is locally and sustainably produced?”  Witness the resurgence in our local food markets.

Framing that question around energy consumption, I started to wonder how many of us as consumers even wonder where we derive the electric current that literally powers our lives.  (Is it generated from oil? coal? wind? nuclear reactors? natural gas? Where is it generated?  What is its impact on our environment?) How many of us don’t bother to ask the questions, and simply take for granted that the lights will go on and the devices will recharge?

Educating Consumers Online

The energy industry is a heady, politically-contentious sphere where long-held monopolies fight for survival and consumer behavior is hard to change.  As one of many Maryland business owners who recently testified in the Maryland State Legislature regarding proposed Marcellus Shale Drillinga.k.a. “fracking”I’ve witnessed this contention first-hand.

However, in many states these energy markets are actively being restructured to increase competition and consumer choice.  With active deregulation at work, residential and business alike need to understand our options and how to exercise the power of choice.

Continue reading "Looking at Energy: Choice, Responsibility & Connection" »

Cocacola-timeline-exampleIf you’ve been on Facebook recently, you know that the design and layout for individual profiles changed dramatically to what Facebook calls Timeline: wall posts, photos and other data is displayed to visitors in a reverse chronological order.

With the rollout to profiles complete, Facebook is now doing the same for business Pages. And it’s not optional.

You can implement your business Timeline anytime from now going forward. However, if you don’t do anything your Page layout will get updated automatically on March 30. That means you have about 2 weeks to take control of your Page’s Timeline layout and update before Facebook does it for you. Here are 3 big things you need to know before March 30:

  • No more landing tabs. If your Facebook Page employed a custom landing tab for visitors, that option will no longer exist. In fact, there are no tabs on Timeline at all. So what do you do? There is an “About” section of text that is permanently displayed at the top of the page; you could put a link to a custom landing page for Facebook fans there. Keep in mind that it will take them out of Facebook.
  • Thumbnails are replaced by a cover photo. Instead of 5 small photo thumbnails at the top of the page, there is now a large 960x530 pixel “cover photo.” That’s a pretty big image, so choose wisely or, better yet, have your designer create a custom image for this space.
  • You can add dates to your Timeline. Activity that has already taken place on your Page while it’s been in existence will automatically appear on your Timeline in its proper chronological order. But you can now add events from any time in the past, even before Facebook itself was born. Think about dates that are meaningful to your business—when it was founded, major milestones, product releases—and add them. Also, "Insights," Facebook’s metrics for Pages, will also change. Instead of being a link on the right of the page, it will be housed in an expandable panel at the top of your Timeline view.

The clock is ticking, so take some time to plan out your business’ timeline, and build in enough time to get supporting material—screenshots, photos, external links, etc.—all lined up before it launches. And of course, be sure to get buy-in and approval from your company’s leadership before the timeline goes live.(We're in the process of doing that at CDG right now—look for our timeline soon!)

Want to know more about Timeline for Facebook Business Pages? Here’s some additional reading:

Need help updating your business’s Facebook Page for the new Timeline layout, or with your larger social media strategy? Contact Us today.

About 10 years ago, I started working for a large, publicly traded company where only the CEO was authorized to communicate the press. Restricting who could speak on behalf of the company was a common practice where stockholder confidence (and securities compliance) was at stake.

Fast forward a decade and we now have many companies where the only people who are authorized to speak to the press are the CEO—and whoever is handling social media. And too often, social media is assigned to an entry-level employee or even an intern.

Mandy Jenkins, departing social media editor at Huffington Post, recently wrote aboout this trend on her blog. We caught up with her to talk about why that’s the case—and why undervaluing social media is an unwise and even dangerous strategy.

CDG: How is managing social media different than other functions in the communications field?

Jenkins: It’s a job that’s still being developed. There are not a lot of set guidelines. Not everyone understands what it entails.

CDG: You've said that a social media position is often treated as a “young person’s job.” If that's the case, it seems like the social media staff would be kept out of high-level meetings where the fundamental decisions are made about communications strategy, business goals, crisis management, etc. Is that a mistake?

Jenkins: It’s important for companies to understand that this person [who is managing social media] is just as much a representative for the organization as someone as the top. They need to have the knowledge and background. You have to understand what that role really means for your organization.

It’s so easy for someone to capitalize on a mistake you make [on social media channels].

CDG: If you’re working in social media, what can you do to encourage your company to get more strategic about it?

Jenkins: It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day. . . .When you’re the voice of an organization, you feel a lot of ownership over it and you feel like you have to be a part of it. But you and your management have to find a way to make it work. Don’t get caught up in just running accounts. Make sure you craft a strategy and re-craft it. Take the lead for yourself and your organization.

Jenkins offers great advice to social media professionals, but her comments really illustrate how crucial it is for business leaders to get educated and strategic about social media, and to fully understand the benefits and risks inherent in using each social media channel.

If you’re struggling with your social media strategy, contact CDG and talk to us about our comprehensive social media workshop; our upcoming social media roundtable series, or our customized consultation services. We can put you on the path toward an impactful—and manageable—social media strategy.

Over the past week, there’s been a lot of digital ink spilled over Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood, and its swift about face.

Taking the politics out of the situation, Komen has provided a textbook example of how to severely—and possibly irrevocably—damage your brand. Its bungling of the original announcement, its initial silence (while Planned Parenthood went on a PR/social media offensive), its feeble attempt to reframe its policy decision, and finally its sheepish reversal, had the cumulative effect of tarnishing its image as a non-partisan advocate for women’s health and angering supporters on both sides of the issue.

But rather than piling on about the mistakes made by Komen, we wanted to focus on an organization that did all the right things last week in terms of messaging, outreach, and brand positioning: The Ms. Foundation for Women. This high-visibility non-profit organization took swift and immediate action to address the situation in a way that promoted their organizational goals and advanced their cause.

After Komen’s initial announcement, the Ms. Foundation worked quickly to figure the most effective way to shape its message, reach its supporters, and inspire them to take action. In less than 72 hours, Ms. Foundation supporters had a message urging them to donate to “The Ms. Foundation Stands with Planned Parenthood.” Supporters learned that Ms. would match their donations dollar-for-dollar up to a total of $40,000.

Launching the campaign involved a great deal of planning and fast-thinking. “Rapid response involves a lot of moving parts,” said Kelly Parisi, Vice President, Marketing and Communications for the Ms. Foundation. “With the Ms Foundation stands with Planned Parenthood, there were so many elements . . .  from identifying what we were going to call this campaign, to how we were going to message our response, and getting the website up and able to accept donations correctly. Adding the element of a matching campaign proved another layer of complication, because there were a lot of pieces that needed to get lined up before we could launch it and put the press release out.”

The campaign proved to be highly effective. Within 30 minutes of sending the initial email, the Ms. Foundation had received 27 donations. Yes, you read that correctly—nearly one donation per minute. And donations continue to roll in.

“It was a really galvanizing issue for people,” said Parisi, “And also I think the immediacy of it was helpful. People who are very passionate about this issue were excited about the ability to take their dollars even further.”

Given that the Komen Foundation reversed its decision the following day, it’s safe to say that immediacy was the most essential key to the Ms. Foundation’s success. With an effective message, a clear mission, and a rapid, disciplined response, the Ms. Foundation was able to transform its supporters’ outrage into action—and dollars—for Planned Parenthood.

If your company has an opportunity to launch a successful, time-sensitive campaign, follow the Ms. Foundation's example:

  1. Develop a simple, coherent message and call to action
  2. Have the technology in place to launch a rapid response
  3. Reach out to your audience as quickly and thoroughly as possible

If you need help with your online marketing strategies or technology platform, contact CDG. We'll help you get everything in place so you're ready to react.

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