Social Media Tools & Trends You Can DIY (and Ones You Shouldn’t)

Show of hands: keeping up with social media trends comes naturally to you and you eagerly anticipate the next round of updates for Instagram and Facebook? Ok, got it. The two of you who raised your hands can put them down now.

Whether you’re a step away from #influencer status or the thought of adjusting to yet another app feature is just not in your mental budget, social media takes time and effort to make it work for your organization.

Some of the upcoming privacy changes from Apple and Google are expected to limit social media’s targeted reach, even so, it’s likely that your business still needs a presence on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and depending on your audience, Twitter or Tiktok.  Knowing that, the question becomes “how much can you manage social on your own and how much do you need a pro to help with?” Let us help you think it through:

Strategy

First, you need to decide how active your business needs to be on social. Some of the businesses MJM works with have only a basic social media presence. They know their audience is active elsewhere and invest accordingly.

When to DIY it: If you plan to keep things simple and small, DIY is likely the way to go. Organizations that only plan to utilize organic posts and basic tools can successfully manage their social accounts. Not all businesses need a full scale social media marketing strategy.

When to take it to the pros: The social media landscape changes fast. That’s been especially true this year as we tried to stay home and stay connected at the same time. New features and algorithm updates  are constantly changing how people use social apps and affect how well your posts perform. It takes a lot of time to stay on top of it all, so if social media is a big piece of your marketing puzzle, you may want to consult a professional for some or all of your needs.

Post Scheduling

Social media scheduling tools have improved drastically over the past decade. Facebook has offered post scheduling for a long time, now it’s available for both Facebook and Instagram through Facebook Business Suite (find it through “Publishing Tools”). If you’re going to schedule two or more posts per month, we recommend a third-party tool like  Social Pilot, SmarterQueue, or countless others that can help you set it and forget it. These tools can let you preview how a post might look and schedule ahead on multiple accounts — including Twitter.

When to DIY it: Scheduling tools are great for predictable events like holidays, for managing promotions, or evergreen branded content. Keep in mind you’ll need to stay on top of spontaneous happenings in your organization and the world,  i.e. the posts you scheduled featuring images of people shaking hands pre-pandemic needed to be updated once COVID started altering in-person interactions.

When to take it to the pros: Strategizing, writing, taking photos, and scheduling takes longer than you might think. Consider outsourcing your content calendar or getting a photographer to create a bank of photos for your organization. Additionally, most schedulers don’t have the capability to utilize all of Facebook or Instagram’s features: stories, events, live videos, IGTV, and more. If you want to promote multiple campaigns or simply don’t have the bandwidth, consider an external social manager.

Tip: The last social campaign MJM ran for a client showed that 80% of views were on a mobile device. Set up your posts with phone screens in mind and be sure to click the mobile preview to ensure that they look good and that your most important information is visible.

Graphics

Your organization should feel as professional in the digital space as you are in person. However, perfectly composed stock photos or graphics for every post could make your feed look overly produced and less authentic. Finding the right balance is key!

When to DIY it: Your smartphone camera, a Lightroom preset or filter,  and an eye for lighting can go a long way to producing your own sharable photos and videos. Stock images abound online, too. Plus apps like Canva or InShot are making it easy to add text to images or create simple graphics. Canva even lets you create and use custom templates so you’ll stand out from others using the same app.

When to take it to the pros: You’ve seen those instagram feeds with clever grid layouts? Simple strategies — like always using a border or alternating posts — are simple to DIY, but the more complex ones are better suited to someone with layout software (hey, that could be you too!). A designer can help you strategize or even develop templates that are custom to your business.

Staying active on social media is an effective way to extend your brand and reach your customers and potential customers right where they are. When managing your accounts becomes an afterthought, it’s time to consider turning to the experts to make it easier with templates, calendars, posting strategies, and more.

Contact MJM to discuss your needs and, in case you’re wondering, the answer is yes. “I don’t want to be responsible for thinking up content” is  a perfectly legit goal. We hear it all the time, and we can help.

(Maybe more than your nearest tween.)

Nonprofit Marketing: 4 Tools that Offer Discounts

When you’re a nonprofit, every cent can truly make a difference. At Matt Jensen Marketing, we’ve discovered a lot of tricks over the years to help nonprofits develop lean and efficient marketing systems that can deliver high-impact messages while keeping operating costs low. Here are a few of our favorite services that offer special rates and features for qualifying 501(c)3s and why you should be using them.

Source: Canva

Canva

Nonprofit employees usually wear a lot of hats, designer and social media guru often among them. If you are struggling to fill your feed with consistent, on-brand messaging, Canva may be the solution. Canva is an easy-to-use design platform that allows you to create custom graphics for social media in a matter of minutes. You can even use it to create print pieces like newsletters and brochures.

While a light version of Canva is available for free, qualifying nonprofits can apply to upgrade to the premium version at no cost. The huge benefit of this is the ability to use Canva’s Brand Kit, which allows you to save your brand logos, fonts, and colors so you can easily apply them to any design. You can also create templates for your team to have at-the-ready. Learn more about Canva for nonprofits here.

Source: Shopify

Shopify

Donors love the ease of being able to give online, but those transaction fees can really add up. Enter Shopify.

Shopify is traditionally known as an e-commerce platform, but they can also make it simple for you to process donations and even sell merchandise. Their drag-and-drop builder also allows you to easily update your website content and share your story, no coding experience necessary. Learn more about how to apply for Shopify’s discounted nonprofit rates here.

Source: Constant Contact

Constant Contact

Emails are the bread-and-butter of most nonprofit communications, so it’s important that they represent your mission well. Using a premium email marketing service like Constant Contact can help you put your best foot forward.

Constant Contact offers a 20–30% discount for qualifying nonprofits and includes an easy-to-use email builder as well as event sign-ups, polls, and other useful tools. They also make it easier to organize your mailing list and send targeted messages to specific segments.

Bonus Tip: If you’re using Shopify, you can integrate it with your Constant Contact account for seamless functionality.

Source: Google

G Suite

You probably need no introduction to Google. But did you know that they offer discounts on their services for qualifying non-profits? With G Suite for nonprofits, you can set up email accounts with your domain name, making them look more professional and less likely to get trapped in spam filters.

You’ll also get more storage in Google Drive than you would with a typical free Gmail account, allowing you to create templated documents and presentations that you can easily share among your team. On top of G Suite, Google also offers nonprofit discounts and grants for Google Ads, YouTube, and Google Maps. Learn about all of Google’s nonprofit tools here.

If all of this information is still making your head spin, Matt Jensen Marketing is here to help! We have experience working with nonprofits both big and small and can provide the guidance and training your team needs to start marketing your nonprofit like a pro. Contact us to get started.

The One Thing Donors Want to Hear About Your Nonprofit

In the United States, nonprofit marketing can be a mercilessly competitive arena. Based on some estimates, there are up to 3,000 charitable organizations started every day, many of which don’t succeed beyond a couple of years. Donor solicitation is ubiquitous, whether in person, direct mail, telemarketing, or through a bevy of digital mediums. “Giving Units” are bombarded with blanket and targeted asks, and that’s on top of the 10,000+ ad exposures they receive daily from for-profit companies.

The Tendency To Say Too Much

In the midst of such fierce competition and noise, it’s easy to see why many non-profits respond by trying to say more.  We have a tendency to equate “more” with “louder” and “louder” with “effective.”  As a result, we create vision statements that resemble small novels and mission statements that do everything.  We share overwhelming statistics of great need and match them with equally abstract numbers about our response. We try to tell all of our stories in all of their deserved nuance. We think the donor wants to hear everything about organizations that do everything.

We have a tendency to equate “louder” with “effective.”

The Need for Clarity

What we don’t realize is that, in a jumbled field full of noise, donors only want to hear one thing — clarity.

They want the clarity of a simple vision that can inspire.

They want the clarity of a focused mission they can easily remember.

They want the clarity of a simple story that embodies the emotion of the recipients and volunteers alike and demonstrates the tangible impact of your work.

A wise client of ours once told me that simplicity is always on the other side of complexity. We start with the complex story we want to tell and then winnow until we can’t say it any more simply and clearly.  In a country where 1.5 million non-profits are competing for your donors, the clear message will always stand out.

Give it a try, and you’ll see.

Differentiated from the Rest

To be more precise, that is the question organizations often unwittingly face as they seek to stand out in an ever-growing sea of smartly branded products and enterprises. And while the question of differentiation may not seem as existentially vital as Shakespeare’s original soliloquy, the wrong choices may leave your group suffering self-inflicted blows that fortune wouldn’t have dared strike.

Differentiation is no longer a buzzword in marketing and communications circles, it has passed into the less thoughtful realm of cliché. The danger with clichés is that their assumed meaning is often superficial and unhelpful. The “clichéd” definition of differentiation is a simple truncation of the word — to be different.

The unfortunate side effect is that aiming for “different” can lead to inauthentic attempts to stand out among the crowd… often by being louder or bigger or more risqué than the rest. In the 21st century, no matter how “different” you are, if it’s inauthentic you certainly won’t win the day. Worse still, in the long term, different for the sake of difference will dilute your brand and water down your organization’s voice. And, in an ironic twist, these inauthentic attempts at difference often make you quite similar to the rest of the crowd, like a hipster hanging out in a Brooklyn coffee shop.

Differentiation, on the other hand, is a distinct concept. When your organization can be true to itself, and creatively speak from within its voice and personality across a series of mediums, you can truly be differentiated. In the same way that no snowflake is the same, so it also goes with organizations; living up to your unique personality and the special ways you relate to your audience is in fact a simple way to differentiate. Moreover, being authentically differentiated cultivates a trusting relationship with those to whom you relate.

In the end, what does this mean in practice? I recently worked with a nonprofit whose identity is built around honesty in good times and bad. They were crafting a monthly newsletter to report on an initiative they had just launched. Some of the groundwork for the program hadn’t gone as smoothly as they had hoped. As they reported on progress to their donors, they were clear about their struggles. They didn’t include unnecessary details, but were extremely transparent nonetheless. As opposed to scaring donors away, it appears more people than normal read the newsletter. And the response was overwhelmingly positive. They were true to their personality and differentiated from countless other organizational newsletters that mundanely and predictably trumpet flawless performances. Most of all, it appears they deepened the trusting relationship with their audience.

So there it is. Be yourself. Do it creatively. And you will be differentiated from the rest.

Stories Give Us Access to the Senses

If I asked you to tell me about your day would you give me the number of breaths you took? Would you inform me that the number of steps you took was 23% higher than yesterday? Would you tell me about how many ounces of coffee you drank or the minutes you waited to get your coffee served? You might. But you’re more likely to tell me about the old friend you met at a cafe and how you spent the noon hour on a walk to catch up.

Numbers can show great leaps of progress or small measures of change. They can articulate a problem and stun. They can represent chilling or inspiring statistics. But are they powerful enough to evoke action? Are they human enough?

Founder of charity: water, Scott Harrison, presented on the scarcity of clean water for people in developing countries at the 2014 OTA conference. He outlined the problems these people faced and the solutions charity: water was providing using numbers and stories. Guess which would stick?

  • He gave the audience a fact: 800 million people are living without access to clean water in the world today.
  • He told the audience a story: A teenage girl living in a remote village spent most of her days walking to a natural well, waiting in line to collect water and walking back with a heavy pot full of water. One day her pot fell from her hands, breaking on the dry ground. From the pieces of broken ceramic, she pulled the rope that held it to her body. She used it to end her life.

What is more memorable? (I’ll give you a hint: I had to look up the number.)

  • Another fact: charity: water has been able to supply more than three million people get access to clean water
  • Another story: charity: water helped build a well in a community where mothers and daughters were responsible for collecting water. After it had been installed, one woman told the organization that not only did she have extra time in her day and enough water to care for her family, she could care for herself. She felt beautiful.

The statistics might wow, but numbers so large are unimaginable. The problems that each person faces are simplified when they become a lump of 800 million. The people are simplified. When we invite narrative to the discussion, however, we have a mnemonic device for something so enormous and unreachable.

Stories give us access to the senses and can lodge these things into our memories. It’s no wonder that we teach children about numbers in units of cheerios, tricycles and pumpkins — things they can touch, smell and taste — instead of an abstract symbol.

Numbers give us important reference points, too. We can say 800 million people are without access to clean drinking water, and we can give it a scope by saying that’s 1 in 9 people on the planet. Nine is a number I can comprehend and 1 in 9 is a perspective I can count on my fingers — a perspective that just might give me a story to tell.

Nonprofit Marketing: Branding Is Part of Your Mission

I recently had a conversation with the leader of a nascent nonprofit regarding his agency’s branding efforts. As is the case with many in charity related work, this man is interested in creating positive change in the world by diving into problems and “fixing” them. Unfortunately, as is also the case with many in the nonprofit field, this leader perceived branding as a superfluous afterthought to the “real work,” the content, of his mission. His misperception of branding as a “necessary evil” isn’t just erroneous; it’s fatal.

A few years back, the Stanford Social Innovation Review reported that over 200,000 nonprofits had been founded in the United States since 1970. Many of these organizations ended up closing their doors, in spite of their worthwhile goals. While there are a bevy of reasons that lead to a nonprofit’s demise, a primary cause is often poor branding.

Many philanthropically minded leaders perceive branding as an attempt to create a perception of their organization in the mind of the audience. For these leaders, “perception creation” is synonymous with advertising, and sometimes with manipulation. Branding, per this misperception, is beneath the dignity of their cause.

This grave misunderstanding is more than unfortunate; it’s deadly. Nonprofits must learn to understand that branding is a holistic concept that incorporates all the ways an organization lives out and communicates its identity. Branding ranges from the way we interact with the recipients of services, to the visuals, vocabulary and syntax we use to tell about those interactions and their value to the common good. Simply put, branding is both who you are, and how you share your story.

When done well, branding becomes a clear, concise, and intentional experience that draws the audience into the stories of your work and your constituent’s lives. It creates a dialogical interaction with donors and participants that can lead to mutual transformation. Good branding doesn’t just proclaim a cognitive understanding of positive change, it allows people to participate and “feel” the process. Authentic transformation, after all, is a very real and invigorating experience.

Personally, I don’t often contribute to an organization that doesn’t draw me into an experiential encounter with their story. That doesn’t mean they aren’t doing good work, it just means I don’t have the time or energy to figure out who they are, what they do, and why it’s important.

I want to experience changing the world, and I would love to do it through your organization. The question remains, will you learn how to use branding holistically so I can fully participate in your work? If not, don’t count on my gift. It appears there are thousands of other worthwhile organizations in this country ready to help me experience civic responsibility and the intangible benefits of philanthropy.