Ah, social content marketing. I’ve told you it’s one of the fundamental “Dive the 5” strategies you must master to be successful with fundraising in today’s marketplace.
Which is why I want to share with you some quick and easy tips to take your blog (or e-newsletter*) from a snoozefest to a usefest. You see, the content you serve up to folks has to be useful to them. You want to see their eyes bulging out of their sockets with excitement, not rolling back into their heads with boredom.
And you have to do this with every single issue. Every single post. Consistency is key. Because you need to get folks into the habit of jumping for joy when they see your brand in their mailbox. Not into the habit of hitting “delete” before they even take a look at all the hard work you’ve put into your content. So… where to begin?
*ACTION TIP: If you don’t yet have a blog now is the time to think seriously about doing so.
For my money, if you make your blog the hub of your content marketing strategy everything else flows naturally from there. Because blogs are web-based, folks you’ve never heard of can find them on the web and various social media (unlike your e-newsletter which gets mailed only to your email list). Yet they’re better than websites because they’re active, not static.
I’m a huge fan of blogs over e-newsletters because they lend themselves better to sharing. And the more folks share your content, the more new prospects you can uncover. You can add links to your blog and post on various social media, driving new prospects right back to your website. Making a blog your central communication hub is smart because it’s easy to use snippets on such platforms as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, G+, Instagram and Pinterest. If you prefer, you can use a blog as a foundation for all communications; then use a newsletter as mostly a digest of the blog rather than a separate project. What’s good about this is that it puts information people want where and how they want it. You understand you won’t get folks to read every blog post, especially those that don’t interest them. Instead, you allow them to click on ‘read more’ for the areas that are of most interest to them. Very customer-centric. Useful, in fact.
Here’s the difference between you-centered thinking and donor-centered thinking in regard to content.
- You think: They love to receive a monthly newsletter. They’re happy to receive a monthly blog post. This gives them something to read, and keeps them connected to us.
- They think: I don’t give a fig about getting a newsletter or blog. My email box is inundated. Just let me know if there’s something I really need to know, or could benefit from. Otherwise, don’t bother me. It’s just intrusive.
Always, always, always ask “What’s in this for my reader?”
- You’ve got to be honest here. The fact that your organization won an award is not useful to your donor. The fact that they can win an award by engaging with you (e.g., playing a game, entering a contest, responding with a comment, etc.) is. The fact that you added new caseworkers to your staff is not useful. A list of “Top 10 Tips to Keep Seniors Safe” is. Before you create any piece of content, consider what’s in it for your reader. Not much? Don’t serve it up.
- Just because you give folks something to read doesn’t mean they’ll read it. Or that it will make them feel connected to you. That will only happen if you do certain things correctly.
Let’s take a look at 12 ways to take your blog from mind-numbing to mesmerizing.
1. Personalize the Subject Line
Before your subscribers can read your blog post or e-newsletter, they have to open it. If it says “Claire, take a look at this” I’m much more likely to open it than if it says “March newsletter.” And guess what? Most email service providers (e.g., MailChimp; Aweber; Constant Contact) enable you to insert a First Name tag at the beginning of your subject and salutation lines). What can I say? People like reading their name. It’s human nature. And it makes your content stand out.
2. Make it Readable
Don’t make your readers work hard. Text-dense articles in small type and illegible fonts are no fun. Break test up with headings, sub-heads, bullets, boldface and even color. Mix up the length of sentences and size of paragraphs. Don’t worry about grammar; make it sound the way you’d talk so it flows easily. Keep everything between a 6th to 8th grade level (use the Flesch-Kincaid readability calculator to test this; you can also find this in Microsoft Word. Put as much time into the look and readability of your content as into the drafting, writing and editing
3. Make it Visual
Use images and even videos to add pizazz and bolster shares. A picture really can be worth 1,000 words, and it takes your reader a lot less time to process. Research shows that people process visual imagery 60,000x faster than text. They also share more. Buffer reports that on Twitter alone, tweets with images are retweeted 150% more than those without visuals!.
4. Listen Up!
Pay attention to what folks want from you. Develop killer listening strategies. Think of your online audience as a gigantic focus group; get valuable feedback for free by asking folks to comment on and share your posts. Don’t just do this on your blog per se, but holistically. Leverage your content by sharing your blog posts broadly through social media, email and other channels. Then channel the voice of your constituents to boost your future content and social media marketing efforts.
5. Show You Value Customer Feedback
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is asking for feedback, then not acknowledging it. If people email you back, answer them. If people comment on your posts, let them know you’re appreciative. If people complain about something, be sure to respond without delay. If people retweet or like your post, at least sometimes pat them on the back for doing so. And reciprocate, as appropriate. Remember, donor-centric online social content marketing is all about building relationships with your would-be supporters. Dialogue. Give and take.
6. Tell them What You’re Gonna Tell Them
Make it easy for readers to see what’s in this for them. Begin with your purpose. Capture attention right away with a snappy opening; then get to the point. This is why I began this article by reminding you that content marketing is one of the “Dive the 5” fundamentals we’re delving deep into on Clairification this year, and this post is going to fall into that category. Then, right away, I let you know I’m giving you X tips to improve your content marketing; specifically, your blog.
7. If You Want Gifts Give Them
Take time to show your constituents they mean more to you than they even thought they did. Remember I told you to always think from the reader’s perspective? They’re thinking “What’s in it for me (WIFM)?” I like to give my subscribers free gifts from time to time. Maybe a downloadable e-book. Or a free webinar or podcast. Or links to free resources and training opportunities I find across the web. You can do that too! I know you have all sorts of useful content right at your fingertips. A delightful gift might be a reading list; recipe; recommended activities; a fun quiz or game; an amusing video or an inspiring quote. Plus you can create whitepapers, calendars, e-books and even “how to” videos. Or give gifts from your sponsors (e.g., discounts, coupons, behind-the-scenes tours, etc.) In fact, giving something useful away is a great way to entice readers to sign up for your blog/e-newsletter in the first place. Folks will really appreciate your generosity, and they’ll stay with you longer.
8. Include One Clear Call to Action to Engage Folks
Remember that your content has a purpose. Make this purpose crystal clear to your readers so they can become easily engaged. The more they can do, the better they feel. Because your purpose then becomes their purpose. And human beings long to have purpose. If you really want your content to matter, it has to persuade people to act. If you can get people involved with you, you’re building that relationship that will keep them involved. So never send out a piece of content that simply lands with a thud. Think about what you want folks to think, feel and do. Maybe it’s simply to share your content with their networks. Or click a link to sign a petition. Or attend an event. Or join your mailing list. Or possibly even make a donation right then and there!
9. Be Original
If you’ve got nothing new to say, please don’t repeat yourself. Give your readers fresh content. If you don’t, they’ll stop opening your mailings. When they see your new content in their inbox you want them to think “Oh Goody! They always have something interesting to say! I wonder what they’re up to now?”
10. Repurpose Great Content over Different Channels
Folks don’t want to work to find you. If you deliver content through multiple channels, you’re more likely to enable folks to find you serendipitously. You can use the same fresh content, differently, on different platforms. A blog post, for example, can be fodder for a dozen different tweets. A grant proposal can be rewritten as an e-news article. You don’t need to keep coming up with new ideas for different delivery systems. Just get the great ideas you’ve already got out there. They’ll seem fresh and new to your readers (remember, they don’t come close to opening up everything you send to them; you’ve got to meet them where they are). Don’t choose these channels randomly, however. Do some research (e.g., a simple survey) to discover where your audiences hang out.
11. Go Behind the Scenes
People love exclusive privileges. Show your members/subscribers how special they are by sharing how you do things. Things the general public may not usually see. Give them a smart phone video of your fieldwork. Take screenshots of new program models you’re working on. Show on-the-scene snapshots of folks they’re helping. Do a video tour of your work space (backstage; food sorting warehouse; kittens being readied for adoption; hospitalized kids in the on-site playroom; a grove of tree being planted; baby seals being rescued, etc.).
12. Show Some Personality
At the end of the day, people open content from folks they enjoy, admire, respect, like and love. The only way they can feel any of these things about you is if you let your personality shine through. Part of this is getting clear on what the tone of your content will be on various channels. It might be warm on your blog, and wacky on Facebook. Professional on LinkedIn and creative on Instagram. It’s up to you. But think about it. And be it. Wear your heart on your sleeve. Fly your freak flag. Do whatever you can to help folks get to know you better. Because, you know what? That’s what they want. They want an emotional connection.
So now you’ve got a dozen ways to brighten up your would-be supporters’ days. To begin to build authentic bonds that hopefully will turn into lasting relationships and, ultimately, sustainable philanthropy.
What are you going to do first to go from boring to enthralling? Please answer in the comments below.
Want to win friends and influence people through blogging?
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