The 7 simple rules of blogging

Posted by: on Thursday, September 6, 2012

A lot of businesses & organizations understand that they should have a blog on their website. I couldn't agree more and most Business Owners & Executive Directors we talk to agree as well. But there is a lot of confusion about how to do it or even what constitute a true Blog. So here are 7 simple rules to help you get started with your blog:

  1. Your blog title should be keyword rich
    You want to use good keywords, keywords that your typical member or potential member would be searching for. To identify good keywords, you can use Google Keyword Tool to get started.

  2. Short & Sweet
    I would recommend to keep it within 300 words, to include bullets, multiple short paragraphs and to bold keywords. Statistics show that most people don't have nearly the attention span you think they do, get to the point and remove all unnecessary words & phrases.
  3. Include some related links to your content
    The rule of thumb is to have a link for every 120 words. Could be a link to some interior pages of your website with more in depth information on the subject or better yet, a link to an outside source (i.e. Wiki) to provide additional information or to explain a specific term.
  4. Add one single image to your blog
    Most of what we track, show that having one image per blog is good. It makes it more visually appealing and gives people something to relate to than just a whole bunch of words. The image should describe the mood or feeling or describe in some ways what the blog is about. Make sure to add an image description to your image (aka ALT tag)

  5. Make sure to have a RSS & email subscription
    Most blogging services include RSS and adding a way for people to easily subscribe to your upcoming blog is a great way to spread your voice and to make your organization relevant. Some organizations have 70-80 percent of their blog readers subscribe by email, the rest will use RSS.
  6. Getting people to comment
    Some of the great ways to do that is to ask a question at the end of your blog or be controversial. Also, you can leave part of the subject not covered. If you completely cover a subject, there isn't much room for someone to add anything to it.
  7. How often?
    Once or twice a week. Yes, at least once a week, twice would be better. I know what you are thinking: "How on earth am I going to find the time to do this once, let alone twice a week". I think it's important for any organization to engage the whole membership, dumping this on one person's lap is a recipe for it to fail. Try a contest with your members: "best blog submitted will be published and the winner will receive a discount for the annual convention".

Is your schedule packed enough that the idea of adding blogging sounds like a nightmare? Ask a digital markerter to help.

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Tips to make people want to read your blogs

Posted by: on Thursday, September 6, 2012

What makes people want to read your web content? Just remember the last time you read an interesting blog or article and you shared it on Facebook, or forwarded an email to a friend with a "you need to read this!!"

Most of the time, it will be for one of the following reasons:

  1. It was surprising, unexpected or weird
  2. It was remarkably good or bad
  3. It was a great story
  4. It was visually striking - cute, beautiful, moving, funny or compelling
  5. It was helpful or solved a problem
  6. It was personally perfect - it made you think of someone and so you just had to send it to them

Next time you need to write some web content, use the list above and decide which direction to go with. You can choose one or several. It could be a great story with an unexpected twist. It could be helpful & funny. You get the point, right?

Now, why should you do this, simply because:

  • Boring doesn’t get read
  • Boring doesn’t get shared
  • Boring doesn’t get funded

Happy web content writing! 

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Four easy ways to take advantage of LinkedIn

Posted by: on Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I know a lot of organizations & businesses that have a LinkedIn personal page or an organization/company page....but then what? What should we do now? How is this helping me, my organization, my business? The answer is simple: you need to participate, provide value and be active.

Did you know that many large organizations have staffing who sole job description is to manage their online social network? So here are 4 things you can do to take advantage of Linkedin without spending hours on end scanning pages:

  1. LinkedIn Answers (10-15 minutes/week)
    One of the best and under-utilized tools. Ask a question, once a week that is relevant to your industry and answer a few. Be relevant, be helpful, people will relate to that and see you as an expert.

  2. LinkedIn Groups (10-15 minutes weeks)
    You should join several groups  that are relevant to your organization. Consider joining groups that are not related to your industry as well but where you be a contributor. For example, if you are a meeting planner, don't just join meeting planning groups, join groups for entrepreneurs, marketing, etc

  3. LinkedIn Direct Ads 
    LinkedIn has a great advertising program that can can be used to drive new members or prospects to your website or groups. LinkedIn Ads work the same way as Google Ads work: you write a headline, add a sentence promoting your next large fundraising event, annual convention, etc. Then you bid on how much you'll pay everytime someone clicks on the Ad.

  4. LinkedIn Mobile
    LinkedIn has a great mobile application and you should download it for free. This App is best used at an event or networking function. If they have the app on their phone, just bump the two phones lightly and it will transfer your contact information between phones using blue tooth. No typing, no misspelled words, you got it all in an instant.

Have fun and happy networking!

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Seven ways to improve your landing page

Posted by: on Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Do you know that you have less than 10 seconds to make a new web visitor stick around? So the question then becomes: "how to make them stay?". It's easy: make sure it's not dull & boring and covered with all kinds all marketing blah blah blah.

Your landing page should be informative in tone and targeted to your specific audience. Here are few things that we find missing in many sites that would make a huge difference in increasing the number of visitors that stick around longer, translating in more sales/registration/inquiries, etc

  1. Use a clear Page Title & Description for your website:
    Why? Because this is what they'll see first in the search engine. Consider this: before they land on your website, they see your Google search result first. Try googling your company or organization and see what comes up in the search results. Is it descriptive? fun? informative? does it include an offer? 
  2. Have a self evident call to action button:
    It always baffles me to land on a webpage and have to seriously look around to request more information. I'm always left with: "why are you trying to make it hard for me to do business with you?" The call to actionshould be so self evident that your legally blind grand father could point it out to you! Color matters too, red gets better results than green or blue in A/B site testing. Not sure why but it does.
  3. Have multiple way for people to take action:
    Don't you hate when you can't find a phone number or even a simple address on a site. I may want to talk to someone, or even drive there if it's not too far. All that information should be on the landing page without having to dig. Yes, some people actually want to talk to a live person before they make a decision.
  4. Include social media links:
    Encourage people to check you out and possibly like you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter. Consider adding a "Like" button on your page so people can post it on their FB page.
  5. Include a quick & easy way to sign up for more info:
    No big commitment, just a name and an email is enough....we barely know each other, let's just start easy is the way to go.
  6. Respond quickly to all inquiries:
    78% of sales that start with a web inquiry get won by the first company that responds. Do you want to impress people? Respond within 10 minutes and see your sales increase dramatically.

  7. Have a great Thank you screen and awesome confirmation email:
    A lot of time is spent on design and layout but once I made my online does it look? You should make both the thank you page and confirmation email count. Include valuable information, make them feel like they have made the right decision by contacting your company or organization. Too many times, both those pages are overlooked and too often flat out boring.

Got it? Now go optimize your website and measure the results.

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Get a mobile strategy going before your competition does

Posted by: on Friday, August 31, 2012

In case you haven't heard, digital marketers are predicting that mobile searches will exceed desktop searches by 2014. In terms what that means for you is: "you better be ready!".

Look at the charts & stats below to get an idea of how it looks today. To get you started in the right direction, you should ask yourself the following:

  1. Is my website mobile optimized (mobile app vs responsive design)
  2. Are my email marketing campaigns mobile optimized 

Mobile strategy

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How to select the right colors scheme for your website redesign

Posted by: on Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A lot of people we talk to struggle with choosing the right color scheme for their website redesign. Sometime it's simply with the color on our logo and other times, it's more like it's been like this since Nixon was in power...

But, there is a science to what makes a good website design and the color chart below can help you select the right color for your company or organization. Pay attention to the international significance if you have an international reach.

1-Pick the main color for your company or organization

2- With a couple of colors in hand, we would recommend that you go to your local paint store and create a combination of 5 to 6 colors to create your color voila, you have an official color scheme for your website.

You can view more palette samples on the Branded Out Loud Pinterest page at

Have fun!

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6 Membership Renewals Tips for a Non Profit Website

Posted by: on Friday, August 24, 2012

As hard as it is to believe, there are many associations and nonprofits that do not commit to the work needed for making their annual membership renewals a priority.

Many organizations simply send out a generic once-a-year renewal notice without any additional effort. This business-as-usual approach is a big mistake.

Member dependent groups are seeing an increasing number of individuals who are questioning the continuation of their memberships. And our current economic climate is another reason this is not a time for a passive approach to renewals.

You can improve improve your member retention if you use a structured focus that emphasizes personal contact.

Here are six tips that will increase the effectiveness of your renewal efforts. 

  1. Organize your renewal campaign as if it's your most important activity of the year. Create definite goals with an action plan for achieving your numbers.
  2. Recruit persistent people who are your get-it-done folks for follow-ups. Identify and assign personal connection match ups, and then do the follow up to make sure the contacts are being made. Remember, the everybody-try-to-call-somebody-on-the-list routine rarely works!
  3. Individualize renewal requests; and certainly don't address them to Dear Member. Supplement initial communications with telephone calls and personal visits.
  4. Communicate specific value and benefits to your members. What problem do your members have that being a part of your organization will solve?
  5. The best renewal activity is one that is ongoing. Work to get members engaged. Reach out to those whose attendance has been declining. Make sure you regularly let your members know they are appreciated. It's difficult for people to feel valued if they hear from you only when it's time to ask for money.
  6. Be sure to acknowledge each renewal with a personalized thank you, and have a process that ensures your members are getting the positive experience they paid for. 

Original Blog by Hardy Smith

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What should I share on social media? Here are 10 ideas...

Posted by: on Thursday, August 23, 2012

At a recent event in Chicago, I explained to the audience that social media sharing should be a daily activity (not a weekly or monthly activity), several people came to me afterwards and asked me what should they be posting. I could tell that they were puzzled and rather concerned about what to share.

So here are ten quick ideas if your creative well is dry.  

  1. Offer a sneak peek of an upcoming newsletter, event or program.
  2. Show what goes on behind the scenes at your office via a picture.
  3. Introduce a member of your staff.
  4. Report from the scene of your work or event.
  5. Share photos of your members/volunteers in action.
  6. Connect your work to a news story, trend or meme.
  7. Ask a trivia question related to your cause.
  8. Share a testimonial from a beneficiary or supporter.
  9. Choose a “fan of the day” and give them a shout out.
  10. Celebrate a success story.

If you start your week looking at this list, you will be able to quickly come up with at least one share a day, maybe even two.

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Quit Social Media? Not so fast…

Posted by: on Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I just ran across an interesting post on The Agitator by Tom Belford on quitting social media.  Tom cites Erik Sass’s 9 Reasons to Quit Social Media Now … a thoughtful take on why social media isn’t always a net positive.  In closing, Tom calls for rebuttals, so here’s mine:

I absolutely appreciate the lead in to Tom’s post; at this point, social media is not a major medium for fundraising.  If you look at response rates and dollars generated by social media, it’s only a drop in the bucket compared to email fundraising – which itself is only a fraction of the donations received via direct mail.

I would argue, however, that it misses the larger point of how social media is best used by nonprofits. 

First and foremost, social sites like Facebook and Twitter are best used by most organizations as a branding and engagement tool.  For most organizations, there is no quicker, cheaper way to communicate with donors than posting on your favorite social media site.  This truth is only becoming more prevalent as the stereotypical donor group (read: older donors) move online.

Social media sites are also one of the best ways to motivate the elusive 40 and under donors.  Dunham+Company’s recent study of online donations makes the point quite succinctly:

Social media motivating more donors under age 40

Social media shows no real improvement in motivating an online gift among donors 40 years old or older (10 percent in this survey versus 8 percent in 2010).  However, social media giving continues to grow among donors under age 40, as a full 30 percent now say they have given online because of social media compared to 24 percent in 2010.

My co-worker at New River Communications Christa Chappel just shared the perfect example of social media as a direct response channel:

…Florida Yorkie Rescue continues to engage and involve people (donors or prospects) on Facebook and the owner Kit has said that if it weren’t for her doing that on Facebook she wouldn’t raise as much money.  She doesn’t have funds nor time probably to participate in direct mail or do a major fundraising event but she posts about a situation (dog needing surgery), the goal amount to solve the problem, and all of a sudden within 48-72 hours she hits her goal.  I am a donor and have given to almost every one of her cases…

Bottom line, it’s a multi-, multi-, multi-channel world out there, and the prospect of quitting social media – even if we wanted to – isn’t really an option.  The only question now is: what do we do with it? The answer isn’t the same for every nonprofit, but I believe nearly all can find ways to enrich their relationship with donors who use some form of social media – and isn’t that just about everyone these days?

Now, off to tweet this to the masses…

Guest Blog Post by: 
Shaun Petersen 
New River Communications Account Supervisor 



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How often should you send email marketing?

Posted by: on Monday, August 20, 2012

According to ClickZ, a whopping 97 percent of consumers check their email every day. If you’re emailing members or clients, and I hope you are, that’s the good news.

The bad news, also according to ClickZ, is:

  • 72 percent of consumers state that they have “deleted email from a marketer that wasn’t relevant to me” 
  • 69 percent of consumers state that they have “deleted email from a marketer because I get too much email from them” 
  • 66 percent of consumers state that they have “unsubscribed from email that I had opted into because it wasn’t relevant”

Clearly, it’s not good practice to send people irrelevant email - or to send them too much.

But what does that mean exactly?  David Daniels of the aptly named The Relevancy Group offers the following tips.  

  1. Segment your audience and messages.  Not everything you email is relevant to everyone on your list, so the only way to improve your relevancy is to divide up your list and do the best job you can speaking to sub-groups of people based on their interests.  Before you say you don’t have the time for this, remember what Daniels says: “The cost to generate a dollar even from the inexpensive email channel is higher for marketers who do not segment or target their subscribers.”

  2. Focus on behavior. So how do you know what interests which people?  Pay attention to their reactions to the email they get.  Are they clicking on certain articles?  Use this information to group your supporters according to what interests them, and tailor your content to those groups.

  3. Incorporate testing and frequency caps. Set goals for your email campaigns.  How many people do you want to open?  Click?  Give?  Now try changing some variables and see if they work better against your goals - like the time of day you send, the type of content you include and the frequency of messages.  This can help you determine how much email is too much email - and how much is not enough.  I wouldn’t email people more than once a week except in very special circumstances, but your testing will give you the best answer on frequency.
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