If you watch one damn slide deck all year make it this one

Or, the science of great content that gets shared.

Only watch this if you want you want more people to read and take action on your content.

In June, a team from Upworthy gave a presentation at Netroots Nation about their approach to writing headlines and other content – all the while getting your stuff shared out the wazoo. I thought it was a terribly useful deck then, especially for nonprofit organizations that struggle to not just build a social media following but, more critically, have trouble getting their social communities to do much of anything.

The deck was updated for Rootscamp this past weekend. Check out the deck here or embedded below – but only bother if you have any interest in doing what it takes to make your social media communications get attention. Hell, all your communications could benefit from these insights into headlines, interesting writing, testing, optimizing sharing, and testing some more.

A few highlights for your consideration…

  • These folks know what they’re talking about. Upworthy launched in late-March, 2012. In eight months they have 791,000 Facebook fans, 43,000 Twitter followers, and 10,000 Tumblrs. Their early growth far (FAR) outpaces that of Huffington Post, BuzzFeed or Business Insider.
  • Middle aged women are the biggest sharers on the Internet. If your mom wouldn’t share your stuff you’re probably failing.
  • Write 25 headlines. Test the better ones. Use the best one.
  • The share image matters. A lot.
  • Make sharing on your website as easy as possible. So easy your mom could do it. Test these things, too.
  • Test. Collect data. Figure out what the data says. Test again. Repeat. Rinse. Test again.

For what it’s worth, we have seen even small sharing optimization tweaks have huge impacts on sharing when working with clients on email, websites, social media, and so on. Make sharing easy. Write great content. Here’s Upworthy’s deck:

A terrific (if unlikely) new website

It’s a truism that government agencies are incapable of designing and implementing great websites. But it’s a truism that happens to be untrue, as the Milwaukee Police Department is making abundantly clear with their new site.

And if it’s possible for government agencies to build great websites, surely more nonprofits can, as well.

A hat tip to the Fast Company blog for both the link (“A Radical Police Rebranding That Starts With A Superb Website“) and a great walk-through of what makes it so strong.

Jacob Smith is the co-author of The Nimble Nonprofit: An Unconventional Guide to Sustaining and Growing Your Nonprofit, the former mayor of Golden, Colorado, and a nonprofit consultant.

The best tag line, ever

“Anytime Anywhere”

The company is called Global Rescue, and these are the folks you buy insurance from if you want to guarantee evacuation or field rescue  – from anywhere on the globe you might happen to be – in the case of a medical emergency, civil war, and natural disasters.

“Anytime Anywhere” conveys everything that needs to be communicated in a tag line, they are perfectly on pitch for the intended audience, and they did all that in just two words.

This tag line is so good it could easily double as an elevator pitch.

Jacob Smith is the co-author of The Nimble Nonprofit: An Unconventional Guide to Sustaining and Growing Your Nonprofit, the former mayor of Golden, Colorado, and a nonprofit consultant.

Video done right: Protect Our Winters

Great videos don’t need to be earth shattering displays of far out creativity and mind-boggling production values. Video is a storytelling form that lifts characters, dialog and emotion off the page and into the visual line of sight. Basically, video shares a story.

Marketing videos – especially PSAs – can often get overwrought or overdone. It’s hard to keep it simple.

We like this short piece from Protect Our Winters — an organization created by winter sports professionals that advocates for policies that halt climate change and gets pro athletes into schools, communities and Congress. Check out the video:

It may have helpful to share some images of winter that weren’t all about the high alpine environment and maybe more familiar to viewers. Maybe the scene of a city park hushed by a fresh blanket of snow would connect more people with their personal experiences.

But the scenes left in are aspirational, true to the character of the organization, and one can always add more scenes. Brevity and focus are powerful tools, too. We think this is powerful and a great example of how strong video doesn’t need to be complicated.

What do you think?

The State of Social Media and Social Media Marketing


Earlier in the month, Esteban Contreras published a terrific “State of Social Media” report with a particular focus on social media advertising (h/t to SocialFish).

Facebook remains the big giant with 900 million monthly active users. YouTube is in the same class with 800 million, but these two dwarf everyone else (Zynga, which itself has 40% more users than its next closest competitor, only has 232 million MAUs). Facebook, in other words, “has established itself as THE social platform,” and – unexceptional earnings reports notwithstanding – it is likely to hold that turf for some time to come as it improves and expands functionality like scheduling, post-level metrics, mobile-only ads, and the like.

Spending on social network advertising is growing fast (projected at 43% growth in 2012), and even though the rate of growth is expected to decline (dropping to 18% in 2014), that still amounts to massive increases, hitting $5.5 billion in 2014. One implication for nonprofits and everyone else: it’s increasingly difficult to get noticed, especially on Facebook. Spending on local social ads, as a component of overall social ad spending, is also growing quickly. But despite the spending trends, it’s still unclear how effective social network ads are. LinkedIn is a notable exception.

More than half of adult cell phone owners go online using their phones: “Mobile is becoming the first screen.” This is a HUGE ongoing shift that nonprofits ignore at their peril.

Google+ is still pretty far back in the pack in terms of users (only 150 million MAUs), but it hit those numbers in just one year of operation, and it enjoys really high engagement levels: “I still think Google+ is the dark horse here …” This robust engagement includes 50% of Google users signing in at least once a day and spending an average of 60 minutes a day on Google.

Some other noteworthy trends:

  • YouTube is seeing a drop in users but claims it’s making up for it with increasing engagement.
  • YouTube is investing $100 million on its own premium channels.
  • Daily Twitter use continues to grow, especially among 18-24 year olds.
  • Use of location-based services on smartphones continues to grow quickly as well, up 55% from just a year ago. One in five use “geosocial” apps.
  • With Klout at the front of the parade, we’re now seeing a bundle of startups rushing to measure influence among social network users.
  • Trending tactics in social media marketing include: social curation, frictionless sharing, visual experimentation, storytelling, fan-centric content.
  • “Good experiences are key to earned social media advocacy.”

Self-Publishing: Lessons From the Nimble Nonprofit, Part I

We launched The Nimble Nonprofit: An Unconventional Guide to Sustaining and Growing Your Nonprofit close to two months ago, and I wanted to share a few of our early lessons and observations in this self-publishing experiment:

1) Sales numbers in a given week seem to correlate to the amount of time we spend promoting the book that week. There may be a viral moment out there somewhere where sales numbers start to grow faster, but we haven’t found it. Effort = sales.

2) Guest blog posts have been awesome. Folks like Maddie Grant, Amy Sample Ward, and Katya Andresen published posts on their blog that were either excerpts from the book or just posts related to themes in the book. Hugely helpful.

3) Facebook and LinkedIn have been really helpful but so far limited to where I’ve got pre-existing relationships. So far we haven’t found them to be useful with things like LinkedIn groups.

4) Twitter has been helpful, too, especially tied to the guest blog posts, but it’s not clear how much Twitter is driving sales. The conversations have been fun, though, and I’ve digitally met a bunch of interesting people thinking about nonprofit issues now that I didn’t know before, which has been cool.

5) Great reviews on Amazon (of which we’ve had a ton!) are very helpful but on their own don’t translate to sales. It’s just one piece of a good strategy.

6) The verdict is still open on whether it made sense to make a free .pdf version of the book available. Since one of our goals was distribution, I think it will have made sense, we’ll understand that more I think through the summer.

7) Ditto on the decision to go digital only. Based on our conversations over the past couple of months, I have the sense that there are a lot of people who would have purchased the book had it been available in physical form. That’s another issue we’ll evaluate a few months from now.

8) And it’s been really fun … the blogging, the conversations with other bloggers and nonprofit folks, talking to people about the themes we tackled in the book.