Latest updates from the Veracity team

The Power of the hashtag

July 07, 2015


2014 was the year of the hashtag, and it shows no signs of slowing down in 2015. Aside from Kim Kardashian breaking the Internet, Twitter erupted with conversations surrounding gender equality, race, and international affairs, among a number of other important, valuable and socially constructive issues. Hashtags such as #HeForShe, #JeSuisCharlie, #BlackLivesMatter, and #BringBackOurGirls circulated like wildfire through the Internet and subsequently across the globe.

So does Twitter Activism actually work? It absolutely can. The #BringBackOurGirls hashtag is an example of a successful grassroots campaign that was launched by Nigerian activists. People like Michelle Obama showed their support by tweeting pictures of themselves holding up signs that featured the hashtag.

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The overwhelming support that the hashtag received on media platforms meant that government officials were forced to answer. Why does it work?

  1. Twitter provides the public with a platform to get their voice heard on a global scale and a hashtag is a symbol of support and recognition that rejects all cultural and linguistic barriers. In fact, the top countries with the number of Twitter users include places ranging from the US, to Germany to South Africa.
  2. Twitter also enhances the relationship between the public and politicians, making it easier for them to communicate. If legislators can see that there is widespread support or criticism over an issue then they are more likely to support it or repeal it.
  3. Twitter makes collective action easier. The Arab Spring was a huge anti-totalitarianism uprising that took place between 2010 and 2012 where social media played a huge role in facilitating and acceleration the revolution; Information was exchanged at an exceptionally high speed, a sense of community was created as the public realized that everyone was experiencing brutality and corruption, and citizens realized that they could do something about it.

Twitter activism (aka slacktivism) has received a lot of criticism by those who claim that it requires little time, little involvement and little commitment. It’s simply a way for people to feel good about themselves without actually having any real impact. But Twitter activism does have an impact, an impact that shouldn’t be understated. It has the potential to unite people from all over the globe, and get people engaged with important societal issues. For that reason, I say we should all join the Twitter revolution, and keep on hashtagging!


 

Chanun Singh

Chanun Singh is currently a student at The George Washington University where she is pursuing a degree in Media and Strategic Communications. She is particularly interested in issues of inequality and human rights, and is excited to use her studies and internship experience to further understand how communications and the media can be used to help worthwhile causes. Originally from England she has previous experience working with news and media organizations in The United Kingdom and India, and is excited to be in DC and part of the Veracity team!


Veracity Media Goes To SIS

June 15, 2015


On June 10th and 11th, the Veracity Media team attended the 2015 Social Innovation Summit. The two-day conference brought together hundreds of social innovation industry leaders, government representatives, and corporate giants from around the country.

Different stories were told about work being done in DC, and around the world, featuring low- and high-tech solutions to the world’s biggest (and sometimes microscopic) problems. We attended sessions covering topics from "next generation social impact" to "collaborate to grow the women and girls digital revolution."

In this blog, our team discusses what we learned in our time there, and the takeaways we picked up over the course of this amazing experience.

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Seth Maloney

The opportunity to attend this year’s Social Innovation Summit was a huge education in how philanthropy can be applied to business. The opportunity to hear real leaders and innovators discuss their projects, their results, and their aspirations for real world change enlightened my understanding, as well as my appreciation for the sheer scale of the projects being worked on. From an airline putting books in the hands of children to engineers learning and adapting their knowledge to fighting disease around the world (and the effectiveness of HeroRATS), the projects on display, together, show how people can work together to change the world.





Zachary Schaffer

I am so happy to have had the incredible opportunity to attend this conference and learn so many innovative and applicable ideas from such accomplished people. One lesson that particularly stuck with me is to identify and pursue a unified purpose in every action I take. To hear pragmatic (and motivational) stories of success by industry leaders such as Ron Shaich, CEO of Panera, and Nate Hurst, Global Director of Environmental and Living Progress for HP, was a unique experience. This conference supplied me not just with the inspiration to succeed, but with the information to do so too. Next year's conference can't come soon enough.




Naomi Rothwell

"I was moved by the young people who spoke -- from Jack Andraka, who invented a method of detecting pancreatic cancer armed with only an 8th grade biology education, to 18 year old Justin Bachman, who tackles tough questions about teen suicide. Justin encourages kids to embrace their differences through Honor Good Deeds. And last but not least, listening to one my heroes, Megan Smith, the chief technology officer of the United States, was pretty incredible."





Ryan Morgan

#SIS15 was the “Who’s who” of social entrepreneurship and change. The number of good ideas at this conference, combined with the know-how, funding, and willpower to get them done, will undoubtedly leverage tech to make the world a better place.





Chanun Singh

I’m so glad I got the opportunity to go to this conference and hear from some truly inspirational people. I was particularly fascinated by Bart Weetjens who trains rats in landmine and TB detection. It taught me that my previous preconceptions of rats were wrong, and they actually have the ability to save lives! I was also grateful for the diversity of speakers at the conference, with each one teaching me something new and important, ranging from the importance of choices, to the differences within all of us.






Aaron Straus Garcia

The Social Innovation Summit was an experience like no other. I’ve attended many conferences in my role at Veracity Media, but I truly enjoyed the diversity and focus on social impact at this one. It also helped that it took place in DC, right in our backyard! Seeing giants like Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman or White House CTO Megan Smith, both great leaders who I’ve been following for sometime, take to the stage and discuss the radical and rapid changes in scalable innovation as well as the work that’s ahead was both thought provoking and inspiring. However, my favorite moment was witnessing Veracity Media’s Zach Schaffer meet Jen Psaki from the State Department, someone who he has long admired.



 


Marne Pike

The Social Innovation Summit highlighted that whether connecting through music, technology, or shared emotions and experiences, people and organizations are uniting and working together in new ways to improve society. Hearing about organizations partnering up that I had previously thought of as having conflicting goals — like big business, and hyperlocal community-based-organizations — was eye-opening, and left me encouraged, and hopeful.




Lauren Baker

In a place like DC, where gridlock and alternatives seem to be the common atmosphere, it's easy to find yourself with a very pessimistic world view. Last week's Social Innovation Summit was such a breath of fresh air! Seeing corporate leaders come together to hear and invest in the great work nonprofits across the country-- it was truly inspiring.



 

The Wrap-Up

As you can see, the Social Innovation Summit was a unique opportunity to collaborate with our country's top thinkers and innovators. We certainly feel that these conversations were fruitful, and we are excited to bring back all that we learned and incorporate those ideas into our workflow.

As Howard Fineman said on the last day of the conference, "Let's do something positive for the world."

Related content:


Mobilegeddon Isn't What You Think It Is

May 21, 2015


One month ago, the collective digital marketing ecosystem lost its mind over something both very important, but very short-sighted.

Google’s scary Search Engine Optimization (SEO) changes, AKA “Mobilegeddon,” basically made websites that don’t have responsive design much harder to find in mobile search results.

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While this is an important change to be aware of, it’s not the literal end-times for your business or organization. Should you have a mobile-responsive website? Absolutely, if you want your content to stand out in the future. But are you going to have to completely rebuild your digital presence over one change in Google’s search algorithms? Probably not. This link will tell you if you have a mobile-responsive site.

Here’s the technical stuff:

  • Mobile-responsive design makes a website adaptable between different screens. Your laptop, tablet, and smartphone can all open the same website and, while the content remains the same, the structure of the site changes, prioritizing content vertically according to the size of the screen/type of device. This enables users to seamlessly use your site across screens. With half of all web traffic expected to be from mobile devices by the end of this year, it makes all the sense in the world to go this route.

  • SEO is a science that can get extraordinarily complicated, but mostly boils down to wanting to make sure that when people look for you on Google, Bing, or Yahoo, they can find you. (We blogged about this recently – check it out!)

  • Your mobile SEO efforts are going to be worthless without a mobile-friendly site, and you will lose traffic from it.

This is most relevant if you sell products, run a restaurant, or host live events where people need to be able to get involved at a moment’s notice. If your business model is dependent on people visiting your site from smartphones, well then it’s only obvious you would want a website that performs well on mobile.

Google is using its own SEO algorithm to “nudge” people into having more mobile-friendly sites. This isn’t just about forcing businesses to shell out money for new website design. It’s their way of showing that they take mobile-advertising more seriously than they ever have before.

By the end of 2015, mobile-web traffic could be over 50% of all traffic, which means Google wants more people clicking on high quality mobile ads. By enforcing a higher quality of websites in search results, they also increase chances for advertisers to get more competitive, which is lucrative for Google making this change good business sense for them.

Why weren’t we worried about it?

Google’s big change came long after Veracity Media had dedicated itself to making its websites mobile-responsive, so we weren’t at all concerned about any of our clients losing search traffic (or, you know, sleep) over this shift.

More and more, brands, businesses, nonprofits, and campaigns are all courting mobile visitors. People apply for jobs, research educational website, and access learning resources - all from their phones. Our own tools give event organizers the power to collect signatures on tablets and smartphones at events and fundraisers.

Our process recognizes this and ensures that even the smallest project is up the most recent standards.

What This All Means

We were ready for Mobilegeddon. We didn’t lose any sleep over Google’s SEO changes because we were prepared for it. Staying ahead of the curve, and knowing how these changes will impact what you do is important. It’s one of the benefits of working with a firm like ours.

If you’d like to learn more about our website design process, fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch.

Related content:

Is your website mobile-ready? Find out here.


Guest Blog: Getting Outcycling’s Digital Infrastructure Up to Speed

May 11, 2015


Veracity Media foreword: Sometimes an organization will come to us with a problem requiring a holistic solution. Outcycling’s executive director Graham Weinstein contacted us in 2013 looking to update the organization's website and online membership platform. What ensued from there was a multifaceted approach of updating the organization’s website, system for collecting online memberships, and overall digital marketing strategy.


OutCycling was established in 2009 as 501(c)(3) nonprofit sports entity with a mission to participate in, support and develop amateur athletes for sports events worldwide. Since then, we have grown to become one the nation’s most popular LGBT-friendly cycling organizations with more than 1,000 individual members, supporters and friends. Our motto is “Fun, Fitness, Friendship, for all.”

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One of our partners in this growth, since 2013, has been Veracity Media. Their strategic and tactical consulting and development expertise has positioned us to systematically integrate our communications, events calendar and social media campaigns on the NationBuilder platform. Specifically, we were pleased with their deep knowledge of how to customize various NationBuilder functions in order to accommodate our specific member tracking needs. Now, Outcycling members can submit rides to our calendar, those rides are viewable be regular users of our site, but one must be a member in order to RSVP.

Previously, we had an e-mail list and a Facebook page. We are now tracking more than 1,000 individuals across 4 distinct membership categories, each at a different payment level, as well as lapsed members and new prospects. Understanding and tracking relationships with different types of constituents, helps us to better target our communications, analyze the programs that are most popular and build stronger relationships across our community.

Our Twitter and Facebook profiles have attracted hundreds of new followers and engagements. More riders are consistently showing up to more events. And, we’re on track to double our membership revenue for 2015.

With a more engaged constituency we’re also experiencing more success in attracting institutional funding. Durex and Pfizer Corporation now each provide support at the $10,000 level and we have more than $30,000 in outstanding grant requests.

We’re looking forward to continuing our partnership with Veracity Media to realize even more functionality of the NationBuilder platform, including sub-nations, as we grow our cycling club in the months and years ahead.

Graham Weinstein
Executive Director
Outcycling


Mapping Your Movement

April 29, 2015


At Veracity Media, we’re just shy of quitting our day jobs and becoming cartographers.

That’s an exaggeration, but we do love maps. On your advocacy website, maps have the potential to connect your online supporters to your offline movement in a whole host of different ways. Maps can fit into your overall digital strategy by showing supporters where events are happening (and letting them host their own), showing the growth of your online support, or highlighting very specific programmatic objectives unique to your organization.

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First off, it’s now become essential to map all of your on-the-ground events online. For organizations and campaigns hosting lots of events such as house parties, canvasses, neighborhood clean-ups or any other scalable volunteer activity associated with your movement, mapping is critical. The idea of mapping hundreds of volunteer events online and letting supporters choose the ones closest to them was pioneered during the Obama campaign in 2008, and has been successfully replicated by dozens of campaigns and organizations since. Fortunately, online organizing tools such as NationBuilder now make it really easy to launch events on your website and map them. Giving supporters the ability to RSVP for events happening near them or host and publicize their own events, takes a tremendous amount of work off your organizer’s plate and frees up their time to find more, new supporters.

Recently, we’ve been piloting different uses for maps in online organizing. In 2014, while working with Greg Orman’s Senate campaign in Kansas, Veracity launched an interactive map charting the candidate’s bus tour route in real-time. By connecting the campaign’s Twitter account to NationBuilder, the map was able to update the location of the bus using the geo-tagging of the tweets from the campaign trail. When the candidate tweeted, the location was updated instantaneously, giving supporters (and reporters) a chance to literally follow the campaign.

Mapping CFCT's Promise Programs

Giving organizations and campaigns easier and easier ways to “map their movements” has been a priority for us. Another Veracity Media client, The Campaign For Free College Tuition (CFCT), features a map of free college tuition “Promise Programs” on its homepage. Tracking the growth of these programs nationwide is critical to CFCT’s mission, and keeping the map easy to update was key. This map (pictured above) is dynamically linked to a Google Docs spreadsheet that allows staff to easily update various elements of the program listings in real-time.

A similar dynamically generated map by Veracity Media is helping the Responsible Endowments Coalition track divestment campaigns around the country. This map even includes social media and contact links for each campaign.

Mapping a movement

Finally, maps give your supporters the ability to stand up and be counted in a very meaningful way. We’ve been developing a custom endorsement map that allows anyone online to endorse a particular initiative and show where they hail from on a map, directly on the page or elsewhere on the website. Taking this concept a step further, Veracity Media’s Ryan Morgan, during the recent #IronNB competition in D.C., unveiled an endorsement map that displays supporters who signed a petition or endorsed via text message. This map, is featured below as seen on the mock Frank Underwood for President site developed for the purposes of the competition.

Frank Underwood for President

Today, advocacy movements are competing more and more online for the attention of weary supporters who are being bombarded by asks from every direction. It’s important your campaign maintain an edge and show real life growth, to prove to potential supporters that their, clicks, dollars and volunteer hours will be worth it and are contributing to a movement that’s going to make a real difference. If you think that edge can be our custom mapping tools, get in touch, we’d love to develop a unique and highly functional map for your organization.


We Need To Talk About Your SEO

April 15, 2015


Every website has it. Everyone says it’s important. But is your website really appearing on the first page of Google’s search results?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a science that people have been measuring for years. When people put search terms into (for example) Google, they expect the most relevant search results to be at the top of the page.

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The Google Search

Not long ago, a Google search would give you 10 links and maybe a few ads. Nowadays, many searches drag in snippets, auto-generated definitions, suggested images, news results, Wikipedia entries for prominent people, advertisements, and (finally) the actual Google search results.

Check out the Google search results for Joe Biden. A lot of the real estate is occupied by things that aren’t traditional search results.

Some also say that image descriptions have an impact on SEO with keywords and such, but we aren't that worried about ranking all that high on Joe Biden's SEO.

Start with your website

Let’s say you have a stable website with content that gets updated at least somewhat regularly, with new content being posted at least a couple times a month. The first thing to do is deploy optimized meta tags so Google is actually able to read what you’re posting. Meta tags are what drive the headline and description in a Google search result, and feed websites like Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc… the pieces of information that can impact the quality of your content that gets posted online.

Google has a general interest in making sure people find what they are looking for, so they make it very simple for developers and webmasters to find the right tags on their sites.

Non-developers have it easier than ever in this regard, too, as most content management systems (ie, Wordpress, NationBuilder) make it incredibly easy to get the right meta information to appear when new pages are posted.

Unfortunately, most people stop here. The science of SEO is more complex than any single blog post, but we can cover the basics.

Keywords

While content creation is useful for keeping your company’s brand fresh and relevant, content should also have the dual-purpose of benefiting your SEO. The keywords that appear most prominently on your website will have an impact on search results--but keep in mind that you can’t control what people search on Google, therefore your content should be geared towards searches when possible.

For example: If we at Veracity Media never used the term “Veracity Media” on the website, then we would never rank at the top of Google search results for the keyword “Veracity Media.”

(Sure, that’s an oversimplification - we have thousands of backlinks backing us up, but for the sake of argument let’s say we didn’t…)

This is why it’s important to keep keywords in mind. At Veracity Media, we do a lot of work around digital strategy, so it’s important for us to follow what search queries actually bring up our website in Google.

Google Webmaster Tools is an amazing tool for solving this problem, and ties directly into Google Analytics. It can display the search queries that bring up your website, the number of impressions your website received in search results, and of course the number of clicks.

The right keywords can drive traffic to your page, but don’t think that because you write “digital consulting” everywhere that it’s going to make you competitive right off the bat. It takes time, patience, and the willingness to tinker and optimize your content.

Link Building

Simply put, link building is complicated and tedious. A strong SEO plan may take months to execute properly. (Actually, it’s 6 months according to Moz).

Hyperlinks tie the internet together. When you link content from someone else’s website (ie, the Moz link above), it marginally improves their search rankings. Accordingly, when other websites link yours, your own rankings improve marginally. According to AHREFS, VeracityMedia.com has nearly 5,000 backlinks (which isn’t too shabby for a site our age).

This means that there are nearly 5,000 webpages (in our case, spread across 70 unique domains) that have a link to our website.

This is great. It’s an absolute goal to build these kinds of figures. However, we have an edge since we often get a chance to put our company’s logo and link into website footers. For other folks out there, there are plenty of ways to build links.

  • Guest blogging 
  • Staying active on social media 
  • Posting in comment sections of blogs & articles (keep it poignant – don’t contribute to spam!) 
  • Getting (hopefully positive) reviews and press mentions 
  • Linking out to other people and websites 
  • Interlinking within your own website 
  • Building relationships with other content creators 
  • Simply speaking, asking for your link to be posted elsewhere

Obviously, building a relationship takes time, and asking for your content to be posted elsewhere is going to take a level of commitment to pay it forward. Also, unless you are involved in a high-profile election, or have incredible brand awareness like McDonalds and Coca-Cola, there is a high likelihood that you are going to need to take on several of these tactics simultaneously. Linking outward and interlinking your own content isn’t difficult. Getting outside attention is, but it pays off.

Finally, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to search engine optimization. We at Veracity Media do our best to take a digital-first strategy to make sure our clients can grow both on- and offline, making SEO an integral part of our work. It can be, in many ways, seen as a behind the scenes PR campaign that pays off in dominating search results.

Like what you’re seeing and want to learn more? Use the form below to get in touch, and one of Veracity Media’s digital strategy experts will be in touch!


Women Lead in NYC

March 30, 2015


In the United States, women are 51% of the population - shouldn’t they hold 51% of the power?

At Veracity, we think electing women to public office is more than an issue of equality. Electing women is about the diversity of ideas and experience that make up a strong and responsive representative government. Too often, unfortunately, women don't see themselves running for office. We believe in our responsibility, and ability to inspire a new generation of leadership, and use our digital-first strategy to help aspiring leaders navigate their own path to leadership.

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We have helped strong women tell their stories and change the narrative of the public sphere, from Sandra Fluke, to Zephyr Teachout to Malala Yousafzai. That's why we've partnered with organizations like Vote Run Lead and She Should Run to host events and trainings with notable women to begin building the new bench of talent from the ground up.

On Thursday March 26th, we teamed up with Vote Run Lead and the co-working space founded by the Personal Democracy Forum team, Civic Hall, to bring together women who have run for office, are in office, are leaders of the political arena, or aspire to be so. It was an action-packed, informative, and motivating evening of networking and accelerating participants on their road to political leadership. And it turns out, promoting gender equality in our political discourse pulls in quite the crowd (as it should)!

We were joined by Former Governor of Massachusetts Jane Swift (@janemswift), New York State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (@nily), New York City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal (@HelenRosenthal), Founder & President of The Accountability Project, political pundit and former Congressional candidate in Arizona Nomiki Konst (@NomikiKonst), Lower East Side District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar (@JeniferRajkumar), and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (@galembrewer).

Valuable lessons were learned from the exceptional speakers’ first hand stories. All too often, women simply don't see themselves running for office, but our panelists were certainly exceptions to this unfortunate trend. They cut across the grain, didn’t dilly-dally, stepped up, and ran. Jane Swift, former Governor of Massachusetts, ran for State Senate (and won) at 25, and State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic made the leap from staffer to elected official at only 27. We also got the chance to hear the inside scoop about District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar’s race, not only at the age of 28, but against a 28 year incumbent.

One of Veracity’s priorities is using digital-first strategies to break down barriers to running for office, from managing and navigating massive voter files to breaking social constructs and reaching a broader audience with a specific message. #WomenLead 2.0 brought together panelists that have been navigating these obstacles, and paving the road for a new generation of women leadership. We hope that by bringing together like-minded, civically engaged, empowered women, the strength exuded by the panelists is shared and spread among the crowd.

It is this kind of proactivity and innovation that Veracity Media works to bolster and inspire in a civic space that’s in need of a new generation of leaders. With future #WomenLead events, we hope to continue to empower women to run for public office, and give them access to the experts and tools that can help them en route.

Thanks to all those who came out and helped make the evening a great success. We were honored to be a part of this incredible evening of women in politics and power, and encouraged to see such a great turnout for gender equality in our political discourse. Public leadership is a journey, and often a challenging one, but we are dedicated to helping women succeed at every step and bringing their new, fresh outlooks into the political and civic arena.

Shoutout to our Co-Sponsors! Republican Majority for Choice, Women's Information Network NYC (WIN_NYC), She Should Run, Emerge America, Rising Stars, Roosevelt Campus Network, Greater NYC for Change, Manhattan Young Democrats and the New American Leaders Project.


Building Online Communities

March 27, 2015


Imagine if every single time you had an idea, an opinion or a noteworthy story to tell you had a stadium full of people who were there to listen. What if you could mobilize the people in that stadium around your idea? Megaphone voice says: “Everyone pull out your phone and call your Member of Congress!” or, “Everyone go out and recruit five friends!”

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To have hundreds of people spread your message.You can’t buy that kind of person-to-person advocacy, you have to build it.

The goal behind building an online community, in very broad strokes, is to grow an audience and engage it for a purpose or cause.

Online communities have had a big impact on politics and advocacy, dating back to the years immediately proceeding Howard Dean’s short-lived but impressive, people- and Internet-powered presidential run in 2003 and 2004. Since then, activists and technologists have been fascinated with this notion of building and mobilizing grassroots web communities for change. This fascination crystallized during the 2008 Obama campaign, where we saw the first example of a powerful online community rise up and shape the course of a nation.

Today, web communities are creating change in a host of different ways. These digital-first communities have altered our entire approach to democracy- from small groups of citizens banning together on local forums to pass laws that improve their cities and towns, to large, highly directed efforts by coalitions of organizations to drive action on national issues.

So the question becomes, what kind of an online community do you need to build to pursue your goals? The following are some basic guidelines designed to help you develop an online community around your cause:

 

Know your supporters

All of the different considerations, like demographics and interests, that go into a traditional media campaign also go into designing an online community. You are the expert on your issue or cause. You need to understand what type of people are most likely to get behind your mission and build an online campaign that caters to them.

Trying to reach influencers in politics and media? Maybe your campaign is more Twitter centric. Or maybe you really need buy-in from a women in their 30s and 40s, in which case you’d probably do better on Facebook.

Organizations building online communities should never limit themselves to one platform or one medium- but, knowing where your community typically “lives” online can make a huge difference in finding engaged supporters.

Similarly, you need to develop your content and messages with your audience in mind. Content is the fuel that feeds your digital fire; without it, there can be no community. Blog posts, videos, images, links, and commentary on relevant happenings focus eyes and attention on you and your mission. Some of those eyes will come back, comment, and get involved. Who were those people? What did they look like?

Forming online communities requires lots of cyclical activity. You design content based on who you think your audience is, and then you observe who actually engages with your campaign to develop more content based on what you’ve learned. The seats in the stadium fill up slowly, so you have time to decide how you will fill the remaining seats as you go.

 

Set some milestones you can rally the troops around and stick to them

Now that you’ve identified the prospective members of your community , you need a game plan. Your plan can and should involve communication to your audiences across multiple platforms and channels. While these kinds of tactical decisions can take many shapes, one thing you should be sure to incorporate is one or several seminal events or actions to organize your community around - here, we’re calling them milestone events.

Look at some of the most successful, recent online movements: Obama for America, Occupy Wall St., activism against SOPA/PIPA, the 2014 Climate March, all of these have one important thing in common: actions and events that people can organize and focus around.

When designing your online community to support your cause or idea, pull out a calendar and ask yourself what are some big happenings you can commit to and work backwards from. People need tangible milestones to realize what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. referred to as “the fierce urgency of now.”

Once you have laid out your big milestone events, it’s time to take to the digital space and begin to engage your community. Create blogs posts, calendar invites, social media graphics and landing pages. Email everyone you know, and then email them again. Tweet at people. Pick up the phone if you have to. Ask that organization you are friendly with, you know, the one with the big Facebook fan page, to share your blog post.

Rinse and repeat. Again, online organizing is based on cyclical activity. Be an observer of your own trends. Find the messages that worked and the audiences that reacted well to them. Look for the people who went above and beyond to spread your content and milestones among their own networks.

 

Set measurable goals and temper your expectations

Getting people to sign up for an email campaign, like a Facebook page, or follow a new Twitter account is hard. Getting them to really listen is even harder. Getting them to engage? The hardest.

To really foster a community online, you have to have something really exciting to offer; be bold, unique and amazing and you will succeed. Sadly, this will not always be enough - sometimes that spark can be elusive, even when your cause is important.

Depending on what the overarching goals and objectives of your campaign are, as well as the uniqueness of your message and content, your expectations for growth should be adjusted accordingly.

For tracking, hard numbers like email list size, number of fans/followers on social, website traffic, are all important but they are relative to the scope and scale of your overall goals. These numbers need to be measured side by side with engagement; if people aren’t engaging and spreading the word to others the numbers of likes and followers are meaningless. Make sure your goals and reporting is setup to tell the real story.

 

Build, scale, cultivate

So you already know who your people are and what types of messages you’re going to reach them with. You’ve already set up some milestone events that you’re building towards and organizing around. You have a plan in place to measure your progress. You are ready. Go forth, start a conversation; engage.

This is where things vary greatly case by case.

If you are starting from zero, you are probably launching a new website, setting up social media accounts, and cleaning up an old email list to blast. This is nothing but the shell of an online community; it’s the stadium waiting to be filled.

If this isn’t your first rodeo, then maybe you have an audience to work with, but that doesn’t mean it’s a community yet.

To build your community you have to take your engaged audience and ask them to do more than they are already doing. Ask them to take real, meaningful actions, like donating to your campaign or filling out a survey that you can actually learn something from.

Breakdown your next milestone event into actionable asks for your supporters. Are can the spread the word about the event on social media? Can they ask their friends to RSVP? Does the event require volunteers?

Next, make sure you are creating opportunities for members of your community to interact horizontally as well as vertically. Is there a Facebook group you can start and seed with some conversations? Are there task forces you can create to get you most engaged members working together?

You will recognize community when you see it. Once you do, remember to keep things cyclical; that doesn’t mean don’t try new things, but you should certainly take stock of what has worked and replicate. Measure your progress in incremental ways. Be sure to empower leaders within to continue to scale your collective.

Most importantly, always treat your community with respect, honesty and openness. Work hard and witness the change you seek become a reality.

Interested in hearing more about how Veracity Media can improve your organization’s reach? Fill out the form below, and one of our digital strategists will be in touch!


Why doesn’t your nonprofit have a Google Grant?

March 17, 2015


One of the most challenging budget decisions that many nonprofits we work with have to make is whether it’s worth investing in paid digital advertising. The return on investment with nonprofits can be difficult to quantify. Is your goal to build your organization’s audience? Are you simply trying to get more website clicks, or are you trying to get more donations? We’ve talked about the importance of setting goals in digital content creation, and it’s no difference in advertising.

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What can a Google grant do for your 501(c)3? It’s simple. When you get a Google Grant, you land $10,000 in free digital ads per month. That’s $330/day, and potentially hundreds of daily clicks to your website that you never saw beforehand.

There is, of course, a semi-complicated process to apply for a Google Grant;something Veracity can help navigate. Google requires your organization to have a working website, to be on Google Apps, to have an employer identification number (EIN - you can find these in the IRS’ database), and to fit in with Google’s non-discrimination policies.

Veracity Media has real, firsthand experience getting Google Grants for our clients. We know the process, we know Google, and we know how to make it work for your organization.

 

Once Accepted

Remember when you were a kid, with a bunch of friends, and running into a brand new playground? Yeah, it’s a little bit like that.

Google asks you to get your first campaign running within the first month, which requires only a few basic setup steps: writing an ad, adding some keywords, and boom! You’re good to go.

After that, the world is your oyster. You can run as many campaigns as you find necessary to run, and by segmenting and testing your ads, you can scale up in a huge way. One of our biggest recommendations is to first draft several ads that fit with the messaging of your organization. Always thinking on your feet to come up with new ad ideas is a pain. Pre-writing ad copy can save you a ton of time down the road, and hopefully take off some of that stress of being reactionary.

 

How To Utilize The Grant

One piece of wisdom is to realize that it no matter how great of a copywriter you might be, your first ads are probably going to need to be replaced over time. The idea with Google’s Adwords is to have two ads be split-tested against each other for some period of time (if you have a high budget: 1 week, and if you have a low budget: 2 weeks). Then, pause whichever ad is lagging in performance, and write a new one. It might be extremely similar. Maybe you simply replaced a few words with synonyms, or With Every Word Capitalized, but it needs to be a new ad. A perfectly honed ad campaign will ultimately have a perfect split in impressions, clicks, and engagement, but don’t expect this right off the bat--that typically takes a long time to accomplish.

The account structure of an Adwords campaign looks like this:

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Every Adwords account can have as many campaigns as needed.

 

The Nonprofit Bump

In our post about [starting a nonprofit], we talk about considering your mission and being topical. Everything in the Google Grant has to be about your organization, and has to be something that people are going to click on to be successful. Otherwise, you’ll lose clicks, ad shares, and the overall quality of the ads start to decline significantly.

A Google Grant can help grow your organization’s digital footprint in a number of ways. Here are several types of landing pages that you could serve ads to:

  • Donation pages
  • Email signup pages
  • Petitions
  • “Like us on Facebook/Twitter” pages
  • Latest blog posts
  • Latest actions
  • Latest videos
  • Subscriptions for classes

The list goes on and on. If your website is new, or you don’t have the capacity to build these pages, your homepage can be the home for your ads.

Veracity Media can help you create a digital-first strategy to building your nonprofit. A Google Grant is a powerful tool to help, and we know how to help you get and implement them.

Questions? Fill out the form below, and an organizer will be in touch soon!


So You Want To Start A Nonprofit

March 02, 2015


Starting your own nonprofit is a huge task. It’s daunting, frustrating, and it’s going to feel like you’re going against the world. Veracity Media’s been working with nonprofits since we started, and while we would never say, “We’ve seen it all,” we have seen our fair share of ups, downs, what works, and what’s fallen flat.

Every organization is different - there is no one-size-fits-all strategy - but we think there’s a lot to be gleaned from our experience, and we want to share it with you.

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1. Build Coalitions

The fastest way to get your name out there is learning about other organizations in your space and reaching out to them. Offer to promote other organizations’ content and activities, and offer them some content of your own to promote, too. Join events where other groups are already on board. Push to get involved in different events, and speak on panels. Getting recognized can be a group effort.

That said, keep track of these groups. Build a "rolodex," or a spreadsheet of other organizations and note whether they support your mission, their point person, and contact information. When you have an event, reach out to these people, and be open to them reaching out to you. You should feel like you’re building, or entering into, a community of like-minded organizers when you grow your coalition.

Coalition building is essential not only to learn about what others in your field are doing, but in working together towards a common goal. There is strength in numbers, and learning from others while combining forces and resources where it makes sense will push your organization on to the map and build credibility. Work to see similar organizations as allies and build support together instead of competitors fighting for the same supporters and grants. This will be mutually beneficial and is an important quality that can lead to success.

2. Do a few things, and do them well

When you’re just getting started, you might have a million ideas and zero outlets to push them on. That’s okay - we all learn to “think big, and play small” at some point or another. It’s only natural to have to focus and find what you’re good at, and to get even better at it. Fine-tuning your goals will allow you to be a leader on a given issue, put on better events, and push for a stronger presence in the area you’re working in.

3. Enlist dedicated volunteers

While you build your network, start to push your agenda, and do the work of a nonprofit, you’ll find yourself needing another set of hands sometimes. When you start building relationships, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Can someone make 100 color copies of a flyer? Maybe they can help plan and carry out an event. Can you ask a supporter to reach out to their friends and family? Does your growing circle include caterers? Designers? Or even just people who hand out flyers on the street?

Getting more people onboard at the volunteer level will help shape the future of your organization, from the bottom to the very top. If you’re going to build a board (especially if you’re building a dedicated 501(c)(3)) you’re going to need real people who can help you make strategic decisions, vote on issues, and take on greater fundraising responsibilities. The joys and struggles of having a board is its own challenge, and not an altogether bad challenge to have to take on.

Being able to identify your most dedicated and hard working volunteers, and being able to segment your email list by your strongest supporters, will exponentially increase your capacity to do great work.

4. Consider your mission

Your organization may start off with an original mission, but often times that mission will grow and change as you work. An ongoing obstacle for any organization is being able to tackle mission creep, or the expansion of your goals beyond their initial successes. This can be its own challenge when you have to balance the needs of your organization with its mission and the demands of the people or organizations that give you funding. It can be a major challenge to keep your focus on what you set out to do, but if you succeed this is a win for your organization.

Do your best to remember your mission, and stick to it!

5. Be topical

That said, if something not entirely relevant to your mission happens in the media, be prepared to respond. Take a stand, and act to pivot the conversation in your direction. Events unfold all the time, and are rarely going to be the absolute perfect issue for you to speak to. Therefore, strive to shape the conversation, both online and with traditional communication channels!

6. FUNDRAISING

This can be a whole new blog, but unless you’re starting with an existing revenue stream, you’ll need to make a central focus from the beginning. You’re probably going to be asking your board, your friends, your family, your friends’ families, and their dogs for money. Structuring and delegating the duties of fundraising will make life easier. Create host committees for fundraising events and goals. Build a base of recurring donors for your calls and personal asks. Add a fundraising link to every email you send (even if you aren’t sending a fundraising email). Monitor where on the “ladder of engagement” your supporters are, and find the openings you need to finally make an ask of financial support to them.

Remember the organization and coalition building you’ve been doing? Study their fundraising methods. Don’t ask all your supporters to max out their credit cards for you. Ask for smaller sums from more people, and thank your small donors for their support. Apply for grants, do research, ask for sponsorships - there are a million ways to keep fundraising afloat.

7. Love What You Do

This might be the most important piece of the puzzle, even if it isn’t really about day-to-day operations or your mission. There’s an incredibly important question to ask yourself, and that’s, “Do I love this? All things considered, is this something I’m willing to do for free?”

Over time, you’ll have built a community of people willing to work for free and volunteer their time, so it’s incredibly important that you are willing to put in the same enthusiasm to make it worth it for them, too. This also means knowing when to scrap a project, cancel an event, and throw in the towel if things aren’t working. When you find joy in your mission and your events, so will everyone else on your team.

8. Don’t reinvent the wheel

You’ve looked at the landscape in front of you, you’ve built a coalition, and have started building a movement around it. Excellent- but have you checked to see if someone has already created something similar?

There are a lot of people out there with great ideas. Sometimes when you’re passionate about your cause you want to own it completely and do it your way. But when thinking about starting your own nonprofit, it’s worth making sure there isn’t a structure already in place that you could team up with. If you check this and then decide to go your own way, make sure you understand why your nonprofit is unique. Be sure to serve a different audience and recognize what separates it from the other orgs and coalitions that exist.

There’s a lot of value to new ideas, but don’t forget the value that can be found by teaming up with someone equally awesome - sometimes the mix of ideas or perspectives can create one stronger organization, rather than two weaker ones.

Conclusion

Starting and building a nonprofit is one of the most exciting things you'll ever do. Just remember: Keep these tips in mind at the beginning of the process to help you throughout the entire journey.

For more resources, check out Grantcraft: http://www.grantcraft.org/ and the Nonprofit Resource Center: http://www.nprcenter.org/ And don't be afraid to ask others in your field to sit down with you for coffee to ask them about their experiences. Last but not least, Veracity Media excels at strategic organizing with a focus on digital - the direct line of communication to your supporters.

Our work with nonprofits has been both exciting and demanding. We’ve navigated these waters and understand these challenges. If you’re interested in how we bring a digital-first strategy to life, use the form below to get in touch!


Let Veracity help you engage, activate, inform, and inspire your community.

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