That was the speech topic I presented in 2008. Blogging was an enigma then. It was seen as an open-ended stream of consciousness for the non–techie, an opportunity for everyone to share and share-a-like, a “free-for- all” for those that have never had a voice!
Webster’s definition of a “blog” was “a diary – a personal chronological log of thoughts published on a webpage”.
Wikipedia further explained that a “blog” (a “contraction of the words ‘Web’ and ‘log’) contained discrete entries (posts), was authored by one person and focused on a single subject.”
Is this still true today? Some! Newspapers, businesses, nonprofits, politicians, movie stars, think tanks, universities, and other interest groups – you name it – have blogs. (The world still likes to share – remind you of social media?). Many are multi-author blogs (MABs), interactive, encourage comments, and are integrated, especially into an organization’s website. In addition to the use of text, strong visuals and pithy headlines, blogs can engage audiences while Twitter and other social media channels integrate blogging into our consciousness.
The question now is not “if” we should blog, but “how” we might create high-readership and engage our community.
First and foremost, be clear on the goals of your blog. As Marlene Oliveira, founder of Nonprofit MarCommunity asserts:
“The most important first step is really trying to understand those you are trying to reach and their needs – from there, the communications simply flow.”
In other words ask “who is your blog for?”
For example, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, “target(s) a general consumer audience.” According to Michael Buller, Director of Editorial and Creative Services at the Institute, “instead of just ‘publishing things’, we’re trying to find topics that resonate with people even if they don’t have cancer.”
Put yourself into your audience’s shoes! Ask “what matters to them?” There are tons of ways to be creative and have fun with the writing. Frankly, nothing “fancy” is required and when the writing is too complicated, too long and too much like a college essay, the post seems boring. Cater to the different interests of your constituents that you track in your Social CRM.
Hit a target! I know we all have so much to share but narrow your topics to what truly matters to the readers. In this way you’ll keep their attention.
A specific focus also allows you to become a recognized expert. That’ s not to say that you can’t add some glitz, off-the-wall interesting facts and/or inject your personality into the posts. Yes, please do.
Vary the types of posts. This is the exciting part and I’d suggest creating a quarterly editorial calendar that incorporates different types of posts from multiple contributors. Here’s a great list of nonprofit blog post ideas from Marlene Oliveira.
In your editorial calendar include:
- Number of posts per week.
- Time of day for posting.
- Contributors (regular and guest).
- List of content type.
- Monthly themes that tie-in to your main messaging and brand.
Although relevant material will engage your constituents, how can you increase blog readership and reputation?
Create long-term partnerships with other bloggers. Participate and leave genuine comments. It’s easier to forge a relationship when you help others succeed.
Explore the possibility of sharing your own content as a guest blog on another site, with links back to your blog and website.
Post your content on social media. And since it might come across as self-centered to promote your own material all the time, ask others to post too –another benefit of partnerships.
Link posts to your eNewsletter and send a monthly summary email of recent blogs. If you’ve created interesting content, supporters will appreciate staying informed about what your organization is talking about.
How do you know if your blog is making an impact?
Track the number of views, conversations on social media, the popularity of particular posts and referrals from other sites. Using Google Analytics it’s easy to tell if a post “bombed” or generated interest.
Keep in mind that it’s a jungle out there. According to Wikipedia, “On 13 October 2012, there were around 77 million Tumblr and 56.6 million WordPress blogs in existence worldwide.” Thankfully you don’t have to read them all!
Beth Kantor has created the “Lists of Lists of Lists of Nonprofit Blogs”, an awesome place to start learning what sites are effective.
Author’s Note: Staying in touch with your donors is so important. Thanks to an array of digital tools it’s possible to “push out” your message (via email and eNewsletters, for example) and concurrently cultivate two-way communication. Over the next month my posts will focus on how blogging and social media can facilitate genuine engagement based on the interests and motivations of your supporters.
Amy S. Quinn is a published author and freelance writer focused on innovation in the non-profit sector. For more resources, please see her blog.
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