091.5: Things we Learned from #18NTC

Bonus episode! George and Olivia talk through some of the highlights from #18NTC, the 2018 Nonprofit Technology Conference, including the state of play for Facebook, what we can look forward to with GDPR, and how we can apply lessons from a digital newsroom for nonprofit communications. We may have also had a few sazeracs.

When the 2018 Nonprofit Technology Conference (or #18NTC if you’re following on the socials) kicks off on the same day as Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional hearing, you can bet that a lot of panels regarding digital strategy were frantically changing their decks based on the breaking news. You can also bet that a lot of attendees (and speakers) had lingering questions: How will API changes affect analytics? Should nonprofits still be on Facebook? What’s next for Facebook? What would have happened if the Winklevoss Twins didn’t time travel to somewhere in Northern Italy in 1983 and had been the ones to lead Facebook?
Okay, that last question may have just been me after two Sazeracs… But the others were asked. Often. With varying answers.
5 takeaways from #18NTC — in case you're already counting down for #19NTC… @NTENorg Share on X
Beyond social media, there were plenty of other topics to cover on the new digital frontiers (including A/B Testing, which our own Ann Nguyen spoke on alongside our friends at Wikimedia Foundation). Here are 5 of our content-driven takeaways from #18NTC.

1. The platforms you AREN’T on are as important as the ones you ARE on

In #18NTCSmallSocial, GLSEN’s Digital Engagement Manager, Curtis Lahaie, and Interfaith Family’s VP of Strategy and Content, Liz Polay-Wettengel, discussed how small organizations can leverage big ideas with little resources on social media.
Anyone who has woken up with their alarm at 7am, checked Instagram, and 5 minutes later realized it’s 8:05 knows that social media can eat up our most precious resource: Time. One way to counter this, argued Lahaie and Polay-Wettengel, is by resisting the pressure to be everywhere at once at the same time. Rather than asking yourself what social platforms your organization is on, ask yourself: What platforms are you NOT on — and why? Knowing your audience, knowing your content, and knowing what works will help you make a more intentional decision towards streamlining your social presence to let 20% of your efforts drive 80% of the results.
When it comes to social, the platforms you aren't on are as important as the ones you are on. And other takeaways from #18NTC… Share on X
Some more questions worth asking yourself about your social strategy include:

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • How will you measure your success?
  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • Where will you reach them? How often?
  • What medium will you use? Text, photo, video?
  • What story will you tell? How will you convince them?
  • How will you integrate your communications?

2. Speaking of social, Facebook is (most likely) not going anywhere soon…

What nonprofit consultant Julia Campbell sees at present for nonprofits and Facebook is that there are several advantages for nonprofits because of Facebook’s recent drop in trust. Not only does Facebook Payments make for a seamless donation process on the platform, Facebook is currently sending push notifications around your friend’s fundraisers and donation activities — and will send you one if you begin to donate but abandon the action before completing. Plus, ever since Giving Tuesday 2017, nonprofits pocket 100% of all donations. Yes, this is all most likely a bid to shift consumer perception toward remarketing Facebook as a platform of communicating around meaningful interactions and contributing to causes people care about amid a torrent of bad press.
Does that mean these are long-term solutions or practices? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ But in the meantime, take a cue from NOLA and laissez les bon temps rouler.

3. You have users, but do you have user personas?

“Everyone” is not an option for your target audience. Making deliberate decisions around who you want to appeal to is a must for your digital strategy — moreover, you not only need to know why they’re relevant to you, but why you’re relevant to them. Know how your outreach will be relevant and accessible to your target audience.
“Everyone” is not an option for your target audience. And other things we learned at #18NTC… @NTENorg Share on X
With the sophistication of Facebook advertising (allowing us to now drill down to users who are, say, recently single or who moved to a new state and target people by pages they are statistically more likely to like if they like your page — everything from TV shows to lifestyle blogs can come up on this list), we can also approach our marketing with more solid user personas. These help to humanize your donors, volunteers, supporters, and beneficiaries, while also forcing you to get specific with who you’re targeting, determine whether your targeting of a certain audience aligns with your mission and vision, and allow you to see your organization from a user’s perspective.
Via #18NTCMoneyMoves, there are several buckets to keep in mind when building user personas. These are also the motivators for why people join and engage within a community. As strategic designer Manolia Charlotin also noted in this session, “A great brand that has a great mission can mobilize members of their community.”

  • Identity: Who they are/want to be
  • Connection: Which group of people they belong to
  • Perspectives: What worldview or set of beliefs they hold
  • Information: Where/how they find out what they should know
  • Action: What compels them to do something

Next time you have a conversation to find out what your audience wants, don’t have it among your staff. Have it in your community. (And then, spend the most money on someone once they have already committed to your organization.)

4. Know what you’re talking about when you’re talking about social listening

The long-term effects of Facebook’s newest API changes are uncertain — for Facebook, as well as for other social media platforms as they fall in line (including Facebook-owned Instagram). That said, there are still a number of ways you can “listen” to what your audiences are talking about on social media, few of which are any creepier than reading comments, reviews, or Reddit pages.
In #18NTCListening, the tools available to us in-platform as well as using premium tools like Crimson Hexagon and Digimind were examined in case-study format and with the code of ethics in mind (Rule No. 1: Don’t be a creep). With whatever tool you end up using, there are 4 larger ways of putting social listening to work for you:

    • Topic Analysis: Understanding the topic before diving in. Great tools for this include Google Trends and Wordclouds. You can then drill down your research by sorting content into verticals, and then comparing the conversations against demographics, especially for your target audiences.
    • Volume Analysis: When you want to answer questions like, “Do people in X know enough about Y for us to go to market with a successful action?” This furthers your topic analysis to understand the volume of the conversation. Perhaps there were 100,000 posts around a given topic, but was that just one flash-in-the-pan viral post? Or indicative of high post volume over time?
    • Audience Analysis: We’ve covered the “what” in topic analysis and the “how much” in volume analysis. Let’s look at the “who” in audience analysis: Who is having the highest volume of conversation around your topic? And how does your topic vary from demographic to demographic? Is there a positive, negative, or neutral sentiment around these conversations?
    • Image Recognition: As Cassandra Koenen noted in #18NTCListening, a picture is worth 1,000 hashtags. When World Animal Protection decided to counteract the 300% increase in potentially harmful #AnimalSelfies on social media, they began by measuring the impact of photos with related hashtags on social media — especially those with celebrity-level reaches. Approaching Instagram with this research, they were able to partner with the platform in cracking down on searches by these hashtags.


5. Think like a newsroom if you’re building a nonprofit digital team

In one of the final panels of the conference, Jason Tomassini of Atlantic Media discussed how the storied magazine’s consulting and creative arm (Atlantic 57) approached a consultancy with PBS to help their web team clear two hurdles: Build clicks, likes, and shares and — and this is the higher hurdle — consider how such engagement leads to impact.
The takeaway from this, in line with Atlantic 57’s overall strategy, is to think of your content as “mission work” rather than “building digital cathedrals.” What does this mean if you’re not (like me) a divinity student in your spare time? Rather than an overhaul of your homepage or owned channels, discover and follow the social habits of your core audience. Rather than directing traffic to owned channels, ride the social waves that you or others create. And rather than creating high-quality content with broad appeal, design specific content aimed at usefulness and sharing.
Newsrooms and nonprofits align on a number of fronts, especially in understanding audiences, informing citizens, building trust, and curating content. From there, Tomassini suggests, nonprofits can also adapt a modern media team model: 20% of time and resources are put towards planning, 30% towards creation, 30% towards distribution, and 20% towards resurfacing. The big increases here: Distribution and resurfacing. Reuse your content (and put a little less time into planning and creating it) for maximum value.
What were your big takeaways from #18NTC? Share them with us at @WholeWhale!