Successful Online Communications Means Thinking Like a Person, Not a Business

online communicationA successful nonprofit organization in today’s competitive economy must conduct itself in a very businesslike manner if it is to meet its mission, balance their budget, and stay solvent. However, Amy Sample Ward co-author of Social Change Anytime Everywhere, suggests that in order to succeed in the increasingly high tech nonprofit/voluntary sector, organizations need to adopt an online multi-channel strategy (i.e. email, website and social media) for their advocacy, fundraising, and community building.

In a blog post on the Stanford Social Innovation Review website, Sample Ward suggests that in order to effectively use this multi-channel strategy, organizations must act like people rather than businesses. This involves an understanding that those you are attempting to engage online via social media, email or your website are making decisions quickly. People are interacting with your nonprofit in small intervals, seconds not minutes, so that needs to be taken into account when devising your online multi-channel strategy.

People are busy and they move quickly when consuming information online. You don’t have much time to make an impression or sell your vision to those you are attempting to engage. This means your message, image, infographic, video, survey, newsletter, website or email needs to be appealing and easily digestible to those you are attempting to reach.

For instance, Person-X (let’s call her Mary) checks her Facebook and sees that her friend has posted a link for a summer camp. Mary has been looking for a summer camp for her 10 year-old son, she clicks on the link and expects to be led to a website that will tell her where it is, what kind of activities are included and how much the camp costs. If the summer camp communications team were thinking like a business it might have the “where”, the “what” and the “how much” divided onto different pages, with not much on the main page. But Mary wants all of that key information immediately. If the summer camp is thinking like a business, it may want Mary to click on each page of their website. But, the summer camp is more likely to win Mary over if they think like a person and satisfy her curiosity before she moves on to the next thing. If it takes too much time to process the information or message people will move on to something else.  In this scenario, organizations need to think like a person not like a business.

Social Change Anytime Everywhere by Allyson Kapin and Amy Sample Ward is available through the Volunteer Alberta Resource Centre (VARC).

Tim Henderson, Office and Communications Coordinator