There’s no doubt about it—the SXSW Interactive festival each year is filled with spectacle. From virtual reality roller coasters to mobile nap beds and late night “networking events,” there’s plenty to do and see…but there’s also a whole lot to learn.
It’s a too-rare privilege to get to spend your days just listening to and learning from experts across the fields of tech, marketing, branding, social, non-profit and advertising. Sometimes you walk away with insights into future trends, sometimes you get practical advice and sometimes it’s just a new perspective on an old issue.
Derrick Feldmann from Achieve had a great new way of framing how you look at, recruit and speak to the follower base of a nonprofit that really had me rethinking our practices at the Ad Council and how we could optimize our audiences. Here are my three favorite tips from his panel:
1. Be a tool, not the answer
My favorite piece of advice for nonprofits? Get out of the way. If you find people who are passionate about your cause, you should help them have impact, not the other way around. The best organizations are those that present their work as a template…something that followers can use in their own quest to help others.
This distinction is an important one and comes into play as we describe our ask and our results. Stop talking about what your organization has achieved and start talking about what your fans have done. Let them be the heroes.
Your messaging should go from, “Will you help us?” to “You are imperative to achieve this.” “Our” impact becomes “Your” impact.
2. Recruit belongers, believers, and owners
Of course, the role that people want and are able to play in your cause really varies. Feldman took a deeper dive into three different types of followers.
- Belongers—The base level of your fans, belongers are also the most common. These are the folks who are interested in a variety of social issues and will take a step if you ask them, but only for the momentary gratification. They’re important because they’ll help you spread the issue, but tend to be temporary compliers.
- Believers—These are your core folks because they’re passionate about your issue, and usually enough so that they’ll go out and bring in others with them. They won’t just give, they’ll fundraise. They won’t just attend an event, they’ll throw one. And, importantly, they’ll stick around.
- Owners—You know your messaging is working when you uncover this group of fans who not only embrace your message, but reinterpret it, edit it, and make it their own. If they don’t want to use your hashtag? Don’t make them. Just celebrate what they’re doing to make a difference. Do: lose control. Don’t: force brand guidelines, your messaging, or your KPIs. Let them take your issue to where it needs to go.
3. Ignore technology
The final point really pertains to anyone trying something new—and that’s to start offline first. A hashtag is fun and flashy, but it’s temporal, and using it isn’t actually creating impact. The first thing you need is to recruit your believers, that key audience from above, and make the issue tangible and tactile for them.
Once that base is strong, then you can go wider online. But still it’s important to always focus your ask on an offline goal. Don’t congratulate your followers to helping you get to 100k subscribers on YouTube, congratulate your 100k subscribers for having had a specific amount of impact, like helping hundreds of shelter pets find homes or raising awareness about type 2 diabetes.
Of course, Feldman wasn’t down on all things online. In fact, he defended the notion of slacktivism, saying, “The more we get people to act on an issue, the more we build their belief in the issue. We just have to understand the value of the tweet- it’s not huge but it’s real.” In short, you let people feel good—and they’ll do good.