Archive for the tips & tutorials Category

Social Media the Tool, not the Solution

Friday, October 22nd, 2010 | Permalink

Recently, I came across a question regarding how to best use social media for a nonprofit organization. The subsequent replies and comments were enough to make anyones head spin. I believe this was due to the false mantra that we’ve all heard, “you need to get on social media, because once you do, the gates to nirvana will open and you will find floods of people just waiting for you!”

Over and over again, I hear the confusion of “I’m here! What am I supposed to do now?”

This confusion is due to the notion that social media is the solution. I argue that it is but a tool.

Social media is a simple way of referring to computer programs that allow people to interact and converse in a variety of ways. It is a form of “media” that has a “social” component. That social component is what makes it so powerful. Suddenly I am able to respond to the “media” that is presented to me rather than just receiving it.

This is all well and good, but what about the question. How should a nonprofit organization use social media? I regret to inform you that I will be answering a question with a question. What does your organization want to do?

Are you trying to organize a future event? Distribute information to volunteers? Show donors the successes you’ve had this year?

If you know how you’d like to make improvements to your organization, your chances of finding a social media tool to get you there will sky rocket. So first determine what “solution” you’d like to achieve, then go find the “tool” that will help you get there.

On a final note, don’t forget the content. Your organization is full of amazing people and amazing stories. Make your social media dabblings more engaging by going beyond words and photographs by including web video. And if you need help putting the video together, gimme a call, it’s what I do.

How Web Video Powers Global Innovation

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010 | Permalink

TEDTalks are online videos shared to provide visitors with “Ideas Worth Spreading.” Not to take the words out of their mouth, they describe it as:

"…a simple attempt to share what happens at TED with the world. Under the moniker “ideas worth spreading,” talks were released online. They rapidly attracted a global audience in the millions."

Their talks cover topics from technology to entertainment to design and so much more. Just released this September is a discussion from July of 2010 by Chris Anderson discussing how web video powers global innovation. This caught my attention to say the least. I absolutely loved his thoughts and ideas regarding online video, they are inline with our vision at let’s dabble in so many ways. Chris described the importance of online video and it’s impact on TEDTalks by saying,

"Why do people like watching TEDTalks? …there is alot more being transferred than just words, and its in that nonverbal portion. There’s some serious magic…"

It is so true, the power of web video to share a story, to emotionally connect with the viewer, and to change the way we see the world is incredible. He went on to discuss how online video is changing how people can inspire one another,

"…reading and writing are actually relatively recent inventions, face-to-face communication has been fine-tuned by millions of years of evolution, that’s what has made it into the mysterious, powerful thing it is. Someone speaks, there’s resonance in all those receiving brains, the whole group acts together."

What he is highlighting is how for millennia we as a species have been using body language, the oldest form of communication, to communicate and how it is lost in the written word. However, thanks to the advent of online video, it is finally back in the spotlight.

Before I provide you with the video to watch at your leisure, I have to quote Chris Anderson one more time,

"What I’m excited about or what I think is under-reported is the significance of the rise of online video. This is the technology that will allow the rest of the worlds talents to be shared digitally; thereby, launching a whole new cycle of crowd-accelerated innovation…"

"Who’s the teacher? You’re the teacher. You are part of the crowd that may be about to launch the biggest learning cycle in human history. – Chris Anderson"

Love SEO? Then you better love video!

Monday, August 30th, 2010 | Permalink

Search Engine Journal

Search Engine Journal posted a recent article discussing the importance of online video and incorporating that video into your website or blog. The article entitled, “If You Care about SEO, You Need to Know about Video” was written by Yaniv Axen.

I love the opening Q and A.

"Q: Do you have video on your website?

A: The only right answers are, “yes” or “we will soon.” "

His points are simple and direct. In 2007 Google integrated video into its universal search offering. This leads to websites with video being favored over those without. The result increases their search-based traffic. He further supports this concept with hard numbers. In 2008, only 18% of the top 50 retailers were using video. In 2009, 68% were using video. That is a 375% increase!

The prevalence of online video has changed the way google provides search results. When searches are made on Google, 40% of the time a video is in the results.

After providing the statistics on the importance of video, Yaniv then discusses the six things you need to know when concerning search engine optimization (SEO) and video.

1) Video creation, and especially web video, is not resource intensive as it once was.

2) Embedding a video on a website is insufficient for affecting SEO. Online retailers need to cover their entire product line with videos that match keywords to better target specific customers.

3) Video should not be static. Keep them as up to date so that they are consistently in first place on universal search engines.

4) Don’t stop at the video. The title matters, the description matters, and very important but often over-looked are the metadata and tags. Remember that having the video searchable is of the utmost importance. A video is of no use if it is never found and watched.

5) Videos need sitemaps. Sitemaps aid in publishing information from one central location and make it easier for search engines to find you.

6) YouTube is not just funny pet videos. It’s just that simple. Online video is a powerful way to engage people.

If you follow this blog regularly, then you know that I am nonprofit focused and that this post is more “business” focused. The connection is to replace “products” with your mission. Instead of providing videos about that latest product line, think about a video about your latest update to how you are achieving your mission. How are you changing peoples lives, the community, or the environment. Web video can be used throughout the organization. It is much more than one video on the homepage. Have videos of your events and fundraisers on their own page. Have video testimonials from your volunteers and staff about the work they do. The videos will not only share your story, but they will increase your SEO as well.

7 Social Media Myths

Monday, August 9th, 2010 | Permalink

While reading an article in the SocialMedia Examiner I came across this article by Rich Brooks discussing 7 claims regarding social media that can be ignored. Amazing! All too often opinions regarding new technologies become rock-solid facts when they are nothing more than someone’s popular opinion. So let’s revisit Rich’s discussion and continue to spread truth into the sea of opinions.

1) Social Media has changed EVERYTHING

To quote Rich, “Balderdash.” Social media has presented a new way to approach and connect with the public, nothing more and nothing less. The idea that social media has made traditional methods of conducting business obsolete is a misunderstanding of the greatest measure. Social media has not changed the methods, it has changed how we use them. (I love analogies, so here we go!) The creation of a typewriter did not make the written word obsolete, it merely changed the way we put the words on paper. The same goes for social media, the content is unchanged, we simply have new and powerful ways to share that content.

2) You Can’t Sell in Social Media

Firstly, I am not trying to contradict my recent discussion of not taking advantage of the online community, but rather would like to build upon it. The simple fact is that if you put your content in front of the wrong people they will throw it away, delete it, or even “block” you from contacting them again. On the other hand, if you use social media with tact and build genuine relationships your content can be spread, forwarded, and find its way in front of the right person who would like to be your customer.

3) You Have to Stay On Message

To again quote our friend Rich, “…you know who stays on message? Politicians and boring corporations.” This speaks for itself. Humanizing yourself, adding personality, and discussing your passion for restoring a 1965 Oldsmobile into the ridiculous lowrider you dreamed about when you were 16 doesn’t make you less professional, it makes you a real person who happens to drive an old car that bounces. With that said, keep in mind how you meet and interact with new people, treat social media the same. Be personal, be authentic, and above all be yourself.

4) You Need to Have a Lot of Followers

The premise is simple. The more followers you have the more people that will be exposed to your content. Ok, this is true, but the counter argument is simple as well. Providing your content to huge numbers of people means nothing if they are not interested in what you have to say. Having 100 followers who read what you have to say is better than 10,000 who delete it without opening it. It’s the basic premise of quality over quantity.

5) You Need to Have a Lot of Comments on Your Blog

I blog at let’s dabble for many reasons. Comments are not one of them. Are they nice? Sure. Are they the goal? Sadly, no. Although interaction with the community is a beneficial side effect of blogging, tweeting, and new content creation. They exist without interaction for a very important reason, SEO. Search Engine Optimization is what ranks websites when a search is made in google. If you would like your lemonade stand to be the first one listed when “lemonade stand” is searched in google, your site needs to be considered the best. How does google decide who is the best? Content, web traffic, and links to your site from reputable sites, just to name a few. So get out there and keep getting out there. The more good, relevant content you provide the higher google will rank your “lemonade stand” in google search results.

6) You Can’t Measure Social Media ROI

Have you ever asked? If you want to know how people hear about you, ask them. You can send out a survey to recent clients/donors with a list of ways you are promoting your organization and ask them to “check a box”. You can also set up google analytics which can monitor your website or blog and will provide you with a myriad of information regarding the traffic you are getting.

7) You Have to Be on Facebook (or Twitter, or Have a Blog…)

The only thing you “have” to do is what works best for you. If you find that your demographic does not tweet, stop tweeting. If they are not on Facebook, why have a page? But if they love photos, can you justify not providing them with a few pictures to show them the new office building? If they are searching YouTube for your videos, can you justify not have a YouTube Channel with relevant videos?

Listen first, then provide your content where it is appropriate. But above all, provide that content. The hardest way to be found is to tell no one where you are. So dabble with Flickr, dabble with Youtube, and once you start, keep dabbling!

Be a part of the community, don’t take advantage

Friday, July 9th, 2010 | Permalink

I was recently reading an article written by Tom Foremski at zdnet in which he discusses the misstep of corporations jumping into the world of social media with the intentions of social sales and nothing more.

His comparison comes from an individuals desire to use the social qualities of social media versus the corporate vantage point of commercial purposes. I particularly like the following quote,

"At parties, people will avoid that person that is selling something. Friends that invite their friends to tupperware parties, or multi-level marketing, are tolerated for a while, but not for long. Similarly, companies that use social media as sales media must understand there is a time and place for it, or they risk harming their brand."

His point is valid but is there more to take away other than “corporations use social media for social sales and that’s bad”? I believe there is.

In the realm of nonprofits there is a grey area to be found. A nonprofit exists because of a community that supports it. Therefore, it stands to reason that nonprofits should embrace social media and become a part of the community. We now stumble upon the fine line.

Be a part of the community, don’t take advantage of it. When a corporation finds a target demographic that has come together using social media their gut reaction is, “like shooting fish in a barrel.” But this backfires. Why? The answer is in the question. Why is a target demographic coming together? Have they come together to discuss how much they love fly fishing, for example? If so, this group would naturally attract companies selling camping equipment, but they don’t want to talk about camping, they are there to discuss fly fishing, any talk otherwise will only annoy them.

So if you want to reach out to new groups make sure they want to talk about what you are bringing to the conversation. Just because a group exists in the community where you have a volunteer garden, does not mean that reaching out to them will result in finding gardeners.

The point: Although social media offers hundreds of groups, communities, and avenues for sharing information, deny the temptation to interact with them all. Successful social media is having a strong community and this comes from similar interests, trust, and good content. Focus on what you are “putting out there” rather than how many times you are putting it out there.

Moral of the story: As a nonprofit use social media to share your story, show the world how you are making a difference. And in doing so, attract new donors and volunteers, just make sure they are joining the conversation; don’t try to sell camping equipment to fly fishers.

Don’t search, GoodSearch

Thursday, May 27th, 2010 | Permalink


Do you use the internet? Do you search for information? Then you are doing everything that is needed. That’s it.

Really? That sounds crazy, what’s the catch? To answer this question, I went to their website, entered the name of a charity, checked their statistics for May, then made a search. When I returned and again checked the statistics for May, they were a penny higher. I was shocked. A penny is not much, but the I am one person who made one search!

GoodSearch, powered by Yahoo!, donates 50% of it’s sponsored search revenues to the charity of your choice. When you go to their homepage, you can type in the charity you are supporting, verify that they are setup and you are done. You and the organization you are supporting spend nothing.

If I could find the hidden catch, I would tell you about it, but it really is that simple and this easy. The truth is that the searches we make every day generate over 8 billion dollars annually for search engines from online advertisers (and that was a few years ago). By using GoodSearch a portion of that is going to help the charity of your choice.

To go a bit further, in 2007, they expanded to GoodShop where online shopping merits the organization of your choice 3% of your money spent on average but in some cases 20% or more!

It is not often that I come across something this painlessly easy to add to my routine. However, my homepage has been changed, and since I have been known to buy things online, I will be checking back to GoodShop next time I do.

Five “Must Knows” in 2010

Monday, April 19th, 2010 | Permalink


ClientTrack hits the nail on the head as it offers a prescription for what’s ailing social service organizations. To quote Scott Anderson, PhD, “My intent is not to incite fear… but rather encourage a healthy fear… that will move social service organizations from potential complacency to concerted action, survival, and progressive sustainability.”

When it comes to management a simple school of thought is whether to react or to be prepared. Issues arise whether we want them or not; our options are to be ready for them or to wait and just react as needed. 2010 is a year for preparation, not for reaction.

Back to Scott and his “Must Knows” of which he has five for Social Service Organizations.

1) Social Service organizations are not likely to see an improvement in 2010 funding. Based upon research done by The Foundation Center funding for social service organizations will not be as favorable as other sectors in the nonprofit community.

2) Non-profits must implement fundamental changes in how they do business. Based on the Chronicle of Philanthropy, radical changes are needed to maintain and strengthen the nonprofit world in the face of economic upheaval.

I can’t agree with Scott more, funding trends are already changing, as I discussed in February of 2008, online donors have arrived and they are but one facet of the what nonprofits need to embrace.

3) Accountability and transparency are the new reality.

Again, I agree, and to say it as simply as possible, post it. The internet-age began years ago and the reasons for not having information available at the click of a button are fading away. Donors want to know how you are using their donations, being able to scroll through pictures is expected, and seeing a video of the organizations progress in the last quarter is the norm.

4) Non-profits must seek creative collaborations.

The cost of bartering is nothing yet helps both parties. Providing your talents to an organization that can offer you a service in return is a relief on the wallet as well as a solution to a problem.

5) If you don’t have a current technology solution, get the right one… quick.

Did I mention that I agree with Scott? Technology is our friend, as aggravated as it can make us, it is here to help. Organizations have come to be expected of a certain amount of online activity. This activity strengthens the transparent presence that Scott discusses in point three. It is difficult to avoid transparency when information, photos, and videos are made available to all.

Need help with adding technology to your organization, I’d be happy to start a conversation.

Your Mission Statement “Solution” ^with integrity

Friday, March 12th, 2010 | Permalink

Anyone who has started a nonprofit, a company, or simply put together a club after school has struggled with “what to say?” to describe it.

I want to make it short and to the point, I don’t want to offend anyone, I want to sound intelligent, I don’t want to be vague but I don’t want to paint myself into a corner. The back-and-forth examples are endless but what is always the same is the result. A confused mash-up of words conveying our point… or at least what we think is our point.

After reading an article by Dan Heath at Fast Company, I must agree that the point we end up making may not be the point we were looking for when we started.

Since the video he has made does wonders for describing his point, I have inserted it below. However, the two points he makes to remember are:

1) Use concrete language. Say what you want, don’t sugar coat it, and don’t pull out the thesaurus for every word choice.

2) Talk about the “why”. To quote Dan, “…most mission statements are really long on statement and really short on mission…” What you are doing is great to know; however, why you are doing it is even better.

Online video and the art of storytelling

Friday, January 22nd, 2010 | Permalink

In an article by merc strategy group the art of storytelling and its new found friend, online video, are discussed. This discussion sheds light on the sheer numbers behind online video as provided by comScore’s August 2009 Video Matrix report.

The statistics for 2009 include:

- The month of August seeing 161 million viewers watching 157 videos each.
- Over 80% of the internet audience watching online video
- 10 billion videos watched on YouTube by 120.5 million viewers
- The average video was 3.7 minutes
- The average viewer watched almost 10 hours online in August alone

So what do these numbers mean? The fact that a change in how people are exposing themselves to information has occurred. The days of TV commercials owning the advertisement arena are coming to an end. It is the same content being provided during the same activity (watching video), but the delivery system is no longer cost prohibitive.

The cost of producing and distributing a TV commercial has left small businesses and nonprofits out of the playing field for years. However, the situation with online distribution is very very different. The cost to produce the video is now simply knowing how. The reason that the barrier for entry is now the “know-how” is due to the fact that the computer you are using to view this blogpost is able to produce an internet quality video.

As stated by the merc strategy group, “…it doesn’t take expensive cameras, lighting equipment and a makeup artist to produce great video content. All it takes is a Flip cam, or an iPhone camera… and good content.”

You have the technology, you have the content, all you need is to know how to make it happen. At let’s dabble, we are more than happy to show you how.

Hey, nonprofits! Want to learn how to make your own web videos for YouTube?

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009 | Permalink

If your nonprofit has ever entertained the idea of creating web videos for YouTube or your website, you’re in luck! let’s dabble recently launched our video tutorial program that teaches nonprofits how to do just that.

To learn more, click the video below:

Peruse the full list of video tutorials and some free samples, here.

Or for more information, feel free to contact us at