Marketing For Non Profits: How to Leverage Free Social Media and PR to Boost Your Events

TDT 05 | Marketing For Non Profits
TDT 05 | Marketing For Non Profits

No budget- no problem. There are free ways to promote your nonprofit event to local audiences now. We use a local nonprofit as a case study to discuss proper marketing in the local areas using social media and PR techniques. We teach you how by increasing your social proof through reviews, you can generate an audience. You can get this done just with your email list and providing the people a template. Also, you’ll learn how it helps to invest in social media channels to get the word out. Taking you into the how to’s of online marketing for non-profits, we teach you how best to utilize email and social media.

Listen to the podcast here:

Marketing For Non Profits: How to Leverage Free Social Media and PR to Boost Your Events

This is the crossroads where traditional PR know-how meets digital marketing expertise with me, Stefanie LaHart from BoomTown Marketing, and my very best friend Sharon Noot from Noot Inc. What do we got going on?

I had an actual PR/social media 911 call I wanted to put into you. I’ve stopped myself and said, “This is a challenge that I bet a lot of other traditional PR professionals have had. Maybe I can work through it with you and not only will you give me some ideas, but you might give other people ideas as well.” I’ve got to pick up the bat phone, I’ve got to call my best friend and say, “I need a little bit of your insight.” To add to that, I need some of your advice, I need some of your social media expertise and by the way, there’s no money in this for you. The client has no budget. I just want you to give me ideas so that I can do things for them. Then hopefully, they will get so excited that they will increase their budget. That’s where we’re at. 

I like to tell people, especially when I meet them at networking events, the advice is always free. It’s the actual work and implementation that you pay for. I think that can be said across the board for anyone. You can ask for all kinds of advice but what you do with it, that’s where it makes the difference. Let’s get started on this. What is going on with your client? 

To add to that, when I tell you what’s going on and I’m looking for some ideas from you, I am looking for ideas that I can implement very easily because this isn’t in my wheelhouse. I’m not going to ask you to do it and I’m not going to be able to pay you to do it, but I just want some ideas for some small steps that we can take into the world of social media. In a nutshell, I have a client, they are a nonprofit. This is a very small project with a very tiny budget. At this point, it’s practically friends and family discount because I’ve worked with them for so long. They are an organization that has a couple of events a year, that’s in a public location in Orange County and they desire foot traffic. 

It’s a free event and they just need lots of people to come out and take a look at things. They hired me originally to do traditional PR for them. I do a press release. I get it listed in local newspapers and community newspapers. I get them listed on calendar listings and various places. I have gotten them on a small local television show. I had a news crew visit them once on their opening day that would help drive traffic later on. What I usually try to do is get one feature story each time where I highlight one of the members of the organization. Then I pitch the story to whatever their regional reporter is to make it. It’s a lifestyle story about a person and then with that, we would get a little call out the box with the information about the event. That typically does very well for them. You could see all those things that I listed. 

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Imagine a tiny little budget. It’s all used up. I over-service them. Here’s the deal. They do no social media. I’ve realized that seems like a huge blind spot for them. They need to be doing things on social media that will drive traffic to their free events. What I’m asking you is for the relatively low time investment, is there something that I can do to introduce them to the concept that will move the needle a little bit. Give them a few results, a taste of what it’s like so that when we rewrote the budget for next time, they will consider allocating some money on that.

The events have been going on for how many years now?

I want to say over fifteen less than twenty. 

That’s great because if it’s been going on that long then that means a lot of people have been exposed to it and attended the event. What that means is that’s built-in reviews for you. What you can do with social media is to start to harness all those reviews to be your sales testimonial almost. It’s great that you’ve gotten them listed on local calendars and things like that. You did an online version too. Then there are also things like Google reviews and also Yelp, which people depend on, especially Yelp reviews for anything. You can review events and services. That would be a great place. I would say starting point number one would be to get them on Yelp and make sure they have a listing and that they have some reviews.

The trick with any kind of review is you have to solicit the people that already support you to do a review when you’re first starting out. You can’t just put up a listing and just expect people to magically find it and like, “I’m going to get 100 reviews.” Even though you’ve been around sixteen years, those people aren’t necessarily going to be like, “I wonder if they’re on Yelp. Let me give them a review.” One of the first steps that they could do is because they already have a mailing list built up, they would go and create their Yelp page, their Yelp portal and also their Google page. You do that through Google My Business. I read an amazing article that did a breakdown on how to optimize both of those fields for you, both of those properties.

With those two, between Yelp and Google My Business and then putting your listing, going to your email list, and soliciting reviews, that would be a great first start for you and that will cost your client nothing. They already have an email list, it’s free to set up the profiles. Then what I would say is it’s one thing to say to somebody, “Go leave me a review.” It’s another thing to actually get them to do it. Here’s the super pro-tip that I’m going to give you for that. You give them a template about what you’re looking for.

One of those says, “Leave us a review and you get free this.”

That’s not as effective as what I’m going to tell you what they should do. If I give them that incentive, they’ll do it but here’s where the people stop and don’t do it. They get a fear of, “I don’t know what to say. I don’t have time to do this. I don’t want to do the wrong thing.” What you would do in that email is provide them with three different mini templates about what you’re looking for. You don’t even have to do three, just one saying, “We just listed ourselves on Yelp. We would love to make sure that more of the community know about this great event. You’ve been a supporter in the past. It would help us out if you would go and leave a review here. Here’s what would be helpful.” Then you give them a template that says, “I’ve attended the event these many years. I’ve got X, Y and Z out of it. Make sure you don’t miss this part of the event.”

Also they could do a little personal thing. If it’s a nonprofit and maybe it’s for something like a charity. I used to run Busted Foundation where we’re raising money for women with breast cancer. They could do a personal story of why they’re invested in the event, if it was like a charity fundraiser, they could say why that means something. In your email, give them a real simple template that they could almost copy and paste, but change up a little there to make it customized and they’ll do it.

Are you telling me that people will see a Yelp review for an event that happened, let’s say it was even just annually? It’s an annual event and there are Yelp reviews. How would people even find those reviews? How would they be on that page in the first place? Is it only linked through the organization’s website? 

It could be linked through the organization’s website, but it’s also then just in the main directory of Yelp and Google My Business. What happens with that with Google My Business, that’s all location-based. If people are in that area and they’re looking for events that weekend, Google’s going to show them that event. What’s going to happen is under that Google listing, you’re going to see twenty reviews right there on Google. Then people are like, “I didn’t know this was going on. This is literally down the street from us. We should go check it out.” That’s a great way to introduce a local community especially because you’re looking for people that would be in the area to go to it. It’s not necessarily an event that they would drive a couple of hours or even fly from out of town. Using something like Google My Business because it is location-based, that’s excellent.

You can ask for all kinds of advice but what you do with it makes the difference. Click To Tweet

Do you think that they should do this even before or wait until the event, which is coming up in several weeks? After the event, they send it out and encourage them to do a review?

No, do it now to their email list because these people have already been to past events. You can do it after but do it before because you want to sell more tickets to this one. 

We want to get more attendance.

It is essentially ticket sales whether or not the tickets are paid for or not.

This is a first great step and this is something that they can do. Even though it would appear that you’re reaching out to your existing audience, which probably already attends or would want to attend, their Yelp reviews and Google reviews will go out into the internet atmosphere and then be found by people who are looking for things to do or maybe Googling the event to see if it’s worth their while.

Social media can provide proof for you. It’s not necessarily that they’re going to have their first exposure to the event through something on Yelp. It may have been that somebody tells them about it and then they go to Yelp to find the review for the social proof of like, “Is it worth my time?” Whether or not the ticket is free, what you pay for is your time. That’s where this comes into play, so they could make that decision whether or not they’re going to attend. Yelp or Google reviews and also Bing has a review engine. There are a couple of other ones. Obviously, if you’re on any community directories or forums, if they have any area in there where you can also do a review, and you’d want real reviews.

We’re not talking about people making them up. Do the outreach to your existing audience, your existing mailing list. As long as you give them some guidelines about what you’re looking for, they’ll do it. I have a great example. I went on a trip to Cuba and it’s a small tour company. They’ve done the tour a bunch of times and they were passionate clientele. I went after the trip. I’m going to do reviews anyway. I noticed they have no listing anywhere. There were no reviews. I immediately emailed them and said, “This is what you should be doing. Reach out to anyone who’s ever taken your tour.” Then I gave them a template to use. Within 24 hours they had 50 reviews. What does that do for them? That’s the social proof that’s going to be the deciding factor of whether or not somebody is going to book a tour with them.

What that’s doing is just providing the social proof that’s going to make the deciding factor of whether or not people are going to spend their time or money on your event, your tour, or whatever it is. With my example with the tour group, they immediately got 50 reviews because they had a lot of happy clients. It was just a matter of asking them for the review and then providing the template. The reason why you do the template is people have a fear factor when they’re asked to do something. If they’re not a professional speaker or a professional writer, even if you love the service, it can be daunting for someone to ask you to write something. Some people will say, “I’ll review.” Then the review you’ll get is, “This is great.” That doesn’t tell me enough about what I can expect. That would be the first starting point and something very easily they can do. When we talked, you said that they did have a little bit of social media setup. What were they using?

They have a Facebook account that they use. That’s how they talked to a lot of their membership. 

Do you know what kind of audience they have on that? How many people have liked their page? Who’s reading the page?

It’s very minimal. They put it up probably just as a tool to keep in touch with the people that are part of their membership. It’s very underutilized. 

They do have a main website. What they’ll want to do is first of all, make sure that any social they’re going to set up and we’ll decide that after the call, that they have it linked in their website. Then referring back to the mailing list, making sure that there are links also listed in the mailing list with the invite to follow us on social media. This gives people an added incentive to join the community. This keeps them updated on whatever would be going on with the event and get them more invested in going. Facebook is a tricky animal. It is hard to get new followers on that page simply because it’s like a walled garden. People have to know and look for you.

It’s not as easy for you to simply start a page and start linking out. Whereas on something like Twitter or Instagram, it’s much easier to set up a new profile and then to actually build that profile by interacting with other accounts or other people that are on the service already. You can do that with @ tags. It’s trickier with Facebook. People utilize Facebook in order to keep up with family and friends more than anything. There is a lot of business presence on that and you can have a certain amount of business leverage. Insofar as finding random new people, if you’re going to be on Facebook and you want to build up the audience on that Facebook page, you’re going to have to invest in Facebook advertising. That’s the only way you’re going to see any results at this point.

Facebook is not showing businesses in the News Feed anymore. They cut that out at the beginning of the year for various reasons like social, political but we won’t get into it. With Facebook ads, even though you’re paying for it, it’s not a matter of you have to have a gigantic budget. You can get away with having a good Facebook event notification, as we call it, for about $100 or $200 to get the word out there. Because it’s targeted and you’re doing a local target, you can niche down. Something like that might be worth your while. Of course, if you want to do the other social media, you could. What I like to tell my clients in the beginning, pick one or two social media channels and focus on them. Don’t try and do everything at once. Don’t be like, “I’ve got to do a Pinterest. I’ve got to do an Instagram. I’ve got to do a Twitter. I’ve got to be on Snapchat.” If you try to do everything, especially if you don’t have a full-time marketing or social media team, it becomes like, “Who’s going to do this? Who’s going to create content?”

TDT 05 | Marketing For Non Profits
Marketing For Non Profits: It is essentially ticket sales whether or not the tickets are paid for or not.

As you know, when you’re dealing with a nonprofit, when the board are basically volunteers, this stuff always does fall by the wayside. Everybody’s got ideas, but no one is raising their hand to implement.

I’m going to tell you from my personal analogy because I know they have a high visual presentation of what this nonprofit is. Instagram is the place they want to be. Wherever you have a highly visual market, a highly visual product or service, it makes sense to be on Instagram because that’s the place where things like tags are used super heavy. Tags still haven’t caught on Facebook. You can’t necessarily just be like, “I’ll use the popular tag and people will find me.” Whereas on Instagram, tags do drive a lot of traffic. For this group, they should start up an Instagram. They have images and video from past events, so start populating on there. Start utilizing tags in a very strategic way, and they’ll start seeing traffic. What that will do is they will bring new eyeballs to the event through that and people will discover them.

These are all great ideas, but here’s one thing about them. They are traditionally appealing to an older audience. When I say older, their core audience is retired, over 50 maybe. It skews older. That might be another reason that not only are their board members in that age bracket, they don’t use social media as much. The people who are trying to reach are also not of that age bracket. Facebook is okay, the older people like our parents, grandparents are on Facebook. Are they going to be on Instagram? We are talking about reaching an audience that might be not in their current core group. It’s time to expand a little bit. What do you think is the main age group for Instagram? Do you have those numbers? 

People have a fear factor when they’re asked to do something. Click To Tweet

You don’t need a number statistic to tell you what’s going on. Instagram has been around for years. It’s not a new service. It’s not a young age group like it might have been in the beginning. It has aged up as has all of the social media. When you were talking about things even like Snapchat, I would have agreed with you instead it’s only fourteen-year-olds. Now, all of the social media has aged up because social media has become the way people interact, not only in their personal lives but within the world around them. Whether or not you’re going to look at stats and say, “They’re saying we only have this age group,” that’s not true in most circumstances. Especially with something like you were saying, “They have people that are 50,” that’s not old. They are on Instagram and they’re especially going to be on these places for something that’s a niche passion or a niche interest. If this is a nonprofit that has a niche like the breast cancer charity, that’s a niche. Those are people who are actively interested in breast cancer. Here’s the thing, you can be like, “Everybody’s interested in breast cancer.” That’s not true. You’re only interested when it has affected your life or your family.

It’s the same thing with your client. If people have an interest in their niche, which we already know that they do, they’re going to seek them out on these platforms. On something like Instagram, they have this whole area called the discovery board. If you are posting content utilizing their new features like their Instagram TV, Instagram live and their stories, Instagram, as does Facebook, rewards you by putting you in this discovery area. It makes people more likely to find you. Instagram is owned by Facebook, so you can also utilize something like Instagram ads for a low nominal fee to get new eyeballs that are going to be interested in something that’s local because your event is local-focused.

Between those two, getting yourself up on Yelp and Google and also launching Instagram, then I’m going to see more of an activity going towards the event. That would be my top tips for that. It’s something that you don’t need a big budget to do. You don’t have to have a high-level person in the organization do it. Obviously, somebody who’s going to understand the brand and the language is all approved and all that. You can definitely have this done in a way that’s going to drive traffic, especially for local events, focus on the local aspect of it. 

These are great ideas. This is exactly what I was looking for. I’ll let you know if this moves the needle. You said you had some other update for me or some story or something that’s going on with you. What is it?

Clients or businesses that are new to social media have to be aware that they have a certain amount of control over what they post, but they don’t have ultimate control about what is said about them. We can tie this back to what we were saying about reviews. When you’re soliciting reviews, if somebody had a bad experience, they’re probably going to be the first one to leave a review. What you would want to do in that circumstance is you never delete anything but you address it. You address what had happened. I actually saw this happen at a big conference. In a nutshell, somebody was asked to leave a certain panel discussion that was going on because they felt like their presence was disruptive. They had underage children with them. There was no rule at this conference about having children there. 

TDT 05 | Marketing For Non Profits
Marketing For Non Profits: Now all of the social media has aged up because it has really become the way people interact, not only in their personal lives but within the world around them.

They were up in a panel with kids running around?

That wasn’t the problem. The problem was somebody was in the audience with their child and some other people. The kid was fine, the kid was not misbehaving. Other people took offense that you shouldn’t have children at a business conference. There was never a stipulation or a regulation that you couldn’t. For whatever reason, this person had to bring it. This person was asked to leave and it became a big conversation on social media. It wasn’t a bad conversation. A conversation then opened where people could express their opinions. The event handled it perfectly because they addressed it. They allowed people to have their opinions and then they gave an honest reply of why things were done a certain way. They said, “You’re right. We should have done X, Y and Z. In the future, we’re going to write a policy so that our entire team knows how to handle that.”

Are kids going to be coming or not coming in the future event?

I don’t know what the end of all of the conversation was. The point was that they listened to people’s opinions and then they came back and said, “Either we agree with you or disagree with you, we’re going to write a policy so people are clear and that nobody is left feeling awkward or feeling ashamed in any way.” When situations like that happen especially when you have an event, if something happens, the reason why tempers get heated is the shame factor comes in. Nobody wants to be called out in public. Since your client has a public event, what they’ll need to do is as reviews come in, if anything would ever to come along negative or maybe they didn’t agree, they address it. They address it in a positive way by first saying, “Thank you for your opinion.” Either, “We were aware that happened or we weren’t aware that that happened. We see your point. We don’t see your point. This is what we would like to do going forward.” You do have to be aware that that is going to happen with the reviews.

That’s a good, solid communication strategy. Even before social media was around, that’s the way a responsible company would handle something that was controversial or problematic. You know when a company is being responsible when they’re handling things in a professional manner. Ultimately, even if it was a negative situation, they’re going to turn it into something that’s positive because people are going to see them resolve it in a very professional and transparent manner. 

With social media, things are immediate. When this was happening, it was immediately being thrown out on social media before the conference even had time to respond. What happens there especially when you’re the organizer or maybe even a sponsor, there’s the tendency to freak out and blow it out of proportion. You don’t need to do that. You’ve seen stuff on the news where businesses responded too quickly. Let’s take a valuation of exactly what has transpired and then address it. Then, make our reply in essence to that. If you go on and start responding or deleting, that’s where tempers flare because it’s the shame factor. It’s the factor of, “I don’t want to be embarrassed,” or it’s the factor of, “I said something and I need to prove why I’m right.” A lot of it comes with ego too. If you have to prove you’re right, people go on social media. That’s one thing that I would definitely throw out there and that tied into what I was experiencing with this other client. I hope this was helpful.

This is very helpful.

Pick one or two social media channels and focus on them. Don’t try and do everything at once. Click To Tweet

When people are setting up social media profiles, they don’t give all the information that the profile asks for and that’s a missed opportunity. If they ask you for a phone number, put a phone number in there.

Thank you so much. I learned a lot. I hope other people did as well. A lot of people in traditional PR have those clients that are very old school. It’s a small budget. The tools we’re using are still effective, but I just know that they could be doing a lot more with social media. We have to figure out a way to slowly get them into the group.

You have to warm them up to it. It does help if there are people on the board that are already using it or warmed up to the idea because it’s hard to convert the nonbelievers. That’s a whole job in itself. If you have people who say, “I don’t use it. I don’t know of anyone who does. X, Y and Z are the kinds of people who use it. I wouldn’t want to be aligned with them.” That’s an uphill battle. That’s why I’m hoping that I can be an evangelist for things like that and help businesses see how this can help them and grow their business or their events in that general way. If anyone has more questions about what we’ve discussed, please leave them in the comments. We’ll see you in the next show.

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