Let Your Rock Stars Sing Your Praises on Social Media
I recently moved into a new apartment and experienced one of the most tedious processes — changing over all the utilities. Thinking in terms of practicality, I left switching over my cable for last.
The full impact of this decision hit me Sunday night, a week into my new living arrangement, when I realized I would be unable to watch my favorite show, “True Blood,” on HBO.
Now, this might sound like a trivial problem, but as an avid Sookie Stackhouse fan, it was a matter of great importance to me. So how does all this irrelevant information tie back to social media? Turns out, social media ended up being the solution to all my problems — well, in terms of “True Blood,” that is.
I decided there must be, somewhere out there in cyberspace, a Web site that was streaming the television series. I pride myself on being able to find pretty much anything online, so I was frustrated when I came up empty. I'm a determined gal, so I decided to turn to another search engine: my Facebook account.
But Facebook isn't a search engine! Oh, but it is! Just not in the conventional "Google it" kind of way. I was searching for a recommendation from people I trusted. I went to my Facebook account and typed into my status "No HBO means no 'True Blood' tonight. Anyone know where I can find the show online for free?"
In less than five minutes I had six different friends leave updates to my status with links that carried the show online for free. I didn't have to register my e-mail or sign up for spam e-mail for a year, download a virus-ridden video player, or pay $9.95. It was fantastic.
Once I finished watching my episodes and my world fell nicely back into balance, I began to mull over the idea of social-media status feeds being the next big thing in terms of search-engine marketing. What makes more sense? Going to Google to find something or soliciting the help of a group of your family and friends who know you and will give you the consumer point of view?
For example, let’s say you need a recommendation for a restaurant. If you go to Google or Yahoo and type in "great places to go to dinner in Chicago," sure you’ll get a list; but if you go to Facebook, MySpace or Twitter and say, "Need a recommendation for dinner with friend from out of town tonight, nothing too pricy and a nice atmosphere; good jukebox selection a plus," you’ll get recommendations from people who most likely have been to the places they recommend or know someone who has. And the best part is the people recommending these places are people you trust — almost like an interactive Google personalized just for you, by people who like you (or at least they claim to on Facebook).
Sure, there are sites like Yelp, Meetup and Chicago-Scene that all specialize in rating restaurants, theaters, bars and clubs, but nothing beats the recommendation of someone you know.
And the social-media search engine doesn't stop there. Let’s use Facebook status feeds as an example. For instance, John Smith, my long-lost pen pal from fifth grade, is now my friend on Facebook, and John also happens to be looking for a nice restaurant to impress a hot date he has next weekend. While John's scanning his messages, he sees my status update with a list of endorsements from friends and family recommending good restaurants in the area. So John scans the list, picks one out, and now is one step closer to a great first date, courtesy of me and my friends.
Word of mouth via status/Twitter updates is changing how people choose where they go and what they buy while offering a plethora of new information, opinions and endorsements influencing individuals and communities on a daily basis.
As it relates to nonprofits
So how can nonprofits use this info to help grow their communities online? Easy. All you need to do is find your rock stars. By rock stars, I mean the people in your Facebook causes and fan pages or Twitter followers who go above and beyond the norm. These are the supporters that retweet almost every post, the Causes member who has recruited 50+ people into your cause, or people who comment frequently on the links posted to your fan page.
These are your organizational rock stars, and these are the people you want to talk to, get to know and engage. The power of an endorsement or recommendation from someone who believes as fiercely and wholeheartedly as the rock stars I've been fortunate enough to know is invaluable. Using social media, they create brand recognition, awareness and credability for an organization and then first-hand carry that message to their individual online communities.
Engaging your rock stars
How do you activate your rock stars? Start by messaging them personally. Ask them what their personal ties to your organization and its mission are. Most rock stars have a personal reason or stake in what you do; find out what that is, and you will be able to know how each rock star can best advocate on behalf of your organization. Once you establish that connection, ask them to be ambassadors of sorts for your cause by doing the following:
- Post updates on their Facebook profiles about what great work your organization is doing and why others should support you.
- Tweet links to your cause with endorsements of the good work that is being done.
- Post links to news articles or press releases relevant to your cause to their fan or Twitter pages.
- If they are bloggers, ask them to write about your organization and why they endorse it, and at the same time encourage their readers to do the same by linking that page to your official Web site or your organizational blog.
- If they use Facebook, write notes about why your organization is important to them and tag all their friends in the note so they are sure to read it.
In the social-media world, I look at my rock stars very similarly to how most organizations look at major donors (though they might not have given a dime). I get to know them, make sure they know how much they are appreciated, and give them the tools they need to go out and evangelize the cause they care so much about.
Bottom line is, though Google can recommend charities for ending poverty or curing cancer, seeing a recommendation from a friend and hearing their personal reasons for supporting a cause has a greater impact than a Google search ever will.
It all comes down to being in the environment, finding your rock stars, and letting them sing your tune loud and proud!
Christina Johns is senior manager of direct-response television, telemarketing and social media at the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.