Two weeks ago I posted a blog about an 82-year old Fireman named Bob and how Hurricane Irma left him homeless. Along with the post I included a link to a GoFundMe site to raise money to help Bob rebuild his home. Although I’ve used social media very successfully to promote business for myself and my clients, I’d never used it to raise money before so there was a lot to learn. Of course, creating Bob’s site taught me about how to use the GoFundMe app but it also taught me a lot about how to use social media as a promotional tool.
Up until now, my online strategies have been judged by two yardsticks. The first is outreach and awareness. I could tell how well my online activities were doing based on the number of people who signed up for an offer, followed my tweets or posts, shared or retweeted what I’d posted, or showed up for an event or band gig.
I could also tell by how many people would email or call and invite me to speak at their events or were interested in me doing consulting work for their companies. When I’d ask, “how did you find out about me?” they’d usually answer, “I read your blog” or “I saw you on LinkedIn” or “I saw one of your TV appearances on Facebook.”
But with Fireman Bob’s GoFundMe site, I could track how well we were doing by how much money people were donating in real time. In fact, I became obsessed with watching the site and correlating the money raised to our online activities minute-by-minute.
This exercise taught me a lot. I want to share the five things I learned because you can use what I discovered to increase the return on your own social media efforts.
1. Nothing works as well as relationships. The people who gave the most money — and gave it the quickest — were people who know Bob. Clearly Bob has meant a lot to a lot of people because his friends are both very generous and very kind. Moreover, they didn’t just give money, but sent their donations with lovely thoughts and wishes and they took the time to repost my request to increase our outreach.
This means that the time to start building your blog lists and assembling your followers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc is not when you need to reach out to people. If you haven’t started yet, the right time to do it is today. Or, as the old saying goes, “The best time to plant an oak tree is 20 years ago. Or today.”
2. People have short attention spans. Strike while the iron is hot. I screwed up. I didn’t create Bob’s GoFundMe site the first or second day after Hurricane Irma destroyed Bob’s house. In fact, I didn’t even put the site up until a week after the storm. Because of that mistake, I’m convinced that I reached fewer people — and earned fewer dollars — than I would have if I had started immediately. People want to be involved in something that matters NOW!! The combination of the immediacy of the storm and the significance of the need generated the most donations within the first few days. A week later, when Hurricane Irma was no longer top of mind to most of the world, the need was still just as great but people’s interest had moved on.
Houston’s devastating floods from Hurricane Harvey were pushed out of our consciousness by Hurricane Irma which was in turn superseded by Hurricane Maria which was front and center only until the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas slid Puerto Rico out of the headlines. Sadly, Las Vegas too will soon be old news — replaced by the fires in Northern California or Trump’s next outburst or who knows what.
When you have an opportunity to generate attention based on current events, jump on it. Other than wrapping fish or lining bird cages, there’s not much use for yesterday’s newspaper.
3. Thank you’s matter. All of the 167 people who donated to Fireman Bob received immediate and personalized thank you notes. Following the thank you’s, I saw the number of reposts and retweets expand exponentially, fanning out from the donor who spread the word to people who didn’t know Bob but just wanted to help. For the most part their donations were smaller than the ones from Bob’s friends but their volume was greater, resulting in us raising significantly more money than if we only heard back from people we know.
Your mother was right. Thank you notes matter.
4. Video rules. I think I’m a pretty compelling writer. But the collection value of the stories I told about Bob and his personal disaster paled in comparison to the amount of people we reached— and the amount of money we raised — when I posted videos of Bob explaining what happened to the house he built 30 years ago. You can watch them HERE.
The lesson is simple. If you want to communicate convincingly, video is the medium of choice.
5. Keep priming the pump. Marketing on social media is not a “one and done” opportunity. Instead, you can continue to capture people’s attention if you continue to come up with new and compelling ways to show them what’s going on. Because of this, we keep uploading new videos and photos and we keep people appraised of what’s going on and how Bob’s doing. We have even received interest from TV shows that want to feature Bob and his rebuilding effort and I’m confident that when those shows air we’ll see another increase in giving.
As I said, you can apply all five of these tips to your online marketing efforts — they’re not specifically or exclusively linked to Bob’s site. Instead they clearly lay out the specific things you need to do to make your social media matter.
Speaking of mattering, thanks to your generous help, as of 10/09/17 we’ve raised $32,000 to help Bob rebuild. Thanks to our donors, we have an engineer starting on the plans for Bob’s rebuilt home. If you want to help, there’s still time and plenty to be done — your generous contribution will go a long way to helping an 82-year old put his life back together. You can learn more right HERE.