Spitfire Strategies

The Internet in 2014

Ellie Klerlein

By Ellie Klerlein
Vice President

2014 provided some important lessons for nonprofits aiming to win their issues online. Here’s our round-up.

  1. Clicktivism had major victories. A year ago, no one knew the words “net neutrality.” By the end of 2014, four million Americans took action online to protect the open Internet. A study found that the engagement was far deeper and more diverse than most online campaigns, putting to rest the idea that clicktivism is either dead, or shallow. When Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter quickly became a platform for those voices which would have otherwise gone unheard.
  2. Let your audience own it. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge quickly became the envy of every organization in 2014, raking in $220 million and generating massive awareness. One important element that helped the campaign gain momentum was that individuals were able to add their personal touch to the challenge. We saw similar engagement when a group of Nigerian girls were kidnapped by Islamic militant group Boko Haram. Individuals, including many celebrities and public figures, participated in the #BringBackOurGirls movement online. The lesson here is to stop trying to create “the next ice bucket challenge” (or LGBT rights red logo in 2013, or Kony 2012 video) but instead let go of control and allow your audiences to become their own champions of your cause. Once people feel ownership, the results are authentic and powerful.
  3. To pay or not to pay? Every organization in 2014 noticed a decrease in organic reach on Facebook. Paid Facebook ads or promoted posts, like them or not, are a reality. Fortunately, the knowledge base of how to do them cheaply and effectively is now well developed. In 2015, organizations should pay close attention to their analytics for all social platforms to determine when to invest in ads and if those outlets are actually helping you reach your target audience. Twitter and LinkedIn now have their own set of analytics to help you monitor your content more strategically. In 2015, it’s worth watching if Facebook’s membership, or role in nonprofits’ activism, has decreased because of this pay-to-play model.
  4. What platforms should you join? Nonprofits are using platforms most often in this order: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest and Tumblr. Although Facebook still has the most members, Pinterest and Tumblr were the fastest growing social networks this year, up 110 percent and 120 percent respectively. After years of predictions that Google+ will be the next big thing (and years of this not happening), we’ll venture to guess it STILL won’t be the next big thing in 2015. Keep an eye out for Ello, “the anti-Facebook” that offers an ad-free experience but has already had a roller coaster of expansion and contraction. Takeaway: don’t feel bad if you haven’t got 1,000 “friends” there yet. It may or may not exist by the time you get around to trying.
  5. Do you sleep with your cellphone? No shame, you are in good company. 90 percent of young adults, in fact sleep with their phones. As weird as that is, the more you ignore mobile, the more your organization will fall behind. If your website is not mobile responsive, it’s a basic necessity now, and 2015 is the year to make it happen. A recent Blackbaud study found that donors were 34 percent more likely to make a gift after reaching a donation form when the website was responsive.
  6. Laugh it up. In 2015, perhaps the simplest resolution could be to add humor, personality and more emotion to your emails, social media posts and blog. Consider Get Covered Illinois’ hilarious video that made the rounds online. Or take John Oliver, who by making fun of net neutrality, broke down the complex issue for a lay audience. Just don’t take shortcuts like Facebook did in its Year in Review, which reminded users of good and bad moments alike!
  7. Big data got bigger. The corporate sector has fully embraced big data, and nonprofits are falling behind. You know how that plays out. From using Facebook and Twitter ads to targeting audiences on their mobile devices to investing in online advertising, nonprofits will need to make big data a priority in getting this right. Even while we play catch up, it’s important to protect against this data being used by companies or the government to marginalize the vulnerable populations we all work to empower.

We hope this list helps you start planning for the New Year and as always, Spitfire is here to help you along the way.

“This is a truly transformative program and there is no question that it is preparing leaders to be courageous communicators.”

- Colleen Bailey, Executive Director, The National Steinbeck Center

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