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I attended a social media workshop last week, hosted by Patrick Bieser of Northwoods. Bieser reviewed some of the top social media tools and gave, in his opinion, ideas as to who should be using each tool. I noted that he thought highly of non-profits who use Facebook. He also gave examples of groups who, in his opinion, should NOT use Facebook. Like anyone in the finance industry.

As Bieser went on he suddenly said, in regards to using social media, “It’s not worth doing if you’re not doing it right.”

BAM! This was my take-away. You know how sometimes you hear something and you know it was just for you? This was for me. I needed it. I needed to be reminded of it. Hopefully I will do a better job because of it.

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I’ve been working with a small non-profit organization in growing their Facebook page. They want more followers, but they don’t know how to grow their fan-base. After evaluating their site and coming up with the following list of recommendations I thought I would share it with you; it can apply to nearly every organization out there.

1. Only update once a day. People like you, that’s why they follow you. But they like you in small doses; don’t overdo it.

2. No need to update on weekends (unless you have an event taking place). People get that you take the weekend off. They do too.

3. Include photos when possible. Pictures tell the best stories.
-Don’t show lots of photos of the staff. It’s ok to show staff, especially if they are at an important event. But remember that you are promoting a mission, not the people who work to keep it going.

4. Use variety in what you post about. We get that you have an amazing mission. But sometimes it’s nice to hear about the different aspects of your mission.
Here’s a few ideas of what to post about:
*mission-focused stories; stories with photos are even better!
*asks for donations, both cash and in kind
*shout out to donors
*notification of future volunteer trainings
*’Save the Date’ for future events
*FYI’s, Did You Knows, and other statistics about the organization

5. Look for tie-ins to timely events. (Have a volunteer who is a veteran? Give him a shout out on Veteran’s Day. Is the month of May rolling around? Tell the story of a mom who has made an impact on the Foundation for Mother’s Day. Getting cold outside? Talk about what’s going on inside to stay warm and cozy.)

6. Be transparent. If someone complains on your wall, address the complaint. People appreciate an honest answer.

7. Keep posts short. I think that one is self-explanatory.

8. Don’t forget to do a grammar check. It might be ok to use incomplete sentences on your own page, but keep it professional when representing the Foundation.

9. When possible, link back to your website. Always look for opportunities to drive traffic to your website.
-Likewise, when you mention other organizations, link to their FB page or website as well.

10. Follow other organizations. Chances are, they’ll follow you back.

11. Make a calendar to keep track of what you will talk about, and when. This helps in making sure that your content is fresh and relevant.

12. Host an online contest – see if there isn’t something around the office you can dig up and offer as a free gift. Encourage fans to ‘share’ with their friends, which in turn gives them a second entry into the prize giveaway. Contests can be simple: “Like” this picture to win a $5 gift card to the Smoothie Hut. OR Ask a question that is mission-related. A wish granting organization might ask, “If you could go anywhere you wanted, where would it be?” Every person who answers will automatically be entered into a drawing for 2 free movie tickets.

I might finish by adding that every time you print promotional material you should include the Facebook logo next to your contact information. This helps your constituents to know where they can find you online.

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“Six-year-old Jenny gives two thumbs up as her wish to swim with dolphins comes true.”

“Nine-year-old Jeremiah grins from ear to ear as his wish to go on a shopping spree becomes reality.”

“Seventeen-year-old Karissa, who wished to visit Australia, stops to pose with a koala bear.”

[insert photo of cute wish kid who grins from ear to ear]

While working for a local non-profit I was tasked with providing daily Facebook updates for the Foundation. In general, finding things to write about was easy. We granted wishes for children facing life-threatening medical conditions. As long as the family had given the thumbs up for publicity, there was usually a recent wish recipient I could write about. The pictures we received showed children who had found hope, strength and joy during the wish process. It was easy to generate ‘likes’ from our fans, due to the simple nature of the mission we supported. But it was also easy to start sounding like a broken record.

In order to break up the regular posts featuring the wish kids I found other ways to keep our followers engaged. I wrote about donors. I wrote about ways our followers could get involved. I wrote about things going on around the office.

HalloweenBy working for a children’s charity we were always looking for excuses to dress up (or dress down). Basement needs cleaning? Guess we’ll have to wear jeans. Boss is out of the office? Sounds like a jeans day to me! Halloween is just around the corner? You better bet we’ll be tracking down the best costume in town. Festivus for the volunteers? Better pull out the ugly sweaters.

Then I had the crazy idea to turn that ugly sweater contest into a Facebook contest. I had no idea that we were about to launch our most popular post to date.

Each staff member wore an ugly sweater to the volunteer Christmas party, and then we posted pictures online and asked our fans to vote for their favorite. The ‘likes’ quickly added up. Volunteers, wish families and friends of staff members each had their favorite person in the office, and no one was going to let someone else win. Within 24 hours the voting slowed, but the Insights page showed activity on our page had skyrocketed. The post had nothing to do with the mission we all worked so hard to support, yet generated more online activity for the Foundation than any other post we had shared since the page was created.

Are you stuck in a rut with your status updates? Do you find that you are not sure what to share with your fans? Have you noticed that it’s the same group of people who ‘like’ each thing you post? Perhaps today as you wear your Halloween costumes to work you might consider posting your photos online and asking fans to ‘like’ their favorite. Want to get even more activity on your page? Turn the post into a contest for your followers; offer a gift card or service discount for one lucky person who votes for their favorite photo.

I’m convinced that a simple change from the regular posts you create each day will greatly help the activity on your Insights page. Be sure to report back and let me know how it goes – I can’t wait to hear all about it!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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Ten days ago the guys in charge over at Facebook announced that users can now promote posts for a one-time fee of $7. It comes a little more than a year after the guys at FB responded to a viral hoax, alleging that Facebook would start charging users to use the social site’s new platform.

“A rumor on the Internet caught our attention. We have no plans to charge for Facebook. It’s free and always will be.”

Guess they changed their minds.

facebook promoteWhen you update your status you now have the option to promote your post. By doing so, your post will appear at the top of your friend’s feeds, helping it to gain more visibility.

facebook promote termsBut be warned. As soon as you click that 7-letter word your credit card info is called for.

I actually read about this announcement the day it was made. I’ve spent the past week and a half pondering the news, and in the end I’ve decided it’s a good thing. This is why:

top storiesSome time ago Facebook changed the way the Newsfeed scrolls by giving users the option to view Newsfeed posts one of two ways ~ “Top Stories” or “Most Recent”. Being the FB junkie that I am, I prefer to read my posts in chronological order. But FB nearly always defaults to “Most Recent”, so after I log in I have to click the “Sort” button and change my settings. That’s common sense for me. But again, a lot of my friends don’t get online as often as I do, therefore they don’t catch every post that has been listed.

On that note, a promoted post will gain more visibility as it will have the opportunity to loiter at the top of a friend’s feed – hopefully long enough that those who only log on once or twice a week will have a chance to see the big news. It will also be beneficial for those who have a lot of Facebook friends. I happen to keep my Facebook circle tight, only some 200-300 friends are connected. But there are those who chose to become friends with anyone and everyone they’ve ever met. So, for all the high school kids who have some 700-800 Facebook friends, they too will now have the opportunity to see the big news when Johnny pays $7 to promote the news that he’s now ‘in a relationship’.

This is why Facebook drives me nuts. Not all of my friend’s status updates show up in my newsfeed. FB filters posts and only publishes the ones that are most relevant to me. Maybe my friend Jared’s posts don’t show because we don’t often interact. My friend Julie’s posts might not show because I have her flagged as an acquaintance. So right off the bat, even though I scan my Newsfeed several times a day, there are still posts I miss.

Facebook clearly recognizes the problem, and now they are choosing to ‘help’ users by charging a fee. So much for being free, right?

Let me share a personal example that demonstrates how a post could have benefited from being promoted.

Earlier this year I found out I was going to have a baby. I think that’s worth announcing on Facebook. In fact, in my opinion, not many other things trump an addition to the family. It was Valentine’s Day, so I chose to share a family photo from a recent vacation to Las Vegas. Under the photo I wrote that we were taking ‘bets’ to find out whether baby #2 would be a girl or a boy.

Within minutes of posting my news the comments started rolling in. Lots of ‘woohoos’ and several more ‘Congratulations’. One or two even told me they had been speculating, because my growing stomach was already starting to show. (To be fair, I was already 20 weeks along. In fact, I already knew it was a girl). When the excitement slowed down I had some 50-60 comments and/or likes, a ranking of roughly 25% of my friends. To be honest, I was a little hurt that more of my ‘friends’ didn’t congratulate me on the news. So I followed the big announcement post with this one:

cleaning houseOh boy. That did it. If I hadn’t woken the sleeping giant before, he was wide awake and coming after me now. People begged me to keep them around (funny how people take a clean up so seriously). They got defensive. They explained why they hadn’t commented the day before. Some were supportive. Others… well, take a look for yourself (Last names have been removed so I don’t lose the rest of my friends):

Jenny: In the words of Frank, tell those non-commenters/non-likers to “Get out of here!”

Sondra: I can’t remember if I liked or not, but I did see your big announcement (Congrats!) but I am also 36 weeks pregnant sick with the flu and every time I get a second to sit the computer my kids distract me and I forget what I am doing. Just don’t get rid of us totally overwhelmed people….

Christie: You sound a tiny bit hormonal here!? LoL I change my guess to a girl

Krachel Greenwood Not hormonal – just keepin it real.

Cami: Congrats! Missed it yesterday but I say another girl.

Christie: Its true there’s a lot of non commenting lurkers out there… I don’t like the ones to just read the gossip but never post anything of their own!

Geoff: DO IT!!

Cindy: I saw all the comments and you have a lot of fb friends that commented. You mean you have even more than those who didn’t comment. Excited about the announcement. I’m thinking another girl!

Jill: I missed it yesterday too. Congrats! I don’t get on Facebook everyday. Sometimes only about once a week. Probably alot of the non commenters out there just don’t get on all the time, so maybe they missed the big announcement? I would have if I didn’t get on tonight. Anyway, congrats! I’m so excited for you. I say boy to help Matt out a little. Have to balance the hormones out you know!

Kandis: Don’t delete me!! And I think you’ll have a boy.

Krachel Greenwood I know there’s a lot who don’t get on daily. But there’s also a lot who do… Yet try to stay anonymous. Chances are if we’ve chatted in the past – you’re probably safe.

Terri: Great, I am safe. I can sleep better tonight.

DiAnne: Oh…good thing I just got back from Nashville and Yellowstone and Big Sky MT……don’t make me go away! I understand how you feel, however. I had to “unfriend” a few a couple weeks ago. I kind of like a R.I.P. message to them. JOKING! Maybe send them a private msg that you are wondering how they are doing?…if nothing….push the red button. Just thinking. XO

Angela: Hey, I LOVED your post yesterday

DiAnne: Remember…life is too short to feel emotionally bogged down by issues. If it doesn’t feel good for your life, then make a change…whatever that may be. Emotional or physical….having internal peace is key. Do what is right for you. XO

Dana: I missed it… Sorry! that’s awesome! I always miss the good stuff. many congrats!

Wendi: I get it everyday…oh, but you are talking about fb. I am going to say boy. They are the ones that makes us feel bad and unloved.

Brad: I’m still mad you jinxed the pats………..again!!! Damn you and Matt’s love making patterns

Angela: What if I was too busy gettin busy to see your announcement yesterday?

Angela: Congrats btw!

Frank: PHEW! so glad i commented yesterday!!

Robert: As someone who used to work in the news business, I hope you’ll understand and forgive me for having a rather hectic couple of days at my station, and failed to comment on your photo.

Now, that being said…Congratulations! Are you guys hoping for a boy or a girl? One of each?

Mindy: Uh oh. I just commented. Hope I make the cut. If I could triple like your announcement, I would. Such exciting news!

Hugh: As a father of eight, two of them boys, I must guess it will be a girl. Mood swings considered?

Kristin: You opened a can of worms here lol I didn’t comment either but am so thrilled for you. I’m guessing a girl so your older one can have can have a little sister. I say you can never have to many friends to love and support you. You never know when you may need them.

Jeana: Wow missed the announcement but just checked it out. Congrats! What a cute way to announce! My vote is another girl…

Jeremy: umm. congrats.

Aaron: Missed the announcement. Congrats are in order.

John: Your updates don’t always appear on my feed.

That said, Jaqueline and I DID congratulate you in our own conversations, just not on your page. Love to hear you guys are making another baby. Or MADE another baby as this case may be. Atta girl. Or boy.
February 16 at 5:05am · Unlike · 1

Timothy: Congrats Krachel. I guess Matt helped a little…well maybe not a little. Mom told me last Saturday you were expecting in July. Sounds like a road trip out west is in the future.

Nika: I liked it. I’m happy for you, please don’t break up with me. PS how are you feeling?

Tricia: Congratulations to you and your family! I don’t always see or comment on every post but love to check in and see how everyone is doing. I’ll say twins – a boy and a girl!

Brittany: ahhhh I just saw your post. CONGRATULATIONS! please don’t delete me

Melissa: i didn’t even see the announcement!!!! congrats! how far along are you?

Travis: Congrats krach

Krachel Greenwood Hey – to be fair – we all clean house here and there – I just chose to give a heads up!

Heather: I agree with jill. Some of us may have missed it because our feeds turn over quickly or we don’t check fb every day. Congrats btw!

Mindy: Must have missed but after reading other comments you must be expecting. Congratulations!! I say boy since that’s what your sister is having so the cousins will play together

Katie: And everyone who loves you and checks Facebook regularly deserves to stay. Please keep me, as I commented from Germany!

Rebekah: It’s good to clean house every once in awhile!

Joy: I agree!!!

Michael: I’m coming in late to the conversation….Keep me!!! And congratulations!!!

Jami: Sheesh, glad I got on FB yesterday!!!

Sandy: Hey, congratulations. So exciting. I guess this means you wont be able to catch for softball. im sad about that, but so excited your 3-yr-old will be a big sis. good luck !

Shauna: Oh my…..i guess I’m TOTALLY OUT!! congrats krachel and matt!! How fun to be having another baby! Oh how I hope he wears the kilt to bless new baby greenwood!!! I’m so excited for you guys!!

The truth is – I had to take a step back and realize that not everyone gets on Facebook as much as I do. Then again, most people don’t get PAID to be on Facebook (like I do). So to sum it up, sadly, I believe that promoted posts are a good idea. Who knows? You might just see me pay to announce baby #3.

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Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.
Has anyone’s burden been lighter today
Because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?

[Chorus]
Then wake up and do something more
Than dream of your mansion above.
Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure,
A blessing of duty and love.*

It was one of those weeks. Actually, not even one of ‘those’ weeks. Something entirely different. It has instead been a week that has been emotionally-taxing on my soul.

A dear friend from high school left for the trip of a lifetime with her sweet family. It was something they talked about for the past six months. The anticipation and excitement grew. And then, in the blink of an eye, it was time to board the plane and go. We exchanged notes of thanks and good luck over Facebook and went about our separate ways. But only hours later – Wednesday morning – she mentioned that they were at the hospital; her 4-year-old Mia, a heart transplant recipient, wasn’t feeling well and appeared to have pneumonia. Only a few short hours later the devastating news was shared: her heart was in rejection and she needed the support of a heart and lung machine (ECMO) in order to survive.

Loved ones began to rally. Prayers were offered by friends. Little ones dressed in red, Mia’s favorite color. Mamas showed signs of support by sharing heart photos. An online donation page was even established. Talk about an outpouring of love and support! And for the next 48 hours I watched as people across the nation held tight to their faith in God that 4-year-old Mia would turn around and a miracle would come.

Today, sadly, we learn that Mia’s time on earth is running short. And while a mere four days ago she was dreaming of a trip to the happiest place on earth, tonight her family sits at her bedside in a hospital far, far from home as they prepare for the dreaded task of saying good-bye.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a loved one. I don’t know how parents survive after placing a child in the ground. But during my time working with children facing life-threatening medical conditions I met many, many parents who have done just that. Each and every one of them is a hero to me. They have done the unthinkable, yet find it in their hearts to not turn on God, but rather find strength in Him. They smile. They share their story with others. They know that God is good.

Perhaps that is why I needed to lose myself in service. I was feeling, well, you know. Yucky. Slimy. Guilty that my own children are strong and healthy. So when the opportunity arose to prepare a meal for guests currently staying at the local Ronald McDonald House, I jumped at the chance to serve. And you know what they say about service – those who serve get just as much out of the service as those who receive. After watching the heartbreaking situation my friend is going through, going out and serving is the LEAST I could do for my fellowman.

Ronald McDonald HouseThe home itself is beautiful. Located on Watertown Plank Road, the Ronald McDonald House of Eastern Wisconsin has the ability to house 38 families a night. Families are only asked to pay $10 per night, but no family is ever turned away for their ability to pay. More than 1,000 families stayed at the home in 2011, but another 806 were turned away, due to high occupancy.

RMH heartOutside the home, a giant heart with the initials ‘RMH’ sits on the front lawn.

“How fitting,” I thought – as my week has become consumed with thoughts of little Mia and her failing heart.

Once inside I immediately felt a spirit of love. I believe in heaven, and that’s the only way I can think of to describe the feeling in the RMH. It felt like heaven.

RMH volunteerRMH crock potsA wonderful volunteer showed us the ropes. We were to set up our crock pots and salads and then help the house guests with any dinner-related questions they may have.

At six o’clock prompt the families began to file in to the dining room. One woman sat alone, off to the side of the hall. I asked her if she wouldn’t mind my company and we started talking about the one thing we have in common – being moms. The evening began to quickly pass as I found myself serving those in need.

There are chances for work all around just now,
Opportunities right in our way.
Do not let them pass by, saying, “Sometime I’ll try,”
But go and do something today.
’Tis noble of man to work and to give;
Love’s labor has merit alone.
Only he who does something helps others to live.
To God each good work will be known.

Perspective. Now instead of sitting on the couch and feeling sorry for myself, I find myself getting lost – lost in service.

*Text and music: Will L. Thompson, 1847–1909, alt.

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