The year 2013 is the year Content Marketing has become a mainstream marketing strategy for both nonprofits as well as for profit organizations. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 92% of nonprofits use content marketing.
But because of this outpouring of content, it is also the year nonprofits must think about differentiating their content from the mass of generic content being generated.
Writing one more blog post about how your cause is helping in so many wonderful ways is not going to cut it – well at least not like it did three years ago.
Joe Pulizzi, in his recent book “Epic Content Marketing,” sounded a clarion call for all of us to create epic content marketing – content marketing that stands out from the crowd.
Nonprofits are actually ideally equipped to create epic content marketing, according to Pulizzi. Why? Pulizzi bravely shared about his son Joshua’s autism diagnosis:
“Because of my experience with Joshua, I’ve had the pleasure of talking to a number of people that work at nonprofits about content marketing. What I’ve found is this: nonprofits are the easiest of all to develop a content marketing strategy for… why? They can tell the best stories.”
Check out some of the heart-string pulling examples from Pulizzi’s blog post.
User Generated Content: Epic Content for Nonprofits
Nonprofits have a great story to tell, but how can you stand out in a crowded field of generic content marketing? By tapping into that wellspring of stories each one of your supporters and beneficiaries have.
But it’s easier said than done.
Though we all want to tap into the raw, emotional stories that can drive a fundraising campaign, help recruit volunteers and tell your unique story, you have to be well organized about how you generate and use content directly from your beneficiaries and supporters.
You’ve got to ease them into it with a supporting structure and purpose.
I’ve identified three steps to help you ease your constituents into an escalating cascade of user-generated content. These steps are:
Convince them to contribute content to your own content project
- Hold a fundraising competition with user-generated at its core
- Create a platform for deep sharing
Join me as I delve into the exciting details of user-generated content for nonprofits.
Have them create content for your content project
When you’re first trying to get your constituents, supporters and beneficiaries to share their personal experiences via their own videos, blog posts, essays, photo journals or podcasts, you need to make it easy for them. One successful method is to organize your own content project, such as a video or an eBook, but have the core content come from your constituents. This gives you unique content and them the reward of helping without creating a lot of work for anybody..
My employer, Kimbia, used this approach for a promotional video they produced for the upcoming event Give Local America™ on May 6, 2014.
The video was composed entirely of short video clips contributed by supporters around the country. Each clip featured an individual or group holding up a sign that contained phrases that when pieced together communicated the core message of the event.
You can view the video here:
Hold a competition with user content at it’s core
This is a fun one, and it’s a way to get lots of diversified, quirky and creative user-generated content.
The Mo Brothers and Mo Sisters of the #Movember movement have perfected the art of user-generated content and have filled countless Twitter streams and Facebook timelines with handlebar, pointy waxed, Tom Selleck and carnival moustaches galore.
The #Movember concept is simple. During the month of November, to raise awareness and funds for men’s cancer, teams of men (and women, the “Mo Sistas”) form around the world and compete against other teams in a friendly race to see who can raise the most money – and who can grow the most outrageous moustache.
My son is in on it. I did it. You can see our pictures below.
Using a concept such as a fundraising and user-generated content competition really starts to feed on itself. It breeds a self-perpetuating and motivating output of content (often in the form of awkward and funny pictures of people – in this case sporting moustaches) that puts the particular cause on the map and sticks in people’s minds.
Does it work?
Since it’s inception in 2004, Movember has raised $446 million in the United States so far. Not bad for a bunch of silly pictures of men with moustaches!
Create a platform for deep sharing
If you really want to tap into those deep human stories, you need access to your constituents’ stories – in their own words. Blog posts, articles, essays, videos. That’s the holy grail of user-generated content.
And it’s the hardest to get.
The best strategy is to create a platform specifically designed for this. You might have to start out with a safe place where people who feel vulnerable can share their stories within the confines of a defined community of like-minded members.
Vendors such as Small World Labs and Ning provide platforms for nonprofits and other organizations to create closed communities so members can share their stories.
A great example is Catalyst’s initiative, Men Advocating Real Change, which has set up it’s own community, ontheMARC, using the Small World Labs platform to provide an online learning community for professionals committed to achieving equality in the workplace.
Their strategy is very smart: they’ve recruited several high-profile bloggers to contribute regularly to the ontheMARC blog. These are men who have written books or speak at conferences about how to achieve equality in the workplace.
They then encourage the membership-at-large to share their own experiences via blog comments, new forum threads, and even guest blog posts.
Content Marketing is becoming one of the most powerful ways for nonprofits to get the word out about their mission. Harnessing the stories and creativity of their constituents is the way to create epic content marketing. Depending on where you are in the process and what your current goals are, we have outlined different ways for you to collect this content.
If you’re just starting out, ask your supporters to contribute small bits of content that will be part of a larger project, as Kimbia did with it’s #GiveLocalAmerica video.
To encourage a competitive fundraising environment, make user-generated content a central piece of the effort, as Movember does.
Finally, to really get your constituents involved and sharing their heart-felt experiences, give them a safe place or a platform to share. You might have to seed content by recruiting a dedicated cadre of contributors, as ontheMARC does.
Most importantly, even though you have to be careful sometimes, don’t be afraid of user-generated content. Being overly cautious can stifle creativity and get you lost in a sea of undifferentiated content.
Now go out and tap into your community!
About the author:
Fernando Labastida is the Content Strategist for nonprofit Omni-Channel Fundraising™ platform Kimbia, Inc. He is a passionate proponent of content marketing, and got his start in content marketing with his Spanish-language Latin IT Marketing, which became the de facto educational source for technology companies from Latin America wanting to learn how to market their products and services in the U.S. market.
He was the Retention Manager for online community platform provider Small World Labs, Blog Editor for the Austin Chapter of the American Marketing Association, the Director of the Social Media Ambassador Program at the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and a speaker at various events on content marketing.