Top Five Tips for Retaining Online Community Members

A former client recently called to talk about her new role as an online community manager for a children's clothing company based in Vancouver, British Columbia. She explained that the page began losing "likes" a few weeks into her posting schedule. After a look at the company Facebook page, a talk about her content curation style, and some consideration around changes taking place on Facebook's end, we think we know what went down. Here are our take-aways in five points. 1. Losing Can Sometimes Mean Winning

Loosing fans isn't always a bad thing. If you've recently gone from not working with a social media strategy to consistently scheduling content once a day that aims to engage and inform you audience and you're still losing people, it could be that those dawdling audience members are simply not interested in your new approach. If you hadn't been posting  that much before and only recently changed up your routine, you have to expect some of your fans to opt out because their expectations aren't being met. The good news is that from here on in, armed with your engaging content and new schedule, you can hope to connect with fans and community mangers who care about what you have to say and have the potential to turn into donors, customers and heavy-hitting supporters later down the line. In other words, your fan base may be smaller but the fans themselves are more likely to care about what you post.

It's also worth noting that, according to, Facebook recently began to aggressively deactivate fake accounts and remove those account "likes." If you've noticed your very large fan base taking a plunge, that could be part of the reason.

2. Moving From Likes to Comments to Shares

Likes are great, comments are better and shares are the best when it comes to Facebook. Keep in mind moving community members up this social media engagement ladder takes time and effort or, at the very least, really great content curation. Those fans who comment and share your posts have shown a commitment to you and that commitment should be rewarded with content they want to share with their own, online communities.

3. Schedule Your Content Consistently

Post once a day, even on weekends. Unless you've tested it thoroughly and can honestly prove that an audience wants to hear from you multiple times a day, chances are posting once a day is enough. That's certainly what Darren Barefoot and I learned from our study on Facebook and the kind of content that goes viral.

4. Listen Carefully and Respond Thoughtfully

It's easy to forget about your fans who post to your Facebook wall with the timeline feature now enabled. Don't forget to check-in every so often and use the drop-down menu at the top of your timeline to see who's been tagging and sharing content with you. If you can, always add a little note to the posts that make it onto your wall.

5. Stop Name Dropping and Start Telling Stories

If you're managing sponsorships on behalf of a non-profit campaign or responsible for mentioning corporate partners in a capital campaign, remember that you have an obligation to your community to curate quality content. In other words, don't waste your time by posting logos and listing off tags or names (that's what #ff or "follow friday" is for on Twitter.) Instead, if you need to make a corporate or sponsor mention, first ask the company in question what story they want to share with your community. From there, you can build a story around the mention.

(Blog post photo courtesy flickr user, Adikos)

Social Media Strategy for Online Community Managers

As our Social Media Marketing Masterclass series continues into autumn, we prepare to step back from our work around specific niche industries and focus on the work online community managers are doing collectively in their field. If your company or organization uses social media to reach clients, followers and supporters, then online community management is part of your work. You can click here to register for the online community management masterclass or read on to learn more about the workshop. More and more, we place value on creating successful online communities in business and the impact they have on our offline work. Our workshop will help you identify which tactics, channels and tools will help you succeed. We'll share proven strategies and techniques for growing, sustaining and engaging an online audience. In this one-day workshop, you will develop strategies that will:

* Help you decide which social media channels are right for your organization * Ensure that you implement best practices for engaging online communities * Introduce social media campaigning as a subset of online activities * Define key performance indicators (KPIs) and measure online activities and investment

This small-group workshop is designed for Online Community Managers currently responsible for social media channels and strategy. Strategy discussion, examples and best practices are customized for participants with an intermediate understanding of online tools and community management.

Where and When? 300 - 163 West Hastings St. (Entrance is at Hastings and Cambie, next to Bean Around the World) Hollyhock Room, 3rd Floor Friday, October 26, 2012 9:30am - 4:30pm Lunch and coffee served

Click here to register for your Social Media Strategy Masterclass.

Your Instructors Capulet staffer and expert online campaigner, Theodora Lamb and social media strategist Channing Rodman will lead workshop participants through a process for designing web-thinking movement marketing plans, strategies and tactics.

Theodora’s passion for non-profit causes led her to work in social media where she helps to strengthen online communities. She works with several organizations including the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation as an online community manager and with Mountain Equipment Co-op’s on wilderness protection across Canada. She’s also developed online communities for the BC Mental Health & Addictions Services, the Women’s Health and Research Institute and the Asia Pacific Foundation. Theodora’s background in radio and television allows her to bridge her passion for storytelling, media and the web and when she can, she loves to write about redheads.


Channing Rodman is a social media strategist and writer. She works with non-profits and businesses to help them connect better on the social web, and can explain the point of Pinterest to your grumpiest executive. Since moving to Vancouver in 2009, she has helped to launch online initiatives for some of BC's largest public agencies and not-for-profits, including BC Hydro and the BC Children's Hospital Foundation. Some of the themes she explores in her work include how to translate online activity in real-world action, serious games, and the future of memory on social media. She is a new parent, she loves libraries, and she will always tweet back to you.

(Cover blog photo courtesy flickr user D Sharon Pruitt.)

Research and Data: How NGOs Win with Facebook

Capulet spends a lot of time working with non-profit organizations and how they can better engage their online audience with meaningful content. It means we spend a lot of time thinking about social media and why some organizations receive more likes, comments and shares on Facebook than others. It was time to put our experience and long-held assumptions to the test and back them up with actual data. We decided to embark on a research project in order to answer this question: what kinds of content gets liked, commented upon and shared on NGO Facebook pages?

What Did We Do?

We first identified 20 Facebook pages run by large and well-known environmental non-profit organizations across North America. On average, each organization had about 160,000 fans. We searched for organizations with a fan base in and around that number to keep the playing field relatively equal. While we only researched environmental NGOs, we're confident the our results could apply to any charity or not-for profit organization. For-profit companies might be interested in the results, too.

Next, we evaluated the 50 most recent Facebook posts by each organization which gave us 1,000 posts to work with. After that, it was time to do a data dive. We've compiled the results into five critical lessons on how NGO's can win with Facebook.

Darren and I first presented our findings at NetSquared Camp back in May, 2012. In July, 2012, Greenpeace published our findings on their Mobilization Lab website.

Lesson One: Link Generously

Organizations that apply an open, networked approach to social media channels will engage their audience more successfully than those who only talk about themselves.

In our study, the NGOs that performed poorly published lots of links to their own site, and few to anybody else’s. 37% of all posts we looked at linked back to home pages and website pages while the top performing organizations regularly linked to other sites – mostly mainstream news articles about their causes – as often as they linked to their own website.

Lesson Two: Don't Overwhelm Your Audience

You may think you post the perfect content for your online community but if you post too often, you risk alienating your supporters. Something that surprised us in our research was how little the top tier organizations posted, online. In fact, they only needed to post once a day (including weekends). We also noticed that Thursdays had the highest average engagement, followed by Saturday and Sunday so if you haven't been thinking about content on the weekend, it's time you should start.

Lesson Three: You're Probably Not Sharing Enough Photos and Videos

Of all the types of content we looked at -- photos, videos, photo galleries, status updates and links -- fans were likeliest to like, share or comment on a photo. Based on all we know about Facebook and Edgerank (Facebook's algorithm that determines what content makes it into your newsfeed), this didn't surprise us.

We were surprised, however, to discover 18 of the top 20 most engaging Facebook posts were photos. In particular, our study showed climate change campaigners performed well, sharing well produced and thoughtful photos, infographics and videos. Videos also tended to perform well but still only accounted for 11% of all the posts we looked at while photos accounted for 26%.

Lesson Four: Emulate the Superstars

The two organizations that stood out at producing engaging content were Earthjustice and the Surfrider Foundation. We highly recommend taking a look at these two organizations and paying close attention to their Facebook posts and social media channels, in general. We also know that these two organizations do excellent work offline, as well. It's great to see that their real-world success extends to their digital channels, too.

Lesson Five: Overlay Powerful Text on Evocative Photos

Of the one thousand posts we looked at, the top ten were all photos with some characteristics in common (check out the slideshow, below, to see all ten photos):

  • All of the photos featured emotional or provocative subject matter.
  • Most included a simple powerful message in overlying text.
  • Most seemed to be taken, or touched up, by professionals.
  • Only one of the photos’ captions included an ‘ask’ that users like or share the photo.
  • There was only one infographic among these popular images, and it was very simple.

Jodi Stark, Healthy Oceans campaigner for the David Suzuki Foundation, attended Netsquared Camp back in May, 2012, when we first presented our findings. She took our research to heart and produced an image of oily seawater, and overlaid it with a powerful message about oil spills. Jodi writes:

"We posted this on Saturday [David Suzuki’s page had roughly 200,000 likes at the time] and in short order, we got 1,000 shares, 180 comments and 342 likes. The page was also liked by 1,000 more people this weekend. We can’t attribute this to the image, but we do know that with 1,000 shares, we got huge exposure to lots of new Facebook friends. We also got 3050 visits to the blog from Facebook (out of 4500 total visits) and 560 people who followed up and signed our action. In Facebook Insights, the post is currently second (out of 158) post for ‘engaged users’ and ‘most talked about’ for 2012."

You can find the slides from our NetSquared Camp presentation here, along with a few insights that didn’t make it into this post.

With more than 1,000 posts to work with, there's a lot we can do with the results and the kinds of comparisons we can make. If you're interested in hearing more and if you happen to be in the Vancouver area on Tuesday, September 11th, 2012, Darren and I will be presenting our findings and answering questions at Net Tuesday. Visit here for more details.

Social Media Master Class Series

After much planning, several trans-Atlantic Skype calls, and countless calendar updates, Capulet is pleased to announce a new workshop series that we call the social media marketing strategy master class series (now that's a mouthful.) Time and again, we find ourselves commending training opportunities and conferences that deliver tangible advice and real direction while criticizing those workshops and conference sessions that fall short of experience and new learnings in the field of social media.

We've taken the best of what we've seen and combined it with what we know to bring you five separate workshops. Each one is designed for senior marketing professionals in distinct industry sectors. Strategy discussion, examples and best practices are customized for each workshop and will be led by Capulet staff as well as individual instructors from our network of web marketing experts.

The calendar is up and, if you're game, we look forward to meeting and working with you to rethink and/or refine how you acquire customers and build online community using promotional techniques and smart digital strategy that resonates with a web savvy audience.

All workshops run from 9:30am to 4:30pm and are based in Vancouver in the Tides Canada building at 163 W Hastings Street. See "Upcoming Workshops" below for the complete list of sessions.

The following is a list of our upcoming workshops:

September 13, 2012 Social Media Strategy for Small Businesses
October 26, 2012 Social Media Strategy for Online Community Managers
November 23, 2012 Social Media Strategy for Healthcare
February 22, 2013 Social Media Strategy for Educational Institutions and Organizations
April 26, 2013 Online Movement Building Strategy for Not-for-Profits and NGOs


(This awesome photo is courtesy Christopher Sessums, a generous flickr user.)

Slides and Notes from NetSquared Camp

Theo and I recently completed a research project regarding how NGOs can better perform on Facebook. I'll be publishing an article about our research shortly, and will link to it from here. In the meantime, here are the slides we presented on the research at NetSquared Camp. After the slides, you'll find a few notes about the research which couldn't fit into the article.

Some other observations we made in our research (which are also in the slides, as it happens)

  • Likes are obviously more popular than comments, which in turn are more popular than shares. We found that for every one comment, there were there shares and 11 likes.
  • The top performing NGOs published once a day, seven days a week.
  • Hardly anybody ever uses Facebook Questions, Facebook's poll feature. We encountered exactly two poll questions in the thousand-odd posts we examined.
  • The equation we used to measure engagement was:

    Engagement = Likes + (Comments * 2.5) + (Shares * 5)

    I conferred with a number of colleagues, and settled on these weightings. We all agreed that a comment was worth more than a like, and a share was worth more than a comment.

"Calculate It" image courtesy flickr user Dave Dugdale.

Copyright and Doing It Right

Something you may not know about the Eiffel Tower is that a night time photo of the structure costs more than a day time photo. That's because there are not one but two copyrights to consider at night: the tower and the lighting design that's only featured after dark. This was the introduction Martha Rans made during her session on Canadian copyright and Creative Commons at the 2012 Northern Voice Conference. Nothing beats a piece of cultural trivia at the top of a session designed to navigate and translate the Canadian copyright system.

The Northern Voice conference brings together bloggers and web enthusiasts to talk shop and, every year, Martha -- a copyright lawyer and director of the Vancouver-based Artists' Legal Outreach -- is invited to share what she knows about Canadian copyright. And, trust me, copyright is everywhere. To quote Martha: " it doesn’t matter if it’s high art, low art, pop art, bad art or not art at all."

Artists Legal Outreach is a group that provides legal advice to artists in Canada. On their website, Martha and her team explain how Creative Commons licensing works, the six different licenses available, and the four different conditions that make up each license. All of the content on is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada license and is best referenced by looking at the website, directly.

One of the four conditions of a Creative Commons license is "Noncommercial." According to Martha and Artists Legal Outreach, if you want to use someone’s work licensed under the Noncommercial condition and if your work or organizations makes money in any way, you can’t. As an online community manager and someone who deals in online content on behalf of non-profit organizations, I'm often faced with the question of what's considered commercial* content. The obvious answer is anything that generates a profit on behalf of a business or company. But when you actually consider what's considered "commercial" under Canadian copyright, it's not necessarily cut and dry. For example, I use a tool called to search for photos on flickr licensed under Creative Commons. I'm careful to search under "commercial" conditions because money still changes hands when it comes to fundraising initiatives. When I asked Martha about this, she explained to the audience how we need to "unpack what we mean by commercial."

Upacking Canada's copyright system and all the things we don't understand about it is a huge challenge. To complicate things, the US system is very different from Canada's copyright laws which makes things particularly interesting when you consider the domains and content we share on a day-to-day basis. That's why Artists' Legal Outreach is so valuable to Canadians trying to navigate their own copyright system. Martha and her team work to break down the rules legislation by piece of legislation.

As an individual or organization who uses content from the web, the best thing you can do for yourself is knowledge-up on Creative Commons, use your common sense and always take care to attribute the work you use. And maybe stay away from posting night shots of the Eiffel Tower.

*See Martha's note, below.

This photo is by flickr user Darren Barefoot and it's licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license or CC BY-NC 2.0. Of course, you can see for yourself.

Online Quiz Platforms

Are you an Idea Monkey or a Ringleader? That's the question Maddock Douglas, a strategy and innovation company, is asking human resource and management experts, and you! We helped Maddock Douglas develop a fun online quiz called "Free the Idea Monkey" that helps professionals discover where their leadership and innovation strengths lie. We researched a variety of off-the-shelf quiz software and are sharing our list of some of the best available options. Our research results may surprise you. Sometimes "old-school" beats "new-school", depending on requirements and budget. If you think we've missed something, please comment below.


We started building the "Idea Monkey" quiz on Wildfire's platform. That's because we've used the platform for two past contests and were pleased with its performance and usability. Online support is available and you can either pay as you go or request a quote for custom features. But as we got further into development, we realized we didn't have as much freedom as we wanted. Facebook isn't an important piece in this quiz, and Wildfire excels at Facebook integration. We also couldn't add all the sharing functionality we wanted to the quiz results landing page. While Wildfire is ideal if you're looking to host a quiz exclusively on Facebook, we needed more flexibility and fewer Facebook bells and whistles this time around.

Fluid Surveys

After we realized Wildfire couldn't fulfill all of our needs, we turned to Fluid Surveys. With Fluid Surveys, you can theme your quiz and maintain complete control over your style sheets (that's what you use to design your website.) It's tablet and mobile friendly and you can also customize a quiz in different languages. It certainly had the functionality we needed but the price for the most flexible enterprise version was over budget for this project. So, we continued our search.


iSpring is a flash-based quiz builder. You should know that we didn't actually kick the tires on this software, but it appears that you can incorporate audio, video, and custom images. The software looks a little complicated and there may be restrictions on branding and customization. It's currently listed at $199 and comes with available online support. Online support is a perk, particularly if you're keen on customization.


Tabletquiz is an option if you're looking to build an app, exclusively and separate from any quiz software that you might embed in your website template. Again, this wasn't exactly what we were looking for, but it's good to know it's out there in case we're interested in building an app for the iPad.

Do-It-Yourself (In other words, get a developer to build exactly what you want.)

In the end, we went old school with Javascript and php. The "Idea Monkey" quiz logic uses Javascript plus some php to make each question in the quiz mandatory. It calculates the results and directs users to the appropriate results page. (We apologize for the developer talk. At least you'll know how to "talk shop" with a developer if you go this route.) The code was dropped into a CMS page template, and design work was done to make it look good. Using "Add This" on the results pages made sharing quiz results on social media channels flexible and robust, which was a "must-have".







Bonus: For Teachers in Search of Online Quiz Software

Along the way, we came across examples of quiz software for teachers. While these online tools didn't fit what we were looking for, we thought they were fine examples of how teachers and instructors can utilize online tools to better manage their tests and classrooms. and are both worth a look if you're in need of this type of online functionality.

Apple Fan Boys and White Papers

Over the years, Capulet has spoken at several events hosted by the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS). These speaking gigs often cover the work Capulet does in online marketing from its early days working in the software industry to Darren and Julie's current work with non-profit organizations. Last month, CPRS featured Darren in their "Essentials" newsletter profile.  In the article, Darren talks about becoming "a big Apple fanboy", what intrigues him about crowd funding, what it's like working in the south of France, and an upcoming white paper Capulet is releasing with some pretty interesting data.

While we can't say much about the white paper just yet, stay tuned for details and the opportunity to read it this fall.

Meantime, you can read Darren's CPRS interview, here.

Checklist: How to Choose a Design Agency

As a kind of add-on to another project, we helped a non-profit client select a design and development agency to re-design their website. As part of that work, we assembled an extensive checklist of questions to ask the candidates. With our client's permission, we've reproduced the list here.


  • For the key people working on your web project, how much experience do they have?
  • Confirm which staff will actually be working on the project.

Subject matter expertise

  • Have they developed other sites for non-profit organizations?
  • Have they developed other sites related to your particular cause?
  • What is their background or experience in search engine optimization?


  • Do all of the web projects they've recently worked on have a similar aesthetic? That's okay, as long as you like that look and feel.
  • In your initial conversations about the aesthetic you're after, does the agency staff communicate in language that you can understand? Are they able to articulate back to you what you're after?


  • What technologies (platforms like WordPress or Drupal and development environments like Ruby or PHP) do they have experience with?
  • Do they have expertise in a particular technology? If so, ask them when it's not appropriate to use that technology? You want to avoid an agency where every problem looks like the perfect nail for their hammer.
  • What changes will you be able to make to the site without their aid, or that of another designer? Ask for a demonstration on another site they’ve worked on of how to make those changes.
  • What CRM systems (such as Convio, Democracy in Action and so forth) do their technologies integrate with?
  • What CRM systems have they completed recent integration projects with?
  • What are the staff training implications of the technology choices the agency makes?
  • Can you to talk to a customer for whom they completed an integration project?
  • Have they talked to you about the mobile audience, and how their design will accommodate users on smaller screens?
  • Do they talk about where and how to host your web project? Do they have a relationship with hosting companies?
  • What considerations does the agency give to web accessibility?

Support and Maintenance

  • Do they offer ongoing support?
  • How much does ongoing support cost?
  • What response time do they offer with their support package?
  • Can you talk to one of their customers who have been a longtime user of their support services? You want to talk to somebody for whom the honeymoon period is over.


  • How will billing work?
  • What systems and practices do they have in place to ensure that they don't exceed the agreed-upon budget?
  • What happens if they find they need to exceed the budget?
  • In their proposal, have they accounted for additional costs unrelated to staffing, such as stock photography or software subscriptions?


  • What are the milestones associated with their development process?
  • What are the deliverables associated with each of these milestones?
  • Are they comfortable with hitting the deadline you've identified?
  • Who will be the project manager on the project. Ask if you can have a quick call with this person, to gauge their likability and communication style.
  • How many design revisions are included in the process? That is, how many steps are there between the first draft and the final one.
  • If you need to register a new domain, who will do this?
  • Will the agency have a role in developing the website content? If so, what?
  • Do you have multi-language needs? If so, has the agency worked on other multi-language sites?


  • Do you actually like the people at the agency? You're going to be working with them for months.
  • Who will own the source files (Photoshop files and such) associated with the project after their work is complete?
  • Who will own the copyrights associated with their work on your web project?
  • Have they genuinely attempted to understand your organization's goals for the web project?
  • Do they speak in web marketing lingo, using terms like 'conversions' and 'calls to action'? While it's not hard to fake this, a few probing questions about previous projects should separate the fakers from the experts.
  • Where is the agency located? A few in-person meetings can go a long way.
  • Do they outsource their work? If so, what parts and to whom?
  • Has the agency asked about the demographics of your audience? If many of them are elderly, for example, or in the developing world, then they'll want to factor these issues into their designs.
  • What is their reputation? Ask your colleagues if they've heard of the agency, and what they think of them.

"Round-Up" Your Social Media Content In Seven Steps

When the mood strikes, I go to YouTube to watch my favourite television commercial from 2006. Remember this one?

It reminds me that an online community manager is a bit of a digital cowboy. When you're responsible for "rounding" up daily, quality content for all your social media channels, practice your "yeehaw", put on your cowboy hat and direct your digital lasso to help you organize online content quickly and with a purpose. Here's how:

Step 1: Organize It Consider using a social media dashboard like HootSuite. With a dashboard, you can set up and monitor search streams to help you keep an eye on the online conversations and content that matters to your audience.

Step 2: Share It If You Like It Visit your favourite blogs, news sites, and online magazines. If it's not something you would read or watch yourself, than you’re going to have a tough time convincing others to spare their attention. Always post quality over quantity.

Step 3: Schedule It Bookmark or schedule the content for posting or tweeting throughout the day or week. Remember, scheduling good social media content does not replace day-to-day social media monitoring. It's important to take the time to read and respond to fans and followers who reach out to you. Monitoring should always take precedent over scheduling content.

Step 4: Build It We recently came across a study that shows tweets that contain a link with content on either side of it perform better than tweets with a URL at the beginning or end. It's a small change but worth consideration. Prompt the tweet; add your shortened URL, and follow-up with your own thought or reaction to the post.

Step 5: Repeat It Be consistent. Seeking out relevant content can take longer than you think. Set up a block of time each week and, if you need to convince management that it's time well spent, explain how it's a form of media monitoring and research. After one month of "rounding" you'll notice how much more you know about the current conservations and online attitude toward relevant topics.

Step 6: Have Fun With It Not every piece of content you share has to be a New York Times opinion editorial. Maybe you work with a conservation organization and you've just come across a beautiful example of time-lapse photography that features wild landscapes from around the world. No doubt members of your audience who support your conservation efforts would love to see examples of wild spaces that matter so much to them.

Step 7: Reward It If an organization or company similar to yours is making headway in their field and you like what you see, share it. It never hurts to send a little link love toward efforts that further innovation, even if you find yourself competing for the same audience.

Giddy up.










Image courtesy Jose Manuel Mazintosh, flickr.

The Pluses and Minuses of Google+

I'm lukewarm about Google+. I joined very early because I'm professionally obligated to kick the tires on new social media channels. The conversations in the early months were all about the tool itself. This is always the case--the first ten "electronic mails" you ever sent were probably about the wondrous medium of email. Since then, I haven't really discovered where Google+ should sit in my infovorious landscape. Since I signed up, Google+ has apparently gained some serious momentum. Earlier this year Google's CEO reported that Google+ had 90 million users worldwide. That's a very fast rate of growth--much faster than the equivalent periods of growth for Facebook or Twitter. Anecdotally, I've got nearly 6000 followers (roughly the same number of Twitter followers I've collected in five years of Tweeting) through no actual effort on my part.

And yet we've already read the usual "new social media channel is dead" stories from the likes of Forbes and Slate. I don't put much stock in those, though I've recently seen other Google+ news that's not encouraging. Among my Google+ circles, I only see about 10% of users actively on the site.

What's the future of Google+? I gave up making predictions about technology back when I wrote about "not getting Flickr" in 2004. Until recently, I'd been advising our non-technology clients not to worry about Google+. It's early days, I told them. Let the geeks kick the tires on Google+ and we'll see if it crosses the chasm. I reminded them of other Google efforts--Knol, Wave and Friend Connect.

My advice changed, though, once I watched this video from SEO guru Rand Fishkin. Take 12 minutes and watch it.

As you can see, he makes a very strong case for the search engine optimization benefits of being active on Google+. SEO tends to be a relatively small part of our non-profit clients online marketing efforts, but if you sell stuff online, then Google+ matters.

That said, if you sell stuff online, then you're probably better off spending time on Pinterest than Google+. But that's a whole other post.

Photo courtesy Yodel Anecdotal, flickr.

Drawn to the Wild with Sarah Harmer

We're delighted to be part of a project this year that combines music, conservation, and Canada's wild and beautiful landscape. We're talking about Drawn to the Wild, a project that first came about through a partnership between Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah Harmer, Mountain Equipment Co-op and The Big Wild. This project was originally inspired by The Johnny Cash Project, a website we continue to admire for its originality. Drawn to the Wild aims to raise awareness around threatened Canadian landscapes. It invites Canadians to contribute to a new version of a Sarah Harmer video and support the protection of part of the Niagara Escarpment at the same time. In the video, Sarah is singing "I'm a Mountain" as footage from her  documentary and concert film, "Escarpment Blues", features Sarah and her band touring across southern Ontario.

When you first visit, you’re presented with a randomly selected frame from a short segment of the documentary video. After choosing a frame, you use a drawing tool to illustrate it -- tracing it, adding to it or radically re-envisioning it. The site aggregates the resulting frames into a new version of the video. Each time someone draws a frame, The Big Wild donates 25 cents to Sarah's Protecting Escarpment Rural Land (PERL), an organization she cofounded. When enough frames have been submitted, The Big Wild will release a new remixed version of the video. We eagerly await the finished product and we'll be sure to share it on our website when it's done.

In the meantime, Darren has put together a screencast, below, to help you better understand how the project works and what to do if you're interested in submitting a frame, yourself. Have fun, drawing!

Video Stories

It's been an incredible year for the Capulet team. In 2011 we unveiled a long-awaited new website which you see before your very eyes; spoke at conferences across the continent; launched a Movement Marketing Program with partners Biro Creative; and generated more Canadian content than anyone thought possible thanks to Darren's One Year, One Canadian project. We've put the highlights into this short video for you. Here's to a memorable and motivating New Year in 2012!

The Data Decade: TEDx Vancouver

If TEDx Vancouver taught me anything, it's that this is shaping up to be the Decade of Data: how we collect it, how we share it, and how we can use it to build a better world. TEDx Vancouver hosted 16 speakers and an audience of 1000 at the University of British Columbia's Chan Centre on November 12th, 2011. Here's a round-up of four speakers that left an impression on me: data-related or otherwise.

Gamers, It Turns Out, Make Excellent Biochemists

Seth Cooper knows a thing or two about computer science and engineering. He is the creative director of the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington where he focuses on using video games to solve difficult scientific problems. He is also the co-partner of a new project called Foldit. It's a scientific discovery game that has allowed gamers to advance the field of biochemistry through puzzles. In fact, you may have read about it in the news. In just three weeks, Foldit gamers were able to predict the structure of the HIV Enzyme, a protein that has stumped biochemists for a very long time. News of this discovery and how the gamers did it made international headlines.

We Share Content In Waves Called Cascades

Jer Thorp is currently the Data Artist in Residence at the New York Times. Together with the research and developement department at the NYTimes, he's been working on a new data visualization project called Cascades which was featured in Mashable earlier this year.

Cascades visually represents what happens when readers tweet about New York Times articles. You can click here to watch a short clip that demonstrates what a cascade looks like and how it's formed. One of Jer's favourite cascades was one he named the "Rabbi Cascade." It's a small cascade that a group of rabbis on Twitter started when they shared an article from the New York Times. You can measure exactly when conversations like this start on Twitter and when they end when people share New York Times content.

The Ocean is Connected to the Internet (For Real)

Dr. Kate Moran heads up the Neptune Project at the University of Victoria, which connects the ocean floor off the West Coast of Canada to the internet through underwater cables. At the end of each cable rests a device that measures seafloor stability, tectonics and paleo-climates. All of this data travels through Neptune's underwater internet cables into your desktop computer or personal device where you can volunteer to help interpret it. Dr. Moran is, effectively, crowd-sourcing the content of the ocean and turning us into scientific researchers, working from the comfort of our own homes.

Carl Sagan had a Radio Voice

Reid Gower is the architect behind "The Sagan Series" which borrows excerpts from Carl Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot" on audio tape and adds a musical score and film footage to create digital montages. The first part of this series titled "The Frontier is Everywhere" has been viewed more than 1,450,000 times on Youtube. This video opened up TEDx Vancouver and introduced the event theme: Frontiers.

International Connections: Social Networks Around the World

When it comes to online advertising, Google Adwords and Facebook are the two channels we usually look to, first. Occasionally, we'll foray into Reddit and even then, it's with a very particular audience in mind (think narwhals and kittens.) So when a client recently came to us with questions about cost-per-click advertising elsewhere in the world and in different languages, we had the opportunity to conduct some extremely revealing research. The end product was an extensive list of social networking sites, some almost as popular as Facebook, in different countries around the world. (By the way, if you're interested in learning more about cost-per-click or CPC advertising on Google, check out this blog post we wrote earlier this year.) In the past, we've seen several well-done infographics that feature international social networks. The first infographic that comes to mind is about a year old now. It's a colour wheel of networks from Facebook to Flickr to China's popular Kaixin001.

More recently, Mashable produced an infographic that features "How the World Uses Social Networks." The infographic breaks down data provided by Nielson from their "Social Media Report" and visualizes social networking across ten different countries.

Here at Capulet, based on the needs of our client, we focused on five countries: Mexico, Thailand, Koren, Japan, and Brazil. We also looked at the European Union as a whole.

Almost every social network we looked at presented advertising opportunities, albeit, in a multitude of languages. If we decided to go ahead and advertise on one of these social networks, we'd have to bring in a professional translator (think simplified Chinese versus traditional Chinese) to help us navigate the bidding process.

A few of the social networks in particular stood out, not only because of their popularity, but because of the specific niche they're designed to attract. Below is a quick look at some of the more popular social networks we discovered across several different continents.

Sonico is a free-access social networking website focused on the Latin American audience. You can create a profile, add friends, upload photos and videos, and organize events. The site is popular in Latin America and other Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking regions.

Hi5 shares similarities with many social networking sites, and claims around 60 million members from more than 200 countries other than the US.

Cyworld is a Korean social network that gives users access to a profile page, photos, drawings and images uploading, an avatar, neighbourhoods, and clubs. Many renowned Korean socialites and celebrities have accounts. Cyworld has networks in South Korea, China, and Vietnam and is gaining popularity across Asia and the Pacific Island.

Kaixin001 is a popular professional networking tool in China targeting white-collar middle class users who come from a first tier city. This site in China is extremely popular among people who work for multinational companies, ad agencies and other white collar companies. Kaixin001 has gained much more popularity since 2009 because social networking sites, such as Myspace, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube were blocked in China.

PerfSpot is a web portal for people of any age, gender, or background who want to share their interests and favourite things on the web. PerfSpot currently publishes its site in 37 different languages, with a moderator team based in the U.S. and the Philippines that screens through up to a million pictures on a daily basis.

Online Tools for Your Non-Profit Radar

We recently came across author Heather Mansfield's blog post: 33 Fun, Useful and Totally Random Resources for Nonprofits. This superb list of online tools got us thinking about our own "go-to" resources that merge creativity and efficiency in a cheap and cheerful way. We tip our hat to Heather and offer up these additions to what's looking like an excellent collection of online resources for your non-profit toolbox.

Hootsuite: Your One-Stop Social Media Dashboard

Maybe it's too obvious or doesn't quite fit into the genre of "cheap and cheerful" tools for non-profits, but we still think Hootsuite is one of the best tools out there for organizations. For next to nothing, you can decentralize, organize and schedule tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn updates and your Wordpress blog from one dashboard. Hootsuite even offers tutorials in the form of "Hootsuite University" if you're overwhelmed with the idea of adding a new social media dashboard to the mix.

Screencast: Capture and Create Online Videos

Screencast is a screen capture tool that captures, among other things, online video and safely stores it online. It won't compress the video file, which means you keep what you capture. If you're looking for ways to tell a story using online videos and images, we highly recommend this gem of a tool.

Storify: Connecting the Soc Med Dots

We know that Storify is pretty new on the scene because we signed up as beta users and had some fun with it. Storify allows you to collect content from your different online channels, group it in one place and share the end result with your online communities. It's a great idea for organizations looking for better ways to collect online community content from multiple channels and present it as one, cohesive story. We look forward to seeing how this tool develops as more users climb on board.

Ushahidi: Online Crisis Mapping

Earlier this year, we attended Mobile for Social Change, a two-day training session that's part of the Toronto-based conference, My Charity Connects. You can read more about that experience, here. We learned about the latest crisis mapping tools organizations are using to mobile disaster volunteers around the world and Ushahidi was number one on the presenter's radar. Ushahidi means "testimony” in Swahili and is an open-source mapping tool (which means it’s free) that allows users to contribute reports and content via the web and mobile phones. It launched in 2008 and was initially developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout. Its roots are in Africa and it's a beautiful example of citizens mobilizing information and news to inform how government's make nation-wide decisions. You can host the Ushahidi Platform yourself or have Ushahidi host it for you using its new Crowd Map tool.

Wordle: An Oldie But a Goodie

Wordle is still our go-to tool when it comes to producing a fun graphic or word cloud for our social media channels. It helps you narrow in on themes if you're following an online discussion or reading an article. All you need to do is copy and paste the content and Wordle generates a simple and creative word cloud. If you visit or blog homepage, you'll see the Wordle we created using the content from this blog post.

Worldometers: Nothing But Numbers

This is one resource we’ve borrowed from Heather's post. It was just too interesting not to repeat. Using a few specific sources, Worldometers generates numbers that inform, among other things, the rate at which humans are consuming resources and energy, making babies, and dying. Worldometers provides a "quick facts" drop down menu and lists its sources. Averages are adjusted based on the data source. The site, for the most part, is automated and several of the meters reset every 24 hours. For example, there's a running meter that tracks how much governments around the world are spending on public healthcare on a daily basis. One look at global energy stats or population growth is enough to throw you into a cold sweat. Despite the anxiety this website may bring on, it’s an excellent source if you’re looking to compare numbers, output and global statistics for a specific research project, article or campaign.

Back to School Reading for the Social Set

Seth Godin’s recent blog post “From Asimov to Zelazny” sparked a lively discussion on a digital marketing and web advocate listserve we subscribe to through Web of Change. In his post, Godin talks about his love for science fiction. He tells of the hours he spent in his high school library reading the sci-fi collection (a telling detail into his awkward teenage years!) and how that reading would impact his future work:

“What I discovered … was that domain knowledge, edge to edge knowledge of a field, was incredibly valuable. It helped me understand where the edges were, and it gave me the confidence to be selective, to develop a taxonomy, to see what was going on.”

The post was shared on our listserv and a reading list sprung forth that we’re pretty sure even Godin would approve of. This reading list is a mix of recommendations that cover everything from organizing to digital advocacy, traditional marketing and inspiration.

We consider it our back-to-school reading as we prepare for September and the Web of Change conference.

Reading List

Beyond the Echo Chamber: How a Networked Progressive Media Can Reshape American Politics By Jessica Clark & Tracy Van Slyke

Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming By Paul Hawken

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose By Tony Hsieh

Engage: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web By Brian Solis

Friends with Benefits: A Social Media Marketing Handbook By Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo (yeah, we snuck our book in)

Getting to Maybe: How the World is Changed By Frances Westley, Brenda Zimmerman and Michael Patton

Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems By Van Jones

Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies By Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing with Organizations By Clay Shirky

Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World By Margaret J Wheatley

Momentum: Igniting Social Change in a Connected Age By Allison Fine

Rework By Jason Fried and David Heinenmeier Hansson

Robin Hood Marketing: Stealing Corporate Savvy to Sell Just Causes By Katya Andreson

Rules for Radicals By Saul Alinsky

Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web By David Weinberger

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard By Chip and Dan Heath

The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change By Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith

The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change By Allison Fine, Beth Kanter and Randi Zuckerberg

The Purpose Driven Church: Growth Without Compromising Your Message and Mission By Rick Warren

The She Spot: Why Women are the Market for Changing the World and How to Reach Them By Lisa Witter and Lisa Chen

The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations By Ori Brafman

The Tao of Leadership By John Heider

Trust-based Selling: Using Customer Focus and Collaboration to Build Long-Term Relationships By Charles Green

Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything By Don Tapscott

You are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto By Jaron Lanier

Pays to Click But It Will Cost You, Too

You may have noticed that Facebook’s advertising rates have been slowly creeping up this year. Whether you’re a for-profit or non-profit organization, these changes may impact where and how you spend your advertising dollars. According to a recent report published by Efficient Frontier (EF), a digital marketing firm that monitors growth in search engine advertising, the total amount marketers were likely to spend on cost-per-click (CPC) advertising on Facebook rose 22% in the last quarter. If you’ve ever advertised on Facebook, you know that Facebook suggests a CPC rate based on your budget and the audience you want to reach. Ad rates seem to be determined on a case-by-case basis. The bottom line? Online advertisers are spending more to reach their audience, whether they know it or not.

Already Advertising Online?

The data suggests that you can expect to pay more for your CPC campaigns throughout the rest of 2011. Brands already advertising on Facebook have the advantage of connecting with consumers and winning their loyalty early on, even as competition grows. "The longer brands wait to engage with consumers on Facebook, the more expensive it will become to acquire fans."

Still Thinking of Advertising Online?

The report predicts that "advertising dollars will shift from offline to search, Facebook and display" channels. We tend to agree. If this is true, then brands still considering online advertising budgets would be wise to test the waters of online advertising now. The longer they wait, the longer they risk competing with brands already established in these channels who, as early-adopters of CPC ads, have had a head start converting users into customers.

CPC and the Future

Efficient Frontier recognizes that Facebook advertising is sill a "young channel" and the data it’s pulling from is "highly volatile." Still, the report wraps up by stating the cost of CPCs will continue to rise. “Even if CPCs increase at 20% per quarter for the remainder of the year, this will still result in an 80% growth in a year.”

Despite the rate increases, Facebook CPC ads continue to be some of the most effective ad dollars we spend for client projects. That's because conversion rates tend to be high and the cost is still so much lower than traditional web and offline advertising.

To read the complete report by Efficient Frontier, click here.

Weaving a Professional Network at Web of Change

After years of running web marketing campaigns for companies and not-for-profits we’ve learned that it’s critical to approach every campaign from a human perspective. What personal connections are you trying to make? What flesh-and-blood problem are you trying to solve? Thanks to the magic of the web, there are endless technical tricks for pushing out online campaigns--Facebook ads, contests, donation microsites, and more. But at the end of the day, if a web-based campaign doesn’t connect with your audience on a human level and move them to act, it will fail.

This is a hard-won lesson we’ll be sharing with other web technologists, campaign organizers and web marketers at Web of Change as we discuss failures, successes and the finer details of running online campaigns that make a real impact at this annual conference for not-for-profit leaders.

Web of Change takes place in September on Cortes Island in British Columbia, Canada. Over five days, teachers, leaders, practitioners and learners (which is everybody!) share their secret recipes for leading movements and running successful social change projects.

Past participants include Greenpeace UK who recently delivered The Dark Side campaign and engaged over 230,000 people from around the globe. The leadership behind and tcktcktck have attended Web of Change and brought their climate science expertise to the table as well as stories of how to engage massive online communities. At Web of Change, has connected web technologists and leading campaign organizers working on the ground to learn how to better mobilize supporters using online tools so that they can affect real change, offline.

We're looking forward to this year’s Web of Change conference, the Cortes Island air, and the genesis of ideas that are likely to shift our perspective and lead us down new avenues of innovation. We hope to see you there, too.

Registration is open for the 2011 conference. Visit for details.

Web of Change 2011 - Find out more Web of Change 2011 - Find out more

Doing the Blogger Outreach ROI Math

We've been doing online influencer outreach for a really long time. Back in 2002, while working at a now-defunct startup, I started pitching bloggy industry news sites like At the time, I didn't know that what they ran was called a "blog", nor that what I was doing was called "blogger outreach". We still do (or at least oversee) influencer outreach today, usually as part of broader online marketing and movement building campaigns.

On Google+, Raul referred me to Kerry's recent blog post on the old question of paying bloggers for placement. I left a too-long comment, outlining the state of play from my perspective.

As a footnote to that comment, I thought I'd outline how we think about the dreaded return on investment of influencer outreach.

Focusing on What We Can Measure

As I wrote on Kerry's blog:

When I’m doing online outreach...I’m interested in two things. In the short term, I want to drive high-value visitors to my client’s site. In the longer term, I know a link will help continue to drive visitors, and improve their SEO ranking.

There are plenty of other reasons to do influencer outreach, and they're the same as traditional media relations. For one, it makes most clients happy to see their names in digital print. Then there are the usual benefits of brand awareness. These have value, but it's often difficult and expensive to calculate that value. As such, we focus on what we can measure.

Here Comes the Math

Here's how we think about ROI on influencer outreach. Consider a sample client project where we're working to raise awareness and drive signatures to a petition run by national non-profit organization.

We know, from previous campaigns and experimenting with online advertising, that the average cost per conversion is $1.75. That's the average cost of acquiring a petition signature.

The average cost to the client per blogger for influencer outreach for one campaign might be $150. That includes our research, writing the pitch, sending the pitch, following up and reporting, plus the client's time reviewing the campaign, pitch ideas and so forth. This doesn't mean that we charge $150 per pitch per blogger--our pricing isn't that granular--but when you add up all the time and effort by agency and client, it probably comes out to around that number.

So, if we pitch a blogger on writing about this non-profit campaign, we'd ideally like to get 85 petition signatures to "break even". How many visitors does that blog post need to send to the petition to generate 85 signatures? A good petition might convert at 15 to 20%, on average. However, traffic from blog posts is usually quite high-value, so let's set a conversion rate of 25%.

That means that the blog we pitch would need to send 340 visitors to our client's petition page in order for us to achieve a positive result.

Of course, that traffic doesn't necessarily come all at once--it can continue to trickle in for months or years (though probably not for a petition, which is typically time-sensitive).

For a typical blog, 340 visitors is still a lot. Consider that last year we got a client covered on the world's most popular environmental blog, TreeHugger, and that blog post sent 364 visitors over the course of 2010 to the client site.

Selling Widgets Works the Same

You can do similar math for a for-profit organization that's selling products online. The conversion rate there is much lower--2% might be considered nirvana--but a national online retailer I know is willing to spend $40 to acquire a new customer. In that case, a blog still has to send at least a couple hundred visitors to the client site to make the outreach worthwhile.

We're aware of an emerging set of metrics around "return on engagement", but we remain focused on where the rubber meets the road. We work with our clients to do this kind of math on all their marketing activities, online and off. It enables them to decide what marketing mix to deploy.

Photo courtesy