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How MomsRising and charity: water Use Storify and Quora to Advance Their Missions

 

The use of social media tools among nonprofit organizations is on the rise, but many nonprofits struggle with knowing which tools to use and how much of their budget and personnel to allocate to each. You may want to delay the adoption of an emerging tool until it becomes clear whether it’s actually worth it, but for nonprofits that don’t hesitate, the payoff can be considerable.

If you’re a nonprofit with a tight social media budget, where should you direct your community managers to spend their time? Facebook and Twitter are musts, but beyond those two, your choices are endless. There’s Tumblr, Pinterest, Slideshare, Flickr, Instagram, YouTube, Google Plus, LinkedIn—the list goes on and on. With all those choices, what’s a time- and cash-strapped nonprofit to do?

It may be tempting to maintain a laser-sharp focus on your Facebook and Twitter campaigns, but every so often, a different tool that’s worth spending time on emerges from the fog. Here, we look at two such tools—Storify and Quora—that stand out as being “diamonds in the rough” capable of helping you increase your social media presence in a unique way and connect with your audience on a deeper level.

Case Study: MomsRising Gets More Mileage out of Twitter Chats with Storify

Storify Homepage

The Storify homepage

At its core, Storify is a blogging tool much like WordPress or Tumblr. Its genius lies in its ability to grab media from across the Web in its original form—retaining every hashtag, Twitter handle, link and timestamp—and turn that content into an attractive, ready-to-use blog post that can live on Storify or any other website.

The MomsRising homepage

MomsRising is a national nonprofit with more than a million members in all 50 states and has had a significant presence on Storify since November 2011. According to Associate Campaign Director Felicia Willems, MomsRising uses Storify to curate Tweets from its #WellnessWed and #FoodFri Twitter chats, where they encourage people to Tweet links to healthy recipes or important healthcare information.

MomsRising tweet

An example of a "FoodFri" blog post on MomsRising's Storify account

"We love Storify," Willems says. "It's such an incredible tool. Last week we hosted a chat with Senator [Brian] Schatz of Hawaii. After the chat, we had a conference call with the Senator and his staff, and by the time we got off the phone, his staff already had the Storify post up for his constituents to use as a resource."

MomsRising Storify Post

The Storify post that was created following Senator Schat's call with MomsRising

"When you follow a chat on Twitter, you're dealing with all the extra noise from everything else on your Twitter feed,” she continues. “When you read the same chat on Storify, it's more like an actual conversation."

Willems says storytelling has always been important to MomsRising's success. “We've always been strong storytellers, and we know that people respond to clear, compelling narratives,” she says. “Storify is a way to curate all of the important social media content around a particular issue and turn it into a resource. I’m really impressed with it."

Why Should Nonprofit Organizations Use Storify?

Storify is a great tool to use if your social media team isn’t huge and you need to maximize its time, and if you already have a lot of user-generated content in the form of Tweets, posts and images, but you don’t have a good way to pull these disparate elements together to tell a bigger story.

With Storify, your social media team can create rich blog posts in minutes by aggregating pre-created, user-generated content. You can search for things like collections of Facebook posts, Tweets and Flickr images and drag the elements you want to use into the Storify editor, allowing you to weave them together into one cohesive story.

Once you’ve created a new post, you can notify everyone who was mentioned in it in one fell swoop, which puts the responsibility on others to initiate the sharing process. You also have the option to embed the entire Storify post on your own blog or website so it gets even greater exposure.

The Benefits of Storify for Nonprofit Organizations

Storify has some unique benefits for nonprofit organizations. Among them are:

  • It extends the shelf life of your social media content. According to a study published by the URL shortening service bitly, the shelf life of a Tweet is a mere three hours. Storify lets you grab important Tweets and organize them into collections for prolonged exposure.
  • It encourages viral sharing. Your Storify posts don’t just have “one” author; they’re collections of social media elements with multiple authors. When you hit “publish,” it gives you the option to “share” your creation with everyone mentioned in the post. People naturally like to share things they’re an intimate part of, so if your members see their Tweets featured in one of your blog posts, they’re more likely to share that post with their individual networks.

Storify Share and Notify

Storify's "share & notify" feature

  • It lets you add context to curated content. One of the best ways to gain a following online is via content curation, which gives your nonprofit the opportunity to establish itself as an expert on a particular issue or cause. With Storify, you can easily grab links to articles that your members (or other experts) have authored and add narration that shows how they relate to your take on the issue.

Case Study: Charity: water Enhances Its Credibility with Quora

Quora is a social Q&A website that was started in June 2009 by former Facebook employees Adam D'Angelo and Charlie Cheever. It allows users to ask and answer questions and upvote or downvote others’ answers as well as suggest edits to answers that other users have provided. Its unusually engaged community includes some impressive members, from nearly every Silicon Valley startup CEO to people like notable economist Larry Summers, actor and tech investor Ashton Kutcher and director J.J. Abrams.

Charity: water is a New York-based non-governmental organization (NGO) that works to bring clean water to needy individuals in developing nations. This NGO is no stranger to social media—its branding and social promotion have been held up as best in class efforts.

Charity: water's Quora

Charity: water's Quora page

Charity: water also happens to be one of the only large NGOs with a major presence on Quora. Two of the organization’s C-level executives have their own Quora accounts and haven’t hesitated to use them. They include Scott Harrison, charity: water’s founder and CEO, and Paull Young, the organization’s director of digital. Both have used their accounts liberally in the past and have a sizable number of followers.

Scott Harrison's Quora

The Quora account of Scott Harrison, director of digital for charity: water

Harrison and Young use Quora to answer questions that users tag with the charity: water Quora “topic.” Some of these questions are neutral (“What are ‘best practices’ for pledging your birthday to charity: water?”), some offer advice (“What is the best software for email marketing?”) and some are signs of the organization’s commitment to transparency (“Has charity: water ever failed?”)

Transparency is important to charity: water’s mission in more ways than one. The founders have talked about their dedication to transparency in the past—recently, Young described the structure of the organization’s bank accounts to a reporter. Transparency online is particularly important because it takes the edge off some of the organization’s missteps and more opaque areas, which are things donors might factor in their decisions more prominently were the NGO to spend less time capturing their attention (often earnestly) online.

As for what those missteps and opaque areas are, they range from an inability to prove the actual results of their efforts to financial practices that have been questioned by publications like Truth-Out. It may be that charity: water needs the extra transparency enabled by a platform like Quora to win the trust of its audience, especially in the face of criticism and inquiries into its methodologies.

That lack of transparency in the NGO’s operations isn’t for lack of effort. As Young told Truth-Out, “Every one of our projects is marked on Google Maps. The biggest challenge in our sector is monitoring and evaluation.”

Greater accountability is on the way, according to Young. Charity: water recently won a $5 million Google Global Impact Award to develop technology that will place remote sensors in the heads of water pumps in order to send signals to a wall in the organization’s office when mechanical issues arise.

Why Should Nonprofit Organizations Use Quora?

  • To establish credibility. Harrison and Young regularly give Quora users a “behind the scenes” look into charity: water’s operations, which lets donors know that C-level executives are engaged.
  • To talk shop. Young often answers questions about digital marketing, which shows he’s more than just a charity: water executive; he’s a digital marketing enthusiast, too.

Paull Young's Quora

Young’s response to a question on Quora about charity: water’s fundraising pages

  • To answer questions about issues in your area of interest. (“What are five to ten things we can do that would really help people in Haiti?”)
  • To answer potential donors’ questions. (“What are the metrics behind charity: water so far?”)

Paull Young's Quora Response

Young’s response to a question on Quora about charity: water’s digital marketing tactics

  • To let thought-leaders show their human sides. Young’s answers—both about digital marketing and other things—show his personality. He follows many topics unrelated to his work, which shows he’s truly using Quora because he enjoys it and not because one of his social media marketers advised him to.

Paull Young's Quora Reply

Young’s response to a question on Quora about a more general topic

  • To build trust and get advice from intelligent people. Young shows humility when he asks questions like, “What are the best ways to set KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) for an organization?” or “For an e-commerce website, what is an acceptable percentage of failed transactions?” Humility and the willingness to ask for help are signs of wise leadership, which means Young’s advice-seeking questions may have trust-building effects with readers.

The Benefits of Quora for Nonprofit Organizations

  • It allows you to establish your organization as an expert. Social innovator Rachel Botsman has said that trust is the currency of the new economy, a statement many have echoed. When potential donors believe your nonprofit has an answer other nonprofits haven’t stumbled upon yet, they’re more likely to choose you. How do you prove your uniqueness? Answering questions on Quora in your area of expertise is a good place to start.
  • It gives you insight into your members’ and donors’ questions. Following topics related to your nonprofit’s mission helps you understand the ecosystem you’re operating within. Questions asked by your supporters also make great fodder for blog posts and other social media content.
  • It helps you get the ear of influential people. The crowd on Quora is decidedly different. Users use their real names and upvote/downvote answers to ensure the top answers always float to the top. The site is very much a meritocracy. It rewards thoughtful, intelligent content and lets less valuable answers sink to the bottom. Quora has a large number of users from the Silicon Valley and higher education arenas, with an impressive number of high-profile individuals among its users. (Here’s a list of some of the founders, entrepreneurs and CEOs who’ve dabbled in Quora use.) Bottom line: when you answer questions on Quora, you never know who’s going to read them; it could be a reporter from the New York Times, the mayor of a major U.S. city or the COO of Facebook.

Storify and Quora: Two Emerging Social Media Tools Nonprofits Should Be Using

I’ve been a huge Quora fan since for several years and have recently started using Storify more aggressively. I see major possibilities for nonprofits who adopt either or both of these platforms early, and the learning curve for both is such that adding them to your routine won’t require much time, training or budget allocation. If you’re looking to make small changes to your social media activities that will have a disproportionately large impact, starting accounts on Quora and Storify are definitely two of your best options.

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Stephanie Kapera

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Stephanie Kapera is a contributor to Software Advice.

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