Tag Archives: social network

800,000 people have read this article

Telling you that 800,000 people have read this article is a) a lie… but b) more than likely the reason you’re reading this right now.

The reason for this is an evolutionary impulse behavioural economists call “social proof” and it could well be the key to inspiring action in our supporters.

Over the past month or so there has been a lot of talk in the online not for profit community on how to cultivate action. American “nudge” enthusiast Richard Thaler proposed charitable donations will increase if they are easier to make. Philanthrocapitalism author Michael Green argued that it’s all about the fun whilst Rob Dyson promoted the virtues of gamification.

I’m not going to disagree with them (in fact I love gamification and will, when asked, talk fervently on the subject and recommend some very good books). I am, however, going to throw my hat into the ring and say this – it might be simpler than that.

Following the crowd

What if people gave (or got involved, or volunteered, etc) for the same reason you’re reading this – they thought everyone else was doing it?

Reuse your towel sign
The reuse your towel card displayed in some LA hotels

Dan McKayLet’s travel back in time and across the pond to LA in the mid-noughties where a group of three UCLA professors are trying to prove just this. The trio are swapping the “reuse your towel” signs in a local hotel’s bathrooms to ones that include the line “the majority of other guests reuse their towels.”

Unsurprisingly (given that I’m using it as an example) the results were staggeringly positive. Those with the new signs became 26% more likely to reuse their towel – proving that we’ll happily alter our behaviour to emulate the actions of our peers.

That’s social proof – the act of imitating others.

Subconscious suggestion

It’s not something you should find particularly new. Museums and street performers (whilst not the most common of bed fellows) have been aware of this for years. It’s why the former will add a little seed money at the beginning of the day and the latter’s donation boxes are made of glass. The resulting visible piles of cash show us that others are giving and subconsciously bullies us into doing the same.

Need an example that’s a little more contemporary? Let’s look toward social networks. Facebook is the very embodiment of social proof. If you take a peek at your Facebook news feed right now you’ll likely see examples of the social network nudging you to take action with posts and ads that have been liked by “John Smith and 20 other friends”.

It’s the reason so many people watched Invisible Children’s “Kony 2012” video and Rebecca Black’s “Friday”. I’m not saying that there isn’t pleasure (or interest or enjoyment) to be gained from giving money to a museum or watching Miss Black “sing” but rather that often the initial prompt to take the action is that simply x number of others have done it before.

Rich potential for non-profits

As a sector many of us are already using these techniques to influence our supporters. If we look closely enough we can see examples of social proof littering the not for profit landscape.

Totalisers – for example, especially in scenarios such as Comic Relief and Children In Need – are reminders that others have performed an action – prompting millions to do the same. Similarly, Child’s i Foundation’s “Buy a Brick” and Unicef’s “Own a Colour” visualise the number of digital donations made by others – clearly identifying a group of people you’re not yet a part of.

It need not be on such a large or complex scale as that though. There are loads of free services out there (including JustGiving Pages and Facebook Events) that will automatically monitor and display the number of donors or attendees you’ve attracted (in real-time) – hopefully stimulating even more to become involved.

On an even smaller scale – social proof can inspire through something as simple as a carefully thought out line of copy.

And this leads me to my final thought: an example from my own organisation, The Blue Cross, where we recently ran a small text-to-donate campaign. After 24 hours we posted a message on our Facebook wall thanking “all of the many kind supporters who have already texted a donation.” The implication was that those who hadn’t donated were in the minority and what followed in the next 15 minutes was a flurry of donations that doubled our overall total.

What to do with Samantha Brick?

It’s at times like this that I wish I worked for a mental health charity…

I’m trying to be very careful about how I word this so please forgive me if this sounds a little clumsy… but:

Whether or not Samantha Brick is actually a sufferer of a mental health condition, yesterday sure would have been a good day for self promotion.

I’ve just done a few cheeky sweeps of some of the main mental heath charity twitter and facebook feeds and there was no mention of the woman who was rapidly becoming a twitter sensation.

I’m not saying any one of these charities should have been wandering around diagnosing Mrs. Brick with x or y… but, as voices of reason and care a subtle tweet along the lines of…

“A lot of questions being asked over the mental health of #SamanthaBrick – find out more at…”

…wouldn’t have been all that bad?

Or is that just me?

Where’s our Pinterest account ? (or “Building for the future”)

Since the announcement, and subsequent release, of the new iPad there has been a lot of talk about playing catch up – how to make your website (or app) fulfil the capabilities of the new retina display.

This has lead a lot of my designer friends and colleagues to start blogging about future proofing sites (this is a good article from Paul Boag).

They argue (and I agree) that the developments in CSS3 and JavaScript now allow us to build sites that automatically render in pixel perfect quality on these new devices. There is, really, no excuse to be playing catch up.

It goes further than this now though. A question I often find myself asking is this: 

“Why are we still building fixed width sites?”

When it comes to website development one of the first questions you should be asking is “How will this look on a mobile device?” And one of the main specifications you should be requesting is that it is responsive!

Responsive design:

A way of designing a website (using W3C CSS3 media queries) that enables it to resize and realign itself to the screen dimensions of the device it is being viewed upon.

If your site is responsive you can rest easy knowing that whatever device a visitor is viewing your site on it will always look (and fit) perfectly.

I recently built a quick site for the Microchipping Alliance for work. Whilst it isn’t the prettiest thing on earth (it’s main purpose it to act as a contact point for politicians), whatever device you view it on it will fit perfectly on and I can rest easy knowing that the politician on the move will find it just as easy to access the information as one sitting behind their desk.

But where do we stop future-proofing?

As we all know, we no-longer live in a world where our digital footprint is just our website. Most of us will have a Facebook fan page, a twitter account… probably a YouTube channel and flickr profile.

If we travel back once again to a few weeks ago there seemed, all of a sudden, to be an explosion of interest in Pinterest.

Now, almost overnight, most of the people I know are asking me if I have a Pinterest account (I don’t by-the-way). Similarly the question is asked at work… “Do we need to be on [x social network or y sharing platform]?”

My answer: “Do we?”

We are somewhere within the birth of the social web. And when Mashable puts out articles such as this one it’s hard to imagine when it might start to settle. It’s quite likely there’ll never be a time when someone, somewhere isn’t bringing out a new social platform.

A while back there was a rush for organisations to create their brand pages on Google+. Now as the Social Media Explained guide shows us Google+ is mainly used by Google+ employees… so why the rush?

Was it cause their supporters are there? Probably not.
Or possibly because of the value the +1 rankings give to SEO? Maybe a little.
Or could it have been that this was something new and everyone wanted to secure their share of this new real estate? That’s the answer I’ll be putting my money on.

But is this future proofing?

I would argue not.

Each new channel you open is a new channel you have to maintain. Dogs Trust created a Google+ fan page… and they update it about once or twice a month (in comparison they update their Facebook the same amount EACH DAY).

Does that sound like a community that’s very well cared for? Do you think they’re very engaged? So my question is “What’s the point?” Surely the staff time would be better spent elsewhere… especially as I would put bet that each any every one of those Google+ers are also Facebook or Twitterers.

We are often weighed down (time-wise) by our social communities. We need to manage the channels we communicate to them from as carefully as we manage the communities themselves.

So the next time you are asked “Where’s our Pinterest account?” ask “Where’s our need for it?”

Disclaimer: you may have a very valid reason for joining up to, and using, these sites – I’m not promoting a blanket ban… more a careful thought process.

Google+ – A Party With No People

So, thanks to a friend of mine (@Creatingle) I finally received an AAA pass onto Google+ yesterday.

Having already been released for a number of days I felt like I was turning up a little late to the party (a cripplingly horrible concept for an early adopter such as myself). However it seems like Google forgot to invite anyone.

I get Google’s beta-test-until-everyone-feels-like-they’re-missing-out-on-something-amazing thing… but with a social network it seems a little… well… idiotic! When we’re used to having 750 million people (theoretically) at our Facebook finger-tips, a social network where I can only communicate with a fraction of my friends is more than a little unsatisfying. A bit like the offer an all you can eat buffet without any food.

That being said – do I think this is another Google failure? Probably not!

Google has the never-to-be-underestimated advantage of a huge market share, brand presence and its fair-share of incredibly loyal customers. That (google)plus the fact that Google+ is actually pretty good (I’m not going to critique it myself but nichewp have one that might be worth a read) and they might actually have found a winner.

I don’t think it’s likely to be taking Facebook’s crown any time soon but could see it creating its own niche for itself in the way Twitter and LinkedIn have. If one things for certain its definitely better than MySpace… but then again, was that ever an option?