Writer, Editor, Content Strategy

Social Study: How a Small, Strapped Nonprofit Can Increase Social Engagement with Less Content

CUESA’s website puts a priority on customer service. It knows exactly what visitors come looking for and makes that content most prominent.

There are more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States. Most of them are small, resource-strapped causes fiercely and passionately single-minded about their goal. They have to be. When that kind of myopia translates to the organization’s communications and social media programs, it turns out, “waste not, want not” produces some of the most articulate messaging and engaging content. One of my favorites this week served up another strikingly simple, direct, effective Facebook post that made me return to its social media portfolio to see how they’ve evolved since I collaborated with them two years ago.

The Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture is a San Francisco nonprofit dedicated to cultivating a sustainable local food system. It operates the city’s largest farmer’s market and offers education programs and online resources.  A quick assessment of CUESA’s presence on the social web offers some important take-aways that other nonprofits and conscious businesses can use to expand reach and turn more fans into advocates.

Less is hard to miss

Starting with CUESA’s Facebook post this week: With hundreds of page and friend posts cluttering news feeds, Facebook users are scanning more than ever. As a result, we’ve become accustomed to preferring content that requires less eye-movement and brain-work. A new twist in content psychology: fans are more likely to engage if their first impression of a post signals less engagement. Photos, inspirational quotes, easy-to-groc content halts scrolling and scanning. Here CUESA’s clean, summer-fun graphic uses large type and lots of white space to convey instantly only two pieces of information in that first glance: Raffle and Grand Prize. (Note it’s a high-end prize. In contests, the prizes are your most important content – invest in them.)  Second, the post’s text doesn’t ask so much as give. It’s clever. “You could win“ is the “ask.” The post ends, as it always should, by giving its audience the chance to make a difference – another “give” that often can stand on its own.

Inform from the Outside In

The Facebook post takes fans to the CUESA website where it applies the same less-is-more strategy. In this case, “less about us, more about you.” How many times have you visited a website and felt that the organization is more interested in how it looks in the mirror than through the window? In other words, the “window to your soul?” I call this communicating from the inside out. Good communicators, writers, and content creators know how to communicate from the outside in – that is, present information from the visitor’s perspective and priorities.

Because CUESA’s mission is to teach people about local farms and food sources, all of the resources to support education and better consumer behaviors are contained in the main navigation of its website. This kind of intuitive navigation knows it has three to five seconds to give visitors what they came looking for, in this case, farmers markets, farmers, seasonal food, recipes, & events. It also knows visitors will stick around a little longer to browse for secondary pages and links, such as contact, donate, media, and FAQs.

The CUESA website also gets high marks for remaining low on clutter, limiting menu items and using blurbs with links and sidebars – again, minimizing eye-strain to invite engagement. Check out the Summer Celebration event page to sample its refreshingly simple appeal coordinated among the raffle page and the Facebook post.

Room for Improvement

The only dings I find in CUESA’s campaign are:

  1. The round-about way visitors can access the raffle tickets: they have to visit the CUESA’s booth at the Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday farmer’s markets. A good way to increase business. An online engagement turn-off.
  2. The Facebook event page doesn’t mention the raffle. Since the raffle page on the website is not indexed, so far, the only way you can see it is in the Facebook post, which has already disappeared from news feeds.

CUESA hasn’t developed a Google+ page or a Pinterest channel enough to support this event, though the Pinterest page is finding its way. Good thing, given it’s the fastest growing social site. Still, no dings for CUESA on these. In fact, I’m giving it high marks for doing a few social sites very well rather than doing a poor job on more than a small nonprofit can handle.

If you’d like me to consider your social media/web presence for an assessment in Content4Good, send me an email. Include the URL of the site, your name, affiliation with the organization, and your email address.

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