Posts Tagged ‘ facebook ’

Taking an organization’s past into the web’s future

On the “about” page of its website, The Reeves Theater Restoration Group prominently proclaims “A future in the past.”

But whether or not this non-profit organization achieves its $3.2 million fundraising goal might depend on if “the past can be shown by the future.”

In this case “the future” means web-based communications technologies the non-profit is using to tell its story. The tale itself is a compelling one — an art-deco theater that was once the vibrant center of a small town has fallen into disrepair, but a locally-driven effort could revive it as a performing arts center that would give the community a much-needed economic boost. This is a story that trades heavily on nostalgia — with photos and testimonials of people who remember the theater in its heyday — in order to project what a revitalized Reeves could mean.

That approach is a tricky one to implement on the web, although the organization is trying. Its website is well constructed and pops up as the first hit on a Google search for “Reeves Theater.” The organization has also established a Facebook group with more than 700 members.

But simply being on the web is one thing; effectively turning that presence into donations and awareness is another. The website is mostly static, with little content about upcoming fundraising events. The Facebook group has been devoid of updates for a few months now. Neither makes use of all the photos and personal stories the organization has available to make its pitch on “a future in the past.”

That will soon change. I’m heading up a five-person project that will reinvigorate the Facebook site, create some more dynamic content for the website, and make sure the design and branding is consistent for online and print materials. What gives the project so much potential is the capability of multimedia to tell this story better than print. A video or an interactive photo gallery both establish a much more immediate connection than text on a page. Social media outlets are ideal for sharing memories, which are in abundance for the Reeves Theater and needed in order to motivate the restoration.

It’s all a matter of bringing the past to life with the future of communications. That will maximize this organization’s capabilities for the present.

Braving the new world of social media

A year ago, I never expected dialogue with my favorite reporters.

Now it’s expected.

The rules all changed once traditional media outlets began embracing social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Some resisted, thinking the “comments sections” after every story sufficed as feedback. But the smart ones realized that you can’t have meaningful exchanges in virtual spaces where everyone is anonymous and most are emotionally overheated.

Attach a name and face to the comments, however, and the civility and level of intelligence goes way up. Actually respond to the negative posts, and what emerges is a general sense of camraderie between reader and journalist even in disagreement.

That’s what makes Facebook fan pages, when done right, such great communities. Look for New York Times or Washington Post and you not only get lists of stories but an honest dialogue on each.

It works even better when you can break up your readership into segments, like Slate does with fanpages for each of its podcasts. These podcasts themselves feature top Slate reporters and drive traffic to the main site. So each fan page serves as a fun mini-community for political junkies, sports nuts or culture mavens. Post to the page, and you often have a host of the podcast respond to you directly. The pages got me hooked on Slate’s podcasts and overall news site as well, since I have an open invitation to reach out and comment to the creative forces behind the content.

This approach isn’t limited to news. It works well for just about any company looking to actively bond with its customer base (and really, what company isn’t?). The corporate world is beginning to catch on. A recent survey by PR Week of 271 marketers found that 63 percent use social media for their companies. Facebook emerged as the most popular tool, as “connecting with customers” was the most common social media goal marketers listed as “very important.”

In interviewing these early adopters of the trend, a theme emerges of representing the company honestly and openly. Blatant sales pitches (or worse, sales pitches disguised as user-generated content) are highly frowned upon. The marketing executives who have had success in boosting their brand through social media did so by having productive exchanges with their customers, responding to feedback and taking it into account.

It’s not always pretty. The company on Facebook will hear a lot more negative comments than the one hiding behind a static website. But those comments will get said regardless. Only through social media can the company not only hear them but also respond, often solving the problem and building a long-term relationship at the same time.