Tag Archives: TechSoup

So Much to Learn!

TechSoup publishes a great list of free online webinars on 2.0 topics.

I often schedule time to attend or listen to webinars over lunchtime, or on a particular day of the week as a break. They’re also great learning tools for interns, and I include relevant webinars as part of a volunteer intern’s training plan.

How do you squeeze in time for online learning? Have any favorite sites or learning strategies to recommend?


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LRN about TXT

Interested in learning about texting?

So much to learn! Whew–I just learned a lot, and I’m not sure I can explain very well, but thanks to TechSoup and ReadyTalk’s awesome FREE webinars , I know more and you can, too!

July 16, 2009 TechSoup ReadyTalk Webinar: Using Mobile for Outreach and Education

And guess what?! This webinar was pulled together by a VOLUNTEER at TechSoup–hmmm….what else could be done by harnessing the power of a knowledgeable volunteer?!

Mobile Commons and Boston After School & Beyond presented about text campaigns, background on texting and some tools to consider.

58% of all Americans have sent or received a text message, and 80% of high-school age students have cell phones. (See more in the following post.) Mobile is an instant and immediate method of communication that captures people’s attention, and it spans income levels more so than online communications.

Mobile campaigns typically use ‘short codes’ or thosee 4-6-digit phone numbers that have started appearing in ads. A short code is like a phone number for an organization’s text campaign. Short codes direct users text messages to you. Of course, you can use the ‘old-fashioned’ cell phone number to send and receive texts, too. Here are some ways you can use texting:

Text Alerts: Sends out reminders to your ‘subscribers’
Text to Data: Your basic informational text message, where your message is sent to cell phone numbers.
Text to Voice: This sends action messages to phones, asking people to call electeds. By replying to the text, the caller can hear a recorded message with key points prior to being automatically connected
Text to Screen: Great for live events, for example, a giant screen with the call to action (also posted online) asking respondents to offer their opinions was placed outside the California legislature, where a text ‘conversation’ is displayed on screen.
Also, MMS and Video and Smartphone Applications are expensive, advanced techniques.

Text message recipients can request or send information. This is known as ‘push’ or ‘pull’. For example, in a pull technology example, users can request info by texting a keyword to a specific shortcode. For example, Blue Ocean Institute’s FishPhone ‘safe’ eating campaign:
To find out about your seafood choice, text 30644 with the message FISH and the name of the fish in question. We’ll text you back with our assessment and better alternatives to fish with significant environmental concerns.

Boston Navigator uses a text service so that Boston-area youth can request out-of-school program info by subject area and zip code using their mobile phones. Other cool text project ideas include SMS Poetry Contest and SMS 160-character (or 140 in Twitter) storytelling. When pondering a text campaign, the goal is to build your list–not only of cell phonee numbers, but also emails and users, and to ask for people to opt-in to your messages versus opting-out, as many users and senders can pay up to $0.20 per text message.

Full-on text programs cost $17-20,000 annually!
This does not include marketing of the text campaign (without which shortcodes and messages will be unknown!) Lower-cost services can charge $1700+ for setup with $250+ monthly fees in addition to $0.05 each for in/outbound messages.

One place that campaigns usually start is with leasing a shortcode, which costs $500+ per month. These short codes are typically directed through an aggregator who channels messages. (My glance at an explanation of SMS routing and the accompanying diagrams confirmed that I need to keep reading to have any inkling of what that might mean!) Another option is a management service like Mobile Commons who owns shortcodes and manages the data of subscriptions, sending, collecting emails etc., for you; organizations interface with Mobile Commons rather than directly with the shortcode operator or an aggregator. A lower fee (but higher in-house management required) level is a messaging service, allowing texts to be sent and also managing subscriptions, incoming text, data gathering, etc.

One very low-cost solution: The NYTimes covered the Birds and Bees Hotline text messaging program. Run by a North Carolina non-profit reaching teens with sex education info, they used a single cell phone with unlimited texting capabilities, and staff take turns answering text messages that come in as a result of their marketing campaign.

Another low-cost, or even free, option is to use a marketing service that sends texts for no cost, but attachs an ad. For example,
4Info.com was referenced as a sending out bulk messages for free, but their site refers to publishers and advertisers contacting them for a sales call. This is one I’ll pass on until further demand warrants research. Tatango is another text marketing service that seems more transparent and also has some features for the individual user. FrontlineSMS is an example of free software which will still require leasing a shortcode and evidently quite a bit of technical interface assistance.

MobileActive is the expert in the non-profit mobile campaign arena, so check them out for lots of good info!

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Engaging Techie Volunteers

From the TechSoup webinar, Managing IT Volunteers.

A techie can be ‘into social media’, an enthusiastic learner, or can be from the IT profession–with specific skills and interests. Since I’m engaging virtual volunteers, I’ve modified some of the in-person hardware/software type suggestions to include working with virtual tech volunteers, too.

Step 1: List tasks.
Ask staff, volunteers, & brainstorm. Ask first what staff need help with, and then if IT volunteers could possibly help.

Short-term IT volunteer task suggestions:
• Host a workshop or webinar on a particular social media tool for staff or other volunteers
• Updating (free) virus software on staff computers
• Set up a (free) survey online
• Create list of possible IT volunteer tasks
More from experienced volunteer management guru Jayne Cravens on tech volunteers here.

Long-term (with end date) IT volunteers can:
• Provide technical support for website
• Develop tech plan
• Developing a social media tool
• Measure social media usage
• Tech volunteer screener/interviewer
• On-call tech support for various hardware/software/social media areas

Step 2: Design volunteer positions.

Need written description. Define frequency, end date & benefits to both parties.
Before recruiting, define how you’re going to reply to and select candidates. Define tasks and end outcomes clearly so that volunteer can meet your needs–not all techies do all the same tech things!

Step 3: Recruit.
Don’t start worrying about finding the volunteers until you’ve defined your needs. You never know when someone who fits the bill might appear, and you’ll be ready.

Post to VolunteerMatch, Craigslist (if this is popular in your area), and local volunteer center (1-800-volunteer.org), college & university career/volunteer centers to recruit for interns (in August & January, particularly), businesses with IT departments in your neighborhood, and word of mouth with current volunteers & newsletters.

Step 4: Recognize.
Tech volunteers should be included in your regular volunteer recognition program. Online-only volunteers also need to be recognized, but be sure to ask how they like to be acknowledged–some would like to receive online recognition on social media, but others would like a simple online thank-you or periodic connection with other volunteers.

Now what?
To learn more, talk to folks in the tech arena. Ask them about possibilities and the proper language to use that appeals to techies.

To begin planning, see TechSoup’s manual for working with hardware/software tech volunteers which has some great specific worksheets. One is a questionnaire on tech skills (which helps those of us who don’t know, outside of general categories, what tech skills are out there!!) that would be a good point of discussion during a tech volunteer interview.

As your volunteer and tech volunteer program grows, recruit for ‘volunteer volunteer managers’ and ask them to manage ‘task teams’ of volunteers.

Investing your time in engaging tech volunteers could lead to better computer operation systems, but it could also lead to new corporate contacts, a wider network of supporters, younger volunteers and beginnings of a social media campaign.

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Social Media Return on Investment

Another in the NTEN/TechSoup Storytelling & Social Media series, today on measuring your investment in social media by Beth Kanter

Metrics measure your investment over time by analyzing data. Usually we think of this as measuring overall payouts from the entire business. While this is worthwhile, it’s interesting to think of measuring just one component of a business and certainly makes the process of analyzing social media return on investment more difficult. But, it’s not impossible to be able to state the benefits and costs and savings, comparing methods and eventually getting to the bottom financial line.

We’ve talked before about listening–or in web terms, ‘searching’–here. Most social networking sites, and some other entrepreneurial sites, offer ways to count, track, and find your organization and keywords. A great example of organizations using this process is Red Cross post-Katrina. People were talking, and Red Cross started listening. Because the staff saw what people were saying about them, they then realized they could use online tools to build relationships.

If you pay for donor acquisitions, you’ll understand, and are probably already comparing the potential for lower costs of collecting contacts from social media interactions rather than purchasing lists.

Measuring Your Web Appearances

Author: Track your word counts–<350 words per post?; set a publication frequency that works for you, but be consistent. Tracking page visits is outmoded–there’s so much more meaningful data to collect!
Unique Readers: FeedBurner explains how to set this measurement up; for example, there are more than 2000 feed readers and FeedBurner pulls data from all these. The more tools you’re working with online, the more portals through which people can find you and thus the more info you’ll have when you start measuring this traffic. Try searching delicious for your organization and counting individuals who have tagged your information.
Engagement: PostRank assigns a number to the aggregate interaction around a ‘story’ or web post. This seems like a pretty advanced tool that would provide a positive ROI for organizations that are out there using multiple tools already. I’m not even quite sure what it does–this one I’ll put on the back burner for now.
Authority: Technorati is a search engine for blogs; if your blog is registered there, it assigns a comparitive number based on readers, comments, etc. Yahoo has a similar search engine for your blog posts.

By participating in the web and these measurement tools, you can get ideas for new programs, research your market base and increase connections to potential volunteers or donors. Compare the costs of conducting this research in the ‘old way’ to collecting this info via social media–this process can be translating into actual dollars. Numbers and stories–good ol’ quantitative and qualitative eval–make your point when selling the concepts of social media. Even WordPress tracks more specific visitor data right here on this blog. I have some posts that have received 100 views, others only a few. Those are the counts; examining why is the real ROI analysis.

Have a goal, and count measurements that support this goal. You can use baseline measures–e.g. we have 12 Facebook friends–and measure change over time. Number of emails added to your database, greater number of people mentioning your organization online, number of subscribers to a blog–pick what to measure so you’re not spending more time measuring than participating in social media!

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Podcasting: An Intriguing Way to Talk

I’ve been wondering about how to get started recording audio podcasts. Just my luck, TechSoup and NTEN are at their free webinars again this week, with Corey from 501c3Cast, a podcast for non-profits. He’s covering the VERY basics. I need them!!

Storytelling & Social Media

Storytelling & Social Media

Great reminder–don’t just start podcasing for the heck of it. Do you know if your audience already listens to digital media? If not, you’ll have extra steps of research and marketing to gain listeners.

Plan: Target your audience, write a script, plan to include music and asknowledgements. If this is something you’ll do on a regular basis, you’ll need a schedule and a plan to allow listeners to subscribe. I’m thinking of podcasts as a way to broadcast information I often repeat (organizational basics, volunteer information–the new breed of 101/orientation video!) They could also be a cool way to capture history and stories from the past–a neat tool to celebrate an organization’s anniversary!

Just like a good outline, your script will need an intro, key points, and a conclusion. Corey suggests having a good strong voice (and not too many of them) and some pacing with effects, Q&A with a guest, or ‘commercials’ to pass along other related info. Every good story has a point of intrigue, emotion or inspiration and a theme. There’s a whole organization devoted to telling digital stories (why am I still surprised at these niches?!)

Recording: Find a small, echo-limiting space. You can buy a headset with a mic that plugs into your USB port for around $30. There are more advanced tools such as a condensing (multi-directional ball-shaped) mic, mobile recorders for ‘on the street’ interviews, and soundboards. I have a USB headset that I use for Skype telephone calls and listening to DVDs, so I’ll start there. .WAV files are the most common to record in. You’ll want to id your ‘title, track, etc.’ in your software so downloaders can save and identify your podcast.

Software: Some basic, free software recorders includde Audacity, Garage Band (for Mac), Levelator, and–funny, I just mentioned this–Skype. Skype plug-ins (available for a small cost) such as Pamela, Hot Recorder, & Audio Hijack Pro record each speaker individually. Audacity has a lot of tools. Start with Selection, Silence, Amplify, Fade, Compressor, Import other audio tracks, and Export as an mp3. Export as 64 or 96 bit, or up to 128 to 256 bits for podcasts; the higher the number, the higher the quality although some people won’t be able to effectively download the larger files.

Hosting: Podcasts, especially regular ones, are large files that can take up a lot of your server space. There are several host sites particularly for podcasts: liberated syndication, PodBean.com, ourmedia, blubrry, switchpod.com–these start at $5 per month.

Share: This topic will need more info, input & research. You can upload to iTunes, Podcast Pickle, Podcast Alley, and to your website; find links to these tools and grab the webiner here. Evidently you need a Flash player there to enable listeners to listen directly from your website. FeedBurner Podcast and hosting sites can track your metrics. There were some great examples of organizations giving tours, explaining little known facts, incorporation music, and generally sharing their experiences with listeners.

Organizations are already podcasting!! HOW do they make the time–to both start, and continue, such an endeavor? What have they given up to be able to get into this new media?


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Telling Your Story: Inching In to Tracking Your Social Media Content

Thanks to TechSoup and NTEN as well as Amy Semple Ward of NetSquared, here are some tips on getting a non-profit started on ‘virality’:

Step 1: Listen Gosh, I’ve actually already got that one covered!

Step 2: Share
I use Zotero to bookmark online info that I’m researching, and Delicious to tag interesting things on the web. Also, I’m trying to use Delicious with a group so we can have a shared list of items related to ‘library diversity training’ that each of us finds. Similar is digg . WOW–there’s a plug-in called ‘Post Delicious’ which will pull your Delicious bookmarks into your blog as a post. So, for Delicious users, an automatic blog post would be generated based on what you’re reading and bookmarking!

Many of these tools can be combined to, say, pull your Flickr photos or your bookmarks into your Facebook page. FriendFeed is another feed page that aggregates all of your sharing tools. This seems like it would be most helpful once you have a large online network also using various tools.

There are a few other free webinars in this Storytelling series coming up through February.

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New Year, New Resolve

Want to learn? Resolve! I have a policy of only making fun resolutions–like adding things to my life instead of focusing resolutions on deprivation.

Here are a WHOLE bunch of links and ideas about what others in the social media realm are resolving to do with new technology in the new year. How about you????

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