I’ve been asked me for advice on online marketing several times recently. People who are running non-profit fundraisers, organising public awareness campaigns and seeking sponsorship have all asked if I have recommendations for getting an audience online.
As an online freelance writer with some background in non-profit communications, this kind of question is at the intersection of my interests. Here are a few ideas I’ve gathered through my reading and work. First, two essential suggestions:
- Generate quality, professional content
- Invest in good communications
Before I get to those though, have a look at this video on the breathtaking growth of social media:
Every communications person or online freelance writer I know is frustrated by those who believe that anyone can manage a successful communications campaign. Anyone can try – and it won’t be as disastrous as a layperson attempting brain surgery – but outcomes will suffer if you don’t seek expert advice or professional help. Blog writing, website design and production, online storytelling, SEO – these are all skills that need to be honed.
To deal with this issue, your first option is to outsource content production. I work for Copify, which is a UK-based content provider. Essentially, you post your project and price and an online freelance writer will pick it up and efficiently produce writing that meets your specifications. This guarantees professional content, but it can also be beneficial to have someone external produce the content, as it guarantees that it’s accessible to external readers. When I worked on gender-based violence issues, I would write blog posts that were up to 1,500 words long, because I felt the need to factor in every piece of important information and every possible qualification. I have no doubt that this was dramatically off-putting to readers.
There are also lots of courses out there for social media and digital communications, if you do want to make your own way. Certainly, if you’re setting up a long-term charity project or small business this would be my recommendation. You can pay for these (though sometimes charities will get discounts) or there are free courses online in just about every area of digital media – though they do take time and commitment. Bear in mind that the field is evolving so rapidly that you will have to refresh your knowledge constantly, through further training or by reading blogs on internet content, which is what I do.
Yes, online marketing is cheaper than radio or newspaper ads so it does afford unprecedented opportunities for communication to small organisations and dedicated individuals. However, website hosting services and social media platforms are increasingly rewarding those who spend, at the expense of those who don’t.
On Facebook (potentially your most powerful online platform) more money unquestionably equals more hits. Many of us principally disagree with Facebook policy, but that’s the way it is. Similarly, your YouTube, Twitter, website and Google content will be more accessible if you buy ad space and sponsored posts. It’s not essential, but you should bear it in mind.