Note: Stefan Lanfer at The Barr Foundation was kind enough to invite me to contribute to their News & Knowledge blog. Below is a copy of that post. The original lives here.
In the beginning was the word. But now, word and image (if you want to give your words a chance).
A picture is worth a thousand words, sure. But what if those thousand words are shedding light on IMPORTANT issues? And what if they are carefully chosen, masterfully crafted words? Well, yes, even then – at least, that is, if you want to give your words a chance, or to see, as one nonprofit saw, a 7,000% increase in its social media reach.
In July, I participated in a meeting of the Transportation for Massachusetts Coalition. The focus was social media and how coalition members might support each other and their collective efforts more effectively. Ben Carmichael, Conservation Law Foundation(CLF)’s new Senior Communications Manager, shared about a recent experience that completely took CLF by surprise. After completing a new report, rather than issue the usual press release, posting it to CLF’s website, and sending a blast email to their distribution list, Ben and his colleagues decided to try something new. They created a simple, elegant infographic that distilled the report’s key findings. And they put that out front of their communications. The results? For one, they saw a 7,000% increase in CLF’s social media reach. I asked Ben to talk more about the experience and what they learned – which he does in this post.
Following months of research we at CLF and CLF Ventures were ready to release a report showing the huge potential for sustainable urban agriculture in Boston. The economic and environmental possibilities by converting just 50 acres are significant. And yet, on the eve of the release, we wondered: how best to communicate these findings to the public in a way that would make them not only resonate, but be shared widely – and, dare we dream, maybe even go viral.
CLF, like other nonprofits, has faced this problem before. We work very hard on long-term issues with diffuse risk and reward, and have taken to informing the public of our work primarily through words: we write blogs, press releases, and reports regularly – all the time competing for mindshare in an increasingly competitive, crowded, and noisy online environment.
And so we decided to take a risk and try something we’d never done before: translate our findings into an infographic. Most of my colleagues are lawyers. They have a deep and abiding faith the power of the written word. This was something new for all of us.
Here’s what we came up with:
The results were better than we ever anticipated. Once posted to Facebook, the infographic was shared, liked and commented on so many times it quickly became our most successful post ever – increasing our Facebook reach by more than a 7,000% after a week (and this before Facebook rewrote its definition of reach).
In an effort to translate some of this into relationships, we created a landing page for the report. By requiring people to enter some of their basic information before downloading the report, we were able to track who was downloading the report and why. When combined with a traditional PR push, as well as a blog post and promotion across social media outlets (Twitter, Flickr,Pinterest, etc) that landing page has been very popular.
The Growing Green report, and particularly all the traction it got through social media, made for a very successful launch of CLF’s new Farm & Food initiative. As we think about how to translate this experience into future communications campaigns, here are our three key takeaways:
- Great words deserve great images: In the beginning was the word. But now there is word and image – at least if you want to give words a chance. Social media rewards graphics and imagery that simplify otherwise complex ideas. Words can’t be replaced for nuance and complexity and for those already initiated to a cause or issue. But for those on the peripheries looking in – the potential allies and supporters – imagery can be a far more powerful hook, especially in social media.
- Keep it simple. Really. When designing infographics, keep them as simple as possible. (Hat-tip to our designer, Kyric Avery, for helping us with that!)
- Translate interest into relationships. Likes and shares are a nice affirmation – especially to those of us at nonprofit communications desks – but the case for impact is thin unless those likes and shares translate into more meaningful and lasting connections.
Ben Carmichael is Senior Communications Manager at CLF. Follow him on twitter athttps://twitter.com/bhcarmichael
- Posted by Stefan Lanfer, Knowledge Officer -