60-SECOND DIGITAL MEDIA HACK #3: Three Bites of the Apple

Three Bites of the Apple[image: stock photo of young woman smiling holding an apple]

NOTE: I usually find introductions to be annoying, so rather than explaining the title here, I’m putting this post’s intro at the end.

Any time you or your organization do any thing at all, any time, you get three bites of the apple on social media.

Post #1:

We’re going to to this cool thing and it’s going to be really cool. Here’s a photo of us getting ready, excitedly (or resolutely, or whatever, as appropriate).

Post #2:

This is happening now. It’s beautiful. Just look at it.

Post #3:

That thing we did? Amazing. Thanks so much to all of you who made it happen. You rock so hard!

The underlying principle is that on social media, more is more.* Some people will say, “don’t post more than X times per day on Snapface,” or something like that. They are lost in fear and chaos. It’s okay. Reach out to them and tell them it’s okay to post as often as you have something to post. I mean, space things out a bit, but still…



Why “three bites of the apple?” It doesn’t really matter. You’re at the end of the post, anyway. Tweet at me if you want to talk about it.


We like this grassroots campaign website we developed.

[IMAGE] Hero image from www.peopleforbernie.com

Website banner for www.peopleforbernie.com. Credit: The People for Bernie Sanders.

Note: originally published on LinkedIn.

We like this campaign website we made for The People for Bernie Sanders. Here’s a little bit of the story behind it.

 First, some credit

The digital media monsters at People for Bernie created the header graphic, along with our team member Zelda Lin.

Second, The People for Bernie Sanders is a network of volunteers not affiliated with the official campaign. You might know  them as the collective of Facebook and Twitter accounts that are basically running the internet right now.

Now, to the site itself

Our friends wanted something with a DIY aesthetic. My mind first went to “homemade”-looking sites, a la the 1990s. Kind of like this. It took about two seconds to realize that was wrong.

But a campaign website that looked too “professional” and stuffy wouldn’t cut it, either. So we (*cough* Zelda) created a design that borrowed elements of the actual did-it-yourself cultural artifacts of Occupy and other contemporary movements. We made heavy use of the kind of slanted lines you’d see on hand-cut, hand-lettered signs, the kind that this guy might make:

[image] Occupy Wall Street Protester with hand-made sign, reading "SHIT IS FUCKED UP AND BULLSHIT," a la the style of the campaign website.

Of course, the site’s use of the Occupy font is a key element of that look and feel.

The email signup call-to-action is front and center because the campaign website needs to be a communication and organizing tool, not a passive, inert plot of real estate on the internet.

And then you hit the social wall.

People for Bernie *is* the non-stop currents of social sharing across multiple channels, 24/7. They’re like the day traders of democracy. So we just had to put the lifeblood of the movement front and center.


It was a fun project, and we’re proud to have contributed something to the massive grassroots movement for people power. A technical note: the campaign website was built on the NationBuilder platform, which we know very well.

Go check it out, and sign up. See you on the internets.


Nonprofit App Development: 10 Things We Learned from the ACLU

Do you like mobile? Do you like justice? Do you like awkward, inscrutable queries? Then follow me to nonprofit app development paradise, my friend.

As a co-organizer of the LA Tech for Good meetup, I was privileged to hear all about the development process behind the ACLU’s Mobile Justice app.  We were particularly interested in the lessons for other nonprofits that could be applied to their digital aspirations. Here’s the write-up we sent to the poor souls who missed out on the event. In the interest of radical transparency, I left a typo in.

We here at LA Tech for Good tend to geek out on technical details, so we thought you’d also be into these ten details about the development of ACLU’s Mobile Justice app that we learned at the last LA Tech for Good meetup.Also, RSVP right now for the March 9 social shindig soiree get-together at Angel City Brewing, so you remember to be one of the first 20 arrivals & get a free beer!

Back to the wrap-up of the very informative and quite exciting presentation on January 13. Many thanks to Marcus Benigno, new media strategist at the ACLU of Southern California.

Warning: this is going to give you some serious FOMO for the upcoming meetups.

  • The ACLU of Southern California produced this video for $100 (two zeros!).
  • But setting up the back end, including data storage (see, you have to think about this kind of stuff when you create an app) cost $12,000 (three zeros!)
  • ACLU had to create different versions of the Mobile Justice app state-by-state, because the laws governing observation & recording of police activity vary state-by-state.
  • ACLU straight-up cold-called celebrities & other social media influencers to get them on board with promoting the app, and partly because of that…
  • They got 13,000,000 (six zeros!) Thunderclap impressions.
  • They jettisoned a Gmail-based reporting system because of privacy concerns, but…
  • Further development of the app will be funded by a Google grant.
  • You can do only two things with the app: learn about your rights, and exercise your rights. You can’t even donate to the organization.
  • Some of their outreach & publicity successes followed unfortunate events. Events in Ferguson and Baltimore, especially the smashing of a witness’ phone, provoked more interest in the app.
  • Next step: into the stream. There’s currently a 3-minute lag time for uploads, but they plan to implement streaming soon.

We look forward to seeing you March 9 at Angel City Brewing!

silly gif

Okay, so that last part, about the March 9 meetup, is not germane to the subject of nonprofit app development and is pretty much a transparent excuse to include the gif from the original email.

Anyway, you can come to that too.

Since you asked: 6 tips on the LA 2050 Grants Challenge


I’ve had a few1 organizations reach out to me for advice on how to come out ahead in this year’s LA 2050 Grants Challenge. They seemed to find my advice helpful, so I thought I’d share it with the rest of you lovely people.

Granted, you’re in the home stretch and there isn’t much time to implement, and maybe the middle of the event isn’t the optimal time to begin strategizing (more on this in the thrilling conclusion).

And with time running out you probably feel like this:

[action gif illustrating the pressure of last-minute digital strategizing]

But better late than never. Probably.

I’m starting the list with #2, because the #1 most important thing is not necessarily the most urgent thing, and I decided to save it for last.

You’ll see what I mean. (Also, I’m the dessert-first type.)

2. Keep on emailing your list.

You’re already doing it, obvs. Don’t be shy about it, because anyone who’s on a few nonprofit/innovation/social justice/whatever lists is already primed to receive frequent LA 2050 vote appeals. You can get a few more out in the next week without alienating your list members too much.2

3. Cross-check your email list and your social media audiences.

Hopefully your CRM can do this. What you want to do is look for the most engaged members of your community. For example, if someone is on your email list, and follows you on Twitter, and has liked your Facebook posts, then they are really into you. Make a list of these super-fans and reach out to them directly to ask them to share your posts and to ask their friends & followers to vote for your project. You may want to look at people who connect to any two “nodes”: e.g. follow on Twitter & liked a post on Facebook; subscribe to email list and follow on Twitter; etc. You get the idea.

4. Enlist your allies.

This might prove to be challenging because we’ve all got friends & allies in competing organizations. (Someone – the source is murky – called the Grants Challenge the Hunger Games of Los Angeles nonprofits). But if you can, reach out to influential individuals & organizations who can amplify your message. Make a simple, specific request that they either share one of your social media posts, or create their own post asking their friends & followers to vote for your project. If you’re doing the latter, make it as easy as possible for your influencer and have a sample post written, along with an image, before you make the ask. If they agree, great! Now, send them the link or the content immediately so that they don’t forget, and so you don’t have to worry about whether to make that awkward follow-up request. Do the same for the super-supporters you identified in the second step. And by second step, of course, I mean step #3.

5. Quick-and-dirty Facebook ads.

The organizations that reached out to me didn’t have much in the way of social media ad budgets. They aren’t going to get into the numbers of impressions where they would get meaningful data on content performance nor would they likely see the performance indicators move much in response to content or targeting tweaks, so I kept my advice as simple as possible.

  1. Export your email list as a .csv file and format it so that it contains only a single column of email addresses.
  2. Create a Custom Audience by uploading your list.
  3. You can then create a campaign that targets this custom audience.

The way it works is that if someone has subscribed to your list with the same email address they used to register their Facebook account, Facebook will place their profile in the Custom Audience. This won’t be everyone on your list. For example, I registered my Facebook account with an email address that I have never used for anything else, ever, so even if I’m on your email list, Facebook won’t find a profile associated with the email address you have on file for me. But this will work with a certain percentage of your list. And you don’t get charged for ads that aren’t served, so it’s worth a shot. The reason this is worthwhile is that these are people who have already shown an interest in your organization’s work, and we know that not everybody opens your email or clicks on the links, so this is a second shot at some of your supporters.

There’s one more step: create a look-alike audience based on the Custom Audience you just created from your uploaded list of email addresses.

Since Facebook knows everything about us3, they have algorithms that can identify profiles that are similar in interests and behavior to the profiles of your supporters.

These are the simplest way to serve ads to people who are likely to vote for your proposal.

We haven’t touched on content, but there isn’t a whole lot of time to perfect your posts. I did give one content tip, which I’ll share below.

6. Make the most of any video (preferably) or photos (fallback option) of your organization in action.

Ideally, you want media depicting people doing whatever it is your project will facilitate/enable/create, and showing people what your organization makes possible. Obviously, if you haven’t done anything in line with your proposal, and that’s why you joined the challenge in the first place, you won’t have this kind of media.

But if you can do the following, right now, I would: contact someone who would benefit from the project you’re trying to get funded; go and record a video interview with them talking about what your project would mean to them personally; try to get them to keep it under 30 seconds (or edit it later). Post this today with the link to vote for your project and make it the subject of any paid social media campaigns.

Finally, we come to the beginning.

1. Start last year.

I know, I know, that’s not 100% helpful. Aaaaaaaand it’s 40% obnoxious.

But really, the best strategy (for pretty much any and all things) is prepared well ahead-of-time. I don’t have a magic MAKE IT VIRAL button. Nor do I broker deals with the devil (but I know a guy who knows a guy, so…).

Where this advice becomes less annoying and more practical is when we think ahead to the possibility of another Grants Challenge next year, or any fundraising campaign, advocacy push, any time you’re going to ask someone to do something.

Start now by working on this (inexhaustive) list:

  1. Build your email list
  2. Reach out to influencers
  3. Build relationships with bloggers & other journalists
  4. Curate/collect/create ZOMG AMAZING content

Work on those consistently and you’ll be much better situated for any future online outreach effort.

Good luck!


I think three is the minimum number that qualifies as “a few.”

Not a guarantee.

3 I have mixed feelings about this. If anyone wants to talk about it, let’s have that conversation!


This series provides ideas you can implement immediately to add to your organization’s bag of digital tricks.

IMAGE: GIF 60-second digital media hack

You read the title, you know what to do. And now you’re emailing your union’s membership department to instruct them to make the change. Hold up! You still have some decisions to make.

  1. Do you leave it open for your members to list any channels they use and their handles, or do you help them out with spaces for a few defined networks?
    You might want to include prompts for Instagram handles, Pinterest profiles, and Twitter handles, but leave a blank space for “Other.” You could be surprised. Maybe your members are Snapchatting more than you would have guessed. In any case, it basically costs you nothing to add a few lines and see what you can learn about your members.
  2. Define a clear path from the point of collection to whomever is handling your social media accounts.
    Collecting the information is one thing, using it is another. It’s somebody’s job to make sure your members’ contact information ends up in the right hands.
  3. Create a plan for integrating your members into the digital life of the organization.
    This is where your digital strategy comes in. You may already have a “ladder of engagement” organizing your members step-by-step to be digital media advocates for your organization. In that case, you might want to considering upgrading your ladder to a matrix. The Matrix of Engagement doesn’t assume that the path from passive membership to active online advocacy is a straight line. Just like in any kind of community organizing, online organizing depends on meeting your members where they are. Where they are influences where you can go with them next. And you can only go there with your members if you avoid a rigid, one-size-fits-all digital strategy, and build in some flexibility.

Whatever the state of your digital strategy, at a minimum do this: collect members’ social media handles, and do something  – anything – with them. You’re already ahead of where you were.

Optimize Your Digital Habits for Advocacy

[IMAGE: cool animated GIF]

NTEN invited me to write a guest blog post on coping with Inbox 1000. Is this small-ball? No way. I want you to spend more time on changing the world and less time on tedious mouse-clicking. (Unless you are evil. In which case, you MUST organize your email! Twice!)

Whether it’s maintaining your concentration while deflecting incoming email like an aikido master, or monitoring your social media channels, none of your digital tools are ends in and of themselves. It’s important to keep on top of your digital media without falling into a bottomless click hole so you can focus on your mission.

Read the original post here:

Inbox Zero? Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That