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.


Top 10 Facebook Posts for LA-Area Nonprofits, Labor & Advocacy for March 1 – March 7

We decided to take a look a the top ten over-performing Facebook posts for LA-area organizations for the past week. “Over-performing,” for those not familiar with the term, means performing better than average for posts by a particular Page.

A post may overperform by generating ten likes and one share, if the average post by that particular page gets, say, five likes and no shares. Whereas a post with 100 likes, 35 comments and 13 shares may be considered to under-perform, if the page in question tends to post hyper-engaging content that typically generates more engagement.

So, this data is not intended to rank Facebook posts by their overall “quality” or “virality” (yikes – did we really just use that word?). One take-away that can be generalized from these posts is that their respective pages did something right, relative to the status quo for their post overall.

If you manage a page or are in any way involved with the social media presence for one of these organizations, you might get an idea what kind of material your audience finds engaging.

Right now, we’re tracking over 300 pages for organizations, invidivuals, public officials, and campaigns in the LA area. If you want to make sure your page is in the mix for future comparisons, simply email us at hello@vsbly.org or tweet at our chief overall thing-doer @newlinla.

And we’d be remiss to not give a shout-out to Crowdtangle, the tool we use to analyze pages & posts.

Without further ado, here are the posts that dominated the internet in the LA social justice world this past week, ranked by the factor by which they over-performed.

Post #1: Heal the Bay (Overperformed by 21.7x.) Inspiration + creativity FTW.

Weekend inspo via Ocean Reality

Posted by Heal the Bay on Saturday, March 5, 2016

Post #2: Labor 411 (Overperformed by 19x). From the It’s About Time, You Others Better Get in Line dept.

Another reason that I choose Costco every time over the Sam’s Clubs of the world.Posted by Labor 411 on Friday, March 4, 2016

Post #3: Center for Community Change (Overperformed by 13.7x). The post is doing great, so if you’re applying for this job, it looks like you’ve got some serious shoes to fill.

Are you ready to create social change? Check out some of our open positions including a Digital Campaigner and Web Developer. We are looking for smart and passionate people to join our team!Posted by The Center for Community Change on Thursday, March 3, 2016

Post #4: Los Angeles LGBT Center (Overperformed by 12.0x). Celebrity + timeliness (the Oscars) + one of the most pressing issues in LA right now overall + how that issue affects the page’s key audience.

When Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne toured our youth center, he was shocked to learn that an astounding 40% of the youth…Posted by Los Angeles LGBT Center on Monday, February 29, 2016

Post #5: Labor 411, again (Overperformed by 10.1x) Blatant injustice + a call to action.

Tell Mondelēz International to keep the Chicago Nabisco plant open: http://go.aflcio.org/OreoPosted by Labor 411 on Friday, March 4, 2016

Post #6: The California Endowment (Overperformed by 9.3x) Triumph over adversity = 100% inspiration (and a challenge to conventional wisdom).
(Note: we skipped the actual 6th-place post because it dealt with a very personal tragedy within an organization’s close-knit community.)

The story of Johns Hopkins’ Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa who went from being an undocumented farm worker outside of…Posted by The California Endowment on Monday, March 7, 2016

Post #7: Homeboy Industries (Oveperformed by 8.5x). Again, inspiration.

This is a great story about the solar panel event that took place today at Homeboy.Posted by Homeboy Industries on Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Post #8: Anti-Defamation League (Overperformed by 8.5x). Useful resources for Women’s History Month.

March marks the beginning of Women’s History Month, so we have compiled all of our Women’s History Month educational…Posted by ADL’s A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute on Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Post #9: Power my Learning (Overperformed by 7.8x). An infographic about reading that is, well, not easy to read. (Let’s talk about design ?)

30 minutes a day.Posted by PowerMyLearning on Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Post #10: Youth Justice Coalition (Overperformed by 7.3x). Injustice + a compassionate call-to-action & a chance to help.

FYI Fundraiser for protester who was stabbed at Anaheim KKK Rally.Posted by Youth Justice Coalition on Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Overall, we think uplifting messages and inspiration won the week. By the way, our digital strategy clients can get access to our Crowdtangle dashboard for an even deeper look at Facebook content performance metrics. Feel free to say hi!

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.

Red Cross Responds to Accusations of PR Focus with PR Fail

If the Red Cross wants to prove the nonprofit is not prioritizing PR over its operations, its own damage control message might be the best evidence yet.

Yesterday, NPR and ProPublica published a damning report alleging that the Red Cross not only botched its responses to hurricanes Sandy and Isaac, but that the organization’s leadership diverted resources from disaster relief for PR purposes.

It looks bad. Really bad. And it’s not the first time the nonprofit organization has come under fire for mismanagement.

So, what should a nonprofit organization do when it finds itself in a communications crisis like this?


Defensive? Check!

First off, the “Myth vs. Fact” format is about the worst you can choose.

The format sets up the content of your message to have a shrill tone. Kind of like shouting, “did not!”

It’s defensive. And what kind of people (or organizations) are defensive? Guilty ones.

So it almost doesn’t matter what arguments you make if you’ve already chosen a template that says, “Oh, and by the way, we screwed up.”

To put it in terms the Red Cross itself might understand:

How does one respond to a natural disaster? Suit up and rush in to the point of greatest need and take on the challenge head-on. You don’t try to claim there was never a hurricane in the first place.

And especially today, when audiences have become attuned to the smartphone Panopticon, deleted tweets that haunt their writers from the grave, tan suits, and FAILs of all manner and proportion, people expect that anyone will screw up eventually, and they expect you to own up to it with class. If you don’t, you invite another kind of storm.

Amplify the accusation? Check!

They list the “myths” they wish to dispel in short, bite-sized, messages in bold red text, and their “facts” in long, dense and wordy paragraphs, so that the “myths” grab the reader’s attention.

If you want to diminish a message, don’t make eye candy out of it.

Inadequate? Check!

The Red Cross might be lacking wheelchairs for survivors with physical needs, but one type of tool they have in abundance is shovels with which to dig themselves deeper.

The first “Fact” they list is not, in fact, a fact: “Our mission is to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies, and that alone is what guided our service delivery decisions during Sandy and during every emergency.” Readers know, more or less, what the organization’s stated aims are. Starting off a response to a detailed report with a vague mission statement sounds like you’re trying to change the subject.

This vagueness and evasion kills the response elsewhere, too. “They chose not to include our response,” the Red Cross writes. Well, what was your response to NPR and ProPublica’s accusations? Where is a link? The Red Cross chose not to include it.

We’re not trying to bash the Red Cross. We’re not here to defend them, either. We’re not confident that any broad conclusion can be gleaned about one very large organization with hundreds of chapters based on one investigative report and one apparently hastily-written rebuttal.

But they could have done better.

How should a nonprofit organization like Red Cross respond?

  1. Create a response strategy

    To avoid compounding your nonprofit’s problems, don’t respond reactively. Respond purposefully according to a carefully-thought-out communications plan that includes language that is clear, concise, and – this is key for nonprofit communications (or, for that matter, everybody always) – authentic.

  2. Create an honest message

    No corporate-speak. No deflecting. No “Our mission is to…” Acknowledge the problem and take responsibility. You can admit you’re not perfect, and still be proud. (There might even be a useful soundbite in there.)

    Faced with the leak of internal documents in which Red Cross staff detail “multiple system failures,” there can be no denial.

    But there can be a re-framing of the message. For example:

    “Of course, there were failures among the many successes. You’re seeing these reports because we took it upon ourselves to evaluate our efforts, and ask, ‘how can we do better next time? How can we bring more aid, comfort more people, and possible save more lives?’”

    “If we weren’t self-critical and self-improving, there wouldn’t be this report in the first place. When you see these internal documents that we ourselves prepared, you’re seeing us asking ourselves, ‘what can we learn so that we serve the public better and use our resources more effectively next time.”

    The key is to respond in real language like real people use. And speaking of real people…

  3. Put a face on it

    A nonprofit organization can’t look a person in the eye, connect, and convince. Only a person can do that. Get a spokesperson out there, and the higher up the better. A personal response can show leadership. An organizational response looks like the responsible individuals are avoiding public scrutiny.

    Suzy DeFrancis, the chief public affairs officer for the American Red Cross, was interviewed on NPR today.

    Wrong Face.

    CEO Gail McGovern should be out in front of a story of this size.

  4. Own the conversation

    This story is so hot right now, that if McGovern were made available, her message would be everywhere immediately.

    A talking head video on YouTube would likely crowd out the negative messages on social media, or at the very least give them stiff competition for attention.

  5. Leverage your community

    This is our answer to literally everything (figuratively, but also, probably, literally). And it applies here.

    Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the Red Cross is not rotten to the core and that they have touched people’s lives in powerful, positive ways. Right there is their army of spokespeople: volunteers, disaster survivors, and partners.

    If they see the organization acting shady they might be reluctant to carry its message. But if they see the organization being classy, showing leadership and taking responsibility, community members can be encouraged to share their own positive experiences with the nonprofit’s work.

What do you think?

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