Category Archives: Online strategy

Diving into Google Analytics with the Analysis Exchange

One of the main things the New Zealand Drug Foundation is trying to do with the DrugHelp and MethHelp websites is tailor content for the main audience we’re trying to reach.

This audience isn’t people merely interested in drugs in an academic sense, for school projects or with moral agendas. The websites are primarily for people using drugs who want to change. Reaching family members, friends, whanau and others supporting about a drug user is also very important.

If you visit the websites you’ll find the emphasis is on creating empathy and connection, rather than bald facts and figures.

Communicating with people in a convincing way takes way more than a one off effort. The website contents were informed by around 20 interviews with drug users and others. Pre-launch we ran a series of user tests, and our door is open to feedback. Early next year we’ll run a structured process to obtain feedback from people visiting the website.

So, we’ve got a a few ways of feeding into our refinement/ enhancement cycles.

The one area that remains untapped is using web analytics. We’re garnering useful information about visit numbers and frequency, length of stay, popular pages, and loads more. But we’re not yet finding out much about what particular groups of visitors are doing.

The sprawling and deep Google Analytics package offers many options but it is not immediately clear how to match what is offered to our particular needs.

As well as reading Google’s online help, Justin Cutroni’s new book (“Google Analytics: Understanding Visitor Behaviour)”, and blog posts on Occam’s Razor by analytics expert Avinash Kaushik, I participated in NTEN’s Analytics Extravanganza.

After hearing Eric T Peterson (founder of Web Analytics Demystified) simplify the analytics tangle, and show case the Analysis Exchange, I was emboldened to ask the Exchange for help.

NGOs are invited to submit web analytics challenges to the Analysis Exchange. After a vetting process, students and mentors volunteer to help.

As a result I’m now working with Michael D Healy from San Francisco as mentor and Pandu Truhandito from Jakarta as a student. Kicking off next Tuesday, Pandu will be looking into what we can learn from Google Analytics about how key audiences are using DrugHelp and MethHelp.

I’m a bit overwhelmed by the support available from the Analysis Exchange: it’s very organised with highly qualified, motivated people offering to help. Already I’m enjoying the interaction with the two team members.

When I next write about this, I’ll share some of what we’ve learned. It may not be possible to answer my challenge, but I know we’ll definitely learn a lot.

Resources

My web analytics links on Delicious

Hanging on your every word? article

The rush to set up spaces on social networks to raise funds and engage with people is not necessarily a sure fire bet. Even if supporters do hang on your every word through Twitter bon mots it doesn’t mean they’ll reach into their pockets.

People from not-for-profit organisations I talked to for an article published in the August 2009 issue FINZ on Fundraising said they weren’t in it for the money (see “Hanging on your every word?” article). At least, not straight away.

Instead organisations are setting up Facebook fan pages and Twitter feeds to engage better with their audiences. This includes connecting with people that they wouldn’t be able to easily reach in any other way.

When choosing different online fund- and friend-raising options not-for-profit organisations Eric Rardin from Care2.com advised organisations to take an analytical approach rather than following fashions. In a lecture on “Creating an online strategy to thrive in tough times” run by Network for Good in May 2009, he shares detailed case studies of the costs of donor acquisition versus the returns.

Rardin, who is Care2.com’s nonprofit services manager, says organisations need to match goals with tactics.

  1. Goals include: branding or visibility, engaging people, generating donor leads, website traffic and/ or list growth, and fundraising.

  2. Tactics include: search engine marketing, banner ads, email list growth services (something I’m not aware of in NZ), and social network outreach.

There is no single tactic that will magically meet all goals. The tactics achieve different things.

Talking about social networks, he says they:

… have proven to be valuable opportunities for branding and connecting, and most people that I’ve heard talk about what they think of how things have done on MySpace and Facebook and elsewhere, they end up talking mostly about the community they built, the branding, and a lot less about traffic and donations.

When pressed Rardin says “I think that using email to drive traffic to your site to get donations is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy here, because it’s a loop here. So the question is: how do you grow your email list? That’s often the most critical step.”

So we’re still looking at a three legged stool. Laura S Quinn from Idealware suggests splitting your time and budget three ways:

  • website, with functionally to capture new contacts and accept donations
  • email communication, including e-newsletters
  • online marketing and outreach, including a social network presence.

(See “Prioritizing Websites vs. Email vs. Online Outreach”, 27 August 2008).

The Network for Good learning centre freely share lessons from the fundraising frontline, including presentations and audio lectures like Eric’s one. It’s good place to start if you want to explore these questions in more depth.

Award for excellence in community directories

Found Directory logoI’d like to bestow my inaugural Award for excellence in community directories today. This is a personal award and doesn’t attract a cash or even in-kind prize. Just my gratitude.

As part of a website writing project I’ve been working on I’ve scoured the country for online community directories. The aim is to provide a way for people to find lists of local  organisations. A few print publications sneaked in as our goal was to help people make connections, rather sticking to a web only rule.

My final count was 41 with one or two others under development. We’ve got the country almost covered – yes from Kaitaia to Gore (but not Invercargill or Riversdale, unless someone knows of directories for these parts).

Regardless of the ease of search, reliability of contact details, scope and visual design they’re almost all being listed.

Ahem, that’s the preamble, I will now open the envelope to find out which directory deserves a round of applause…. ta-daaa: Found Directory.

This directory proudly demonstrates the health of the community in the Nelson/ Tasman region, with clubs and groups listed from across the spectrum including culture, art, sport, recreation or welfare.

What’s so good about the Found Directory:

  • Attractive design and usable navigation
  • Multiple search options: list by subject and geography plus search
  • Large number of listings
  • User friendly for organisations signing up
  • Events calendar is actually active
  • Discrete hosts who are not shouting you down.

Found Directory sets a standard for other directories to rise to. I’ll be passing on my feedback to Volunteer Nelson, who manage the website, and all those involved. I’m hoping by the time the next awards are granted there will be more excellent directories in the running.

Social innovation campers have green ideas

Most of the activist and grassroots community organising I’ve been part of has struggled with some of the basics. It was something that took up a surprising amount of effort. Where are going to meet? Are there enough chairs? Can we make a cuppa after the meeting?

I don’t remember a time we ever had chardonnay served as we neared the end of a session.

So it was slightly to my disbelief when 4 o’clock chimed at a gathering of keen social innovators on Saturday that drinks appeared. The panoramic view over Wellington harbour, with yachts bobbling, was made even more alluring.

This gathering kick started a process for “anyone in NZ with a great idea to use the web for social good [to] find the support they need to make it a reality”.  The basic premise is to match people with ideas and knowledge of social needs and opportunities, with doers (in this case the room was dominated by people from the web industry) and investors.

A few more meet-ups are being organised in preparation for a weekend camp in November. In the months  leading up to the camp, the main focus is on generating and selecting ideas (based on pressing needs) which are then rapidly developed by teams. A support package is then offered to a few projects to help them get off their feet. The NZ process is modelled on highly successful camps run in UK.

It’s one of the initiatives of the new NZ Centre for Social Innovation which is bringing together business, community, academia, government and anyone else interested in social entrepreneurism.

The top ideas from Saturday were:

  • “10,000 Micro Exporters” – Leveraging the overseas market knowledge of Kiwis returning home and migrants to create new niche opportunities for micro-exporting (and importing)
  • “Community Gardens” – Hyper-local communities, based around community gardens, connecting and sharing food, skills and assistance assisted by a web tool
  • “Alternative Energy” – An idea for the development of a community grid.

(See “SI Camp Meet-Up, Saturday 6 June, Wellington – Off to A Great Start!”)

Of all the ideas that came up during a well facilitated afternoon, community gardening is the one which holds some promise of fundamental change. It contains within it a seed of many things, such as:

  • a shift away from dependence on a globalised market economy
  • a way of creating and sustaining relationships between neighbours
  • emphasing a quality of life based on what we do not what we consume.

And so much more.

As the idea of promoting self-organising neighbourhoods itself is not new (and in particular I recall Ted Trainor’s concept of a radical conserver society) there is a lot of prior knowledge and experience to inject into a social innovation context. Learning from the past and also what is already being done has got to be the place to start.

Some other aspects of the conversation on Saturday didn’t work for me. The framing of social problems was one. Rather than focusing on individuals who are excluded by structural inequalities (ie people who experience the consequences of an unfair society), I’d describe things in terms of our collective responsibility to ensure even one has fair life chances and how systemic barriers fail many people. To avoid the very real danger of paternalism, I’d ask people experiencing the worst in an unjust and unfair society to speak for themselves.

The SICAMP meet-up was a stimulating place for creating ideas in a cossetted environment. If we’re able to turn our minds to productively fine-tuning ideas, without scrabbling around for basic facilities, this could gain some real traction. The past being a poor predictor of the future I can’t hazard a guess where this will go. Instead, I’ll draw on the wisdom of our elders: watch this space.

Gathering people together to take action

When I was studying for my politics degree I doubtlessly would have taken a course on the intersection of politics and the internet. Had something like this been on offer, of course.

Skip forward to 2008 this might have involved enrolling in a course by the farsighted Howard Rheingold (author of The Virtual Community in the early 1990s). He’s instructing a course on virtual communities/ social media at the University of California, Berkeley.

The course sounds brilliant. Imagine talking about how a 1960s commune influenced the development of the Whole Earth Lectronic Link (WELL) virtual community. Or about Habermas and the public sphere. Being the cyber denizen he is, Rheingold shares a series of lesson excerpts on his vlog.

No longer having the same amount of time to contemplate and debate as I did when I was a student, I rarely find for delving into the theory and praxis of cyberspace.

Then, out of nowhere, I find a book that makes me want to glug coffee and argue back and forth.

It’s with growing anticipation that I wait for “Here comes everybody” by New York professor and consultant Clay Shirky. The book is about the power of the internet for organising without organisations.

Even without a copy of the book I’ve found out quite a lot about it, including dozens of reviews. None of these have put me off yet but that could easily happen.

His schematic for describing the ultimate goal of the internet as being collective action is hugely attractive. And he seems to slide blithely by some of the web’s perils, such as the endemic marketing and disinformation by various elites. The examples don’t seem to have been drawn from activists in the traditional sense, but from regular citizens seeking to right wrongs.

I definitely think there is something worth talking about here. The promise of the internet to distribute power is in danger of being consumed by other purposes.

The more I look and scan, the less I feel the need to read the actual book. Though, as I found in the past after sitting in a lecture theatre listening to a professor up the front, actually understanding something only happens when you toss ideas around with other people and hear different points of view.

Aha! Maybe I could find some others in Wellington who also want to read Shirky’s book, drink coffee and rave.

All about Here comes everybody

Clay Shirky interview (mp3, 30 MB), by his publishers, 4 March 2008

Clay Shirky on Guardian Tech Weekly podcast, 25 March 2008

Presentation at Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University, video, 28 February 2008

“Does “Obama Girl” help Obama?” by Farhad Manjoo, Salon, 7 March 2008

Official Clay Shirky “Here comes everybody” blog

Hearing from fathers on The Couch

For quite a while we’ve wanted to get an up-to-date snapshot pressures, concerns, and joys faced by fathers. Mothers tend to be very vocal and find the time to get on to The Couch, but poll results suggeted the dads were not so forthcoming.

So, on father’s day we launched a poll asking for replies just from dads. We’ve asked about role models, access to information on being a father, the nature of the role and time spent with their children, plus we’ve left some space for men to share views on highs and lows.

After just over a week 7% of members have completed the poll.

I’m hoping a few more blokes might get online and let us know about being a dad. Pass on the message to dads you know.