SEO and Social Media for Non-Profits

seo and social media for non-profits

This year, I’ve been fortunate to be involved with a non-profit organization here in Atlanta, called Vision Rehabilitation Services of Georgia.  My wife is a member of their staff and I have volunteered to help with promote their upcoming fundraising event via SEO and Social Media.  It’s been a great learning experience and I am proud of the results that have been produced so far.

Screen shot from Google Analytics showing improvment

Thankfully, my wife is often my sounding board and she will be the first person to remind me I am talking over people’s heads.  I love technology and all things internet related. Once I get excited about something, I tend to take off or (incorrectly) assume everyone knows what I’m talking about.

consider your audience

Alas, such is not the case.  The good people at VRS are not technical in nature and I’ve done everything from explaining what Twitter is to how to edit the title of a page in HTML.  They certainly haven’t had much exposure to SEO and Social Media. This, I have found, is great since it helps me stay grounded, slow down, take a breath, and really make a difference in helping achieve results.

 

I have found that I learn best when I have a goal in hand and the can put whatever I’m doing to practice.  This is how I learn and improve.

 

I’m no stranger to Social Media and I consider myself more of a rabid enthusiast as opposed to an expert. I was already somewhat familiar with SEO and the over all concepts, but putting it all together for a good cause really helped me grow and be effective.

 

I’ve bought books, signed up for mailing lists, practiced and experimented.

Rinse, Lather, Repeat for success!

(If you read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, you know about opportunity and experience so I think that’s very apropos in this case.)

Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers

finishing touches

I’ve been using an example to illustrate how I feel. The example I’ve been using is that the Internet is a car; I know how to work on the engine, transmission and brakes, and with what I’m learning now I’m learning how to put on the custom, hand-painted pin striping.

I’m not going to go into specifically into SEO or Social Media tips for non-profits because that stuff is already plastered all over the web and can be found in books, but I have really enjoyed my experience and am glad I’m helping a great cause.

 

But is has become clear to me that you have to use both, or that is to say, you should use bothThe sum is greater than the parts and with the various tools available, you can see the results, (whether positive or negative) pretty quickly.

goals

I guess the one piece of advice I can give, is to have a goal.  Whether it is something like “getting people to sign up for the fundraiser,” or “move up in search engine results,” or simply create awareness, you got to have identified what you are trying to do.   SEO and Social Media just for the heck of it, will not work.

 

Oh, and if you are interested in helping our cause and seeing how SEO and Social Media can help a non-profit, check out the Spooktacular Chase, 5k Race in Symrna GA.

 

I’d love to hear any suggestions or questions you have.

 

 

 

 

cycles of improvements

A good friend of mine shared something with me that was really cool.  Surely, you’ve heard to TED Talks. In case you didn’t here’s a brief description:

TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences — the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh UK each summer — TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and Open TV Project, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize.

And that’s taken right from their website.

I honestly don’t watch enough of them.  Some of videos I seen are “knock-yer-socks-off” type of good.  Most everything I’ve seen so far has been really inspiration.

So, my friend shared with me, TED Curator Chris Anderson on Crowd Accelerated Innovation, which was featured in Wired. I’ll embed the accompanying video here. I think both the article and the video have profound impact. Anderson’s video focuses on videos, but I feel the same sentiment can be applied towards Twitter and Facebook, and other social media outlets.

What I find interesting, is the concept of people who have passion and are self-taught, can raise the bar on those classically trained.

Innovation is hard work; it based on 100’s of hours of research, practice… abscense of desire… it’s not going to happen…

– Chris Anderson

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… to the cloud!!!

… to sound cliche.

boo-hoo’ing

So, my precious VMWare node, running on an old Dell 1850 died a couple weeks ago. I lost a drive. I had it set up with RAID0.  Yes, I’ll admit I was over confident. I was surprised how quickly that drive died, but I lost everything. I lost years of work: my SVN repositories, my Asterisk configs, my DNS records, the list goes on.

A good friend of mine said, “It’s time to go to the Cloud; It’s awesome.

He was right. In recent months, I’ve relied heavily on DropBox and more recently on Box.net, and even more recently on Microsoft’s Skydrive, but what was I going to do with my other services?

… back in my day…

It’s been so many years since I’ve run a server in my basement. Even before my kids were born.  I was one of the first people to get aDSL in Atlanta: this was when the phone company still did a truck roll to their customer’s house.  I ran a FreeBSD box, (I think 4.5), that did PPPoE with a really old 10Mbit switch.  Ever since then, I had a box in the basement doing things.  I used to run mail servers, web servers, media servers, network drive, internal DNS, and even an Asterisk PBX.

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myths of innovation

The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun

I’m going to review the book, Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun.

In Scott’s book, he busts up the “myth of epiphany” by breaking down the history and process of how new ideas become reality. He explains the methods behind innovation, challenges innovation faces and explains how it just isn’t one guy alone, who has the best idea.

I really enjoyed this book.

I like to think myself as an innovative person, and as Scott explained the challenges that innovators or innovative ideas come up against, I could related all too well. Scott explains that innovators don’t usually find support with the mainstream and that often drives them to work alone on problems others ignore, and how this could explain the connection between “breakthrough thinkings” and new companies. That makes me think of the Googles and Microsofts of the world, both of who are just two of some of the bigger examples of breakthrough companies.

I liked how Scott pulled in tons of information from other sources and linked it into a way that made it all make sense. The book had lots of content from other sources, that helps put some of these larger ideas into perspective for me. Scott also references some of the points from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, (which I also enjoyed), such as the 10,000 rule and the influence of opportunity.

What I found particularly helpful, was Scott’s sections on helpful suggestions, such as “Creative Thinking Hacks, “How To Pitch an idea,” and “How To Stay Motivated.” This is particular challenge for me so I really appreciated the information and definitely plan to leverage what I learned in 2011.

Now, I read this version on the Kindle, so I don’t know if this is the same in the printed book, but I also liked the way all the chapter’s footnotes are at the end of the each chapter. I found this a refreshing way to read the footnotes while the content of the chapter is still fresh in my mind

Finally, I enjoyed Scott’s writing style, his sense of humor, and that way he was able to combine and weave them into the book. I would recommend this book, and look forward to reading Scott’s other works.

You can find the O’reilly Page for the Myths of Innovation here.

holding the spoon the right way

At work I’ve been doing some skunk works projects on Enterprise Collaboration, or Enterprise 2.0.  I enjoy setting up new things and seeing how they work and fit together. I also enjoy teaching new things to people and seeing them digest new ideas, so this has been something I’ve really enjoyed working on.

Cisco Networks released Cisco Quad, and I thought the best description I heard was, “When you are at home, you are addicted to Facebook… when you are work, you are addicted to this…”

That sums up my sentiment exactly.

There have been some well intentioned, yet primitive attempts at increasing collaboration across the company… wait… let me rephrase that.  People have been collaborating all long, via primate methods, at least by what has been available.

We have Microsoft’s Sharepoint 2007 in house, and I’ve become very knowledge about it in the last half of the year.  And I do see it as a potential enabler of virtual collaboration, but to me, it seems lacking in several areas.  Granted, our implementation has suffered from stability and usage issues, but it only recently began gaining any noticeable traction almost eight months after it’s initial implementation.

But, it hasn’t been good for sharing media, or spontaneous communication, and I certainly realize the potential is there.  I’ve seen Sharepoint 2010and it is an improvement, but unless it becomes part of our daily habits, or routine, Sharepoint 2010 could still languish.

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Making Snow at home!

we had a white Christmas

Well, it is almost that time of year and since here in Georgia, we did get snow on Christmas Day, (the first time since 1882), I thought it might be cool to post my video of me and my brother-in-law making snow last year.   I was surprised at the amount of views this got on Youtube and I’ve been enjoying reading the comments.

I don’t know if we’ll try again this year, but I bet we will.

Enjoy!

big picture thinking

I fancy myself as one of those guys who can see the big picture, the end game, the whole enchilada.

Some call me crazy, or half-baked, but I’m usually more right than naught.

Anyways, I’ve found a killer artist/musician that I just can’t seem to get enough of; Wax Tailor

Wax Tailor is the alias of French trip hop/hip hop producer, Jean-Christophe Le Saoût[1] (born 19 July 1975 in Vernon, Eure). He started in 2004 with two EP‘s (Lost The Way and Que Sera / Where My Heart’s At). The first album Tales of the Forgotten Melodies he released in March 2005, mixing hip-hopdowntempotrip-hop with samples extracted from movies. This album became one of the best selling electronic releases of the year[citation needed]. The second album Hope & Sorrowreleased in April 2007. It was nominated for the French “Victoires de la Musique” and US Indie music award.

I think hip-hop is an understatement. Sure, his music has hip-hop elements, but listen to his songs, and imagine what goes into it. He samples quite a bit of audio from old movies and songs and adds many different audio tracks over the samplings.  That’s a real artist. He can take the various elements, put them together, and create something beautiful.

What strikes me about his music is that I think it is really complex. He’s not tossing random samples into a bucket, hoping they come out sounding good. I am pretty sure he has a seed or a kernel for each song he starts off with, and has some sort of vision to carry it through.

Check out this song. Listen and pay attention to the many levels you might hear.

I don’t know if he had a hand in making the video, but I think it is pretty good. What strikes me is that the samples he’s using, isn’t something he is creating, but something he took from other sources. In my opinion, (in trying to read other people’s code), that is exponentiationly harder than creating your own content.

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winxp mode, virtualbox, and VMware Player

Man, I haven’t posted in a long dang time. I’ve been working on a lot of really different and cool things at work and at home.

backdoor man

The other day, I read a post about using split tunnel vpn on WinXP Mode on Windows 7. I like this idea. Essentially, it is simply setting up a virtual machine, installing VPN software on the virtual machine, and using the virtual machine to VPN into your destination network.

I like it for a couple of reasons:

  • My host OS (Windows 7) continues to do whatever it was doing, (bitorrent, IM, etc).
  • My WinXP virtual machine can be 100% dedicated to work stuff

Don’t get me wrong. For work, I have a really nice Macbook Pro. And in the office, I have all the accessories set up so I can just “plug in” and be productive. But at home, I have a pretty beefy Win7 machine and I like using the big monitor and ergo keyboard.

keep moving forward

I was using LogMeIn to access my Mac from my Win7 desktop, but it wasn’t great. I use Virtualbox on my Win7 desktop with Ubuntu Linux and love it, but the VPN doesn’t work great, so and I really need some of the Microsoft functionality.

So, I tried to get it set up with WinXP Mode and it worked pretty well. I installed Office 2007 and use Ninite to install my typical Windows apps. It worked great.  I used WinXP Mode for a couple of days with work and it was okay; I’ve got no major complaints… except I don’t care for the Virtual PC interface and graphic performance stinks.

At first I ran the VMWare converter utility and I created a Physical to Virtual machine and stored the .vmdk on a different harddrive.  Then I installed the VMWare Player and discovered it had an option already to “import Win XP Mode Virtual Machine.” How cool, I thought!

… and so it begins

Computers sometimes suck.

Computers sometimes suck.

After a few minutes, the import completed and I tried to fire it up.  I got an error message that said, “Unable to connect to this virtual machine. Make sure you have proper permissions…. etc” or something along those lines. Uh-oh, I thought.

So then I went to open the converted image I created and got the same error.  Boo!  At that point, I tried to start Virtualbox and I got an even more cryptic error about some kernel.dll not being able to load.  I assumed it was a conflict between VMWare Player and Virtualbox.  So I uninstalled the VMWare Player.

After a reboot, (to complete the de-installation), Virtualbox started up fine, I opened the .vmdk I created and it did open!  I thought I was making progress.  Then, as I read elsewhere, WinXP Mode wants to reactivate itself under Virtualbox.  I couldn’t even get logged in. Upon attempting to activate, it said my product code was invalid.

success!

Still, I was very intriqued about the VMWare Player’s WinXP import utility so I decided to reinstall it and try again.  This time, after I installed it, I did not reboot my system as the installation process requested.  Instead I tried the import again… and it worked!

It installed VMWare Tools… the only drawback was that it was the original WinXP VM so none of my installed apps or settings were there.  That’s cool, I thought since you always can do something better the second time around!

So right now, I just finished installing my favorite free apps using NiNite, and am installing Office, Communicator, and my companies VPN software.

So far, I can say the experience with VMWare Player is much better than the original WinXP Mode.  The VM is noticably faster and the graphics is very much improved.  My host system is pretty beefy, so YMMV, but here’s my settings for my WinXP VM:

  • Memory: 768MB
  • CPU’s: 2
  • Network Adapter: Bridged
  • Sound Card and Display: Autodetect

Great Success!

You can find the links to all the software I used if you want to play along.

Windows 7 motherboard swap

This is really cool.  If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me rejoicing over my new purchase of a motherboard and AMD CPU at Fry’s this last weekend.

I’ve been upgrading parts of our home Windows desktop and handing down parts to my FreeBSD server and my (now retired) Asterisk server. (The physical hardware has been retired, but the server image lives on my VMWare ESXi server in my basement).   For the longest time, I would have considered myself an Intel man, but honestly I don’t have fanboy tendencies either way.

But I saw my deal at Fry’s this past weekend, I asked my wife if could get executive approval for the upgrade purchase, and she said yes!  Here’s what I got for $149 (plus tax) after rebate:


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Now, I had a rather old Asus Socket 775 Intel based, Via chipset motherboard and a Pentium D 820. That was a dual core CPU and I wasn’t really too happy about the Asus motherboard. I mean, it was okay, but wasn’t great.

In preparation of my upgrade I began researching on what would be the best way to handle replacing the motherboard from under my Windows 7 installation.  In the past, I would try to get a new motherboard as close to as what I was replacing, and then make the swap, and do a repair installation of WinXP.

I cruised around a couple of the more popular Windows 7 forums and the consensus I was getting was that I should do a “new installation.” The installation process would create a Windows.old and I would have to reinstall and restore my files, (yes, I do have backups).  Then I saw something that blew my mind…

One forum poster claimed that he swapped motherboard and Windows 7 impressively detected the changes and proactively installed the necessary drivers for the new motherboard and after a reboot, he was as good as new.

It’s true.

I decided to try this. With the expectation that at the worst, I would do a “new install” of Windows 7.  I made my swap of the motherboards, plugged everything in, hooked up the bare minimum, (keyboard, mouse, network, monitor), powered it on, went into the BIOS and set my C: drive to the first boot device and let it rip!

It worked.

As proof, here’s a video of my upgrade. I took the chance that it would work, and recorded it with my Flip HD.  The whole thing took 16 minutes from start to finish, but I edited my video down to six minutes.

As you can see, after the reboot I was back in business with quad-core goodness! And here’s a video of me updating my Windows 7 User Experience Index:

Notice my CPU index went from 2.2 to 7.2! Now to be clear, I did have some minor clean up issues:

  • I had to uninstall my ATI Radeon drivers since I wasn’t using that card any more.
  • I did have to install some drivers from the included CD
  • I did have to flash the BIOS to the latest
  • I did have to use the automated Microsoft Activation via the phone, but it was painless.

Overall, it was an exceptional experience!  I never thought I would have a quad-core CPU at home, and I certainly never thought Windows 7 would continue to be this awesome!

Finally, this worked wonderfully.  Here’s a comparison of what I went from and what I went to:

Old Setup New Setup
  • Intel Pentium Dual Core CPU
  • VIA Chipset
  • ATI Video Card
  • AMD Quad Core CPU
  • Nvidia nForce Chipset
  • Nvidia Onbard Video

non-traditional job interviewing advice

Following up with my previous post about non-traditional resume help, I had also given a few pointers to friends about interviewing. I’ve distilled them here:

  • In this economy, there are tons of people out looking for jobs and willing to take anything.  If you are a senior person, and you apply for a junior position, you probably won’t get the job.  Employers are savvy about this, and realize once the economy gets better, you’ll probably leave as soon as you can for a better paying job.
  • And you should, (if you got the job!)! Companies lay people off all the time; it’s a business decision. You and your family should be your number one business.  Think of it as a business decision that is good for you and your family!
  • Remember that the interview is for both involved parties. You should be interviewing your new company, boss, position, growth potential, quality of work/life balance, etc.  See how they treat you during the interview process.  Did they offer you bathroom breaks, sometime to drink or eat?
  • Are the people interviewing you qualified to assess your skills and/or qualifications?  If your hiring manager is not knowledgeable in your skill set, there will be some frustration around expectations.  I was recently asked to interview a candidate for a Cisco Network Engineer position.  I know nothing about the technology, I was brought in to evaluate the guy’s personality. But I was able to asses his ability to learn, lead, personality, and if he could get the job done if given what he needed.  I would not have been able to gauge his technical skills. I was upfront and honest about this.
  • If you get pre-screened by HR or the recruiters, they’ll ask you what you make now or what you made before. DO NOT give them a number until it comes down to an offer. If you give them a number, and it’s lower than the range for the position, they’ll give you that.  You can always say, “Before I give you a number, I want to learn more about the position. Until then, it’s hard for me to give a number that I think is appropriate…” or something along those lines.  If they press you for a number, I would give them a number around 10% above your current or last salary amount.  Don’t tell them, “I’d like to make, $XZY.”  Instead, make it a definite statement, “I am looking to make $XYZ!”
  • Remember, if you get an offer, to consider the total benefits package; vacation, sick time, work at home policy, breaks, insurances, etc, commute, along with the salary.  Work is not just about making a salary. It is also about these things, too.
  • Vacation is always a negotiation-able.  While HR says, “Nope, our standard policy is two weeks” you can always work out a deal with the hiring manager. Just get it in writing from them in case you move under a new boss or he moves out of their position.
  • Sometimes, a severance package is also something you can negotiate for.  “Since I was laid off at my last job where I was at for twelve years, I would feel more safe if some accommodations were made if I was to be let go within my first six months while I am here.”
  • When you get an offer, ALWAYS say, “Thank you.  I need 24 hours to think about it.” If they say, no, then you don’t want to work for them.  You do need to think over every offer and at least sleep on it and talk it over with the family.  Be sure to get back with them either way by the time you committed to.
  • Be prepared to ask questions or do the interview yourself.  Some people just aren’t good interviewers.  One guy I interviewed with when I was being interviewed was clearly uncomfortable so I began asking about his family, kids, etc and we talked for the whole hour about that sort of stuff.
  • This is a good one, but kind of scary.  When the interview is over, ask them if they have any reservations on hiring you. This might catch them off guard, but otherwise it will throw the door wide open for more discussion if there is any concerns. The interviewer might say, “Well, as a matter of fact, I am a little concerned about your lack of experience in XYZ…”  This gives you, as the interviewee, to specifically address this.  In this case, maybe you answer, “While I haven’t done XYZ, I have done ABC which is the same skill set…”  who knows.  But if this guy was worried and the interview ended and it never came up, it could hurt your chances when the other candidates are considered.

I hope you find these helpful.  These come from mypersonal experience as well as some other job finding groups I belong to.  If you have more ideas, I’d love to hear them!