E-Outreach & Media

The information provided below focuses on a wide range of electronic forms of communication and provides basic descriptions along with resources and examples of how Audubon and Chapters are using various communication tools. If would like to see more detailed information, we encourage you to explore the Web where the amount of information online regarding e-communication for non-profit organizations is extensive.

It is important to remember when publishing content on public websites that anyone, anywhere in the world with access to the Internet can obtain the information you provide. Be sure not to post sensitive information, and never post a member's photos, email address or other personal information without prior written permission. Many forms of e-communication also have privacy settings that can be adjusted so that only certain people (e.g., registered users) are allowed to view the information, post comments, or participate in a discussion.

Free resources and training providers

Please browse E-Outreach and Networking topics in more depth, below:

Audubon en Espanol - reach out to your Hispanic/Latino community

Promote Your Chapter's Successes

Has your Chapter experienced a spectacular success in a conservation, advocacy, education, citizen science, fundraising, or other effort? Chapter Services would like to promote and share your Chapter's successes throughout the Audubon network.

Please use this form to submit your Chapter success story.

Stories are always made more powerful with images. If you have a good image depicting your story, please email it to us, along with the signed content license.

If you have developed any support materials (e.g., curriculum, fact sheets, best practices) for your project that you would be willing to share--as a link to the page, or document on your Chapter's website, or as a document posted on the Chapter Services website--please include the URL on the story form or attach the document(s) to your email message. If you provide a document, we will presume that you are granting Audubon the rights to post it on the Web, with credit to your Chapter. We also encourage you to post your success stories to Audubon Works.*

Thank you for sharing!

* If you do not yet have an Audubon Works account, please contact Chapter Services.

Email

Most Chapters use email for communications among leaders or to members, as it is quick, easy and conserves resources. A few points to watch out for:

  • Be wary of including email addresses on the Web, as they can be vectors for spam email. It is good practice to ask for written consent prior to posting anyone's email address or other personal information on the Web.
  • When sending to a list of recipients, you may want to use the blind carbon copy, or BCC, field for email addresses. Addresses in the BCC field will not be seen by recipients of the email message, as opposed to using the using the "To" or "CC" (carbon copy) fields. Apply similar caution in forwarding or replying to messages that contain recipient emails by deleting email addresses from the body of your message. Including email addresses in messages makes them more available to potential spammers.
  • Write targeted, clear, concise and constructive email messages, and be mindful of the frequency of emails sent to members. People may also become overwhelmed if messages are lengthy, overly detailed and poorly organized.

The CAN-SPAM Act

The CAN-SPAM Act is a law that sets the rules for commercial/bulk email. Although non-profit organizations may not be sending commercial messages, CAN-SPAM rules comprise best practices for email for any organization. Learn more from this article on CAN-SPAM Act Rules for Nonprofits and read the complete rules of the CAN-SPAM Act here.

Additional Resources

14 Easy Ways to Grow Your Email List (Network For Good)

Bulk Email Software

When sending email messages to large numbers of members, a bulk email program offers many benefits. Email marketing software permits the list administrator to track the number of messages sent successfully and unsuccessfully (due to bad addresses, full mailboxes, etc), number who opened the message, and how many followed specific links in the message. This allows the list administrator to track effectiveness of particular communications and also provides opportunities to follow up with people who took a specific action (e.g., opened a message, clicked a link in a message, etc.).

Examples: MailChimp, Constant Contact, Convio

The CAN-SPAM Act

The CAN-SPAM Act is a law that sets the rules for commercial email. Although non-profit organizations may not be sending commercial messages, CAN-SPAM rules comprise best practices for email for any organization. Learn more from this article on CAN-SPAM Act Rules for Nonprofits and read the complete rules of the CAN-SPAM Act here.

E-Newsletters

As more and more people are transitioning to online forms of communication, Chapters are seeking to cater to this growing demographic while also keeping their paper newsletter subscribers happy. An e-newsletter is formatted altogether differently than the paper variety, with short and engaging articles,links to more information or action items, and relatively few images (Please note that creating a PDF of your newsletter and attaching it to an email or posting it to your website with a link from email is NOT an e-newsletter).

Plain text e-newsletters

A plain text e-newsletter includes text only--no colors, photos or other design elements.

Advantages
Plain text e-newsletters are viewable by all email software programs. It is therefore considered the most "accessible" email format.

Disadvantages and Tips
Plain text lacks design elements, and therefore is not as visually appealing as HTML. Statistics show that when people are given a choice, the majority will opt to view the HTML version of a newsletter. You may wish to offer a link at the top of the plain text email that takes the reader to a PDF or HTML version of the newsletter on the Web.

HTML e-newsletters

An HTML newsletter is a Web page that is delivered through email, perhaps through bulk email software

Advantages

Since an HTML newsletter is formatted like a Web page, it tends to be easier to read on screen than a PDF. HTML allows formatting and design elements such as colored background and text, different fonts and font styles, tables and photos. The newsletter makes up the body of the email rather than being an attachment or a link elsewhere (although some e-newsletters may provide short blurbs that link to longer articles online). The file size can remain relatively small if care is taken to add a minimal number of images and formatting. HTML newsletters may also be posted on a Chapter website or blog, rather than, or in addition to sending through email. 

Disadvantages and Tips

As with the PDF, not all readers will be able to view the images and formatting. HTML newsletters are automatically converted to plain text (see below) if the reader's email program does not support HTML. Therefore, keep images to a minumum, and don't use any image to "represent 1,000 words", as the story will be missed completely by people who can't view it. As with websites, optimize images to 72ppi and less than 10KB in size. Also, when providing links, type out the full URL instead of linking words or images. 

Examples (unfortunately, we couldn't provide many examples on the Web because many Chapters send the HTML newsletters via email without also posting the content on the Web).

St Petersburg Audubon Society Newswire

Eastern Sierra Audubon Society - Sierra Wave

Other Resources

What Should You Do with That Newsletter of Yours? Not These 7 Things! (Katya's Non-Profit Marketing Blog)

Electronic Mailing Lists / E-Groups

Many free e-group services (also called electronic mailing lists) are available, including through FreeLists, Google, and Yahoo. An e-Group allows participants to self-subscribe to a particular list, post messages to the entire list, and unsubscribe when they no longer wish to participate. E-Group messages can be posted and read by email or on the e-Group's website. Such a list is useful for announcing Chapter events and meetings or discussing a specific topic, such as a city lights-out program.

Examples:

sacramento_birds Yahoo Group: Sacramento Audubon Society (CA)
CSAS_birds Yahoo Group: Central Sierra Audubon Society (CA)

 

Listserve Civility Guide

Here are some common rules of civility in discourse to keep in mind while using any Audubon listserve.

1)       Please assume the best of those who are fellow members, volunteers and staff at Audubon - we are all in this fight for the environment together, and face far greater enemies without than within.

2)       Give the benefit of the doubt to those whom you don't know, or don't know well. Accusations based on innuendo and assumption do not further the cause.

3)       It is never acceptable to make threats to anyone. Similarly, putdowns and gratuitous insults are unconstructive and unappreciated.

4)       Do your homework. Don't make statements that you cannot back up with fact. But do share those facts as you learn them, so that we can change and improve together.

5)       Think before you write. Don't let anger spur you to comments that you will later regret, or that will hurt others.

6)       When given the choice, choose graciousness over growling, positive suggestions over negative nitpicking, and emphathy over undermining.

7)       The goal of the listserves is to help us communicate more clearly, openly, candidly, effectively and thoroughly than we can by other means. Enjoy the opportunity to learn from others, and think about how you can best use these communications tools to further your chapter's mission and goals.

Social Media

Depending on the social networking service and particular application that you use, you can host discussions, post updates, photos, videos, and events, as well as send event invitations, take polls and much more. These services are generally free, but registering is required in order to create a site or post commentary.

Twitter is a real-time messaging service that works over multiple networks and devices. It is a quick way to post a "tweet", e.g., a bird sighting, thought of the moment, event or anything else you can type up to 140 characters.

Examples:

Resource: Using Facebook as an Organizing Tool (Chapter Services)

Facebook

Because Facebook and other social media platforms change so rapidly, this page provides links to relevant articles that provide up-to-date information. The article below--Using Facebook as an Organizing Tool--was written in 2009, and though dated, contains background information that should be helpful for Facebook newbies. Please also join the Audubon Chapters Facebook group.

Using Facebook as an Organizing Tool

You may have heard of the social networking site (1), Facebook (www.facebook.com), but did you know that non-profits, including Audubon Chapters, are using it to create awareness about their campaigns and to connect with their community? Some Chapters without a web site choose to use Facebook as their only online presence; other Chapters with web sites use Facebook as an additional outreach tool.

Facebook is a free, powerful social networking service that allows users to post online profiles (2) (including photos, activities, school or work information, etc.) and then connect with long-time friends, or make new ones who share the same interests. What began as an online opportunity for students to find one another has transformed into a social network for people of every age.

Become comfortable using Facebook on your own with a personal account before launching into activism or outreach through it. Simply create your account at

www.facebook.com, submit information for your profile and upload photos. Then use Facebook's search feature to find friends (3) who are already on Facebook or send personal invitations to those who are not. When you send an invitation, the other person can choose to accept or ignore the request. Once you are connected with a friend, you will have access to their profile where you can comment on their photos or updates or post messages to them directly. Facebook is a dynamic environment where you can choose to post new information and photos on any Page at any time. Every time you log in, you will see a news feed (4) with updates from your friends and any user who "likes" Pages (5) or Groups (6) to which you belong. Facebook also keeps you updated via email--notifying you when you have a new friend request, message or comment.

Be careful about privacy

When setting up your individual Facebook account, make sure you look at the privacy settings and set them at a level at which you are comfortable. You should also be careful about what personal information (like your home address) you post on your profile. Have fun but be safe!

Facebook Groups and Pages

Personal profiles in Facebook are for registered users only. Non-profits can create "Pages" which are an official representation of their organization on Facebook. Through Pages, organizations can send updates to users who have "liked" them (7), which can be a convenient way to build a database of interested users.

In comparison, anyone can create a Group on Facebook. Usually people only "like" Pages if they are already familiar with the organization, so Pages are less useful as an outreach tool to new people, though they can still be a useful communication tool. Your Chapter can have only one Page, but it can have several Groups (e.g., if you want to promote different projects). You can also directly send emails to members of a Group, which makes it more useful than a Facebook Page for communication. Make sure you put a link to your Chapter's website on both Facebook Pages and Groups.

When building up the number of people in your Group or Page, invite all of your Facebook friends to join. Because it is a social networking site, when people see that their friends are joining a Group or a Page, they are more likely to join it themselves.

Choosing a Group title

People usually join a Facebook Group on a whim, so the Group's title is crucial in getting people to join. If you are trying to reach out to people who are unfamiliar with your Chapter, it is better to have the title of your Group be about a campaign or a Chapter project instead of the name of your Chapter. For example, if your Chapter is working to pass a state ballot initiative, you could create a Group called "Vote Yes on Issue ______!" As a more general outreach tool, you could create a Group dedicated to posting bird photos from within your region and title it "Cool birds of __________ County!" Remember, you can create more than one Group, so it is okay to have different Groups for different purposes.

Glossary

1. A social networking site/service focuses on building online communities of people who share interests and/or activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. These websites are interactive--e.g., people can communicate with one another, post text, images and videos, conduct polls, and make comments on other people's postings.

2. A person or organization can create an online profile, containing information such as age, gender, birth date, relationship status, location, interests, and more. You may post as little or as much information as you like and include a photo that will appear on your Facebook Page and when you post a message or comment on other Facebook user Pages.

3. Hereafter, the term "friend" refers to people you connect with through Facebook.

4. A news feed in Facebook allows you to view your friends' or Groups' latest postings as soon as they are published--all on your Facebook home Page--without having to visit each individual friend's or Group's Facebook Page.

5. Pages represent a real public figure, artist, brand or organization, and may only be created by an official representative of that entity. Unlike Groups6, Facebook Pages are visible to unregistered people and are thus searchable by anyone on the Web. People can express their support by "liking" the Page (7), posting commentary, uploading photos, and joining other "likers" in discussion Groups. The organization with the Page can send updates and announcements to its "likers". When someone "likes" a Page, this affiliation is posted for all of their subscriber friends to see (e.g., "Sarah Smith likes National Audubon Society"), along with a link to the Page. Organizations with Pages can send invitations to "likers"; obtain Page visitor statistics, post photos and videos, and much more.

6. A Group can be created by any Facebook user on any topic for the purpose of sharing opinions and interest with others in that subject. Groups are generally used for hosting an active discussion and attracting quick attention. When someone joins a Group, the affiliation is posted (e.g., "Sarah Smith joined the Group Auduboners for Restoration of Purple Martin Habitat") and linked to the Group's Facebook Page. As with Pages, Group members can participate in discussions, view posted events, and upload photos and videos.

7. Users who "like" a Page are registered Facebook users who have clicked" like" on an organization's Page in order to show support and receive updates from that organization's Page.

Facebook Fan Pages and Groups

Creating a Fan Page

Once you have created a personal account on Facebook, you are free to create Fan Pages and Groups. You'll need to be logged in to your Facebook account in order to follow most of the links in the remainder of this article.

To create a Fan Page for your Chapter, log in to your Facebook account, look for the "Applications" area (located in the toolbar on bottom left of the screen), click the Page Manager icon, then click the "Create Facebook Page" button on the next screen (Or follow this link to go directly to the "Create New Facebook Page" screen: http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php). Choose the "Brand or Product" category and select "Non-Profit" from the drop-down menu. Type name of your Chapter carefully in the "Name of Non-Profit" box, as you cannot change the name once the Page is created.

Select the "Info" and "Photos" tabs at the top of the screen to add information and upload photos. Click the "Edit Page" link on the left to view more editing tools.

Once you are happy with your Chapter Fan Page, you will want to make it live by changing the published status in the Settings to "published" (click the "Edit Page" link from your Fan Page to go to the Settings). Until you publish the Page, no one can view it but you. Be sure to share your published Page with all of your Facebook friends by using the "share" button in the lower left corner of the Page.

If you want to update your Page or check on its recent activity, click on the Page Manager icon, then click "pages" and select the Page that you want to view (or go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/edit/?id=141295950623). Use The Pages Help Center if you get stuck: http://www.facebook.com/help.php?page=175. To view other Audubon-related Fan Pages, go to the Page Directory at http://www.facebook.com/pages/?browse, and type "Audubon" or "Audubon Society" into the search field.

To advertise your Fan Page on a website, a "Find us on Facebook" button can be found here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/manage/promo_guidelines.php. You can copy and add this button to any website as a link to your Fan Page.

Creating a Group

A Facebook Group is a special interest Web page. Whereas Facebook Fan Pages should reflect the many different activities in which a Chapter engages, Facebook Groups are more effective when used to highlight a single activity or purpose, such as new member outreach or a political campaign (read more about the differences between Pages and Groups in Part I of this article, Winter 2008 Chapter Networker).

The Group's title is extremely important and should be catchy and designed to send a clear message about that Group's purpose. Possible titles for Facebook Groups designed for outreach could be "Cool birds of {insert your region here}", "I Love {insert name of local bird here}," "Shake Your Tailfeathers! The Fun Birdlovers of {insert your region here}." Don't be afraid of puns or bad jokes; people are more likely to join a Group with a humorous title. If your Facebook Group concerns a political action, make that message clear in the title. For example, it could be "Don't Run Your ATV over My Nest!" (if you have a campaign against allowing ATVs in sensitive habitats) or "Vote Yes on Proposition _______" (if your Chapter is working to support a specific state proposition in an election). You cannot change the title of your Group once it has been created, so choose it carefully.

To create a Facebook Group, click on the the "Groups" icon in the Applications section of the toolbar at the bottom of the front page of your personal Facebook profile. You will be taken to a page that shows the Groups to which you belong as well as Groups your friends have joined recently. At the top of the page, click the gray "Create a New Group" button. The next screen prompts you to enter the Group title, a short description, the type of Group, and other optional information such as the email and mailing address of your Chapter. Remember that this information will be public for anyone to see. Once you are satisfied with your Group's information, click the "save" button at the bottom of the page to save your information.

On the next screen, you have the option to upload a photo. People are more likely to join Groups with an eye-catching picture. This is a great time to use any attractive bird photos you have! On this screen you may also enter your Chapter's website address and set the level of access for others in the Group. Do you want other people to be able to post their photos or videos to the Group? Encouraging members to share their cool bird photos can be a great way to engage them; however, some people may try to use this access to post advertisements on Groups. As an administrator, you should check the Group periodically to delete any undesirable comments or images. You may also choose key people as Group administrators, allowing only that subset of Group members to post photos, links or videos.

In the summer 2009 issue of the Chapter Networker, Part III of this article will discuss how to effectively use a Facebook Group or Fan Page once you have created it and attracted members or fans.

Chapter Facebook Examples

In searching "Audubon Society" on Facebook, one can find several dozen Chapter Fan Pages, Groups, and Causes*. Chapters are posting events, photos, videos, articles, and bird sightings, inspiring discussions, building membership, encouraging attendance at meetings and programs, and raising awareness about conservation issues.

Facebook utilization varies widely among Chapters. Stella Miller, President of Huntington Audubon Society (HAS) in Huntington, NY, created their Chapter Fan Page in Spring 2009, and it has thus far attracted 972 fans (as of 7/17/2014). Stella spends about two hours a week updating the Page, by posting wall content, events, photos, and field trip reports. A good number of the Page's fans have attended field trips and programs based on the information gleaned from the Page. One new birder said she uses HAS' posted birding reports to look up birds in her field guide so that she can familiarize herself with the birds spotted on HAS field trips. To generate additional interest, Stella wrote a book review and received positive feedback from fans.

HAS also created a Facebook Cause called "Save Our Raptors" (SOR) to raise awareness about injury and death to birds caused by perching atop methane burners at landfills. SOR has attracted 660 members, and provides a link to an online petition, which has been signed by nearly 5,000 individuals. How did Stella hear about the petition website? Through networking on Facebook, of course!

Andrea Ritchie, Community Relations Associate for Houston Audubon Society (Houston, TX), created a Chapter Group page on Facebook in January 2009 that now has 315 members. Andrea states, "While Facebook has not directly brought in new members or donations, I feel like it has introduced Houston Audubon to an audience that would never have been reached. In addition to a younger audience, some of our members include influential Houstonians, people in the art community, and politicians."

Cautions

However, Stella, Andrea and other Chapter leaders have identified several limitations in using Facebook as a Chapter outreach tool. Eric Larson, Webmaster with Great South Bay Audubon Society (Sayville, NY), feels that a Facebook Page can be a good supplement to--but not a replacement for--a Chapter's website. He does appreciate that Facebook is useful for providing a means to disseminate important information quickly if a Chapter is unable to post updates to the website in real time. However, he finds that Facebook Pages are not as customizable as websites, where one can generally create a unique design that is aligned with the Chapter brand. Eric also feels that Facebook seems to change its layout frequently, which may be a hindrance to more novice computer users.

Conclusion

Recognize the benefits and limitations of using a social networking service such as Facebook for Chapter outreach. Social networking sites are about building community and/or awareness around your Chapter or particular issue. Utilize Facebook in combination with Chapter websites, newsletters, and other communication tools. Research the the size and demographics of the population you are trying to reach, and consider how much time you're willing to spend updating the Page or Group. New content should be posted daily, or at least a few times a week, otherwise people will find little reason to join, interact, or invite others to join. To increase your fan/member numbers, be sure to invite as many people as you can to join. Also don't forget to upload a Facebook Badge to your Chapter website and link back to your Facebook page. Promote your Page or Group with links at the bottom of emails you send to your members, in the newsletter, and in advertising. And make sure there is something interesting to see--events, bird sightings, videos of birds hatching, links to relevant news articles.

* "Causes" is a Facebook application through which users can create causes, take donations, and recruit members. Whenever someone creates a cause or joins one, it shows up in their news feed for their friends to see. Information about the cause is also included in the user's profile, including total amount raised by that user and new users recruited.

Posting Guidelines

Whether you are managing a Facebook Page or Group, it is important to include some information in the "About" section that provides guidelines for posting, disclaimers for non-organization posts, and policy on removing posts and banning users.

As an example, here are some sample guidelines from National Audubon Society Facebook page and a Chapter page.

NATIONAL AUDUBON WALL GUIDELINES

Welcome to Audubon's Facebook page! We're glad you're here and look forward to sharing your excitement about birds and conservation. While you're here, to help ensure a good experience for you and others, we request that you follow our community guidelines.

We encourage respectful discourse at all times, including in comments that may disagree with other members of our Facebook community or with the National Audubon Society. 

Any violations of the letter or spirit of Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (https://www.facebook.com/legal/terms) may result in being removed from our page.

The views expressed in user comments do not reflect the views of Audubon. Audubon does not participate or intervene in any political campaign. We appreciate your cooperation and support. Happy Birding!

FIVE VALLEYS AUDUBON SOCIETY WALL GUIDELINES

This is a page for the Missoula, MT community to share thoughts, questions, photos, videos, or information regarding local birds, other wildlife and their habitat - and any education, citizen science, land management, or advocacy opportunities relating to the above that are open to the public.

By participating on this page, you are agreeing to our commenting policy, described below.

We encourage respectful discourse at all times, including in comments that may disagree with other members of our Facebook community or with the Five Valleys Audubon Society. The views expressed in user comments may not reflect the views of Five Valleys Audubon Society.

We reserve the right to delete posts containing any of the following elements:

- profanity
- misinformation
- spam (including self-promotion/advertising)
- off-topic/irrelevant
- personal attacks 
- promoting violence
- promoting illegal or questionable activities
- rallying on behalf of people or organizations that are contrary to Audubon's mission

If you repeatedly violate this policy, you will be banned from our Page.

If you become a bother to Page admins or fans, you will be removed. Again, we encourage open discussion, which includes disagreement, but we will not tolerate harassment.

We appreciate your cooperation and support, and look forward to connecting with each of you.

If you have a question regarding this page or anything on it, please email us at [email address].

Thank you!

Recruiting Volunteers with Facebook

According to NTEN, Facebook can be a useful tool for volunteer recruitment, but it depends how you spin your message (read NTEN's article). If you're in a hurry, you might be tempted to post something like, "Volunteers needed for weed pull, June 28, 9am, Mt. Sentinel trailhead". Don't be surprised if people don't turn up in droves. They need some inspiration! Use the tool to its fullest extent--post photos or videos of previous volunteers working on a similar project. This is also great for recognizing past volunteers and encouraging them to volunteer again. Encourage volunteers to "like" your page and tag themselves in any photos. That way, their relationship to your Chapter will show up in their friends' news feeds.

When writing status updates, think about wording that will show how volunteering will connect people to their community. Be clear that their contribution is critical to achieve success, and provide details about what to expect. You can always link to the Chapter website if the details won't fit in your post. If you do that, make sure the link goes directly to a page that provides all the details--not just to your home page.

Here is an alternative way to write your status update for the weed pull: "We need your strong heart and hands to help our beautiful Mt. Sentinel prairie thrive. Join us for a community knapweed-pull at the trailhead, 9am, June 28. Bring work gloves and binoculars - lazuli buntings and spotted towhees are out! More details at [website link here]."

The Audubon Chapters Facebook Group Posting Guidelines

Join the Facebook Group by filling out this form.

The Audubon Chapters private Facebook Group is for Audubon Chapter leaders (i.e., Chapter staff, board members, officers and committee chairs), and State and National Audubon Program staff to share ideas and discuss issues relating to Audubon Chapters. 

Thank you for your interest in discussing Audubon Chapter matters with others in the Audubon network. We look forward to having discussions and sharing information with you. Once your request to join the group has been approved and you are added to the group, to help ensure a good experience for you and others, we request that you follow our community guidelines.

We encourage respectful discourse at all times, including in comments that may disagree with other members of our Facebook community or with the National Audubon Society. Please do not post items of a commercial or spammy nature, and keep content/questions relevant to Audubon Chapters. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate posts or ban members from the group if a member does not heed warnings regarding posting of inappropriate content. Any violations of the Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities may result in being removed from our group.

The views expressed in user comments do not reflect the views of Audubon. Audubon does not participate or intervene in any political campaign.

If you have any questions, please contact the Chapter Services office at (800) 542-2748.

We appreciate your cooperation and support. Happy Birding!

Twitter

"The weather reports keep announcing that the sky is falling, but here we are -- millions of us -- sitting around trying to invent new ways to talk to one another."
- Time Magazine about Twitter

You've probably heard a lot about Twitter. With 105,779,710 registered users and 55 million tweets* a day, Twitter is adding 300,000 new users daily. But don't get overwhelmed just yet. As the TogetherGreen team has discovered, Twitter is just another tool in the communications toolbox--a new way to carry out old business.

The new way--sometimes referred to as Web 2.0--is a means of sharing real-time information and engaging in a conversation on the web. The old way of doing business--Web 1.0--is having a comparatively static website. This evolution doesn't mean you should get rid of your web site--you will always need an online home base. It simply means that you have another way to share your conservation message.

For some people, they're so busy they don't have time to think--let alone send out more messages into the cyberspace ether. That's okay! Twitter only allows you to write 140 characters and is designed for people on-the-go. Plus, being brief and to the point can help you hone what you want to say to your specific audiences.

Read "Twitter Basics" and "Twitter Tips & Tricks" to learn more.

Twitter Basics

Before your Chapter takes the plunge into Twitterland, the TogetherGreen team compiled a list of questions to help you decide if Twitter is a good fit. If you respond "yes" to most of these, then Twitter might be right for you.

Are you a good conversationalist?
This might seem really basic, but to engage in a conversation you need to be equal parts listener and responder. Listening is one of the most important things your Chapter should be doing with social media tools. To listen on Twitter, find (and "follow") users who are having conversations about the issues, programs, and geographic location your Chapter is focused on. These users could be other environmental groups, local businesses, scientists, individuals, members, and so on. What are people saying and what is missing from the conversations? Are people frequently asking similar questions or bringing up common misperceptions? This could be a great opportunity to contribute to the dialogue and point people to your website to answer questions and dispel any myths. In today's text-based environment, responsiveness leads to trustworthiness.

Do you want to build relationships?
Think of tweeting like dating. When you are dating someone, you are really interested in learning about that person so you ask a lot of questions and listen to what they have to say. Same goes for Twitter. When you tweet, you do it for others--to help them learn, make them feel good, and get them to trust you as a source. The Twitter community will look to your Chapter as an educational and informational resource. Your tweets can help community members, potential funders, volunteers, and those passionate about the environment feel "in the know" on issues they care about. Have a rare bird alert? Tweet what species, and where and when you saw it. Need volunteers this weekend? Tweet the request. Spark up conversations to reaffirm the connection between your local Chapter and your community members.

Are you on-the-go?

Real conservation happens "in the field" and chances are that's where most of you spend most of your time. Of active Twitter users today, 37% use their phone to tweet. This is good news for Chapters who, armed with a phone with a Twitter application, can do live tweets from events; shine a spotlight on incredible work as its occurring, give acknowledgments, and even share pictures, all of which demonstrate that there is, in fact, a real human on the other side of the screen.

With a Twitter feed*, you can also encourage followers to report their own bird sightings or environmental musings via Twitter with a hashtag* in front of your Twitter name (e.g., #togethergreen) so you can monitor how many people respond.

Do you have personality?
Twitter gives you the freedom to talk like a person and not like a press release. It may take a little getting used to, but your Twitter voice will need to be typically light and upbeat, probably a lot like who you really are. (And hey, if you're a real grump - well, make a feature out of it. You could be the next big thing on Twitter - the Grumpy Enviro.) Don't be afraid to be yourself and try to add value, insight, and direction with each tweet.

Ready to get started?

Step 1: First things first--sign up (it's free!) at www.twitter.com. Just like using any other social media tool, it's best if you create a personal account first so you can start using the tool and getting the feel for it before launching the organization's account. You may want to register the account for the organization as soon as possible, though; to be sure you get the username you want! 

Step 2: The hardest part about getting started on any social media platform is getting that first batch of friends. But feel free to start by following @togethergreen, @audubonsociety, and @audubonmagazine, all of which will probably follow Twitter etiquette and follow you back. Conduct a search on Twitter at http://search.twitter.com and use key words and location and follow away.

Step 3: Establish a point of contact (or more ideally, multiple points of contact) responsible for identifying, trafficking, or responding to Twitter. Be honest and transparent about who is actually sending out the messages.

* TWITTER TERMS:

Direct Message = private message to friend
Feed = a news feed or Web feed provides users with frequently updated content
Hashtag or #term = way of grouping so anyone searching that term sees your Tweet 
Reply = @username (goes in your public feed)
Retweet (RT) = To repost another user's message on Twitter
Tweet = Twitter message/update

For more info:

For more information on Twitter, please contact Brenda Timm of Audubon's TogetherGreen program.

Twitter Tips & Tricks

In Twitter Basics, the TogetherGreen team helped you determine whether Twitter was right for your Chapter. For those of you that decided to take the plunge, we want to share some of the "unwritten" rules Twitter users follow so that you can be on your way to building your followers and engaging them in a dialogue.

Take advantage of your twittering--and reach all of those new potential members, volunteers, and donors!--with the following tips and tricks.

Make the Most of Your Post

Getting your tweets to the most people is half the battle.

  •  Use the hash symbol (#) to "tag" a key word or phrase. Have you read Tweets that included the pound sign (#) followed by a word? Like "#oilspill" or "#birds"? The pound sign is known as a hash and the word that follows indicates a discussion topic. Clicking directly on "#oilspill" in a tweet will automatically perform a search on that phrase for you, so you can see who else is twittering about the same topic. (Remember when using a hashtag to remove the spaces from a phrase - "#oil spill" would actually just search for the word oil, so it needs to be "#oilspill".) Hashtags can be used in the body of the message (e.g., "This would help make any office more #green") or at the end (e.g., "Recycling 1 glass bottle saves enough energy to power a light bulb for 4 hrs. #green #recycle"). Examples of popular hashtags that you might use include:
    • #nature, #green, #recycle, #solar, #sustainable, #birds, #birdwatching, #eco, #wildlife, #climatechange, #environment, #oilspill

Curious if a term you are using in your tweet is a popular hashtag? Type it in the search box and find out. And remember, the more popular the tags you use, the more likely it is that others will find your tweet.

  • Ask questions. "Where is a good spot in #nyc for #bird watching?" "What is your favorite #Austin #hike?" Asking questions allows you to engage your followers in a conversation and also encourages them to tweet back at you, prompting your twitter ID to appear in their newsfeed so their followers hear about you.
  • Participate in daily Twitter "memes" (Memes are concepts that are reproduced quickly--they're the idea version of genes!). Follow Friday, or #ff, is a meme that encourages people to visit other Twitter users you recommend on Fridays. Other memes you could participate in include #ecomonday and #wisdomwednesday. For an example of how a Follow Friday might look, we'll use a recent TogetherGreen tweet:
    • #FF #greennews @the_daily_green, @nytimesgreen , @HuffPostGreen, @Treehugger, @GreenBizTweets, @chelseagreen, @grist @greennews @greenerist

When you mention other Twitterers favorably, or participate in their memes, they may pay you back by doing the same for you!

  • Start your own series. This helps your Twitter stand out, by giving your followers something to recognize you by and look forward to. For example, TogetherGreen posts the occasional "TogetherGreen Daily Tip" linking to actions in our website action center that help people green their lives.
  • Get creative. Can you tweet a fun photo of the day, and encourage your followers to send in their own? A weekly or monthly promotion to see who answers an environmental trivia tidbit first? (With a contest, you can even ask a local business to donate a prize for the winner. Many organizations are happy to donate products for a good cause - and a little online promotion.)

Interaction Etiquette

  • Follow, follow, follow! We touched on this in the last article, but as a first step, follow other users first, including local organizations, other environmental groups, and anyone you think might be interested in hearing your Chapter's message. Many Twitter users will automatically follow you back.
  • Retweeting someone else's message is often the sincerest form of flattery, and is a great way to get your own messages retweeted or to get a public thank you. It's also a good way to keep your own Twitter stream updated, if you don't have time to write an original tweet.
  • Make sure to thank other Twitter users who have retweeted or replied to your posts. Many organizations seem to do a weekly "thank you" tweet, where they thank anyone who singled them out the week before. Look to MassAudubon's tweet for a good example:
    • MassAudubon: Thx for the FFs, RTs, and mentions! @togethergreen @bbcbirds @GtownRecord @Toby_Metcalf @BostonLobsters @WrenthamUpdate @DerbyStShoppes

 Technical Know-How

  • Don't waste precious character space on long URLs! If you're putting a link to another webpage in your tweet, make sure to use a service like http://bit.ly/ or http://tiny.cc/ to automatically shorten the web address. (As a plus, bit.ly allows you to track the number of clicks your link gets if you sign up for a profile!)
  • Consider downloading a free tool such as TweetDeck, HootSuite, or Threadsy, instead of using the Twitter page to send tweets. These other platforms are often easier to navigate, altered for use on mobile phones, and can track your mentions, replies, and direct messages for you. TweetDeck (pictured below) and HootSuite will even automatically create shortened, trackable links for you. With TweetDeck you can even link directly to your bit.ly user account.
  • If you're going to be out of the office you can (and should!) keep your Twitter updated. There are services like Tweet-U-Later that allow you to send out tweets at specific times and dates. Hootsuite and Tweetdeck will also allow you to set up tweets days or weeks in advance of sending them.

For more information on Twitter, please contact the TogetherGreen communications team at btimm@audubon.org.

Blogs

Blogs (a contraction of "Web logs") are typically used for one-way communication--much like a journal--although bloggers may choose to allow readers to post comments, therefore allowing a system for feedback. Bloggers may work with a Web developer to create a blog, or use one of several free online tools. Text, links, photos and videos may all be posted on a blog, and new entries may be posted as often as desired. Typically, in order to generate a good base of blog readers, the content should be updated regularly and contain interesting, humorous and/or informative content. Depending on the blogging service, a reader may be able to subscribe to a news feed, and any new blog postings will be sent to the reader's application of choice (e.g., iGoogle, Facebook)

Chapters may use the blog format for posting focused content, such as frequent updates on wildlife activity or projects at an Important Bird Area. Some Chapters without websites may choose a free blogging site to post public Chapter information. Other Chapters use a blog as a tool to draw in readers, with the goal of driving visitors to their website through links.

Examples

Fresno Audubon Society (Fresno, CA)
Golden Gate Audubon Society (San Francisco, CA)
Kodiak Audubon Society (Kodiak, AK)
Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society (Fayetteville, AR)
Ocmulgee Audubon Society (GA)

Message Boards and Forums

Online forums or message boards are interactive websites where registered users may hold discussions with other users on various topics. Often they are used in a question-and-answer format. One or more forum administrators, or moderators, have the ability to add or delete content, set user access levels, or delete users in problem cases. Generally, anyone can read information that is posted in a forum, but users have to create an account before posting. The forum moderator can always remove posts that are deemed inappropriate. Forums work well for discussing topics such as local birding trails, conservation issues, general bird FAQ, climate change solutions, etc. A forum should be divided into categories within a topic, e.g., General Bird FAQ: 1) what kind of bird is it?, 2) what to do with an injured bird, 3) what to feed backyard birds, 4) etc.

Examples:

Photo and Video Sharing Sites

Photos and videos are excellent ways to showcase your Chapter's latest field trip, conservation project, or birding festival. Sharing photo and video content online through websites specifically designed for those media boosts your Chapter's online presence. If the content is particularly good, others will share it on their social networks--giving the Chapter a reach it couldn't attain by posting solely on the website.

On photo sharing sites like Flickr and Shutterfly, images can be grouped into albums, given a title and description, and--if such access is allowed--visitors may post comments.

Video sharing sites like YouTube allow you to post short videos, which you can embed on your Chapter's website, blog, or social networking site. YouTube also offers a Nonprofit Program that provides additional benefits including premium branding capabilities and increased uploading capacity, an option to drive fundraising through a Google Checkout "Donate" button, and the ability to add a call-to-action overlay on your videos to drive campaigns.

Examples

Flickr Photos:
TogetherGreen
Orange County Audubon Society

YouTube videos:

Audubon Connects Elders with Alzheimer's to Nature
Get into Birds
Tulsa Audubon TogetherGreen Day at Oxley Nature Center

Other Resources

Creating Videos with Impact

Websites

Your Chapter's website is the primary online source for information on your Chapter. It should be optimized to show up as the first listing in Internet searches. Any other online channels, such as your Chapter's Facebook page, other social media sites, blogs, or listings in online directories should all link to and drive traffic to the website. The website should be updated regularly with current content--such as upcoming field trips and events, advocacy and volunteer opportunities. It is important to sit down with your Board and determine the purpose of the website (or other Web-based resource), how you plan to use it, what your budget is, and who will maintain it. Once you have answered these questions, your Chapter will be able to decide the best method to suit its goals.

So how do you go about "getting" a website and effectively using it? Again, evaluate your Chapter's needs. There is a wealth of information on the Web and many books that can help you decide what type of website is right for you. Start by reading our Website Building FAQ. (Please note that Chapter websites cannot emulate the design of the National Audubon Society website nor be hosted on the National website.)

Examples: Look through other Audubon Chapter websites to get a good idea of the range of possibilities

Resources:

Website Building FAQ

We use language in this document that contains many terms specific to the Web world. You may wish to refer to this Glossary of Web Site Building Terms.

You may also want to read Tips for Designing (or Redesigning) a Nonprofit Web Site by Chris Peters from TechSoup.org.

    1. How will having a website benefit our Chapter?

      More and more often, people turn to the Web as their primary resource for information. Potential members may want to know how to contact a Chapter, read about Chapter accomplishments, view the field trip schedule, or find out how to become a member. The Chapter can be found more easily by potential supporters through a website, blog, forum or other Web presence.

    2. What costs are associated with building a website?

      The cost of having a website can range from free--if using a free website authoring/hosting interface and a public library with Internet access--to thousands of dollars, depending on what type of website is desired and what kind of budget looks like. Here are the potential costs:

      1. You will need to purchase a domain name (URL) for the website, such as www.birdieaudubon.org. Generally, the .COM extension is associated with commercial businesses, .NET with network-related organizations and .ORG with nonprofit groups. Domain names expire after a year or so, depending on your contract, and must be renewed to retain the website. One or more domain names are often supplied for free by the hosting service (see below), but may also be purchased separately from a domain name registrar. NOTE: It is important that the domain registration information not be exclusive to just one individual. At least two Chapter leaders (ideally unrelated, not living in the same household) should have access to the website administrative information, in the event that the main web administrator is unavailable. This is to avoid an unfortunate scenario when a web administrator passes away, moves away or is otherwise unreachable, or becomes uncooperative and unwilling to share the information.
      2. A website hosting service provides servers (very beefy computers) that store your website files and make them accessible around-the-clock via the Internet. Some free website hosting services are available, such as Geocities.com or a free blogging service. Often, the hosting company will offer one or more free domain names (see above) with their service. The host may also offer a variety of other services, such as email accounts, databases, statistical analyses of page visits, and more. Examples of hosting services include Bluehost.com and GoDaddy.com. NOTE: See note in A, above. Applies to hosting service administration also.
      3. You'll need an Internet connection if you plan to author the website yourself. A dial-up connection is the least expensive option, but can be somewhat cumbersome for uploading large files to the server. A Cable Modem or DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) is much faster.
      4. If you plan to build the website yourself, you may need to purchase website authoring software, if you are not going to use a free, open-source program (see #9 for more info on software programs).
      5. If you plan to seek expertise outside of your Chapter for website authoring, you'll call on a Web Designer and possibly a Web Developer. A Web Designer focuses on the look and feel of the website, whereas a Web Developer, or Programmer, builds the functionality that allows for a more complex, interactive website (such as one that involves a database, or requires programming, e.g., for a "join now" membership form). If you are planning for a static website (one that provides information only and no user interactivity), then a Web Designer is all you need.
    3. Do you have any tips on website design or content authoring?

Think carefully about the purpose of your website and your target audience. Is your purpose to draw in new members? To provide information? To show off beautiful photos of birds or your Chapter's conservation projects? To sell products? Or all of the above? What demographic are you trying to attract? What is your budget for building and managing the website? Who will build and manage the site? All of these questions will help you focus in on appropriate design and content.

If your Chapter has no funds and no internal expertise in website-building, you may consider a free online blog, forum, wiki, or a "nearly free" web hosting service that has a user-friendly interface for website authoring (A WYSIWYG--What You See Is What You Get--interface, as opposed to writing HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript or other coding language). If you want all the bells and whistles, go with a Content Management System (CMS) such as Drupal, WordPress, or Joomla, which can offer backend management (you get a username and password and can log in from any computer to edit the content of your website without special software), visitor interactivity through blogs and discussion boards, and databases for storing many files.

  1. Does Audubon provide Chapter website templates or training on web design/management?

    Not at present. There are many free website templates currently available online, such as through http://www.freecsstemplates.org. As Chapters are incorporated entities separate from the National Audubon Society, their websites cannot mimic the design of the National Audubon Society website nor be hosted on the national website. Techsoup.org sometimes has free Webinars for non-profits on social networking services, website authoring, and more.

  2. Can we use Audubon's logo on our website?

    Please follow Audubon's Logo Use Guidelines--Chapters may use Audubon's logo on their Chapter websites, as long as it is not incorporated into the Chapter logo or website banner. The Audubon logo may be linked to www.audubon.org and must be accompanied by the text "YOUR CHAPTER NAME Audubon Society is a Chapter of the National Audubon Society".

  3. How can I find a list of other Chapter's websites?

    You may gather ideas for your site by browsing other Chapter websites through the Chapter Locator. Select a state to view from the dropdown menu and click on the underlined links on Chapter names, which will take you to their websites. You may use the websites to get ideas about what sorts of content the various Chapters post, but do not copy the Chapter's website design or content, as copyright laws apply.

  4. What are some characteristics of good web page design?

    Keep your home page simple, attractive and easy to navigate. Visitors will decide in less than 1 second whether to stay on your site or not, so keep the number and size of images to a minimum (each image should be optimized to 72ppi and have a size no greater than 10KB, except maybe for your banner image or feature image on a page), make the navigation menus and buttons easy to find (usually horizontally near the top or vertically near the top right or left of each page).

    Each page on your site should have a similar design theme. For example, use the same colors and place the navigation menu in the same spot. Give your potential customers/members the feeling they are still on your site when they visit different pages, yet be sure to identify each page with an appropriate title (e.g., instead of a general title tag for every page, such as "Birdie Audubon Society", tailor the title to the content of the page, as in "Audubon Birding Field Trips in Pocatello, Idaho"). Colors and patterns should be pleasing to the eye--not busy or distracting.

    To keep visitors from having to scroll horizontally on your pages, build your design at no greater than 750 pixels wide, or create a flexible design that can expand for those with higher-resolution monitors. When possible, use text instead of images for links (especially for the navigation menu).

    Flash intro pages may annoy repeat visitors, cannot be viewed by vision-impaired people (see below), and do not help to boost your Search Engine Ranking (see below).

    For more information on website design, search online for "web design tips".

  5. What considerations do we need to make for vision-impaired Web visitors?

    Be mindful of visitors with vision impairment, including color-blindness. Black or dark text on a white background is the most easily read. Stay away from busy backgrounds behind text. Sans-serif fonts, such as Arial and Verdana are the easiest to read on screen, and the font size should be no smaller than about 10 point. Vision-impaired Internet users may use an electronic screen reader that reads the text aloud to them. Therefore, building a website mostly or entirely using images would be very inaccessible to this subset of users. Be sure that all links are actual text (not images), limit the use of PDF documents (e.g., provide an HTML newsletter version if possible), and provide "alt tags" (HTML tags used to describe an image) for all images. See http://www.w3.org/WAI/eval/Overview.html if you would like to delve further into website accessibility.

  6. What type of software will I need to build our website?

    Depending on what type of website you want, you may not need any special software at all. You'll need to do a bit of research on your own to see what is available for your needs, but here is a sampling:

    Website hosting and/or Website authoring:

    Image manipulation:

  7. How do we get photos and graphics for our website?

    You may find copyright-free photos and illustrations online for free (e.g., Wetlands Clip Art, Clip Art & Copyright Free Photos) or purchase them through companies such as Clipart.com or iStockPhoto.com.

  8. Do any special considerations apply when uploading images?

    When using photos and other graphics on the Web, be sure that they are optimized. That means saving photos in .jpg format and illustrations/clip art as .gif at 72ppi (pixels per inch) resolution and a small file size (generally 10KB or less, unless the image will be used for a banner or other large, feature image). Be sure to get the permission of the photographer or artist and always credit them appropriately. Be wary of using photos of people, especially children, unless you know the individuals or parents have signed releases that give permission to use the photos for public posting on the Web.

  9. What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and how do I do it to our website?

    Just because you have a website doesn't mean that people will automatically be able to find it when they search various keywords and phrases (such as "Missoula Audubon", or "birding group Missoula"). There are literally hundreds, or even thousands, of techniques for Search Engine Optimization you may use to try to boost your Search Engine Ranking, although there is no guaranteed formula. Type "search engine optimization" into your favorite search engine (e.g., Google, Yahoo, etc.) and browse the many (SEO) techniques. See http://www.seochat.com/seo-tools/ for a wealth of ideas.

  10. Suggested readings for further information:

Other E-Communications

The realm of online promotion goes beyond organization websites, social networking sites, blogs and forums. For example, there are a variety of free services that allow you to create a listing in a directory. Be sure to keep your Chapter's listing on guidestar.org up-to-date, as this is where your donors and grantors may go to get more information about you. You may create a mini-site geared towards a particular purpose, such as posting meetings and events, as in meetup.com.

Example: Cape Fear Audubon Society on meetup.com

Video

Web video is hot: some studies say that video will account for 50% of all internet traffic by 2012. When you think of how easy it is to watch video on a smart phone or how beautiful video looks on an iPad, it's no wonder that everyone wants more visual content on their screens.

YouTube has given birth to both wonders and nightmares. For every endearing Charlie Bit My Finger video with 373 million views, there are way too many bad videos of wannabe American Idol singers.

How can Audubon Chapters create videos that will end up on more screens and have an impact? Here are three tips to help your video get noticed in this increasingly crowded field. Because you don't just want to stand out--you want your video to be shared virally on Facebook and in emails between friends.

1. Seek stories with both motion and emotion.

Good video needs visuals that are constantly changing: action, activity or kinetic movement. If it doesn't move, it's probably not a good subject for video. If your video features a lot of talking heads (interviews of people talking), chances are viewers will click away before the video has ended. People like to hear and share stories that create a visceral, emotional feeling. With Facebook and Twitter connecting us with friends around the world, we are able to instantly share those feelings by posting links to things we really like--or even things that upset us.

2. Look for strong characters.

Birds are the reason Audubon came into being, but in order for your story to resonate universally, it is often best to concentrate on people. Look for personalities who will tell a surprising story in an engaging way. Sometimes the most important person behind your story might not be a great storyteller. Better to find the best storyteller rather than risk having your viewers leave 10 seconds after your video has started playing.

3. Get a little closer.

Shoot a lot of close-ups and extreme close-ups. There's nothing like seeing a close-up of a beautiful bird rather than squinting at a speck in the trees. These types of shots are more dramatic and they have more impact when viewed on hand-held screens like a smart phone or tablet computer.

Remember that Robert Frost said, "No surprise for the visual storyteller, no surprise for the Internet viewer" (though I'm not sure I have that exactly right).

If I'm surprised and delighted by a video I see on my screen, I share and link and tweet and email it to all my friends.

Hope to share one of your videos soon.

-------------------------

Bob Sacha is guest writer for Audubon's TogetherGreen program. He is a visual journalist who directs, shoots and edits videos for the web for NGO's and non-profit organizations. Bob also teaches Video Storytelling for the Webat the Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York and at Columbia University.