The Scoop on Getty's New Free Images

Did Getty Images, the world's largest photo service just make its photos free to use? That depends on how you plan to use them. Getty Images says you can use images for free by embedding them on your website or blog as long it's for non-commercial purposes. As I understand it, the photos can't be used for commercial purposes, such as selling a product. They can't be used for raising money. They can't be used to promote a campaign or endorse someone, like a political candidate.

People's initial reaction to the announcement was positive, but once they dig deeper, I think that they will quickly see the downsides.

For example, let's say many organizations find a way to use the photos for non-commerical purposes. This could negatively impact the stories the organizations are telling because stock photos are not authentic. Humanizing an issue through storytelling and visualizations of real people are some of the most effective forms of engagement, especially for nonprofits.

I'm also not a fan of many stock photos because they usually have a stock look to them, making your content a lot less compelling and a lot less powerful. 

Plus, with the use of stock photos, you run the risk of multiple of organizations and businesses using the same images. This could be especially embarrassing if your competitor uses the same image as you.

While the inauthenticity of stock photos may be a concern, there's one risk that may be even worse: Getty Images has the right to serve up ads or other content through the embedded images onto your site. They will be using these embedded images to collect, store, and mine data that will, of course, be sold to generate revenue for Getty Images. This is not the experience nonprofit organizations want to provide to their constituents who visit their website.

Stock photos should only be used as a last resort if you can't acquire good, authentic phtotos from your organization's events, or if you can't afford to hire a photographer. However, the embedded images just added a new layer of complexity that nonprofits should be weary of.

What do you think about Getty's new, free embedded images?


Are your marketing tests too lean or too fat?

If you flip a coin 6 times, there is a good chance that it won’t be 50% heads and 50% tails.  But, as you flip the coin more times, it will converge to the 50/50 set (unless you have a crooked coin).

Similarly, if you launch an email outreach, your results might be very strange initially.  But, as you get more data, they will settle into the long-term solution. 

One of the questions when setting up an A/B test is figuring out how large the different test groups should be. If the test groups are too small, they won't provide sufficient data. If your sample sizes are too big, you are wasting subscribers on the less effective tests.

To be confident, we need to do a Z-test between our different samples and ensure we're seeing a statistically significant difference.  Simply put, the Z-test helps us know that we're seeing a real difference between our control group and the various test groups.

You can do the Z-test in Excel, Python, R, or by hand, but it's easy and quick to visualize it using this online calculator.

 Skipping over a lot of detail, a Z-Score equal or greater to 1.65 lets you have confidence that your test group is sufficiently different than your control.

Hopefully you'll find this limited explanation to be handy when thinking about testing protocols, whether for a landing page or an email outreach campaign.

Want to dive in deeper? Google has a great explanation about the math behind A/B testing.

If you want to even dive deeper, there's some great open source materials available.


Is anonymity good or bad for social media?

New startups are launching every day, and it's a lot of work for the nonprofit community to weed through which platforms are useful, and which aren't the right fit. A new social platform, ChronicleMe (CMe) launched recently, and it's a free, anonymous social media platform. The creators of the platform state that "although paradoxical, we believe that anonymous social media will provide millions with deeper connections than ever before. In today‘s current social media platform, we have accepted that everything we post is tracked, scrutinized, and public. Not anymore."

Every post on ChronicleMe is anonymous, but when a user responds to an anonymous post, they'll have the opportunity to reveal their identity, or remain anonymous. If they reveal their identity, the person who posted will have the option to continue the conversation through private messaging.

CMe allows you to link to your Twitter account, and connect with your Facebook friend's CMe accounts, but you won't ever know who's who unless they expose themselves. You have to follow seven people until you'll begin seeing your friends posts to create real anonymity.

The concept of anonymity raises a few questions. What are the consequences of being anonymous, especially for nonprofit constituents? Will this allow for trolls to have more spaces to attack people around hot button issues? And is anything online ever truly anonymous? According to the Pew Research Center's Internet Project,  59% of internet users do not believe it is possible to be completely anonymous online. Anonymity is a potentially dangerous road, and can remove the person from behind the message.

What's interesting is that ChronicleMe has partnerships with two nonprofits: the GLBT National Help Center, which works with gay and lesbian teens, and RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. When CMe participants suggest that another user gets help, they're sent links to third party help groups. These can be very touchy subjects that are being talked about, and unfortunately trolls and predators thrive on anonymity.

On one hand I can understand why someone would want to be anonymous in discussing these highly sensitive issues, especially if it’s in the form of seeking advice, sharing very personal experiences, etc. However, I can’t shake the flip side of this, which is trolls and predators using platforms like this to hurt people.

What are your thoughts on social platforms that offer anonymity?


Grow your email list yourself? (Or use paid acquisition?)

Online fundraising is a numbers game, which I discussed in another Frogloop blog post about how many fundraising emails it might take per year to achieve a significant online fundraising program.

Having worked on nearly 450 digital campaigns for both nonprofits and impact-oriented brands, such as Abe's Market and Fetzer Wines, a common challenge I see across organizations is just inadequate tools for planning.

I've often encountered organizations with boards who throw down unrealistic growth goals for staff, but without arming staff with the proper resources to do their jobs.  

And in the midst of a vast array of choices, technology, and a rapidly-shifting digital landscape full of tempting "gold rushes" and shiny new toys, there is some basic back of the envelope planning we can and should do first, to see what's possible before we rush off on a fools errand to try and recruit 1 million members on Facebook or Twitter without a proper strategy.

So in this portion of what's now become the "back of the envelope" series, I offer you the magical "organic
growth vs. paid acquisition" calculator.

As Care2 our working theory of change is to engage the largest audience of conscious consumers and caring citizens likely to donate to nonprofits and support their causes as activists and volunteers. That creates economies of scale and efficiency we can then pass along to the nonprofits. We save staff the costly effort of acquisition by accelerating growth and seeding campaigns. This frees staff up to cultivate relationships with donors and raise money.

But this tool (and the others we've developed at Care2) are a totally objective template that you can manipulate with your own assumptions. I just try to give you a starting point based on industry benchmark data and my experience.

So try this theory out. I challenge you. It's a smackdown.

You'll likely find that given the realities of traffic conversion rates will require a massive staff effort to drive significant enough traffic through earned media to grow your email list (and thus your lifeline to multi-channel grassroots fundraising or sales), with any sort of scale at a net cost that can beat well-tested, targeted, permission-based email acquisition. 


New Study Shows People Don’t Read Articles, they Retweet

Are you impressed every time a blog post by your organization gets a lot of retweets? How about all those social shares on Huffington Post and Mashable? How many times has your boss come to you and asked “why can’t we get those social share numbers?”  

 A new study by Chartbeat, which measures real-time traffic for some of the biggest websites like Upworthy, said their research shows that many people aren’t reading articles that they retweet.  

Josh Schwartz, Chartbeat’s lead data scientist said that “Facebook shares would reflect the same pattern.”  

Upworthy says they have found that web visitors who consume about 25% of an article are more likely to share it on social media than people who moved onto to something else.  They also found that people who read the entire article are even more likely to share it on social media.

"There is obviously a correlation between number of tweets and total volume of traffic that goes to an article," Schwartz says. "But just not a relationship between stories that are most heavily consumed and stories that are most heavily tweeted."

Over at Buzzfeed they found that social media shares occur by users who have spent 3.5 minutes on a page on a desktop computer, or over 2 minutes on a mobile device.

I’m not surprised by this data. There is just too much information to consume on the web these days so it’s impossible for people to read it all. Plus people tend to skim on the web, especially with the rise of mobile devices.

It’s alarming that so many people are sharing articles with friends, colleagues, and strangers when they barely read the articles. It’s even more disturbing when you factor in that Nielsen’s research shows that 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family.  

What Should Your Organization Measure?

If social shares and pageviews shouldn’t be your main source of measurement what should you be measuring?

  1. Bounce rates and Time Spent on Website and Posts:  Are people staying on your website and looking at other pages? Or are they immediately bouncing off your website? When you share an article on social media, how long are people staying on that page to read the article, watch the video, etc.?
  2. Commenting: Are people commenting on the articles you share? And if so, which ones? What is the sentiment? Is it positive, neutral, or negative?
  3. Most Popular Articles Across Channels: What articles generated the most comments and traffic on your website and social media?

Is Your Organization Looking At Alternative Audiences

Some companies, like Zygna, had early success thanks to cheap online advertising on Facebook. But with more companies entering the space, the ads got more expensive and that hit the Zygna’s bottom line hard.
Similarly, many of us are very aware that it is increasingly expensive to acquire new users. In fact, instead of targeting obvious audiences (e.g. young moms), it is often more effective to try to identify lateral audiences that aren’t targeted as heavily. The percentage of users that click might be lower and the audience might be lower, but the lower cost per user can lead to a healthier return on investment (ROI). 
It can definitely be frustrating: not only do you have to think about your ideal audiences, you need to think about how your competitors are eyeing those same audiences or keywords. 

One good way to identify alternative audiences is to look at the traffic from your existing users. Google Analytics has added their new Demographics and Interests information and that could be explored for potential audiences. 

Sometimes it's handy to price out the cost of different audiences before going into a planning/brainstorming meeting.  That way you can highlight numbers around the obvious audiences and focus the group's creative energy on coming up with alternatives.   

I sometimes take a “long tail” approach and find smaller audiences/keywords that don’t necessarily have a high traffic numbers but that are relatively inexpensive. You’re not necessarily going to get a big bump in daily numbers, but you’ll have an efficient spend and that additional traffic never hurts. 

In any case, the "good old days" of cheap online advertising are over and we're now competing in a crowded space for a finite number of users.



Charitable Giving Report Shows Online Donations Increased by 13.5%

This just in! The latest 2013 Charitable Giving Report by Blackbaud analyzed data from more than 4,000 nonprofits to provide the largest analysis in online giving data. According to the report, overall giving grew 4.9% in 2013 compared to 2012.

Even more impressive than overall giving is the 13.5% increase in online giving. Online giving accounted for 6.4% of all charitable giving in 2013. Large organizations fared better from overall giving while small orgs benefitted the most from online giving.

Speaking of online giving, #GivingTuesday made huge strides last year. Online giving on #GivingTuesday in 2013 was up 90%, compared to 2012. The average online gift on Tuesday, December 3, was $142.05, a $40.45 increase from 2012.

Which Sectors are Raising the Most?

"This is the second consecutive year that online giving has experienced double-digit growth rates. Six of the nine sectors in the analysis had year-over-year growth over 10%, with faith-based organizations having the largest increase." International affairs organizations had the greatest increase in overall charitable giving in 2013 (13.2%).

Which Months See the Most Overall Giving?

You may not be surprised to find out that the most overall giving occurs during the last three months of the year. Those are the months that organizations push their year-end giving, host challenges, and release their annual reports. More than one-third of all giving done in 2013 was done between October, November, and December. Both overall giving and online giving reached its absolute highest in December.

The slowest month for overall giving was February, bringing in just 5.8% of 2013's overall gifts. Perhaps the Hallmark Holiday is sucking people in, and they're spending too much on chocolates and candies.

The slowest month for online giving was January, the first month of 2013, the good news is that there was an incline throughout the rest of the year.

What trends did your nonprofit notice in 2013? Did you receive more online donations than you have in previous years?

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