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A loyal following is a few clicks away

The key to generating loyalty and rising above the general noise seems to be all about creating an authentic voice

What is the best way to promote our blog on environmental conservation in Kenya? We are hoping to help build an eco-friendly generation, and wish to reach out to potential donors.

— Sam Dindi, Kenya

The rise of social media over the last few years and the speed at which companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google are signing up new members has forced businesses and charities to reassess many of their traditional marketing and PR efforts, and instead focus on building a substantial and loyal online following.

The key to generating loyalty and rising above the general noise seems to be all about creating an authentic voice. Over the last couple of years I have spent a lot of time with my digital media team, creating varied and interesting content for our pages and channels. I post blog entries and tweets almost daily, and I often upload photos from around the world.

Our channels have also helped me publicize many of our philanthropic efforts, such as wildlife conservation, drug decriminalization, encouraging entrepreneurship and battling climate change. This has helped to ensure that the public and politicians take note.

 

This in turn has helped us raise our brand’s profile online, which has translated into real benefits for our businesses. The more followers Virgin and myself have online, the more feedback and important information we can glean that will tell us whether we are getting things right or wrong. We can react quickly through our own channels, reaching a wide audience that includes our best clients and most fervent fans.

In the past, I often made a splash for our businesses through eye-catching adventures and stunts. Now a timely comment on one of our online channels can trigger widespread debate, while an amusing video or fun competition will create visibility for our brand in many markets where we have little or no footprint. Every week I receive emails from readers in countries such as Brazil and Uganda, where we haven’t yet established businesses, asking that we set up in their country.

This year we are launching our Virgin Mobile business in Latin America through a series of partnerships with local firms. Our online presence and increasing following has helped raise awareness of the brand and build expectation before the launches.

So how can Sam and other budding entrepreneurs make an impact? For those trying to establish an online presence for a nonprofit or charitable organization, I have prepared some tips on how to kick-start your online presence.

1. Build a loyal following by creating interesting and accessible content. This is time-consuming, but is crucial for keeping your audiences engaged. This will ensure that your stakeholders will be listening when the time comes for you to deliver a message about your company or organization.

Sam must take care that the tone of his site is consistent with his target audience—in this case, the younger generation. If the focus of the blog is promoting conservation to young people in Kenya, then make sure that this is evident in every article. Try to talk about topics that will not only educate them but are relevant to their lives and can influence behaviour change.

2. Consider other sources of content. In some cases you may decide to approach bloggers and ask them to team up with you on certain subjects.

Once the tone and content of Sam’s blog has been focused to the target audience, it would be good for him to also look at getting a diverse range of other bloggers who can contribute and build up the following on that website.

3. Look for like-minded partner organizations to help you. There will likely be other nonprofits working on similar problems; reach out to them with your ideas on how to combine or augment each other’s efforts. Sam could reach out to companies and NGOs focused on either children or environmental issues.

4. Create a revenue stream to fund more development and promotion on your site. This can be as easy as contracting with services such as Google AdSense to put ads on your website in order to generate some income.

5. Target potential donors. Through social networking, Sam can draw people’s attention to his charitable cause—for this, the Internet has proved invaluable. However, when it comes to turning those supporters into donors, remember that there really is no substitute for human interaction. Sam needs to make sure that people have a way of interacting and donating on the website.

6. Once you have a sufficient number of followers and your initiative has grown into a success, it’s a good idea to start looking for sponsors—companies, larger organizations and even governments. Sam has a great idea—the goal of building an eco-friendly generation in Kenya has the key advantage of winning the attention of the much sought-after younger generation. Having many followers will be attractive to potential sponsors.

Sam, you have chosen a great niche! Many people in Kenya are working hard on conservation—even the UN Environment Program is based there. Just remember that you must pursue what interests you and you enjoy—if you do, your passion and commitment will show through in everything you do.

By NYT Syndicate

©2012/Richard Branson

Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active. He maintains a blog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Source: http://www.livemint.com/2012/03/19205540/A-loyal-following-is-a-few-cli.html

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