Monday, July 8, 2013

BIG’s Blog: First you need an audience

How do you build a base of supporters?

Well, first you need an audience to play to…right?

But what if the whole definition of audience has changed?


Back before the Internet, everyone knew what an audience was. It was a set number of people. The number of people that watched a TV show, listened to a radio station, or read a newspaper or magazine. Or, the number of people to whom you mailed a donor acquisition appeal. The “potential” number that would listen, watch, or read was the defined audience.

Then along came the Internet.

What is the “audience number” of the Internet?  And I’m not talking about the number of individual hits your Web site gets . . . I am talking about the “potential” audience size of the Internet.

Answer: It’s in the billions.

Confused yet?

Look, we live in two worlds. The old world of old media . . . radio, TV, print, direct mail etc . . . and the new world of the Internet. The old definitions of audience don’t apply to the new world of the Internet.

The Internet isn’t an outgrowth or iteration of something else. IT IS A NEW THING. TV was an outgrowth of radio wave transmission technology. Magazines were an outgrowth of printed newspapers. The Internet is a NEW THING.

Today, fundraisers MUST operate in both worlds. For my 86-year-old mother, if you are not sending her terrestrial mail, you won’t be getting any checks from her. My 50-something wife will look at your direct mail appeals, but she immediately goes online to your Web site. And if she decides to donate, she will do it online. My 20-something daughters, they check their mailbox about every two weeks and tell me it’s 90% junk mail, which is their way of saying “advertising.”

How can I say it any clearer? Fundraisers operate in two worlds. You don’t have a choice. Sorry.

But the rules of the Internet are not the same as the old media world. The old media world is built on transactions. Every communication leads toward making a buying (or donating) decision.

That’s not the way the Internet works.

The Internet started out that way. Remember banner ads (actually they are still around…kinda)? When the Internet came along, old line marketers (like me) thought it was just a new media; just another arrow in our media quiver.

But then came Web 2.0.

Web 2.0 was the recognition of the Web’s inherent ability to be interactive . . . two-way communication. And on a worldwide scale!

The Web is interactive. Interactive means a conversation is possible . . . and conversations build relationships.

Look, the commercial world has to sell stuff. That is what keeps them in business. But for nonprofit fundraisers, the Web is about building relationships . . . some of which lead to financial support . . . with an audience of billions.

The Web is about relationships.
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