Winning the Internet

5 Things to Try in 2013 to Boost Online Performance

After a great run, the Winning the Internet blog has been retired. However, you can still keep in touch with New Media Mentors here.

2013Happy 2013! It’s a new year and the possibilities for effective online organizing are endless. In the spirit of new beginnings, resolutions, and all of that, here are 5 things you should consider trying this year to boost your online organizing work.

1. Make your content more shareable.

My guess is that you’ve been wanting to make your content more shareable for a while. If you haven’t done it yet, now’s the time! Stop posting articles to Facebook on autopilot and set aside some time to create images that people will want to share. The folks at Upworthy put together a post on shareability a while back and it’s a solid place to start.

If you’ve been holding back because you’re not a designer and don’t know PhotoShop, now’s the time to let that go and try out a program like Skitch. It’s so easy to use it’s almost foolproof. Once you get the hang of it you can throw text on an image in under a minute.

2. Look back at your results from 2012

Most of us have a small set of metrics that we look at on a regular basis to judge online campaign performance. However, I’ve found that it can be very worthwhile to do a deeper dive once or twice a year.

I’m a big fan of conducting an annual or semiannual report, and taking a look at metrics that you don’t normally look at. You just never know what you’re going to find. I regularly conduct these reports as part of our New Media Mentors program, and I’ve always found them useful. Even if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for when you get started, you can turn up revelations about the type of content that is popular on your website, where most of your website traffic comes from, the types of actions or emails that are most popular, outages or problems with your website, etc.

If you’re wondering which measures you should focus on, the ones outlined in M+R’s eNonprofit Benchmarks Study are a good starting point. I also recommend spending some time checking out the following categories of reports in Google Analytics:

  • Audience: Demographics, Behavior, Technology, Mobile & Visitors Flow
  • Traffic Sources: Sources & Social
  • Content: Site Content, Site Speed, and In-Page Analytics

3. Hold an informational interview with someone you admire

The informational interview is one of the tools we use in our mentoring program, and I’ve found it to be very successful. It goes something like this:

  1. Come up with a short list of people that you admire that have a job similar to yours (ex: an online campaigner at Oxfam).
  2. Ask them if they’d be willing to get together for coffee or chat with you by phone. If you need an introduction, take a quick look on LinkedIn and find a friend that can make the connection for you.
  3. Sit down with them and ask them about how they work, and what makes them so successful.

This works particularly well if there are specific things you’re struggling with, and they’ve encountered those same issues. Don’t be afraid to dig in and ask them how they handled specific situations.

4. Start testing.

I always tell organizations that following best practices is a great first step. Once you’ve got a hold on that, it’s time to start testing. Testing can help you zero in on what really works online for your specific audience.

There’s almost no limit to what you can test online, however testing email subject lines is a great place to start. It’s pretty easy to do (it’s usually a feature built into your email tool), and can have a big impact on your email campaigns.

If you’d like to do some more sophisticated testing, think of a couple of organizations that you admire (and are relatively sophisticated online) and check out their emails and websites. How are they different from yours? Great things to test include email templates, email images or call-out boxes, homepage images and text, and donate or action buttons.

5. Try something new!

It’s a new year, and now’s the time to try something new. Challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone a bit. We’re big believers in the idea that failure is the key to success. You’ve got to be willing to try new things online and find out what works best for your audience.

If you’re worried about failing, just do your homework before getting started. It’s amazing what you can find with a simple Google search. I’ve had great success just by adding “best practices” or “case study” to whatever it is I’m thinking about doing. Also, consider checking out blogs like this one, and calling up someone you know that’s done this before.

Most people have something (or many things) they’ve been wanting to try. However, if you’re feeling uninspired, take a quick look at what your partners and other organizations you admire have been doing. Usually there’s a reason we admire them—they’re doing cool things we’ve always wanted to do!


So, let’s kick off 2013 with a bang. Let’s make this the year we make time to try new things and take our work online to the next level. Onward and upward!

Image by Billy Alexander.

About Melissa Foley

Melissa is the Director of Training and Mentoring for Netroots Foundation and New Media Mentors. She aims to use her MBA + nonprofit background to teach organizations to use new media tools strategically.

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