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Book Review: Storytellng in the Digital Age. A guide for non-profits by Julia Campbell

Everyone is not your social media audience … but everyone has a story

This book was not what I expected. Having snapped it up after seeing its title, I wanted this book to help me to get on board in the digital age.

Just because I am a user of social media in my personal life does not make me a successful digital marketer in my professional life.

As author Julia Campbell writes “if just reading the word social media gives you anxiety, I am here to assure you that you are not alone … nonprofit professionals tend to be very uncomfortable and lack confidence in their abilities to use social media on behalf of their organisations.”

Terrific – this is the book for me! But 7 chapters in and 100 pages of reading later, I was still reading about the importance of storytelling.

Don’t get me wrong. As a fundraiser, I am committed to becoming a better storyteller and to helping my charity develop a culture of storytelling.

I know that great storytelling is the best way to capture the attention, as well as the hearts and minds of my supporters.

And as part of my library of books on how to become a better storyteller, the first seven chapters of this book are well worth the read.

But this is not what I wanted from this book. But, as with many things, you need to have persistence.

From Chapter 8 onwards, the book offers us practical guidelines to find a social media strategy that is right for your charity. From determining which social media platforms your target audience uses to encouraging your donors to post their own stories, you will find step-by-step instructions and real-world examples that will get you inspired to dive in.

Why did it take so long to get to the reason that I purchased the book in the first place. It’s because as Julia Campbell writes …

‘it’s all about the message you convey and the relationship you build, not the tool you use to do it!”

And that message comes from great storytelling. Without the great stories, you have no content for any of your fundraising channels, social media included.

Social media is just another tool – and should work together with all your fundraising channels, like a well-oiled machine, to deepen your connection with current donors and to expose your great work to new ones.

‘Only after you have a clear idea about the stories you are going to collect and tell, only after you know your audience inside and out, only after you have created a workable plan to move forward, then – and only then – should you dive in the shark-infested waters of social media.

‘You need to know who you are and where you want to go before you begin.’

From Chapter 8 on, its all about moulding your storytelling gold, to promote your stories across your website, email, blog and social media channels.

For me, one of the most important chapters in this book is Chapter 13 – which focuses on how to measure the success of your storytelling campaign across your digital channels.

This chapter is important as it helps to bridge the gap between the complex metrics that define more traditional fundraising channels and what often appears to be the loose metrics that define social media communication.

In social media, something as simple as “we have 1,000 fans and followers” can be a challenging metric for a fundraiser to really understand and define the success and failure of a donor relationship program.

But in Chapter 13, you’ll be given much more succinct set of goals that can define the success of failure of using social media.

At the end of the day, what I really liked about this book when I finally made it to Chapter 8 and beyond – was that Julia successfully helps me to understand that developing a social media strategy is actually no different to preparing the strategies in the more traditional fundraising channels that I am more familiar and comfortable with.

And for that reason alone, it is well worth the read.

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