I was very lucky to be among the group attending BlogWorldExpo last week, putting me in direct contact with some of the world's best in blogging and social media. As a blogger myself, it was pretty exciting and I was able to take in quite a bit of information about how small business owners can use blogs, email and all of social media to reach their audience. Here are some nuggets I thought were worth. If you're interested, you can find more complete coverage over at my other blog, Outspoken Media. Nonprofits should tie their efforts to a story My favorite session at BlogWorldExpo was the Tools for Non Profit Organizations panel that took place on Day 1. In it, panelists shared some tips for how to use social media to raise funds as a nonprofit organization. Something I found interesting was how all the panelists advised creating a story around your cause. People want to be involved in a movement. The companies that thrive are those that figure out how to tell and engage people in their story. Make the company the mentor and let your audience be the hero. Identify on an individual level, how "you" can make a difference in someone else's life. Increase donations by trigger donator compassion and appealing to their ego. How do you do that? You create a compelling story and attract those that are dying to be part of something. Tie your donation widget to specific calls to action or campaigns. Just don't ask people to donate to cancer research, create a specific movement or fight that they can put their name to. Frequently update your donation page so there's something for people to interact with and you show people you're alive. Some examples of nonprofits doing it right: HungerIsUnacceptable Natural Conservancy To Write Love on Our Arms Something else suggested was to get together with other non-profits in your area and collaborate. Find the other cancer organizations and have one big benefit. That seems to work really well rather than having lots of small campaigns. Email marketing isn't dead There's a lot of people giving email marketing a hard time now that we have this much shiner object called social media. However, according to some of the most talented marketers in the space, it's still a very effective tool. The reason email marketing works is because it allows you to create very personal relationships. Many of your customers will follow just about anyone on Twitter, however, they're only going to share their email addresses with people they trust. If you can get in their inbox, you're able to talk to them on a much deeper level. During the session, Chris Brogan noted that he uses his newsletter to give people a "behind the scenes look" at what he's doing. I'm very familiar with Chris' newsletter and I love the way he uses it. It's like you're talking to a friend instead of dealing with a company. It's personal. Problogger Darren Rowse noted that his email newsletter has a conversion rate of 2x his RSS feed. Email is still a really effective marketing tool if you use it correctly. The trick to selling online, whether you're doing it through email or something else, is to create things that are a perfect match for your audience. Then you're not really selling, you're being helpful. "You don't need a million followers" That statement was said by Jermaine Dupri during one of the morning keynote's at BlogWorld. Jermaine noted that social media is often talked about in terms of follower counts and that's really not what matters. The reason Jermaine doesn't need a million followers is because he can't talk to a million people in a day. If you're going to use Twitter, you need to use it to engage with your customers and find out what people are really saying about your business. Numbers are good for showing off, but they don't help you improve your business. Social sites have cut out the middleman. You don't need a huge team to tell you how you're doing in specific markets - you can ask them yourself. You can see the conversations happening and become part of them. You can bring people into the organization. I thought Jermaine issued a really great social media reality check. Your brand is the meta data people have about you A lot of companies have a hard time figuring out what their "brand" is. It seems like this intangible thing that they have no control over. One of the panelists on the Measuring and Building Online Influence panel called your brand the meta data people have about you. He said that the best brands are the ones built by establishing a consistent pattern of behavior. If you're a jerk all the time, then people will trust that you're a jerk. If you're helpful, they'll trust that too. I thought that was a really great way to put it. I like the "meta data" description because I think it really nails home the idea that YOU can control and build your brand based on how you interact with customers. It's important to realize that your brand lives everywhere you are online. Participating in different channels helps people get a full picture of who you are. I had a great time at the recent BlogWorldExpo event. Thanks to everyone who made it happen and all those who came over to say hello!