This paper looks into the social media and communication plan of the Philadelphia non-profit organization, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF). Through in-depth interviewing with current staff members and an academic evaluation, strengths and weaknesses in the Foundation’s current plans surfaced. Primarily, Alex’s Lemonade Stand has a very strong social media presence. However, there are weaknesses within the organization such as lack of tracking of social media posts, the absence of a plan to expand its brand globally, as well as lack of planning to expand their lemonade stand participation. These weaknesses led to the brainstorming and the formation of a communication strategy for the organization. A few recommendations for the company to implement are hashtag campaigns, utilizing Facebook insights, and expanding its brand into a social media platform it does not currently use, Snapchat.
Alex’s Lemonade Stand is a non-profit organization located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The organization started after Alex, a child with cancer, held a lemonade stand to raise money to find a cure. Since her unfortunate death in 2004, her parents started this non-profit in her honor. Through a variety of efforts, Alex’s Lemonade Stand works to raise money and awareness to eradicate childhood pediatric cancer. The organization helps to fund research that will increase quality of life, life span of children with cancer, and hopefully one day find the cure for pediatric cancer. Currently, ALSF has approximately 475 grants and has raised over $100 million over their time since 2004. The non-profit’s audience ranges from the general public, families and kids, research community, and siblings of cancer patients specifically. ALSF’s main audience of focus is the families and children patients that it works with who deal first hand with a childhood diagnosis of pediatric cancer. With this audience, the organization works to support families by helping them with transportation, lodging, financial aid, etc. so they can remain close to the patient. The organization also singles out siblings by creating a SuperSibs program geared specifically to create an environment of siblings going through the same things.
Alex’s Lemonade Stand’s main objectives are to create awareness and increase engaged involvement. Currently, the organization is pretty well known around the Philadelphia and East Coast area, but it is interested in expanding their market to the rest of the country. ALSF also wants to increase engaged involvement with their non-profit by getting more people to do fundraisers. Alex’s Lemonade Stand has a fundraising tactic in place called lemonade stands in which a person or group of people can hold their own lemonade stand at school or place of work for a couple of examples. The funds from these lemonade stands go directly to the organization. One lemonade stand in a school could potentially bring in hundreds of dollars, but there is no real awareness about this great opportunity.
Snapshot of Organizational Communication
To raise awareness, Alex’s Lemonade Stand uses many social media platforms. Currently, a notable strength is within the number of social media platforms that it is actively using and updating. ALSF is posting on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, Blogger, and produced an e-newsletter. However, the downfall with this is that there is no real tracking in place to analyze successes and/or failures. Additionally, the post frequencies across the platforms vary. Twitter could potentially have five tweets tweeted a day, while LinkedIn could have one post written per week.
Clearly, the Foundation has most social media platforms covered, and covered fairly well. However, only one individual manages the current social media platforms. This makes it difficult to show variety in their posts as well as making all of the platforms hard to manage for one person. Additionally, there is a lack of connection between platforms and understanding of followers of the organization. For example, the success of its Facebook page is based off of the rationale “like us, and you’re a follower.” There is little analytics done across the board, in particular with the e-newsletters. These e-newsletters serve as the only way they get information out about the organization, and the organization is only able to track open rates.
The organization’s communication outreach is done largely through events that it holds and advertises across social media platforms and e-newsletters. ALSF hosts several “evergreen” events that happen annually including their Lemonade Days, one weekend in June that ALSF encourages lemonade stands to open up across the country in order to honor Alex. The organization also holds a Lemon Ball as a higher-end fundraising event that successfully raised $1 million last year. Additionally, they hold a Lemon Speak Easy, Million Mile, and a Great Chefs fundraiser event.
Although the groundwork is set with the organization, there is still more work that needs to be done to evaluate whether or not the organization is being successful in their outreach and reach their ultimate communication goals.
A similar organization to Alex’s Lemonade Stand is Make-A-Wish. Although this is a national brand, their Mid-Atlantic chapter in particular will be of focus. I have worked as a volunteer for MAW since 2013, so I have a general understanding of their current communication operations. To start, there is a team of communication experts that cover the day-to-day. This allows their posts to have different narratives behind them, thus diversifying their efforts. Make-A-Wish does not have the same quantity of social media sites as ALSF, but the organization does interact with its audience very frequently with pertinent posts. MAW is also an avid user of hashtags, and consistent hashtags such as their weekly #FeelGoodFriday posts.
At this point, it is clear that Alex’s Lemonade Stand current communication platforms are strong in numbers. However, my recommendation is to challenge the organization to expand its communication strategy further. One social media platform that ALSF has not tapped into is Snapchat. This is one application that is tricky to use, but when done correctly, can prove very fruitful for a company. For example, IHOP has recently started using Snapchat for its own marketing gains, and a fun release with their teaser ad. Many companies within the recent months have taken to Snapchat as a way to get their name or new product out to the masses. One article in particular lays out the specific benefits that Snapshat has on non-profits: insider marketing (behind the scenes), event snapchats, volunteer engagement, story telling, one-on-one communication, and instant donor gratification (Mordecai, 2014). A recent non-profit effort “Wear Yellow for Seth” took Snapchat by storm with his Snpachat story. Snapchats were sent across the globe to this little boy to cheer him up, totaling 26 million views (Shontell, 2015).
Although Snapchat does not have any real tracking in place at the current time, all of the benefits listed above outweigh that with this social media platform. For starters, the Foundation could screenshot any snap it receives, and use these towards marketing pieces. Since ALSF currently feels as though it is continually using the same messaging, these Snapchats could be what brings the Foundation into the 21st century and taps into its target audiences.
Alex’s Lemonade Stand can also create its own Snapchat stories for all of its users to see of the organization setting up its own lemonade stand, showing around the office space to humanize the organization, and any other PR events that it hosts. This is a surefire way to have people nationally, and potentially even globally, be aware of the brand and its mission. Cancer patients are also ones that can take to Snapchat and snap the organization whatever they desire. This brings a new meaning to the target audience for the organization, giving them the power to create their own stories. Lastly, with Snapchat, the user can use one’s location to create an ALSF Snapchat image. This could be the tracking that the organization needs in order to expand its name beyond Philadelphia.
Continuing the focus on increasing demographics and increasing the number of hosts that hold a lemonade stand in a year, tracking in general needs to be a main priority. A recommendation to increase awareness would be through the use of hashtags. There is no real thought going into Alex’s Lemonade Stand’s hashtags at this point, and this form of communication can add value to the organization. Through monitoring and analyzing the hashtags via Rowfeeder, hashtags that start trending would be an all-encompassing tool to track action, expand its name nationally, and increase donations.
Throughout the past couple of months, I have created online listening posts to analyze the use of hashtags for the organization. These posts were conducted through the online listening tool, Social Mention. All of the searches were done using the same criteria for consistency sake: an advanced search with the full name “Alex’s Lemonade Stand.” The Figure 1: Hashtag post was created in February 2015. This shows how hashtags are incorrectly used within Alex’s Lemonade Stand. Looking at the “Top Hashtags” section of the post, one will notice that Twilight is the most used hashtag. This was created based on there being a lemonade stand at the Twilight movie premier. Unfortunately, this was a missed opportunity because the true hashtag should have been #lemonadestand, but that did not even make the list of top hashtags used.
Following the same criteria, I did the search again in April 2015 (The Figure 2: Hashtag). Here, one can see that there were some great opportunities for the organization to encourage the use of a hashtag. There are currently people in the process of hosting lemonade stands, the exact increase that the non-profit is looking for. However, there is no hashtag usage. As one can see, the top hashtag is actually #defeatpediatriccancer. This is a long, unnecessary hashtag. Although it is pertinent and should not be disregarded altogether, this is a hashtag that should be more towards the bottom of the list in terms of frequency used.
Another interesting piece arose from these online listening posts: the reach and passion rates. Reach shows the unique authors who reference the brand divided by the total number of mentions. Also, the passion percentage shows an increase. This measures the likelihood that someone who mentions the brand will mention it again. With the reach decreasing, and the passion increasing, this directly shows that the audience members that the Foundation has are committed followers. However, there is an absence of new people getting on board. Figure 3: Reach and Passion and Figure 4: Reach and Passion can show the numbers. I then created a chart with Figure 5 to more clearly present the discrepancies between the months.
Although the messaging of the organization is clear, something the organization is trying to work on is diversifying its message in new and fresh ways. Messaging is a key aspect in communication that should come across the same through all platforms. The key message of Alex’s Lemonade Stand is raising funds and awareness to aid in research to assist and ultimately end pediatric cancer. The key message geared around lemonade stands is that a lemonade stand can raise hundreds of dollars toward pediatric cancer research at no cost to you. A sound bite to use for the foundation is “Make a cup. Share a cup. Start your own lemonade stand to help end pediatric cancer today.” Another sound bite to use is “No matter where you are, take a stand to make a stand today, and let’s all work together to end pediatric cancer.”
These link the two main messages of expanding the organization across the nation, as well as increasing the amount of lemonade stands.
One way to successfully monitor and analyze social media platforms’ hashtag usage is through RowFeeder. A hashtag campaign or simply getting a hashtag like #lemonadestand to trend would be a beneficial way to track the hashtag success. In a general sense, the organization is still unsure as to who knows and truly understands what lemonade stands are, and how they can be conducted. Therefore, it is a recommendation to do a feeler survey to gain insight via Mailchimp. By e-mailing people on the organization’s e-mail distribution list, ALSF can garner information on what its audience knows and understands. This data can be used to understand how to target further communication efficiently and effectively. Questions on this survey should include ones such as “have you ever hosted a lemonade stand before” and “what would make you interested in a lemonade stand.”
With the survey communication, the goal would be to get 10 percent of the list to host a lemonade stand. The time frame of this goal should be to start as soon as possible and end after Lemonade Days in June 2016. The biggest success that the feeler survey would pose is getting an understanding of its audience. To date, not much has been done to track or fully understand whom the organization is targeting in this way. Therefore, surveys followed by pertinent hashtags would potentially be what the organization needs to go nationwide and expand its lemonade stand participation.
Another measurable success would be through Facebook, increasing its audience members by 2,000 within the same timeframe as lemonade stand increased participation. Based on Facebook insights, the easy-to-use dashboard will show the organization daily active users, new likes or unlikes, media consumption, and most importantly, demographics. Since most of Alex’s Lemonade Stand media is all linked with Facebook, this will serve as the most successful and basic tracking for the organization. Additionally, by encouraging Facebook participation at lemonade stands and through ALSF e-mail communication, Facebook insights will be able to show spikes in likes and unlikes based upon events. Therefore, the organization could successfully measure what is working and what is not.
Mordecai. (2014). Snapchat: How non-profit organizations can benefit from this platform. Retrieved from http://www.noholtzbarred.com/snapchat-non-profit-organizations-can-benefit-new-social-media-platform/
Shontell, A. (2015). 5-year-old Seth Lane was born with a life-threatening health problem, and 26 million people have watched his Snapchat story. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/snapchat-wearyellowforseth-story-viewed-26-million-times-2015-3