Top 5 digital takeaways for nonprofits from 2014

December 18, 2014

2014 is nearly in the books, and just as with last year, there were some big changes and significant developments in the digital media world. The digital world moves fast, and it can be tough to keep up with it all. Here are our top takeaways for nonprofits from the year in our digital world.

1. Everything is mobile (and mobile is everything)

Using mobile devices for digital and social media is not new, so while it’s not out of the blue, it’s still big. The usage trends keep going up, up, up, and 66 percent of emails are now opened on smartphones and tablets. On Facebook, daily mobile-only use grew 34 percent in 2014, while overall daily active users grew by 8 percent.

What does that mean for you? Everything requires easy interactivity on mobile: websites, email, social media, donation pages, landing pages, action alerts, etc. That means simple, responsive layouts; big thumb-friendly buttons; and smooth social sharing. MailChimp has some good tips here for creating mobile friendly emails.

2. Social media becomes (more) pay-to-play                        

Another looming trend blossomed in 2014 as advertising and the “pay-to-play” model hit the big-time on social media. Facebook really put the screws to organic reach, meaning fewer and fewer users saw posts that hadn’t been paid for. That doesn’t mean that you can’t make Facebook work for you without buying ads, of course, but with Twitter and Pinterest going strong in the ad game (and Instagram close behind, after launching a limited beta), it’s getting harder and harder to have a social media strategy without incorporating paid ads. The good news is that a targeted social ad buy can yield big results, and tactics like photo contests and petitions still allow you to capture email addresses and begin building relationships off social media.

3. It’s all about the data

Big data is officially a big deal. Metrics and key performance indicators are everywhere on digital platforms, and using data to inform strategy and make decisions about your work on Facebook, Twitter and the web has shifted from “handy” to “must-have.” Fortunately, tools like Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics continue to improve, giving users more information than ever about who is engaging with what content, so it’s easier than ever to make strategic, data-driven decisions about your content.

4. Let it scroll, let it scroll, let it scroll

With the rise of parallax web design – that neat technique where the foreground moves more quickly than the background – scrolling is in. The notion of cramming everything “above the fold” on your website has begun to go by the wayside in favor of telling engaging stories with visuals and text that scroll on and on. And it’s not just websites – social platforms have been leading the scrolling charge, and with the big boys like Twitter and Facebook out in front, it looks like scrolling is probably here to stay. Nonprofits are already on board and we expect to see more examples in 2015.

5. Visuals of all types still rule

All of these trends and developments come together in the last item on our list: visuals. All across the digital world, visuals rule, no matter if you’re talking video or still photography, infographics or big data visualization, social platforms or websites or email, etc. Humanity now uploads and shares 1.8 billion photos every day, and Facebook serves more videos than YouTube. Incorporating compelling, engaging visuals across every digital platform is more important than ever as more screens and more digital collateral compete for our collective attention. And the way things are going, it’s likely to speed up before it slows down. Download our guide to visual storytelling for more on using visuals in your work.

What caught your attention in digital and social media in 2014? We’d love to hear your favorites in the comments!

Collin Dunn