The Three Tech Trends Your Association Cares About in 2013

February 1, 2013

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2013 tendenci cupcakesEach year in January, I spend time researching different market reports from 2012 to identify the upcoming trends within the technology industry. I use this information to predict what technology and marketing trends will most likely matter to the nonprofit association and open source community so I can give you insight without having to spend the time researching all of this data yourself.

I’m really excited about 2013 because I see a dramatic shift coming this year in the way we all interact with and think about information technology. Knowledge that was once proprietary or extremely difficult to gain is being pushed out onto the web in a volume that we can’t consume fast enough.

Take Coursera.org, for example, where you can take courses from Universities like Stanford, CalTech, and John Hopkins. For Free!!

Coursera is just one of dozens of online education platforms that have free (or nearly free) classes on virtually any topic. Add to this the important details that because the classes are offered through your web browsers – you also can access them anytime and any place with the added bonus of an online community from connecting with the other students who’re taking the class. Personally, I prefer the learning experience I get when I’m on Lynda.com or Codeacademy to that I received back in college. I predict that as more people gain access to the web through cheaper and faster mobile devices, more people are going to these online learning sites instead of paying tens of thousands of dollars in tuition.

Knowledge is Freedom

Knowledge is power when someone else knows how to do something you need done and don’t know how. When you know how to manage your own website, for example, then you can choose whether or not you want to pay for someone to manage your site. You also have the choice of how much you want to manage and how much you want to outsource.

Schipul Technologies has always believed that education is key, and provides tons of free training and resources for our employees and our community. This year, we’re really ramping up our training opportunities for clients and web developers looking for more Tendenci training. Keep an eye on our Events Calendar to find new webinars, in-person workshops, and other classes we’ll be adding this year. We’ll also be sharing more nonprofit website success stories and technology tips and tricks in our email newsletters and here on the blog.

What topics do you want to learn more about? Tell us in the comments below or send us an email. Now, here’s the 3 tech trends I predict will be the biggest nonprofit boosters in 2013.

Avoid the “ooh shiny!” Syndrome in 2013

All three of my top trends are going to be familiar to you. There’s no surprise tech hidden in this blog post… and that’s because 2013 is going to be the year we all focus on simplification and education. Marketers are overwhelmed trying to produce enough content and users don’t have time to read it.

This year, instead of creating a new account for every “next big social media app” – spend time looking into your analytics to see what’s not working that well and cut it out. That’s why each of my predictions include some of the things to consider before you jump into the newest web trend. You’ve got a lot on your plate this year if you’re going to change the world, so be selective with your time.

Trend #1 – Online Video Becomes Mainstream

In the 2012 report released by the NPD Group, 45% of people in a survey said that the TV was their primary screen for watching online videos. In 2011, that figure was 33%. The report also discovered that online video viewing from PCs is declining, because more people are watching internet videos on their TV’s, instead of watching traditional television and cable programs.  It’s pretty obvious to me that in 2013, we’ll see that number rise well above the 50% and online video becomes something families watch together.

Google’s been preparing for this for years and you can apply for the Google for Nonprofits program to get a premium YouTube Brand channel that offers additional tools to customize and promote your stories through video. If you already have a YouTube Brand Channel and are trying to figure out how to better utilize it, then check-out this cool YouTube Brand Channel Interactive Show And Tell Google and TED developed. Download the Playbook Guide: Youtube for Good to get started with Youtube for your nonprofit with great tips, examples, and advice specifically developed for nonprofit’s seeking to boost their engagement online through videos.

Should You Focus on YouTube This Year?

Videos are a great platform for telling engaging stories and driving action from people and are a perfect tool for nonprofits. Videos also take time, money, and a fair amount of expertise with filming and editing. Before you dive into a YouTube Brand Channel, you’ll want to evaluate your resources and compare them to the costs involved with managing the production process to create new and engaging videos regularly.

Large organizations probably want to get serious about allocating a portion of your budget for video marketing and make this the year you commit. Smaller and mid-sized organizations who haven’t done any online video marketing yet may want to start with making one video that they can embed on your website and share on your Facebook page to get an idea of what an ongoing video campaign would entail.

I wrote about nonprofit video storytelling in a blog post last year with great advice that still holds true. In addition though, new online video tools have been popping up almost daily that are inexpensive and easy to use. Here’s a few video apps I recommend that will introduce you to online video production and marketing:

animoto how to make a video

Animoto’s Video Maker How- To

  • Animoto - I love how EASY it is to use Animoto and they offer free upgraded features for nonprofits. Check out the Animoto blog to watch other nonprofit videos created with Animoto.
  • GoAnimate! Videomaker - Sign-up for their basic plan (it’s free) and try your skills at making animated videos. GoAnimate also has a ton of Video Maker Tips on topics like selecting animation software and directing voice overs in your videos.
  • Wistia – Host your online videos here instead of YouTube when you need to keep your videos privately accessible by members or specific people. Wistia has a free plan that includes 5 videos, and integrates with other tools you’re already using like Salesforce, Google Analytics, and many social sharing sites, including Facebook.

Trend #2 – Leave Your Wallet at Home, Just Remember Your Smartphone!

Mobile Payments just might be the biggest disruptive tech in 2013. This technology is changing the economy in Africa at a pace never before seen, and Africa isn’t the only economically disadvantaged country that’s benefiting from mobile technologies. Ironically, the U.S. is one of the slowest countries to adopt mobile payments technology, primarily because the US banking industry already had a very large technical infrastructure in place that wasn’t compatible with mobile payment tech.

upgrade your wallet with square

Americans are gradually adopting mobile payments, and Starbucks, in a partnership with Square, is leading the pack of businesses who’ve discovered how to profit from mobile payments, with a reported 7 million users paying for their morning cup of coffee with their smartphones. Mobile and web merchant account providers have been learning from the early adopters, like Starbucks, that the key to increasing consumer adoption of  mobile payments means designing a better experience via “virtual wallet” apps for iOS and Android devices.

Square, for example, offers a free mobile wallet app that includes features for earning and tracking loyalty points from participating vendors, sending and receiving virtual gift cards, and reporting tools on how you’re spending money. Square wants to increase adoption of mobile payments by creating that emotional connection between a consumer and their virtual wallet; evident when you visit their website:
“A wallet holds credit and debit cards, half-punched loyalty cards, wrinkled checks, and ancient receipts. But a wallet should do more. It should help you discover great places and earn you rewards. It should help you build relationships, not just pay for things.” 
A wallet that helps you build relationships? That sounds exactly like the kind of wallet a great donor is going to have, and that’s why nonprofits should start incorporating mobile payment options that go beyond the web page.

Things to Consider Before Jumping into Mobile Payments

Of the three trends I list here, mobile payments is the one that you definitely shouldn’t ignore. Why? Because it’s relatively cheap, easy to set-up and manage, and you don’t want to ever miss a donation opportunity. Gen Y and Millenials are growing up and growing ever more attached to their mobile devices, and they don’t have the barriers towards adopting new technology.

If you haven’t been taking online payments through your website, then this could be a great opportunity to jump into digital payments for donations. That being said, you still want to do the research to determine if and how your organization can benefit from mobile payment adoption. Here’s some tips to help you evaluate mobile payments:

  • If you aren’t able to or don’t need to accept financial contributions, then it’s probably safe to say you don’t need mobile payments.
  • You probably don’t need to spend the money to have a custom mobile app designed, however if you’re looking for options then you might want to check out LevelUp’s white label option which saves you time and money by giving you a custom designed app built on a pre-existing platform.
  • Sixrevisions has a great article that provides an overview of online payment processing including definitions of commonly used terms and reviews of 10 most common online merchant account providers.
  • If you’re looking for SMS (text) donation options, Wikipedia provides a great overview of SMS giving platforms with examples of nonprofits that have had success with text donations.
  • MobileCause develops mobile fundraising tools for nonprofits and has a great collection of nonprofit mobile donation success stories.

Trend #3 – Tablets are More than Just Mobile, They’re Everywhere iphone red cross ipad mobile app screenshot

Many nonprofit organizations have been using tablets for engaging with their constituents over the past couple of years. Museums, like the Smithsonian and Children’s Museum of Houston, incorporate tablets into their exhibits to increase interactivity with their members. Humanitarian organizations, like the Red Cross and  FEMA, are using tablets for their mobile staff who need access to email and online tools while working in remote locations or regions that have had their infrastructure destroyed from natural disasters.

Even though many nonprofits have readily adopted tablets for mobile engagement efforts, most haven’t taken a look at how their own .Org’s website looks on a tablet, or more importantly, tried to complete their online donation form from a tablet.  This past year, tablets were repeatedly out-purchasing smartphones, and I’m predicting that nonprofits will miss out on potential fundraising opportunities if their websites aren’t donation-friendly for tablet users.
What does your website look like on an iPad? How does it look on a 7″ screen vs 9″ or 10″? These are the kinds of questions you should have been asking in 2012, because there’s a great chance that visitors are looking at your website from a tablet now more than their smartphones. If you’d like to see some examples of great mobile sites for nonprofits, check out Nonprofits.org’s article on “Three NonProfits Pioneering Responsive Web Design.”
Tablets give you a faster browsing experience and longer battery life compared to smartphones, without sacrificing their portability. In addition to providing a better mobile experience than smartphones, tablets also tend to have lower prices for features than smartphones. You can spend $600+ for an iPhone5 or you can spend $400 for a Google Nexus and get a higher performance tablet that comes with more storage, longer battery life, and a bigger screen. Tablet prices are dropping fast too, with $100 prices being touted at CES this year.
Granted, the tablets don’t come with the ability to make phone calls – but who cares? We can download one of the numerous free (or nearly free) apps that allow us to have voice over IP chats and just hunker down in the nearest Starbucks or McDonalds for the free wi-fi. Check out Viber’s app, for example. I find it interesting that the only “downside” I can think of to a tablet versus a smartphone is the size – and if we go back to trend #1, you’ll recall that we’re rapidly moving our online video experience to the larger tv screens. We want the larger screen.
Tablets seem to have found their niche as the perfect balance between mobility, performance and screen size. 

Should You Invest in Tablets and Mobile Tech?

tablet users have high expectations of performance I highly recommend you head over to Beth Kanter’s blog to find the in-depth answer to this question in the post: How and When Should Your Nonprofit Organization Invest in Mobile. It recommends you look at your site’s traffic sources and if you’re getting more than 20% traffic from mobile devices, then you should prioritize getting a mobile-friendly website design. If you’re getting less than 20% mobile traffic but the vast majority of your online community is reporting issues with using your site on mobile devices, you might also want to look at a redesign. Tablets come with an entirely different interface from other devices, navigating the web using gestures. Finger swipes and taps interact with web pages different than a mouse and keyboard. Most websites, even those with responsive or mobile stylesheets, weren’t designed to engage with visitors that way. A recent survey done by Compuware.com on tablet user web experience expectations shared that not only did tablet users expect a website page to load in 2 seconds or less, tablet users also expected their tablet to perform as well as their laptops. If you don’t own a tablet, I recommend heading to your local Best Buy or Fry’s and playing with some of the different models. Find one that has access to websites and go look at yours and other sites and try clicking through the sites and performing the same functions you would normally perform from your PC and Smartphone. In particular, try making a donation on your website from a tablet and see if you run into any roadblocks.

Did you run into problems testing your donations form using a tablet? If so – you probably will want to look at updating your site to a responsive designed theme. Want to go more in-depth with tablet design for websites? Here’s some great articles I recommend:

  • Find out the “Do’s and Don’ts” for tablet website design in this article on 1stwebdesigner.com, which includes tips like keep your website design simple, don’t use flash animation, and consider the information tablet users are looking for when they visit your site so you can highlight this on your homepage and in your site’s headers or footers.
  • Webdesign.tutsplus.com has a great article that teaches the 6 tips to remember when designing for tablets. The article gives realistic advice like how to design for fingers instead of mouse clicks, and designing for multiple orientations.
  • Here’s a Collection of Mobile Smartphone and Tablet Stats and Trends reported in 2012 via Mobile Marketer that you might want to check out if you’re interested in looking for at trends in mobile marketing.
  • Check out the results of a 2013 Consumer focused survey by Accenture which evaluates the devices that are going to be the most popular, and shares the best tactics to use based on your audience’s preferred devices – download the PDF of the Survey and Read the Full Article on TechCrunch.com.

What Trends do You See Coming in 2013?

My predictions are based solely on my experience and research, and you most likely have a different perspective that I haven’t thought of yet. What trends do you see coming in 2013 that nonprofits should be paying attention to?

Tell us in the comments below!

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