In one minute, there are 98,000 tweets, 695,000 Facebook updates, and two days worth of YouTube videos uploaded. Amidst this media saturation, studies suggest that you have less than 10 seconds to grab the attention of your audience. As a non-profit, you not only need to get their attention, but make them care enough about your cause to convince them to act in some way: volunteer, call their Representatives, donate. How to do that?

Oddly enough, Valentine’s Day has the answer: Speak to their hearts and make them fall in love.

In social media as in the real world, if you want to be ‘Liked,’ start expressing yourself in a way that makes your audience feel.

Emotional media compels rather than convinces; it activates an internal drive beyond rational thought. We like to believe that we “think therefore we are,” but recent neuroscience research suggests the opposite – unless we can feel, we can’t really think. Specifically, we can’t make decisions and without decisions there is no action. Since action is what you need, it is to your cause’s advantage to speak the language of the emotional brain. Here’s how:

The language of the emotional brain is sensual, not verbal. A powerful social media message then, will not contain words or numbers, but rather anything that appeals to the 5 senses. Two very important rules follow from that:

Rule #1: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Use images, videos, music, art, movement, color, anything that appeals to our 5 senses.

Rule #2: Show Me, Don’t Tell Me
Since I follow the rules, I will now show you, rather than tell you how to create emotional media.

This video has received 42 million views, about a million a month since 2008. Why is it emotional media? There are no words, just music and dance creating a feeling. What if your non-profit organization dedicated to easing racial tensions, uniting cultures, or encouraging cross-cultural exchange used this to promote your cause using a short call to action at the end? If you did, it wouldn’t matter that the specific activities of your organization weren’t detailed – what one gains from watching this is a sense of uplift that compels good will. You know which organization did understand the power of this example of emotional media? Visa.

6.3 million views since 2008. What if your organization dedicated to protecting lions or their habitat used something like this? The Born Free Foundation dedicated to doing exactly that released a video called “Christian the Lion – full ending” and created their own YouTube Channel to take advantage of the popularity of this video and promote their cause.

Andrea Keller is an artist who was asked by New Roads School in Los Angeles to help bring the people whose names graced their classrooms to life. Seeing the chain link fences surrounding their school as a grand needlepoint canvas and also as a huge pixilated digital file, she engaged the kids in doing exactly that. The fences effectively served as a living mission statement of the school. As the Head of School remarked, “We try to send the message that when people work together with a common purpose great things can be accomplished.” What if your organization thought about creative ways to make your mission statement tangible to your audience?

“Showing Emotion is the New Black”

There are more examples of emotional media than there is room in this post. Unfortunately most of them are created by for-profit corporations who are ahead of non-profits in understanding the power of emotional media. The most tweeted takeaway from the 2011 word-of-mouth marketing conference was by the director of U.S. Communications for McDonald’s: “For brands, showing emotion is the new black.”

Unlike hamburgers, your cause is worthy of real emotion. It’s Valentine’s Day – time to remember what it is you deeply love about what you do. What made you fall in love with it? What compels you to give your heart and soul to your organization? Now show us.

(Image courtesy Boston Herald)
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Darci Andresen is a communications professional and evolutionary biologist who believes that your non-profit can rule the social media universe and catalyze lasting change – just listen to your heart.