By Jennifer Strachan
So far it has been a bit of a mystery. As we work to understand our new and evolving audiences on all digital platforms, how we might serve them well on social media has been particularly perplexing. What are we trying to achieve for our organizations by doing this work? A ton of likes to our pages or stories? What is the value of social media in the grand scheme of engagement, retention and conversion?
CDP and the Digital Engagement Council (DEC) decided it was time to do some deeper diving.
One of the questions CDP has been exploring through its partnership with the DEC is quantifying the value of paid media buys. We’ve long lived by the old saying “you’ve got to spend money to make money”. So what do we need to allocate to digital budgets to make fundraising efforts more successful?
We decided to test how a specific email campaign paired with advertising in Facebook might lift conversion. While similar efforts have shown to be anecdotally successful, the complex nature of multi-channel tracking has made it difficult to attribute the cause absolutely.
CDP / DEC reached out to Facebook to ensure we ran our test effectively. Because our initial buy-in was relatively small, Facebook referred us to ActionSprout: a app/tool exclusively for nonprofits on Facebook, which moves people beyond likes and shares. The Washington based team behind the tool is laser-beam focused on fundraising via Facebook, and has had unique access into the platform. After talking with them at length, we were excited that they offered to help us execute our testing, and interested in some eye-opening ideas that have us thinking about the potential engagement opportunities ahead.
Facebook is Still Learning
It shouldn’t surprise us to learn that while the teams at Facebook are continually looking to improve their product, non-profit fundraising is just now getting its time in the sandbox. In fact, they have created a digital sandbox of sorts, where a few organizations have been asked to test a separate fundraising page that might better serve their needs. The current efforts have not addressed those unique needs and testing new approaches should prove helpful to those of us that follow.
According to ActionSprout, donate buttons on pages simply don’t work. They’ve been tried and tested, improved and promoted and users have not responded. The public service announcement-type content that many non-profits use, has also been a non-starter and has left many organizations wondering how to make their mark in this important space.
Promote the Best, Not the Worst
One of the best tidbits of advice from ActionSprout in making our Facebook efforts primed for success is remembering how the algorithm hurts or helps us. Not familiar with the algorithm? In short, you are rewarded by Facebook for doing well with your users, and punished for doing poorly. Meaning, even if you have 20,000 followers, if you do not have engaging material (they click on it, like it, comment on it or share it) then Facebook shows less and less content to them. You may think you’re posting an item out to 20K followers, when in reality it may only be 2K. This highlights why it’s critical to learn from what our audiences are responding to on social media, and continue to provide them with content that they find useful, entertaining and interesting.
One trick for doing that? Keep promoting the content that really works…multiple times. Promoting can mean simply re-publishing a story that ran earlier in the week that did well or paying a small fee to have Facebook promote it for you (buck the algorithm and show it to more users using the “Boost” button). Ever notice how that one New York Times article keeps showing back up in your news feed? “Didn’t I already see this?”, you might wonder. Yes, because NYT are showing the BEST of what they’ve done in social.
If you’ve ever mistakenly thought that Facebook might be a place to bring something to life that may be slightly sleepy or slow, ActionSprout tells us that this strategy will be an engagement and algorithm killer.
Facebook as a Fundraising Compliment
One reason CDP is eager to test out the multi-channel tracking test with ActionSprout is to learn how the platform might compliment our other fundraising efforts rather than stand-alone as a membership converter. Since so many of our listeners and viewers are on Facebook, therein lies a natural connection point that is less invasive. Some of the questions we’re working to answer are:
- If a Facebook ad reminds you of your local station and that email you just received, does it make a difference?
- How many touch points do we need to donate and how important is social on that path?
Facebook is a powerful engagement driver and could potentially hold untapped potential for non-profit fundraising and membership conversion. Being ready with the right content delivery to a targeted audience in our tests, we hope to shed some light on these questions and share new ways to find our footing on the ever-changing and slippery digital slope. The CDP/DEC testing and analysis of results will conclude in August. Stay tuned for more about our findings, coming soon!
***Jennifer Strachan is a public media strategist, leader of the Digital Engagement Council and contributor to the CDP blog.