Powerful new content strategy to boost reach and engagement

The Wilderness Society is using a new strategy to grow its Facebook Page—and save time to boot. In fact, more and more social media managers are finding success with this technique.

The key to growing your Page is to regularly post great content, whether that’s your own unique content or shared content from other sources.

The problem is, it’s hard to predict which posts will perform well with your audience.

That’s why we developed a tool that changes all that. Inspiration finds proven, high-quality content and collects it all in one place for easy browsing.

We asked The Wilderness Society (TWS) to walk us through their strategy and success with Inspiration.

The Wilderness Society

The Wilderness Society has built up one of the best-performing pages in the environmental community. Currently, their Facebook Page has 372,493 likes and it posts content 2–3 times a day.

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Inspiration has helped them continue the momentum. Inspiration focuses on over-performance, showing you only the best content in your network. For example, if you are looking at a Page that normally gets 50 likes per post and their newest post has 300 likes (600% over performance), that’s the content you should use.

On a typical day, they usually check their Inspiration feed 1–3 times, scanning for shareable content that is performing above 200%:

“We’re typically looking for content that Wilderness Society users may be highly interested in, or content that is performing robustly for other groups and that will perform well with our audiences. I like Inspiration’s performance data at the top of each post, as this allow me to cut straight to the best content and spend less time culling through mediocre posts.”

These daily checks have saved TWS a couple of hours each week, which they would have spent browsing Facebook to find great content. They now find and post 1–3 high-quality posts per week from Inspiration and see them resonate with their audience.

“I see a greater variety of content, and not just the content that Facebook thinks I want to see. This allows me to do less searching and fewer visits to specific pages to find good content to share. It also helps surface worthy news from organizations that we’ve been following on Facebook for some time, but whom I’ve never once seen pop up in our Facebook News Feed.”

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This has introduced them to high-performing content that they may not have seen otherwise, that then went on to over-perform on their own Page:

“We found this cute bear wrestling video from the Interior Department on Inspiration. It was our highest performing post of the week and inspired a high rate of commentary. Before Inspiration, it’s possible we may have found this post through a regular search of the DOI feed, but it’s also possible we would have missed it or come to it a day after it was posted.”

bear post

This is the type of post our followers love and we wouldn’t want to miss sharing a spectacular video moment like this one—a moment that highlights the precious reasons we protect wilderness. Inspiration ensured that we didn’t miss this video and helped us find it shortly after DOI posted it—I believe within the hour.”

But Inspiration can be more than finding and posting great content. You can also draw “inspiration” from your feed and create unique new content based on what you find.

It’s also great for social listening:

“On occasion I use it to see how like-minded organizations are responding to breaking news or other events—specifically to see how followers of like-minded groups or news orgs respond to certain news items.”

The Pages you follow in Inspiration are not notified in any way that you follow them. This allows you to follow Pages that you normally wouldn’t publicly.

But most importantly, it’s essential to follow like-minded pages that have a similar mission and audience to your own:

“[We follow] other nonprofit conservation groups, Governmental agencies like the Interior Department, and environmental publishers like Grist and Treehugger. We follow these to see what other similar groups are doing on social.”

Let’s recap the main points:

  • The number one way to grow your Page is to consistently post over-performing content.
  • Repost your own over-performing content and share others’ for maximum growth and engagement.
  • Check Inspiration every day for greater success and growth.
  • Follow Pages in Inspiration that you wouldn’t publicly, and practice social listening.
  • Use Inspiration to learn what’s trending and to gain ideas for your own original content.

Powerful way to grow your supporter mailing list on Facebook

AlterNet receives more than 1.5 million unique monthly visitors and more than 7.5 million monthly page views. Recently they launched a campaign to grow their mailing list with ActionSprout social actions. In a week’s time they had already collected 7,000 supporter email addresses!

How did they do it?

AlterNet ran a series of petition and demand based political actions focusing on federal policy and local reform. Each action was posted to Facebook at least 3 times. Overall they posted an action to Facebook every day.

To support this level of activity AlterNet aimed to create a least one new action a day. Once in the groove of things each action took less than an hour to make.

Let’s look at two of their most successful actions.

Co-Sign This Letter of Demands to Pres. Obama on the TPP

This action was posted to Facebook three times of the course of a week.

  • 2,670 people engaged with the post (likes, shares and comments)
  • 4.645 supporters viewed the action
  • 1,795 supporters completed the action
  • Completion rate: 38.6%

Thank Elizabeth Warren & Senate Dems Who Opposed the TPP

This action was posted once to Facebook and received 2,000 shares.

  • 9,248 people engaged with the post
  • 10,193 people viewed the action
  • 1,838 supporters completed the action
  • Completion rate: 18%

Actions for List Building

As you can see, social actions are a powerful way to engage supporters and build your mailing list. If you’re willing to put in the time and get in the practice of creating effective actions your hard work will pay serious dividends in the future.

What if your organization isn’t “a AlterNet?” Are these results still possible? Yes! List building isn’t just for large, powerhouse pages.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Post each action multiple times. This will increase the number of people who see your action and thus can increase your reach and engagement. Don’t worry about the same people seeing your post every time either. Facebook has stated that a new portion of your audience will receive reposted content, making it hard to spam your followers.
  • Keep things fresh with new actions. It’s fine to create evergreen actions that you can post multiple times. (In fact you should be doing this!) But it’s also important to be creating new actions that take advantage of timely stories and trending content. These types of actions tend to perform the best and will receive the most engagement. Shot for creating one new action a week and work your way up from there.
  • Learn what kinds of actions your supporters respond too. AlterNet tends to post petition and demand actions because that’s what their supporters respond to. Your supporter might respond to letters and thank you actions. The thing is you’ll never know until you test it! Be sure to test different action types until you hit on what works.
  • Post an action to Facebook everyday. This follows the same logic as number one. The more your post the more opportunities your giving supporters to see your actions. Check your Facebook – Insights and learn what time of the day your supporters use Facebook. Test morning vs night to see which one leads to more completions. Finding your sweat spot may take time but it will be worth it in the long run.
  • Always experiment and test new strategies. Facebook is constantly changing. What works now may not in 6 months or a year. The key is to stay fresh, try new things and keep up! There’s no easier answer to this so have fun with it and listen to your supporters.

Your Facebook Audience: How to Convert More Than 2%

Remember When Google was the New Kid?

If you were a webmaster back then, it was relatively easy to get your website onto the first page of Google search results. If you were thoughtful about your copy, included logical meta-tags in your site header and perhaps got a few decent-traffic backlinks…

…Google would serve you up like a delicious dish of pasta at your favorite Italian restaurant.

But as the volume of websites expanded, those darn Google engineers kept going to work every single day. And dang it if they weren’t constantly looking for ways to improve the quality of search results.

It didn’t take them long to realize that just because a site had the right “keywords” and meta-tags and a few good links, it didn’t mean the content on that site was really what the searcher wanted.

So, as frustrating as it was for website managers, Google kept tweaking their algorithm. Given their value proposition, this only made sense. Their goal was to be THE place people went when they needed information about any topic on earth. And the better the content they could serve up, they knew, the more people would come back.

Maintaining the quality of search results is a never-ending quest

  • Google’s fight to maintain and improve search result quality is akin to anti-virus software companies that constantly work to detect new threats.
  • The economic value of showing up high in Google search results is just too significant not to attract outside developers trying to manipulate the algorithm.
  • Consider companies with valuations in the tens of millions who’ve been driven out of business due to a change Google rolled out. Today, successful websites still employ SEO experts, but now they work closely with content marketers as well.

They understand that in order to show up high in search results, they need to serve up content that provides real value: engagement.

What Does This Have to do with Facebook?

Well, to paraphrase Mark Twain, history might not repeat itself but it rhymes. Today, we take Google’s constant quest to improve search results as a fact of life. Heck, we appreciate it!

But over at Facebook, we’re experiencing the end of the “early days” and have entered a new era of increased scrutiny by the company around which page-content to show to which Facebook users.

Back in December they posted this to their Facebook for business blog:

“People are connecting and sharing more than ever… competition for each News Feed story is increasing… For many Pages, this includes a decline in organic reach. We expect this trend to continue as the competition for each story remains strong and we focus on quality.”

“Ultimately, what’s good for people on Facebook is good for the businesses that use Facebook to reach and engage them. One of the ways we maintain a good balance between the two is by making sure News Feed is as interesting and timely as possible.”

Facebook is a public company that focuses on one product: their end users’ eyeballs!

Just as website managers find new ways to add value in order to show up in Google’s search results, Facebook managers add real value for a Facebook audience in order to show up in their News Feed.

Rest assured that Facebook’s quest to improve its filtering and selection of content is only going to intensify.

In fact, on April 10th Facebook announced a number of tweaks designed to “Clean Up News Feed Spam” that provides more evidence of their increased battle to improve News Feed content quality.

We’ve all heard the outcry from page managers complaining that Facebook is no longer delivering their posts to “their fans”. I certainly understand the frustration from organizations that invested in building fans must feel.

  • Facebook created the whole “like this page” thing as a way to let end-users inform Facebook that they care about certain pages.
  • Liking is a pretty simple way to tell Facebook this kind of stuff.

But what we like one year becomes spam the next… Once someone starts receiving News Feed content , they have a very powerful way to tell Facebook they don’t care anymore…

They ignore it!

There’s nothing louder than silence on Facebook…

And, the smart Facebook engineers have learned that with 1500 other possible stories to choose from at any given moment, it’s wise to select one from another source. One that a Facebook audience interacts with and that tends to bring them back to the site and keep them hanging around.

When a Facebook audience chooses NOT to engage with content time and again, Facebook hears something like this;

“Hey Facebook, I still like this page, but their content isn’t of interest to me and won’t really keep me coming back to check my News Feed or spend more time in your glorious walled garden.”

It’s time that Facebook page managers with 2% organic reach accept the fact that the reason their content is failing to land in many people’s New Feed is not because of some big Facebook conspiracy.

It’s because they’re failing to create content that people engage with; that adds value to their audience’s life; that they care about!

Here’s a Secret…

Facebook wants you to succeed at creating great content. Their entire platform depends on having good content they can use to fill countless hours of their 1.23 billion users’ time.

Here’s Another One…

Facebook’s paid reach products have become quite good over the past year.

Here at ActionSprout, many of our customers measure the ROI of their Facebook efforts in terms of page engagement rates and email acquisition costs.

So, if you focus on creating great content that your Fans engage with, you’ll find Facebook really can be a highly effective channel for reaching, engaging and capturing supporters.

Just ask organizations like OurTime.org and DailyKos.org who continue to enjoy remarkable delivery rates even as other folks are crying foul.

If you want to directly reach people on your terms without paying, you need to focus providing content that keeps them engaging on Facebook day after day. If you want those people to impact your mission, you need them to engage beyond Like, Comment and Share! And today, that often starts by them joining your email list.

We built ActionSprout to help nonprofit organizations find and post more engaging content, deepen relationships with their Facebook audience and capture email and other information so they can evolve their relations beyond Facebook’s walled garden.

6 principals of effective Facebook Ad Imagery

Facebook released an ad image cheat sheet that seemed to list general advice on images. This caused more than a few folks to be disappointed, as they were expecting to see technical advice and image specs. What we should keep in mind though is this: Facebook ads have their own algorithm that can either work for you or against you. Similar to the News Feed algorithm that can hurt our organic reach, ads can become more expensive to run when running counter to what the algorithm wants.

This cheat sheet from Facebook is a look inside what they, and their ad algorithms are looking for from your ads. If your ad images follow these guidelines, you should expect to run less expensive ads that engage and reach more of your intended audience. With this in mind, here’s what Facebook has to say on ad images:

Facebook’s Ad Images Cheat Sheet

  1. Show the interesting part of your business. Grab people’s attention with images of your people, products and environment.

  2. Avoid distracting image elements, like bad lighting. You want people to pay attention to your image, not your image quality.

  3. Match your image to your message. Your image and words should individually convey your message but also complement each other.

  4. Use images that incite emotion. Emotion is a powerful tool for connecting with your audience.

  5. Use images that reflect your brand. Include your brand’s color or products in your images.

  6. Stay consistent. Ad images should look and feel the same across channels so that customers recognize your messages.

Refresh your images. Ad campaigns fatigue over time, so review performance and update your images when you see ad performance dip.

What about Nonprofits?

I know the language from Facebook focuses heavily on brands and for profit organizations, but these guidelines can totally be applied to nonprofits and causes as well. Let’s go through the points in more detail and look at how nonprofits can succeed.

  1. Show the interesting part of your nonprofit or cause. Grab people’s attention with images of your team, supporters and work. People support your organization because they are interested in you and your cause. Feed their interest with images of your team hard at work in the field! This will engage them further and feed their curiosity.

  2. Avoid distracting image elements, like bad lighting. You want people to pay attention to your image, not your image quality.This one is true for anyone. The problem is you can’t always help the lighting! Never fear here are some guides that will show you how even in low light it’s possible to shoot good photos.

  3. Match your image to your message. Your image should strengthen your message, not confuse it.

  4. Use images that incite emotion. Emotion is a powerful tool for connecting with your audience. There is a fine line between enough emotion to move someone to action and too much where they begin to shut down. Therefore it’s important to always use one emotion, one call to action and one target focus.Emotions should be positive and optimistic on Facebook. Even if the cause looks bleak, inspire hope that your supports can make a difference if they act now.

  5. Use images that reflect your nonprofit’s brand. Include your brand’s color(s) or logo in your images. Yes, even your nonprofit has a brand. It may not be the typical corporate brand we usually think of but it’s a brand no less. Anything that gives your nonprofit its sense of unity or personality is your brand. These are things like logos, colors, style and tone, image subjects and more.Chances are your nonprofit already has a brand, you just haven’t thought of it that way. Here’s a good example of five nonprofits who maintain a consistent brand to give you a better idea.

  6. Stay consistent. Ad images should look and feel the same across channels so that supporters recognize you and your cause.This is true for anything you do, not just ads. Similar to branding, this is important to build and maintain so that supporters can recognize you and your cause across different platforms. This is becoming increasing important as we use more and more platforms for interaction and out reach.


  1. Images + text are a winning duo. Similar to memes, these have the power to engage and reach tons of people you normally may not have. Put a little ad money behind it and they are even more powerful. Just keep in mind that Facebook ad images can only contain 20% text so don’t get carried away. Facebook supplies a great tool that you can use to make sure your images meet the mark.

  2. Actions make for great ad content. If you have an action that is doing particularly well it may be worth putting some ad money behind and giving it an extra boost. You can do so by choosing to “Promote a Post” inside the ad manager then picking your Action post.


You can download or bookmark Facebook’s full pdf here.

While choosing images for your ad is both an art and science, these general best practices are definitely worth following. Have fun, experiment and listen to your audience. They will lead you in the right direction.

Facebook can be your most Powerful Fundraising Tool

Increasingly, Organizations are Finding Success in Facebook Fundraising

Between 2012 and 2014, social donations rose by 32%.

90% of these social donations were made through Facebook. To really put that in perspective, the next highest platform, Twitter, sits at 3% of all social donations.

[well]The obvious conclusion: Social donation is growing and Facebook is king. [/well]

These findings came from a study conducted by DonorDrive, and are really quite eye-opening.

Increasingly, users are growing more comfortable with giving on Facebook and nonprofits, are getting better at encouraging and asking for these donations.

Social media (Facebook in particular) is the new frontier of giving. If your nonprofit isn’t fundraising on Facebook, you could be losing thousands in donations every year.

Here are some pro fundraising tips that will lead to more donations and passionate, engaged supporters:

Be Audience-centric

The most important part of creating a donation action is putting your audience first. Get to know them—look for patterns and clues. What actions and issues have done well previously? Past performance is a great predictor of future success. Look at past fundraising efforts and see what worked and what didn’t. You can also use Insights or the Page Analyzer to look at your posts and find what’s working. This will give you some clues on what your audience will engage with and support.

Be Solvable

Your audience has to believe that their donation will lead to positive change; can you express that? Let potential donors know how and where their money will be used. Make them believe their money will have an impact. The better you paint this story, the more donations your cause will receive, so spend some time here.

Practice the Right Content Strategies

Whether writing in the Facebook post or on the donation landing page, these tips work in all formats:

  1. Donate for change: Your supporters, no matter how loyal they are to your organization, are really donating to effect change on an issue they care about. That should be your ask.
  2. Chip in: It’s been shown in some nonprofits tests that using the word ‘donate’ actually reduces donations. Try something like ‘chip in’ or ‘pitch in’.
  3. Motivation: Using a motivational format can help catalyze activity. Try this simple format (whether in a few sentences or few paragraphs—depending on what’s appropriate): state the problem, share the solution, and tell people how they can take action to make that solution a reality.
  4. Emotion: Can you evoke an emotional reaction that will compel your audience to donate?
  5. Urgent: You only have your supporters’ attention for a few seconds. Is there a way to convey that this donation needs to be taken right away?
  6. Looking Good: Facebook is a social space. Your action should be something they want to be seen supporting. Will taking this action make your audience look good to their friends and family?
  7. Clear: Is it relatively simple to understand this donation action?
  8. Directed: It helps if the action is directed at a specific goal, e.g. keeping open a children’s hospital, saving a local park, passing legislation, etc.
  9. Goals: Set targets for donations and outcomes achieved. Targets put perspective on your campaign. No matter how much or little someone gives, they know they are chipping away at the set goal. They can easily see that their donation had an impact.

Top Tip: Issue not organization: Keep the fundraising appeal tied to supporting an issue, not the organization. Even your most dedicated supporters ultimately care more about the issues than the organization that works on them.

Pick The Right Image

Make sure that the image is powerful and attention-grabbing, but also relates directly to your action.

  1. Consistency: Your image should be the same for both the post and the landing page.
  2. Link Post: The link post format for images is optimal because when clicked, it will take your supporters directly to the landing page. Make sure that it is 1200×627.
  3. Text: If you have the ability, add your donation ask on the image text. If you decide to run ads as well, keep the text to no more than 20% of the image.


Some organizations have found that they can raise almost as much from using an upsell strategy as from doing direct fundraising appeals. If you haven’t heard of it, an upsell is a secondary action. In other words, if you have a non-fundraising action such as pledging, the next page that the action-taker will see will be a fundraising appeal.

This upsell strategy can work well because many of your supporters who took the initial action will be the same type of people who are motivated to take a fundraising action. In fact, they might already be more committed because of the initial action.

  1. Relevant: Relate the upsell fundraising appeal as much as possible to the action or issue that the action-taker is supporting. For example, if your supporter is pledging to stop bullying, ask them to fund the effort to launch an anti-bullying campaign.

  2. Clean Transition: Make sure that the transition from the action to the fundraiser isn’t jarring. Think about elements like consistent voice, style and web address.

Don’t forget to Repost!

If you are finding a fundraising action that works, keep posting it until it’s not doing as well. Jewish Voice for Peace created 11 different posts to promote their one fundraising action, whereas the Bob Brown Foundation did three posts.

Make it Simple for Supporters to Give

38% of social donations happen from a smartphone. That means the simpler and more straightforward your donation ask is, the more likely supporters are to give. Eliminating unnecessary steps and being upfront with your ask will increase the number of mobile users who complete the donation process.

Do you have the Necessary Engagement?

There is one caveat to the strategies above. Outside of the rare exception of a serious viral moment, direct Facebook fundraising first requires a sizeable engaged community. Peter Deitz puts it like this:

“Consider engagement like an open rate. According to M+R, .07% of people who receive NGO fundraising emails donate. That means, on average, you need 10K people on your email list to receive seven donations.”

Let’s look at a successful donation action that illustrates the importance of this.

  • 2,800 people engaged with the action

  • 53 people donated

  • The average donation was $25

  • Bob Brown raised $1,300 total

This kind of response requires some serious engagement.

The lesson: You’ll need a lot of regularly engaged people in order to accomplish meaningful outcomes from social fundraising.

So if you don’t have at least a few hundred people engaging with your posts, consider putting a little more time into building your engaged audience first.

At the end of the day, it’s important to be flexible and not afraid to fail. Every supporter base is as different as the causes they support. It can take a little time to figure out what your audience responds to and how they like to give.

Be patient, learn as you go, and the pieces should fall into place.

3 Facebook goals every nonprofit should obsess over

For too long, your average Facebook Manager thought it was about…

“Building Awareness.”

Today, we recognize how silly it is to think that awareness alone could somehow have a real impact on our mission.

Impact is the result of action, whether it’s supporters lending their voice or time to a campaign, or making a donation to support the cause.

“Engagement” is the term used to describe action online these days and the evolution from “awareness” to “engagement” is a very positive one indeed.

But, engagement is a two-way street. Engaging people requires action on your part, too.

So, how does a pro Facebook manager increase engagement? How do you track progress and know if you’re getting the most out of Facebook?

Here are three big bucket goals that you should be working to improve upon no matter if your page has 3,000 fans or 3 million fans:

  1. Reach a worthwhile number of the right people.
  2. Engage with them in meaningful ways that deepen relationships.
  3. Capturing Data so you can continue to cultivate your relationship over time.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into each of these three goals.


Reach is simply a measure of how many people your message gets to.

Let’s take a look at two Facebook pages to see what we can learn. How about OurTime’s and DoSomething.org because they both do a wonderful job.

And remember, only relative performance matters.

  • OurTime has 990 Likes.
  • DoSomething has 5,630.

If we look at fan count alone, DoSomething is putting OurTime to shame.

But not so fast! Let’s take a closer look at engagement:

OurTime’s stats:


Okay, the number to look at here is the 67,000 people talking about OurTime.org. That’s a substantial number, despite the relatively small number of Likes (exposure). Now, let’s look at the other example.

DoSomething.org stats:


64...so, which organization has greater reach? Clearly, it’s OurTime. And why are they reaching so many more people?

The answer is painfully obvious: OurTime is creating much more highly engaging, viral content. Which leads us to our next key objective.


Engagement and Reach are tightly intertwined, but it’s important to measure both separately so you know where, and on what, to focus time and energy.

Truth is, no matter how large your page is, if people aren’t engaging, your page will fail to provide return on investment.

If people aren’t engaging with actions that further your mission, how can they possibly have an impact?

Facebook is constantly making changes to the algorithm that determines which of your posts show up on which of your Fan’s walls and on which of their friend’s walls.

This algorithm is called EdgeRank.


It’s always been a source of frustration, but the most recent changes have made Facebook even less forgiving to pages that fail to post click-worthy content.

However, as we can see from OurTime’s page performance, edgerank isn’t hurting everyone.

EdgeRank can be your friend if you focus on engaging people. Posting content that engages is the only way you can hope to succeed as a Facebook manager without spending tons of money. Even if you spend that money, without engaging content, your ad dollars aren’t going to bring the return you hope for.

Measuring Engagement

This one is a little harder than reach.

Facebook provides good metrics that help us measure the overall engagement of a page, but it can be hard to really see and learn how we’re doing on a post-by-post basis.

What we really want to measure is how many people on average are engaging with each of your posts and identify those that fall flat.

Understanding average engagement per post, and being able to quickly find your top performing content are the key steps for a Facebook manager to learn what’s working.

Then you can make adjustments to the types of posts you share on your page. One quick and easy way to do this is ActionSprout’s free Facebook Engagement Analyzer.

Let’s do a quick analysis on OurTime’s Facebook pages to see how well they’re each doing with engagement.


By running the tool to generate the report, we can see that over the past hundred or so Facebook posts, OurTime, on average, has engaged 1,206 people per post. Keeping in mind that their current fan count is 990 we give them an engagement score today of 12,182. This is nothing short of extraordinary.

Okay, so posting content that gets people clicking “like”, “share” and commenting is required in order to succeed on Facebook. Does that mean you should just post softball images of kids and kittens?

Of Course Not!

Successful pages on Facebook do a good job of balancing the “cheese and broccoli. “That is, you don’t want a page that has nothing but cheap memes, however, a page with nothing but on-message all-business posts will fail over time.

The right mix is one that allows your page to continually grow while maximizing the quantity and quality of engagement you can drive from your Facebook page.

There are other important factors to be thinking about as you work to engage people on Facebook. These include:

  • Interacting with people in the comments stream.
  • Giving people who are ready for them, actions they can take that go beyond “like”, “comment” or “share”.

Now we need to explore your third key objective, as a Facebook Manager, that brings success and ensures your efforts directly impact your mission.

Capturing Data

Different organizations value different kinds of data.

Depending on what data you keep in your donor/supporter database, and on how you use email and advertising for support, you’ll be looking to capture different kinds of info from supporters.

For most organizations, the important pieces of data they can capture are names and email addresses so they can connect with their supporters directly.

Facebook can be a powerful tool for building your email list, and when coupled with your email strategy, can really help take your donor cultivation to a new level.

Capturing data is tightly connected to engagement on Facebook!

You need to be capturing information about every person that completes an action on your behalf so you can find your biggest supporters, and then reach them directly when you to.

OurTime uses ActionSprout. They’ve given us permission to share some insights gleaned from what they’re doing and the impact their actions are having.

  • Each week OurTime publishes a few posts that include a call to action asking people to do something beyond “like”, “share” or “comment”.
  • They use ActionSprout to do this, enabling them to keep action-takers on Facebook so that Facebook doesn’t punish them for driving traffic off site.
  • They’ve run 9 different actions, each of which has been included as calls to action on several posts.
  • Using ActionSprout OurTime has acquired email addresses for the equivalence of 10% of their Facebook fans.

Interestingly, of those who opted-in for email communication with OurTime on Facebook, only about 30% of those were current fans of their page.

The remaining 70% are new fans won through using engaging actions.

So there you have it.

The formula for getting the most out of your Facebook efforts, include three complimentary, intertwined objectives: Reach, Engage and Collect data.

Email Marketing and Facebook: How To Combine Them and Why

Facebook is always changing and unveiling some new nifty way for nonprofits to reach, capture, and cultivate meaningful relationships with their supporters.

Today it’s easier than ever to combine email marketing (not the spammy kind) and Facebook outreach strategies.

And, the positive impact of a tight knit Facebook + Email community continues to grow as Facebook marches on to become a dominant marketing tool.

To be frank…Facebook is chocolate; email is peanut butter. Together they’re the most digitally delicious peanut butter cup ever!

Organizations that treat Facebook and email as entirely different channels for reaching and engaging supporters are missing out. Those that successfully merge their email and Facebook efforts find themselves with far more benefits than they at first know what to do with!

Why Facebook Increasingly Supports Email Outreach

It’s only natural to just about everyone at this point to merge aspects of social media with email.

Facebook is moving quickly to make it easier for companies to leverage the information and networks of its 1.2 billion users in ways that add REAL VALUE to all marketers: both nonprofits and for-profits.

Consider the important changes Facebook has made to its:

  • API’s
  • Open Graph
  • Search technology
  • Terms of Service
  • Advertising tools

And on and on. Like everything else intertwined with web culture…it’s adapting.

If you look closely at the procession of changes/updates, you quickly see the direction the company’s going.

Simply put, you can capture data and interact on Facebook today in ways almost no one saw coming 12 months ago, especially in the realm of integrated email marketing.

The 3 ‘Marketing Buckets’ of Facebook

That said, let’s dig in. Here’s the basics of Facebook outreach. See anything similar to email marketing?

  • Reaching your target audience through relevancy and authenticity.
  • Cultivating more productive relationships with supporters.
  • Capturing data to evolve these relationships on and off Facebook.

Simple enough. Now let’s go through each and along the way unearth ways you can combine the two.

Reaching Your (Flesh & Blood) Audience

Example: ActionSprout helped Sierra.Rise run an email campaign that drove supporters to a post on their Facebook page instead of a petition page on their website.

You catch that?

From email to public Facebook page instead of their website. For users this means we stay in our comfort zones – email to Facebook profile.

The post itself included a clear Call to Action (CTA) that went beyond mere clicks, Likes, Shares or Comments by asking people to sign a petition directly inside Facebook.


  • The post itself outperformed any other published on their Facebook page in months.
  • They grew their page (community) with high quality supporters.
  • They captured the names and Facebook User ID’s for every person that clicked Like or Commented on the post itself so they can track their engagement over time.
  • They captured the email address of every person that “signed” the petition.
  • They re-engaged existing supporters and captured data to help them better understand their interests.

How To Do This: Drive people to take action on your Facebook page instead of a petition form on your website. Sierra.Rise drove people to a post where they could like, comment and share before clicking through to complete the action on their ActionSprout tab. This created buzz around the cause, introducing it to folks that wouldn’t have heard about it otherwise.

Cultivation & Email Marketing

Stop being content with using Facebook pages as nothing but places to “build awareness” of important causes!

Listen, Facebook knows that its paying customers require real and measurable returns on their advertising dollars.

As a result, they’re making it easier to reach target audiences and engage them in ways that go beyond Like, Share and Comment by using the new Custom Actions Feature.

Hint: Most first experienced Facebook’s new custom actions when they started seeing stories in news feeds about friends listening to songs on Spotify.


By giving platforms like ActionSprout the ability to add new actions for people to take directly in News Feeds, Facebook opened up the ability to build deeper relationships with people right inside our comfort zones.

ActionSprout is among the first to leverage Facebook’s latest API’s, custom actions, and the open graph to support the unique engagement and email marketing needs of nonprofits.

Capturing Supporters & Igniting Action

ActionSprout provides ways to capture data, including email addresses, from people that take meaningful action for a cause or candidate on Facebook.

Most organizations have been investing in building Facebook communities for years.

They’re sitting on tremendous amounts of pent-up (and growing) value locked away inside Facebook in the form of fans and communities.

A study done by NTEN and M+R in 2012 showed Facebook fan growth of 46% –far outpacing email marketing or list growth.

However, to capture email addresses of people on Facebook you NO LONGER have to drive them off to a website or app where they fill out a form and hit submit.

Driving people to take action on or off Facebook, by filling out a form has always fallen flat for two primary reasons:

  1. The completion rates on these forms are very low whether they reside on the organization’s website or are hosted on an app on their Facebook page.
  2. These forms are almost always a viral dead end, which defeats the entire point of Facebook.

This means, if you’re lucky enough to have a post on your Facebook page that does drive people to take action from it, it will simply fail to be shared and spread. In other words, the more successful organizations are at creating posts that drive people to take the action, the less viral it is!

Facebook Offers a Cost-Effective Email Marketing Strategy

Their API’s give people meaningful actions to take directly from their newsfeed!

We can then capture data without forgoing the viral impact of people engaging and sharing content directly on Facebook.

In the past, few organizations looked to Facebook for list growth. This isn’t because they haven’t wanted to grow lists using Facebook –it’s because there were no good ways to do it!

Times have changed.

Nonprofits that use ActionSprout can now log into their ActionSprout account, or connected CRM, and quickly find their most active Facebook supporters.

  • On average, each post that includes an ActionSprout powered call to action converts 5-20% of the total number of people that engage with the post.
  • So, if an organization’s post has 100 people Like, Share or Comment, they’ll receive 5-20 new email addresses from people that were ready to engage even more.

How Email Marketing Adds Value to Facebook Outreach

When an organization posts something to their wall, Facebook only delivers it to 6.5% of their audience.

That’s like having an email list with a 93.5% bounce rate.

Sure, you can pay to get that message seen by more fans, but the fact that individuals are bombarded with an average of about 1500 pieces of content each time they log into Facebook, means “viewer-blindness” kicks in.

  • Email is and will be the most direct and controllable means of reaching supporters electronically for quite some time.
  • The amount of money currently being raised on social sites like Facebook is minuscule compared with the ever-growing amount of money being raised via email.
  • Direct mail still dominates fundraising but email is growing in importance. The good news is that by using Facebook hand in hand with email, organizations enjoy the best of both worlds.

Benefits of Multi-Channel Reach and Engagement

Although email-open rates have remained steady at 15%, click-through rates have dropped to 7%.

Facebook is working furiously to give marketers new ways to target existing email supporters on Facebook at the same time that those marketers are working to reach them via their email inbox.

  • A study done around #GivingTuesday last year showed organizations that used social channels along with email produced 10X the donations on that day.
  • Other studies put the value of a Facebook fan at $161.30 over a 12 month period.
  • Those 5 to 20 new email addresses you gain for every 100 people clicking Like, Share or Comment adds up to an impressive increase in revenue very quickly.

At ActionSprout, we help people leverage Facebook’s ever-changing advertising potential, but, one thing is clear: one of the most powerful ways to target users on Facebook is to target those individuals that already have relationships with an organization.

Each month (and often each week) Facebook releases some new feature or permission that open up new possibilities.

It can be a bit daunting to think about what the future holds for organizations that depend on electronic communications to engage supporters.

But, we can honestly say, the future is bright.

4 Ways to Make Your Facebook Fans Look Amazing!

Each month thousands of nonprofit organizations use ActionSprout to improve their Facebook Page performance and to engage fans beyond likes, shares and comments.

My team works directly with a few dozen of these nonprofits to help strategize and improve the overall performance of their Facebook outreach efforts.

Over the past several months, we’ve started to see clear patterns among the most successful pages. One of the clearest patterns relates to which content does well on Facebook (organic/paid) and which content fails.

In a recent article, I explained that in order for content to succeed on Facebook, it must drive people to engage. It’s not enough to post high-quality content that informs your target audience. Nor is it enough to post content that your fans enjoy consuming.

In order for content to be successful, your Facebook fans and their friends must want to be seen consuming and sharing it!

  • Clicking like, share, comment, or taking a deeper action like the ones ActionSprout powers, are all acts of self-expression on Facebook.
  • When we engage with a piece of content on Facebook, we do so because we want someone to see us do it.
  • Facebook users are keenly aware of the fact that by engaging with your content or taking any social actions, they’re communicating something to their friends.

As a page manager, your job is to create content that helps your target audience express themselves to their friends. In other words, when Facebook fans interact with your content, it becomes part of their image on Facebook; part of their personal narrative.

Before you post

Each time you sit down to create a post, I want you to ask yourself two questions:

  • Question #1: By taking this action, what will it say to my Facebook fans’ friends?
  • Question #2: Does it align with what I believe they want their friends to think of them?

People are far more likely to engage with content that expresses a positive image of themselves.

Just because someone appreciates or agrees with something you post doesn’t mean they’ll want that content to become an expression of themselves. Your job as a page manager is to make your supporters look good in the eyes of their friends.

Content that does well on Facebook not only helps your target audience tell their story through engagement, it also adds real value to their news feed and their friends’ news feeds.

Following are four strategies for creating content that people often want to engage with because it helps them paint a picture of who they want to be.

1. Post Smile-Worthy Content

Post things that make Facebook fans smile and helps them make their friends smile. We all love a good chuckle and want to make the people we care about smile.

Meanwhile, nonprofits often feel pressure stay serious . They fear making light of something will cheapen their brand. If you’re creating content for an organization with a serious mission, look for tasteful ways to inject humor and engagement will improve.

For example, who doesn’t smile when they see Calvin and Hobbes? This post performed nearly 3X as well as the average post on Fast Company’s page:


This post performed 3X better than the average ‘Super Serious’ post on Big Cat Rescue’s page. See? You can inject humor into almost anything without being distasteful.


2. Help Facebook Fans Inspire Their Friends

Who among us doesn’t want to be an inspiration to our friends?

As a Facebook page manager, look for content that inspires hope or other positive emotions among your fans. Inspiring content consistently does well on all kinds of pages because Facebook users want inspiring content to be part of their personal narrative.

One way to inspire people is to celebrate success!

The post below celebrated success and inspired hope. It provided fans with a way to inspire their own friends. It also provided supporters a way to complete an ActionSprout-powered action beyond Like, Share or Comment.

  • The post performed well organically, so the Sierra Club chose to spend some money to promote it resulting in a very high return on investment.
  • This post resulted in over 1600 people signing up for email communication from Sierra Club. Inspirational Content for Facebook Fans


This is another excellent example by the Michigan Humane Society celebrating success and spreading inspiration to their Facebook fans.


3. Help Facebook Fans Become Trusted Sources of Information

It’s long been known that one of the best ways to build a large and loyal network on Facebook is to be the trusted source of information on a topic which people care about.

On the surface, it might seem like this is because people want your news in their news feed…

Dig a little deeper though, and you’ll discover that the real magic is much more about your fans wanting to be the trusted source of information to their friends which leads them to share your content.

For example, this post, by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, outperformed average content on their page by nearly 200%! It also serves as an excellent example of content that helps the page’s fans show their friends they’re a trusted source of information about gun control issues.


4. Empower People to Make a Difference by Helping Them Empower Others!

At ActionSprout we’ve learned that roughly 10% of the people who engage with a meaningful Facebook post are willing to go beyond like, share or comment.

They’re willing to take an action that results in greater viral sharing and in the process sign-up for email communication!

  • If you manage a Facebook page for a nonprofit or a political campaign, your fans almost certainly view your organization or candidate as working to bring about change they want to see. – Posts that use ActionSprout to empower people not only helps them show others who they really are, it also deepens their relationship with your work and results in them opting for more.

Sierra Club recently ran a series of action related posts that gave people a way to “Tell the EPA to take action to protect bees.”

A high percentage of those that engaged posts by liking, sharing or commenting went on to complete the “tell” action. In doing so, they joined Sierra Club’s email list. This is an excellent example of empowering Facebook users and giving them a way to show their friends what they care about.


It’s all about empowering Facebook supporters

You’re number one goal on Facebook is to serve your supporters. What will they enjoy? Be inspired to share? Make them look amazing?

It’s worth noting, too, that the most effective campaigns are ones that make your fans feel like they are doing their friends a favor by inviting them to participate!

7 Tips to Inspire Your Facebook Supporters into Action!

Can a few simple modifications to a Facebook social action drastically improve the number of supporters driven to take action?

Simple answer: Yes!

Here’s a great example of how one organization improved the performance of their Facebook social actions by 300%!

What is Social Engagement?

First, let’s talk briefly about how we track social engagement on a Facebook page. Engagement is the foundation we build success on, so understanding it is key.

It’s made up of four things:

  • Likes
  • Shares
  • Comments
  • Post-clicks

Engagement is important because it influences how many people a particular action will reach on Facebook. The more engagement an action has, the more people it will reach, increasing the number of people who have the chance to take action.

Now, without further ado, let’s get to our example!

First, you might want to put on a couple more layers of clothes, because it’s about to get chilly! We recently worked with Polar Bears International, a Montana-based organization dedicated to saving these gorgeous creatures.

polar bear header

They launched a successful social action campaign during Polar Bear Week, annually held the first week of November. The first Facebook page social action they posted inspired…

  • 1,142 people to like, share, comment and/or click on the post.
  • 161 ended up completing the action and providing their contact information.
  • Conversion rate was 14.1%

Given the size of their Facebook page and engagement activity, those are solid results — but we thought there was room to do even better. We analyzed that first effort and made a few simple changes to its format and content — all based on lessons from some of the best nonprofit social media managers. The results:

  • 1,980 people engaged with the content through likes, shares and comments.
  • 577 people completed the action and provided their contact information.
  • Conversion rate was 29.1%

Our simple little changes to the post and action increased the response rate by over 300%. How cool is that! These changes weren’t dramatic and were the kinds of things anyone can do.

The Post: Before and After


As you can see the before post really isn’t too shabby. The key to social action optimization is in the fine details. There are many seemly small things you can do to optimize for success. Let’s look at how we changed the action and the 7 tips you can use to get the same results, or better, on your own Facebook page.

Tip #1: Paint a Clear Call to Action (CTA)

Providing a clear call to action early on in a post (substantially) increases the chances of a person seeing and completing it. Look again at the difference between the two, see how much more our CTA communicates urgency and reward?

The vast majority of Facebook users are first seeing while scrolling through their News Feeds on mobile devices. By immediately explaining exactly what the action is, and why completing it will make a difference, we increase the number of people that follow through.

The best actions have a clear directed “target”. They provide an easy explanation. Expressing urgency, having an emotional hook, and using powerful language will boost supporter engagement and participation.

Tip #2: Use Powerful Images

Pictures are still worth a thousand words, but on the internet pictures have the power to go much farther and faster.

See how the second post uses a more sympathetic and shareable picture? We went with vibrant colors, a clear illustration of the impending problem, and cute polar cubs with their mommy for a perfect fit.

When in doubt, you can reuse a photo that you’ve seen work before on your own Facebook page or elsewhere. Remember, the more engagement, the more potential action takers!

Tip #3: Leverage Link-Posts

There’s a growing debate about whether link posts are better than photo posts. Well, link posts generally do a better job at driving action. Users seem to prefer this format because when they click on the image of a link post, it takes them to the social action page.

For this reason, Facebook chooses to prioritize link posts, noting that these posts receive twice as many clicks. And, from a Facebook page manager’s perspective, it gives yet another opportunity to add a title and more of an action-description below the image.

Use that extra real estate to your advantage!

The Action: Before


The Action: After

after action cap See how much more emotionally engaged the second is? It grabs your attention, and you can literally FEEL something as you read it.

Tip #4: Set Goals

Using goals is an age old trick to drive up form completion rates on online petitions. Notice that the second version of our action post set a clear goal. When a problem seems too big or overwhelming, people are less likely to respond.

Posts where the action is presented as “bite-size yet meaningful to the cause,” is where we’ve seen posts and social actions gain traction. Goals make users feel like their individual actions will add up to something bigger and result in change.

Tip #5: Blatant Privacy

People care about their privacy and their data. Right? This is the case more and more as time moves forward. The second version has an explicit privacy statement that many supporters appreciate because it tells them exactly how their data will be used.

Tip #6: Motivate Your Supporters

If you want to TRULY understand what causes people to take action, start with yourself. In our better performing post, the language below the image is far more detailed. It presents the problem, provides a solution, and moves supporters to take action to make that solution a reality.

This action also used emotion and a sense of urgency to motivate the audience to engage and get involved.

Tip #7: Explicit Button

In the end, the button matters. See how on the second action, we revised the button to be both simpler and more straightforward? Doing so makes it clear that the person is signing a petition when they click the button – dummy-proofing at its best.

Bonus Tip: Tap into Comments!

For extra brownie points, Polar Bears International enabled commenting on the post-action page of the second version of their social action.

This gave supporters a way to personally express themselves after completing the action. Cool thing is, every comment also shows up on their friends’ News Feeds. This helps increase virality and sharing. Moreover, people are more likely to share when they have an invested interest, which a comment helps to provide.

By making this simple change to their social action, Polar Bears International increased the number of supporters who took action on their Facebook page over the course of Polar Bear Week. With a goal of 25,000 signatures before December’s climate talks in Lima, Peru, the organization is well on its way to making a significant impact, one Facebook page user and action at a time!

Remember these tips next time you want to whip your Facebook page community into action:

  1. A Clear Call to Action
  2. User Power-Pics
  3. Leverage Link Posts
  4. Goal-setting
  5. Blatant Privacy
  6. Motivation
  7. Explicitly Button
  8. Use Comments

How to Get Less Expensive Facebook Engagement!

Democratic Governors Association (DGA) Gets 31% Lower Cost Per Acquisition!

What’s the deal?

Not only have they been generating and capturing a ton of Facebook engagement with their supporters…

…they’ve also been doing some smart and focused testing in order to understand how to optimize their efforts.

We’re excited to share some of their results with you.

Quick Overview:

DGA works to elect and re-elect Democratic governors. As of this writing, they’ve got about 230,000 Facebook fans. In May and June DGA ran 11 campaigns on Facebook, each of which promoted with 1-3 Facebook wall posts.

Their Facebook Engagement Results

  • DGA’s ActionSprout posts were seen about 2M times; 1.6M impressions the result of Facebook promoted post advertising; 400k organic impressions.
  • DGA’s campaigns engaged about 58,000 supporters total; over 9,000 taking actions (providing name, email, contact permission); the balance liking and commenting on campaign posts (which lets DGA capture name and Facebook ID).
  • Of the 58,000 people who engaged, 80% engaged with only one campaign; 10% engaged twice and another 10.3% engaged 3+ times.
  • Of the 9,377 people who took action on a campaign, 90.8% took action just once, 6.1% took action twice and 3.1% took action on 3+ campaigns; 9.2% of action takers that took action more than once were responsible for 21.2% of the total actions.
  • About 1.5% of 1.6M impressions resulted in a clickthrough to the action, and about 34% of people who clicked went on to complete the action. Over 50% of action takers went on to share their action with their friends.
  • 43% of views on DGA’s campaigns came from mobile devices.

Their Costs

DGA spent about $16k on Facebook promoted post advertising with ActionSprout links, and had an average cost per acquisition of $1.53.

56% of ActionSprout campaign action takers were new to DGA’s master list, resulting in a cost per new name of $2.74.

DGA’s Mark Giangreco had this to say:

“The ActionSprout team built an easy-to-use, powerful platform that allows our supporters to take action without ever having to leave Facebook. By putting our supporters first, ActionSprout lets us generate great results. We’re using ActionSprout to run more effective, more efficient list-building campaigns that fully leverage the power of social media. It’s challenging us to rethink the way we advertise on Facebook.”

ActionSprout vs. Offsite Landing Page


Not only did DGA achieve solid results, they also did some smart testing of their posting and advertising tactics.

DGA ran a number of tests comparing an ActionSprout-powered campaign against a traditional campaign where they tried to drive supporters from Facebook to a website landing page to sign a petition.

Both campaigns included a post-action “up-sell” in the form of an online donation ask. DGA created two posts, identical in all respects except one post contained a link to an ActionSprout campaign and the other contained a link to a traditional landing page.

Then they promoted each post to an identical demographic audience.

DGA found that the ActionSprout campaign significantly outperformed the off-Facebook website landing page in terms of effective Facebook engagement.–especially on the all-important metric of cost per action.

  • The ActionSprout campaign generated 402 actions at a CPA of $1.11.
  • The offsite landing page generated 290 actions at $1.61. So, how is DGA paying so much less for such higher quality Facebook Engagement?

While the conversion rates of the posts were nearly identical, the viral boost ActionSprout provides…

…where actions generate a variety of Facebook notifications to supporters’ friends, meant that ActionSprout was able to drive action 31% More Cost Effectively than driving people to a traditional outside-of-Facebook petition.

How about them apples?