What We Learned from the Largest Women Technology Conference in the World

This year, our very own Andrea Frost had the pleasure of attending the Grace Hopper Conference in Houston, Texas. The following is her account of the this year’s conference, key takeaways for women in technology, and why you should attend the 2017 Grace Hopper Conference in Orlando, Florida.

What is the Grace Hopper conference?

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) is the largest gathering of female technologists in the world! It all started when Anita Borg and a small handful of women crossed paths in a bathroom at a systems conference back in the ‘90s. There were so few women in attendance that the women thought perhaps they should meet and talk more after the conference. This led to the creation of the Systers Mail List of women in tech, which today has more than 6,000 members worldwide.

Anita Borg, sadly, died some years ago from cancer, so her best friend Telle Whitney created the Anita Borg Institute, named after her beloved friend. These women were the first drops of water in a waterfall that now carries oceans of women through their careers in tech. This year, the ABI brought 15,000 women technologists (and a few men) together under one roof in Houston.

The panel on caching

“Cache Me If You Can” panel. Speakers: Ashley Jin, Distributed Computing Engineer, Paxata Anna Povzner, Software Engineer, Confluent Alice Yeh, Software Engineer, Eventbrite Vartika Agarwal, Technical Program Manager, Google

Why did you attend this year’s conference?

Last week was my third time attending GHC! Three years ago, Kelly Lyon and I both attended as GHC Scholars back when the conference had only 5,000 attendees. Last year there were 12,000 attendees, this year there were 15,000, and next year they expect 18,000+ in Orlando, Florida!

When I went the first time, I was only a year or so into my computer science major at school and was having a rough time. I wasn’t sure if I belonged or how I would fit into the tech world. I hadn’t met any female role models at my school, and I didn’t yet know about the many cool women in industry in my town and around the globe. There is something very tantalizing about being under the same roof as thousands of other intelligent women technologists. While that might sound intimidating at first, it is quickly understood that the group is incredibly inviting, open, personable, silly, and fiercely dedicated to the cause.

Years later, I too am a fierce warrior for the cause. Kelly and I were the first students from Western Washington University (WWU) to ever attend, and we knew we had to get more people from our school to this incredible conference. By selling t-shirts, I founded a scholarship that has since brought seven students from the WWU Association for Women in Computing (AWC), to GHC. We have also had the pleasure of helping bring awareness to the national scholarships that made it possible for eight more to attend. In total, this year there were 23 students, faculty, and alumni from WWU at GHC!

WWU group photo

WWU group photo

I attended this year so that I could officially pass the torch on to this new group of students, and so that I could meet other female technologists who, like me, are in their early careers in tech. At GHC it doesn’t matter what level you are at, be it student, early-mid-late career, industry or academia, entrepreneur, CEO, researcher, recruiter, or a simple observer. There is truly something for everyone. Where other than GHC could a software engineer from a tiny startup in Bellingham, WA walk and talk casually with the CTO of the United States government?!

Megan Smith and Andrea Frost

Megan Smith and Andrea Frost

What happened this year at Grace Hopper 2016?

Watching the excitement and camaraderie of women from my school at GHC was such a stark contrast to my experience three years ago! I felt proud to have helped create opportunities for such a large group of us to be there together, and it was fun to laugh together and see them encourage one another to apply for jobs, attend talks, introduce themselves to new friends, and explore new areas of technology. (Spoiler: three of them got job offers at the conference!)

The keynotes were fabulous and insightful. Latanya Sweeney, the first black woman to earn a PhD in Computer Science, now professor of government and technology in residence at Harvard University, spoke about bias in software and how data science is saving the world.

Ginni Rometty, President and CEO at IBM, reminded us that “comfort and growth never coexist” and to work on something bigger than yourself.

ABIE Award winner Anna Patterson showed us that women can rise up to all kinds of challenges while being a great leader all along the way.

I have a particular interest in cyber security, so I was excited to attend relevant talks in that arena. From panels on defense against the dark arts to presentations on policy and surveillance (Jennifer Stisa Granick) and new paradigm in cyber tactics (Andrea Limbago), we have much work to do in the cyber space. Women must be involved in these efforts, so be sure to also put the Women in Cyber Security (WiCYS) conference on your radar!

Cyber security panel: Defense Against the Dark Arts -- Protecting Your Product From Bad Actors.  Speakers:  Clara Liu, Software Engineer, Pinterest Jenelle Bray, Team Lead, LinkedIn Ava Zhang, Software Engineer, Twitter, Inc. Jackie Bow, Software Engineer, Facebook, Inc. Angelina Huang, Software Engineer, Airbnb

Cyber security panel: Defense Against the Dark Arts — Protecting Your Product From Bad Actors. Speakers:
Clara Liu, Software Engineer, Pinterest, Jenelle Bray, Team Lead, LinkedIn, Ava Zhang, Software, Engineer, Twitter, Inc., Jackie Bow, Software Engineer, Facebook, Inc., Angelina Huang, Software Engineer, Airbnb

Passing in the hallways offered many opportunities to walk and talk with well-known, important people. At GHC, people take time to get to know one another rather than brushing off time with strangers. Some of my favorite encounters include:

Lisa Seacat DeLuca

Lisa Seacat DeLuca

  • Jamie Chappell at Red Hat – Created the Women in Open Source Award to help bring more recognition to women contributors.

  • Heather Ricciuto and Diane Delaney at IBM – Fabulous women I cross paths with at every conference who inspire all those around them while making important connections.

  • Ambareen Siraj from Tennessee Tech University – Founder of WiCYS who always encourages me to reach beyond.

  • Carol Willing – Director of the Python Software Foundation who also happens to run an OpenHatch table at the GHC Open Source Day each year.

  • Megan Smith – United States Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in the Office of Science and Technology Policy and closing keynote speaker. She works with President Obama and I got to meet her!

And of course, it wouldn’t be a proper GHC without closing keynotes and a stellar after party! Closing keynotes included: Megan Smith who brought important attention to the upcoming film Hidden Figures, the silly MC, Nora Denzel, Marc Benioff from Salesforce, and a panel of amazing women from NASA.

Megan Smith with panel of women from NASA

Megan Smith with panel of women from NASA

At the after party, we danced all night with a live DJ and a silent DJ party on the opposite end of the room, spinning gyrospheres, Ms. Pacman, a giant LightBright, Skee Ball, and some pretty awesome photo booths!

Silent DJ at GHC after party

Silent DJ at GHC after party

Favorite piece of swag?

My new custom emoji from Made with Code of course!


What are your top 5 take aways for women in tech?

It’s so hard to narrow it down to just five things! The following is my best effort to do so:

  1. You belong and the world needs you! We must have diverse minds at the table making decisions about the future direction of technology.
  2. Don’t be afraid to explore! There is so much more out there beyond what we can see and imagine, but you have to do the work to put yourself in a position to gain exposure to other ideas and people.
  3. Let connections run deeper. When you meet other women, keep in touch with them via LinkedIn, Facebook, email, user groups, or whatever tools suit your needs. I am still friends today with people from every conference I have been to, and I look forward to following all of our careers as we progress. Those contacts are your lifeline both to share in the good times and in the struggles.
  4. Look for the light. There will probably always be frustrations for women in tech, at least in my lifetime. No matter what you are going through, there is always a lesson to be learned and light at the end of the tunnel. Make sure you are looking for the light.
  5. Say thank you to those who have helped you along your journey. Almost every woman at the Systers luncheon raised their hands to say they would like more recognition for their work and for their accomplishments. It takes a village, and I believe we should acknowledge each other for the work we do. Women have been written out of the history books; it is up to us to make sure we have proper representation in the future.


The winning company and results, from the Top Companies for Women Technologists program was also shared during the conference. This is a national program that recognizes companies committed to building workplaces where women technologists can thrive. This year, an unprecedented 60 organizations across multiple industries participated! That’s a 71 percent increase from 2015.

This graph shows in red how far ahead the winning company was this year.

This graph shows in red, how far ahead the winning company was this year.

Why should you attend GHC next year?

There are so many reasons to attend GHC! Off the top of my head:

  1. If you want to be inspired, go to GHC
  2. If you want to connect with awesome women in tech, go to GHC
  3. If you want to learn about emerging technologies, go to GHC
  4. If you need to find talented women to join your team, go to GHC
  5. If you aren’t quite sure where you fit or what your next job should be, go to GHC
  6. If you want to participate in inclusive open source workshops, go to GHC
  7. If you want to know how to help in this mission, go to GHC

About Andrea Frost:

Andrea is passionate about using technology to make the world a better place. With many years of non-profit experience, she is incredibly excited to build ActionSprout tools that make life easier for non-profits. When not officially at work Andrea volunteers with the Creators & Innovators Club for Girls, Whatcom Hospice, and WWU Association for Women in Computing. She loves getting out in the mountains with her dog from Alaska. She is currently an engineer at ActionSprout.

organic reach

400% increase in organic reach after one week of content curation

If you’re not already practicing content curation on your nonprofit’s Facebook Page, you absolutely should be! Content curation is the practice of finding and sharing high-performing content from other Pages. This practice allows you to post more often and increases your Page’s reach and engagement. This case study shows the effects it had on Northshore Veterinary Hospital’s Facebook Page after just a week of practice. (If you’d like to dig into the strategy of content curation further, this article is for you.)

Northshore Veterinary Hospital’s Facebook Page

Brita Kiffney is one of the lovely veterinarians at Northshore, and is responsible for managing their Facebook Page. We had the pleasure of sitting down with her one day and diving into their Facebook Page and strategy.

When we first spoke to her, she was posting as little as one post or fewer per day. When she had the time to upload an original picture of one of her patients, she would do so. If she didn’t have time that day, she wouldn’t. But even with how little she posted to their Page, they still enjoyed solid engagement from their fans. This told us that Northshore’s Page had a ton of untapped potential waiting to be unlocked.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 3.17.46 PM

Learning to Curate

After meeting with us, Brita decided to give ActionSprout, and a content curation strategy, a try. Here we’ll walk you through the steps that she took to get her ActionSprout account and new strategy off the ground.

Following Pages

First, Brita had to follow the right pages through ActionSprout. Fine-tuning who she followed was the key to the rest of the strategy working. After all, these are the sources whose posts she should be sharing on Northshore’s own Facebook Page! Ensuring that they posted content that was on topic and tone, compared to their own Page, was really important.

Brita landed on the following mix of Pages:

  • Fellow veterinarians that she respected
  • Local and national humane societies
  • Pet publications
  • Fun Pages that posted cute pet videos and images

This mix of followed Pages gave her an awesome sampling of fun and serious material to post to Northshore’s Page. (We call this the broccoli and cheese strategy.)

Using the Inspiration tool inside her ActionSprout account, following these Pages was as simple as typing in names and keywords:

organic reach

Once followed, Brita was even able to add custom tags to the Pages. She tagged the fun Pages as such, the fellow vets, and so on. Now if she was short on serious material one day, she could sort by those tags and only surface the content options that applied.

Scheduling the Content

Once she had her followed Pages, she figured that it was time to start scheduling! Finding the right content to post to her Facebook Page was as easy as browsing through her new Inspiration feed, and sorting and filtering as needed:

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 12.26.20 PM

When she found something that she liked, she simply clicked the share button on that piece of content. This opened up the sharing menu, where she could schedule the post for the next time when most of her fans and supporters were on Facebook:

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 12.33.31 PM

How did the tool know when her fans and supporters were on Facebook? Facebook gives this data to all Facebook Page managers. When connecting your Facebook Page to ActionSprout, ActionSprout is able to look at this data and pull out the best times for you.

The Day to Day

With everything in place, Brita was able to pop in and out of the app as needed. On busy weeks, she could come in on Monday and schedule three to four posts for each day of the week. When she had the extra time, she would pop in once every day or so and schedule things as they came up.

And, as always, when she had cute pictures of her patients, she published them.

The Results

We were blown away by the results after just a few days! Through the use of ActionSprout and her new content curation efforts, Brita was able to increase her posting frequency to a consistent four to five posts a day! The ActionSprout app allowed Brita to schedule posts for the entire week so that, as she got busy, her posting stayed consistent. Consistent posting is key to consistent reach and engagement on Facebook.

The results are astounding! The highlighted day on the graph, April 28th, was when Brita added an additional four posts a day of curated content to their Facebook Page. As we can see, her organic reach sharply goes up from there. All in all, she enjoyed a 400% increase in organic reach on their Page:

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 3.21.35 PM

She also noticed a change in engagement on their Page. The number of likes, comments and shares on their posts noticeably increased.


Content curation can feel uncomfortable for many nonprofits when starting out. It feels counterintuitive at best, and like stealing at worst. What we have to keep in mind is that Facebook is not a traditional communications channel.

Facebook and social media in general are social spaces where ideas, content and stories are freely shared among users. Sharing is hardwired into Facebook; proper attribution is automatically included and the sharing of worthy content is expected.

Most of all, the results speak for themselves! So, what are you waiting for? Start your own content curation strategy today and start seeing the same success as Brita at Northshore Veterinary Hospital.

beth becker

Unlock the potential of Facebook for your nonprofit

In a nutshell, Beth Becker is a social change enthusiast. She spends most of her time sharing her knowledge and experience by helping organizations link their digital and offline efforts to make a difference and meet their missions. She can often be found conducting trainings on digital strategy for the New Organizing Institute, clients and conferences like PA Progressive Summit, Netroots Nation, and is a contributing blogger at epolitics.com.

She brings over 20 years of communication and marketing background to her work, in addition to her experience with political, nonprofit and labor clients. Recently, we had the chance to sit down with her and dive deep into social media strategy. Here’s what she had to say.

How has your strategy / options on Facebook changed over time?

I can think of many changes… I mean let’s face it, Facebook (and social media in general) evolves over time so our strategy needs to as well. But it all boils down to coming to terms with the Facebook algorithm. If you look closely at what the algorithm does and the changes they make in relation to Facebook’s need to make money, it becomes clear that the way they make their money is to provide the users with the best experience possible. The decisions they make in order to do this are based on hard data and lots of it. When we follow suit with our strategies, we are able to build strong, engaged communities.

So every time they make a change, it forces us to make strategic changes, but the end result for both us and Facebook is the same: a better user experience that keeps our community coming back to us over and over again.

How does ActionSprout fit into your larger social media strategies?

ActionSprout does so many things that it’s hard to narrow it down to one or two. Being able to consistently run actions that engage the community is important, but one of the things I love most about ActionSprout is the data on the back-end. Being able to look at those who are engaging with content and identify who the most engaged members of the community are is important and necessary. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it has a mechanism as a Facebook app that makes it possible to migrate your Facebook community to your email list as well. Cross-channel relationships are the key to a successful digital strategy.

What are the top ActionSprout features you use most often?

The data contained in the People tab, without a doubt. I do use the Inspire tool when needing a creativity boost and as a way to see what’s working for others.

What’s a unique way that you use ActionSprout?

I think the key way I use ActionSprout is that it isn’t a standalone content stream… it is integrated into the overall content strategy seamlessly. It’s not like, “Oh we should run an ActionSprout Action today”; it’s: “We’re doing X and we could do an Action to complement it in this way.”

How do you measure success on Facebook? What metrics do you focus on?

It’s all about the engagement. Vanity metrics like audience size? Pretty meaningless to me. Who is talking to us, do we talk with our community—not at them.

How do you experiment with content on your Page? What’s your method?

Try, fail, try again. If it’s really important content I may “test” it by posting it as a targeted post on my personal Facebook wall to a segment of my friends to see how they react, but by and large what we do is based on data; yet we recognize that audiences evolve as they grow so we are constantly trying new things while integrating lessons learned into what we are doing.

What’s your advice to other Page managers?

Three things:

  1. Experiment, experiment, experiment. What works on ONE Page may or may not work on yours, so make informed guesses and experiment.
  2. Be a part of the community not apart from the community—it’s a long, ongoing conversation.
  3. The algorithm is your friend. Stop wasting time complaining about it… put it to work for you.

What can other nonprofits learn from this success?

  1. Strategies that follow Facebook’s algorithm are successful. It’s a very good idea to keep up with changes that Facebook makes to its algorithm and how they’re affecting content reach and delivery. Social strategies that work in parallel with the algorithm instead of against it will prove much more effective.
  2. Don’t get caught in the vanity metric trap. Fan count feels and looks good. Not many Page managers wouldn’t like having a million likes on their Page. The problem is that’s all fan count is—something that feels and looks good. Outside of the warm and fuzzies, fan count means almost nothing. The engagement on your Page, as measured in likes, shares, comments and clicks, is what you want to focus your time and energy on. At the end of the day, increasing your engagement will accomplish your goals much, much faster than fan count.
  3. Experiment. Lots of folks, including ourselves, will tell you what you should and should not be doing on Facebook. While this advice is valuable, it’s really only a starting place. Every 4. Page and its audience are vastly different. The strategy that works wonders for one Page may fall flat on yours. That’s why it’s so important to experiment and learn what works for your unique Page.
  4. Facebook is about community and relationships. When you join Facebook, you’re joining a community. This being the case, you should minimize the time you spend talking at people and increase the time you spend talking with them.
  5. No piece of your strategy could work in isolation. Beth uses ActionSprout and other social tools in conjunction with each other as a part of her larger social strategy. Having an intertwined strategy like hers will boost your success and increase the value of each of your tools.
Fight Poverty

Can Supporters Effectively Fight Poverty Through Social Media?

Co-founded by Bono, ONE is an international campaigning and advocacy organization of more than 6 million people taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. They primarily work with political leaders to combat AIDS and preventable diseases; increase investments in agriculture and nutrition; and demand greater transparency so that governments are accountable to their citizens.

Recently, we had the pleasure to talk with Garth Moore, the U.S. Digital Director at ONE.

How has your strategy / options about Facebook changed over time?

It’s constantly evolving as Facebook changes their algorithms. Originally, Facebook felt more like a broadcast medium. But, as our base has grown on it, so has our strategy. Facebook leads people to ONE with our great content; engages members with local event postings and comments; and gets people to take action on our issues (primarily signing petitions, but also doing other things).

Tell us a bit about your Facebook Page (What’s the audience like, what kind of content do they enjoy the most, how often do you post?)

ONE has several Facebook channels and we post to our main channel probably 4–7 times a day. Our audience is pretty responsive and we encourage them to comment, ask questions, and even push back on our content or actions. We don’t shy away from engaging directly with our members—we love it!

Like most organizations, our fans love listicles and photo albums! We also try to make sure to share news items with them and keep them informed on when our issues make the news. And our fans love content on girls and women programs, which is a big focus in our work this year.

Tell us about a successful action. Can you tell us what went into creating the Action?

Our best action, so far, has been our Poverty is Sexist petition. There will be new development goals for the world decided on this year, and we think the key to success in beating poverty starts with supporting girls and women. Our petition tells world leaders to put their issues on the forefront of the new global goals to end poverty.

We had thousands of petition signers within a day or two. Then, when we reposted the action a month later, we got even more signers. It’s our flagship petition for the year leading up to the United Nations Week in September, so we’ll run it a few more times and expect great results.

What did you learn from this success more broadly? Is there anything you do differently now?

Our actions with the broadest appeal do better. Now we want to test language and images to see what works and what will inspire people to add their name to an action that already has almost 1 million names on it.

What did you learn about your audience from this success?

We learned that a few of them take more than one action. We love these members! So, we want to get every action that will be on the site into ActionSprout and then really target our Facebook Page likers to take these actions in Facebook.

Do you have any advice for other nonprofits based on your learning?

Test! Test! Test! Test petition or event headlines and language. Test the same action with 3–4 images and see which one does the best. Test 2–3 promoted posts against each other to see which ones drive the most actions. You could do a test a week and in one month, have a highly optimized action and way to promote it. It’s worth carving 3–4 hours max each week to do it.


  • Broadcasting channel to community outlet. Over time, Facebook Pages have shifted from broadcast channels to places of community engagement. Fans today come to Pages with the expectation of community involvement and participation. They expect an answer to their comments and questions, and desire a connection with Page managers. It’s important to keep this frame of mind when running your Page. The more you can create and encourage this atmosphere, the more successful your Page will be.
  • Repost actions for even greater engagement. Garth states that reposting one of his most successful actions led to even more success. This is an important example that illustrates the significance of reposting: even successful actions can benefit from being reposted. We recommend reposting each action 3–4 times for maximum results. Many organizations have even enjoyed success reposting actions hundreds of times.
  • Test everything. As Garth states, one of the most powerful things you can do is test and experiment. You’ll never truly know what will lead the most people to take action for your cause unless you experiment with different angles, asks and formats. You have little to lose and much to gain in the game of testing
  • Post multiple times a day on Facebook. This gives your supporters lots of opportunities to engage with your content and mission. The more engaged they are, the more likely they are to complete your actions.
community on Facebook

How to create an engaged community on Facebook

Founded in 2002, Daily Kos is the premier online political community, with 5 million unique visitors per month and 300,000 registered users. It is at once a news organization, community and activist hub. Well-known Daily Kos contributors have included President Jimmy Carter, then-Senator Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and dozens of other senators, congressmen and governors.

But it is the community that really makes Daily Kos run. Hundreds of thousands of voters have used Daily Kos to amplify their voices, share information and organize for progressive change.

Faith Gardner has worked at Daily Kos since 2009. She currently manages their social media accounts.

How has your strategy / options about Facebook changed over time?

We used to post staff content only. We now post a lot more frequently and a lot more community content and some graphics. New tools like ActionSprout have widened our options and enabled us to reach our audiences in new and different ways.

What do you find most challenging about your job and the cause(s) you support?

No matter how much data you have or how much you think you’ve learned, your audience always surprises you. A story you think will get shared, based on all the evidence you have, will bomb. And sometimes a story you think won’t be shared at all will take off. It’s often unpredictable.

Another challenge is translating online activism into real-life activism. It’s so much harder to get people to show up to a rally or political event than it is to get them to sign a petition.

How do you use social Actions, from ActionSprout, compared to traditional form-based actions on your website?

We use them pretty similarly, but select only certain actions for the Facebook Page that seem appropriate for that audience. Sometimes we create Actions for Facebook only. We focus a little more on the image or graphic with ActionSprout Actions since it appears much larger on the Page, sometimes creating a shortened shareable meme that people can share as a picture rather than a link. Also, we don’t do targeted Actions on ActionSprout—actions that target a specific congressional district based on the signer—as the platform isn’t really made for targeting.

Tell us about a successful Action(s). Can you tell us what went into creating the Action(s)?

After news broke that Bill O’Reilly lied on numerous occasions, we put a petition together asking Fox News to suspend him. We thought this would be a good action because Brian Williams had recently been suspended from NBC for basically the same thing. The petition would not only target Fox News and Bill O’Reilly, but would point out the hypocrisy of Fox in continuing to let O’Reilly remain on the air after so many outright lies. We put together the petition language quickly while the news story was still big, found a good image for it and shared it a few times over that week or so, when the news story on O’Reilly was still being widely shared and talked about.

What did you learn from this success more broadly? Is there anything you do differently now?

It’s important to listen to your audience and take note of what stories they’re discussing and sharing most so that you can find actions that resonate with them. If a story is big in the news, it’s a good idea to ask yourself how to create a successful action around it.

It also confirmed that pointing out hypocrisy and double standards is important to our readers.

Do you have any advice for other nonprofits based on your learning?

Take note of what subjects and stories currently resonate with your audience and build actions based on that. If something doesn’t work, don’t consider it a failure—consider it a learning opportunity!

Top ways to share your cause on Facebook

My team and I at ActionSprout love meeting our customers. We have the honor of serving some of the most inspirational, hard-working nonprofits on Facebook. Most recently, we had the pleasure of getting to know Rachael Zoe Miller, co-founder of the The Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean. We first got connected with Rachael and her organization through our Facebook ad credits project last November.

The Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean has the mission of cleaning, protecting and ensuring that our oceans are thriving for a long time to come. Their work consists of cleanup, research, educational outreach, teaching, expeditions and more. For eight weeks out of the year, Rachael captains the American Promise, collecting data, cleaning the coastal waters and performing outreach.

american promise

She and her team’s work is truly amazing. So how does all that translate into Facebook and digital strategy? We asked for her take on the ad credits, Facebook, ActionSprout and overall social media strategy.

How did the ad credit project change the way you approach Facebook?

This was a huge help and turning point for us. Being part of the ad credit program taught us about targeted audiences, the difference between curated and original content (and their places), and of course what tools are out there to help raise our odds of success and make the dollars we do have for social media count as much as possible.

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What inspired you to start using ActionSprout?

Two-thirds of the way into the program, I attended a program webinar that made me realize that ActionSprout would help us make our goals easier to reach and our progress easier to track. As soon as I started, I realized I should have started earlier!

How has using ActionSprout changed the way you use Facebook?

I am a data person and ActionSprout’s data is excellent. It has made me more efficient—with the ability to very quickly see how our own posts are doing in the Timeline section and see how others are doing in the Inspiration section. Seeing this post data has made a difference in the way I use Facebook, in that I am proceeding more deliberately and certainly in a more data-driven way rather than always guessing about the best times and strong content to post. After learning more about Facebook’s algorithm, I am also confidently posting more often, knowing that spamming people is hard!

What have been your biggest “ah ha!” moments over the last few months?

Three things:

  1. To only boost posts that have momentum, and to not do it too early.
  2. Adding my own thoughts and Rozalia Project’s values and philosophies (though not on every post) seems to be generating more interaction in the form of increased comments.
  3. 2–3 posts per day is the goal!

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What have been your biggest moments of success over the last few months?

Having our most liked, most commented on and most shared post with the biggest reach we’ve ever had! And, overall, having more interaction with our posts and seeing a 38% increase in Facebook likes and 41% in Instagram.

Anything you’d like to add?

Just a big, huge thank you to ActionSprout and Facebook for making this happen, sharing both generous funding and well-presented expertise! I hope you’ll send me an ActionSprouter or two to join us on board as a social media maven and as part of the crew for some cleaning and protecting the ocean this summer!

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We’re humbled to have played a small role in Rachael’s work and success.

So, how can your nonprofit replicate this kind of success?

  1. Aim to post 2–3 times a day on Facebook.
  2. Don’t be afraid to mix curated content with original content. Many Pages shoot for the 80/20 rule (80% shared and 20% original).
  3. Use the Inspiration tool to quickly find and share this content. The scheduler chooses the most optimal times to post.
  4. Use Timeline to know what’s working and what’s not. Make informed, confident choices with data!

Remember, always be your awesome self and bring your passion to the table. Facebook is a social network. Have fun, engage and don’t be afraid to try something new.

STAND Adds 700 New Names to their Supporter List

STAND, a nonprofit environmental group committed to protecting North America’s forests, has been a long-time ActionSprout user. Recently they enjoyed a very successful month in terms of supporter email acquisition.

In one month’s time, their team added 700 new email addresses to their supporter mailing list. We were so blown away by this success that we decided to sit down with STANDS’ Online Campaigner, Ashley Allison, who was a driving force behind their success.

This is what she had to say on her success, social media strategy and understanding your audience:

How has your strategy / options on Facebook changed over time?

When I started doing social media at the arts organization, we were actually still using Myspace (time warp!), so I moved us over to Facebook. We were primarily using it to promote our own exhibitions and events, and without full-time staff, were relegated to being infrequent posters.

When I joined the Sierra Club in early 2010, I began advising the Club’s local Chapters on social media, and eventually began integrating it into my work to promote local public lands and wildlife campaigns. I rarely ever had access to the pages; I was kind of a backseat driver.

As one of the founding members of the Club’s Digital Innovation Team in 2014, we got the chance to launch our own unique program within the Club—called SierraRise—and with it our own social media pages. That was the first time I got my hands on my own page and really drive a social media presence. It was also the first time I got to try testing: both curating content and producing unique content, and using our Facebook to drive advocacy with native tools like ActionSprout.

Tell us a bit about the STAND Facebook page. (What’s the audience like, what kind of content do you usually post, how do you measure success?)

STAND’ campaigns are in both the US and Canada, so our Facebook audience really reflects that. We’ve got an almost even split between the two countries, with a smattering of folks from Europe, South America, Asia and Australia.

We generally do three posts per day. I try to provide a nice mix of content, from both the US and Canada, so that we are catering to our core constituencies where we are organizing on the ground. The content is generally a mix of news articles, share-graphics (never underestimate the value of an inspirational quote), and ActionSprout actions. The Canadians are very fired up about democracy issues and the Harper government’s collusion with the fossil fuel industry. With the Americans, it is a little harder to judge where their primary interests are.

I don’t have any hard numbers for how I gauge success. For the big picture, I usually look at how our page is performing in Reach and Engagement on a week-to-week basis, as opposed to the day-to-day.For individual posts, I look at whether people are liking, sharing or commenting. There are definitely issues that I’ve found that work well (pipelines, Harper, wildlife) and others less so.

What did STAND do to add 700 new people to their email list with social actions?

When I joined FE in May 2014, they had an ActionSprout account but hadn’t really had the bandwidth to use it to its full capacity.To amp up its use, I made it a standard practice to begin making a corresponding Action for every one of our online campaigns.I also began a small social listening program, where I would look for breaking news around the issues we worked on, and would develop an action around those. I recruited our organizers and campaigners, asking them to give me a heads-up if they saw any interesting news around their campaigns.

A good example was when a story broke about how the mainstream media in Canada was not covering the constant oil spills in Alberta’s tar sands. We turned around an Action in an hour and started posting it. 678 liked or commented and 507 took the action.

Frequency has also been hugely important. We post Actions 4‒5 times a week, if not more if we have the space.

For context, what is your usual monthly average?

When we post an Action linking to one of our Action alerts (built in our CRM), the growth is minimal to nonexistent. I began my more aggressive ActionSprout program in November, so I would say before then, with infrequent posting and just using.

ActionSprout actions built from our campaigns (not the breaking news stuff). I’d say we would add about 200 new email addresses per month.

What did you learn about your audience from this experience?

  1. Our Canadians are probably slightly more willing to take ActionSprout actions than our US folks.
  2. We don’t do a lot of wildlife-specific action in our real-world organizing work, but our Facebook audience responds very well to those issues. Food for thought as we plan campaigns and decide on how we frame those.

What did you learn from this success more broadly?/ Is there anything you do differently now?

I’ll admit, at first I wasn’t sure about posting Actions almost every day. I was worried the engagement on our page would fall because I was sacrificing valuable real estate that I would normally be using for slideshows, articles and graphics that I knew would have high engagement rates.In the end, those fears have proven unfounded.

Do you have any advice for nonprofits that would like to use Facebook to help grow their email lists?

Be conscious of how you onboard these new email addresses. You don’t want to put all the work into getting these folks, only to lose them because they unsubscribe from the first email you send them. We actually have a templated welcome email that we use for these folks, and I change out the first sentence to reference which action they took with us and where they took it.For example: “You recently took action with STAND on Facebook to demand Canadian media shine a light on Alberta’s toxic oil spills…”

The unsubscribe rates from these emails have been very low—lower than I saw before we started adding that customized first line.

facebook community

How to cultivate an open, engaged Facebook community

Ladd Everitt is the Director of Communications for The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. He’s responsible for developing and managing a wide range of communications activities in support of his organization€’s overall mission, including their Facebook presence.

Running a Facebook Page on gun violence prevention is no easy task, as open conversation can feel unsafe when pro-gun rights folks chime in. Yet each and every day, Ladd and his team are working to maintain the safe and open public space they have painstakingly created from the ground up.

How long have you managed social media communications and where did you get your start?

I started managing social media after coming to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence in May 2006. When I first arrived, we had no Facebook Page, no Twitter account, and a very rudimentary website. I basically had to learn a lot of this stuff on the fly, but it was worth it, because new media tools give gun violence prevention advocates an asymmetrical advantage in our struggle against the gun lobby that we otherwise wouldn’t have.

How has your strategy/options about Facebook changed over time?

When we first launched our Page, I really had no idea what I was doing! It was just me and I was basically experimenting at that point. Today, our Page has multiple moderators (and designers), and we are much more sophisticated in the way we go about our work. There is much more attention to the metrics on any given post, and I’ve also learned (although I’m by no means perfect) that you have to engage your followers and not always talk at them. That means showing them the human side of your work and soliciting their opinion/experiences. It has to be a two-way dialog and we are very proud that we’ve built a Page where the conversation is robust.

One thing you have to understand about the gun issue is that there are very few “safe” spaces for gun violence prevention advocates to talk about this issue. So often, our supporters are actively harassed online by pro-gun activists who want to intimidate and silence them. It can get very depressing and disheartening to comment about this issue online and get spammed by 100 pro-gunners saying the ugliest things you can imagine. If there is any “genius” in our Facebook Page, it is that we have finally created a safe space for our people to voice their opinions and be heard. We do this by immediately and permanently banning anyone our Page who does not actually “like” our organization. It has worked, and beautifully. We are creating more confident, engaged activists. They are being empowered and emboldened.

What organizational goals do your Facebook efforts support?

Most of them, really. Facebook is a wonderful public education tool for starters. It helps us get out a host of information about the impact of gun violence, the weakness of our gun laws, and the campaigns we are working on. It’s also a terrific organizing tool and we frequently encourage our supporters to take actions, while taking full advantage of the ability to customize posts by targeting folks from a specific state/city. Social norming is also a huge aspect of this struggle to save lives (think of how views on smoking have changed over the years), and Facebook is a wonderful tool for that messaging. Probably the only thing we do where Facebook is a not a huge help is fundraising, although we do some of that on our Page as well.

What kind of social calls to action do you use?

They are pretty varied. Primarily, it would be action on legislation at the Federal and state level (i.e. asking people to email/call/meet with lawmakers). It might be asking people to contact a prosecutor to ask them to bring a case against a negligent parent whose child found their gun and hurt themselves or someone else. Sometimes we’ll ask folks to use a profile pic or cover pic we’ve designed to promote a campaign. And sadly, we frequently ask our supporters to join us in reporting threats we have received or become aware of. With all these requests, we try to make things as simple as possible by providing basic contact information and a talking point or two.

Tell us about a recent successful social campaign or series of posts.

Pro-gun activists constantly spread the false idea that even the most modest gun violence prevention measure is a step toward total confiscation of all privately-held firearms. Frequently, when they make this point, they conclude it with a threat (“Come and take them”, “Molon labe”, “From my cold dead hands”, etc.).

We’re long past tired of it and we decided to make a series of memes that drill down to the real reason behind their confiscation conspiracy theory and threats. So we took actual photos of pro-gun activists standing in their homes armed to the teeth (that they had posted publicly to FB) and paired them with the text, “You know why they fantasize about gun confiscation all the time? Because no one would want to visit them otherwise.”

This series of memes has been extremely well-received and is just one example of our efforts at social norming. Now, rather than feeling scared about such threats, our supporters can have a laugh about it, and feel more confident engaging in discussions with bullies who really are just desperately seeking attention and respect.

We try to strike a chord with our followers by saying things that they have been thinking for a long time, but have never seen voiced. The cliché would be “speaking truth to power” (of the NRA, and well-armed and angry pro-gun activists). Courage is infectious. So is honesty. We monitor comments on our Page very closely and one thing people know they are always going to get from us is straight talk. We are not afraid to say what needs to be said. We never want them to catch us playing politics.

Do you have any advice for other nonprofits based on your success?

It’s certainly going to be different depending on the issue you work on. Few issues are as contentious and vitriolic as gun regulation, and that fact really informs our strategies. My main piece of advice would be to level with people. Make them feel like there is an actual human being at the helm of your social media tools, and not someone who is just reading polls and metrics. And don’t try to come off as perfect. Own up to your mistakes. Given the frequency with which we post, we’re all going to make them. Sincerity (and even self-deprecation) can go a long way.

As one final example, not long ago we made a “Mean Tweets” video with our staffers reading actual tweets that had been directed at us by pro-gun activists. People loved it, both because it was funny, but also because it showed we didn’t take ourselves too seriously. Several pro-gun activists even commented on it and said how great they thought it was that we could have a laugh at our own expense. Stuff like that has a way of cutting through division and rhetoric. Never be afraid of letting a bit of your own personality leak into the work you’re doing in new media. Your supporters will appreciate it.

Launching a New Facebook Page

“What we Learned Launching a New Facebook Page”

Launching a new Facebook Page and building your community is no small task. The old phrase, “If you build it, they will come” doesn’t usually apply to Facebook. Building a Page from the ground up is months of diligent work, planning, and trial and error.

United for Kids is currently in the process of just that.

Recently we had the chance to talk to Marcus Swift, who is responsible for the growth of their Page. He shared with us his breakthroughs, lessons learned and some of the surprises along the way.

If you’re in the process of growing your Page, this interview is a must-read.

Tell us a bit about your Facebook Page (What’s the audience like, what kind of content do they enjoy, how often do you post?)

Our audience is mostly Oregonians who care about kids. That includes parents, lawmakers, advocacy groups and voters who want more of an emphasis placed on our youngest members of society. We just launched this movement in March, so we are still small, but growing. We are trying to do so organically and as inexpensively as possible, and ActionSprout has been a good tool to do so. One of the goals of UFK is to highlight our partner organization’s good work—so we also post a lot of content, giving them a shout-out for their efforts.

What does an average day look like?

I manage both the Children First social media and the United for Kids social media, so most days I log in and check on both first thing in the morning. Right now, I’m more focused on the United for Kids Page because we are running an online campaign to increase sign-ups and likes. I will see how my Action is doing, maybe get some inspiration elsewhere to post. As the day goes on, I often get breaking news updates about certain legislation, so I try to post those on Facebook and Twitter as quickly as possible. Throughout the day, I will post and check on content while also doing other things like drafting content for our UFK blog.

How has your Facebook strategy changed over time with the growth of your Page?

At first, we really just needed to get something up and going. We are a small staff and we are often juggling a lot of things at once. So just getting the Page up and completed was a small victory. But we realized pretty quickly that we needed a long-term strategy, so I worked with our amazing consultant who gave me some excellent tips, and we started building our likes, growing the Page, and doing a better job of posting timely and interesting content. One of the first things our consultant recommended was ActionSprout, which has been really helpful so far.

What’s something you wished you learned sooner in terms of social media?

Posting fresh, interesting content that will grab people’s attention is so crucial to maintaining a good readership on your Page. It took me a while to fully understand that and then work hard to make it happen. I’m still not perfect, but it’s a start!

What has been your biggest surprise so far?

I’ve been really surprised at just how big of an audience you can reach through Facebook. I was never convinced that social media was really that important until I started doing the work. Now I realize how big of a positive impact it has on our overall communications goals.

What organizational goals do you hope your Facebook efforts will support?

We are working to sign up as many supporters of United for Kids as possible so that we can build a pro-kids movement in Oregon. Our Facebook efforts are crucial to helping us achieve those sign-ups. Facebook is also helpful because it allows us to start building our reputation as a trusted source for news and information about children’s issues in Oregon.

How are you currently trying to meet these?

We are running an aggressive online sign-up campaign using social media. ActionSprout has been a key part of that strategy. Our UFK blog is also part of our strategy of highlighting the great work by our participating advocacy organizations, individuals and lawmakers. The blog also helps us shine a spotlight on great pro-kid policies that more Oregonians should know about.

What are your goals for the future? How do you plan on meeting these?

We plan to continue building United for Kids over the next several years. Our goal is to grow this movement into an effective force for pro-kid policies. We want to make Oregon the best place to be a kid. We plan to meet that goal by continuing our online work on social media and our blog, as well as our email list, but also through traditional face-to-face, on-the-ground organizing.

Do you have any advice for other nonprofits just starting out?

If you don’t know social media, ask someone who does and learn as much as you can. Then develop a plan; it doesn’t have to be extensive or elaborate—even a one-page plan is helpful—but develop something. It will help you stay on task and on track to meet your goals. My other advice is to set a calendar reminder to post on Facebook every day, several times. That will keep you honest and make sure that you are adding new, fresh content to your Page, which will help increase your reach and your likes.

fight for Reproductive Rights

Can Facebook be used to fight for Reproductive Rights?

NARAL Pro-Choice America is a powerhouse organization that Fortune Magazine once described as “one of the top 10 advocacy groups in America”. Made up of pro-choice women and men across the United States, they fight to protect and expand reproductive rights through:

  • Lobbying Congress to convince elected representatives to support the right to choose. Organizing women and men to make sure that lawmakers hear from the pro-choice people they represent.
  • Connecting what happens in Congress or in the states to how it affects the ability to make private decisions, like choosing legal abortion.
  • Working with state affiliates to advance ideas that are good for women’s freedom.

Recently we had the pleasure to sit down with their Digital Media Associate, Rebecca Wall.

Tell us a bit about where you work. Why did you want to work with NARAL Pro-Choice America?

NARAL has long been a leader in the movement for reproductive freedom, and I’ve been a supporter of gender equality and the right to choose for as long as I can remember—I attended my first NARAL Pro-Choice America march when I was only 2 years old! (And here’s the photographic evidence to prove it!)

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 1.52.03 PM

How has your strategy / options about Facebook changed over time?

We did a huge dive recently into what were the optimal times to post, how our audience responds to certain posts, and what performs well. As a result, we’ve been able to get to know what our audience likes and responds to, and post content that will do really well for us.

What do you find most challenging about your job and the cause you support?

When I first started, I found the anti-choice comments to be a little challenging; nothing can prepare you for the extreme, horrible things that anti-choice activists say about women.

How do you use social actions, from ActionSprout, compared to traditional form-based actions on your website?

We use ActionSprout for all our petitions on Facebook, and it’s really upped our number of action-takers that we get from social media overall.

Tell us about a successful action. Can you tell us what went into creating the Action?

One of our most successful actions came from this past month, when the House of Representatives passed a 20-week abortion ban. We really capitalized on the anger and outrage that so many were feeling about what was happening.

What did you learn from this success more broadly? Is there anything you do differently now?

Broadly speaking, we discovered that sometimes, it’s the most simple and basic appeals that have the most impact.

What did you learn about your audience from this success?

We learned that when it comes to these basic human rights, people are ready to do whatever it takes to protect them.