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?
- Our Canadians are probably slightly more willing to take ActionSprout actions than our US folks.
- 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.