Facebook and Politics: Your Nonprofit Should Be Watching
Typically I hate this time of year on Facebook. This is the time where I normally run out of patience for ads and friends. Something happens to people during this time in a major election cycle—I often wonder what it really is. Do people just turn off the normal filters they use every other time of the year when there aren’t heated political discussions? Do people just have a perception that everything is black and white—only one right and one wrong—nothing is gray? Do people just become angry and emotional and think it is okay to vocalize that every day?
Well, whatever causes it, it is perfect for anyone running in the election. The more people share, like, yell, promote and disagree, the more the messages your chosen politicians are reaching your social networks and beyond. So, while I really hate this time of year on Facebook, as a marketer it is truly fascinating to me.
As many of you know, my agency, Eleventy, is heavily involved in the Ben Carson for President campaign—specifically on the digital side. As a marketer, watching how Facebook has been used to grow a following from basically nothing to the largest of all the candidates is a case study in itself. And your nonprofit should be watching and following in the footsteps.
Simply put, nonprofits should be watching all of these campaigns and deploying similar strategies. Let’s face it, these candidates are trying to 1) tell their story 2) get people to align with their mission and goals 3) get people to share their thoughts with friends and family and 4) take other kinds of action, like donating and messaging support.
Sounds a lot like what every nonprofit needs from Facebook as well.
Since I’ve got an inside line into the Carson strategy, here are some key elements to consider:
- As of a few days ago, Trump had just over 4 million Facebook fans, and that is a community that has been built over years with his various TV ventures, businesses and his presidential candidacy. Hillary Clinton has less than 2 million Facebook fans built over years in politics. Ben Carson tops them all with just over 4.5 million fans—all built since the spring of this year.
- This didn’t just happen because Carson decided to run for president. It was engineered through careful Facebook advertising and targeting. This is the kind of advertising and targeting that any nonprofit can do with the right focus on the details.
There are multiple ways to think about Facebook but overall there are three goals:
- Grow your social media footprint by placing your brand in front of as many people as possible that are similar to your current Facebook community.
- Create a community of constituents who will share and comment on your topics because they are committed to your mission and want to tell their friends about their involvement.
- Ask for action within your Facebook community while regularly creating a dialog with them. Advertising cannot replace the dialog.
Targeting is Key!
If your organization has a static advertising or posting strategy on Facebook, you are missing out. Think of Facebook as just another channel in your direct marketing arsenal. The Carson campaign is using Facebook like no other presidential campaign, and it is believed this is one of the primary reasons Carson’s overall support has grown so quickly.
If you treated Facebook like all of your other acquisition and retention channels, you wouldn’t have a static strategy, right? You would be creating segments based on constituent behavior and interests, and then serving up very specific creative (visualization, videos, photos) with very specific messaging:
In October alone, the Carson campaign was juggling 240 different ads within Facebook user feeds, and each one was specifically targeted to different types of supporters within the campaign.
We all know that donors may be motivated by very specific aspects of your nonprofit mission. This holds true in a presidential campaign too. Some Carson supporters are motivated by a position on education versus a position on fiscal management. For a health charity, some donors may be motivated by research, while others are motivated by patient services and a quality of life focus. Either way, a best practice would be targeting based on those differences.
Put another way, you would segment based on interests and behaviors and then target by segment. Facebook makes this possible for every nonprofit and company. Is your nonprofit taking advantage of it?
- Nonprofits should be uploading different, segmented lists into Facebook to create specific advertising and marketing strategies that are tailored. You can make this tailoring based on the type of engagement your donors have with your brand (i.e., event participation, direct donors, volunteers, etc.) and therefore have a dialog that is most relevant for that group. On the other hand, you can segment your donors into loyalty levels, and then drive the type of and number of ads to your most loyal donors versus driving lower commitment asks to your lower loyalty donors. And, of course, aligning calls to action with those ads is a must.
- Nonprofits should be using the “look alike” features in Facebook to actually grow their current Facebook communities. By using the same type of segmentation described above, you can have Facebook identify people who are like your most loyal donors. You can define who you want “more of” and Facebook will help you find them, and then specific ads can be served up to those consumers. It’s anonymous and you won’t get access to names, but the targeting is what you are looking for anyway for this acquisition approach.
- Last but not least, your nonprofit should be targeting people who are most likely to align with your organization. How? If your organization has developed personas for your donors or has lifestyle data on your donors this can be used in Facebook. For example, if your donors typically align with a specific religious affiliation—you can use that profile data to target ads to people who often share that type of content in their Facebook feeds. Another example could be if a strong portion of your donors are mothers of school-age children, you can use that to target ads to people who often share and like topics that would indicate that life stage.
Not convinced yet that you should be doing more in Facebook marketing?
The Carson campaign, as you can imagine, has explored all the digital channels. The goal is to create significant scale and grow supporters for the campaign while also being good financial stewards. In other words, “just advertising” is not good enough. It is about being efficient and strategic at the same time.
For the Carson marketing strategy, nothing comes close to matching Facebook in the ability to target demographically in large numbers across a single delivery platform. They have been able to serve hundreds of millions of ads and in many cases acquire new supporters at a net.
Now, if you are thinking through your ROI and the cost to acquire with your other digital efforts, your paid search might be performing at that level. But, remember, paid search is targeting consumers who are looking for specific things in search. With Facebook, this is growing your supporter base through traditional display ads. And this doesn’t even take into account the “social” aspect of Facebook and the ability to create dialog and traffic around your mission and message.
Still not convinced you should be doing more with your Facebook strategy?
How about this? For the Carson campaign, Facebook display is generating a five-times the ROI compared to digital display.
If you are still not convinced, you must not be a fundraiser.
Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group
Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.