Give Your Advocacy Campaign an Edge: 5 Social Media Tactics
Social media has become the global forum of activism, advocacy and social change. Roughly half of Americans have been civically active on social media in the last year, according to a Pew Research Center survey. More than two-thirds of respondents believe that social media is important for “getting elected officials to pay attention to issues” and “creating sustained movements for social change.”
Social media has one notable drawback as a forum for civic activity: It is a pay-to-play arena. Yes, anyone can join and post content, but advertisers can pay to target and reach more people than conventional users. Nonprofits tend to run on tight budgets and are, therefore, at a disadvantage next to for-profit marketers with immense spending power.
At Phone2Action, my team and I have worked on more than 25,000 advocacy campaigns with nonprofits spanning every imaginable cause and audience. We find that certain social advertising tactics produce more action—whether it’s a tweet, email to a lawmaker or donation—than others. I’ll share what has worked best.
1. Leads Ads
Usually, a nonprofit engages new advocates on social media then links them to a website where they’ll provide contact information and act. That step loses many advocates (especially those on smartphones) who prefer to stay on social media.
Facebook lead ads overcome this hurdle. You can target ads with a lead form that collects contact information and invites advocates to contact a lawmaker, donate or take another action. You also can transfer collected information to your CRM for future campaigns.
It’s the best of both worlds: Facebook’s targeting power and data for your own advocacy platform. Expect to see lead ads on LinkedIn and Google in the near future.
2. A/B Testing With Boost
Marketers tend to run paid posts off the bat. Instead, run several A/B tests before you pay.
First, post your message organically (i.e. for free) on multiple networks and measure what happens. How does the performance vary across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and elsewhere?
Next, pay to “boost” the post on each network. Do you get more engagement than you did before? Do more people fill out the lead form or take the action you’re optimizing for? Note that you can use tracking pixels to determine whether you’re engaging new advocates or existing ones.
The A/B tests improve how you plan future campaigns. If you know which network produces the best results and which boost has the best ROI, you’ll spend money more wisely.
3. User-Generated Content
A social ad is not an end unto itself. The goal is to motivate people to share your message with their friends, family, and networks in their own words.
When people see an ad, they know that you paid. It’s a transaction. When people see a post from a friend, their attitude shifts. More likely, that friend posted about your social cause as an act of conscience and civic duty.
You cannot pay for virality. Individuals have credibility, trust, and social capital that social ads lack. Design your ads to be shared and personalized, not merely received.
Bots have earned a mixed reputation because it’s assumed that they "replace" human beings. They don’t. A bot is an interactive interface that can answer questions better over time. The smartest bots use artificial intelligence.
If your advertising succeeds and brings advocates to your Facebook page, use bots to manage the traffic. Bots can answer basic questions, collect contact information and show visitors how to participate in campaigns.
Nonprofits don’t have the time or headcount to respond to every visitor. Bots can free your team to work more on mission-oriented tasks.
5. Bring It In-House
Agencies boomed an era when advertisements were expensive and difficult to produce. Today, an agency will gladly charge you $10,000 to $20,000 per month to run social media ads. It’s a waste.
Essentially, a fresh college graduate takes over your account and spends your budget using an interface that you could learn in one afternoon. They’re social "experts" only in the sense that they have been doing it longer than you have. They do not have secret knowledge or techniques.
At a nonprofit with minimal resources, spending $120,000 on a 23-year-old "social ninja" who manages 15 other accounts is a bad investment. Bring it in-house.
Social media is an uneven playing field. There’s always someone able and willing to spend more money than you can. The toolkit above has worked for nonprofits that have tight budgets and want to make the best use of their resources. Try it out.
Jeb is the founder and CEO of Capitol Canary. Jeb, who has been featured or quoted in The New York Times, Forbes Small Business, the Chicago Tribune, Politico, and Campaigns in Elections, is a thought-leader in the civic technology industry. He’s on the selection board for Stanford University’s Social Impact Grants, an advisory member of Designing Chicago, and an alumnus of IMI Plc’s graduate development program. Jeb’s work has spanned three countries, including Singapore, Shanghai, and the United States, where he led a business unit at DCI Marketing, now a Marmon company and subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway.
Ory, who has a Bachelor of Arts in international relations from Stanford University and an MBA from Chicago Booth, has cofounded three technology companies. He lives in D.C. with his wife, Lea and his daughter, Sybil.