2015 Digital Fundraising To Do List #3 Allocate Budget For Paid Social Media

No More Free Social Media

The writing has been on the wall for a couple of years now. Facebook, needing to more effectively monitise its massive user base, has been gradually changing the way in which content published on brand pages is shared organically with followers – so as to encourage more brands to pay to promote their content. Last year this decline in ‘organic reach’ hit the point where the average organic reach of brand page content was around 6% – and falling fast.

Then came the official statement that from January 2015 Facebook is “bringing new volume and content controls for promotional posts, so people see more of what they want from Pages”. A statement widely seen as heralding the final death of free organic reach for promotional content – and that includes content you publish on your organisation’s branded page promoting fundraising asks.

So, what’s a fundraiser to do in the new ‘Pay to Play’ world of Social Media Promotion?

Well, the first thing is not to panic. Despite repeated rumours of its demise, Facebook remains the most popular social network world-wide (outside China) and older consumers are becoming increasingly active users – which is handy, as they’re the consumers most likely to be donating to charity too. So, while you may well need to change the way you use it (and other social media – as Twitter looks like going the same way) there may well still be a role for Facebook activity in your fundraising programme.

Begin by conducting a careful and honest review of just how well your own Facebook activity is really performing in support of fundraising. Not just in terms of how many Page Likes you’re getting (although we all know how much senior management love those charts), but also assessing how your levels of reach are changing for different types of content, what traffic Facebook is driving to your website, and just what that traffic does when it gets there.

Then, get online and learn about what options exist for targeting paid social content. You’ll find that these range from traditional demographic, lifestyle, interests, and ‘lookalike’ targeting to Custom Audiences through which you can specifically target people who already donate to you. The latter is especially interesting for fundraising – as it offers a targeted Social Media extension to your donor development activity (and several fundraisers I’ve spoken to recently have reported good results from tests of this).

Once you understand the options, allocate a testing budget and design some proper, robust tests to assess the real potential of paid social activity to directly support your fundraising programme. Just as you would with any other paid channel, take the time to look around and talk to other fundraisers to find-out what is and isn’t working – both in terms of targeting and the content and fundraising propositions being used. Aim to make 2015 the year you get some good benchmark data on the potential of paid social for your fundraising – which you can build-on when planning for 2016 and beyond.

Lastly, if you come across anyone who is still under the impression that Social Media is a free extension to their digital fundraising programme then do them a favour and gently bring them up to date with the way the world is changing. As, despite discussion of failing organic reach having been ongoing for a long while now, the belief that ‘Social Media is Free Media’ remains hard to shift in some quarters.

Only time will tell, but I’m hoping the shift towards paid promotion will actually bring a much needed dose of realism to the use of Facebook for fundraising – and so help lead to far greater Social Media fundraising effectiveness overall. For too long the perception that Social is a free engagement channel has led to it being pretty badly managed by many organisations when it comes to fundraising. Now that we need to start paying for it, hopefully it’ll be treated with a bit more rigour and respect – and deliver a lot more income as a result.

 

This post is the third in a series suggesting things I think fundraisers should have on their 2015 Digital Fundraising To Do List. The first two are:

#1 Conversion Rate Optimisation

#2 Get Serious About Email Fundraising

Socialnomics Social Media Revolution video updated for 2013

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Just over a year ago I mentioned a very handy YouTube video created by Erik Qualman, the man behind the concept of Socialnomics, which through 4m 19s of fascinating facts and statistics provided a great introduction to the world-wide strategic importance of Social Media. For several months I used the video in workshops and conference sessions but then, due to the incredibly fast pace of Social Media growth, the statistics became too out of date so I had to revert to less entertaining ways of getting the point across.

Good news this week though – as Erik has just uploaded an updated 2013 version, and this time you can choose from one of two ‘upbeat’ music versions: this one or the other one.

Personally I prefer the original soundtrack, but that’s probably because I’m a tad old skool – and it doesn’t take anything away from the video’s usefulness as an entertaining introduction to the immense reach of Social Media in the world today.

Riding the Digital Fundraising Hype Cycle

Earlier this month technology research company Gartner released their latest Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies report.

The Hype Cycle is a very interesting way of considering the evolution of new technologies as regards their hard business benefits, taking into account the common stages of over enthusiasm and hype, followed by negative PR and disillusionment, leading – for some technologies at least – to the realisation of mass market business benefits.

I first started using it as a strategic planning tool for digital fundraising back in 2009, when E-book Readers were right at the Peak of Inflated Expectations (just after Amazon launched its first Kindle), Microblogging was heading down into the Trough of Disillusionment (as the mass market struggled to get to grips with Twitter), and Web 2.0 was heading-up the Slope of Enlightenment. You can see a flashback to the digital world in 2009 in my August 09 blog post about that year’s Hype Cycle here.

Looking at this year’s Hype Cycle (summarised in the chart above) there are a number of technologies with clear relevance to digital fundraising: Gamification is headed for the Peak of Inflated Expectations; Augmented Reality and NFC Payments are just over the Peak and slipping into the Trough; and Media Tablets (think iPad or Galaxy Tab) are fast heading into Enlightenment. Meanwhile, despite the great work done by those involved in the SecondLife Relay for Life annual fundraiser (raising $350k for the American Cancer Society in 2012), Virtual Worlds remains pretty well stuck in the Trough of Disillusionment.

For a quick reference to what Gartner’s full list of technologies mean (including such wonders as the Internet of Things) you can check their online IT Glossary here.

While the main Gartner report is excellent food for thought, I find a more useful strategic planning exercise is to apply the Hype Cycle concept specifically to the application of digital technologies in fundraising. In a digital world where it is all to easy to be attracted by the bells and whistles of new technologies which have yet to prove real fundraising value, simply mapping-out where you feel different opportunities lie on the Hype Cycle curve can be a handy way to help you focus on those areas most likely to generate returns within defined timescales.

Every organisation is different with regard to its vision for and experience of digital fundraising, as well as the audiences they might engage with and resources available for implementation, and as a result each might come-up with a slightly different placement of technologies. However, here’s a rough generic Digital Fundraising Hype Cycle I’ve drawn-up listing some of the key opportunities with us today and coming-up over the horizon to help get your thinking started…

12 digital fundraising trends for 2012 #10 Social Media Fundraising Growing-Up

After several years of amazing growth, data from Hitwise last August suggested that Facebook use was starting to slow here in the UK. Not at all surprising given that there are now around 30.25m UK users – equating to almost half of the whole country’s population signed-up to the site. So it must be approaching saturation point. Hitwise reinforced this observation with data released earlier this month showing Facebook’s share of all UK visits to social network sites falling by 7% December 2010 to December 2011, while YouTube’s share grew by roughly the same amount.

Falling market share or not, in the week that we’re due to see Facebook go public with a $10bn share offering I don’t for a moment foresee that we will see a slowdown in interest in the site any time soon. However, what I do think we will see over the next year is a growth in the maturity with which Facebook, and Social Media in general, is viewed within the fundraising world.

After five years of seemingly ever increasing fundraising expectations, I sense a change in attitude towards the role that Social Media has to play in online fundraising. A change beautifully summed-up in the slide above, from the presentation given by Beate Sørum at the International Fundraising Congress in Holland last October.

Fundraisers are increasingly coming to acknowledge that while Social Media undoubtedly does offer unique benefits that secure it a key role in online fundraising programmes it is not a “magic faucet of free cash”.

With this understanding, they are then freed from a myopic drive to “make Facebook* fundraising work” (*or Twitter, or Google+, or Pinterest, or whatever) and can instead consider where in their donor recruitment, engagement, and retention programme the various flavours of Social Media can best be applied. While at the same time considering where they should focus on improving their use of good old email and effective website design.

If I’m right, then we should see a growing number of integrated campaigns drawing together strong fundraising propositions and storytelling through blogs (and promotion through bloggers), with Facebook and Twitter enabling sharing and conversation, well designed transactional pages capturing donations and donor data, and email being used to keep donors informed when there’s a new chapter to the story they’re interested in – rather than ‘single strand’ Twitter or Facebook campaigns. Time will tell…

This is the tenth of twelve posts that I’ll be publishing throughout January on trends I think will prove to be important for digital fundraising in 2012. You can find the previous trend post, on Back to Website Donation Basics, here.

An interesting take on the ROI of Social Media

 

I was preparing a presentation the other day when I came across this great video by Erik Qualman of Socialnomics, packed full of interesting statistics and insights relating to the growth of Social Media.

Now, I’m an avid reader of digital usage research as part of my job but the way Qualman presents the case for the importance of Social Media and what it means for consumer engagement really captured my attention and is well worth a look

A great soundtrack and lots of interesting nuggets – including one that particularly struck me (3.49 minutes into the 4.16 video):

A pretty challenging thought that – and one that I challenge you not to take seriously after you’ve watched the video!

If you think Facebook isn’t for fundraising you should perhaps think again about just what fundraising is

I’m just catching-up on a bit of an email backlog after spending a few days over in Holland at last week’s 30th Annual International Fundraising Congress (a great event with almost 1,000 attendees from over 50 countries taking part), and a headline in one email news bulletin happened to catch my eye…

“FACEBOOK IS NOT FOR FUNDRAISING, SAYS FACEBOOK EXEC”

That’s pretty eyecatching – so I read on to the subhead…

“Facebook is not a useful tool for fundraising but rather should be utilised for donor stewardship and building interest, according to a top Facebook Exec.”

You can read the whole article here (although I note the headline has now been changed following the comments you can read beneath it regarding its misleading nature). In short it’s a summary of the Convention session given by Elmer Sotto (@esotto), Facebook Canada’s ‘Head of Growth’ – which happens to be one of the sessions I attended.

However, I certainly didn’t come away with the message that “Facebook is not for fundraising”.

Perhaps that was because Sotto opened his session with the story of the We Day Facebook campaign which has raised over $350k for the Canadian charity Free The Children since launch just a few weeks ago, by leveraging Corporate donations – $1 is donated for everyone who clicks ‘Like’ on the We Day Facebook page – while also raising awareness of the Charity’s big ‘We Day’ events across Canada.

Or perhaps it’s because over the last year or so I’ve also heard other great Facebook fundraising stories like that of the 93 Dollar Club (now at $112k in just over a year) and reports of Facebook overtaking Google to become the primary driver of donors to the fundraising site JustGiving.

All of which kind of counter the “Facebook is not for fundraising” claim.

Admittedly, Elmer did talk about how Facebook is not primarily a ‘giving mechanism’ (in the way that JustGiving is a ‘giving mechanism’) but essentially a ‘consideration building mechanism’ – raising both awareness and positive consideration of causes as they are promoted through Facebook users’ newsfeeds. This positive consideration then has the potential to be turned into donations if a relevant and engaging giving mechanism is then presented – perhaps a Friend’s JustGiving page, a special interest group’s community fundraising page, or even a corporate funded ‘Like’ campaign as for We Day.

Thinking it through, perhaps it is the challenge of presenting a relevant and engaging giving mechanism that lies behind any concerns over Facebook’s place in the fundraisers toolkit. If someone has come to consider you because of a personal connection with another Facebook Friend but the giving mechanism offered is your standard, one size fits all, generic £3/mth regular gift ask – then I’d imagine the donation rate you’ll see is likely to leave you in the “it’s not for fundraising” camp. However, if you craft your giving mechanism to better fit the word of mouth-style consideration building seen on Facebook, then there is every chance that you’ll find the site has a very useful role to play in your online fundraising programme.

Latest international social media usage report just released – and it’s free!

There are some things that come around every year and that you await with eager anticipation. The first spring flowers, your summer holiday, your birthday, Christmas, and the release of the annual UM Social Media Tracker… or is that last one just me?

If you have any interest in understanding how consumer adoption of social media is evolving (and if you’re reading this blog then you should have) then this report is a must read.

Known as ‘Wave’, it is one of the largest and longest-running examinations of the impact of social media on today’s global marketplace and this fifth annual installment is based on research conducted in July 2010, involving 36,800 social networkers across 53 different countries.

So it’s global, up to date, robust, contains some really insightful analysis… and it’s free to download here.

Go on… You know you want to.

(Now just 12 months to the next update.)