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

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.

New digital tracking study reveals UK consumer views on promotional email and social media use

Last Thursday I was out at the launch event for the DMA’s Digital Tracker Study, a research initiative (backed by online research company FastMAP and email marketing company SilverPop) that aims to provide regular insights into some of the key questions online marketers are asking in relation to using email and social media use.

I’ve embedded a copy of the main research presentation above, so you can take a look at the top-line findings (or click here to view on SlideShare).

As is always the case with such research, some of the observations just confirm what most good online marketers know already – like the fact that traditional sales promotion techniques (money off or free delivery) work well in email.  But I did find some of the insights related to people’s use of Spam flags and also the difference between use of mobile devices to access emails and social media sites of real interest. Plus, there are also some great headline stats – like almost two thirds of recipients finding less than one in ten promotional emails of interest (which might explain some of the dismal click through rates many email marketers see).

Here are some of the insights that jumped out at me – but do take a look yourself and see if the results confirm or counter your own experience or current thinking:

  • 43% of UK adults receive over 20 promotional emails a week – so there’s lots of competition for attention in their inbox
  • 64% of people find just 1 in ten (or less) of these emails of interest to them – suggesting that if you can be truly relevant than you can really stand-out
  • 19% of people will flag your email as Spam if they feel they receive too many and 18% will Spam flag emails they don’t recall signing-up for- so make sure you send a memorable ‘welcome’ email in response to every sign-up and then watch your frequency if you don’t want your email campaigns blacklisted (although the more relevant and thus ‘valuable’ your email, the less frequency should be a concern)
  • A further 8% use the Spam flag instead of opting-out if the opt-out process seems too slow or unclear – so, again you’re risking blacklisting if you don’t make it as easy to opt-out as you did to opt-in
  • The majority of email is still read on desktop (67%) or laptop (49%) devices – but 11% of adults now also read them on mobile devices
  • Interestingly, this contrasts with 18% of people using mobile devices to access their social networks – suggesting a very different mode of use between email and social networks, which marketers need to take into account

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Much discussion about online fundraising at 2010 Deutscher Fundraising Kongress

I’ve finally reached home here in London after speaking at the 2010 Deutscher Fundraising Kongress over in Fulda last Thursday, having spent much of the last three days waiting for trains alongside countless other travellers stranded by the European air travel lockdown caused by ash from an Icelandic volcano. However, on the up-side, the unexpected land journey did give me an opportunity to see far more of the country than I would otherwise have done and it was certainly a great conference – with over 500 fundraisers attending, mainly from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

I was there to give a couple of sessions. One on Consumer Insight that you can find on my Strategy Refresh site, and the other on Online Community Fundraising that you can view above or on Slideshare.

It’s a really interesting time for online fundraising in Germany right now as adoption of social media is really starting to take off after a very cautious start, compared to the US and the UK (research findings on this are included in the presentation). With this a number of new German online fundraising websites have launched offering project-specific crowdfunding (like betterplace.org and  wikando) and personal fundraising pages (like Altruja). Much of the discussion during and after my session was about how quickly such sites might become popular with German consumers, and when German charities might be able to share online fundraising stories like those of the $93 Club in the US and little Charlie Simpson in the UK.

There were folks with pretty clear views on both sides of the debate. However, I think the majority opinion was that after several years watching other countries take advantage of social media in support of fundraising (Germany having been described as 5 years behind the US in social media adoption), the next couple of years look set to see online community fundraising start to take-off there. It’ll certainly be interesting to check-back at the 2012 Deutscher Fundraising Kongress to see just how things have evolved.

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Social Media is not killing Email – so what’s your next excuse for not using Email as well as you could?

Each time we see a significant evolution in the way consumers communicate there is always a temptation to jump to the conclusion that the latest method will surely kill-off the previous methods. Presumably such predictions were bandied about after Alexander Graham Bell made his first telephone call back in 1876 – yet the mail service didn’t die-out as a result of the adoption of telephones. Rather more recently, there have been suggestions that email will kill-off traditional mail ever since I got my first email address back in the early ’90s (remember Compuserve?) – but it hasn’t happened yet (although that debate does continue).

As such, following the incredibly rapid adoption of Social Media over the last few years it’s not surprising that people are having the same discussions again – ‘surely if everyone is tweeting or facebooking then they’ll no longer be using email?’. Indeed, this was the very idea being put forward in a WSJ Tech Article I spotted towards the end of last year entitled: “Why Email no longer rules”.

However, it turns-out based on a growing body of research evidence that the rumours of Email’s imminent demise at the hands of Social Networkers are incorrect. Here are just a couple of examples to illustrate what I mean:

Firstly research from Nielsen back at the start of last year. This is particularly interesting because Nielsen analysts had previously gone on record stating that Social Media was more popular than email, based on a global analysis of internet usage. However, when they went on to do more detailed research examining just how Social Media use decreases Email use they actually ended-up disproving their original hypothesis and instead proved that social media use actually leads to increased Email use – as illustrated in the chart below. You can read more about their research here.

More recently, this same finding has been confirmed by US Relationship Marketing Agency Merkle in its ‘View from the Social Inbox’ report released just last month. Based on research conducted in late 2009, they too found that active social network users are more likely to be avid email users. With 42% of social networkers checking their email 4+ times per day compared to just 27% of non-social networkers (as shown below). You can download the full Merkle report here.

So, now that we have a growing body of evidence that Email is continuing to be a key online communication channel – despite the overwhelming popularity of various forms of social media – here comes the important question… Given Email’s continued, if not growing, importance – just how happy are you with the way you’re using it to engage with your supporters?

This question has been particularly front of mind for me recently as I’ve been working with two large UK charities to help develop their online fundraising strategies and in both cases opportunities to improve email use have offered some of the greatest income growth wins.

If you’re in the same boat, then don’t feel too downhearted – because you’re certainly not alone. According to the 2009 Adestra/Econsultancy Email Marketing Census, 72% of email marketers (from both commercial and non-profit organisations) admitted that they are not using email as effectively as they could – despite acknowledging that it offers the best ROI of any online activity other than natural search. Interestingly, as shown below, the top two reasons given for not using email effectively were ‘Quality of email database’ and ‘Lack of strategy’, with ‘Poor technology’ 7th in the list – reflecting the fact that many organisations now have access to the technology required to undertake pretty sophisticated email programmes, but their strategic planning has yet to catch-up:

With most of the online fundraising buzz these days tending to be focused on some form of social media activity, it’s good to be reassured that dear old email is here to stay – and, in the light of this, to be prompted to make time to consider whether you’re online income is suffering because you’re not using it as well as you could be.

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Help with writing your Social Media guidelines – from over 70 different organisations

Social Media Guidelines

The incredibly fast adoption of Social Media over the last couple of years has left many, if not most, organisations in something of a spin – as, in very short order, something that was at first dismissed as the preserve of the young and the geeks has become an unavoidable key component of mainstream communications.

With this recognition has come the need to better understand and manage the use of social media by organisations – including charities and other non-profits – leading to the desire to develop social media guidelines to help ensure that everyone across an organisation works together to get the most from this new technology. However, this is not as easy a task as it might sound. Where do you start when trying to write guidelines for something that is, at its heart, often about engagement through spontaneous, unstructured conversations?

Well, one very handy place to start is Chris Boudreaux’s Social Media Governance website, where he has very helpfully collated links to social media guidelines from over 70 different organisations – including the American Red Cross and Easter Seals, as well as a diverse range of other corporate and public sector organisations.

While the very organisation-specific nature of Social Media usage means that it’s unlikely you’ll find an exact fit for your own guidelines – reading how others have approached the same challenge should certainly help you set off in the right direction.

 

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