The Best Ways to Love Your Donors on Social Media

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love donors

Show your Donors how much you Appreciate them!

The Internet is opening up tons of opportunities for nonprofits! For one, it allows nonprofits to dramatically expand their reach with donors.

To begin our discussion on how to effectively shower your online donors with love, let’s take a look at the Blackbaud 2011 donorCentrics™ Internet and Multichannel Giving Benchmarking Report.

  • New donors are increasingly turning to the Internet rather than to direct mail for obvious reasons.
  • However, new first-time online donors also have the highest attrition or turnover rates: 60% only give once. Ouch!
  • Those that do return to give at another time tend to become committed and highly valuable supporters, volunteers, cheerleaders—and they drive more engagement online as well.

Now that we know what’s at stake, let’s get right to the most central point: how to increase donor retention.

The secret? It’s all about showing the love!

But what does that mean? We’ll answer that question through these proven methods.

Personalize Automated Donation Response Emails

We’re now programmed to expect automated, impersonal and scripted Thank You emails in response to spending money online in almost any context. This includes giving donations to nonprofits as much as making a purchase on Amazon. It’s a given. Simply saying thank you means diddly squat.

It has no weight, so to speak. So, while it’s not possible to personalize each and every email to every donor, you can put far more effort into your automatic responses.

  • Don’t ask them for anything else within a Thank You email. It’s definitely frowned upon and won’t win you any brownie points with donors.
  • Communicate that you put some LOVE into this!
  • Be as personal as possible. Keep in mind that you are a human talking to other humans.
  • Go light on the links other than to informative, relevant, useful or entertaining content.
  • Use Smart Includes to insert their name and other info like how much they gave.

Again, put some love into the automated Thank You emails. Don’t send a boring theme or nothing but a “Thanks” and a transaction receipt.

Go Old School: Direct Mail Responses

Is it a good idea to send a thank you letter or card to donors through the mail? Absolutely! And you can apply just about everything we said concerning automated emails above. Put some love into these, which translates into personality.

If it feels or looks like the things they mindlessly toss into the physical trash or recycle bin on a regular basis, they’re goners. Here’s a really good Thank You Letter Template ready for personalization and tweaking.

Showcase Both Your Biggest and Smallest Supporters

This is your nonprofit’s story and all your donors are equally a part of it. When it comes to interfacing with first-time online donors and increasing retention, you might want to focus on the smaller guys. It’s all relative of course; we’re speaking in generalities here. Be sure to experiment and see what works best with your particular audience. Odds are you’ll find that the big upticks come from shining a light on examples like these:

  • Little kids who create and engineer ways to make donation money. The “money” is secondary to these kids; superficial. All they care about and focus on are the impact and results that the money’s intended for.
  • The average person who anyone can relate to.
  • Hard-luck cases who overcome the odds and their donations are a form of giving back.

We can’t help but melt like butter for situations where people overcome big obstacles to give a little, but produce big impacts.

These everyday stories make a difference to people as well, and add to accessibility.

How do you show your donors some love? Let us know in the comments!

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Megan Cantrell’s National Parks Strategy for Social Media

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Protecting our National Parks for Future Generations

The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) is an independent, nonpartisan voice working to address major threats facing the National Park System. The NPCA was established in 1919, just three years after the National Park Service.

Now, nearly 100 years later, the NPCA has a million members and supporters fighting to protect and enhance America’s National Park System for present and future generations.

We’ve admired the work of the NPCA for some time, and were very excited when Megan Cantrell agreed to an interview. Megan is currently their Senior Coordinator of Online Communications. We sat down to talk social strategy, online supporters and the future of the NPCA.

Here’s what she had to say.

ActionSprout (AS): How long have you managed social media communications and where did you get your start?

Megan Cantrell (MC): I actually got my start here at the NPCA. I have been managing the National Parks Conservation Association’s (NPCA) Facebook account since its creation seven years ago. Working with the web team, we started a Facebook Page and that is when we started building our social media program.

(AS): Tell us a bit about where you work. Why did you want to work with the National Park Conservation Association?

(MC): When I was in high school, I was a Student Conservation Association (SCA) high school volunteer. That took me to Yellowstone National Park and to the backcountry of Yosemite National Park. Visiting these two parks, helping maintain trails, educating hikers about Leave No Trace and just being in these majestic places—who wouldn’t fall in love with the idea of national parks?

Because of this deep connection created through the SCA, I found that I wanted to continue doing more for them. The NPCA takes volunteering to the next level. Volunteering for a day to help clean up trash, build fences and providing hands-on (and much-needed) help is important. But there are many issues that face our national parks that you can’t tackle with a shovel or hammer. The NPCA is America’s voice for our national parks. We help national park advocates find their voice to speak up on important issues that our national parks are facing. Bringing awareness to comment periods, Congressional bills being introduced, development threats, etc. The NPCA and our one million members and supporters use our voices to protect our national parks for present and future generations.

(AS): What do you wish other people knew about your nonprofit?

(MC): Your voice matters. Taking action on behalf of our national parks is important and we (the NPCA) cannot do it without you. We often are asked: Does my action really matter? It does. Sometimes our fight takes years of litigation in order to pull off a huge win for our national parks, but the steady drumbeat of our national park advocates helps—tremendously.

(AS): What do you think will change about the NPCA over the next five years?

(MC): In five years? Lots! The 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park System is in 2016. It has grown to include more than 400 of our country’s most important historical and cultural sites and iconic landscapes. While our national parks are referred to as our country’s “best idea”, they face many challenges, ranging from encroaching development to climate change to years of underfunding. Our national parks need people to not just visit them, but also to take action to ensure that they are protected for generations to come. To ensure that our national parks thrive in their second century, we must empower a new generation of people to advocate for them.

But that’s not all. In five years, the NPCA will also be celebrating our 100th anniversary. A century of advocating to protect and enhance America’s “best idea”, gearing up for our own second century.

(AS): How has your strategy / options about Facebook changed over time?

(MC): Our strategy has been flexible. It has to be, with the advancements and changes Facebook makes. We constantly evaluate how our posts are performing. Each month we take Facebook’s analytics and plug it into a document we created that highlights our main priorities:

  • Reach
  • Engagement
  • Stories Created
  • Sharing

We want our fans to be well-versed in the issues surrounding our national parks so that when there is a time to take action, they can, and they can do so knowing why it is important. We also want to provide our fans with quality content that engages them in conversations, prompts them to share and tell their friends.

We have made a concerted effort this last year to include me early on in the campaign strategy meetings. This has really helped in understanding and identifying campaign goals for the different programs. Hopefully, continuing to do this will allow us to not only better plan, but also better track how our campaigns are doing and continue to evaluate and tweak for the future.

(AS): Tell us a bit about your Facebook Page (What’s the audience like, what kind of content do they enjoy, how often do you post?)

(MC): The NPCA’s Facebook Page is full of passionate national park advocates. We love reviewing comments from our posts where fans are answering other fans’ questions about national park issues, and doing so correctly and with facts. Our most engaging posts have to do with top ten lists, photo slideshows, national park issue victories and urgent action requests. We try not to post more than three times a day. We can post anywhere between 30–55 posts a month.

(AS): What organizational goals do your Facebook efforts support?

(MC): The NPCA is America’s voice for our national parks. Our goal is to cultivate and engage our Facebook fans to become invested in the future of our National Park System. Care about how they are now and what we can do to leave them in better condition for future generations.

(AS): What kind of social calls to action do you use?

(MC): Mostly we prompt them to take action on behalf of our national parks. Sometimes, when last-minute legislation is presented, we ask folks to call their Senators and Representatives.

(AS): Tell us about a recent successful social campaign or series of posts.

(MC): Our most successful social media campaign was during the government shutdown in 2013. Our national parks had to close because they are managed by the National Park Service which is part of the Department of Interior, which is part of the Federal Government. For 16 days, people were not allowed into their parks. The NPCA’s social media networks was the place where people were looking for answers. We sent out facts, updates on the budget issue, an FAQ blog on the shutdown, helped resolve issues of false information, etc. It was a campaign that was necessary to do, in order for the correct information to be disseminated to the public.

(AS): What did you learn from this success more broadly? / Is there anything you do differently now?

(MC): People are listening. Every morning a team would update each other on news from the night before, issues being discussed on social media, what emails to our Member Services team are saying, etc. We would then create a communications plan for that day. This happened every day during the shutdown. The people were talking and it was up to us to listen so we could address misinformation, share updates on the budget process, etc.

I think we learned a lot from that campaign, about the power of social media and our supporters. One thing we did think about afterwards was being able to create multimedia (graphics and video) more quickly to help illustrate the issues at hand.

(AS): What did you learn about your audience from this success?

(MC): Our fans are paying attention. They are well-informed about national park issues and often help address misinformation on their own. Our organization learned that social media is a powerful place to communicate.

(AS): How did you measure this success? What metrics do you focus on?

(MC): We used the analytical tools that we had: Facebook and Twitter. We did realize after the campaign that it would have been nice to thoughtfully track our landing page traffic with UTM coding and Crazy Egg. But we looked at the number of comments made on our Page, shares, likes, retweets. The overall engagement rate and traffic to our sites over the course of the shutdown was the highest it has ever been.

(AS): Do you have any advice for other nonprofits based on your success?

(MC): When there is an emergency issue, listen to your audience. Hear what they are saying and let your teams know so you can respond quickly. There were a lot of stories that were blown out of proportion over the course of the 16 days, where the whole story was not told. Knowing that our supporters were hearing these false stories, we were able to respond accordingly and tried to disseminate the correct information about what was really happening in and around our national parks.

Key Takeaways for National Parks Strategy:

Every Voice Matters. It’s easy for supporters to feel like their voice doesn’t matter in the scheme of things. This is especially true when issues feel too big or solutions feel impossible. It’s your job to remind them that their voice does matter and that it can and will lead to change. Let them know that you can’t do it without them!

Current events. Campaigns centered on current events tend to overperform. But don’t go out and pick just any current event; make sure that it’s something your supporters are passionate about and that will move them to action.

Know what your most engaging posts are. Looking at your most engaging posts usually leads to the discovery of patterns. There are probably a few types of content that your audience enjoys the most. This is also true for content formats. Do images outperform videos? Do you supporters seem to enjoy articles? Pay attention and repeat what works. The Page Analyzer is a tool that will help you do this quickly and easily. The report will show you only the highest-performing content from your Page.

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Mini Guide: How to Source Beautiful Action Images

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Legally Source Images for Your Social Actions

When looking for the perfect image for your action, where do you go? Can you simply Google image search what you’d like and drop it into your action? While many people who publish online take this route, it is illegal and they do get into legal trouble from time to time.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way! There are tons of great options to source your images legally. Some are even free and provide you with beautiful, high-quality images. Let’s take a look at the legal ways to source images.

Sourcing Images the Legal Way

Free Resources

Search.creativecommon allows you to search sites like Google Images and Flickr for creative commons images all in one place. With 13 sites to pull from, this is a treasure chest of free images.

Death to Stock Photo Enter your email address into their form and receive a new pack of high-quality, beautiful images every month. These are free to use online and on social media. Each month’s pack has its own theme and usually includes about a dozen images.

Free Images and StockVault are both free websites that allow you to search for free stock photos within their databases.

Affordable Resources

iStock is run by Getty Images and provides affordable stock photos. You can choose to pay per download on a credit basis, or opt for a subscription.

ShutterStock Offers three levels of plans: free, pay as you go, or subscription.

Premium Resources

Getty Images, Corbis Images and Big Stock provide some of the most beautiful, high-quality images around. But they come at a price. Starting anywhere from $100 to a few thousand per image, these sources aren’t cheap. More often, this is where you come to splurge for a big campaign or project.


Once you have your image, you’ll need to attribute it. This can either be done on the image itself or in the image caption. Each source will have its own attribute system, so be sure to read the fine print. Usually, it will call for you to list the title, author, year and source, but this can and will differ.

Attributions can be easily added to images with tools such as Pixlr.

Sharing your Original Images on Facebook

Do you take your own original pictures? Do you attribute them before you publish? If not, you should be.

Here’s an example from UNICEF and Sierra Club. As you can see, each image includes the organization name and logo. Now, when folks share your image on social media, they are also sharing your cause.

sourcing images unicef

sourcing images sierra club

What are your favorite sources for images? Let us know in the comments!

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Can I Promote on Facebook without Spending Money on Ads?

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organically promote

Yes! How to Organically Promote your Cause on Facebook

We’ve all heard the news. Organic reach is declining and the only way to reach fans and supporters is through paid ads. Facebook as a free medium is gone and the game is now called “pay to play”. It’s the end of an era, folks… or is it?

How true are these claims? Is the only way to reach supporters really through paid ads?

While there is definitely some truth in these statements, it’s not as black and white as it seems. Yes, Pages can still reach their fans through organic reach if they know what to do.

The key to promoting your cause organically on Facebook is inspiring your supporters to shout from the rooftops about your cause. Inspiring this kind of reaction requires posting content that compels supporters to share it far and wide through their social networks. When this content is paired with your nonprofit’s name and a simple call to action, you’ve got yourself a powerful organic promotion machine!

I know, I know, this is easier said than done. Content such as I’ve described doesn’t just grow on trees. But, there are tried and true ways to encourage more of your supporters to share your content and thus your cause.

Make them look good

The secret to getting more of your content shared is posting content that your supporters want to be seen sharing. When supporters engage with a piece of content on Facebook, they do so because they want someone to see them do it. Facebook users are keenly aware of the fact that by engaging with your content or taking any social action, they’re communicating something to their friends.

As a Page manager, your job is to create content that helps your target audience express themselves to their friends. In other words, when Facebook supporters interact with your content, it becomes a part of their image on Facebook; a part of their personal narrative. How does your content help them achieve this?

One way to measure this is to ask yourself: “Would I personally share this piece of content?” If the answer is no, your supporters may not want to either.

Learn what they like

So we’re posting content that makes our supporters look great—well how do we figure out what it is that they want to share? Luckily, there are many tools that will help you figure out what your supporters are interested in.

Page Analyzer. This free tool will generate a report of your most popular and engaging posts. Patterns in this report are an indication of what your supporters like. Be sure to look for patterns in subject matter, format, tone and style, and length of post.

Facebook Insights. Scrolling through your Facebook Insights will give you an idea of which of your posts engaged the most people. This is another place to look for patterns, both in what your supporters like and don’t like.

insights promote

Timeline is an ActionSprout tool available with a free account. Similar to Facebook Insights, Timeline will show you which of your posts performed the best and worst. This tool also allows you to sort, filter and search through your results.

Timeline promote


Be timely

Time and again we see that some of the highest-performing content concerns current events and issues that people are passionate about. This type of content not only helps your supporters build their online persona, but makes them appear in the know and a source of information to their friends.

Keep your eyes open for relevant content or trending hashtags that relate to your cause. Bonus points if you spin this content into an Action!

Use the right emotions

To effectively promote your cause organically, you want as widespread sharing as possible among your supporters. To accomplish this, your content needs to contain and evoke the right emotions that inspire this kind of sharing. According to Kimberlee Morrison:

“Emotions such as inspiration, happiness and amusement led users to broadcast the information to others through Facebook shares, and tweets.”

In contrast:

“When users encountered emotions that made them feel out of control such as anger, sadness and fear, they were more likely to “narrowcast” the information, by engaging in discussion in comments, or sharing with smaller groups of other users. Arousal was most important when it came to narrowcasting.”

This means whenever possible, provoke inspiration, happiness and amusement through your content.

If you do promote, only pay for what’s already working

If you notice a piece of content that is really rocking, it might be worth putting a little money behind to give it an extra boost. Setting a budget of $15 a day can be enough. Be sure to save this for content that is truly performing higher than usual!

How do you inspire the sharing of your organization’s content? Let us know in the comments!

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Timothy DuWhite Fights for Justice through Social Media

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social media

Believe Out Loud empowers Christians to work for LGBT equality

Formed in 2009, Believe Out Loud is an online community that empowers Christians to work for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) equality. Reaching an average of 3–5 million people per month, they are the leading platform in Christian faith and LGBTQ advocacy.

Since the advent of the modern gay rights movement, many Christians have raised their voices for (LGBT) equality. Led by Jesus’ message to love thy neighbor, they are fighting hard against injustice of all who are discriminated against.

Timothy DuWhite, Program Associate of Believe Out Loud, is no different to those who came before him. As the primary social media manager, he is in the trenches day in and day out, working hard to maintain a safe place for people to talk about these sensitive and personal issues.

We were so blown away by the success and quality of the Believe Out Loud Facebook Page, we asked him for an interview. Luckily for us, he agreed! Here’s what he has to say on social strategy, how to foster an engaged audience and keep them coming back for more.

(AS): How long have you managed social media communications and where did you get your start?

(TD): I have been managing social media communications for about 5 years now. As a professional spoken word/teaching artist, a lot of my early experience stemmed from me creating an online presence for myself. Much of this personal work translated well into my position as the Program Coordinator at a nonprofit by the name of “Urban Word NYC”. At Urban Word, I was not only responsible for facilitating all programmatic responsibilities, but also for engaging with the youth we served via different social media platforms.

Today, as the social media manager for Believe Out Loud, all these previous experiences in navigating personal accounts, as well as relationships with youth, help to inform the way I approach this work now.

(AS): Tell us a bit about where you work. Why did you want to work with Believe Out Loud?

(TD): On the most basic and fundamental level, Believe Out Loud appealed to me simply because I am a queer man of faith who could use some affirming at times. On a more structural level, what I found fascinating about Believe Out Loud is how they used these various platforms to counter the non-affirming narratives that so many LGBTQ folks are forced to digest. A huge advantage of social media today is that it gives everyone an opportunity to have the sort of conversations that are important to them; Believe Out Loud exemplifies that.

(AS): What do you wish other people knew about your nonprofit?

(TD): I think it’ll be good for at least our audience to know that we are a staff of three. Within that staff I am the primary one doing all this particular engagement. I offer this information because another aspect of my job is comment moderation on the posts we publish every day. Thankfully we have such an expansive and engaged audience; however, it does come with its pros and cons. Pro being we get to have real in-depth conversations with a large array of people and identities. Con being if those conversations are in some way derailed or spammed by people wishing to only agitate, it becomes difficult for one person (me) to keep up with them all and make sure our Page remains a “safe space”. So just keeping that in mind would be helpful.

(AS): What do you think will change about Believe Out Loud over the next five years?

(TD): Given the nature of social media, I can confidently predict that in five years the different platforms that we prioritize in online engagement would likely shift or completely change. Another thing that I see changing, which we’re already in the works of doing now, is cultivating more offline work. Just last year, we hosted our first big offline event by the name of “Level Ground”. It was the first queer of faith film festival New York has ever seen. The best part of doing offline work is that we actually get to meet and connect with the people who “like”, “share” and comment on our Page. Meeting our audience members just further informs and inspires our work.

(AS): How has your strategy / options about Facebook changed over time?

(TD): The most important key to successful online engagement is consistency. By remaining consistent, you are offering a sense of reliability to your audience members, which is imperative for maintaining them. With that said, strategies may vary given certain news updates or upcoming campaigns; however, things such as the time of day we post generally stay the same.

One of the changes that we have been instituting recently is how we choose to present “breaking news”. Some days, breaking news would look like a relevant picture with the news update in the caption along with a link to an article. Other days it might be a blog written by one of our audience members that expounds upon the personal narrative in relation to said news. It’s really contingent on the overall emotional/mental climate of our audience, and it is my job to pay close attention to that.

(AS): What’s something you wished you learned sooner in terms of social media?

(TD): The trick to being successful on social media is knowing your audience and knowing what it is they respond both well and not so well to. So in response to this question, the sooner you know this information, the easier your job is as a social media manager. Working with Believe Out Loud, I’ll say it took about three months before I was confident about the responses to the content I was sharing. On the flip side, it also took that amount of time for the audience to adjust to a new manager, whether they explicitly knew the work was handed over to me or not. So being able to expedite this process as quickly as possible would be most helpful.

(AS): Tell us a bit about your Facebook Page (What’s the audience like, what kind of content do they enjoy, how often do you post?)

(TD): Our audience at Believe Out Loud ranges from LGBTQ folks of faith, to parents of LGBTQ children, to clergy, to straight allies, and even at times to non-affirming Christians. The content that we find does the best, with regard to cold numbers, are what we describe as “fluff” material. Fluff is the content that is usually the most easily digestible for our audience and affirms an aspect of our organization’s mission. For example, fluff for us would be a picture of two women getting married, or of two men caring for their child. Fluff is a helpful tool to use for balancing out posts.

For example, if we have rough breaking news to share in the morning, we would probably share some fluff in the afternoon to lighten people’s spirits. We usually post four times a day, our time slots being: 10am, 1pm, 4:30pm and 7pm. Across our platforms, Believe Out Loud reaches an average of 3–5 million people per month. Our Facebook community is the largest and most engaged part of our network.

(AS): What organizational goals do your Facebook efforts support?

(TD): Believe Out Loud was originally created as a response to the non-affirming messages being spread about the LGBTQ community and the Christian faith. The popular narrative one would often hear about with regard to these communities is that they cannot be one of the same—that being an LGBTQ-identified Christian is in some way an oxymoron. The paradigm BOL works within, is the belief that sharing stories and cultivating nuanced dialogue around such misrepresentations would help to incite action and change. Our Facebook efforts support this notion in that it gives us the opportunity to test out our theory. On Facebook we are able to ask questions, share experiences, and shape discussions in ways that deviate from this widely consumed narrative.

(AS): What kind of social calls to action do you use?

(TD): As of late, a lot of our work has been based around the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA). Our goal is to rally supporters in particular target states to lend their voices to ending legal discrimination on the basis of religious freedom. The majority of our excitement to begin using ActionSprout is to see how your tool could help us in propelling this campaign and movement.

(AS): Tell us about a recent successful social campaign or series of posts.

(TD): The most recent series of posts I have been focusing on are all the content that involves RFRA. These posts mostly consist of news updates, and most recently blog posts.

(AS): What did you learn from this success more broadly? / Is there anything you do differently now?

(TD): The majority of the success from these posts comes from the relevancy of the information. RFRA is something that is currently affecting and has the potential to affect the lives of all LGBTQ folks across this nation. Getting people to engage with content such as this isn’t difficult. What I spend most of my work focusing on is tailoring the conversation. What we are interested in seeing is our audience thinking critically about this issue instead of the reactionary “this is horrible”—and that is it. So what I make sure to be cognizant of, from post to post, is how a particular caption on a news story framed the conversation that followed it. By paying close attention to this, I can toggle back and forth between the sort of dialogue I am trying to inspire.

(AS): What did you learn about your audience from this success?

(TD): For the most part, I just learned that our audience is far more informed about this issue than we originally anticipated.

(AS): How did you measure this success? What metrics do you focus on?

(TD): Personally, as the one primarily responsible for the cultivation of dialogue on our Page, I measure success in the richness of audience responses. If we can get audience members to write more than just an “Amen” or a “that’s horrible” on a piece of our content, then we are successful. Aside from that, regarding metrics, we focus less on how many “likes” a piece acquired and more so on the post’s reach. This number is what best helps us gauge how far a piece has spread.

(AS): Do you have any advice for other nonprofits based on your success?

(TD): I think some of the best advice I could give a nonprofit is to stay consistent. As I said before, consistency is how you remain reliable in the eyes of your audience. Also, a big key to success is knowing your audience—who they are, what they want, what they need—and then later finding out how to accommodate all of these things while also challenging your audience to think critically. Focusing on these few things would be the foundation to building success.

Key Takeaways for Social Media:

Build reliability and trust with your audience. Posting consistently and regularly will go a long way to building this. Also be sure to address comments on your Page, whether positive or negative, and monitor the Page in some way. You don’t want spamming or threatening content to remain on your Page for too long and drive away your core audience.

Current events and issues boost engagement. We see this time and again. No matter the format, content that relates to current events or breaking news tends to engage and reach more people. Keep your eyes open for opportunities that relate to your own cause. This is also a great way to build trust with our audience as an expert on the issue.

Get to know your audience. Who are they? What are they interested in? What do they feel strongly about? Knowing the answers to these questions will make your job a lot easier and your Page a lot better. Figuring out this stuff takes time. Like Timothy said, it took him three months to get to know his audience when he took over the BOL page. The most important thing is to pay attention to your audience and do a ton of listening. Over time, your audience will let you know what they want.

Need more social mojo?

Reach more supporters, cultivate donors, and increase Facebook engagement with ActionSprout today.

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Increase the Effectiveness of Your Call to Action with Storytelling

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Connect with Supporters through Storytelling

If you truly desire to revel in the power of engaging internet content, the real gut-wrenching grit that makes readers act, check out some of the success stories on GoFundMe.

Take, for example, Matt’s Donation Page and his successful struggle against obesity.

storytelling Example GoFundMe Story

Here’s a young man who lost 270 pounds over a six-year period after reaching nearly 500 lbs. at his heaviest. This left his body with excess skin and nowhere to turn for help to afford the surgery. This is where the Internet came in and completely transformed his life. His story is only just beginning, after already adding incredible substance to the positive body image movement online.

As you can see, Matt turned off donations after receiving more than double the estimated amount needed. If we were to ask why Matt and many others like him are so successful in the crowdfunding arena (quite similar to nonprofit work), the answer would be this: Storytelling!

An Emergence of Web Psychology

What we’re finding is that we crafty humans haven’t changed one bit despite all this technological innovation. Our brains behave exactly the same as they did tens of thousands of years ago, when we were developing much less complex tools.

This article’s going to show you how to leverage the art of simple storytelling so that you can apply it to your ActionSprout Actions, donation asks, or any time your nonprofit has to ask your Facebook audience for help.

The Key to Engaging Action Posts

Our brains love to construct imaginative emotional maps of what people are going through to try to understand and empathize. We’re programmed to simulate what others are feeling, longing for, plotting, yearning to achieve, and struggling to overcome.

Think about it: for a very long time, news and stories were in print. Just print.

Today, we live in an era of tech-savvy crowdfunding and social media, which means that your content can be a living, breathing, heart-pumping, STORY gold!

Matt has Facebook, Tumblr, images, Vines, videos, blogs, and all else to share his ongoing story, and it works because the human brain is hardwired to connect cause and effect, and empathize. Leo Widrich put it this way:

“The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated.”

Let that sink in for a moment. Whether we’re living it or reading about it, our brain treats the situation or experience in the same way. How crazy is that?

It’s no different to when we’re talking about the engaging nature of a story embedded within an action post on Facebook or the blogosphere. Not in the thick conventional fiction novel sense, but in the easy-to-digest online narrative like Matt’s. Or, something short and sweet that gets people to click on an action post.

The Pull of Relevancy

We’re self-interested creatures but it’s not our fault. Our ancient limbic brain (the “lizard”) is hardwired to keep us alive and protected around the clock 24/7/365… even while sleeping.

When you ask for donations or volunteers, it all comes down to relevancy. The people that show up do so out of self-interest.

Their story relates to yours, or to the story at hand. Odds are that the vast majority of Matt’s donations came from people who a) are going through something similar or b) know/love/care for someone else who is/has. GoFundMe, like ActionSprout, allows for the curation of modern content around a story. As we’ve told stories over the last 27,000 years, our minds have become exceedingly good at processing them. There are two forms:

  1. Information: This is more informal “how-to” stuff, or data, where our minds only have to decode the words and extract meaning. Imagine listening to someone telling you in a YouTube video about the specifics of how to make homemade protein bars without using any words that communicate smell, sound, texture or even demonstration.
  2. Sensory: Now, imagine the same dude showing you how to make those protein bars in his own kitchen, explaining the textures and smells and making your mouth water while he explains his personal narrative in relation to protein bars and fitness.

Storytelling Tips for Actions

It’s pretty obvious. The challenge that a fair amount of our nonprofits have is learning how to take their information-based asks, or reasons for asking for donations or volunteers, and crafting a story that gets action. Here are some basics to start you off.

Anchor to a Story in Motion

See how I began this article with Matt’s story?

Whatever your ask is about, there’s a story going on somewhere in relation to it. If not, you can make one up. Not to deceive, but to prove a point. Think of it more along the lines of a parable, simile or metaphor (more on these in a moment).

The trick is in the words you use, which should be sensory or constructed in such a way as to cause the mind to create emotional and imaginative maps searching for relevancy, empathy, and to connect cause and effect.

Include Dialog

The reason dialog works is because your mind has to create context, the characters speaking, their body language, and the imagined reactions to words. Humans are VERY social animals, and we’re always dissecting social interactions to find better ways of surviving/thriving ourselves.

Including dialog or quotes in your asks taps into the social part of our brains and thus connects supporters to your cause in a deeper way.

Focus on an Emotion

It’s funny, because all you really need to do in most cases is get the reader to feel the emotion you want them to feel through the story. Let’s say you want them to experience a sense of urgency, for example to save a valuable community building from being demolished.

Check this out—another GoFundMe example:

GoFundMe storytelling

If you look at their donation ask page, and examine just that context alone (the web environment), here’s the most influential and engaging part of the text:

“Today the house sits vacant, sadly awaiting its demise; to be crushed and buried in an un-named landfill after having so faithfully witnessed the impressive growth of the proud city around it. The house will be demolished, unless funds can be raised to relocate the house from its current site to a nearby park, vacant lot, or other property where it can safely exist for future generations to appreciate.”

The brain interprets most of the preceding content (aside from the photo) as “Blah blah blah” and then it gets to that third paragraph, and emotion comes into play because of the words being used. First, focus on the emotion you want readers to feel, then find a suitable story to help create it using sensory and emotional verbiage.

Simple Stories are Better than Complicated Ones

Don’t think of this as dumbing down your content or your stories. That’s not it at all. What you’re seeking to do is simplifying the communication process to make it as efficient as possible in helping people’s brains connect cause and effect.

For example, if all Matt did was populate his ask page with dense medical information about the surgery, he wouldn’t have been nearly as successful.

It’s about creating a story that gets to the point. Action posts are typically short, sweet, and concise. You need more people to show up to a march or protest at this place and time, or to simply spread the word. Then, for example, you could describe what the march will feel like moving through the streets. This is all backed by neuroscience research:

“Researchers have discovered that words describing motion also stimulate regions of the brain distinct from language-processing areas.”

Use Creative/Sensory Metaphors

Stay away from clichés. Our brains have been exposed to the same metaphors so many times that it treats the mental imagery like normal, everyday words. So if you’ve heard the metaphor tons of times before, your readers have as well. These cliché metaphors can immediately turn reader brains into “data processing” instead of “feeling” mode, which is the last thing you want!

How does your organization connect with supporters through storytelling? Let us know in the comments!

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How to Communicate with Those Who Disagree with You

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Listen and Reflect, Communicating with those who Disagree 

As a nonprofit online, you’re most certainly going to encounter your share of folks that wholeheartedly disagree with you…

This is especially the case when we’re talking heavily controversial and far-reaching subjects like constitutional issues, human rights, religious or spiritual stances, etc. So how do you communicate with those who disagree?

First, Draw the Line

Listen, if someone is being a complete troll or malicious then, whenever possible, completely avoid these people. You must draw the line somewhere in the virtual sand. We all know when someone’s just looking to pick a fight, so don’t bother. It’s not worth it and it almost never ends well for anyone involved. That said, the second thing is for you to do is…

Understand Basic Human Psychology

Our brain’s default stance is defensive. There’s no escaping that fact. Understanding this helps you to choose your words wisely so as not to add to this defensiveness but to help people feel these two things instead:

  1. Acceptance
  2. Understanding

It’s hard to argue with those. Instead, what’s going to be found is common ground, appreciation, and an environment where listening is actually possible. Oh yeah, did we mention that listening or really receiving a genuine communication is impossible while in the defensive/protective stance?

Think about that. In a nutshell, you just received the key to successful human communication. When we’re approached by someone who genuinely accepts our stance/beliefs/perspectives, and understands where we’re coming from, we feel loved.

Be Aware of Body Language

When applicable, for example in a native embedded video message where someone from your organization is addressing the camera personally, make sure they’re aware of body language. Some tips to help people feel accepted and understood (listened to):

  • Ensure the hands can be seen (and ideally the feet—pointed initially at the audience), palms open and/or occasionally in prayer position.
  • Don’t hold eye contact for the entire video. Keep direct eye contact to periods of no more than 10–20 seconds tops, then look elsewhere for a moment.
  • Same thing with the torso. Do not point it directly at the camera during the entire video. It comes across as unnatural.

Before jumping into the text-based communication, it should be mentioned that your body language while writing something plays a role. Why? Because, to a certain degree, our body language always adds to our current state of mind.

When you accept someone in a conversation and really listen to them, how do you hold yourself? You probably tilt your head. You don’t hold yourself in a dominant posture. Right? Before writing responses or addressing comments or people who disagree with you, use your body to help put you in this frame of mind.

“It’s Not About Me.”

If someone loses their cool, it’s rarely anyone else’s fault but their own. When approaching a conversation with someone that’s upset or defensive, remind yourself that you and the nonprofit you represent are not responsible for their feelings and actions.

Be willing to suppress your initial instinctual responses to lash out, dominate, or be defensive—and just keep calm. The easiest way to temper your ego and your knee-jerk reactions is to understand that their distress is likely internal and has very little to do with you or the stances that your nonprofit takes.

Instead of Talking (Typing), Ask Questions

Oftentimes, nothing you say is going to do any good to help disarm people doing their best to make a statement. Remember, these people want to be seen disagreeing with you. Social media is visible and far-reaching.

If someone wants to make a scene in Facebook comments, then to some degree that’s something that they want other people (whom they view as important or valuable) to witness. If you try to talk, it’s only going to add to the problem, so ask questions instead. This is a very passive move that inadvertently shines the light on them. Now they need to expand and do the talking. It gives you a chance to find common ground and focus your attention on that.

The Golden Rule of Persuasion

If you aren’t willing to be persuaded or at least open yourself up to another person’s (often the opposite of yours) perspective, don’t expect them to act any different.

  • Picture the facial expression of doubt.
  • Now, picture the facial expression of belief, or at least deep concentration while listening.

Which is better to start a conversation with that includes conflicting opinions? No one’s converting anyone in a conversation, especially not one that’s taking place in a comments section or online forum. The best that can happen is that people are heard and communication actually takes place

In a neat PDF we found, called “How to Talk with People Who Disagree (but aren’t yet disagreeable)”, the authors boil this concept down into simple examples.

“You can say, “I’m pro-life and you’re pro-choice and neither of us seems likely to change. I wonder if we could both support measures that would reduce the number of abortions.” Or “You are for market solutions to climate change, and I’m for public solutions. Is there a way we could imagine public policies that would make the market work better for the environment?”

If you’ve demonstrated that you’re open to change, they will be as well. And, when you present their mind with these simple “cause and effect” questions, most of the time they will become completely diffused and instead become engaged with finding a solution.

It feels good! It feels like love when this happens. Not romantic love, but the love of one being for another. You get the idea.

Don’t Patronize, Stay Positive

If you take on a dominant position in your intonation, word usage and punctuation (or trying to sound wordy, intelligent or enlightened), and patronize (or worse, demonize others), you’re doing harm to your nonprofit.

Either adopt some tact and change behavior here and now, or have someone else take over managing negative online feedback. The line between digital social media and the real world gets thinner by the day: socially, personally, legislatively, legally, all of the above.

One really ugly and inappropriate argument, where a nonprofit moderator goes overboard, can have long-term consequences. Therefore, it is a must to avoid patronizing (everyone despises this because we’ve all been little kids). Stay on the positive side and look to establish a mutually rewarding connection.

Does this mean become robotically happy and positive all the time? No. Be authentic. But you can choose not to be a downer without sacrificing your real feelings. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Here is perhaps the hardest strategy…

Make Friends on the Other Side

This is a brilliant habit to form that teaches you how to build trust with people, both online and in your day-to-day life. Start approaching those whom you know disagree with you and make it your goal to reach common ground and agreement. It takes practice, especially in cultures with thick political correctness around certain issues.

In her TEDWomen talk, Take “the Other” to Lunch, Elizabeth Lesser explains how she began to do this and discovered that the most direct way to get to the heart of the matter in a disagreement is to ask penetrating questions like these:

  • Can you share some of your life experiences with me (relevant to the issue at hand of course)?
  • What issues deeply concern you?
  • And what have you always wanted to ask someone from the other [read: your] side?

We must always strive to steer clear of what she coined “Otherizing” people, or mentally placing people in the other camp.

“By the end of our lunch, we acknowledged each other’s openness. Neither of us had tried to change the other. But we also hadn’t pretended that our differences were just going to melt away after a lunch. Instead, we had taken first steps together, past our knee-jerk reactions, to the ubuntu place, which is the only place where solutions to our most intractable-seeming problems will be found.”

The Last Tip is to Laugh & Be Vulnerable

You might already know this, but if you smile right now, your brain will release hormones and neurochemicals that will make you happier. The next time you’re feeling really sad, smile. Just smile for 30 seconds and see what happens.

Laugh and smile during conversations with people who disagree. When dealing with someone through text alone, smile for 30 seconds before you start writing your reply, so that you’re coming from a more positive place. It works miracles!

Finally, be vulnerable. Most human beings instantly melt like butter when someone’s brave enough to truly show they’re not made of iron. Right?

How do you talk to people who disagree with you? Let us know in the comments!

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Emmy Bengtson: Using social media for good

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planned parenthood social media

Planned Parenthood is a powerhouse organization providing reproductive health to millions of Americans

Planned Parenthood is currently the largest U.S. provider of reproductive health care and offers a wide range of services including: cancer screening, HIV screening, counseling, contraception, abortion and more.

The amazing Margaret Sanger opened the country’s first birth-control clinic and founded the American Birth Control League in 1921. This became part of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1942 and, as they say, the rest is history! Since then, Planned Parenthood has grown to over 820 clinics in the United States. Even so, the future of Planned Parenthood won’t be an easy one. With vicious attacks from opposition every day, Planned Parenthood is fighting hard to protect legal rights in the U.S.

Recently, we had the honor of being able to sit down with Emmy Bengtson, who manages Planned Parenthood’s advocacy and political work on social media. As you’ll see, the passion she has for her work is tangible. Here’s what she had to say on Planned Parenthood’s amazing supporters, how she uses ActionSprout Actions, and the future of the organization.

ActionSprout (AS): How long have you managed social media communications and where did you get your start?

Emmy Bengtson (EB): I started off as a “new media” intern (that term seems so cute now) at the legendary Ms. Magazine fresh out of college in 2010, and got the most amazing crash course in using social media for good. Because Ms. shares an office with the Feminist Majority Foundation and it happened to be an election season, I also got to get my feet wet in using digital and social media for advocacy and politics, which is what I’ve been doing ever since. From there, I worked at a few other nonprofits with issues ranging from global women’s rights to immigration reform, and on President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. After that, I came back to DC and started at Planned Parenthood, where I manage social media for advocacy and political work.

(AS): Tell us a bit about where you work. Why did you want to work with Planned Parenthood Action?

(EB): Why didn’t I want to work with Planned Parenthood Action?! Planned Parenthood has always been an organization close to my heart—I went to Planned Parenthood for basic health care as a teenager, have rallied with Planned Parenthood for reproductive rights, and saw PPAF’s (Planned Parenthood Action Fund) president, Cecile Richards, speak at a Women for Obama rally on the campaign, about how badly we need people in office at all levels who will protect our rights.

I think it’s rare to see an organization that is doing such amazing work on so many different levels: Providing critically important health care to millions of people who need it (and in many cases, have nowhere else to turn), changing a culture with actual, fact-based education on everything from sexuality to stigma, and fighting for reproductive health and rights from state legislatures to the White House. It’s pretty incredible. I’ve always been a feminist and someone who believes in the basic idea that women should have the right to control our own bodies and lives, and I also love social media, activism, politics and the whole shebang. This was a perfect fit.

(AS): The interest in reproductive rights seems to be growing. Why do you think that is?

(EB): I think, thanks to activists who came before us, a lot of Americans—especially women my age—believe that our right to be able to access the full range of reproductive health care is no longer up for debate. Not just the right to access a safe and legal abortion if we need one, but all basic health care: birth control, annual exams, cancer screenings and so on. It’s not a fringe idea that women want to and should be able to control our own bodies and reproductive lives and pursue education, careers, families—if and when we want them. And then we see politicians, like something out of a decade gone by, completely going against that progress.

In a lot of ways, I think it’s thanks to those politicians and their attacks that the interest in reproductive rights as an issue is growing. They’re the ones who have put it back in the spotlight. In 2011, I never would have thought I needed to defend Planned Parenthood until Congress tried to defund them, and millions of people poured out of the woodwork to stand up and say “nope”. It’s absolutely absurd that we should still be having to fight to hold our ground on these rights that we won decades ago, much less that we should even be talking about it at all. These old men are seriously trying to decide what health care I can or can’t access? In 2015—are you kidding me? But if they want to start that fight, let’s have that fight. That’s how I feel.

(AS): What do you wish other people knew about your nonprofit?

(EB): I think a lot of people have a misconception of Planned Parenthood as being kind of old school or stodgy, because it’s been around forever. That’s not how I see it, from the inside. My colleagues are all incredibly passionate, feisty, creative, smart people—and a lot of them are young and bring a lot of different perspectives to reproductive rights advocacy and organizing. There’s a lot of room for big, new ideas, things move quickly, and we’re always trying to find new ways that we can reach new people and make more change. Most days, my job feels more like being on a campaign than being at a big non-profit.

(AS): What do you think will change about PPA over the next five years?

(EB): For a long time, most of PP Action’s work was focused on the national level: what attacks were coming up in Congress, what was the president doing, etc. Now, more and more of the most important fights are happening in the states, and I think that will continue. I think the work is shifting to state legislatures, and PPFA and our affiliates in the states are fighting in the trenches to hold the line on reproductive rights and people’s access to health care. I think the importance of grassroots supporters, on-the-ground organizing, and finding new ways to engage those people at all levels is just going to grow.

(AS): How has your strategy / options about Facebook changed over time?

(EB): Because Facebook has reduced our ability to get a lot of eyes on our content, we have to be smarter about how we get people to share our message. Content has to be a lot more personal, urgent and informative in order for it to get the kind of engagement we want—we have to constantly be thinking of how to empower supporters to become satellites and spread the word about issues and campaigns we’re working on.

We have to be much more intentional about why we’re using Facebook—as a way of tapping into already existing, meaningful, personal social networks of people who share our values—rather than just using social media for the sake of using social media. And we have to bring something to the table: a strong voice, a meaningful way to take action and be engaged with these issues, and a way to feel like you’re actually making a difference. Otherwise, we’re just yelling into a void.

(AS): What do you find most challenging about your job and the cause you support?

(EB): The most challenging part about this work is just how relentless our opponents are. It actually takes my breath away sometimes to see the lengths anti-abortion politicians and groups will go to—inserting restrictions into totally unrelated legislation, coming up with new angles to restrict access, and just at a constant, incessant level of action in almost every state. We have to be incredibly fast, nimble, and smart to fight back, and we really need people to pay attention and to care enough to want to call these attacks out. Obviously, a lot of my job is about informing people and giving them the tools to fight back and protect women’s rights, and it can be just a ton for our audience to deal with. I can understand how for our audience, it can be really overwhelming and discouraging. But overall, I am constantly amazed by how fierce and unflappable reproductive rights advocates are—and more of them show up every single day. It shows that this is a cause worth fighting for, and that we’re on the right side of history. I have no doubt about that.

(AS): Tell us a bit about your Facebook Page (What’s the audience like, what kind of content do they enjoy the most, how often do you post?)

(EB): Our Facebook fans are AMAZING. We literally have folks who hang out on our Page every single day, interact with every post, and are powerful ambassadors for us and this movement. They’re a real community. In general, it’s an audience that really knows their stuff, and cares about the whole range of issues in our space: not just abortion access and birth control, but also sex ed, equal pay, health care reform, feminism, LGBT rights, etc. And they’re sharp and informed on all these issues—the content they engage with and share the most is content that will help inform their friends, push back against misconceptions, and make cultural change. We try to post about a diverse range of issues and always try to bring a unique, values-driven perspective, and that’s what I think makes our audience come back and engage with us.

(AS): How do you use social Actions, from ActionSprout, compared to traditional form-based actions on your website?

(EB): We’ve been using ActionSprout when something really big happens—whether it’s a terrible new bill being introduced in Congress or someone denigrating the word “feminist”—and we really want to give our audience something to do about it, fast. It can be time-consuming to launch actions, and ActionSprout is a super-quick tool—both for us to launch, and for people to take action. We can set it up in minutes, and for users, it’s a single click without leaving Facebook, and they can make their voice heard and join our community.

(AS): Tell us about a successful Action. Can you tell us what went into creating the Action?

(EB): We had an action recently in response to a Fox News host making some outrageously offensive comments about campus sexual assault that were just the definition of victim blaming. We wanted—and felt pretty sure that our audience would also want—to send a message not just to Fox News, but also to society at large that victim-blaming is unacceptable. We took the quote and asked folks to sign on and tell Fox News to stop blaming victims, and our audience responded really strongly to it.

(AS): What did you learn from this success more broadly? Is there anything you do differently now?

(EB): I think the most important thing is always to move fast. For better or worse, the media cycle moves incredibly quickly, and when something grabs people, they want to be able to do something about it right away. The Fox News action, and a lot of our other most successful actions, have been successful because it was up right away.

(AS): What did you learn about your audience from this success?

(EB): Not just from this action, but from our audience and from this work in general: All of these issues—from reproductive rights to consent—are intertwined. It’s all about the idea that every person deserves to have full control over their own body, safety, and well-being. Our audience gets that, and they’re willing to learn about and get involved in issues even if they’re not the main issue that brought them to our page. I think that’s key, also, to an intersectional approach to this work and building a coalition of people who are all on the same side. We can’t have true reproductive freedom if we only ever work on protecting access to birth control and safe and legal abortion—we also need to end different forms of violence, promote consent and fact-based sex education, ensure economic security and opportunity for all people so they can truly have access to the health care they need, and more.

(AS): How did you measure the success of this action? What metrics did you focus on?

(EB): First, and most importantly, the engagement rate on this action was exceptionally high: of the people who saw the post and clicked through to the action page, a high percentage of them were moved to actually take action, which is, of course, the goal. I also watched the number of people who shared the post (showing they were moved by the content enough to share it with their own friends) and the conversation that popped up around it. Especially for an action that was a bit outside of our wheelhouse (and therefore something of an experiment to see whether our audience would respond well), this told us it was a success.

(AS): Do you have any advice for other nonprofits based on your learning?

(EB): Understanding the types of topics your audience will respond to is a key way to understand what your brand really is. Talking about other issues in our general advocacy area and getting a great level of engagement with them is an important way to reach new supporters—again, maybe people who aren’t as fired up about abortion access but people who really want to support efforts to expand comprehensive sex ed, or fight rape culture, or learn more about feminism.

And we push our audience sometimes to consider issues or perspectives they may not be familiar with, or even agree with 100%. The more you can build that coalition, the wider your support network is. But, you still have to have a specific and unique voice, and know who your people are—we never dilute our central personality and mission for the sake of clicks or viral content, and we’re selective about the type of content we share. We have a really strong personality and an even stronger community, and we stay true to them.

Key Social Media Takeaways:

The news cycle moves quickly so be ready. Actions and content related to current events engage and reach more people. But to take advantage of this you have to be fast to react. As Emmy said, Actions are easy to set, create and only take a few minutes from start to finish. Better yet, it’s also fast and easy for supports to complete your Action while staying on Facebook.

Facebook’s decrease in reach can make you better at your job. Okay, I know this seems like a mistake, but it’s true. To reach the same number of people you did before, your content has to be much more personal, urgent, and informative. This kind of content better connects with your audience and they become much more engaged. This change is forcing you to up your game and in the long run form deeper, stronger relationships with supporters.

Supporters share and engage with content they want to be seen interacting with. Emmy put it beautifully: empower supporters to become satellites and spread the word about issues and campaigns we’re working on. This helps your cause and helps your supporters to be a source of information to their network as well. In the end, everyone wins :)

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Facebook Video Strategies for Nonprofits

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Facebook video

Over the past few months, Facebook has worked to make native video a primary vehicle for nonprofits and pages.

In this post, we’re going to drive home the fact that nonprofits need to start creating and uploading their own original videos and begin experimenting immediately.

Native Facebook Video?

In short, these are videos that a nonprofit directly uploads to its Page vs. sharing videos linked from outside sources like Vimeo or YouTube. The reasons why Facebook is moving in this direction—and why it’s going out of its way to reward video posters—should be obvious: more traffic and engagement.

The numbers and stats don’t lie and there are plenty of them. Here are some important points:

  • Facebook announced new statistics, which show that over the past year, the number of video posts per person has increased by 75% around the world and 94% in the U.S.
  • The amount of video posts by both people and Pages has increased 3.6 times year-over-year.
  • More than 50% of people who visit Facebook every day in the U.S. watch at least one video a day.
  • 76% of American Facebook users that were polled said that they tend to discover videos on the social network.
  • Additionally, 65% of views happen on mobile devices.

Mark D’Arcy, Chief Creative Officer of Facebook’s Creative Shop, discussed this trend:

“Expressing ideas through film is a core aspect of how creative people love to bring ideas to life. With the explosive growth of video on Facebook, it is exciting to see News Feed become the center of discovery for this work. We are only just starting to unlock the potential of sight, sound and motion in a feed-driven world.”

How Native Video Beats 3rd-Party Links

At this point, there’s really no reason to link to an external video unless it’s absolutely necessary. But even then, sometimes Facebook will not show the visual in the post. The link will be there along with text, but the static image won’t show.

Beyond that, there are plenty of facts and figures to back up why native video is king.

Here are just a few:

  • Videos get roughly 10% more promotion than images.
  • Because the amount of photos still dwarfs videos, they’ve got much more pull.
  • According to SocialBakers, videos show a 135–148% increase in organic reach vs. images.

Facebook has updated its algorithm to reward video, to increase its relevancy, and cater to the dramatic rise in viewership. Linking to 3rd-party videos is a big sacrifice, at least in terms of the Facebook environment. Here’s how they explained this change on the Facebook blog:

“The improvement we are making today considers whether someone has watched a video and for how long they watched it. We’re adding that to the factors we considered previously, which included likes, comments and shares. This change will affect all videos uploaded directly [natively] to Facebook.”

So obviously the better the video, the more engagement it will get. Are authentic, quick & easy smartphone videos okay? Sure, but not all the time. They might begin to look like video spam. Ensure that some videos are higher quality, more thought-out, and provide a better viewing experience (production value).

It takes finesse, and there’s really no way to predict which videos will get the most engagement, but there’s no question that Facebook audiences appreciate higher production value at least in terms of sharing nonprofit native videos on their own timelines.

Is Facebook Overtaking YouTube?

It certainly looks that way, but again, this is all too hard to predict and the social media sphere is evolving at such a rapid rate… furthermore, video will not remain as powerful as it is right now for too long.

Within a year there will be so much of it, and it will be so widespread, that its power will dissolve a bit. However, let’s look at some analytics from a study that involved over 180,000 Facebook video posts from 20,000 pages, including native and non-native alike from other platforms such as Vimeo, YouTube and Instagram.

Here’s a quote from SocialBakers’ Evan James:

“At the beginning of 2014, YouTube clearly had the upper hand in regards to the share of number of video posts, nearly doubling that of the nearest contender. However, as the year progressed, we saw content marketers increasingly uploading videos to Facebook directly, with a 50% increase from May through July; and are trending to surpass YouTube by the end of the year.”

In essence, YouTube is losing its seat as king of video content, because Facebook is showing more engagement (or, in other words, link-interactions from video posts).

Quick List of Video Ideas

Okay, we all understand the importance of native video, but now what? Videos don’t produce themselves and you may or may not have the time and money to support video efforts. The good news is you can film what you’re already doing!

Supporters are interested in your cause and the work that is being done. Even better, they like to be included! Here are a few video ideas that are supported by the work you and your team are already doing:

  • Original video of fundraising events like races (political and otherwise), parties, walks, rallies, demonstrations, speeches, lectures, etc.
  • Volunteer events like cleaning up the community and fixing up local playgrounds. Show folks building new picnic tables, painting and planting trees, etc. Showcase both volunteers and volunteerism.
  • Preparing for stuff: The crazy kitchen before the big bake sale, the sign-making before a protest, the busy call center, and on and on.

This is only the start. There are tons of video ideas out there, just waiting to be created. Have fun with it and be creative!

Really, social media is ready for your slices of reality. Facebook is an open canvas; with the ability to capture decent video in the palm of your hand, there’s no stopping you!

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The Keys to Greater Engagement on Facebook

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keys to greater engagement

Build Greater Engagement and Connection with your Supporters

Every nonprofit wants to build deeper connections and greater engagement with its supporters, but this is easier said than done! Luckily there are a few general rules that will work for Pages small and large.

Too good to be true? In some ways, yes. When it comes to social media, there are no magic shortcuts. But by tapping into human psychology and getting to know what drives your supporters, you can create a pretty solid framework to guide you.

Let’s explore what drives supporters to action, what they seek on social media, and what triggers engagement.

Key #1: Introspection

Chances are that the person reading these words right now uses Facebook and social media on a personal level. If they happen to be an avid Facebooker, then all the answers are right in front of them.

Yet—and this is key—when they put on their social media manager hats, all the experimental knowledge goes right out the window. They forget what users actually want to engage with. The next time you post, ask yourself this: Would I share this piece of content through my personal profile? If the answer is no, you may want to rethink your content.

Key #2: Understanding Facebook Psychology

Facebook, and social media in general, may be novel and still evolving, but their users aren’t. We’ve been around a LONG time. Human beings are inherently programmed with a desire to be liked, accepted and understood.

That’s foundational. But, the very first step in any communication is relation.

No human being instinctually wants to be engaged with something they have nothing in common with. Nonprofits need to connect with their supporters to understand what they relate to; both directly online, but offline as well (usually shared on Facebook through media).

We Seek Inspirationgreater engagement inspiration

While the human brain is programmed to respond more readily to negativity (we had it pretty rough for a while and this was necessary, to expect the worst), Facebook research shows that users engage more with positive-based content. Users seek content that is inspiring, makes them smile, laugh or feel motivated (think emotional caffeine).

Yearn for a Sense of Belonging

This is tricky; building your nonprofit’s community on Facebook isn’t easy and there are no shortcuts.

Everyone has to build the initial foundation and momentum for themselves. Each niche is different, but once a certain level of audience population and weekly engagement has been reached, it starts getting a bit easier. Why?

In life, the human brain prefers small crowds, smaller groups and a select “tribe” of people in their daily regimen; everyone else is essentially irrelevant. However, on Facebook, once users see a large engaged audience that they relate to, they’re interested.

Key #3: Assembling the Digital Facebook Avatar

This is so much a part of Facebook psychology that it deserves its own section.

99.9% of people do what they do on social media to look good to other people!

At the end of the day, what Facebook users are actively building is a digital persona. Whenever they share, like or comment, at their core it’s because they want to be seen doing so by their friends. greater engagement

MOST content online is treated with indifference for a variety of reasons, but primarily because:

  1. There’s so much of it
  2. It’s not relevant to our digital personas

In a powerful article called The One Thing That Drives Facebook Engagement, Barry Hott said something profound:

“If you expect that by slapping your [nonprofit’s] logo on a piece of content you will gain tons of engagement, you’re sorely mistaken. Every [nonprofit] wants [supporters] to be proud fans…but that’s [not always] the case. It’s more likely that the majority of [supporters] merely like your [nonprofit] but won’t necessarily shout it from rooftops. To increase your fan engagement, you need to tap into their pride.”

According to Barry, the main question to ask is: What’s something an ideal audience/community member would feel proud to share? It should come from a positive place and help your Facebook Fans Look Amazing!

Key #4: Thinking vs. Feeling

Another fact of human behavior is that thinking primarily leads to conclusions while emotions lead to action. It is emotion that gets people to click the mouse button, then act (like, share, comment, donate, volunteer, etc.). Let’s look at a general rule for content in light of this fact:

Words & Text = Thinking = Conclusions

Images & Video = Emotion = Action

Words & Visuals = Thinking + Emotion = Action

In terms of nonprofit identification and support, it’s visuals that people mentally associate with your nonprofit, not necessarily what’s being said (text).

Conclusion: The Keys to Driving Facebook Content

Alright, that’s a fair amount to wade through. A big takeaway is that the more you know about your supporters and what drives them, the more you understand what drives engagement and support on Facebook.

Key #1: Introspection

Before you post, ask yourself this question: Would I share this piece of content on my own page?

Key #2: Facebook Psychology

Humans are humans. Thanks to data tracking and endless Facebook analytics, there’s no mystery about what causes people to behave like they do: seeking to belong, find meaning, find help or be inspired.

Key #3: Catering to the Digital Persona

99.9% of what people do on social media is to look good to other people, especially those whom they are friends with and want to impress.

Key #4: Action is Emotive

Triggering the right emotion in your supporters will lead to action.

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