Unlock Fans While Engaging Supporters Beyond Like, Share and Comment

by Amy Sample Ward on November 5, 2012

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The mystery of creating real impact using Facebook has eluded many organizations for years now. There are examples of organizations succeeding with a certain campaign but when the campaign is over, they aren’t sure what to do. There are other examples of organizations finding some tricks and functionality that really help them make connections with supporters, and then Facebook changes the functionality. I recently met with Drew Bernard to learn what ActionSprout is all about; and I got so excited that I asked him to share a guest post I could put up here so you could get excited, too. The following is from Drew at ActionSprout – want to give ActionSprout a try? Grab the trial code at the bottom of the post!

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Background: What’s ActionSprout

For years I have grumbled about the fact that Facebook doesn’t allow organizations to access the email addresses of their own Fans. And hopefully you never got me started on how the company has been treating organizations like frogs in a proverbial pot, slowly reducing the number of fans they deliver updates too. The idea that organizations have to pay to get an update onto a meaningful number Fans’ walls (Facebook acknowledges that it is down to 15% today) may be good business for Facebook, but the value proposition to organizations got less and less compelling.

At the same time I have watched organization struggle to engage with Facebook supporters in meaningful ways using just the actions Facebook has provided; Like, Share, or Comment. I have had numerous heated discussions with some of the loudest non-profit social media advocates about the real cost/benefit of Facebook as a platform for reaching supporters and deepening engagement with them over time.

To all who have endured my rants, you will be shocked to hear me say that I believe Facebook finally has the pieces in place to make a major impact on organizations ability to acquiring and building productive relationship with supporters. Yep, you heard me right, just at the very time Facebook is working harder than ever to monetize, I have become a believer. In fact, even their new Promote function provides nonprofits and campaigns with a rather compelling new tool for engaging organizations most ardent supporters.

Let me explain… Earlier this year Facebook rolled out their new Open Graph functionality and my long time do-gooding co-conspirator (Shawn Kemp) and I found ourselves contemplating if and how it might be utilized to help organizations acquire high quality fans on Facebook and, more importantly, build productive relationships with those supporters over time.

After months of learning and developing, we launched ActionSprout.com; to help organizations unlock their Facebook Fans with actions that move beyond Like, Share and Comment. The Facebook App gives organizations dozens of nonprofit-relevant social actions to engage supporters with directly on their own Facebook pages. For instance, instead of asking people to click “Like” on a wall post, they can now ask them to click “Recommend”, “Thank”, “Sign”, “Vote For,” “Stop,” “Contact”, “Support” or one of a dozen other actions we currently support.

Referral Rates

Over the past couple months we have been working with a few organizations and campaigns to put the system through its paces and begin to figure out how to actually use it and learn what kind of impact it can have.

Last week, we launched one of the most important pieces of the system for our team; the back-end analytics dashboard. As we push the dashboard live, we were excited and nervous. Would all these months of work be for not?

One of the key metrics we obsess over is the referral rate organizations are experiencing from their ActionSprout campaigns. In other words when a person takes an action like “Join” or simply clicks like on the post itself, do any of their friends join them? Facebook’s new Open Graph is designed to support the viral growth of highly relevant actions. Whenever a person takes an ActionSprout.com action on behalf of an organization, the app fires the Open Graph and automatically shares that action with some of their friends. We also give action takers other ways to help spread the word. But until you start seeing real traffic through an app like ActionSprout.com, there is really no way to know just what kind of referral rates to expect.

Case Study: ActionSprout and David Suzuki Foundation

One of the first organizations to run tests to measure referral traffic for ActionSprout.com was the David Suzuki Foundation, a Canadian Foundation working to protect the diversity of nature and Canadian’s quality of life, now and for the future. The results have far exceeded our expectations.

The Foundation launched it’s first campaign with the specific goal of testing the performance of ActionSprout.com relative to their standard campaign sign-up process (which drives people to a form on their website to complete a signup form). In order to help ensure that the data we were getting was meaningful, they were kind enough to focus on driving and measuring traffic to their ActionSprout.com campaign entirely through their Facebook wall even though they could have driven much higher performance had they also driven traffic to their ActionSprout.com campaign via email and their website.

The call to action for all posts was to join the Fall Family Challenge by clicking a link. The link on their first post drove people to the organization’s standard web form, not their ActionSprout app. This first post went out on a Saturday and resulted in 125 people signing up for the campaign. As would be expected, the vast majority of these 125 people were Fans who received the call to action from their news feed. “The results from that are meaningful,” says Sarah Hall, the Foundation’s communications manager. “After all, we can now reach out directly to each of those people via email and build deeper relationships.”

On the following Monday, The Foundation posted a similar call to action to their Facebook page. On this post, the call to action link pointed to their ActionSprout.com tab. That call to action drove 119 Fans to join the campaign—not bad for a Monday afternoon. But the really interesting part was what happened after they started seeing Fans take action. For each Fan who joined the campaign through ActionSprout.com, the organization has seen another 1.8 people who were not previously fans join, the campaign along with them. Where did these people come from?

  • First, each time a person took the action it fires an open graph story that is shared with some of their friends and gets aggregated on their timeline. That means an open graph story is getting posted to their wall and timeline for 100% of action takers.
  • Second, after taking an action The Foundation has ActionSprout configured to give the action taker a quick post to wall dialog. In their case, over 75% of action takers shared the action.
  • Third, because this campaign was targeted at families with kids, many of The Foundation’s fans choose to like and share the post but didn’t sign up themselves. Some number of friends of these sharers chose to Join the campaign as well.

In other words, for every 100 Fans who joined the campaign through the ActionSprout.com app, the organization also acquired 180 new campaign members, for a total of 280 campaign members.

The thing that excites us and the David Suzuki Foundation is that those new people didn’t just click “Like” because they wanted to give a wink to a friend who was up to something. They joined a campaign that directly connected them to the organizations work. These people are new to The Foundation, but already Sarah and her colleagues know how they relate to their work and can begin to serve and engage them accordingly.

The David Suzuki Foundation also uses Salesforce as its CRM (constituent relationship management) system, and has ActionSprout.com setup to automatically add or update contact records with names and email addresses of any person who joins the campaign. (This feature is available starting on our mid-level $90/mo plan) During the two-week campaign, the David Suzuki Foundation added several hundred new constituents to its database.

Last Friday, The Foundation launched a new ActionSprout Campaign to support help them apply pressure to “Stop” a potentially disastrous China-Canada trade deal that the Prime Minister has secretly negotiated behind closed doors. This campaign has sees similar referral rates and but with much higher overall numbers. So far, their “Stop” campaign has seen more than 3000 people take the action in under 48 hours.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to finally be able to do more than just grumble about the limitations of Facebook for building truly productive relationships. We are excited to continue to see what organizations do with ActionSprout.com. If you’re interested in giving the system a try, here’s a 30-day free trial code that will work on all of our plans (referral code: Amy112) – so jump in and take ActionSprout for a test drive.

  • Catherine Myers

    Amy – This seems great. A few initial comments/questions:
    I don’t see a link here to ActionSprout (I found it by typing the URL in my browser). 
    I use the open source CiviCRM – would I be able to export contact info from ActionSprout for import to CiviCRM? Is it essentially similar to what happens automatically to SalesForce? (hope this makes sense, I’m new to using a CRM)
    Thanks for the opportunity to try this free….

    • Drew Bernard

      Hi Catherine, Drew (from ActionSprout.com) here… Sorry for not including a direct link to http://www.ActionSprout.com in the post. Maybe Amy can update that for me?

      You can export the data to CSV at any point and then import it into CiviCRM. We have had one other customer recently ask us to look at doing an integration with CiviCRM which we would love to do. But it will take time. For now, tho, you would just export to CSV and import it into CiviCRM. Perhaps if we get enough CiviCRM users we’ll be forced to do that integration :)

      • Catherine Myers

         Thanks, Drew – Using the export/import to CiviCRM is fine for me for now, we’re not dealing with big numbers of people (yet!). I’ve signed up and have ActionSprout on our Family and Home Network FB page with a “Join” action…. now I’ll go read the ActionSprout “help” and “getting started” pages so I can try to understand more.

        • Drew Bernard

          Drop me a note if you have any questions, Catherine.

          • Catherine Myers

            Drew – I’m not sure if there’s another way to reach you…
            a few observations as I’m going through the training materials:
            on this page:
            https://actionsprout.zendesk.com/home
            there is no obvious link to the “training and support” section – I finally realized it’s under the “Forums” link.
            And a question – in the “Getting started” video, at approx. 2:05, the screen shows how a box pops up where you can indicate which additional information you want users asked to provide. An option to click “email” is offered. But then a few seconds later it shows that the system automatically provides users’ email to me. So why would I want to ask again? Is that redundant? Or am I missing something?
            -Also, I found myself wanting a “preview” screen before hitting “save and publish” — I’m not sure what my options would be if I hit “save and publish” and then wanted to edit, or if I want to do something now but not publish until tomorrow?
            Also – I stumbled around before realizing that the email and password I have for my ActionSprout app do not also work on the ActionSprout customer service website… I “signed up” on the customer service site, so I’m able to log in now – it would have helped to be notified about that.
            On this page:
            https://actionsprout.zendesk.com/entries/22326018-buttons-for-use-use-on-my-website-or-email
            the button for “Recommend Socially” needs another “m” in the word recommend.

          • Drew Bernard

            Hi Catherine. So sorry for making it hard to find us… first with no link to the site and then on our support site. We’ll have to look at that… 

            The box to add email was actually removed because you get then automatically… The video needs to be updated… It was originally there in case you wanted to people to double check that they had the right email in the system. But after looking at the data, we realized that the email addresses we were getting really didn’t need to be checked and it just added confusion on the admin tool. The Preview thing is a great idea. It’s on the roadmap… It’s surprisingly hard to do with Facebook, but I agree that it would be super nice to have. Keep in mind that you can easily install and then uninstall the app. And, when you install it, it doesn’t mean anyone will see it. You have to drive traffic it to it for that… As for the support section. We use ZenDesk for our support section and generally like it. But it does have some downsides to it. But don’t hesitate to drop me a note directly and I or one of my team members will respond directly. You can reach me at drew (at) actionsprout.comI also fixed the type on the Recommend Socially button.drew

  • http://www.odigma.com/ Facebook Fans

    Thanks for shaing an insightful article on engaging Facebook fans.

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