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How to Use Social Media to Build Your Nonprofit or Campaign Email List

This was originally posted on the Powerthru Consulting blog.

Here’s the scoop on how you can use social media to build your base, for both nonprofits and political campaigns.

First, why move social media supporters to your email list? If people prefer to get your content on social media, why try so hard to get their email address? Two reasons – reach and control.

social-connectionsThree quarters of adults are connected to one or more social media platforms. Facebook is the behemoth, with all other sites clocking in at fractions of their base. But as per usual, none of these stats guarantee that users check the sites every day, or even that they will see your content if you post it right before they log on.

Facebook uses an ever-changing algorithm to determine what content it shows users, called “EdgeRank”. Facebook used to say only about 16% of your fans see your content on average, but after changes in December 2013, reach declined further. This makes sense when you think about it, because Facebook is in the business of making money through advertising. Forcing people to spend to promote their posts and gain reach means better earnings for Facebook. Also, you’re competing in a much more crowded marketplace, as more and more groups use Facebook to spread their content, and Facebook users accumulate more and more friends, filling up their feeds with activity.

With all social media websites, even ones that don’t filter, the flow of new content is so steady that your information may be quickly washed away. This is why it is critical to always be using social media to capture more email addresses – then you can reach your entire intended audience, and control the flow of communication to your supporters, rather than having to work according to the constantly changing rules of a for-profit company acting as traffic cop.

So, now that you’re on board with the basic concept of converting social fans to supporters, exactly how do you go about getting email addresses from your social media fans?

First, make sure you have set a website URL for your page under Settings -> Page Info on Facebook, and under Account -> Profile on Twitter. This makes your website easy to get to for your social media audience.

Facebook showcases the first sentence or two of your Short Description field when people look at your page, so make this succinct and powerful, too. Twitter has the same opportunity with the “Bio” section, as well as the ability to directly add a URL so you don’t have to waste valuable bio space on it. If you have a Google+ page, YouTube, Pinterest profile, or other social pages, make sure to add your URL to those profiles, too.

Set up custom tabs in Facebook. You could use custom tabs to highlight a basic email signup form, set up a donate tab, or maybe show off a hot petition around your issue. If you remember the days of FBML, it used to be really easy to set them up. Not so much anymore, but there’s still lots of (fairly) easy ways to do it with free apps. I personally like Static HTML: iframe tabs for entering html code by hand. (For an example of this in action, visit the Facebook pages of one of our clients, The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus.) Don’t forget to add custom graphics to your tabs to really make them pop visually!

How do you get the HTML code to embed a simple signup form into an app? Some systems are easier than others. Salsa makes it really simple – there’s a Developer Resources link in your Salsa interface, and that gives you two options for short signup forms. Or, read our blog post on how to embed Salsa form elements into WordPress or social media

How do you create a custom tab around a petition, action or a donate page? This is a little trickier, because you need to create a Facebook app (here: https://developers.facebook.com/apps), and set the page tab url to be the full URL of the item on Salsa (or elsewhere). You’ll also need a secure URL (begins with https) for custom tabs these days. OR you can make it easier by using an app that lets you do customizable iframes, like the Static tab app by Woobox. For an example of a custom tab in action, see thepetition tab on our non-profit client the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus — points to an action in Salsa. ActionSprout (more below) is a much easier solution than digging into Facebook apps! Also if you’re using ActBlue for donation handling, you’re in luck – there’s a great free app that does it all for you (get it here).

Use a great tool called ActionSprout. They serve up Facebook-enabled petitions to your audience. Much like how ActBlue has a pool of 1-click supporters, this tool makes it super easy for activists to take action with one click. Their tool is not free, but you can try it out for free and see how costs compare to a paid acquisition campaign with Care2 or Change.org (which could run you $1.50 or more per opted-in email address). If it works for you, then it’s worth paying their monthly fee (based on your Facebook page fanbase size) to keep using it.

Keep making asks to your audience to get people to sign up for your email list. You can alternate direct asks with petitions, post at different times and on different days to reach different audiences. Use photo posts as well as link posts to get the widest possible audience (don’t forget to put the link in the photo and in the description text). You must keep posting because social media is a river, your messages float on by. Check out our social media principles and best practices guide for campaigns and non-profits for more tips. Also don’t forget to occasionally “pin” one of your asks to your Facebook timeline, so it will stay at the top for up to a week. You can pin a Tweet, too.

Try using online advertising on Facebook and Twitter. You can direct traffic to a petition/action on your website, or using ActionSprout, or via a promoted post or Tweet, and see how those all perform against each other. By uploading your email list as a custom audience to Facebook’s ad system (and now to Twitter in some cases), you can exclude the email addresses of people already on your list in your ad campaign — and narrow in on people who are fans of your page/followers of your account but NOT signed up for emails. Those audiences should be very hot prospects for you! You can also use Facebook’s new lookalike audiences to go after people that are similar to the folks already on your list. These new tools should help you pick up some new emails of supporters very affordably — so go after the low hanging fruit first if your budget is limited. (If you have a larger budget, then go talk to the friendly folks at Care2/LeftAction/Change.org/Democrats.com!)

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To complete the circle, let’s talk about moving supporters on your email list to become Facebook and Twitter fans. Why do this? The more ways in which you engage your supporters, the more involved and enthusiastic they will get! And with social media, you have the opportunity to reach a larger audience of their friends and supporters, if they interact with your content.

How do you move email supporters to social media? Ask them! Especially after they join your list for the first time, when they are most motivated. What happens immediately after they sign up? Hopefully you are redirecting people somewhere good — to a thank you page with social media links on it.

Check out our Social Media Tell A Friend toolpart of our PowerTools suite of apps for Salsa, which makes this easy for folks using Salsa. Here’s an example in action from non-profit client Transportation Riders United, this tell a friend page is what you are redirected to after signup – encouraging you to become a supporter on social media too. These are easy to build in NationBuilder too, with their built in tools for social sharing. Most CRMs do give you the ability to redirect people somewhere, even if they don’t automatically make a social sharing page for you.

Also for advanced users, you could take a look at ShareProgress. ShareProgress is a paid-for tool that lets you create tell a friend pages with A/B testing for social media links. So you can discover what blend of text and title and image will garner the most shares for your action. Just like with ActionSprout, there is a free trial available so you can see how it performs before committing to a paid subscription.

Don’t forget to set up autoresponder welcome email messages to new signups too. Welcome emails are a best practice in any case, but you can really make them work for you by including a social media nudge in them. Especially if you are directing people to a donate page after initial signup, the autoresponder welcome might be the only way you can immediately send a social media ask to their door.

Email your list and ask them to become Facebook fans/Twitter followers. It’s a great free way to bump up your social network fanbase in a hurry. However, it’s important to keep in mind the statistics – a quarter or more of your audience doesn’t use social media. So you may want to include an action for those not on social networks to take, such as visiting your blog for the latest updates, unless you use a tool like Salsa's Social Lookup or Attentive.ly that will tell you which supporters are on social media or not. Attentive.ly integrates with Salsa, BSD, Convio, MailChimp, and ActionKit, so definitely check it out!

Don’t forget to keep sending welcome emails to new members to your list – depending on how your autoresponders are set up, people may slip through the cracks if they join via an action or an upload instead of via direct website signup. So you may want to set up queries and do a sweep social media email at the end of every week or month to new folks that were not already welcomed. Also if you use a tool like Salsa's Social Lookup or Attentive.ly and have your social users identified, you could send them email specifically asking for Facebook shares or retweets when you are pushing a new action via social media and want to help it spread.

Topics: Marketing