Social Media Case Study: Facebook plus integrated marketing helps raise $950,000

Recently, I wrote about a case study that included excellent use of integrated marketing and social media – Facebook Case Study: From 517 to 33,000 fans in two weeks (plus media coverage).

Brenna Holmes, a senior online account executive and strategist at Adams Hussey & Associates (AH&A), was the digital brand strategic advisor on this campaign for her client, the California State Parks Foundation (CSPF). I asked her many questions from our audience along with a few of my own…

Let’s start with your role in this campaign. Social media operations is a huge challenge in itself. We’ll get to what you did in a moment. But first, how did you get it done?

Brenna Holmes: In the case of this urgent campaign, not only did I serve as an advisor, I also helped with implementation for all things social – optimizing their existing Facebook fan page with the custom welcome tab and many personalized Facebook Markup Language (FBML) widgets. Later in the campaign, I started and managed their Twitter account.

CSPF is a very small and tightly knit organization. Their Director of Membership, Greg Zelder, and Director of Communications, Jerry Emory, are my daily contacts and it was (and is) in collaboration with them that we got a full-scale multichannel campaign up and running within one week of learning of the Governor’s proposed budget cuts.

The first thing that catches my eye about this case study is the quick, large Facebook fan page growth that led to positive media stories. But when you explore this success a little deeper, it’s not just a case for social media marketing, but integrated marketing as well. Can you give us more details on how you used multichannel marketing?

BH: At AH&A, we LOVE multichannel integration. As a direct mail fundraising shop that has expanded to include pretty much in-house everything (online, telemarketing, creative, production, and analytics), practically every campaign we plan has multichannel components.

And this case was no different. CSPF had been a direct mail and telemarketing client of ours for many years, but 2009 was the first year that my department began working with them.

Actually…the budget cuts issue made us start our contract a month early! Within 48 hours the organizational website was redesigned to accommodate an Action Center, daily homepage updates, graphic social media sharing links, and embedded YouTube videos made by both the organization and passionate supporters.

The Facebook “Friend Get a Friend Campaign” was launched the Tuesday after Memorial Day weekend, May 26, (which is when the Governor’s proposal was released) via an update to CSPF’s original 517 fans.

The update explained the imminent threat parks were facing and put a deadline – Friday, May 29 – and a goal – 5,000 fans. “This year’s cuts are ten times as bad, so we need ten times the fans on Facebook.”

Once supporters became fans, they were presented with an action item asking them to visit CSPF’s site to sign an email petition to the California legislature and Governor Schwarzenegger. We also set up and managed CSPF’s paid online advertising on both Facebook and Google to drive supporters to become fans and/or sign the petition. All this Web outreach was supported by an aggressive email petition and donation campaign to the house list and partner organizations in California.

The online campaign was mirrored in direct mail with three “urgent grams” that were in people’s mail boxes by the end of the week – one to high-dollar donors ($1,000+), one to all other members, and one to prospects. All three pieces netted funds and raised more than $200,000 in just over a month. Telemarketing was also excellently leveraged – existing campaigns were halted and new scripts were implemented, raising more than $88,000 in the first two weeks of the campaign.

That whole week in May, Foundation staff members were being interviewed and the story was picked up by SF Gate, Huffington Post, LA Daily News, Frommers, etc. They even made it onto Digg! By early June the Facebook growth was being referenced in mainstream news articles and on other environmental and California-based nonprofit Facebook pages.

Were these other channels used to primarily promote Facebook over the CSPF website?

BH: Facebook was never promoted over the website. Facebook promotion was always either in conjunction with site promotion (general “Find Us on Facebook” links) or as a secondary ask (“Thanks for taking action! If you are on Facebook, click through to join the conversation”).

Other than the specific “Friend Get a Friend” outreach on Facebook and some of the Facebook ads, we were primarily driving supporters to the online Action Center to sign the petition, make donations, and later on, print Save Our State Parks signs and upload their photos from the SOS weekends of action.

Join CSPF

When people visit the CSPF Facebook fan page for the first time, they see a pseudo landing page that encourages them to become a fan or go to the CSPF website. I love the landing page, it’s a very clear way to communicate with your audience about the actions you’d like them to take (instead of just showing your wall to new visitors). Why did you decide to send users to a pseudo landing page instead of the wall?

BH: I’m a big fan of introductions, and maximizing the personalization of user experiences online. It’s a pet peeve of mine when sites (Facebook or other) don’t recognize that I’m new to the site.

So much of the online experience can be controlled from the backend to give a more customized experience. In my opinion, it would be silly to not take advantage of that with something as simple as a welcome tab.

We are trying to put the most efficient but comprehensive view of CSPF out there so people can absorb it in the seven seconds we have before they decide to click elsewhere. A cluttered (or worse barren) wall just doesn’t give the right first impression in my opinion.

And the Facebook landing page doesn’t solely encourage them to become a fan, it gives them other options as well.

There are three asks. This allows supporters to choose how they want to interact with the Foundation. The easiest is, of course, to “Like” the page. Then if they want to do more they can take action or join. The vast majority simply “Like” the page and move onto the “Wall,” but we have seen some petitions and new memberships coming in from these source-coded links.

This campaign helped raised several hundred thousand dollars for CSPF. (Congratulations!) How much came through Facebook, and how much came because of the other channels you used?

BH: Unfortunately we weren’t as proactive in source coding all the links on Facebook as we should have been from the very beginning, so the majority of donations do not show as coming from Facebook during that first burst of activity. However, we do know that 60% of our page connections are self-professed annual members.

In late July/August, we launched a social-media-only campaign promoting the Frequent Visitor membership level ($125 to get an annual parks parking pass) on Facebook and Twitter. Social media allowed us to quickly take advantage of the Parks Department halting annual pass sales for almost two weeks. In that campaign, CSPF gained over 700 new members from social media at the $125 level.

I can also tell you that while the entire integrated campaign earned $950,000, almost $300,000 was raised online and 46% of that came from supporters new to the e-file (either joining as annual members or by giving non-membership issue-based gifts). The e-file also tripled in size as the fan page grew and paid membership grew by 10% in the first two months.

We are much more meticulous about this now and see a steady stream of new memberships, renewals, and issue-based gifts coming in from both Facebook page promotions and the Facebook ads. (Stay tuned for this November’s Yes For State Parks ballot issue get-out-the-vote work on Facebook.)

What was the budget and team size? Social media seems very labor intensive, very manual.

BH: The online team size was only four of us – me, my vice president for strategic brainstorming, along with Greg Zelder and Jerry Emory at CSPF.

CSPF is on a monthly retainer with us, which includes all work except creative development. We have a larger offline staff that works closely with CSPF to get all the other pieces rolling and now CSPF has added another Web person internally to help out, but during last year’s campaign it was all hands for Greg and me in getting the online pieces up and running and properly maintained.

Social media is labor intensive, but if you have an urgent issue like this one, you drop everything to get it done and done as well as possible the first time around.

What is your follow-up plan for all these new Facebook fans that you have engaged?

BH: I’ve been managing the fan page for over a year now and it continues to grow. CSPF has, on average, a 15.5% month-over-month fan “connection” growth.

CSPF’s Communications Director is very hands on with the content generation and they post at a minimum of twice a week – a “feel good park story” every Tuesday and every Thursday there is a post for the new World’s Best Bike Commute blog that chronicles Jerry’s bike commute across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Greg and Jerry are also very good at posting from their mobiles to keep the page updated with pictures and information from the many live events CSPF holds throughout the year. Ideally I’d like to see a daily update to Facebook, but current staffing constraints at CSPF won’t allow for it. We are currently also working on some fun new content that will only be viewable after supporters “Like” the page.

How much are Facebook fans really worth? Are they very valuable? Or do they just “Like” something because they saw that their friends did?

BH: We find CSPF’s fans VERY valuable, whether they are the active donors or not, many are very outspoken evangelists for the cause. We are actually undertaking a much more robust tracking regime to identify the most engaged Facebook connections so we can do some additional personalized outreach.

Lately, the words Facebook and privacy seem to go hand in hand…

BH: We haven’t had any issues regarding privacy so far. Everything we do is on an opt-in basis and we are very proactive in answering fan questions – even going so far as to help a fan organize her newsfeed content so as to not be “overwhelmed” by our updates.

There are now a plethora of invites to social causes on Facebook. How does one cause really stand out from another?

BH: This is no different on Facebook than in other direct marketing media. Donors and activists have more choices of where to spend their time and money now than ever before. You stand out by staying engaged and listening to your base. Encourage them to be part of the process and they will extend your voice a thousand times over.

Can for-profit marketers use the same tactics you describe?

BH: I think that many of the tactics are the same whether the organization is non- or for-profit, and we “steal” concepts from commercial organizations ideas all the time. Typically the defining issue is cost, since corporations tend to have larger marketing budgets than nonprofits they could conceivably get even more value from social media like Facebook.

For the budding social media marketers out there… what applications have you found to be most valuable in engaging Facebook users?

BH: Custom FBML wall widgets and tabs are a must – like the welcome tab and our Get Involved menu of options. If you have a blog, sync it up with the Notes RSS. Sync your YouTube uploads and add as many of the newly released social plug-ins to your website as feasible. You want to engage supporters where they already live online.

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