Case Study: WBHM's Success Using Targeted Social Media Ads

Facebook advertising, Membership, Social/Mobile, social media, digital marketing

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Last fall, WBHM 90.3 in Birmingham, Ala. ran their first paid social media ad campaign, and it led to very successful results.

The ads were direct solicitations for donations and offers to buy WBHM socks, t-shirts, and pint glasses in hopes of cultivating these individuals for membership later on. But the success lay in the use of targeting.

Targeting, as you probably know, is the magic (or creepiness) of digital ads that have been selected for people based on their past actions online. WBHM purchased targeted ads through Facebook, uploaded the email addresses of current and lapsed members, and then had Facebook target those users with ads, along with owners of email addresses they had from the NPR One database.

The owners of the ad-targeted email addresses made 279 donations totaling $32,441 during the station’s fall, 2017 membership drive. (Donations made up to one day after an ad was viewed by an individual and up to 28 days after an individual clicked through an ad were considered part of the fall, 2017 drive).

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Case Study: How KCUR Tripled its Newsletter Subscribers Using Paid Social Media Ads

Facebook advertising, Membership, Social/Mobile, social media, digital marketing

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In 2017, my station, KCUR 89.3 in Kansas City, Mo., had a content-driven weekday email that highlighted important news of the day. The content was hand-curated and high-quality, and we knew it deserved a wider audience. My digital department allocated a small budget ($1,200) toward paid Facebook and Instagram ads aimed at generating email address leads. My colleagues in audience development also saw the newsletter as a major opportunity to get to know our audience as a result of the email addresses generated by their subscription to our list. Finally, we all believed we could convert many engaged readers into donors.

When the newsletter was a year old, it had 2,100 subscribers. We set this as our baseline; our goal was to grow the list by 100 percent. This felt ambitious but attainable for what was a first-time experiment. We didn’t have clear, in-house benchmarks, nor did we have easy access to paid-social metrics for our industry, so we referenced general Facebook benchmarks for success to help guide our goal. (At the time, internet research suggested $2/lead was phenomenal success for our industry.)

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Case Study: How KWMU Generates Email Leads Using Paid Social Media

instagram, Facebook advertising, Membership, Social/Mobile, social media, digital marketing

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In 2017, St. Louis Public Radio (KWMU) Digital Media Specialist Brendan Williams made a connection that led to the station’s most successful social media experiment to date.

The station was paying an agency to, among other things, deliver brand content for their social media channels like image carousels and animated video aimed at listening options. But the investment yielded little ROI. KWMU's digital team realized they were making tons of content in-house that could be repurposed. They could easily take a portion of money they were paying the agency and divert it toward in-house experimentation in paid social media ads.

The station had an appropriate target in mind for the leads: a daily content-based email that they were looking to grow. Williams’ team had experimented enough with paid Facebook ads to know they did a pretty good job generating email leads.

So, KWMU decided to reappropriate some of its agency budget to pay for Facebook and Instagram ads promoting the station’s daily content email.

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Testing and Acquiring Donors With Facebook

Facebook advertising, Membership

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Even though Facebook is going through a tough adolescence, it’s still the largest social media site on the planet. With 1.5 billion users and 22 billion ad clicks per year, it’s a great place to find your donors and target prospects. Whether you’re thinking of starting a Facebook fundraising campaign or you’ve already run a few, the following tips will help you maximize each campaign and help you learn more about who you’re targeting.

When Carl Bloom Associates (CBA) begins building a Facebook campaign for our station partners, we always start with the audience. “Make your audience the foundation of your Facebook campaign,” says Evan Watson, Digital Marketing Manager for CBA. “Think about who you are trying to reach,” he explains. "Some people will start with copy or images they want to use in the ads, but, much like direct mail, you always consider which segment you’re mailing before you write the appeal.”

Tried-and-true audiences are right in your database. Here are a few:

Facebook Custom Audience
Facebook custom audience allows you to upload your active and lapsed member files to Facebook. CBA recommends testing other lists you may have in-house, like the Prosper list from PBS.

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More Social Media Strategy for Stations From Heather Mansfield

facebook, Nonprofit Tech for Good, Heather Mansfield, linkedin, instagram, Facebook advertising, Membership, Social/Mobile, sponsored posts, social media, Facebook ads, twitter

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Heather Mansfield of Nonprofit Tech for Good recently hosted a social media Q&A with Greater Public. (Members can always view the full webinar on-demand.) Heather offered station tips on Facebook-sponsored content, how often to post to Facebook, and how to set engagement benchmarks for social media platforms.

Greater Public members can register for Heather's next social media Q&A, scheduled for May 4.

Q: How helpful are Facebook-sponsored posts?

A: It's getting more difficult to apply best practices across all sectors and brands because Facebook changes its algorithm all the time. But I will say that I am very lukewarm on Facebook advertising unless you have thousands of dollars, the right ads, and plenty of time to invest.

Here's why.

I started buying Facebook advertising two months ago. My practice had been to post something visual every two days and I'd get 10,000-15,000 people reached. It was a reliable rhythm.

Then a client gave me $250 to experiment with Facebook ads. I'd pay $50 for a sponsored post and it would hit a 25,000 reach. But next thing I know, all of my non-sponsored posts are reaching just over 1,000. During the two or three weeks following my sponsored posts, my reach dropped by 90%. These are the lowest numbers I've had since I began using Facebook! I don't find it any coincidence that my numbers started dropping significantly from the moment I started purchasing advertising.

In fact, I was experimenting on other platforms too. I had a $1,000 budget to experiment with advertising across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, and I have to say it was the worst $1,000 I've ever spent in the 10 years that I've been using social media. My best guess is that they want to get you hooked on advertising by plummeting your reach when you're not paying to sponsor the content.

I have read some case studies that indicate that large-scale experimentation is worth it. For example, the African Wildlife Foundation spent $50,000 on Facebook advertising, which they were able to turn into about $120,000 in donations. But most nonprofits I know can't make a $50,000 investment in Facebook advertising. And, in my own little thrifty world, sponsored posts have only diminished my overall reach and engagement.

Q: All of our Facebook posts have visual elements, yet we only reach about 500 users, or occasionally 1,500. We post three or four times daily. Any advice?

A: I know from studying Facebook that 1,500 reached means about 10% of that actually saw the post. What reach actually means is that it was published to the news feed of 1,500 people. But if it was published to someone's newsfeed at 8:00 a.m. and that person didn't log on until four hours later and didn't bother to scroll down, then they didn't actually see it. I don't pay a lot of attention to these reach numbers unless I see a drastic increase or decrease. Then I can ask what was going on to cause the change? That helps me learn what type of content sparks interest in my audience.

But you may want to rethink your strategy of posting three or four times a day. What I've learned from my own habits is that if I post at 9:00 a.m. and reach 5,000 people, my post at 3:00 p.m. that same day will have many fewer views. There's something in the Facebook algorithm that knows you've posted twice in 24 hours and demotes your posts because you're generating a lot of content.

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