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

Social/Mobile, social media, Facebook advertising

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Also in this series: “Case Study: How KWMU Generates Email Leads Using Paid Social Media

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

social media, Social/Mobile, instagram, Facebook advertising

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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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Your Email and Social Media Action Plan for #GivingTuesday

Membership, #GivingTuesday, calendar year-end, social media, Social/Mobile

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Launched by New York’s 92nd Street Y in 2012, #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media. It always falls on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving; this year that's November 27, 2018.

It's essential to prepare in advance in order to execute a successful #GivingTuesday campaign. Start promoting on-air and online at least three weeks before the event. Make sure your landing page, email, and social media tactics are in place. And on November 27, here's what you should have in place in order to harness the growing levels of giving that occur on this day.


Send a minimum of two emails on #GivingTuesday that include a #GivingTuesday header graphic (600 x 200 pixels). The first email should be sent in the morning announcing “It’s #GivingTuesday!” and the second in the afternoon for announcing that your station has reached XX% of its fundraising goal. Also, in the morning, send an email your ambassadors to call them to action and to express gratitude for their participation.

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How National Geographic Builds Social Media Trust During the Facebook Apocalypse

PMDMC, social media, Social/Mobile, facebook, Membership, General Management

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Thanks to “fake news,” bots, and political polarization online, trust in social media is at an all-time low. But social platforms still offer a powerful way to connect with audiences and donors.

Sixty-eight percent of Americans regularly use social media (Pew Research Center, 2018) and 31% of online donors now say that social media is the communication tool that most often inspires them to give, surpassing email for the first time (Global Trends in Giving Report, 2018).

A PMDMC 2018 session entitled “Building Brand Trust and Engagement in the Facebook Apocalypse” explored how one superstar brand, National Geographic, has built and maintained its social media effectiveness in an era of social media mistrust.

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When Face-to-Face Is Better Than Technology at Selling More Underwriting

Corporate Support, sales strategy, social media, prospecting

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How you conduct business, whether you are an owner, operator, manager, or sales executive, has become increasingly dependent on social media, but are we beginning to depend on it so much that we don't communicate productively?

I believe that with our increasing world of transparency and connectivity, it's important to recognize how social media can help our professional brands, digital marketing strategy, new business development, and client relations. But are we forgetting or neglecting the power of human interaction within the sales process?

Here's how to tell if you're using social media to effectively socialize with prospects and clients.

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How to Use Social Selling to Boost Credibility and Strengthen Your Station's Brand

Corporate Support, social media, sales strategy, prospecting

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Social selling is a powerful part of the approach in our now-transparent sales landscape. I feel every salesperson should embrace LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Facebook, as they plan to approach and attempt to engage with new business prospects. Whether you choose to use paid services or navigate social media on your own, it’s a platform where you can earn trust and establish credibility with your very best prospects. It’s also a platform that, if used incorrectly, could damage your credibility with your very best prospects. OUCH!

It’s the potential to damage credibility that I have found to deter some sellers from using social selling, so here are three things you can do to ensure you’re using social selling to strengthen your personal brand and not damage it: 

1. Think about your audience.

It’s not uncommon to use social media for selling, but it’s also not uncommon to use social media for job-searching. Considering many prospects will search a potential vendor or a salesperson online before deciding to engage, what they see on your profile is perceived as what they’ll likely get. It’s a fine line between selling yourself to potential employers or selling yourself to prospects. If your profile reads like a resume, it can be a high turn-off to prospects viewing your profile.

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Why We Love Using Social Media to Lift Underwriting Sales (And Why You Should Too!)

Corporate Support, social media

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Kathy Agosta is Corporate Sposorship Director at Michigan Radio

As a statewide public radio service, it's a constant challenge to stay engaged with all of our clients. We know that face-to-face contact is always the best, but we can only afford so many hours a day of traveling between appointments. Finding better ways to stay connected with our clients is always a top priority.
Observing how other professional and consultancy services use the internet to promote themselves, we decided to create an internet-based “branding campaign” for Michigan Radio Corporate Sponsorship. Our prime focus would be to reinforce our client connections, and also raise visibility of corporate sponsorship throughout the broader business community.

First Things First

Before going public we needed to get our house in order. We revamped our corporate sponsorship web pages to be more accessible and relevant to our clients. We redesigned our media kit to mirror and expand on what we had on our website. We also introduced a weekly blog feature on topics related to sponsorship and marketing to provide fresh content that would generate return visits to our site.

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How to Use Social Media Engagement During Drives to Earn More Gifts

Social/Mobile, Membership, pledge drive, social media

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Public radio and TV stations have been early adopters of social media since the days of Myspace. The ability to donate online was launched in 1999 and it has taken almost two decades for donors to trust the technology. It took just half that time for your donors to embrace social media. If you have a been a skeptic of the power of social media for online fundraising, that may have been a somewhat wise instinct, but today there is no doubt that the futures of online giving and social media are deeply entwined. In fact, 43% of Millennials, 24% of Gen Xers, and 21% of Baby Boomers cite social media as the communication tool that most often inspires them to give online (Nonprofit Tech for Good, 2016).

What has remained elusive, however, is social media’s power to convert passive online supporters into active online donors. The fact is, your station must be good at using social media in order to convert your social audience into online donors. 

Central to multichannel communications is the concept that well-written, visually compelling, and creative content emailed, posted, and shared at the right time and at the right intervals is the secret to successfully converting a passive supporter into an active donor.

Greater Public members can access our full Social Media Playbook for On-Air Drives, including instructions on how to develop a comprehensive content strategy, refine your landing page, create effective graphics, and map out your before/during/after-pledge action plan.

And read on for the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram best practices that will instantly improve your social media campaigns during pledge drives.

Facebook Best Practices

The truth is, no one knows exactly what the magic number is for how often to post on Facebook based on the size of your following. The News Feed algorithm makes Facebook the most difficult social network for which to define best practices. What works on the 14 national NPR and PBS Facebook Pages most likely will not work for small stations with 25,000 followers or less, but the data reflects that even pages with more than 100,000 followers that post twice daily perform much better in reach and engagement, on average, than those that post multiple times daily.

If your posts receive very little engagement (1 reaction per 1,000 followers), then you are either posting too often and thus very few of your followers are seeing your posts, or you are posting the wrong kind of content.

Post twice daily.

On average, you can expect your first Facebook post within a 24-hour period to reach 3-8% of your followers. After that, reach generally declines with each subsequent post.

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How to Use Email as Your #1 Online Fundraising Tool

email, newsletter, social media, digital revenue, Social/Mobile

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In the nonprofit sector as a whole, more online donations come from a click in an e-newsletter than from any other source. This is due in part to the fact that nonprofits are getting better at building their lists. But it’s also due to the sustained and growing use of email as an essential medium.

Email is not dead.

Global use of email is growing rapidly. The number of people using the internet worldwide is going to double in the next four years. This means more people getting online, more people signing up for social networks, and more people signing up for email accounts.

There are currently 4.4 billion email accounts worldwide and that number is expected to grow to 6.6 billion by 2019. This will bring the global adoption rate of email to 92%.

We have been eulogizing email for the last decade and let me tell you, this data shows us that email is the most important tool that you can use in online fundraising.

Given these statistics, I’m also perplexed by public media’s relatively low use of email fundraising compared with other organizations in the nonprofit sector. It’s often very difficult to find an e-newsletter subscribe option on public media websites. And the volume of e-newsletters from many stations seems to be low or non-existent, except during a member drive. This suggests an area of great opportunity.

Of course, you do need to know how to use email. 

Email is changing.

55% of email opens are now happening on a mobile device and more than half of traffic to is mobile. Your email design simply has to be mobile compatible.

The term “e-newsletter” came from a time when print newsletters were being duplicated to send via email. Email publications are not print publications. Today, it’s better to think of your e-newsletter as an email bulletin.

Send shorter emails, more frequently.

Instead of taking the 20 stories you would have put in a paper publication and sending those out once every three months, you should send fewer stories, and send them more frequently. Send three stories every two weeks, for example. Or create a weekly update of the most important news happening in your station and local community.


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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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