Sunday, July 25, 2010

ads are for likers

Several months ago facebook yet again changed their format such that we are no longer fans but rather "likers" of something. As I talk with folks about facebook this seems to guarantee some smirks and a chuckle or two about the term. The fact that they have been able to get away with this kind of absurd language shows just how ingrained facebook has become.

Utilization of facebook is certainly a challenge and I would respond to Stephanie's suggestion that we need to decide what our goal is as a crucial step but one that is already made for us - it must be to keep traffic within the facebook app. Once you have mastered getting attention, driving traffic within the app to your page or cause, then you can begin to utilize that page to create what you are looking for in terms of action. There is nothing that you can do on your own site that you can't do on your page so why work harder than you need to in order to achieve your goal? Keeping folks within facebook through the ad keeps them local and comfortable with what you are attempting to accomplish while allowing you to leverage their activity to their friends who may not have seen or been included in your ad segment.

As an example, consider a simple, direct goal of raising $1,000 for scholarship this week. You create a case for support that is essentially a text (ask a student for help with this - you will be amazed at both the language that they use and how they are able to make the message work) find a simple image that supports that case - branding is a challenge here - can you put your logo onto the image that supports the case? Keep in mind that loyalty is not going to raise the $1k in this format and from this audience so a big picture of your logo is simply filling space, not motivating action.

If you link that ad to your giving form, you have not maximized your impact nor have you been able to share more details and expand that case for support. If you link it to your page, you can provide a full multimedia look at what you are selling, clearly share the giving link, including adding an application that lets folks who find this motivating share with their friends and that is where you can really grow this in a manner that is totally different from your own site - your donors become your advocates and sales team rather than simply supporters.

In my next post I am going to talk a bit about what I learned in Denver, about pigs, facebook and student engagement; how you can get hundreds of students to follow you before they ever take a class on campus.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Facebook ads - design and strategy

The look and feel of your Facebook ad might not be your first consideration when putting together a strategy, but as Scott suggested it should be given priority. Scott and I were discussing Facebook ads offline, and he brought up a good point - consider all of the segmenting we do with mail and email solicitations - why can't and why shouldn't that also apply to Facebook ads? It should. If we’re paying per click, then let’s make sure the click is a valid prospect who wants to attend an event, become a fan of your page, or go to your external website for a particular purpose (like giving). Take advantage of the fact that we can be very targeted and strategic with the placement of Facebook ads, and consider which segments are active in Facebook and what those segments want to see. I can honestly say that I've probably only noticed a dozen or so of the hundreds of Facebook ads that I see when I’m logged in. And it’s not due to tunnel vision - I'm always looking for a deal, a new gadget, or the next best purchase for my 21 month old. So that tells me that in order for me to even glance at an ad, it has to be 1) visually appealing. In order for me to click it needs to be 2) relevant to me. Seems obvious right? Let's consider more detailed strategies for design and layout. A few gimmes:
  • branding - we need a graphic that ties back into your brand and is easily identifiable as your institution
  • copy - 135 characters goes by pretty quickly (that’s 38 right there) so make them thought provoking teasers to take the next step
  • destination url – make sure you drive people directly to the information you reference in the ad – if they have to click around to find it, you will lose them.
Now consider your segments – what does your Facebook population look like? Do you know which constituents are on Facebook? If you don’t, then you could start with a few general ads and maybe a few specific ads that target certain constituent groups who are likely to be active on Facebook. As you get more comfortable, try building more ads that are more segmented. We can’t personalize the ads, but we can include things like class year, school affiliation, degree, etc - things that will catch the attention of a specific target audience.

Finally, there’s the “like” link which is akin to a college t-shirt, hat, bumper sticker, etc. It’s a way to share your pride and show your affiliation with a group or institution online. And the best part is that the “like” link has that viral marketing effect – if one of your friends likes something, you’re more likely to give it a second thought yourself.

So yes, the design of these ads goes hand in hand with your strategic planning for the ads and segmentation.

While this should probably be discussed in a new post, I want to be sure to mention that when developing Facebook ads it’s important to consider your end goal. Are we driving constituents to our Facebook page to build a stronger group of fans to whom we can promote events, giving and other institution-related information or are we driving them to our external website to take another action? Fortunately, we can test both options using Facebook ads and see what is successful with different segments. I’m sure Scott has some valuable insights to add...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

facebook ads

As I prepare for the 4th iteration as a faculty member of the Academic Impressions "Doing More with Less Strategic Planning for Annual Giving," I am struggling with social networking. I realize that this hardly makes me unique in fundraising and aim to do something about that. I have previously talked about using social networking to drive support through event based efforts and still think that is a very strong strategy but isn't one that we can all take advantage of.

At the conference next week I plan to talk about utilizing ads on facebook as one possible strategy so I thought I would run through that here today as well. This is intentionally the elevator version and I hope that Stephanie will chime in with how we can more effectively design and create that ad to utilize the space and opportunity that exists here.

Facebook ads are really very simple - you get the opportunity to place a specific, designed focussed message in front of a targeted audience that you select when you create the ad. Only those folks who meet the criteria you have created have the message displayed and you can choose from a series of options regarding what you pay for and how much. For fundraising purposes, I recommend paying for clicks and make sure that the message is clear and the case solid - that will drive down the number of clicks but drive up the conversion dollars (dollars raised per click.) As you have the ability to target this, don't try to be everything to everybody in one appeal - you pay per action your constituents take not per segment so make the segments meaningful.

My recommendation is to spend some time looking through the facebook ads that appear when you utilize your account (you do have one right?) and identify where your organization needs to be in terms of design and style. Once you have that, consider what other options you have (ie age, gender, campus...) and design a couple of ads to test that. Create a general one for everyone else and see which costs the most, which raises the most and what makes sense for you. This is a terrific place to play with messaging and testing of look and appeal as you have some great metrics and can see what folks do, not just what they say.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Summer time giving

For many of us the summer is a time for relaxation and rest and I hope that everyone has a chance to take a vacation, catch their breath and start the new year with new energy. That said, depending upon your fiscal year, the summer months represent somewhere between 1/6 and 1/4 of your fiscal year. Given the current economy, those months represent opportunity that we can not afford to pass by.

My suggestion is to spend a good part of that time working in programs with lower impact to build for the future - for the vast majority of us, that is at least in part online giving programs. I would suggest that for many of us it has to do with social networking and how to use it for fundraising. Short of hosting a catastrophe nobody has yet completely untangled this puzzle but I have a suggestion on how to make steps in that direction.

My feeling is that social networking sites are not now or anytime soon going to be the panacea of fundraising results for higher education. Instead, they can be used to share the message of other things going on. How you ask? Use a group of alumni (young are suggested but take a look at the profile of your facebook fan (actually liker but that sounds bad)) to establish a fundraising event - can be as simple as a trike-a-thon or as complex as a walk for the homeless. Ask them to each take responsibility for raising pledges/commitments for this effort. Let them reach out to friends and connections via social networking. Your role is to plan the event and use the advertising features of facebook and email to get this in front of as many of the other folks in your constituent base as possible.

Will this result in millions of dollars raised? Probably not. Will this start the process of your constituents reaching out to one another on your behalf through social networks to raise money - absolutely. And that is the first big step on this path.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy New Fiscal Year!

July 1st represents a new beginning for the vast majority of higher education as we have wrapped up last fiscal year and are starting a new year. I actually work on a June 1 to May 31 fiscal year right now but even so, wish you all a happy new year today.

As the fiscal year has ended and the new year has not really started we all find ourselves in a kind of purgatory of between yearedness. As you are awaiting final reports and numbers, I would suggest that this is an excellent time to do a bit of program review - not taking a statistical look at the results, costs and efforts (although I do strongly advise that once the numbers have been finalized) but doing a bit of opinion review of your programs and efforts. What went well? What did not? What do you need to focus more energy on? In looking at my own program, I find the following points of pride and points of concern - what are yours?

Direct Mail dollars and costs - up in dollars per piece and down in total cost
Online donors increased
Increase in Leadership donor count overall and via Annual campaigns efforts
Renewals of donors over $100

Donors - decreased everywhere
Phone program declines in donors and dollars
reduction in budget
reduction in commitments from donors - dollars and longer term pledges at the annual giving level

This is by no means a comprehensive list - just a top of the head concerns - what do I need to be sure that I am focussed on this year.

I would greatly appreciate anyone who is willing to share your lists. In any case, best of luck this fiscal year!