How STF made 1,000+ new Facebook friends in 30 days

Check out the Sacramento Tree Foundation’s Facebook page posts before and after their very successful Facebook growth campaign, and then read what Colleen Cadwallader, the organization’s development director, has to say about the results. (Note: republished version – section that was left out was inserted.)

Before – 1,200 friends:

Before: 1,200 friends

After – ~3,500 friends*:

*Approximately 300 of the new likes were from outside the local area

Background:  After renovating its Campus Commons senior independent living community outdoor environment in Sacramento – including planting 106 new trees – Sacramento-based Ray Stone Seniors approached the Sacramento Tree Foundation about a cross-promotional campaign.  Active in the local community since 1968, the company saw a connection between their renovation effort and STF’s campaign to preserve and protect Sacramento’s legacy of trees.  What if local companies got behind the community goal of planting 5 million trees? The company offered to make a donation for every new Facebook friend that liked the STF Facebook page in a 30 day period – an adaptation of a matching donation fundraising program.  In return, STF would expose its audience of 12,000 newsletter subscribers and 1,000+ Facebook friends to Ray Stone senior independent living communities.

Disclosure:  “Philanthrophile” is not a bystander in this one.  I was a matchmaker.  As an owner/family member and sometimes-consultant for Ray Stone Seniors, I stumbled across the fact the Campus Commons senior independent living community had made a dramatic investment in trees and landscaping as part of its vision of having a high quality indoor/outdoor living experience.  It occurred to me that there might be an opportunity for a new kind of business collaboration that supported both organizations’ goals. “Philanthrophile’s” personal goal is to help local nonprofits find effective and affordable ways to further their missions.

Q & A with Colleen Cadwallader

What happened?  Did engagement and interaction increase, decrease or stay about the same?

Engagement and interaction increased ten-fold; however, that was in large part because we made an extra effort to post fun and interesting things that enticed fans to participate more.  The promotion really motivated our staff to use Facebook more.

What did STF do to promote and add legs to the campaign?

We used a number of different tactics to get the word out:

  • Email taglines about the campaign were added to every staff member’s signature
  • Two single-message Constant Contact email blasts were emailed out to our 12,000 contacts
  • We advertised through Facebook
  • We participated in a radio interview with KFBK
  • We asked our partners to put the campaign on their pages (see example below)
  • We asked our Board members and staff to put the request on their own personal Facebook pages
  • We asked people to like us while we had them at tree-planting events
What lessons did you learn?
Enthusiasm about the promotion was very high at first, but began to lag as time went on.  Thankfully, we had written down the tactics we wanted to follow and made sure to keep revisiting them and taking action.  However, we did not do a final push/count down during the last two days of the month.  If we had asked our Board members/partners/staff/friends to help one last time, we think we could have seen an additional spike.  We also had fewer events than usual this September.  If we had done the campaign in October or November when we are out almost every weekend, we would have been able to garner an even greater response.  People really loved this concept and everyone wanted to help, even Congresswoman Doris Matsui!
How does Facebook fit into the STF’s communications strategy?
The STF does not currently have a communication position on staff so our social marketing campaign is created with that in mind. However, we do try to take advantage of every opportunity available to us especially those that are cost efficient and user friendly.  For that reason, over the past 12 months we have been relying more heavily on social media, especially Facebook.  One of the things we enjoy most about Facebook is that a number of our staff members can manage the daily communications, which not only helps in terms of utilizing people resources but also ensures that we are communicating regularly with our fan base.  Recently, we recruited an unpaid intern to help us keep the fun in Facebook.  She is helping us to increase user interactions by posting engaging activities like the picture photo caption contest and the Tree of the Week note.  She is newly graduated from college and brings some fresh ideas about social media.
Are you rethinking the results you hope to achieve in the wake of last week’s changes to Facebook?  Do you expect Facebook to increase, decrease or stay about the same in importance?
We would like to understand better how the changes are supposed to be helpful to nonprofits especially in terms of the Causes pages.  Changes to Facebook cause our organization a bit of frustration because we don’t have a lot of time and effort to put into learning the new in’s and out’s.  At this point we expect Facebook to remain an integral part of our social media.
What did you expect would be the direct and indirect benefits of this promotional campaign?
We were very excited when we learned about Ray Stone Seniors’ promotional idea.  We expected that the direct benefit would be an increase in our fan base.  When we launched, we hadn’t thought much about the indirect benefits – although one of the greatest indirect benefits was greater commitment on our part to increase the number of interactions by engaging our fans differently.
What happened?  Did you achieve those benefits or different benefits than you expected?
We set a goal to reach a total of 2,000 fans by the end of the month and had to reset that goal when we passed it just 2 weeks into the campaign.  On September 30, we had a fan base of about 2,500 — an increase of 1,366.  What’s most incredible is that our fan numbers have continued to increase over the past few days. We believe this is due to the fact that our social reach has increased so much and more people than every are liking, commenting and sharing our posts.
Do you think you reached new audiences — or segments — as a result of the growth campaign?
We targeted a few of our Facebook ads specifically to high school and college-aged Facebook users because of the need to inspire this age group to volunteer at our plantings and apply for internships.  These audiences grew.  We also saw a big increase in women ages 25-34 and older audiences as well.
Below:  examples of the Tree Foundation’s Facebook posts and comments during September
First nudge:
Reminder:
Partner post:
Next post:  Ray Stone Seniors’ point of view
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