Facebook AND Email – The Marketer’s Chocolate Peanut-Butter Cup

At no point in Facebook’s history has it been easier or more valuable for organizations to bring their email and Facebook strategies together.

And, the impact of tightly connected Facebook + email strategies will only grow as Facebook continues its march to become a dominant part of every marketer’s toolset.

If you grew up in the 1980’s, you’ll remember the TV commercials for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

In one ad, a boy and a girl are walking down the sidewalk in opposite directions. The boy is savoring a chocolate bar while the girl blithely snacks on a jar of peanut butter. The commercial culminates when the two collide and their previously separate snacks come together. Voila, they find that the treats are even better together!

Well, replace the chocolate bar with email and the peanut butter with Facebook, and you have a modern day match made in heaven.

I realize this is a bit of a weird analogy, but it’s one that comes to mind for me quite often when I talk with people who spend their days working to engage people via email or Facebook, but not with both working together.

Facebook and Email Marketing

For years organizations have treated Facebook and email as entirely channels for reaching and engaging supporters. But increasingly, the organizations that successfully merge their email and Facebook efforts find themselves with far more benefits than they enjoyed before –just as our hero and heroine in the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercial do.

Facebook’s recent changes provide organizations with opportunities to reach new people, capture their data and cultivate meaningful relationships –all right inside Facebook. At the same time, email remains the best channel for much of the marketing that organization do today. Combining your Facebook and email efforts creates a synchronistic relationship where one plus one equals a huge increase in benefits for your organization.

Three Ways Facebook Supports Email Marketing

Facebook is moving quickly to make it easier for companies to leverage the information and networks of its 1.2 billion users in ways that add real value to all marketers: both nonprofits and for profits. Over the past 18 months, Facebook has made important changes to its:

  1. API’s
  2. Open graph
  3. Search technology
  4. Terms of service
  5. Advertising tools

If you look closely at the changes they have been making, you quickly see the direction the company is going. Simply put, we can now capture data and interact on Facebook today in ways we wouldn’t have dreamt of doing just 12 months ago.

If you have heard me talk about the value of Facebook over the past year, you probably know I break it into three main buckets:

  1. Reaching your target audience
  2. Cultivating more productive relationships
  3. Capturing data so you can evolve those relationships on and off Facebook.

1. Reach Here’s a simple example of how to combine email and Facebook to reach your current supporters and gain new ones. Last month, Sierra.Rise ran an email campaign that drove their supporters to a post on their Facebook page instead of to a petition page on their website.

The post itself included a clear call to action that went beyond clicking Like, Share or Comment –it asked people to sign a petition. That petition resided directly inside Facebook. As a result of this effort, the organization accomplished the following:

  1. The post itself outperformed any other post they had published on their Facebook page in months.
  2. They grew their page with high quality supporters.
  3. They captured the names and FB User ID’s for every person that clicked Like or Commented on the post itself so they can track their engagement over time.
  4. They captured the email address of every person that “signed” the petition.
  5. They reengaged existing supporters and captured data to help them better understand their interests.

Based on data from other ActionSprout customers, had Sierra.Rise simply pushed people to take action on their website, they would have foregone the reach, grown their Facebook fan page by zero, and captured only a fraction of the new supporters they did with this effort.

How To Do This: Drive people to take action on your Facebook page instead of a petition form on your website. Sierra.Rise drove people to a post where they could like, comment and share before clicking through to complete the action on their ActionSprout tab.

2. Cultivation For far too long organizations have been content with seeing their Facebook page as a place to “build awareness” of their causes. But as a public company, Facebook knows that its paying customers require real, measurable, returns on their advertising investments.

As a result, they are making it easier for organizations not only to reach their target audiences on Facebook, but to engage them in ways that go beyond Like, Share and Comment through using the new custom actions feature. Most people first experienced Facebook’s new custom actions when they started seeing stories in the news feeds about friends listening to a song on Spotify.

By giving app developers like ActionSprout the ability to add new actions for people on Facebook to take directly in the newsfeed, Facebook also opened up the ability for organizations to build deeper relationships with people right inside Facebook. ActionSprout is the first (and, as yet, only) company to leverage Facebook’s latest API’s, custom actions, and the open graph to support the unique engagement needs of nonprofit organizations.

A recent Unicef's action asking people to stand with children of Siria.

A recent Unicef action asking people to stand with children of Syria.

3. Capture Without a doubt, the #1 reason organizations use ActionSprout is because we provide powerful ways to capture data, including email addresses, from people that take meaningful action for their cause or candidate on Facebook. Most organizations have been investing in building Facebook communities for years. These organizations have a tremendous amount of pent-up value locked away inside Facebook in the form of fans and communities. And that value just keeps growing. A study done by NTEN and M+R in 2012 showed Facebook fan growth of 46% –far outpacing email list growth.

Yet until very recently, the only way to capture email addresses of people on Facebook was to drive them OFF Facebook to a website or app where they could fill out a form and hit submit.

This form of supporter capture is as old as email and website use in the nonprofit sector itself. But, as any organization that has tried this knows, driving people to take action from Facebook by filling out a form (on or off Facebook) has always fallen flat. There are two primary reasons for this:

  1. The completion rates on these forms are very low whether they reside on the organization’s website or are hosted on an app on their Facebook page.
  2. More importantly, these forms are almost always a viral dead end, which defeats the entire point of Facebook. This means, if you are lucky enough to have a post on your Facebook page that does drive people to take action from it, it will simply fail to be shared and spread. In other words, the more successful organizations are at creating posts that drive people to take the action, the less viral it is!

But with Facebook’s newest API’s, the open graph, and rules for app developers, it’s easier than ever to give people meaningful actions to take directly from their newsfeed without leaving Facebook. We can then capture their data without forgoing the viral impact of people engaging and sharing content directly on Facebook. This, in a nutshell, is why ActionSprout exists.

Facebook today offers organizations a very cost effective email list growth strategy. In the past, very few organizations really looked to Facebook for list growth. This isn’t because organizations haven’t wanted to grow lists using Facebook –it’s because there were no good ways to do it!

But times have changed. Organizations that use ActionSprout, for instance, can now log into their ActionSprout account, or connected CRM, and quickly find their most active Facebook supporters. Moreover, on average, each post that includes an ActionSprout powered call to action converts 5% to 20% of the total number of people that engage with the post by clicking Like, Share or Commenting on it. In other words, if an organization’s post has 100 people Like, Share or Comment on it, they will receive between 5 and 20 new email addresses from people that were ready to engage beyond Like, Share or Comment.

This action has had 10,188 people click like or comment on wall posts that include is call to action and 1,224 people complete the action.

This action has 10,188 people click like or comment on wall posts that include a call to action, and 1,224 people completed the action.


How Email Adds Value to Facebook Efforts

If you’ve been paying attention to Facebook at all over the past year, you probably know that when an organization posts something to their wall, Facebook only delivers it to 15% of their Fans. That’s like having an email list with an 85% bounce rate. Sure, you can pay to get that message seen by more of your fans, but the fact that individuals are bombarded with an average of about 1500 pieces of content each time they log into Facebook, means viewer blindness kicks in. Email is and will be the most direct and controllable means of reaching supporters electronically for quite some time.

The amount of money currently being raised on social sites like Facebook is minuscule compared with the ever growing amount of money being raised via email. Direct mail still dominates fundraising but email is growing in importance. Raising money on Facebook holds a lot of potential, but today, it’s just that –potential, not reality.

The good news is that by using Facebook hand in hand with email, organizations can have the best of both worlds. It’s getting easier for organizations to leverage Facebook to support and augment email efforts in a number of important ways.

Benefits of Multi-Channel Reach and Engagement

I mentioned in the email overview above that although email open rates have remained steady at 15%, click through rates have dropped to .7%. The good news is that Facebook is working furiously to give marketers new ways to target existing email supporters on Facebook at the same time that those marketers are working to reach them via their email inbox.

A study done around #GivingTuesday last year showed that organizations that used social channels along with email produced 10X the donations on that day. Other studies put the value of a Facebook fan at $161.30 over a 12 month period. Those 5 to 20 new email addresses you gain for each 100 people clicking Like, Share or Comment adds up to an impressive increase in revenue very quickly, but I have a hard time imagining how numbers like these can be generated without an organization reaching these fans directly via email.

At ActionSprout, we have just begun to explore leveraging Facebook’s ever-changing advertising potential. But one thing is clear: one of the most powerful ways to target users on Facebook in the near future will be to target those individuals that already have relationships with an organization.

You can target people on Facebook by email address or FB User ID.

You can target people you already have relationships with on Facebook

These are early days for Facebook and for ActionSprout. Each month (and often each week) Facebook releases some new feature or permission that opens up new possibilities. It can be a bit daunting to think about what the future holds for organizations that depend on electronic communications to engage supporters. But as someone who has been helping nonprofits navigate the world of electronic communications for over a decade, I can honestly say, the future is bright.

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John Haydon