What Data has Taught Us About Improving Outreach

The growth of social media and online outreach over the past 3 years has been astronomical. With a projected 2.77 billion social media users worldwide by 2019, social media campaigns are booming. We live in a generation where we check our emails constantly, share our meals on Instagram, update our family via Facebook, connect with friends through Twitter, and YouTube just about anything we want to expand our knowledge on. With this growth came a lot of good changes—but also many challenging ones. Facebook changed their algorithm, Instagram updated their feed order, and Twitter increased their character cap. What does this have to do with outreach?


So how do we stay on top of the changes and ensure our content is accessible? We gather and analyze the data. When utilizing the internet as a platform for your outreach it is important to know and understand the what, the why, and the when. Luckily you don’t have to figure that out all on your own. That’s right, you can improve your outreach by using the simple ideas listed below. These ideas will help you make sure you understand what you need for a successful digital outreach campaign: who to reach out to, the type of content to post, where and when it needs to be posted, etc. SGA has been testing online experiments for a while now and we’ve learned a lot about how to build better and more reliable outreach programs. Grab a pen and paper (or the notes tab on your laptop) and tuck into our hot tips!

1. Reach beyond likes and unique visitors. The biggest problem with using social media likes and website visits as a proxy for success is that you don’t know why people took the action. They could have been searching for your content and found it engaging. Or they might have randomly clicked on your website during a Google search and quickly left, never to return again. You just don’t know. While building a strong foundation of fans is important, it’s just the beginning. To build a community, you need to test how engaged your fans are through controlled messaging experiments. One key way of doing this is to make sure Google Analytics is set up on your website and to take the time to review the reports. Specifically acquisition, user behavior, and individual page views.

2. Embrace A/B testing. If you really want to understand the value of your likes, you need to see if they are repeatable. The key is to run two sets of posts—an A version and a B version (you can also run multi-variant tests if you want to move more aggressively.) Then see how each performs with your community over time. You can set these up on social media, websites and e-newsletters. For e-newsletters, send the two variations to a random subset of your subscriber list a few days before you intend to send out the newsletter. Then send the one that does best to the rest of your list. Different areas of your messaging that may benefit from A/B testing might include: subject lines, headlines, images, timing of posts, and calls to action.

3. Turn data into insights. Once you have some data to work with, you can look at the demographics of the people who engaged with your content, as well as the content that received the best response. Facebook and Twitter insights and Google Analytics can tell you loads about your followers. Understanding the type of content that resonates with them will help you understand how to inspire them with behavior change messaging. This data allows you to paint a more robust picture of your audience, which you can incorporate into outreach both offline and online.

4. Create a call to action. Find the route to engagement by asking your fans to do something. When determining your call to action, be sure it’s something you can measure. How else would you know if it worked? Don’t be afraid to start small and increase your goal as you get a better grasp on what’s working. Ask fans to opt in to your emails, or to post their own content sharing actions they have taken. One of our projects for the Orange County Stormwater Program asked people to post photos showing how they were saving water in their yards. By having residents publicize their actions we not only created an opportunity to verify behavior change, but we started building a social norm for the action and engagement in general.

As changes to our media outlets ramp up in 2018,  it’s important to know where to start and how to collect the right data for outreach. With simple experiments, you can better understand your audience, their motivations and whether they’re buying your program’s message or merely window shopping.

Mo’ Data, Mo’ Problems

Is more data always better? Do we have a natural tendency to make up patterns and trends where there aren’t any? Are computers never wrong?

These are some of the questions posed by data nerd Nate Silver, author of our latest book club entry, The Signal and The Noise.

In his book, Silver uses examples in failed predictions ranging from the 2008 financial crisis to the Fukushima earthquake in Japan to illustrate the following three points: his humble roots as an accountant, poker player and then baseball stats number cruncher, Silver hit the big time in 2008 by correctly predicting the winner in 49 out of 50 states during the presidential elections. His blog featuring stories using data and statistics, fivethirtyeight.com, was first bought by the New York Times and more recently, ESPN. Let’s just say he brought sexy back to data. Continue reading “Mo’ Data, Mo’ Problems”