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.

My Road to SGA: Judy Seitelman

(This is the first in a new series of biographical pieces to introduce you to the SGA staff.)

For 28 years, I worked independently as a management consultant focusing on strategic planning, new program development, marketing – including events, policies and procedures, and specialty documentation. My clients were primarily in higher education, but others were in credit card operations and processing, human resources management, hospitality, and forensic accounting. I also worked for several years as a technical writer for hardware and software companies.

Beyond the office, my environmental awareness kicked into high gear when I had children. Their school community service requirements forced me to open my eyes to the importance of promoting social and civic action early and often. We went to beach cleanups, helped with plastic bottle and aluminum can recycling on campuses, learned about waterway pollution at the local aquarium, and became regular household recyclers.

Becoming energy efficient started slowly with turning off lights, not running the water when brushing teeth, and cutting back on heating and air conditioning (wearing sweaters and opening windows, respectively). Later we changed out our old light bulbs to new, energy-savings types, and we switched to rechargeable batteries. In 2007, my husband and I decided to invest in home solar panels for two reasons: to save money on electricity over the long haul, and to be a part of the energy-savings solution. Just recently, we took another eco-friendly step as you can read here: “Tips Before Taking Out Your Greenway Lawn.” I have a near-zero water, lawn-less greenway that has cut my water and maintenance bills in half.

Just as my kids kick-started my better world thinking, they also precipitated my move to SGA. When my daughter moved out of the house, I decided it was time for me to seek greener pastures. (To be absolutely truthful, when I was offered my SGA job, my daughter said, “you have to say yes.”) Just as working on my own suited me as I raised a family, so does working with an intelligent, kind, and like-minded group of individuals as we try to make the world more livable for everyone. At SGA, the company seeks to motivate environmental behavioral change that improves households, neighborhoods, cities, and counties, one by one.

2015: SGA’s Year in Review

Countdown of the top 11 things we did in 2015

11. Worked with LA Stormwater and Malibu Foundation for Environmental Education on the 22nd Kids Ocean Day.
10. Won a CASQA award for our work with Orange County Stormwater Program and Gnorman.
9. Exceeded goals for County of Santa Barbara’s pilot pet-waste campaign.
8. Boosted social media engagement for San Bernardino County Stormwater with pet photo contests.
7. Helped NRDC and Grant EDC brand their new nonprofit, Watts Re: Imagined.
6. Created a new website for the Los Angeles Housing + Community Investment Department.
5. Co-chaired the 2015 Zero Waste Conference in DTLA and introduced Mayor Garcetti.
4. Volunteered at The Growing Experience urban farm in Long Beach.
3. Read good books on marketing and behavior change in our book club.
2. Went a whole new level of green.
1. Aspired to change the world, one project at a time.
Cheers to 2016! All of us at SGA look forward to another year of working with you to improve our community and the planet.

A Surprising Obstacle to Recycling Paint

The questions were simple:

  • Do you know you can recycle paint?
  • Do you do it?
  • Why or why not?

But when we asked Leo, a middle-aged man who had just finished painting his house, the answers were more complicated.

Leo had heard he could recycle paint. He wasn’t doing it, though, because he had also heard that he would need to show identification and pay a fee — two things in short supply. So he stacked all the paint in his garage and stopped thinking about it.

Recently our friends at PaintCare, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing paint recycling, asked us to conduct a survey to figure out what Latinos thought about properly disposing of their unused paint. We sent a team of surveyors out to Latino communities in Santa Ana, Los Angeles, Riverside, Ontario, Chino, Riverside, San Francisco, San Jose and Westminster in California as well as Denver and Thornton in Colorado.

What we found surprised us. A whopping 77% of Latinos surveyed kept their leftover paint in storage. An even larger 79% were unaware of the many locations that accept unused paint. (Check out PaintCare’s location finder and see for yourself.) And nearly every person surveyed was just like Leo. They believed that an ID and fee would be required to recycle paint. For the record, dropping off unused paint at one of the PaintCare locations is both free and anonymous.

Armed with data on the attitudes and beliefs of the Latino community, we’re ready for action. Our next step? To create a pilot program to educate and inspire Latinos to get that paint out of their garages. Stay tuned…

What We’re Thankful For

At the SGA office in Long Beach, we like to focus on gratitude. And if we ever forget what gives our lives purpose and joy, there’s a 10 x 12 ft chalkboard wall to remind us.

Gratitude for SGA’ers can be brought about by things small (a blueberry muffin from Doly’s can turn any day around) or large (making a difference gets us up in the morning). Being grateful makes us feel good. But it turns out, it actually makes us healthier, too.

Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine tested the power of gratitude on heart disease. They asked one group to write down two or three things they were grateful for each day in a journal. The other group didn’t journal. After two months, the researchers found that the people who wrote in their journals showed reduced inflammation, improved heart rhythm and less risk of developing heart disease. Looks like our chalkboard scribbles are doing double duty.

There’s perhaps no better time to express gratitude than Thanksgiving. So we’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our clients, colleagues, associates, and friends. It is a privilege to work with you to make the world a better place. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to do what we love and to be part of a team of passionate people that believe in change.

6 Things We Liked About 2014

When you barter in behavior change, New Year’s Day is the best holiday of the year. So you can understand why we become a bit giddy in the final days of December. While we’re waiting to ring in 2015, here’s a short list of some of the best things that happened at SGA in the last 12 months. Starting with…

  1. Adam Quinn. Our new business guru joined the team to create new strategies and growth opportunities for SGA. In the meantime, he taught us a thing or two about vermiculture and ran two marathons.
  2. New clients. It’s always nice to make new friends. We were honored in 2014 to begin working with the County of Santa Barbara, Downtown Long Beach Associates, West Yost Associates and Rethink Waste.
  3. CASQA. We can’t deny it. Winning the Outstanding Regional Stormwater News, Information, Outreach and Media Award for Be the Street, an anti-litter campaign we created for the Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies Association felt really nice.
  4. Volunteer events. Making impact isn’t just our work. It’s how we play, too. In 2014, we wrapped holiday gifts for foster kids, picked oranges for the hungry, painted a house in Compton and read stories to children.
  5. Learning. We read 10 fantastic books this year in our book club. From the seminal Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman to Dan Ariely’s The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty and The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, we explored new research, discussed new ideas and engaged in lively debate over takeout Indian food.
  6. Teaching. We love sharing what we know. In 2014, we helped CASQA develop a strategic plan, HCIDLA uncover their core values and branding strategy and young leaders at the EPA cultivate leadership tools.

We’re looking forward to more in 2015. Happy New Year!

Meet Adam, SGA’s Worm-Loving, Endurance-Training Master and New Biz Guru

New Biz Wizz, composting enthusiast, barefoot runner and curious thinker are just a couple of words that describe Adam Quinn, SGA’s newest team member.

Adam joins us from Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he studied Law and received his JD/MBA from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. However, he realized early on that being a lawyer is not the career he wants even though he loved Law School: “One of the things I loved the most was how working on cases allowed me to get deep into certain topics. Before you get to understand a case you have to do a lot of research and learn the weirdest things, such as for example how to stucco a house. I enjoyed internalizing these types of information that had to do with a greater context of the world in order to win a case.” Still, this wasn’t enough to make him want to stick to a career in law and decided instead to pursue a business career where he could a have a positive impact. So here he is, sharing SGA’s triple bottom line philosophy and helping us make a difference by applying his analytical skills to SGA’s growth.

When he is not working, he likes to stay active. In fact, the beautiful SoCal weather felt so good that soon after moving to Long Beach he took up running barefoot on the beach. And we are talking serious running here – he is currently training for his first marathon (which, by the way, he will not run barefoot). In addition to running, traveling, hiking, and tending to his garden are his favorite things to do.

Adam has many passions but if there is one thing that really drives him, it’s learning. “Everything has a learning curve, and early on in learning something new there is a huge payout. I love to jump onto a bunch of different stuff. The most recent thing I got excited about was vermiculture – as I’ve been learning about composting I realized that I don’t have enough space to compost efficiently which brought me to worms.” Now he is a proud owner of more than 10,000 worms, composting all organic waste at home and using the compost for his garden. He certainly takes the cake for being the greenest thumb at SGA!

Fellow SGAers enjoy learning about his wild travel adventures during our lunch breaks and happy hours. Here’s one I like to call a “true Indiana Jones story” from one of his travels; last year he and his wife managed to escape four mountain lions that surrounded them in Pinnacles near Yosemite! Make sure you ask him about that when you meet him.

Check out some pictures from Adam’s travels below.

Reaching California’s Ethnic Communities

When we embarked on designing a campaign to promote paint recycling on behalf of PaintCare to Chinese-speaking populations in California, we wanted to make sure we based our campaign on data rather than long-held assumptions. What kind of messaging would resonate with this population?

Did they know paint was even recyclable?

Most Chinese-speaking communities did not know paint is recyclable, we found. We spoke to nearly 70 residents in Southern and Northern California and found that 92% didn’t know paint is recyclable. However, when asked if they would be likely to recycle paint, 72% said they would.

We also found that at least 40% of those surveyed said they had leftover paint in their homes that could be recycled at a participating paint store. The biggest motivator was found to be doing the right thing (66%).

PaintCare aired in-language radio ads in the San Francisco Bay Area. We pitched the story to Chinese-language media throughout California and placed six stories in print and TV stations including ETTV, Skylink and TVB.

Here’s a segment in Cantonese that ran in Skylink TV featuring our resident champion Cindy Gan and a segment on ETTV featuring our very own Philip Kao and Gan.

KPCC Radio also aired a story on the campaign.