How Can Social Media Contribute to a Sustainable Society?

In his book, Fostering Sustainable Behavior, Dr. Doug McKenzie-Mohr claims that social media is most effective when it supplies an actionable and convenient solution to a large and abstract problem. It’s easier for us to imagine that using fewer paper towels (for example) will help prevent deforestation than it is to understand how a donation is going to be used to “save the polar bears.” Polar bears are not only far away, but they’re outside of the average person’s realm of experience, whereas paper towels are not—chances are you’ve used one in the last 30 minutes.

McKenzie-Mohr’s point here is simple: addressing a problem through small, local, and convenient steps is going to be far more successful than attacking a problem head-on. News Flash: your audience is just as overwhelmed by the problem as you are; do everyone a favor and break your issue up into digestible chunks. While it may seem roundabout, sometimes you need to mask the overwhelmingly big picture for a while in order to get the ball rolling.
This alone, however, is often not enough to catalyze behavior change and/or action. What does it mean if you’ve done the work of successfully dissecting your problem into a series of actionable steps and you’re still not getting traction with your audience? First of all, pat yourself on the back—you did a lot of hard work, and rest assured it won’t be in vain. Second, take a step back and assess the way you’re interacting with your audience and the problem at hand. It’s important to tailor your message to your audience because, ultimately, it needs to grab their attention and speak to them. And if your presentation places either you or a de-personalized behavioral ideal as the hero of the story, you’re probably not going to be getting much traction with your audience. They are neither of those things.

It’s important to remember that your “audience” is an audience in name only—they are individuals and they are the heroes you are looking to write into your story. They are people that you believe have the power to address the problem that you are presenting, and it is your job to help them realize their own potential. One of the easiest ways to engage an audience is to get them to use their own networks to spread your message. How to do this? Elevate the voices of the community! Highlighting community champions creates the appearance that change is coming from within the audience, that the ball is already rolling, and social media is the perfect tool to leverage this perception and spread your message.

Think about how you might share a similar style with your friends or like the same music. People can have powerful influence over each other, and the same idea applies to environmental behaviors when you start to do things like recycle your bottle or pick up a piece of trash after seeing a friend, family member, or role model do it. In the social media world, we see more posts about potential actions and behaviors from more connections than we’d ever get from face-to-face interaction. Indeed, Facebook is the new town square—providing the means for people to share stories and have public discussions from a boundless place with no physical location. It is not only a powerful tool to organize and catalyze grassroots activism, but a fertile proving ground in which to test your ideas and watch the good ones grow.

Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Many of our clients use email marketing to get their message out to prospects and customers. It’s a great tool. Email allows for segmentation so you are able to target your message to those who will most want to read it. In fact, 13 percent of all leads come from email marketing and customers are six times more likely to click-through from an email than from a Tweet.

Before committing yourself to email marketing, here are some tips to help you prevent common mistakes.

Understanding what permission is and is not

Not following the CAN-SPAM Act can get you into legal trouble. If a form on your website doesn’t specify that those who supply their address will be contacted by you or if you upload a list of addresses you gathered somewhere else, it means permission is not granted. Spamming recipients is a surefire way to wreck your email marketing efforts.

Not confusing the recipient

Email marketing never should stand on its own. Your branding, colors, fonts and logos, should be part of your email campaign. Make sure links within the email go to your website. If this is not done, it confuses the recipient.

Short and to the point

Keeping in mind the way your emails are received are important. Remember we live in mobile society; 41 percent of email is opened on a device. You have approximately three seconds or less to engage a reader. Give them a picture, paragraph and a point of action. Make your message clear and concise.

Is it about you or the audience?

Not every email is an automatic conversion. Be relevant. Make sure your email messages are not about you and your needs (read: no hard sells). Every one of your emails should focus on your target audience and doing your best to fulfill their needs. If you forget about them, you will lose them.

Not monitoring, measuring, or managing

Possibly more important than creating your email marketing campaign and targeting the right audience is taking a look at the results. If you do not, your future campaigns will suffer.

The data you collect in the email metrics can be a gold mine. Examine open rates and days and times that the email was opened. By doing this, you can find the appropriate time to send future emails.

Find out what was more popular and what links received low (or no) click-throughs.

After three or six months, remove inactive subscribers if they have not opened nor clicked-through. Remember, you want to send to a target audience. If these subscribers are not engaged with your mailings, they are not part of the target audience.

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Good Marketing is a Like a Ramen Shop

Every business is good at something. There are some businesses that try to be good at everything. However, sometimes it’s best to focus on what you know best and let others do what they do best. It can be a win-win for everyone.

Let me explain. During a December trip to Pasadena, CA, we waited in line for more than an hour to dine at a ramen restaurant. Ramen restaurants aren’t typically fancy; here, the menu featured only six dishes to choose from.

With Santa Ana winds whipping, the temperature (if you can imagine it now) was in the 40s in the shade. Yet there were more than 70 people who weren’t dressed properly for the weather standing in a line that wrapped around the corner of the building and into the alley.

Most Americans know about ramen. Even supermarkets that don’t specialize in ethnic foods have a number of varieties on the grocery shelves. They are often a staple for college students and people on a budget because, even when they aren’t on sale, you can get ramen for less than 50 cents a serving. Additionally, it’s pretty filling for such an inexpensive dish. Cooking ramen at home isn’t complicated either. Boil some water, let the noodles steep and add the flavorings.

With a dish that is so simple to find and make, why would anyone seek out a restaurant and wait in line for it? For an hour? Especially in the cold and wind.

Ramen Tatsunoya started in 1999 in Kurume City, Fukuoka, Japan, a city with numerous ramen shops that have very loyal followings. Taking a chance there was a huge step. To differentiate themselves from others, founder Ryuta Kajiwara says he and the staff dedicated themselves to “perfecting the ultimate bowl of ramen” and providing kando, a Japanese word that means “a feeling of awe-inspiring.” They dedicated themselves to give more than customers expected.

Like ramen, marketing and social media isn’t necessarily all that complicated and most people probably know at least one 12-year old wunderkind who somehow manages to attract hundreds of fans on Facebook. An organization seeking to gain exposure might have in-house staff develop content and manage its social media presence. Having staff take on one more duty is cost effective and, in all fairness, it’ll get the job done just like whipping up some ramen at home.

But there’s a reason people are willing to stand in the cold for good ramen. It’s because while they may seem the same at first glance, an expert brings a depth to their craft that makes it better and gives that feeling of awe-inspiring. For marketing and social media, that means a broader reach with deeper engagement across your audience. It means that your ad budget goes farther and your messaging improves as you learn what best resonates with your residents.

Just like an expert ramen shop, SGA brings a depth of experience that helps the organizations we support in marketing and social media do more. When SGA works on a program, it isn’t one more duty assigned to an already overworked staff member; it’s a full team that carefully crafts content and researches why something worked (or, often more interesting, why it failed). The result is a marketing and social media presence that, while superficially the same as any organization that “has Facebook,” better reaches residents and inspires awe. We strive to bring kando to all parts of SGA and are grateful when we get to bring it to our clients.

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4 Simple Ideas to Improve Outreach

It’s difficult to imagine a time before randomized trials and data. But as an article in the December 12 issue of the Economist points out, before the 20th century, “The sick were wise to stay away from doctors. Medical treatments were often worthless and sometimes dangerous.”
Then in the 1920s, English statistician Ronald Fisher used randomized controlled experiments to test the effectiveness of fertilizer on farms, and quality and production escalated. The medical field soon picked up the method. More than any single discovery, controlled experimentation contributed to the 20th century’s miraculous increase in lifespan.

In the realm of public policy and outreach, this technique can be tricky. Changing behavior is often hard to observe and quantify. What’s more, local government programs don’t have the budgets for lengthy experimentation and controls.

But things are changing. Online media provides the ability to conduct small and inexpensive controlled experiments that allow us to determine if people are taking the initial steps towards behavior change. For example, we can test degree of awareness, intent to change, influence of social norms and more.

In 2015, SGA began testing out how online experiments can help build better, more reliable outreach programs. Here are four simple, but important, lessons we’ve learned:

  1. Reach beyond likes and unique visitors. The biggest problem 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 jumped off, 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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 got 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.
  1. 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 is something you can measure and start small. Ask fans to opt in to receive emails or post their own content showing actions they have taken. One of our projects for the Orange County Stormwater Program asked people to post photos of how they were saving water in their yards. By having residents show their actions, it verifies the behaviors taken and starts to build a social norm for the action—and engagement in general.

In 2016, we will see more and more emphasis on data as online marketing’s balance of art and science continues to demand more of the science. Business and commercial marketing has already shown this. With simple experiments, you can better understand your audience, their motivations and whether they’re buying your program’s message or merely window shopping.

Facebook 101 – How to Make Fans Flock to Your Page

The ideal length of a Facebook post is (not even long enough for this sentence). That’s right – just 40 characters, less than a third of Twitter’s limit, is the optimal length of a Facebook post. Posts with 40 characters receive 86 percent more engagement than posts with more characters. Yeah, we know, that’s not very much. So how else can we increase engagement with fans and optimize our use of Facebook? Here are a few quick and easy tips that will take your Facebook page to the next level.

Remove URLs from your post. Facebook automatically populates a clickable post when you add a website link in your update. It only clutters your post to leave the original URL, so take it out to keep your posts looking clean and under that 40 character count.

Schedule your posts in advance. Scheduling ahead of time is a great way to consistently keep your Facebook feed full. In addition to a full feed, scheduling posts on the weekend (without working on the weekend) is an added bonus. Posts on Sunday obtain 25 percent more engagement than those on Wednesday.

Focus on punctuation. Are you using the right punctuation points? We hope so! Studies show that posts using exclamation points garner 2.7x more interactions than those without, and questions garner 23 percent more engagement.

Pay attention to images. A great photo can play a major role in capturing your audiences’ attention, just be sure you have some text to go along with it. Even a great cover photo can keep someone on your page a little longer. Here are some tips and examples if you need a little inspiration.

Interact with your audience. Even if the comments they leave are negative. Responding to all comments alike shows that you are engaged and that you care about your fans. After all, happy fans are the most important part of a successful Facebook page.

In Social Media Age Matters

So is it any longer a surprise to say that my mom is as active on Facebook as my 15 year old son? While everyone knows that the teen and 20-somethings were the first to mark turf in Facebook and other social media platforms, it is now just as understood that the other age groups have rapidly increased their use and are quickly catching up. Now 72% of online adults use social media and those over 65 have tripled their presence in social media in the last four years according to Pew Research Center’s latest findings.

What is less understood is that the different age groups are using social media for very different purposes; but this also shouldn’t be surprising. Developmental psychology has long documented that as individuals age, they have significantly different needs both emotionally and socially. In an insightful article in MIT’s SloanReview by Professor Gerald C. Kane, he nicely outlines how five different age groups use social media and how understanding these groups will lead to better engagement.

Here is a summary of his findings:

Early adolescence (ages 13-18): Peer Pressure: Successfully identifying with a peer group.
In this group, Professor Kane points out that these teens are in the developmental stage and trying to figure out where they fit within social groups. Because of this, they are actually more reluctant than most other groups to independently like things or join groups unless their friends also do and have unsurprisingly gravitated towards mediums like Snapchat, where the messages delete after a few moments, in case they say the wrong thing or would in essence “like” what is unpopular. This lets them socialize within the group with less risk.

College-age adolescence (ages 18-24): Role Experimentation: Exploring personal and professional identities.
This age group has the most Continue reading “In Social Media Age Matters”