When it comes to advocacy and political campaigns, many online organizers are quite ambivalent about Facebook. On the one hand, Facebook is notorious for changing its interface, it is better for niche communication than mass communication, people on Facebook prefer not to click links that leave Facebook and it is difficult to convert page likes into email subscriptions. On the other hand, two-thirds of all internet users in the US use Facebook, making it an essential and inescapable channel to potentially reach your audience. Hence, online organizers have a love-hate relationship with Facebook.
Facebook offers a handful of tools that organizers can use to reach, educate and mobilize people to support policy or political campaigns. And while they are not perfect (see the reasons above for a sample of these imperfections), they can be more effective than not if used optimally. This week, we will explore 3 steps for optimizing your Facebook wall posts for campaigns.
1. Images are better than Status updates for sharing links. I am sure you have heard this all the time... images are better than status updates because they are more likely to be shared. But that is only one of the reasons images are better, and maybe not the most important one. When you want to share a link-to an item in the news, a document on your website or to an action you want people to take-it is better to put that link in the caption of an image than in a status update.
When someone decides to share something from their wall to their own wall or the wall of their friends, groups or pages, you want your messages to travel with the link. You want your message framing the content in the link, your call to action to also be shared with the link. Unfortunately, only the link and its corresponding thumbnail, headline and lead sentence get shared.
But when you share an image, the entire caption gets shared with it. Instead of putting the link to the piece of content in a status update, put it in the caption for the image. You can even take an image from the linked content, upload it and link to its source in the caption. And you can put your framing, your call to action in the caption.
You should also put identifying and framing text on your own images before posting them. If you are using original images (photos, infographics, etc.) or creative commons/open source images, add your URL and/or Twitter handle on the image. Also, if it doesn't detract from the image, put some message text on it. This way, if someone chooses to strip the image away from your caption (to share it on Twitter, for example), your branding and message go with it.
2. Give Image Captions a Good Hook. Whether you give your image captions a right hook or a left hook depends on your ideology, but a good hook, regardless of perspective captures people's attention. Unfortunately, Facebook does not allow you to italicize or bold text in wall posts or captions. So USE ALL CAPS for the title, skip a space and then hit return. That will create the look and feel of a title for your post. And if your title is compelling, it will catch the eye of your readers.
The first sentence below the title should be direct to your point. Since only the first couple lines of your caption will appear along with the image on the next wall where it is posted, you want to make sure that your message is delivered even if people do not click on the image to read the rest of the text, let alone not clicking the link.
3. Convert Facebook Actions into Email List Opt-ins with ActionSprout. In addition to a good title and a compelling message, it is always a great idea to include a call to action. Sure you could ask people to share the image, and that always offer a lot of good value. But what if you could ask people to take an action that involves liking your page AND giving you their email address? That would be great!
Of the two, getting people to like your page is usually easier because it does not include leaving Facebook to take the action. But signing up for your email list is much more problematic. You could embed a MailChimp form into your page, but there isn't really compelling reason to sign up.
Enter ActionSprout. ActionSprout is a module that works within your Facebook page. It creates an action tab on your page and populates that tab with a host of actions you can manage in the ActionSprout dashboard. No matter the action-petitions, endorsements, recommendations, etc.-ActionSprout requires the action taker to create an account with their email address. And you get to set the action to require a page like, as well. And there you have it: anyone who takes an action on your Facebook page gets converted to your opt-in email list.
Once you have captured an email address from your Facebook fan a new world opens up to you. Where fundraising on Facebook is very difficult, email fundraising is state of the art. So converting action takers into email subscribers directly and positively impacts your fundraising efforts.
If you look at the wall posts on Mike Honda's Congressional campaign Facebook page or Andy Shallal's DC Mayoral campaign page, you will notice that most of the posts, regardless of what other asks may be included in them, also include a link to an ActionSprout action. Once created, any action can be used and reused repeatedly. So, simple actions like endorse a candidate or recommend to a friend can be tacked onto any (and most) posts on the page. Even sharing a simple Valentine's Day card can become an opportunity to create deeper connections with your supporters.
Take these steps, or play variations on the themes presented in them, and you will get more impact from your wall posts. Even if your viewed and shared numbers do not improve, the value of each view and share increases significantly. Any increase in views and shares only adds to your improved ROI.
Social Advocacy & Politics is a weekly, exclusive column for Social Media Today by Alan Rosenblatt that explores the intersection of politics and social media. Look for the next installment next Tuesday morning.