David James Group VP of Public Relations, Chris Martin and Head of Accounts, Drew Navolio, sat down to discuss the best practices for using social media.
Chris Martin: Good morning. My name is Chris Martin. Welcome to the first-ever David James Group podcast. We’re calling it Stir and Tell because we like to tell stories. We focus on branding here, and we use a lot of different platforms and strategies to tell those stories including social media. With me today is Drew Navolio, head of accounts here, and Drew and I are going to talk about ways that we use social media, for instance, to tell our clients’ stories, to help them reach their marketing goals, and communicate their messages and other information to their key audiences. So Drew, welcome to the first annual, first-ever, David James Group podcast.
Drew Navolio: I’m excited to be here, Chris.
Chris Martin: I can tell.
Drew Navolio: I’m excited to talk about social media. I recently had the chance to speak to a group of foundation executives. A highly rated session, by the way. I wish you were there, but we focused on donors. Obviously they deal a lot with donor relations. A lot of people in the room came from different perspectives on the donor relation, I guess I don’t know what you would call it, but that area of expertise. So executive directors, development leads, what-have-you. Part of my message was social media doesn’t necessarily have a silver bullet for every audience. That it’s really sort of a collection of best practices. That if you do certain things regularly well, spend more time listening to your audience than talking to them. These are the type of things that will convert a follower to a donor or to a member or to someone that you can consider a brand supporter or more than just someone who sort of scrolls and can be just counted as an impression. So what I think of, and we find all the time when we talk to our clients and particularly in the foundation space, usually the groups that are doing the most good are the ones that have the smallest budget. So social media is the cost is time. If you want to blow it out, you’ve got creative graphics. Those things either require a staff person or a freelancer and are associated with some kind of cost. But by and large, and maybe you disagree or agree with this, I think social media is a low cost marketing tool. It continues to be as such. It’s a changing space. You know, we talk a lot about the change in analytics for Facebook, the growth in Instagram and Snapchat, but what I kind of focused with this group was there’s a couple strategies, one being using Facebook even though that audience tends to be older. Donors tend to be older. If you look at the data, millennials are starting to sort of dip their toe in being donors, per se, but at least in the room they certainly didn’t make up the primary donor base for any of the organizations. It’s still that gen X, boomer demographic that is their prime donor base. That tends to traffic Facebook the most. Part about what I talked about was look alike lists which I know you have some experience with, and to me it’s a low cost strategy. There is cost. If you want to have an effective campaign, you want to put something like $250, maybe $500, towards it, but the idea you can take your data and leverage that to create an identity within Facebook and allow Facebook to tell you who is a better audience to target your advertising to I think is a microtool that a lot of organizations, particularly associations, nonprofits, and obviously with this group foundations can target. What they want is donors, but it’s also about building awareness about what you’re doing. As with anything, it’s a numbers game. If you’ve got 1,000 followers of any particular platform and you can convert 10% of that, that’s pretty good.
Chris Martin: Right. You know, I thought it was fascinating that you were talking to a group of donors because donor executives are very sensitive about how many times they touch their contact list, their potential donors, and sometimes they are too sensitive so they don’t communicate enough. Sometimes they over-communicate. So achieving that balance is really important.I’m beginning to feel like in the social media world we’ve been hammering people for a decade now that content is king. Content, content. Whether it’s podcasts, video, text, image, whatever you’ve got bring it to the social media platform. That message has been heard, and I’m wondering now if we’ve gone overboard because a lot of the analytics I’m seeing for our clients and sort of from a meta-analysis of a lot of Facebook page and social media pages suggest that we’ve reached the tipping point in terms of our audience’s ability to embrace, and digest, and consume. We’re trying to give them. And some of the analytics are telling us that the fans are tuning out to a certain degree, and I wonder if we’re all listening to that. I think we need to do better at listening to that, to your point that you mentioned earlier. I think so maybe we need to take our foot off the gas on our organic content, especially on Facebook because it doesn’t seem to be working as well as it used to. But on the other hand, we don’t want to abandon Facebook entirely because they do have this powerful advertising tool that can work very well in a targeted fashion and drive traffic to your website. Whether you want people to purchase something, rejoin as a member, register for a conference. We’ve seen, with our clients, that Facebook ads can work well in that kind of method.
Drew Navolio: Right, in the right context.
Chris Martin: Yeah.
Drew Navolio: Right. Yeah, I do think it’s still, particularly with who we work with: associations, nonprofits, foundations, it’s not so much that it’s oversaturated because I still think there’s a lot of groups that haven’t quite figured out the organic part of it. Particularly like we said, the listening part. There is a balance to a point where you talk too much about yourself … Anyone, imagine if you met a person and all they did was talk about themselves. You would not only tune them out, you’d avoid them at all costs.
Chris Martin: Right, yes.
Drew Navolio: So being in the one-sided conversation whether in person, person to person, or through a device is not the best strategy. I think the more they pay attention to those analytics and look at them in appropriate intervals … I mean, we have some groups that are looking at analytics every week. Which is great that they’re looking at analytics, but I think you can also get lost in it and start to not even know what you’re supposed to be looking for.
Chris Martin: It’s like looking at your 401K every day.
Drew Navolio: Yeah, like you’re looking at a stock portfolio. That’s just not how you do it. It’s not the mental approach you’re supposed to have to it. I think knowing, appreciating timing, the most successful groups we’ve seen have a content calendar, and I do think there is a delicate balance in planning because you need to be responsive to things that are going on in your “space”. As things happen in the world, you want to be able to talk about them, but you don’t want to be planned out for a year because I just don’t think from a content perspective, unless you’re talking about your own stuff, that that’s realistic. You can’t necessarily predict what’s going to happen that’s going to be relevant to you. I think why I like the Facebook ad as much as people can say what they want about Facebook as a company, as an organization, how the platform runs, it forces you to have a concise message. When you run an ad, you can’t … They have certain parameters around what the ad can look like, what it [crosstalk 00:08:05]-
Chris Martin: [inaudible 00:08:04] character count limits.
Drew Navolio: Right, and you can run it in a short period of time, and you can learn a lot at a pretty low cost. We’ve had a lot of success with clients that have done it even in short periods of time whether they’re trying to generate registration or something like that, and I think it still works best if there is a call to action, that there’s something for them to do. I don’t know if I would recommend just being like have an ad that’s like, “Come check out what we do. Here’s our mission statement” type thing. You still want to have a dedicated landing page and those type of things, and it kind of forces you to get some of those one on one marketing strategies, tools, whatever you want to call them, in place so that you can do these type of campaigns. The end roundabout is is that you need to have your basics, and it’s something you need to be kind of aware of talking about on a monthly basis. You know, we know, we have clients that employ us to do their full content strategy all the way down to just handling working with a few posts, and a lot of it is bandwidth. Organizations don’t necessarily have the time to be posting, depending on your size, you know or-
Chris Martin: Or will do social media for a conference.
Drew Navolio: Right.
Chris Martin: That’s a common …
Drew Navolio: Right, right, and I think that’s sort of like the low hanging fruit. Moving to another topic that I talked on is the influencer, and that’s someone you can have that comes on that does it while you’re not doing it. Researching who’s out there that has a thousand, a couple thousand, even a couple hundred followers but is built on the basis of their talking about things relevant to what we do as an organization, and having them cover your event, what’s the cost? A free registration, maybe a room depending on where they’re located. There’s a lot of value in that. You can build up an audience. It’s the new form of recommendation. I mean, it’s like having someone who you’ve already said, “I trust this person because I follow them on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram, what-have-you, and now they’re talking about something particular that might be of interest in to you.” It kind of takes the staffing equation out, or that part of the equation for an organization, that there’s probably more people than there should be who call themself influencers, and if you were to spend the time or hire someone to spend the time and do that research, I feel like you could build a pretty robust list of people that can do that.
Chris Martin: When you were talking to the donors about the custom audiences that Facebook allows for now, what was their reactions?
Drew Navolio: Oddly enough, the part they liked the most was when we showed them what creative does. We showed them two ads and asked them, “Which one do you think performed better?” And I think there’s a general interest in people to go down that because it’s the visual part of it.
Chris Martin: Sure.
Drew Navolio: People can weigh in what colors they like, how did the person in the picture smile, were they leaning against something, did they seem casual. And all that does play a role. We know this. We’ve seen it. Performance in that area depends on all those little things, but I think there’s still a tremendous amount of misunderstanding on how the tools work, and they’re changing a lot so I totally get it. I mean, I’m a millennial and I don’t use Facebook that much, but I know from the time I started using it ten years ago to what it does today, it does a lot, and a lot of things differently, and it can be overwhelming. Because you feel like the tool can and should do a lot, but you only know how to post and edit a post.
Chris Martin: Right.
Drew Navolio: In the sense it was, “Yeah, we know we have to do this because social media’s something our younger audience that we haven’t really captured yet,” they use it a lot, and the question is, “Well how do we do that?” And everyone’s rustling with that.
Chris Martin: Yeah. So we’re moving more towards maybe a healthy balance of organic content with paid, and more and more of our clients are setting aside money for paid, whether it’s to promote a conference or membership or maybe just regularly, regular content, and there’s really two ways to do the paid part right now in terms of what most of our association clients have. Many association clients have an Excel member list, and from that list we can upload it through ad manager on Facebook and create a custom audience. Facebook takes that data, compares it with their own database, puts it in a big blender, and then comes out with a new audience. Typically we see the new audience is several times larger than [crosstalk 00:12:33]-
Drew Navolio: What they output, right.
Chris Martin: So we see a list of 10,000 contacts becoming a list of 600,000 targets in Facebook, and how Facebook does that remains to be seen, but they basically have their own data that they compare it with, and then they create this new list.
Drew Navolio: Yeah.
Chris Martin: So that audience resides in your business manager, your ad manager, account that you can use forever.
Drew Navolio: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Chris Martin: The other way to do it is to take your own Facebook page and create a lookalike list based on your Facebook fans. So the premise is we want to reach people who are like our Facebook fan audience so why not just-
Drew Navolio: Or like our donors, in this case.
Chris Martin: Or donors. Yeah, so if your donors are also many of your Facebook fans or followers, why not expand that list based on those demographics and behaviors and interests?
Chris Martin: So the Facebook look-a-like list function does that for you, and it’s really easy to create. You just go through ad manager, click on audiences, and the instructions are pretty simple to follow. Anybody that has been an admin on a Facebook page possesses the wherewithal and experience to do it.
Drew Navolio: Right.
Chris Martin: The nice thing is they’re interesting, and they’re easy to do. Once you create those lists, then a hard part comes in: developing the right creative. Maybe changing the creative, changing the copy. And then tracking that information through the Facebook pixels and your Google Analytics and making sure that you’re getting the data and you’re following the path of the people that see the ads and see what they’re doing.
Drew Navolio: Well and repeating it. Because as you describe it, there’s a lot of steps involved, and you can’t … it’s not something that you’ll probably get a whole lot of if you just do it once a year. That was kind of the takeaway, and I think in general the next big question was, “Well how do I use Instagram?” Because we talked a lot about Facebook, but clearly Instagram’s the platform that is growing the most. It has the younger generation. They’re using it two, three times a day which if you can imagine people visiting your own website two to three times a day, the success you would have with communicating your mission and the impact it would have in all facets of what you do. I think that’s still kind of a growing area. Facebook obviously owns Instagram so hopefully a lot of the tools, functionality, and success we’ve seen with the advertising we’ve done with clients and other organizations replicates itself. I think that’s kind of the next frontier. I’ll be honest, I don’t use Snapchat, and I don’t know … it’s so much more organic, and it’s so much more difficult to figure out how to structure something effectively that I think it’s going to be a little bit before you see traditional agencies like ourselves be able to kind of execute, at least with who we deal with, really effective Snapchat campaigns, but I think Instagram’s by far and away the next thing we’ve got to wrap our heads around and figure out how to leverage.
Chris Martin: Clearly, that’s probably the subject of a whole other podcast which we can take on that. I think our time has come to an end for the first edition, but good talk with you, Drew. Thanks for joining us. Thanks to our crack production crew, Dan Jasker, Maxie Mottlowitz, and Anna Souhrada. We will be with you probably in the next week or so for episode two.
Drew Navolio: Hopefully. Yeah, sounds good.
Chris Martin: Signing out.
Drew Navolio: Thanks, Chris.
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