Facebook’s making a fool of me

publication date: Jul 16, 2012
As I've been blogging now for just over four years, I recently looked back at my very first post. It's entitled, "Social networking: the next big thing for raising lots of money... OR an unwanted distraction?"Jonathon Grapsas photo

In it I pontificated that "Right now I would argue that social networking as a way to raise money is an unwanted distraction."

I went on to say, "In time I may be proved wrong. But the point is, let's (as fundraisers) stop getting distracted or torn away from the stuff that ‘helps us help our beneficiaries.' Let's get better at thanking our donors, let's meet more donors face to face, let's develop more brilliant stories to be able to tell our donors or others we may reach out to for support."

The point of the rant was about focus, or lack thereof - too many folks seeing social media as the answer to all of their prayers.

So was I right or wrong?

A bit of both. There are still very few organizations making a stack of money here, but conversely we've now reached a point where we see the residual impact of social platforms on other areas of our program.

One area where we're seeing Facebook having a significant impact is in driving event registration and participation. Paid Facebook ads, along with some paid search engine marketing (Google AdWords), can reap great rewards if executed correctly.

We ran a campaign recently with a hospital foundation in Australia looking to drive registrations to an upcoming five-kilometer walk. The main difference between the recruitment drives of 2011 and 2012 was investing in Facebook and Google advertising.

The upshot?

A modest four-week campaign (spending less than $4,000) generated 222 new registrants for the event.

Through Facebook we found 193 new participants at a cost of $17 per recruit. They generated around $55 in fundraising activity per participant: an ROI of 3.2.

Google helped us locate 29 new participants at a cost also around $17 per recruit. They generated around $177 in fundraising activity per participant: an ROI of a staggering 10.0.

What to remember

Facebook and Google are very different beasts. Their advertising has some similarities but more differences.

The user experience is completely different. We "Google" because we're looking for something. Something very specific.

We "Facebook" for many reasons: to chat with friends, reconnect with schoolmates, waste time. Or just because we can.

These very different platforms have users in very different mindsets. One is focused, the other is distracted. It's important to remember that when crafting ads for each.

So what?

I'd argue that in some respects my views of four years ago have rung true. Fundraisers still do get distracted with stuff that doesn't help our beneficiaries. We should spend more time working out how to better look after our supporters.

On the flip side, I got it wrong. There are some ways to make money from Facebook (and other advertising mechanisms like Google).

But the balance needs to be right. So too does the offer.

Jonathon Grapsas is the founder and director at flat earth direct, an agency dedicated to fundraising and campaigning for good causes. Jonathon spends his time working with charities around the world focused on digital, direct response and campaigning stuff.

If you'd like to chat to Jonathon you can email him, follow him on Twitter or check out www.flatearthdirect.com

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