To My Rotary Friends,
My Rotary story began when I participated in the Youth Exchange Program more than ten years ago, an experience that later defined my educational and professional life.
Now, as a social media marketer and member of my local club, I have the opportunity to pay forward my gratitude. By leveraging my industry know-how and a Public Image Grant, we’ve discovered one way that Rotary can use Facebook to improve its image and grow its clubs. Over the course of five months, we received 83 inquiries from Facebook users interested in joining a Rotary Club or supporting a project.
Below are some of the keys to our success, which any Rotary club or district is welcome to build upon. We’re also happy to answer questions and offer ideas; to reach out, just send a message to email@example.com.
Lesson #1: Manage Facebook on the district level.
There are four reasons to manage Facebook on the district level, rather than on the club level:
- Facebook is powerful for its ability to target geographically, but only to a point. Many people in the suburbs tell Facebook that they live or work in the nearest big city (like Minneapolis). That means clubs in the suburbs lose their ability to reach most of their constituents, and clubs in the cities waste time and resources reaching out to people out of their area. However, a district Facebook page can target the entire region and direct interested parties to the clubs that work best with their locations, schedules and interests.
- Posts don’t have to be just about the local Rotary club, because the posts that elicit the most inquiries are about Rotary projects—whether those projects are in a local neighborhood or Timbuktu. We got the same level of response on local and distant projects by including in posts something along the lines of, “Projects like this happen every day in the Rotary Clubs throughout Minnesota, and you could be part of it.”
- Effective Facebook outreach requires an advertising budget, and there is often more PR money available on the district level. (More on this later.)
- One district page can have the same outcome as many club pages, so why duplicate the work?!
Lesson #2: Dedicate an advertising budget.
Facebook pages caught attention in the business world because they allowed an organization to put content in front of their fan base where it could be shared organically. With some creativity and discipline, it was effectively free, high quality advertising.
Alas, that is no more. In the fall of 2012, Facebook changed its EdgeRank algorithm—the program that determines what content gets seen by users—such that an organization’s page post has a less than 10% chance of being seen by anyone who has “liked” the page, unless the user went through the steps of customizing their preferences for that page.
Simultaneously, Facebook offered new opportunities for pages to pay to have those posts promoted—both to people who had “liked” the page and to those who had not. Essentially, Facebook changed its pages from organic sharing tools to precision advertising tools. So if you want to make the most of your efforts on Facebook, have your checkbook ready.
Lesson #3: Write and upload all your posts at once.
Managing a social media campaign is cumbersome and emotionally draining if you try to remember when to post and have to come up with something to write on the spot. Instead, write all your posts at the beginning of the month (or as far out as you feel comfortable, if you’re running a longer campaign), and schedule them to post automatically on the day and at the time you choose. That way, you only have to think about the Facebook page when it sends you an email alert that someone has responded to your post.
Here are instructions for using the scheduling tool, straight from Facebook.com. (Note: When it refers to “your Page’s sharing tool,” it means simply the box where you type in your posts.)
We gathered content for posts in three ways:
- We had the Facebook initiative announced at all district events, and had an intern call all the club presidents, vice presidents and secretaries inviting them to send information about noteworthy events, projects and people. We then followed up with an email with the appropriate contact information. Thus, the proactive clubs reached out to us when they had content to promote. (If you don’t have an intern, buy pizza for your Rotaractors or Interactors and ask them all to bring their cell phones!)
- We visited club websites and Facebook pages, and used their content.
- We used stories and content from Rotary.org.
Although a post will always get the most play (both organic and paid) the first day it’s posted, we found that we were fine posting just twice a week.
Lesson #4: Long, heartfelt descriptions of Rotary projects get the greatest response—by a long shot!
At first, we tried making our content as “digestible” as possible by writing it short and punchy, but it didn’t take long to realize it wasn’t working. Our first breakthrough was a post about a district Friendship Exchange to India, including rich descriptions of their itinerary and its peace-building mission. From that point on, we tried to use each post to drive to the heart of Rotary and the Rotary experience, even if it took a few paragraphs.
Here are some examples of effective and ineffective ads.
You’ll notice that promoting fundraising events got very little response. Our experience was that people wanted to hear about Rotary’s mission and hands-on service more than they wanted to hear about its fundraisers or social activities.
Lesson #5: Always include a picture.
This has been true of successful promotion since the earliest days of mass communication (or cave men, if you want to make the argument).
Pictures need to have a few qualities:
- They need to be relevant.
- The central object of the picture needs to be clear.
- The colors and lighting need to be sharp.
- Avoid, whenever possible, pictures of people standing still and smiling. (No one cares about a stand-and-smile picture if the setting is familiar and they don’t know anyone in it.)
A great place to get high-quality pictures is CreativeCommons.com, a website for royalty-free content. Click on the image below to see a short video about finding and downloading images.
Just keep in mind that when you use a royalty-free image, you should give credit to the photographer. You can do that by writing their name at the end of your Facebook post like this: Photo (c) Erin Wagner
Lesson #6: Include a call to action.
If you want people to ask for information about Rotary, tell them that’s what they’re supposed to do. They won’t mind! Recognizing that people learning about Rotary for the first time might need some hand-holding, we wanted them to reach out to our Facebook team so that we could learn about them, provide engaging Rotary content, and match them with clubs where they would have the greatest likelihood of success. Here are some of the calls to action that we found effective:
- To learn more, leave a comment or send us a message!
- If you would like to learn more about supporting projects like these, leave a comment or send us a message!
- To find out what your local Rotary Club is doing, leave a comment or send us a message!
Lesson #7: Assign multiple administrators.
A Facebook page “administrator” is someone who can post and respond to comments and messages as the Facebook page. Administrators can adjust their settings so that they are notified via email any time a comment or message is received. We found that even our most innocent posts managed to disgruntle someone, so it was important that an administrator be available most of the time to delete hostile comments as quickly as possible. Fortunately, with email notifications, it’s an easy thing to do.
Lesson #8: Have Rotary information prepared and on hand.
Once we started using the above principles on all our posts, we consistently received 3-5 requests for information on each post. To streamline the response process, we wrote two messages to copy and paste—one focusing on the mission and breadth of Rotary, the other focusing on the commitments and opportunities. Click here to read the messages in full.
To help connect inquirers to clubs where they would have the greatest chance of success, we created a Google Doc with every club’s meeting information, contact information, and a list of past and current projects. We also extended a personal invitation to host the inquirer at a Rotary meeting as our guest.
We chose to use a Google Doc because it allowed all of the Facebook page administrators to add information, and to access the same, updated messages and club descriptions. Click on the image below to see a brief introduction to how we organized this information for easiest access.
Lesson #9: Advertising settings matter.
Throughout the campaign, we tested and compared different advertising settings to determine which would bring the best return on investment while requiring the least maintenance. Click on the image below for a quick video about how to set your advertising for optimal results.
Hopefully, this information will help your club or district use Facebook to attract members who would happily join Rotary, if only they knew it existed and the marvelous work that it does. We’re happy to answer questions and share ideas. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Yours in Service,
Erin Hoffman Wagner