All advocacy starts with an audience. Your organization’s advocates are the army that gets sent forward, the engaged and passionate people who contact decision makers and carry your message.
If you work for a corporation, association or nonprofit trying to impact public policy, your list of advocates dictates the strength of your campaigns. Bigger is always better. A strong list of advocates can mean the difference between victory and defeat on an issue, whether you are advocating at city hall, a state capitol or in Washington. It can also help with fundraising, event attendance and other common goals.
While savvy programs are always working to boost advocate recruitment, some techniques are more effective than others and Phone2Action’s first-ever State of Advocacy 2019 report offers a window on which tactics work best. The report examined activity by hundreds of organizations using the Phone2Action platform throughout 2018 to see which forms of advocate recruitment were most popular and most effective.
“Many organizations start their grassroots advocacy program with a list of supporters, but strong advocacy programs are continuously growing and finding new names to add to their list,” the report said. “The larger the advocate base, the more power behind an appeal.”
Text Messaging Was Most Effective Acquisition Channel in 2018
While email campaigns are a workhorse in the advocacy industry, the report found that other forms of digital outreach were most effective when it comes to advocate recruitment. In particular, text messaging led the list.
Almost 7 out of 10 advocates (69 percent) acquired through direct channels in 2018 came through the use of SMS keywords and short codes, according to the report.
Text messaging campaigns like this are becoming more popular in advocacy because they target mobile devices and enjoy open rates that are much higher than email. A typical campaign might text people and ask them to, “Text JOINUS to 55555.” The number is the short code. The phrase “JOINUS” is the keyword. Participating advocates might be asked to join an organization’s list of advocates and then take action on an issue.
“SMS short codes were something that organizations were not taking advantage of,” Ximena Hartsock, co-founder and chief operating officer of Phone2Action, said in a recent webinar explaining the report. “Today, you see short codes everywhere. You see them in the metro, you see them on TV—which is great.”
Phone2Action itself has used short codes in its own marketing for years, Hartsock said, and their effectiveness has only grown. She expects that to continue. “We see a continuous increase,” she said. “The power doesn’t go away.”
Facebook Lead Ads Look Promising
Another major channel for advocate recruitment is Facebook Lead Ads, which accounted for 20 percent of the advocates acquired through direct channels in 2018, the report said.
Facebook Lead Ads, a relatively new channel that can be used through the Phone2Action platform, allow organizations to harness Facebook’s powerful targeting capabilities. They can then collect information on an advocate from Facebook’s user profile, without requiring that person to leave Facebook or fill out a form. That makes them an elegant solution.
They are also effective. Among the organizations that used Facebook Lead Ads, the tool provided 43 percent of the new advocates acquired, according to the report. “It’s clear that Facebook Lead Ads are a powerful channel for acquisition,” the report said.
Of course there are many ways for organizations to use digital tools for advocate recruitment, and plain old social sharing is still very effective. Sharing campaigns accounted for about 11 percent of advocates acquired through direct channels in 2018, the report said. Sharing on Twitter was more effective, accounting for seven percent, while sharing on Facebook provided about four percent.
“Sharing on Facebook and sharing on Twitter are a great way for people to be able to acquire brand new [advocates],” Jeb Ory, co-founder and CEO of Phone2Action, said in the webinar. “What you should take away from this is to share your campaigns and encourage your advocates, your supporters, your employees to share campaigns on Facebook and Twitter as well. Because it’s a costless way to educate and acquire new [advocates].”
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