Carie Lewis, Internet Marketing Manager
Humane Society of the United States
In April, I blogged about HSUS "Stop Canada's Cruel Seal Hunt" campaign over at blogher and my blog and last December on my blog as part of a roundup of articles on using social networking spaces for campaigns. I've been following Carie Lewis's posts on the NTEN Affinity groups as well as other nonprofit tech listservs (yes, I still do read listservs) and caught up with her for an interview.
As part of her job as Internet Marketing Manager in the Online Communications and Media department at the HSUS. she manages all social networking profiles, online advertising, search engine optimization, and online marketing techniques for campaigns. Her main focus is on ways to use web 2.0 tools for online advocacy.
1. Tell me about the Stop Canada's Cruel Seal Hunt campaign?
This campaign was generated to as a unique way to get people involved in taking action against the Canadian seal hunt. We wanted something different; not just another MySpace profile. So through the eyes of a baby seal, people were able to interact with him, hear his stories, send photos of what they were doing to help, and participate in ways to take action online (posting banners, signing the boycott, sending emails to the prime minister, etc.) People became very fond of sunny and were motivated to do whatever they could to help.
2. Can you talk a little bit about how you mix or integrate social media tools with more, er, "traditional" online marketing strategies?
This was mostly a myspace campaign. We pointed people to youtube to watch the videos and to our website to participate in the advocacy. We also coordinated and integrated the content and blog postings with our hsus myspace page and rebecca’s online journal, without coming right out and saying this was being put together by the HSUS.
3. Why did your organization integrate these social media tools - how did you choose specific tools?
We already had a strong following on the hsus myspace and youtube channels, so we used our supporters there to direct their attention to this page. Rebecca’s online journal told the tales of what she saw, so we just reworded her experiences through the eyes of a seal and posted blog comments from him. We also used youtube because it’s a great place for us to post our most graphic videos in hopes that they go viral.
4. What kind of research or community participation or presence did you have on these social networking sites before launching the campaign? What kind of experiments did you do first?
We had taken the time to build up a strong following on our hsus myspace page – it took about 7 months to get to 17,000 friends. The first thing we did was create a group dedicated to the seal hunt. We saw a flood of new members once we first created it, but then it died off. There was nothing exciting to really get people to come back after they joined. It was the same old same old – what you can do. We knew we needed a new angle, so we chose to go with storytelling. That’s why the myspace page by a seal was so effective – people kept coming back to see what he was experiencing and seeing if he was still alive – then we integrated our advos and other campaign materials into his story. We also created a custom profile and layout, which gave his page a different edge.
5. Why and how has using these tools been effective? Can you share some stats? What was the result of the myspace page?
Sunny (the seal) had over 2,000 friends and 14,000 profile views in 3 weeks. We had about 500 new signups to our email list from MySpace. That includes the advocacy actions and the web banners. This does not include those who were already in our email system or have participated in advos in the past, so you can imagine the total # that participated is much higher.
6. What kinds of conversations in-house/on-staff did the desire to integrate social networking tools into your work spark? How much staff time did it take to incorporate the social media tools?
For this campaign, we had 4 people involved – myself, who was going to handle the design and maintenance /correspondence for the profile, the campaign manager to make sure it followed along with the goals of the campaign, the person that was actually up on the ice to make sure it was realistic and followed with what she was witnessing, and an employee in Canada that did the blogging and made sure the profile had a Canadian “feel” to it. The four of us corresponded on the strategy of the campaign and how it would flow. It took about a week to plan and implement start to finish, then about 15 minutes every other day to blog, and a half hour a day to handle the correspondence (comments, emails, friend requests)
7. If you were to give advice to others about incorporating social networking/media tools, what are the five most important things to consider or do?
1 – Take the time to build your friends list. We reached out to celebrities, other seal groups and profiles, current hsus friends, profiles and groups that had to do with the issues (global warming, animal welfare), Canadian-specific profiles, etc. Post your badges on their comment space once you have friends. Promote to your current constituency in any way you can. Include a link in emails, on your campaign page, on your homepage, blogs, etc. Once we added links in these places, we received an influx of friend requests.
2 – Remember the WIIFM (what's in it for me). We created badges that people could put on their pages to show their support, instead of just asking them to take action and participate in our advos. (and these badges included text links back to our website and myspace page). Give people the text box with the code so they can copy and paste the code instead of having to download an host on something like photo bucket. Make it EASY.
3 – Come up with something different to keep people engaged. Everyone likes to have a lot of friends, but if you create a new profile for every campaign you have, you may get a lot of friend requests, but they may not ever come back. Ten different profiles for each of your issues or campaigns is boring. Come up with the big, cool idea. Then put together a strategy.
4 – Don’t engage in a social media campaign unless you have the time and resources. My position is dedicated to projects like this. I think it would be hard for someone to fit in the time it took to put this together and maintain it in addition to their daily job responsibilities. Social networking projects are not for everyone. We have a strategy and team of people in place for each campaign. Never put together a page then leave it, expecting people to come to you. Take the time to respond and interact with all your friends. If you don’t have this kind of time to do it right, find another way to get your message out.
5 – Take the time to measure results. Even though you can’t get stats from MySpace, take the time to track on your end. We source every link from myspace so we can tell what each person does once they reach our site. We can track other advos they participate in, donations they give, etc. The advo, donation, and tell a friend benefits from even one person can be incredible.
Has your organization implemented a campaign on a social networking site? What is your best advice to those just starting? Leave a comment and pointer to your campaign or web site.