I got my start using NationBuilder as a field organizer on an outsider campaign. We were running against a crowd of well known, established politicians with long sheets of donors and years of list-building behind them. We didn’t have that advantage, so we had to figure out how to build our base ourselves.
We put out a good amount of content on Facebook and Twitter, and a lot of people seemed to agree with our plan for our community based on the likes and retweets we saw flowing in, but on my first day on the job I wasn’t sure how to engage with those people. Like a lot of first time NationBuilder users, I learned on the job and realized pretty quickly that slacktivists — people who click the Like button but aren’t interested in doing more — aren’t nearly as prevalent as you would think. A lot of people who engage on social media are truly hoping to get involved, you just need to communicate with them in the way they’re communicating with you. I’ve fine tuned a strategy for doing just that over my time on the campaign and here at NationBuilder. So let’s not reinvent the wheel. Here’s what you can do to engage with your social media supporters and help them become true activists.
Who are you trying to reach?
Before we dig into using NationBuilder, let’s think about who it is you're actually trying to get in touch with. If someone’s on your email list already, you can get in touch with them easily, so let’s not worry about them right now. Let’s also not worry about the people who have never heard of you, though you can certainly build a marketing pipeline for them when you’re ready. We’re looking to find the hidden gems in your following who would do more if they were asked, but haven’t been.
By keeping your list focused, you make good use of your time and your community's by only reaching out to people who are going to be receptive to what you have to say and who also are going to be a valuable addition to your team. Every one of these people is a potential member, volunteer, donor, customer, or advocate, so you want to make sure you're giving them the appropriate amount of attention.
Build your pipeline
To find those people, you’ll want to create and save a filter like this one:
It’ll grab anyone who has liked a couple of your Facebook posts or interacted with you on Twitter a few times, but has never volunteered or donated, and who you haven't already contacted before. You can of course tweak this to your organization’s needs, but the concept is the same - we want people who are engaging with us on social media but haven’t taken a meaningful next step.
Make sure you’re tagging people based on the particular posts they’ve liked on your Facebook page and using those tags to tailor your messages. If someone has liked 5 posts with photos from your volunteer days at the animal shelter, but has yet to come out to one, reach out and tell them next time you’re having that kind of event so you can be sure they know.
This list is still likely going to be pretty large, so narrow down your filter based on the number of Twitter followers a person has. If we’re focusing first on the people who have an extensive network of their own, then our message will be amplified that much more when that person decides to get involved. Adjust your numbers until you've got a good group of people that you can reach out to one on one, and don't be discouraged if you see a lot of businesses or other organizations in your filter. Groups tend to have larger followings than individuals. As you adjust your filter you'll come closer to the exact group you're trying to reach.
So now it’s time to reach out, and this is the perfect opportunity to really connect with potential new members of your community. Since you don't have their email address, you'll have to communicate via the method you do have: Direct Messages on Facebook and Twitter. As you're sending messages from your social media platforms, remember to log your contacts in NationBuilder so that you have a record of who you've spoken with already. That'll keep your pipeline from repeating itself.
Your primary goal should be to grow your email list, since once someone has opted in to hear from you via email, you won't have to rely on those 1:1 messages to communicate. While it’s totally fine to have a template to work off of so you're not spending all day writing notes one by one, take a little time to tailor your message to each person or group. Treat them like humans and let them know why you’re reaching out to them - why you think they'd want to be on your list and what they'd get from it based on what you know about them from the pipeline you've built - and they'll be more likely to engage.
Also remember that your asks don’t have to be such heavy lifts as donations or volunteering right on day one. This is a group that’s paying attention on social media, so meet them where they’re at and put together an engagement path that makes sense for them. Ask them to share a post to their Facebook wall or retweet you. Then you can ask them to join your social media champions list and get emails with ready made tweets that they can send out into the world. You can use Recruiter Links to track their progress and Leaderboards to acknowledge and reward your top performers. Over time, the people who are ready for bigger commitments will make themselves known, and you'll be ready to move them into your more advanced engagement pipelines.
As these new leaders in your community take more actions and share those actions online, they’ll grow your base of followers and pull in some new slacktivist friends from their own networks. And you know what to do then: pull up your saved filter and get some more people off the couch.