Social Media for List-Building, Version 2.0

Guest article! Laura Packard of PowerThru Consulting is no stranger to these pages, and her latest is an update of her earlier (and popular) article on connecting social media and email. The piece below is also our third product of the 2012 CampaignTech Conference and originated on PowerThru Consulting’s site.

Social Media for List-Building, Version 2.0

By Laura Packard

[Thanks to everybody who came to my presentation at CampaignTech! This is an updated version of what I originally posted last year, now reflecting changes for Facebook’s new Timeline.]

More than 66% of adults are connected to one or more social media platforms (via Mashable). Note that Facebook’s numbers for “active users” in the United States work out to be about 50% of the population. (via New York Times) But only 13% of online users internationally are on Twitter, and Google+ etc. are much less than this.

None of these stats guarantee that users check the sites every day, or even that they will see your content if you post it right before they log on. Facebook uses an algorithm to determine what content it shows users, called “EdgeRank” (more via TechCrunch). On average, Facebook says only 16% of your fans see your content (via Huffington Post). And with all social media websites, even ones that don’t filter, the flow of new content is so steady that your information may be quickly washed away. This is why it is critical to always be using social media to capture more email addresses – then you can control the flow of communication to your supporters, rather than a for-profit company with constantly changing rules.

So how do you go about getting email addresses from your social media fans?

First step is to set up custom tabs in Facebook. You could use custom tabs to highlight a basic email signup form, and maybe a hot petition around your issue. If you remember the days of FBML, it used to be really easy to set them up. Not so much anymore, but there’s still lots of (fairly) easy ways to do it with free apps. I personally like Static HTML iframe tabs and Static HTML for Pages by Involver. (For an example of this in action, visit the Facebook pages of one of our clients, USAction.) Don’t forget to add custom graphics to your tabs to really make them pop visually!

How do you get the html code to embed a signup form into an app like Static HTML iframe tabs or Static HTML for Pages? Some systems are easier than others. Salsa makes it really simple – there’s a Developer Resources link at the very bottom of your Salsa interface, and that sends you to two options for short signup forms. Had to dig around to find the code for NGP at first, but it can be done, and they now provide instructions here. Have not figured out a way yet with Constant Contact, but you can use their Facebook app to add a signup tab (app here). And here’s the instructions for the MailChimp app.

How do you create a custom tab around a petition or a donate page? This is a little trickier, because you need to create a Facebook app (here:, and set the page tab url to be the full URL of the item on Salsa (or elsewhere). You’ll also need a secure URL (begins with https) for custom tabs these days – which Salsa does have for all your content. For an example of this in action, see the Buffett Rule petition tab on our client USAction.) If you’re using ActBlue for donation handling, you’re in luck – there’s a great free app that does it all for you (get it here).

Next, put a URL in your “About” section on Facebook, and as the ”Website” link on Twitter. Facebook’s new Timeline showcases the first sentence or two in your “About” section – so make this succinct and powerful, and add the URL. Twitter has the same opportunity with the “Bio” section and the ability to directly add a URL so you don’t have to waste valuable bio space on it.

Keep making asks to your audience to get people to sign up for your email list. You can alternate direct asks with petitions, post at different times and on different days to reach different audiences, but you must keep doing this because social media is a river. Your messages float on by. Also don’t forget to “pin” one of your asks to your Facebook timeline, so it will stay at the top for up to a week.

Now, how do you move email list signups to become Facebook (and Twitter) fans? Ask them! Especially after they sign up for your list for the first time, when they are most motivated. Check out our Social Media Tell A Friend tool, part of our PowerTools suite of apps for Salsa, which makes this easy for folks using Salsa. Here’s an example in action from We Are Wisconsin, this tell a friend page is what you are redirected to after you sign up for their email list – encouraging you to become a supporter on social media too.

And don’t forget to set up autoresponder welcome email messages to new signups too (easy in Salsa, but usually possible in most other email systems). Welcome emails are a best practice in any case, but you can really make them work for you by including a social media nudge in them.

And finally, we recommend emailing your list and asking them to become Facebook fans/Twitter followers. It’s a great free way to bump up your social network fanbase in a hurry. However, it’s important to keep in mind the statistics – only 50% of the US population is regularly on Facebook etc. So you may want to include an action for those not on social networks to take, such as visiting your website for the latest updates. And don’t forget to keep sending welcome emails to new members to your list – not everyone will come in via a signup page (maybe they were part of a list swap, or took an action, or made a donation etc), so not everyone will get your autotriggered welcome message on signup the first time. So you may want to set up queries and do a sweep social media email at the end of every week or month to new folks that were not autotrigger welcomed.

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Laura Packard
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