Five lessons on how to do good online‬



Pictured above are five top Facebook posts from the 1,000 Lole blogger Theodora Lamb and colleague Darren Barefoot looked at across 20 non-profit organizations in the study, “How NGOs Win With Facebook.” Read on to learn more about why they went looking to “do good online.”


Think of your personal Facebook feed and the charities you’ve chosen to follow over the past year. What are the posts and stories that you’ve liked and still remember? Was it the epic and challenge-ridden journey that Kony12 took you on? Were you inspired by the miracle stories coming from your local children’s hospital? In other words, what kind of digital storytelling moves you?


The truth is that not all Facebook posts are made equal. For those of you looking to further your own cause online or support one that is near and dear to your heart, take note. There are a few simple things you can do to ensure your cause and story has a chance of rising to the top within your own Facebook community.


Earlier this year, my colleague Darren Barefoot and I set out to answer the question “what kinds of content gets liked, commented upon and shared on Facebook pages that belong to charities and non-profit organizations?” Before diving into the question, we felt confident that, anecdotally, we could answer it. But where was the data to back it up? It was time to do a little research.


First, we identified 20 Facebook pages run by environmental groups across North America. Why environmental? Well, it’s a space we’re both interested in and we wanted to compare “apples to apples” for the purposes of the study.


On average, these pages had about 160,000 fans, each. We then looked at the 50 most recent Facebook posts by each organization, which gave us a total of 1,000 posts to work with. The research and comparisons gave way to some interesting results and from those findings, we came up with five lessons for causes and charities on how to create more engaging content for Facebook.


Lesson One: Link Generously

The next time you feel the pressure to create a post from scratch, consider pointing the digital spotlight on someone else. The top ten performing organizations of the 20 that we looked at linked to other sites (mostly news sites) as often as they linked to their own website. In our study, an organization performed poorly because it linked back too often to their own content.


Lesson Two: Less is More

Resist overwhelming your audience with too many posts in one week.

We were surprised to discover that the top performing organizations in our study posted just once a day, including weekends. We also discovered that posts on Thursdays had the highest average level of engagement (more shares, comments and likes), followed by Saturday and Sunday.


Lesson Three: Photos and Video are King and Queen

Post more photos. Of the popular content types we looked at — photos, videos, photo galleries, status updates and links — Facebook fans were most likely to share or comment on a photo. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. We were, however, surprised to discover that 18 of the top 20 most engaging Facebook posts were all photos. Video performed well, too, but photos still won out in the end as being the most engaging content type.


Lesson Four: Think and Post Like the Best

It never hurts to keep an eye on colleagues and competition doing extraordinary work, both on and offline. Organizations like the Surfrider Foundation and Earthjustice produced the most engaging content of the 20 organizations we looked at. I would recommend you consider following these pages. Watch what they do and how they do it and see if you can apply their technique to your own social media strategy.


Lesson Five: Create Web Postcards

What is a web postcard, you ask? It’s when powerful text has been laid overtop an evocative image. While we encourage you to post more photos, there’s a certain type of image that goes above and beyond as far as engagement is concerned. Of the 1,000 we researched, the top ten were all photos that included either a powerful message, a call to action, emotional subject matter, or a simple presentation. Take a look at the top five photos in the slider, above. Each of them is a winner and a good example of the kind of content you should be sharing on Facebook. Good luck with your own cause on Facebook and doing “good online”!


Darren and I presented our initial findings in May, 2012 at Netsquared Camp. Since then, the Greenpeace Mobilization Lab has published our study findings.


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