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Guest Post by John Haydon: Email Acquisition – A Case Study

10 Comments 23 August 2010


Photo by 28 Dreams

Back in May, Oceana hired Inbound Zombie to develop an email acquisiiton strategy and increase their Facebook fan base. They had close to 10,000 fans but felt that they weren’t utilizing Facebook Page to its fullest potential.

Going With The Flow

Soon after we started working together, BP effed up the Gulf Coast with an oil spill. This meant responding to discussions their constituents were having, rather than having conversations about how cute Sea Turtles are.


With email acquisition as a primary goal, the Oceana Facebook team developed a strategy to engage with their Facebook Page connections with the following expectations in mind:

  • Increased engagement would lead to increased acquisition.
  • Creating lively discussions on their wall would allow connections to share Oceana with their friends.
  • An increase in Page activity would also impact fan growth.

A long-term vision of building a vibrant community was an important component of this strategy.


We did not want to push an email acquisition strategy with current Facebook Page connections and risk alienating them for good. So we proceeded with consistency and sensitivity.

During the sixty day campaign period, a number of tactics were employed with this strategy in mind:

  • Embedded Facebook sharing into the petition process. The Stop The Drill Facebook Tab was customized so that the user was prompted to share the petition with their friends right after they signed the petition.
  • Conducted a live chat on June 3rd – during President Obama’s appearance on Larry King. The Facebook’s wall and Twitter were the primary places supporters commented on Obama’ appearance. The discussion for this event received 72 posts.
  • Actively updated fans on the latest Oceana blog posts and news regarding the oil spill.
  • Posted thought-provoking questions for fans to respond to. For example, “How has the BP oil spill personally affected you?”
  • Tagged and praised related organizations. This created greater exposure for Oceana – particularly on Pages that have many more fans. One June 30th, the National Wildlife Federation was tagged on the Page. That update received one of the highest feedback scores. 90 new fans also joined the Page on that day.
  • Pulled select tweets from Jackie Savitz and posted them on the Facebook Page wall.
  • Set up a private group for fans interested in taking a lead role in promoting the petition.
  • Praised and acknowledged fans.


  • 5,002 emails acquired from Facebook
  • 4,277 new Facebook Page connections (from 9,824 – 14,101) during this period – a 56% increase. This was due in part by the increased engagement on the Page as shown in this chart:
  • Traffic from Facebook to Oceana’s website increased 764%


One of the biggest assets an organization has is the supporters. Oceana now needs to strategize on how to continue to develop the relationships they fostered during this campaign.

How could we have improved our results with Oceana?

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  • Gloverka

    How did you collect the email addresses? Was there a form on the Facebook page, or did the sign-ups happen on your website?


    John Haydon Reply:

    Emails were collected in a form on the FB Page using their email marketing service.


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  • I love reading specific examples that show step-by-step how a goal was successfully achieved! Thanks John and Debra for posting this. One question: should nonprofits consider emails as the “lifeblood” of their community engagement and should work towards that goal, even when they’re focusing on growing in FB and Twitter? I think that to a supporter, giving their email equates to giving their home address: it’s personal, and they give it when they’re ready. So if they do give it to the nonprofit, that shows great interest that they want to continue being involved… or am I off on this?


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Ifdy, I do think email address are the lifeblood of the organization. In every social media strategy or campaign, nonprofits want to think about how to capture email addresss. Email addresses enable the nonprofit to solicit activists for money, other actions, and to become more involved in the organization. Fundraising studies have shown that solicitations are more successful if the donor receives information both from email and the noprofit’s social media channels.

    To answer your question about interest level: it all depends. Sometimes supporters are willing to trade their email addresses for the chance to win a contest or receive a piece of information. However, in general, I’d agree with your assessment that those who give their email addresses through a Facebook app are probably more interested in the organization than a casual interest.


    John Haydon Reply:

    Ifdy – I’d agree that giving an email is one way that supporters shows a greater interest in the org than simply liking a FB Page. That said, the downside with email marketing is that there’s almost zero ability to leverage that subscriber’s social graph.

    The main benefit of email marketing is the ability to customize messaging based on the subscriber’s actions (what they’ve opted into).

    So all channels are important, but serve different purposes:

    *Twitter – Partners, Bloggers, Advocates
    *Facebook – Donors, volunteers, slacktivists
    *Email – Reoccurring donors, volunteers, supporters, advocates



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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