case studies

Big Blue Test 2011: More focused and successful than ever before

0 Comments 29 November 2011

“Last year, we had two competing goals, one did very well, one not as well. This year, we had one aligned goal: participation.”

Every November leading up to World Diabetes Day on Nov. 14,  the Diabetes Hands Foundation, (DHF) runs an online campaign, called the Big Blue Test. People with diabetes are encouraged to do the Big Blue Test any day between November 1 and November 14 by testing their blood sugar, getting active, testing again, and sharing the results online at

For two years in a row, Roche Diabetes Care (the sponsor of Big Blue Test) has also made a donation in conjunction with participation in the program. This year, they donated $50,000 to help support the work of five nonprofit organizations focused on helping underserved areas with a high incidence of diabetes in the United States, and $25,000 to underwrite the work in Latin America by the International Diabetes Federation’s Life for a Child Program.

The donations by Roche were tied to the number of Big Blue Test entries received and DHF set this year’s goal at 8,000. By November 15th, they had reached their goal and leveraged the $75,000 Roche donation.  I spoke with Manny Hernandez, President of DHF, to understand how he leveraged the DHF community and social media in this online campaign, and what made the 2012 Big Blue Test the most successful yet.

Don’t be afraid to rethink participation paths, readjust and re-envision strategy.

In 2010, Roche tied its donation to the number of video views, so taking the Big Blue Test was a secondary call to action. This year’s campaign was squarely focused on changing behavior.  Manny Hernandez explains, “The reason for moving from video views to Big Blue Test participation is that we wanted the incentive for the Roche donation to be tied to the Big Blue Test program, so that the program would grow and the donations would also take place. We dropped the idea of the pledge because it was a complicated set of steps: pledge, message to do the test, follow-up, etc. We decided that the video should be the promotion, not the donation driver.”

The new strategy paid off; this year’s Big Blue Test was the most successful ever. About 25% of the people that did the test came back and did it more than once. Manny observes: “that speaks of their commitment to making this happen. They see the benefit of exercise.” 4,003 participants without diabetes and 4,119 participants with diabetes completed the test, which equals 20% of all visitors. As Manny explains, “last year, the charities won, and the people who participated by watching the video won. However, only 1500 people completed last year’s test and entered their data. If you only count people with diabetes who completed this year’s test, it’s about 3X that amount. The goal of growing the program was accomplished.” You can read the many participant stories uploaded to the Big Blue Test website which speak to the impact of Big Blue Test: 223 in English and 125 in Spanish.

Motivate Your Online Community

Manny leveraged participation from two Ning communities run by DHF (, and their Facebook Page with nearly 40,000 fans combined, many of whom are quite active. In order to keep them engaged, Manny used the group’s weekly update to talk about the Big Blue Test and motivate community members to participate.

Additionally, from November 11 through 14, all visitors to EsTuDiabetes and TuDiabetes were presented with a “takeover page” about the Big Blue Test before entering the community. For four days, DHF showed this special video and takeover page (screen shot below). As a result, about 5% of total traffic to Big Blue Test came from the communities. More than 1/3 of the people that clicked over from the takeover page did the Big Blue Test.

Experiment with Twibbon

One of the most pleasant surprises this year was the success of Twibbon, a service that overlays a small icon onto supporters’ online profile images. Manny created a diabetes Twibbon a few years ago, and decided to experiment with using a Twibbon campaign this year.

When you sync a campaign with Twibbon, you can direct people to your Facebook Page or Twitter after they have added the Twibbon. As World Diabetes Day approached, a lot of people organically added the Twibbon without being directed to it. As a result, Twibbon adds increased the number of DHF Facebook page Likes by 2,000, a 25% increase in Likes. These were very qualified Likes, as Facebook was the biggest driver of traffic to Big Blue Test outside of direct visits. As Manny states, “the potential for this tool is huge. When you add the Twibbon, a tweet goes out with hashtags, further amplifying the campaign.” This is a great example of evaluating existing assets and leveraging them. Given how successful Twibbon was, Manny says he will consider using Twibbon as a promotional resource again.


The Biggest Driver of Referred Traffic: Facebook

Facebook proved to be the biggest driver of referred traffic, and one of the most qualified. “We relied very heavily on regular Facebook updates and we saw similar impact from Facebook as last year,” states Manny. DHF consistently updated its community about the campaign through Facebook. Below is one example of a fan using the Twibbon avatar and posting his test results to the Page.


Diabetes Hands Foundation is one of the nimblest online organizations around. They are not afraid to experiment with social media, as I’ve written about previously. The success of Big Blue Test speaks to their belief in the potential of social media as much more than tools for socializing. They have time and time again leveraged Facebook, Twitter, Ning and YouTube to help people with diabetes connect with others like themselves, raise diabetes awareness and lately…help others in the process. All of this is possible when you align goals with participation paths, and you are not afraid to try new things.

“People really saw, for the first time, that doing this would have this kind of impact. This really helped people,” says Manny. As Manny told me last year when I interviewed him, “Believe the commitment of the people that are part of your community.”




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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