case studies, presentations, social media campaign

Designing Effective Online Engagement Campaigns

3 Comments 12 August 2014

One of my favorite types of online campaigns to run are online engagement campaigns. Once an organization has built what it believes is a steady and committed following online, I strongly suggest testing fan commitment by designing an online engagement campaign. Engagement campaigns serve the purposes of identifying who is most engaged with your organization online, whether online fans can be moved to action, and testing new ideas.

These campaigns, after completion, offer incredibly valuable insights for future activities. Following an online engagement campaign your organization should know, at a minimum, the following data and contextual information:

  • The online identities of your most committed fans
  • Email addresses of committed fans
  • Where fans are most active online
  • How many will take action on your behalf if asked
  • Levels of commitment of fans (what types of action they took)
  • A sense of what to expect from your next online engagement campaign

What’s the secret to designing and executing a successful online engagement campaign? In the slide deck below (from a July 30th 4Good webinar) I walk through different facets of campaign preparation and execution: knowing when the organization is ready to launch a digital engagement campaign, resources and assets for a successful campaign, a campaign road map with timelines, and two case studies. View the embedded slide deck for these tips, ideas, and resources. (Don’t miss the “Additional Resources” slide at the very end!)


Two case studies are featured in the last third of the slide deck: the NYC Elder Abuse Center’s 14 Days of Thanks campaign from November 2013, and the National Brain Tumor Society’s Brain Tumor Awareness Month campaign from May 2014.

NYC Elder Abuse Center: 14 Days of Thanks

As noted in their post-campaign blog post, the NYC Elder Abuse Center’s 14 Days of Thanks campaign provided “a platform for appreciating older adults in the spirit of Thanksgiving.” During the two weeks prior to Thanksgiving 2013, the NYC Elder Abuse Center invited fans to submit a picture of an older adult in their lives for whom they are grateful, as well as including a few words of appreciation of the person. They encouraged use of a #14DaysThanks hashtag on Twitter and Facebook.

A primary campaign goal was to determine the level of their Facebook page fan commitment. (Would they submit photos? would they comment or engage in any way with the campaign?) The organization had spent more than a year developing its Facebook presence, and we wanted to be able to assess whether or not these fans would take action, if asked.

Another internal goal was to spread appreciation of elders — appreciating older adults can prevent elder abuse. A third goal was to attract new fans and followers to the organization’s social media spaces. Lastly, while the organization primarily serves as a resource for elder justice, aging, and elder abuse prevention professionals, the campaign was a test to expand its primary audience to nonprofessionals who care about older adults.

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We were happily surprised at the level of commitment and interest in the campaign: the fan base was indeed excited to submit photos, comment on, and share this campaign, verified by our metrics. The Facebook page at the time had 1100 fans. The campaign generated 34 submissions, a 235% increase in on-page engagement with posts (shares, likes, comments), a 137% increase in page reach, and 177 new page likes.

National Brain Tumor Society’s Brain Tumor Awareness Month

Brain Tumor Awareness Month (BTAM) is an opportunity to educate the public about brain tumors throughout the month of May. As explained in the National Brain Tumor Society’s post-BTAM recap, “This year, National Brain Tumor Society leveraged the focus on BTAM to share research, policy and resources with the community, as well as invite our community to share its own experiences and knowledge in return. The results were overwhelmingly positive.” National Brain Tumor Society used BTAM as a jumping-off point to test online engagement through several avenues during May, with a variety of online activities:

  • Engaging advocates through a Facebook event before and during the annual advocacy day
  • Hosting a video Community Chat focused on the publication Frankly Speaking About Cancer: Brain Tumors
  • A two-week crowdsourced advice and awareness campaign called #BTVoice. We asked the brain tumor community to share their experiences, advice, and knowledge using the hashtag #BTVoice on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, or to submit them via our website.


The National Brain Tumor Society has a large and robust presence on Facebook, as well as a committed Twitter following, and a brand new Instagram account. The organization had never organized any online campaign, and we felt this was the perfect opportunity to test a few ideas. First, would our social media fans move from social media to a video chat hosted by our organization? Would our digital fans participate in the crowdsourced advice campaign #BTVoice? Further, we wanted to test the idea of offering a publication (Frankly Speaking About Cancer: Brain Tumors) in exchange for email addresses.

We were thrilled with the Brain Tumor Awareness Month outcomes. 554 fans invited others to the Head to the Hill Facebook event, 94 committed online to attending the advocacy day in DC, and 135 advocates from 30 states came to DC May 5-6. The conversation with the Facebook event was robust, with friends inviting others and introducing themselves to each other.

377 people downloaded Frankly Speaking, and 39 attended our first-ever video Community Chat. Nearly 100 fans submitted advice during the two-week #BTVoice campaign, and thousands shared the “infosnaps” that we created to feature our fans’ advice.

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  • As usual, a post packed with great info, examples and slides to add additional value. Especially, like the focus of meaningful content generation from the community itself.

    Nothing like “asking for advice” rather then always being the one to share it to show genuine interest and support for the insights the community has within it.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Ash, thanks for the comment. If we’re going to launch an engagement campaign, then including audience expertise and knowledge is such a great way to go. As for asking for advice: I firmly believe that those affected (ahem, a real person!) know what it’s like to experience something like a brain tumor better than the organization ever could share or express.


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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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