In June, ABC Life Literacy Canada's interaction rate on Facebook rose by about 5,000 percent over the previous month.
The nonprofit organization didn't hire a ton of new staffers to make that happen. It didn't raise its budget (of basically nothing). All it did was make
some changes to its Facebook content, making it more like what Marketing Communications Specialist Ashley Tilley was seeing on Pinterest.
"Pinterest is a huge source for us," she says. "There's so much content out there, it's nice to have something that's visually based."
The change engendered an immediate, visceral reaction from the organization's fans. Rather than just telling them what the organization was up to, the new
approach gave them ways to talk about their passions for reading, which teemed like waterfalls.
ABC has had presences on Twitter and Facebook for nearly three years, but the organization had never gotten much response beyond one or two comments,
"likes," or shares per Facebook post.
"We were really trying to engage with people, but we just weren't really seeing the results we wanted to," Tilley says.
Most of the organization's content focused on statistics about literacy in Canada or its own programs, peppered with videos and photos from stakeholders.
"It was really a variety of content, but it wasn't the most fun and engaging content," Tilley says. "A lot of our content was on message, it was about
literacy and the literacy cause, but it wasn't as lighthearted as the stuff we do now."
That changed after Tilley attended a June conference hosted by CanadaHelps, an organization that assists charities with fundraising. The conference focused
on social media, and Tilley says she was particularly struck by what the closing speaker had to say.
"He really talked about how it's not the organization that will make the movement, it's the people that believe in your cause that will change the world,"
Not long after the conference, Tilley was looking around on Pinterest and found a picture that really caught her eye. It said: "Grammar is important. For
instance, commas save lives." After that came an example of how, placing "Let's eat Grandpa" next to "Let's eat, Grandpa."
"I thought, I wonder what would happen if I put this on Facebook? We'd never done anything like that before," Tilley says.
She posted it, and by the next day it had 28 "likes," five comments, and 79 shares.
"That was kind of an eye-opener for me," Tilley says. "We'd never had any interaction that high. That was the moment we saw the light."
Then and now
"Images draw a lot of attention," Tilley says, but they can't be of just anything and generate interest.
Tilley says she used to rely on stock photos for illustrating posts about programs, but those don't generally draw people's attention.
Now, she's posting photos such as this one, in which a Haitian
boy reads while sitting on a rooftop. For those, the "likes" and shares mount.
Tilley says she realized that the organization's fans know what it does, so they don't need constant reminders. "They have a passion for the cause," she
says. "They may not necessarily care about everything we do, but they support literacy."
Plus, ABC already has an e-newsletter for promotional stuff. The Facebook page's new tone says: Here's something we like that you might like, too.
ABC has 12 employees, and Tilley manages the organization's social media solo, unless there's an intern available to help out. For this year, the
organization set a goal to reach 7,000 Facebook interactions. It shattered that goal in the last 10 days of June alone, just after Tilley modified the
ABC tallied 170 interactions in April and 208 in May. In June, it reached 11,507. The page gained 166 fans in June, compared with just 14 in May.
One major post that really set things off was a June 20 update that
displayed an image of a winding river dammed by a bookshelf. The text under the image reads, "Read books and you will discover an ocean of knowledge." The
post racked up 2,010 shares, 414 "likes," and 54 comments.
"We started getting so many new fans right after that," Tilley says. "People were emailing us asking if they could buy that."
That's a common reaction to lots of images the organization posts, she says. Teachers have been asking for the past few weeks whether they can get prints
of images for their classrooms, Tilley says.
Matt Wilson is a staff writer for Ragan.com.