Humane Social Marketing - Interview with Carie Lewis from the Humane Society

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Carie LewisCarie Lewis, Internet Marketing Manager at the Humane Society, talks about how the humane society is able to raise funds, awareness, and activity through social networks.

Can you describe your position? How do you spend your day-to-day time?

As the internet marketing manager, I manage our organization's online marketing efforts, including paid advertising and our web 2.0 / social networking presence. I've taken on more of a project management role now that we have 2 internet marketing specialists, but also coordinate how social networking fits into our broader communications strategy taking an integrated approach to our campaigns with website, email, etc.

Have you had any surprising successes throughout the past year of social media outreach?

We have! For our dogfighting campaign, we did both a video and rap song contest, on youtube and myspace music. We ended up getting about 25 submissions and 18,000 votes for people's favorites, as well as thousands of new list members who took action on the corresponding issue. I talked more about this at Care2's blog, Frogloop.

For the seal campaign, we did campaigns on myspace and flickr. The first, we created a myspace profile for a baby seal. He blogged about what it was like to run from the sealers everyday. From that, we gained over 3,000 new friends and 2,000 new list members. Care2 covered this as well. we also did a flickr campaign where we gave people photos of cute baby seals and asked them to create captions for them, based on the "LOLcats" internet phenomenon. We did this because the seal hunt is such a hard issue, we barely get to the "celebrating animals" side of our mission with it. So people created their captions, filled out a form on our website, and their info and photo uploaded directly to our flickr page via the Flickr api. We got over 3,000 entries.

And then there was the Microsoft Facebook challenge where we won $50,000 by getting our friends to join Microsoft's facebook group and vote for us as their favorite charity. This is a long story, you can read all about the drama on Beth Kanter's blog.

Any particular challenges?

There are always challenges with social media, as its so new and we're still seeing what does and doesn't work. For instance, we have a campaign that's trying to get Wendy's to go cage-free. We created a photo petition on flickr where we asked people to take a photo of themselves with a message to wendy's, then upload it to flickr. This entailed them having to create an account, upload the photo, tag it, etc, etc. It was just too much. Hardly anyone participated. The number of people that wrote in with technical difficulties was overwhelming. We also let people just email their photos to us but many people took that route and we couldn't keep up. So, we learned from it. We took the time to figure out the Flickr api so that the process was streamlined and it really paid off! We went from about 100 photos for the wendy's campaign to over 3,000 for the seals campaign. And we were able to automatically add everyone that submitted into our email stream (with a disclaimer, of course).

How have your personal job responsibilities changed over the past year. In particular, have you had to hire people to help manage aspects of the social media outreach?

Yes. Once I built up the facebook, myspace, youtube, and flickr communities, it became unmanageable. I was still responsible for doing all of the online marketing for our major campaigns, but all I had time for was to approve myspace comments. So, I went to the higher-ups and said "look. These campaigns are actually generating results. We're gaining new list members and raising real money here". This really opened their eyes. As a result, I was able to hire 2 non-budgeted, full time staff members to focus on list growth and fundraising via paid advertising and social marketing / web 2.0 ventures.

Do you have any interest in building a Facebook or MySpace app?

Absolutely we are in the works of storyboarding our first in-house facebook app as we speak. We've utilized existing apps pretty heavily so far (like Causes and ChipIn) but we really want our own so that it meets all of our needs and ties to our member database.

Have you shifted your emphasis from MySpace to Facebook throughout your tenure at HSUS? Or do the services provide different complimentary services?

I started with MySpace, built that up, learned from it, and moved onto Facebook just when they opened up their platform. It actually worked out to be great timing. We already had an established myspace presence at that point. They are two very different networks, but important to us in many ways. Now, we've seen that myspace is great for getting people to DO something take action, vote, sign a petition and facebook has actually been great for us in terms of fundraising. We've raised more than $40k just in a little over a year.

What metrics do you use to track success of your social media outreach? In particular, what counts as a "conversion" for you? An email address? A donation?

Both. Everything we do is tied to either list growth or fundraising, so that's what a conversion is to us. But it doesn't stop there. We have intangible metrics that we track as well. For instance, we look at the number of myspace friends, youtube video views, facebook fans, flickr photo views over time. This lets us know that we're continuing to grow. We're also monitoring our networks in terms of the "buzz"… what are people talking about (is it negative? Positive? Do we need to respond?) how often are people messaging us, and what blogs are getting the most comment traffic. The user-generated content that we get is invaluable. For instance, the youtube video contest winner was turned into a TV PSA in the winner's hometown. That was money that we might have spent on getting an ad agency to develop the ad… and it was a great piece. My advice for tracking is to #1 pay attention to your conversions… but don't lose sight of the intangibles as well!