Why Conversion Is A Better Objective Than Traffic Referral | Beth’s Blog

Why Conversion Is A Better Objective Than Traffic Referral

Engagement, Guest Post

Source: Altimeter

Note from Beth: I’m working on the sequel to the Networked Nonprofit – it is a book about using measurement to prove and improve results with the Measurement Goddess KD Paine.    (Her  recent book, Measuring What Matters, is a must read.)

So, lately, I’ve been on the hunt for good nonprofit measurement stories.   Last week, I read Jocelyn Harmon’s post about Nonprofit Facebook Fail and in the comments, Petri Darby refers to the dramatic increase of visits to his nonprofit’s Make-A-Wish Foundation Web site.  He goes onto say how they focusing their integrated strategy on a metric that matters:  conversions.

This resonated after reading KD Paine’s “Social Media Measurement Meets Sex in the City” that talks about the importance of tracking your strategy to understand how to get people to become life long supporters.    The goal is not exposure.

Petri’s post shares a few thoughts about how his organization is focusing on the relationships through connection, not just traffic.

Guest Post by Petri Darby, Make-A-Wish Foundation

Make-A-Wish Foundation monitors analytics, does tests, and tweaks its website (www.wish.org).  For many years,  wish.org  primarily served as a direct response promotional channel, with every change designed to shorten the path to a transactional relationship.  Our homepage reflected that theme, always displaying 10 or 12 ways to donate dollars or air miles, buy products to support wish granting, or launch fundraisers on our behalf.

Our website was performing respectably.  Average online donations hovered at an attractive level. Our data showed that those coming with the specific intent of giving were able to complete that task with ease.  However, conversion rates were flat.

Recently, we adopted a new vision for wish.org and our online channels, including social networks.  Our focus has shifted from transactional to connecting and engaging key constituencies over the long-term, and empowering them as brand ambassadors and advocates.

Here’s how we’re doing it:


1. First-Person Storytelling

For 30 years, the Make-A-Wish Foundation has recounted wish stories from our own perspective. We typically wrote and packaged wish stories for the website, sponsor and development campaigns, corporate communications, and other channels.  Rhrough our social media channels, we learned that families wanted to share their wish experiences, and we were not giving them an outlet to do that.

In late 2010, we started soliciting stories and associated multimedia from wish kids, wish parents, volunteers, medical professionals, donors, celebrities, and general Make-A-Wish fans and began presenting those stories – in their own words – on wish.org.  We are working to develop a system that syndicates fresh content to chapter websites, delivers search engine optimization benefits, and facilitates the marketing of first-person wish stories in social channels.

2. Content Curation

We also are monitoring online and social media channels to identify existing online content – including news, videos, and blog posts – created by those who have personally experienced the power of a wish and present those items on wish.org. We showcase and link to this content on our homepage and social properties.

3. Active Social Engagement/Sharing Channels

Given that most brand discussions are taking place outside of  our website, and that the number of Make-A-Wish fans and followers far outnumber the number of monthly visitors to wish.org, we know that we cannot simply focus on driving traffic to our website and recruiting visitors to join our social networks. We must find and meet our stakeholders where they already are. And, we must provide ways for visitors to connect with us, and each other, to contribute to the site, and to spread content, as well as opportunities to help grant wishes.

We introduced an option for visitors to log into their preferred social networks, “Like” and share content to their social networks, and see what others are doing and sharing on the site. We also added reaction buttons to wish stories, giving site visitors an ability to choose whether a story made them feel Hopeful, Reflective, or Inspired, and to share that emotion and story link on their preferred social sites. Eventually, we anticipate adding these tools to our chapter websites as well.

We also are adding incremental giving and symbolic giving modules within wish stories, to test whether offering the ability to fund specific elements reflective of aspects of a wish can help reinforce how every donation plays an important role in making wishes come true.

4. Design Flexibility to Support Seasonal/Topical Campaigns

As our online model shifts to engagement first, conversion second, the wish.org homepage and chapter template homepages need to become more active, with a fresh look and feel according to our different marketing and fundraising campaigns at different times of the year. By integrating campaign themes, designs, and calls-to-action into our homepages, we are reducing the knee-jerk tendency to create a landing page, micro-site, and URL for every program. These direct response tactics have their place, but when allowed to go unbridled they can quickly dilute your long-term interests.

We identified elements of our homepage and interior pages we can “reskin” to reflect particular campaign themes. We also offer chapters a la carte backgrounds, images, and other multimedia elements for each major campaign that can be applied to their local websites.

5. More Multimedia

Video has exploded in terms of online consumption, influence on search engine results, viral potential, and brand storytelling possibilities. We added video to our homepage, started integrating video into content throughout the site, and overhauled the video section to present content by featured, most recent, most popular, and categorized videos. We also added social sharing options within the content well along with videos.

6. Optimization for Mobile Platforms

Wish.org saw a doubling of site traffic coming from mobile phones in 2010, with upwards of 10 percent of site traffic coming from handhelds.

While there is an increasing interest in developing mobile apps, the Foundation first recognized the need to develop a mobile-optimized website that delivers an appropriate and consistent browsing experience to meet the growing interests of our mobile audiences.

The first Make-A-Wish mobile optimized website launched in early April 2011. It is a streamlined version of the traditional site, complete with mission-centric content up front, an optimized donation flow and frequent flier miles donation form, social connection and sharing modules, and clean crisp navigation. Mobile users are automatically directed to the mobile site, rather than having to type in a separate web address on their handhelds.

We also have been testing different types of 2d barcodes (JagTags and QR Codes) for point-of-impulse engagement in outdoor and print arenas, and are planning a lot more mobile integration on that level.

Next Steps

While we continue to make short-term changes to enhance and test different approaches on wish.org, it seems that the shelf-life of our website designs is about five years – and the last time we revisited our site design and CMS platform in tandem was … you guessed it, around five years ago.

So, we currently are gearing up for the complete overhaul of our national website and the website templates for our 64 chapters. And that is the subject of another blog post – next year.

How are you rethinking your digital strategy to encourage visitors from social networks and other channels to create a deeper relationship with your organization?

Petri Darby, APR, is the director of brand marketing & digital strategy for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America. He is @darbyDarnit on Twitter or you can email him at pdarby@wish.org. He blogs at www.darbyDARNIT.com.

18 Responses

  1. Great post, Petri. And thanks, Beth.

    First -person storytelling has always resonated with me, and sometimes I sound like a broken record. I’ve returned to this topic over the past month, with Shall we flow? Making connections ‘in the moment’, and The emancipation of the charity employee. The Altimeter graphic nails it.

  2. Beth says:

    Steve: Thanks so much for that incredibly useful link. WHat I’m looking at now is how do you measure that? How do you measure the conversion from transactional to longer-term

  3. Petri says:

    Thanks Steve. I’ll check out those posts. With everyone having the ability to be a content creator, publisher, and distributor, companies should be focused on empowering their supporters to be brand storytellers.

    Beth, I penned another guest blog post on tracking website engagement, and applying it over the longer term to business success metrics, to determine what is driving deeper relationships that eventually result in an increase in your KPIs. I’ll let you know when that runs. I would love your feedback on how we are approaching it.

  4. Amy Neumann says:

    Very useful post Beth! Metrics are morphing along with social media, so it’s helpful to see examples and insights of what’s working. Thanks! Amy aka @CharityIdeas

  5. [...] Read the rest of this guest blog post featured on Beth Kanter’s blog. /* Would add "People" RT @Navendu: 4 P's of social engagement – Programs, Products, Promotions & Passionate : @tylercyr of @DunkinDonuts #csmsf [...]

  6. Jennifer says:

    Petri, this is a great case study for other NPOs to follow. A really solid of example of an organization that understands the value of engagement. Personally I’ve found that content curation is one of the most successful and efficient strategies for non-profits, specifically in connection to a contest. In the past I’ve worked on an account for an organization who needed tons of branded content, but didn’t have the budget for it. As a solution to this issue, we implemented a contest where user-generated videos acted as entry. This (1.) presented the organization with the branded content they needed, (2.) facilitated word of mouth marketing because entrants needed to share their submission with their friends to garner votes, and (3.) engaged current fans/followers. If anyone’s interested, there’s a detailed explanation of this campaign in this white paper.

  7. Petri says:

    Thanks Jennifer. I was at a conference recently where a speaker told the audience that they needed to stop complaining about having to create a regular stream of branded content and “just do it” or get out of the marketing industry. I took a different perspective and told the audience that if you have a great brand, people are either talking about it or they are willing to talk about it – and that they should curate user-generated content, encourage it, empower people to create it, repackage it, syndicate/distribute it, tease to it, etc. And I told them that this approach frees them up to focus on the most important stories that can and should be told from the organization’s perspective. I’ll check out your white paper. Thanks for sharing that resource.

  8. Jennifer says:

    More than happy to, Petri.

    “if you have a great brand, people are either talking about it or they are willing to talk about it” – Yes! And this goes for any brand, not just non-profits. Besides the fact that this allows brands access to content that doesn’t require time or money, it’s also more credible and powerful than content that comes directly from the brand.

  9. Beth says:

    Petri: Would love to have you guest post over here too – what a terrific post. Thank you so much

  10. Jocelyn says:

    Great case study Beth! Can’t wait to read your next book!

    Jocelyn

  11. Lex Koff says:

    Wow ! amazing. Thanks for sharing your experience =) It’s a really idea provoking post !

  12. Petri says:

    Thanks Lex. Love “provoking.” Just ask my wife. :)

  13. “We introduced an option for visitors to log into their preferred social networks, “Like” and share content to their social networks, and see what others are doing and sharing on the site. ”

    would love to see or hear more details about how you can have visitors share with one another around WISH within their favorite networks…

  14. Petri says:

    Marilee, we use a social module offered through a company called “Gigya” that allows us to customize social login, sharing, activity feed, and content reaction buttons throughout wish.org. You can see it in the curtain of nearly every page of our website, and see how we integrated sharing, liking, and reaction buttons within the wish story and video sections of the site. Of course, some of these things you can develop on your own for your site, but that also requires you to keep up with changes that those social sites make. If you would like a contact at Gigya, email me at pdarby@wish.org and I’ll connect you with someone. Janrain is another similar platform you can look at.

  15. Beth says:

    Petri: You rock as a guest blogger here – great enLearning evern mo

  16. Petri says:

    Thanks Beth. Not sure what the second part of your comment was, but I appreciate the kind words. I’m having coffee with Kami tomorrow – looking forward to meeting up with her. I’ll try to work on additional topics for future posts. Cheers!

  17. Event360 says:

    Creating engaging content and social networks are an integral part of establishing a community among your supporters, and this first-hand account clearly demonstrates how valuable those sorts of relationships can be. Tracking your progress with analytics, too, is essential to see how well you’re reaching out to your supporters. Thanks for this great post.

  18. Petri says:

    Thanks Event360. Couldn’t agree with you more. We have a long way to go, and we know that, while our strides aren’t perfect, we are making incremental progress. The tools and platforms change daily, and that makes it exciting – but it also places a greater importance on being strategical, and not tactical, in everything we do. It’s easy to get wrapped up in trinkets and shiny blinky buttons at the expense of real relationships and human connection.