Social Media Case Studies

Using Creative Interactivity to Generate Facebook Results

badge-guest-post-FLATTERWhat do you think of when I say “Facebook marketing”? You are probably thinking “coupons”, “promotions”, “product launch”, or even “contests”. Brands are well aware of the interest of the largest social network and its functions for promoting and creating an enthusiastic following.

But Facebook is not only the El Dorado for “commercial” brands, it is also an ideal marketing tool for humanitarian and charitable organizations.

To illustrate this point and avoid using overheard generalities, I would like to describe in detail a Facebook campaign I ran several months ago for one of the most well-known French humanitarian organizations: The Abbé Pierre Foundation. This foundation was established by the French priest Abbé Pierre 30 years ago to fight for the improvement of the housing conditions among the poor.

Abbe Pierre Foundation

The Abbé Pierre Foundation is a charitable organization that works to improve poor housing conditions in France.

The founder, who died several years ago, was a beloved personality in France during his time, but was less known among the younger generations. The same Foundation that was so popular for over 40 years suffered from a lack of visibility among those less than 30 years of age.

Every year, as winter approaches, the Foundation launches a large publicity campaign. Its objective is to increase public awareness about the Foundation’s activities in fighting inadequate housing as well as to attract the attention of politicians and generate donations.

Usually, these publicity campaigns occur in traditional media outlets such as newspapers, billboards, and large events.

But during the winter campaign of 2011, the Foundation realized the importance of social media and Facebook in particular. They decided it was time to give this outlet a try.

The Goal

As in preceding years, the plan was to generate as much visibility as possible to achieve the goals of raising awareness of the fight against inadequate housing, generate public support to influence politicians, and connect with the younger generation.

The measures of success, as defined by the executives of the Foundation, were the number of signatures of its petition against inadequate housing and the number of people the message reached.

A large part of the budget was still committed to traditional media outlets, but the portion allocated to Facebook was still significant for a non-profit organization: $90,000 with $65,000 going to Facebook ads.

The Operation

The first component was to socialize the petition signatures by exploiting the viral potential of Facebook. To do this, we utilized the Agorapulse Facebook petition application which easily allows each signatory to invite their friends to sign and, more importantly, automatically share signatures with all their friends thanks to Open Graph frictionless sharing.

Facebook Capture

The Facebook petition application asks users to become a fan of the page, sign the petition, and then conveniently invite friends to sign.

The second component was a little more creative: we developed a Flash module that would allow the signature of the petition directly in the newsfeed of the Foundation’s Facebook page, as well as in those of their partners!

To achieve this, the Flash application we developed uses the design of the petition, including signature and information fields (first name, last name, and email), then inserted code that would automatically feed the data entered by signatories into the global petition database.

Petition Signature

The signature module in Flash had an optimized display in the page’s newsfeed with a very clear call to action and the ability to easily share a signature. This specific post of the module had more than 891 shares and 1,815 likes! If we consider that each fan who liked or shared this signature module had an average of 130 friends, the virality of the operation was significant.

Once the post was clicked, the signature module was immediately displayed without having to leave the newsfeed.

The development of this Flash application cost around €500, which is a reasonable price considering the results described below.

For those of you interested on a technical level, I have made the Flash file that we used available here. You also have the option of having the gathered data from this application automatically sent to MailChimp for sending emails later. To do so, you can use this Flash file containing all the necessary code. Special thanks to John Koht for making the file available to us.

Next, you have to use a third-party app with the option to post the Flash signature module to the Facebook page’s newsfeed. Posting Flash files directly through Facebook is not possible. Fortunately, some applications like Agorapulse can do it for a reasonable monthly rate.

Facebook Post Share

This is a screenshot of the publishing interface of the platform.

The Results

The results achieved were even better than we hoped.

Foremost, the viral effect of the Facebook signature application was incredibly powerful. On average, two out of six friends invited by the original signatory ended up signing the petition. Some of the most active garnered more than 150 friends’ signatures.

Signatures Received

The Agorapulse’s petition application makes it very easy to invite friends to sign. This screen shows the top 6 signees that inspired the most friends to sign as well. The top one getting 167 friends to sign!

But the most effective was, without a doubt, the Flash signature module inserted into the page’s newsfeed and into the pages of partners and supporters. The primary advantage of this tactic is that each signature obtained did not cost a cent. Even if the petition application functioned well, you still had to spend money on Facebook ads to attract signatories. The Flash signature module, however, was displayed in the newsfeed of the Foundation’s Facebook page without any additional cost. And when you have a significant fan base, signatures are obtained for free.

The advantages did not stop there. The Foundation enjoys strong support among the French celebrities who have large fan bases of their own on Facebook. These fans could be converted to signatories when the celebrities displayed the module on their own page. Ultimately, this means thousands of additional signatures without spending a dime. Meanwhile, the cost of a signature garnered through traditional media was about €1 each.

In the end, the petition gathered more than 155,000 signatures, virtually half of which were attributed to Facebook. These results were achieved despite the fact that less than half of the budget was allocated to Facebook marketing.

Facebook Signature Numbers

In total, there were almost 155,000 people who signed the petition. Facebook was the source of nearly half the signatures.

And that’s not all. By being on Facebook, the Foundation has a reliable, active, and identifiable fan base — over and above a collection of signatures.

If obtaining more than 150,000 signatures was the primary goal set by the directors of the Foundation and achieved via Facebook, then discovering other significant long-term benefits was a nice surprise.

The first of these benefits was the fact that the Foundation was able to recruit more than 200,000 fans. They had none before this campaign. If this figure is not valuable by itself, the visibility attained with the fan base for the Foundation’s activities represents considerable value. On average, each post by the Foundation reached about 24% of its fans – 50,000 people – at a rate of 4 to 5 times per week.

Facebook Barometer

With the Agorapulse Barometer, we were able to determine that each post on the Foundation’s Facebook page reached, on average, 23.5% of its fans, more than 50,000 people.


When Social CRM Changes Everything

The advantages of using Facebook are not limited to a substantial increase in visibility. In fact, by using Social CRM software, the Foundation could easily identify its most enthusiastic supporters. Social CRM solutions like Agorapulse identify the most active and engaged fans on the page by archiving their interactions. And what Agorapulse further uncovered was more than surprising:

  • The top 1,000 fans liked at least 35 of the Foundation’s posts, the top 100 fans liked at least 200.
  • The top 100 fans commented on at least 20 posts, the top 5 fans each commented at least 100 times. Wow!
Fan Engagement

The Agorapulse fan management module highlighted the most active fans according to their level of activity on the page. The most active fans liked up to 400 page posts.

A list of the most active fans, and therefore the best potential ambassadors for the organization’s activities, can be compiled in seconds.

Ones you know who these active fans are, you won’t need to do much to transform these motivated fans into generous donors!

Also, as tens of thousands of them have provided their email addresses and agreed to be contacted via the petition application, it’s easier than ever to establish a special contact with these “super-fans”.

Conclusion: Multiple Benefits

Let’s check the results of this operation in concluding this article: In less than a year, the Abbé Pierre Foundation went from having no Facebook presence at all to becoming a major player in its sector on the social network.

For the $90,000 invested, it was able to obtain the following benefits:

  • 220,000 fans
  • 40,000 email opt-ins
  • 75,000 actions (petition signatures) from Facebook
  • 2,000 ambassadors identified (defined as having liked at least 50 page posts, some of whom liked over 300)

Let’s take a closer look at the value created:

I hope that this case study has given you some new ideas for your own organization or brand.

(Note from Jay: After original publication, I made some changes to this post’s headline and conclusions after realizing there were some missing ingredients in the outcome calculations. The post originally stated that it generated “ROI” and because there was no identifiable financial return in this case study, true ROI is not possible. I have documented how to find ROI in social a few times on this blog, as well as in The Now Revolution. I apologize for the mistaken use of “ROI” in the original version of the post. 100% my fault)

Facebook Comments


  1. richardstuart says

    Fantastic article. I appreciate the pragmatism in which each step was clearly conveyed, measured, and shared. I look forward to reading more.

  2. theelusivefish says

    Emeric, first of all merci beaucoup for sharing so openly the details of your program with The Abbe Pierre Foundation.

    And thank you to Jay for the edits. It was largely the ROI conclusions that first caught my attention and ire on Twitter. We as communicators, and those of us in social media specifically, have played too fast and loose with the term. We are not Captain Kirk and this is not the Kobayashi Maru so we don’t get to reprogram the conditions of the exercise in order to win. Unless you are dealing with dollars invested and dollars returned, you do not have a return on investment number to provide.

    Likewise, I appreciate the removal of references to earned media value. This term crops up from time to time but is just another shade of advertising equivilancy. We need to work hard as a profession and industry to purge ourselves of that practice. Measurement is about reducing uncertainty so we can make better decisions. Ad value equivilancies do nothing but muddy the waters.

    Earned media value creates a false economy based on abstractions of impression numbers. The value of communications is not what the New York Times would have charged for an equal slotting of column inches. Clients who don’t know better love it because there’s a dollar sign there for them to justify budget against. Agencies who don’t know better love it as it invariably comes up with dollar amounts dwarfing what was otherwise spent on ad buys and thus looking like the communications team is performing on par with the Mad Men.

    When you chase an AVE you miss the mark. You mistake an impression as being an outcome. As being the end goal. But we don’t chase after impressions for the sake of impressions, we do so as a means of achieving an outcome. It is THAT outcome in which the value is created.

    What I would love to have seen in this case study that are missing are two things:
    First, one of the goals stated upfront was to improve visibility amongst the 30 and younger crowd. What share of the 220,000 Facebook fans and what share of the 40,000 email addresses fall into this category? Was that objective attained?

    Second, what were the traditional media approaches taken and what was the dollar spend on those approaches. Without seeing those other approaches we can’t fully validate if Facebook is a more efficient means to achieving an action or if creative dropped the ball in the traditional side.

    – Rob Clark

    Dir. Insights & Measurement, Edelman

  3. says

    Rob, you’re welcome! The key issue here is, in my opinion, a wording issue. When someone is investing in a marketing campaign to obtain a result that is not measured with a dollar amount (a lead, a listner, a member, a visitors or, in our case, a signature), there is an investment and, at the end, there is a result. Whether we call that result a return or a “something else” was not my focus.

    What I wanted to show is that Facebook was a way to obtain a lot more “something” with the same investment than other marketing channels.

    So, my question to you is: how should we call a return on investment when the return is not accounted for in dollars but in something else, assuming that this something else is valuable for the concerned marketer?

    Personnaly, if the client is not in a position to measure anything more than “ad value equivalency”, I’m already happy if that means something valuable to him. You mention that “we need to work hard as a profession to purge ourselves of that practice”, but most of the time, our inalbility to measure ROI with dollar amount being the return is due to the inability of the client to measure that. If the client can’t measure ROI that way, you can’t either. The lack of appropriate tracking process being the cause in 99% of the cases.

    So when I have a client who can’t track ROI with the return being a dollar amount but who still want to track a (non financial) result and is happy with that one, I feel that we’ve done something. That’s good enough to me until they finally get their hands on their tracking process and are able to measure ROI in dollars.

    In that specific business case, the client being a charity, be assured that their tracking process are not on the edge 😉

    Until I can provide the perfect ROI calculation, I’ll always try to provide some king of result measurement because I think not doing so is not helping us.

    Concerning your question on the results here:

    – The first goal was to obtain signature on a petition for as little as possible (we cut the cost in half)

    – the second goal was to make the actions of the charity visible to more people, with a focus on people below 40. That goal was not “valued” (unlike the signatures) so in order to assign a value to that result, the applied the CPM cost for visibility obtained through traditional media spend (banners basically, counted in CPM). That value came from them.

    Now, I agree with you that the ideal ROI would be to tie all that with the increase in donations, but the way donations are handled at that charity does not allow that. They are actually manager by a third party and the charity does not even have access to the source of donation in the database. So no way to measure that, unfortunately.

    • theelusivefish says

      I shy away from ROI as a term because it has very specific business meaning. Within marketing and communications we’ve co-opted the term to label anything that is a success, but I think the end result of that play is for the hard and fast number crunchers and bean counters to always view our profession as fuzzy-wuzzy kumbaya with a vague distrust. And that’s where I think we can do better.

      I agree with you that it’s not always within the ability of the agency or even the communications department to make that final connection between our foundational reputation building and weaving of perceptions and that final lifetime value of the customer. We don’t often get access to that sort of data. I do think the connection can be made, and so it is our role to connect as many of the dots as we can.

      In my work, we set clear communication objectives. The following is the list I work against. Typically one or more of these is the end-game of our efforts:
      Generate awareness
      * Launch a product
      * Education
      * Influence the influencers
      Establish a need or a want
      Establish or regain trust
      Create a positive association
      Product or service comparison
      Form or change an opinion
      Drive an action
      Community or channel growth

      Trying to drive the visibility – or awareness – into a dollar value at this stage is, in my opinion, premature. It’s what that awareness leads to that generates the value. At this point you can only fully speak to how much awareness was generated. How many of your new followers and subscribers to the email fall within that target audience.

      Looking at the objectives…

      Drive action – 75k signatures
      Channel growth – 220k FB fans and 40k email addresses
      Generate awareness – % of above channel growth that falls within target demographic
      Cost to achieve objectives: $90,000

      Fantastic results!

      I guess that’s what I’m pushing for. That we stick to reporting what we know to be so, and not overreach in our assumptions. Not abstract our actual results into dollars where no dollars were exchanged.

      • says

        Can’t disagree with that :-) For my next post, I hope to show that all these Facebook visibility has directly led to XYZ dollars in donations! Stay tuned! And thank you for your comments.

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