How ActionSprout makes Facebook work better for nonprofits

Zuckerberg promoting dirty fuels? DISLIKE.

In the Spring of 2013, Sierra Club employed a new piece of technology called ActionSprout, a new tool and strategy that helped their campaign win against steep odds and significantly grew their online audience.  Here’s what happened:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s new lobbying group, FWD.US, started running ads in late April supporting the Keystone XL Tar Sands oil pipeline and Arctic drilling.  It was reported that this action was an attempt to support Senators who were key to allowing more high-tech worker (H1-B) visas as a part of comprehensive immigration reform. Despite claims of being a bipartisan organization dedicated to building the knowledge economy, it appeared that FWD.US was pushing their agenda at the expense of the planet.

Someone needed to send them a message.  Something like:

Sierra Club’s Digital Strategies team swung into action, employing a new tool that they had been testing, ActionSprout, to power the on-Facebook wing of the campaign. ActionSprout is both simple and a big deal - the folks at ActionSprout have figured out how to dramatically increase the value of Facebook for nonprofits.  It’s an an easy to use Facebook application that lets users sign petitions, increases visibility and sharing, and allows the signers to join your email list at the same time. And it’s awesome.

Sierra Club designed a straightforward ActionSprout action, “Tell Mark Zuckerberg to stop supporting Keystone XL and Arctic drilling” and promoted it via the Sierra Club Facebook page. Not surprisingly, this hot-button issue, with a high-profile target at the center, generated immediate interest. Sierra Club also set up a dedicated Facebook page for this campaign with their allies, like CREDO and LCV, which continued promoting the ActionSprout action there. The combined social media work drove hundreds of media stories which in turn generated a response from Facebook, which in turn generated even more social media activity.

Next, the coalition of organizations led a two week ad freeze on Facebook to continue driving activity online.

The sustained grassroots and media pressure eventually led Silicon Valley CEOs Elon Musk and David Sacks both announced their withdrawal from FWD.US.  (Sierra Club promptly launched an ActionSprout “Thank” action to show appreciation for them!)



This was a great, rapid-reaction campaign with all of the elements for viral potential – a celebrity caught between his words and his actions, a big brand that cares about what the public thinks on social media and a core issue that’s already in the news.

And thanks to the use of ActionSprout, Sierra Club was able to mobilize their community and drive substantial growth. In the end, the Facebook petition went well beyond their choir - generating thousands of new action-takers on Facebook. For anyone looking to increase the value of their efforts on Facebook, ActionSprout is absolutely one of the best tools on the market.

But tools aside, the secret sauce to a winning digital campaign is a strategy that includes both meaningful activism that is growth-friendly.  Winning can drive growth and growth can drive winning in a virtuous cycle – if you plan for it (and get lucky)!

The data

  1. Sierra Club promoted this campaign with a series of about 10 wall posts so far, both on its main Facebook page (with 198k fans) and on brand-new campaign-specific pages (over 25K fans added in the few days after launch).
  2. Sierra Club engaged hundreds of thousands of people on Facebook and built a healthy list of new Facebook and email supporters.
  3. About 48% of the people who viewed the ActionSprout campaign tab went on to complete the action, thereby giving Sierra Club their email address.