When I joined cStreet Campaigns back in 2013, I had only a vague knowledge of what NationBuilder was. Working a few hours a week, I initially learned the ropes by migrating content, doing data imports, and cleaning up tagging systems. Flash forward to over a year and a half later, and having worked on dozens of projects, I’ve developed a much deeper understanding of not only the NationBuilder platform, but also how to get the most out of it.
Through this work, I’ve noticed a pattern of general practices and thought processes that are common to successful campaigns. I’m not referring to the intangible, high-level strategies or tactics that campaigns employ; rather, I’m talking about fairly simple NationBuilder practices and mindsets that can help to achieve organizational or campaign goals. These are the kinds of things that should help guide one’s thinking when running a campaign.
In no particular order, what follows is a list of 4 things that successful NationBuilder-powered campaigns do:
1. Customize their social shares
I write a lot of proposals at cStreet, and hearing from clients, many emphasize how they’re interested in switching to NationBuilder for its deep social media integration. However, many don’t end up using this functionality to its full potential.
For virtually any page on your site, NationBuilder allows you to specify the default Tweet and Facebook share text—along with the Facebook share image—that gets used if someone wants to share the page, giving you much greater control over how your message and content gets spread over the social web. Successful campaigns are the ones who take these opportunities to compel users to action and make specific calls-to-action unique to both the content and platform.
2. Customize their autoresponses
By default, any time a user takes ‘action’ on your site—whether through signing up, making a donation, signing a petition, volunteering, etc—NationBuilder will send them an automated email (called an “autoresponse”) that acknowledges that action. However, these defaults consist of little more than a generic ‘thank you’, and while better than nothing, leave a lot to be desired.
Successful campaigns recognize these autoresponses as important opportunities to deepen supporter engagement: afterall, the user has already performed the initial action, so the chances are much higher that they can be moved towards further ones. Autoresponses should be crafted with this in mind, focusing on 3 things:
Immediate validation of the person’s action (i.e., a ‘thank you’)
A single clear call-to-action (don’t provide a list of asks: pick one thing that you want the user to do and focus on that)
A link between the just-completed action and the next one you’re asking them to do (e.g., “Thanks for signing our petition against the Keystone pipeline; now make your voice heard by RSVPing to the day of action in your town”)
By treating autoresponses as opportunities to deepen engagement—rather than just simple thank yous—you have a completely automated way to move your initial action-takers towards becoming more engaged supporters.
3. Keep an eye on what’s happening in their Nation
This perhaps seems like an obvious point, but it’s important to point out that keeping on top of your Nation is about more than replying to the feedback left on your “Contact Us” page and sending out bulk emails. It’s also about more than occasionally checking on your incoming donations or event RSVPs. The most successful campaigns are the ones that dig deeper to get a more complete snapshot of who’s active in their Nation, and what it is that they’re doing.
One of the key ways to do this is via Political (or Social) Capital, and we’ve written about this before. It’s worth emphasizing again: whether through the use of Political Capital or database searches, NationBuilder provides a lot of information about what your supporters are doing, from making donations to recruiting other users to sharing your Facebook posts. Successful campaigns use this information to better engage with supporters and spread their message in smart ways. For example, if you notice a supporter frequently interacts with your social media accounts and has been successful in recruiting signups, you can use this information to reach out to them to help broadcast key messages. By taking a fuller view of what’s going on in your Nation, you can develop much smarter ways to harness your supporter energy and abilities.
4. Create one experience for their users, online & off
In the initial phases of our projects, one of the key points we try and hammer home with clients is to move away from thinking in binary terms of “online” and “offline”. The reality is that they’re simply parts of the same coin, and when you’re developing an engagement program, you should be thinking about your outcomes—and the strategies and tactics to reach them—in a holistic way. While there will be digital and non-digital components, successful campaigns recognize how interrelated they are. What this also means is the need to move away from the "digital for digital’s sake" mentality: while there may be a number of digital tools that are popular or interesting, they simply may not fit within your campaign. It should all come back to one question: does this serve my broader strategy?
This is by no means an exhaustive list; it's simply meant to outline a handful of things that I’ve noticed clients doing that have proved valuable in achieving their goals. If you’re running a campaign, or simply trying to generally deepen engagement with your supporters, these are things you should be keeping in mind when using the NationBuilder platform.