Episode 118 – Using lookalike audiences is a great way to recruit more people.

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Episode 118 – Using lookalike audiences is a great way to recruit more people.


Today Rachel Arnold Cooper of Youth For Understanding USA joins the podcast to discuss why using lookalike audiences is a great way to recruit more people.

Adam Walker: [00:12] Hi, welcome to the Good People, Good Marketing podcast, a podcast about digital marketing and how to make it better so the good people and good organizations can have good marketing as well. I’m your host, Adam Walker, co-founder of Sideways8, a digital marketing agency and 48in48, a nonprofit dedicated to hosting events that build forty-eight websites for forty-eight nonprofits in forty-eight hours.

[00:29] My guest on the show today is Rachel Arnold Cooper. Rachel is the Director of Social Media and Manager of Individual Philanthropy at Youth For Understanding USA. She has worked in nonprofit fundraising and marketing for over seven years and is passionate about telling stories to increase individual giving and boost exposure to the YFU brand. YFU advocates, intercultural understanding, lifelong learning, global competencies, mutual respect, and social responsibility through transformational, educational experiences from generations of youth, families, and communities, supported and dedicated volunteers, and professional staff. Rachel, thanks for coming on the show.

Rachel: [01:11] Thank you for having me. Happy to be here.

Adam: [01:14] I’m happy to have you here. I love talking about digital marketing. It’s always kind of fun for me when I have somebody with social media in the title on the show because I feel like we all sort of dabble and play in social media. It’s like the playground that everybody plays in and nobody fully understands, except maybe the people with social media in the title. Hopefully, you can give us some enlightenment today. No pressure, though, no pressure. This is going to be a lot of fun. Let’s go ahead and dive right in. Question number one: related to digital marketing, can you tell us something that has worked well for you?

Rachel: [01:52] Sure. We have been running Facebook ads and that has worked really well for us when it comes to recruitment for study abroad application leads as well as general volunteer leads. We target based off of location and interests. Since I work at the national office, we are recruiting for study abroad applicants and volunteers all throughout the US, and we have field staff and when they need a particular area, when they’re looking for more volunteers or more study abroad applicants, they let me know, and we’re able to run targeted ads based off of those locations, as well as interests. Generally, people who are interested in travel, foreign languages, international education, study abroad, things of that nature.

[02:46] And then on top of that, we do new targeting by using lookalike audiences to reach new people. Once we have those audiences based off of location and interest set, I can create what are called lookalike audiences in Facebook, and the Facebook algorithm does its magic and says, “Oh, here’s a group of people who look like that audience,” but it’s a new audience for you and you can then target ads to them as well. It’s a great way to recruit more people. We’ve been pretty successful with getting leads for study abroad applicants and general volunteers when it comes to Facebook ads.

Adam: [03:27] That’s fantastic. I love that. You started talking about it and I thought, “Oh, great, there’s lots of details I can ask her about this.” Then you went into all the details. It was kind of perfect. That’s great. I love that you’re doing the targeting by location and interest. I love that you’re doing the lookalike audiences. I think lookalike audiences are often sort of underutilized by a lot of nonprofit marketers, but they’re so smart. I mean, if you’ve got an audience, if you know you’ve targeted the right one, just spin up another look-alike audience. It’s a whole new group of people that look exactly like your existing audience, that obviously want to be involved in what you’re doing. Why not target them?

Rachel: [04:05] Exactly, and Facebook makes it so easy to create those lookalike audiences. If you’re using the ad manager, you just go into the audiences and say, “Create lookalike audience based off of this custom audience.” That’s essentially it. It’s just super easy to do.

Adam: [04:24] Facebook does make it easy. I think a lot of times we make these things out to be much harder than they really are. Sometimes all it takes is just the gumption, if that’s the right word, just figure it out. Like, “I’m just going to figure this out. Like, this afternoon, I’m going to carve this out, I’m going to figure this out.” I think a lot of nonprofit marketers can do that much more quickly than they realize.

Rachel: [04:44] That’s exactly what I did. I wasn’t a Facebook advertising expert. I just said one day, “Hey, I can figure this out. Let me go in and take a few hours.” I didn’t even take that long. It’s pretty easy.

Adam: [04:55] There’s a lot of tutorials online, as well. Certainly doesn’t hurt. That’s great. Next question related to digital marketing, can you tell us something that has not worked well that we can learn from?

Rachel: [05:06] With our ads on Facebook I have run donation ads. Those have not worked very well. We’re not really seeing an ROI and I haven’t put a lot of our budget behind that. About $2 a day is the minimum you have to do on Facebook, and that’s all I’ve done for the donation ads. It’s more of a test. I think we need to further explore additional audience targeting. I was able to upload the list of past donors which Facebook then uses. They match like name or email address. You can kind of set what you want them to match so we could target them. We only got like one, or two, donations. We’re not really seeing a great ROI with that but I’m still open to exploring more options, as well as our host family recruitment ads.

[05:55] We’re an intercultural exchange organization, a study abroad organization. We have students from the US that go abroad. Then we have international students that also come to the US and when they’re here they stay with host families. Our programs are typically a semester to full year, ten-month program. We’re trying to find host families that will host these international students and we’ve run recruitment ads on Facebook. Getting the lead and converting people has proven to be difficult and I think it’s just because asking people to host a student for that extended amount of time is a really big ask, and it’s not something that someone’s quick to converge to.

[06:50] Whereas with our general volunteer ads, we’re a volunteer organization, so we have all sorts of different volunteer opportunities. Those are a bit less of a weight on someone’s shoulders so they’re much more willing to sign up. Then, just for a study abroad, because social media is where a lot of the younger generation is, it’s a lot easier for us to reach them, but those host family recruitment ads and those donation ads are still not working out so well for us.

Adam: [07:20] On the host family side, I would imagine it’s really difficult t because it’s such a huge investment, right? To run an ad to a completely new audience, and then for the (unclear 07:30) to go, “Hey, sign up for this for the next year of your life.” Maybe not.

Rachel: [07:39] We’re still working with that. We’ve gotten a handful of leads since we started doing this which is better than nothing, but we’re still kind of evaluating and tweaking. Right now, we’re in the midst of redoing our landing page, to try to see if we make it a bit more compelling if that will help people at least fill out the form to get more information. Then on Facebook, they do have the dynamic ads and I’ve been running those, which essentially is you can upload different photos or different videos and then you can have a handful of different captions, and call to actions, and things like that. Facebook runs that. Then, based off of how people interact with it, the more successful ones, those are the ones that they start to run more frequently. We’ve been doing things like that, but it’s all a test. Marketing, you’re always testing.

Adam: [08:39] Always testing, always figuring out what’s going to work best next. I love that. I love that. Last question: related to digital marketing, can you tell us something that you are excited about?

Rachel: [08:52] Yes. I have a few different things I’m excited about. First of all, artificial intelligence. The Facebook Messenger bots. I have set up a messenger bot. It’s rudimentary because that’s a whole other monster itself. There are a new thing that you have to learn. I’m only one person and I wear a lot of hats, so it’s not something I’ve been able to devote a lot of time to, but we do have a bot set up. It’s pretty basic. When someone messages us on Facebook, the bot kicks in and is able to send them to, hopefully, where they want to go. If they’re unable to get to where they want to go, then I can step in as a real person to help them. Essentially, if someone clicks on the Facebook messenger and says, “Get started,” we have a little welcome message and then they can click on more information for study abroad, volunteering, hosting, or they can unsubscribe, which is something you have to include in your Facebook Messenger bot.

Adam: [10:08] Speaking of that, is there a specific service you’re using for that?

Rachel: [10:12] I’ve been using what’s called Mobile Monkey. They have a free a chatbot and it’s easy to set up. The initial setup is quite easy, but then coming up with all the different paths that you can take, that’s the part that takes the longest amount of time and is a bit more like, “Okay, I really have to think about how this works.” Because it can get overwhelming.

Adam: [10:41] Absolutely. I totally get that. I’ve thought many times about doing that for my nonprofit and I just haven’t pulled the trigger, specifically because of the number of paths that you have to think through. I think, long term, it probably makes sense to do that both on Facebook and potentially on the website as well.

Rachel: [10:57] I just got a message this week. I haven’t really looked into it, but apparently, Facebook is now also looking into a separate Messenger for businesses and pages, so not quite sure what that will mean. Then another thing that I’m excited about are social media stories and live video. Since I started at YFU, I noticed that we weren’t really utilizing our social media to its fullest extent. We didn’t really have a strategy in place. We didn’t have a schedule in place.

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