How to Make Marketing Trends Work for Digital Mobilisation

At Forward Action, we’re always looking to strike the balance between using tried and tested tactics we know deliver value for our partners, while trialling new ways of working that lead to more supporters, more impact and more real-world change.

We think innovation isn’t just about inventing the new, but taking what’s already out there and making it work for your cause in ways that haven’t been done before.

So, here are three strategies in digital marketing that we think could transform the world of digital mobilisation.

1. Peer-to-Peer Marketing to Create Movements

We live in a time where people’s trust in big corporations is rapidly declining. Many of us working in the charity sector have a conflicted relationship with tech giants like Facebook.

To counter this, businesses have long recognised the power of peer reviews, recommendations and word of mouth: the same can be more skillfully applied to the mobilisation space.

It’s one thing when an organisation asks you to volunteer or donate to their cause – it’s another when a friend asks. And your supporters can often reach their network in ways that we sometimes can’t.

In particular, using SMS and Whatsapp as peer-to-peer platforms is something that could exponentially widen our impact in digital mobilisation. The 2020 US election saw a massive surge in peer-to-peer SMS and text-to-donate technology as a primary form of voter mobilisation – due to limited door-to-door outreach caused by Covid-19.

Testing and optimising this approach could be a game-changer for UK nonprofits. Open and response rates on texts far exceed those of email: average SMS open rates are as high as 98%, compared to just 20% of all emails, while average SMS response time is just 90 seconds versus 90 minutes to respond to an email.

Similarly, Whatsapp was a critical space for Mutual Aid groups to organise during the pandemic and respond to the needs of local people. Rapid-response seems inherently connected to mobile: our phones have a level of proximity to us and create a sense of immediacy that’s hard to match.

What could this mean for mobilisation?
There’s a clear trend here, with personalisation and localisation being key players in driving action. In the future, we could see mass adoption of SMS automation in the same way we currently use email marketing automation. Crafting narratives that give supporters a real reason to opt in will be the challenge: it’s a much harder feat to get people to give their phone number than it is to give their email address, so you’ll need to have a clear purpose for communicating through this channel.

2. Live Streams to Fundraise & Campaign

In the wake of Covid-19, brands took to live streams like never before. They responded to the gap that the lack of in-person interactions created, and connected with audiences in new ways.

Live video is expected to grow 15-fold by 2022 and reach a 17% share of all internet traffic. There’s heaps of untapped potential for this in digital mobilisation. Live streams give you the chance to have two-way conversations with supporters in real-time. Organisations can empower supporters to take action there and then – whether that’s contacting an MP or making a donation.

We used live webinars to mobilise people to take campaigning actions with Dignity in Dying. Mobilised to change the law on assisted dying, nearly 1,000 supporters attended, met their MPs online, and went on to change the minds of more than 100 MPs about the law surrounding assisted dying.

We’ve loved seeing charities tap into the prolific gaming industry and community, hosting live marathons to raise money for charity. Action Against Hunger has an entire initiative dedicated to this called Stream Against Hunger. Likewise US representative, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, used her gaming debut on Twitch to encourage viewers to vote in the 2020 election.

What could this mean for mobilisation?
Live streams for fundraising are on their way to becoming the modern-day equivalent to telethons. We could see organisations designating them as key moments in annual calendars for generating income. If and when in-person events are back, it’s likely they’ll integrate online engagement alongside them, by default, rather than as an afterthought.

3. Chatbots & Online Communities to Tell Stories

A fast-growing staple of a business’ digital model is integrating chatbots into a customer’s online experience. This 24/7, automated and personalised interaction makes it easier than ever to guide users through a journey. And there could be big benefits here for charities.

It gives your organisation the chance to strengthen your voice and tell supporters your story through virtual conversation. Facebook Messenger Marketing has an open rate of around 80-90%, compared to a 15-20% open rate for email. So live chat could help troubleshoot campaign queries or iron out donation issues, driving even more results. It’s an approach we’ve tried here at Forward Action, with mixed results, so it’s something we’re keen to test again.

Like live chat, building online communities is full of possibilities for storytelling. Whether that’s creating a virtual petition to world leaders on TikTok like IFAD’s #danceforchange, or raising over £50,000 through a Harry Potter Quiz on Tiltify like the British Red Cross, emerging platforms are making it easier than ever to unite people around your cause. Clubhouse is another one that stands out with its ability to gather people from all walks of life, and could revamp our approach to charity webinars or conferences.

What could this mean for mobilisation?
Finding new ways or new platforms to tell the story of your cause means you can reach new audiences. It’s a chance to engage those who may otherwise not be connected to your organisation’s mission. Sometimes our strongest advocates can come from the most unlikely places.

To maximise our real-world impact, we need to keep innovating to create the most effective campaigns. But with new trends and tools constantly emerging, our end goal of mobilisation should remain the same. Driving people to take action that makes the world a fairer place is one thing we don’t want to change.

If you’ve got any thoughts about pioneering new ideas in digital mobilisation, we’d love to hear from you. Feel free to get in touch here.