Admittedly, creating engagement and action with a post is often more art than science. However, from our extensive experience working with nonprofits, the following best practices seem to pop up over and over again.

Qualities of an Effective Action

We often find that these key attributes consistently help some actions perform better than others. 

  1. Emotional – It must evoke an immediate emotional response. Supporters must feel compelled to get involved.
  2. Solvable – It must feel like the action can really help make a difference. For instance, people may feel more likely to be able to save a wolf than to stop big oil.
  3. Urgent – It must require an immediate response. Readers should I feel like it will be too late if they stop to think or come back later. They must take action now.
  4. Directed – It helps if the action is directed at someone or something that the person can identify. The support should feel like his or action has a human connection to it and that it's tangible.
  5. Identity – The action must be something that I want my friends to see me taking action on. It should positively help define them as a person.
  6. Make a clear ask – Don’t confuse people or make them wonder how to get involved. Make the ask visible and obvious.

Action Strategy

So now that you know the qualities you should be looking for in your social actions, how do you go about actually creating them?

1. Pick the right action

Selecting a meaningful action that resonates with your unique community. That is the single-most important part of creating an action.

Fortunately, there are some tried and true ways to find the right action for your audience. First, go back and look at your past actions—online and offline. What patterns do you see? Look for things like:

  • Resonate issues
  • Successful types of asks (pledges, petitions, etc.)
  • Better performing messaging (tone, timeliness, image, meme, pithy, etc.)

*Also make sure to note what didn’t work... because you’ll want to avoid those types of posts in the future!

For more ideas, you can also look at what kinds of issues are performing well on your Facebook Page and similar pages. ActionSprout has convenient tools like its Timeline and Inspiration features to help you do just that. 

And don’t forget to experiment—you know your audience better than anyone, and you’ll find the secret sauce if you keep at it!

2. Use a problem-solution-action format

The following approach consistently increases a social action's chances of success. It has three main parts:

Problem or challenge: Why should they care? Your problem should be simple and explainable in just a few lines. Any problem that's more complicated than will have an increased risk of failure. For better or for worse, you have a limited amount of time and attention to hook your reader.

Solution: How do you propose we fix the problem? Do you want to pass a bill? Create a day of service? Inspire a change in behavior? Focus on a realistic solution that your supporters can believe in.

Call to action: What can your supporters do to make this solution a reality? Should they make a pledge? Donate? Sign a petition? Again, they need to believe that their action will lead to change.

One thing to note: When writing your Facebook post, bump the call to action to the top. This will capture supporters’ attention in their busy newsfeeds (eg, SIGN THE PETITION XXX”). 

You might not be able to fit everything into a few sentences in the post, and that’s okay. The most important thing is that you're providing compelling content.

3. Have a clear target or goal

There should only be one target or goal to your action. Direct it at one decision maker or desired outcome. Remember, your audience is most browsing on their phone and distracted. Anything more complicated than on focused goal could lose them.

4. Provide a clear call to action

Your call to action should be very straightforward. There should be no question about what you are asking folks to do. All you need it one precise action that you repeat again and again. Any further calls to action on the subject can wait until the post-action message or your follow-up email. Your #1 goal right now is for your supporters to complete this one particular action.

5. Include a compelling image

Facebook is obviously a very visual platform. Therefore, your action should have compelling image to grab attention and make it stand out. When choosing or creating an image, here are a few things to keep in mind...

When applicable, images with text overlays tend to perform better than those without. Pixlr and Pablo are both easy-to-use tools that allow you to add text to any image.

Another important factor is the size of your image. The best dimensions for viewing images in Facebook newsfeeds are 1200 x 627. Pixlr can help you resize your images to adjust to these preferences.

And there you have it. Now you're a social action's expert! But even experts need reminders sometimes, so don’t forget to download your own PDF check list.

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