Cookies, benchmarking, maps, Tunisia...

Hot topics from the eCampaigning Forum email list, May 2011.

URL shorteners

A range of link-shortening services suggested, many of which will help you keep track of and monitor click throughs. was recommended by several, though it was also pointed out that the .ly domain is, of course, Libya... One helpful suggestion also to make sure that you direct your shortened urls to custom tagged urls if you use Google Analytics to help track conversions.

Google Earth for campaigning

Lots of suggestions of sites that use Google maps, or in one case OpenStreetMap, to map crisis reports, incidents of harassment, environmental threats, service cuts, events or just generate a map in the first place, in the case of the Map Kibera project.

Benchmarking – how much is enough?

Ongoing discussion on how many emails or messages do you need to have an impact, with members emphasising once again the importance of an integrated campaign strategy, and a useful case study from Action for Children.

This video does a great job of telling the story of GetUp's mental health campaign through animation, showing how petitions and emails work within a whole campaign.

And looking at benchmarking from the other end – using Freedom of Information requests to see how many messages UK government departments are receiving. One to watch!

Assembling a key contacts database

Lots of people are clearly struggling with this same, tricky project – getting your organisation's contacts into a single place, with several in the process of adopting Salesforce for the purpose.

Tips included starting by thinking about the information you want to use, not just what you have, breaking up the data into separate, usable fields (eg First Name, Last Name, Address line 1, rather than Name, Address), and accepting that whatever you do, there will be lots of painstaking manual work!  See the list archives for some of the detailed advice from hard experience, including, “What made the big difference was not technical things but organisational, namely the strong commitment of the director of one of the organisations to getting this done.”

EU law on cookies

New rules from 26 May 2011 appear to require explicit opt in permission for any use of cookies on your website. See this wry demonstration of the implications.  

The UK Information Commissioner's Office have issued guidance on the cookies issue, crucially saying that providers have 12  months to prepare before enforcement comes in.

It seems likely that the onus will be put back on site visitors to use their  browser settings to  set their level of 'consent', which will certainly be easier to implement, but doesn't do much to protect web users' privacy.  

Social media demographics

Some interesting social media demographics in visual form,  (though if you can glean anything useful from those rings, then you're more visually literate than I am...).

Also a reminder that by registering to advertise on facebook you can query their demographics in detail in order to target your advertising. (Though it seems most don't bother to do so: I just get endless weight loss and anti-wrinkle advertising, which I suppose is just the demographic 'female' Top targeting there, advertisers!)

Email list cleaning

A plea for advice about cleaning up an elderly email list to avoid being blacklisted by the mailing service for a too-high bounce rate brought out suggestions to email the recipients in batches via Outlook to ask again for permission to contact, or just start again from scratch, as well as an offer of a list clean up.

Page optimisation

Which links are visitors using? Google Analytics can help with this (what doesn't it do?) either using 'events' (for example if you have several links going to the same place) or by drilling down in the analysis.

Other solutions suggested were Mixpanel, which offers real-time event tracking, and Usability Hub, which allows you to do small click tests (free, if you earn points by doing some tests yourself), and this very useful blog post on improving pages with a high bounce rate.

Getting your supporter data out of facebook

A lot of cuts-campaign related facebook accounts were closed down in the UK recently, highlighting the risks of using someone else's system to organise your supporters.  It is possible to export supporter details from facebook – see the list archives for the details of how – but you would still need to seek permission to contact them in another way. List members suggested Diaspora, or providing more information to supporters about what to do if the list ceases to exist... Though presumably they're unlikely to read it until it's too late!

Analysis of Egypt/Tunisia uprisings

Links and ideas on this, including this summary of a participant's view from Tunisia, and comments from someone who took part in the Egyptian uprisings who is involved in research into the role of different media.

“First results tend to show (with no surprise) that face-to-face communication and AlJazeera were what most people relied on. The difference between these and social media is to me exactly the difference between the several tens of thousands who occupied Tahrir Square on 25 January, and the 12 million people who took to the streets on 28 January and destroyed the security apparatus, and forced the army to step in.” The research project is analysing over 800,000 tweets, and carrying out interviews to gain insights into media use. Results will certainly be worth watching out for:

Opt ins

A very wide variation of opinion on what is best practice in gathering names for your email list from your online actions – as seen in the 2010 eCampaigning Review:

51% (35) of those that did capture an email address required the user to make an ‘active tick’ to approve future contact. 20% (14) had a prechecked tick box, two used yes/no radio buttons and two directed users to a separate sign up form for email contact.

22% (15) of those that did capture an email address treated taking action as an automatic opt in – in most cases explaining that this was the case, and making it clear that users can opt out at any time. A few collected an email address with neither an opt in, nor any information on how the address will be used.

Unsubscribes – always a UK legal requirement?

While UK law requires that bulk emails to individuals include clear information on how to unsubscribe from a mailing list, how does that apply if you're mass mailing the companies you lobby? Most mailing systems will automatically include an unsubscribe link in any email you put together, though it's possible to override this in some cases (eg CheetahMail, CharityMail.)

Though there are suggestions that company emails may not be covered by the Data Protection Act, this hasn't been tested legally yet.

You also need to bear in mind the reputational risk of being seen not to follow normal practice, and the risk of your emails being reported as spam and being blocked by spam filters in future.

More information on the Privacy and Electronic Communications and Data Protection Act (processing of personal information) here

Data Protection – photo petitions and under 16s

How do you manage children's participation in photo petitions? An example privacy policy from the Control Arms petition, and an description of the approach taken for that campaign:

“1) Ask for age up front (over/under 16) - not birthdate (not perfect but the age of the person at the time of the photo is the main issue I think)
2) Have a mechanism for providing a sketch for those under 16
3) Screen photos to ensure no under-16 photos get through (they were hosted on flickr)”

This blog post has some useful advice on data protection and consent with regard to children.

And finally...

The climate science rap – laugh? Cry? Both?

by ECF Discussion Summaries published Jun 06, 2011,
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