Audience + Impact

I. Our Value Proposition - Trust. Support. Pride.

Via the #forestproud platform NAFP delivers a consistent supply of original content designed to build trust and support for, and pride in, the forest sector. Partners inform and subscribe to this content to: 

  1. Build pride in their employees, making them more effective & vocal ambassadors; 
  2. Attract new and diverse talent to the workforce; and 
  3. Communicate the relevance of the sector to decision-makers. 

Effectively targeting and engaging these key audiences via social media and other digital strategies represents the core of the #forestproud platform and is essential to achieving our goals.

II. Define ‘Effective’

In the context of our social media strategy, effective is defined as seeking and continuously refining an ideal combination of:

  1. Great Content - Creating original and compelling content that engages our audiences and is shared by them with their own networks (colleagues, family & friends). 
  2. Targeted Audiences - Identifying and refining our audience over time to ensure we are reaching the people whose behaviors and attitudes we want to impact.
  3. Effective Delivery - Delivering that content to the right people, with the right message, at the right time, and at the right price given our current funds. 
Great Content + Targeted Audiences + Effective Delivery = An Optimized Strategy.

With this equation, we will first take a look at what options we currently employ to target and grow our audiences and then describe what taking that approach to the next level looks like in 2020. We will also examine what options we have for delivering that content via ‘organic’ vs. ‘paid’ distribution, and the implications it has for our strategy. 

III. Great Content

Based on #forestproud’s positioning as an authentic voice representing all the diverse interests of the forest sector, we have put great emphasis behind aggregating and developing original, compelling and engaging content. 

As one of our partners commented during the promotion of our video with Grain Surfboards,  [this is] ‘the kind of content I know my crew will share with their kids, their friends and their families’. We prioritize great storytelling and interesting character profiles precisely because we know that this is the kind of content that will get shared through the concentric rings of the sector and beyond the choir. Our engagement figures are consistently high when judged against industry standards and similarly purposed organizations with much better funding. And we know from research that content shared from peer to peer is the content that people are most likely to trust.

IV. Our Core Audience

Members of the partnership represent a combined potential social reach of nearly 11 million people, the majority of them encompassing current employees, customers, or other affiliated organizations. This is the backbone of the #forestproud ‘core’ social audience. 

Our 2018 baseline survey randomly sampled existing forest sector employees [not just NAFP members] and concluded that 64% of those employees had already heard about the #forestproud platform. 84% of that subset claimed the platform helped them to tell their story. 

To-date, our social strategy has been focused on identifying and building this core audience via our social channels, and then delivering original content to them that they then share with their networks. Heading into Q3 2019, we have nearly 8,000 followers across our platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. This core audience is the one we know the most about, since we have direct access to their data through their social profiles.

V. Targeting Audiences & Expanding Our Reach

Our core organic audience is a growing asset and remains fundamental to our digital and social targeting strategy. These are the individuals we are engaging to become more proud and vocal ambassadors for the sector by sharing #forestproud messaging and content with their own personal and professional networks. As our core audience continues to grow, so does our reach within the sector. We can think of our audience targeting strategy as a set of concentric circles:

At the center we have our existing core audience – fans and followers who are already aware of #forestproud and actively interact with our content. This audience represents the extent of our organic distribution and provides the foundation for building lookalike audiences that we use to deliver content beyond the echo chamber, moving out through the concentric rings. 

Lookalike audiences are built on two principals. The first targets users based on past engagement with #forestproud. This allows us to reach people who’ve been receptive to our messaging in the past – people who have interacted with social content, visited, or watched a video or social square. This sort of targeting allows us to cultivate new core audience members. 

The second is targeting audiences that share similar demographics, education, work history, interests and behaviors as our core organic audience. This is the most effective way to expand our base within both Existing Workforce and Potential Workforce audiences. When this data is combined with additional insights and parameters, we can more reliably target users who fall within one of our key audiences. These parameters may include: age, gender, location, job title, industry, company, etc. 

The next concentric ring represents audiences that may be aware of #forestproud but are not yet followers. The final ring represents those who are unaware of #forestproud but who exhibit certain characteristics that would suggest they are a good fit for our messaging and content.

Interest-based audiences are used to expand delivery of our content to the broadest number of people while still retaining control over how and where #forestproud content is delivered. This is not a ‘general public’ strategy - by appealing directly to users primed to receive content on a certain subject, we are reaching potential influencers and unidentified users with an opportunity to engage with forest sector content. 

An example is our recent promotion of the video featuring Grain Surfboards. In addition to our core targeting and lookalike and persona targeting, we distributed this video to surfing and watersports interest-based audiences where our messaging was picked up by influencers beyond our capacity.  

To expand our reach across all three key audiences in 2020 (existing & potential workforce and decision makers), we need to develop a suite of detailed personas for each of them. Identifying age, sex, location, interests, education, and other personality traits. Using these personas, we will be able to further hone our messaging, inform our content creation, and more accurately zero in on specific audiences online,

VI. Effective Delivery

Delivery of content via social media and digital marketing falls into two primary buckets, Organic & Paid. An effective strategy utilizes both approaches. Organic content can only be distributed so far, as platforms are constantly adjusting the algorithms that curate the content users see, forcing organizations like #forestproud into a pay-to-play model.

Promoting content through paid channels allow us to not only make choices about who sees our content but to be hyper-focused on the type of person we’re reaching and when they’re seeing that content. 

Paid targeting varies by platform and is limited by the features and capabilities of the specific application. A flexible, nuanced paid strategy that evolves alongside the constantly morphing social media algorithms is essential to amplifying #forestproud content beyond our core organic reach. 

VII. Effective Delivery Part II - Partner Engagement + Content Sharing

Growing #forestproud's own social channels provides direct contact with our targeted audiences and the ability to monitor more closely who is engaging with our content. We can readily experiment and refine in this ‘laboratory’ and then feed that learning back into out content and to the partnership more broadly.

This approach represents only a fraction of the potential reach of the partnership. The greatest opportunity to expand it lies with the 11 million-plus fans and followers of our partners. Tapping that audience as part of our core audience also represents our single greatest challenge. Alongside measuring how we are moving the needle, significantly increasing partners’ engagement in sharing our content needs to be a primary focus of staff, and partners, as we look towards 2020.

There is currently tremendous variability in the uptake and use of #forestproud content. Some partners consistently find innovative ways to use and promote our content, some use it sparingly, and some are not using it at all. Tracking how members use our content online is also more challenging than it would appear on the surface. We are going to have to work more closely with members on direct reporting of their use, while building tracking into our content distribution strategy where possible. 

Anecdotally, we can point to some highlights:

  • Twitter chats organized in partnership with #forestproud by Boise Paper reached 10 million impressions.
  • We’ve had reports that #forestproud content is the highest performing content shared by one of the sector’s trade associations.
  • We’ve seen organizations like Rayonier AM, RMS, and state agencies co-brand uniforms and t-shirts with the #forestproud logo (And Facebook’s chief architect sporting our t-shirt picked up at a conference booth).
  • We’ve heard that ensuring our videos focus on original, personal stories means they get high levels of engagement from employees, resulting in employees sharing our content beyond their professional networks. 

But we can also identify some significant challenges in building out this potential:

  1. People are simply too busy - It needs to be ‘one-click’ easy to share content. The friction of having to log-in or get through a firewall can be enough to eliminate participation. It’s telling that more than 100 people accessed the Grain video media kit within two weeks of its release, because the tool kit was simply that much more accessible.
  2. ‘Relevant’ is a relative concept. In general, larger brands and organizations appear more willing to share general content (the Grain Surfboards video is a good example), while smaller organizations don’t currently see or trust that doing so will add value.
  3. Not my issue/my company/my product. Partners may have concerns about raising a competitor’s profile, sharing content that covers rival products, or highlighting #forestproud ‘over’ their own brand. Or they may simply not share the content to avoid assuming any potential risk altogether.

We know that a critical factor in extending our reach further into the 11 million+ remains how easily partners can download and share the content, which includes making sure everyone is aware of the full library of different types of content that are available to them to put to work. We are going to spend as much time as necessary in the remainder of 2019 working with partners to understand what constraints and barriers they face to sharing our content; and to make sure we hear back from them when they are using it.

VIII. Delivering Impact - An Optimized Strategy

Great Content + Targeted Audiences + Effective Delivery = An Optimized Strategy. 

We deliver content with our combined organic and paid delivery strategy to #forestproud’s core audience. Because it is engaging content, it then gets seen by an average of 1 million people a month via that platform. Every time partners choose to share the content, we start to penetrate the further 11 million account potential of our membership. Every month, an average of 500 people then choose to sign up and follow the #forestproud platform. Then they become potential ‘sharers’ of future content, and our reach expands again.

This strategy is designed to keep expanding our potential to achieve the four key measurable outcomes we have proposed to the membership:

    1. The #forestproud platform is consistently growing reach, engagement and awareness.
    2. Partners are using our content to reach key audiences.
    3. Potential employees pursue work in the sector after engaging with #forestproud
    4. Our audiences trust in and support the sector, associating it with solutions to key challenges.

We recognize that this is a complex, nuanced strategy, supported by a staff of three people, and currently being implemented with a $1.3 million budget. 

But as a coalition of 100+ partner organizations representing diverse and often competing interests, we have proven that we can come together, align those interests behind common themes relevant to the sector as a whole, and deliver great content in a cost-effective strategy that is now reaching millions of people a month - both in the choir and beyond it.

If we want people to trust in, support and take pride in the forest sector, we need to play an active role in the conversations that will influence their behaviors and attitudes. If we want to bring new talent and diversity into the workforce, we need to show young people that this is an exciting and responsible sector to get enthused about working in. And if we want decision makers to see the sector as relevant, we need to be able to show them that we are part of today’s conversation about the sector, the environment, and the future.

For better or for worse, whether we choose to participate directly or not ourselves - those conversations are happening today, online. And #forestproud is uniquely positioned and designed from the ground up to be a cost-effective means to contribute to, shape, and influence those conversations.

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