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3 Reasons Why You Should Be Paying for Digital Engagement Now

By Guest Writer on May 14, 2020

nivi paid engagement results
It’s free to post on social media, so why should resource-strapped NGOs pay to engage users through digital channels? The answer is simple: scale, efficiency, and insights.

The reality is that the development community already pays a lot for engagement.

  • We pay for radio, community events, health workers, billboards, street theater, agricultural extension workers, posters, flyers…the list goes on.
  • Digitally savvy organizations also often pay for the staff time that goes into managing a social media presence on Facebook, YouTube, and other popular platforms.

Most organizations, however, stop shy of running ads or developing messaging connections as a way to build a two-way digital relationship with beneficiaries. Why?

Today, with coronavirus drastically restricting the ways in which organizations can engage their community or target audience, it’s the perfect time to test what happens when you put financial resources behind online engagement.

Over the last year, we’ve used paid digital engagement at Nivi to get more than 1.7 million people engaged with askNivi, our digital health chat service available on Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or SMS. This generated detailed information on sexual reproductive health, contraceptive recommendations, and now COVID-19.

Here are 3 reasons why Nivi (and our partners) are investing in paid digital campaigns… and you should too. Especially for your COVID-19 Digital Response.

1. Reach People Where They Are

Whether someone is sheltering in place or continuing to hustle to feed their loved ones, they are with their phone (and probably looking at it). Facebook’s Q4/2019 report revealed that across their four major apps (Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp) there are over 2.9 billion active users per month, and 2.3 billion users open one of the apps every day.

With the rapid emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw the opportunity to use the askNivi platform to expand access to trusted information through Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Building from World Health Organization guidance, we quickly created automated conversations on 17 coronavirus-related topics in English, Swahili, and Hindi and created 19 digital ads to run in India and Kenya.

In just 4 weeks we:

We accomplished this level of engagement from our homes in Delhi, Nairobi, and California with a marketing budget of less than $5,000.

2. Optimize for Quick Results

Most campaigns seek to drive one of three changes — changes in knowledge, attitudes, or behaviors. The bigger the campaign scale, particularly in offline settings, the more time and resources it takes to determine if it achieved the desired objective. Tracking conversion and related engagement metrics from ads into our conversational experience helps us make sure we’re putting our resources into the right messages to achieve the desired result.

In Kenya our objective was to increase knowledge, inform health behaviors, and gather insights from user interactions. We didn’t want to pay for awareness alone.

When we looked at performance in the Facebook Ads Manager, our “Kissing” ad stood out! It initiated more than 7,000 message connections (when a user opens a conversation with askNivi in Messenger). It was shared 900+ times — a record breaker!

Comparatively, our “Who’s at Risk?” ad generated many fewer messaging connections — about 10% the volume. However, when we looked at which users engaged with askNivi conversations, those that engaged through the “Risk” ad were 5x more likely to engage in a knowledge-building conversation and contribute towards Nivi Insights.

This insight gave us the ability to fine tune our spending to our objective — we knew we could put more money behind the “Kissing” ad if we wanted to continue building awareness and communicate the single fact that kissing is a transmission point for the coronavirus, BUT we could also focus our funds on driving deeper engagement with conversations on risk, prevention, symptoms, etc. with the “Who’s at Risk?” ad and others that had a higher rate of conversion to conversation.

3. Create an Instant Feedback Loop

nivi paid engagement results

Unlike scaled media campaigns that put a message out and rely on surveys, proxy indicators, and/or loose causal associations to assess success, digital campaigns create a trail of breadcrumbs (data) that can be anonymized and aggregated to produce actionable insights.

At a basic level, we can see what topics are most popular with different demographic groups, looking at age, gender, location, and other profile information collected through chats. We’re tailoring our next campaigns and new conversations to focus on topics we know drive engagement.

We are also looking into the data deeper to see whether there is a correlation between the messages that move people, perception of risk, and self-reported behaviors (i.e. wearing masks, willingness to stay home). With this we’ll be able to target our messaging even further to engage those that matter most with the messages that move them to responsible behavior.

For example, in Kenya we saw that young men had the lowest perception of risk and were least likely to be taking preventative measures. We are developing some conversations and an ad campaign that addresses the importance of social distancing that will be targeted heavily at youth.

We also saw in India that 17% of people coming in to learn about COVID topics were staying to chat about family planning methods (our flagship content area). The majority seemed to be looking for general information on available method options and seeking personalized recommendations through askNivi’s screening.

Simultaneously, hearing from our partners leading sexual and reproductive health programs, their concerns that COVID-19 would disrupt access to family planning methods. For family planning, better information on contraceptive methods is associated with higher rates of contraceptive continuation, so we decided to develop conversations and a media campaign to:

  • Educate users about readily available contraceptive options
  • Assess barriers to access during COVID-19 pandemic (e.g. closures, transport, fear)
  • Provide referrals to online e-consultations and e-pharmacies

We recently launched these conversations in India, and Kenya is coming soon. We’ll publish insights on the Nivi blog (follow us!).

An early insight from India is that after engaging in conversations about contraceptives available over the counter, e.g. condoms and the daily pill, people want to knnow where they can find those methods during lockdown. There is interest in both accessing methods through local chemists and e-pharmacies, with slightly more interest in the former.

For those interested in e-services, askNivi provides choice, listing providers’ websites and apps. In the first week, we have seen a fairly even interest in apps and websites as an access point. We’ll use this information to understand our users profiles better and to develop new partnerships and referral features that can help people get access to the family planning and health services they need through Nivi and the health systems we work with.

Jessica Heinzelman is Vice President of Growth for Nivi and has extensive experience designing and integrating tech-enabled solutions into donor-funded programs globally.

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