Ten actions to take from our latest web marketing campaign

Email

Following the result that most of our visitors come through email or direct publicity we have been looking more closely at how our email “New at IFPRI” is used by the recipients. Looking at opening rates and click through rates we can get an idea as to the interest in the different materials. We have found the increased click through rate from images versus text and more interest in shorter materials.

Action: increased focus on email campaign, analyzing and changing formats.

Social Media

We were surprised to see how quickly social media is building an audience for our materials. Evidently different products are more suited to the audience than others, hence the video was widely retweeted on Twitter, whilst the book itself less so. It was also critical to make best use of tags to attract new audiences, to follow more people with the IFPRI twitter account to build followers, and to attract retweets from larger or key audience accounts.

Action: include lessons learnt in the social media guidance under development

Video/Multimedia materials

The success in the video product in attracting more users and raising awareness shows the importance of considering multimedia products. We are increasingly developing presentations to explain new findings, products or services. Key to this is hosting these materials where the user is looking for them, we therefore make extensive use of YouTube and Slideshare.

Action to develop explanatory materials as presentations or interactive products.

The Website

With everyone emphasizing the importance of web2 and social media tools for web communication it was interesting that our results underscored the value of the website in bringing an audience to IFPRI products. We have learnt from the keywords used to access the site and the focus on the topical interests of the user rather than the organizational structure of the site.

Action: We have developed more topics pages on the website (our work in focus) and developed a series of options for users to subscribe to content by topic (RSS).

Facebook and Linked In

Analysis of visitors to Millions Fed showed the importance of Facebook and Linked in for attracting a targeted audience.

Action: Continued development of LinkedIn to attract alumni of IFPRI and development of Facebook to capture a younger audience.

Quoting reach rather than just numbers of visitors

We discovered in the course of the analysis the value of quoting our visits as a proportion of the overall internet population of a country. We would like to develop this idea and compare with others.

Action: Compare statistical analysis of IFPRI reach with other development organizations working in agriculture and food policy research.

Dialup and low bandwidth

We found that dialup connection is still used to access our site but only from Germany, India, the US and Australia. We will continue to ensure fast loadtimes, and caching of our materials.

Action: We are looking to provide more guidance to low bandwidth users, and promoting more email delivery rather than a very low bandwidth version of the site.

Access by mobile phone

We found that very few people view the site with a mobile phone.  But are investigating further whether this is because we don’t offer a mobile interface.

Action: In a similar approach to above, we would prefer to promote the use of feeds and email for accessing our content on mobile phones.

Measuring success

By our own standards we were very successful in raising awareness of the product and the strategy of using more social media and web2 tools to get the message out clearly worked. However in terms of readership of the final product, other web-based publications produced during the year were more widely read.

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The mobile revolution starts now?

In spite of the recent hype surrounding the iPhone and Gphone, I have serious doubts that mobile phones will become the primary access point to the web anytime soon. According to a recent study by the Pew & American Life Project, 58% of adult Americans have used a mobile phone or PDA for what they call “non-voice data activities” such as texting, emailing, taking a picture, looking up map directions or recording a video. Other than clumsily orchestrating the occasional text message, I fall squarely on the short end of such technophilia when it comes to using mobile phones. In short: I use it to stay in touch with family and friends and won’t bat an eyelash about ever leaving my cell at home when I go out. I never have used my mobile to access the web, and here’s the kicker- I wouldn’t even know how to

But this post is intended to be less of a confessional than an exploration of the question: When and how will the so-called “mobile revolution” take shape, particularly in the context of the developing world? Christian Kreutz recently addressed this question in his blog, focusing on mobile use in the collaborative web of wikis, blogs, RSS feeds, etc., citing the argument that the mobile phone already is more useful in developing countries than the personal computer for accessing the web. This argument seems well justified by the fact that there are now more than 3 billion mobile phones in use worldwide and the fastest growing markets for mobile subscribers are found in the developing world. But Kreutz also wonders “why so little has been developed in order to interact and collaborate via the mobile phone in the social web.”

Kreutz’s concerns are well justified. At development conferences, one commonly hears about the impending mobile revolution for sharing web-based information and how such technologies will allow poor people in developing countries to “leapfrog” many of the communication barriers experienced in the North. Yet aside from the occasional story of people in rural Africa receiving RSS feeds or reporting on election results from their mobile phones, I suspect that the vast majority of citizens of the developing world will suffer from the same lack of knowledge about how to get the information they’re looking for delivered to their mobile phones (the “pull”) as many here in the developing world still do. And getting them to “push” information from their mobile phones to the collaborative web may lie even further off on the horizon.

In sum: having the proper tool is no guarantee that information will be widely exchanged among citizens of the developed and developing world. Now that new tools offer the possibility of more and more citizens of the developing world to receive timely information that they can use toward bettering their life conditions (e.g., market prices, drought and flood warnings, educational content, etc.), it is up to the development communities to work with these partners to make sure that they know where to find it and how to take ownership of it themselves.