Winning the Internet

ShareProgress: An interview with analytics expert Jim Pugh

After a great run, the Winning the Internet blog has been retired. However, you can still keep in touch with New Media Mentors here.

As we gear up for Netroots Nation 2013, we’re interviewing some leading practitioners and innovators in the field, and taking you inside some of online activism’s exciting new developments.

Today we’re interviewing Jim Pugh democratic analytics expert who has developed ShareProgress, an optimized social sharing tool.

Q: What is ShareProgress and how does it work?

A: ShareProgress is an online platform that helps organizations get their online community to share, and their community’s friends to click. We do this by providing the following:

  • Data-driven designs. Share pages and share buttons that drive more users to share with their friends.
  • Easy testing tools. Easy-to-use tools to test the message that appears when users share your content, and see what language best drives traffic back to your website — no technical expertise needed.
  • Real-time analytics. Live data on your community’s sharing behavior and the return on investment of social sharing to help you make better decisions.

In other words, ShareProgress helps you use your existing community as a springboard to new audiences for your campaign, or any other content you’re putting out. We bring analytics and best practices into social media sharing.

Q: What inspired you to develop it?

A: In 2010, I was the head of Analytics at Organizing for America and managed the creation of the “Commit to Vote Challenge” Facebook app. The app simply asked people to commit to vote in the 2010 election and then to recruit their friends to commit as well. But what made it work was that we tested it rigorously and dug into all our results, and then used those insights to make the app easier to use and more viral. In the end, more than 500,000 of the 600,000 committers signed up because they were recruited by a friend.

It made me ask myself, what if all progressives were able to bring analytics into social sharing like this?

Sharing on social networks is driving huge amounts of web traffic. More and more, it shapes what we read and what we get involved in. But there’s a risk that progressives won’t be able to tap into this force, simply because they don’t have the capacity or know-how to build something like we did at OFA. That’s a problem.

ShareProgress is an attempt to make social testing and analytics accessible to all. We’ve created a platform that provides the necessary tools and resources for you to get the most out of social sharing, without needing to have data scientists and web developers on staff who spend tons of time on it.

Q: Why are share pages important – and how can nonprofits benefit?

A: Traffic. Growth. More people viewing, signing, taking action, or donating.

You always want to reach as many people as possible. But historically, you’re limited to the people in your own networks — your email list, or people who like your Facebook page. If you want to extend your reach beyond that, you would need to turn to expensive and uncertain paid online advertising. Now, that’s no longer true. We can help you turn your supporters into social ambassadors and arm them with messages that get their friends involved.

The share page is important because that audience is already excited about your content. They’ve signed a petition or donated, and now what? Now you want to do everything possible to get them to share with their friends. It turns out, how that page is designed, how you make that ask, and what you’re saying is hugely important for getting people to share. And then you want the language of the share content — the message that appears on Facebook or in an email — optimized as well, so it gets people to click.

All of this can make the difference between 1,000 people sharing, or 10,000. 200 people clicking a link on their friend’s Facebook page and visiting your site, or 5,000. Suddenly you’re reaching new people and recruiting new activists.

Q: What kinds of organizations and/or companies can sign up for it and what’s the fee structure?

A: We don’t allow Republican political campaigns or committees to use ShareProgress, but all other organizations and companies are able to sign up. You pay a small monthly subscription cost to have access to all our services. We’ll have different subscription plans for organizations of different sizes: a tiny nonprofit with around 1,000 shares per month could sign up for a Basic Plan at just $50/month. A big organization with millions of people on their email list might use a Deluxe Plan at $1,000/month or more, and still save money versus what they are spending now to recruit new supporters.  You’ll be able to see all of our pricing when we launch the platform in the next couple of weeks.

Also, maintaining a progressive ethos within the company is a big priority for everyone on the team. In order to make sure that this happens, 1% of all revenue will be donated to politically-progressive nonprofits to support their work.

Q: Do you have any real world examples of how it’s worked to date?

A: In late May, Elijah Zarlin at CREDO Action launched a petition to repeal the Monsanto Protection Act, a law that that unjustly exempts Monsanto from court orders to halt sales of their products. After activists signed the petition, they landed on a ShareProgress share page. In previous tests, we found that the ShareProgress page generated more than 50% more shares than the old CREDO page.

Elijah also tested the language that sharers posted to Facebook. He tried out a few different titles, including “Monsanto shouldn’t be above the law” and “Sign the petition: Repeal the Monsanto Protection Act.” It turns out that with the latter, the number of people who clicked from Facebook and signed the petition was 63% higher!

When most organizations run online petitions, it’s common to see only 1-2% of signatures come from social sharing. In this case, more than 13% of the signers came from social sharing. They increased the signature count by over 34,000, and brought more than 24,000 new people onto the CREDO email list.


Jim will have a booth at Netroots Nation, in San Jose June 20-23. Stop by to see a demo! He and his colleagues can show you how it works.

About Liza Pike

I'm the founder of New Media Mentors, a hands on learning program to help non profits use social media and online organizing tools effectively.

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