Every three hours in the U.S., a person or vehicle is hit by a train. In 1972, Operation Lifesaver set out to drastically reduce that number through public education and awareness on the issue of safety around trains. Their authorized volunteers give free rail safety presentations to school groups, driver education classes, community members, professional drivers, law enforcement officers, and emergency responders every year.
We work with Operation Lifesaver Inc., or OLI, each month on their digital marketing. This includes everything from curating a campaign plan to creating social content calendars. With active programs in more than 40 states and the District of Columbia, they reached 2.5 million people in 2019.
From the beginning of our partnership, we challenged ourselves to help OLI get the message to as many people as possible in a memorable way. We found that sharing content that was platform-specific helped cut through the noise and increase the impressions their content received.
While it might sound like a no brainer, curating platform-specific content can produce greater engagement. We’ve seen this play out year over year as social platforms continue to evolve. We run ads for OLI on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube using our knowledge of what content will be most successful on each platform. When OLI wanted to get their message in front of a younger generation, we turned to Snapchat and YouTube to launch their campaign. From their “See Tracks? Think Train” campaign alone, there were over 2,760 user posts under the hashtag on Instagram.
The “See Tracks? Think Train” campaign logo
We helped OLI expand their audience by creating messaging that appealed beyond those that are already engaged with OLI’s mission. By using different messaging, they are now able to target anyone who their content is relevant to. A good example is our use of Snapchat ads to target teenagers that might be looking down at their phone while crossing over train tracks in their car. However, the message is different for LinkedIn where we are primarily aiming to be seen as a thought leader amongst executives in the railroad industry, shown below.
OLI’s LinkedIn Audience Engagement from 2019
Increase Engagement, Not Just Followers
One unique part about campaigns with Operation Lifesaver is that they are all about educating and informing the population, rather than convincing a potential customer to buy a product. Engagement measures how consumers digitally interact with your brand. Sure, followers can create long-term ambassadors for your brand, but with specific campaigns, the likes, comments, shares, retweets, and click-throughs are what further missions such as OLIs.
Some business models need a few repeat customers who have a deep sense of brand loyalty and appreciation, and in those cases, it’s still not the follower count that matters, but the intentionality and personalization behind your messaging. Lots of organizations are not as black and white as these two categories, calling for a more nuanced campaign-to-campaign perspective. While more followers are certainly a positive thing, they’re not the foundation for a successful digital marketing presence.
Prioritize the Pivot
With more people getting outside, but fewer people commuting to work during the pandemic — for example, we pivoted messaging away from how to stay safe on a subway platform to staying safe when you’re exploring your neighborhood. As many industries struggled to cope with the new challenges of COVID-19, we asked ourselves how we’d keep OLI top of mind and recognized a pivot in messaging would be important.
If you spend even a few moments on social media it’s apparent people are turning to screens more than ever before. Despite the competitive field to have your message heard on social media, Operation Lifesaver still saw positive results from their organic social content and paid campaigns. Through their memorable and relatable public awareness campaigns, their Facebook engagement went up by 40%, proving that there’s enough room for organizations who are willing to shift their strategy in order to stay relevant.
Operation Lifesaver has helped reduce the number of train/motor vehicle collisions from a 1972 high of roughly 12,000 annual incidents to approximately 2,200 incidents in 2018 and we’re honored to help them thrive socially. How can you support their mission? Rail Safety Week is next month! From September 21-27, leaders from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico will be observing this initiative to encourage drivers and pedestrians to practice safe behavior near railroad tracks. Visit oli.org to learn more about Operation Lifesaver and their mission.
Let’s Chat About Social Media
Feel like you’re going cross-eyed trying to post on social for your business? We get it. We’ll be your fresh pair of eyes to get your message out to people with the greatest impact. Let us know. And while you’re at it, follow OLI and see what they're up to posting on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.