Enterprising School Leavers

Enterprising School Leavers
Learning Brief


Career Planet

Optimise your visibility: effective marketing ideas for web-based NGOs

Category: Enterprising School Leavers | Information and guidance services | 26 June, 2013 - 20:00

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Career Planet is a non-governmental organisation that has developed a web-based platform to bring together entry-level job seekers and job providers. The organisation is committed to tackling unemployment in South Africa by helping “Opportunity Seekers” connect with those offering life-changing job openings. This connection takes place online at www.careerplanet.co.za, which is a free, easy-to-use, and intuitive website that can be accessed from a desktop computer, laptop, tablet device, smart phone, or regular phone with internet-access.   

The website allows employers – such as corporate entities, local businesses, government departments, human resource managers, recruitment consultants, and private individuals – to advertise their job openings, apprenticeships, and internships. Employees can also use the website’s free search and filtering capabilities to find good-quality job candidates that best match their employee selection criteria, and they can then contact these individuals directly.

Job seekers can register for free and build their CVs online, which allows employees to find and contact them directly if they meet certain job specifications. In addition, the website showcases available bursaries and scholarships, job-shadowing, and volunteer positions and it hosts many useful articles on preparing for job interviews, study loans, getting skills, starting a business, and dealing with career stress. In short, the website is a one-stop-shop of jobs, career, and training-related opportunities in South Africa for youth and other Opportunity Seekers. 

IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGY AND OBJECTIVES 

Career Planet launched its unique web-based career information platform in June 2008 and subsequently expanded its services in June 2012 to cellular telephones and to non-web-based users through the .Mobi and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) domains. The website now caters to those individuals who use computers, smart phones, and ordinary web-enabled phones. The career information platform implementation strategy involved:

  1. The initial and on-going development of the website content
  2. On-going technical development, including technological design of a more interactive user interface
  3. A wide reaching, affordable marketing campaign to the target audience
  4. A monitoring and evaluation framework to track implementation progress and success.

In order to increase the visibility and knowledge about its valuable free resources, Career Planet embarked on a number of marketing activities in 2012. The aim of the marketing campaign was to increase traffic to the website, the .Mobi site, and the USSD site; as well as to increase the general public’s awareness of the Career Planet brand and product offering. The objectives of the marketing and awareness campaign were to:

  1. Procure a wide listing of job opportunities for primarily entry level/junior employment positions across the nation;
  2. Increase the number of newly registered members who could benefit from these job opportunities;
  3. Develop and promote supporting web-content and services for work seekers.

This learning brief describes some of the implementation challenges faced during the web development and marketing campaign and reveals the solutions that Career Planet found most successful.

IMPLEMENTATION CHALLENGES & SOLUTIONS

Challenge 1: The first challenge facing the Career Planet team was to create awareness about the website services and brand offerings amongst the target audience. This meant reaching resource poor job seekers, as well as information-flooded employers across South Africa. The goal was to find inexpensive communication channels that reach a high percentage of the target population.

Solution 1: Our solution to the first challenge involved 6-months of direct marketing activities using 5 diverse media avenues such as radio, television, social media, print magazines and newspapers, email campaigns, and road shows/workshops.

Regional Radio 

Radio is one of the most popular forms of media in South Africa and reaches over 30 million listeners weekly. As such it presents an ideal marketing platform. Unfortunately radio-advertising costs are very high and so we have sought out on-air interview opportunities with talk-show hosts. These are free and provided a way to share information about the website in an appealing, conversational manner.

National Television

We have negotiated Free TV coverage with Hectic 9, a popular SABC2 show covering career-related questions, and which has over 24.6 million viewers per week. One day’s worth of television exposure increased traffic to our website by up to 150%.

Email Campaign

We have compiled a database of HR Managers, Marketing and CSI Managers, Job/Opportunity Providers, and registered Opportunity Seekers and regularly email them with news updates and relevant communications. The emphasis is on essential, relevant communications, so that these emails were not viewed as spam. We also make an effort to operate within the framework of the new Protection of Public Information (POPI) Act, which restricts organisations from communicating with individuals who have not “double opted” in / signed up to receive the email communication.

Print Media

On a monthly basis, we compile text articles and press releases for publication in magazines, newspapers, online publications, radio and TV stations. Such articles have been published in Destiny and Destiny Man, CCFM Lynn Baker, Just Means, Themarketingsite.com, Supermarket.co.za, Biz-community, LivDigital Independent.

Social Media

In one year, we have effectively grown our social media footprint and now have 646 Facebook likes and 931 Twitter followers. Social media marketing creates a sense of engagement and community and connects businesses with the growing online community.

Conducting Road Shows and Workshops

We have developed partnerships with local government in the Western Cape to provide career-related workshops and information sessions to local youth. These Road shows and workshops reach youngsters and a personal way, and during these encounters we are able to engage on a person-to-person basis with them, hear their concerns, and real-time advice. However, the road shows are expensive, time consuming, and require a lot of manpower and so cannot be done on a frequent enough basis.

Challenge 2: The second challenge was enticing job seekers and job providers visiting the Career Planet website to register, and then to motivate them to post adverts or apply for jobs. We found that users did not complete the registration forms because it was too complex, took too long to complete, and entailed too many steps. Users with limited airtime struggled to complete the form in time, and small mobile phone screens made it difficult to complete the form. Finally, before searching for or applying for any job, applicants had to have uploaded or completed an online CV. This discouraged many users from completing the registration process.

Solution 2: Our solution to the second challenge was to make the registration process user-friendly, easier and quicker. This entailed shortening the length of the registration form, and excluding the CV requirement for job applications. We piloted this new template with a few users to test its ease of use.

Challenge 3: The third challenge we faced was that the website went live without the developers addressing the need for search engine optimisation (SEO). Consequently, the website did not show up on search results in Google and traffic to the site was reduced by 75%. 

Solution 3: We conducted an extensive SEO audit of the website. The results were then given to the developers who fixed the errors. The website was recoded, to be more user friendly, and to be SEO optimised. 

Challenge 4: Due to the loss in web user traffic, resulting from the poor search engine optimisation, there was little evidence of success or effective project implementation. This worried our funders and undermined our ability to obtain new sponsors because we could not convince them that traffic would recover. 

Solution 4: To address the sponsors and advertisers concerns we wrote to each and outlined our detailed audit and solution plan to solve the SEO problem. We asked them to be patient and offered some incentives for remaining with our initiative throughout the implementation hiccups.

WEB DEVELOPMENT LESSONS LEARNT

The Career Planet team has learnt some valuable lessons about effectively developing a web-based non-profit initiative.

First, when developing web-based systems ensure that the website it optimised for the main search engines and that people can easily find the website online. Then ensure that the website is easy to use on computers and on small cell phone screens. Always do a user test with small/low tech handsets and watch and listen to the users interfacing with the website. Pass this information onto the web development team to build a user-friendly, simple and intuitive website.

Second, select a trusty, well-recommended, and reputable web-development company right from the start. Ensure your web developers can show you a number of websites they have developed that rank on page one in Google for non-branded search terms.

Third, in the South African context it is imperative that the product (website and mobi functionality) are simple and reliable and easy to for non-English speakers to use. Users must be able to register quickly and find jobs and the information they seek quickly. In particular, the process should be simple enough for cell-phone users to complete without wasting too much “airtime”.

MARKETING LESSONS LEARNT

The Career Planet team has learnt important lessons about improving visibility and effectively marketing a web-based career information service.

First, radio and television are extremely effective marketing tools for this target market, and utilizing free or reduced-fee opportunities allows the non-profit to save on marketing costs.

Second, establishing a presence on Social Media sites allowed us to build an online “community”, and opened up avenues for us to dialogue directly with our target audience. This has helped us improve our service, know our audience’s needs, and enabled users a unique way to engage with us on a one-to-one level. 

Third, marketing money and effort is most effectively utilised once the product is fully developed. Make sure that all or most of the technical kinks are solved before marketing your website and ensure that it is easy to use. This will save you money and will reduce damage to your brand and product.

 

Career Planet


PO Box 337 Cape Town Table View Western Cape South Africa


 082 562 7834


 www.careerplanet.co.za/

In Short

Career Planet shares some lessons on how to develop a web-based career information service, and then to effectively market it at low costs to a wide-ranging audience. This learning brief describes some of the implementation challenges faced during the web development and marketing campaign and reveals the solutions that Career Planet found most successful. 


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