Case Study: Delaware River Means

This project was a bit special for our team. On a personal note, I grew up and continue to reside in eastern Pennsylvania. Hiking, rock climbing, and camping within the Delaware River watershed were all family passtimes. I learned to canoe on the Delaware. When the Appalachian Mountain Club approached us we were delighted to help.

The Delaware River provides drinking water for millions of people. It’s quintessential for industry across numerous States. And, The Delaware is an amazing medium for connection with nature. Inspiring as many people as possible to fall in love with it in some way, whether through leisure, beauty, community, or as an object of study, is a worthwhile cause.

From the client:

Our results through the Delaware River Means project surpassed our expectations undoubtedly because of the commitment, creativity and passion of the Swayfield team. Within our limited budget, Swayfield found solutions to every one of our challenges, from creating creative assets to managing social media conversations, and everything in between. The team was always there when we needed them and expertly managed our campaign keeping our goals front and center at all times.

Mark Zakutansky, Director of Conservation Policy Engagement, Appalachian Mountain Club


As a member of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, The Appalachian Mountain Club commissioned us on behalf of the Coalition to aid in growing their email database and to create a Facebook community from scratch. We did this through a series of contests and surveys centered around the theme, “What does the Delaware River mean to you?” #DelawareRiverMeans asked participants to share inspiring pictures and stories on around four themes, Fun, Beauty, Togetherness, and History.

  • Email capture for outreach to new constituents within the Watershed
  • Solicitation for participation in events and conservation opportunities within the Watershed
  • Creation of a sustainable Facebook community
  • Community engagement and lateral dissemination of messaging
  • Collection of reusable media from participants
  • Inspiration – Plenty to go around on the Delaware
Case Study: Delaware River Means


A conglomerate of more than 60 nonprofits, the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed’s mission is to unite organizations to more effectively advocate for the protection of the Delaware River Basin. In an attempt to aid the Coalition, the Appalachian Mountain Club set out to expand the Coalition’s reach through a series of social media events whereby existing lovers of the Delaware could provide photos and inspiring stories of their experiences within the Watershed.

We collected this media within the framework of 4 contests, each themed. Fun, Beauty, Togetherness, and History were the selected themes in an attempt to reach an engage as large an audience as possible over the course of a year and a half.

Offering incentives throughout the campaign fueled participation and eased email capture, resulting in over 1,000 email addresses collected – the primary directive of the campaign and not an easy feat in such a specialized market. With the use of a voting component, we asked participants to share their entries through their favorite social media channels. By sharing their photos and experiences with their peers and asking their peers to vote for, comment upon, and share these entries, the #DelawareRiverMeans campaign and its purpose was put in front of a much wider audience than the Coalition was able to achieve by more conventional marketing techniques.

Swayfield oversaw the social media advertising for this campaign and managed the development of promotional materials, including a series of video vignettes used to highlight the 4 events. You can view the vignettes here.

View the Campaign

A glimpse at the conversation


  • Concept and brand development, content development, and video production management
  • Design, microsite build-out, & hosting on SoCamp
  • Facebook Page build-out, monitoring, and growth


  • Social media advertising development, deployment, and reporting
  • On microsite


  • Full responsibility for campaign administration
  • Moderation & conversation management
  • Analytics & reporting

Delicious Statistics

Say that 10 times fast.

Visitor Acquisition

Ad Conversion by Age

Ad Conversion by Gender

Total users who visited the site at least once 13,969
Total number of times all site pages were viewed 62,896
Users who found out about the site from Facebook 61%
Users who found out about the site from Twitter <1%
Users who found out about the site from Instagram 4%
Users who visited the site by typing in the domain name 18%
Users who clicked on links in email promotions <1%
Users who came from other websites 1%
Users who found the site via Google 1%
Total number of entries, votes, shares, opt-ins, etc. 9,268
Total number of users who asked to receive email updates 1,237
Conversion of total unique users to opt-ins 9%
The average across all industries is < 1% 4.8%

In Summary

Not going to lie, this was a hard fought project. We built #DelawareRiverMeans from the ground up. With no existing promotional vehicle, no email database to start with, no social media following, and with an increasingly sedentary society, we had to be creative. Our collaboration with the Appalachian Mountain Club led to an experimental approach. We kept our target age range broad. We opened the contests up thematically in an attempt to determine what type of people cared about participating socially. We constantly tinkered with to whom we exposed advertising.

Keeping in line with the experimental theme of this campaign (the first like it for AMC and the Coalition)…

What did we learn?

There is a diverse subculture of people who really care about the Delaware. Those who care about conservation were much harder to reach with advertising, but cost far less per lead to convert. The conservation-minded more readily offered up their email addresses, but participated less in sharing photos and stories.

Those who live and work along the Delaware seemed to participate in the contest at higher frequency. While this makes sense from an access perspective, the stories provided were more profound and their participation on our Facebook page indicated a strong emotional connection and pride in where they lived.

Incentive-specific advertising won out with the highest click-through rates. When we shifted our strategy to offer free t-shirts for a period of time to every entrant, entries spiked. The incentives offered were varied, yet on theme with each contest. That said, half the winners reported more interest in the winning itself than the incentive. Additionally, photos and stories that resulted from this type of advertising were of lesser quality.

We collected email addresses via Facebook advertising and on microsite participation. The Facebook advertising collected email addresses quickly initially but even when playing with the messaging and target audience this method fatigued. Whereas collecting email addresses during the entry, voting, sharing processes on microsite, saw steady growth.

Asking participants to share stories accompanying their photos saw fewer entries. When removing stories as a barrier for entry, more participated. This may speak to the sense of vulnerability many experience when sharing publicly through social media.

Followers of the Facebook page actively engaged on-page without solicitation. Seasonally, followers share and comment upon their photos. They’re speaking to each other, which is neat to witness. The community is small, with ~1,300 followers, but engaged.

I could go on. We learned a lot about this compact target demo/psychographic that had not previously been studied in this way. All to be applied when the Coalition continues to engage it’s new constituents.

See you on the River!




About the author

Matthew Praetzel

Thinker / Programmer / Late night contemplator More about this guy

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