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Social Media for Social Good

Social media is useful for more than posting pictures of cocktails and our favorite outfits. It's also a valuable medium for charities and non-profits to spread the word about, and efficiently advertise, their initiatives. Social platforms offer organizations an avenue for cost-effective, real-time campaigning, and give them the opportunity to build relationships with potential donors. Organizations can distill their entire message into a series of easily digestible tweets, pins, posts, and photos, and encourage users to take part and build momentum for a particular cause. One of the most successful social media campaigns of the year was the celebrated ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The Ice Bucket Challenge was unrelated to ALS until golfer Chris Kennedy challenged his cousin, whose husband had been diagnosed with the disease, to participate. The rest, as they say, is history. The viral movement garnered 3 million Instagram mentions, 4.2 million tweets, and 17 million Facebook video posts that received over 10 billion views. The ALS association reported a whopping 500% increase in donations year over year compared to 2013, bringing in over $100 million. Even RKG joined in, as employees and executives alike stepped up to the ice-cold plate and took the challenge.
  So, how can marketers develop success stories like #strikeoutALS and other charitable campaigns, most notably #NoMakeUpSelfie and #Movember?

Make it Easy to Participate

For each of these initiatives the threshold to join was low. Participation didn't require lengthy planning or extensive resources, making it more appealing and accessible for people to join in. These campaigns also offered a non-monetary way to support the cause. People could feel involved without opening their wallets. That may sound counterproductive, but incentivizing participation dramatically increases the potential for spreading awareness.

Understand User Behavior & Get Creative

It’s worth noting the calls-to-action associated with these campaigns had nothing to do with the charity itself. Instead, organizations used social media to create a link where one didn’t previously exist, transforming an otherwise neutral action into a visual demonstration of support for their cause. Humans are social creatures. We have an inherent need to be social, and these initiatives gave us avenues to share in a cause with others. There was also a gentle inconvenience to these campaigns that helped us feel like we were making a difference. In our day-to-day lives we probably wouldn’t douse ourselves in ice water, go out without make-up, or grow a Tom Selleck worthy mustache, but these are things we’re happy to do for charity and it makes us feel involved.

Let Goals Dictate Audience

Most marketers focus on Gen Y as the social media audience of choice. If the goal is to quickly spread the word about an organization or cause, then “sharing platforms” such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram are the best bet. However, when it comes to social good initiatives that rely on donations, studies show that LinkedIn users are a valuable, yet untapped audience. They are the most generous with their time, with nearly 49% stating they have invested more than 10 hours in a charity in the past year[1], and more importantly, their money, with more than 70% reporting they have given over $100[2].

Looking Ahead

It’s true, it’s unclear how a mustache benefits men’s health, taking a picture au naturel is related to cancer, or how dumping freezing water on yourself can help ALS. However, it’s undeniable that social media is a vital tool for charitable campaigns to gain momentum and ultimately help make positive social change. Where do we go from here? Are charities happy to use social media primarily to create a buzz for their cause and rely on a select few for donations? Will the social space become an even stronger revenue force for social good initiatives? We recommend you keep your eye on what nonprofits and charities have to offer on social in 2015 – we certainly will.
[1] http://mashable.com/2014/09/18/social-media-charity
[2] http://mashable.com/2014/09/18/social-media-charity
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