Charities and social media: lessons from 2014’s most successful campaigns

beggers April 16, 2015 0
Charities and social media: lessons from 2014’s most successful campaigns

From world leaders dousing themselves in ice cubes through to the no makeup selfie phenomenon, 2014 was definitely a memorable year for charity social media campaigns. The diverse nature of last year’s crop of top campaigns shows us once again there’s no definitive magic formula for social success. Nonetheless, a closer look at what made those campaigns special may give some useful food for thought when it comes to creating your own offerings.

Here’s what we can take away from the best campaigns of 2014…

Sometimes the most successful ideas will come from your community

Picture the scene: you’ve been asked to pitch ideas for this year’s flagship social media campaign. One of your team suggests encouraging followers to dump a bucket of very cold water on their heads, film it, donate to your charity and nominate someone else to do the same. Be honest: would this ever have made it to your shortlist?

The ice bucket challenge and no make-up selfie ideas came not from the charities themselves, but their supporters. So do you really know what gets your supporters’ juices flowing?

Lesson one: ask them. Are there any grass-roots ideas out there that are worthy of being developed further and showcased?

Lesson two: if your 2014 campaign failed to capture the imagination, it may be worth going back to the drawing board on your supporter profiles. Part of this involves identifying ‘interest indicators’; the wider things your followers are into; the content they tend to like, share and comment on for a better idea of what kind of campaigns are likely to fly.

You might need to ditch your campaign calendar and just run with what’s happening…

A campaign is planned: promotional material is created in advance, press packs are ready to go and your team is geared up for it. In contrast, an ice bucket challenge or no makeup selfie moment tends to just happen. This also includes the type of situation where a story goes viral that’s linked directly to your organisation’s work. Have you got everything in place to make the most of it?

Catch issues that are starting to trend as early as possible by making use of social monitoring tools. Especially if your charity relies heavily on volunteers, anticipating when something big is going to happen means you can call in additional help without having to face a chaotic scramble for it.

Be prepared for controversy

‘Bad’ controversy includes the type of situation where you’ve advocated ‘wacky stunts’ without liaising with your charity insurance providers and/or thinking it through properly. A specialist charity insurer like Bluefin Group will be able to advise whether such activity will potentially put you at risk.

‘Good’ controversy is where it’s caused a stir in certain quarters – but where that was kind of the whole point. Take HeFor She for instance, and the comments that were provoked when Emma Watson showcased it at the UN. ‘Bland’ doesn’t cut it on social media: if your objectives include galvanising your own supporters and getting others to question their assumptions, be prepared for a tussle.

As always, there’s a grey area – and this can include the situation where the ethics of your campaign give rise to controversy. Macmillan Cancer Support ran into this when they took on the mantle of promoting the Ice Bucket Challenge on this side of the Atlantic (the original focus was a specific disease, ALS). Then there was the Pass the Pizza movement which started in Toronto before going global and involved participants taking selfies of themselves sharing pizza slices with the homeless. It increased the coffers of homeless charities – but was it demeaning?

Understand the impression your campaign is likely to give; anticipate questions and be ready with answers. Remember also that this is a real time conversation. On Twitter, for instance, a response time of 30 minutes is increasingly considered the norm – and this conversation is 24-7.

Get personal

For an illustration of this, spend time on the Malala Fund Facebook page. Would an organisation promoting educational opportunities for girls have received quite the same level of support without such a compelling story behind it? Probably not. But look at the level of engagement; at the blend of personal input, commentary on major news issues alongside content showcasing what’s been happening at grass roots level.

Can we all learn something from this in 2015? What campaigns have inspired your team? Share your thoughts…




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