Viral Marketing for A Cause: How Social Media Can Raise Awareness

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Give anyone with a cell phone a red nose and your marketing will essentially take care of itself. Red Nose Day was a highly successful, multi-channel effort to raise money and awareness for underprivileged children all over the world. This is the first time Red Nose Day has made its way into the US, and participants learned a valuable lesson in philanthropy… and guerilla marketing.

Charitable organizations often shed a very serious light on their causes but this day aimed to do just the opposite. The idea is to create a night of laughs for the sake of the children who need them the most, all while raising money for poverty-stricken areas. Event sponsors Walgreens and NBC wrapped the day up with a celebrity variety show featuring Al Roker, Andy Cohen, Kellan Lutz, and Kermit the Frog to support partner charities such as United Way and OxFam.

What made the day such a success was that it was highly interactive and proved that even an Instagram selfie can be used for the greater good. Philanthropic social media isn’t a new concept but successful campaigns have been rare. Just last year, the Ice Bucket Challenge to cure ALS raised more controversy than it did money, as people seriously questioned who it was helping. 2.4 million videos of participants willingly having ice water dumped on their head were uploaded to Facebook over the course of a few months, but towards the end of the campaign, most people were uploading videos without donating to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association.

But does that mean the campaign wasn’t successful? In just one month during the ice bucket challenge, ALSA received $98.2 million, compared to $2.7 million donated the same month in the year before. The success of the campaign was subjective, as was the campaign for Red Nose Day. Participants were encouraged to buy a red nose from Walgreens. The proceeds from their purchase went straight to the event fundraising, but there was no donation required to participate by posting to Instagram. It was just for fun, and fun is the backbone of Red Nose Day. Donations were collected to the tune of over $21 million from the telethon alone.

So how can a charitable organization use social media for the greater good? Be interactive. Create something that people can easily participate in on almost any platform. Make it easy, and above all, make it fun. Get a couple of well known faces to back your organization (Red Nose promoted theirs more controversially than most, using Kim Kardashian). Know that while awareness is hugely powerful, it’s not enough if it doesn’t back your organization through donations, and vice versa. The key is to balance the two. Set clear goals for both – how many people you would like to participate, how much money you would like to raise, etc, and assemble a team of people to get started on promoting the campaign and answering questions. The beauty of viral marketing campaigns is that if you do it right, social media users do all the work for you.

Applying the same techniques that are proven to work for business is the key to creating an effective campaign for a charitable organization. If you’re looking to promote your philanthropy and raise more money for your cause, contact BG Digital to talk guerilla marketing.

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