Lets talk about ‘viral’ social media fundraising campaigns, and what that actually means.
1) Organizations can’t ‘own’ this type of campaign
The Ice bucket challenge wasn’t created by the ALS Association, it started as a conversation between friends on a golf course, then spread to the football field (reports vary, read more here). The fact that ALS became the beneficiary was due to someone knowing someone that had the disease. Over $100m was ultimately donated to various organizations working on this cause.
The #NoMakeUpSelfie also happened in 2014, ultimately raising close to$15m for cancer charities in the UK. Women would take a picture of themselves with no make up on, share it, make a donation, and encourage others to do the same. Cancer Research UK snapped into action and created a text-to-donate number to make it easy for people to give.
2) You need traditional media and social media influencers
These type of campaigns only really succeed when ALL media picks up on it, although they live on social media. Many people didn’t hear about the ice bucket challenge until it until it shows up on the news, or Ellen, or Jimmy Kimmel.
The Ice Bucket Challenge didn’t gain real traction until celebrities with huge TV audiences started taking part. And those TV show producers didn’t find out about it until there was a big enough noise about it on social media.
3) It’s peer to peer AND celeb to me
None of these campaigns were successful because a society or association asked people to give. They were successful because your cousin, your colleague, your neighbour etc asked you to get involved.
But even more than that…. because you didn’t want to be the one who said no. Or because that woman you secretly hate in your book club made a great video, and you wanted to make a better one because she just irks you, you know!
Or because Jimmy Kimmel made it look cool. And maybe if you make a video that is totally awesome, he’ll see it and show it on his TV show and you’ll be famous. Maybe Ellen will have you on her show and give you a cheque for $10,000…..
4) Yes, narcissism plays a role! Deal with it.
BlogTO picked up on the story, and in doing so, started (well restarted) the debate about ‘slacktivism’ and ‘selfish social media narcissism’.
To be honest, I don’t care a hoot if someone thinks its selfish and narcissistic to post a selfie and share that they made a donation to a cause. People focussing on the ‘selfie’ part are actively choosing to ignore the message about donating. The reality is we live in a selfie obsessed world and we can either complain about it, or we can utilize this (likely passing) trend for good!
My theory on why the Ice Bucket Challenge appealed to people? They wanted to make a better, more clever, funnier, sexier video than the last person. Was it really about ALS? Not at all! Did it massively benefit ALS organizations? Hell, yes! And the #NoMakeUpSelfie….. just look at the comments telling women how beautiful they look without make up on. That has to feel good, right? So does giving to a cause. So giving yourself a nice boost to your self esteem, and doing some good at the same time seems irresistible when you put it like that!
5) Why you’ll never recreate this success
*That* is what is missing when you try to create a campaign, and engineer it going viral, the self esteem boost, the narcissism, the one-upmanship!
Immediately it’s about you, the organization. Your marketing department want your logo all over it, your organization wants to ‘control the message’ and you will decide where the money goes.
No. Millennials support issues rather than organizations, research shows. And they also start with small actions to ‘test’ an organization to see if they are right for them. What could be smaller than taking a selfie and making a donation? It’s a ‘gateway to long term giving’.
6) What can you do?
When Yonge Street Mission turned on their computers and fired up Twitter, they saw 3 people had mentioned them, came across a new term #SubZeroSelfie, and immediately responded and thanked these people for thinking about them, for thinking about homelessness in this very cold time, and for donating.
They then re-shared these messages. They didn’t they to commandeer it, they supported it and amplified it. Reached out to Allie and asked if they could help.
Cancer Research UK noticed that women were mentioning that they chose them to donate their #NoMakeUpSelfie donation to… and within hours set up a text-to-donate number, immediately becoming the easiest cancer charity in the UK to donate to. And we all know that making it easy to donate should be a priority, right?!
Are you listening? What are people online saying about your issue? Not your organization, but your issue. Are you ready to act if the opportunity arises? The next Allie Kosela and her #SubZeroSelfie could have your name on it.
– Clare McDowall