By Mike Stiles on Dec 24, 2013
We sure spent a lot of time in 2013 discussing the ROI of social media didn’t we? What we didn’t talk about nearly as often was the RFS or “Return For Society.” And that’s a shame because a) social media is facilitating incredible amounts of goodwill around the globe, and b) brands are missing a chance to be a bigger part of that movement, arms linked with their customers.
Who didn’t hear about BatKid? While brands struggled mightily to make things go viral, what did go wildly viral was the story of leukemia survivor Miles Scott, who wanted to be Batman. The result was an organic, humanity crowd-sourced international spectacle featuring 12,000 volunteers, a Vine from the President, and a tough kid’s dream made real. No one was selling anything. It was good, it was right, and it was fun.
In 2009, Hugh Jackman gave almost $90,000 to two charities that convinced him on Twitter they could use it. Operation of Hope donates surgery to kids with facial deformities in developing countries. Charity: Water provides safe drinking water in developing countries. They were the first charity to use YouTube’s Call-to-Action, which lets non-profits overlay a link to a donation page over a video.
Normally, Charity: Water would get a few thousand per day. On World Water Day, about half the take was directly attributed to the YouTube feature. That $10,000 built 2 new wells in the Central African Republic providing over 150 people with clean drinking water for 20 years. That’s what being able to make a video and distribute it on social, or tweeting a photo, made happen.
The causes using social to make the world a better place for all of us appear endless:
- 24 Hours for Darfur shares stories of genocide survivors using YouTube.
- Haagen Daz alerted us to the dangers of disappearing honeybees.
- Malaria No More and CollegeHumor teamed to bring in $750,000 and 300,000 new supporters on social.
- Over 50,000 people submitted videos that got 500 million views for the “It Gets Better” project, combating LGBT youth suicide.
- Random Acts uses social to rally donors and volunteers, and raised $200,000 for Hope for Haiti 2.
- You may have recently seen a viral video from Water is Life, in which Haitian quake victims read tweets that were hashtagged #firstworldproblems.
And, of course, social has served as the fuel for movements that literally changed the politics and altered the futures of entire nation states. We would be fools to ever underestimate what an engaged populace is capable of doing with this tool.
So what are we as brands to do about users’ love of embracing social media for good? Well, for as much as we pull our hair out trying to figure out how to get them to share our content, they’re telling us one great way loud and clear. 83% of Americans want brands to support causes. 41% have bought from a brand mainly because the company was associated with a certain cause.
14 million. That’s how many visits the most read article on BuzzFeed of all time got, “21 Pictures That Will Restore your Faith in Humanity.” Sites like BuzzFeed and Upworthy have seen that if you want content shared, good news is a fine place to start. Users are consciously curating their image on social and want the bulk of it to be one of positive good cheer. Brands can help them by providing uplifting stories to spread.
We’ve heard it often; posts that evoke emotion perform best. As brands, we then lean our heads to the side like confused dogs, completely unaware of how to elicit emotion. The answer is…good news. The answer is hope amidst gloom & doom news. The answer is that warm feeling of being a part of making something or somebody better. Emotions speak to passion, and passion is what moves people from passive post-readers to sharers.
Consider Dove’s Real Beauty campaign. In the “Real Beauty Sketches” video, an artist draws women based on their self-descriptions, then again based on a stranger’s description. It illustrates the extent to which women don’t always see their own beauty. Think that struck a chord? 114 million views in 1 month.
No, you don’t have to save the world. But brands do have a real opportunity in 2014 to serve as the social instigators of real and positive change. At the very least, we should become powerful partners to entities already engaged in causes we adopt. Not only will they be happy to have you, your fans & followers will see you, the cause, and themselves as partners on the same team.
You’re not going to be able to buy loyalty like that.