There is a decent amount of “good” going on through social media. Changes, revolutions, and innovations happen on and as a result of social media every day. And yet, for every good action, there are thousands of neutral or negative actions that occur that wash the benefits out with noise.
How should we really be using this amazing technology?
Those of us who grew up without the internet can (potentially) remember a world where we needed to check our mailbox (that thing on top of the pole outside of your house that seems to have an endless flow of junk mail in it replenishing magically every day) to see if there were any new pictures of little Timmy sliding into third base. Today, we simply go to Facebook.
The wealth of content and sharing has given us a playground through which we can communicate with friends, family, and strangers across the world with minimal effort and even less time. When will the real benefits of social media start to manifest? When will playtime be over?
Charities are dropping the ball. There are hundreds of ways that social media could improve the world more rapidly and efficiently than it is today. Let’s explore what they’re doing and what they should be doing.
How they are failing
After looking at the ten largest charities in the the United States and checking out their Facebook pages, one thing is clear. People aren’t supporting them there and for the most part, these charities don’t know what to do with their pages or social media presence in general.
There are currently 901,568 people liking these 10 pages combined. That number includes admirable efforts by the Red Cross (335k) and the American Cancer Society (249k) which account for more than half.
Compare that to Ferrero Rocher, a chocolate company, that has nearly 13X as many Facebook likes as the top 10 charities combined.
Perhaps worse than the exposure aspect is the fact that only 2 of the 10 pages we looked at had a way to donate. 3 others linked to the website somewhere other than the link section (which nobody ever goes to) and none of them were proactive in their approach to get their word spread through the viral machine of social media.
Stop and think about all of that for a moment.
Imagine if the large (and often questionable) operational budgets that these charities need were reduced because of the one simple benefit of social media? Through Facebook alone, a properly-run series of pages, groups, and campaigns could yield much better results than traditional methods. It may be insane to suggest replacing the Salvation Army bell ringers at Christmas time, but considering that their Facebook page has a miniscule 38k likes, certainly they could be doing much better.
What they should be doing
Every charity from the local children’s centers in most cities to the March of Dimes must look at their assets and organizational personality to come up with the right strategy. There is no one-size-fits-all technique that will work best for everyone, but there are certain things that they can do to at least improve their current results.
- Ask for Help – This sounds simple, but it’s surprisingly not happening enough. Everyone seems to be taking the “be interesting and engaging” aspect of the social media too far. Yes, it’s important to keep people happy by posting funny images or entertaining/heart-warming videos, but they all seem to be for forgetting to ask. It’s not as simple as posting an event on a tab or putting up some artwork. The wall is where the action happens because that is what gets posted on everyone’s news feed. As a charity, be proactive. Ask those who like your page to donate, participate, and share what you’re doing.
- Challenge People – Charities are in a unique situation in that they can do or say nearly anything they want without seeming “spammy”. People will give more leeway to them because of the good that they’re doing. Challenge them. Tell them that you want them to get 10 retweets about your latest blog post. Challenge them to share one of your videos with 1000 people through various social media sites. Give them incentive – anyone who says something about your charity every other day for two weeks gets their name on your “Tab of Fame” on Facebook. Be creative.
- Use the Walled Garden – There are good and bad things about Facebook’s attempt to keep people on Facebook as much as possible, but one way to take advantage of their advancements is through direct donations through Facebook. The greatest benefit of this is not simply the ability to give. The ability for people to share when they give does more than expose your charity. It gives an added incentive. People want their friends and family to know that they’re giving. By allowing the giving to be done through Facebook and with an option for them to share their gift giving with their friends, it allows them to “toot their own horn” while challenging their friends to do the same.
- Expose the Charity – The good thing about the huge charity AmeriCares is that they do have a good donation tab on their Facebook page. The bad part is that they only have 4,400 likes. This is absolutely unacceptable, particularly for a charity so large. Expose and expand. It’s a technique that our Facebook Marketing Firm is able to do every day for business clients. A charity that size should have at least 100X as many likes as they currently do. It’s not hard. It just takes focus.
- Point EVERYTHING Towards Social Media – The power of social media isn’t always what a company or charity does on their page. The real power is in the way that people interact with you and your pages. Everything you do should center around social media. Facebook in particular has everything you need – images, videos, stories, communication, methods of donations. I would go so far as to say that charities should even direct their website traffic to their Facebook page. You WANT interaction and involvement and there’s no better place than Facebook. While it excludes some, the ability to let people promote your charity as a result of the venue far-outweighs the risks.
- Interact with Corporations – There is nothing more compelling to a large company than getting called out publicly by a charity. Thanking them through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and your blog is far more effective than posting a press release. More importantly, those who have stopped giving can be asked publicly about their decision. It’s aggressive and risky (they could always say that they didn’t like the way their donations were being used, which would completely backfire on the technique), but for some charities it can be a “dirty” tactic that creates positive results.
Social media is way too powerful to be squandered on Lady Gaga and Justin Beiber. Charities of all sizes should be leveraging it as their most powerful asset. I would be happy to consult with any charity free of charge. Just ask. We’re here to help.
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Here’s an infographic by our friends at SocialCast that takes a look at some of the companies doing their part.