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October: A charitable month for social media campaigns

45229197_mWith summer well and truly behind us, we approach the season of goodwill and festivities that December brings. But first up we wrap up warm and head into October, the month of altruism and charitable giving.

The month of October brings us a plethora of campaigns supporting great causes, a prime opportunity to raise awareness of the vast number of chronic diseases that continue to plague the world’s health.

Most famously, Breast Cancer Awareness has taken ownership of October, although one cannot forget Stoptober, the campaign to encourage the last few smokers to hang up their packets for good. All of which have been able to hit the headlines in recent years by maximising the opportunities that social media brings.

Social media has created a fantastic opportunity for budget-struck charities to apply a smart and creative approach to raising awareness of their campaigns, a channel well matched to the industry. One survey reported that 79% of charities using social media for fundraising reported an increase in their donations in 2014 up from the previous year, with another study reporting that Facebook and Twitter are leading the pack as charities networks of choice. However, the changing nature of the digital landscape is forcing organisations to continually re-evaluate our strategies and embrace new tactics, techniques and indeed social media platforms. Image-led campaigns like #nomakeupselfie are causing charities to move away from the traditional platforms of Facebook and Twitter, towards the likes of Instagram, where only 21% of charities reported having a presence on the platform, according to a study in 2014.

Smart and creative thinking more often than not can form the foundations of amazing campaigns. Below we take a look at a handful of recent successful charity social media campaigns and take a look at how we can all learn from their triumphs and their challenges.

Five great social media lessons you can learn from charity social media campaigns

  1. Cancer Research UK – Letting your supporters take the lead

As with all social media strategies, the most important advice is to LISTEN to your audience. And Cancer Research UK did just that. In 2014 #nomakeupselfie raised more than £8 million pounds for Cancer Research UK. The charity spotted that the hashtag was gaining traction and noticed that people were using their mobiles to take photos. Despite having limited success on text to donate previously, Cancer Research UK sent out a tweet of one of their researchers including a simple text to donate call to action. Making the customer journey as seamless as possible by matching up the message and the channel earned the charity £1million in just 24 hours.

Lesson to learn: Proactively listen in on social media, be ready to respond and make the call to action painless!

  1. RNLI – Getting Hyperlocal

With tools like geo-tagging and drilling down into localised areas via targeting local @mentions, (check out @kentishtowner and it’s 19,000+ followers) organisations can highly tailor their social media communications. By applying a local social approach, charities can give a unified but credible voice. The RNLI is a great example of this with each of its 235 life boating stations having their own social media channel. It also creates a great opportunity for local stories to get national traction when picked up by the national accounts.

Lesson to learn: Local social can give tailored but trusted content with the opportunity of gaining national status through national channels.

  1. Public Health England – Creating an online support network

Public Health England are utilising digital channels to personalise and encourage the country’s 8 million smokers to pack it in this October in a £3.2million campaign. Using humour to tackle the serious issue of smoking, Stoptober has enlisted famous comedians to share their personal smoking stories through ‘selfie’ style videos shared via social media. This will be supported by a series of personalised prompts texted and emailed directly to the ‘quitter’ offering support, tough love, common sense and a number of other techniques to support their journey. Public Health England has said that this personalised approach makes smokers five times more likely to quit for good. Social media also provides a platform for the ‘quitters’ to share their own personal journey with others.

Lesson to learn: Applying a personalised content strategy designed to engage your audience, can work wonders with encouraging them into action.

  1. Stephen’s story – Storytelling

We couldn’t do a blog on charity and social media without mentioning Stephen’s story, a truly phenomenal and inspirational story that saw one lad from Wolverhampton raise more than £5 million with donations from more than 90 countries around the world. The secret to Stephen’s success… his honesty and resolve in the face of adversity, plus a little help from a few celebrity friends to share the narrative of this inspirational young man.

Lesson to learn: Telling a story allows your audience to feel part of the journey and encourages them to play their own part

One to watch…

  1. M&S – Matching the message with the cause

This is on the watch list, in the last few days M&S have been under fire for launching the #ShowYourStrap campaign to raise money for Breast Cancer Now, with women being asked to show their strap to raise money for breast cancer. However, many breast cancer survivors have criticised the campaign for over-sexualising the serious cause and that the campaign is being insensitive to many survivors who no longer need to wear a bra following a mastectomy. Fighting back, the breast cancer survivors have created their own hashtag #ShowYourScar where they’ve shared pictures of their mastectomy scars, sharing the reality of the disease.

Lesson to learn: Always put your audience first, test out your campaign concepts with your stakeholders before launch and consider the risk. Failing that… make sure you’ve got a solid crisis communications plan in place to combat the issues.

So there we have it, a few lessons learned from some great (and not so great charity social media campaigns). Don’t forget to keep an eye out for what the guys at #Movember are up to next month, it’s one of our favourites…











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Lewis Jones