Cause Marketing Meets Social Media


There is a downside, of course. Efforts can cross the line into social-media spam. Giving people an incentive to pass along messages from brands could come to be seen, reasonably, as an alternative way for brands to buy their way into conversations.
"If it's viewed as a front and that you don't really care, then it can be a setback," said Steve Rubel, svp and director of insights at Edelman. "If it's viewed as a tactic to build buzz, not as a tactic to solve problems or effect change, then you're going to lose all credibility."
This has caused Procter & Gamble, for instance, to shy away from incentivizing sharing with its Tide "Loads of Hope" program, which donates clothing to disaster-stricken areas. It dabbled in the tactic during its "Digital Hack Night," when social-media experts tapped their networks to sell "Loads of Hope" T-shirts. But P&G has not chosen to promote the program the same way with consumers. "There's always a balance of inspiring authentic conversation and being too promotional," said Kash Shaikh, a Tide rep. "We don't want to be too promotional."

To get over that, and to give the marketing programs legs, SocialVibe in some cases sends participants evidence of what their pass-along did. For instance, charity: water, a cause devoted to providing clean drinking water in impoverished areas, takes pictures of the wells dug and sends them to participants a few months later. "People think back to the brands supported over the months and connect it with a specific action," Marchese said. To date, SocialVibe has raised $500,000 for three-dozen charities.
Charities are also a handy way to ensure that "viral" efforts don't completely fail. Sun Products brand All Small & Mighty used the lure of charities to goose distribution of YouTube videos it created last month. It linked up with NBC's Celebrity Apprentice to drive viewers to an All Web site to see videos created by Joan and Melissa Rivers. Each time a video is forwarded, All donates 50 cents to charity. The gambit fits with the Apprentice construct of awarding a winning team with a donation to the charity of its choice.

"We wanted to test how big of a role this would play," said Shiv Singh, social-media lead at Razorfish, the agency that created the program. "You can only create so much passion around a detergent."

The charity game has even gone in an unusual direction. Unemployed copywriter Chris Kahle is trying the approach in the hopes of getting his dream job with Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Last week he posted an offer to donate $1 to charity for the first 200 people who sent Twitter messages to Crispin co-chairman Alex Bogusky and interactive creative director Jeff Benjamin, urging them to hire him. That part of the gambit worked: Dozens of people sent messages to the execs. Bogusky was impressed, calling the idea "really smart," although he didn't commit to interviewing Kahle.

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