Thursday, 27 September 2012

Authenticity: Brands, Charities and the true power of sharing

man with megaphone


I was having a discussion with a good friend of mine yesterday whilst the idea of this blog was germinating in my head, and he raised a very interesting way of illustrating this point - how authenticity and honesty can sometimes be misconstrued by others as rudeness or ignorance.

Celebrities and brands are asked a fair bit by fans and companies to support their charitable cause by sharing it on Facebook or retweeting it on Twitter. You'd take a look at the cost to the user to share a charitable message and think - 'well, it costs me nothing to send it, I'm raising money for charity, which is a good thing, therefore they SHOULD share it'. If not, you assume that either they didn't see it, or don't like the cause. 'How can they not like the cause? It's my cause? I care about it deeply and everybody else should too. I'm not buying any of their products/albums/etc. anymore'.

WAIT! STOP! TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND DON'T TAKE OFFENSE. Nine times out of ten there is a very simple reason why, and in a way it could end up benefiting the charity you are trying to raise funds for.

When you try and explain this, you have to be very careful, because the slightest misstep can end up with you coming across as a massive, swinging dick. But I'm going to do my best to give it a go.

Simply put, it’s impossible to share every charitable request that you get as an individual or a brand. It’s not possible to make a snap value judgement on every charity, and to endorse every charitable event.That is why most influential people and businesses nominate key charities to work with, and set out to raise as much money as possible for those causes.

Most celebrities, brands and media organisations do the same, and it does make the work that these individuals and organisations do for charity more impactful and worthwhile.

If you dedicate yourself to a small selection of charities, you can make a concentrated effort, and use your social influence to get a response. The results can be impressive. If you become known as the brand or company that retweets every single 10k, every single 24 hour sing-athon, every single request for a retweet, your cache in this field drops rapidly - the value of your retweet is actually pretty low if it's retweeted by a serial retweeter. Your link will not get much attention from your intended audience, and it will just become, as Dave Gorman thoughtfully labelled it, 'wallpaper'. It benefits nobody in the equation, especially the person you are trying to help by sharing the appeal.

Being truly honest and authentic on social media is about saying ‘no thank you’ almost as often as you say yes. In fact, it could be argued that the more you say no, the more valuable your positive responses become.

If a brand that you follow or a celebrity that you know doesn’t retweet your cause, please do not be offended. The chances are that they either didn’t see your request, or have chosen for very valid reasons not to share. It’s not because they ‘don’t give a shit’, they’re not ‘uncaring arseholes’. Think about it - quite simply you cannot support every charitable cause out there. I certainly don’t. I can't. It's just not possible.

Want to get real results? Think about it. Plan your campaign socially. Try calling the company directly, or sending an email. Be creative. Stand out. Look at the ways that charities market themselves and emulate them. Also, read The Dragonfly Effect by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith. It contains lots of valuable, insightful and actionable advice on how to use social media to change the world for the better. If you don’t have the moolah for that now, go and visit The Dragonfly Effect’s website - it’s packed with interesting information, advice and downloads.

If you’d like to know more about the charity that I do support in my personal (non-working) life, CALM, then please visit their website, as I think you’ll find it interesting.

If not, then find the charity that means something to you, your friends or your family, and dig deep for that. Use the Dragonfly effect. Be a social charity master.

But more importantly, don't just shout into space, or into people's faces, and don't get mad if you don't get a response. Find your niche, find your powerful allies. Fundraise on Twitter in an authentic, honest and smart way. 

I guarantee it'll get you the results you need.