Social Media for Social Causes

Several weeks ago we wrote about a special Purim Solidarity Rally for Israel. What was unique about this event was your ability to participate from wherever you were; in other words it was going to occur on-line.

Now that the rally has passed, we asked Eli Feldblum (one of the event architects to tell us about the specific results and provide us with some background into using social media for philanthropy.

“Word of mouth” has long been recognized at the most effective way of marketing a product. One person telling a friend about a product or service is as organic as advertising gets. Absent the usual skepticism that comes along with traditional advertising, word of mouth marketing imparts its message to the listener with an inherent trust. An ad might lead you astray; a friend would not.

On the web, WOM takes on a new form in the shape of social media marketing (SMM). The social internet, often called Web 2.0, has brought WOM and relationships online. Instead of asking a friend for a great video, you go to YouTube and trust what their audience has selected for the day. Looking for great sites to pass time or in a specific category? You’d likely visit a social bookmarking site like Digg, Reddit or before calling a colleague. Even your communication with friends and relatives may take place via a social network like Facebook instead of over the phone or even by email.

Social media sites not only make WOM communication easier, but also more effective and more far-reaching. If the average person can reach 400 people via traditional word of mouth, he can reach 40,000 or more online.

All this makes social media a great outlet for promoting social or philanthropic causes. People generally seek the advice of friends, family and coworkers when donating to charity, and are often recruited to join causes by people they know. Online, those numbers can be staggering.

I recently had the opportunity to promote an online rally for solidarity with Sderot. We aimed to make it the largest online rally ever—and we aimed to do so in only two weeks. Harnessing the power of the social internet, we were able to do so in that short time frame. We reached out to more than a million potential viewers, and got more than 125,000 people to log on simultaneously to a site built two weeks prior to host the rally. made history, breaking internet and philanthropic records. And it was achieved primarily through the power of social media.


One of the best ways to get the word out online is through video
. Streaming video, and the sites like YouTube that support it, has become the backbone of the new internet. Those sites are among the most visited online and, according to a recent study, the amount of video streamed online in 2007 was greater in size than everything accessed on the internet in the ten years preceding 2007. No matter what your cause or event is, you can create a video to promote.

For Together4Israel, we created a promo video with scenes from Sderot that explained to viewers that all they had to do to make a difference was visit the site to watch the rally and thus stand, virtually, in solidarity with victims of terror. We released the video on YouTube and garnered nearly 300,000 views, many of whom attended the live rally.

Creating a successful video—and benefitting from that video—is actually a pretty easy task, as long as you follow a few basic rules. First, you have to make a video. Notice that I didn’t say “you have to make a good video.” Content is no longer King online, as long as your packaging and presentation are done well. Still, you need a video. The video should clearly explain who or what your cause benefits, how the viewer can help and—most importantly—where they can help. Make sure your video is branded through and through. Begin with a title screen, keep a watermark on the video through the duration of the video and end with a splash screen containing instructions. If you are trying to lead people to a website, all three elements should contain the URL.

Once you have a video made, you need to promote it. This is a time sensitive campaign, so make sure you are ready before you upload or push your video anywhere.

The following steps are for YouTube, as they handle the majority of videos online, but they will work for any video sharing site. First, set up a profile. Don’t make it generic; use the available space to explain who you are and what you do, include images and make sure to take advantage of every opportunity to link back to your site.

Second, optimize your video. Pick a title that will appear to the viewer and leave them wanting more. Words like “exclusive” and “leaked” help. Pick an interesting thumbnail from the ones offered by YouTube—but bear in mind that the thumbnail will be 130×100 pixels, so make sure you pick a clear one. If no thumbnails look good, add a few seconds to the splash screen at the end of your video to get a new set of thumbnails.

Comments—good and bad—will help your video become more popular, so fight the urge to remove negative comments. If your video can spark controversy and conversation, that’s better for your popularity within YouTube and for converting viewers to sympathizers; nothing will get someone onto your side than boisterous idiots on the other side.

Lastly, you need to push the video. Your goal is to get to one of YouTube’s lists, primarily to the Most Viewed for the Day list. YouTube gives you 48 hours to acquire honors, like getting on that list, but you should aim to get on a list within 24 hours, so that you have some time to enjoy your honor. The trick to honors is remembering that not every view of your video will happen on YouTube. Most, in fact, will happen on other sites that embed your video. You can encourage this behavior. Before you upload your video, seek out blogs and websites that agree with your cause and ask them to embed and feature your video on their sites. Find places to embed your video—via blogs, sites and the social sites described below—and your video will rise to the top.

Social Bookmarking

Social bookmarking sites are the heart of WOM marketing, as they work only on pure reputation. If members of a social bookmarking community like a site, they vote it up (generally known as upmodding). The more people bookmark or vote for a site—or a video or image—the higher it rises on the bookmarking site’s Most Popular list. Like YouTube, your goal here is to make your site as popular as possible as quickly as possible. And like YouTube, preparation is key. Do you know people sympathetic to your cause? Do you have email lists of donors? Ask them to help you out without having to contribute any cash. They can vote up your stories and leave comments to start a discussion. They can also rate and favorite your YouTube video. If you mobilize this group of sympathizers before you post your story to Digg, Reddit or, they can help you quickly rise to the top of those sites.

You can also use social bookmarking sites to help push your video by submitting to these sites right after you upload it to YouTube.

Social Networks

Social networks are what most people think about when they hear about social media marketing, and rightly so. Networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Hi5 are more popular than ever before—and they are perfectly positioned to help promote your cause.

Focus on Facebook, which is primed to soon be the largest social network and boasts the most diverse audience. Create a page for your cause and invite your friends to join. Do the same with a group, and add your cause to the Facebook Cause application. Facebook is naturally viral; if you invite all your friends to something and ask them to invite their friends, it won’t be long before your cause is in front of thousands. Unlike the above sites, there are no time restrictions to become popular. Quite the opposite. It may take time for your group, event or page to become really widespread and popular. Make sure to begin pushing via Facebook as early as possible.

Promoting your social or charitable cause via social method is an easy, inexpensive and effective way of getting the word out in large, but organic, fashion. As advertising on the internet becomes more and more prevalent, more people tend to ignore it. Reach out to those same people via these methods and ensure the success of your cause.

Eli Feldblum, a a recognized SEO and SEM expert, is CEO of RankAbove – Search & Social Marketing.