If you go online, watch TV or listen to the radio, you’ve probably heard about the Pepsi Refresh or Chase Community Giving Projects; two huge campaigns from mega-conglomerates that are using social media to raise money and do some good.
It’s no secret that people are more inclined to purchase from companies who are working to improve our world. Cause marketing is a great way to both draw people to your company and create good will. And it’s definitely something small businesses can take part in, too.
In the days before social media, companies relied on TV, radio and print advertising to get their message out. Now companies are changing their focus, and trying to “go viral,” attempting to generate enough buzz so people will spread their messages through various social media platforms. The goal is exponential growth in a short period of time.
Small businesses can also create a cause campaign that will go viral, but it doesn’t just happen overnight. Here are some helpful tips for business owners to create their own successful cause campaign.
Choose a Smaller Charity
There are over 1.5 million non-profit organizations in the United States alone. Yet businesses, small and large alike, tend to pick the big name charities to benefit from their campaign. This may not be the best choice for a small business.
According to public records, in 2009, Susan G. Komen for the Cure raised $139,225,891 in contributions and grants, for example. Much of that money might of have come from the endless number of companies offering $1 to the charity for each new Facebook fan — a popular cause campaign in 2009.
With so many companies pledging to a single charity, you need to make yours stand out. Unless you can convince the large non-profits that you will be able to raise a significant amount for their organization, they probably won’t be interested in actively working with you.
Individuals tend to be less motivated to rally behind larger non-profits because they often feel their small contribution won’t make enough of an impact. People want to feel their contribution counts, however small it may be. Liking a Fan Page for $1 donation to a powerhouse charity likely won’t be as inspiring as giving the same small amount to a smaller charity that might be perceived as more in need of the money.
Work With The Charity
The key words being: Work With. Many businesses run cause campaigns and the charities benefiting aren’t even aware of it. This means your business is missing out on buzz from the charity and its supporters.
Contact the charity before you start the campaign. If they’re willing to work with you, ask what that charity needs most. While cash is always needed, smaller non-profits are also eager for other sorts of donations.
“We provide after school programming for 28,000 children in Los Angeles, and we can always use things like tickets to events, sporting equipment, books, art supplies and computers in addition to financial support,” said Catherine Stringer, Vice President of Development & Public Affairs for LA’s BEST.
If the non-profit wants what you have to offer, they’ll be motivated to get their online supporters involved and drive traffic to your campaign.
After you pick a charity partner and find out what their needs are, provide information about that non-profit and why you’re supporting them. This can be done in a newsletter, on your website and on the various social media platforms you’re using. When people are excited and interested in a campaign, they are more likely to share it with their friends and family.
Pick a Creative Campaign
Simply offering $1 to a charity per fan may not be the most effective campaign for a small business. While this has worked in the past for companies like Volvo, which donated $1 per fan to Alex’s Lemonade Stand, it might not be the right fit for a company that isn’t so well known.
Look at your company to see what you have to offer. Can you personalize items, or provide needed supplies to an after school program? Can you offer food to a homeless shelter or even round up some volunteers?
USA Today gave away a full page, color ad worth $189,400 to the charity that could generate most tweets, with the hashtag #AmericaWants, this past April. It was a campaign that was both creative and effective. So think about what your business has to offer.
Another way to increase your campaign’s exposure is to reward individuals as well as the charity. Getting people fired up about your message is the perfect way to get your campaign to go viral. You can do this by letting people vote on which charity or charities you are going to work with, and providing prizes or personalized items to the individuals who helped share your message the most.
Tell The World
Everyone wants their campaign to go viral, but more often than not this doesn’t happen without planting the viral seeds; cultivating and financing. Large corporations invest significant time and money getting their message out to the masses, and while small businesses may not be able to afford as much of either, it’s necessary to invest what you can.
It can be extremely costly to create and market the right campaign. Most small businesses don’t have in-house developers to build platforms and applications, staff to promote and monitor campaigns and the right tools to select winners with fairness and accuracy. But there are some great tools that can help build, run and turn your campaign into a viral one. Consider utilizing Wildfire and Flowtown.
Wildfire is a service that allows companies of every size to easily build and launch social media campaigns, with over 30,000 launched via the service last year. In fact, even big brands like Facebook, AT&T and Victoria Secret use this tool because it takes a complicated marketing plan and simplifies it.
Wildfire co-founder and CEO Victoria Ransom has seen first hand how small businesses successfully use their service. “One of the most successful cause campaigns we’ve seen was for an animal rescue organization,” she said. “The campaign was based around people uploading stories about their pets and why they love animals. This campaign received over 10,000 entries. Most big brands would be thrilled to get this and would spend a lot of money.”
Another great tool for small businesses is Flowtown, which you can use
to reach your existing customers and alert them about your campaign. The way Flowtown works is simple — upload your company’s e-mail lists to find which customers use social media and what sites they are on. After you’ve found your customers you can send a targeted e-mail through Flowtown to notify them.
Reaching out to those who already subscribe to your business and believe in your brand is a great start. You may have brand supporters who are influential in social media, and it’s smart to utilize what you have before you seek out new people.
“One strong ambassador could be as powerful as a thousand people. A small business with limited resources should be looking for a maximum effect from minimum input,” said Ethan Bloch co-founder and CEO of Flowtown.
Don’t Abandon Ship
Now that you’ve put the time, energy and resources into launching a great cause campaign, make sure you stick with it. Once the campaign is over, continue to keep people excited about your brand through social media.
A low budget cause campaign can be successful for small businesses, but it takes considerable time and effort to increase the odds. Even if your messages don’t “go viral,” you’ll find that you still managed to alert more people about your company, and probably spread some good will too.
via Mashable! by Meaghan Edelstein on 5/27/10