Friday, January 15, 2010

Fund Raising is Mobile and Viral

Social media and marketers have increasing roles in dealing with social issues in general and natural disasters in particular. The effects of the earthquake in Haiti are devastating and heart rending. Let me sum up some of the things I’m seeing.

• Within hours (2 or 3 maybe?) of the first news about the earthquake I saw a crawler on CNN/Situation Room soliciting mobile contributions. There are several firms that support mobile fundraising. The Mobile Giving Foundation seems to be the largest and best known; their site gives good information on how it works. According to a press release yesterday, their clients had raised over $7million--all in $5 and $10 amounts to the best of my knowledge. This quote from one of their how it works pages sums it up:

Mobile often outpaces on-line donor acquisition by a 3:1 factor. It is also clear that mobile giving represents purely incremental gifts predominately by a new, younger demographic. Donor canibalization doesn’t occur.

• Consumers are confused and wary, and rightly so. Remember all the scams after Hurricane Katrina? ABC News was quick to explain how to tell the difference in a post that I’ve also seen on the national site and a local affiliate site. That’s helpful.

• But we’ve all seen how quickly rumors and incorrect information can flood the Internet via the social networks. The AdAge article about consumer confusion points to issues experienced by both American Airlines and UPS. The latter is particularly interesting; I had just watched a video on how (and why) they had been working on their social media strategy over the past months. That kind of preparation allowed them to respond quickly to the incorrect information with correct information on their own blog. The video is 20 minutes long, but it’s well worth your time—especially if you have a brand to protect!

The Internet is flooded with reports of corporations’ pledges of help, and that’s as it should be. Perhaps also, they shouldn’t expect anything in return for doing the right thing. But as a proponent of cause-related marketing, I don’t fault companies for wanting credit. I saw Art Hogan of Jeffries securities on CNBC this morning. Before he talked about stock prices he pushed his company’s efforts which include a corporate donation, the opportunity for employees to donate a day’s salary, and the donation of all their commissions today to the relief fund. That’s a joint effort and seems to me to be all to the good. He said they had already seen increased trading volume in London and, pre-market opening, it looked as if they would see the same in the US. I checked their website and there’s nothing there. They must have gotten the word out by emailing their clients. However they did it, good for them!

What are the take-aways? First, mobile and viral have both upsides and downsides; all channels need to be monitored for both. When it’s important, get out a correction. Distribute it as widely as possible; I couldn’t find evidence of the informative blog post on either UPS’s Twitter or Facebook pages. Second, cause-related marketing is usually a long-term investment, and the Jeffries anecdote provides nice support for the belief that it does provide ROI. It’s one part of the shift of marketing expenditures from traditional media to social media. Third, today’s environment calls for rapid response. You can’t respond rapidly in social media when the need arises unless you have built a solid foundation.

And needs will continue to arise from all quarters—you can bet on that!

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