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Leveraging social media for cause marketing

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It’s well known that connecting your brand to a not-for-profit association can highlight corporate philanthropy and show engagement with all aspects of a disease. Social media is a great channel for driving engagement with these associations as they fit the “personas” that users tend to want to create for themselves online.

A recent study by Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication and Waggener Edstrom Worldwide looked at this connection in depth and found a number of interesting insights about how social drives engagement online.

Social users crave influence

It’s a truism that social actions are a reflection of how users want to be perceived by their peers. This motivation is very strong in the cause marketing environment as it aligns with general feelings of altruism and the passion that social media users have for their chosen conditions.

The desire to influence others is a key factor in cause support decisions — yet its full potential remains unrealized for most.

Motivations for engaging with cause information

Cause talk happens on social media

65% of those who support causes online say that they heard about the organization from friends and family through social media. Now, obviously this group is already aligned with the online channels, but it shows how those who are online tend to discover information in that channel rather than through more traditional media. Ignore this majority group at your own peril.

82% of respondents agree that social media is effective in getting more people talking about causes or issues.

Primary information sources for discovering cause organizations

Also, of the different types of causes on social media, the top three are:

This reinforces how social is a critical channel for health-related charities.

Perceptions of impact are critical

Not surprisingly offline, in-person engagement with a cause creates the highest level of engagement and personal connection, but the ubiquity and ease of access to social media makes this channel a close second.

More than half of respondents (54%) indicate they are more likely to support a cause through social media rather than offline.

Of those who interact through social, why that channel over in-person?

Storytelling drives action

When exposed to good stories social media users can be encouraged to take real action be that financial donations or in-person engagement on top of their online activities such as following or liking the cause.

More than half of survey respondents (55%) who engaged with causes via social media have been inspired to take further action.

Actions taken by social media users after they liked or followed the cause

Trust is critical to success

Everything discussed so far is dependent on a high level of trust in the cause. This trust is enhanced on the social channels by the connections of friends and family and the normative influence and social proof of the group (a charity with 1 million followers will appear more trustworthy than one with 100). However, if something seems wrong trust can be eroded very quickly.

Interestingly, most respondents reported that the first thing they do after watching an appealing video about a cause is search for more information about it online. In an era in which a video campaign like KONY 2012 can drive billions of eyeballs to a cause’s website in a matter of weeks, this reinforces the need to build trustworthy, transparent Web presences that can demonstrate credibility to savvy information-seekers.

Number one action after watching a cause video - search for more information on the Web

This report also breaks down the audience into psychographic segments which are a great read. We tip our hat to Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication and Waggener Edstrom Worldwide for releasing this report and recommend it to all our friends. Because, after all, it’s the least we can do.

More About the Author

Cam Bedford

Cam has worked with many Fortune 500 companies to develop e-business and digital communication strategies. He has led the implementation of online marketing programs, built many informational and transactional websites and integrated a wide range of interactive tools and technologies.

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