How Charity:Water use Social Media

I was perusing Twitter the other day and came across a presentation by Paull Young (@paullyoung) who is Director of Digital Engagement at Charity:Water and was inspired by his talk.

Charity:Water are a relatively new charity which started in 2006. I’ve seen a couple of their videos before but not really heard much more about them. Within the presentation Paull explains about their marketing strategy and how they raise 75% through their digital channels and social media. They were the first charity to have 1 million followers on Twitter and now have nearly 1.4 million followers. They have 248,000 likes on their Facebook page. Compare this to WaterAid in the US which has 28,000 likes. Charity:Water were also one of the first three brands on Instgram and have over 80,000 followers. They attribute their success on Instagram to the quality of their photography. Smiling faces and clean water images share! In fact through their marketing communications their emphasis on strong design and image is evident – their annual report is stunning. The only other charity annual report I have seen that is so design-led is by Invisible Children. Is it a coincidence that two charities who are incredibly successful at social media marketing apprecaite and understand the value of good design? Charity:Water also have a very clean website with simple and effective information architecture. The photography is beautiful and portrays a powerful message.

An innovative addition to their digital comms is a microsite ‘My Charity Water’. Every single dollar that is donated by the general public goes to providing clean water for those in need and every dollar is tracked via GPS and photos so that individual donors can track the impact that they have made. One of the ways people can fundraise is to give up their birthdays and ask their friends and family to donate to Charity:Water instead. They have had over 15,000 people give up their birthdays including several celebrities such as Justin Beiber and Will and Jada Smith.

As a parent of two young girls it is the emotional story of a nine year old from Washington State called Rachel Beckwith that moved me. Rachel gave up her birthday as a nine year old so that she could help provide clean water for people in Africa. She raised $220 and vowed to raise more on her 10th birthday. Rachel was tragically killed in a car accident before her 10th birthday. As a memorial her parents asked people to donate to her campaign and literally thousands did, raising $1.2 million.

Charity:Water truly understand the power of digital and social media. I look forward to seeing future innovations.

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What makes a video go viral? – The success of Mama Hope

Ten months ago Mama Hope, a charity based in San Francisco, released a video African Men: Hollywood Stereotypes. The film was produced a couple of months after the Kony 2012 video and was designed to challenge the stereotypes of African men portrayed by Hollywood. It has been a huge success, and at the time of writing has 1,048,931 views. It has 16,235 likes and only 315 dislikes with 2,909 comments mostly positive. OK, nothing by Kony standards but for a small NGO these statistics are impressive.

Not all the reviews were positive though. In a critique by Elliot Ross on Africa is a Country, he says “People might want to see this video as a counterpoint to Kony2012, and it’s of course nothing like as egregious, but I’m not sure exactly how far we can move away from the Invisible Children with a video by Joe Sabia (who directs the Mama Hope stuff). Sabia is another Silicone Valley, TED-talking master of viral narrative, which seems to boil down to not much more than a heavily concentrated dose of American sentimentality, however that sentiment is directed. Mama Hope is another white-staffed NGO run out of California. They are doing something very different by attempting to engage very broad cultural currents (as opposed to, say, organising the world’s most self-congratulatory wild-goose chase in Central African Republic), but that’s not without its problems.”

I agree. It is quite cheesy. But does cheese sell so to speak? Did the video change perceptions? Will it change behaviours? This is one of the downsides of social media for international development – it’s very hard to measure. It is near impossible to segment on social media, therefore do NGOs have to cater for the masses? One recent comment on Mama Hope’s YouTube channel states:

“I would like to see also the African Women in the video, make it douple [sic] that long and show the Women from the movies that are not shooting but only have the role to show how bad the bad guys are and than show these who are Doctors, Engineers, Scientist….”

Well yesterday, Mama Hope released a new film The Women of Nyamonge Present: Netball to coincide with International Women’s Day.

The video has been live for 13 hours and so far has only 262 views. I’m interested in whether this video will go viral as well. I wonder what Mama Hope’s seeding strategy is. Was the last video considered an antidote to the Kony video(s)? Did it effectively piggyback on their virality? It is hard to analyse as the YouTube public statistics have been disabled, but a million views is incredibly successful for a small NGO.

Mama Hope only have a small fan base on social media, Twitter (1,556 followers) and Facebook (3,969 likes). It will be hard to seed this film via their social media channels alone. So what made the last video so successful? What is through mainstream media? Was it through various blogs that commented on the video?

On a recent blogpost by Hubspot they claim “Most videos we track see about 75% or 80% of views in the first 3 to 5 days.” I’m pleased to see an NGO experimenting with a new style of video and I sincerely hope that this second video also has an impact in the next couple of days.

Top 10 tips for making an NGO video

I’ve made a lot of videos over the years, from talking heads and infographics to user generated videos and flashmobs.  Here are a few tips for making a video that I’ve learned along the way:

1. Firstly you need to define your objectives. I know that sounds obvious, but is video really the right medium to achieve your goals. What is your budget? Where will you be showing your video? Who’s going to be in charge of managing the video production? How will you measure the return on investment?

2. Content is Queen. To make your video work you need to try and get inside the heads of your target audience. What is the purpose of your video? There are many types of video: talking heads, raising awareness of a humanitarian issue, fundraising, user generated content, documentaries, developing brand awareness and so on. A lot of charities use celebrities to highlight issues. Is this right for your NGO and what will it achieve?

3. Be inventive. There are thousands and thousands of videos which have been produced by NGOs. How do you cut through and make your video shine? If you want to see some examples of great video sign up to the dailydogooder – it is a great place to start if you need some inspiration.

4. Optimise your videos for search engines. Videos on sites such as YouTube and Vimeo often appear on the first page of the search engine results page (SERPS). In addition In addition YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine in the world. It is important to add useful metadata such as file names, titles, tags and descriptions to ensure your videos are found. Getting your videos to the top of search engines involves many variables such as number of views, number of comments, number of shares, ratings, back links etc. Also make sure you follow the conversation and respond to comments.

5. Ensure that your video ties in with your NGOs digital media or social media guidelines. Does your organisation have standard assets such as title bars, intros and outros.

6. Make sure your video portrays your brand’s tone of voice and is informed by overall corporate objectives.

7. Making a viral video. Viral videos can quickly get your brand concern out to a wide audience, but there is no guaranteed way to “make” a video viral. However just look at the success of Kony2012 by Invisible Children. This was achieved by a relatively small organisation with no previous success with viral videos. Their seeding strategy was key to their success. They already had half a million followers. Luckily along the way Oprah picked up about the campaign and tweeted several times and from there the seed was truly sown. They also targeted “20 culture makers and 12 policy makers”. But at the end of the day, the video was beautifully made and it had compelling content.

8. Plan, plan, plan. A storyboard however basic will save you time and money. Videographers will be charging you by the hour. You are paying for the time – use it wisely. Please don’t waste it on carrying equipment from one place to another very often.

9. Measure your ROI and learn from your mistakes. Consider where you want your videos to be viewed. Most OVPs come with great analytics tools. YouTube statistics include number of views, demographics of viewers, geographical data etc. You can download stats into spreadsheets if you want to analyse the data further. It’s important to view these stats, but you must relate these back to your objectives in order to measure ROI.

10. Be creative.