Save the Children UK and Social Media

Last week I visited Save the Children UK headquarters in London’s Smithfields to find out more about their use of social media. I met with Rosie Childs, who is responsible for social media in the news and PR teams for a quick chat about some of the strategies they employ. Save the Children recently topped the 2013 Social Media Charity Index. We discussed a lot in an hour, but for this blog post I will focus on blogger outreach and abusive comments on Facebook.

Save the Children are very effective at blogger outreach. One of Rosie’s roles is to seek and nurture relationships with bloggers and vloggers due to their powerful voices and engaged audiences. Just yesterday she returned from a Syrian refugee camp in Iraq where she escorted @Lexcanroar, a young vlogger on a visit. The cost of organising a visit for a blogger is not very expensive but the potential social media reach and influence is massive.

In June this year two of YouTube’s biggest names Charlie McDonnell and his mum Lindsay traveled to Tanzania to see what can be done to end global hunger. Charlie and Lindsay have a combined following on Twitter of 645,000 and nearly 3 million YouTube subscribers. Vloggers have become the new celebrity ambassadors and they are very effective at reaching young audiences. They are possibly more influential than many celebrities as they are often deemed as more honest and reliable.

Before our meeting I looked at Save The Children’s latest Facebook posts. I was appalled to see racist comments on some of the their Typhoon Haiyan appeals. Here is an example


About two or three times a year my wife and I have mini debates about the prevalence of racism in Britain. We are both academics, so we live in an educated bubble for most of the time. I’m probably more aware of prejudice as I work closely with international students and get to hear their stories, but I was actually quite shocked at some of the comments above. I asked Rosie about the moderation of their social media channels. Like most large organisation they have policies that do not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, disability or political beliefs. However, in my opinion a couple of the posts above do discriminate. I’ve managed large social media channels in the past and it is difficult to know when to intervene in the community. Rosie said that all the channels are carefully monitored by a number of staff. Most often abusive comments are dealt with by the other Facebook community members, but sometimes posts need to be factually corrected or removed. It’s such a shame there is still a high level of ignorance when it comes to aid and fundraising and indeed misguided narratives about the global south.

It reminded me of a campaign by Oxfam which I read about the other day in a book by Dogra (2012) Representations of Global Poverty. The campaign ran in July 2005 in an attempt to reduce generalised misconceptions. In each advert the space was divided vertically with the myth on the left and the counter-argument on the right e.g. Africa Myth #1 ‘I’m not giving my money to corrupt leaders is Africa’ – Neither are we.” and “Africa Myth #3 ‘African families have too many children’ – African families have to bury too many children.” Maybe other development organisations need to invest some high profile communications at busting myths?

Save The Children’s social media presence is impressive, hence the award. For example there were 15 tweets from their Twitter channel on Thursday 14th November. They ranged in type: fundraising, information, education and promotion as well as retweeting other content. I particularly like the tweet below which shows aid being delivered in the Philippines.


I’m often critical of organisations’ YouTube channels and Save the Children’s is no exception. They have some great videos, my particular favourite being the No Child Born to Die video from 2 years ago, but their channel seems to be a repository of videos with no structure or seeding strategy. Why oh why do organisations spend all this money on video production but fail to seed them properly? There is so much you can do with playlists and titles OR incorporate the use of Vimeo for certain videos.

A goal I’ve set myself for next year is to experience the filming of a celebrity advocacy video in the field. Maybe Save The Children will invite me to observe one and in return I’ll establish a seeding strategy for them.