Concern and Social Media

Why do some videos share on social media and some don’t? There’s a lot of academic research available but do we really know yet? I don’t think so.

Last week I met with James Barker, Digital Marketing Manager at Concern Worldwide. He has been in his current job for about 18 months, and in conjunction with colleagues in the web team, has transformed how Concern is engaging with their supporters/donors via social media. Somebody kindly alerted me to their work on Twitter after I asked if anyone had seen any good charity Christmas videos. If you haven’t seen their Rudolph vs Donkey video produced by digital agency Nonsense, then you’re in for a treat.

It’s difficult to analyse the success of videos without some inside knowledge on the seeding strategy e.g. paid advertising. You also need to take other factors into account such as the length of time it has been published. Rudolph vs Donkey is Concern’s second most viewed video. It is very amusing and humour is a key success to virality. Rob Mosley, Founder at Nonsene said “We focus on engagement first, then virality – as the latter is so hard to predict! Practically any information or ask can be delivered in an engaging way with the right idea… getting people to pay attention is the first hurdle. With Rudolf vs. Donkey, it was a great bonus that people decided to share.”

Research by Dobele et al (2007) claims that virality is only achieved when a campaign triggers an emotional response. They examined six emotions: surprise, joy, sadness, anger, fear and disgust. Research from Nelson-Field (2013) has taken this research further by developing an arousal-valence emotional grid

Positive Positive Negative Negative
High Arousal Low Arousal High Arousal Low Arousal
Hilarity Amusement Disgust Discomfort
Inspiration Calmness Sadness Boredom
Astonishment Surprise Shock Irritation
Exhilaration Happiness Anger Frustration

I wonder why Concern’s recent film about a Cowpea didn’t share as well? I consider it to be funny, but maybe it hasn’t triggered any of the arousal-valence emotions above. There’s a fine line between the categorisation of these emotions, e.g. hilarity and exhilaration. I definitely agree with Nelson-Field that the best way to evaluate the popularity of their video is to test the creative with an appropriate and relevant sample of the target market. Nelson-Field’s study of viral marketing is certainly the most comprehensive I have read. She also analyses other aspects of contagion such as creative devices, paid views and seeding, but that’s a whole new post in the waiting.

Although the cowpea video hasn’t shared that well in comparison with Rudolph it has been very effective in engaging with Concern’s supporters. In fact 15,000 people signed up to their Facebook campaign. While fundraising is still best achieved through direct marketing, face-to-face fundraising and television advertising, social media is much more about building relationships, educating and sharing success stories. Saying that, the acquisition of 15,000 people to Concern’s database is extremely valuable as these contacts may well be converted to donors at a later stage.

Like many other international NGOs, Concern is moving towards a digital first strategy. The implementation of this will be achieved through greater investment in digital including the continued development of their social media to be more conversational and interesting which is having a positive impact on the brand. James commented “Concern is committed to developing a strategy where digital sits at all stages of the supporter journey. To make this work we have to speak to our supporters in a more friendly, engaging and concise way – infographics and animations are a great way of achieving this.”

As James say one way that they have changed the style of their communications is through the use of infographics, both static and animated. Their infographic on ‘How Hunger Affects People Living with HIV and AIDS’ is very effective and also very sharable. Their video infographic offers a simple and digestible introduction to the work of Concern.

Concern has made some positive steps in making their social media more dialogic. I look forward to seeing more successful advocacy and fundraising campaigns in 2014.

Dobele, A, Lindgreen, A, Beverland, M, Vanhamme, J, Wijk, R (2007) Why pass on viral messages? Because they connect emotionally.

Nelson-Field, K (2013) Viral Marketing: The Science of Sharing

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.