Can only ‘good causes’ result in a social media success story?

It might be a tad early for the ‘2014 will be remembered for’ style of article just yet…

But it’s pretty obvious what the stand out topics from everyone’s Facebook Newsfeed in 2014 will be. In fact, you could even put them in a Top 3 style list… drumroll please:

Number 3 No girl wanted to do it, but hey, it was for charity – The No Make-Up Selfie

Number 2… It was funny to start with, but rapidly progressed to stupidly dangerous as everyone tried to out-do their mates – Neknomination

And Number 1 Got a bucket? Got some ice-cold water? You’re set. – The Ice Bucket Challenge


If I was to call two of these three by what they became socially, and maybe even more importantly, publicly known as, they would have an illness or its related charity attached to it. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and No Make-Up Selfie for Breast Cancer Awareness.

When was the last time you referred to a social media campaign with any kind of brand association in the title?

That’s what made all three of 2014’s social media campaign hit list work as well as they did – they were talked about just as much in real life (or IRL as the kids today say, or so I’m told); the Word of Mouth phenomenon. And probably none as much as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was, whether it was on the train overhearing peoples plans for the evening (‘I’m hitting the gym at 6 and then I’m doing the Ice Bucket Challenge, I’ve been nominated 3 times already’) or chatting to your friends about whether you were going to actually do it (‘You have to, your brother and best mate nominated you this week!’).

And the media coverage it got only added to this. Were the media covering it because it was raising money for such a good cause? Am, no. Sorry to shatter your sweet worldly illusions, but it was because the celebs got involved. And how do we know they got involved? Because they posted it on their Facebook pages, and the rest of the world followed suit.

And then there was the FOMO (‘Fear of missing out’ in case you thought that was the acronym for another charity). The fear that you wouldn’t be nominated by anyone meaning that maybe you weren’t as popular as you thought. I’ll be honest, this FOMO hadn’t crossed my mind until my friend stated after his fourth nomination… “Could you imagine if no one actually nominated you at this stage? Embarrassing!” Lucky for my popularity ego, I was up to my second nomination at that point.

This FOMO works hand in hand with the social spotlight that these kind of campaigns allow in their functionality – call out your friends easily by tagging them and get them involved, aka bring them down with you and spread the word. In fact, thanks to the Word of Mouth effect, it went past having to actually own a Facebook account, as you saw young kids and older parents, none of whom were on Facebook, getting involved and posting on their respective parents and children’s accounts.  And this also brought about a certain amount of social peer pressure, along with the bragging rights you were now entitled too. After all, you are a charitable person now, one step away from becoming a full-time philanthropist.

But I digress, massively.

Back to my earlier question – When was the last time you referred to a social media campaign with any kind of brand association in the title?

Have you thought of one yet? What these campaigns brought were the kind of virality that most businesses could only dream of. And when I say businesses, I really mean their marketing team/ agency/ social media intern.

Mentions of Ice Bucket Challenge from Simply Measured

Mentions of Ice Bucket Challenge from Simply Measured

Is it possible for any brand to achieve this level of success if they’re not a charity or cause based? Probably not.

According to ‘Seriously Social’ – an analysis of social-driven case studies by marketing consultant Peter Field, associating a brand ‘with a broader purpose or cause can be a powerful approach and can lead to better long-term results than story-led strategies.‘

In this report, Field was able to ‘compare the impact of campaigns that associated a brand with a good cause, with the impact of those that built a story around a brand.’

And no prizes for guessing that he found that the ‘cause-driven’ types of campaigns were more focused around online and Word of Mouth, whereas brand campaigns made more use of wider media channels. And when it came down to the business end of things, the cause driven-campaigns increased markedly over time, whereas that of brand story campaigns did not.

So what does this mean for your brand? Give up on running any social media campaigns ever again because you’re not a charity or ‘cause-driven’? Probably not a rational approach.

But what you can do for your brand is to keep social media success stories like the Ice Bucket Challenge in the back of your mind (along with whatever the latest one to populate your Newsfeed is today) when planning your next campaign and ask yourself ‘What can my brand learn from this?’

Please don’t answer ‘let’s be the next viral success’. I admire your enthusiasm, but while most successful virals don’t actually ever set out to be just that, I will agree that there can be some cases where planning that approach can actually pay off. What you need to think about for a successful social campaign is sharability. Why would your social followers want to share your campaign with a friend, in real life or socially?

And yes, I am most definitely ‘The Marketer’ according to this drilldown of personalities on your feed during the Ice Bucket Challenge era… but I actually did it.

And the reason I took the ‘challenge’ was a combination of all of the aforementioned.

When was the last time you referred to a social media campaign with any kind of brand association in the title?

copyright FRANk Media 2018