Cause marketing in the digital age has never been easier (or harder). In one sense, there are a plethora of social platforms that offer a seemingly endless audience. On the other hand, managing campaigns across social can seem like herding cats; there's so much to do, and so much noise that the process can seem overwhelming.
However, just like any other marketing (digital or otherwise), success always boils down to relationships. Developing relationships with partner businesses... developing relationships with donors... and keeping those relationships going beyond the campaign.
While there are a number of examples of charities that have raised millions for their causes using social, such as the American Heart Association, American Red Cross and Save the Children, many cause organizations shrink from it because it just seems too complicated. It doesn't have to be--but you do need a plan. Kathryn Rose, my friend and co-author of my book Return on Relationship has a saying she's fond of using when she speaks to organizations about using social media: Planless = Penniless. And I totally agree. Before you jump in with guns blazing, get your ducks in a row first.
Mashable published an article back in 2010 entitled 8 Tips for a Successful Social Media Cause Campaign, and these tips make a great outline for your plan:
1. Create a Strong Theme with Clear Goals
2. Seek a Non-Profit Partner that's Active in Social Media
3. Connect the Theme, Sponsor and Non-Profit
4. Identify and Utilize Your Best Social Assets
5. Target a Well-Defined Audience
6. Energize and Motivate Your Supporters
7. Pay Attention to Timing
8. Follow Up
Read the article and you'll see that the underlying thread to building a successful plan is the relationships you build along the way. Using social tools to connect with people who share your concerns, sharing relevant information and content, showing people the specific impact of contributions with socially-compelling visual content (videos and photos), maintaining transparency--all these things help you build and nurture the relationships that further the cause.
And it doesn't matter which part of the plan you're developing. The main thing to keep in mind is how to use the platforms and tools at your disposal to reach out, connect and communicate. Whether you're chatting with people in Twitter or Facebook, sharing compelling photos and videos using Instagram, or reaching out to potential business partners on LinkedIn, always drive your efforts from your audience's perspective. That means you'll have to listen on those channels to see what kinds of information your audience wants (and what they don't want), but that's OK. Every platform has tools you can use to for listening and researching as well. Use them.
It doesn't matter if your cause is a children's charity, animal welfare or disaster response, either. Humans are innately generous and love to get behind efforts where they feel they can make a difference--you just need to get in front of them. The beauty of social as a communication medium is that it allows anyone to make connections at scale--something that evens the playing field for small and large organizations alike. You don't need a billion dollar budget to raise money anymore. Just Google "Social Media for Cause Marketing," and you'll see hundreds of case studies of organizations that have been successful on a shoestring.
Just remember to plan your campaign wisely, and "think relationships" at every stage. That's how you develop the kind of "Return on Relationship" that builds a solid return for your cause and enables you to give it legs for the future.