Viral Marketing Initiative

Many have heard of the term “going viral” and the first thing that came to mind was a popular video that many are sharing and commenting on.  That’s not far off from the truth.  When searching the web for a definition.  Essentially, it is a spur of the moment flurry of activity, uncontrollable, with interest to share, comment on, and engage. 

From research, there are five key elements that contribute to going viral; emotion, style, engagement, timing, and relevance.  Emotion drives interest; whether positive or negative.  It could be a video of children playing (positive and humorous) or a negative video (someone making a racist statement) like that of which has been in the news regarding the LA Clippers.  Style, like with Ronaldinho: Touch of Gold (Nike)  where Ronaldinho purchased new Nike sneakers and demonstrated amazing football skills.  Engagement, like with the movement of animated avatars like that of the Mad Men Yourself campaign. Timing is important too; consider the fake job interview for a Mother’s position.  It was posted around Mother’s Day.   Relevance, which captures the interest if a specific audience: humor, family, pets, or politics; for example, remember “Hump Day” by Geico? 

In the non-profit world, going viral can be good and bad.  It can bring positive or negative awareness.  Remember, going viral is uncontrollable.  However, it can be useful in spreading awareness; for example status reports during Hurricane Sandy, videos during the Japan Tsunami, or people needing food in Africa. 



Which “helps” organization should I support?

Thankfully, there are thousands of “helps” organizations in the U.S. There are organizations that help the hungry, financially distraught, broken families, disaster relief, animal rescue, environment, and even the restoration of literature; nonetheless, there are many to choose from. Some have good tract records and some don’t. How does one decide? For starters, it all depends on your passion and if you have the spirit of giving. Don’t do it for popularity. It needs to come from the heart. For me, the next element is localization because I like to get my hands dirty with physical participation. It is more gratifying in person. The next thing I consider and the most transparent is social media connections.


Most social media platforms are free so it would make no sense to NOT have a presence, but just having a presence isn’t enough. Because social media is accessible to everyone with the presence of authentic feedback, it is the best mechanism to gauge the legitimacy of an organization. There has to be personal engagement and connection on a regular basis. Social media should be used to promote the “good works” of these organizations along with reports, status updates, videos, testimonials, and connection opportunities. It should be used to organize call-to-order events and activities. As part of an exercise to differentiate organizations, let’s consider Volunteers of America and Meals and Wheels. By no means is this an attempt to discredit any organization, but merely to identify differences that can help drive traffic to the cause.

Volunteers of America and Meals on Wheels

Volunteers of America (VOA) and Meals on Wheels (MOW) both help people in need. VOA is organized to help military veterans, at-risk youth, the elderly, people returning from prison, homeless individuals and families, and substance abuse additions. MOW is designed to supply nutritious meals to senior citizens. With both organizations, they have a presence on multiple social media platforms; Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook to name a few. VOA has a well-designed website with heartfelt videos and featured highlights. MOW has a good website, but without up-front videos and pictures. The videos automatically catch my attention to view first. Another difference, MOW has fewer social contact media than VOA. For example, VOA has a presence on Pinterest and Google +, whereas, MOW doesn’t; at least it isn’t listed. The bigger presence an organization has on social media the bigger the following. Both have a presence on Facebook and display similar messaging and videos, along with news events, but MOW seems to have more comment engagement. VOA appears to have a bigger social media presence, but the first time I ever heard of VOA was about a month ago on a television commercial. It tells me that there are few in my network of friends, family, or collogues that are involved or connected. On the other hand, I’ve always known about MOW.


Volunteers of America and Meals on Wheels are wonderful organizations with commendable causes, which I equally support. Social media differentiation starts with a presence across all available platforms. It requires personal connection on a regular basis; lacking in one, will set you apart. As I mentioned earlier, having a presence isn’t enough.

Good Blogging Practices

Blogging is relatively new to me but over the past couple months I’ve learned a few best practices that help with personal brand and relevant authenticity.


Microbloggging, a smaller version of blogging are short blogs posts, i.e., text messages, instant messages (IM), status updates on Facebook and Google+, but the most popular is Twitter.  When using Twitter, be genuine, honest, and let people see your personality.  Routinely compliment and support other people.  For example, if I wanted my personality brand to be a dog lover, which I am, but that’s not all I’m about, I would microblog a post on Twitter about my dog or a funny video link of a dog doing something funny.  I would also comment or retweet (RT) what other dog lovers post.  These two and more best practices can be found in the Tao of Twitter by MarkSchaefer.         


Blogging is the same as microblogging but a longer version.  One popular blogging outlet is WordPress; the very forum I’m writing this blog.  According to jjames, a couple best practices for blogging are to be succinct and concentrate on personal branding. Blogs should be written with few words.  If many are like me, I tend to avoid what I long-winded blogs of three or more pages.  I like to get right to the content and quickly absorb good information.  Avoid run-on sentences and or long paragraphs.  Personal branding, I think, is most important.  What do you want people to envision your brand personality to be?  This will affect who follows you and your personal goal for having a Twitter account.  If for a business, you don’t want the impression of a party animal associated to your business brand.  If your goal is to gain followers with business knowledge, blogs about what you do every minute of the day will not attract high-level business followers.   In addition to the content blogged about, carefully design the blog site, logo, and possibly a favicon.  Make sure your writing style is consistent and truly represents your personality.  Don’t try to be someone you’re not.  People will sniff that out very quickly. 

Hopefully, the best practices in this blog help new bloggers. 

Charities: Social Media Challenges

Start using social media

Non-profit and charity organizations have to engage social media branding if they want to survive in today’s economy.  The old traditional ways of direct-mail or email blasts are rapidly declining in their effectiveness.  I too am guilty of throwing away 99% of mail advertisement because I can’t trust the authenticity of the content being communicated.  Email brings phishing attempts and virus threats.  However, these were traditionally ways for non-profits and social charity organizations to market their services.  Today, more people use technology, i.e., smart phones, social media, and are always connected to web communities.  The challenge is sustaining a social presence (existence) by migrating marketing techniques to use social tools like Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.  Social media helps route traffic to your website and presents opportunity to engage interaction.  Donors and volunteers are what keep the doors open, so it is important to continually stay engaged with this community.

Monitoring Content and Interactions

Being engaged in social media presents another challenge of managing content and responses to social outlets like Twitter and Facebook.  It’s not like a major corporation where jobs are threatened, so rules and policy are harder to monitor.  The main thing is to limit the users interacting socially and ensure all communications are run through a committee or governing board.  An example of loose monitoring is the case where a Red Cross had to do some major PR damage after a rouge tweet from a social media specialist tweeting about getting drunk (#gettingslizzard).  The specialists accidentally tweeted the Red Cross account thinking it was their personal account.

Legal and Ethical Risks

Transparency is expected in non-profits today and rightly so.  Having a social media presence doesn’t come without legal and ethical risks.  Non-profits stand to lose their IRS Form 990 and Federal Tax Exempt status if accounting rules and laws aren’t strictly followed.  Social media will definitely contribute to any shenanigans if they exist, which leads to ethics.  New Jersey just settled over some misappropriation of funds in the Hurricane Sandy Relief Foundation.  Not all the money donated was going to the victims.

In summary, technology is driving non-profits need to engage in social media to grow their donor base and reach the community, but keep in mind that there is added responsibility in managing content being communicated and establishing ethical guidelines.

YouTube Channels Emotion, Content Makes It Complete, Mobile Media broadens the Audience

Old-School Marketing

I can remember back in the early 1990’s watching a TV commercial on children in foreign countries suffering from hunger and living in horrible environments compared to mine. I became emotionally attached and donated money.  I received a picture of the child I was supporting and continued sending money for months.  Six months later I found out through the news media that less than 10% of the money I was donating was actually going to the children.  I felt mislead, cheated, and preyed-upon.  Since then, I’ve been skeptical of the authenticity of these kinds of televised commercials and spans out into the social media world today.  Catherine Sherlock writes using the saying “people buy on emotion and rationalize with logic” is old-school selling.  It isn’t effective today.

Emotion + Content = Success

As humans, we’ll always have a sense of emotion when considering a purchase, participation, or engagement.  However, like me, I have a skeptical side that requires confirmation of content in my decision making.  Charity and non-profit organizations still need to do due diligence when creating content of their offering or service, but when combining good content with genuine emotional attraction, success is more probable. YouTube is a good avenue for emotional attraction so now make it available on the move.

Now Bring In Mobile Media

Ever find yourself searching the Internet, looking at Facebook, or YouTube when sitting in the waiting room of the dentist or doctor’s office?  How about at the airport or a restaurant?  I’ll be willing to bet you’re not using a public lobby desktop computer, but rather, a smart phone.  We are busy people, but well connected.  Smart phones have the ability to display pictures, news articles, and video through mobile applications using the Internet.  Mobile media just expanded your exposure with an unlimited captive audience.

Who does a good job at this?

Source: YouTube

Source: YouTube

While looking at videos on YouTube using my iPhone via a mobile application, I entered the search criteria “feeding the hungry” and Feed America came up as one of the options.  I watched the video about a family who fell on hard times as a result of the housing crash on 2008.  I can relate as I too was affected; but thankfully not to the same level.  Watching the video captured my attention, so I went to their website to learn more (content).  What makes the video more captivating is it isn’t a staged or paid for video add.  To me it was a testimonial of a real-life situation and how Feed America helped this family.  Feed America measures success by how many pounds of food is collected from their partners and supporters, by how many people and families they help, and how much money is donated.


Marketing and selling a service, product, or cause in today’s society requires a combination of emotion, content, and mobility.  From my perspective, Feed America utilizes these methods and outlets to communicate their mission.

Social Media Can Boost Funding in a Tough Economy

Is It Hopeless For Nonprofits to Get Funding?

Since the market crash of 2008, nonprofit organizations have struggled with funding an increased demand of people needing help.  It creates challenge for nonprofits to continue providing service at pre-2008 levels and forces leaders to think unconventionally when it comes to collecting funds.  As government funding continues to dwindle, it’s difficult to address an economically strained community, but don’t become discouraged with all the negative statistics.  They’re important to consider, but there is a way to reach people wanting to help.

Social Media Is Key

Facebook and YouTube appear to be the most common outlets used by nonprofits today because they offer a forum to communicate on a personal level.  Facebook allows nonprofits to communicate what services are offered and available, share inspirational testimonials, and connect people with like interest.  For example, American Red Cross in District of Columbia, DC uses Facebook to communicate health tips regarding flu shots, how to manage fire alarms in your home, and updates on services provided abroad.  Facebook offers the ability to upload pictures, videos, web links, and instant updates during disasters.   The United Way uses Facebook to communicate ways to deal with student truancy, and other child related assistant services.  In both cases, Facebook is a useful tool to personalize messages with pictures and videos to show the worth of their efforts.  YouTube is also used by many nonprofit organizations.

YouTube videos are pure in a sense as there is no question to the testimonies or effects of where donations are being spent.   I’m suspect there is always question to the authenticity of the video, but looking at this example it is hard to say, “this is fake.”

Twitter Can Help

I don’t think many nonprofits are using the total benefits of other social media like Twitter.  Twitter can be used to communicate immediate status updates during a disaster like Hurricanes Katrina or Sandy.  It can be used to send links to where money from donations is going and how people can help.  Most feel money is the only means of help, but that’s not true.

I’ll use myself as an example.  I’m not the richest man on earth, so I don’t have a lot of money, but I can donate time, labor, or skill.  I know how to hammer a nail.  I know how to saw along a line.  I have a pickup that can be used to haul junk to the dump, and a lot more. I’m a business man by trade, but I’m able to help anyway I can.  I feel there are many like me in this world but if I knew where I can connect and donate my small part, many like me combined can make a difference.  This is where Twitter can connect the dots.

NhN: Where Do I Start?

Neighbors helping Neighbors

It has always been my passion to help those in need, but if there is anyone like me, many times I don’t have enough money to make a difference.  However, I can donate time, help swing a hammer, help haul materials, and even afford small amounts of $50, but even that will not solve most problems.  BUT, if many with similar interest and like donations come together locally, we can make a difference in our communities.

  • How Do I Bring People Together?

Aside from a descent website, I’ll need the force of social media to market and communicate the cause.  For the purpose of this blog, I decided to compare and contrast social media forums Twitter and Tumblr to determine the impact and usefulness of these tools.

  • What is Twitter?

Twitter is a real-time online social network with small 140 character posts called Tweets used to share news, pictures, ideas, videos, opinions, and blogs .  It is comprised of people or organizations one can follow, and be followed.  The good thing about Twitter is followers and following is by choice dependent on like interests or opinions. 

  • What is Tumblr?

Tumblr is similar to Twitter in that you can post the same content, but there is no character limit and it is just as fast to communicate as Twitter.  To many, it is more of a blog forum.  With Tumblr, you can create a Tumblr page showing all your interests and comments, whereas, Twitter only allows a small limited text profile. 

  • Is there a difference in Audience

Both tools provide the option to choose followers and be chosen; however from my experience, there appears to be a difference in audience.  Tumblr seems to consist more of a younger group sharing opinions, pictures, and videos of their life’s experiences or beliefs, whereas, Twitter consist of an older group with Tweets of advice, business experience, marketing solutions, and news forums. 

  • Followers

When searching for followers of like interest, for example, #charity #peoplehelpingpeople, Twitter has more followers to choose from.  I was surprised to see the lack of options in Tumblr.  If I were to target helping teens with cyber bullying or threats of suicide, Tumblr would be the perfect place to offer assistance.  Tumblr may also be a good place to find volunteers, but parents would need to be involved and share the same passion.  I probably wouldn’t find many volunteers using Tumblr with trade skills like plumbing, carpentry, or auto mechanics, so Twitter would be the better option for this kind of search.   

  • Who is Following ME?

To be followed on Twitter or Tumblr, it is assumed one would use the same process as you and search for like interests; however, that’s not been entirely the case with Twitter.  I’ve only been using Twitter for about a month now and I’m up to 46 followers; many with similar interest, but about ¼ with nothing in common. I read an article in the TNW by Lauren Hockenson about people selling and buying “quality Twitter followers” to boost their numbers which in turn gives the impression of high influence or popularity. That’s somewhat weird and beyond the intent, but the groundswell is an undefined entityWith regards to Tumblr, I’ve only been using this tool for about a week and haven’t received one request.  I suppose I need to work more at posting more and sharing my passions of helping people to gain a following

  • The World is My Platform

Twitter and Tumblr both provide an unlimited world platform so my messages and post can be seen and responded to from anyone in the world.  Marketing the cause is faster and easier using social media than convention ways of using newspapers, direct mail, or email blasts.  With Tumblr, I can post a video or pictures directly which helps attract activity.  I can’t do the same with Twitter.  I would have to create a catchy phrase to attract activity and provide a link with my pictures and videos.  I can post testimonials on Tumblr with unlimited character requirements, but not with Twitter because of the 140 character limitations.  Nevertheless, I still need to consider the audience and who will most likely read my posts and Tweets.