Red Cross Social Media case study
Using blogs and tweets as a call to action
When a disaster happens, as with the current floods in Pakistan, and after the earthquake in Haiti, it is not just the band of khaki clothed helpers rushing to the scene that jump to action at the Briitsh Red Cross.
The twitterers and other social media bods at this world wide charity set to work too.
This is because the use of social media has been proved (already) to significantly increase the amount of donations received by the Red Cross immediately following a disaster.
After Haiti, the appeal launch started on Twitter at 7.41pm on January 13, 2010. Even before the SMS donation service launch, and the first TV broadcast service, which happened at 6.55 on January 14, there had been a considerable boost to funds received. This was further helped several days later, when renewed interest was generated by celebrities, including Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross retweeting the Red Cross appeal.
This then generated interest by the media which reused the twitter in news stories. UK£42m was raised using social media, and a massive 3,863 retweets had been achieved. SMS donations by mobile phone were also encouraged, and this reached a massive peak of UK£157,667 from 33,193 donations on January 25.
Social media donations are still a very small percentage of online channel giving, making up just 2% currently, with the BBC online providing a massive 40% but the figure is significant and growing.
It is currently being predicted that Twitter has passed its peak, and that very soon another brand will come along to knock it into the shadows, but currently, its reach and appeal is still very impressive. And there are plenty of other sites, such as Flickr, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube which can be equally useful if used correctly.
People write 50 million tweets a day, which is more than new entries on Google. One third of these 140 character blogs are opinions on companies and services.
It is a killer fact that people trust other people online more than they trust you – the advertiser, the company, the service, the brand, the expert or the professional. It is galling, but it is true. 90% of people would accept a recommendation that they read online. Don’t believe this? Think about where you checked out the hotel you will be staying in this summer, or that expensive restaurant you intend to take the new client to. This by the way, is information from the latest Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey of over 25,000 internet consumers from 50 countries.
Comments Jonathan Carson, resident of online, international, for the Nielsen Company; “The explosion in consumer generated media over the last couple of years means consumers’ reliance on word of mouth in the decision-making process, either from people they know or online consumers they don’t, has increased significantly.”
Social media analytics
Despite the mystique and the unusual terms, it is possible, says Margaret O’Donnell, digital media manager at the British Red Cross, to analyse the use of social media and maximise its use to reach a wide range of audiences, especially hard to reach groups.
O’Donnell advises that a company should use tracked links for everything.
She suggests that one should set up a Twitter profile in an analytics programme, of which there are dozens now, including Google analytics, and always use hash tags when appropriate.
In otherwords, use the social media equivalent of good office or good database management.
Track followers and retweets, and pay attention to lists.
Once you start playing with an analytics programme, all this will become clear.
Of the different analytics programmes, here are some examples.
24oclocks lets you enter a Twitter ID, and this tool will display from where the people that particular person is following are in a global map.
My Tweet Map shows you the latest tweets from your friends on a map.
Quotably lets you check out any Twitter user’s conversation in a threat conversation style, making it easier to follow. O’Donnell finds this particularly useful.
Sitevolume allows one to see how many times a particular term has been used on Twitter, Digg, MySpace, YouTube and Flickr. It is possible to add in multiple terms and see bar graphs comparing the terms.
Tweeterboard is an analytics service that provides information about popular Twitter users an popular links.
Tweetburger gives you click stats for the links you posted in Twitter.
One of the tools used by the Red Cross is Twitter Analyzer.
So what type of stuff does the British Red Cross tweet?
In June it twittered that the first volunteer of the day signed up within 20 minutes of opening u the Big Red Cross Bus in Bishop Aukland; that the British Red Cross Refugee Service Portsmouth won the Queens award for voluntary service, and that the Big Red Cross bus was also in County Durham. This was all before 10.30.
In August, at the time of writing this article, The British Red Cross is celebrating its 140th birthday, but top of the page at www.twitter.com/britishredcross is a suggestion that you should ‘follow’ @britishredcross, then a link to photos of voluteers helping in (hash)Pakistan (don’t forget the hash) and then more specifics about preventing water-borne disease and the (hash)Pakistan (hash)floods emergency appeal. (note the use of the hash symbol, which helps in searches.
Dealing with the bad news
Social media does not always provide positive results.
The Red Cross was tweeted extensively after the story by the BBC that it was training Afghanistan people in first aid. The Tweets said it was training the Taliban in first aid. The Red Cross responded by saying that it didn’t take sides, but that its work in Afghanistan is limited to supporting a community based healthcare programme in partnership with the Afghan Red Crescent. It did not help the Taliban in any way it said.
O’Donnell said that by knowing what was happening, it could respond quickly and calm the negative publicity.
Social media as part of a marketing campaign
Using social media as part of your marketing campaign has its pitfalls because it is so different from everything else. It is almost impossible to control because it is a communication channel rather than a broadcast channel. Said O’Donnell: “You need to engage in conversation with others and ask yourself the questions: how are we positioned? How are we branded? Use Google Alerts to see what people are saying about you, and without fail, RESPOND. Start engaging with people about their questions. Sort out complaints and bad service.”
The bigger your company, the more likely it is that there will be a spoof site sending you up and complaining about you. EasyJet Sucks Group is nearly as big, in terms of social media content, as the EasyJet Group.
If you are new to social media, try one of the easier sites, such as FaceBook before starting on those 140 character short messages, which are such black and white calls to action. And above all, says McDonnell, don’t leave Twitter control in the hands of an internet intern. “Interns are very useful,” she qualified, “but this is about your company’s reputation. It is important, and there should be management control.”
In the event of a crisis, she advises that above all one should explain. “Move to FaceBook if Twitter doesn’t give you enough space, and explain the situation and respond to everybody texting on the subject.” But she also pointed out that people blog negatives far more often than positives so by its very nature, the social media balance needs to be maintained by input from the company, and not left solely to the general public.
And above all, go and experience social media for yourself. Until you understand it, you won’t be able to appreciate the potential.