Social Video and Cause Marketing: How Nonprofits Are Doing Viral Video

Social Video and Cause Marketing: How Nonprofits Are Doing Viral Video

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I interviewed Chris Quigley, Co-founder of the buzz marketing company, Viral Ad Network, about why and how companies should engage in social causes using video. Chris also shares the special benefits that social video campaigns can have for charities, and we add some of our own tips for businesses on how to do their own social video in “cause marketing.”

What Exactly is “Cause Marketing?”

According to Wikipedia, cause marketing, aka, “cause-related marketing,” generally refers to any type of marketing effort, or marketing relationship, for social and other charitable causes. (i.e., it can be considered to fall under a social media campaign.) Unlike general philanthropy, cause marketing is not necessarily based on a donation. The possible benefits of cause marketing for businesses include improved PR and customer relationships, and additional marketing opportunities; and the more noble benefits for recipients include investments in communities, and simply giving something back.

Social Video and Cause Marketing Examples

One recent example of for-profit businesses involved in cause marketing with video can be found in a recently article I wrote about over at the Video Commerce Consortium blog site: The Stonyfield Farm/Honest Tea “cooperative video contest,” which tied in with global awareness for Earth Month. The goal of that cooperative video campaign was to generate more awareness of the benefits of organic food and beverages; and being that they are both organic food and beverage companies, they would stand to directly benefit.

Another situation is where for-profit businesses will pair up with a non-profit organization for mutual benefit. A well-know example is Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project, which several for-profit businesses will sponsor and include their own custom video as part of the project; and even combine their online video with TV advertising pointing people back to the original It Gets Better campaign. Earlier this week Google sponsored it’s own television ad for the project, which they in turn featured, on their own googlechrome YouTube channel to promote their Google Chrome browser. (You can watch the entire ad below.)

A more recent cause-related video with a powerful message and making a strong impact is The David Cornfield Melanoma Fund’s (DMCF Canada) “Dear 16-year-old Me,” showcasing May as Melanoma Awareness Month. For something similar here in the U.S., check out below the “Naked” Skin Cancer Prevention PSA featuring Meghan McCain (Senator John McCain’s daughter, for the politically unaware).

For more examples of cause marketing in online video, I also recommend checking out the AdAge article by Ramya Raghavan, “YouTube’s Must-See Cause-Marketing Picks.”

Why Work with a “Viral Ad Agency” to do Cause-Related Video?

With a growing number of online ads making it increasingly difficult to get noticed, some companies are working with specialty agencies to provide something called “viral seeding” – i.e, providing social video advertising and optimization services to cause-related marketing campaigns.

How “Seeding” of Video Works

“Seeding is all about planting as many seeds around the Internet, and seeing which ones take off the most – i.e., which ones grow and get shared the most,” explained Chris. “In practice, this means syndicating content to as many sites as possible, and seeing which seeds result in the video getting shared the most.”

Chris explained that their “seeding” strategies with video are always based around two things:

  1. Understanding that viral [videos] act as “conversation catalysts” in online communities, and;
  2. Understanding which online communities are relevant to your campaign.

For advertisers doing cause-related marketing with video, agencies like the Viral Ad Network may employ the following project steps:

  1. Planning – Help you plan a campaign can involve the choice of video content (if it hasn’t already been created or decided upon), the strategy for targeted distribution and syndication, and what will be the key performance metrics over a schedule.
  2. Targeting and Optimization. Agencies may have their own proprietary technology to ensure your video content is targeted “at the right audience via the best publishers… to ensure the best levels of engagement,” and to “guarantee views and engagement with all campaigns.”
  3. Engaging shareable ad formats. Agencies like the Viral Ad Network may syndicate their clients’ content with their own customized video player that looks similar to YouTube’s – optimized for sharing, engagement, and brand integration. “Because people are familiar with the YouTube player, users are more likely to view and share your video.” said Chris.
  4. Placement. Chris said that his agency places video content into areas that are made for sharing, chatting, rating, slating, watching and playing. “Our aim is to get you extra value with free views from people sharing and advocating your content.”
  5. Tracking. To best monitor and measure performance of the video campaign, agencies like the Viral Ad Network may also provide you with a log-in to your own dashboard to see the progress of your campaign. You can customize this dashboard to track a wide-range of metrics: daily views, weekly trends, Tweets, geo-location and more.

Viral Video Seeding for Charities – A Case Study

The Viral Ad Network has available its own Slideshare presentation, Charity Viral Seeding (above), which features a case study on World Wildlife Fund (WWF) enlisting their company for it’s Connect 2 Earth campaign. Slides 7 and 8 of the presentation shows how they help distribute the video content to go viral and spearhead their digital outreach.

“The WWF ‘It all comes back to you‘ campaign was a really interesting one to work on, as it showed the impact and value that social video campaigns can have for charities,” said Quigley. “After about 1 month – we’ve seeded to about 500 sites, and generated an initial seed of 70,000 views this had grown to over 1 million views.” (You can watch the video of that campaign below.)

Viral Video “Seeding” Tips for Cause-Related Marketing

Chris shared with me these 3 tips for how charities, non-profits, and general businesses doing cause-related marketing, can working with a company like theirs on “viral seeding” their own video campaign:

  1. Make sure that the video / content you make is aimed at a specific online community. “Too many campaigns we come across are way too general.”
  2. Invest some money in seeding. “Make sure to is seeded to as many places as possible to optimize the chances of it going viral.”
  3. Think about what conversations you wish to create and nurture in your audience. “The concepts of understanding social video as *conversational catalysts* is core to optimizing virality.”

My Social Video Optimization Tips for Cause-Related Marketing

Here are some of my own social video optimization tips I took from the examples on the Viral Ad Network website, which can also apply to any business or organization, non-profit or commercial:

  • Content – make videos that are timely. They can include some recent take on pop culture, and work that familiarity into your own social cause. (Better yet, take advantage of any buzz worthy news related to your own social cause – the sooner you can ride the wave, the better.) Sometimes humor is appropriate, while other times it’s more impactful to show drama and real emotion your social message (and most especially with real people affected by what your cause is about.) Either way, make it interesting so that you want to have people watch it until the end (where your call-to-action is.)

  • Usability – Closed-caption your videos, and keep the player functionality and features familiar to your audience.  Including sharing buttons (Facebook, Twitter), and URL to your site, or any pages or social networks online with more information, resources, and features. (Better yet, have at least one point directly to a community around the video itself.)
  • Socialize – go beyond just seeding, and actually participate in the conversations along with your audience. Whether you’re the brand or the creative agency that made the video (or both), then fans would certainly like to hear from you.
  • Call-to-action – include anywhere in your video, and especially at the end, a link to where people can donate to the cause and get more information. Sometimes just taking a popular video that’s just for entertainment can be a great way to hook people to your cause-related message.

About Chris Quigley and the Viral Ad Network

Chris Quigley is the co-founder and London-based company director of the Viral Ad Network, part of their sister company Rubber Republic, a specialist buzz marketing company; delivering viral seeding services for clients like JVC, Easyjet, Warner Music and Sony. Chris is also an “e-democracy evangelist” who was enlisted by the Obama administration to help harness the power of crowdsourcing to improve government.

You can check out the Viral Ad Network blog for more examples of social video in cause marketing.


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