Four Reasons for Brands to Grab an Ice Bucket

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If there was any doubt that creative social media campaigns could effectively move people to action and funnel attention and donations toward a good cause, the incredible success of the ALS Association’s Ice Bucket Challenge erased it.

For social media practitioners who support brands, it’s a great reminder that by turning our attention to philanthropy, we can both give back and find new ways to enthusiastically engage customers, and through that shared passion create deeper relationships. I believe the highest potential of social is in finding ways to bring people together to do more together than they could ever by themselves.  This can be true for a marketing team, customers as the driving force for your business, and as in the case of ALS, the community at large.  Brands who achieve that in their social media marketing thrive.

Here are four reasons for marketers to find a cause that their customers care about and make a serious, sustainable commitment to use social media as a hub to raise awareness, provide community, and promote positive change.

Most importantly: You have a unique opportunity to do real good.

Yes, your first job priority is moving the needle on business goals, but by focusing your attention on a cause that is well aligned with your brand and important to customers, you can do that while giving back; these goals are not mutually exclusive.

Among the most effective and ambitious campaigns I’ve seen are what I call “cause communities,” dedicated spaces for conversation and content focused on a particular topic. Examples include the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, which has the goal of increasing women’s self-esteem by combatting unrealistic social expectations around female beauty, and the American Express Members Project, a community site focused on social impact. In the latter, members submitted, discussed, and voted on ideas for charitable causes. A cause-focused social venue can provide extremely important emotional support to the people who are affected by the issue at hand, and to their families and other supporters. On top of that, cause communities and campaigns done right truly help effect positive social change by building awareness, recruiting volunteers, or raising funds.

Corporation social responsibility matters to customers.

Many studies and surveys have shown that customers are more loyal to brands they perceive as socially responsible and aligned with issues they care about. Cause campaigns in social media are among the most effective at building Relationship ROI—long-term customer relationship strength and word-of-mouth-marketing that lets brands increase revenue sustainably over time.

Social responsibility matters to your current employees.

Employees are proud to work at a company that cares about something beyond the bottom line—which makes them better workers and stronger representatives of your brand. The more you can involve them as active participants in the community or campaign, the more your brand will become personal and authentic to the people who buy your products.

It matters to your future employees.

The nonprofit Net Impact’s Talent Report: What Workers Want in 2012 is one of several studies that have shown that the majority of millennials now entering the workforce want a job that creates positive social impact, and are even willing to take a pay cut for it. Those who have such jobs report higher satisfaction compared to those who don’t. Recruiting the best and the brightest in the coming decades will require move than a competitive benefits package. Millennials want their work to matter, and cause campaigns make that happen through a means that’s tangible, measurable, and satisfying along the way.

This is an adapted excerpt from The CMO’s Social Media Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide for Leading Marketing Teams in the Social Media World, by Peter Friedman. To read more, download a free PDF version, or buy the hardback or ebook via Amazon or any online bookseller.

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