Haiti suffered a world of misfortune when an earthquake struck in January of this year. And while the rest of the world geared up to help, this proved to be one case where social-media did something more than slacktivists' favorite rallying cry of "raising awareness." Less than 24 hours after the earthquake struck, killing an estimated 230,000 people, the Red Cross initiated a text relief campaign. Wireless users wanting to help were asked to text HAITI to 90999 and a $10 charge would later appear on their phone bills. Over the next 36 hours, the campaign raised more than $4 million, making it the most successful texting fundraising effort ever. By late February, the mobile effort-backed by TV and spread across Twitter and Facebook-had raised more than $32 million and spawned a host of do-gooding imitators.
The Old Spice TV ads, featuring the manly, shirtless and humorously arrogant Isaiah Mustafa, have received rave reviews and have translated exceptionally well online. After being put on YouTube, the commercials became viral, with the most popular one amassing nearly 24 million views since the beginning of February. On Twitter, Old Spice solicited questions for Mustafa, now known as the "Old Spice guy," and Mustafa responded to many of them individually by making short videos. For example, one commenter asked Mustafa to propose to his fiance for him, and Mustafa obliged, making a video replete with a ring and romantic candles. Some of these personal-request videos have garnered millions of views as well.
Through Pepsi's "Refresh Project," which started at the beginning of the year, the company has given away $1.3 million a month to individuals and organizations that have posted to its website ideas on how to "Do Good," one of its mottoes. Thousands of people have posted ideas, including helping children who have experienced trauma and clothing homeless mothers in designs by local artists. Grant winners -- who have received $5,000 to $250,000 -- are those who get the most votes by fellow users at the end of each month. And users are encouraged to promote their ideas on Facebook and Twitter. One recent winner, a scientist at a public university in Michigan, received $50,000 to research compounds found in the spice cumin that may prevent cancer.
While some oil companies still have a lot to learn about social media (think BP), there is one in particular that's at the cutting edge. It's the Murphy Oil Corp., specifically the U.S. division, called Murphy USA, which operates retail discount gas stations in Walmart parking lots throughout the country. This year, it teamed up with the makers of Whrrl, a location-based social network, to reward customers with prizes when they go to buy gas at one of the company's stations. Since the program began in July, the Murphy USA "society" on Whrrl has 2,393 members -- small for Facebook numbers, but not too shabby for a gas station on a location-based app not named Foursquare. The company also has a program called Team Murphy USA that sponsors local sports teams and encourages team coaches to post pictures and scores to its website.
IT GETS BETTER
After a spate of teen suicides in September that were all related to homophobic bullying or insecurities about being gay, Dan Savage, an openly gay relationship columnist, made a YouTube video with his partner directed at vulnerable young people with the message that "It Gets Better." From this, the It Gets Better Project was born -- a website that allows mostly gay adults to share their stories with potentially suicidal young gay people about how life "gets better." So far, more than 5,000 user-created videos have been uploaded.
EDGE SHAVE GEL
Edge's "Anti-irritation Zone" website solicited responses to the question "What irritates you?" Featuring a map of the U.S. on the website, users could read about other people's annoyances by state, such as "when some jerk off on public transportation ignores a pregnant woman standing," from Cory in New York, N.Y., or "girls who say 'dude' all the time," from Steve in East Moline, Ill. It also used Twitter to provide random acts of kindness, seeking out instances in which people were complaining about irritating circumstances and attempting to solve them. In one example, a New England Patriots fan last month tweeted his irritation at his inability to get tickets to a game against the New York Jets and, within days, had them in hand, courtesy of Edge.
To spread awareness about GE's commitment to using and developing green energy, the company tapped into young YouTube celebrities with mostly teenage fans, to make videos about anything at all related to the environment. The fans, in turn, were asked to submit "green" ideas to the YouTube celebs in exchange for individual "shout-outs" in the celebs' upcoming videos. The campaign, called "Tag Your Green," launched in October, and the hope was to get 10 million videos views by the end of the year. Within the first month, they surpassed that number.
For years, Dr. Bob Wagstaff tried to market his Orabrush tongue cleaner, and for years he failed -- until he found professional pitchman Austin Craig, who started to promote the product by making funny YouTube videos about bad breath. While the first videos came out at the end of 2009, they have flourished in 2010 with the addition of "Morgan the Orabrush Tongue," a goofy character whose head pops out of a giant pink tongue. The videos are produced weekly, and in November surpassed 30 million total views. In 2010, the company launched "The Bad Breath Detector" iPhone app which blurts out comments like, "I've never wanted to be flossed so much in my life."
Coca-Cola struck social-media gold when it created a successful viral video at the beginning of the year. Teaming up with the interactive marketing agency, Definition 6, "Happiness Machine" features a Coca-Cola vending machine in a college cafeteria that dispenses a lot more than cans of Coke. After a girl puts some change into the machine, it yields a can of Coke, and then, to the shock of all the students, a set of hands emerge from the machine and produce increasingly bizarre objects, like a bouquet of sunflowers and a box of pizza.
Heinz Ketchup leapt into the 21st century this year by adding to its iconic label a blue computer tab-like design that reads "Find us on Facebook." It may seem a little overeager, but not bad for a company founded in 1869. If a consumer or grocery store passerby heeds Heinz's call to action (the new label also reads "Ketchup Lovers, Unite!"), he would find information on how to submit a design to its student-only Creativity Contest, now in its fourth year. Designs are submitted and the 12 winning designs are printed on millions of Heinz Ketchup packets.