3 Steps to Online Cause Success

How to Use Social Capital to Drive Your Social Media Call to Action

By Published on .

Thad Kahlow
Thad Kahlow
As the popularity of social media continues to grow, the opportunity for having millions of eyeballs engaged and pushing an organization's messaging or specific cause is moving marketers to constantly devise new strategies for driving the call to action.

The true power behind social networking is that it makes it easy for like-minded individuals spread across vast distances to band together to promote a particular idea. Although we have seen clear examples of social media having tremendous impact within the political arena as well as several examples in the entertainment industry for movie promotions and donning the next "American Idol," nonprofits and cause-oriented organizations stand to benefit the most.

With the world teeming with so many people who care and want to do good things, why do so many good-cause campaigns fall short? The main factor affecting these campaigns, even for large, well-known brands, is sustaining that initial level of excitement through the duration of the campaign. Page visits are only one small element for ascertaining campaign success. The overall goal is to engage visitors to take a particular action to spread the message and contribute monetarily or through generated content.

When developing the initial strategy for reaching out to the masses though social media, marketers and advertisers need only tap into the human psyche for shaping and conditioning behaviors. When applied correctly, marketers will see conversion rates of landing page visits vs. actual engagement dramatically increase and sustain throughout the campaign. The following is a trifecta for increasing the call to action by leveraging people's natural social behaviors.

Fostering competition

Humans are hardwired in a way where we are compelled to be No. 1. This is seen in all elements of society, from titles we strive to achieve in business to citywide parades honoring our championship teams. This natural drive is an extremely powerful tool that can be harnessed in conjunction with social media campaigns.

By pitting people or entire communities against one another through voting or submission of content or ideas, the engine of competition will set a campaign in motion. An example of this tactic is the Pepsi Refresh Everything program, which asked users to submit ideas to win grants for educational purposes. Entire school districts banded together to pool votes, going against other districts looking to capture the same prize. This same concept has been applied to TwitCause, Twitter's portal for good causes, where organizations submit their causes and others vote in show of support. Each week, the organization with the most votes becomes the featured cause, giving even a small organization the chance to be in front of more than 500,000 cause-oriented individuals. Adding a good old-fashioned popularity contest to online campaigns is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to boost a call to action.


We all like free stuff and the feeling that our effort is time well-spent. Online campaigns that associate levels of participation with incentives not only generate a sense of immediate gratification but will also strengthen overall branding for post-campaign consumer recall. Simple incentives can be the difference between a visitor skimming through a promotion or taking the time to participate. An easy way to incorporate an incentive, for example, is to have a sponsoring brand match dollars for every vote received, with proceeds going to the particular cause. Participants (especially those strapped for cash) will feel a sense of great accomplishment if they persuade 100 of their social networking friends to vote, resulting in a $100 third-party donation toward the cause on their behalf.

Empowering the grassroots

Participating in nonprofit campaigns is much easier today because of social networks, mainly because of their ease of use. Before social networks, not only was creating initial awareness a major issue, but convincing folks to take time out of their busy lives to participate was equally as challenging. Today, active participation in general equates to simple mouse clicks and/or minimal content generation. Web 2.0 technologies even make it easier to go the extra distance to create a snazzy video or write a compelling essay on why others should vote for them—but in general, marketers need always to remain cognizant of the general user experience, balancing simplicity with desired campaign objectives.

A recent presentation by the American Marketing Association touched on the importance of user experience based on age demographics by emphasizing that today's fundraising efforts must have a multichannel approach blending older techniques such as direct mail with new tactics such as text-based donations.

At the end of the day, successful social media campaigns blend entertainment, insightfulness and simple avenues for spreading messaging. Visitors are glad to engage with good causes as long as involvement is easy and rewards are felt.

Thad Kahlow is CEO at BusinessOnLine, a pioneer in the interactive marketing space with a 14-year track record of leveraging the interconnectedness of the Internet to help companies grow their digital presence.
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