Charities Use Viral Sensations and Content Marketing to Make an Impact

Charities and non-profit organizations are utilizing a new tactic in their public service announcements (PSAs) to make an impact on audiences – and boy does it ever! By keeping their pulse on popular culture and adopting content marketing, charitable organizations have created some very powerful campaigns.

By now, it’s likely you’ve heard of the viral videos “celebrities read mean tweets” by Jimmy Kimmel, or even taken a look at the blue/black/gold/white dress picture. While several companies jumped on the bandwagon, recreating their own versions of these popular images and videos, none of them repurposed the content for the purpose of driving their own message.

Raising the Roof is a great example of how charities can create an impactful campaign that resonates with their audience while driving engagement. The tear-jerking videos show homeless Canadians reading the mean things others have said about them on social media aloud (specifically, Twitter). The call to action at the end of the commercial encourages viewers to visit their website,, which hosts additional videos and information on how people can help. 

Homeless read mean tweets


I imagine that their content campaign outline would’ve looked a little something like this:

Content Campaign

These three stages also reflect the buyer’s journey of awareness > consideration > purchase.

Another non-profit organization that used the popularity of “mean tweets” in their content marketing is The Canadian Safe School Network, a charity dedicated to reducing youth violence and making schools and communities safer. In an effort to raise money and awareness, the organization released a video that featured teens reading mean comments that others have tweeted about them.

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At first, the laugh track makes it seem as though the video is meant to be comedic, but as the laughter fades – it becomes shockingly clear how impactful cyber-bullying can be. Taking a similar approach as Raise the Roof, the charity used to video to drive viewers to their campaign landing page. In fact, heavy-hitters like TIME Magazine, Huffington Post, and CTV News took the campaign to the next level by sharing it with their audiences. The charity recently reported that the video was viewed 1.5 million times on YouTube!

Capitalizing on a different viral sensation, the Salvation Army used ‘The Dress’ in their campaign against domestic violence. The image of a black and blue dress that became a viral sensation (thanks to an optical illusion that made some people see the dress as white and gold) was the inspiration for the image you see below:

Salvation Army

The message reads, “Why is it so hard to see black and blue? The only illusion is if you think it was her choice. One in six women are victims of abuse. Stop abuse against women.” The image also features the logo for Carehaven, a home for abused women and their children managed by Salvation Army.

Once again, the powerful content was used to generate awareness and support – encouraging their audience to get involved or donate. In a positive turn of events, the Salvation Army’s take on “The Dress” went viral, with several Twitter users sharing the campaign image and referring to it as “powerful”.

These organizations acted fast and utilized content that was already popular to catapult their content marketing campaigns to new heights. By striking while the iron was hot, and supporting their message and goal with powerful content, these charities were able to achieve great success.


Be a Networking Ninja and Boost Your Content Marketing

Consumers have access to an increasing amount of content, making it more difficult for companies to stand out from the crowd. You may spend hours crafting the perfect blog article to engage your target audience, but how can you be certain that they’ll actually see it? Instead of utilizing a variety of content dissemination platforms to “spray and pray”, marketers need to start building relationships and trust with their audience.

What’s the best way to build trust? By aligning with the experts and thought leaders in your industry. It’s been found that 85% of consumers seek out trusted expert content when considering a purchase. Combining content with industry influencers can help increase your content’s exposure, grow your social media communities, and increase your brand’s influence.

But how do you identify and connect with influencers? By becoming a networking ninja:

1. Infiltrate the community: You can’t just burst onto the scene and start blasting the community Infultratewith content and invites to connect — you need to ease into it. Start making your presence known by commenting on influencer blogs posts, engaging with their social messages, or joining relevant groups. Influencers are more likely to collaborate with you if you’re already on their radar.

2. Spy on the community: Monitor the community as well as the influencers – observe how the two groups engage each other, take note of the type of language they use, and network ninja
document what topics they discuss. All this information will allow you to “talk the talk” and “walk the walk” when you start reaching out to experts and creating relevant content.

3. Select your targets: Every industry has it’s leading experts, or thought leaders, that have the targetability to influence their community. By aligning your brand with these expert individuals, you’re using their influence to increase awareness – and ultimately increase sales. Learn who’s the most active, who has the widest reach, who has the most impact on their audience, how often people engage with them, and how active they are in engaging with others. This will help you determine which influencers you should direct your efforts on.

4. Make your move: It’s time to reach out and say hi – or hiya – to the identified influencers. Send them a private message that’s creative and succinct, ensuring that you include details on how their participation will benefit them. Whether it’s promoting their personal brand or sharing their opinion knifeon a topic they’re passionate about, you need to make sure you “bait the hook” – or should I say, “set the trap”.

5. Be a master: Learn from your networking – what worked and what didn’t work? What
kick itbarriers did you encounter, and how did you overcome them? And how was the experience for the influencer? You want your experts to have a positive experience so that you can build a relationship. That way, you can team up with them again in the future on a variety of projects.

Now go forth, my networking ninjas – and give your content marketing a kick.

Content Marketing: The Struggle is Real

At times, it can feel like you’re swimming against the current; trying to push your content marketing efforts forward, only to be met with resistance. Other times, it can be a struggle to maintain your position and define your role when your superiors utilize your skills for copy writing instead of content marketing. Several companies jumped on the bandwagon when content marketing first entered the scene, but they lacked the patience necessary for it to be successful. It takes time to start seeing the benefits of content marketing — but when you do see results, it’ll blow you away.

There is no better example than Red Bull. The company’s media house set the goal of becoming independently profitable – with content so good they could sell it. This “forced” Red Bull to create content that people loved. That content helped Red Bull build an unbeatable reputation and dominate the crowded energy drink market. But I could go on about Red Bull’s success in content marketing forever….(seriously, if you haven’t read about their content empire, you need to check it out).

Several other businesses have achieve success with content marketing. Zagg, an online retailer of mobile accessories, earns 172% ROI and 10% of the company’s website traffic through their blog. Publishing 25 to 35 posts each week, the company’s three writers are tasked with producing content that is shareable, popular, and promotes the company’s product range. Oh, and 60% of their blog traffic is from new users – not too shabby at all.

Meanwhile, a B2B company called SunGard, which provides IT operations support, hit it out of the park with their video series by injecting humour into educational content on pain points and industry trends. By analyzing their audience’s content consumption patters, SunGard was able to map out a campaign that promoted their content across multiple touch points via email, social media, and paid media. The result of their efforts? Over 3,000 leads generated in 3 days! And that’s not all – they also saw email clicks and click open rates that were 2-3 times the average AND the CTAs to download a whitepaper at the end of the videos had a 87.4% click-through rate.

Did these companies achieve this type of success over night? No. It took a lot of time and resources. But each of these companies started from somewhere. Content marketing only recently became popular (though it’s arguably been around for a really long time, but that’s another blog post). So my advice to you is to always remember:

Content Quote


Infographic: What Do Content Marketers Do?

“What do content marketers actually do?”

I’ve been asked this question enough times now that I feel the best way to address the query, is through an infographic. Content marketing is complicated – there are several components that must work together in order to achieve success. This infographic shines a light on the day to day life of a Content Marketer.

Content Marketing Infographic


The Social Responsibility of Social Media

“You are what you Tweet!”   -Terms of Service, Twitter

During the SuperBowl this year, everything seemed to go according to plan. One team won, the other team lost, Bruno Mars performed, and large corporations spend millions of dollars to air their commercials. Nothing out of the ordinary. However, in the twitter-verse, there was a storm brewing — a really bad storm.

After the airing of Coca-Cola’s “It’s Beautiful” commercial, where the song “America the Beautiful” is sung in multiple languages by a variety of races and family types, hundreds of Americans took to Twitter to post their complaints. In case you haven’t seen it, you can watch the video here:

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Actually — “complaints” isn’t the right word. They took to Twitter to post their racist, anti-gay, anti-multicultural, backwards beliefs. And that’s putting it lightly. Most of the comments danced on the edge of becoming a hate crime – all because a beverage company wanted to celebrate the fact that America is a melting pot. This should have been a “sure thing” for Coke – they targeted every single minority across the country with their message – so what went wrong? In their attempt to include everyone in the messaging – they managed to anger any American who feels that English is the only language that should be associated with the country. And not only English language – but caucasians, too.

As we’ve seen in previous “crisis” situations – such as Toronto Ice storm outage – a diverse community was spontaneously formed on social media, which consisted of three distinct perspectives: Racists, those with common sense, and Moderators. Yes, I’m biased when referencing these groups. For obvious reasons, I can’t support any of the tweets that contained racist, hateful comments. I guess you could say I fall into the “common sense” category – which contains those who stand against such prejudice. For example:

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The moderators played their typical role, preaching “freedom of speech” or “everyone is entitled to their opinion” — but is that enough? Is it really ok to spread such hateful messages through the social media community? When is it time for the company – in this case, Twitter – to step in? If at all?

After reviewing Twitter’s Terms of Service, it quickly becomes clear that they’ve done all in their power to completely disassociate themselves from any content posted by their users. However – they do state that they “reserve the right to remove or refuse to distribute any content, or to suspend or terminate users” – but that’s only applicable to content that directly impacts Twitter the company, or if the content is requested by law enforcement. Nothing about “online abuse” or “racism/hate crimes”.

Digging deeper into Twitter’s Rules – there seems to be more rules regarding “spam” than anything else – including the perpetuation of hateful messages. So what gives? Each of the users you see below are still active on Twitter – their accounts have not been closed or suspended, even though they’ve said some really disgusting comments:

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we speak english

And I assure you – there are hundreds of comments like these online right now. Should Twitter be responsible for taking these types of comments down? If you try to Report the Tweet (found under the …More option) you are required to complete a form indicating the reasons why you feel the tweet is abusive in nature. However, if the tweet content isn’t breaking any of the “Twitter Rules”, then nothing is done. You can easily find any of the tweets above, they’re still out there in the Twitter-verse.

When is it time for the company to take some social responsibility for the messages communicated via their product/platform? Or are we, the users, responsible for policing this social sphere? You may want to think a little harder before you hit the “post” button on your next tweet.


The Economical Impacts of the 2013 Toronto Ice Storm

While the citizens of Toronto and surrounding area continue to clean up after the epic ice storm that occurred in December, many businesses have crunched their numbers for 2013. There were some significant losses as a result of the storm – in both lost sales and discarded products. However, there seemed to be three distinct “groups” that emerged from this economic sucker punch; the winners, the losers, and the referees. How cliche, I know – using a sports analogy to illustrate my point – but stay with me here.

The winners – or economic benefactors of the storm – includes a variety of businesses. There are some businesses who were able to add to their (already significant) holiday revenues. In other words, the rich got richer. Many hotels who still had power sprang into action – taking to the “twitter-verse” to promote special “#blackto” discount prices to local area residents who were without power and not wanting to go sleep at the Red Cross warming stations.

hotel ad


hotel promo

Some of the unexpected winners included local business owners. Since many GTA residents didn’t want to venture out onto the icy, debris-filled roads – they shopped locally. Many of the larger malls also fell victim to the mass power outages – like Yorkdale Mall – so even if you made it to the mall, there was no guarantee that you would be able to shop. Local businesses who had power saw a much needed spike in their revenue as a result.

Yorkdale Mall

Yorkdale Mall

On the other end of the spectrum is the losers – those businesses who did lose power and weren’t able to operate during this lucrative time of year. For some companies, it meant ending the year in the red rather than in the black. Not only did they lose any potential sales – but they lost money on discarding any spoiled produce or paying employee wages. In some cases, businesses had to pay the employees who reported for work and waited for the power to return – while other businesses, such as Toronto Hydro, had to pay for additional staff as well as any holiday or overtime rates.

food chain

Any food establishments who served spoiled produce, any hotels who jacked up their prices to get more money out of desperate and cold GTA residents, or any hydro crew members who “appeared to be slacking” were dragged through the hypothetical mud. The moral witch hunt was on – and members of the public participated by pointing their finger at anyone displaying questionable behaviour.

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That brings us to the referees – or as I like to think of them, the “moral conduct keepers”. This category holds the whistleblowers – the ones who put businesses, as well as members of the public, back in their place. They remind us to consider others during this time and to help in any way we – even if it’s as simple as turning off your christmas lights to “conserve power” during the outage. Anyone who disobeyed these unwritten rules became the subject of public shaming. This has left some businesses struggling to survive amongst the negative press.

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The ice storm certainly impacted our economy, and many of our lives, in a variety of ways. No one seems to have been spared by the force of this weather event. As the clean-up lingers, the long term impacts of this storm have remained to be seen.

clean up from ice storm


Twitter Use During Toronto Ice Storm 2013

On December 21, 2013, Toronto was hit with a sever ice storm that resulted in the loss of power to over 300,000 customers. The city was crippled as Toronto Hydro crews rushed to restore power as quickly as they could, addressing essential locations, such as hospitals, first. As hydro employees worked feverishly to fix the damage caused by the storm, another storm was brewing online. Toronto residents took to social media, primarily Twitter, to gather information and communicate with others during the outage.

Toronto Hydro did their best to provide updates and communicate with their customers, but the sheer scale of the catastrophe made it near impossible to address everyone. Additionally, the size and impact of the ice storm made it difficult to provide any accurate updates on restoration efforts – which frustrated many customers. Nevertheless, as with any other outage, a group of affected users was spontaneously formed on Twitter.

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As we’ve seen in the past with large scale outages, Twitter users almost instantly began to follow corporate feeds in hopes of finding information. The less information that’s available, the more active the group of users become – saving search terms, creating hashtags (like #darkto), and voicing their frustrations. However, what I find to be the most interesting is how the users interact with each other in the group. In the absence of corporate communications during an outage – the affected users begin to update and inform each other. One user even went so far as to create a new Twitter account designed specifically to communicate any updates from the company, the media, or other Twitter users.

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A study conducted by Microsoft Learning and Psychster Inc. on Using Twitter to Reassure Users During a Site Outage revealed what most of us already know – sitting out is not an option. Companies need to play an active role on social media during an outage. If the company is absent, not only do users form their own group updates – they control the perception of the company. This is where opinions are formed – and if your company isn’t participating and steering the conversation in a favourable direction, then it’s likely your customers will turn on you.

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However, I feel as though the timing of the outage helped curve the perceptions of Toronto Hydro in a bit of a positive light. Many customers expressed their gratitude for the employees who came back from their holiday vacation to assist with the outage. Additionally, the timing almost “explained” why Toronto Hydro was a bit slow to correct the problem – several of it’s employees were taking vacation, so initially – it wasn’t “all hands on deck”. This may have balanced all the negative comments – giving users a sort of “neutral” feeling towards Toronto Hydro: they were mad that they’re power went out, but they were sympathetic to the crew members who had to cancel their vacation time.

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The study also revealed that frequent and accurate updates from the company (or a member of the company) reduced the number of calls to customer support. Having access to immediate information also improves the user’s experience, since they’re able to obtain the information they require without any additional effort. With the lack of updates from Toronto Hydro – it seems that several customers were attempting to call in, with little success. Because customers were not able to connect with Toronto Hydro via phone, email, or social media – they began to vent their frustrations on Twitter, fuelling an already raging fire.

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Overall, I feel as though Toronto Hydro could have been better prepared – especially since they recently went through an outage months before when the DVP flooded. However, taking into consideration the size of this storm and the number of customers impacted – they managed it the best that they good. I think that the festive spirit definitely helped Toronto Hydro. Hopefully they’ll be better prepared for the next outage!