Using Social Media to Be Charitable in 2010: A Case Study

Case In Point: Haiti Hurricane Relief

To better illustrate how you can use social media for your charitable goals, I thought it’d be a good idea to highlight social media and its involvement with the recent hurricane relief in Haiti. The situation is a perfect example of how social media is connecting people to a cause they’re interested in. Here’s how:

Twitter: The number of organizations using Twitter to spread the word of relief efforts is too high to count. A good example – the Red Cross.  According to Nielsen, the Twitter account for the Red Cross has gained more than 10,000 followers since the earthquake (as compared to its usual growth of 50 to 100 per day). The Red Cross continues to tweet about how people can help out. Its biggest campaign, a texting fundraiser (a user texts HAITI to 90999 and a $10 charge as a donation is added to your phone bill), has been highly successful. Within a week of initiating the campaign, more than $8 million was raised for relief efforts via this texting campaign.

President Barack Obama is even using Twitter to help raise awareness. In his supposedly first tweet ever, President Obama sent a message from the Red Cross’s disaster operation center. (Note: I’ve gotta give the Red Cross more kudos – they also have a blog, an online newsroom, and in addition to using Twitter are involved on Facebook, Flickr and YouTube)

Musician Wyclef Jean (born in Haiti), among other celebrities, is also using texting and Twitter to raise money. Right after news of the earthquake hit, Wyclef tweeted to his nearly 1.4 million followers: “Please text ‘Yéle’ to 501501 to donate $5 to Yéle Haiti. Your money will help with relief efforts. They need our help.” This message was retweeted in the days following (and is still being retweeted!), along with a Twitter video he posted about relief efforts. “Yele” was even on the top of Twitter’s Trending Topics list at one point.

Facebook: The Red Cross is not alone in its Facebook efforts. The Causes application has helped users donate funds to the relief effort. According to CNET, Joe Green, founder of Facebook Causes, posted a video of the destruction in Haiti. The Causes page also provides links to donate as well as a ranking of the members who have shared the video the most. The Oxfam American group is raising awareness about relief efforts and helping people donate. They had had 117,000 fans at the start of the week of the 18th and as of that date the group’s Cause application had raised more than $110,000 for the Haitian quake relief.

Craigslist: The site posted a list of relief organizations, mentioning (in addition to Oxfam and Red Cross) Doctors Without Borders and CARE.

Donate photo courtesy Flickr user Mindful One. Some rights reserved.

Domino’s : Another case study for the files…

As a PR practitioner interested in social media, I’m always looking for case studies and best practices, so I thought I’d share another case study for your files.

If you’re a social media “junkie” like myself, you probably heard about the Disgusting Domino’s video that swept the Web. If not, here are the basics of what went down:

  • Some Domino’s employees taped themselves tampering with the food
  • The tampering was pretty gross – putting cheese in their nose, doing gross stuff with the meat for sandwiches, etc.
  • The brilliant employees (who identify themselves as Kristy and Michael) posted the video on YouTube Monday night…and by yesterday (in less than 24 hours), there were more than 500,000 hits
  • As far as I can tell, the video has been taken off YouTube – but I’m sure there are some hacker/stalker ways you could find it elsewhere if you looked hard enough! Update: here is a link to a version of the video (it may be taken down at some point, as were most other copies of it).

Well, as you may imagine, the video spread like wildfire and tons of people were talking about it. It was all over the twittersphere, the blogworld and even online news.

Thankfully, Domino’s heard about the incident, and tonight (just under 48 hours after the video was released) Patrick Doyle, President of Domino’s, issued a video response via YouTube to apologize, assure that the facilities of this particular Domino’s were profusely sanitized and state that the employees in the video have been punished (he says they were fired and warrants have been issued for their arrest). Watch the video for yourself and see what you think.

I think this is a perfect social media case study for the future – the crisis erupted via social media, pervaded the Web via social media and was extinguished a day later (also via social media). Here are 3 lessons we can take away from this event:

  • Be actively involved with and monitor social media: This is so so so so important! If Domino’s employees weren’t active online, when would they have seen the video and the reactions? When would they have responded? (Remember the Motrin Mom’s incident?)
  • Social media happens in real time – and you must too when responding to crises: The disgusting video was uploaded Monday night, Tuesday the Web was on fire and thousands of Domino’s customers watched the video, Wednesday night the President responded. Did he wait until Thursday morning news to respond? No- because with the Internet, news is constantly happening. Should he have responded Wednesday? Obviously, the sooner the better.
  • If the crisis is happening via social media, use social media to respond: Did the President of the company issue a press release or go on NBC Nightly News to make a statement? No (or if he did/does, that’s not his only way of communicating). He went to YouTube, made his own video and is sharing his story that way. His video is just as a YouTube video should be: short, informal and to the point  – not long, drawn out, full of too many details or like a corporate Domino’s video may look like.  Before the YouTube video was created, Domino’s created a Twitter account to respond to inquiries and update users about the crisis.  Should they have already had a Twitter account? Yes…but at least they stepped up to the plate when the time came.

So what do you think? Was the Domino’s response appropriate? What could he have done differently? Will it repair their reputation, and ultimately, will their pizza sales be effected?