Nonprofit marketers typically have limited resources to spread their messages. So they work hard to find ways to boost ROI, generate buzz and gain supporters without creating additional costs.
Stephen Cassidy, Chief of the Internet, Broadcast and Image Section, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), started using MySpace and other social media websites to spread his 2- to 3-minute videos about 18 months ago. At first, Cassidy posted his videos only to UNICEF’s homepage, but he wanted to get more mileage out of them.
“There’s a limit to how many people you can attract to any given website. And, yet, if you have your material on multiple websites and you watch how that is received, you really get more bang for your buck,” says Cassidy.
Cassidy and his team are happy with their dabbling into Web 2.0 even though they aren’t sure what cash value they’ve seen from the Web 2.0 experience. “That’s not the only currency we deal in. The currencies that we deal in are awareness and enlightenment and to have people be stakeholders in these ideas. It’s a large part of our work.”
Cassidy began posting the videos to UNICEF’s own MySpace page and then to other video-sharing websites -- all for free. In less than a year, the number of views on the video-sharing sites exceeded views on UNICEF’s homepage -- doubling the exposure at no additional cost. Here’s how Cassidy and his team did it.Creating and Spreading Viral Video
UNICEF’s videos are made primarily in English but with separate audio tracks for the narration and other sounds and music. They can be easily translated, therefore, into the languages the organization encounters through its 190 offices around the world. This encourages the translation and sharing of the videos with friends regardless of the primary language.
“We should remain open and try to create content that makes it possible for people to tell our story. So when we produce something in our production studio, for instance, we try to keep that in mind. We don’t mix the audio. Then if somebody wants to come in and translate it into Spanish it’s an easy production technique to simply strip one and replace with another,” says Cassidy.
Other tactics they used:
- Disperse videos widely
Cassidy and his team spread the videos to a wide range of social websites -- some with more impact than others.
“The percentage of traffic drops pretty significantly once you get past the first [major] three or four,” he says. But the content is free at all sites. They include:
o Google Video
o Yahoo! Video
o AOL Video
- Watch your tags
Most video sites will let you apply a title and tags when submitting them. These fields are important to how a Web searcher will find your content on major search engines and the video sites themselves.
Carefully consider the terms a consumer might use to find your video and use the terms for tags. Remember: People must be able to find your video so they can watch it. The MySpace Experiment
Cassidy’s first experience with MySpace was not a calculated strategy. His team flew by the seat of their pants because they simply wanted to get going. “If we set out to strategically plan our MySpace approach and involvement, we might still have been talking about it at this point. We started with one guy who said, ‘I’m going to start this.’ And we said, ‘OK, let’s try it, see how it works and then let’s improve upon it.’ ”
Content and features were added to the page rather haphazardly. It became disorganized and confusing -- but it gained 10,000 friends. Soon after passing that milestone, Cassidy’s team was able to invest newly acquired resources in an overhaul.
Here are the steps the team followed:
-> Step #1. Analyze available resources
First, they compiled the resources UNICEF had to build and grow the MySpace page. What they found and did:
- Wallpapers, banners, badges and icons
MySpace users show their support by becoming “friends” of an organization and putting images on their profiles that link to the organization’s website. It’s free advertising and UNICEF encourages it by putting transferrable HTML code for the images on their MySpace page under a “get involved” section.
- Videos, podcasts and news
Long before it started using MySpace, UNICEF was creating videos and podcasts to disseminate its message. Cassidy’s team added them to the MySpace page to provide a rich content experience with no additional production costs. Text news updates also were continually added to UNICEF’s MySpace blog.
- Relationships with Goodwill Ambassadors
Celebrities who work on behalf of UNICEF are called Goodwill Ambassadors. Some of the ambassadors have MySpace pages and were willing to ask their “friends” to check out UNICEF’s page or to place a UNICEF banner on their page.
-> Step #2. Analyze UNICEF’s goals
Cassidy’s team set a mission for the MySpace page before it was redesigned. They settled on spreading awareness by constantly updating the page with blog posts, videos and podcasts. One or two new videos are added a week, and a blog post is added more often.
-> Step #3. Create a clean, branded and organized page
UNICEF’s page has a clean and organized design -- compared to many MySpace pages. The page is clearly branded with the nonprofit’s logo, colors and a large “unite for children” header (see hotlinks below).
Creating a MySpace page is not like creating a Web page. It must be coded in the MySpace system with a host of limitations and nuances to watch out for. For instance, MySpace does not provide profile generators or a series of templates. It took some hard-core coding to develop UNICEF’s page. If you’re going to follow this strategy, talk to your Web developer to learn what is possible and what is unrealistic.
Four months after the overhaul, UNICEF’s friends had jumped 40% and the number of comments on the page increased 20%.
-> Step #4. Hands-off contact strategy
MySpace is equipped with “bulletins” that users can send their “friends.” Similar to emails, bulletins are typically shorter and less dynamic. Marketers on MySpace sometimes use bulletins to send promotional and editorial content to their list of friends.
Cassidy and his team have hesitated to use bulletins, and they almost never contact their friends list. “I don’t think we understand it fully enough to be doing that. I think the longer we wait, the larger the number of friends we have. I’m holding back. People are sort of spreading the word around, and we’re happy with that. We think it might have more impact that way, because it is genuinely sincere when one person shares with another.”
Cassidy and his team did send one bulletin -- before the MySpace page was upgraded -- with great feedback. It requested that UNICEF’s “friends” ask their friends to check out the nonprofit’s page. That simple bulletin doubled UNICEF’s number of friends in less than two weeks.
Because of the MySpace demographic, Cassidy said the team has worked really hard not to sound like a “stuffy, institutional, old-fashioned organization preaching top down.” Useful links related to this article
Creative samples from UNICEF's social media campaign:
Past Sherpa articles -
How to Use YouTube to Generate Leads: 7 Video Posting Strategies & Tagging Tips:
Case Study: How to Use Widgets to Spread Your Message & Lift Donations 20.1%:
Virilion - created the MySpace page and helped develop the video strategy: