After taking an interest in the evolution of the #IceBucketChallenge over the past few weeks, I read @LondonKirsty‘s blog on @GuardianVoluntary asking the question: when can a charity hijack a hashtag? (It’s great, go and read it). What’s just as interesting are the 60+ comments on the blog, and the variety of opinion/justification/reason for this @macmillancancer ‘hijack’ being a good or a bad thing from a whole host of fundraisers within organisations, fundraisers and supporters of the charities involved and industry professionals.
It got me thinking; having very recently left the third sector, I wonder if how I’m viewing this would be different if I was still working for a charity. There may well have been a small part of me that was jealous that @macmillancancer could generate such great traction with their supporters online leading to more income generation to support the work they do.
My feelings are that @macmillancancer are getting some unfair flack for their digital team reacting quickly to #IceBucketChallenge, they have listened to what their supporters were saying on social media, identified it as an opportunity like #nomakeupselfie, reacted and amplified the activity to share with a wider audience. A great use of social media – harnessing the power of their supporters, both online and offline. And quick work.
But wasn’t the negative reaction they are receiving from some people always on the cards? Surely they would have seen some coming their way? Perhaps not to the scale we are currently seeing.
Why is this any different to other online campaigns?
We’ve seen #nomakeupselfie raise huge amounts of money through the use of an organic ‘digital supporter movement’. Other charities missed out on that fundraising opportunity and the conversations happening online around it (arguably just as important to keep your supporters coming back to fundraise for you). Charities saw that they had to adapt and be ready for when the next #nomakeupselfie hit – or they’d be missing out on a big opportunity – Macmillan’s Head of Digital @amandaneylon said it herself in this blog recently (the comments on there are just as interesting).
#IceBucketChallenge (alongside #ThumbsUpForStephen) is the online campaign with the biggest traction since #nomakeupselfie – in fact it’s bigger – and it’s raised loads already. The #nomakeupselfie movement had spin-offs like #makeupselfie / #manupandmakeup and even #cockinasock, all raising money for different charities, and not all cancer related. How many charities have benefitted form the #IceBucketChallenge overall? And how many of them thought about how they could increase that and get more of their supporters to do it? I would say the majority.
Judging by the negative reaction @macmillancancer are seeing from some to the #IceBucketChallenge, people aren’t comfortable with a hashtag/campaign/movement being hijacked. But is it something we’re just going to have to get used to?
I think this sort of activity online is going to become the norm and (probably already) a bigger thought within digital teams. Unfortunately in turn, with more organisations doing it and looking for that viral success, it’s likely to become less impactful for charities.
What we must remember is that all of these big money raising social movements have started and ended with the fundraiser, they’ve determined the length and the pace at which it spreads, so surely all charities, like @macmillancancer, are doing is listening to their audience?
My question is: if this negativity towards @macmillancancer continues, and more supporters start to raise concerns around their activity, will they continue to listen and as a result be reluctant to be so creative and reactive online in the future?
What do you think about other charities getting involved with the #IceBucketChallenge? Leave a comment or tweet me @willdotbarker.