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Social Cause Marketing: A Seamless Integration

TobydRecent headlines have read that although the recession is nearing an end, it may be years before everyone feels the actual effects of an upswing. Particularly, non-profit organizations may be among the last to recover from the worldwide economic debacle. There is a silver lining: even amidst a global recession, the marketplace is chock-full of companies who are showcasing their cause-related commitments, especially through social media.

According to IEG, North American companies will spend about $1.55 billion on cause marketing efforts in 2009, a roughly 2% increase over 2008. MediaPost reports that 41% of Americans said companies should increase their spending on cause marketing. Additionally, a recent report by Cone Inc., a leader in the industry of cause marketing has identified 10 top trends in the world of cause marketing. One of the most interesting that they have spotlighted is dubbed: “a la carte Cause,” that is, leveraging online media, brands are engaging consumers to choose the causes the company will support.

As a digital strategist and Director of ThinkSocial, I am interested in ways that brands can utilize the power of social media, especially Twitter, to bring people together around the world to support social causes.

Here are some notable examples of social cause-marketing efforts:

· Retail chain Target and their “Bullseye Gives” campaign: The company will give 5 percent of its income to charity – about $3 million every week. For a short time, the company will let Facebook users decide how to allocate this money to a list of 10 charities.

· Staples “School Supply Drive”: Staples is again partnering with DoSomething.org to provide school supplies to children in need. Consumers can get involved by giving at the register, buying extra supplies to donate or running their own school supply drives in schools and communities.

In addition to my work at ThinkSocial, I am also helping to organize NYC Twestival. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, Twestival is a global series of events held within a three-day period across the globe and is famous for harnessing the power of social media to bring people together for great causes.

On September 12th, New York will host a Celebrity Bowling Tournament, in association with Brooklyn Bowl and Flavorpill to benefit non-profit charity, CampInteractive.

As part of the fundraising effort, SeamlessWeb, the nation’s leading online food ordering service, will be donating the change from every single transaction made on its platform. While it’s not known exactly how much the effort will raise, it is clear that given the success of the site and the number of transactions they do on any given day, it could be significant.

But the really interesting part is in the way they are integrating with Twitter. SeamlessWeb recently introduced a ‘Tweet this’ feature to their site, allowing customers to Tweet about their recent SeamlessWeb order. If you’ve ordered from them you may have tweeted something like this:

“Thanks @SeamlessWeb! Just ordered my meal online from Red Basil Thai Kitchen at http://www.seamlessweb.com

On September 12th they will be change this message to:

“Just ordered my meal online from Ashiya Sushi and @SeamlessWeb donated 67 cents to @campinteractive! http://www.seamlessweb.com

This is an interesting example of social cause marketing on so many levels:

1.  The campaign fits within the existing flow of the customer transaction

2.  It creates awareness without being disruptive

3.  It integrates with Twitter, without asking the customer to do any additional work

4.  It utilizes the brands core strengths, without deflecting from their message

5.  It drives attention to the cause, while raise money passively, not through donations

6.  Everyone wins; the user, the cause and the brand

“By combining a commitment to give back to the local community with social media tools like the “Tweet This” feature, we’re enabling our customers with both a reason to speak well of us, and the tools to do so easily,” said SeamlessWeb’s Director of Marketing Matt Johnson.

This example demonstrates that initiatives such as Twestival provide compelling opportunities for brands as they create natural online buzz as members of the digital media community blog and tweet extensively around the event. Leading up to the events this September, Twestival has already generated a tremendous amount of attention and has been picked up by national television, radio, online, and print publications including: The New York Times and Guardian, Mashable, PBS, and CNET.

With SeamlessWeb’s involvement and willingness to try something creative and untested, we hope this initiative will generate even more buzz and awareness and most importantly essential funds for the charities it supports through this initiative. We also hope that more brands will follow their lead and work with other Twestival’s around the world to support vital causes through integrated social cause marketing initiates.

You can find out more about NYC Twestival here.

Toby Daniels is an entrepreneur and digital strategist. He is the founder of SocialMediaWeek, cofounder and Director at ThinkSocial at the Paley Center for Media and facilitator of mass-collaboration. Dupe Ajayi contributed to this column.

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