Today marks the second annual #Giving Tuesday, the brainchild of New York City’s 92Y. It’s a national day to think of others and give to charities — consider it the fourth “money spending” day after Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and CyberMonday. And frankly, it’s the shopping day most aligned to the spirit of the holiday season. I’m a huge fan and have been a supporter since its inception.
But what this event shows is that creating national campaigns to introduce a “brand” or “movement” no longer requires a Super Bowl-sized ad buy. Hashtags do it. In its second year, participation by cause partners of #GivingTuesday has tripled to over 8,000 from 2,500 in its first year. Social media feeds like @WhiteHouse and @GatesFoundation virally spread the word, and causes are latching onto a charity-based holiday that they can leverage for their own benefit with their donors.
Hashtags create national visibility and build a massive brand marketing umbrella that forces consumers to pay attention to it, especially when thousands of organizations are promoting them. The genius in #GivingTuesday is in the way its cause partners virally promote the #GivingTuesday hashtag as a means to deliver their OWN message to their target audience. The partners, numbering 8,000+ and growing, constitute a global advocate network that will institutionalize #GivingTuesday year after year.
There’s one more challenge to a hashtag campaign. National campaigns don’t effectively convey their messages to get donors to act; in #GivingTuesday’s case, very few consumers will “click and give”, based on a tweet from @WhiteHouse. To reach donors, advocate networks need to be able to bring their messages down to local levels, where community word of mouth happens. #GivingTuesday has a few local hashtag movements, like #GivingTuesdayCLT and GivingTu
The hyperlocal media network I manage, The Breaking News Network, acts as local media advocates by amplifying the tweets of authorized #GivingTuesday partners down to their city level as a community service. As of yesterday, the Network has been supporting over 1,000 #GivingTuesday partners by retweeting 80 of their tweets per hour across 350 cities, contributing to getting their message out directly to locals, and amplifying the buzz of #GivingTuesday.
The takeaway from the viral success of #GivingTuesday is that any cause or movement can create a hashtag strategy; for example, yesterday was #WorldAIDSDay. The challenge of such strategy is in building the advocate network of influencers and organizations who will support the hashtag movement as an indirect way to get their own message out. For example, national campaigns for #FeedingAmerica or #SustainingOpera can be developed as umbrella movements that support local food banks and food producers, or local opera companies, respectively.
Building the advocate network for #GivingTuesday simply entails authorizing and amplifying the social media feeds of #GivingTuesday partners, who were receptive, and often enthusiastic to act as local voices for the movement. The same methodology would be used to develop advocate networks for any cause, by providing a simple means to give local influencers and organizations a way to reach their constituents.
Patrick Kitano is a founding principal of Brand into Media, a strategy group for social brand management solutions, and administrator of the Breaking News Network, a national hyperlocal network devoted to community service. He is reachable via Twitter (@pkitano) and email (email@example.com).