Saturday, April 27, 2013

UNICEF Doesn't Understand Social Media Interactions

I've been managing social media marketing for clients for many years now, having started my own blog in 2005. I've seen just about every type of bizarre social activity you can think of, but this one shocked even me.

This statement by UNICEF is rude, ignorant, and disrespectful:

"Like us on Facebook and we will vaccinate zero children against polio. We have nothing against likes, but vaccine costs money. Please buy polio vaccines at It will only cost you 4 € but will save the lives of 12 children."

Here's why I consider this to be a terrible use of social media:

(1) It's wrong to imply that liking a Facebook non-profit page does nothing financially for the organization. I am a trustee of a non-profit, and our grant writer has stated that likes, shares, and comments on Facebook help the organization to acquire grant funding. Social media interactions indicate that the non-profit is reaching out to the community and the community is responding and engaging with the organization.

(2) Getting more likes, shares and comments on Facebook will increase a Facebook page's Edgerank, which means Facebook will distribute that organization's status updates to more people. Thus, clicking Like helps the organization reach more people with their messages and appeals.

(3) It has been proven that a person who engages with a website in any way is more likely to buy something or donate money, than someone who does not, and is just a lurker. Clicking on Like is one step toward more participation and should not be disparaged.

(4) Many people support a non-profit by other means than donating money. Some people are barely surviving financially, but have time to volunteer. This UNICEF message is an insult to those who contribute time and work to the organization.

(5) Many people don't trust charities, in terms of how donation funds are handled. They see huge salaries for the administrators and only a tiny percentage of funds going to the needy people.

(6) Attempting to scold, shame, and guilt trip people into donating money to your organization is a rather unimaginative and desperate methodology. It can make you look greedy and putting too much value on money. If the administrators are receiving incredibly high salaries and perks, this is going to look really bad for the organization.

(7) "Give us more money, dammit" is not an effective fundraising approach. Donors are more willing to give money when they are told exactly what is being done with donations, with photos and financial audit reports to prove it.

(8) It almost sounds like UNICEF is being gleeful about how liking them on Facebook will not help them give medical treatments (vaccines in this case) to children who need them. This odd mixture of stern gloating, a blend of scowling and chortling, can be easily misinterpreted as misanthropic.

(9) A negative message may be effective in some cases, but people in general respond better to positive appeals. When you explain how funds are used, and how even a little bit of money goes a long way, people will typically feel good about donating.

(10) When a person clicks Like or Share, or posts a comment, at a non-profit page on Facebook, that person is far closer to donating money, or volunteering, than a person who does not interact with the non-profit organization. So we should not dismiss social media interactions as being of no value.

Some Facebook users have stated that they like this UNICEF message. I get the impression that the fans are a bit hostile to social media and want to see it debunked. Others seem to potentially be jealous of how some Facebook pages get a lot of likes, but they do not, so they want to see likes as trivial and worthless. 

Still others may be the types who really trust what charities do with the donated money, and think that money is the only thing that helps a non-profit. Thus, they don't really know how non-profits operate, nor how much they depend on PR, volunteers, and good will.

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