How to Define Whether a Social Media Campaign Works


“Is it working?” This on the surface seems like such a simple question to answer. It’s yes or no, right? As an NPO, if you begin the implementation of a social media campaign, you probably assume that you will know fairly quickly if it is working or not. If your goal is to increase contributions, you can tell with objective clarity whether your campaign is working or not. Ascertaining whether awareness is increasing is a little bit harder, but there are ways to track that data, too.

And yet . . . sometimes controversy erupts over whether an online effort is “working.” We have talked about this a lot here on the Mightycause blog. We have talked about slacktivism, the problems with going viral (and the benefits), and more.

A single campaign, happening right now, encapsulates fully all of this confusion. Few charitable efforts have gone SO viral SO quickly as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. As a result, of course, few campaigns have attracted the amount of debate that this campaign has.

Take a look at some of the “anti” blog posts and articles:

Some people don’t want to participate because the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge will help  fund stem cell research.

This article from Slate Magazine claims the ice bucket challenge has nothing to do with ALS.

Some have argued that like so many other online efforts, the campaign may be raising awareness but it isn’t really doing much in terms of raising actual money. I have my own qualms about the campaign as I wonder whether people really know what the ice bucket challenge is supposed to be about or whether this is just a way to participate in something that lots of famous people are doing.

On the other side of the spectrum are plenty of articles claiming that the campaign is wonderful.

This article from Forbes presents one of the most common “pro” arguments. Even though ALS is well-known (perhaps better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), it is one of the most underfunded causes in the US. Simply getting the letters ALS out there is doing a great services.

If you are more inclined to analyze campaigns based on numbers, consider that the ALS Association has indicated donations have reached unprecedented levels during the time of the campaign.

So what’s the verdict? Is it working?

If you are the ALS Association, you are most certainly going to come out on the side that says the ice bucket challenge worked like a charm, especially because to the best of our knowledge, the ALS Association hasn’t had to do anything except report good news.

If you are an NPO and are wondering how you can get a fundraising effort to do so well, one important thing to remember is that you must include education about your cause along with whatever the campaign revolves around. People dumping ice water on their heads does not really tell you anything about ALS or why fundraising is needed. If your cause attracts massive attention, you need to make sure that you try to participate and interact, reminding people who may not know why your cause is important, how the campaign relates to your cause, and more.

Ultimately, as the NPO, only you can determine whether a campaign is working or not because you have to set the objectives. If dedicated members of your community start a campaign for you, stay involved, interact as much as time allows, and certainly report on good news that the campaign creates. Show gratitude as often as possible to the people who are making the campaign work.

Ultimately, in terms of awareness and fundraising, the ALS ice bucket challenge has worked. The question is, what can your organization learn from this campaign?