Twitter community-building initiative by ChildFund International draws some flak

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There has been quite a bit of online discussion about the initiative launched earlier this month to help publicise the rebranding of the Christian Children’s Fund to ChildFund International, whereby they are aiming to acquire Twitter followers to @childfund by offering to send farming supplies to a family in Gambia, Zambia, Kenya or Ethiopia for every 200 followers gained.

I must admit, the first thing I wondered when I heard about the campaign was quite how the funding of the farming supplies was being provided. Presumably not just from the charity’s usual funds, as the incentive link then just wouldn’t make sense. Yet there was no mention of any matching grant from a major donor to incentivise the sign-up of followers – which would have made sense. It turns-out I wasn’t alone in being confused, as revealed by Geoff Livingstone from the PR agency behind the campaign in a blog post earlier today where he seeks to clarify the situation.

It turns-out that the charity did indeed apparently raise matching donations to fund the incentive campaign – not from a single major donor but from lots of individual donors who agreed to give an extra gift to fund it.  However, there is still no more information provided with regard to quite how these special donors were engaged with the campaign – which is a pity as it would have added some much needed authenticity to the whole initiative. A further authenticity gap comes when you take a look at the new ChildFund International website – where there is no mention of the initiative at all (so far as I could see).

So, it looks like there’s a key lesson to be learned here. Before launching any such social media initiative, do make absolutely sure that you’ve thought the whole thing through and are able to explain exactly what the deal is – in this case where the matching funds came from and just what else ChildFund has in store for those who sign-up, beyond the knowledge that they’ve contributed one-two-hundredth of a set of farming supplies for a family. That way you pre-empt any unnecessary suspicions and resulting tricky questions and you’re far more likely to generate a good-sized pool of genuinely interested followers. Indeed, this learning goes for any such prospect pool building initiative – online or offline – although you’re potentially dealing with a more savvy and challenging audience when you embark on Twitter-based initiative than when using more traditional channels (as poor Mr Livingstone has discovered).

As I finish this post, @childfund has got a total of 968 followers, which is four more than they had when I grabbed the screenshot above a few minutes ago – so there’s some life in the campaign yet. However, under the one donation per 200 followers incentive, that still only equates to approaching 5 families receiving the specially funded supplies – which just doesn’t seem right somehow.

The incentive initiative runs through to July 27th, and it’ll be interesting to see just how large a Twitter community they’ve managed to attract by then.


4 thoughts on “Twitter community-building initiative by ChildFund International draws some flak

  1. Thanks for your post, Bryan. Not sure I consider myself “poor,” comes with being online. We all get our Google scars.

    I’ve passed your post on to ChildFund, and sure we’ll take your suggestions into account. I don’t know if we can be more authentic and transparent than to answer Qs such as yours as they come up.

    I definitely agree pre-empting is important, but I also think it’s very important to consider the reputation of the organization. ChildFund has a long documented history of doing good, and has a strong GuideStar rating. We’re trying to help some kids out using social media, that’s all. As we hire a community manager for ChildFund getting all of the extra details in place will certainly be easier.

  2. We appreciate you writing about what we’re doing. As Geoff posted above, please visit our blog entry for more details. Additional details about this effort will be posted soon as well.

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