April 1, 2013, 2:03 PM

How nonprofit group charity: water drives traffic with Twitter

The organization sought to engage followers in its World Water Day campaign.

Lead Photo

Charity: water’s Paull Young will speak at IRCE 2013.

Nonprofit organization charity: water, which works to bring clean drinking water to the 800 million people worldwide that lack potable water, says it drove the most traffic to its web site so far this year on March 22, World Water Day, via a Twitter campaign. Charity: water used a combination of regular and Promoted Tweets, a form of paid advertising, to create buzz about the event and simultaneously to push for more support of its birthday pledge campaign. In that campaign, consumers “donate” their birthdays to the cause by asking their friends and family to give money to the nonprofit in lieu of giving gifts.

“Twitter is at the core of all the campaigns we do,” says Sarah Salisbury, digital marketing manager at charity: water. “The World Water Day campaign helped us achieve our key goals for awareness and traffic.”

Paull Young, director of digital engagement for fundraising, at charity: water will speak in the nonprofits workshop at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2013 in June in a session titled, “Reaching the 21st century donor.

Charity: water’s campaign specifically demonstrates four important strategies for successful marketing on Twitter, the social networks writes in its Advertising blog. They are: Building excitement before the event, partnering with influential tweeters, showing personality and presenting a clear call to action.

Charity: water built up momentum for the World Water Day campaign globally by creating the hashtag #WorldWaterDay and appending it to tweets with images from supporters  around the world. For example, a tweet the day before the event included a picture of one of charity: water’s yellow water containers in front of the Eiffel Tower with the message, “A Jerry can in Paris—getting ready for #WorldWaterDay on March 22!” Then, on World Water Day, charity: water pointed out in tweets some of the specific countries, such as India, that need the most support. “This tactic not only helped rally supporters on Twitter in these countries or with affiliations to these countries but also helped educate @charitywater followers,” Twitter says.

Charity: water also found the right Twitter users—celebrities, athletes, thought leaders and brands, Twitter says—to help spread the word about its campaign and rack up retweets among their own large audiences. A Promoted Tweet featuring Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matthew Hasselbeck pledging his 35th birthday to the nonprofit, for one, generated a 4% engagement rate, Twitter says. The social network defines engagement as any user’s click, retweet, reply or favorite. "On average we see 1% to 3% engagement on our Promoted Tweets, so the 4% is indeed above that average," a Twitter spokesman says.

Helping to drive more engagement with its tweets was charity: water’s insertion of some lighthearted, entertaining messages that didn’t detract from the gravity of the cause, Twitter says. For example, the nonprofit tweeted images of a Spiderman impersonator lying on the ground in thirst with the message, “Even superheroes need water to survive!” It also created a Promoted Tweet sent by Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who recently received nationwide attention for sipping water during a Republican response to the State of the Union address, with a picture of the incident and the message, “I had clean water when I needed it. 800 mil don’t. Joining w/ @charitywater 2 help change that.” That tweet garnered hundreds of retweets, Twitter says.

“On Twitter, it’s important to show personality and vary your tone,” the social network says. “It helps convey authenticity and creates a personal, more human connection with followers.”

And to tie all the buzz together, charity: water’s Twitter campaign included clear calls for followers to pledge their birthdays to its cause with links to do so immediately. Those links in turn took consumers to a birthday pledge landing page with a built-in function for them to tweet about their pledge and share an image with their followers. That helped charity: water both to achieve its goal of signing up pledges and to further amplify the message on Twitter.

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