Slam Dunk or Snake Oil?
JH: We can't leave this interview without a discussion of the many social-media contests being run by huge consumer brands that invite nonprofits to compete for funds via social media. These contests include Pepsi Refresh, Chase Community Giving, America's Giving Challenge, the Members Project from American Express and more.
What to do you think of these contests? Are they a viable revenue stream for nonprofits, and should charitable organizations invest the time and energy in competing for these funds?
GL: Frankly, not much. I am really thrilled that companies are getting more involved in cause-based activity, and they should. They are active members of society, and they bring both positive (jobs, etc.) and negative (pollution, etc.) contributions to society. Participating as a member of the community is the right thing to do.
The contests, crowdsourcing social good, often strike me as rudderless. Pepsi is a great example. Consider how they are investing in America by letting the crowd decide which charities matter most (tinyurl.com/y7jzpnz). To me, this leaves a lot to be expected of the crowd, especially given how wrong crowds can go, as evidenced by MIT Media Lab crowdsourcing research as encapsulated in the book, "Honest Signals" (tinyurl.com/5omnaq).
While Pepsi may have won the crowd with its gladiator-esque Super Bowl moves, I don't see a theory of change. How can we measure impact? And frankly, I don't see how this matches Pepsi's culture other than they want to be everything to everyone. But is that what Pepsi really stands for?
Companies like Pepsi are innovating, and they need to be congratulated for new steps in cause marketing. At the same time, evolution dictates more than a contest. We need change that's measurable and purposeful.
JH: Anything else you'd like to share about using social media?