What can we learn from #nomakeupselfie?

On Wednesday (19th March) social media exploded with #nomakeupselfie. It was started by someone independent of any charity. It quickly caught on and was met with a mix of joining in and dismissal (‘what has this got to do with cancer’?). Two days later it quite clearly has got something to do with cancer as the meme has resulted in £millions being donated to various cancer charities (including £8m+ to Cancer Research alone), lots of self checking messages and widespread news stories.

Sample #nomakeupselfie tweets

Clearly viral explosions of this size don’t come along very often and are impossible to create (see this blog post from Social Chic on why you shouldn’t replicate #nomakeupselfie). What can we learn from it so that it / when it does happen (on whatever scale) we can be ready?

1. Be ready to react

The beauty of social media is that it is ever changing, fun, interesting – bringing unexpected challenges and opportunities to charities. When something big happens, you have to decide quickly what to do. If you have to put in a business case to react three days later, you are going to miss out. Sometimes the decision to ignore or get involved is obvious, sometimes not.

Your social media strategy can be your friend here as it should include some element of crisis comms planning (good and bad). You could create a flow chart like this one from the American Airforce which shows how they decide to deal with comments on blogs. Your social media strategy should also be loose enough that you can drop everything to run with a big event such as this.

2. Just go with it

It might not be on-brand or on-message but if your supporters are involved, then maybe you should join in? This event evolved and organically became a fundraising-related.  But charities helped this with strong messages and an easy ask.

BCCare tweet: We didn’t start it...but thanks #nomakeupselfie supporters! http://bcc.cx/1nDfA2W . Here’s how your support will help http://bcc.cx/1cqSuRi

3. Keep watching

A number of cancer charities chose to ignore #nomakeupselfie because the early message didn’t fit with them but didn’t join in when it did change. For the charities who chose to get on board with it, it has raised unexpected income.

On day 2 charities were better at joining in with the spirit of it, sharing their own photos. On Friday Male CEOs of Macmillan and Beating Bowel Cancer both shared their selfies.  And the meme was copied and evolved into #manupmakeup, #whataman and even #YorkshireSelfie. Macmillan’s male staff did their own Vine.

When the excitement showed no sign of stopping, charities started buying ad words connected with #nomakeupselfie. Clearly the world was searching for information so they spotted an opportunity to raise their profiles further. Clever.

4. Have your JustTextGiving details to hand

Make it easy for people to donate. Make sure your JustTextGiving details are easy for people to share. Giving a regular reminder of these details is useful.

You can’t watch every hashtag. This meme turned from fun into fundraising because people got frustrated at its sharing with no action. It was easy for them to share the JustTextGiving details and equally simple and short for people to donate this way. (See more about Twitter fundraising.)

NB, it is important to check and double check your details. See this BBC article: thousands make #nomakeupselfie donation error.

5. Say thank you and share success

People like to feel involved especially if it is something big. Donating £3 might be a small action but the collective effort has made the news. For every person who did something, it has been an important part of their day. So say a public thank you to everyone. Say how much has been raised and what difference this will make. This builds trust and makes people want to get involved again. (See more about transparency.)

This thank you tweet from Cancer Research has been RTd 14,000 times. And their brilliantly written FAQs post about how they’ll use the money (published on Tuesday 25th) is an important response to the millions of people who helped raise such a significant sum.

CRUK thank you tweet

#nomakeupselfie – what the charities say

Coverage and comment

Charity insider blog posts

What do you say?

What have you learnt from this week’s events? What do you think of #nomakeupselfie? Have you done your crisis comms planning for events like this?

This Nan selfie is my favourite:

Nan selfie RTd by Cancer Research

Can I help you?

Please also get in touch if you’d like me to help you review your crisis comms, digital fundraising channels or supporter engagement. I am a freelance web editor and can help you give your communications a healthcheck and ideas injection.

You can also sign up to receive my blog updates by email. Just add your address to the text box on this page (top right).

12 thoughts on “What can we learn from #nomakeupselfie?

  1. What’s been great to see is how teams across CLIC Sargent have collaborated over the last 36 hours to respond. We’ve also had unprecedented numbers of web, PayPal, and text gifts which is fantastic. Thanks to all who’ve supported.

  2. Great post! Amazing amount of money raised. You’re right, this sort of opportunity doesn’t come along very often. It takes a brave team to jump on it in the way these charities have.
    Do you know whether there’s been much debate around the link (or lack of) between cancer and the chemicals in make-up and other beauty products? CRUK have some info on their website. Just wondering whether this phenomenon has prompted as much interest in the issues as it has donations…??

  3. Pingback: Why you shouldn’t replicate the #nomakeupselfie | Social Chic Agency

  4. Really great how it raised so much money and some of the pictures are wonderful but the fact that a no make up selfie is a thing does leave a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

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  6. Pingback: 5 uncomfortable lessons from the no makeup selfie campaign - Charity Chap

  7. Pingback: The JustGiving numbers behind #nomakeupselfie | Waddingham's words (and pics)

  8. Reblogged this on seruhblog and commented:
    Good idea, but am not sure if this idea works for children as they don’t use make up as much. All in all its helped raise money for most of the cancer charities, well done.

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