Should charities join in with mega-hashtags like #MontyThePenguin?

Some charities are excellent at using social media to join in with non-charity memes as these Twitter examples show. But is it right to jump on the bandwagon?

The John Lewis ad

On Thursday John Lewis released their 2014 Christmas ad. If you haven’t seen it, it features a boy and penguin. By lunchtime it had had 90,000 views on YouTube, just an hour later it was up to 300,000 and today up to 4.3m! Everyone was talking about #MontyThePenguin (he’s got his own Twitter account – @MontyThePenguin).

Charity responses

WWF who are in partnership with John Lewis responded by promoting their brilliant adopt a penguin page via this tweet which got 100 RTs and 97 favourites.

Tweet: Turns out @johnlewisretail love penguins too & support our work in Antarctica #MontyThePenguin http://po.st/LENAiF

and followed it up with this one.

Tweet: .@johnlewisretail have sold out of #MontyThePenguin. Now's your chance to support a real penguins! http://po.st/LENAiF

They also added a penguin to their homepage and paid for a series of promoted twitter ads which appear at the top of the search results for #MontyThePenguin. As the advert runs in the weeks heading up to Christmas no doubt there will be a huge serge in people adopting penguins. (See more about this in the UK Fundraising article about MontyMania.)

JustGiving joined in with a lovely picture and a plug for WWF.

Tweet: Do you love #MontyThePenguin as much as we do? Show us your heart hands for @WWF_UK and say #ICare about penguins.

Charities unrelated to penguins got involved too. Age UK used it as an opportunity to promote the Big Knit. It got 37 RTs, 14 Favourites and 37 clicks through to the website.

Tweet: Help our #MontyThePenguin find his mate this Christmas. Join the #BigKnit

And Save the Children UK used Monty to publicise their Christmas Jumper Day.

Tweet: We think #montythepenguin would look great in a #xmasjumperday knit!

Dogs Trust sent five rehoming tweets about dogs called Monty including one about Monty the Jack Russell. They each got between 36 and 67 RTs and reported that ‘weekly RTs were up 53% compared to week before and new followers were up 66% compared to previous week’.

Tweet: Just like #montythepenguin our sweet Terrier Monty from @DT_Shoreham is looking for love... and a forever home! #love

Many others used it as a chance to plug their Christmas shops or cards (such as Breakthrough Breast Cancer).

Conclusions

Joining mega-hashtag (or newsjacking) activities such as #MontyThePenguin can be a quick and harmless way of promoting something. It can help you reach new supporters and shows existing ones that you aren’t just wrapped up in your charity bubble. If it fits with your brand, it is good to do something fun. You have to act quickly though. Although people will no doubt be talking about Monty for a while, launch day and maybe 1-2 days after are the window for joining in.

However some argue that charities should stick to strategic marketing (see Charities should be leaders, not followers on social media – Third Sector article).

Personally, I think that an organisation’s content strategy should always leave room for spontaneity. If something big comes along, careful thought should be given about whether it fits and if it does, give some time to get involved. These examples all fit brilliantly with the spirit of the ad and are done really well. Hats off to them for responding so quickly and in a smart way.

What do you think?

Do you think charities should stick to their core activities and not join in with memes like these? Or do you think they give a nice boost if pitched right? Have you seen any other good responses? Or have any insights into the time it takes to respond and the impact it has?

Add a comment or tweet me your views, I’d love to hear from you.

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5 thoughts on “Should charities join in with mega-hashtags like #MontyThePenguin?

  1. Interesting article Madeline. Yes, strategic marketing is important. But if 20 minutes’ work gets your name and message out to new audiences by raising a smile, why not?

  2. For me the considerations are: is this an appropriate hashtag to jump on without there being a backlash, and can we do it in a way that feels sensible and not shoehorned? So long as both of those are answered ‘yes’ then an easy opportunity for new eyes to see you, as Mark said, is there for the taking.

  3. Great post and agree with the points made by Mark, Lisa and Kirsty. Absolutely charities should join in that conversation, if appropriate. It shows they are aware & listening to a wider social audience – not just broadcasting to their own!

    @willdotbarker

  4. Lots more comments via Twitter:

    koffs said: “there’s a small window in which to make it work. Take too long & you do look like a ‘follower’ but I think it’s a great use of charity resource to capitalise on the spend of big companies!”

    watfordgap said: “Tricky one. Some hashtags will be more appropriate than others. Newsjack other stories or TV shows OK?”

    JosephFreeman said “Something people need to consider before just jumping in.”

    pbfhpunk said “only if it’s relevant to charity or tweet and in the right timeframe, otherwise it smacks of desperation.”

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