Dear Brands: Helping Veterans & Charities Isn’t About Getting Likes & Retweets For Yourselves

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MetLife is running a social media campaign to raise money for Hiring Our Heroes today, an effort to help US veterans and spouses find jobs. Who could be upset about that? Me, when it’s yet another campaign — like those done by Heinz and Kelloggs — that feels more about getting social media attention than just doing the right thing because you believe it’s the right thing.

Retweet For MetLife, Er, Hiring Our Heroes

Here’s the MetLife tweet:

Like I said, sounds great. A retweet will give $5 to a program that helps veterans? That’s easy to do, so why not? Currently, about 1,400 people have done so, bringing the promised donation to … $7,000.

That’s the first part of where this goes wrong. MetLife is clearly willing to donate up to $75,000 to support this group. But to do that, it needs that tweet to get 15,000 retweets in total. What if it doesn’t go that high, which seems likely. Does a big chunk of the money MetLife was going to donate get held back?

If so, that’s wrong. The point of making a donation to any deserving group, to me, is that you’re trying to help the deserving group, not yourself. So you should give the full amount you planned, regardless of your social media take-up.

That leads to the second part of where this went wrong. There is some value in spreading the word about Hiring Our Heroes, in case others want to know about the group or help directly (it doesn’t seem to take individual donations, but it does want businesses to commit to hiring).

Donate Without A Social Media Bribe?

So just make the donation, without a social media bribe. Why not just say, “We’ve donated $75,000 to @HiringOurHeroes” to help US veterans. Learn more about the group here — and please retweet!”

There’s still an element of self-interest that some might see in that. Is the retweet really meant to spread the word about the group or about MetLife. Even better would be to just drop the donation amount entirely. “We’re proud supporters of @HiringOurHeroes — here’s how you can help, too.” Maybe that doesn’t get as many retweets, but it also might not leave some like myself feeling like the social media campaign has forgotten the actual purpose of donating.

If I’m worked up about this, that’s because of this:

See, I was at our local burger place in December and noticed that the back of the Heinz bottle said that if you thank a veteran, Heinz will donate $1.57. Curious, I painfully scanned the QR code, which resulted in the tweet above.

Then I explored the page that Heinz tweeted out to my followers and discovered that Heinz had reached the donation goal of $250,000.

Now, $250,000 is a big donation, so I can’t fault Heinz over that. But I found it odd that I didn’t get told the goal had been reached until after my tweet went out. I went back to look further at what the fine-print said on the back of the ketchup bottle:

Look down at the bottom right. Each QR code scan was worth $1. And if you shared that you did the scan, that’s an extra $0.57, prompting this from me:

Well, at least $0.57 is more than the $5 that’s the going rate for social media shares with MetLife. But it irked me. I felt like, in the end, I was helping Heinz more than the Wounded Warrior Project. More important, the idea of literally nickel-and-diming for social media shares felt wrong.

Will RT For Food

Kellogg’s UK learned a lesson about using retweets in the wrong way for to help charities, when it tweeted “1 RT = 1 breakfast for a vulnerable child,” last year:

kelloggs-tweet

As our story on the incident covered, Kellogg’s quickly apologized:

My goal with this post isn’t to rally pitchforks against MetLife or Heinz. Rather, I just think that brands sometimes need to more carefully consider the social media campaigns they do as part of helping deserving causes.

Everything should be done to ensure the cause is helped the most. The social media strategizing shouldn’t shift the focus to the brand or worse, prevent the cause from getting as much of a donation as possible.


About The Author

Danny Sullivan was a journalist and analyst who covered the digital and search marketing space from 1996 through 2017. He was also a cofounder of Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land, Marketing Land, MarTech Today and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo and MarTech events. He retired from journalism and Third Door Media in June 2017. You can learn more about him on his personal site & blog He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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