SoundTalks: successful social media campaigning with Simon Berry of ColaLife
I was lucky enough to happen upon Simon Berry’s ColaLife social media campaigning Q&A at Sounddelivery this week after (ironically) reading about it in a tweet from Rob Dyson, who brilliantly facilitated the event.
I was thoroughly impressed, not only by Simon’s original idea, but also its execution, his attitude to online and his obvious passion for ColaLife and its potential. He shared some really useful, applicable tips that I thought many charities could benefit from, including a variety of content ideas and ways to exploit various social media.
ColaLife was founded with integration at its heart. A remit of openness and a dedication to harnessing the power of digital helped to push the early aims of the charity into fruition.
The idea behind ColaLife is that you can buy a Coca-Cola virtually anywhere in developing countries, but in these same countries children are impoverished and dying from preventable diseases. ColaLife intends to piggyback Coca-Cola distribution channels and fit social products, like medicine and vitamin tablets, into unused space in the crates of Coke’s lorries.
It was launched by Simon Berry, who had the idea while working for the British Aid programme in 1988. However, no real progress was made until Simon posted the idea on his blog in May 2008. Since then he has managed to create a huge community around the campaign through a variety of media, including a heavy online presence.
“ColaLife will never be big, it’s meant to embed into existing organisations.”
ColaLife and social media
ColaLife started by casting a huge net over the social web, fishing for an audience for the idea. Though this breaks a lot of rules in terms of targeting, Simon dedicated a lot of time to making links and tracking sources, including creating a Facebook and Twitter profile, doing blogger outreach and posting extensively across different forums. His aim was to capture Coca Cola’s attention.
He set up the Facebook group, ‘Lets talk to Coca Cola about saving the world’s children‘ and, instantly connecting to the mission (and enjoying a bit of anticapitalist controversy I imagine), 8,371 people joined. ColaLife’s social media presence eventually led to a meeting with Coca Cola after a BBC reporter picked up on the story on Twitter and contacted the drinks manufactorer for a quote.
The value of social media
Simon highlights four things that he finds useful about social media for his organisation:
- Confidence effect – having 10,000 Facebook fans validated the eccentric idea, and made him feel justified quitting his job, going to meetings and asking for funding.
- More responsibility – having an open dialogue with people about where you are in the project gives you a greater sense of responsibility to what you’re doing.
- People ask awkward questions – according to Berry, no one on the board will ask more awkward questions than people on Facebook. It’s great practice.
- Trade union effect – arguably most important thing that social media allows ColaLife to do is mobilise a large group of people to influence big organisations that it wants on board.
Simon’s social media tips
Simon highlighted the importance of blogging. His relaxed attitude to his blog is infectious, “It’s just what you think at the time, people forgive mistakes.” He has a policy of openness with his thoughts and work which may not be appropriate for all charities, but works well within the context of this project.
When questioned about where he finds the time for all of this, he responded, “You spend so much time recording what you’re doing and why for trustees, that blogging has the potential to save time in the long run.”
He also stresses the value of tracking your brand online (so, hi Simon! I’m fairly certain you’ll be reading) to find out what people are saying about your organisation and respond to them appropriately, and advocates using Del.ic.ious to share links and to find others doing similar things.
The value of constantly capturing and living spontaneously was a theme of the Q&A. Attendees were encouraged to carry a social media tool kit consisting of a Flip camera, a phone with Audioboo and a digital camera, to create content to be used across many different online platforms. In Simon’s words, “Always carry a camera, photos happen.”