Social Media Comes to the Aid of the Red Cross

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Donations for the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2009 have reached record proportions. According to CNN.com, the amount of money raised for Haiti in the first 48 hours of the disaster was greater than the amount brought in during a similar period after Hurricane Katrina and the Asian tsunami disasters. What’s really amazing is that all of this is happening in the midst of challenging economic times.  

As of January 19th, the American Red Cross has raised the most money so far (1), and donations are still pouring in. Wendy Harman, the director of social media for the Red Cross, has stated that both Facebook and Twitter have played a key role in getting word out about how to make donations to Haiti relief. Nearly two-thirds of donations received by the American Red Cross have been online contributions (2).  

Within hours of the Haiti Crisis, the Red Cross announced that Haiti relief donations could also be made via text messaging “Haiti” to 90999 (these donations are charged back to the the phone user, via their phone network carrier, and shows up on their monthly bill). About 15-20% of the Red Cross donations have been made via text messaging. In fact, the amount raised so far (via text messaging) has surpassed the $4 million that was donated to all charities via mobile texts in ALL of 2009.  

Donations made via text messaging helps to resolve many of the online challenges that mobile phones users face today. Some of these advantages are:  

  • No need to navigate through numerous web pages
  • No need to enter billing information like addresses, credit card numbers
  • No need to hold on the phone “for the next representative”
  • No need to have a credit card (payment/billing processed by phone carrier)

Donations via text messaging is a quick and efficient way to donate money. Best of all, it makes it easy for many of those that want to help, but don’t have immediate access to a laptop or desktop computer. Basically it provides a great option for the growing mobile phone generation. 

There’s so much to be learned here as an online marketer. The donation options provided by the Red Cross clearly illustrate that it’s now possible to promote your cause, product or service via a simple Tweet or Facebook page. It also shows that you do not need to refer potential customers to your eCommerce oriented website in order to accept payments. This alone raises all kinds of new possibilities for online marketers.  

Hopefully at some point we’ll see data in terms of how users initially found out about the Red Cross text Messaging campaign. It looks like Twitter and Facebook were first used to promote the text messaging donation option and that it went viral on broadcast media and news outlets after that point. It would be extremely interesting to see just how important the Red Cross web site was in terms of promoting the text messaging option.  

This concept should be raising questions and ideas in terms of how your own business or organization is reaching out to prospective clients and customers. Are you using the most effective communication channels when promoting goods or services? Do you know what devices or platforms people prefer to use when they are searching for solutions? These are the types of questions that you should be asking in today’s social media world.

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