Q&A With Social Good Guru Beth Kanter

Ever wondered about the brains beneath that famous red hat? We sat down with social good superstar Beth Kanter to talk about the current state of cause marketing.


Ad Council: For social marketers working on social media campaigns with the goal of raising awareness and engaging an audience around an issue, what should we be measuring?

Beth Kanter: Most of my work is with nonprofits, and typically they are looking for impact, action or change of behavior as a result of a campaign intended to raise awareness and engage audiences. Increasing awareness and engagement around an issue are two different objectives, but could be part of that ultimate result. Let’s look at awareness. You would measure it by a survey, and you would also want to use a social media monitoring tool to see if mentions of the issues or campaign have increased. You might also want to look at referral traffic from social channels, maybe a comparison to figure out which social channel is a better investment of time.

In terms of engagement, look at the percentage increase of, for example, comments on YouTube, shares on Facebook and other social analytics tools. But, it is also important to measure conversions — did all that traffic to your newsletter landing page result in a higher conversion rate of signing up? Did all that conversation on Facebook translate into something tangible?

I remember wonderful story that my favorite nonprofit data geek, Bob Filbin of DoSomething.Org, shared with me about a YouTube video encouraging teens to donate sports equipment. It got over 1.2 million views. That sounds impressive, but if the goal was to get sports equipment donated, and the conversion was 0, that is not so impressive.

AC: What are examples of campaigns that you feel have really used social media in a unique and impactful (and successful) way?

BK: There are many, so it is hard to choose. I’m a big fan girl of DoSomething.Org. If you take a look at any of their past or live campaigns, they are masters of using social media as part of a multi-channel campaign to activate young people for social good. One of my favorites is Pics for Pets. It was designed because many unadopted pets were being killed in shelters. The reason? Many of these shelters were not sharing photos online of the pets or good photos. DoSomething built a campaign that helped teens and young people snap great photos of these shelter pets and share them online with their friends. Awareness was not the only goal — they wanted young people to get active in doing shelter fundraisers, with the ultimate goal of getting those pets adopted.

AC: What are three platforms or apps you think social marketers should know about?


  1. Like any self-respecting nonprofit geek, I love tools as much as strategy, especially social media tools that can help you be more efficient. But let me share a few favorites.
  2. Many social media strategies rely on using visual content — infographics and text overlay images are staples. Most nonprofits do not have resources to hire a graphic designer for all this content — so they have learned to use free or low cost tools and create DIY visual content.
  3. There is a category of apps called “Conscious Computing” apps that help train your attention, reduce stress, and stay on track.

AC: What do you see as being the three biggest trends social marketers should be paying attention to this year?

BK: Social marketers need to understand how pervasive broadband, social networks and mobile is changing our audiences. More importantly, to understand that we live in a connected society and these trio of disruptive technologies will not only have implications for the way we live our lives (and die), but also in the workplace and society. I recently taught a workshop for the Knight Foundation Digital Media Center where I heard Lee Rainy from the Pew Internet Center share some information about these trends. On a tactical level — from where I sit, mobile can longer be ignored. At a basic level, your organization’s website needs to be readable on a mobile device — phone or tablet. My colleague, Amy Gahran, who writes about mobile — has some great advice for business and nonprofits alike about thinking through your strategy.

All of us who work in the social change sector need to pay attention this very important trend: Philanthroteens! I first heard this word last year from the UN Foundation’s Aaron Sheridian at the Social Good Brasil Conference. These are teens with a passion for social change and who grew up not knowing what it was like to not to have a cell phone or be connected to Facebook (“Qwerty Monsters”) who send hundreds of text messages a day and don’t even like to use their phone for calls. (With two pre-teens in my house, I can attest this is true). Social marketers who have a double bottom line or nonprofits should read this research study The UN Foundation released on how to reach this important segment. Another trend is the all field of Big Data and the emerging role of data scientists in nonprofits. Few nonprofits have these skills in-house. Nonprofits need to first learn how to manage “little data” or their internal data and measurement processes — and need to start building capacity and skills.

AC: What is the question you get asked the most at your talks and how do you answer it?

BK: I’m a Master Trainer and I’m lucky to have facilitated trainings with thousands of nonprofits, on all continents except Antarctica. I use a maturity of practice model called “Crawl, Walk, Run, Fly” so that nonprofits can self-assess where they are in 12 best practice areas and improve their practice. Many of my talks showcase this framework and I often get asked if you have to be at the flying level to be successful. My answer is that if you understand where you are weak and are actively working on improvement, as long as you are moving forward good practices — you will be successful.

The other question I get asked a lot (when I forget to pack my red hat) is why I’m not wearing my red hat. And, in a recent training I did for the Dept. of State in Tunisia, the audience presented me with a traditional straw Tunisian hat so I would not be hatless in Tunisia!

Anastasia Goodstein

About Anastasia Goodstein

Anastasia serves as Senior Vice President of the Advertising Council’s Digital group where she manages the team in charge of digital and social strategy for all Ad Council campaigns as well as AdCouncil.org. Prior to joining the Ad Council, she lead the product development and marketing for the Inspire USA Foundation’s primary service, ReachOut.com, a digital space for teens struggling with depression or other mental health issues. She has worked in media for the past 15+ years and helped launch youth oriented web and television properties for brands like Oxygen, AOL and Current TV before founding the influential youth marketing site Ypulse.com. Anastasia was one of the first graduates of the Medill School of Journalism's new media program at Northwestern University, where she earned an MSJ in 1999. Her first book about teens and technology called Totally Wired: What Teens & Tweens Are Really Doing Online was published by St. Martin's Press. She lives in the Greater New York City area with her husband and daughter. Find her on Google+ Twitter

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