Friday, September 28, 2012

Is Buyral Marketing good CSR?

I just made up that term. I needed something to describe the proliferation of campaigns that buy social spread by promising to donate for each "like" or "RT" received.

Here's today's example:

"Zinc Saves Lives" is the corporate social responsibility brand of Teck Resources, a mining company that specializes in copper, coal and zinc. So by retweeting this post, you're acting as a free social media promoter for the mining company, as well as potentially saving a child's life.

When I see these campaigns, I can't help but by cynical. That's because I know how they work.

You see, most big corporations have a social responsibility strategy, both to enhance their brand and to earn social licence (that is, community support) in the regions in which they operate. These activities have a set budget, a chunk of which is earmarked for conspicuous corporate giving to a relevant cause.

In the case of Tek, it takes the form of "We Day":

You can see the actual donation budget if you look at the fine print:
Teck will donate CAD$0.50 for every retweet of the designated We Day tweet, up to a maximum total for each We Day event (CAD$20,000 for Toronto, CAD$20,000 for Vancouver, CAD$10,000 for Alberta, CAD$5,000 for Montreal and CAD$5,000 for Ottawa). The total donation from Teck for the entire campaign is capped at CAD$60,000.
So, Tek has budgeted a $60,000 gift to "Zinc Saves Kids, an initiative of the International Zinc Association in support of UNICEF." But instead of just giving their trade association the money (to enhance its reputation, too) Tek is emotionally blackmailing Twitter slacktivists to do their advertising for them — for free. Instead of the limited PR they get for just handing over a lump sum, they engage large numbers of social media do-gooders to spread their goodwill all over the internet.

Here's another example of buyral marketing, from the pharmaceutical industry (via Osocio):

In this case, a simple repinning of the image gets a hefty $10 donation to the Breast Cancer Society of Canada. All you have to do is help Bayer spread their one-a-day brand all over Pinterest.

And once again, there is a maximum. The donation cap is $30,000.

This isn't a particularly bad thing. Charities need private donations, and people love to feel like they're saving the world. But people need to know what they're being asked to do, and by who.

Are you concerned with the ethics of buyral marketing? Add your comment below.

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