Going Viral – Charities and Causes Using Social Media for Impact


We all remember the Spring and Summer of 2014, the time we spent pouring buckets of ice all over ourselves as well as seeing our Facebook friends profiles naked (or at least without their make up on). Of course, we’re referring to the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ and the ‘No Make-Up Selfie’- two huge social media campaigns of 2014 which each raised millions of pounds for their associated charity. Arguably, 2014 was ‘the year’ of charity viral campaigns. Now grassroots campaign groups and political activists are raising awareness of everything, from drilling in the Arctic to gender equality in FTSE 100 companies are actively setting up hashtags to get their causes trending!

Social media has great potential for groups to run campaigns which immediately have a viral effect and encourage people to partake by making it fun to get involved and engage. Here are a few recent successes:

Anxiety UK – High 5 for Anxiety

On the 22nd September, 2015 Training Coordinator at Anxiety UK, Laura Whitehurst, uploaded an image of herself doing a high five, to show support for, and break down stigmas associated with mental health issues, hence the use of the hashtag #highfiveforanxiety. In just 48 hours thousands of people had joined the campaign, which had also been picked up by celebrities and the media. Laura’s idea was to show that sometimes, people suffering with anxiety, just need a supportive message and to hear that they’re doing ok. She cleverly added the hashtag #charitytuesday which ensured it was picked up on a large scale.

One Login - #iLookLikeAnEngineer

When San Francisco based One Login were leading a recruitment drive to employ more female engineers, they used a photo of one of their young, pretty junior member of staff Isis Wenger. Wenger then re-tweeted her image with the caption #iLookLikeAnEngineer to encourage more women to enter the science, technology, manufacturing and engineering industries. With both Facebook and Twitter admitting to only roughly 30% of their workforce being female, women worldwide working in engineering have been keen to jump on this campaign and showcase the diversity of the industry.

WaterIsLife – First World Complaints YouTube Video

Non profit organisation WaterisLife is dedicated to bringing clean water to the third world. To highlight the plight of those without water to privileged Westerners, the organisation created a comical YouTube video themed around ‘first world problems’. Entitled ‘first world complaints’ the video features images of those without water juxtaposed with captions relating to the relatively insignificant complaints those of us in the developed world have, such as “I hate it when my phone charger won’t reach my bed”. The video ends with the caption “first world problems...are not problems”. The video went viral and immediately ended up getting over a million views in the first evening!