Expert Interview: Debbie Bookstaber on How Social Good Helps Bloggers

“Social Good” is not just a trending buzzword in social media. According to a 2013 article in Market Tech Blog, “83% of Americans want brands to support causes and 41% of people bought a product from a company because they knew the company was associated with a cause.

That means that influencers can use their blogs and social media to help not only promote a great cause but also create brand recognition.

I spoke with Debbie Bookstaber to learn more about social good in the blogosphere. As the Co-Founder of Bloganthropy, whose mission is to connect companies and bloggers in order to make the world a better place, she is an expert in how social good helps brands and bloggers.

Debbie is also President of Element Associates, Director of Social Media for Child’s Play Communication, and was named of the “Top 25 Parent Bloggers Who are Changing the World”at Babble.com.

Debbie, can you give us a clear definition of “social good” as it relates to social media and blogging?

debbie bookstaber

Debbie Bookstaber, Co-Founder of Bloganthropy

Because bloggers have influence on their blogs and social media, people look to them for tips and advice, such as parenting tips, fashion solutions, product recommendations in their niche, etc. They can use social media to do social good, especially for local non-profits or those that are a natural fit for their audience. There are many ways that they can use their influence to support what they really care about.

I agree! I find this works best when I do social good that fits right into my brand. It feels seamless, and my readers appreciate it. I’m sure more bloggers are interested in partnering for social good. How are brands working with bloggers to promote social good?

Bloggers should understand that there are two kinds of promotion. One type is cause marketing, which is when brands use their influence to support a worthy cause. For example, you might see a brand donating a portion of their sales to a cause, like a cure for breast cancer, or a campaign that says, “your click on this link feeds a hungry child.” Cause marketing happens when brands connect with a non-profit cause to promote it and, naturally, that promotes them as company that does social good.

Then there are campaigns that have no traditional financial rewards for a business. For example, the Ad Council recently ran a child seat safety program with the NHTSA to teach parents how to properly install a child seat. This campaign had no financial motive, it was purely a public service announcement.

Bloggers need to be aware of that difference, because brands are able to pay bloggers during a cause marketing campaign – and often do – while a pure PSA will not be paid. It’s simply an opportunity to spread the word about safety and other public issues.

That said, the line can be crossed. For example, the nonprofit Keep America Beautiful did a PSA to educate consumers about recycling on Earth Day. Johnson & Johnson supported that effort with a paid campaign that recruited bloggers.

How else are bloggers and influencers helped by working with brands on these causes?

Cause marketing sponsored campaigns tend to get higher engagement than conventional sponsored posts, which is good for both bloggers and brands. For example, Walgreen’s Red Nose campaign is a good example of cause marketing. For the brand, it raised funds and gave them significant publicity; for the blogger, it gave them a more interesting topic to write about than the typical Walgreen’s post and better page views.

As far as nonprofit campaigns, they can benefit a blogger by being useful for their target audience, but they can also rank well for SEO if they are timed with related events, such as Keep America Beautiful’s Earth Day campaign. They are also a good way to for a blogger to get content that can be pre-written and SEO-rich to balance out their sponsored content. (Bloggers need to watch their sponsored to unsponsored post ratio.)

What makes a blogger a good choice for these campaigns, or will most brands work with any blogger?

While purely nonprofit PSAs are looking to spread the word everywhere, the truth is that being a good fit for either a PSA or a cause marketing campaign is important to generate real interest in a cause. Bloggers personally impacted by these issues will be more effective. Additionally, if PSAs are promoted by bloggers with experience in that area, longer term commitments and more serious involvement can arise from this interaction.

Yes, the better the fit, the more successful the post – like with any sponsored campaign! What are the elements of a successful campaign for social good?

It depends on the message the brand or nonprofit is trying to convey. Successful campaigns will have a strong call to action. They will also have a good story involved, and, as I mentioned, it’s best if the blogger has had some personal involvement with the topic or cause. In addition, elements that are easy for the reader to digest are very helpful. Ready.gov recently ran a PSA campaign on disaster preparedness. Their focus was on people creating a plan and they created tools for that. They also had short PSA videos (these are usually pro bono work done by video companies) that are 30-120 seconds long for time-starved readers.

Many campaigns also make it easy for bloggers by providing ready-made Tweets, infographics and other  one-click social media tools. Element Associates creates custom written pieces for bloggers with HTML to embed them. This also created stronger search engine optimization.

I love ready-made tweets for social good! And pre-made content is always helpful. Is there a transition point where influencers go from volunteering to working for pay, or are there any paid influencer campaigns?

Yes! Trish Adkins was a blogger who was a volunteer for many years with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer. Her daughter is a cancer survivor, so this was an important charity for her. After many years of volunteering and her longstanding commitment to the cause, she was a natural choice for a position. It’s important for bloggers to know that top volunteers with a personal stake in the cause can make them a perfect fit for paid full time or consulting projects or for sustained campaigns. Nonprofits should invite these bloggers to apply [for] these positions.

Personally, I have worked with nonprofits for many years, pro bono, so I am often called on to work professionally with the companies I’ve helped. If they want to work for a nonprofit, bloggers should have a commitment to them; that is the first place they look to hire.

I have found this to be true as well. One of my regular blogging gigs was a direct result of writing for social good, without sponsorship, and it fits right into my niche as well. What are the top causes for social good we can expect to see more?

In terms of what’s going on right now, Ellen Gerstein of Save the Children is working on the refugee crisis in Syria. Other than that, anything health related is a big area for nonprofit and cause marketing involvement, such as Missy Ward’s effort with Avon’s Walk for Breast Cancer, Alex’s Lemonade Stand and St. Jude’s Hospital. Education is big now too, because parents are the best advocates for their kids in the area of childhood cancer and illness. Other popular topics include the environment, such as water efficiency PSA campaigns to combat the current drought crisis in California.

Other vital campaigns include fighting hunger with Feeding America and Share Our Strength, and animal charities like Shelter Pets as we head into winter. Blogger causes are also important. Katherine Stone started the now-successful nonprofit Postpartum Progress in 2011 to help other moms suffering with postpartum depression, a condition she had that she helps other moms to conquer.

Thank you, Debbie, for your tips and advice! I hope that bloggers, after reading this, will consider any social good campaigns that come their way, be they PSAs or cause marketing with brands, and take on causes that fit their blogs and their passions.