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#Blogchat, Social Causes, and Responsibility (part 1)

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On Sunday nights or Monday mornings, I usually post “Overheard on #Blogchat,” a weekly feature that pulls some of the best tweets from a popular Twitter chat where people share blog tips. This week, I wanted to do a special edition of Overheard on #Blogchat because I have more to say than usual…and some questions that are not easily answered and require all of us to do a little soul-searching.

Also, before talking about this topic more, I wanted to make something exceedingly clear: My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone else working for BlogWorld Expo or BlogWorld Expo as a whole. One of the awesome things about Rick and Dave (the duo behind BlogWorld) is that they encourage people writing here to voice varying opinions. People on the BlogWorld team often disagree, and I think that’s awesome. The BlogWorld blog also loves posting guest posts from people who don’t always agree with the opinions of writers here – and I’d definitely love your comments on this topic whether or agree or not!

Last night, the theme of #blogchat was using your blog and social media accounts to do good. With the recent natural disasters and nuclear meltdown in Japan, there have been pushes across Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and more to donate to the Red Cross or other organizations. One of our own, Deb Ng, got heavily involved with fundraising efforts at SxSW, and what they did was nothing short of amazing (I think totals are over $100,000 raised at this point). This isn’t the first time we’ve seen people come together on social media sites to promote donating money or use their blogs, even in unrelated niches, as a way to filter news and pass on relevant links.

I struggle with this concept, though, using blogs and social media to promote causes so others donate money. Part of me thinks it’s great. Another part of me thinks that it is problematic at best.

Cause Fatigue

At any given time, there’s some tragedy somewhere that needs help. Whether it’s a one-time disastrous event (like what happened in Japan) or a cause like breast cancer or autism, there’s always a hashtag for you to learn more about a cause that’s close to someone’s heart. There are just not enough hours in the day to promote everything, and there are definitely not enough dollars in my bank account to send money to everyone.

But I think a more important problem is that it starts to become white noise to your followers. People (hopefully) follow you because they are interested in your blog, your projects, your life, and while promoting a cause occasionally can easily fit into that, if you promote every cause out there, you start to lose relevance to your fans and readers. I’ve unfollowed people in the past because it seemed like all they did was hit me up for me (albeit, for causes, but it’s still someone asking for money all the time without providing much value).

Causes and Branding

I’ve seen a lot of people complaining about companies using a tragedy to promote a brand, to somehow profit off of the situation. The idea that someone is making money from what’s happening in Japan right now creates a knee-jerk feeling of disgust for me, and I bet it does for you too. But thinking critically, looking at the bigger picture, just because something bad happens in the world doesn’t mean that your business should stop. It’s ok to consider your brand in this context, in my opinion.

Here’s an example of what I mean: Let’s say that you’re a day care facility. One month, two high school groups approach you at the same time asking for money. The first group asks for $100 to support the local food bank. The second group asks for $100 to go toward renovating your community’s children’s library. As a small business owner, you only have enough money to give to one group – which do you choose?

Clearly, the library project fits more closely with your brand. Both are excellent causes, but one just fits more with what you’re doing. If you were a restaurant, it would make more sense to donate to the food bank.

Or, let’s say that you’re a hair salon and two high schools groups approach you with these requests for me. Except with Group B, you’d get your name on a plaque at the library if you donate. It just makes more sense to go with that cause. You’re technically “profiting” from the situation, but you’re not a bad person. You just haven’t turned your business mind off for the sake of a cause or tragedy. That’s different than saying that you’re collecting donations for a cause but actually pocketing most of the money for yourself. Yet, so many people don’t really draw a line in the sand between the two. If you profit or consider your brand in any way, you’re automatically bad – something I think is a problem.

Head to Part 2 to read more. (This post was just getting too massive to be a single post!)


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