Social Media – Time to Check-In & Donate? by Claire Field

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Too often, many of us  think of social media as a personal advantage tool . We use Twitter as a sounding-off platform when we’ve had a bad experience with a brand in the hope that publically venting will get the situation resolved the way we want it. Or we check-in the most times on Foursquare to claim that free weekly Mayor’s pizza from Domino’s. Too often, we make social media about us. “What’s in it for us?” we cry. “Why should we do this?”

time to give

Give a little, receive a lot?

But, shouldn’t social media be more than this? After all, the word ‘social’ is in there for a reason, and it’s not just so you and your friends can benefit. The likes of JustGiving has existed since 2000 as a tool to raise money online for charities, and various celebrities including Lady Gaga and Usher died a digital death recently to raise money for World AIDS Day. Local chap, Alex Robertson last week implored his online followers to give the price of a beer in Edinburgh for him doing the Tough Guy challenge. Individually, we seem to be harnessing the power of social media for the greater good and we’re fine with this, but let’s take this away from an individual stance. Let’s ask, what can companies do to help others?

Shopping through Give as you Live , from Everyclick, means that by making your purchases through their site or app, your favourite online cause will receive a donation. Over 1,000 retailers are currently signed up, including Tesco, iTunes, and Boots, and they’ll donate an average of 2.5% of your total spent on their website to your chosen charity. £1.6 million has been raised so far, merely from users going slightly out of their way and logging into their retail accounts through Give as you Live, instead of directly.

That’s brilliant – donations for nothing, effectively – but it’s made me think. This week Facebook Deals launched in the UK and other European countries (with limited big-brand partners, sources tell us a full self-service system is expected end Q1) following the US launch last November. As it currently stands 28 million people in the UK have a Facebook account, with just under half of those people logging in at least once a day. It’s pretty safe to say that Facebook is deeply engrained in our consciousness and that if Facebook Deals takes off, checking-in to places will soon become second nature, being more intuitive than going to a site like Give as you Live.

But, so far, only Argos and Benetton have offered up a charity donation for a check-in, with companies like Alton Towers, YO! Sushi and Starbucks making their check-ins for our personal gain. Sure that’s nice for us and a great way to build momentum for Facebook Deals, but in the future I’d rather see a 5% donation to a charity for checking-in than a 5% discount on my morning coffee. It’s time social media was harnessed more for the greater good than it currently is, and the sheer popularity of Facebook means now is as good a time to make us start thinking about how we can start to help others instead of ourselves. We’re fine with donating our money to friends through JustGiving for running 10ks and marathons, but isn’t it about time we made companies step up their game and cough up the cash? I think so, which is why I’m saying make my check-in a charity donation – are you with me?

Claire Field is an in-house web editor and community manager with a huge passion for social media and tea. Take a look at her site here

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  • Tim

    I know what you’re saying, but unfortunately you’re talking about a fundamental shift in people’s thinking. We’re quite good at the “one-off” giving events. Such as the example of the guy asking his friends to donate the cost of one pint, but it’s the consistent giving that is the problem. That’s why we (unfortunately) need Comic Relief and things like that. Without them too many people will not give at all.

    If you give people the option, give to charity or take the discount, I think most people will take the discount more times than not. I wonder if there’s scope for an app that collects all your “discounts” from 4sq or Places and donates them to a charity of your choice? Maybe you could trade them and donate the proceeds to charity. E.g. I get a coffee from Starbucks for checking in 10 times, I put it on the market, someone buys it for 80p and most of that goes to the charity of my choice. The buyer gets cheap coffee, the charity gets some money, I get to feel good. Everyone’s a winner….

    I’ve sometimes wondered if you need to add an element of gaming into this, but localised. I don’t care if I’m the mayor of a location, but I might be interested to know where I rank amongst my friends in terms of check-ins donated to charity…

    Ok, I’m rambling now. Need to get these thoughts coherent first. Think before typing Tim!

  • Polly Gowers

    Hi Claire,

    Love your post – thanks for mentioning Give as you Live™.

    What’s great about the app is that, once it’s downloaded, it runs discreetly in the background whilst you’re doing your online shopping. You don’t need to log in or out, it’s always there and messages pop up when there’s a chance for you to raise money for your favourite charity with over 1000 leading retailers.

    How have you got on with the application yourself? It would be great to hear your feedback.

    Polly at Everyclick

  • Claire

    It’s a good idea Tim having an app that collects up your various discounts to turn them into a charity donation! I know what you’re saying about it being a big change in how people think, but with something as prolific as Facebook having Facebook Deals, now really is a brilliant time for that attitude shift to begin given how mainstream Facebook is! Even if 10% of people opted for a donation, it still has to be better than nothing for the charities, right? And maybe over time more and more people would choose a donation over a personal benefit – it would be nice to think people would do that! :)

  • electroRoss

    Great post Claire, if only the wider public agreed. The research I’m seeing at the moment is that environmental and charitable factors remain low on consumer’s checklist when making a purchase.

    I like the idea that giving through digital shopping can increase awareness of what brands are giving to charity but we shouldn’t think of this as transparency – many are doing much quietly, offline.