The top five charity social media stories of 2013

07 Jan 2014 Voices

The increasing influence of social media was the story of 2013, culminating in social media’s sweetheart Twitter going public. Leon Ward (@Leonjward) lists his top five charity social media stories of 2013; positive and negative.  

The increasing influence of social media was the story of 2013, culminating in social media’s sweetheart Twitter going public. Leon Ward (@Leonjward) lists his top five charity social media stories of 2013; positive and negative.   

1. Amnesty International UK chair resigns

Amnesty International UK’s (AI UK) chair quit last August after tweets joking about mental health came back to haunt him. Ciarnan Helferty resigned from his post as chair of AI UK after tweets sent back in 2010 joking about mental health were discovered.

His hard work, dedication and time committed to the charity, as a trustee for 5 years were all overshadowed by this event.

Whilst it is widely accepted that conversations on social platforms can take interesting turns it is important to remember that charity representatives should not be causing offence, harm or ridicule to individuals.

2. Asda donates £25k to Mind

Supermarket chain Asda donated £25K to mental health charity Mind after a Twitter storm brewed around the supermarket’s ‘mental patient’ Halloween costume. Celebrities, politicians, campaigners and members of the public were quick to descend on Asda to criticise it for its poor choice of product.

In addition to this donation, Asda withdrew the damaging product, as did Amazon, Tesco and several other retailers who sold similar offensive products.

3. DEC credits Facebook and Twitter in appeal efforts

The Disasters Emergency Committee raised £13m in one day during its Philippines appeal and attributed much of its success to social media; especially via Facebook and Twitter. Aid charities were also quick to harness the power of their social presence by sharing regular footage of the disaster struck area as well as relief efforts.

In addition, the Department for International Development used Twitter to inform people of how the UK government was helping. The hashtags #TyphoonHaiyan and #TyphoonAid trended on Twitter for several days and drove people to dig deep into their pockets.

4. Tesco shamed by Help for Heroes supporters

Tesco found itself at the centre of a charity Twitter debacle after Nick Clegg announced a 5p bag tax at the Liberal Democrat party conference. Within hours of the announcement Twitter users decided that Tesco should donate its proceeds from the upcoming levy to Help for Heroes.

Soon, tweets came pouring in congratulating Tesco for choosing Help for Heroes only for Tesco’s social media team to issue tweet after tweet denying the claims and concluding ‘we have not made a statement or commented as a company on this subject. This is not something we have committed’.

Users then went on to ridicule the company for not supporting the UK’s armed forces charity. It was a lose-lose situation for Tesco.  

5. Action on Hearing Loss one minute Twitter campaign

Action on Hearing Loss scored a Christmas win after convincing John Lewis to add subtitles to its popular £7m Christmas bear and the hare TV advert via a single tweet. Supporters of the charity complained that the advert excluded the deaf community, so Action on Hearing Loss tweeted John Lewis’ Twitter handle about the matter.

Within minutes John Lewis replied to Action on Hearing Loss, saying it would correct its error, and less than a week later they re-released the advert with full subtitles.

Evidently, there are ups and downs to engaging with social media. It can help your organisation with its advocacy, campaigning, communications and fundraising campaigns. Usually, this requires a degree of risk taking and we shouldn't be too cautious or restrictive with guidelines but we should remember that our personal tweets can impact our professional lives.  

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