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PhilanthroPosts: The Accidental Marketing Tactic That Might Just Change the World.

It’s crazy. 

We spend our work days ploughing through best practices, plotting well thought out paths to create value for the companies we serve, and yet it’s Saturday morning in our pajama pants, sipping coffee and getting lost in thought that more often serves as the backdrop for inspiration.

In my case, it was Saturday morning, May 23rd, and like many of us in the midst of COVID craziness, my thoughts were spinning as I pondered the state of our world, my own business and personal life. 

Intimately aware of the toll life was taking on my own heart and soul, I came across an article in the National Review revealing that in the last month, a year’s worth of suicide attempts had been recorded in California. 

Most of them by young adults.

Man, did that ever hit home. 

I’d done battle with those demons back in my twenties when things were “normal”, and even then the darkness almost won. 

It wasn’t hard for me to imagine how the clammy fingers of isolation, job loss, loneliness and hopelessness could choke the hope out of folks.

So on a whim I posted this post on my personal LinkedIn Account.


To be clear, I don’t consider myself a social media guru.

I have several really smart people around me who are much better at that type of thing.

Was it well intentioned? Yes. But it was anything but well thought through or scripted.

I just had to do something.

I was moved by the emotions I was processing. So I slapped the post together, hurled it into cyber space and then mostly ignored it, until checking on it later in the day.

When I did sneak a peek at my phone, I gasped a bit and I began processing what I was seeing.

Honestly, my first thought was something like… “Oh crap! What did I just do!?”

Normally my good posts harvest around fifty “likes”. I figured this might double that and so a $1,000 donation to the Canadian Mental Health Association was the financial ballpark I had prepared to play in.

But my quick peek later in the day revealed it had already topped 100 “likes” and there were still two full days to go!

So after steeling my resolve that the donation I was committed to send might just end up being a bit more significant than I thought, it hit me.

Gaining awareness for RTOWN wasn’t my motivation for the post, but the traction it was garnering arrested my attention.

Sure… I was about to give more to charity than I had planned. But a myriad of questions were setting my synapses ablaze with what I was seeing.

  • Could a post like this be just as beneficial for a brand as it is for the charity getting funds and exposure?
  • Could giving to charity instead of billion dollar ad platforms become a standard practice in marketing strategy alongside branding or conversion campaigns?
  • Is there a sweet spot to be found that maximizes traction metrics against charitable “spending” through giving posts?

In this case, I know I felt a TON better opening my wallet for the Canadian Mental Health Association rather than Google, Facebook or, this post’s case, LinkedIn.

But could charitable posts really become a mainstay in the marketing strategies of brands worldwide?

If they did, what could the impact be for important social causes that have an aim to better our world and need funds?

PhilanthroPosts & Giving Marketing

Running a metrics driven digital marketing agency, my mind naturally started hunting for the numbers. 

Could we really replace ad spend with donation commitments using a “PhilanthroPost” to get the reach and engagement we want while also supporting causes that make a difference? 

As I started thinking about it, for top-of-funnel content designed to bring awareness to a brand, a giving centred post already had some incredibly unique advantages built into it. 

For instance, we already know that:

  • Brand giving creates positive brand associations and feelings with potential buyers. 
  • It can create the “Halo Effect” whereby a consumer’s positive perceptions of a brand’s product or service increase even though completely unrelated to the brand’s philanthropic activity. 

I was already starting to make the case that a PhilanthroPost is a great marketing tactic on those merits alone.

But I knew it was the numbers that had to drive the credibility of approach. 

Here’s what they looked like in my case.

As you can see in the post, my call to action was for the reader to “like” the post to garner the $10 donation and they had until the next day to do it.

By that time, my “off-the-cuff” philanthropic campaign wrapped up, the results looked like this.

Luke Aulin Philanthripost

After a couple days $3,750 was heading to the Canadian Mental Health Association, and I was excited. Not just for the donation and helping out, but about how this experience had my brain ticking around the bigger marketing implications.

Then, the next day saw even more likes, even better reach and more comments .

Those comments included someone tagging the CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association in the thread, which led to a conversation and further amplification opportunities.

Today, as of writing this, the post has continued to get traction with a 57% increase in views and likes and a handful more comments since its inception.

Philanthropost Reach

Since then I just can’t help but ask, what if we took the typical awareness and engagement metrics we track for top-of-funnel social posts and measured it against the donation “investment” we made, as opposed to ad spend?

What if we A/B tested the donation offer along with different calls to action for engagement?

Could we deduce a donation incentive and call to action combination that would provide the same awareness and engagement yield as if we invested the same dollar amount in ad spend?

Would $3 a “like” yield the same virality as $10 did?
How about .10 cents a view, asking the audience to amplify it any way they chose?

Imagine if a $500 charitable donation could yield a brand the same traction that a similar amount in straight ad spend could? Add the benefits of charitable giving already discussed and the implications to a brand’s marketing strategy could be huge.

Nevermind the social benefit.

Let’s look at some engagement metrics for social posts as an example here.

Applause Rate: # of approval actions on the post relative to total followers
Avg. Engagement Rate: # of engagement actions against total followers
Amplification Rate: # of shares, retweets, repinns etc. against total followers
Virality Rate: post shares relative to unique views

Using this post as an example for applause rate (AR) and average engagement rate (AER) it’s clear to see the implications. With 6,810 followers on LinkedIn the post yielded an AR of 8.6% and an AER of 8.9%.

Yes, amplification and virality rates suffered, in part due to the posts call to action for the audience to simply “like” the post, but even then the traction it provided was undeniable

Contrast that with a similar post, offering the same content to the same audience a few weeks earlier, and see the difference. 

AR – under 1%

AER – not worth the time to type!

Consider with me for a second the opportunities that a giving post offers to drive conversions at the bottom of the funnel as well. 

Soft-handed marketers that create posts successfully coupling donation offers with lead-capture or conversion opportunities, stand to add another powerful tool to their marketing toolkit.

Not a Philanthropost

From there, a return on giving (ROG) calculation can be a valuable metric as a contrast against typical return on ad spend (ROAS),providing even more justification for the metrics-driven digital marketer to promote generosity for achieving business objectives for their clients.

A Call to Action

Let me wrap up with this. As I write this two things are painfully obvious to me.

That our world looks to be pulling apart at the seams, and that the need and opportunity for change, collaboration and innovation, has never been greater.

Could what we hold in our hands everyday have the power to not just make the businesses and brands we serve better, but the world itself?

Sounds lofty. I know.

But fueled by my passion for our craft and buoyed by a belief that our world needs help now more than ever, I’m making an open call to the digital marketing industry.

Let’s link arms in exploring how giving-centred marketing could revolutionize our client’s funnels while simultaneously helping to support organizations uniquely positioned to bring about much needed change in our communities.

The Ask / Challenge: How about trying it out on one of your own channels and sharing your results with us? Impressions, reach and $$ donated. Can we prove it out with data that this could be part of businesses changing the world without throwing ad dollars at the big guys?

Ponder it a bit. Maybe over a coffee this Saturday morning in your pajama pants.

I’d love to know what you think.