Online campaign platform Causes.com has executed a redesign with what it calls its Supporter Network, expanding user functionality and branded campaign sites to allow for more user interaction, direct marketing capabilities and consumer demographics.
Owned by Berkley, Calif.-based for-profit Philotic Inc., Causes was founded in 2007 as one of the 10 original Facebook applications. While the Facebook app remains, Causes is now also a stand-alone site where users create a profile page and are invited to “support,” or follow, other users, specific campaigns and broad social and civic issues like environmental awareness and political campaigns. Companies like Coca-Cola, Toyota and AT&T partner with nonprofits to create branded campaign microsites and engage Causes users through invitations to view videos, take pledges or make donations. “If Facebook is your social network and LinkedIn is your professional network, we want to be your civic network,” said Matt Mahan, CEO of Causes.
Advertisers have a couple of promotional options on the newly redesigned Causes.com: they can purchase standard online display and banner ads, which, according to Mahan, average a click-through rate double the industry average. The Supporter Network also allows for what Mahan calls “peer-to-peer recruiting,” where supporters of a cause invite others to support it as well. “The brands’ ability to build a long term relationship with people who are aligned with them on their causes is valuable because that’s a direct distribution point,” Mahan says. “You can e-mail all of your supporters and they can then recruit other people.”
The redesign also gives brands access to a more comprehensive organizational profile. “You can now actually see your entire supporter base and see who your top supporters are, which allows you to recognize and reward the people who are doing the most work in your campaigns,” Mahan says. Causes also provides its advertisers stats like impressions, increases in Net Promoter Score, peer-to-peer sharing of campaign sites as well as demographic and psychographic information on supporters.
While there are thousands of causes to support on the site, branded campaigns get featured treatment to ensure visibility. “We insert [advertisers’ campaigns] on the home feed, we insert them in search results and we insert them in some of our e-mail outreach to the user base. We make sure that everyone in the network is aware of the campaign and then people self-select into it. The [users] who are the most passionate end up setting up their own personal campaigns within the parent campaign. It’s sort of like the way that a political campaign distributes responsibility.”
The advantage to focusing cause-marketing efforts onto Causes.com, Mahan says, is that users are already there to support civic and social campaigns. “Millions of people come to Causes.com to take action on behalf of a cause that they care about. Brands are giving them really unique ways to get involved … and people respond well to that because that’s actually why they’re there. Our ad model is not a typical distracting, disruptive [model where we] put a big banner ad or roadblock in your face and try to get you to go to another website or get you to go buy a car. We’re able to segment our audience based on what they care about. ‘You’re here because you’re worried about climate change? We can show you that HTC is reducing its ecological footprint, and they’re going to help you figure out how to better use energy in your home.’ It becomes a really organic, meaningful part of the experience for people.”
But according Carol Cone, global practice chair at New York-based marketing firm Edelman, Causes.com has a tough row to hoe in getting users to regularly check in on yet another social media site and actively engage with the branded campaigns. According to the company, Causes.com has 186 million registered users, and in a given month 6 million users, about 3%, visit the site. “The original launch of Causes.com was bold and early in the social media world. Their goal, as a ‘cousin’ to Facebook, was to become a powerful magnet linking citizen consumers, causes and companies to inspire and ignite action. … The redesign, like [for] many sites, is another trial to find the best way to engage and inspire action in an ever-more-fragmented-attention world. Is it a major signal that there is a shift in how consumers will engage? I don’t think so. … The challenge for Causes.com will be to get staying power and getting to scale.”