Social media strategy gives Refuge a voice to speak out

National domestic violence charity Refuge endlessly endeavours to achieve a world where domestic violence is neither tolerated nor ignored. For too long, domestic violence has been surrounded by a wall of silence and is still seen as a taboo subject. But Refuge encourages people to speak out against domestic violence and the inadequate services that families experience if they need help when faced with this social malaise. Its marketing aims to raise awareness of its facilities and life-saving campaign messages, help raise money and support campaign work for better facilities for women and children experiencing domestic violence.

Its marketing activity has previously included more traditional charity fundraising schemes – such as sponsored events, PR, media partnerships, banner advertising and DM. Its partnership with Code Computerlove has helped it benefit from digital marketing and build a strong website.

But as with many such organisations, marketing budgets are slight and using the most cost effective means of communicating messages to the right people and the right way is high on its priority list. Spending hard earned donations on marketing, rather than core support services, means it is vital that money is spent carefully and in the most impactful way.

Social media gives everyday people like you and me the chance to speak out about things that are good and bad in the world, in an attempt to make change happen. And that’s what Refuge – the leading charity campaigning against domestic violence – wanted to achieve with its Speak Out campaign.

So for its latest campaign, Refuge and partner organisation Avon harnessed the power of social media to generate 8,000 signatures on a Speak Out petition which demanded that the Government end the acute shortage of specialist domestic violence services in England and Wales.

3,000 signatures were generated in just one afternoon – when the charity cleverly enlisted the help of a number of celebrities to spread the message through major social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter and via its microsite

In addition to generating vital signatures on the petition, the campaign increased donations by 317% (compared to previous campaigns) and proved a highly effective way (and cost-efficient channel) for the charity to get life-saving messages out to core audiences.

The fact that the campaign was so visible in social networking sites helps to break down the wall of silence and met the campaign’s overall objective to encourage people to speak out.

This was Refuge’s first foray into social media as a way of engaging with core audiences and communicating its call to action. So careful consideration was given to the level of control and messaging it would portray in social channels.

It was also important that social media was part of an overall strategy and introduced as a longer term media platform – not viewed as another means to get a campaign message out there based on the old interrupt model of advertising.

Development of Strategy

Code also advised that clients are best placed to manage their own social media, where an agency can advise on strategy, approach and management but that social media is constant and real - from the organisation itself. For this reason, most work is done upfront to help organisations plan the best strategy for their aims and objectives. Code developed the strategy in the following ways:

  • Listening – to analyse current conversations and trends, identify key influencers, and gauge the opportunities – where conversations are taking place
  • Understanding – identifying the target audience, where they go when they’re online, typical behaviours, how existing brand advocates and social media users could be used to maximise the spread and effectiveness of the campaign and how Code could add value to their online experience
  • Planning – content requirements; how to meet objectives and best implement the campaign with the resources available (how it will be run and managed). Code also identified any implications of the approach and how success would be measured
  • Roadmapping – each phase of social media activity was roadmapped over the agreed time frame, and specific KPIs were set in terms of visibility, interaction and qualitative results.

Refuge’s Speak Out Against Domestic Violence campaign’s effectiveness was the combination of a number of factors and tactics. It was ideal for social media channels where consumers are empowered to speak out and communicate within with their networks and online communities…for free.

It used the latest (but relevant) technologies to encourage messages to be passed on and travel through the social space.

  • The campaign message was simple and compelling to encourage people to engage, pass it on and take action.
  • A Facebook App made the signing of the petition easy and encouraged people to share with friends.

Clear links to the campaign microsite further facilitated action to sign the online petition, buy and wear an Avon Empowerment necklace, display campaign posters and speak to each other and make donations.

The campaign’s core messages were communicated in a distinct and separate way from Refuge’s main website, and in channels that encouraged two-way discussion that offline activity can’t achieve.

In addition to using the ‘usual’ ways for people to virally spread positive and important messages, the strategy capitalised on the power celebrities have within Twitter, and their large followings, as a way to fast track the reach and spread of the campaign message.

One of the key tweeters was Stephen Fry – a well-respected celebrity and probably one of the most famous celebrity Tweeters, with more than 1.5m followers. Stephen’s tweet “RT Speak out against domestic violence – sign petition to Government with @Avon_UK #speakoutnow” helped to generate thousands of signatures within minutes of broadcast.

Claudia Winkleman, Amanda Holden, Lorraine Kelly, Fay Ripley, Angela Griffin, Jenny Faulkner and Lauren Laverne also re-tweeted the message about Refuge's petition.

The petition was ‘Liked’ by more than 1,500 Facebook users. Around 3,000 people also invited their social media networks to sign the petition.

The charity now has a strong and on-going social media strategy that is a major part of its support and campaigning work moving forward.

The end result?

On 9th December 2010 Refuge and partner Avon, along with some brave families, handed in the petition at number 10 Downing Street. Refuge will monitor progress in the months to come.

Lisa King of Refuge added: "One of the challenges facing Refuge is to break down the taboos and wall of silence which 'hide' domestic violence - an issue which claims the lives of 12 women every week; with one woman in four experiencing domestic violence at some time in her life.

"Social media is a very powerful communications tool which allows us to reach out to thousands of people in an effective way. By rolling out a focused online programme of work, centred on Facebook and Twitter, thousands of people have been able to show their support. And these supporters are helping to break down the wall of silence that surrounds abuse. This was one of the important goals around Refuge and Avon's joint Speak Out campaign.

"Due to the unpredictability of social media campaigns, we'd geared up for any peaks in awareness and surges in signatures, and negotiated a discounted rate on bandwidth usage with UK Grid; but getting the support of such high profile social media users was more than we could have hoped for and very nearly toppled the back office system! It really does demonstrate the effect social media can have on getting messages out there."

This case study was awarded a commendation in the category of Social Media Strategy at The Drum Marketing Awards

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