Digital Persuasion in Action Rule 1: How the American Red Cross Builds Social Currency

Nov 6, 2013 5:10 PM ET

       How did a 132-year old institution like the American Red Cross manage to evolve into the modern, digitally engaged organization it is today? One thing’s for sure — having social engagement superstar Wendy Harman on board for the last seven years has certainly helped.

Waggener Edstrom recently sat down with Wendy to learn more about the American Red Cross’ approach to social engagement and digital persuasion. Despite its small social media staff, the organization has built an impressive and integrated approach to social engagement. Along the way, Wendy and her colleagues have learned that donations are not the only form of social currency, and every day they leverage that wisdom to reach people in need and help save lives.

 “We’ve had a really strong focus on being utilitarian, on giving people things that will be useful to them, and also trying to make our stakeholders and communities feel good and proud to share information about the Red Cross,” Wendy explained. “If we can make them look good, they’ll make us look good in the end.”

How does the American Red Cross social media team ensure that happens?

  • By always adding value for their audience. When developing content and messages, they focus on how the American Red Cross can help people – not on how people can help the organization.
  • By cultivating and empowering organizational ambassadors. Red Cross - FB shot finalThe American Red Cross harnesses the energy and passion of their most engaged online supporters and makes it easy for them to contribute to the organization’s work and mission by training them to serve as digital volunteers in times of disaster.
  • By taking strategic and creative risks to insert their organization’s name and brand into online conversations. The American Red Cross’ social media managers have successfully seized opportunities to connect the organization to trending topics. Case in point: they got people talking about emergency preparedness by live-tweeting the Sharknado premiere.
John Trybus
Waggener Edstrom
+1 (202) 261-7800