I wanted to take a minute to show you what a solid internet marketing presence looks like and the good it can accomplish.
Each November thousands of churches, groups and individuals fill shoeboxes with small toys, school supplies, personal items, and other gifts. These boxes are then sent out to children in over 100 countries through teams of volunteers who are connected locally to the children receiving the gifts.
This ministry is called Operation Christmas Child and is organized by Samaritan’s Purse.
My wife organizes gift packing parties at our church for OCC and I know of several other churches that participate so I knew they must be doing something right to get the word out.
Samaritan’s Purse is a massive charity that operates at the hundreds of millions of dollars scale but even a small budget business or organization can learn from their online campaign.
The Operation Christmas Child website is the hub of the ministry. It’s where people go to get information on what OCC is and how they can get involved. The site is actually just a section of the main Samaritan’s Purse website but it feels like it’s own entity.
It’s a clean, easy to use layout with great imagery and color. The text on the slider images is neat and informative. They made great use of embedded video in the slider under Watch Kids Get Shoeboxes.
The purpose of this site is to get people involved in packing shoeboxes so they have several calls to action; one on the top right section and the other on the bottom left labeled Pack a Shoebox.
When you dig deeper into the site you’ll find plenty of resources and tools that will help any first timer jump right to shoebox packing parties.
In a nutshell, the website is great.
OCC uses Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Vine. They do a pretty good job using these platforms too. As I write this, Samaritan’s purse is right in the middle of the collection week for the shoeboxes so activity on social media is at it’s peak. Now is a great time to see how they do things.
I’ll briefly break down each platform and give you some key things you can use for your own accounts. Here’s a spoiler: they actually use each account and engage their followers.
OCC makes great use of their Facebook page. The things they post are relevant to the project and mostly come direct from their fanbase. They make effective use of the content people send in to them like pictures and letters which in turn will encourage more interaction and activity.
Just looking at the page you can tell there is a real connection between fans and the brand.
The OCC Facebook page boasts over 1.2 million fans which is a lot but in all honesty that number is largely irrelevant. What I am more interested in is the number of fans that interact with the posts. If you do a quick scan of their posts you’ll see Likes that range in the thousands, shares in the hundreds and plenty of comments.
My point is this: don’t worry about your total fan numbers. What really demonstrates success on Facebook? The people that interact with you and care about your brand.
The OCC Twitter account is all about amplifying other people. Almost every tweet was a retweet of another user.
— OCC Shoeboxes (@OCC_shoeboxes) November 18, 2014
This is an easy way to push out great content and make your followers love you more. Any time you amplify someone else’s tweet, they are going to get excited.
And it’s so easy. All they have to do is search out mentions of @ or the hashtag #OperationChristmasChild, find some good photos from people out there and retweet with small comment like Great! or Nice Job!
This campaign was made for Pinterest. People go to Pinterest with intent to get something done. They are looking for ideas. Operation Christmas Child has played to this intent perfectly.
Each box that they send out is packed specifically for a boy or girl between certain ages and on Pinterest you’ll find boards with ideas for those box categories. If I’m tasked with packing a box for a girl between 5 and 9 you can be sure I will be checking that Pinterest board for ideas.
Another thing they did well was set the cover image for two of the boards with descriptive text: 100 shoebox ideas for a girl. That makes it easy to find exactly what you are looking for at a glace but more importantly those pins will be repinned more often than pins without text on the photos.
Summing it all up
What Samaritan’s Purse has done with the Operation Christmas Child online properties is simple to replicate. They put out relevant and engaging content and interact with their audience. That’s all it is and it works.
The website is clean and organized but more importantly it is useful. They interact with their followers on social media and amplify their fans.
One thing you need to understand: this didn’t happen overnight. They have spent years building this following and developing this content so don’t look at what they’ve done and say “I could never do that.”
If you first define your purpose and your audience then develop content for that audience and interact with and engage that audience you WILL see great results.