Interactive MarketingBefore my introduction to Inbound Marketing at Weidert Group, the majority of my career experience was with not-for-profit organizations and small medical firms. Even now, many of my goals center on applying marketing principles to help cause-oriented ventures garner support within their communities and online.

Recent trends in online marketing show that grassroots organizations and charities are becoming increasingly integrated with corporate and SMB marketing efforts, especially in interactive, creative marketing. Today, online contests, social networks, and alternative-reality gaming have become three popular ways that companies grow support for their services by capitalizing on the causes of not-for-profit ventures.

In this post, I want to highlight how SMBs can grow leads by tying their content to the work of non-profit organizations with emotion-driven causes.

Let’s start with online contests.

Quickly becoming a stalwart of cause-oriented social media, contests—especially contests with large cash prizes—have become an exciting way companies can draw massive cause-oriented audiences to their name. At the corporate level, JPMorgan Chase is known among non-profit supporters for their Chase Community Giving contest (3.8 million Facebook likes), in which large sums of money are given out to non-profits that rally their supporters to vote online through Facebook. Through an arrangement with NBC, the top twenty-five organizations are even featured on an award show called the American Giving Awards.

Chase maximizes the return on this interactive marketing technique by constructing landing pages for every non-profit and multiple CTAs that connect voters directly with Chase’s banking opportunities. Although Chase’s model is grandiose and difficult to replicate for a smaller business, the components of what Chase does are great for any company’s Inbound Marketing strategies.

For instance, a contest on social media is now a relatively simple task to manage. Some companies have simple competitions using Facebook “likes” or hashtags on Twitter and Instagram. Others promote the competition on social media but hold the competition on their own website. YouTube and Vimeo have become popular arenas for contest marketing because the sponsoring company benefits by encouraging non-profits and charities to produce high quality content that drives their supporters directly toward the sponsoring company’s site. At the same time, a contest helps out community organizations, which can grow the sponsor’s reputation.

Niche-specific social networking

Another way companies are utilizing non-profit bases of support is by offering social networking opportunities for causes that the company positions as their social responsibility. Most often, I’ve seen these efforts targeting students, but there a many examples that are more inclusive. One of the more popular, the Dell Social Innovation Challenge, is actually a contest and a social forum combined. Dell, the sponsor, offers groups with great ideas to put forward their cause-oriented concepts in its online social network. There, groups have an opportunity to interact and learn about each other’s work. In the end, there’s a competition among those groups who perform well in the social arena.

Other companies have created social networks as marketing tools much more easily by using pre-made tools. Ning, SocialGo, and Grou.ps are just a few of the many online tools that companies can use to enable social networking beyond social media. Several years ago the outdoor gear company Mountain Hardware had a social network specifically designed for fans to interact and learn about their products. Mountain Hardware used Ning’s services, but they focused their network to provide interactive content that tied to many outdoor interests, which helped to grow their base of support.

Gaming for a cause

While social networking and contests are solid strategies today, some businesses are pushing the envelope by developing tomorrow’s strategies by tapping the online gaming culture. In the last ten years, alternative reality gaming has become a potential way for companies to grow their base by connecting with a broad base of not-for-profit organizations, niche groups, and special interest populations.

Essentially, alternative-reality gaming (ARG) strategies that have been implemented have supplemented online and social media marketing by giving the targeted audience a goal—win the game. The potential of alternative reality gaming is huge because it maximizes interactivity, which seems to be one element that draws people in. A simple example of an ARG is a scavenger hunt. Companies like SCVNGR.com make it easy for even small companies to set up an online hunt that users all over the world can participate in. Often these types of games utilize teamwork, which draws them back to the cause-oriented contests mentioned earlier.

Contests, social networks, and ARGs are not yet part of your standard Inbound Marketing strategy, but they offer an exciting enhancement that can really get people talking about your brand. Whether you’re focusing specifically on a cause-oriented approach, or just looking for a way to connect with a broader audience, all three involve the interactivity that people look for in web activity today.

If you’re interested in learning more about the possibilities for interactive marketing techniques, it’s best to read up on the fundamentals. a good place to start is our FREE resource How to Enhance Your Internet Presence with Social Media.

Don’t forget to get your accounts tuned up for optimal social media performance!