Yesterday, Microsoft was largely — and rightly IMO — condemned for a now-apologized-for tweet they made in which they said that they’d donate $1 for every retweet (up to a maximum of $100,000) to Japanese earthquake relief efforts. It definitely got them a lot of publicity, most of it not so good. It took attention away from any legitimate (and non-PR-based) help Microsoft had actually offered in the face of the disaster.
Today, my Facebook news feed is full of people reposting a message from Explore.org, which urges people to like one of their Facebook pages and saying that they will donate $1 for every fan they get (up to a maximum of $100,000) to the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation.
They’re doing the same thing to capitalize on the unrest in Egypt by urging people to like another one of their Facebook pages, saying that they’ll donate $1 for every fan they get, up to $25,000, to the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals.
On the surface, that seems like a noble effort, raising awareness and encouraging people to help. However, for me the problem arises in how they’re doing it. In the comments on a post about the Dog Bless You page on Mashable, someone from Explore.org remarked, when people questioned using a disaster as a marketing device, “We want to encourage and inspire online communities to work together and take immediate action. We work with many non-profits and the more recognition we can bring to them the better!”
That would be marvelous if they were actually bringing significant recognition to the non-profits they’re supporting. Rather than providing links to the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation site (or its Facebook page) or to the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals site (or its Facebook page), they hinge these donations on people liking their own Facebook pages. On each of Explore.org’s Cat/Dog Bless You Facebook pages, they only mention the sites of the actual organizations in unclickable, uncopyable text on the poster graphics, making it harder for you to visit those sites (and thus less likely that people will make the effort).
You know that Explore.org is going to make those donations to the organizations in question regardless, just like Microsoft did (and had always intended to) when it made that unfortunate tweet. You Liking their Facebook pages isn’t actually accomplishing anything that not Liking them would. If Explore.org was really all about raising awareness for those organizations, they’d have made it about increasing the number of fans for the organizations’ own Facebook pages instead of their own. Don’t get me wrong. It’s great that Explore.org plans to donate to both of those organizations and I don’t want to take anything away from that, but by tying it into increasing their own fan base, they proving themselves to be not a lot different from Microsoft.
If you really want to help National Disaster Search Dog Foundation and Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals, you’ll go Like their Facebook pages (instead of or in addition to the Explore.org ones) and donate directly to them.
(Note: The lack of links to Explore.org or their Facebook pages in this post is deliberate.)