Management / Feeling discontent about content-ownership

Feeling discontent about content-ownership

A viral campaign is a gift from the Gods. But how can charities get full ownership of the gift?

What is the sweetest dream of a marketer? In the age of digital marketing, it certainly includes their brand or cause being caught up in the whirlwind of a viral campaign that gives them top-class, free-of-charge  publicity in the digital and – as a spin-off – the print media. The viral campaign will earn them millions of views and shares, prompting discussions on forums, blogs and even newspaper articles. But, as is often the case in the digital world, this relatively new phenomenon opens up another Pandora’s box that begs for innovative approaches, especially while regulation is lagging a few steps behind.

We have recently witnessed a couple of viral campaigns for charities whose success was on a par with well planned and professionally executed national marketing exercises. Just think of the scale of the  #nomakeupselfie campaign that raised £8m for Cancer Research UK in 6 days and came fourth on the  mass participation fundraising events top list: American crime author Laura Lippman tweeted a picture of herself without make-up in support of Kim Novak, whose looks had been slated at the Oscars. As soon as the campaign became associated with breast cancer, Cancer Research UK managed to turn it into a fundraising campaign that made history.

Although Cancer Research had the acumen to engage with users entering the challenge and to rebrand the campaign, the process was never under their full control. Viral magic happens at random. Number six on the same list was the Ice Bucket Challange, a campaign slated for ”slacktivism” and ego boosting which, nonetheless, eventually raised money towards reseach that identified a new gene associated with ALS, a group of rare neurological diseases.

However, neither the ALS Association nor Cancer Research UK became owners of the content that was generated by users on social networks. The intellectual property implications of User Generated Content are vague even if you only consider the usual author-platform-usergroup tangle. They have been known to trigger lawsuits in the case of companies using UGC for advertising purposes or  users infringing on intellectual property rights when creating their own content; and gutted businesses who are not able to monatise their campaign due to social network platforms owning UGC and valuable metadata.

In order to bypass the fight for content with social networks, charitable organisations can aim for own media rather than earned media from the very start by hosting competitions on their website and directing UGC to where they rule the roost. There are special social media aggregator and content curation tools at their service, which enable  them to have the best of both worlds: own media equipped with social media tools. As Athar Abidi, Social Media Manager of the British Heart Foundation explained, ”we avoided content ownership disputes by having UGC for the ‘Heart for a Heart Campaign’ on the site posted using a social media aggregator rather than a typical reuse, where we would have taken the image from social network sites and used it somewhere else.”

Although charities can’t own the hen that lays the golden egg, they can keep an eye on what the hottest thing on social media is and align the latest trends with their own cause. In order to accomplish this more effectively they can rely on tools that search hashtags  to tell them which words or topics were mentioned the most often, alongside common associations with those phrases.

Although many will argue that the road to monetising viral campaigns is paved with a lot of extra hassle failing to earn you any proven ROI, as well as cumbersome processes in order to gain permission to use UGC, thankfully the market has already identified this niche and can provide toolkits that make the journey much smoother than before.


Find out more in a session on content ownership run by Wikimedia UK's John Lubbock at the Digital Content Summit 2018. Delegate passes are now on sale via our website.