Charity uses guilt tactics to target celebrities through Twitter

It’s commonly known that brands pay celebrities to tweet about their products, paying thousands for them to mention their products to millions of avid followers. But what if this concept was turned on its head, with the people who read those tweets having a say in how the money is spent? If followers were able to persuade 50 Cent, Mariah Carey and Paris Hilton to use their wealth for social good?

That’s the aim of Africa Needs You, which is encouraging people to tweet celebrities and tell them to donate to UNICEF. And here’s the guilt bit. A running total shows who has been most generous – the cash-strapped public or the rich and famous.

A collaboration between We Are Jack and Paul and Enjoythis, Africa Needs You is part of the 50/50 Project, an ideas platform which aims to coordinate 50 projects in 50 days to help raise money for UNICEF and those suffering in the East African drought.

Designer Jack McPartland told me more about the concept behind the campaign:

‘We wanted to target celebrities for two reasons – their wealth and their reach. Celebrities have a lot of influence on Twitter. But some are using it for financial gain, by tweeting brand endorsements for cash. We wanted to harness the collective power of the crowd and encourage these celebrities to start using Twitter for good. We united the crowd with a consistent tone by providing a platform to send prewritten tweets.

The more tweets we send, the louder our voice becomes. We thought that the general public should be able to donate too – hopefully the celebrity vs general public donation mechanic will give the project some longevity.

What gave you the idea?

Social media’s always evolving – it’s fun to try and use it in new ways. We wanted to try and harness the power of the crowd to get the project noticed.

Strangely enough, I think the London riots had a slight influence on the project. It’s hard to ignore large groups of people, acting in unison. No violence and looting here though – this is just a peaceful demonstration! The more people join in, the more likely it is the celebrities will listen and donate.

When did it launch and how successful has it been so far?

It’s only been live for a couple of days. The very nature of the idea should hopefully help to spread it through Twitter; by tweeting at celebrities, you are also tweeting to your followers. It all hinges on how many people get involved. A few tweets are easy to ignore. But what about 100 or 10,000? We’re hoping that blogs and papers write and tweet about it too. It’s got lots of interesting touch points for different audiences. From celebrity culture to an interesting use of social media.

What do you make of celebs being paid to tweet?

It’s a natural evolution of celebrity endorsement I guess.

Do you think guilt is a good tactic to encourage them to be more charitable?

They are using their fans to make money by providing brands with a captive audience. It’s not like they’re hard up for cash. Hopefully they’ll ease their guilt with a donation to UNICEF.

Do you think you’ll have any D-list celebs trying to get on the list?

The more the merrier. If any of you D-listers are reading, pop me an e-mail and we’ll get your pic up alongside Paris and Snoop.

First published on The Wall Blog.