Social causes require social interaction, leading New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, along with wife Sheryl WuDunn, to build a campaign based on tweets and posts promoting a documentary based on their 2009 bestselling book.
The PBS documentary "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide," aired this week, but its social campaigns live on.
Rather than viewers simply watching the film, the group created an immersive experience to generate buzz for the film, spur public involvement and maintain relevance beyond its airdate.
The film follows Kristof and celebrity advocates America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union and Olivia Wilde on journeys to Africa, India and Southeast Asia to tell the stories of inspiring, courageous individuals.
Education might become the "ladder out of poverty," according to documentary promos, but social media drives awareness. On Monday night as the first half of the program aired, #HalftheSky trended in the top 10 hashtags. During the East Coast feed, Twitter tweets hit an average of 265 per minute, demonstrating how socially immersive the campaign to promote Half the Sky has been.
Melinda Gates, Ashley Judd and Jessica Alba were among those showing support on Twitter using the hashtag #HalftheSky.
"It was one of the top 10 most discussed topics on Twitter during Monday night football," said Kevin Dando, director of digital marketing at PBS. He called the Half the Sky campaign the "single best collective use of social, content and search engine optimization" in the 17 years working at the public broadcast station.
Connecting social interactions with searches on engines that lead TV viewers or online socialites to PBS' Web sites require monitoring tweets in real-time to determine the words that lead visitors from social. It also requires daily 15-minute debriefs between Dando and PBS' in-house SEO professional. That's when social and search experts stand, literally, sharing ideas about campaigns running the prior night, followed by the current day's programming. "I'm looking at the words in Promoted Tweets and using them in search campaigns," he said.
Microtargeting in social platforms has enabled PBS to launch niche paid-marketing social campaigns on Facebook and Twitter.
Liriel Higa, the social media strategist for Half the Sky, said the "ambitious" social media campaign will continue to run on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr, Google+. and Foursquare. Half the Sky will also launch a game on Facebook later this year.