Social media rocks, and I’m not afraid to say it. I am a millennial after all. But social media rocks just a little bit more when its used to change someone’s life, or in the case of the TOMS #withoutshoes campaign, 269,243 lives.
We’ve all heard about TOMS “One for One” approach to business (if you haven’t, you can read about it here). Every year, the company organizes a Day Without Shoes event in which people are encouraged to go throughout their normal lives barefoot to raise awareness for children’s health and education. In May of 2015, though, they took their mission one step further. In the midst of the “here’s a cute picture of my feet” phase of Instagram, TOMS started the #withoutshoes campaign. They promised that for every time someone used their hashtag on a picture of their bare feet, they would donate a pair of shoes to someone in need.
TOMS didn’t use this campaign as a way to gain customers, but instead they used it to include the entire Instagram community in their philanthropic efforts. In an effort to do as much good as possible they also extended the campaign from one day, to a little less than a month (from Tom’s birthday, to the official Day Without Shoes, May 5-21). I think this was a really smart move on their part. Almost everyone gets the urge to do some good in their lives, but not everyone can afford a $48 shoes to do so. Because of this inclusivity, the #withoutshoes hashtag was used 269,243 times in 17 days.
The campaign used a well balanced combination of company created content, and user created content, like the post above. In an effort like this one, where companies want their customers to actively engage in posting content, rather than just “liking” or sharing content, it is imperative that the company curate some of the posts from other users. In this case, TOMS got super lucky in how talented their Instagram followers are. From professional photographers, to amateur ones who have the overly stamped passports we all dream of, there are some seriously beautiful pictures of people’s bare feet (I don’t think that sentence would have ever been said before this). I mean, LOOK AT THE TALENT HERE!
Intermingled throughout the user generated content, there were posts about the “giving partners” that the company works with to be able to accomplish the monumental task of providing shoes to hundreds of thousands of children, giving followers the extra validation that their posts would indeed do some good. To really encourage users to post these awesome pictures, though, TOMS pulled some textbook caliber emotional appeals. I’m talking pictures of the most precious children walking down a dirt road without shoes on. Or the cutest little girl with the biggest smile on her face and her new TOMS shoes in her hand. You know, the kind of picture that makes you want to adopt all the world’s orphans and give them all the hugs you have. But we can’t adopt all the tiny children, so instead we post pictures of our ugly, unpainted toe nails and hope that we can make another little girl smile like the one in the picture.
So here’s to you, TOMS, for taking something great and making it even greater.