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Andy’s Answers: How USA TODAY used Twitter to make charity cooler than Justin Bieber

A lot of brands launch charity campaigns through social channels, but few generate the success that USA TODAY did with their #AmericaWants project that gave a full-page ad to a charity chosen by fans.

In just four days, USA TODAY generated 60,000 tweets in support of more than 500 charities and became a trending topic at three different times — even knocking the ever-present┬áJustin Bieber out of the trending list at one point.

At our recent BlogWell in Washington, D.C., USA TODAY’s Glenna DeRoy walked us through how they pulled this off. A few of her key takeaways:

  • Make it simple for people to participate. The only thing users had to do participate was tweet this phrase “#AmericaWants (name of charity) to get a full-page ad in USA TODAY.” This short length also made all the tweets easy to retweet.
  • In a charity project, look for a universal cause. DeRoy said one of the reasons of their campaign’s success was its universal appeal — because everyone has a cause they believe in.
  • Work with legal and IT from the beginning. DeRoy stressed how helpful her legal team was in setting the rules of the contest, as well as how critical of a role IT played in making it possible to track the contest and ultimately pick a winner.

Watch Glenna’s presentation (and view the slides here):