Hundreds of businesses to sign up to ‘civic action’ campaign on Facebook

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Many of the companies in the New Campaign were not on Facebook About 100 companies, from big consumer brands like Coca-Cola and Colgate to designers and fashion designers, have …

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Many of the companies in the New Campaign were not on Facebook

About 100 companies, from big consumer brands like Coca-Cola and Colgate to designers and fashion designers, have signed up to a “civic action” campaign on Facebook that asks users to log off from the site.

Called Text To Retweet, the initiative asks businesses to send Facebook users an automated message asking them to sign a two-word pledge.

The new company that executes the message may then encourage them to use the company’s website to subscribe to a free newsletter.

Proceeds go to a fund that helps Americans cover care costs for people with disabilities.

Cathy Renna, who conceptualised the initiative, is no stranger to social media campaign work.

As an activist group manager for the communications agency Razorfish, she led the major New York Times and Time magazine bid to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

But this latest effort in Silicon Valley, under the auspices of the consultancy firm TechSavvy Global, takes some of her campaigning work on a corporate level, she says.

“We’re setting the bar at 500,000 people. I think every corporation knows that they can only gain from trying to engage with people that are actually asking them to engage.”

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Cathy Renna is an activist and is leading a new campaign that asks users to log off from Facebook

Major companies have found all manner of ways to get people to do things online.

The latest example was Audi’s ‘So happy you’re back! Watch us as we celebrate homecoming’ internet video that was shown at a football game in London at the end of November.

While having millions of people watch a video with nothing to do but watch it is probably too difficult for most brands, Text To Retweet shows how some form of engagement on Facebook – no matter how short or barebones – is worth the effort.

Competition

“I think they’re recognising that what we’re getting out of Facebook is competition with our customers,” she told the BBC.

“We’re seeing brands who have been listening to people say they want more recognition and conversation with them but they want it to be on their website not on Facebook.”

In 2016, the New York Times and Time magazine bid to influence the 2016 US presidential election .

It was the largest online advertising deal ever, costing the two organisations more than $80m (£59m).

Who is behind this latest initiative, and how many people are expected to respond is not clear.

Facebook has a “Subscribe” feature – which allows brands to send users regular push notifications as part of a wider marketing campaign – but a campaign like this one would likely require a substantial investment in time, resources and staff.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Many people have signed up, but it is not clear how many people actually see those messages

“This might be challenging to really scale and they’ve been willing to sign up for a campaign and not have a lot of information on their campaigns,” Ms Renna said.

“Because of their scale, I would say yes.”

Executives from Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

Video caption Mr Zuckerberg says Facebook will do everything it can to help people affected by the flu get help

There are currently 6,934 “friends” listed on the Text To Retweet website, with 153 organisations being involved. Some people who have signed up to the campaign have also shared accounts of having actually received an automated message saying they had signed up.

“I thought maybe two people would see this and I would like people to know to try it. I clicked and now I’m signed up,” one user told the company.

Another added: “Nothing’s stopping you from doing it.”

Ms Renna said the campaign is worth testing for brands to see if it offers a return on investment.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Recipients of the messages won’t necessarily see them and will likely delete them when they are done

“I think brands will find out over time as we scale and eventually decide to execute this programme but I know that the amount of commitment from brands to being able to change how their message is seen has been very small,” she said.

“It is a very flexible campaign and brands can join and sign up for the first time.”

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