Dear Twitter

20 Jul 2010|Kelli Peterson

Recently Forbes named the Fledgling Initiative one of the Most Imaginative CSR campaigns. Congratulations! I agree that it’s imaginative and does a better job than most of tying the core attributes of partnering organizations together, bringing home the importance of reading to those of us who take reading for granted. But I want to challenge you. Honestly, I think you could have done better.

The Fledgling Initiative is born of a partnership with Room to Read and Crushpad. Fledgling Wine is Twitter’s new venture into the wine business and the Initiative promises to give $5 of every case of wine purchased to Room to Read.

Partnering with Room to Read was a brilliant idea. They’re smart marketers and surely saw this effortless opportunity on their part to bring home a good chunk of change via your audience as a no brainer (say 12,000 cases at $5 each netting $60,000 or five libraries in India?). And surely you saw this idea as a way to reach the progressive tech adopters – intelligent, cultured, appreciators of wine, globally minded – via the buzz this effort will create. Many CSR campaigns are not so thoughtful or targeted.

But, investment in a wine label? Drinking a case of wine knowing that I contributed towards the child literacy in a remote developing country will definitely make me feel better. But why follow the lead of so many unmemorable one-time campaigns before you? Why invest in something that is so outside your area of expertise as to not create an intuitive leap? Why not leverage your business capability and opportunity for scaling impact, instead of investing in an area that will feel like a stepchild to your most intelligent, forward thinking technologists and business analysts?

Twitter, surely you know that you are still in brand development mode. And that CSR campaigns are a reflection of that brand power. You have a tremendous opportunity to use your first CSR foray to set the bar high. We watch everything you do. We are watching for visions of greatness. You are still shiny and new to us. The potential for the platform and the brand is being eagerly watched and there are countless consulting firms and marketing agencies strategizing with their clients over how to harness the microphone that you have created. Why stop short of the infinite viral factor, impact and engagement of your audience in real ongoing contributions (and making yourselves heroes in the process?).

Twitter you have the ability to use both your medium and technology expertise to promote and address issues that are commensurate with the intellect of your organizational capability. You have the ability to inspire your audience with the insightfulness of your vision and imagination. What about partnering with Kiva to engage your audience in long term micro-finance programs that engender sticky relationships with giving and leverage the ultimate impact of your viral platform? Giving your audience something to “twitter” about and ultimately driving interest and engagement at a very organic level. What about partnering with Myoo and Electronic Arts on an open-source competition that challenges video game players to a contest that uses their skills to solve world problems? What about investing the money you spent on the winery in a staff member who could exclusively focus on developing programming that would leverage your audience in alliance with Room-to-Read needs and longer term funding initiatives – in other words taking a look at the funding opportunities created by the partnership and your business proposition?

Twitter, I am absolutely not bagging on you. I am simply encouraging you to take a longer term, more strategic approach to CSR. Great brands are great leaders – and we think you have that potential.

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