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One Million Acts of Green One Million Acts of Green Part 1: The Power of the Human Network, describes Cisco Canada’s mission to help save the planet, one green act at a time.  Leveraging the power of social media alongside traditional marketing tactics, Cisco and its partners (including GreenNexxus) created a vibrant online community of green-minded individuals.  Thanks to brilliant execution, the program met its target of “one million acts” well ahead of plan, and topped 1.8 million before the Canadian program officially ended and the site went global. 

This blog highlights the social media best practices and pitfalls shared by Willa Black, Cisco Canada’s VP of Corporate Affairs, during our recent discussion.

From Cisco’s perspective One Million Acts of Green (OMAoG) had its roots in a branding campaign, and thanks to this campaign, in 2009 Cisco enjoyed:

  • A five-fold increase in media mentions.
  • Recognition through multiple awards, including Strategy Magazine’s “Cause + Action” award which declared OMAoG to be the best corporate social responsibility plan by a Canadian marketer that year.
  • Opportunities to get the brand in front of decision makers in a very positive way (for “free”), including multiple keynote invitations.
  • A novel way for the Sales team to connect with clients, who began to see Cisco in a different light.  The program became a sales tool which opened doors and enhanced Cisco’s brand affinity.
  • New connections to strategic partners.

In retrospect, it seems clear this was a good investment for Cisco, even though they were diverting funds from lead generation into branding.  But back in 2008 it was a huge gamble.  This was to be the biggest marketing effort globally that wasn’t tied to revenue, as well as the first significant use of social media, which was relatively nascent for B2B organizations at the time.

While I was speaking to Willa about how she sold this concept to her fellow executives at Cisco (for the new book Age of Conversation 3), she also imparted some great advice for those looking to deploy social media successfully as part of their own marketing strategy.  Here are some highlights:

  • Social media is not effective in isolation. One Million Acts of Green was a full 360 campaign, with a strong drive to Web.
  • A grass roots approach is important when building community. Start with the people who are already champions – in this case Cisco was able to reach out to the constituencies of Canadian NGO’s. They also built interest with local communities and particularly elementary schools by providing tools and educational content.
  • Preparation is key. Willa’s team spent a significant amount of time on the phone creating a following even before the site was officially launched. Combined with the traditional marketing outreach and television coverage on The Hour, this created so much momentum that 60,000 acts of green were logged in the first four hours the site was live.
  • Go where the momentum is taking you. The initial community-based energy was leveraged into conversations with a few large corporations, which in turn sparked interest by other corporations. Customized “acts of green” were created for the employees at some of these companies. The employees got their kids involved, which translated into more schools getting involved. The interactive “Facebook-style” site was enhanced with more interactive features and widgets over time, e.g. greeting cards.
  • Get serious about content. Cisco enlisted experts and increased their organizational knowledge of sustainability, which was important from a credibility standpoint but also to enable them to provide value for the participants.
  • Focus on branding, not demand creation. While social media can be very effective as a branding tool, its value for lead generation is questionable. When used properly, it offers unique opportunities. Two in every one thousand Canadians actively registered on the site, and only social media could have drawn that kind of engagement.

I should point out that Canada is a great market for a social media campaign:  89% of Canadians have Internet access, and 56% of online Canadians participate in some type of social networking (Ipsos Reid “Canadian Interactive Reid Report 2009 Fact Guide”).   Canadians are reportedly the heaviest Internet users in the world.  We spend an average of 45.5 hours online per month, while the world wide average is 26 hours. (Canadian Media Directors’ Council “Media Digest”).  So another key take-away for me is that this scale of campaign may not be successful in all markets.

Cisco Canada continues to enjoy the benefits of this campaign.  In fact, I was at a conference this week where one of the speakers included OMAoG as part of his presentation.

I was drawn to OMAoG because it brings together two topics that, for me, are fascinating:  sustainability and social media.  My sincere thanks go to Willa Black for sharing this story.

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  1. Ajay Das
    “One Million Acts of Green (OMAoG) had its roots in a branding campaign, and thanks to this campaign, in 2009 Cisco enjoyed….”

    Let us try to see it from another point of view. Branding of the company, and the value out of it is the real goal/objective here. Any ‘green acts’ coming out of it is collateral benefit.

    Nothing wrong with it. Only that some of us may see it primarily as an exercise to increase the value of the ‘company’ – today ‘green’ happens to be in so that  gets to be the medium.

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    1. Cory Coley-Christakos Post author
      Hello Ajay,

      Thanks for reading, and taking the time to comment.  For me, this was a win / win – good for the company, good for the “cause”… and fun!  I can certainly see there are other perspectives to consider and discuss.

      Cheers,
      Cory

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