Social Media Boosts USAID Campaign to New Heights

Supporters of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have been flocking to the agency’s Facebook page in droves since the expansion of their multimedia FWD campaign in late December.

The FWD campaign aims to raise awareness about the famine, war, and drought (FWD) currently afflicting the Horn of Africa.  According to OhMyGov's media analysis platform, during the period of December 20-30, USAID’s Facebook page experienced a 27% growth in total Facebook fans, amassing nearly 12,000 new fans in just ten days.  FWD Campaign Manager at USAID, Matt Johnson, says the campaign owes its surging success to a few cyberspace donations, and a singular reliance on social media.

“Facebook actually donated us ad space on their platform around that time, which caused us to see a huge spike in Facebook traffic to our page,” says Johnson, who also noted this was not the first act of virtual goodwill the FWD campaign has received. 


Source: OhMyGov Media Monitoring


“The crux of the campaign rests on social media,” explained Johnson.  “You’ll see on YouTube USAID’s channel looks nothing like anyone else’s channel.  YouTube donated the This Moment platform, which allows people to make their own PSAs and put them on our site.”  The interactive platform has helped USAID garner over 1 million hits since its launch.   

The entire multimedia campaign’s call to action relies on Facebook and Twitter to spread the word, eliciting a huge growth in online buzz, yet hardly a ripple on the news media surface.  In fact, online news mentions of USAID were actually down -22% during the week of December 22 from the previous week.  The campaign’s near-exclusion of traditional news outlets hasn’t seemed to hurt the campaign’s cause, however.  Since the initiative’s launch in early September, over 150 million FWDs have gone out over Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

“Everyone’s first response is ‘What can I do?’ "But this campaign is unique in that our goal is to simply raise awareness and drive conversation surrounding the issues,” said Johnson. 

While the call to action does include a donation request, ultimately the goal can be summarized in the campaign website’s header: “Do more than donate.  FWD the facts.”  

“The Facts” can be found all throughout the campaign’s webpage, and shed light on the famine, war, and drought currently ravaging the Horn of Africa. Each fact or infographic is designed to be immediately shared or embedded through Facebook or Twitter with just a click of the mouse.  And the extent to which they are shared determines an individual’s level of support for the campaign. 

Akin to tiered levels of donation that accompany traditional monetary campaigns, the FWD campaign ranks its participants by emotional investment.  A “Supporter” FWDs the fact of the day on Facebook or Twitter, updates their profile picture with a FWD campaign graphic, or shares the FWD quiz on Facebook. 

An “Advocate” goes a step further and writes a letter to the editor of newspaper, sends an email to friends and family, or creates their own video on YouTube.  A “Champion” hosts a house party, or uses literature to raise awareness in their community. 

“Social media has been extremely cost effective for us, and our partnership with the Ad Council has helped us receive not only monetary donations, but donations of media services,” said Johnson.  “We want to keep the conversation moving.” 


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