Image Credit: The Ad Council
The Ad Council’s Lisa Sherman discusses pro-social initiatives with Facebook’s David Fischer in this first interview in a new series, “The Purpose of Purpose”.
Lisa Sherman: There is a growing public expectation for private sector businesses to do their part in addressing social issues. How do you see this expectation playing out at Facebook?
David Fischer: One very positive trend I see is a growing recognition that doing good in the world is good for companies. The question is no longer whether the private sector should be participating in social initiatives, but rather how best they should do so. It’s incredibly heartening to see so many people stepping up not just to answer that question but to drive meaningful change in the world.
One example is the Unstereotype Alliance, which is a group of companies, including Facebook, who have committed to addressing outdated and harmful stereotypes in the industry. We want to ensure creativity–whether in the advertising or content we create–shows people as progressive and modern, authentic and multi-dimensional. There is also so much terrific work happening around the globe on the critical issue of sustainability, led by Coca-Cola, Unilever, Pepsico, Nestle, and many more. These are just a few examples, and we take great pride at Facebook in the opportunity to work with so many partners on social initiatives.
And we’re doing our part at Facebook as well. We’ve invested for many years now in what we call our Social Good initiatives. These include tools such as charitable giving so that people can set up fundraisers for their favorite causes, and the elimination of nonprofit fees so that 100% of donations made through Facebook payments to nonprofits go directly to those organizations. On Giving Tuesday last year, the Facebook community raised more than $45 million dollars in a single day to support causes that they care about.
Another great example is a powerful tool called Safety Check. It’s an online notification tool that lets you alert friends and family that you’re safe after a disaster. We built it after the Fukushima earthquake in Japan, when we noticed that people were using Facebook to let their friends know they were okay. And now we’ve given people the ability to activate Safety Check themselves. In the last three years, it’s been used more than 1,000 times and has notified people that their families and friends are safe more than three billion times.
Sherman: Facebook was a big supporter and partner of the Ad Council’s new Seize the Awkward Suicide Prevention campaign. Talk to us about how that partnership fits into all that you’re doing in the mental health space?
Fischer: Suicide prevention is an imperative for all of us, and Seize the Awkward is an important campaign to address this issue. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young adults. And for every youth suicide, there are 100 to 200 attempts.
It’s so important that the friends and family of people going through a tough time feel empowered to broach the subject. As the name of this campaign suggests, it can be uncomfortable to do so – there’s so much fear of getting it wrong or offending someone you care about. By educating people that it can actually save a life to reach out to someone when you think they’re struggling with their mental health, Seize the Awkward is giving voice to an issue that too many people are afraid to give voice to.
At Facebook, we’re in a rather unique position to help facilitate those interactions. Sometimes, people in distress will post on Facebook giving others a chance to help. We are proud of our partnership with the Ad Council on this campaign, highlighting signs of mental health concerns and offering tips and tutorials on just how to reach out to support friends in need in those critical moments when they need a hand.
This initiative fits in well with our overall effort to build Safe Communities on Facebook. In 2017, we announced suicide prevention tools to help people in real time on Facebook Live. We also rolled out live chat support from crisis support organizations through Messenger. Over the last month we’ve worked with first responders based on reports we received via our proactive detection efforts.
Sherman: The velocity of change in our industry doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon – offering new opportunities for marketers. What trend do you think has the greatest possibility to change the game in social impact marketing in 2018?
Fischer: What I’m most excited about it is the fundamental shift we’re seeing towards purpose-driven marketing. This goes beyond tech across all industries. We’re seeing a generational change taking place that’s driven by a search for meaning.
It’s becoming a necessity to do more than just focus on the bottom line. I look at the positions that some of the most significant marketers in the world are taking on important issues like racial equality, gender equality, [and] sustainability. Brands realize that when they do good, they also do well. And this understanding of just how important social issues are in the work of the private sector is exploding. For instance, we’re seeing major investment firms make it clear that their portfolio companies need to do more than just deliver profits. They need to make real contributions to the world.
The beauty is that there are so many different ways of contributing. One of the biggest ways Facebook impacts the world is supporting entrepreneurs launching and growing their businesses. This in turn creates jobs and supports communities. There is nothing more rewarding in my job than helping fulfill a dream and create economic opportunities for entrepreneurs and their communities. And so often, this has a meaningful social effect as well.
One great example of a small business that’s also doing remarkable good is Two Blind Brothers. It is an apparel company in Dallas, run by two brothers who have an eye disease that destroys central vision over time, and they wanted to dedicate their business to finding a cure. The company employs a team of blind workers and donates 100% of its profits to research. Late last year, it ran a Black Friday sale on Facebook, centered around a unique video shopping experience that replicates being visually impaired. The company raised $100,000 for research to help cure blindness. Stories like these are happening every day around the globe.
Sherman: What do you think is the biggest barrier that media/tech companies are facing when it comes to doing more in the social good space and how can they overcome it?
Fischer: Many of the changes that technology has driven in society these past few decades are the result of empowering people. The democratization of access to so many tools has enabled more entrepreneurs to grow businesses, and smaller companies to act like larger ones.
For us, empowering people to do good is a key part of so much of what we do. This is because it’s engrained in our mission: whether it’s been to help others in times of crisis or to raise awareness for a cause they support, people on Facebook have demonstrated the good they can do when they’re empowered. For example, in just the last few weeks, I’ve heard two separate stories where individuals have used Facebook to find a kidney donor for a loved one. There are many, many examples of amazing things like that happening every day.
The barrier is that it’s sometimes hard to surface to people how they can have the biggest possible impact. It’s difficult at times to activate groups of people around causes they might care about. Our job is to ensure that we build the tools that enable people to do good, and to do it more easily.
We spend a great deal of time designing the tools we build to ensure they can help businesses of all sizes, and non-profits. A good example of what happens when we get this right came in response to the terrible effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Maria last year. We saw many groups and individuals activating on our platform to support the victims of these disasters. After Hurricane Maria, Mercy Corp was able to raise over $124,000 on Facebook to expand relief efforts in Puerto Rico, 50% of which was from first-time supporters. And, in late August the community rallied to support Harvey relief by raising more than $20 million, which was the biggest fundraising effort for a single crisis in 2017 on Facebook.
Sherman: What’s next for Facebook in the social good space?
Fischer: Facebook is very good at connecting you with family and friends, of course, but when it comes to getting support or learning a new skill, it can be just as important to connect with someone outside your social circle.
One recent initiative is around blood donation. India, like many countries, has a shortage of safe blood. Every week there are thousands of posts from people seeking blood donations. So, we worked with non-profit organizations, blood banks, and donors in India to build a tool to make it easier to give blood. Donors can register on Facebook and get a notification if a person or an organization nearby needs blood, and then they connect through Facebook. Over six million people in India have signed up to be donors and this tool is already being actively used to get and give blood.
We also recently announced Mentorship and Support, a new product that combines the expertise of nonprofit organizations with the reach of the Facebook community to help connect people who have shared experiences and goals but may not already know each other. We started the pilot with nonprofits focused on education and crisis recovery: iMentor and International Rescue Committee.
But we know that people on Facebook have all kinds of different needs. Our goal is to expand these tools to help connect people around a variety of causes like addiction recovery, career advancement, and other areas where having someone you can count on for support can make all the difference. We’re just getting started.
Sherman: Before we close, I have to ask: what’s your favorite PSA ever, and why?
Fischer: Love Has No Labels has been so meaningful in promoting acceptance, and in fighting discrimination. This is a campaign with the message that, deep down, we’re all the same, that love is love, and that we should examine and challenge our implicit and unconscious biases about each other. The Ad Council does so much work of deep significance and effectiveness, and it is truly special to see the way our entire industry comes together to address important social issues. It’s a real privilege to be a part of it.
What stands out about Love Has No Labels is how effectively this campaign has addressed a critical issue for our country, and broken down barriers. Since it launched in 2015, survey results have shown that the campaign has seen significant shifts in key attitudes and behaviors with more adults reporting that they believe they can create a more inclusive and accepting environment.
And there have been so many participants in this campaign – both individuals and companies. So many have stepped up to get involved, including corporate partners who have joined hands with their rivals to extend the message – Bank of America, The Coca-Cola Company, Google, PepsiCo, P&G, Johnson & Johnson, State Farm and Wells Fargo. We’ve been particularly focused on partnering with the Ad Council on the video creative, since this type of powerful content can really sway hearts and minds on our platform. In a world that can often feel divided, it’s felt really good to come together and work on a project that was bigger than any one company. That’s a big reason why we take so much pride to participate in the vitally important work of the Ad Council.