The key outcomes to focus on when it comes to a social for good campaign aren’t always the same as those in a campaign aimed at sales or brand building. Social Media is a major medium for advertising and marketing, but these practices aren’t limited to brands trying to grow revenue. Socially Responsible movements and Not For Profit organisations are also looking for ways to utilise User Generated Content and Word of Mouth. But when you aren’t measuring sales or bottom lines, how do you define, or quantify, results? What does success look like?

Several social-for-good campaigns have made a big impression recently. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge springs immediately to mind. Nek Nominations are another, turning the negative of binge drinking into a positive, fun way to get people to donate to a good cause. The #NoMakeUpSelfie is another campaign with a socially responsible message and a viral, sharing component. More recently the #WeareALLclean shower selfie which aims to eliminate HIV stigma and raise funds to find a cure has been making a stir. But what are these campaigns supposed to achieve? People are spending 5 hours of time each day with digital media. If you want to raise awareness, it’s a key medium.

Image via: Global Social Media Research Summary 2014

A campaign going viral is not always the best measurement of success. If the correct message is not being delivered and the objective of the campaign is to spread awareness then success cannot be measured in RT’s and Shares. Awareness of the mechanic may easily overwhelm awareness of the associated cause.

Image via Bloomberg Business Week

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a great example of a campaign being successful in the wrong way. The Ice Bucket element was supposedly started by professional golfers raising money for various charities and using the hashtag #ColdWaterChallenge. Baseball players also used the #StrikeOutALS in honour of Pete Frates, a former professional baseball player suffering from ALS. The campaign really took off after this, mostly due to Frates’ substantial following. The Ice Bucket Challenge spring-boarded into the public eye.

The campaign went viral during July – August 2014 and reached 1.2 million video shares on Facebook as well as 2.2 million on Twitter, generating over $100 million in donations. There was an undeniable buzz around the disease.

You undoubtedly know of the #IceBucketChallenge. But, are you now fully aware of what ALS is? Chances are, probably not. Did you do an Ice Bucket Challenge, know someone who did or partake in a conversation around the phenomenon? Very likely.

As far as fund raising goes, the campaign knocked it out the park. But it probably doesn’t look quite as successful if the objective was to increase awareness of the disease or an understanding of what it’s victims are subjected to. The campaign shone, but the cause remained in its shadow.

If the intent is raising public awareness, a social-for-good campaign’s main focus shouldn’t detract from the central cause. And, if the core message has been identified correctly, then the main focus of the campaign should be spreading awareness as well as being more informative with regards to the cause, not filling news feeds with the participation mechanic.

It is difficult to accurately gauge the outcomes of a social-for-good campaign. Monitoring the number of donations is one way of doing it but creating a mechanic that makes it possible to monitor the amount of awareness created would be key. Social-for-good campaigns should pull at your heartstrings and, if succeeding in doing so, you should feel the need to share it and tell your friends and family about it. One such campaign that does that is Get Me To 21, a social-for-good campaign started by 19 year old Jenna Lowe.

The creative is simple: Jenna wants you to join her at her 21st birthday celebration. The mechanic is centred around becoming an organ donor, which is directly connected to the desired outcome: more organ donors. This is not a campaign you can be a part of without getting properly involved. Literally! It takes less than 5 minutes to sign up to be an organ donor on her site. The more viral the campaign goes, the more people they have sign up. Perfect synergy between objective and creative. A Facebook group provides more info and the hashtag #Getmeto21 helps spread the message and gain PR.

In an Interview on BizCommunity, Jenna’s mom Gabi points out that the campaign has been the catalyst for over 7000 new donors. You can’t get a more direct measure of success. Never mind the traction it’s gained from media outlets such as My City By Night or the fact Oresti Patricios called it the best south african ad of 2014 on MarkLives.

Donations towards needy causes are amazing, but what’s really awesome about Get Me To 21 is that the awareness comes from getting involved. The Exchange is a campaign with a similar drive. The mechanic is the message. There’s no disconnect between participation and objective.

Not everyone can directly impact the search for a cure or research into treatment for ALS, but dumping water over one’s head doesn’t improve the understanding of the disease or the suffering of its victims. You can participate without even knowing ALS is a disease. Sharing to show support or simply donating money can feel like armchair activism, but the long term benefits lack impact.

When a campaign for a good cause benefits the cause and raises awareness, then everyone wins.