Part Two: Celebrities and Charity – The Colbert Whisper

:: A guest post from our friends at Little Kids Rock :: First Part here ::

Once these celebrities returned a personalized guitar and were hooked into the project, I knew they had already invested enough time that asking them to promote their artwork through their own social networks was not too far of a stretch, but it would have been easy to say no or ignore the request. Five minutes of Facebooking and Tweeting is a lot to ask of these busy people. So I played the role of waiter and presented the artists or their managers everything on a silver platter. I suggested social media outlets, recommended specific verbiage, and provided one or two relevant photos in order to minimize their work. The most difficult part was keeping the ask short. Celebrities and their managers don’t have time to read through a long email that is ultimately asking them to do me a favor.

How much more clout does a celebrity’s post have than my own?

Consider this:  the highest selling guitar was decorated by Metallica frontman, James Hetfield — certainly a big name, but not as big as Gene Simmons or Stephen Colbert — certainly a cool guitar, but not as cool as Kenny Scharf’s or Grateful Dead artist, Stanley Mouse’s.

The difference was that Metallica has a tremendous Facebook following. One post from Metallica (see image) brought more than 50,000 visitors in less than 48 hours! Hetfield’s guitar had far and away the most hits and unique visitors (60,162 hits versus the second-most viewed guitar, which got 7,440), and also brought in the most money.

Forget about how many sold and how many were bid on, because those are uncontrollable factors. The key information was the amount of visits the page got. Whether it was Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or actress Juliette Lewis, they all have fans and followers. The most heavily viewed guitars were the ones whose artist posted Facebook or Twitter messages. Even Ziggy Marley’s guitar, which he linked to from his website, was not viewed as much as “A Heart A Day” artist, Thomas Fuchs, who wrote a blog post about it.

Some artists helped actively promote their guitars, and some passively posted a link in a hidden nook of their websites. The artists who actively broadcast the message had their artwork viewed more heavily. Telling someone to do something is much more direct than wearing a t-shirt that tells someone to do something. That’s the difference between social networking and a website – social networks are designed to deliver information to the listener in such a way that they do not have to actively search for it.

This auction raised about $75,000, which is no small feat, but I learned a valuable lesson: When a tree falls in the woods, nobody hears if I yell… but they will if Stephen Colbert whispers.


  1. I found this fascinating because I’ve also seen the lack of response when a celebrity tweets just to raise money for their cause. As a point of disclosure, I work for FirstGiving, and I’ve recently seen celebrities tweeting to support a cause or tweeting in support of their friend’s cause. Because I am able view our website analytics, I can attest to the fact that celebrity tweets do not bring in the kind of views and donations that raise thousands and thousands of dollars; they bring in a thousand dollars perhaps. (Granted, the celebrities that I’m referring to are b and c-listers, not Stephen Colbert.)

    I wonder if there is a bigger return on effort from celebs posting to their Facebook Pages than from twitter – did you see a difference? Also, I think the other difference between an online fundraising page and this fundraiser is that people bid on a tangible object that has potential resale and sentimental value.

    In any case, great tips on how and when to ask a celebrity to help out, and a case study in ROI of celebrity fundraising.

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