Home PETA Embraces Social Networking Platforms

PETA Embraces Social Networking Platforms

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), have launched an application development contest on both Google’s Open Social and the Facebook Platform. The contest calls for developers to create applications that promote PETA or its campaigns on either of the two platforms. The competition runs through January 25th and the winner receives a $500 Apple gift card.

I’ve never been a fan of PETA. I’m all for animal rights, but I think some of their campaigns go too far or use shock politics and bully tactics that dilute their message and make it harder for people to look at the issues seriously. But that said, I have to admire how they are using social networking to their advantage. PETA seems to be doing everything right when it comes to exploiting social networks as vehicles to get their message out.

PETA has well maintained presences on both major social networks (MySpace and Facebook), a photostream on Flickr, and they utilize RSS to keep their followers updated. (Their youth oriented peta2 organization also utilizes much of the same social software.)

Sure each of their profiles have under 10,000 friends — hardly a blip compared to the total user bases of those sites. (Update: Allie Sullivan, PETA’s online marketing coordinator, emailed me to point out their their peta2 MySpace page, which is aimed at young people, has over 168,000 friends.) But PETA has smartly distributed their message across multiple platforms making it easier for their fans and followers to interact with the organization. Their latest initiative, the application contest, has the potential to yield a killer app that can spread the message virally even further across social networks at a relatively small cost. And even if the contest doesn’t pan out, for an organization that had $31 million in revenue in the fiscal year ending 07/2006, $500 is a drop in the bucket. It’s a tiny risk for a potentially huge reward.

Using social networks and other web 2.0 technologies as promotional tool is often like that. Very small cost of entry, huge potential for success, high likelihood of failure. The way to make it work is to try the “see what sticks” method of getting your message out there in as many ways as possible and seeing which resonate with your particular target audience.

Other organizations could learn from PETA how to better utilize the social web to get their message out and reach the people who will be passionate about their cause.

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