Using Social Media For Good Non-Profit vs For Profit – Interview with Austin Graff

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We talk a lot about social media and how to use it to help promote the arts, especially film and music. Today I wanted to tackle similar topics from a different angle. I first met Austin Graff when Luke Dowler was releasing a benefit single for International Justice Mission. The song was our attempt to give some voice to the voiceless and the huge numbers of people suffering in slavery today (I posted the video at the end of the interview). Austin was amazing to work with and we have stayed in touch ever since.

Hey Austin! Glad we could connect again. The last year or two have been a big transition for you wrapping up work at IJM and starting at Honest Tea. I’d love to talk about both a bit so can you give a simple breakdown of what you did/do at each? 

For the last, 7.5 years, I worked at International Justice Mission (IJM), the leading organization fighting violence against the poor. My most recent job there was to lead social media and manage the organization’s relationships with musicians, celebrities, anyone with a platform. It was fun to talk to people every day who wanted to help end slavery in the world. In February, I left the organization to gain experience in the for-profit world. I moved over to another DC-based company called Honest Tea, America’s #1 organic bottled iced tea company. I do a similar job at Honest Tea leading social media and influencer marketing. The company is fair trade certified so it’s been an honor to see the millions of dollars Honest Tea has given back over the years to help combat poverty.

And how has that transition been for you, are you enjoying working in a somewhat more traditional marketing role?
I am very much. I didn’t realize it at the time, but social media and influencer marketing in for-profit is a completely different game than non-profit. At IJM, we had no budget to spend forcing us to get super creative in our approach. Honest Tea has a budget for social media and influencer marketing, which allows us to do some really fun and innovative campaigns.

I’ve seen you guys up to a few interesting campaigns lately but I’m always particularly interested in things where the arts, charity and business all collide. Any new collaborations coming up?
Good question. Our most recent campaign, The National Honesty Index, was a fun social experiment we did across the USA. We set up pop-up stores in major cities with tons of Honest Tea product and signs that read, “Respect the honor system and pay $1 for every product you take.” We then watched to see how honest people were. We then released the results of the most honest (and least honest) city in the USA. With that release, we also encouraged people to celebrate honesty and transparency on social media by posting photos about the more mundane aspects of life rather than the highlight reels. We invited a number of artists and musicians to stop by the pop-up shop in their city as well as post a #RefreshinglyHonest social media post to help spark this movement of transparency. We’re working on another big campaign for 2016 that will take this to the next level so stay tuned for that.

Social media has completely changed the landscape of how we reach people and spread messages. What do you find is working well these days? How do you avoid meaningless content and build real engagement and community?
I love social media because at the end of the day, every social media platform was created because of and for relationships. It allows people to connect with each other and the organizations/brands they love. Because of this, every piece of content must really connect with its audience. The latest technology and really good imagery help, but if it doesn’t connect to humans, it will flop. There’s a trend for brands to be more authentic because of this notion.

Thanks again, before I let you go, anything you want to plug right now? What’s happening?
Our #RefreshinglyHonest campaign is still going on and recently won an award and named by Forbes as “one of the best social media campaigns of 2015.” We’d love for more and more people to post a photo on social media celebrating the more mundane, every day and somewhat frustrating parts of life. Tag @HonestTea and use the hash tag #RefreshinglyHonest on Twitter.