Acts of kindness must be spontaneous

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Charlotte McEleny, senior reporter on New Media Age, writing for sister title Reputation Online

Not to be confused with simply being nice by giving products away, random acts of kindness have to be completely spontaneous.

Social media plays a large part in the popularity of this activity as it allows the recipient to share the experience with their network, making the focus on one person by a company worthwhile.

Interflora scoured social networks for those having a bad day last October before offering to send them flowers to cheer them up. This is a fairly straightforward case study, but more complex and personalised examples are likely to pop up over the next 12 months.

These ’random acts’ are a great way to use social media, creating a great PR story in the process and the opportunity to generate content as well as source new brand advocates – if carried out in a sincere way.

It would be a mistake to use this tactic to grow a brand’s online presence. The beauty of this concept lies in maintaining its integrity – as soon as there’s an obvious promotional ploy behind it, you risk turning it into a ’random act of marketing’.

With Interflora, the marketing message is clear but the sell isn’t hard or direct. It makes sense that as flowers cheer people up, sending them randomly helps the brand to be front of mind the next time you need to make someone smile.

Another problem with this trend is that the execution needs to be incredibly sharp. If the flowers then took ages to turn up, all of Interflora’s hard work could have been lost. There’s no point in doing this by halves, otherwise it could have a negative effect.

There’s nothing like that warm feeling you get when you see someone going out of their way for another, and if that’s related to a brand it’s something a consumer will remember for a very long time. The key is to make sure it is sincere and easy to share.

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