Building a PHL Social Media Campaign to Stand Up for Kindness

The Gist

The City of Philadelphia decided to do something extra special to celebrate its 333rd birthday on October 27, 2015 – it proclaimed the day A Day of Kindness. This divine day would cap off a month of highly anticipated visits to the city by His Holiness the Pope Francis and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

The Challenge

When it came down to promoting A Day of Kindness, organizers knew they needed to take a different approach to build a net-new audience. It’s one thing to promote a traditional local event, but this was a new and unconventional holiday.

The Day of Kindness organizers created an initiative with several parts:

  • Digital kindness flags that could be uploaded to the website and shared via Facebook
  • Hard-copy kindness flags designed by individuals that could be uploaded to the website and printed for inclusion in the Kindness in the Wind art installation at City Hall
  • Live events to design kindness flags at museums and art galleries around the city to gather contributions for the Kindness in the Wind art installation
  • A Kind Community on the website where individuals could pledge support to various causes and organizations by way of a kindness exchange
  • A Pay it Forward donation functionality
  • A ceremony at city hall on October 27th

With this exciting array of kindness-inspiring offerings, the campaign’s social media message had to be delivered lean and clean (and in a relatively short time frame).

A report shared by Buffer has found that many non-profit organizations use social media inefficiently and infrequently (most spending less than 1-2 hours a week on social media marketing). And typically, that posting responsibility tends to fall on one person (often a junior or intern at that). That’s a lot of responsibility to shoulder in a very short window of time, and why it is important to consider adding experienced talent to your team or campaign (locally or virtually). According to HubSpot, 67% of non-profits also don’t have a document social media strategy (with over half not measuring performance of what is done via social).


We worked with the leadership team to develop a strategy that laid out the key messages, target audience, timing, and types of content to be shared. Using Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram we promoted the vibrant creative assets of digital flags as well as daily shout outs to influencers, media, community figures, and event partners (including the Mütter Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Please Touch Museum, and the National Constitution Center).

By posting to social media with strategically timed intervals and a variety of content, we built momentum across the city, with a primary uptake among parents with young families, the group most likely to become involved in community activities such as flag pop-ups at museums and galleries.
Additionally, geo-targeted sponsored social media via Facebook and Twitter helped to boost the message of the various ways to contribute a flag to the Kindness in the Wind installation and emphasized in-person flag pop-ups.


Despite working remotely from Toronto, we found the promotion of in-person flag pop-ups to always be very successful as event partners helped to promote and share information via social. Build up to the October 27th event at City Hall also drew momentum from the public and media with sponsored and organic social media content.

The use of highly visual content via social media drew great engagement rates, and sponsored content enjoyed above-average click-thru and engagement rates on both Facebook and Twitter. However, the big hit was with Instagram, which was the highest growth channel during the ~40 days that social media was in-market (netting +400% followers).

In particular, the themes of kindness, compassion, and happiness resonated well with young parents, yoga practitioners, and artists. Posts tagging or featuring celebrities also exhibited great performance (i.e. Shepard Fairey, Hilaria Baldwin, Nick Jonas, Blythe Danner).

In Closing

Managing a successful campaign in Philadelphia from Toronto was made possible with regular phone calls, email, and Skype with the great organizers of A Day of Kindness. Working remotely via virtual office may be different or intimidating for some clients, but it is an excellent way that we cut overhead and self-select our team.

The success of social media campaigns depends on the audience and approach. Most will not go uber-viral, as the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge” did in the summer of 2014. However, our defined strategy of generating inspirational images, sharing kindness flags, and curating content provided our audience with plenty to engage with. Well-planned, targeted social media campaigns are very effective on a local level, building a strong level of interactive community connection to the cause and its events.