I’ve been a communications professional for the past four years and a strong advocate of digital media and online communications, but I never truly realized the full impact of social media marketing until I experienced it personally.
How #bundleupyeg Was Born
Three years ago, I was faced with two weeks of downtime before beginning a new job. I’m not someone who likes to sit still so I began thinking of ways to fill the time. It was the middle of winter, and it was one of Edmonton’s notoriously cold nights. I was listening to news reports of local homeless shelters in need of winter clothing when I thought — why not create my own clothing drive for the next two weeks?
I logged into my Facebook and Twitter accounts to put the call out for warm winter clothing donations on the premise that I would personally pick up the donations and deliver them to shelters within Edmonton, free of charge. I decided to give the clothing drive a hashtag — #bundleupyeg — to make the initiative seem somewhat official and help spread the word quickly (since I only had two weeks).
The responses I received were incredible. Within that two week period, I (with the help of family) had collected 40 bags of warm winter clothing donations by driving door to door. The majority of donations I collected were from people I had never met before — people who found me through Twitter, Facebook and friends of friends.
How #bundleupyeg Grew
The next winter season in 2014, I decided I was going to make #bundleupyeg an annual campaign. I worked with a fantastic local graphic designer to develop a logo, and then I built a website to explain what #bundleupyeg was and how people could donate. Like any good communicator, I created an (informal) strategic communications plan to announce that year’s campaign and keep people informed.
2014 was different — I faced the challenge of running the campaign for a longer amount of time and having to do this successfully in my spare time while working a full‐time job, and in addition to a part‐time dance‐teaching job.
To help maximize my time, I reached out to local radio station, 102.3 Now! Radio in hopes they could host a donation box at their station. Their staff were incredibly supportive and not only did they agree to host a donation box, but they helped spread the word through their social media networks. They have been imperative to the success of #bundleupyeg.
I also worked closely with various local homeless shelters by supporting one another online to help spread the word and collect more donations. I also continued to keep my website and social media channels up‐to‐date with total bag counts and announcements.
In 2014, #bundleupyeg grew dramatically. In just two months, with the help of family and my amazing fiancé Ryan, we collected and delivered 160 bags of warm clothing donations to various homeless shelters across the city between November and December 2014. This is four times the number of donations collected in 2013.
#bundleupyeg Now: The Importance of Online and Social Media
As of December 1, Ryan and I have collected and delivered 92 bags of warm clothing donations. We are only eight bags away from the halfway mark of our goal of 200 bags before December 28.
Now that #bundleupyeg is growing and becoming well‐known, I decided to focus more heavily on collaborations to support the demand for donation collections. I’m so grateful that West Edmonton Mall and Kingsway Mall have joined 102.3 Now! Radio as collection sites. Their teams have been incredible to work with!
In addition to the donation boxes, Ryan and I have been out nearly every weekend since mid‐October collecting donations and delivering them to homeless shelters within Edmonton. We continue to do this in our spare time (on evenings and weekends) without any financial funding or sponsorship.
The campaign lives online and I rely on my social media networks for this campaign to continue gaining traction. For every pickup and drop‐off we make, I make sure to take photos and post updates to my website and my social media channels. It’s important for a grassroots initiative like this to continue producing new content regularly so that people stay connected and stay informed. After all, I am my own marketing team for this.
I still can’t believe how far a hashtag and social media has taken my little idea and grown it into something tangible. Thanks to social media, and generous Edmontonians, it’s become so much more than that Facebook post I initially put out there in 2013.
Thank you, Edmonton.
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Jasmine Franklin is a former journalist turned professional communicator for the past four years. She has a passion for strategic planning, media relations and digital communications.