Going Viral – #NoMakeupSelfie

Lately, my Facebook feedback has been filled with female friends taking part in the #NoMakeUpSelfie trend.  This hashtag seem to have appeared overnight and out of nowhere. Women were taking pictures of themselves bare faced, with no make up and sharing the picture online.  Naturally, it made me very curious and I did a little investigating.

Turns out, the #NoMakeUpSelfie is associated with Cancer Research UK and to date, has raised over $13.1 million for cancer research.  What’s more – the hashtag didn’t originally start out as a fundraising campaign for cancer research!  The first instance of the hashtag being used can be traced back to British novelist Laura Lipmann in support of actress Kim Novak’s appearance at the Oscars (see the tweet here). Surprisingly, the tweet had nothing to do with cancer. Once the hashtag gained momentum though, Cancer Research UK joined in and attached the “no make up” idea to fighting cancer.


So what made the ‘campaign’ so successful? Here are a few lessons I’ve learned:

  • Campaigns can be spontaneous – the key is in the timing and knowing when to participate and gain from the momentum (in the least commercial, opportunistic way, of course)
  • There is power is ‘grassroots’ origins – the best ‘campaign’ ideas can come from anyone, anywhere
  • Make it easy for people to participate – the ask in this campaign was very simple; take a photo of yourself with no make up on. There was no dressing up, props or special venue/setting required
  • Make it easy for people to act – Cancer Research UK used a text component that allowed people to donate quickly and conveniently via text from their phones
  • Trigger an emotional response -the campaign empowered participants and made them feel good about themselves. This emotional response is what triggered the viral social sharing

From what I’ve seen in my own Facebook feed, most people were curious and generally, there was a positive response to the ‘campaign’ (which did not look or feel like a campaign at all!) And not only are people participating by taking pictures, they are donating money too!  How amazing that one simple hashtag can make such a big difference – I guess, that is the power of social media.


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