We recently sat down with Insights & Analysis Manager, Owen Bowden, to find out why social data (and a brand new image) has helped turned the charity around.

Here’s what he had to say!

What were the main motivations behind changing your name to Bloodwise and how did you prepare for it?

We undertook a two-year research programme into the needs of blood cancer patients, and it soon became clear that our old name – Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research – wasn’t working hard enough for us.

While leukaemia and lymphoma are (and remain) hugely important words to us and to our supporters, there are many different types of blood cancer. 

Our old name didn’t tell the world that we’re here for every single patient, no matter what type of blood cancer they have. It also didn’t fully reflect all the work we do to beat blood cancer. 

Our commitment to funding world-class research is as strong as ever, but we also need to tell people affected by blood cancer about our wide portfolio of patient services.

What were the main challenges faced during the rebrand?

Changing our name was always going to be a big decision, but we were sure to involve as many people as possible – including patients, supporters and staff to ensure we were working in everybody’s best interest.  

We took time and did a lot of research.

There are 137 different types of blood cancer, all with different names, symptoms and challenges.

You’ll probably recognise two or three, but many might be unfamiliar and some don’t even sound like cancers. It makes blood cancer hard to understand and can leave patients feeling isolated. 

Blood Cancer Awareness Month in September gave us a platform to build an online and offline awareness campaign using our new name.

It was developed by an agency but the complementary social media campaign was otherwise developed and administered in-house.

We therefore needed a robust social media strategy supported by insights into the online perception of the new name and tracking the campaign. 

In order to glean this intelligence, we partnered with social media monitoring platform Crimson Hexagon to analyse the reach of the campaign and the reaction to it. 

Why is social data so useful for charities or Bloodwise in particular?

Social channels are crucial for charities for raising money, talking with supporters, campaigning and raising awareness of their cause.

In one week we might be talking about policy, promoting our London Bikeathon, answering patient’s questions, thanking celebrities and announcing a research breakthrough. 

The diversity of topics and activities that charities use social channels for doesn’t exist in many organisations. Understanding our conversations with social data is key for this. 

It gives us a real understanding of our supporters and what matters most to them.

In turn, this allows us to identify specialist audiences such as clinicians, and build more complete profiles to ensure the right people are receiving the right messages.

Social data is also priceless for marketing; it can provide a clear window into the impact of awareness campaigns and what works well, which can then influence how charities plan future marketing campaigns.

We now leverage our data to track wider conversations about blood cancer in the UK to better understand where and how people are talking about the disease.

As well as social media, what digital channels do you think are most important? 

Organic search and PPC are important for us in terms of provision of patient information. Google very generously gives AdWords grants to charities, and optimising this is really key for us. 

We did our first small test with promoted YouTube ads as part of the campaign and we were impressed at how cost effective it was for the reach we achieved. 

The biggest users of social media platforms like Twitter are between the ages 18-35. How do you ensure the message is being spread to all ages?

Our Facebook audience is actually an older demographic, two thirds is 35+ and one fifth is 55+.

Data such as this allows us to understand the breakdown of our different social channels far more. We also encourage all of our supporters to sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with our work. 

We also have a strong presence offline to raise awareness of who we are and what we do. We run our own events and support those who are doing great things to fundraise for the organisation.

We also partner with other organisations, like Wickes and Royal London, which helps us promote the campaign to their customers and further raise awareness.

There are so many charities out there to support – how do you use social to appeal to people who might not have been directly affected by blood cancer?

There are so many great causes for people to support and we understand that it can be a very personal decision to get behind a charity.

We use social media to support everybody, whether they have been directly affected by blood cancer or not.

We run and get involved with a lot of sports events such as the London and Birmingham Bikeathons, the Bloodwise Blenheim Triathlon and our London to Paris cycling event.  

Sports events are a great way for us to have conversations with people who may not have been directly affected by blood cancer and social media is a great way to promote the events and to support the fundraisers who are taking part.

We also, like many charities, use the power of storytelling to reach out beyond those affected: Everyone feels for the family whose child has been affected by blood cancer.

We’ve seen a lot of charities use hashtags to promote a cause – #nomakeupselfie, #icebucketchallenge etc. – do you think people will become desensitised or bored of this behaviour in future?

Both #nomakeupselfie and #icebucketchallenge were created by social media users and not the organisations they raised money for.

It’s nigh on impossible to plan that level of virality but hashtags are still very effective for bringing together a specific community. 

We used #wearebloodwise to launch our campaign, utilising celebrity support from people like Stephen Fry and Alastair Campbell, and it achieved a reach of 13m.

They can also be very effective when used as a campaigning tool: #findmike or #thisgirlcan for example.  

Bloodwise is dedicated to those affected by blood cancer and so our social media strategy needs to go beyond planning for a viral campaign.

We want to make sure we are supporting everyone involved in the charity the best we can, so we can work together to beat blood cancer.

July is Data Month at Econsultancy. Go here to see all our related blog posts and reports.