On a scale of one to 10 (with 10 being most active), I’d give the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation about an eight for its use of social media. They use the different platforms well, but I wouldn’t describe them as pioneers in this space. The organization has a robust and frequently updated Twitter account, a strong Facebook page (surprising: its following there is about one-fifth the size of its Twitter audience), a very active Flickr account (with gorgeous photos) and a blog with — gasp! — public comments.
I was quite amazed at the openness of their comment policy. It requires users to sign in with a social account, but once signed in, the comment appears to be added immediately without being held for moderation (I tried it here). What a breath of fresh air! Many organizations of lesser prominence are deathly afraid of even moderated comments. But I digress…
Back to the focus of this post: the Gates Foundation’s YouTube channel. Web video is hot and is just going to become an even bigger part of the online experience (definitely watch this interview with Jason Calacanis to get a better idea of trends in web video). I’m particularly interested in how audiences are responding to video from organizations, especially in global health. So I took a closer look at the Gates Foundation’s videos. I only looked at global health-related videos and considered videos that were uploaded by the Gates Foundation (the channel features videos originally uploaded from other sources). Here are the top five in descending order:
5) Crying Baby Symphony – 26,775+ views
This video, which promotes the value of vaccines, struck me as having the most potential to go viral in some ways. It’s just about a minute long and the mix of babies crying is pieced together creatively. But I guess, who wants to hear a baby cry?
4) Follow the Bag of Maize – 28,125+ views
The video tracks a single bag of maize from its origin on a small farm in east Rwanda to a refugee camp. The dramatic music and eye-catching footage help make for a powerful, albeit brief video.
3) Bill Gates: Vaccines Save Lives – 47,340+ views
The black and white images in this video are hand-drawn while Bill Gates makes the case for investment in vaccines. I’m guessing this got a large number of views because of its release alongside Bill Gates’ annual letter earlier this year.
2) TEDxChange: Melinda French Gates – 94,365+ views
Last September, lots of people tuned in to hear Melinda Gates speak live about progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. I remember this generating a lot of chatter and blog coverage, which helps explain why it ranks so high on the list.
1) A Mother’s Story: Pneumonia Vaccine in The Gambia – 107,720+ views
This didn’t seem like an obvious choice for the most viewed video on the Gates Foundation channel. It’s sad, poignant, inspiring and informative. But it doesn’t play on the star power of Bill or Melinda and frankly, other Gates Foundation videos have more of the typical elements of viral content (like the baby crying symphony above). I don’t recall this video being part of some other major press push either and a quick Google search didn’t suggest otherwise. This video’s popularity speaks to the power of the personal narrative and great story telling.
With almost 492,000 views, the most viewed video overall on the Gates Foundation’s channel is Bill’s 2009 TED talk. It is available on the channel, but was not produced by the foundation, which is why I excluded it from my list. But here it is for your viewing pleasure in case you have not seen it: