How #TeamTrees Used Social Video to Help Save the Planet

By Bree Brouwer · December 23, 2019

How #TeamTrees Used Social Video to Help Save the Planet

When you need an example of how social video can do good in this world, look no further than #TeamTrees.

The campaign originated in May 2019 as a casual challenge posed to YouTube creator and streamer MrBeast from his fans on Reddit. They wanted him to plant 20 million trees by 2020 to celebrate his 20 million subscriber milestone.

MrBeast accepted, and partnered with fellow YouTuber and ex-NASA engineer Mark Rober to develop the #TeamTrees campaign. Over a period of several months they organized a network of fellow influencers, produced content, and laid the groundwork for a massive crowdfunding initiative where for every $1 raised, one tree would be planted by the Arbor Day Foundation.

On December 19, less than two months after launch, #TeamTrees hit its goal of raising $20 million to plant 20 million trees in areas of high need around the world.

While clearly showcasing the power of the internet, #TeamTrees still wouldn’t have been possible without two vital factors: social video and data.

These two elements helped drive the campaign’s massive success. To date, its numbers include:

  • More than 8000 videos mentioning #TeamTrees from 400+ global creators
  • Nearly 307M total views
  • Over 19M engagements

We sat down with two #TeamTrees insiders, Campaign Director Matt Fitzgerald and Social Video Strategy Consultant Sam Chaffee, to learn:

  • How social video played a primary role in driving awareness of the campaign
  • How data helped them figure out which creators to partner with
  • Why a solid social video strategy is key to the success of any nonprofit organization that wants to protect and preserve the planet

Here’s what they had to say!

Tubular Insights: There was a lot of awareness around #TeamTrees despite it launching less than two months ago. What role did social video play in that push?

Matt Fitzgerald: #TeamTrees wouldn’t exist without creators and influencers making social videos and without their fans responding back and making the campaign their own.

Fairly early on, we reached 200M views on YouTube, and later on we hit over half-a-billion views on TikTok, as well. Those viewers became our donors and supporters. They became #TeamTrees.

We started #TeamTrees by building off the relationships and existing community among creators, but then we added to our network using data we got from Tubular.

We first mapped the connections we already had and then identified additional folks we wanted to reach out to. The combination of friendships and data allowed us to set records and be so successful.

Sam Chaffee: The social video story here is compelling. We only started by reaching out to a few hundred creators, but now if you look at the number of people who have uploaded videos talking about #TeamTrees, it’s over 8000.

That’s social nature at work. We proceeded with this core group of influencers and then audiences just took it and ran with it.

TI: How did you use data to discover the influencers you wanted to work with to promote this campaign?

SC: The campaign started out as a fan idea that MrBeast and Mark pursued. They have some great contacts in the YouTube space, but we knew we’d need to expand beyond each of their communities.

YouTube has so many different kinds of creators and types of content, and for better or worse, niches can live on their own. So Tubular’s creator categorization was a big help when it came to audience overlap.

We were able to see all these awesome science creators from Mark’s side and entertainment creators from MrBeast’s side. But we didn’t really have anyone in the beauty space or family vlogs, which are arguably two of the biggest content categories on the platform.

Data helped us segment and target these audiences we weren’t going to reach naturally unless we made a concerted effort to identify and reach out to those people.

It’s such a big task identifying who would bring the most value to the campaign in terms of engagement. For example, having a ton of subscribers doesn’t necessarily mean a particular creator’s video is going to get lots of views.

Therefore, we looked at Tubular’s V30 stat to see how many views creators were averaging after 30 days. It made sense to us to start at the top of this list, assuming we needed to get x-number of views based on an estimated conversion rate.

Data brought a level of efficiency we could’ve never achieved using native analytics.

Also don’t miss: Why audience measurement is the next step in social video

TI: What were some benchmarks you looked for in campaign partners?

MF: For the scale of what we were trying to do, there just aren’t that many benchmarks. As we were trying to do conversion math, it was very hard to find exact models because we were trying something that had really never been done in this particular way before.

If we looked at who was already on board, and then who our outreach targets were, together over the course of a very short campaign, what could we actually expect?

As our creator network was getting excited about launching the campaign, having hard data gave us real-time updates to our estimates, allowed us to recalibrate our recruitment tactics, and also generated excitement across platforms.

Having actual numbers was huge for us both operationally and in terms of building a narrative for a campaign that hadn’t actually launched yet.

I definitely looked at countries, too. One of the perceptions we were trying to dispel was that #TeamTrees was just about MrBeast and Mark Rober, or just about English-language creators.

As creators signed up for the campaign, we had a spreadsheet running and we were able to cross-reference those sign-ups into Tubular. From there, we could see dozens of countries represented.

Even though I’d never spoken to many of these creators, I could very easily see who was on our growing team and provide some statistics that helped the media understand that the campaign had grown beyond its origins. In the end we received donations from nearly every country on earth.

TI: What does the success of the #TeamTrees campaign imply about how nonprofit campaigns or organizations should use social video?

SC: On some nonprofit social video campaigns they take avery top-down approach, where they want to make a perfect piece of content about their message and control that message very tightly.

With #TeamTrees we wanted to end up with the organic momentum of a bottom-up campaign, but to start it by using top-down distribution.

For us that meant spreading the seeds of our message to the influencer community and then letting them run with it — leveraging their unique creativity and their relationships with their fans. A big takeaway would be learning how to plant that seed, in particular when it comes to the type of audience you want to reach and who will evangelize your message.

We realized it would be a huge challenge to create a “viral” moment with #TeamTrees. Most of these campaigns start out of nowhere; think about how many campaigns like the Ice Bucket Challenge were bubbling around on the internet before one eventually breaks through.

We didn’t have that luxury. We had a firm goal: $20 million for 20 million trees by 2020 with a very lean team to get this running.

It really was about planting seeds and identifying all the different communities and audiences we could reach and planting seeds that way compared to the very top-down approach I’ve seen in the past.

Even though the #TeamTrees campaign has officially reached its $20M goal, you can still gift a tree as a unique but important Christmas gift to your loved ones.

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