Roar Social, a platform at the crossroads of social media and philanthropy, launches its app today in beta after three years of development and with the business in turmoil. Tweets are out. Roars are coming.
This is another video-sharing app but, layered on top, it’s a tool hoping to nudge Gen Z and young Millennials (16-36 core) to assert their values and channel viral content and engagement to a larger social purpose.
Specifically: users signing up pick one of a dozen “hero” causes from climate change to mental health to animal rights. Each of their posts is tagged with the matching icon, meaning all videos on the site — original content as well as repurposed work from TikTok, YouTube and Facebook Reels welcome — are attached to a cause. There’s no ‘like’ option. Instead, tapping a small cartoon pig automatically donates a penny to the cause through the platform’s proprietary Roar Giving Wallet technology. The Roar Social Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3), serves as a mechanism to collect and distribute donations.
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In a few months, users will also be able to direct donations to individual charitable organizations if they wish. “You can go as deep as you want. When we did early testing, we found out that people got paralyzed, like, ‘Oh no, which charity exactly?’ It’s easy to say I support racial equality or mental health. And then once you’re on the platform, you can pick a specific organizations if you want to,” said Robert Weiss, Roar Social CEO and founder. The key was making it easy and fun.
Users create a “social giving wallet” and load it with a minimum of $5. Most use Apple Pay in testing. The default donation is 1 cent with each tap adding a penny. When the wallet is empty, a bubble asks users to refill the piggy bank.
“Roar Social is meeting a cultural moment,” he told Deadline. “Millennials care deeply about social issues, more than any other generation.” Weiss launched the company in 2020 raising more than $10 million in seed capital and attracting a team of product and engineering talent from Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and LinkedIn.
A board of advisors includes Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; philanthropist and entrepreneur Mark Rockefeller; John A. Lack, co-founder of MTV; Emma Cookson, partner in The Brandtech Group; Richard Sarnoff, KKR Chairman of Media; Andrew Weinreich, founder of early social networking platform SixDegrees; Heather Moosnick, former YouTube and Hulu executive; Barrett Garese, founding agent at UTA’s online division; Norma Rosenhain, founder of marketing firm Creata; and technology/product thought leader Alex Godelman.
“Social media for social good is a simple but powerful concept,” said Weiss, who started as a journalist and TV producer and worked at cable networks FX, Fuse, Ovation and VH1 before before leading a variety of digital media, software and consumer technology startups including FanDragon, RockYou, BANG and PollPals.
“I almost launched this company back in 2012. I came really close. But I looked at the marketplace and thought, ‘Can the marketplace support this idea?’ Advertisers weren’t doing as much social impact. There was no Gen Z. And what we now call legacy social media was kind of new. And I was kind of born an optimist. I thought maybe social media would rise to the occasion and kind of be something positive.”
“Flash forward to 2020 [and] I felt like I saw the forces moving in this direction. I felt like social media, unfortunately, do I dare say, was getting shittier by the day, and sort of not fulfilling this promise that it could be entertaining, but also positive. Advertisers began to rally behind social impact,” said Weiss.
The app won’t take traditional ads for a few years as it ramps up, although it may have some “bespoke sponsorship opportunities” before then. It is also talking with three potential partners — Starbucks, Target and Warby Parker, a group it wants to expand — on an immediate step that would see companies directing some of their annual corporate social responsibility (CSR) spend to Roar Social through matching donations. “Every time someone donates to a particular nonprofit, your logo pops up in a positive way,” Weiss said, calling “Roars” a powerful way for brands to spotlight their commitment to a cause and to increase loyalty with sought after Gen Z consumers.” Users can also click through to see a company’s full philanthropic efforts.
Other plans include lining up influencers and celebrities to support a cause of their choice by posting exclusive content to Roar Social first.
“I think humans, by nature really do want to make a difference. And I think humans, in general, are more likely to do stuff when it’s fun. Other platforms that raise money, like GoFundM,e aren’t fun. And people go there just to do that and they leave. So I want to take the best, most engaging parts of Tik Tok and Reels and sort of layer on and take this existing behavior, which right now is kind of just used for fun, and then add the purpose behind it,” Weiss said.
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