You use social media now to hold conversations. But what if you could use it to change the conversation? What if you could take a popular hashtag, used every day across social media, and give it an entirely new meaning?

That's what, a non-profit dedicated to bringing clean water to the world's poorest populations, set out to do with its Hashtag Killer campaign. The award-winning campaign was launched in 2012 but it remains the most powerful example of an organization hijacking a popular meme and entirely reinventing it.

The result for the organization in terms of stats alone was seven million views on YouTube and more than 21 million Facebook views. In fact, the benefits went much deeper than that.


The campaign was run by advertising company DBB, which took popular and recurring themes that people attached to the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems. You've seen those tweets. People complain about not finding Pokemons at their parents' beach house. Or not being able to use Hulu in Canada when they can see New York from their window. 

"We saw the popularity of  #FirstWorldProblems and got the idea to hijack it for good," explained Ken Surritte, CEO and Founder of Water is Life. "Poking fun at ourselves but talking about what is really important: a third of the world needs water."

DBB picked problems that people highlighted again and again, and asked children and staff at an orphanage in Haiti to read them aloud and answer them. So we see kids who own little more than their shirt, shorts and flip flops complain that their leather seats aren't heated and that their iPhone chargers won't reach their bed. We see a little girl complain about leaving her clothes in the washer so long that they start to smell... while behind her, other children wash clothes by hand in a muddy stream. 

And we also see them sympathize with people who were awoken by their cleaning ladies, and offer to bring them something they've forgotten. It's a touching series of videos that puts those first world problems into perspective.

The campaign was covered on a host of media outlets but more importantly, in addition to generating views, it also generated donations. With the money raised, Water is Life was able to drill six new wells, hand out thousands of straw and home filters, and install a water treatment plant providing over a million days of clean water to northern Haiti.

The #FirstWorldProblems hashtag survived. You can still toss it into Twitter and watch it fill up with complaints about the Apple remote being too small and waiters at top restaurants asking about the food while you're busy chewing. But for a short while, one non-profit was able to ride a popular conversation, turn it into a force for good... and remind all of us how fortunate we are. 

To discover more about how is saving lives and changing the world visit