by Jonah Ort

TOMS celebrated its 8th birthday by giving gifts rather than receiving them. With the #WithoutShoes campaign, TOMS got their fans involved in a creative way to do something special for kids across the globe. Using social media to help those in need is always a social win, but what TOMS did was truly special.

The concept was simple: people should go a day without wearing shoes to help themselves understand the struggles faced by children who don’t have access to shoes. How can TOMS spread awareness about childhood poverty on a global scale? The answer was simple: through Instagram, of course.

The campaign had Instagram users take pictures of their bare feet and post them with #withoutshoes, and TOMS will donate one pair of new shoes to children in need. TOMS already donates a pair of shoes for every pair you purchase, but this time there was no purchase necessary.

The benefits of this campaign are threefold. For starters, it makes TOMS look great and shows off their humanitarian side. Secondly, it got users engaged with the brand on Instagram and spread awareness of the TOMS brand organically. And, most importantly, kids in need will receive new shoes.

The campaign took off quickly, with over 14,000 posts on the hashtag within 24 hours. Despite the campaign lasting less than a month, over 250,000 unique Instagram photos were taken with #withoutshoes. That’s over 250,000 pairs of shoes for kids.

Many celebrities also endorsed the campaign as well, like artist P!NK and actor Jeff Bridges. This kind of publicity undoubtedly boosted engagement and got more people posting. The celebrity involvement was also completely organic; TOMS did not pay anyone to sponsor the campaign. That’s the power of philanthropy for you.


The campaign did great across Facebook and Twitter as well. Social Media analytics company Unmetric found that the #withoutshoes campaign was one of the best campaigns, in terms of engagement, for the month of May. TOMS was so pleased with how the campaign performed that they plan on doing something similar in 2016.

Though there’s no doubt that the campaign was a social win, I can think of a couple ways to make it more profitable for TOMS and more engaging for fans. I think TOMS should also require users to use @toms in addition to #withoutshoes. I know there was some confusion surrounding the hashtag and what it meant, so that might clear things up and bring the messaging back to TOMS.

I also think that TOMS should set goals throughout the promotion, much like a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign. For example, at 100,000 posts, TOMS can give away an extra 20,000 shoes. Goals like these could inspire people the spread the word to get more people to participate. This also helps the campaign maintain momentum up to the very end; with the deadline approaching, TOMS would most likely see a big boost in engagement as users try to reach the next attainable goal.

Though TOMS’ #withoutshoes campaign was an excellent example of social media promotion, what really matters is that hundreds of thousands of kids in need will get a pair of shoes. Stuff like this demonstrates how social media changes the world for the better. If that isn’t a social win, I don’t know what is.


Cava, M. D. (2015, May 05). Toms uses Instagram to give away a million shoes. Retrieved February 14, 2016, from

Couch, R. (2015, October 27). Instagram Users Went #WithoutShoes This Month And Gave 265,000 Pairs To Kids In Need. Retrieved February 14, 2016, from

Kotenko, J. (2015, May 05). Toms is donating one pair of shoes for every photo of bare feet on Instagram. Retrieved February 14, 2016, from

PRNewswire. (2015, May 5). TOMS Kicks Off Its Eighth Annual One Day Without Shoes Campaign. Retrieved February 14, 2016, from

Wander, E. (2015, December 30). Here’s a Month-by-Month Look at the Most Engaging Brand Content of 2015. Retrieved February 14, 2016, from