First, let me extend my gratitude and thanks to everyone who made our second #UsGuys chat a success – our guests, Paula Goldman (@pdgoldman) of Huffington post and Andy Smith (@kabbenbock), co-author of The Dragonfly Effect, and @pineappleskip.
Also, my thanks to all the attendees - #UsGuys has grown to be a large and diverse tribe – including geographically diverse, and I know that 7-8p EST isn’t the best time for everyone. What make #UsGuys so valuable is that, combined, our expertise and insight cut across many different disciplines (and time zones).
Examples of Social Media
for Social Good
To get started, I asked our guests and chatters to throw out examples of social media used for social good – not restricted to non-profits, but including advocacy, political, and socially-minded businesses as well.
The first thing that came to mind was non-profits and fundraising. @cbanksindy noted that #4SqChat signed a sponsorship deal to raise money for Stand Up to Cancer. @solete noted breast cancer awareness campaigns that leveraged Facebook. @Kabbenbock shared his favorite example, @charitywater, which he profiles in his book as crossing different kinds of media to get their message out.
We also discussed corporate-backed philanthropy in the form of Pepsi (too bad @Tommoradpour wasn’t with us until later!). The Pepsi Refresh project has brought awareness and funds to a number of causes around the U.S. and the globe.
@MargieClayman had a relatively unconventional suggestion with the fake BP Twitter account used to satirize the company during the oil spill.
Is "Building Awareness" Enough?
I asked the question what people thing about campaigns that seek to “build awareness” by having users change their profile picture or avatar (ie, cartoon photo to raise awareness of child abuse). Several users commented that they have participated in such campaigns by changing pictures or avatars.
@MargieClayman argued that this type of campaign CAN be effective if paired with a call to action. @pdgoldman argued that awareness = impressions, impact = sales. @cbanksindy emphasized the call to action component of turning awareness into action and donations.
We also discussed whether “click to donate” campaigns work, with the general consensus and experience of the group suggesting that they do. Examples included Children International, Red Cross, No Kid Hungry, etc.
What About Politics?
This is probably the public policy junky in me, but something that wasn’t discussed thoroughly that I remain interested in is how social media is used for activism and organizing. Social media has become a huge part of the political establishment – we need look no further than the precedent set by Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.
While there have been extensive discussion of Malcom Gladwell’s piece on the #UsGuys stream in the past, I’d hoped to discuss it during this chat in more detail.
Is Using Social Media for
Social Good Different?
Many participants in the chat argued that the same basic principles apply when using social media channels, whether it be for social good or for business. @kabbenbock put forth that social media for any purpose relies on emotion and people’s networks to spread and multiply. @ken_rosen pointed out that non-profits can use social media to allow the story to take center stage and ease the path to a donation request.
I would argue there are some differences between charity causes and business. I agree with @pdgoldman’s statement that people tend to be more receptive to charity / non-profit “advertising” than purely commercial advertising.
I also argued that non-profits need to incorporating transparency even more strongly than business – if I’m donating my money to a cause, I want to make sure that’s what it’s actually being used for. I also argued that, in some cases, non-profits may be able to leverage an emotional response more than traditional business, ie. “Save the Children” commercials that show starving children.
Is Social Media Changing
the Donation Model?
We also discussed how social media may be changing the donation model. The cases of Red Cross post-Haiti and NPR were discussed. Both are organizations that have, historically, relied primarily on a small number of large donations from corporate partners and foundations. In the wake of the Haitian earthquake, the Red Cross was able to raise a large amount of money through small ($10) donations using its SMS text-to-donate campaign.
@Karen5Lund made the point that social media may allow funds to be raised more quickly, and @pdgoldman suggested that may be especially true after emergencies / in urgent situations. @solete argued that these types of social media campaigns work because they already have established trust, a shared mission, and a huge reach.
@terez07 brought up the example of Kiva, a microlending service which pairs donors with those in need via the web. Kiva lets potential donors see those seeking funds, read their story, and understand what kind of difference their funding could make.
#UsGuys also debated donating money versus donating time. There are many factors which impact people’s ability to donate time or money – and, depending on the cause, one may be more feasible than the other. @DebbieLB noted that it is easier for some to give money than time, as time is our scarcest resource.
How do you measure success when
using social media for social good?
@onejillian pointed out that when goals are different, measurements need to be different. I’d be inclined to agree. @kabbenbock also emphasized that before assigning metrics, you have to be crystal clear on what your goal is (which so many fail to do!).
While @danperezfilms argued that it’s about the money, we have to remember that non-profits are, well, non-profits – the money is an END to a different cause. Donations could be money, or they could be time, food, clothing, toiletries, etc. Additionally, not all metrics are things that are easy to measure – goodwill and awareness for example.
That said, applying business philosophies to the non-profit world can help improve outcomes. @REALChaseAdams said the purpose of a non-profit is to resolve a problem, so that measurement is progress toward that resolution, not money raised.
By tracking people’s first contact with a non-profit (Facebook? Twitter? Website? Other channel?) and monitoring their involvement (dollars/materials/time donated), non-profits can begin to analyze what channels are the most effective. @DebbieLB wrote that she values connections much more than metrics, which is a sentiment with which I strongly agree.
The last question, which we didn't really get to, was about people’s predictions for how social media will be used as a tool for social good in 2011. Please feel free to leave your predictions in the comments section.
I wrote up this summary pretty quickly, so please feel free to point out any errors or omissions (and spelling mistakes) in the comments.
This blog is about drawing on my experience in public affairs, sociology, technology, and marketing to provide insight and analysis on developments in Internet marketing, new media, and social media.
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