The 140-Character Mission: Social Media & Social Entrepreneurship

The TiE Boston Social Entrepreneurs Group put on a great interactive panel discussion on using Social Media for non profits. The panelists represented a spectrum of cutting edge users in the social media space. They included (with their Twitter ids)

  • Ken George, New Media Production Manager, WBUR Boston (@kengeorge)
  • Brian Halligan, CEO and Co-founder, HubSpot (@bhalligan)
  • Gradon Tripp, Founder, Social Media for Social Change (SM4SC) (@gradontripp)
  • Joe Waters, Director of Cause Marketing, Boston Medical Center (@joewaters)
  • Kate Brodock, Other Side Group (Moderator) (@just_kate)

After the introductory discussion two non-profits presented their current online challenges and asked the panel for direction/advice

  • Sam Vaghar, Managing Director, Millennium Campus Network (@samvaghar)
  • Julie Soforenko, Marketing and Outreach Coordinator, ACCION USA

It was a terrific session with some great insights and ideas.  I have tried to capture some of the nuggets from the evening in no particular chronological or preconceived order.

How to get started (Based on discussion and the case feedback)

  • Start a blog with really good content. Get a good copywriter. Create Value.
  • Use good titles for posts to grab attention. Then bolt on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Find bloggers related to your topics and comment thoughtfully. Don’t post randomly with links to your site
  • Spend half your time on your blog the other half on the blogosphere looking at other related information
  • Remember your website is your brand presence on the web, however don’t spend more than $1000 on designing it
  • Chose core themes for your cause. Boston Medical Center chose Women, Kids and Cancer
  • There are 200 Million plus on FB and 9 million on Twitter. However Facebook has growing 24-35 yr old demographic
  • It is your job to build your brand on the web; FB and Twitter can’t do anything by themselves
  • Good starting point is Problogger.net – they have a “31 Days to Build a Better Blog challenge” with a tip a day to get to a better blog experience
  • For blogs to be successful, blogs should be REMARKABLE

What is the role of Social Media?

  • Use social media to engage the audience. WBUR asked its audience what value they perceived in the station. They got a lot of positive responses that allowed them to follow up with a soft pitch to a very receptive audience
  • Email is still the killer app! Blue Slate Digital built the Obama campaign support through aggressive and creative use of email.
  • Hubspot panelist observed that of the 250K names on their lists, about half are from their email marketing list. The rest are from Linked-in, FB, and Twitter.
  • Use social media to create compelling content. Zappos is a good example where they have created a persona online. They are proof that you don’t have to be big or have lots of dollars to create an impact.

Sample use cases from the panel

  • Hubspot: Collaboration is a recent thing on the internet, it was all one way marketing till fairly recently. Social media is just another marketing channel, like the web and email. Use it for getting customer feedback when building a company or product. Hubspot did all its market research online using Social Media.
  • Boston Medical Center(BMC): BMC is an aggressive fundraiser since over 50% of its patients make less than $20K/yr. It does not have an alumni base like other teaching hospitals. Wanted to be ahead of others to attract attention. Partners with corporations to raise funds. Used social media to drive attendance for Halloweentown in partnership with iParty.
  • WBUR: Still in early experimental stage. Need to be careful as they have a prestigious brand and need to protect it. Took them 6 months to demystify social media. Consider themselves to be at the cutting edge among comparable public radio stations in US.
  • FirstGiving: Noted that there was a lot of social media ‘backslapping’ nothing ever got done. Setup a call for action on his blog to create an online fundraising event. Result was over $4000 raised. Uses social media to drive traffic and attention to events. Events are not virtual but real parties etc.

What is absolutely necessary for one to use social media?

  • Need people to carry the torch. Need consistency. Need to be regular and on-topic.
  • Do it. Believe in it. It is early – you will figure it out. You can’t afford to stand by the sidelines.
  • Coke and Pepsi are based on the old model of interactivity with TV. Each year 4-9% of the Fortune 500 drop out of the list. The current situation and social media will accelerate this process for consumer companies.
  • Need to be into it to do social media. Find someone who is really passionate about it and stays active. Give it to the rookies they thrive onthis.
  • Need to be in the game to react and defend your company online
  • Social Media drives traffic to your fundraising events; but most of the fundraising events discussed were ‘real’ events (like parties or mixers)  not virtual online ones.

General Comments

  • Remember the Twittersphere sniffs out insincerity
  • Present yourself dynamically
  • Don’t worry about followers; it is whom you follow that is important. Focus on a few influential people else it is difficult filtering through the noise. One good thing about Twitter – you can “unfollow”.
  • Automatic robot followers are going to be the bane of Twitter in the future.
  • Engage the person, reflect your personality
  • Social currency is more important than dollars. Getting a retweet or recommendation from someone like Chris Brogan is worth more than money as he has a tremendous following.
  • Mashable.com is the best and largest social media guide online. Getting visibility there is huge

You can se the video of the entire event and a transcript of the session on Kate Brodock’s site (Thanks a ton Kate for the work on this panel).

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One response to “The 140-Character Mission: Social Media & Social Entrepreneurship

  1. For those who are getting started on Twitter – a good blog post with sensible steps to making Twitter useful

    http://tushneem.wordpress.com/2009/06/18/the-hype-about-twitter-and/

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