Harnessing the power of social media

I jumped onto the Twitter bandwagon less than a year ago, and am constantly amazed at how my “community” has expanded. I’ve bonded with fellow bloggers, met people who share the same interests as I do, learnt from some of the most inspirational figures of recent times, and followed breaking stories as they happened – minute-by-minute.

As I used the platform and starting interacted with people, I heard their conversations, learnt more about their lives and supported and cheered with them as they triumphed or grappled with life. So what if a lot of them stay half way around the world, or if I haven’t met any of them and probably never will? The conversations and friendships built are real enough. Which is why if one of them were to tell me about a social cause and ask for my support, I would help out to the best of my ability.

And I wouldn’t be alone, as a whooping 84% of the social media savvy aged 30-49 and 55% of those older than 50 used conversational social media to discuss philanthropy. The Philanthropy 2.0 research project also found that 20% of survey respondents between the ages of 30 and 49 gave more than $5,000 through social media discussions, demonstrating the huge potential for social-media savvy fundraisers.

Twestival Houston

Image by .imelda via Flickr

The funds being raised by leveraging technology are astounding. Twitter users alone donated more than $33 million to the American Red Cross fund for Haitian earthquake victims. Innovative companies like Twestival, which realize the potential of 140 characters and hashtags, are using social media for social good by connecting communities offline on a single day to highlight a great cause and have a fun event. Since 2009, volunteers have raised close to $1.2 million for 137 nonprofits. Of that amount, $15,734.53 was raised in India alone.

2:46 quakebook

Image by taotsu via Flickr

Using the power of hashtags and retweeting, individuals too can make a mark. One recent example is that of @ourmaininabiko. Using an idea that was sparked in the shower, he sent out a tweet calling for eyewitness accounts and personal stories on Twitter. Less than 45 minutes later, the first submission came in. Based on the more than 80 submissions to that single tweet, 2:46 Quakebook was born – a Twitter-sourced collection of personal accounts and pictures of the 11 March 2011 Japan quake and its aftermath. The book is a collaborative effort between bloggers to help raise money for Japan – the proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to the Japan Red Cross.

India recently witnessed its own political revolution of sorts, and a big portion of that battle was fought online – through the creation of a website and by leveraging social media to spread activist Anna Hazare’s message of anti-corruption. Millions of people across the nation joined Hazare in person and in spirit, as he sat on a fast-unto-death outside the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. His demand was for the passage of a Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen’s ombudsman Bill) that would give more power to the people to fight corruption in all areas of public service. Candlelight vigils and peaceful protests were organized around the country, forcing the government to accept all of the demands put forth by the activists and backed by the common man, corporates and Bollywood stars.

Social media has truly emerged as one of the most powerful Web 2.0 technologies. Not only does it allow us to forge strong friendships, it enables us to spark ideas that turn into revolutions that lead to the ouster of dictators, bring about social change, and raise money for those in need. Ultimately, how we use and leverage it depends on us.

Have you ever made donations or volunteered your services by leveraging technology?

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  1. Hello,

    Well written post. You’ve rightly said that the power to harness social media is in our hands…some people spend endless hours playing Farmville or poking other on facebook and some start revolutions to raise money for a cause…

    Although I haven’t volunteered or donated through social media, I have hired team members and surveyed followers to build products and services. Saved tons of money!

  2. This is so informative- and kind of exciting! I think people generally want to give, but they are busy so they want it to be simple. I am glad social media has created a method to make philanthropy more accessible.

  3. Great post Jinny. I don’t spend enough time on Twitter…. and frankly, I don’t think I’m using it properly, LOL! Maybe you’ll have to teach me 🙂

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