Harnessing Social Media’s Power to Do Good

“Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone” – Margaret Wheatley

The 24th of February marked a defining moment in sporting history in Hong Kong. On this day, at 7:15am, the sounds of a loud gunshot reverberated through the normally busy streets of the city centre, marking the start of the 42K Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon 2013, an epic battle between elite runners and a record number of non-professional runners from over 30 different countries. The cameras clicked, the crowd went mad and 2 hours, 14 minutes and 18 seconds later, journalists worked themselves up into a frenzy, attempting to ‘own’ a few seconds of winner and Kenyan running sensation, Julius Maisei’s time. The women’s race was finished some 16 minutes later by Misiker Demissie of Ethiopia, who took home a whopping US$57,000 for her win (Maisei won the same amount).

This year’s HK Marathon stood out for another reason: it was the subject of a powerful social media campaign that garnered HKD150,000 for three important charities: Seeing is Believing – ORBIS, the Hong Kong Paralympic Committee, and the Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society. The idea was developed by the Social Media Arts Lab of TBWA/Hong Kong’s Digital Arts Network and it was as practical and simple as can be: Facebook users simply had to click onto the charity drive’s dedicated Facebook page, and for every ‘Like’, Standard Charter would donate one HK dollar to a charity fund. When the fan base reached 30,000, the bank donated an additional HKD50,000, promising HKD50,000 more if the page received 50,000 ‘Likes’ by the date of the marathon. The immense success of the campaign makes evident that there is a reason why, in countries like the USA, some 94% of charities are using social tools like Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest to raise funds for their respective causes; they receive an average of 40 per cent more funding than those who do not.

Social Media tools are currently being used to gather support for everything from women’s issues to animal rights, bullying, anorexia, poverty, violence and children’s issues. In Malaysia, a social media-driven campaign, Be The Difference, launched by Groupon Malaysia in November, 2012, raised over RM140, 980 (US $46,080) for 17 different Malaysian charities, including SPCA Sabah, Shelter Home for Children and the House of Joy.

Social media is also capable of accessing and motivating huge audiences to support and discuss difficult issues, like gender violence and drug abuse. Julia Broussard, UN Women’s Country Director in China, said, “Social media can even open up a topic that is rarely discussed in China, such as violence against women and girls.” UN Women has hosted an event called the 17 MAN programme, organised by Eastern Campus in China and encouraging profound thought on gender roles and the way that inequity and stereotypes can lead to violence. In Singapore, meanwhile, the country’s first-ever Anti-Drug Online Gaming Challenge (a three-month gaming event) attracted thousands of players, who competed in three games designed by young people for their peers: The Right Choice, Escape from Drugs Land and Jump Jump Rescue. The winners of each game took home an important message on drug abuse and a brand new iPad. All the games were centered on the theme Life Does Not Rewind, since when it comes to drugs, it never is quite as simple as just clicking the ‘undo’ button. Campaigns like these do their best to mitigate a growing problem plaguing South Asia in particular: the injection of prescription drugs. Across the globe, the youth are particularly affected by the growing availability of drugs over the Internet.

The Importance of Social Scoring

Any social media expert will tell you that the important question is no longer whether or not networking is a useful tool for fundraising, if not how to market campaigns to the right donors. Social scoring tools like Tweet Grader or Klout can help NGOs analyse their content, reach, followers, re-tweeters and assign ‘social scores’. This enables organisations to determine who their most influential followers are, and to use the latter’s vast social networks to further their cause. Take the case of the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK; they tapped onto the powerful influence of a 22-year-old blogger from Bath called Charlie McDonnell, who has 1.76 million subscribers and over 268 million overall views of his blog. Charlie made an emotionally charged video about losing his Grandad, Joe, to dementia, and set up a JustGiving account for donations to the Alzheimers Society. Can you imagine how much Charlie has raised so far? If you’re curious enough, check out his blog on www.justgiving.com/charliep4a.

Since 2005, some 750,000 lenders on Kiva have made $3million in loans to various countries; over 5.9 million volunteers have been referred to 82,000 NGOs since 1998 via online campaigns; over 10 million members have signed some 100,000 petitions, resulting in thousands of success stories; Red Cross raised approximately $33 million in text donations for the Haiti earthquake relief.

There are now over a billion Internet users around Asia, some 811 million of which use social media; more than 10 million new people in Asia join Facebook every month. Asia is home to over 3 billion mobile subscriptions. Could your charity use potential funds from over a billion new sources?

28 Responses to Harnessing Social Media’s Power to Do Good

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