Social media is a great tool for meeting incredible people, and engaging with customers if you’re a brand. While I agree, that’s not what this post is about.
I’d like to talk right now about how we can utilize social media in positive, socially beneficial ways. Not so say that marketing isn’t socially beneficial….yay capitalism! But let’s ignore Skittles, Zappos and Comcast for the time being.
Social Media is a great way to help engage with your customers, develop brand image, and pimp your latest blog entry *cough-guilty-cough*. But there are other ways that I have seen social media used. For example, to help others and to share relevant useful information without regard, necessarily, to selling a product or brand. Here are the top 5 ways I have seen the power of social media used for the greater good most recently:
- Fundraising for a Cause: Several of my favorite people on both Twitter and Facebook have used their networks to help raise money for their favorite charities. The team over at New Edge Media along with honorary team member Steve Plunkett, helped raise money for The National Lupus Foundation. Together they were able to, as a team, raise over $500 for a walk they particpated in. Pam Singleton, from Sonitrol, has used social media as a great way to help spread the news and gain publicity and funds for the Relay for Life Organization in Portland Oregon. I have seen many others spreading the message of their efforts throughout their networks and ultimately gaining a great deal of support.
- Breaking News: If an earthquake happens in California surely Twitter hears about it first. If a plane goes down, Twitter will hear about it first. This can be particularly useful in helping to get help to areas that need it, getting information to families who may be involved and even alerting traditional media of breaking events. There was even a case of an individual who notified their friends of having been arrested in a foreign country via Twitter causing them to investigate and ultimately get the appropriate parties involved.
- Disseminating Public Health Information: I know we’re all probably fairly sick of hearing about the “swine flu” already. However, an illness that has already killed over 100 people and is quickly popping up across the globe really should be getting its fair share of publicity. Social media can definitely propagate a flood of misinformation, especially in these types of easily over-sensationalized news cases. But if users are diligent (yes I know that can some times be asking too much) about their intake of information, consider their sources and do some verification on their own, social media can be an incredibly effective way to disseminate helpful information.
- Saving Lives: While there has only been one case that I know of for sure, Twitter can be used to save lives. This user in particular threatened suicide. A celebrity (Mrs. Kutcher, aka Demi Moore) caught wind of this and helped to get the appropriate parties involved thereby thwarting the event. I’ve already seen one other similar event on Twitter in which the person was essentially threatening to commit suicide and was consequently contacted by many users once the Twittersphere became aware. While I’m not suggesting Twitter becomes the next ‘Boys Town National Hotline’ it is nice to see people still caring for one another and reaching out in times of need.
- Education: If anyone has attended a conference or other event since Twitter’s recent rise in popularity then you know how great it is to keep track of people and conversations. Facebook can be a great platform for sharing articles and links with other individuals in your circle as well. However it seems that there’s a growing trend to use it as an actual educational tool. Whether used for live tweeting events and speakers, or in more of an information sharing platform there can indeed be a huge ‘value-add’ to the educational system if social media is integrated thoughtfully.
Surely there are other ways we can utilize this powerful tool to help others. Please let me know if you’ve seen other types of initiatives that I’ve not included. I’d love to add to this list!