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Nonprofit Management

One Story, Mass Engagement

Presenters at the second-annual Social Media on Purpose conference discuss the power of one in generating global support.

“If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” Facebook’s manager of partnerships, Libby Leffler, opened her presentation with a quote by Mother Teresa at this year’s one-day intensive Social Media on Purpose conference, hosted by Stanford Social Innovation Review. The power of a single, relatable story about one person to generate massive, sometimes global, engagement was a theme echoed throughout the day. Representatives from LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr presented tools and strategies during morning sessions, while afternoon sessions focused on compelling case studies—storytelling, visually engaging content, and learning lessons from metrics. Stefania Pomponi from the Clever Girls Collective concluded the day by highlighting the supremely viral #SFBatKid campaign.

LinkedIn for Good’s Meg Garlinghouse kicked off the conference with practical, hands-on advice for using LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace tool to recruit volunteers and board members via direct messaging. Sherri Wood, founder of One Warm Coat, joined Garlinghouse to discuss her success using LinkedIn for recruiting. The organization was one of 20 to participate in a beta test for Volunteer Marketplace and has managed to distribute 4 million coats with no full-time staff.

Both Leffler’s and Head of Twitter for Good Caroline Barlerin’s presentations described the capacity of their respective platforms to spread stories that have emotional resonance. Leffler highlighted the #NoMakeUpSelfie campaign, which has raised more than $210,000 for cancer research, while Barlerin presented a heat map for the #BringBackOurGirls campaign—a plea from Northern Nigerian community for world powers to intervene in the mass-kidnapping of hundreds of school girls by an Islamic militant group—to illustrate just how quickly a hashtag can go globally viral. Joining Barlerin was Sammie Rayner, founder of HandUp, an organization that partners with human services agencies to tell individual stories, then allows donors to give small amounts of money for specific services. Both Leffler and Barlerin also emphasized the importance of measuring metrics with free tools provided by Facebook and Twitter to develop and understand which content followers engage with most.

The sleeper hit of the morning was Tumblr’s director of social impact and policy, Liba Rubenstein, who introduced the millennial-friendly microblogging platform. She shared data showing how Tumblr’s audience was distinct among social media platforms—disproportionally positive and engaged, both online and offline. “They’re not just sitting in dark rooms in pajamas reblogging cat gifs,” joked Rubenstein of the platform’s users, half of which are between 18 and 34. The reblog function is Tumblr’s “engine of virality,” said Rubenstein, while the platform’s analytics programs allow users to easily identify nodes of influence and engage with them directly. Rubenstein did tout the many merits of the animated gif—a uniquely digital communication she called “the modern political cartoon.”

Later, social media mogul and author Beth Kanter invited representatives from six nonprofits to present campaigns in a poetry-themed Case Study SLAM! Notably, Abdi Soltani discussed the America Civil Liberties Union of Northern California’s Estamos Unidos campaign, which aims to connect Latino communities through immigrant stories. Spanish for “We Are United,” the campaign launched with a bus tour across the United States, but Soltani shared that it didn’t generate traction until his team began spending $20 a day for Facebook sponsorship. “I hope someday Mark Zuckerberg will return the favor,” joked Soltani, reiterating earlier audience malaise at Facebook’s pay-for-exposure direction.

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Humberto Kam and Upwell’s Matt Fitzgerald both shared how their organizations have used people’s interest in marine wildlife to generate support for ocean conservation efforts. Fitzgerald described how Upwell used a “big listening” analytics strategy: During Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week television event, the organization tracked all shark-related hashtags, provided top-trending ones to conservation nonprofits, and encouraged them to capitalize on shark love by generating support for conservation efforts. Other panel participants included Cindy Johanson of Edutopia, Trenton DuVal of IDEX, and James Nickerson of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

GreatNonprofits founder Perla Ni described the platform as the “Yelp of the social sector” and demonstrated how nonprofits can use it to build community support through donor reviews, event photos, and sharing.

Using #SFBatKid as an example, Pomponi outlined her six secrets to any goal-oriented social media campaign, including carefully choosing the right platform, creating a unified voice, and importantly, framing an emotional story. Through careful strategizing of logistics, Pomponi demonstrated that the campaign was successful because it allowed the community, both in San Francisco and globally via Twitter, to champion a cause. (Of course, a retweet from President Obama certainly didn’t hurt).

The #SMoP14 Twitter feed was abuzz throughout the day with attendee commentary. Read more about the conference on the #SMoP14 Twitter feed or browse SSIR’s archive of social media articles and blog posts.

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