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Can social media be used to make the world a better place?

Most of us are pretty comfortable these days using social media applications to connect with old friends, to make new ones, and to communicate about what’s going on in our personal and public lives. And by now, most of us have witnessed the marketing power of social media to increase the visibility of a business, a new or existing product, or commercial campaign. It’s fun, it’s accessible, and it’s a great way to keep feeling connected in a world that continues to physically distance us from one another.

But can social media be used to make the world a better place?

The popular online blog Mashable and RED (and organization that donates money to HIV programs in Africa) definitely say “yes!”, and have declared today the first annual Social Good Day, to encourage people to meet up and talk about just how to do it. They are encouraging individuals and non-profit organizations to embrace social media as a friendly, affordable way to raise awareness, educate, and increase support for their causes.

In honor of Social Good Day, Carrie Nagy and I attended a local meet-up organized by Tara Pringle Jefferson of the Cleveland Foundation. Tara is an avid blogger and social media whiz who conducts regular sessions for people interested in sharing their social media strategies for non-profits. At this session, the Cleveland Foodbank presented a case study of their successful use of Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and guest blogging to raise attendance at their annual Taste of the Browns fundraiser. Other attendees from several non-profits (including the Hospice of the Western Reserve and the Boys and Girls Club) shared stories of their successes and challenges unique to the non-profit sector.

Boondock Walker is currently running a pro bono social media campaign for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s annual Tailgate For A Cure fundraising event which includes a Facebook and Twitter strategy as well as design and development of event promotion materials. Boondock has been involved as a sponsor since the event’s inception 6 years ago.

Social media can be used to do “social good” on a smaller scale as well. A few months ago, a friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer, and did not have short-term disability coverage to help her financially through her surgery recovery period. A group of friends and I got together to put a plan in action to raise some money for her, using Facebook to lead people to a blog (on Blogspot – free!) where people could read her story, see photos, and donate via PayPal. Thanks to her touching blog posts, a clever campaign name, and an eye-catching poster design, the Facebook posts spread like crazy, and in a few short weeks, donations surpassed the goal, and were coming in from friends and friends-of-friends across the globe. The campaign culminated in an event (again, promoted and documented on social media outlets) and is continuing to draw in supporters.

So whether you are looking to save the world, or just help a friend in need, social media can be a powerful tool to use along the way.

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