Using Social Media for Social Good

Eric Dybala | @edybala Social Media is a huge platform that has continuously been re-purposed to utilize many different ways of achieving a multitude of different outcomes. It seems as though when social media first appeared on the scene it was just something cool, but we are now seeing what I believe is just a sliver of its potential. While social media can and is used for driving advertising and bringing awareness to a new product or service, it is the non-profits, NGOs, and charity organizations that have truly impressed me.

While it would be really easy to drop an infographic in this post, I think words are needed here to emphasize the power of social media in spreading the message of social good; after all it is the message that is so powerful. For example, if I were to mention Invisible Children's video (the most recent Social Media viral storm), many of you could speak in a deep descriptive narrative on the central African situation, with supporting arguments surrounding how it is good and bad.

 

Viral Reach Chart

 

In spite of the power of any message, to quote Marshall McLuhan,

"The medium is the message meaning that the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived."

In other words, the way a message is conveyed influences the message itself.  McLuhan identified the light bulb as a clear demonstration of the concept of “the medium is the message." A light bulb does not have content in the way that a newspaper has articles or a television has programs, yet it is a medium that has a social effect; that is, a light bulb enables people to create spaces during nighttime that would otherwise be enveloped by darkness... McLuhan states that "a light bulb creates an environment by its mere presence."

It could be argued, then, that social media is a tool which by its existence creates the social environment necessary for social good messages to succeed. What do groups like Invisible Children need most to send a message? They need the light of awareness - and that is it. Social media has allowed this to happen.

There are many other examples of how viral campaigns have used this process to mobilize volunteers and bring enlightenment to situations and issues across the globe. While social media has created an environment of awareness, it has also been used to bring action and that is ultimately where change can be measured.

Tom's Shoes Logo

Tom's Shoes and Friends of Tom began a social campaign in 2006 to provide shoes to children. When you buy one pair of shoes, they donate a pair to a child in need. As of 201o, Tom's had over 1 Million likes on Facebook, and more than 800,000 followers on Twitter - resulting in more than 1 million pairs of shoes given away.

This visual allows the understanding that with more awareness, more action can be driven.

Individuals waving Egyptian and Libyan Flags

The clearest example of this power came with the Egyptian and Libyan Civil Uprisings. Social media has created an environment where the voice of many can be heard and action taken. The power of social media for social good is truly amazing and I wonder what the future holds.