Have you ever thought the power of the Internet could be harnessed for good? If so, check out today’s post from fellow blogger David Postic. Like Dave’s blog, “Life is Unwritten”, it’s informative, funny, and all around awesome!
A few months ago I was planning on going to a Fun. concert, but at the last minute something came up and I had to sell my ticket. I sent out a few texts to friends to see if they wanted to buy it – but to no avail. So I decided to turn to my social network. I tweeted something to the effect of: “I’m selling my ticket to the Fun. concert, if you want to buy it send me a text at [insert my number here].” Within 5 minutes I had texts and tweets from 5 different people asking to buy my ticket.
Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised. I thought that selling my ticket would be a lot more work. But in the 30 seconds and 94 characters it took me to type that tweet, I solved my problem. Using only the Internet.
I don’t know about you but I often think of the Internet as this magical realm that exists outside of the real world. Yes, the real world can translate to the Internet. That’s how YouTube makes its living. However, I never thought that the Internet could translate into the real world. But isn’t that what I did? Didn’t I use the Internet (the “magical realm”) to generate a change in the real world?
If my entries in the elementary school Science Fair taught me anything, it’s that every experiment must begin with a question. So I suppose my question was: Is it possible that we could utilize social media to solve real-world problems?
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s first go back and figure out how this solution to my ticket dilemma worked out. My message basically boiled down to three components:
- “I’m selling my ticket to the Fun. concert…” = I made people aware of the problem.
- “…if you want to buy it…” = I told them how they could help.
- “…send me a text at [insert my number here].” = I provided resources (my number) to assist them.
It was that simple. Twitter merely served the purpose of connecting me to my audience.
Now back to my question: Is it possible that we could utilize social media to solve real-world problems? My little Twitter experiment seemed to prove that the answer is yes. And I wasn’t really even trying. Let’s take things a step further.
What if we could harness the power of social media and focus it on responding to other, bigger problems in the world?
Think about it. If I got 5 responses to my ticket quandary in 5 minutes (and I hardly have a significant Twitter following), what else could we do as a generation full of social media users? Big things. Big things are what we can do. Consider these numbers:
– 200 million: the number of blogs on the Internet.
– 1.5 million: pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photos, etc.) that are shared on Facebook… daily.
– 96: percentage of Generation Y that has joined a social network.
– 54: percentage of bloggers who post content or tweet daily.
– 9: months it took Facebook to add 100 million users.
– 4: if Facebook were a country it would be the world’s 4th largest. Just between the United States and Indonesia.
– 2: the world’s 2nd largest search engine is… YouTube.
What these figures should tell you is that social media provides you with a large platform to spread your message. A phenomenally large platform. But hopefully you already knew that. The statistic I really want to emphasize is that top number at the top: there are 200 million of us bloggers (give or take a few million) in this crazy community called the Internet. That’s a lot of people power.
Imagine if we decided to do something big. Imagine if we used more than just Twitter to do it. Imagine spreading a message across WordPress, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumbler, Google +, Reddit, Pinterest, Digg, etc. Imagine if we could reach 500,000 people instead of just 500 (my Twitter reach). Imagine what we could do.
“But David,” you may be thinking to yourself, “you’re talking about Twitter and Facebook. You aren’t really proposing that we start a movement using only social media, are you?” That’s exactly what I’m proposing. I propose we put our social media power in action.
Let me describe to you the story of Internet Dave and his journey to have an impact through social media… (Spoiler alert: Internet Dave isn’t a real person)
Internet Dave wants to eradicate polio. But he is just one guy (a college kid, at that)! What can he possibly do? So Internet Dave decides to get his social network involved. He starts a blog telling people about his cause and what they can do to help. He provides a publicity toolkit people can use to raise awareness in their communities, an online giving site where people can donate money to buy polio vaccines, and multiple videos and links to connect his audience with other people who are passionate about polio eradication.
If Internet Dave’s blog can engage even 100 people, and each of those readers can reach 100 additional people, then suddenly Internet Dave has 10,000 people on board with his cause. And that’s just through blogging.
What if each of those readers sent out the message on Twitter? What if they shared it through Facebook, Pinterest, and all the other social media sites? Internet Dave could get a Twitter handle for his cause and start a hashtag. He could create a Facebook page; he could organize Circles of people on Google+; he could build a website to serve as the hub for his movement…
You see my point, don’t you?
Social media makes it easy to connect yourself with large numbers of people. Very easy. But connecting is just the first step; raising awareness is only one part of generating change. The next steps of “telling people how they can help” and “providing additional resources” are a little more difficult, but not by much.
Telling people how they can get involved is really the most important action step in promoting your cause via social media. It won’t matter how many people you reach with your message if none of them know how to help. If you want to raise money for your cause, there are plenty of websites out there to help you. Are you thinking people won’t donate through social media? Check out how Twestival raised over $250,000 on Twitter.
Providing additional resources for your audience is often a simple matter of Googling. By collecting relevant links, videos, and articles about your cause, you can save people time by giving them all the information they need in one convenient place. (Added bonus: it will also make your website or blog more valuable as a one-stop shop.)
The story of Internet Dave demonstrates the opportunities we have through the Internet. Social media is the new way people connect with one another, as well as the new way they get their information. As a result, it is also the best way to share your message with the world. You don’t need to make things complicated; however, what you do need is an audience. For Generation Y (at least that 96% of us plugged into a social network), an audience is one thing we can easily find.
So why not embark on an endeavor into the realm of social change? Why not decide to do something different? If people will Like, Retweet, and “thumbs up” just about anything they come across, surely you can get them to join your cause. If people will spend hours upon hours “pinning” pictures of puppies and dessert recipes, surely you can get them to take notice of your message.
In this day and age, changing the world isn’t as hard as it used to be. So why not give it a try?