Archive | July, 2010

#geloandthehashtag: a sequel

31 Jul

Today, the sacred words were spoken – help an NGO by means of a viral video.

Like. Like. Like.

Those words kept resonating in my head as my social media class professor disclosed our next mission. I definitely could see myself doing that in the future, from graduation to retirement even. It’s one of those delightful things I sincerely want to be an advocate for – technology and goodwill in sync. Lovely.

And no, this blog post wouldn’t be about how social media tools (i.e. the Like button) influence intrapersonal communication processes a.k.a. those silly moments we talk to ourselves voicing Facebook buttons while the professor is discussing in class. Obviously, I’m more concerned with how these tools can help non-profits. Not that I detest acad speak, but I’d rather stockpile those for my thesis.

So here it goes. The follow-up in the Gel-O typology of ways we can connect the online to the offline. The sequel to Gel-O 1.

In 5… 4… 3… 2…

Gel-O 2: Tag Online, Help Offline

Helping NGOs (non-government organizations) is not limited to making viral videos when viewed in the context of social media. There are a lot of online tools we can bring into play to craft a successful campaign – fan pages, applications, games, blogs, etc. But one that stood out recently is the hashtag.

A hashtag is similar to other web tags- it helps add tweets to a category. Hashtags have the ‘hash’ or ‘pound’ symbol (#) preceding the tag, like so: #traffic, #followfriday, #hashtag. Hashtags can occur anywhere in the tweet: some people just add a # before a word they’re using, like so:


How, then, can we use hashtags to our benefit? Let’s learn again from experience, alright?

Everywhere, a social media communications company, raised thousands of dollars through a hashtag. How did they do it? Here’s how.

Everywhere came up with a social media experiment using the hashtag #BeatCancer.

…Don Lemon and I were talking about how the power of social media should be used for more than just marketing products. If Ashton Kutcher could get a million followers, couldn’t we take on a social cause through social media? My business partners who’ve watched as I’ve struggled with cancer suggested we try to beat cancer through social media. Thus #BeatCancer was born.

A penny will be given to non-profit cancer organizations everytime the phrase #BeatCancer is included in people’s tweets, blogs, and Facebook updates. The online community was given only 24 hours to make the project successful.

Amazingly, by the end of the 24th hour, #BeatCancer was mentioned 681629 times. Yes, almost 700 thousand times.

Thanks to all of you who have tweeted, put up Facebook Posts & mentioned #BeatCancer in your blogs. In the end, you helped raise more than a penny per tweet. In all, these four cancer organizations have earned over $70,000.

See, tags can be viral too. The #BeatCancer campaign is successful in setting a new Guiness World Record of being the most widespread social media message in 24 hours. It raised thousands of dollars one penny at a time, one tweet at a time. Now that’s powerful.

Even though the fundraiser is already closed, #BeatCancer still gains mentions. Amazing indeed!

So if you’re thinking of using hashtags for an advocacy or an event you want to promote, here are some of the basic things you should do before hitting Shift + 3:

1. Think about the word you’ll be using in your tag. The shorter, the better. People won’t use your tag if it eats up a quarter of their 140-character limit, no matter how noble your cause might be. Choose a word that’s not hard to remember and easy to spell. More importantly, choose a word that’s related to your advocacy.

2. Use your tag. Of course, why bother making a hashtag if you have no plans of using it? Promote your tag in other social networking sites and your other online accounts so people would start using it too.

3. Be consistent. Use hashtags for tweets that are related to your advocacy and the tag itself. Never put them alongside stuff that do not, in any way, help people know more about your event or advocacy. That’s spamming, my friends.

4. Locate hashtags that are related to yours. This will help you in tapping people that might be interested in your advocacy. Use these related hashtags whenever possible and engage in conversations. This will provide a human aspect to the meta-data. There are online tools like What The Trend that are very useful in this step.

5. Monitor your hashtag.Your hashtag endeavors will be useless without this last step. Know who are using your tag, when they use your tag, and how people use it. This will help you strategize and address the concerns of the tweeting community. You can use good ‘ol Twitter Search or third-party dashboards, like TweetGrid, to satisfy this need.

Good luck on your hashtag journey! May you find advocates and volunteers along the way. Kudos to social media advocacies!


Connecting the Online to the Offline

25 Jul

Being popular online is one thing. Maintaining popularity offline is another.

Your mom adding you on Facebook is bizarre. A company befriending you is as odd. But thanks to the Like button, organizations and companies have found their way into the colorful, comment-like-share world of social networking.

Some are enjoying the publicity; others are just for the heck of it.

Utilizing the Internet for any goal does not start with creating an account and end with posting regular updates. That’s too easy, too simplistic. New social media does not work like shoot-and-wish. The Internet is not magical, nor is it the best thing since sliced bread.

Working with social networks is not a three-step process. I wonder if it can even be deemed as a process at all. It has no structure, only stimuli. It has no organized flow, only spurts of humor and brilliance. But the spontaneity works.

Like what I’ve said in my previous blog post, the offline-online divide is quickly blurring – we are eaten alive in huge chunks by our online worlds that we consider them as the social world. So how, then, must we use the Internet to make our real lives better? How do we connect the online to the offline? How do we control new social media without it controlling us?

Let’s learn from experience, shall we? These are emerging and popular trends I have observed in different case documentations involving new social media. And they’re all for your consumption. I will be posting them separately for better digestion. Ooh, it rhymes! Anyway, let’s proceed.

Gel-O 1: React Online, Speak Offline

If you’re into conferences and public speaking, then the backchannel might just be for you.

A backchannel is a line of communication created by people in an audience to connect with others inside or outside of the room, with or without the knowledge of the speaker at the front of the room. Usually facilitated by Internet technologies, it is spontaneous, self-directed, and limited in time to the duration of a live event.

The audience reacts and comments to the presentation of the speaker real-time. The speaker, then, can choose to (a) respond to the audience’s questions, (b) alter the presentation based on their comments, (c) clarify points that needs some cleaning up.

One of the largest conferences that utilized the backchannel is the 140 Character Conference. The organizers wanted to know how real-time Internet affects business and the people working behind them. Twitter served as the conference’s backchannel throughout the conference.

The Tweeting Audience

Using new social media as a backchannel provides an efficient feedback mechanism to both parties. It provides a channel where the audience can evaluate the talk anytime, without restrictions. As for the speaker, it is an opportunity to improve the lecture (or save his/her reputation just in case the talk, well, sucks) without disrupting the flow of the activity. The presenter can integrate the concerns of the audience into the talk itself, making it less time-consuming and more temporally gratifying than those talk-open forum kinds.

A note of caution though: the backchannel is an efficient tool to make a presentation more satisfying to everyone, but it takes a good, attentive speaker to present ideas while monitoring feedback through the backchannel.

Multitaskers will excel in this one. But for the backchannel to be an effective tool, speakers must anticipate reactions they might receive from the online community. Responses online are wilder than those offline. A surprised presenter is rarely a good presenter. Practicing how to switch back and forth, and respond to the backchannel before the actual presentation will help a lot.

You must learn how to enjoy the wild ride while maintaining control. Never let the backchannel overwhelm you. Have a little “me” time with new social media to understand how it behaves. Only then will it be a tool and not a distraction.

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