Social media isn't just a communications tool. According to Doug Ulman of Livestrong, social media done right can propel a community forward.
Last week at the Inc. 5000 conference I saw Doug Ulman, president and CEO of LIVESTRONG and founder of The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, speak to an auditorium of nearly 1,000 people. The number of followers and fans that he has is staggering, so it was great to hear his thoughts on how social media has moved their organization by leaps and bounds.
LIVESTRONG does a wonderful job at being the ultimate resource for cancer survivors, and Doug is no stranger to it: He was diagnosed with a pretty aggressive form of cancer at age 19. But his view on social media is very different than most we hear about. I guess for me, it comes in the form of something his parents taught him and his brother when they were very young:
There is a difference between a community and a crowd.In a crowd, people push and shove and try to get a step ahead. In a community, people look around, they smile, say hi, share a story, because they know that a community doesn't move forward unless they all move forward together.
Social done right can make a great community go forward.
I thought this was really well said. And it seems that philosophy is paying off since LIVESTRONG does a great job of creating that community. From Doug's point of view--and I agree--it all has to tie into your mission.
A Different Kind of Social Media
For LIVESTRONG, their first social media encounter came in the form of something very different from Facebook or Twitter. It was the yellow wristband. It connected people around a common cause and made them feel like they were part of something bigger than themselves. And along the way, it also raised many millions of dollars for the cause.
What do you have that's a form of social media but might not be about Twitter or Facebook? What do people want to be a part of? Is it a book that you wrote or a device that you make? Is it the shopping bag you give to customers as they walk out the door? Is it the cause (the RED campaign, for example) that you give to when someone buys from you? These all can be things that bring people together.
The Power of Telling Stories
LIVESTRONG had a story. Brian Rose, a baseball coach and just 32 years old, was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma. He had no idea what to do, no insurance, didn't know where to turn for clinical trials. LIVESTRONG helped him navigate the process. He was so thankful, he published a blog about his experience, called HowsBrian.com.
Then Brian's doctors discovered a new clinical trial that showed promise for Brian's cancer, but his insurance wasn't going to cover it. The foundation urged Brian to create a video about not having the resources for treatment, and publish it to the blog and YouTube. Within hours, Brian raised thousands of dollars from the public, enough to get him into the trial. He started treatment a short while ago and is responding well. For LIVESTRONG, the power of social media is in this community that shared a goal.
Do you have a shared goal in your community? Do you have stories to tell to get the community moving? Stories can be about how your customers are having trouble with something and need help, just like Brian. They can also be about how someone in your community found a way to make their lives easier and want to share it. At GoPro's Inc. 5000 session yesterday, I saw all these stories that were in the form of passionate videos. You definitely have them, too; use them and promote them!
At my marketing software company, VerticalResponse, our mission is to help small businesses grow. We publish free marketing guides with loads of tactics and ideas that our small business and non-profit customers can utilize. We give free marketing and social media webinars with great tips and how-tos. And we blog about different issues our customers might have in their day-to-day business lives. Members actively share this information with their friends and followers, who then become part of our community.
When you think about social media, it's not only a communications tool or platform. It has the opportunity to be so much more, and to do so much good. Are you using it to its fullest potential?
JANINE POPICK is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse (a Deluxe company), a leading provider of self-service email and event marketing, online surveys, social media, and direct mail solutions. The company was ranked No. 2,802 on the 2012 Inc. 5000. @janinepopick