PRoviding Insight

As this is Finals Week at Hofstra University (i.e. the week that separates the weak from the strong-willed), it is hardly the time to post on blogs when coffee must be consumed, sleep must be lost, and the Axinn Library becomes a second home.

For myself, Twitter has become my new procrastination tool.  However, it has proved valuable since I stumbled upon a Tweet from Dan Schawbel (dubbed a “personal branding expert”) sharing a link to a Mashable entry by Max Gladwell about how Social Media can be used to change the world for the better.  I thought it was worth sharing since I often find myself wondering how I am going to find fulfillment and worth in a field that can be brutal.

Read below, and gain some perspective on your next social media campaign.

10 Ways to Change the World Through Social Media

Max Gladwell is the brainchild of writer and marketer Rob Reed. Rob specializes in sustainability and cause-driven marketing. You can also follow Max Gladwell on Twitter .

For most of us, social media has changed our lives in some meaningful way. Collectively it is changing the world for good. Given the pace of innovation and adoption, change has become a constant. Every so often we find the need to stop and reflect on its most recent and noteworthy developments, hence the following list.


1. Take Social Actions


The nonprofit organization Social Actions aggregates “opportunities to make a difference from over 50 online platforms” through its unique API. It recently held the Change the Web Challenge contest to inspire the most creative applications for that API. The Social Actions Interactive Map won the $5,000 first prize. The result is a virtual tour of the world through the lens of social action. “People are volunteering, donating, signing petitions, making loans and doing other social actions as we speak — all over the world. To capture the context of the where, this project uses sophisticated techniques to extract location information from full text paragraphs.”

mysocialactions image

You can also join the Social Actions Community, which is powered by Ning…which now boasts more than one million individual social networks.


2. Twitter with a purpose


This list could be exclusive to Twitter. From Tweetsgiving, the Twitter fundraiser that raised enough money to build a new classroom for a school in Tanzania, to Twestival, which organized 202 off-line events around the world to benefit charity: water, it’s become the de facto tool for organizing and taking action. Tweet Congress won the SXSW activism award, and celebrity Tweeps Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Rose Tweeted their two million followers about ending malaria.


3. Visit White House 2.0


whitehousedotgov image

Inside of its first 100 days, the Obama administration has managed to set the historic benchmark for government transparency and accountability. The President’s virtual town hall meeting used WhiteHouse.gov to crowdsourced questions from his 300 million constituents, complete with voting to decide the ones he’d have to answer. All told, 97,937 people submitted 103,978 questions and cast 1,782,650 votes.

The White House continues to raise the bar with its official Facebook (Facebook reviews), MySpace (MySpace reviews), and Twitter channels. In so doing President Obama is not just setting the standard for state and local government in the U.S. He’s establishing the world standard. Because you don’t have to be an American citizen to be a friend or follower of White House 2.0.


4. Choose your cause


Facebook is a powerful platform for change and community action. Apps like Causes have united users around important issues from global warming to poverty, AIDS research, and animal rights, and rallied them to action.

Large companies are recognizing this tool for change, and creating campaigns around it. For example, Target’s newly launched “Bullseye Gives” campaign allows users to vote for one of 10 charities on the company’s existing Facebook page. The percentage of votes for each charity determines the percentage of a total $3 million dollars Target will give to the organizations. This is a smart and simple way for both Target and Facebook users to make a big difference using social media.


5. Host a social media event


greenq twitter meme image

This is the year of the social media event. No meaningful gathering of people is complete without an interactive online audience, especially when it’s so easy and cost effective to pull off. Essential tools include a broadband connection, laptop, video camera, projector, and screen. Add people and a purpose, such as entrepreneurship. Promote it through social media channels, and you have a social media event.

A recent example in the green world is the Evolution of Green, which was hosted by Creative Citizen, a green wiki community. It celebrated the launch of a new web property, EcoMatters, while also establishing a new Twitter tag. By posing the question, “How can we go from green hype to green habit?” and including the #GreenQ hashtag, it sparked a conversation between attendees and the Twittersphere in real time. Thus was born a new mechanism for getting answers to green questions via Twitter.


6. Travel the world


Tim O’Reilly knows the potential for social media to change the world. In his opening keynote at this year’s Web 2.0 Expo, he called for a new ethic in which we do more with less and create more value than we capture. This provided the context for SalaamGarage founder Amanda Koster, whose presentation followed O’Reilly’s. The idea is that social media has enabled each of us to have an audience. Whether through Twitter, Flickr (Flickr reviews), YouTube (YouTube reviews), or a personal blog, each of us can have influence and reach. What’s more, it can be used for good.

SalaamGarage coordinates trips for citizen journalists (that means you) to places like India and Vietnam in conjunction with non-government organizations like Seattle-based Peace Trees. The destination is the story, as these humanitarian journalists report on the people they meet and discoveries they make. Their words, images, and video are posted to the social web to gain exposure and because these stories just need to be told.


7. Build it on Drupal


You may not have noticed, but the open-source Drupal content management system (CMS) has quickly become the dominant player on the social web. While we still prefer WordPress (WordPress reviews) as a strict blogging application, Drupal has emerged as the go-to platform for building scalable, community-driven websites. It powers Recovery.gov, a key part of President Obama’s commitment to transparency and accountability. And Drupal will soon become the platform for Causecast, a site where “media, philanthropy, social networking, entertainment and education converge to serve a greater purpose.” This is especially significant because Causecast CEO Ryan Scott is transitioning the site off of Ruby on Rails because Drupal has proved more efficient, user-friendly, and cost-effective.


8. Green your iPhone


3rdwhale iphone app

Looking for an organic diner within biking distance that has a three-star green rating? There’s a app for that. It’s called 3rd Whale, and you can download it for free. (Except that the star rating is actually a whale rating.) Complete with Facebook Connect, this iPhone app locates green products and businesses in 30 major North American cities. It uses the iPhone’s dial function to select a category (food), sub-category (restaurants), and distance (walking, biking, or driving).

In Santa Monica, this might give you Swingers Diner for its selection of veggie and vegan fare. You could then get directions from your current location using the iPhone’s built-in Google (Google reviews) map, rate your experience on the three-whale scale, and write-up a quick review. 3rd Whale recently released a new feature that integrates green-living tips, which can show how much energy or waste you’ll save by taking a given action.


9. Unite the world through video


Matt’s dancing around the world video inspired many to tears. Today, more than 20 million people have viewed his YouTube masterpiece, where he performs a kooky dance with the citizens of planet earth. The most recent example of this approach is Playing for Change, which connects the world through song. The project started in Santa Monica with a street performance of the classic Stand By Me and expanded to New Orleans, New Mexico, France, Brazil, Italy, Venezuela, South Africa, Spain, and The Netherlands.

The project was superbly executed via social media, complete with a YouTube channel, MySpace, Facebook, and Blog. It’s received tremendous mainstream media exposure and also benefits a foundation of the same name.


10. Rate a company


The conversation about corporate social responsibility (CSR) takes place across the social web on blogs, Twitter, and YouTube, but a central hub for this information and opinion is still to be determined. SocialYell seeks to discuss this by building an online community around the CSR conversation, where users can submit reviews of companies together with nonprofit organizations and even public figures like Michelle Obama.

The major topics are the Environment, Health, Social Equity, Consumer Advocacy, and Charity. The reviews are voted and commented on by the community in a Reddit-like fashion with both up (Yell) and down (shhh) voting. The site is relatively new and still gaining traction, but there’s no question that a resource like this is needed to shine a bright light on CSR and other related issues.


11. Publish a collective, simultaneous blog post on a universal topic


As Nigel Tufnel might say, this list goes to eleven. Let the #10Ways conversation begin…

Final note: This is Max Gladwell’s third list of “10 Ways to Change the World Through Social Media.” The first was posted a year ago today on Sustainablog.org, and the sequel followed five months later.

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