They say it’s always smart to avoid two topics during conversation: religion and politics. But the truth is, social media has become a huge platform for people to share their personal views about a slew of different perspectives, political or otherwise.
When it comes to taking on politics and social issues, however, what you write, tweet and post on your personal accounts may not always be what’s best for the social media outlets that represent your business. While you may personally feel strongly about current events and issues of the day, does it make sense for your small business to get political?
For some organizations, the answer will be obvious. Take a look at your central mission. A non-profit that promotes gender parity in the workplace, for example, should absolutely use their social media soapbox as much as possible. You’ve got an incredible opportunity to mobilize people, engage them in a way that gets them to think about issues in a new way, and turn followers into strong advocates for your cause. The website Movements.org has some great online resources, including how to mobilize followers and raise funds through social media.
If you’re a business that deals with other kinds of services, the answer to whether or not you should delve into politics is not as clear cut. If you’re a small restaurant, sports shop or electronics stores, for example, your mission is to appeal to a broad demographic. That may mean having to bite your tongue on questions that may be too polarizing. The last thing you want to do is stoke a fire on your business’s Facebook page or Twitter feed.
Still, finding a cause that your business or organization can rally behind might not be a bad idea. It shows that you’re an active members in the community and that your business has a mission beyond making a profit. If you’re shopping for a cause, attach yourself to something that isn’t divisive.
A street cleaning project is a good example of a cause you could support without the fear of ruffling too many feathers along the way. Endorsing a political candidate, on the other hand, can easily become a case study in delving too deply into controversial territory. Instead, find a broader message that's still positive, like encouraging everyone to get out and vote no matter who their preferred candidate is.
So, next time you have the urge to publish that political rant online or share your views on a contested election, remember that the temporary glee you get from broadcasting your perspective may be great, but the ultimate effect might be alienating and counterproductive. When in doubt, focus on supporting issues that all of your followers can get behind so no one feels left out, even if it means letting your own opinion take a backseat for just a while.
Social media isn't just for raising awareness about your business. You can also use it to promote events at your store or do fundraising. We would like to share two stories about how social media helped increased awareness of recent fundraising events.
First up is Jimmy. He works at the Rainbow Community Center, focusing on HIV awareness and education. For 2011, he set a pretty high fundraising goal for the San Francisco AIDS Walk. Here is how he used social media websites to make it happen.
Every year I participate in the San Francisco AIDS Walk. I host several fundraising events in the Bay Area and have been a top fundraiser for several years. But it wasn't until I joined the social networking world that my fundraising went to the next level. I set a huge goal this past year: $5,000. Using a group on Facebook, daily Twitter posts, a YouTube video and asking my friends and family to share, all three helped me not only reach my goal... but beat it! I was able to raise $8,000 in only 4 months. Social networking has really changed the way I promote my cause and provide outreach to my community. Without these social outlets, I would never have been able to reach my goal and help fight this epidemic.
What Jimmy doesn’t mention is that he also promised his loyal followers that he would do the 6.2 mile walk in six-inch red heels if he hit his goal. He kept his promise. Check out his photo at mile one.
Next is Dan. He has a pretty amazing story and it is best told in his own words.
In memory of my brother Mike, who died of AIDS in 1995, I decided to participate in the 2011 AIDS LifeCycle bike ride, a seven day, 545-mile bicycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, raising money for AIDS and HIV services and prevention. Each rider is required to raise $3,000, a feat in itself.
My main goal was to gain awareness for AIDS prevention -- raising money was not the driving force behind my decision to take this ride. I was at a loss for how to raise this large sum of money because I did not want to ask people for money in a bad economy. I decided to make a video telling "my story" of my brother dying of AIDS. At the end of the video I would simply ask the viewer to send me just one dollar. Who could say no to one dollar? If I could just get three thousand people to watch my video then I would accomplish my main goal of awareness having three thousand people hear "my story," and hopefully raise three thousand dollars.
I posted the video on YouTube and shared it often on my Facebook page. I also asked all my Facebook friends to please watch and share my video on their Facebook page too. I hoped for the best, but figured I would more than likely be writing a check from my own personal bank account for $2,000 (or more) to reach my goal and participate in the ride.
Within twenty minutes of the posting of my video on the Internet I had raised $500. What a shock! Had underestimated the power of social media? Within three weeks I had already raised $5,000 and the money kept coming in. By the time of the actual bike ride event arrived I had raised a whopping $18,800. My video has been viewed more than 5,824 times on YouTube and was re-posted on Facebook more than 1,000 times. All goals were exceeded thanks to the Internet.
However, this incredible fundraising didn't happen without hard work on my part and with a lot of help from my friends. I constantly kept on top of the video, posting it on Facebook often, sharing the address with anyone who would listen, and asking friends to ask their friends to post it.
My video was posted on Facebook by my friends who in turn asked their friends to post it, and so on. The local news media saw the video and the next thing I knew my video and story was on a major Bay Area TV newscast, the local newspaper and the front page of Yahoo! News for three days! The post office box was full of envelopes from all over the country, including envelopes from as far away as France and England.
Facebook and YouTube were the force behind my success in raising this huge amount of money for the AIDS Life Cycle Bike ride. Social media should never be underestimated.
Here is a photo of Dan with actress Sue Sylvester on the day they left on the ride.
We want to thank Jimmy and Dan for sharing their stories with us. They are a testament to the power of social media. Using these websites to promote your events and fundraising efforts can prove successful for you too. If you need help, just ask us how!