I have never felt as unwanted as when I offered my Social Media skills and services for free to local charities. That old phrase, “I can’t give it away!”, took on real meaning for me and my Social Media class project.
Because I was certain that like most businesses, charities would not be aware of all of the free or low cost promotional tools online, I set up a plan so they could visualize my offer. I clearly outlined what resources we could utilize, like Facebook and Twitter. These tools needed time and thought but little to no money. Best of all, these tools reap big rewards, like exposure and donations.
I then placed calls to multiple charities in Chattanooga, offering them my Social Media skills for one year, for free. I reassured them I had great references, was a Chattanooga State student, and had a portfolio of work. I educated them on what clients pay for these services and that they would have a commitment for this same service for absolutely nothing. The person that answered the phones at places like Interfaith Homeless Network were all very warm and excited about it, once I explained it several times, yet not one accepted.
The problem seemed to be that no one knew what to do with my offer. Some of the charity staff or volunteers didn’t know who to give my offer to. Others routed me around to who they hoped could assist. The farthest I got was that very nice people took messages. Interfaith did say they had just hired someone to start their website, which as of today is still almost stagnate and does not include Twitter, Facebook, etc.
I decided that just like a paying job I would be applying for, I needed to not call them on the phone but instead show up. The results were now I got to see the smiling faces that had no clue where to refer me to. They gave me other charities that could use my help, and there I also found the same warm, “That sounds great, but I’ll have to pass the message to someone who may know who to refer you to.”
As I networked, putting out the word about my project, I did receive four offers from businesses to do work for them. Normally I would have been thrilled but it did not resolve my quest to help a non-profit.
Sometimes there is a reason doors not only slam shut but never open.
In my fear that I would be the most experienced in social media in my class and ironically, the only one to fail, I became creative. Of course, I could only hope Mr. Willis was also as creative in grading!
On March 25, 2011, I set up Chattanooga Charities and Charity Events Hub as a Facebook page. I chose the name based on keywords that people would be looking for and decided that I would gather every charity and event in town and feature them in one spot.
Based on the name of the Hub I developed:
- WORDPRESS BLOG: http://chattanoogacharitiesandcharityeventshub.wordpress.com/
- TWITTER: http://www.twitter.com/@ChattCharityHub
- LINKEDIN GROUP: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Chattanooga-Charities-Charity-Events-Hub-3844149?mostPopular=&gid=3844149
- TUMBLR: http://chattanoogacharitieshub.tumblr.com/
- EMAIL: ChattanoogaCharitiesHub@gmail.com
I then friended, actually “liked”, every charity, donor, event or event site available on Facebook. If I featured their charity or event I posted a comment on their wall saying that they had been featured on Chattanooga Charities and Charity Events Hub. The result was that I saw referral likes to the Hub page because I “liked” them first and out of courtesy and curiosity they liked me back. It also resulted in their fans liking my post and then liking my site.
By posting and linking on pages this also increases general search engine traffic. In three weeks by Googling the phrase “Chattanooga charity events” my Facebook page has reached an average of 6th place on Google search. This is great news since most of my efforts have focused on Facebook and not the blog or Tumblr, which would normally be the way to bump up SEO. If I put even a small amount of extra effort I can easily reach number one place, overtaking News Channel 9’s charity event page.
I sent invites to every relevant personal friend I had, resulting in very little response. My biggest revelation and disappointment was that all those brands, artists, musicians, friend’s pet events and businesses that I have been promoting for free for them for two years did not reciprocate. Paying it forward seems alien to many people, yet asking for help from me was not. The other interesting element and lesson is that they still ask me after not helping my project.
Next I have tracked my successes and opportunities using Facebook’s nifty Insight Tool. In three weeks my Insights Summary is:
667 – Monthly Active Users – UP 21% since previous day
|2 Daily New Likes (Today)|
|592 Daily Post Views DOWN 48% since previous day|
|7- Daily Post Feedback DOWN 36% since previous day
|Like a video game score, or a grade, this feedback really helps inspire me, and to show where to focus my limited time and energies. It also serves as a reminder of how quickly people can lose interest in your page, and how constantly posting relevant and valuable info is important.
Now for the most amazing thing that has happened via this project.
Another Communication student told me about her cousin’s home burning a week before we started this project. A close member of my family owns a store, Zombi Candi Boutique, which has many fans and is also known for their generosity to the community. I did not tell them that I had started this page or project, but I liked their store page not as myself but as Chattanooga Charities and Charity Events Hub.
I then posted the story of the family of four’s loss and asked them to share it with their fans.
About a week in I did reveal who I was. It didn’t matter because the request for help had taken on a life of its own. To prove the power of Social Media not only did the store share it, not only did their fans respond, but within a week the store and their fans had collected for a “virtual” stranger:
1. Cash in the store
2. Many bags of clothing
3. Set aside Zombi Candi logo necklaces, to be sold at $10.00 each, with all proceeds going to the family.
5. Drawn in other local businesses to donate generous gifts for a raffle.
I can honestly say that even if I never posted anything again, this class project was a success for at least one family. Without revealing the exact amount, to protect the family’s privacy, within a few weeks via primarily Social Media, this family was helped with a very generous amount of donations and cash. They also had a great time being the honored guests at the Comedy for the Community show at a time when they needed to feel special.