7 ways to use social media for social change

Social media plays an integral role in life and business today — but are we just using this increasingly powerful platform for personal gain and wealth creation or are we using it to do good and better the real world we live in?

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Instead of following the latest trend, why not use your social media super-powers to make a difference? We already know how to spread news fast, share images and videos, organize friends, and empower others all by using the same social media tools that we use in our everyday lives. Isn’t it time we put them to use towards a good cause? Here are a few ways in which you can use social media for social change.

1. Blogging for a cause
Take a page out of renowned online strategist Jeremiah Owyang’s blog. Using his blog to bring the world’s attention to the devastation in China after the earthquake, he encouraged people to donate money to the Red Cross. By documenting each of his trips to China, he showcased a series of images showing everyday life in China after the quake.

2. Host an event on Twitter
This is a fast and effective way to reach loads of people quickly. By creating a unique hashtag and promoting the event on all your social media outlets, you’ll create a virtual ‘party’ where people who are all working towards the same thing can get together, connect to one another and spread the word to others who are interested in helping promote social change.

3. Support social causes on Facebook & MySpace
The Facebook Causes application allows you to connect with thousands of people with the same common interests in humanitarian efforts. Use the app to browse through all sorts of social causes ranging from relief efforts to environmental causes, political causes, educational efforts, and more. For example, there’s now the Red Cross Causes Page which helps raise money and awareness for the relief efforts in China. Similarily, there is an app on MySpace called Impact, which is more like a portal for non-profits group activity, featuring news, videos and events.

4. Promote charities on YouTube
YouTube is a great platform to use to promote various charities. An example is “Nerdfighters Power Project for Awesome,” which entailed a series of videos, each featuring a certain charity. Their videos briefly became YouTube’s most discussed videos, filling each one of the slots on the YouTube’s Most Discussed Videos page. This was done sans smoke and mirrors. The beauty of this channel is that, like Nerdfighters, you can reach out to the YouTube community and generate interest by messaging high-profile YouTubers and generating a mailing lists — a great way to rally support on this platform.

5. Use your mobile phone to spread news and make change happen
The UN has reported that technology is changing the way non-governmental organisations (NGOs) work, using mobile to overcome humanitarian challenges. According to Timothy E. Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation, the technology is being used to “Connect families separated by disaster, help emergency relief workers respond more quickly, empower health workers with data to help combat disease and epidemics, track the impacts of climate change, and even help in the resolution of civil conflicts.”

Mobile phones have become a powerful means to capture and share information from citizen journalists to the mainstream media. For example, during last year’s wildfires in California, major news outlets like NBC San Diego and CNN’s i-Report each received around 2,000 submissions of photos and video from people who sent in submissions via their mobile phones.

Social media sites have proven extremely influential in driving news, which can be pinpointed to the fact that these platforms are accessible via mobile phones. Not always a good thing – the 2011 London Riots were powered by social media and mobile phones, which just goes to show the power this platform has to rally support for a cause, good or bad.

6. Social good networks
There are numerous sites that have sprung up, powered by social media, to aid in the support for social good. Some examples include:

  • Charity Water — An organisation that aims to get the word out about the need for clean drinking water worldwide.
  • Make the Difference Network” — Jessica Biel uses her celebrity status to get people involved.
  • Idealist — A platforms that connects people, organisations, and resources to help build a world where all people can live free and dignified lives.
  • Change.org — A group that aims to build momentum for social change globally by empowering citizen activists locally. People all around the world can start their own grassroots campaign for change using its campaigns platform.

7. Raise funds online
Givengain is an online platform that any charity, NGO or CSI initiative is able to use to manage and raise funds for a specific cause. By providing web applications integrated with on-demand payment processing, it makes raising funds for your cause as easy as clicking a button.

Like Givengain, there are a number of sites dedicated to helping non-profit organisations leverage the power of the social web to stimulate social change. Some others include NetSquared and NTEN, who provide resources and support for creating websites, communication, fund-raising, recruiting, and more.

Time For change
Even on a smaller scale in the tech community, there are “internet celebrities” who leverage their influence to encourage their fans and followers to do much more than just sign up for the next greatest web app.

Locally, brands like Yuppiechef have run campaigns such as Eat for the Earth, in support for Soil for Life, to help raise funds. There are so many, but the sad thing is how little support many of these really great causes receive.

Have you been inspired to do good via social media? Let us know how.

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