Getting the Most Out of Social Media

Drawing upon the case of a recently established organization, charity:water, the McKinsey Quarterly outlines lessons on how to make the most effective use of social media.  It all comes down to effectively relating a compelling story:

Tell a story. [charity:water founder Scott] Harrison’s personal journey—evoking themes of redemption, change, and hope—engaged others on an emotional level. By candidly discussing in media interviews and YouTube videos why and how he started charity: water, the thoughtful, accessible, and youthful Harrison helped viewers fall in love with him and his cause.

Empathize with your audience. Let people engage with your brand to learn what’s important to them and how it relates to your campaign. charity: water evoked empathy through the use of photographs and videos that revealed the urgency of the water problem in the developing world. Instead of relying just on statistics, the organization promoted compelling stories that forced people to think about what it would be like to live without access to clean water.

Emphasize authenticity. True passion is contagious, and the more authenticity you convey, the more easily others can connect with you and your cause. Because of charity: water’s commitment to transparency, donors not only understand the history that gave rise to the organization but also know exactly where their money goes. Reports and updates on the charity’s Web site connect donors directly to the results of their generosity.

Match the media with the message. How and where you say something can be as important as what you say. charity: water has a staff member dedicated to updating various social-media platforms and creating distinctive messages for Twitter and Facebook fan pages. The organization also relies heavily on video. One of charity: water’s most effective video projects involved convincing Terry George, the director of the film Hotel Rwanda, to make a 60-second public-service announcement in which movie star Jennifer Connelly took a gasoline can to New York City’s Central Park, filled the can with dirty water from the lagoon, and brought it home to serve to her two children. The producers of the reality TV show American Idol agreed to broadcast the spot during the program, ensuring that more than 25 million viewers saw it.

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