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Philanthropy Thought Leader Uncategorized

Harnessing the power of social media for social change

Erin Dreiling

By Erin Dreiling, marketing and communications manager, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Social media is everywhere. My grandmother follows the exploits of my children through Facebook. I view Instagram photos from childhood friends I have not seen in 25 years. It makes us all feel connected – for better or worse. We’ve all heard about the dangers of social media. It presents only a perfect, edited version of our lives and it has affected empathy development for a generation. But no one can deny that it connects us and because of that interconnection, it holds great promise as a tool for good. The question is – how do you harness the ubiquitous power of social media for social change? That’s the central query in The Dragonfly Effect.

Social media platforms and our usage of them evolve so quickly that a book published in 2010 already feels behind the times in some ways, but the basic tenets hold true. Focus on a single concrete and measurable goal, grab attention, engage authentically by telling a story and last, but not least, empower others and inspire them to take action. Keep it human-centered and be open to creating content that others can add to, take from and build on. You can see these lessons in action when you look at the success of viral social fundraisers, like the ALS ice bucket challenge four years ago, which proves many of the points in the book.

Interestingly, what resonated most with me about The Dragonfly Effect was not what nonprofit organizations can do to effect social change with social media, but what I can do. Tools like Facebook’s birthday fundraisers have made it easier than ever to champion causes and nonprofits that are close to our hearts. I share facts and figures but I don’t ask my connections to take action. It’s time I used my social media less for cat memes and more for good. Will you join me?


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