Social Media: Transforming Cities Into Villages

Over the holiday weekend, Stephen Clark and Channel 7 covered a #Backchannel story about Humble Design, a nonprofit that furnishes homes of families in need. Like everyone who's heard of what these women are doing, I was moved. Though it's pretty obvious who the heroes of this particular story are, I took a moment after watching it to reflect on how much things have changed with the emergence of social networks.

Stories of generosity within a community are certainly not a new phenomenon. Nor is the power they have to inspire and cause change. But what has changed, as seen in this example, is the degree of that power and its ability to transform a large city into a village by building bridges between previously disconnected members. And for anyone who's read their history books, a single bridge is often the most pivotal player in a town's defense.

A Bridge Between The Media and The People

I'm sure I don't have to describe how Stephen Clark's #Backchannel has affected the way we view (in all senses of the term) the media or how it interacts with our city. The very term "interacts" fairly well summarizes the radical change from the more passive relationship of just one year ago. Though a tool is only as powerful as the person using it, and I would argue that Stephen's passion for finding and telling good news makes him a hero in this story, too, the truth is that all the people involved met on Twitter. 

Stephen and his good news are not new to our homes, but the introduction of a two-way dynamic using twitter during the newscasts has created a powerful circuit through which stories can flow, connect and make real change in our community.

A Bridge Between Brands and Nonprofits

When I was wading into the social media world, one of my friends and mentors, John Haydon, wrote a post that to this day is the best summary I've read on what social platforms mean to the world of commerce. He wrote that it was the return of the mom-and-pop shop mentality and that goodness mattered again, not just for the moral imperative, but for the cash register. He said that people will return to the practice of buying from those they like, respect and trust.

I believed that when I read it three years ago, and I still do. One of the first things we do as social strategist is find our clients' stories. Who are they? Why do I like, respect and trust them, and how do I tell others? The truth is, even when we genuinely do like, respect and trust our clients, their stories are not like the mom-and-pop's stores. As large companies, they comprise an entire host of stories—an amalgam of anecdotes—that are powerful in sum but challenging to tell in a concise and compelling narrative. 

Suddenly nonprofits became the sticky stories to which brands could adhere their power for good and create a human face for themselves while providing much-needed resources for organizations within their community. #WinWin

Humble Design photo by Andra Johnson 
Photo by Andra Johnson

The Humble Design story mentions that the organization needs new mattresses to complete each family's home and if I'd watched this five years ago I would have wracked my brain for other possible nonprofits or private parties that might be able to help. Today, thanks in part to social marketing, I ran through a list of brands that I imagine will race to become involved with this very worthy cause.

As I've said a hundred times and will continue to say, I feel very lucky to be participating in an era where stories have been restored to their full power to cause real change.

If you have a favorite story of a bridge that's been built through social media, please tell me about it. I love good stories.Jen Wright

 Jen Wright, Yaffe Social Media Strategist and lover of good stories.


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