Archives for April 2010

Apr 26

Miss America and social media

David Leavitt

Social Impact attended the 140 Conference in New York. We'll be sharing some insights from the conference here on this blog.

Conference organizer Jeff Pulver surprised attendees when he decided to kick off the two-day event with an unusual speaker: Caressa Cameron, Miss America 2010.

Cameron was a good choice – not only is she an avid blogger and Twitter user, but she is tasked with promoting the nonprofit Miss America Organization, which is the world’s largest provider of scholarships for women. With the job of building communities and interacting with fans, it’s no wonder Cameron has embraced social media.

When it comes to promoting a nonprofit, there’s no doubt it can help to have a celebrity on your side, let alone one with (literally) award-winning looks. But it doesn’t end there. Miss America makes a point of retweeting her fans, making them excited and more engaged to her message of education.

Although she is a celebrity, her fans get a glimpse of the “real” person on her Twitter account.

In addition to a few personal tweets sprinkled in, Cameron uses Twitter to let people know about her scheduled appearances and to spread the message. For example, her Twitter followers learned this week about her Earth Day activities, which included introducing a Green Starts Here campaign at a rally in Times Square and promoting the PepsiCo Dream Machine project, which involves placing thousands of new recycling kiosks on city streets. (Note: PepsiCo is a Social Impact client.)

I asked her about her approach to social media. Much like MC Hammer, she believes personalities need to tweet for themselves. For those of you who need proof that Twitter isn’t just a forum for geeks, Miss America insists that all her friends on Twitter. Using social media, Cameron proves that promoting issues and making a difference is cool.

Below is our e-mail conversation:

How have social media helped you inspire young people? Social media is another outlet that I can use to spread the word about causes that are near and dear to my heart, as well as a venue where the American public can get a sneak peek into my everyday life and what the job of Miss America is all about.

How many of your friends are on Twitter? All of them!

How do you deal with negative comments that come to your blog or Twitter account? It is my belief that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I cannot bend and break because of every negative thing that someone has to say. I am very secure in who I am as an individual and I know that I do this job with passion everyday, my goal is to make a difference. At the end of the day, if I've made myself and God happy, that is all I can ask for.

Is it important for you to manage your Twitter account yourself? It's important to me to manage my account because I can do it minute by minute if I choose to. There are pictures that I can share instantly. I love being able to give live updates.

Apr 23

The half-life of a tweet

David Leavitt

Social Impact attended the 140 Conference in New York. We'll be sharing some insights from the conference here on this blog.

It’s no secret that the social media age has led to an increasing shorter news cycle. But it turns out that that it’s even shorter than I thought.

According to Betaworks CEO John Borthwick, the half-life of a tweet is four minutes. What that means is that half of the total clicks of a link within a tweet come in the first four minutes of when it is posted on Twitter. Yikes!

In this fast-moving space, here are two things to keep in mind:

  • Be the audience you want to attract. As a nonprofit, you place a special value on people who proactively reach out to people to spread your message. You need to do the same, which means staying active on social media channels rather than pushing out content and walking away.
  • Pay attention to timing. The best open rates for e-mail is midday on weekdays, but there’s evidence that weekends are the best time for Facebook traffic.

With attention spans getting shorter, these steps matter more than ever.



Apr 22

Video Killed the Radio Star

Victoria Baxter

Infographic videos are an emerging trend online.  They take a data laden subject and illustrate it using graphics, text and symbols, weaving each piece of information together into a story that can often be quite moving. In the same way that a graph makes trends and other information more apparent, infographic videos help people see the connection between different data points. 
Check out our animated infographic video we created for our client, The MasterCard Foundation.  This video tells the story of what the impact will be of the foundation’s $4.5 million grant  to Haiti’s largest microfinance provider Fonkoze.  This grant will help them to restore their destroyed headquarters and enable its poorest clients – mostly women in rural areas – to build new livelihoods after the devastating earthquake.

Video is a perfect example of a portable content – quick and interesting stories and visuals that are easily shared across social networks.  The video allowed us to reach an audience of foundation partners, friends and people interested in Haiti’s recovery in a way that even your most compellingly written press release could never do. The video was shared widely on Twitter, Facebook and blogs.


Apr 22

Welcoming technology, rather than banning it

David Leavitt

Social Impact attended the 140 Conference in New York. We'll be sharing some insights from the conference here on this blog.

At the 140 Conference in New York this week, Chris Lehmann of the Science Leadership Academy urged people to watch what kids do at the end of the school day. They make a mad dash for their cell phones, which are often banned during the day. 

“Technology should be like oxygen,” Lehmann says. “Ubiquitous, necessary and invisible.” Rather than have math class and history class, followed by a period spent at the computer lab, why not integrate computers into all classes?

Outside of a school setting, the lesson here is about integration.

Rather than treat social media activities as separate from the rest of a nonprofit’s conventional communication strategy, they should be integrated seamlessly.

The other lesson is that I wish Lehmann had been my school principal.

MC Hammer
Apr 21

Hammertime means social media time

David Leavitt

Social Impact is attending the 140 Conference in New York. We'll be sharing some insights from this conference here on this blog. 

When it comes to social media advice, there’s no one better to seek for advice than MC Hammer.

Wait a minute. MC Hammer?

Yes, the rapper behind “U Can’t Touch This” gave solid advice to the 140 Conference attendees in New York this week. “Authenticity is important,” he told the crowd. “You need to be the person behind your own social media channels.”

Does that mean that a nonprofit’s executive director needs to personally write every tweet and Facebook update? Not necessarily. However, if the executive director doesn’t have the time to spend participating in the online conversation, it might be a better idea for other people to draft  the social media content and publish it in their own voice and with their own names attached.

Hammer said participating in social media means listening. As if to prove it, he pulled up a chair in the audience and became a conference attendee for the rest of the panel discussions that day.



Apr 20

Technology and social change

David Leavitt

Social Impact is attending the 140 Conference in New York. We'll be sharing some insights from this conference here on this blog.

The advance of online technology is often credited for helping bring about social change.

But political consultant Joe Trippi reminds us that no matter how much closer together social media has brought us, it’s still people who make things happen. “Nothing is going to change unless we change it,” he told the 140 Conference in New York this week.

On this site last month, Colin Moffett wondered aloud whether the mere fact that we’re connected to people through technology make us care more about the collective good. Based on what Trippi said, I think technology makes it easier for people to join together to make a difference. But it can’t generate a movement if there isn’t already one brewing.

Apr 9

A Lost Boy of Sudan

Paul Massey

Last night, Stephanie Bluma and I had an opportunity to see an early screening of 22 Years From Home, a short documentary about one the Lost Boys of Sudan, Kuek Aleu Garang.  It’s a powerful piece: haunting images of war torn Sudan and a narrator, Kuek Aleu Garang, who shares an extraordinary story of being one of 27,000 children who fled Sudan in 1983 for refugee camps in Ethiopia, only to be driven out by rebel forces in 1991.  Fleeing Ethiopia, he walked to a refugee camp in Kenya.

The piece recounts his experience of being one of 3,800 refugees in Kenya who, with the assistance of UNHCR, were resettled in the United States during the Clinton Administration. It culminates in his return to Sudan to be reunited with his mother and father, after 22 years apart. You can view a trailer for the film at; the full film will be available on on May 1.

The event was followed by a panel discussion on the ongoing conflict in Darfur and upcoming elections in Sudan, moderated by Alex Koppelman from Taken together, the film and thoughtful discussion that followed made for a great eventIt was an example of how small-scale community events featuring powerful personal stories and discussion of complex issues can educate and inspire people on the road to advocacy. For additional resources on advocacy related to Sudan, visit

To learn more about Kuek Aleu Garang’s efforts to strengthen education opportunities in Sudan, visit


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