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Giving Back Month

During Giving Back Month the folks at WebFuel have decided to use our Social Media for Social Good. We believe that Social Media is an incredible tool that can be used the change the world around us. It can help share a story. Increase awareness about an initiative. Influence the community around you. Raise money. Its reach, power, and versatility are incredible, and when used the right way, can make the world a better place.

We have invited a group of guest bloggers from local and national charities to tell us how they have used their Social Media for Social Good. Our first guest blogger in this series was Stacey Diffen-Lafleur who wrote about how The United Way Ottawa uses Social Media for Social Good. Next up Alexandra Reid tells us about how Big Brothers Big Sisters Ottawa is Using Social Media to make a difference.

Social Media for Social Good: Big Brothers Big Sisters Ottawa

Since its inception in 1970, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been an inherently social organization. Long before Social Media platforms began operating as virtual community centers, our locally focused and locally run programs were founded on the same principles that have now transferred into best practices in the Social Media space, namely community building and engagement.

There is nothing more fundamentally social than friendship, and while we believe that face-to-face interaction is vital to developing healthy bodies and minds in our young people today, technology can also play an important role in communication as well as initiating and maintaining healthy relationships.

As our organizational goals and those of Social Media align, it was only natural that we use these channels to develop the programs we’ve always provided on a deeper and wider scale. Our Ottawa chapter strives to be on the leading edge of the Big Brothers Big Sisters movement in Canada, and that includes adopting innovative technologies that allow our community to connect with us on their own terms.

Many of the young adults, youths and children suitable for our programs fall into the group widely known today as “Generation Y,” or the “Millennial generation.” The majority of the young people that fall into this category are so-called “digital natives,” which means they have never known a world without digital technology. Social Media has proven to be an excellent way of connecting with this tech-savvy demographic. They’re on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn sharing their experiences and asking questions about our organization, and so we’re on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn too, listening, answering and engaging.

Not to be boastful, but as a team of community-minded individuals, we do “get” what social really means. It does not mean aimlessly shouting press releases at our community, even if they are well disguised as tweets and status updates. It does mean listening and responding helpfully to our community’s inquiries and sharing appropriate and timely content that our community wants to hear about.

We’re also quite technologically savvy in our strategy, using Hootsuite to monitor Social Media streams for content shared by others, Google Reader to stay on top of blog posts and LinkedIn Answers relevant to our space and a wide range of analytics tools to track and measure our progress.

While staying on top of news in our space and finding appropriate opportunities to engage with our community isn’t exactly an easy job, Social Media has rewarded us in so many ways, we can’t imagine why anyone would be so silly as to ignore this valuable opportunity.

How, specifically, has Social Media helped us connect and build our community?

Social Media helps us establish relationships

Through monitoring Twitter streams, we find numerous people interested in learning more about our program and sharing their experiences. Even if these individuals aren’t in the Ottawa area, we reach out to them to answer their questions, start conversations and share their experiences on our channels. The simple act of listening bridges important relationships and gives confidence to those individuals that we truly believe in what we are advocating. Furthermore, sharing important stories demonstrates that we value and support their opinions and ideas as well. Listening and being supportive are virtues we encourage in our volunteers and so we must also practice them ourselves in the Social Media space.

But while our approach is genuine, it’s not entirely selfless. We are working to achieve specific goals by dedicating time to these platforms, and encouraging and then recruiting previously prospective volunteers is certainly a central goal if we are to continue moving our organization forward.

Social Media helps us maintain and develop relationships

Social Media has not only helped us recruit new volunteers, but also aided us in maintaining long lasting relationships that are vital to our success. In addition to volunteers, we also require consistent donations to continue running our programs. Social Media gives us the ability to open our doors completely and express our humanity online, while also allowing us to reach out to important financial supporters and develop those credible and trusting relationships that last.

Social Media helps us get our messages out

We also use Social Media to share our achievements, events and other news. To ensure a healthy balance, we follow the 80/20 rule, which suggests that just 20 percent of content shared by businesses and organizations is about themselves, while 80 percent is about others. Not only is this approach the most social, it’s also the most successful because it encourages reciprocal relationships whereby others feel encouraged to share our content, giving us the ability to tap into other communities and establish wider authority on our channels.

We also share our content creatively. Instead of simply tweeting the title of a press release, we engage response from our communities by asking questions and starting discussions around the content. Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Value of an Hour campaign, which exploded across Social Media channels nationwide, was proof that this approach works.

Social Media is also used to promote our upcoming events, such as Climb4KidsOttawa, a rock-climbing event to raise awareness and donations for Big Brothers Big Sisters Ottawa. Additionally, we start LinkedIn discussions, and ask questions through LinkedIn Answers and post our content as responses to relevant blog posts and news articles. There really is no end to how organizations can creatively share their content in ways that resonate with their audiences.

How do you use Social Media effectively and what are the benefits you have seen as a result of your efforts?

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada (BBBSC) is the leading child and youth serving organization providing mentoring programs across the country. Providing support to more than 1000 Canadian communities, our over 128 local agencies offer the service that the organization was founded on: One-to-One Matching. Men and women (age 18 or older) give of their time to become a mentor to a young person who can greatly benefit from having an adult role model to look up to.

Times change. Volunteers change. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada has also changed. In response to the different needs and demands of children, youth, and volunteers alike, we have created new programs to fit our changing society. Couples for Kids, Cross Gender Matching, In-School Mentoring, Big Bunch, and Kids ‘n’ Kops group programs (for those kids on the waiting lists), and the new Life Skills Program all provide a variety of opportunities for volunteering and support to children and youth.

Each local Big Brothers Big Sisters agency is responsible for responding to its own community’s needs, so please see what exciting and innovative programs are being offered at your local agency.

If you are thinking about becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister, contact your local agency.

Disclaimer: The contents of this Blog post, and associated opinions  are those of its Author, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of WebFuel, or its employees.