Thursday, May 6, 2010

Can social media motivate?

The Pacific Northwest is known for beautiful landscapes, diverse, rough-hewn history and nature-loving populations with large hubs around Seattle, which boasts 3.3 million coffee lovers, and farther north a hub of 2.3 million around Vancouver, British Columbia which can boast about not being original.

Vancouver, B.C. has the dubious distinction of usurping the name 'Vancouver' from the original: Vancouver, Washington.

My city.

A slightly smaller grouping of people, barely over 400,000 in the entire county.

Vancouver, Washington grew organically from the outreach and marketing of the Hudson's Bay Company, the oldest commercial corporation in North America and one of the oldest in the world.

Vancouver, Washington benefits from the proximity of Portland, Oregon, a mere 2.2 million, and just an interstate bridge crossing away from great modern day advertising agencies such as Wieden + Kennedy.

I swim in that pool. Advertising. Marketing. Media.

Marketing is a staple of our lives. Millions of messages pound at us everyday. Experts try to estimate how many. Who can be sure? It's pervasive in every part of our lives. So, how can any ONE be heard?

Brian Solis, principal of Future Works, suggests in his blog post The 10 Stages of Social Media Business Integration that we find a voice and a sense of purpose. Someone in Seattle found their voice and spoke to me. Sean Debutts of the Puget Sound Blood Center asked me to spearhead a local event. Our connection came through social media. I decided to dive deeper into social media, use it, test it for this event, and discover if social media can motivate someone else to take action.

I chirped, twittered and cajoled the Portland/Vancouver hub to celebrate my birthday by donating blood. A month later, I'm wondering how many more would have come forward had we used traditional media. Actually, that's a lie. I'm not wondering, I know. A series of ads in the local paper, a jingle on a targeted group of radio stations and public service mentions on any of the local television stations would have pumped up the numbers. But this event had no dollar budget. Only time and complimentary venues.

Irregardless of the results that traditional media provides, businesses are flocking to social media as if it's traditional media's dynamic replacement. But it's not. It's not targeted (yet), it's not controllable (yet), and message frequency is not viewed as a good campaign, it's viewed more akin to spam. It's like standing inside the ramparts of Fort Vancouver (pictured above) with a single shot rifle and trying to connect with one 'prospect' at a time. It takes a lot of effort and determination as you fine tune your aim.

My blood drive event was a mash-up of crazy shots as I tried every gun in every arsenal within reach. The results? I had a blast.

My efforts placed me as top finalist for a SoMe Award – Pacfic Northwest Social Media Award. Included on my resume are many awards from PNNA, Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association, and I'm proud of them, but all happened when I was in sales and madly dashing from 'post to post' trying to create something spectacular to motivate businesses to market together. There's strength in numbers. If everybody fires a lot of shots we will hit something. I guarantee it.

The number of participants in the blood drive was very small. But, I think we can say there's strength in those small numbers, too. The potential affect on the overall community for each person who participated as a blood donor is priceless. Each donor's gift could save up to three lives.

Saving one life makes a stronger community.

Social media is our new community. It's still an untamed venue whose impact has not fully been explored, exploited or fully exported into traditional marketing campaigns. It's also very personal. It's a conversation. It's putting the advertising gun down, coming out of the tower and having a conversation with the person you want to connect with. It builds a stronger relationship.

Okay, wish me luck. SoMe winners are announced tonight. We get two drinks and dessert. I hope one is coffee, and when it's all said, awarded and done, I know what I will come home with—more connections, more friends and more victims to hit up for my next blood drive.

What motivates you to use social media?