We recently had the opportunity to chat with Brooke McMillan – Online Community Evangelist for the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF). The folks at LAF are doing amazing work by providing a much needed network of support for people diagnosed with cancer and their families. More recently they’ve been using social media to further their reach and strengthen their online communities. Find out more about The Summer of Social Good and how LAF is changing the world with social media.
Tell us about the social media campaign you’re doing with Mashable.
The “Summer of Social Good” (SOSG) campaign hosted by our friends at Mashable.com runs from June 1st till August 28th 2009. It’s the first large scale charitable campaign to run for an extended period of time with social media being the driving force. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, blogs and other online media will be used to solicit donations. The campaign benefits LIVESTRONG, The Humane Society, Oxfam America and WWF. 100% of funds raised from the SOSG will be split equally between the organizations. Read more here or get Mashables take here.
You have over 1 Million Twitter followers and over 280 Thousand Facebook fans. What’s the key to success?
Well, Lance (@lancearmstrong) has over a million, but we (@livestrong) have 23k and our CEO Doug Ulman (@livestrongceo) has 135k. We don’t have control over what Lance tweets, but he tweets about the LAF a lot … which is really cool.
Key to success on Twitter? I have no idea! All I know is that I started in December with 1,500 followers and now have 20 times that … which I’m really psyched about. We share our twitter account on our blog, Facebook and our main website. I tweet roughly 8 times a day publicly, but direct message (DM) much more than that. It’s a fulltime job for me. Attention to people’s needs, help when they need it, asking questions and engaging in conversations – these are at the core of Twitter success in my book.
Facebook has been truly amazing. It’s totally a supportive environment. That’s the part of my job that I’m most proud of. We started out with around 130k fans in December and have 285k now. I hope to “ooch” that up to 500k soon. (Insert insanely short time line here).
As you can tell LAF is doing some great work in the social media space. Here are some “starter move” thoughts from Brooke McMillan.
How to Get Started
Why did you decide to jump into using social media?
We started full throttle in January 2008 because the trends made it clear that we would be silly not to engage with our supporters in these places. If we have millions of fans participating on the web, why would we not be there? It’s also a very affordable way to spread our message.
Before we went in full throttle we did some planning. Around December 20008 we formulated a real plan that was inline with our overarching objectives to build community by bringing people together. Offline we have the LIVESTRONG Challenge and our peer networks like LIVESTRONG Young Adult Alliance, Survivorship Centers off Excellence and various grassroots advocacy networks. Social media became another place for us to build community and bring people together to connect.
What obstacles/challenges did you have to overcome in ‘selling’ social media to stakeholders?
We had to sell social media a little because it involved creating a new position at the foundation, but for the most part we had/have an executive level staff that understood the need. They are innovative people.
What’s the most important thing to remember when using social media?
Be true to the foundation’s goals and mission while having fun. People will see that type of authenticity. As the leader of our social media efforts I need to remember that I’m an extension of the foundation and a person – just like the president, just like the person that answers the phone, just like anyone. We’re all here to make a difference together.
What are your social media goals/objectives?
Relationship building is the key for us. A relationship with a donor, participant or survivor could take years to cultivate face-to-face since we don’t have branches or satellite offices. Social media and engaging with our supporters online has helped us really break through that barrier and speed up that relationship building.
How do you measure and demonstrate the infamous ROI?
Next question… ugh. We’re still in the process of figuring this out. It’s difficult to quantify social capital and engagement. We’re going to dig deep and do in-depth analysis (evaluate/quantify) after our 2009 events season.
Facebook, Twitter and the LAF Blog seem to be your focus. Why did you pick these Three?
We have the following accounts: Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, Blog, Delicious and Twitter. Our focus is on the three you mention, but we active in other places as well. Each of our social media outposts (learn more about outposts here or here) is an extension of the other.
Our blog is out home base, but we pull in our Flickr photo stream, Twitter accounts of those Tweetingfor LAF, a twitter hashtag (#livestrong) and our YouTube video channel. We update our blog an average of four times a week, so the content is always new and fresh.
I cross post info to our Facebook page from our blog because Facebook allows people to read and encourages them to discuss, share, participate and connect. That’s where the real power lies.
We use a similar technique on Twitter. Tweeting about blog posts and asking for feedback. Twitter is a great place to connect with highly engaged online users.
I should also point out our use of Delicious. We use it extensively to bookmark information from around the web that we feel our readers will benefit from or find interesting. Our bookmarks are shown on the livestrong.org homepage and we update it 2-3 times a day.
Lastly, I’d be remiss if I forgot to mention how we’re using Flickr. We ran a photo contest a few months ago called “Where has your wristband been?” The goal was to find the coolest place a wristband has traveled to. Check out the winner, Macchu Piccu.
We know a Facebook Fan page is the ticket, but what else should we be thinking about?
USER GENERATED CONTENT (UGC)! I think I need that tattooed someplace. I love it when people upload their photos and video to the wall of Facebook or tag in YouTube or Flickr. We encourage this actively on Facebook by regularly engaging with people, commenting on their posts, liking things and sharing freely with our fans.
How are you using Facebook Insight tools?
How cool are the new insights, huh?! The day the new insights came out I was talking to our programs project manager about how we could use social media to promote our new website – LIVESTRONG en Espanol. Come to find out that of the 250k fans we had at the time, 55k self selected as Spanish speakers. WHOA! It was at that point that I determined we didn’t want another place for these folks. We had to leverage our existing Facebook page and make it more Spanish friendly (still in progress). I also use the Facebook Insight stats as a barometer to make sure our weekly engagement numbers remain steady or go up. If they aren’t then I know its time to shake it up a bit.
Twitter is all the rave, but is it worth the time? How have you used the tool? What makes it worth it?
WAY worth the time. We have over 800 LIVESTRONG Leaders all over the world. Many are very active in social media. I’ve even created a special closed group where they can post info and offer suggestions on how to engage their communities.
We use Twitter to:
- Recruit international LIVESTRONG Leaders and advocates that help promote cancer policies in their home countries.
- Scan for people facing cancer and then (without being a troll myself) try to offer our support and encouragement.
- Give other groups pats on the back and elevate their good info and ideas.
- Connect our supporters with each other – if someone wants to get involved in Chicago and we know we have a LIVESTRONG Leader up there then we’ll connect them.
I must mention one quick story. Doug, Twitter and the $25,000 Challenge .Doug Ulman (LAF CEO) was contacted by a donor that made him a lofty bet. If Doug added enough followers on his Twitter account by the end of the week to reach a total of 25,000, then the LAF would receive a donation of $25,000. Check out what happened here.
Advice from a Pro
What advice can you share with us related to using new media for increasing engagement?
- Social media is both Pro and Reactive. Don’t just throw up press releases. Take the info and flip it into a conversation topic. Converse. Pretend you are at a cocktail party. Do you want to hang out with the people that constantly talk about themselves? Probably not.
- Let go of some of your control. Social media is not a terribly controlled environment like a press release. You have to be able to take some criticism, ebbs and flows in conversation, deal with trolls and be flexible.
Where would you suggest I start? What tools should I look at? Where should look for advice?
Spend time learning from others. Go to other sites that do it well, befriend them and talk with them. Sit in on some conversations and observe traffic. Go to http://www.mashable.com and read the daily tips and http://www.nten.org (and NetWits of course) to view how non-profits make it work.