Leveraging the Power of Social Media for Good

The Rose Project is a Dublin based charity whose mission is to provide maternal and child healthcare to the poor people of Malawi and Kenya, with particular reference to HIV treatment and care.  The charity is named after Rose Atieno who was the 16 millionth person to die of AIDS.  The Rose Project stands out because it offers relief and funds projects that other organizations have a tendency to overlook.  For example, the government in Kenya maintains that there is no prostitution in the country.  Rampant poverty, however, forces many women into exactly that sort of desperation.  To combat this issue The Rose Project funds a venture (the Kenyan Volunteers Women’s Rehabilitation Center) that seeks to train women in various skills such as hairstyling and tailoring so that they can find alternative sources of income.

Impact of Social Media

A consulting company was hired in late 2008 to revamp The Rose Project’s online presence.  The answer to this was obviously social media.  This included a new website (www.theroseproject.org) with key links to social networking sites including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and a blog.  These outlets were easy to stock with content because The Rose Project already had a ton of great sharable, but emotionally driven and inspiring, information in multiple forms – stories, photos, and video.

The Rose Project & Twitter

Maryrose Lyons of Brightspark Consulting, who was commissioned to do all of this revamping, came up with a great Twitter strategy – to only tweet about positive things that were happening in regards to the charity.  She explains:

“I came up with it because I am a human being and while my heart lies with African people and their amazing strength of character for the s**t they have to deal with… I don’t want to be sold to all the time. I want to insulate myself from demands and I don’t want to receive tweets from someone who’s going to be pulling at my heart strings to give money… that’s why we say you’ll only get good news… no crying babies, but positive good news stories, such as the €5million maternity hospital they’re building that will open in Malawi in May.”

She also offers some great general advice about how to use Twitter – “If you’re genuine, you’ll do well. If you genuinely set up an account and engage with your followers, respectfully and frequently, then you can’t fail.”

One of the extraordinary things that came out of The Rose Project’s Twitter account was a relationship with Amazon.com.  This came to be because someone high up in the ranks at Amazon simply stumbled upon The Rose Project’s Twitter page.  They were intrigued and ended up following The Rose Project for a while and also checked out their website which (now) offered a plethora of information about the cause.  This information included the fact that The Rose Project sells wrapping paper to raise money – this instigated discussions about Amazon helping with distributing the paper.  You can check out Maryrose’s blog for her take on The Rose Project’s Twitter success.

Things to Take Away

1.  If you already have content-rich information USE IT – and use it appropriately.  For example, if you have a fair amount of video footage (like The Rose Project does) create a YouTube account and post links to it on your website or blog.

2.  Think about how YOU would react to information.  Instead of focusing on all of the negativity surrounding Africa and AIDS, Maryrose thought it wise to only post POSITIVE information about The Rose Project’s ventures on Twitter.

3. Be genuine.