Larry Mathieson, director of Goodwill Industries of Alberta, noticed something on his Twitter feed recently. A number of people were posting pictures of plants with the hashtag #fakegreenplant. When he investigated, he saw the tweets were coming from the monthly Social Media Breakfast YYC.
Larry was familiar with SMByyc, having presented to the group in February of 2015 when he was CEO of Ronald McDonald House Calgary. At the time he was involved in a charity fundraiser which involved him dying his hair pink, then shaving his head. “You meet such interesting people at a Social Media Breakfast. Most often, people who are leveraging their social media for positive change.”
Larry explored further and discovered that the unusual hashtag was invented by local actor and comedian Andrew Phung at #SMByyc75 to show the group the power of their tweets. Sure enough, the hashtag #fakegreenplant started trending, first locally, then across Canada.
“You’ve got to understand the power of this group.” Larry explains. “I’m impressed and amazed by this community. You don’t even need to be in attendance, as you can follow along on Twitter, so there’s a community who is with them in spirit – the community is broader than who can fit into the room.”
Larry has witnessed the power of social media through his own work at Goodwill Industries of Alberta. Larry explains how a simple social media initiative at Goodwill surprised them all. Local store managers and employees post particularly interesting fashion finds, and collectables, that have been donated to Goodwill on their Facebook and Twitter feeds. Higher priced items like these can sit in the stores for a couple of months before selling. But most of the items shared personally on social media sell within 48 hours.
Larry understands how this virtual attention goes beyond his own agency’s cause – funding jobs for people with developmental disabilities. “There are 2,600 registered charities in Calgary. They are all important, but they all are grappling for attention and the means to operate and meet their cause. Social media can be a great equaliser for a smaller organization that may not have the budget to conduct a full blown fundraising campaign.”
At the last Social Media Breakfast, #SMByyc76, Larry issued his own challenge to the group. He asked them to add a list of 10 or 20 local charities to their Twitter lists, and to check in on them regularly to see what is going on with them.
“Perhaps they’ll see that Charity X is looking for a particular kind of donation, and they will retweet that. Perhaps their tweets will increase donations to local charities. At the very least, I would really hope that a number of local charities will now have engaged the local community at another level.”
Larry continues: “If our public is telling our stories for us, that is a great win for everyone. I personally think that over time virtual volunteers can be a powerful force for good.”