When I went to my first TweetUp a couple of years ago in Westchester County, the speaker was David Mathison, who wrote Be the Media, which details how each of us has the opportunity to communicate directly with audiences known and unknown, without being filtered by traditional forms of radio, television, newspapers and magazines. I was intrigued by his talk, purchased the book, and have used the phrase "be the media" often in my classes.
When an item is posted on twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, or other social media, we can directly reach our followers, friends, connections or circles. When a photo of the completed Route 9 pedestrian walkway was posted on Marist's Facebook page, it made 17,555 impressions and generated 155 likes and 37 comments, nearly all of them positive. The vast majority of the nearly 8,000 people who "like" the Marist page are current students, alumni, prospective students and their families, elected officials, and the college's faculty and staff. The page reaches those important constituencies directly to engage conversation, foster reminiscences, inform, and persuade. By now, I hope each person reading this blog understands this is how social media is supposed to function.
Let's see how one individual, a talented, young Marist alumnus, became his own "medium" to successfully raise money for a particular project. In turn, he gave back to his alma mater in a unique way.
Robert Vijay Gupta, graduated from Marist in 2005 at age 16 with a bachelor's degree in biology. He went on to get his master's degree in music from Yale in 2007. That year, he became the youngest violinist (at age 19) with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Those in the music industry who do not want to be tied to a particular label fund their own projects through social media. I learned through a tweet from Robert that he was doing this for a CD of recordings, including one of his own compositions, that he will play on a 1716 Stradavarius violin:
guptaviolin87 so many thanks to everyone that's contributed to my @kickstarter album so far - only 5% to go! http://kck.st/jxkF0d
Kickstarter calls itself "the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world."
I promoted this on twitter and Marist's Facebook page. Among those who read the Facebook posting was Marist President Dennis Murray, who later got an email from Robert detailing the project. President Murray sent a contribution. Robert went over his $20,000 goal more than a week before his deadline, raising nearly $22,000 from 216 backers. I am not claiming credit for that and it would be difficult for me to prove any donations came from Marist's social media efforts on Robert's behalf, but I do know that the Facebook posting alone made 6,709 impressions and 11 people "liked" it. As a community, Marist is very proud of Robert's accomplishments and I was happy to publicize his efforts. As a thank you to President Murray and Marist, Robert played a selection from the CD at a Marist Welcome Reception for incoming members of the Class of 2015 on July 20, in Santa Monica, California.
Robert had fun with his fundraising. His incentives to donors ranged from two hi-res mp3s for a $5 donation to this premium for a donation of $10,000 or more: "A live 90-minute recital in Los Angeles or New York, and...I'll cook you dinner! My Mom's recipe for the *best* lamb curry you've ever tasted" (plus all of the items mentioned for lower levels of donations). While Robert did not get a $10,000 backer, he got two people to donate $2,500. He is now providing updates on the strenuous recording process, keeping his supporters engaged throughout the process. Bravissimo, Robert!
THAT is the power of social media.
One last thing...While I would have enjoyed Robert's private concert for incoming Marist freshmen and their families, and alumni who attended the reception in California, I was at another social media event in Boston on July 21. It was the first Marist Boston TweetUp, organized by 2004 Marist alumna Liz Swenton (@lizswenton on twitter), who is one of three Marist alumnae working at March Communications in Boston. Fifteen alumni and a Marist senior, Marissa DeAngelis (@MSDe526), about whom I've written in the past, attended. Three drove up from Rhode Island one drove in from Connecticut. It was a mixer at Back Bay Social Club (@BackBaySocial), with dinner, the exchange of business cards, the renewal of long-standing friendships and the forming of new ones. These were public relations and journalism majors, most of whom were my students. It gave me a chance to talk about developments at Marist and get updates on their careers. One attendee found she was interviewing at the company of another attendee, an opportune contact. Remember my post on networking? It works. We all enjoyed ourselves and I left with a tremendous sense of pride in these Marist grads. I look forward to similar TweetUps in other cities in the weeks and months ahead.