Case study: successful use of social media by Irish not-for-profit

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase

The Rose Project
is a Dublin based charity that helps people with HIV and AIDS in
Eastern Africa. They are a practical no nonsense organisation who
provide relief and in many cases, fund projects, that no other aid
organisation will go to. Maryrose Lyons and Brightspark Consulting were commissioned to update the project's online presence in 2008 and achieved particular success with their Twitter campaign. Intrigued by that I wanted to know more and sent Maryrose the following questions –

Me: Maryrose, can you tell us more about The Rose Project?

Maryrose: The Rose Project is a charity that helps people with hiv and AIDS in Eastern Africa.
are a practical no nonsense organisation who provide relief and in many
cases, fund projects, that no other aid organisation will go to.

For example, the Kenyan Govt claims that there are no sex workers in
that country… yet poverty forces many women into that age old way of
getting money… The Rose Project funds a project that aims to retrain
women in hairdressing, dress making etc. You can view a short vid on it
here. Check the stories out – Granny Banda is another favourite of mine.

Me: What is your involvement?

Maryrose: Brightspark was commissioned by The Rose Project to
update its online presence in late 2008. The new site (featuring video
content and links out to all the key relevant social media sites) went
live just in time for World Aids Day in December. Like all orgs you get
exposed to that are doing marvellous work, I"m kind of hooked now and
I'm currently working on a Facebook strategy for 09 and trying to
improve the flow of good news stories for Twitter….they are there,
but it's a case of getting a hold of the amazing CEO as she whizzes
around the place!!

Me: What/who convinced the Rose Project to embrace social media and social networking?

Maryrose: Me!! They knew they needed to reach out to a wider
audience… they have an amazing array of photos and stories and there
was a Radharc Award winning video made about their work… so we
chopped that up into small web friendly segments, and are feeding the
stories out through the blog, Twitter, and FB.

Me: What have the results been like?

Maryrose: Great – they are receiving donations from as far
afield as Alaska and Adare. Many people are compelled to write notes to
them along with their donations about how the content has touched them.
That is something new that had not been experienced before. Twitter –
the big Amazon hook up which has led to Amazon potentially distributing
their gift wrap is amazing. Think of the awareness!! Facebook – I'm
setting up a page which will be more feature rich and we'll have a plan
for engaging people in discussions in place by the end of this month…
so watch this space on Facebook…

Me: Specificially, how did the relationship with Amazon come about? And how does that work?

Maryrose: I can't provide too much detail just now as they
are locked in top secret talks!! .. but literally someone who works
quite high up for Amazon found the Rose Project on Twitter, followed
them for a bit, checked out the site, and made contact (after having
some internal talks about getting the paper distributed)…

Me: I noticed that the Rose Project came up witn a novel 'hook' with regard to Tweeting. How important do you think that was?

Maryrose: Thanks – I think that was very important. 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
[Twitter messages] 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…
and that's very much what the rp are about… no crying babies, but
positive good news stories, such as the €5million maternity hospital
they're building that will open in Malawi in May…

Similarly another charity I do some work for, Daisyhouse,
we added a section there where you can give your time… in these
times, perhaps people are feeling inspired to help, but just don't have
the spare cash… well now you can give your skills and they will be
just as appreciated.

Me: How would you compare Twitter to Facebook to YouTube
in terms of engagement and results? Or is it too early to make that

Maryrose: Too early for these guys … come back to me in 2 or 3 months and I'd be happy to share my thoughts with you.

I think YouTube is quite surfy… in that people aren't really in
buying mode, or wanting to be influenced mode when they're on there.

You've got to be careful about Facebook – remember it's all about
making people look good – so if you've got a message to get out, if you
can spin it so it makes the Facebook member look good for supporting
your message , you're there.

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 – but if you set up an
account, spam the top twitterers and then sit back and wait for
results, then you're not going to do anything except validate your own
belief that Twitter is a load of hot air and is a waste of time!

Me: Any other observations?


1. I'm sad that Jaiku has
been killed off by Twitter – like betamex/vhs it was the technically
superior solution… but I wouldn't use it because all my mates were on
Twitter. 🙂 Plus I think Jyri Elkestrom is one of the true rock and
roll gods of the web!!

2. I think Twitter needs to introduce some new features to enable us
to manage our contacts… I have so many people following me, I'm
getting a bit wary now, as it's less of a friendly bunch of people who
I know.. so I guess I"m minding my mouth a bit more… I would pay for
features that enable me to manage groups.

3. I have a feeling that we're going to see a lot more
Irish brands embrace social media this year. In the few short weeks
since '09 started, I'm seeing more requests for Facebook ads than
Google Adwords. I think the cost per click on Google Adwords has gone
so high that it's making more people divert their spend to organic
listings… and other avenues such as Facebook

4. I don't really use LinkedIn…I know I should… but I just haven't warmed to it at all.

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