The Social Media Promise: Community, Conversation, Connection


Last night, the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. hosted the first in a series of "Social Media 4 Social Good” events, featuring interviews of the "strategists and entrepreneurs who are using social media to make positive contributions to the world."

Host Monica Gray interviewed Vice President of Communications and Public Relations Aaron Sherinian of the UN Foundation. (Review the conversation on Twitter: #SM4SG)

Some of his key takeaways for maximizing social impact through social media:

  • Be authentic. "Hip helps, but relevant matters."
  • Be comprehensive. "Take a look across the board and integrate social media across everything you're doing."
  • Recognize that there is a two-way dialogue. "Stakeholders now are not just people you have direct relationships with; they are people that come to you."
  • Realize your power. "You now have an insight into people's reactions, questions and passions that you never had before."
  • Zoom in. "Now with social media, I'm able to micro-target people that I'm talking with, and more importantly, I'm able to celebrate and create communities that are local and ask them to discuss things among themselves."
  • Let numbers speak. "The data is now on your side" when it comes to social media engagement.
  • But remember the stories. Anecdotal evidence can often be more persuasive than quantitative metrics. "We're going to want to wow people with zeroes: 5 million impressions! But what does that mean?" It's better to frame your impact as, "Let me tell you how the community changed the conversation about the issue from a lack of awareness to an interest in a particular component or a desire for action on an initiative or global campaign."

Sherinian provided several examples of campaigns that fulfill on what he called "the social media promise," defined as leveraging the power of social media to build awareness, inspire action or convene communities for a good cause.

The Mashable & 92Y Social Good Summit

By focusing on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — being addressed in high-level plenary sessions at UN Week in September 2010 — the Mashable/92Y Social Good Summit celebrates the power and potential of new media to effect change. The Summit is presented in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, a public charity that advocates for the UN and provides a platform for connecting people, ideas and resources to help the UN solve global problems.

UN Foundation partnered with Mashable and 92Y to organized the Social Good Summit, a series of events that gave guidance to world leaders on how to use new media to advance the UN's Millennium Development Goals, ranging from ending poverty and hunger to combating HIV/AIDS. What has been dubbed "the digital Davos" has proved there's an appetite for this kind of mind-sharing.

"It's dangerous to say journalists sit here, bloggers sit here, and policymakers sit here—everyone's sitting at the same table," Sherinian said. People want to be engaged, and social media allows them to play a role.

UN Foundation Digital Media Lounge

Open during UN Week, the centralized hub gave ordinary bloggers and journalists exclusive in-person access to experts on issues like poverty, hunger, HIV/AIDs, women’s health and climate change. By providing an offline venue for an online community, it gave people opportunity to broadcast high-level talks that had previously been tucked away behind closed doors for a dedicated elite.


Sherinian called this a "genius use of social media." Created in partnership with USAID, the campaign aims to raise awareness and funds to solve the crisis of famine, war and drought in the Horn of Africa. "It proves the [U.S.] administration is listening and talking and using these technologies," Sherinian added.

Pepsi Refresh 

The corporate crowdsourcing platform was a game-changer that allowed ordinary consumers to become creators. It gave people the chance "to bring innovations to the table and use their social networks to advocate for programs that they thought were worthy of investment." At the same time, Pepsi benefited from the buzz, knowing that people prefer to spend their dollars on brands associated with social good. Sherinian emphasized that government leaders could gain a lot by replicating this same approach.

Girl Up

This campaign shows the power of girls as "digital natives" and "philanthro-teens" to inspire a new generation of leaders. Together, they are part of a global fundraising effort to help support UN programs to re-build schools, transform health clinics and end child marriage.


This campaign aims to protect vulnerable children from disease by providing life-saving vaccines. By simply taking a pledge and spreading the word online, people are able to decision-makers to make greater investments in public health.