This week, ReBoot Accel Co-Founder and COO Patty White celebrates her daughter, Amy, and World Down Syndrome Day (March 21) by sharing how she uses social media for social good and the role it can play in a woman’s return to work.
Here’s a fact that won’t come as a surprise: In a global study by the Center for Talent Innovation, 90% of women indicated that making a positive impact on society was important to them.
Sallie Krawcheck of Ellevate Network reinforced this in a recent statement,
“finding meaning and purpose is not something women have to be told to do; rather, women have a tendency to seek meaning and purpose in their work and are more willing to keep at it if they know their work accrues to something more important than themselves.”
The majority of the women that come through our program have echoed this theme as well. Many have engaged in social impact activities during their pause and intentionally plan to do so as they reenter the workforce.
This week is World Down Syndrome Day (March 21, 3-21), and I am reflecting upon the social impact work I took on during my career pause. My work was within the special needs community, specifically, those with Down syndrome. The outlook for this population seems to be considerably more positive today than when my child was born 18 years ago — and certainly more so than a generation ago.
How did I form this positive point of view? Largely because of social media.
With “Google alert,” I receive an email with a compilation of results — such as web pages, Facebook posts, newspaper articles, blogs, or scientific research — that match the search term ‘Down syndrome.’ Over the past few weeks, I have learned that:
- Melanie Segard (21) will be a meteorologist for a day on French television
- Olivia Hargroder (18) will be speaking at the UN this week
- Colette Divitto (26) of Boston used GoFundMe help start her own cookie business
- Yulissa Arescurenaga (24) of San Francisco is a certified Zumba instructor
- Sam Beedy (18) of Moorhead was voted Homecoming King and is manager of the high school hockey team
- Fria David has worked for McDonalds in Needham, MA for 32 years, and
- Jenna Rathgerber (28) has my daughter, Amy’s dream job, working at a hair salon
While some may rightly attribute these posts as inspiring for families who have a relative with DS, I see these as opportunity-opening posts. The more positive posts out there, the greater the chance that perceptions and expectations of individuals with DS will change – resulting in more opportunities for their inclusion and contribution in their communities.
This hopeful consequence of social media reminds me that I have a responsibility to become more social savvy, challenging attitudes and changing behaviors, by being actively engaged.
What is your cause? Whose mind would you like to change? Today you can complement your periodic direct volunteering with daily influence from the comfort of your home – or library, or coffee shop. Are you ready to make a social impact through social media?
With 1.9 billion monthly active users on Facebook, 319 million on Twitter, 600 million on Instagram and a billion on YouTube, your engaging message has the chance to reach enormous mass audience – or better yet, with some savvy social media skills — to target the specific users, individuals, families, donors, and influencers you are trying to reach.
How do you begin when you’re not a digital native (yet)? The first step does not require any technology at all. Become more self-aware. Take the time to identify the causes you care about. What are they? Why are they meaningful to you? What is the difference you’d like to see? Who are the people that need to be exposed to your perspective in order for change to happen?
Do your homework. Set a Google alert for the cause you care about. Subscribe to news feeds such as Feedly, Flipboard or Medium and customize the content that you want to see. Notice what others are writing and posting about in your area of interest. What techniques are used to entice you to click through?
Choose your platform(s). A simple Google search about each social media platform will offer demographic information about who is on each social media platform and what kind of information is posted there. Do you use a certain social media platform to find information about your cause? That’s a good place to start.
Here’s another big clue from Hubspot’s survey of 9000 non-for-profits: 99% of not-for-profit organizations are on Facebook; 80% use Facebook as their primary social media platform although many would like to focus more time on Twitter and LinkedIn and are starting to show interest in visual mediums like Instagram and YouTube.
Get started. An easy initial foray into social media is to ‘share’ another’s post or to post an article you have found on your platform of choice. Most articles that you read online will include icons for the most popular social media platforms. Simply clicking on an icon will open a window that will have the link for you to post that article. Be sure to add your observation to add value to the conversation.
Up your game. It’s all about engagement. Of course, you deserve kudos for initiating and developing a posting habit. Once you’ve done that, get ready to take the next step. To maximize impact, your goal is engagement, to have readers like, comment and share your post. Evaluate why you are posting a certain article — what is the key takeaway for your reader? Once you know this, develop a provocative comment or question, or pull a quote that reinforces your view and will motivate someone to engage with what you have posted. When you are ready, consider developing original content (writing your own articles) – again, with the goal of having it be a conversation starter and a thought leadership piece to be shared.
Develop your voice. Just writing this down makes it seem so weighty. Unburden yourself by recognizing that this will develop over time as you get more comfortable with writing and posting. Here’s a hint that was helpful to me:
Get out of your own way. Keep the big picture in mind. Cultivating a sense of purpose will help to quiet the critical voices in your head. You know, the ones that may be saying that you are not a good enough writer.
(Response: you’ll get better the more you write.) Or concerns that others will disagree with your point of view. (Response: welcome the chance to learn about objections that you’ll need to overcome.)
Make it personal. Many people find their cause and courage when someone they love has been marginalized or is suffering. My personal goal is to change perceptions and expectations so that my daughter Amy and the Down syndrome community will benefit from increased acceptance and opportunity.
My strategy is twofold: repetition and inspiration. Repetition, because the more people are accustomed to seeing individuals with Down syndrome living their lives ‘just like everyone else’ the more natural it will be to have higher expectations of them. Inspiration, because energized supportive parents are the best advocates for our loved ones.
Jenna Rathgerber’s Facebook post gave me the courage to ask my hair salon to allow my daughter to shadow an employee for a few hours this week. And, maybe, Amy will serve as a role model for another by sharing her experience, in what can become a beautiful series of pay-it-forward posts.
Showcase your marketable skills. If you are a woman returning to work, utilizing social media for social good offers you venues to build a positive personal brand, and to demonstrate highly marketable skills to prospective employers. Particularly if you are interested in working in a non-profit organization.
Social media marketing skills are in great demand by not-for-profit organizations. A Hubspot survey revealed that most nonprofits lack social media marketing goals, do not have a documented social media strategy, and randomly assign responsibility to a single employee.
A most troubling statistic for non-profits presents you with an opportunity: 67% of the non-profits surveyed have no social media strategy.
So, develop and implement your own social media strategy using these tips. Get started posting today. Have impact. And change some minds.
Include an Ask. Last but not least, every good social media post should have a call to action, please help me celebrate World Down Syndrome Day by sharing my post to your friends and family. Thank you.
Patty White is Co-Founder and COO of ReBoot Accel, Inc.
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