This Sunday, 18,000 people will cross the start line at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon. The event is a Geben client, so I’ve had the opportunity to see how social media can create year-round community, provide a resource for an active community of athletes, and support overall event/business goals. But, most importantly, I’ve witnessed how social media can fuel social good.
One of my friends, Matt Russo, is running his first full marathon.If I were running a marathon (which I can’t imagine happening!), my goal would be simple: Finish vertical. Matt’s goal? To raise $26,000 for his friend, Lindsay, a young woman who beat cancer and is now trying to start a family. But, surrogacy is crazy expensive and most insurance companies won’t cover the costs. Matt is running to help his friend achieve her dream of being a mom. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to check out Matt and Lindsay’s website to learn the full story. I also checked in with Matt to learn more about how social media is helping him reach his goal. Hear what he had to say …
How long have you known Lindsay?
I was introduced to Lindsay and her (now) husband Tony Giannobile seven years ago. My wife, Blair, worked with Lindsay at the OSU Medical Center when she was a student employee, and over the years we became close. In October 2010 – the night before our wedding – Lindsay called Blair to let her know that they would not be able to make it to the ceremony because she had been diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 28. We were shocked, not only because she was so young, but because Lindsay was such a healthy, vibrant person with no family history of the disease.
How much $$ have you raised? What’s the goal? How can people donate?
We have raised $23,015 for Lindsay to date. My goal was to raise $1,000 for each mile of the full Columbus Marathon I’m running, and I am extremely excited that we have the chance to hit the $26,200 mark by Sunday! (From Heather: There’s still time to donate! Just click here. Any amount — $5 or $500 — can help!)
What digital/social platforms are you using to build awareness and connect with potential donors?
ForLindsay started in my head as a website. I had the idea to tell her story through video pretty early on, but knew I would also need to create a Twitter and Flickr account for the project. The original Twitter handle I wanted (@ForLindsay) was taken and the owner – who has never sent a tweet – didn’t respond, so I opted for @RunForLindsay instead. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Since I listened for and interacted with runners, much of my “cold” outreach was met with responses like, “When/what are you running?” and “Who is Lindsay?” It helped bridge that gap between stranger and online relationship.
Do you know (approximately) what percentage of dollars raised can be traced back to social media?
Ah, the ROI question. It’s a tricky one because many of Lindsay’s friends and family members (who would have contributed anyway) were guided to the site through social media. While I can’t trace an exact amount back to the number of dollars that started with social media yet, I CAN tell you that 62.99% of all traffic to the site since its launch has come from referrals. Prior to Monday’s bump (which I’ll talk about later), Facebook made up over HALF of all traffic.
Now one thing to note is that I did not set up a dedicated Facebook page for the initiative – and here’s my logic: I viewed this project (at the beginning) as a one-time, short-term push to raise a bunch of money. So my goal on the site was not to get people to “Like” some random page, but to “Recommend” the site on their News Feed to their friends and family members. I did this strategically with buttons and calls-to-action on the site. Here are a few stats from August 1 – October 14:
- 245 Total Actions (Likes & Shares)
- 106,675 impressions on people’s News Feeds
- 2.9% “conversion rate” on Facebook
- 3,103 referral visitors back to ForLindsay.com
So from 245 people clicking the “Share” button on the website, we were able to drive 3,103 people back to the site. Pretty cool.
How are you integrating online and offline communication?
I was featured on a local news segment, and Lindsay was interviewed on both local and national programming. We have also printed t-shirts and postcards to raise awareness and distribute locally, both of which drive people to the website. Lastly, we have a final offline campaign planned for race day which takes into account our audience, their location, and potential barriers to donating. We’re confident this will send a decent amount of traffic back to the site and generate additional contributions.
I know you did some grassroots celebrity targeting. How did that start?
I’m a big advocate of listening on Twitter, so we got really good at identifying others who were training for a marathon or who were runners in general. As a result, I was able to strike up a conversation with many of them which often lead to questions about why I was running and who I was running for. In one case, I tweeted back and forth with a total stranger from The Netherlands who found his way to the site and donated $25 from overseas.
Most recently, I tapped our donors and my local social media contacts to “group-tweet” a celebrity with a very similar story as Lindsay’s. E! News anchor Giuliana Rancic recently had her first child using a surrogate after being diagnosed with breast cancer herself. With a little planning, a well-crafted message, and some excellent timing, we were able to drive Giuliana to Lindsay’s site this past Monday where she watched Lindsay’s video and subsequently shared our story with her 2.9 million followers with this tweet. The results for October 14 were:
- 7,231 visits to the site
- 59 additional Likes and Shares
- 26,469 additional impressions on Facebook
- 705 referral traffic back to the site
I’m a believer that social media can scale good. Have you found that to be true?
I believe social media can scale if you know how to tap into existing conversations to find your audience. The key though is having a story that connects with your audience instantly and being very clear on what actions you want them to take. People love helping others and sharing good stories, but you have to make is easy for them. If any part of the process is difficult or unclear, they will leave. And you’ve lost your opportunity.
What’s been your biggest learning experience or takeaway from this amazing effort?
I have been blown away by the generosity of everyone touched by Lindsay’s story – both in monetary donations and their willingness to help. Most people are inherently good and want to be involved with something bigger than themselves. It’s our job, then, to seek out the causes and stories that we believe in – the ones that require our attention and our unique talents – and get involved. Because when we do, the universe has an interesting way of providing you with exactly what you need to reach your goal.
Matt is running 26.2 miles this Sunday and he is incredibly close to meeting his fundraising goal. If you want to help him in his quest to run #ForLindsay, you can still donate.