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Geoff Livingston 8 min read

#CitizenGulf - Unfolding a Social Media Strategy

Dream Is GoneThe CitizenGulf project was just unfolded last week. A national event on August 25 with would-be meet-ups throughout the country designed to create awareness for the Citizen Effect project, seeks to raise funds and awareness for fishing families. The effort also fits the nonprofit's citizen empowering philanthropy philosophy, which is identifying actionable problems and solutions amongst major problems, such as this one -- the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill. How does one go from an oil spill to a national meet-up event? What strategies and tools will be deployed? Here's an inside look on how we scaled from a nonexistent program to a national effort in just three months.

Strategy Begins with Research

We began our effort with a very visible citizen reporting trip featuring Citizen Effect's Dan Morrison and May Yu, Jill Foster, and myself that informed our strategy. Specifically, though it raised awareness via successful CNN iReports, photos, video, podcasts, blog posts, and social network outreach, the effort provided critical insights:

  • Defined the problem facing fishing families, an identifiable and actionable issue within the larger oil spill context. Stories were a critical component of social media to make any cause relatable.
  • Indentified a local 501c3 (Catholic Charities of New Orleans) that has relationships with the fishing families as well as a possible solution, educating their children.
  • Found local partners to work with, namely cause promoter Sloane Berrent and her existing network of national Gulf Coast supporters like Andy Sternberg via Gulf Coast Benefit


Architecting the Strategy Kerry, Sixth Generation Fisherman

The whole mission and purpose of Citizen Effect is to empower people to actions. From a strategists perspective, our firm Zoetica wanted to create a program that would give people ways to act, from a simple Facebook "like" all the way to self identifying as individuals interested in managing their own citizen philanthropy projects for the Gulf. To do this kind of social media required getting beyond brand control and into empowerment.

We created three immediate forms of simple action: attend or host an event, donate or vote for Gulf Coast Benefit's upcoming Pepsi Refresh contest. These enabled interested parties to act with one click. Building a national series of events requires much more than social tools. So we reached out to Social Media Club founders Chris Heuer and Kristie Wells who agreed to partner with the CitizenGulf project. By opening the effort to local SMC's, we got beyond the nonprofit community into the larger social web, and at the time of writing this event, we have more than ten major cities interested in their own event. The tools are important, too. While currently under design (due to roll out August 1), Eric Johnson of El Studio and Taylor Davidson from Gulf Coast Benefit are using Posterous as the main site platform. This allows for ease of posting across a wide variety of input methods and content forms, from texting and email to photos and video. Eventbrite is being used for the national event platform. This allows all monies sans credit card fees to be transferred through Citizen Effect to Catholic Charities of New Orleans via one bank account. But it also allows each city and event to have its own unique registration page, a critical component of a national event like this.

Other outreach tactics will include Gulf Coast Benefit's existing outreach program and tools (see Mashable post), another fact finding mission to drum up interest and develop new stories, as well as a strategy of finding local influencers to host events, and get the word out. The event will culminate on August 25th, the week of the 5th anniversary of Katrina. During that week Citizen Effect will offer all registrants the opportunity to build their own CitizenGulf project. Our desired outcomes are as follows: 1) $100,000 through social media driven events and donations 2) 10,000 people take actions to help the Gulf via our three immediate calls to action: Attend, donate or vote. 3) One percent of all people taking actions ideally will decide to build their own CitizenGulf project with Citizen Effect/Catholic Charities of New Orleans, with a target of 100 new projects.

Wish us luck as we move forward! And if you'd like to host or attend your own event, join us!

Geoff Livingston is the Chief Marketing Officer for Zoetica.

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