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Using Social Media to Go From David to Goliath: Greenpeace at CES 2009

Non-profit organizations usually have smaller budgets than for-profit corporations. And often, their staff is smaller too. It’s for this reason that many nonprofits have embraced online outreach and engagement. Social media in particular can be a cost-effective, high impact way to reach people–whether you want to convince them to buy your latest product, watch your new movie or help save the whales. When you’re a nonprofit organization, sometimes using the latest Web techniques can be your secret weapon, especially when your competitors are bigger and have larger resources to tap.

Non-profit organizations usually have smaller budgets than for-profit corporations. And often, their staff is smaller too. It’s for this reason that many nonprofits have embraced online outreach and engagement. Social media in particular can be a cost-effective, high impact way to reach people–whether you want to convince them to buy your latest product, watch your new movie or help save the whales. When you’re a nonprofit organization, sometimes using the latest Web techniques can be your secret weapon, especially when your competitors are bigger and have larger resources to tap.

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One example that comes to mind is Greenpeace’s launch of their report: “Green Electronics–The Search Continues.” The report reviewed and ranked popular electronics for their friendliness to the environment. Greenpeace decided to launch the report at one of the largest consumer trade shows in the world, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held annually in Las Vegas. They were the sole nonprofit scheduled to attend. If you’ve been to CES before you know–it’s intense: huge, buzzing with the latest gadgets & gizmos, techies & executives from all over the world and chockablock with media covering the highlights. How could a handful of people from a nonprofit organization be noticed among big names making huge announcements like Microsoft, HP, Sony, Samsung and others?

Fission Strategy helped Greenpeace to quadruple its Twitter account base (@Greenpeace_Intl is now @Greenpeace, fyi) quickly prior to the conference through following key journalists and bloggers along with their followers (using a proprietary process). Many of those followed returned the follow. While at CES, Greenpeace posted text updates and video interviews from the floor of CES to the Greenpeace Making Waves blog for supporters. We also kept up a steady tweet stream using the conference’s hashtag #CES09 to reach the thousands of conference attendees and all those around the world following the conference via Twitter. We responded to questions from supporters, leading bloggers, CES conference attendees and even @MicrosoftCES and @TodayShow real-time while on Twitter.

Through on-the-ground canvassers and an organized TweetUp, it was standing room only for Greenpeace’s press conference revealing their Green Electronics survey, resulting in great global media & blog coverage. After the press conference, the slides were posted on both Slideshare and DocStoc, on the Making Waves blog and via Twitter where it was re-tweeted by greenies and techies alike. Within days, there had been thousands of views of both. Today, on Docstoc, the slides have received close to 8,000 views and on Slideshare, over 1,700. Getting the slides immediately on social sharing sites helped Greenpeace spread the buzz further and reach an exponential number of people more than just the press conference alone could ever do.

Social media can make all the difference if you are interested in low-cost, high impact marketing, especially around events. It’s just another example of how smart social media can help any David become a Goliath. And the work continues. For a treat, here’s a recent tweet from @Greenpeace:

“Listen to William Shatner demand a toxic-free PC from HP here: http://bit.ly/7IFhS #hp”

Read more of Cheryl Contee’s Fission Strategy blog

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Cheryl Contee

Cheryl Contee is a partner and co-founder of the social media consultancy Fission Strategy where she specializes in online advocacy, engagement, and communications. Prior to launching Fission Strategy, Cheryl was Vice President at Fleishman-Hillard San Francisco where she acted as lead digital strategist for the West Coast, helping clients manage their brands and online campaigns. Before Fleishman-Hillard, Cheryl led the interactive team as Vice President at Washington, DC public affairs firm Issue Dynamics Inc. where she launched and led the group blog BloggerRelations.com. Previously, she was the Web Director for Oceana, an international marine conservation organization. Before Oceana, Ms. Contee launched 40 multi-lingual Web sites for Discovery Communications as Senior Producer for International Networks for television brands Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, Animal Planet, TLC, Discovery Health, Discovery Kids, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @ch3ryl

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