Social media: a force for good

Many people are still sceptical about the use of social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and others. Are updates about what someone’s having for lunch really going to change the world?

The truth is that social media has moved on in leaps and bounds in recent years. All platforms are focusing more on business content, with more than 20 million small businesses now having their own Facebook page. Within a matter of hours of a page being set up, a business could have a potential reach of thousands. Active Twitter users now total in excess of 645,750,000; a phenomenal number given the simplicity of the concept. Twitter is an easy, direct way of engaging with a business’ clients and customers and having an active Twitter presence is integral to brand awareness.

But the reach of social media extends even further; the story of Stephen Sutton, a 19-year old sufferer of terminal cancer, has been well-known for some time but in recent days has become nothing short of a social media explosion. I hope he doesn’t mind me using him as an example of the powers of these channels. Stephen (using the hashtag #stephensstory) has documented his experiences with the disease via a website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and many other platforms. He is a vocal supporter and fundraiser for the Teenage Cancer Trust (to whom I have made a donation having used Stephen as my case study!) and, until a couple of days ago had already succeeded in raising over half a million pounds for this important cause.

This week, Stephen updated his many followers to advise that he has had a turn for the worse and is in hospital, most likely for the remainder of his days. He is at ease with the situation and mentally prepared. However, his ‘bucket list’ included a fundraising target for the TCT of £1m and, despite having raised a huge sum, he was short. Fortunately, during his active fundraising, Stephen had gained the support of a number of celebrities, in particular the prolific ‘Facebooker’ and ‘Tweeter’ comedian Jason Manford. Jason has (at the time of writing) 670,853 Facebook ‘likes’ and 80,300 followers on Twitter and has a unique and enviable way of engaging his fans with insights into his personal life, honest social commentary and, occasionally, promotion of good causes.

Less than 24 hours ago, Jason urged his Facebook and Twitter followers to donate to the TCT via Stephen’s Justgiving page and accompanied his posts with stories of his own experiences of having met Stephen. It was clear that Jason was obviously very moved by the story (as, I think, would anyone be given that a 19-year old lad is about to lose his barely-getting-started life). By midday today, and in a storm of publicity and hashtags, the total topped £1m. This is one story that moved too fast for print media or even the TV news; they are all still catching up whilst the crest of the wave can still be ridden.

It is staggering to me that, simply through social media channels, such a large sum of money can be raised in such a short period of time. The best news of course is that it happened so fast that Stephen is fortunately still with us and has been told of his target having been reached. Surely even the most cynical critic of informal communication channels can appreciate that there is no greater achievement. Well done to Jason Manford, to all his loyal fans who picked up the baton and especially to Stephen for battling such an awful disease with good humour and dignity. You will leave a huge legacy.

You can support Stephen here:

https://www.facebook.com/StephensStory?fref=ts
https://twitter.com/_StephensStory

Text STEPHEN to 70500 to donate £5 to the Teenage Cancer Trust or visit https://www.justgiving.com/Stephen-Sutton-TCT to make a donation.

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