The power of social networking: a charity case

Today, a friend and business colleague of mine sent out this notice via LinkedIn


Mike Ostrowski has sent you a message.

Date: 7/13/2009

Subject: Help for my friend

Hello All,

I normally would not use linkedin for this...but...I have a dear friend who is battling cancer and has had to travel to Houston for treatment. I am trying to raise some money to help with travel and living expenses. It adds up going back and forth from Atlanta to Houston (They have 3 children). They really need some help.

If you can, please go to this site and make a small donation:


Mike Ostrowski

Now what is special about this is that Mike is able to quickly reach out to over 150 direct connections and thousands of secondary and tertiary connections in seconds. Introducing people using a trusted intermediary is the most effective way of establishing a new positive relationship. Mike knows this person directly and subsequently he has validated their need and worthiness to all his direct connections. If he were to do this the old fashioned way it would require hours of phone calls and writing to achieve a similar effect. Subsequently this couple is likely to receive more charitable aid faster. This is powerful.

There can be a whole social commentary on how this is far more beneficial than some socialist heath care system that our currently elected officials are attempting to reign down on us. I'll leave that diatribe to the political blogs.

I'd rather discuss how powerful this is for a charity, or even a corporate environment. Social networking was once thought of as a complete time waster. It was the realm of PC gamers and bored teenagers. Now, it can be seen as a powerful form of communications. In the case above, it shows how one person can influence the financial decisions of others. It also shows the speed at which it can occur. Hell, I'm blogging on it less than an hour after he sent it!

Now imagine this applied in a large corporate organization where a person has a idea or complaint that can affect the quality or performance of a product. By posting through the corporate social site (either a wiki or blog like interface), that person elevates their visibility beyond the gatekeepers of middle management. In fact such an idea can get to the designers/creators/engineers before upper level management even knows the idea exists (we are talking minutes or seconds here). This can accelerate the adoption of new ideas and processes much faster than the traditional wooden suggestion box. You know, that dusty old thing nailed up in the break room that has the leaky pen hanging from it, which everyone has long forgotten.

Wikis are extremely common, but oddly shunned in the corporate environment. Yet, they are a much better repository to share data than your highly paid key player. Wikis can be backed up with software, and they keep your corporate documentation, ideas, and business knowledge on the company premises. What happens if your key player goes through a mid-life crisis, buys a new Harley and goes out on the open road... without his (or her) helmet. Frightened yet? How about a less morose example. Your most senior COBOL programmer who knows more about your system than anyone... is retiring... to the Bahamas. Where are your intellectual assets going at night? Shouldn't you try to keep some of it on the premises?

Food for thought.

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