Social Media For Social Good: Claire Diaz-Ortiz On How Social 'Treps Can Boost Their Digital Presence
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Change the world with one tweet- that was the subject of Claire Diaz-Ortiz’s speech at the Turkey Innovation and Entrepreneurship Week 2017, which was held in December 2017 at Istanbul. During her talk, Diaz-Ortiz, who was formerly the Social Innovation Manager at Twitter and currently advises social enterprises on their social innovation strategies, noted how her passion for creating social impact was what has been driving her career ahead- even her role at Twitter was a result of this. In 2005, Diaz-Ortiz was in Kenya, where she was looking to initiate an after-school program for an orphanage, which eventually resulted in the creation of a non-profit organization.
At the time, in her bid to help raise funds for the orphanage, Diaz-Ortiz started a blog on Blogger.com, a blog-publishing service that was co-founded by Evan Williams, who was then also launching a new social media platform called Twitter. “They found [the] blog, started promoting it, and said, ‘Hey, we’re starting this new tool called Twitter, why don’t you try it?’” Diaz-Ortiz remembers. “I tried it- it worked. I was connected with early journalists, with early donors, with people interested in orphanage children in East Africa. Twitter was my portal to the world.”
One thing led to another, and Diaz- Ortiz soon found herself working at Twitter, where she led initiatives like Twitter for Nonprofits, and Twitter Ads for Good. She has since authored eight books (including Twitter for Good and One Minute Mentoring), and following her departure from Twitter, Diaz-Ortiz has become an advisor for several social enterprises around the world.
According to Diaz-Ortiz, social innovation is today prevalent across the globe when she wrote Twitter for Good, most of the case stories mentioned were US-based, as international stories were difficult to find at the time. That’s wholly different to the current state of affairs, with Diaz-Ortiz noting that today, there are fewer opportunities for innovation in this space in “developed markets,” with emerging markets now taking the lead in using platforms like Twitter in inventive ways.
As an example, Diaz-Ortiz points toward a health program in Rwanda that helps provide basic health resources to people in rural areas by responding to issues, questions and medications requests through Twitter. “In Silicon Valley, you don’t have the same type of need, so I think that’s really the biggest change,” Diaz-Ortiz says. But social entrepreneurs in emerging markets have challenges unique to them as well. “Let’s say you were in Kagali, Rwanda, [so] you have to do really well in Kagali before you can do anything else,” she explains. “And the challenge is that the cultural differences across borders are really extreme. I think emerging markets do have a big challenge, because it’s about capturing your market, and then expanding.”
With that being the case, the importance of social entrepreneurs having a digital presence cannot be understated, Diaz-Ortiz says. “The biggest [advice I can give] for a social entrepreneur trying to make an impact is to realize that you are your brand, you are the brand, and your brand is digital.” For early-stage ventures, they may not have many marketing channels at their disposal, but what they do have, Diaz-Ortiz asserts, is the opportunity to create a blog, get on LinkedIn, create a Twitter post, and publish on Facebook: “They have these abilities to create [a] platform, and influence [their intended audience], and they should go do it, and go after it.”
It’s a considerable advantage for social entrepreneurs, but Diaz-Ortiz notes that it is one they often miss leverage ing upon. “I talk to brands and social enterprises often who have very little online presence, and I just think it’s such a waste of opportunity [to be] a market leader in a small niche [as] a social enterprise. Essentially, the first thing you should try to capture is the online market.”
While creating content and being on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook is vital, Diaz-Ortiz states that creating long forms of content -whether on Medium or LinkedIn or your own site, and also video (“Snapchat is a huge opportunity”) should be leveraged to build one’s influence. “Wherever you think you can create content, you should be making content.”
With various enterprises trying to make a distinct mark online, Diaz-Ortiz observes that a common mistake social entrepreneurs make is aligning with influencers for their brand- which Diaz-Ortiz says is helpful over time when you’re trying to build a relationship; however, it’s more indispensable to build one’s own community who “already care about what you do, or active customers who already are about what you do, and [as you] do both of those strategies at the same time, the more likely you will be [able] to build a presence and have an impact.”
On the subject of influencers, I asked her thoughts on how some individuals and brands portray influence by buying followers to display engagement. Her response: “That’s just not the right strategy- the strategy really isn’t about followers.” Diaz-Ortiz encourages social ‘treps to focus on engagement than follower numbers, keeping in mind how every platform has different algorithm settings. “What happens on social media is, we follow the people we believe in, typically,” she says. “Everyone’s living in separate bubbles, thinking that what they think is what everyone else thinks.”
So, with such filter bubbles in the picture, alongside fake news, bots and pseudo influencers, how can social entrepreneurs go about measuring the impact social media has on their enterprises? Diaz-Ortiz maintains that now more than ever, a social media strategy’s KPI has to be based on real life. “If you’re looking at a social enterprise trying to sell sanitation resources in Nairobi, the KPI shouldn’t be about their number of Facebook followers, or the engagement on a particular post,” she explains. “It needs to be about the number of sanitation trucks that are dispatching each day.”
But, at the end of the day, Diaz-Ortiz remains optimistic (and adamant) about social media’s altruistic capabilities. “I know the story of technology, and the story of technology is you build something, some people use it for good, some people use it for bad,” Diaz-Ortiz says. “And some people [will] keep using it for good. So, I do think social media is a tool for good. I think we’re going through [a] rough time, but we will come out the other end, and the truth, the good, will rise to the top.”