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Introducing the TEDActive Projects: Social Networks

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On our final day of TEDActive 2011, we chat with Amanda Rose, founder of the Connect the Dots Foundation, about her involvement in the TEDActive Projects: Social Networks group.

What brings you to TEDActive this year?

I was lucky enough to be invited by Blackberry to attend this year's TEDActive. Never shy to experiment, the TEDActive organizers put a collective of bright minds together into special project groups like 'social networking' to look at and identify micro-actions that people could take to spread their idea more effectively.

Everyone had a different approach to this topic; ranging from the analytical, emotional, philosophical and practical, but we could all agree on one thing: Don't complicate social media. It is after all a digital representation of your real-life connections. Not to say that there isn't something utterly powerful about social media and the way it can carry a message farther than you ever imagined. Let's just not dress it up; technology is only as artful as the people that use it.

TEDActive is all about exchanging ideas and inspiring action. How are you using social networks to inspire action in your own life?

I was sitting around with Andy Carvin, senior strategist at NPR yesterday comparing notes about how we both use Twitter and what we thought of the project objective. Both of us agreed the discussions had become too deep. Within the group I think we are the two people who are actively using Twitter in the hopes for real mass action, coined 'Tweet to Street'. Over the last five weeks, Andy has become an online media channel all to himself by curating Tweets that connect people to minute-by-minute news about the Middle East. As a journalist, Twitter has been the perfect medium for Andy to share, disseminate and ask for help when he needs to identify incoming communications relating to ongoing revolutions. People have appreciated and gravitated to his current work and the fact that his followers have doubled in the last month to over 30,000 is a testament to how successful social media has been for him to spread ideas.

For the last two years I have spearheaded Twestival, a global movement of volunteers that host events in cities around the world for charity on one day. What's unique is that I've never met most of the 2500+ global volunteers that have contributed to the success of Twestival. Yet together, we've been able to raise close to $1.2 million for causes we all care about including charity: water and Concern Worldwide's education program. All of it sparked through social media particularly Twitter. I am often asked how I've been able to use Twitter to rally so many people internationally around a cause. I have to admit that I feel a little awkward that I should provide them an enlightening answer. When the fact is, I use social media the way I did when I was back in high school before it even existed. I ask questions, talk to people who make stuff happen, try to infuse enthusiasm and break the task into projects that people can own. This week at TEDActive I found that I wasn't alone in my thinking.

What did your project group address regarding social networking?

Our project group explored the hidden influence of social networks on our lives -- through the lens of inspiration. We talked about online relationships and their influence, their ability to spread inspired messages and their ripple effects. We outlined these 'micro-philosophies' for social networking:

1) Be yourself. People will respond best to those with an authentic social media voice.
2) Listen and give back to your community. Others will remember your contribution.
3) Chose the right social media channel for your message. Consider the audience.
4) Clearly define what it is you are asking. The more specific, the better result.
5) Be passionate. Show people how they can be part of something bigger.
6) Report back. People want to feel valued and hear about the impact or results.

How can we use social networks to share impactful messages?

We always point to political, charitable or celebrity examples to set the standard for how we use social media to have an impact. Maybe it's time to take a closer look at the ripple effect each of us can have starting with our own networks. It happens every day in small ways, and it can add up to something profound. If you want to use your time, talent or resources on March 24th, I encourage you to join Twestival's global party for local causes.

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