Yesterday, I got a very vivid illustration of just how powerful Social Media can be.
I grew up in a very small town in Western PA. Very small. Like, 200 houses maximum, small. The town was settled in the early 1800s by about 25 families, who lingered and intermarried until today when pretty much everyone is related to everyone else somehow… and folks are still known as “that new family” if they’ve only lived in town since the 1970s or so.
Now, this li’l speck on the map doesn’t have its own government – it is, in fact, an unincorporated area that straddles two townships – but it does have a church and a fire department. The fire department is an all-volunteer service, founded by the town fathers (including my grandfather) in 1942. And, like many volunteer fire departments in Western PA, Paintertown Volunteer Fire Department holds an annual Fish Fry supper every Friday during Lent. This town social event serves as a fundraiser for the upkeep of the fire trucks. The volunteer fire fighters, the junior fire fighters and the members of the Ladies’ Auxiliary all work together to cook and serve a variety of delicious dinner options, and everyone who buys a meal also gets a complimentary dessert – homemade cake or pie made and donated by the town mothers (including my mother). It’s one of those great small town traditions that makes us all long for Grover’s Corners, Bedford Falls and Mayberry.
So what on earth does this have to do with Social Media? Well, I’ll tell you. Because the tradition of the Fish Fry fundraiser is so popular in Western Pennsylvania, Y108 (Pittsburgh’s Country) radio has an annual remote broadcast event called Monty’s Fish Fry Tour. Throughout “Fish Fry season,” fire departments and churches who have Fish Fry fundraisers can submit their names to the radio station. A number of them are listed on the radio station web site for a week and people are encouraged to vote for their favorite from that group. Each week’s winner gets to host DJ Monty and the Y108 crew for a live broadcast from their Fish Fry that Friday. Yesterday (March 30, 2012), Monty and the Y108 gang broadcast live from Paintertown VFD, who won the week’s online vote overwhelmingly, thanks in large part to Social Media.
How do I know it was Social Media that won the broadcast for Paintertown? Because the tiny little town I described at the beginning of this article got MORE THAN 64,000 VOTES in the 5 days voting was open! That’s right, a town of less than 200 houses in the sub-sub-suburbs of Pittsburgh got 64,000 votes in less than a week. In short, members of the fire department got on Facebook and Twitter and put word out to vote for P-town on the Y108 site. Even though I now live in the Baltimore/DC area, I put word out to my followers on both FB and Twitter to ask for votes too. (Hey, my grandfather was the department’s first Captain. My great-uncle Frank was the first Fire Chief, and my late father was a life member and officer of the department until he passed!) My Facebook friends around the US and even Canada & the UK went to the site and voted. My Tweeps from all over did the same… as did the FB friends and Tweeps of many of my relatives back in P-town. And, in the end, this organized effort of a few small town residents on just a couple of social outlets earned major returns with the contest win and a lot of free publicity for this small fundraiser.
Now, if a few average citizens from a small town can get THAT much result in 5 days, just imagine how much publicity, how much brand awareness, and how much potential business YOUR organization can earn with a planned, concerted effort on social media activities! There are resources out there to teach you how – including the AVNation AVSocial podcast – so what’s your excuse? Put the power of social media to work for you today!