Address to a Rotary Club: Social Media for Social Good

Address to a Rotary Club: Social Media for Social Good

Marcia Forbes PhD


To Nigerian writer, Blossom Nnodim, “social media for social good means creating a positive impact using social media as a voice.” Today I want to share some thoughts about using social media for social good.

Story re Atlanta

Let me tell you a true story. Two years ago I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Grand Independence Ball of the Atlanta Jamaica Association. The event was held at the lovely convention center in downtown Atlanta. I felt very honoured and very excited.

I was in the throes of working on this book – STREAMING: Social Media, Mobile Lifestyles. It’s all about how we are using our cell phones and the Internet.  So, I decided that a speech about using the Internet and especially Social Media like Facebook and Twitter, to keep in touch with those of us at home in Jamaica, and to know what was happening here, would be of great interest to the thousands of Jamaicans in the Diaspora.

But, as I looked around the Ball Room, it dawned on me that most of the people there were about my age or older. ‘Oops’ I thought, perhaps I should have focussed on something else for my speech since many of them may not be social media savvy.

As I got into the speech some of the things I mentioned like – No Baddy Canna Cross  - Something  I thought they all would know about since it had gone viral via the Internet, anyway it was news to many of them, judging from their body language.

To cut a long story short, I had to cut my speech short before those who were not social media savvy lost interest. In 2011 when I was giving that speech, many mature persons had not yet caught on to social media. Fast forward to today about two and a half years later and a lot of that has changed.

'Old People' Driving Facebook Growth

In 2013 the sixty five and over age group in the USA was the one driving new Facebook accounts. This was reported last month by the highly respected Pew Research. And by the way, in Jamaica, this age group is our fastest growing one. They need to keep abreast as people are living longer.

Everyday I’m surprised by some of the people who follow me on Twitter – like our Former Contractor General, Greg Christie and the MD of GraceKennedy, Don Webhy.

Greg uses twitter for social good by mostly posting comments and links to stories about corruption in various parts of the world. At first he was very stiff and formal on Twitter. Over the months I watched him relax and become more comfortable in the twittersphere. The young lawyers on Twitter, especially those who live overseas, often engage him in very enlightening discussions.

Tweeting Grace Kennedy

Last week I tweeted about how much I love hard-boiled egg lathered in Grace Hot Pepper sauce. I also posted a picture of the bottle of sauce. It was my way, NOT of telling people that I love eggs, But of bigging up GraceKennedy.

It’s a great company that continues to believe in and support Jamaica. So, using social media for social good; I gave GraceKennedy a PR plug – free of cost. With over six thousand, six hundred Twitter followers my tweets get around, especially if they are retweeted by others who also have many followers. In no time Don Webhy as well as two others from Grace, commented on that tweet and retweeted it.

Social Listening

Grace Kennedy is on social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, listening and responding to what is said about them. It’s called ‘social listening’ and companies employ people to do this. It’s a real job!

Many of you Rotarians run companies; customer service now is all about customer engagement and meeting your customers where they hang out. Many of them hang out on various social networks. As business persons you can’t afford to ignore social media, by the way social media refers to all the various ways that we connect with others online. It includes but is not limited to social networks.

Social Media for Social Good

The use of social media for social good is beginning to come of age. Jamaicans at home and in the Diaspora are seizing the opportunities that social networks and other avenues online, like blogs and vlogs, offer for this purpose. A vlog is a video blog like those posted by DuttyBerry for Tessanne.

The profile of Jamaicans on social networks has changed markedly since by first entree just over three years ago. It is no longer a ‘young people thing’. Use of social networks has extended beyond millennials and techies.

Social media for social good by Jamaicans was recently demonstrated by three much talked about events:

  • 1) Tessanne on ‘The Voice’
  • 2) Shaggy & Friends
  • 3) The Jamaica Bobsled Team


Online support for Tessanne Chin’s entry into US network NBC’s singing competition, The Voice, during the last quarter of 2013 was outstanding.Those at home and in the Diaspora, largely organized by Deika Morrison in Jamaica and Marlon Hill in Florida, along with hundreds of others, used the Internet and social media to drive home our support for Tessanne.

We tweeted, retweeted, hashtagged, posted, blogged, vloged (Dutty Berry’s were outstanding), instagramed, bought her songs via iTunes and generally used Internet-related options to support Tessanne.
Our Diaspora joined hands and hearts with us yYrdies and Tess won in outstanding style. Of course she got help from many others as well, such as our Caribbean colleagues and Chiney people in the USA and elsewhere.


The Tessanne hype rolled right into #TeamShaggy 4 Kids. Again Deika and Marlon, one in Jamaica and the other in Florida, along with numerous others, rolled up our sleeves and used social media to tremendous advantage in garnering donations. Again the Internet played a vital role in bringing the Diaspora into the mix.

The January 4th Shaggy & Friends Concert on the grounds of Jamaica House to raise funds for the Bustamante Hospital for Children, is, to my best knowledge, the most streamed event in Jamaica’s history to date. It was streamed live and then available delayed online for up to January 15th, almost two weeks post event. Donations could be made online or via other means. Social media for social good is taking root by Jamaicans.

Full Circle from Atlanta

My 2011 keynote address to Jamaicans in Atlanta has come to fruition. We CAN connect online and do good for Jamaica. Those in the Diaspora have a role to play.

On behalf of Shaggy, Phase Three Productions provided multi-camera coverage of the show in high definition format and supplied television feeds to allow live streaming by various entities including Digicel, the Shaggy Foundation, the Gleaner and Observer newspapers. Interestingly, Digicel live streamed the show via their Facebook account with its over six hundred thousand likes - Social media for social good.

Report is that Shaggy & Friends raked in $70Million, twice as much as it did at its last staging two years ago when there was no social media involvement or the hype of live streaming. The Internet can be used to work for us all!

The Bobsled Team

The third recent event that showcased the power of the Internet and how it can be used for social good was demonstrated by our Bobsled Team. Strapped for cash to make it to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the Jamaican Bobsled team turned to the Internet for crowd funding. That’s a new buzz approach to raising capital for business ventures.

Reports are that within forty eight hours the team raised US$120,000, far more than the U$40,000 they were aiming for.  Eventually at close to U$200,000 and not wanting to appear greedy, the team indicated that it had received enough.

Interestingly, and I will confess that I really do not understand this phenomenon, it is something called Dogecoin, a digital currency, that kicked off the online collection drive for our Bobsledders. DogEcoin is similar to Bitcoin for those of you in money matters.

Time Come

The time has come for us all to recognize that social media can be used for social good and not just as forms of entertainment, for suss and for ‘fassing’ in other people’s business.
I encourage all of you in this room to embrace some form of social media. Choose one or two of them and learn how to use them for productive purposes such as social good.

February 11, 2014