The Great Poke Off: Use Your Networks to Help, Not Just to Complain

By @Trochman

Working at an Agency provides you the ability to work with a number of great brands and experiment with social media tools in a variety of ways in order to help them reach their target audience.  Sometimes this gives you an awe inspiring look at creativity and human interaction. Sometimes it gives you a sad look at how nasty people can be to one another, or witness how a simple communication tool can be warped into a funnel for complaints.

However, what touched me recently was not the act of a large company or marketing team but the creativity of two friends looking to make a small difference in their own personal networks. This weekend I was given another affirmation to the true power of social media.  How with a simple act, people can engage with their networks – not for fame or attention – but to help one another.

As I was scrolling through Facebook I came across a competition between my cousin Dan Andersen and his friend John Clinton. The two were participating in a poke-a-thon on Facebook. The concept had been John’s brainchild the year before and I vaguely remembered them participating… but this year was different.  This year there was clearly an emphasis by both men to take a playful competition and use it to make a difference.

Here is what caught my eye, a new timeline cover and invitation via status update:

Friends, Countrymen, People Who I haven’t talk to since high school or EVER: It’s that solitary time of year when I call you to action for charity, but wait, I don’t want your money! All I want is that long-lost Facebook function that (hardly) anyone ever uses anymore….the poke. Last year, we raised $234 for This American Life and $158 for Heifer International. This year I hope to accomplish the following:

1) Raise more $$ for This American Life
2) Beat John Clinton again

Here’s how it works – every time one of you pokes me (on FB), I give $1 to This American Life (up to a later specified amount)…plus I get to brag about it to John in the Internet locker room.

If you’ve never poked anyone before, you are probably not alone AND good ol’ Mark Zuckerburg has been moving stuff around lately – FB timeline has actually hidden the poke option in the drop-down widget menu just below the right-hand corner of my cover photo.

So please, take 2 seconds out of your FB surfing and poke-a-bro. I promise to return the favor when this is all over. Thanks!

Here is John’s timeline graphic:

As the competition picked up steam and both men started receiving pokes, The Chicago Booth Follies was also added to the mix for donations. (Their graduate school’s annual variety show –which they had learned its funding was dramatically slashed this year.)

This challenge was issued in late March with a deadline of 4/8/12. (Ok so he can get mad at me for taking this long to notice…) Through humorous Facebook updates, offers to give gifts and challenging Meme shots (see Harry Potter here); Dan and John both received pokes from friends, family, coworkers – and the networks of each group.  Some of my friends here at SHIFT have even found themselves poking these gents.

At the time of the competition’s close at midnight on 4/8/12, Dan had received 274 pokes and John received 205.  This means $479 was donated to This American Life and $479 to Booth Follies.

This is the true power of social media. People from various backgrounds staying connected, communicating about goals and helping each other.  This isn’t a complaint campaign to change some trivial policy or product feature, it isn’t the RT of some celebrity – it is just two friends looking to raise money for an organization they feel passionately about.

Can you imagine if we all just stopped every now and again and thought along these lines?  I know I tend to use my own social media tools for sarcastic thoughts and movie quotes.  I think the problem is we all imagine that in order to make a difference we need to think of the next million dollar charitable campaign. No. You don’t. Even the smallest donation can make a difference to someone so long as it is to an organization, group or movement you believe in.

Consider yourself poked.  Now what are you going to do with it….

1 Response to “The Great Poke Off: Use Your Networks to Help, Not Just to Complain”



  1. 1 The Great Poke Off: Use Your Networks to Help, Not Just to Complain « Mixed Marketing Arts Trackback on April 13, 2012 at 2:28 am
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