Tweet Drive Proves Good Social Leads to Social Good

Tweet Drive’s Houston event (Photo: Neighborhood Center/flickr)

Can those fleeting, intangible tweets of ours really fuel positive social change? Social media professional and entrepreneur Harrison Kratz founded Tweet Drive to do just that. By striking a balance between real-world and virtual-world community building, he has rallied philanthropists across the country to hold toy drives and charity events for underprivileged children around the world. Harrison’s 2011 efforts resulted in 3,500 toy donations over 37 events, in addition to raising thousands of dollars for local charities.

Learn how Tweet Drive took flight in a mere 14 months by reading my following interview with Harrison.

MH: What inspired you to create Tweet Drive, and how have Twitter’s unique capabilities enabled this initiative to recruit such a large national base of donors?

HK: In 2009, I organized a small toy drive for my local homeless shelter. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The next year, I wanted to do more and saw social media as a way to really spread this cause on a larger scale. Our goal has stayed consistent: bring holiday cheer and positive change to underprivileged children through the tools and culture of social communication.

Twitter has given all of our champions, advocates, and volunteers a platform through which they can be heard and enforce positive change within their own communities. We continue to operate without any monetary donations or funding, and Twitter has been our driving force of conquering that aspect and empowering everyone who wants to get involved.

MH: What made you choose Twitter as your philanthropic vehicle? Why not choose a platform where you can provide more consolidated background information and news about your cause, displayed all in one place?

HK: While having a core platform displaying background information is really important, I realized from the beginning that we needed to operate as swiftly and loudly as possible. Twitter gave us a way to do that. It helped those who wanted to get involved to communicate quickly and to as many people as possible. I knew Twitter was where we could build a community in the least amount of time.

MH: What have been some of your greatest success stories while running Tweet Drive?

HK: There have been a lot of great stories, but when I look at what embodies Tweet Drive it is our Houston and Seattle events. They have built incredible communities and haven’t just done a lot for Tweet Drive, they’ve created a culture of giving back in their communities. That is what we strive for with all of our events.

MH: How effectively do you feel Twitter can strengthen people’s relationships with social causes? What sorts of appeals does Tweet Drive usually use when trying to connect with potential donors – emotional, moral, logical?

HK: I think Twitter can strengthen a person’s connection to a cause but its really only a gateway and there’s a lot more to it. Social causes that are the most successful provide both real life experiences and content that inspire donors to give back. You need to utilize these tools and experiences to convince that they’re not just donating but actually making a positive impact on the world.

MH: How do you believe Twitter’s ability to raise awareness differs from its ability to foster genuine activism? Basically, I’m comparing sustained action in the real world versus the virtual world. Consider, for instance, the highly regarded Malcolm Gladwell article written for the New Yorker last year entitled “Small change: why the revolution will not be tweeted.” Gladwell argues that while social media platforms like Twitter can raise awareness among loosely connected networks, they cannot prompt significant action and dedication beyond the computer screen. He believes that for social movements to incite real-world change, participants must have real-world relationships with one another and operate within a hierarchy of defined leaders. Alternatively, social media operates by loose connections and lateral structures. Based on your experiences, how accurate do you find Gladwell’s argument?

HK: He is 100% right. That is why I make an effort to go beyond Twitter and have as much of a personal connection as possible with my volunteers, partners, and event attendees. I understand the power of a community, and it is my job to build it any way I can in both the real world and online.

MH: If you could give one piece of advice to fellow socially just, socially connected activists, what would it be?

HK: Use your voice and understand that social media is only half the battle. When you start understanding the culture of being social, you can start to inspire positive change in the real world.

Harrison Kratz is the Community Manager for MBA@UNC, the new online MBA program from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He sticks to his entrepreneurial roots as the founder of the global social good campaign, Tweet Drive. Feel free to connect with him on Twitter, @KratzPR.

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