With Great Social Media Power Comes Great Responsibility
(This story has been updated with a newer idea here: A Plan for Social Media Sites (and users) to Give Back)
Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Slashdot, Newsvine, NowPublic, Yahoo! Buzz. Between these seven sites, traffic to a particular website can easily exceed 100,000, potentially much higher.
With so much power to drive people to various websites across the Internet, why are none of them greatly involved with charity? I’m not talking about donating – I’m sure that the companies or their executives donate. I’m talking about making a difference. I’m talking about using their power to drive traffic and applying it to charity websites.
The reason that they don’t is that they (other than Slashdot) are strictly driven by the actions, likes, and intentions of the users. You could argue that there is a human hand or two manipulating the system from time to time, but that’s an entirely different post.
Would it be wrong or unjustified to use the server-busting power of their front pages for an occasional bit of philanthropy? It wouldn’t be hard to do at all. There would be those who would cry out “don’t preach to me” or “keep your humanity to yourself” but for the most part, I believe the communities would embrace it. Who knows – they might just learn something from time to time that has more substance than lolcats and bacon.
Digg could very easily create a category for charity. They could hire a handful of people to moderate the category more closely than others to keep the spam to a minimum. The threshold could be lowered a bit (if necessary, though it probably wouldn’t be) to get a story or two a day on the front page.
As with all categories, if a user doesn’t want “charity shoved down their throat” they can always turn the category off completely.
Reddit could adopt a different type of charitable technique. By making a charity subreddit that was featured as one of the primary selections on the front page and making it a default, the subreddit would grow quickly. No need for moderators – the community self-moderates well.
Even better, they can integrate their technology into a new site dedicated to charity, activism, and philanthropy.
Slashdot is clearly more tech-niche-oriented, but their control of the front page is a perfect way to make sure that tech-related stories involving charities (there are plenty) received attention from time to time.
Newsvine and NowPublic have strong communities that really pays more attention to original stories written on the websites by the users than most of the links posted there. It would take the users themselves, especially the “powerful” ones, to take more of a stand and write about charities (then link to them, of course). Still, the sites can help promote it through special sections dedicated strictly to charity and posted on the front page.
Yahoo! Buzz – still a tough one to understand from a traffic perspective, but potentially the most powerful of them all. As with Slashdot, the super-popular stories are hand-picked, so squeezing in a story or two every now and then for the sake of righteousness would be a piece of cake.
StumbleUpon already has a way to implement charity into their system. They have an advertising platform that allows people to buy Stumbles for a nickel. Why not open that up and allow some charities to join in? They could easily send a conservative 500-1000 people a day to a page with a 5 cent discount given to charities. My math is spotty at best, but I believe that comes to a total cost of none, both for the charity and for StumbleUpon. If it does well, the charities can always purchase more than their low daily quota.
Regardless of what they do, it is important and practical that they do something. Times are tough for many. Charitable giving is naturally down as a result. With the power that they wield, it just makes sense that they should use just a small bit of that power to help make the world better.
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