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UFCaires Conference Conveys Power of Social Media Campaigns in Today’s World

The sheer number of social media platforms, crowdsourcing sites, and blogs can be overwhelming. How, then, do we harness the power of technology to enact change? April 17 and 18, UFCaires hosted a Sustainability and Social Media Conference at the University of Florida Levin College of Law. It introduced people of all ages and backgrounds to social media best practices and success stories regarding sustainability and social justice-related online campaigns.

Jeremy Heimans, founder and CEO of the social business, Purpose, opened the conference on its first evening. Jeremy shared with attendees some of the same ideas from his June 2014 TED talk, with the theme of “new power” versus “old power.” The concept of new power is enabled by technology and is fundamentally “bottom-up.” It is based on transparency, crowdsourcing, collaboration and a wide scope of engagement. Companies such as Uber have been very successful using a new power business model, while old power institutions such as McDonald’s have tried to transition to new power practices and failed.

Old power is, in short, institutional power. Ideas are sourced from within; decisions are made by executives behind closed doors. Social media rarely plays any significant role in the establishment or management of the institution, except perhaps for advertising purposes. Old power is leader-driven, while old power is peer-driven. The advent of social media has brought about this new era, and Jeremy believes this is only the beginning of a drastic global power shift.​

The following day consisted of a series of lectures and panel discussions, with topics ranging from brand management for green businesses to what goes into successful social media and crowdfunding campaigns. The closing presentation, by Ryan Cohn of Sachs Media Group, was titled, “Social Strategy: How to build and empower online communities.” He underlined the importance of setting measureable objectives and identifying your audience for the best social media strategy. According to Ryan, getting a lot of likes or follows is not a good enough objective. And, when it comes to content, “video wins.” Ryan’s talk tied very well into the theme of the day: that sustainability activists, as well as green businesses and nonprofits, need to take a hard look at what online campaigns and organizations have been successful throughout the world since the dawn of “new power.”