The Special Olympics Turns to Facebook Apps, Twitter

-The R Word Badge-The Special Olympics launched a major online social media campaign on March 31st called “Spread the Word to End the Word.” And what word would that be? The R-word. “Retard.”

The word has a derogatory meaning in many aspects of our culture, and when used in jest or otherwise, the result can be damaging and has a lasting effect on organizations such as The Special Olympics that fight to empower people with disabilities. The social media campaign itself was a success, and The Special Olympics is quick to attribute the power of the individuals that make up the various social networking sites for their support.

From 55,000 pledges on Facebook’s Causes application, to thousands of tweets and 16,000 video streams, “Spread the Word to End the Word” moved across the web and garnered the support of many.

While it’s difficult to measure the long-term success of such a campaign, it’s clear that turning to online mechanisms for raising awareness and starting a social movement has become par for the course. And the array of social networks, communities and blogs that covered the event have also proven that there are a great many avenues by which an initiative can gain traction in order to see unified success.

Looking at the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign and its plethora of media and distribution methods also demonstrates the evolution we’re seeing in regards to what’s considered a successful set of metrics. Instead of merely relying on ads and click-through metrics for links posted across networks like Facebook, and instead of limiting itself to niche blogs, The Special Olympics really branched out to cast a wide net seeking coverage and support, turning to third party developer applications and microblogging in order to deeply engage individuals.

The Causes app has been an influential application for quite some time, and is empowered by its integration with an existing social network. And Twitter, which has its superstar power users, is still quite effective when an aggregate of users merely retweet a message posted by an individual.

Having a reliance on what seemed like small pieces of the larger social networking picture for the success of a particular online campaign is something unexpected only three years ago. Now the microcosms that appear within a larger network have essentially driven a large portion of the ongoing success The Special Olympics has seen just three days after its big push. These have become the new kings of social media analytics.

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