Anne Ford 0000-00-00 00:00:00
When Carolyn Schriber, president of her Lions club in Germantown, Tennessee, recently posted a quick message on the social networking site Twitter—“Distributing pecans for Lions holiday sale”—she thought she was just making an offhand remark, sort of the online equivalent of “Hot enough for ya?” What she was doing, it turned out, was some low-key but effective marketing. Within one day, “I got messages from people on Twitter saying, ‘How can I get some pecans? Can you send them to me?’” Schriber says, surprised. “These were non-Lions—just people on Twitter who had seen it.” Her experience wasn’t a fluke, as Hugh Donagher can attest. “This past year, our club was having a corned beef dinner, and just as a lark, I posted [on Twitter] that we were having a dinner and mentioned the price and time,” says Donagher, president of the Silicon Valley Lions, Mountain View, California. “I got responses from my neighbors saying, ‘Is it too late to come?’ That blew my mind.” The profits from those pecan and corned beef sales are helping the Germantown and Silicon Valley Lions provide much-needed vision services. And Twitter, it happens, is helping Lions clubs across the country gain publicity, connect with current and potential members and even advance fundraising efforts. Launched in 2006, Twitter is a free online service that allows users to send and receive short messages known as “tweets.” Subscribing to a user’s tweets means that you are “following” him or her. Users can read tweets on a computer or a Web-enabled phone. It’s also possible to post links to photos, as well as to other Web sites. When Twitter made its debut, many dismissed it as merely a way for users to blather on about boring personal minutiae—“I’m eating a ham sandwich!” and the like. And it’s true that some Twitterers use it that way. But the technology’s potential for spreading information to thousands of users in real time has been realized as well. For example, witnesses to tragedies such as the 2008 bombings in Mumbai, India, have used Twitter to get out information about the disasters as they were happening. More recently, public health departments have begun using Twitter to spread alerts about the availability of flu vaccines. So how are Lions using this powerful technology? In a bouquet of ways: sending out information about fundraisers, as Scriber and Donagher have done, reminding members of upcoming meetings, publicizing service opportunities, networking with other service organizations, announcing birthdays or awards, sending out inspirational quotes and reposting (or “retweeting,” as it’s known) items from the Twitter updates of other clubs and of Lions Clubs International. Jen Cordio, president of the Ayer-Shirley Lions Club in Ayer, Massachusetts, opened a Twitter account for her club in July as part of her efforts to increase Lions’ visibility in the community. “It seemed like a good, easy way to put our name out there and generate more interest, and to get some people to come to our events who are different than the people we’d maybe reach through a newspaper [ad], because so many people don’t read newspapers anymore,” she says. And, unlike a traditional print ad, Twitter is free, she points out. “It’s hard to turn down an opportunity that’s just sitting there,” she says. In addition to being free, Twitter, which limits messages to 140 characters, offers the advantage of conveying information in quick, to-the-point sound bites that are easily digestible by busy people. Or, as Schriber puts it: “It makes you get your point across and shut up.” Can Twitter help Lions attract new members to their clubs? Sort of. “Twitter is a nice first introduction to the Lions,” says Wendy Richardson, board member of the Eastpointe Lions Club in Michigan. “It’s very noninvasive.” But, she cautions, don’t expect to set up a Twitter account, tweet a few times and expect the new members to beat down your clubhouse door. “You still have to have that one-on-one attention to people,” she says. “People are going to come to a dinner because they’ve been asked personally. But at least this way you have people who have already shown an interest in what you’re doing. When they come to a meeting, it’s not ‘I don’t know what you guys do.’ It’s ‘I already understand what you do, and I want to be involved.’ ”
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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