Jon Thomas
Jon Thomas
Communications Director

The True Heart of Social Media

An inspiring thing has happened to our social media feeds in the last week. The tightrope of life and death that we all walk on was exposed for one young entrepreneur. Refusing to take his situation lying down, he’s using viral marketing to raise awareness for his ailment and motivate people across the globe to help save his life.

Amit Gupta was a regular ol’ human being like the rest of us. An entrepreneur living in San Francisco, Amit founded Photojojo and Jelly, among many other endeavors—until just a few short weeks ago, when everything changed. That’s when he received a call from his doctor telling him he had Acute Leukemia and needed to pack up and enter treatment right away.

Amit is currently undergoing arduous chemotherapy, but his next hurdle is even larger. He’ll need a bone marrow transplant, and minorities are severely underrepresented in the bone marrow pool. Amit is of South Asian descent, and is urging those of similar descent to test themselves to see if they might be a match. The bone marrow testing kit is free and takes literally seconds to perform (I’ve done it). But spreading the word and motivating people of similar descent to enter the donor pool is no easy or simple task.

Enter: the power of social media. Let’s find out how Amit has reached out over the vast social web to find himself a match—and the touching story it’s evolved into.

Going “Viral”

One man with a plea for help. It’s a heart-wrenching story, except it doesn’t stop there, and it’s not just a single man. What started as a single blog post exploded across the social media universe. Seth Godin, a good friend of Amit, wrote a blog post about his cause and suggested a Twitter hashtag — #iswabbedforAmit. He even offered any bone marrow match a $10,000 check for themselves or the charity of their choice. Numerous other offers have been Tweeted and blogged, including a free first class round-trip flight to NYC. The outpouring of support has surely warmed the heart of Gupta, whose story has been featured on NBC, CNN Money, The Next Web, and numerous other outlets.

There’s no misconception that Amit is the only person of South Asian descent suffering from Acute Leukemia. But while there are certainly self-serving rewards to the movement to swab for Amit, a rising tide lifts all boats. The more people become aware of the desperate need for bone marrow donors, the more likely it is that a given Acute Leukemia sufferer’s life will be saved.

Social Media Storytelling

We often say here at Post-Advertising and Story that great stories spread, and those with the best stories win. In this story, Amit isn’t the hero—he’s the mentor. We, the public (particularly those of S. Asian descent), are the heros, called to action to take 5 minutes of our day to order a kit (for free), swab our cheek, and mail it back. And the potential reward? Saving lives, plus all the aforementioned perks (and more that weren’t mentioned). That’s a story that will spread.

Social media has the power to turn the voice of one into the voice of many. When brands create media that informs or entertains (or both), they can empower their audience to spread that media to their audiences. That’s exactly what’s happening here—Amit’s story has empowered individuals (Amit’s audience) to spread the story to their own audiences (me sharing it on Twitter, Facebook, and this blog). With every share, the investment in the original piece of media goes further and further, extending to months or even years.

What can brands learn from Amit’s story?

First, find the story at the heart of your brand—the one that targets their hearts, not just their wallets—and tell that story. Your brand is unlikely to have a story in any way similar to Amit’s, but that doesn’t mean your story won’t resonate. Maybe you’re just a salad dressing brand, but have you helped thousands of people lose weight? Maybe you are simply a manufacturer of widgets, but do you do this exclusively in your home country creating new jobs? Selling a $3 product once will only get you so far, but a story will work for your brand for far longer.

Second, find ways to create good in the world, inherently creating a shock and awe effect. In other words, give more than just a few coupons or a free t-shirt. Seth Godin is a friend of Amit’s, but his willingness to contribute to the cause has further endeared the Godin brand to many readers. You don’t have to be saving the world to be a brand that’s talked about, but you do need to take actions that are bold, unique, and truly make a difference. Converse did this when they built a recording studio in Brooklyn for musicians to use… for free. It’s not about broadcasting your charitable causes, but stepping up and making a difference in a way that makes sense to your brand and your audience.

If you’d like to help Amit and his cause, you can follow him on his Tumblr account, Twitter account, or simply go here to order a free test by mail.