Social Media Can Save Your Life, Move Corporations For Good

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Crowdsourcing–outsourcing using crowds–has been employed to tackle all kinds of problems, from helping SETI probe radio signals for alien life to establishing where the best burger in town can be found. But, according to a presentation from Stanford University professor Jennifer Lynn Aaker at the Web 2.0 Expo, it can also have much more important, life-altering results. Or perhaps that should be life-saving.

Lynn Aaker spoke about a student of hers, Robert Chatwani, who discovered that two of his friends needed bone marrow transplants. Because both were of South Asian descent, only 1% of donors in the US national registry were potential potential matches. Chatwani’s way of improving the odds? Social media.

Chatwani and friends used sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to drive “Help Sameer” and “Help Vanay” projects, while also raising awareness for bone narrow transplants. They caught the attention of corporate America in the process: Adobe, Accenture and Cisco were amongst the companies that either held bone marrow drives or offered support, with the end result that 24,611 South Asians were registered as donors, and both of Chatwani’s friends found donors.

Sadly, the story doesn’t end happily; both of Chatwani’s friends died following their transplants, but 266 other patients in the US found matches as a result of the activity, something Lynn Aaker calls “the dragonfly effect”–small acts having large results because of the central idea’s depth. Even if the idea of finding donors fails to move you, the idea of motivating corporations to support your cause through social media alone is an example of how powerful social media can be, given the right idea behind it.

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