In the first category, there are few better-known or more-moving stories that of David Armano, VP of Experience Design for Chicago-based Critical Mass. Armano had been blogging and tweeting for some time when he introduced his followers to Daniela and her three children shortly after New Year' Day 2009. It's worth noting, that he was a known entity who had established credibility over years.
He wasn't sure at first, what he should do when his wife Belinda, came home with Daniela, a house cleaner who was divorcing a consistently abusive husband. She had no money, no home and three children, the youngest of whom had Down Syndrome. The Armano's had two kids of their own and a relatively small home. So he turned for help to a community he knew and where he was known.
He wrote a moving post, asking people to help him raise $5,000 so Daniela could get an apartment, furniture and cover deposits. He also asked his Twitter followers to spread the word.
In the next 24 hours Armano's effort raised more than $12,000. In all, 545 people would donate $16,880.
With David serving as the fund's steward, Daniela found a clean two-bedroom apartment in a north Chicago suburb. Through the awareness David raised some furniture was also donated. "They now have a huge advantage as we're taking care of the rent with the funds you donated," David wrote in one of several posts that kept contributors and followers posted.
David doesn't think this story of helping a family in transition would have happened without Twitter. Like so many stories in my book, this involved using blogs to go long and deep, and using Twitter to amplify a blogger's voice and spread word rapidly.
"Twitter was perfect for raising awareness and generating a viral effect which spilled outside of my network into others. I primed my followers and they started paying attention quickly. When the word got out, it was retweeted hundreds of times pushing #daniela into the number one trending topic," he told me. Blog traffic ran about 30 times his usual rate. "The immediacy of the donations would not have been possible had it not been for Twitter.
He used TwitPic to add to his personal credibility in telling the story, showing photos of Daniela's family property stored in his garage. Twitter also pointed people to an emotional video he produced a few hours after the original post and when contributions blew right past his stated goal.
David warns that Twitter itself is not sufficient for raising funds for causes. In my interchange with him, he kept going back to credibility-related issues.
"Having large networks doesn’t give us the right to ask for anything. We found ourselves in a crisis situation and didn’t know how else to get help and I have been fortunate to have enough people who realized this and alerted others on behalf. Like any other network, Twitter requires us to be transparent and authentic in order to leverage the people who power the network to get them to act."
It also required follow-through. He regularly posted updates on how the family was doing. He used the #daniella Hashtag so that interested parties could track the entire Twitterville conversation regarding Daniela.
He also shared that with the overwhelmingly positive experience, there was a downside, one that I will mention in my next charter called "Twitterville's Dark Streets." One tweeter became obsessed either with Daniela or her story. He started barraging the conversation with
unsubstantiated claims, sort of like throwing rocks in a tweetstream. David feared that the person might pose a real danger, and used Twitter's "block" feature to delete the intruder from the conversation.
"If you are going to ask
for help, be prepared to help yourself because raising a significant
amount of money through a network will attract all kinds of attention.
Be ready for anything, especially the responsibility that comes with
it," he warned.