Mark Horvath, known as "HardlyNormal" on Twitter and who is a tireless advocate for the cause of homelessness, was the winner of the SXSW Pepsi Refresh Challenge. Gary Vee, a social media celebrity champion and many others, helped this cause win the contest and receive a grant of $50,000 for Invisible People TV.
Mark uses social media to tell the story of homeless people in America. He plans to use the grant to create a training program to teach homeless people to use social media tools to tell their own story. As his celebrity champion, Gary Vee, says in this video, having homeless people use social media to leverage their situation is a powerful idea.
The SXSW Pepsi Fresh Challenge matched three different causes with three social media rock stars. The rules were simple, the winner who got the most retweets of a unique tag won. Gary Vee used the tag RefreshGary as part of the session hashtag which was certainly helped, although the rules only counted a specific user's retweet once within a two-hour period.
Social media celebrity charity endorsements with social media rock stars helped raised the visibility of the contest and as a by-product, the different causes. I think it is important for the contest design to think about sustainability, longer term results, and doing no harm to charity. I think what propelled Mark's success are the very principles that Gary Vee lives and breathes everyday and writes about in his book, Crush It:
- Passion: You can hear it when Mark talks about his issue, you can see in his tweets, and in everything he does to raise our awareness of homelessness. He doesn't give up. I had the opportunity to watch him work first hand as he gave pizza for some of Austin's homeless outside the bars where other SXSW attenders were having a good time at parties.
- Community Builder: Mark never pitches his cause when he first meets you. He doesn't pitch. He tries to help you. He reciprocates, he listens. He has built a supportive network of people who help him fuel his cause. He knows how to empower people in his network as well as say thank you
During SXSW, Mark was doing interviews in the Beacon Nonprofit Lounge. I was honored that he asked me for an interview and even more honored that Debra Askanase was on the room to live blog the answers.
I sent a note thanking Debra for her post and we had a quick email. She shared a wonderful story about yet another one of the wonderful people in Mark's Network, Jessica Gottlieb
She's quite a powerful force. She tweeted last night something like "if you want to talk to me tonight, you'll have to use the hashtag #refreshgary."
I thought it was such a great idea I told her so and tweeted: "I love that @JessicaGottlieb says "If you want to talk to me tonight you'll need to use #refreshgary." I'll ask the same, pls. Good cause."
She responded to my later tweet to her pointing out that people could only tweet the hashtag once every hour or so: "@askdebra yep. but there's one hour left and I have 13,000 followers. I'd like as many replies as possible."
Then she tweeted to me: "@askdebra I'm totally aware that I'm spamming, I've been so impacted by @invisiblepeople that I'll ask forgiveness of my followers tomorrow."
Jessica shares how she helped in the contest.
There are trade offs that happen when a cause, free agent fundraiser or nonprofit participates in one of these "vote for me contests" sponsored by a corporate brand. People are smart enough to know what is authentic and what is not. And, sometimes cause marketing from brands can get in the way of building a passionate and committed community around a cause, particularly when heartfelt thank yous are edited out. Nonetheless, this is a victory for Mark's cause!
Congrats! Applause! Hi Fives! Hugs!