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Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Building Online Communities and Selling Lemonade

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Kayla (9) left and Jordan (6) right, selling lemonade for a good cause

Every summer, my creative and talented wife Susie encourages my two daughters (ages 9 and 6) to create a bucket list of all the activities she’d like to organize during their summer vacation. For the past two years, one item on that list has helped me professionally through building online communities and selling lemonade. Let me explain.

As part of summer fun, , my oldest decided that she wanted to host a lemonade stand at our house. This was no ordinary lemonade stand, this was a lemonade stand to help other people.

When my wife and I heard her speak those words, we immediately welled up. It was a proud moment that we will always remember.  However, it got even better.

She said, “How about we donate the money to kids that need help?”

My wife asked, “What do you mean?”

My oldest said, “Let’s donate the money to kids with cancer.”

Again, another tissues moment.

After a little research, my wife found an organization called Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF).

From the ALSF website:

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) emerged from the front yard lemonade stand of cancer patient Alexandra “Alex” Scott (1996-2004). In 2000, 4-year-old Alex announced that she wanted to hold a lemonade stand to raise money to help find a cure for all children with cancer. Since Alex held that first stand, the Foundation bearing her name has evolved into a national fundraising movement, complete with thousands of supporters across the country carrying on her legacy of hope.

After reading that short story, my wife and I knew that the idea was perfect. With this charity in mind and a date booked, we set out on a mission to raise $500 for the first year. Well, we surpassed that mark by $500, taking $1,001 in donations. Fast forward to this year and the kids outdid themselves, raising $1,550.

You’re probably saying, “Whoa, that’s a lot of lemonade.”

Well, of course we didn’t sell that munch lemonade. We sold nearly $300 each year during the event, but the rest was done through social media and online community building.

As the director of Digital Integration and Social Business for Schneider Associates, it’s my job to help brands talk to their audiences through online communications. In English, that means Facebook, Twitter, video content, online advertising, message boards and groups

To help my girls reach their goal, my wife and I did exactly what I encourage Schneider Associates clients to do:

Create Content that will Resonate with your Core Audience

As a parent, I was touched by Alex’s story. I can’t imagine life without either one of my kids. And, because most of my friends have kids the same age, I knew that Alex’s story would resonate. As a result, the “ask” was not tough to make. My wife and I posted a variety of items on Facebook and Twitter, talking about our kid’s  efforts to raise money for a good cause. Over the course of a month, we leveraged a publishing calendar to ensure that our content was published on a regular base, across all applicable networks, but told different aspects of Alex’s story and its impact on our family..

We Talked to People About Our Effort

One thing you cannot do in social media, is “set it and forget it.” You have engage with your audience on a regular basis. Our audience not only included our friends and family, but also the folks that run the social media channels for ALSF and Country Time Lemonade, which has a sponsorship deal in place with the foundation. Additionally, we engaged with key influencers in our home city of Revere, MA. This included the mayor, city councilors and the two newspapers that cover the city.

Don’t End with a Simple Thank You

As donations were pouring into the effort through our social media outreach, we followed with each person individually and thanked them in a manner that was personal. No blanket thank you’s. We sent personal notes and asked them for their continued support by tweeting, liking, commenting—whatever method they felt comfortable using to help the cause. We encouraged our supporters to encourage their friends, families and colleagues to support the cause.

It Worked

To date, my daughters have raised nearly $2,600 for ALSF. As a result, they have been recognized by the City of Revere as well as the MA House of Representatives for their efforts, receiving accommodations by both the Mayor of Revere and our city’s state Representative. My wife and I are proud parents and we’re looking forward to raising even more money next year.

ALSF is a great cause that still needs help. If you wish to show your support, please visit the website or maybe, if you’re thirsty, host an ASLF lemonade stand of your own.

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The kids were recognized by the Mayor of Revere for their fundraising efforts

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