It was with a heavy heart that I watched the news unfold from the Boston Marathon. Seeing tweet after tweet, and article after article as different reports came in – I eventually had to turn off the computer and step away. I’ve been a runner for over six years, but a believer in the good of human nature and spirit for much longer. And no, this post won’t be about my thoughts of what happened that day, but it’s about what I decided to do after it & how I made it happen.
The morning after the marathon, I woke up and emailed a close group of running buddies to join me for an informal run the following Sunday morning to honor the victims. I suggested we wear our favorite race shirts to show solidarity with those who didn’t get to cross the finish line, and I threw out the idea of making a monetary donation somewhere or collecting something to donate, but didn’t provide specifics. A few people wrote me back and said they would definitely be there and that they liked the idea and symbolism of doing a group run that morning. The response wasn’t huge, but it was enough for me to block that time off on my calendar.
Since some of my closest running friends are active on Twitter I decided to quickly post a tweet asking others if they wanted to join in and I really didn’t give it much thought after that. Cut to eight hours later: I was scheduled for an interview with two local news stations, emails from excited participants were pouring in, and it just kept growing from there. You can read all about our run here, here, here, and here. It was an incredibly beautiful morning as close to 700 Charlestonians gathered together to run for Boston.
How did it get so big? At first glance the concept of spreading the word via social media seems so simple, but when I thought about how I promoted my small idea, and that small idea was adopted and spread by so many others until it took on a life of its own, I realized I had established branding, marketing strategy and execution techniques that made the run such a success – and I hadn’t even realized it! My marketing gears were turning from that Tuesday morning up until my last interview after the run on Monday afternoon.
All good things start with a big idea. No campaign should run without a main goal or objectives. My goal was to get people to run to honor the Boston marathon. I wanted to show Boston that the Charleston community is behind them and that we are all “gonna keep on running.” Next, I asked for help. Social media only works if you ask others to help you. Information doesn’t spread on its own, it travels faster with friends. (Huge shout out to the Low country Road Runners here for assisting me with this item.) Then I had to keep it going. Each new day I posted messages to my Twitter feed with updates about the run as they developed, and simply thanked people for sharing it with their friends and asked them to keep spreading the message. (You will be surprised how much help and support you receive if you ask politely and remember to say “thank you”.) The last thing to think about for a successful social campaign is customization – what makes your cause stand out? We chose a simple hashtag: #chsrunsforboston – it was easy to share, made it easy for Twitter users to find information about the run, and became our rallying cry to unite together.
And unite we did. Perhaps it was my marketing brain, perhaps I just got lucky (a little bit of both?) but that day, I could feel the crowd’s positive energy and my spirits lifted.
Adrienne Levy is an account executive, runner, social media believer & cause marketing lover.