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Giving Fresh Blood and Learning How Social Media Saves Lives!

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So this past Christmas season I thought… what’s a creative way that our team could give back to people for the holidays? Sign up to give gifts to needy children? …Not that it’s not a worthy cause, but it just didn’t feel like the right event for our team. And besides, asking a bunch of consulting / techie guys to go shopping is not my idea of fun. What I needed was an idea that was more creative, original, fresh!

Well the answer came when Sean Debutts from the Puget Sound Blood Center came to give a demonstration to our office on how social media has increased donations by 30%. He mentioned that they were doing a blood drive for the first few weeks of December because donations drop off towards Christmas, exactly when they need it the most. Supply runs low when demand is high.

So I thought, why not do a blood drive for our office? It’s not asking anybody to spend money, there’s no shopping involved, and it saves lives. Plus it’s unique and different for Christmas. Fresh type of event. Perfect!

And when I brought it up at the meeting, everyone agreed that it was a great idea, nodded that they would like to participate, and so I scheduled our appointment. No big deal, everybody was on board, nothing to worry about.

Or so I thought…

My first inkling that something was a bit off was when I sent out emails confirming our appointment time.

Only one person emailed me back.

Hmmmm…that’s a bit strange, I thought. They must not have gotten the message (although you could send these guys a text at 2 am and receive an immediate response). Must be really busy with client work.

Slowly the emails confirming the appointment came drifting in late Sunday night.

On Monday of our appointment, one guy who I hadn’t heard from kept coming in to ask me every couple of hours, “We still going to that thing at 3:00 today?” In the same voice of a kid asking, Are we there yet? “Yes,” I would answer. He would take a deep breath, sigh and say, “Okay,” and walk out of the room, only to come back in two hours later to ask the same thing. Weird, I thought. Why does he keep forgetting the time of the appointment?

So I went up to him and said, “Hey did you know I need your date of birth to make the appointment for giving blood today? I sent you a couple of emails, but you must have been too busy to read them.”

He looked down and then whispered, “It’s not that. I’m still thinking about it.”

“Thinking about it?”

He nodded slowly. “I’ll let you know,” he said.

Okay I was beginning to understand what was going on here. No wonder the emails were late, the sighs so loud. But honestly the last thing I would ever think is that the Fresh Consulting guys were scared. Of like, anything! Not when they do dangerous sports like rock climbing and snowboarding to the extreme…Basically activities I mentally classify under “Weird Things Men Do That I Don’t Understand.” I was tempted to ask him: what’s a little needle compared to hanging backwards off the edge of a cliff or dropping a massive cliff while backcountry skiing?

Besides this guy is super nice, and there’s no way he isn’t going to show up and help people and be part of the team! I nodded and then started looking for his email confirming he was coming with us. But…

11 am: nothing.
12:00 pm: nothing.
1:00 pm: nothing.
2:00 pm: nothing.
2:50 pm, as I’m putting on my jacket to leave, I look down the hall towards his office. I don’t hear any voices. I sigh, bite my lip, fuss with my scarf. I check my watch again. We are all standing in the hallway. Standing outside his office door trying to look casual, wondering if I should go in there, just to, you know “see how he is doing” (no pressure or anything!) when I hear his voice behind me, “Aren’t you guys ready yet?” he laughs.

And just that decision alone saved three lives, and as a team we saved eighteen! And because he decided to join us, we won the blood drive contest with 100% participation! Steve Hulet even went above and beyond the call of duty by doing a double red cell donation (took three times as long!). We all had a great time, and it was a great bonding experience for everybody.

I decided to ask Sean DeButts a couple of questions about how it all works and how he’s using social media to help save lives.

Q&A questions with Sean:

1. How is Puget Sound Blood Center using social media to increase donations?

The social media program is increasing donations by building long-term relationships. We use Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Announcing blood shortages in Western Washington is important, but we’re going to get the most ROI by being an active member of the social media community. We try to be friendly, thank donors, answer questions, engage people and promote other worthy causes. These give our followers value and invite friends to donate.

2. What are your upcoming technology plans?

The next version of our “Donate Blood” Facebook application will let donors form competing teams. We will also add fun features such as awards, quizzes and newsfeed posts to encourage viral growth. The program also will incorporate location-based applications and mobile technologies. Thanks in part to some pro-bono advice from Fresh Consulting, we are creating a Google Maps mashup that will display the locations of blood drives. I hope that eventually we’ll have applications for iPhones, Androids and Blackberries.

3. I understand you’re using social media to encourage ethnic minorities to donate blood?

Yes, social media is crucial for that. Less than one percent of donors in Western Washington belong to ethnic minorities, and it can be a matter of survival for patients to receive blood from donors of the same ethnicity. Receiving from someone who’s genetically similar to you helps ensure compatibility. Social media sites, especially Twitter and MySpace, are perfect for spreading that information to motivate new donors.

It’s really easy, and fun to do as a group. Almost anybody can give blood and by doing so save lives.

Kate London

Kate London