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Published on May 12th, 2008 | by maxgladwell


Ten Ways to Change the World Through Social Media

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Editor’s note: We’re pleased to welcome Max Gladwell, of, as a regular guest writer on sustainablog. Max Gladwell covers the nexus of social media and green living. We feel that these two trends and technological developments hold tremendous promise for improving quality of life for everyone on the planet.

If you’re reading this blog, then you’re on board with social media. There’s a good chance you belong to social networks like Facebook or MySpace. It’s likely that you Digg stories and even possible that you Twitter. These technologies and services, together with a growing number of others, make up the social web. It’s much like the regular web, but more interactive. More…social. It invites and even demands active participation from everyone. It has a global reach with viral capacity, and yet it’s bringing local communities closer together. It enables people to connect, organize, and make a difference as never before. Indeed, social media is a powerful force, one that the world’s CEOs are starting to acknowledge and take seriously.

Many entrepreneurs, activists, and marketers are leveraging the social web for positive change. In the process and by its very nature, they are giving each of us the tools to change the world and make it a better place. There are thousands of examples, which is precisely why Max Gladwell exists. Here are 10 worth exploring.

causes_logo.gif1. Do-Good Widgets: If you’re Facebook page was a car, these would be your bumper stickers. Only these do more than spread the message. Widgets are standalone web applications that can run inside any web page. They take many forms, ranging from the absurd to the truly useful and socially valuable. The best ones engage us in ways that lead to action, awareness, and even fund-raising. Facebook was the first to offer them, and MySpace recently followed. Other social networks offer widgets, but these two have a scale that gives them unrivaled potential. Causes is the 800-pound gorilla in the do-good widget space with millions of daily active users on Facebook alone. If you support a cause, chances are you can find it in Causes. We support 14 ranging from “Recycle not Waste” to “Ride Bikes” and “GREEN“. Each Cause enables you to recruit others and make donations.

A new suite of widgets from Dank Apps called Social Change offers widgets for three main initiatives: Stop Climate Change Now, which raises funds for The Nature Conservancy; Earn For AIDS, which raises funds for the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative; and Earn for Breast Cancer, which raises funds for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Each of these allows you to send karma points to friends and play games, all of which generate donations from sponsors.

I’m sure I’d get hate comments if I didn’t also mention Lil Green Patch, which has helped to save over 20 million square feet of rainforest.


2. Get a Green Job: The business networking space is currently dominated by LinkedIn, but JustMeans has a new social media platform that “rallies both companies and individuals around social responsibility.” As you make your way through the registration and profile-building gauntlet, you are posed with two unique questions: What kind of change do you want to create in the world over the next 12 months? How do you plan on creating this positive change? The site encourages networking between members by recommending matches based on shared interests. Plus, you can network with companies themselves as “stakeholders”. Companies as well as nonprofits set up their own profiles, similar to Facebook Pages, where they can post content about initiatives and CSR efforts. An entire section of the site is dedicated to job listings. This is business networking with a purpose.


3. Greenstream: Twitter is a way to stay in touch with friends and keep up with breaking news. It is a source of both cutting-edge news and unchecked banality. It all depends on how you want to use it. You can follow CNN, BBC, GreenOptions, and MaxGladwell as “micro-blogs”, where you receive bits of news and links in 140 characters or less. Or you can track the musings of iJustine and Aubs for pure entertainment value. Recently, we started a new Twitter channel called the “greenstream.” Whereas Twitter asks, “What are you doing”, this adds “that is green?” So if you’re shopping at a farmer’s market, drinking organic fair trade coffee*, or carpooling to work, these qualify as Tweets for the greenstream. Just tag your Tweet with “#greenstream”, and it will be indexed for viewing by all. Alternately, if you want to Twitter a green tip, just enter “#greentip” and check the index page for those.

hugg.gif4. Hugg a Story: is the green counterpart to the wildly popular These are social news sites that enable users to vote and comment on what’s important (and what’s not). This process places the power in the hands of real people who, collectively, determine which issues get attention, rather than leaving it up to the major news organizations to tell us what’s important. The great thing about them, though, is that they get better and more accurate as more people participate. So it’s your civic and social duty to Hugg and Digg stories that matter to you.

Make The Difference Network Logo5. Join the “Make The Difference Network“: Actress Jessica Biel, in a collaboration with her father and brother, just launched a social network that connects people and businesses with charitable organizations. Make The Difference Network already has a number of prominent celebrities signed up as members, complete with their favorite causes. Each of the site’s constituencies has a profile platform, and it’s free for all to participate. The “Find Your Wish” section gives people some direction in matching their personal interests or passions with charities ranging from addiction and animals to labor and literacy.

Alonovo Logo6. Go Shopping: Your purchasing decisions matter. Though presidential elections come once every four years, you vote with your wallet every day. Combined with the tools of social media, you get social shopping. Alonovo describes this as “the power of millions of informed, aware and caring people acting in concert. For a better world.” The company provides a platform in which to interact with fellow conscious consumers, to research products based on a range of social and environmental criteria, and ultimately make informed purchases through You choose a charitable benefactor, and 50-100% of the commission paid to Alonovo is donated on your behalf.

OsoEco, which is currently in private beta, takes a different tact. Using a bookmark feature for the Firefox browser, you can pull products from any retail site and import them into OsoEco with one click. It’s much like a wiki in this way (more below). Then you review the product for others to see and rate. According to the company, they “created OsoEco to answer our own questions about what’s green, what’s sustainable, and what kinds of things we should buy and do that are good for our communities and, not to sound completely cheesy and cliche, our world.”

Playgreen Logo7. Contribute to a Wiki: Most are familiar with Wikipedia. It’s a fantastic resource for information and an even more incredible phenomenon of collaborative creation on a global scale. What’s incredible to consider, though, is that it’s just the beginning. As author Clay Shirky points out, it’s a drop in the well compared to the untapped potential of our cognitive surplus. is one example of how wikis are being built for specific topic areas. Anyone can contribute or edit articles such as How to build a green PC and RecycleBank. Imagine an entire Wikipedia of knowledge and human experience dedicated to specific issues like global warming, cancer, autism, and renewable energy. That’s where we’re headed.

Ning Logo8. Start Your Own Social Network: Ning has made starting a social network as easy as signing up for an email address. For an example, see the Max Gladwell network or any one of more than 100 networks tagged with “green”. The platform guides you through the customization process, where you can add features like a blog, news feed, videos, calendar, and assorted gadgets (widgets) to give it more utility. This is perfect for organizations on a tight budget that want a place to aggregate information, organize, and keep its members connected. With a bit of coding skill and a premium account, you can customize however you’d like and integrate your own sponsors or advertising.

SocialVibe Logo9. Get Sponsored: SocialVibe is leveraging the traffic we generate from our social networking pages to fund various causes. It works quite simply. You sign up and select from a list of sponsors to endorse, ranging from PowerBar and Cherry Coke to Adobe and Apple. Next, you select a cause to support. We picked an environmental index of sorts that includes “water quality, global warming research and preventative measures, wildlife, agriculture, rainforest preservation and sustainable production of food and building materials.” SocialVibe places your ad on your social networking pages and can also generate code that you can embed most anywhere. When it’s viewed, you generate donations for your cause and also earn points and other perks for yourself.

Ustream Logo10. Broadcast Your Message: The cost of web broadcasting (webcasting) has effectively dropped to zero. A number of new technologies are making it possible for anyone to have their own live online TV channel. Indeed, signing up for is like renting your own production studio. While you’re broadcasting live, viewers can communicate with you and other viewers through a chat interface, and you can even add a co-host. Your “shows” can be archived for later playback, and you can post them to YouTube or your personal pages for further distribution. Ustream also provides a social networking platform and a number of ways to promote your shows, such as through Twitter alerts.

Seesmic has a much different approach with “video conversations”. It’s similar to Twitter in many ways, only instead of posting text entries you record video clips. Other users respond, which forms a thread of video clips that become a video conversation. These clips can be embeded anywhere you want, such as your MySpace page or blog. In fact, Seesmic offers a plugin feature for blogs where you can leave video comments. While there’s nothing particularly green about these video technologies, they represent a next step in communications and an efficient means for producing and distributing green messages.

Shouldn’t green social media be used on a green computer? Check out our selection of desktop computers.

Read more about green social media and web tools:

*Link to the sustainablog Green Choices store

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54 Responses to Ten Ways to Change the World Through Social Media

  1. Kendra Holliday says:

    My newest discovery is ustream – wow, pretty cutting edge!

  2. David Wells says:

    StoryMash is another site you should be aware of. It’s collaborative fiction where anyone can publish their one chapters, and get paid!

  3. Rachel says:

    The news dictates how we see the world and its most urgent stories: why not change the world by changing the news? is an open news platform that democratizes the media by letting everyone self-publish. Plus GroundReport pays everyone based on the traffic to their work.

  4. Roxy says:

    Check out – lots of interesting environmental and political content, and they are planning to take their concept from the internet to mainstream tv and radio… Pretty cool idea!

  5. Verda Vivo says:

    Great resources. Thanks for the article!

  6. Ross says:

    The Matador Network is my latest obsession: it a travel community that is doing amazing things in the world and then turning it into an interactive travel magazine.

    this one is all about volunteering and sustainability:

    and they have thousands of NGO profiles and free volunteer opportunities in their community:


  7. billy says:

    very nice post. i dugg it for you, as i think more should read.

  8. bguptz says:

    Also, I would mention – it’s like digg for adults – as a founding member had told me when he lectured at my class at NU in Boston this past semester. It’s just like digg only it has a more elaborate rating system.

  9. Adam Vaughan says:

    Like it.

    On the Do-good widgets, I’d also recommend the Energy Saving Trust’s one:

  10. geetanjali says:

    I liked this post very much. Another Wikipedia style local wisdom bank is
    –a free to edit site where people can gain information and share their wisdom and knowledge. Check it out!

    Warmly, Geetanjali

  11. Joseph Fiore says:

    Great post! I linked it from our blog. As part of our online brand and reputation monitoring (ORM) services, our company has recently implemented an “eco-graph” which essentially means we are helping in a very small way by promoting awareness and keeping the business community updated on the latest greensmart initiatives, causes or developments that effect their industry – an awareness which in turn helps businesses develop, promote and measure their own achievements and goals through environmental stewardship.


  12. Great article! I wasn’t aware of a lot of the sites you wrote about and am excited to look into them. I created a company in memory of my 28 year old sister that died from breast cancer. Uptown Liz ( promotes products from companies whose proceeds give back to charity. Thanks for writing about all of these great websites that are making a difference.

  13. Great post! One can definitely make a difference through technology.

  14. Nicola Jones says:

    This is a great list, thanks!
    I really like Just Means: a great service.

    You should also check out http://www.unltdworld – an online community that is connecting thousands of social entrepreneurs from around the world.

  15. Great blog post. The green angle is great. There is also a cool facebook app called carpool.


    Rodney Rumford

  16. Missy says:

    I signed up for the GreenStream, as i am an avid Twitter user. Love it. Thanxs for the tip on it.

    I also recommend for the ladies.

    Kirtsy has a good bit of green social media links and stories submitted by users. (like DIGG)

  17. Lynn says:

    I believe the biggest of all the do-good social networks is I’ve had an email account there for years too.

    They also have a much more popular version of Digg than Hugg (which is kind of lame)

    I hadn’t heard of some of these others. Thanks for the heads up.

  18. Lady O says:

    Thanks for sharing. I found this real informative, and am going to look at the social vibe and ustream tv. I do love this site digg, I have recently joined and it is one of my favorites.

  19. Im a Twitter, Digg, Mixx kind of Man…
    but hey,
    without a reddit fix occasionally..Im am nothing!
    Smilez from Houston! Joey A.

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  22. Angie says:

    Great Blog. I will definitely check out other site to see how they may generate more business for me.

  23. paintedlynx says:

    Thank you, this is a wonderful blog post and a great “green” resource for social networking!

  24. BigBan says:

    Oh, Thanks! Really funny. keep working!

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  26. Anne says:

    Here’s a GREAT and easy way to help a 13 year old kid make a HUGE difference for thousands more kids around the globe: Email to subscribe to her inspirational emails through the end of December. The emails will include a link to vote for her project– a website that will safely connect kids to solve real world problems. If she wins this contest, she’ll win the $10,000 to finish this project. When you read about what this young person has already accomplished, you’ll know this isn’t a flash in the pan. This girl is making things happen! Please subscribe.


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  28. Nigel says:

    11. Transform Government
    Social media have proven that people can rapidly coordinate and mobilize without having to rely on a single leader. Isn’t it time for government to catch up? The Metagovernment project is building a new form of governance using internet technologies instead of politicians. You can help the project right now:

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  54. Tei Werth says:

    These 10 (more) ways are extremely interesting and as an environment economist (in process:)) would love to start networking from South Africa – developing country in certain sectors and taking the lead amongst developed countries in other sectors e.g. the financial sector. We are busy with leading edge cell phone marketing & processing software for the insurance sector in Africa & Asia and maybe we can include creating awareness of the “Green Theme” Globally. Please contact me at if you have any creative ideas.

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