Earlier this month, I attended a webinar of the TED2011 conference. TED or Technology, Entertainment and Design was founded in 1984, formed to share “ideas worth spreading.” Speakers have included names like Rory Bremner, James Cameron, Seth Godin, Bill Clinton, Richard Dawkins, Bill Gates and so many other influential figures. Attending the TED events is slightly out of my league, as all attendees must apply for membership before being able to buy a ticket for the conference. Standard membership costs a mere $5,200, so whilst usually attendance is only an option for the fortunate few, this year they had webinars worldwide streaming one day of the TED2011 conference. I attended the webinar in Leeds at Old Broadcasting House, and because of the time difference, the screening was from 4pm to midnight. The organisers plied us with a steady stream of coffee and chocolate to keep everyone’s sugar levels high enough to stay to the end. TED2011 was based around ‘The Rediscovery of Wonder’ with some fantastic speakers like Morgan Spurlock and Bill Gates. Topics discussed included everything from a scientist describing one of nature's breathtaking surprises, an inventor unveiling a new marvel and an artist revealing her impossibly rich imagination.
Every single speaker was fascinating; however, there was one in particular that caught my interest -- CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi. Nooyi has helped PepsiCo start the Pepsi Refresh Project, which funds the highest public voted projects submitted to PepsiCo online. With approximately $5000 per project, she is effectively using micro-funding to create social change in the US. The Pepsi Refresh Project started in January 2010 and has had a lot of publicity since its launch. At the start of 2010 PepsiCo announced that for the first time in 23 years, it would redirect its $20 million Super Bowl Advertising budget into a social media campaign: the Pepsi Refresh Project. This was a social media campaign that lets the online community decide which individuals and groups get awarded serious grants to help do good in the world. The project has not only put a substantial amount of money into many worthy causes, but it has also engineered interaction with its customer base. The project has set the conversations in motion and Pepsi has continued to consistently interact with these conversations. Head of Digital at PepsiCo Beverages Shiv Sing has suggested that the RefreshEverything.com site now attracts more unique users on a monthly basis than other sites with which the brand would previously have considered purchasing display advertising. In addition to this, the sites accrued more than 7,500 applications in its first year, and 42 million votes. Meanwhile, the brand's "likes" on Facebook have increased from 225,000 to well over a million in that period, and its Twitter following and YouTube presence have also grown!! Not every company has the resource or the brand power to create a social media strategy of this scale, but with community engagement now an integral part of any company’s online strategy, the question is how will you apply this thinking to your business?