How Twitter Helped Save the Life of a Dog

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Editor’s note: this post is meant as a sincere THANK YOU to all of those people who donated, Tweeted, and helped to spread the word about an extremely ill stray dog who is now on the mend and known as Lilly. Without your help and support I am not sure she would have survived. Every single penny that you donated went directly to her care. This brief post is my attempt to give something back to the greater Twitter community at large. Hopefully it will inspire or help those of you who have been hesitant about using Twitter and social media to garner support for ‘your cause’.

Twitter as Awareness & Fundraising Tool

There have been many awareness and fundraising campaigns on Twitter. Organizations, individuals, and concerned citizens on a global scale have all tapped into the power of Twitter while seeking assistance.

Heck, I joined Twitter about a year ago looking to connect with like-minded humanitarians because Leo Babauta, Dan Clements, Andrew Flusche, and I were getting ready to launch Train for Humanity (a non-profit we created to help raise awareness and funds for orphans and refugees in Darfur).

Depending on who you follow it’s not uncommon on any given day to read in your Twitter stream about people raising funds for every kind of imaginable cause; from animal rescue and literacy, to famine and disease, and everything in between.

It truly is amazing that with Twitter we have the capacity to connect, build and earn trust, and help each other via a simple 140-character Internet application. Groundbreaking.

At this point in time Twitter is quite possibly the best tool for connecting people to causes. (Yes, FaceBook is amazing too.)

However, sometimes you have to wonder, who is on the other end of those pleas for assistance

Lilly’s Twitter Story

My wife works closely with the local rescue group, Animal Welfare of Culebra, here on our little 7×3 mile island in the Caribbean. So in early June when a stray dog all of a sudden collapsed from exhaustion across the street from us, we knew we had no choice but to help.

Unfortunately, there is no veterinarian on our island and thus the stray dog (now known as Lilly) had to be sent to Fajardo by ferry. When the prognosis came in via a phone call, it was not good. She was suffering from malnutrition, dehydration, mange, and worst of all, the very deadly heartworm parasite.

The outlook for Lilly was not good and she needed a lot of help.

Regardless, my wife and I were committed to paying for Lilly’s care out of pocket because Animal Welfare of Culebra receives NO outside grants or federal funding. The organization survives solely on monetary donations from concerned citizens. They are the epitome of a grassroots organization.

With nothing to lose, I decided to send out a simple Tweet:

“Very sweet dog collapsed across the street from our house http://bit.ly/OFM8H and needs your help.”

I have a relatively low ‘Follower’ count, but the message did get re-tweeted a bit and some fantastic folks donated to help offset the cost of Lilly’s care.

Then came more bad news!

On June 8th we were quite worried about Lilly because the veterinarian had called us and he did not know if the heartworm had infiltrated her deeper than previously thought, thus making her too weak for treatment.

Fortunately, later on in the day the diagnostics came back with good news for Lilly. Though quite sick, she could proceed with her course of medication.

While pondering various other ways to help get Lilly well, I am not sure how the thought came about, but I decided to send the following “@” message to Alyssa Milano:

About five minutes later, Alyssa sent out the Tweet below:

Not only did Alyssa make an extremely generous donation towards Lilly’s care, but also upon her request, her (100,000 plus) followers started a massive re-tweeting campaign.

As you can see from the traffic spike below, the site CulebraBlog, which typically gets 100 niche visitors a day, skyrocketed to almost 3,000 unique visitors who were interested in reading about Lilly, spreading the word, and potentially helping to support her care.

In the end, with thanks to the Twitter community, not only did we help to increase awareness for all stray and maltreated dogs (at least I hope!), but through the kindness of complete strangers within 24 hours we raised about $1000 for Lilly’s medical care. (All funds were donated directly to Animal Welfare of Culebra, which is a registered non-profit in Puerto Rico and subsequently applied to Lilly’s vet bill.)

The Good News!

The recovery of this dog, Lilly, who’s right here in front of me, specifically, her before and after, is just amazing. And it’s not just her physical changes but her whole demeanor and personality. She has gone from being completely lifeless and lethargic to an exuberant and energetic (frisky?) pup.

If you would like to connect with me on Twitter, or if there is anything that I can do for you, ping me @mark_hayward.

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What did you do to get started?

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I get a couple of emails every week seeking information on how to move to the Caribbean, start a business, etc… But today in my inbox was a simple, yet extremely important inquiry, and it’s something that we all must deal with as entrepreneurs and risk takers.

The question: What did you do to get started?

Here is my reply:

“In all honesty, I just took a first step and kept going from there.

Sometimes it helps me to write down the goals I have  for a project or how I envision it will look. Then I tell someone, typically my wife, and by discussing it…your plan becomes real.

Next, sketch out on a piece of paper what you want the website to look like. Contact a designer and you are on your way. :-)”

Really, it’s about taking that first step! And it was summed up quite eloquently in Seth Godin’s post, Nothing:

The only thing worse than starting something and failing… is not starting something.

Quite honestly, that is the mantra that would run through my mind when thinking about whether or not I should start Train for Humanity. No doubt about it, fear of failure can bring nausea inducing feelings.

But think of the alternative – – Doing NOTHING.

For those of you who struggle with what other people will think, please read this quote from Mark Twain:

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

Now I ask you, how did you get started?

Have a terrific weekend and thank you for stopping by!

image source: wallyg

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The Essential Non-Writer’s Guide to Writing

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Do you hope to become a published author and write a great novel? That’s terrific! But what about the rest of us?

I am not a writer. Do not consider myself a writer. And have no desire to write a book or have a literary agent.

However, I do get tremendous satisfaction from helping people, networking and exchanging ideas. Also, I am a strong proponent of small business DIY social media marketing.

Unfortunately, since I live on an island, the best way for me to communicate and try to help other business owners out there is to self publish my thoughts.

If YOU do not consider yourself a writer and have been holding back from blogging or some other form of written expression, then fear not! I am going to try and assist you.

There are many blogs (and books) that I read and think

Damn I wish I could write like that

But I am very comfortable admitting that I am not them and probably will never possess their overall skill and grace when it comes to crafting a handsomely delicious blog post or story.

However, if you are like me, you should not be dismayed. Even as a self confirmed non-writer I have been able to get guest posts published on some of the top blogs on the Internet. For example see my posts on:

Zen Habits – Six Life Lessons Learned from Triathlon Training

Problogger – Launching Your Next Venture Using Social Media

Chris Brogan – How to Overcome Wallflower Syndrome

Successful Blog (Liz Strauss) – You Have the Power to Change the World

The above is by NO MEANS meant to come off as bragging or gloating but it is intended to hopefully give YOU confidence, especially, if you own a business and would like to start blogging as part of an overall social media campaign. Certainly, if I can do it, you can too!

How have I done it?

To be honest, I have never really thought about my “non-writing” formula until recently when I woke up at two in the morning and could not get back to sleep. With miscellaneous thoughts and ideas flowing through my mind at that strange hour, it was then that I realized I do indeed have a writing system and general flow that I follow. And I thought, perhaps others who struggle with writing (like me) would find my methodology useful.

Eight Step Non-Writer’s Guide to Writing

  1. Write your titles first – I realize that this advice might sound counterintuitive, but I always start with a title and work my blog post out from it. If you are a small business owner looking to blog for the first time, it’s a great way to get started. Heck, I can even come up with a title that sounds good for scrubbing toilets – “How to Influence Customers and Win at Toilet Scrubbing.” Or, if you would like some more general ideas, have a look at 31 Blog Post Ideas for Small Businesses.
  2. Get started – I know, I have stared at the blank computer screen for hours waiting and hoping for someone to just magically show up and start writing for me. When that didn’t occur I realized that I had to START, and at the very least, get my ideas down on paper.
  3. List out bullet points – if you are having difficulty getting started, listing bullet points of what you want to say can be tremendously helpful. These items that you list can be structured into formal paragraphs after you get your ideas “out.” For example, if you are struggling with you websites ‘About’ page (remember DIY media creation) then list out everything that is unique about you or your business and create your sentences and paragraphs from the “idea inventory” you have created.
  4. Write in a “human” voice – when I draft blog posts or even emails, I always try to imagine that I am having a conversation with someone and that I am trying to explain a concept or task in as “stripped down” a language as possible. (READ: I am not really trying to impress anyone, so I leave the fancy big words for the real writers.)
  5. Be useful – if you are going to put in the hard work and hours (yes, for me it’s hours!) that it takes to write something well, then try to at least make it on a subject matter that is first and foremost, important to YOU, and also essential to others who happen to be in your business or niche. Remember, you have knowledge and people all over the world are using the Internet to learn…what can you teach them?
  6. Keep it simple – the most popular post on my old site MyTropicalEscape was without question a missive titled “39 Things I Have Learned As I Prepare to Turn 40.” Strangely enough, I drafted that post in about twenty minutes (much less time than normal) and I think it succeeded precisely because it was simple. I am constantly trying to remove words and keep my drafts as straightforward and uncomplicated as possible.
  7. Proofread – most of us hate it, I’ve been skewered before in the comment section for not doing it, and sometimes it feels like it would be easier to schedule a root canal than to have to undertake this mundane task. But we can’t escape it!
  8. Presentation/newspaper test – if you remember one thing from this post, I think this might be the most helpful tip. With everything that I write I try to imagine that I am going to be giving a presentation on the subject. If what I’ve written, after going through all of the steps above, is clear and easy to understand then I will publish the post or web page (whatever I happen to be working on). Also, I am not sure who said this, but I NEVER publish or email anything that I would not want to find has mysteriously been plastered on the front page of the New York Times and read by millions of people.

Well, that’s it. That is my non-writer’s writing guide. Please, if you struggle with writing, or even if you consider yourself a writer, let us know your tips, tricks, and goals in the comments.

(I typically post about once a week and seriously want to help businesses with getting a grasp on social media and blogging. If the subject interests you then sign up for the RSS feed or follow me on Twitter @mark_hayward.)

image source: Cyber Integra

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2009 Is Going to Be YOUR Year!

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Whatever you hope to achieve during the next twelve months – – working from home, consulting, traveling overseas, spending more time with family, mastering social media, becoming an entrepreneur, opening a small business, etc; seriously, I have no doubt that 2009 is going to be YOUR year.

I am not big on resolutions, but with the New Year upon us the internet seems to be oozing optimism like gobs of jelly out the sides of a peanut butter and jam sandwich, which I think in this economy is amazing (in a good way).

Instead of doing a “personal goals” post for the coming year where I list out all of the things that I hope to accomplish in 2009, I thought it more prudent to focus on you and your goals.

Not that I think you need my help, it’s just that my one and only key word for the year is:

“HELPFUL” (Wherein I try to be, well, helpful.)

Really, I could give you the following piece of simple advice, “Whatever you want to do find a way” and stop there.

But that’s just trite BS and it won’t help you in the least.

A Little Story
You see, when I knew that I wanted to be my own boss I never really thought about the realities of marketing, bookkeeping, or waiting on people seven days a week for ten to fifteen hours a day.

I mean, I imagined it, but until it became MY reality I never really knew what it would all be like. The primary goal (and my total focus) was simply to be self-employed and I assumed the finer details would work themselves out…not the best strategy, I know.

What the heck does this have to do with you and your goals?

When we were trying to purchase our business the word “NO” really had no meaning for my wife and I. Although it was said to us often in Spanish and English that we should pursue other alternatives, or perhaps give up, we were having none of it. Someone would knock us down and we would always go back for more.

Do you want to know why?

Because we were “hungry,” “desperate,” and sick of working for uninspired visionless assholes.

How else can I possibly explain the fact that we were turned down for financing for over a year and half by ten different banks? Every single time we got a phone message or email denying us the requisite funds, we continued to persevere and sustain our forward progression because we NEVER imagined that we would NOT be our own bosses.

You Can Do It
Times are tough! Whatever your business or career, chances are it took a downturn in 2008. Nevertheless, there has never been a better time to pursue your goals, resolutions, and dreams because you have nothing to lose.

Whether you want to be an author, public speaker, attorney, or marketing professional, get out there, work hard and GO GET IT! And block out the naysayers and jerks, they’re just trying their best to keep you down.

Helpful Part
As we look forward to the rest 2009, please continue to pursue your vision and challenging the status quo. If I can assist you with something, do not hesitate to email me or get in touch. You can do it!!

(Two items of note: if you are looking to simplify your life in 2009, my friend (and Train for Humanity co-founder) Leo Babauta just released his book, “The Power of Less.” Also, Colleen Wainwright (a.k.a. the Communicatrix) is launching a new project Virgo Guide to Marketing and you should hire her because if not, your competition will.)

image source: To Tof

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