Social Media Breakfast Madison

Parking, schmarking, it

Rotary International Language Services Team Arrives in Madison

Rotary International Language Services Team Tests Out AJBombersMSN

is always worth it to attend a Social Media Breakfast event! After a prayer to the “no ticket please” gods, I hustled down Langdon Street to go to the absolutely beautiful Pyle Center. I have never had the privilege of attending an event there, and I wish I had more time to peek around, but the meter was ticking down!

Four guest panelists came up from Evanston, Illinois (we didn’t hold that against them!) to the land of lakes and cheese to share their experience with social media (SM) for Rotary International on a global scale crossing multiple time zones and languages.

Thanks to Our Sponsors

Kudos go to our sponsors this month:

Spacesaver as presenting sponsor

Yahara Software as supporting sponsor

Robert Half Technology as Supporting and new ongoing sponsor

Engaging Social as ongoing sponsor as financial sponsor

Melissa Carlson Creative and Suttle Straus for their in kind contributions

International Speakers

Patrick Nunes, (@patricknunes and @RotaryBrasil) is the Department Manager of Language Services Division for Rotary International (RI). He oversees four teams of linguists who provide translation, interpretation, and consultation on cultural, regionalization and globalization matters. He also leads the social media efforts in languages, with a focus on international audiences and engagement.

Patrick introduced the agenda topics which covered:

  • who we (Rotary International) is,
  • how we got involved,
  • a few challenges,
  • how we engage with young people,
  • how do we engage with strategic partners what they do to empower members, and
  • examples of member generated content.


Who is Rotary?

Rotary is a worldwide organization with 1.2 million members in 34,000 clubs around the world.

He and a staff of 600 are based in Evanston and offer administrative support. The first Rotary club was established in 1905 in Chicago. RI supports 9 official languages, and is involved in translating, localizing content, giving feedback , interpreting and even voiceovers for videos and webinars.

Everything in social media for Rotary started in English, until someone asked why is it all in English? In Brazil they heard about social media and the Rotary staff created a Twitter account. The immediate question was how identifiable is the page to Rotary? The idea was good, to get members information, but it strayed from the brand, image and message of Rotary International.

Lighting the fuse

Patrick Nunes Speaking at Pyle Center for SMB Madison Patrick was put in charge and told much to his surprise

“now you are representing Rotary on Twitter. Start in Brazil and venture to other languages.”

Once he got over the shock, he met with his team and their first question was, “what are we going to talk about?” The obvious answer was drive traffic back to the website. The second idea was to talk about projects.  Rotarians do great things around the world, so let’s get the word out.

At first it was working, he reported, but it became apparent that they were only pushing, not pulling. The first time Patrick heard about engagement he immersed himself in reading and took a critical look at their approach, what was working and what was not.

Four Pillars of Social Media

This set the table for the next iteration of growth, what he called “The Second stage: Four Pillars of Social Media”

  1. Learn: help others get set up, learn about what they are doing that is working
  2. Educate: who you are, your cause, why you are there
  3. Help: help clubs collaborate
  4. Thank: donors, volunteers

The third step was to establish a strategic plan. This consisted of aligning the social effort with the RI strategic plan. The three core elements became: support & strengthen, be humanitarian and enhance our public image.

“We evolved, we had some failures, we had some successes and we came to some sense of what we were aiming for.”

When they looked at their starting effort, they quickly established 135,000 followers in their English account, but the other languages were not flourishing.

They asked themselves some hard questions: How are we unique? What do we do every day? They realized their unique ability lay in the fact they don’t just translate, they localize, and can provide relevant content to each different country.

“Our new model became, we are global social media, but are locally driven.  We don’t want to work alone, we want to, collaborate with locals to provide consistent content that is locally relevant. We will increase value through engagement by listening, co-creating, distributing and amplifying relevant branded content supporting Rotary International’s Strategic Plan.” Patrick Nunes, Rotary International, Manager of Language Services


Focus on learning

The focus of their efforts became to understand the SM space and available tools, and learn from other international organizations.

What were the challenges?

  1. Understand how SM works. What is it? How is it used?
  2. How to speak with one voice. Knew how in other mediums, wanted to stay relevant.
  3. Limited Resources. No SM team in-house, existing staff adding it on.
  4. Cultural Relevance: what works where?
  5. How to gain trust: that account is official? How to guide 1.2 million voices. Rotary means something different for everyone.


Engaging the Youth

Rotaract copyright Rotary International

Rotaract copyright Rotary International

Adam Arents (@bolonium and @rotaract) was next to speak. Adam is a Promotions Coordinator at Rotary International, where he creates buzz about Rotary’s youth programs through newsletters, social media, videos, and contests. His most successful social media endeavor at Rotary has been a series of Twitter chats that has involved young professionals from around the world who participate in the Rotaract program.

Adam noted that while the perception of Rotary is “mature” members, there are hundreds of youth involved throughout the world involved in service groups, professional development and leadership programs. Adam first learned about SM from a young member who wrote a 120 page dissertation on it! He soon discovered pages were already established by members who then agreed to add him as an admin.

The question quickly became, “what can we add? How maximize this already engaged audience? Who are we talking to?”The answers started with two groups, the primary was Rotarians involved in youth programs already. They were the most committed, engage and connected members. The secondary audience was direct to young people. It quickly became apparent that social media allowed them to speak to their youth members in a whole new way.

Adam talked about how they established some key strategies:

  1. Turn enthusiasts into ambassadors. These are our biggest fans who are already excited and well connected. He quoted Jeremy Epstein from“Marketing is gasoline, not matches, instead of trying to start little fires here and there, find the spark and pour gasoline on the spark.” The enthusiasts were already a spark and they wanted to fan that enthusiasm.
  2. Feature SM posts in their newsletter and promote the most active members.
  3. Video contest with 12-18 year old members. The entry that won was a middle school in Tennessee who did a video on polio eradication. To capture the buzz, RI gave them even more exposure and put the class on a live stream to answer questions from all over world. They got to tell their story and the community was forged across borders.
  4. Gather face to face

At the yearly convention  the youth used SM to organize flash mobs, and then continue to foster that connection throughout the year

What social media did was help them to talk to one another.

“We wanted to foster horizontal communication and find ways to share best practices.” Adam Arents, Rotary International, Promotions Manager


Twitter chats became the most successful way to engage. They set a date, made a Facebook event, put it out to “use this tag and share your ideas.” “This was an incredible way to use the international component. When we heard from others around the world it energized the local clubs even more.”


Engage with our strategic partners

The “End Polio Now” was a campaign Rotary emphasized every year on their anniversary. The Polio Eradication Initiative started in 1985 when there were 100 endemic countries, now that is down to three. As part of the promotion, Rotary was able to pick a monument from all over the world, and  light up a graphic with the Rotary logo and “End Polio Now” text.  Patrick showed a photo of this displayed on the Great Pyramid in Egypt!

To use social media, RI decided to do a Twitter chat, with the idea being to partner with other major organizations, such as the Gates Foundation, World Health Foundation and Unicef to answer questions, educate, learn and help.

Patrick’s team role was to monitor content from the other languages and translate to get the questions answered. After two minutes the stream became so alive they were quickly overwhelmed. The results? With their seven  accounts over 4 million in that hour were talking about polio. The Twitter chat #poliochat reached over 57 million people, and they extended it an additional hour.


Empower members

Rotary Global Swim Marathon

Rotary Global Swim Marathon

When it came to social media, expanded in languages, their role became to facilitate conversations, and the panelists will be Rotarians to give relevance to what is interesting to them. “We gave them a blank page and said you fill in the content, we’ll just drive you through.”

“It became our practice to give them the opportunity, knowing that we can’t force them, it’s ok to lose control, and we will do our part to give guidance for best practices, to use the Rotary name in the right way, to join forces, and most importantly, to amplify instead of going different directions.”

Patrick went on to give a few more examples, including “” and  “


Lessons learned

Rotary Speaker Panelist and Comanager Wendy Soucie and Tony Rodriguez

Rotary Speaker Panelist and Co-managers Wendy Soucie and Tony Rodriguez

Embed within the community – They started from scratch, and they just decided to simply try. In Germany, they had a six month head start, so we connected with them on the phone to learn more. “You can’t break the internet, just try it. We learned from our failures, we tried again, and we weren’t shy about it” said Katharina Klopher (@kat_klopfer and @RotaryDE) their German translator/linguist.

Join the buzz – In France, there wasn’t much going on with Twitter, so we joined the buzz of other humanitarian projects, ReTweeted them and after awhile it creates a relationship, helped us to improve our reach and involvement from followers. “ The conversation is already there. You join it, add your expertise, that is how you start gaining trust. No matter how small you are, you add your expertise, and sooner or later, they will trust you and recognize you.”

Find Advocates – People love being acknowledged as a leader, affirms and empowers them, they get excited. Find the people who are already speaking, give them an official voice

Don’t be shy – “You won’t break the Internet, we’ve learned, and we’ve tried, our curiosity to see what works for social media changes every day, so join in, and add your expertise.”


A perspective by guest blogger, Annie Rubens. She offers offers a variety of services including professional resume writing, LinkedIn profile build, Facebook business page set-up and marketing strategy through Rubens Consulting. or (608) 695-9549.

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