Blood drives look to social networks for willing donors

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Social media applications, such as Facebook and Twitter, are expanding beyond their utility of connecting with friends and being used to encourage people to donate blood.

The Austin Social Media Club and 501 Tech Club sponsored a Blood Drive Tweetup on July 3, using Twit­ter, a microblogging service, to find and attract potential blood donors.

The entire event was coordinated over the course of three days. The Blood Center of Central Texas said blood donations on that day were more than double the usual amount.

The event follows the spring launch of Takes All Types, a nonprofit focused on building a database of vol­unteer blood donors who will receive alerts via Facebook, RSS feeds, e-mail, fax and text messaging when donations are needed.

“Some of the social networking tools, like Twitter, have the novel ability to mobilize people in a very unique way that is very grassroots and local in nature,” said Ben Bergman, executive director of Takes All Types.

Because Takes All Types can target its alerts by blood type and geographic region, it hopes to improve the supply of blood during times of need.

The organization also brings a cen­tralized database of blood donors to the picture. Besides key information, such as a donor's ZIP code, blood type and pre­ferred channels of communication, Takes All Types can pull registrants' information from social networks that haven't been identified as private.

“This is actually going to give the world profiles of blood donors,” Bergman said. He added that, up until this point, profiling blood donors had been elu­sive because of a lack of data.

Bergman points out that the infor­mation Takes All Types receives is completely private, and will not be used for lead generation or supplied to third parties.

Takes All Types has also readied a full slate of events aimed at getting the word out. This fall, an initiative on college cam­puses nationwide will include placement on college MySpace pages, participation in college blood drives and recruiting college representatives.

The organization is also working with AmericanTowns.com, a local community network, on localized marketing cam­paigns and on initiatives for the Hispanic and African-American communities.

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