is an aspiring rock star who, at just 12 years old, has been on stage with members of popular bands, including Guns and Roses and Rage Against the Machine.
More importantly, he’s inspired those rock stars to fundraise for pediatric cancer research.
Inspired by his friend Alex Berson who was battling cancer, Stedman founded Shred Kids Cancer, a
nonprofit organization that enables young people to raise funds to support children’s cancer research.
One of their most popular fundraisers, now in its fourth year, is “ShredFest,” featuring a battle-of-the-bands format with celebrity rock star judges and
held at notable venues such as the House of Blues and The Roxy.
Despite raising nearly $40,000, the organization doesn’t buy advertising and relies solely on word-of-mouth, hand delivered flyers and social media.
I caught up to Stedman and his mom Kelly to talk about how Shred Kids Cancer uses social media.
Here are nine tips I learned from talking with the Stedmans:
1. Go where your audience is.
Shred Kids Cancer started with a webpage because, in the wisdom of a 12-year-old, “Nowadays you
kinda need to go on the Web ‘cause you need people to know about your organization, and I would say more people go on the Internet than look at newspapers
2. Be authentic.
Shred Kids Cancer is intentionally kid-directed. Even though they have adult help, their presence has the look and feel of the young volunteers involved.
That alone tells an impressive organizational story.
3. Listen and respond.
Being authentic doesn’t mean you don’t respond to community feedback. When the website was first designed it had a darker, heavy metal feel to it; but
after receiving feedback, they have shed their black background in favor of an intentionally more upbeat feel.
4. Localize and humanize your message.
Each year, the organization names a “shredhead” on their website to be the face of the
organization and inspire others. This approach has also benefited the organization by attracting local media coverage.
5. Recognize the strength of different tools.
The organization’s Facebook page is most successful in promoting events; YouTube videos share stories of the organization’s mission and
history; and its new @shredkidscancer on Twitter has helped it connect to similar
6. Strengthen face-to-face connections.
Many of the celebrities who served as judges for their annual ShredFest now follow them on
Twitter and Facebook – a good way to keep them connected to the organization all year long.
7. Share your message through stories.
They recognized that the post-event photos on their website were mostly serving as a nice memory for the volunteers, but didn’t share the message of the
organization. Videographer Jared Sagal volunteered to produce a post-event video that better expressed the story of the organization’s
8. Welcome volunteers and partners.
Recognizing that this is a part-time venture for Stedman who is a fulltime student and aspiring musician, they rely on volunteers. In addition to the
video, two student volunteers (Andrew Ceco and Andreas Knickman) lead the webpage effort. Partnerships with sponsors like Guitar Center and Van’s Warp Tour
help bring attention to the organization through more popular and highly followed social media outlets.
9. Embrace the transformational experience.
Using social media to enhance connections to do good certainly has benefits for the organization and society, but if you become involved in using social
media to help others, you can also expect benefits. According to Stedman, connecting people for a common cause has made him a better person. “It’s going to
change me forever,” he says.
Jean Kelso Sandlin, EdD, is a senior strategist for Hive Strategies and assistant professor of communication at California Lutheran University. This
post first appeared in the Hive Strategies blog