I’d say broadly that on social media, it’s not about you, it’s about them — your audience. My good friend and colleague in the social media industry often says it best: “Think Like a Fan.” What sort of content does your audience want to see, and how exactly can it benefit them? When you put your audience’s needs first, you’ll be in great shape.

As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Strub. Chris works with both for-profits and nonprofits to help them improve their social media strategies and level up their use of video — and he speaks around the world about similar topics. As the ‘Giving Day Guy,’ Chris partners with giving days around the United States to amplify the causes of thousands of nonprofits and help raise tens of millions of dollars. Chris is the first person to live-stream and Snapchat in all 50 U.S. states, and he is the author of ’50 States, 100 Days: The Book,’ about that summer 2015 journey.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I landed my first ‘real’ job at a newspaper in Binghamton, NY, in 2006 — right at the forefront of the Facebook era. As one of the only true digital natives in the Press & Sun-Bulletin newsroom, I was often tasked with helping the staff figure out how to best leverage emerging tools like Facebook and Twitter. After several years of pioneering a social media strategy for the newspaper, I made the leap in 2012 into the role of ‘Social Media Director’ at a New York advertising agency. But after two years of working the 9-to-5, I decided that I wanted to see more of the country, so I quit to go on a road trip. Solo cross-country travel opened my eyes to a lot, but it wasn’t until the following summer (2015) that I knew that I wanted to work with as many nonprofits as possible.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

At the very first social media conference I ever attended, the Social Shake-Up in 2014 in Atlanta, I was scouring the event’s hashtag in search of other professionals also conversing about the event. I encountered a tweet from a gentleman named Dan Gingiss — @dgingiss on Twitter — about how he was amused by a panel taking place about millennial marketing — without a single millennial on stage. Retweeting that tweet sparked a friendship with Dan, who was then working as a C-suite marketing executive with Discover, and would soon move on to similar executive roles with Humana and McDonald’s. But it was our shared love of the Chicago Cubs that helped facilitate conversations on social media that has led us to both work together and speak together on the same stages around the country — including one of my first speaking gigs, at that same Social Shake-Up event in the spring of 2017.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

There were certainly countless mistakes made during the execution of ’50 States, 100 Days,’ which took place from May 15 to Aug. 21, 2015. I suppose the most amusing one, in retrospect, was trying to cram in visits to nonprofits in six states in seven days: Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut. I can laugh now, but it wasn’t funny at the time, with my brain feeling like Jell-O as I cruised down I-95, south of Hartford, back to Long Island. But the lesson learned that week has certainly stood the test of time: whether you try and do a lot, or conserve and do a little, at the end of the day, you’re still going to be spent — so you might as well think as big as you can.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

Sure can. After four-plus years of scrambling and trying to figure out different approaches, I decided last fall to focus closely on community-focused giving days. Facilitated by companies like GiveGab or CiviCore, and made possible by local, regional or state-wide community foundations and/or nonprofit councils, these 24-hour online donation events are blossoming in popularity around the country. Because the call to action — donate — and the corresponding community activities are squeezed into that 24-hour period, giving days are the ideal opportunity for organizations to utilize live-streaming video in a way that provides massive value all around. I’ve taken my expertise in the journalism industry, blended it with an eye for marketing, and stirred in several years of trial-and-error as a live-streaming video solopreneur to build a business model that allows me to bring enormous value to giving days, anywhere in the country. In San Antonio, we broadcasted live on Facebook at least once for 18 consecutive hours; in St. Louis, we shared 10 lengthy Facebook Live broadcasts in a single day, including seven consecutive remote broadcasts from nonprofits of all different backgrounds. The corresponding reaction spikes on social media lend perfectly to the call for donations that expires at midnight.

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

On May 1 in St. Louis, as I traveled around the community with my briefcase full of live-streaming gear, nearly every nonprofit we encountered was raving about how they were blowing away their year-over-year goals. In particular, Andrew Gibson, the executive director of the Freedom Arts & Education Center, was overjoyed about the response taking place from the community on #GiveSTLDay. In my Facebook Live interview with him, he explains the immediacy of the need for his organization and how he and the staff have been overwhelmed by the response from the community: https://www.facebook.com/stlouisgives/videos/376731902935908/

Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

The first giving day that I worked with was Give For Good Louisville (#GiveForGoodLou) in 2017, when we leveraged live video to raise $4.6 million in 24 hours. The event is hosted by the Community Foundation of Louisville each September. When I had my initial consult with Cara Baribeau, formerly of the Community Foundation of Louisville, she was overwhelmed by the idea of using live video during their giving day. In fact, the organization has taken the idea of using live-streaming video to new levels, creating an annual series called ‘Getting to Know the Good,’ which spotlights nonprofits in and around Louisville throughout the summer, in the lead-up to their giving day. This creates an extraordinarily engaged and interested live audience that adds up to incredibly strong viewership data, year after year.

Are there things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Giving days, by their nature, are designed to democratically address the needs of many participating organizations around the community. In the case of Give STL Day in St. Louis, more than 850 nonprofits participated. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to work with many different types of nonprofits, almost all of which suffer from the idea of not being ‘cool’ on social media. Because of the way Facebook and other social media platforms ‘reward’ content that is engaged with, it can be helpful to simply stop by the Facebook page of your favorite nonprofit — or the central organization behind your community’s giving day — and leave some encouraging comments. Even just a small bit of attention can be invaluable.

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

Giving days are the perfect opportunity to use live-streaming video, because so much of the action is concentrated on that particular day. My best piece of advice for someone wanting to follow my lead would be to identify the time(s) when people are paying the most attention to your organization/cause, and make sure you’re shining the light the brightest during those times. Don’t be shy to be experimental; audiences on social media are often much more compassionate and understanding of gaffes and mistakes than we might think.

What is your “something I wish someone told me when I first started” and why?

I’d say broadly that on social media, it’s not about you, it’s about them — your audience. My good friend and colleague in the social media industry often says it best: “Think Like a Fan.” What sort of content does your audience want to see, and how exactly can it benefit them? When you put your audience’s needs first, you’ll be in great shape.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Boy, that’s a big question. I think we all share, deep in our hearts, a common goal of world peace, but short of that, I think we’re on the verge of the emergence of ‘roadtrip marketing’ — the idea of eschewing the antiquated idea of strategizing in a boardroom somewhere, and getting out on the road and connecting with people, be it within your organization, your company, what have you. As AI becomes more and more prevalent, it’s going to become increasingly important to remember that our organizations consist of human beings. This is why I was so thrilled to serve as a Red Kettle Ambassador for The Salvation Army USA in 2017, and complete the 25-state, 38-day ‘Fight For Good Tour,’ which took me from Houston to New York City.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

During ’50 States, 100 Days,’ I asked each participating nonprofit organization to sign my car — a 2007 Honda Accord, which I called the ‘Honda Hotel’ — with their best piece of advice for a young person. (Yes, physically sign, with a paint marker — and yes, most of it does come off.) The very first thing written on the car was ‘E.W.O.P.,’ by the late Kim Brown, of the Carolina Youth Development Center. This acronym stands for ‘Everything Works Out Perfectly,’ and it’s a mantra that has stood with me since the day she wrote it: May 16, 2015. All the quotes that were written on the car are featured in ’50 States, 100 Days: The Book,’ and another one that I really vibed with was ‘I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees’ — a quote from Emiliano Zapata that was written by Vanessa Escarcega, out in Boulder, Colo.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

There’s a number of different ways to answer this particular question — I think, for sure, I’d love to share breakfast with, say, Natalie Portman, or Jennifer Lawrence — but philosophically speaking, I’d find a lot of meaning in meeting with Barack Obama. As a white male born and raised in New York, I can’t possibly imagine the vitriol, public and private, that he’s gone through over the course of his career, and I think it’d be fascinating to hear more about how he successfully navigated his way to the White House while inspiring hundreds of millions of young people of all ethnicities along the way.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

The best places to find me are on Twitter, @ChrisStrub, or on Instagram, @ChrisStrub — and my website is www.teamstrub.com.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: with Chris Strub the ‘Giving Day Guy’ was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.