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Twestival encourages tweeting for a cause

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Traditional news outlets had us glued to tsunami coverage, with pulses racing, from the Star-Advertiser website to television stations to the radio. Social media users shared links to news and video coverage from their own communities and around the world.

The Social Media Club Hawaii was to host Brian Shiro from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center as its featured speaker last night. The club is preparing a white paper to share with Hawaii businesses about using social media during crises.

Social media was once seen as a novelty, which many people dismissed, given the numbers of users sharing useless information like what they’d eaten for breakfast or lunch. It’s more common now for social media to be used for a greater purpose.

Facebook and Twitter are playing a key role in the uprisings in the Middle East and in assisting people seeking information after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

People everywhere have taken up the challenge of turning the interaction and energy of social media into something worthwhile, said Ryan Ozawa, a social media community leader in Honolulu.

The Blood Bank of Hawaii is one business that has actively used social media such as Twitter, to keep life-giving blood flowing from donors to recipients.

The average blood donor is an established professional adult, but "they’re not going to be around forever," Ozawa said. The blood bank needs to recruit younger people and first-time donors with the hope that all will become regular donors, to help it provide blood products to 11 hospitals on Oahu and eight hospitals on the neighbor islands.

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The Blood Bank will be the recipient of the proceeds raised by the 2011 Honolulu Twestival (Twitter festival) from 5 to 8 p.m. March 24 at theVenue, 1144 Bethel St.

"We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with Twestival to heighten awareness about the important need for blood donation," said Laurie Chang, director of communications, in a statement. The Blood Bank also desires to "stimulate interest for the next generation of donors and increase the number of first-time donors."

Twestival is a global event, staged on the same night around the world in nearly 130 cities, said Ozawa, who is a Honolulu Twestival organizer.

In its first two years, the Honolulu gathering of avid social media users raised more than $10,000 for international causes, including Concern Worldwide and charity: water, a nonprofit that brings safe drinking water to developing nations, for which the international effort raised nearly $500,000.

Honolulu Twestival obtained permission this year to raise funds for a local cause, because while charities in London and Africa and other nations are certainly worthwhile, "we’ve got stuff here at home that could use our help," said Ozawa.

This year’s Twestival will include musical performances by several acts, including beatbox and dance performer Jason Tom, singer and dancer Willow Chang, musician and producer Kamuela Kahoano and singer-songwriter Emi Hart.

It might seem counterintuitive to raise funds for the blood bank when worldwide the attention of many people is focused on helping with earthquake and tsunami relief in Japan. At Honolulu Twestival, additional donations will be collected for the American Red Cross Hawaii Chapter to add to the worldwide Japan relief effort.

"Of course everybody’s focused on one global catastrophe," Ozawa said, so the local Twestival will chip in. When all eyes are focused away from home, however, "local concerns sometimes get forgotten."

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Advertiser. Reach her by e-mail at or on twitter.



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