social media campaign, video sharing

Diabetes Hands Foundation: Nimble, Experimental and Not Afraid to Fail

0 Comments 12 November 2010

If there were an award for the most courageous, determined social media experimenter around, Manny Hernandez would win, hands down. He is also one of the busiest people I know. Manny founded and manages the Diabetes Hands Foundation (DHF), a nonprofit organization that connects people touched by diabetes and raises diabetes awareness.

The Diabetes Hands Foundation is among the rock stars of social media – it is nimble, experimental, and not afraid to fail. Mostly, they succeed – big time.

Manny, along with thousands of volunteers, has built DHF into an incredible community of care and activism around diabetes. All of their activities create community, and the organization keeps that at the forefront of every new initiative. It is truly a community-based organization.

The community primarily lives in its two active, successful (Ning-based) online communities for people with diabetes: (English) with 17,450 members and (Spanish) with 11,200 members. The strong community gives DHF the strength to be able to experiment with new tools and develop new applications. DHF developed an application called TuAnalyze, in which members of the TuDiabetes diabetes social network track, share and compare their diabetes data. DHF also co-developed and launched (in collaboration with the Joslin Diabetes Center) HealthSeeker, a Facebook game to help people with diabetes develop healthy lifestyle eating habits. Since its launch in June, HealthSeeker has grown to 1,553 monthly active users. Right after launching HealthSeeker, DHF published No Sugar Added in July, a collection of poetry entirely crowdsourced, with the theme of living with diabetes. You can read Manny’s guest post about how he developed No Sure Added here.

Now comes Big Blue Test: test your blood sugar level, exercise for 14 minutes, test yourself again.

Just in time for World Diabetes Day on November 14th, DHF is publicizing its Big Blue Test in a big way. DHF learned from last year’s campaign and it is entirely reconceived. Last year, DHF asked people to create their own landing pages and online spaces to discuss the Big Blue Test. “The range of implementations was too broad. It was complicated to analyze the data and it did not give the feeling of community,” says Manny. This year Big Blue Test looks and feels entirely different.

From the beginning, this year’s Big Blue Test was a collaborative project. Manny explains, “around the time we were brainstorming about this year’s Big Blue Test, diabetes advocate Riva Greenberg sent me and Roche a viral video and suggested a video collaboration between us and Roche. That inspired me to create a video that could really get some traction and go viral.” Roche supported and partnered with DHF in the development of all aspects of Big Blue Test. “Roche really gave us the creative freedom to develop this project, and Roche USA championed the idea of sponsoring the video and the Big Blue Test video donation challenge.” says Manny. The result is the video at the top of this page publicizing the Big Blue Test and a donation challenge.

DHF wanted to create a video sharing incentive, and also people to feel good about the incentive and have a short-term, measurable impact.DHF teamed up with Roche, Life for A Child, and Insulin for Life to create short-term impact:  For every view up to 100,000 views, Roche will donate $0.75, a cap of $75,000 to help children with diabetes in developing countries. The donation will be divided between Life For A Child (of the International Diabetes Federation) and Insulin for Life. Both organizations focuse on giving insulin and diabetes supplies to children in developing countries.

The video went live October 31st in English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and French, all translated by volunteers. To date, it has 83,801 views. To gain exposure, DHF reached out to influential twitter users and bloggers in the diabetes and nonprofit communities. “Most of the bloggers and twitter uses we reached out to either tweeted about it or blogged about it,” says Manny. The most effective means in getting it out has been through Twitter. They are tracking the hashtag #bigbluetest. In the past two weeks it has been tweeted about 3,500 times with that hashtag.

From the YouTube page, the call to action within the video of watching it and passing it along has been effective. To date, the largest sharing group is  35+ and female, and the top viewing countries are the US, Brazil, Canada, and Australia.  56% of the views are on YouTube itself, and 37% are views embedded on another website.

What has not worked at all?  “Asking celebrities to retweet it. That was a wrong assumption on my part.” Manny sent @messages to many celebrities asking if they would retweet the message and none of them has done so yet.

DHF also took advantage of the Ning platform to publicize the video challenge and test. Ning offers “takeover” functionality to change their Ning homepage. DHF essentially replaced the home pages of TuDiabetes.or and with the Big Blue Test page. Members have to view this new homepage in order to enter the site. About 5% of all the video views come in this way.

I asked Manny what has been the most surprising part of the campaign. “The generosity has been just unbelievable. People watch it often. People take the time to watch it several times and tell others to do the same. The same thing on Twitter – several people have tweeted and re-tweeted it hundreds of times. Some have incorporated the #bigbluetest into every tweet. We haven’t seen yet the power of the influencers to generate a high number of video views, however. What we have seen is the power of the community pulling their weight behind this effort to do so.”

Manny sums up the success of the video challenge and the Big Blue Test to date:

“Believe the commitment of the people that are part of your community.”

That’s the secret behind the success of the Diabetes Hands Foundation as well.

Please watch the Big Blue Test video at the top of this page. Every view means a donation of diabetes products to children in developing countries. I also bet you won’t be able to get the catchy song out of your head.



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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