Legazpi City, Albay, 21 May 2008: Albay Province Vice Governor Brando Sael reads a statement declaring Albay as a COAL FREE ZONE. Beside him are Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director Von Hernandez (left) and Mike Fincken, Rainbow Warrior Captain. Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior docked today in legazpi City, Albay province, 556 kilometers south of Manila, to kick of a month-long "quit coal, save the climate" tour of the Philippines. Photo by Greenpeace / Vinai Dithajoh

How did Greenpeace Chile welcome a new energy minister with some 40,000 “quit coal” twitter messages, and get on TV?

“Being digital is an attitude,” and about “thinking in a different way” — not an investment in “smartphones and Macs” explains Greenpeace Chile Executive Director Matias Asun.

Most NGOs, Executive Directors, and even brands will tell you that being on social media and attracting followers is a good thing, but they’re often unclear why or how these new platforms  can help them achieve their goals.

Matias (@matiasasun), however, doesn’t mince words about how Twitter and social media strengthens his work. Listen in to find out how Matias and his small team takes advantage of social media to engage everyone from his own staff to campaign opponents. Then see below for our takeaways.

So what can we learn from Matias’ approach to twitter? Here’s our take. Matias’ full embrace of digital means…

  1. Hijacking the news cycle :: By responding or reacting to news as soon as it’s announced (tweeting from the bar), Matias and his team show us what “rapid response” means in the digital age. By moving quickly — and perhaps less formally by not developing a full press release — he was able to influence not only broadcast media’s account of the story but also gain traction and build support online.
  2. Losing control, intentionally :: The goal, Matias explains, is not to simply post messages that many people or followers can read, but to develop messages and calls to action that inspire and enable supporters to communicate with their own social networks — hence 40,000 others piling on to his “quit coal” message .
  3. Unexpected results :: That feeling of “losing control” means opening yourself up to both the good and the bad — those unexpected opportunities that emerge along with the unwanted criticism that may come in a public forum.
  4. Developing an independent voice :: Matias uses social media to explain and defend controversial opinions like opposing mining in ways that he never could through traditional media. He can do this directly, and without being edited, to build support.

What’s your experience? Add your reactions to the comment thread below.