On the heels of a successful Help-Portrait 2010, Leigh Caraccioli (@fleurdeleigh) of Dayton, Ohio, Help-Portrait has a few insights on how to market your Help-Portrait event to maximize its impact.

Something magic happens when you set out to change the world one smile at a time. It’s a magnetic force. Suddenly you find yourself surrounded, supported, connected to do-good, kindred spirits. Help-Portrait 2010 made me realize that I am part of a giant mass of positively charged individuals hell-bent on doing something to make this world a better place.

Leading our Dayton, Ohio, Help-Portrait event this year, I found out how instrumental social media is in promoting a good cause. In less than 30 days, we amassed nearly 100 volunteers and gifted 293 local military family members. We wanted to share with you five ways to hop up your event experience by online networking/marketing for 2011.

Inform your networks about the Help-Portrait event you are planning on email, Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to tell them why it’s important to you. Ask that they share what you are doing locally with their networks as well. Stretch your reach. Inform them of your needs: volunteers, photographers, equipment, funding, location, garments, support, coverage, spreading the word. People do care and want to find ways to help specifically. Share the Help-Portrait site, video, your own stories or those from other areas of the world.

Let’s face it. Every city around the globe has leaders in social media, photographers or otherwise.  Luckily, I already had solid connections with many of the “twitter elite” in Dayton so I sent a Twitter direct message asking for their help in promoting my H-P event. The best way to start making those connections is to engage in conversation with them, establish a two-way street of connection, find ways to help THEIR cause, and inform them about yours. You can find your cities key social media influencers through twittergrader.com. Here’s Nashville for example:

Our combined social network was paramount to our successful event in Dayton. Ultimately, it brought us together with the people we wanted to gift with portraits to meet our goal of photographing 100 families in need.

When one person talks about an event, it’s a status update. When thousands talk in unison about an event, it’s a viral happening (viral marketing defined). Watching the Help-Portrait event planning ramp-up this year was both inspiring and informative. You can put your ear to the wall in social media to hear better what is happening around the globe by utilizing dashboards like Tweetdeck, or Hootsuite and creating columns for the hashtag search #helpportrait and @help_portrait.  There is no question that on Dec. 4 this year, social media platforms were abuzz with H-P updates and it became a trending topic through hashtag use in many cities including Dayton, Ohio. You Tube videos went viral like Jeremy Cowart’s intro, which had more than 10,000 views. The 2010 main video had 38,039 views.

Members on our H-P team targeted our local newspaper, radio and television stations giving them information about the worldwide impact of our gift along with progress updates. We had coverage from two local television stations, which helped us build awareness for the global Help-Portrait campaign and positioning for the coming year’s event.

My personal network locally and globally expanded thanks to this year’s H-P event. I found, followed, friended and volunteered with so many incredible people. For that alone, I am grateful. I had the opportunity to connect with the families of the military in our area making tremendous sacrifices for our freedom. I was able to thank them in person and give them something to smile about.

Connect with people. Engage in conversation. Learn their story and share. We are a part of a growing community of caring photographers and volunteers who want to be the change they want to see in the world. Embrace this Help-Portrait tour de force. 2011 is going to rock.