6 Degrees of Separation or Less

With my Medical Humanities Minor and interest in the health sphere, I aim to learn more about social media as it relates to the changing landscape of medicine.

For my first post, I found that Stand Up 2 Cancer is a fascinating case study. The nonprofit came across my newsfeed (on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter) this past weekend through its most recent Valentine’s Day themed campaign: #KissCancerGoodbye. Supporters are encouraged to post pictures kissing their loved ones, to raise awareness and money along with camaraderie (evidenced through likes, shares and comments).

The organization was built around personal networks. There is a small core team, which has expanded outwards through social networks and a collaborative structure made up of business alliances and scientific Dream Teams. The organization raises money through multiple platforms, all of which rely heavily on social media. Every two years celebrities host a Stand Up 2 Cancer Show on networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and HBO.  The live event encourages tweeting, posting, hash-tagging, texting and most of all donating. Past shows have utilized live video streaming on Hulu, celebrity video chats via Youtube, personal messages sent in through social media, and online fundraising. Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Tom Hanks, Justin Timberlake, Julia Roberts, Michael Douglas and Matt Damon appear alongside musical performances by Lupe Fiasco, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande, The Who, and the Dave Matthews Band.  The last telecast in 2014 raised $109 million for innovative research. Stand Up 2 Cancer clearly demonstrates the power of producing, sharing and talking about content.

Other recohqdefaultgnizable branding from Stand Up 2 Cancer comes in the form of the signs that read “I stand up for _____.” Throughout the year people post pictures holding their own personalized signs. Celebrities and fans also participate at special sporting events, like the Home Run Derby and ice hockey games.
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Their website contains a blog providing frequent updates on events.  The public has the option to easily follow, connect and share with Stand Up 2 Cancer in all different forms.  One may purchase apparel from the online store and then upload a picture wearing it, with any number of hashtags.  For a nonprofit that seeks to use 100% of its money for research such as clinical trials, costs for marketing and raising that money are a big factor. Social media provides the answer.  Any impression that leads to more site traffic is a good thing.  Through their website people can get information, learn about different ways to donate and support others, as well as host their own event or start a school club.  Stand Up 2 Cancer, founded in May 2008, was able to quickly scale its objective and go international. The SU2C team effectively harnesses the power of people for their worthy cause.  One writer, Chris Perry, explains:

Use of digital and social media is intended to shed massive light on the human impact of cancer — and how people can collectively join the fight.

“At Stand Up To Cancer, we know this is personal. It used to be that people talked about six degrees of separation,” [Jules DiBiase, director of digital media, says]. “With cancer, it’s one degree, and it’s got to stop.  We know that’s why people are so dedicated to the cause.

The organization is inextricably linked with social media. Without its online platforms, their message and mission would not reach nearly as many people.  This is just one example of the good that can stem from social media. This blog post is merely one more contribution to the SU2C digital footprint.




  1. I remember watching the Home Run Derby a couple of years ago and learning about this company and campaign when it was fairly new. I am so glad to see how it has grown and that it is continuing to be successful. I really enjoyed reading this blog and learning how SUTC is leveraging social media. As you mentioned, social media is a great way for non-profits to keep marketing costs low, while still being able to have such a positive impact.

  2. Great post, Kiara! I love these kinds of initiatives that spread awareness and help create waves for good causes, but also shed a nice light on reality. Social media has this awesome power of width in reach, but also depth, in that it allows us to see so much more of a person’s story and really understand and sympathize. I especially liked the #KissCancerGoodbye campaign– I have a soft spot for companies that use Valentine’s Day to spread universal love, rather than try and capitalize on people’s relationships and feelings.

  3. This is a great example of an organization using social media to bring about awareness and positive change. What I think makes Stand Up 2 Cancer very successful is the fact that their campaigns are very personal – whether it be hearing about how other people have been affected by cancer or being prompted to think about how cancer has affected you personally. I recently read an article that claims that the human social world has shrunk so that we are now separated from everyone by an average of 3.46 degrees of separation, as opposed to the traditional 6 degrees of separation. (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/05/technology/six-degrees-of-separation-facebook-finds-a-smaller-number.html?ref=technology&_r=0). This can only mean good things for organizations such as SUTC that thrive on being able to effectively spread awareness.

  4. Nice post. I was about to relay the article that @asauder17 pointed out but she beat me to it. I’m not sure I 100% agree with her that it’s necessarily a good thing. Yes, people are more connected, but that connection is controlled by FB. Whether or not your issue makes it to the top of the newsfeed is up to them. I’m not sure they would deliberately bury cancer topics, but they might regulate the degree to which non-profits can use the platform.

  5. Such a great example of how marketing cost reductions made possible by social media allows for an increase in awareness and ability to put non-profit funding toward the actual mission. As much as making the cause personal may help spread awareness within a social network, I do wonder if some of the important pieces of what the organization does (like what you were able to share in this blog post) gets lost. I’m sure the marketers out there have a better understanding of what it takes to get people to take action. That said, I think #StrikeOutALS is proof for fellow Eagles, and the world, that great change and funding raising efforts are possible through social media when done the right way. Thanks to social media I know more now about ALS than I ever did and thanks to you (and social media) I now know more about #SU2C.

  6. Nice post! I also remember watching the Home Run Derby and thinking that it was a cool thing that they did to take a break from the action for this cause. This is a really great example of how social media and network effects can do some really positive things. Network effects in general interest me, and the whole idea behind Six Degrees of Separation is really fascinating. I didn’t know about the fact presented in the post above, but I am aware of a site that does a similar thing with movie stars – specifically Kevin Bacon. It’s called the Oracle Of Bacon and it uses movie co-stars to show how actors are all intertwined and that network effects are still very much in play even in the movie and TV industry. I bet you can’t get a number higher than 3. Enjoy! https://oracleofbacon.org/

  7. Really nice post, Kiara. SU2C is a great example of how social media can formulate an overarching narrative from its contributing constituents. The photo that really got to me was the one depicting the LA Kings family, with each sign indicating their “relationship” to cancer. I see it as spelling out the connections that make up a network. It’s interesting, and deeply saddening, that cancer forms a sort of non-digital network — almost everyone knows someone who has battled, or is battling cancer. I think Chris Perry’s comment on cancer’s “one degree of separation” explains why SU2C’s campaign is naturally suited to forming a digital network by giving a medium for the pre-existing networks of friends and families affected by the disease.

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