By Mona Mousa, past president of Rotaract Stockholm and its international representative
I don’t have a professional background in social media management, but I have managed several social media accounts such as Rotaract Stockholm and Rotaract Oceania. In advance of the Global Citizen Live event in Paris in September, the rest of my team decided I should handle the Rotary Instagram page, as they have followed me for a long time.
It was an exciting and a scary opportunity because there are thousands of followers, but I went in with an open mind.
I became more connected to Rotary about 3½ years ago through a friend and through my dad, who was the first one to tell me about Rotary and suggest I investigate it.
What appealed to me about Rotaract was the like-minded people I found there, and that it was a community where we can do projects and network for our own and society’s benefit. It started as a place for me to find new people and friends when I moved back to Stockholm to pursue a bachelor’s degree. I went in with no idea what to expect and enjoyed developing an international family.
Being a Rotaract member has opened so many doors for me, like the immediate connections and trust I built with Rotaract members globally. I made friendships that I don’t think I’ll ever lose. Rotaract gave me the opportunity to work on global projects for a good cause such as Move for GECAF (Give Every Child a Future). Through Move for GECAF, Rotaract has raised funds this year and last for children in the Pacific to get immunized against deadly diseases. What really made me proud is Move for GECAF’s global reach with participants from 40 countries.
When the pandemic hit, many clubs struggled to remain active and suffered from low engagement online. A Rotaract member from Italy had the idea to open a Zoom link for any Rotaract members who were alone or wanted some company while working from home. As more people joined, we started to have online events, such as speakers, game and quiz nights, and even online parties with live DJs. With the pandemic, many of the big conferences like REM (Rotaract Europe Meeting) and EUCO (European Convention) were going to cancel their in-person events, so we decided to help run them online through Zoom. This gave us the opportunity to learn and manage events online. With all of the events, friendships grew and personal connections were made with people from all around the world. After almost two years, we still remain online with the same people we met in the beginning of 2020, and I couldn’t be prouder to call them my friends and have a second online family to rely on.
This past September, at Global Citizen Live in Paris, we had another chance for engagement when Rotary International President-elect Jennifer Jones put together a Rotaract “social squad” to take over Rotary’s Instagram stories to showcase Rotary’s involvement in global events. The social squad consisted of me, Pauline Amiel (France), Hanh Minh (Vietnam) and Tamara Gojkovic, my online best friend from World Rotaract Week. Tamara and I had tried so many times throughout the year to meet up somewhere either in my country or hers (Bosnia), but it never worked out until Global Citizen Live.
For the event, I was given creative freedom within respectable limits to showcase on Instagram what the event was all about. I wasn’t sure at first how to set the tone for the content, but I decided on a fun yet professional approach that people would enjoy.
To create excitement and anticipation, I posted stories asking people where they thought we were heading, starting with our train ride to the Global Citizen Live event. At the hotel, we posted little hints of what we were doing, then posted how we were preparing for the event to engage followers and show off the skills and capabilities of Rotary and Rotaract members as we collaborated.
I was excited to see people interacting through the comments. My favorite part was people guessing where they thought we were heading. Some were correct and some were funny. I was also inspired by how many people tagged and posted about the event and were tuning in to watch Jennifer Jones from home.
I’m hoping this “social squad” takeover experience will allow me to take on similar opportunities and experiences and use social media to promote what Rotary and Rotaract are doing. We already had a panel discussion with Rotaract Oceania where we spoke about the international connections we made through the pandemic. I led a breakout session talking about international collaboration, and specifically about the Instagram takeover and how Rotary connected us internationally over a project. Despite the loneliness and sadness the pandemic has caused for many, we Rotaract members found a silver lining by creating the best friends we could ever imagine.
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About the author: Mona Mousa has a master’s degree in Global Peace, Security and Strategy at the Brussels School of Governance in Belgium and is now a European Union Public Policy trainee in Brussels.