Ever heard of a Bacon Number?

Posted by at 1:38PM

That’s right folks, Kevin Bacon himself was on campus last night, speaking about the way he is doing good through his organization,

Kevin Bacon, anyone? Also sorry for the bad lighting. What are you going to do?

Six Degrees.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

A Bacon Number is like a funny version of the idea that there are only six degrees of separation between any two people in the entire world.  Only, it’s a lot funnier when the joke’s on Kevin Bacon.  (Can we get a tally started on how many times I say “Kevin Bacon” in this post?) Because of Kevin Bacon’s extensive acting career ( which, I’ve learned, includes a stint on Broadway and did I mention Kevin Bacon’s music career?), he has worked with a lot of actors.  I mean a lot of actors. The joke apparently started in the 90s, and Kevin Bacon himself wasn’t laughing.

Want a piece of the action?  It’s simple.  Go to OracleOfBacon.org and type in an actor’s name.  Any Hollywood actor.  It will bring you to a list of movies and actors that connect Kevin Bacon to the actor that you type in.

But time heals all wounds, and with time, Kevin Bacon learned to embrace the joke around his fame.  He created SixDegrees.org which uses social networking (facebook, twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, etc.)  to help people become celebrities for the causes they like.  To paraphrase Kevin Bacon, social media is out there, and it’s not going away.  Why not try to use it to do some good?

But back to yesterday, back Stanford.  Contrary to how I’m setting up this blog post, the night was not all about Kevin Bacon.  IN fact, a highlight of the evening was a presentation by Jennifer Aaker (professor of social networking here at the GSB) on how social networking had a direct and palpable impact on saving the lives of leukemia patients.  Using networking to sign up for the bone marrow registry in a corporate-goal-setting way helped 266 patients get transplants in the first year.  It was powerful.  Luckily Kevin Bacon was there to drive the point home by demonstrating the registry process on stage.  (See picture above).

Another highlight of the night was when 3 different groups of Stanford students presented their ideas on using social networking for good.  Ideas included using Facebook to create awareness of causes and keep people updated on issues, using a rating system to show which non-profits (especially ones that help the same cause) are most efficient with their money so that donors can give accordingly, and finally the winner, titled “Give Like a Billionaire,” which attempts to maximize the two reasons that people donate: personal connections and matching (the idea that people are more likely to give when someone else will match their donation).

Now I bet you’ve all but forgotten about Kevin Bacon.  (Shame on you.)  Just so that you remember, here is a list of advice that Kevin Bacon (as well as other members of the panel) gave to anyone trying to use social media for a cause (which I suppose includes me right now):

  • have one focused, measurable goal
  • state goals in a way that will inspire people
  • spend time designing network effects (what is the reward?  what keeps people coming?)
  • don’t focus on negatives to incite people: always steer towards happiness and optimism
  • provide clear, simple actions for people to take
  • make it easy for people to do what you want them to
  • don’t underestimate the power of stories – use media tools (videos, pictures, text, etc.) to share and/or tell them
  • understand who you are talking to and why

So here is the bottom line for you, my dear blog reader who has suffered through this post despite my annoying use of Kevin Bacon’s full name.

Don’t be afraid to get involved.  Self-promote.  Find your inner Kevin Bacon.

And if I can make a less general plug for a cause, look into the bone marrow registry.  It’s really a simple painless process that saves lives.  I’m looking at you, ethnic minorities.

So thanks for the learning experience Kevin Bacon.

Kevin Bacon.

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