Tag Archives: jeremiahowyang

traveling without moving

I’ve been watching Beth Kanter traipsing across the globe over the last couple of weeks, as she traveled to Australia to give some workshops and a keynote on social media for nonprofits. She’s been blogging and twittering and uploading pictures to Flickr the whole time, and I’ve checked in with her updates a couple of times to see how things were going (mainly to see if she had met up with my friend Jules Woodward, the Executive Director of Flying Arts in Brisbane — she did).

One of the best things she pointed to during this trip, for me, was the blog maintained by Seb Chan, of the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, fresh + new(er). (Thanks to Beth Kanter for the image.)

Seb writes about all manner of things touching on social media and how cultural organizations (including museums, performing arts venues, and others) can use these tools to get things done. The depth and intelligence of the coverage of this space on this blog is just superb — among the best I’ve seen.

A recent post that spoke to what I’ve been working on lately was Seb’s review of Groundswell by Forrester senior analysts Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. I recently finished reading Groundswell myself, and I’ve been busy incorporating its ideas into the round of workshops on social media and nonprofits I’m in the midst of right now.

One of the most useful points I’ve found in Groundswell is the importance of planning for how engagement in web 2.0 will change your organization — how it works, how it processes information, how it responds to praise and criticism, and more. Some of this you can’t plan for — but you should at least know that change is likely.

Put simply, if you do engage, you organisation will change. If you engage strategically then this change can be managed and paced appropriately. For some organisations it might be most appropriate to deploy a range of ‘listening’ techniques and technologies before leaping into a poorly planned social media project. Even here at the Powerhouse we’ve had social media projects fail because we have over-estimated our intended audiences and their predicted behaviour. {Seb Chan, fresh + new(er)}

Often, I think we embark on social media “strategies” thinking that we are going to change our audience’s behavior — that we’re going to “get” them to do something we want them to do.

This is the sort of strategy that is likely to fail. People don’t like being “gotten” to do stuff. If there’s one thing people can sniff out, it’s coercion.

That’s where my other favorite part of Groundswell comes in (and Jeremiah Owyang talks about this a lot, too): Fish Where the Fish Are.

It’s not about getting people to do something new, so much as it is about going where they are already engaged, and getting down with them there.

That’s why the folks at Forrester are always banging on about this POST method of theirs — it makes you look first at the people you are trying to reach, second at what they are already doing online, and then you can start talking strategy and tools.

I banged on about this myself at some length during my class at Mount Holyoke on Friday, when I presented to a roomful of alumnae of various ages on how they can start thinking about using tools like blogging, social networking, and photosharing for their own nonprofits.

I used the occasion of my own 15th reunion at Mount Holyoke to sharpen some of my favorite event-broadcasting-through-social-media skills. As a result, I know I experienced the weekend very differently — I was more reflective, more thoughtful about how I spent my time, where I stood, and what I noticed — because, I suppose, I wasn’t just there for me. I was thinking about what you might want to see, what you might care or not care about, and what I might be otherwise taking for granted.

If you want to see some of what I got up to during my reunion/social media workout, you can check it out on:




and coming soon to YouTube…


louis vuitton wants you to stop talking about them

Jeremiah Owyang woke me up this morning (on Twitter) to a fascinating, instructive tale of a major brand getting drawn in to a major international crisis, against their will and to their detriment, and responding to it in a predictable, though shortsighted way.  Somewhere, a PR department is having a very bad Sunday.

Yes, I check Twitter before I get out of bed.

So what happened?

An artist created a T-shirt to raise awareness of the genocide in Durfur, and to vent some frustration at a media culture that gives more face-time to Paris Hilton than the victims of conflicts such as this one.

The T-shirt shows a victim of Darfur holding a Louis Vuitton-style luxury handbag in one arm, and a Paris Hilton-style toy dog in the other.  Jeremiah has a great recap of the whole story here.

So what happened next?

On a smaller scale, I woke up thinking who the heck is LV? and now, an hour later, I know exactly who LV is, and I know they’re knee-deep in a mess that wrong-foots them on an international issue on which practically everyone agrees, one that sets them up as a litigious Goliath, one that makes them appear anti-artist and anti-free-speech.

The plus side?

I am thinking about Louis Vuitton, and so are lots of other people.  I am NEVER thinking about Louis Vuitton.

That’s why the company’s reaction is so wrong here: sending the artist a Cease-and-Desist letter, and trying to make the issue go away through brute force.

Instead, they should take advantage of this rare opportunity — hundreds and thousands of people who on a daily basis couldn’t give a fig about your brand suddenly — briefly — do.

They have a very small window of opportunity to use this momentum to their own benefit, to the benefit of the victims in Darfur, to the benefit of the artist that started it all, and to the benefit of the artists in general.

Louis Vuitton can set an example, can be a brand who gets it right, by realizing that the spotlight is on them right now, whether they like it or not, and that they have the power to turn this into a PR opportunity, not a PR nightmare.

As I said in response to Jeremiah’s post:

…it makes me crazy when brands do this sort of thing. Here they have an opportunity: suddenly this Sunday morning hundreds/thousands of people who hadn’t given their brand a second thought are talking and typing and wondering how to spell “Vuitton,” and all they can say is “Stop talking about us?”

This is exactly the moment when they need to use the momentum to advance their brand, not cause further damage.

They can’t cram the genie back into the bottle, but they might still get three wishes, if they try really hard.

Think this has nothing to do with nonprofits?

Don’t think that your nonprofit doesn’t have a brand, because it certainly does, and don’t fool yourself that a PR nightmare like this wouldn’t happen to that brand, because it certainly could.

Nonprofits need to think about brand management just like for-profit corporations do.  Perhaps even more so, because charities are often held to a higher standard, and ethical blemishes can be even harder for nonprofits to rinse out.

Do you still think Red Cross = Fiscal Mismanagement?

What about Smithsonian = Complete Chaos in Management?

Finally, remember that crises like the LV brandjacking above represents an opportunity for more than just the injured brand to do good — do you know a nonprofit organization that does work in Darfur?  Wouldn’t this be a good time to reach out to Louis Vuitton and see how you might be able to work together?

the organizational social media policy

More organizations are making the move into social media, either by starting a CEO blog, a customer Facebook group, or just by allowing employees to blog openly about their work lives.

As a result, more organizations are finding it necessary to draft a social media policy, or at least a set of principles, meant to guide employees’ behavior online.

Beth Kanter recently put out a call for examples of social media guidelines from nonprofits, starting with the example of the Easter Seals’ blogging policy.

A few readers chimed in with some good examples from the enterprise sector (for instance, IBM, Opera, and Sun all have blogging policies, which were linked to via Twitter by Christine Kreutz).

In a follow-up post, Beth relates an anonymous tale of a corporate social media policy:

In truth, the policy… is quite vague. It goes on for a while but really just says, “Use common sense and please don’t say stupid stuff. In fact, we’d love it if you told your personal institutional story in a constructive way.

I think that’s what most blogging/social media policies really boil down to.

It seems like executives (and nonprofit boards) are primarily concerned about three things:

  1. Employees will say bad things about the organization (sponsors, vendors, customers, etc.);
  2. Customers/constituents will say bad things about the organization (sponsors, staff, vendors, etc.);
  3. Employees will tell secrets.

It’s been said that companies would do well to remember that they have to trust their employees on these issues every day already — every time they talk to a customer, deal with a member, gab with a vendor, or work with a sponsor, you are trusting them to represent you and your brand responsibly, with discretion and integrity.

If you haven’t hired people you can trust to behave like responsible adults, then there is a deeper problem.

Of course, by “secrets” we can also be talking about “knowledge” — especially if your primary product is ideas and analysis. How much should smart, responsible bloggers share of their smart, responsible (and valuable) thinking?

This line of thought reminded me of this recent post from David Deal of Avenue A|Razorfish, a reaction to George Colony‘s recent talk on corporate blogging.

Colony seems concerned, understandably, about the wisdom of giving away too much of his company‘s bread-and-butter, which is insight, analysis, and forecasting. Do bloggers like Jeremiah Owyang give away the farm by blogging so prolifically on his topics of expertise?

Not hardly, David says:

I think the blogger-as-superstar-brand is good for any company — but especially Forrester, JupiterResearch, Gartner, IDC, and other organizations that rely on ideas as currency. Your employees already are your brand whether you realize it or not.

The problem with this fear of giving away the farm, this anxiety that every bit of our product needs to be paid for, is that it ignores the way that social media works. Social media works around relationships (believe it or not), not transactions.

Yes, most marketers think they have “relationships” with their customers, but they don’t, not really. They are really going right for the sale, and they aren’t really listening at all.

As Brian Oberkirk said today:

They go right for the transaction. It’s like: Hi, there, I’m…hey, is that your hand in my pocket?

I think I speak for a lot of us when I say “Please get your hands out of our pockets. We’ll call you when we need you.”

The economy in most social networks is just different from the more typical, everyday, transactional business model. Online, in social media, you give a little (sometimes a lot) to get more. Sometimes a lot more.

Ignore this at your peril.

state of the debate: build or join

Brian Oberkirk’s recently posted advice to brands considering launching their own social networks (in short: don’t) has made the rounds in the nonprofit technology blogosphere, mostly thanks to the incredibly useful nptech tag (add this to your RSS feed now if you want to follow other practitioners and thinkers in this field).

It’s another volley in the ongoing debate over brands (companies, organizations, nonprofits, membership groups, etc.) building their own versus joining an existing social network.

I weighed in on this topic (twice) back in November, when I suggested that it depends on what your organization’s most pressing goals are, but that a good starting strategy for many groups would be to test the waters of existing social networks by trying to achieve one or two simple, quantifiable goals. Then you can decide from there how to proceed.

I even created a couple of decision trees (with help from Beth Kanter and Kevin Gamble) to help think through this decision.

Jeremiah Owyang delves deeply into this question on his blog, most recently in the form of an audio podcast in which he debates the question with colleagues Ted Shelton and Chris Heuer, both of The Conversation Group, and Brian Oberkirk.

Beth Kanter also recently touched on this question of Build or Join in her recent interview with Jonathan Coleman, Associate Director of Digital Marketing for The Nature Conservancy. Jonathan says:

…another principle strategy of ours {is} connecting with people where they are rather than making {them} find us. Like many organizations, we used to be under the false impression that “if you build it, they will come.” But nowadays, we’ve come to think different about how we conduct outreach. Rather than force people to come to our site and remember another username and password, we’re happy to find them where they’re already engaged and introduce them to the Conservancy in venues of their choice.

Just like with any venture into new technology, nonprofits need to think carefully about what resources they have available to dedicate to implementing a social networking strategy. Whether you build or join, it’s a commitment to maintaining a meaningful presence in your online community. The rewards can be great, but don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that it won’t take time, money, and care.

Fortunately, there are some very smart people out there who can help. I’ve linked to several of them in this post — who else has something compelling to say on the subject these days? What’s your latest thinking on the subject?

faith, trust, and charity

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about what we mean when we talk about the importance of transparency and authenticity, as organizations doing business in social media space. Jeremiah Owyang just gave this question prominence on his web strategist blog, as part of his Social Media FAQ series.

He lists these signs that an organization is being authentic, transparent, or human in their social media:

  • Training and entrusting employees to build real relationships using these tools
  • Admitting when you’re wrong
  • Asking the community for help, working with the community to build better products
  • Showing your strengths –and weaknesses –in a public forum
  • Showing more of unique side of the employees (that you invested in) in addition to your products, technology, and services
  • Realizing the brand is actually owned by the community and not just the MarCom brand police
  • Excellent points — and a lot of these points boil right down to trust and honesty. It’s not really much more complicated than the Golden Rule. If you treat your community online with respect, you are likely to be treated with respect in return. If you provide your community with value, they will see value in your brand.

    If, however, you try to “game” the system, you will in turn be gamed.

    In this new world of conversational media, trust between an organization and its community is paramount.

    Here are some great ways to violate that trust before you’re even out of the starting gate:

    Alternatively, you can choose to engender trust in your online community:

    • Write with a human voice – preferably, your own.
    • Listen to negative comments, thank them for constructive criticism, and respond thoughtfully and respectfully.
    • Have faith that your employees will behave like adults and act with discretion in their social media space*
    • Trust your customers/members/community to respect you for being open and for showing your weaknesses
    • Be honest when you make a mistake or need to correct an omission

    Shel Israel and Robert Scoble’s book Naked Conversations offers several instructive examples of organizations who acted deceptively, or sometimes just too slowly, to respond to negative reactions in their social media space. If you haven’t read it, consider doing so soon. Remember that you are always free to learn from other people’s mistakes, and can thus (hopefully) avoid making them yourself altogether.

    As we are witnessing right now with baseball players handling — or mishandling — charges of steroid use, it isn’t so much the crime that does you in, it’s the cover-up.

    Jeremiah also brought my attention today to a great post by Bokardo about what happens when you get involved in social media with your brand, and with your organization:

    Giving people a platform for expression doesn’t necessarily create buzz and demand. It only amplifies what the opinion was in the first place.

    In other words, if you give people a platform for expression and:

    • If your product sucks, the resulting conversation will be about how much it sucks.
    • If your product is great, the resulting conversation will be about how great it is.

    In other words, it’s better to think of social media tools as amplifying customer opinion rather than improving it.

    How do you show your community, your employees, your online folks that you trust them? How has that worked for you?

    *Trust, but verify. It’s a good idea to show your employees what’s expected of them by setting up blog or social media guidelines before setting them loose.

    creating community awards

    Beth Kanter, from Beth’s Blog (of course), presented the Bloggers Who Create Community Award to Small Dots!

    bloggers who create community award

    Beth named three bloggers to receive the award — the other two are Amy Sample Ward’s Version of NpTech and Michele Martin, The Bamboo Project. If you don’t know these blogs, I strongly encourage you to check them out.

    Here’s what Beth said about Small Dots:

    Beth works in the arts and nonprofits world. She’s only been blogging for a couple of months, but already you can see the lively community and conversation happening on her blog. I appreciate her deep engagement in conversation, listening, and cross-disciplinary thinking.

    Thank you! I am energized beyond words to be writing in this new blog-space (I’ve actually been writing a personal blog — and contributing to several group blogs — for many years) and by the community that supports it. The encouragement I’ve received from other bloggers — Beth Kanter in particular — has been astonishing, and I am very grateful to her and to everyone who reads and comments.

    I’m going to continue the pay-it-forward thread of this award and confer it on:

    Connie Bensen

    Connie is the community manager for ACDSee, and has a lot of very thoughtful and valuable insight to share. Her blog covers a lot of ground with a lot of verve, and is one of my favorite reads these days. I admire her willingness to share her experiences of what works and what doesn’t, especially for the web worker and the community manager.

    Len Edgerly

    Len is a prolific and engaging podcaster and technology advocate. He is interested, as am I, in ways to bring technology to artists and arts organizations in thoughtful, practical ways, and I learn a lot from him. I admire his curiosity and open, inquiring mind – and how he shares his interest with us in a variety of media.

    Jeremiah Owyang

    I feel almost presumptuous giving Jeremiah this award, but I think his blog is such an excellent source of inspiration, node of thought, and hub of activity that I just can’t omit him from my list. Jeremiah writes about social media, emerging web technologies, and the ongoing evolution of online communities, and I deeply admire his adept use of a variety of different technologies to draw his community together and provoke meaningful discussion.

    Thank you to these bloggers and to everyone I’ve met and interacted with in 2007. I can’t wait to see what we cook up together in 2008.

    it’s nice to be nice to the nice

    Do social networks mostly promote inclusion or exclusion?

    It depends, of course, on the user. Like The Force, social media can be used for good or ill.

    And some will say that it depends on what your objectives are. I’m going to take a stand and say that inclusion – and openness – is good, and that it leads to good things.

    Take Twitter, for instance. When asked to describe it to others, I usually say that it is a huge, freewheeling chat room. Of course, to the new user who is maybe only following the one person who talked them into signing up, it looks too huge. All they can really see is the public timeline – they haven’t yet had a chance to segment it out into a cohort of people who are likely to say interesting things to them.

    This is why I advocate for a practice some deride – cruising the friend lists of those people you do know and adding those whose interests seem aligned with yours. I don’t think you should just go down the list and grab them all – if you hover your mouse over a person’s avatar, their 140-character bio will come up. I add people whose self-descriptions sound like the type of person I would like to follow (keywords are technology, social media, arts, nonprofit, geek, etc.).

    Some will add you right back, some won’t. No big deal.

    But the most important step is the next step: Get Engaged.

    This goes for any social network: if you just go around adding people to your friends list and never engage with them (poke them, @username them, comment on the blog post they are flogging that day), then you really are little more than a bot, I’m afraid. You’ve got to contribute something to the conversation. This isn’t TV.

    While I applaud neophytes for sitting back and watching the conversation, learning the etiquette, before jumping in ill-advisedly, I also feel strongly that you have to take that leap at some point – sooner rather than later – and pipe up.

    Chris Brogan, Eric Rice, and Clarence Smith, Jr. have been over here talking about the evolving practices of social media users when adding friends on Facebook and Twitter.

    Meanwhile, Jeremiah Owyang has been over here, wearing a largely unnecessary hairshirt that nonetheless sets an excellent example for the rest of us. More on that in a bit.

    Both of these conversations, it seems to me, are about inclusion, openness, and transparency.

    The conversation Chris and his buddies have set in action centers largely on issues of how users go about adding friends on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and what the ramifications of each practice is.

    Chris talks about how his practice of friending people back automatically (if you add him, he will add you back, unless you are clearly a bot) stems from his central guiding principle of Niceness. Chris is a guy who gives out his phone number to the social media masses on a regular basis and just asks them to call and say hi, usually inviting them to talk about whatever they want to talk about. That’s Nice.

    The others talk about their various takes on how and when to reciprocate a “friending.” It’s a fascinating, rambling conversation that offers a nifty peek into the current state of a certain slice of social media. And yet…

    All this raises questions for me about how groups and individuals, when they reach a social media space, either build walls (my updates are protected, a strict no-adding-back policy, etc.) or break them down.

    Guys like Chris (from what I know of him) are relentless wall-smashers. He seems to belong to that group of humans who always have their hand outstretched in welcome, who are genuinely interested in what you have to say.

    Now, I’m not saying the other guys are jerks, or somehow mean, because they don’t automatically add every random stranger. I’m not saying that at all. I’m just saying that I think there is a theme poking up in all this, and it’s not a particularly new one.

    There’s been a lot of talk over the last few years about how the world has gotten flat, and the crowd is the best source for knowledge and strength, and how collaboration and openness are the core strengths of smart businesses of any size, in almost any sector.

    The common thread in all of these recent memes is the over-arching and through-going importance of openness and transparency.

    It’s the reason why you are seeing far fewer aliases online, and more people owning their own names, and unifying their various online personae.

    It’s the reason why I rarely ask someone whose updates are protected to add me on Twitter.

    It’s the reason why somebody like Jeremiah Owyang – a rather highly-regarded (if new-ish) analyst at Forrester who clearly works his tail off trying to create relevant, useful content for freeasks his readers what he can do better, how he can better serve their needs.

    Giving away one’s knowledge, one’s insight, one’s time and one’s kindness, it seems to me, only ups the ante. It makes me think: If this is what he GIVES away, imagine how lucky his paying clients/real friends/wife is.

    In this way, it’s hugely strategic, without being cunning or calculating.

    Being open, being transparent, being humble, being receptive to comments and criticism.

    It just seems like a good policy to me.

    What do you think?