Tag Archives: joshbernoff

Government 2.0



The announcement came a day or so ago: President-Elect Obama will be recording a brief, weekly video address, and distributing it via YouTube.  For the legions of social media practitioners who participated in his campaign, and for those who watched from the sidelines or from another campaign’s trenches, this constitutes big news.

It’s being hailed as a first important step in fulfilling the promise of his campaign, not in the sense of advancing any particular agenda or legislation, but in the sense of moving forward with the remarkable community base his campaign built up over the past two years.

Many of us have been wondering how President-Elect Obama would use the channels of communication so painstakingly established and so effectively used during his presidential campaign to help steer his team through the transition process, and onward into the full term of his presidency.

Some predicted that this election would usher in an era of “Government 2.0” and establish an unprecedented level of transparency and authenticity in government and governing.  Some remained more cynical.  I doubt that any of us expected the Obama team to abruptly relinquish the powerful tools of social media once they crossed the finish line of the election.

So far, what I have seen is a certain amount of pulling back on the Obama team’s part.  During the campaign there was a visible give-and-take between the campaign’s foot soldiers and the top leadership team, and the MyBarackObama.com website allowed for real participation and user contribution, through blogs, messaging, and events that brought the online world into Real Life (like the coordination of neighborhood rallies and events).

Now, however, the new Change.gov website is considerably more one-way.  The only blog on the site is the one from the Obama transition team, and comments are not enabled.  There’s a place for visitors to “Share Your Story” and “Share Your Vision,” but this, too, is a one-way conversation.

I had an interesting conversation this weekend with Josh Bernoff, co-author of Groundswell, about the Obama team’s shift in tone on their social media.  He also blogged recently about the new Change.org website, and points out a few things worth repeating:

Is it social? Not yet. It contains outgoing information. And it solicits your feedback. But when you tell President-Elect Obama your vision for America, your suggestion goes . . . well, I don’t know where it goes. You type it in and then get the “thanks for sharing” message shown here. Will they just pick the ones they like and republish them?

Embracing applications like mystarbucksidea.com require two things to be successful. 1. everyone needs to see all the ideas. And 2. the organization has to respond — tell what it is going to do (or not do) about the ideas.

He then issues a call to action, and asks readers to go to the change.gov website and ask them to change they way they run this part of the site:

So here’s what you should do. Publish all the ideas that people enter on this site. Allow us all to vote for them. And then tell us, directly, what you are going to do to address the ones that are most popular, or the best.

Interestingly, about 4 days after Josh issued this call to action, a new entry on the Change.gov blog published a smattering of submitted entries.  Maybe four or fine snippets are quoted here among the tens (hundreds? thousands?) of thousands of entries they must have already received.  Just as Bernoff predicted, they just picked the ones they liked and republished them.

It reads less like a message board and more like a stump speech.

It’s too bad, because the real, authentic sharing of the voices of actual people was what made that campaign go.  It now looks like they’re imposing a far more finely-meshed filter on the social media content on their site.  This has the unfortunate effect of putting the brakes on the momentum, and stifling the part of what they were doing that really engaged with individuals, with communities.

Let’s hope the filter comes off again as time goes on.


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…

i heart data

Have you tried making the case for your nonprofit to start blogging, or get into social networks, or in some other way try something bolder than Ye Olde Corporate Website as a means of engaging your community online… only to be rebuffed by the mentality that “our constituents aren’t online” or “our members don’t read blogs” or something of the sort?

Ever get frustrated that you didn’t have the data to either refute or confirm that kind of assertion?

Well, my heroes over at Forrester Research have released an interactive tool that allows you to build a profile of your constituents (assuming you have an accurate profile of who exactly they are) and how they use the internet.

Plug in different profiles based on age, gender, and country, and you’ll get information where those users sit on the ladder of engagement.

Forrester Groundswell Tool

Data from Forrester Research Technographics® surveys, 2007. For further details on the Social Technographics profile, see groundswell.forrester.com.

(For more information on what exactly the different levels of engagement mean, check out this quick slide deck.)

The authors of the new book Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies, Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li, are also releasing more in-depth research information on groups — like small business owners — once a week on their blog, also called Groundswell.

These weekly tidbits should give a finer-grained view of various groups of people who might be persons of interest, let’s say, to a nonprofit looking to interact more meaningfully with their existing constituents, or to reach new supporters who are already online, interested in similar causes, and engaged in social media.

I’m hoping to read and review Groundswell (the book) soon. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the rare peek behind the curtain that these top analysts at Forrester are giving us at some serious market research.

Recession-Proof Marketing

Josh Bernoff and several of his colleagues (including Jeremiah Owyang) at Forrester released a free report today about why interactive marketing can and should withstand a recession.

Of course, a recession is nothing but a period of widespread, sustained decline in economic growth. It’s when times are tight for both you and your customers (donors, constituents, etc.), and are expected to remain so for some time.

Sounds like daily life for most nonprofits, doesn’t it?

So this got me thinking that the message in this report was just as applicable to cash-strapped nonprofits, struggling to reach donors and their dollars, as it was to businesses trying to make prudent plans for some less than exuberant economic times.

Wisely side-stepping the thorny question of whether or not the US is currently heading for, or is already in, a recession, Josh et al provide a brief and compelling case for holding on to your organization’s interactive marketing projects, despite looming budget cuts and customer restraint.

To sum up (and I do recommend you read the report, it’s free and a quick read), interactive marketing:

  • Provides measurable results
  • Costs little to maintain and use
  • Keeps customers engaged, even when they’re not buying

Measurable, inexpensive, and effective. So when you’re looking to trim your marketing budget, it might be wise to treat your social apps investment as meat, and paid advertising as fat.

Why? Because paid advertising is less measurable, more expensive, and less engaging than interactive media.

Sure, you can measure the return on investment in your direct marketing campaign, your annual appeal, your print advertisements. But how high are those numbers? What’s the pennies on the dollar return? And what is the minimum amount necessary to spend in order to achieve results?

This, I think, is a point worth emphasizing, and one that isn’t mentioned in the report. Interactive media has a lower expense-to-return threshold than traditional marketing does. Simply put, it costs less to begin to see a measurable result.

Of course, straitened economics are a daily and persistent reality for most nonprofits. So this report really offers nonprofits a very sound rationale for keeping interactive marketing in the budget even during those periodic downturns in donor activity.

In fact, incorporating a solid core of measurable social apps marketing methods into your nonprofit’s marketing plan becomes nothing less or more than a smart, strategic move in uncertain economic times.

And aren’t they all uncertain economic times?