Tag Archives: social media

dance dance revolution

If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be in your revolution.

-Emma Goldman

“Trust your gut,” my friend and mentor says, when I am trying to make an important decision. My method has always been to imagine what it would feel like, deep in my gut, if I did NOT make a certain choice.  But she tells me to think, instead, of which choice makes me feel like I’m flying; which choice makes me feel like laughing out loud; which choice makes me feel like dancing.



Now listen: this goes for anything.  Sure, yes, life decisions, choosing a school, a job, a city to live in… but it goes for business decisions as well.

Deciding whom to hire or promote to an important position; determining whose advice to seek out, whose advice to trust; projecting sales in an uncertain economy; deciding how much to spend on a marketing strategy; and whether that marketing strategy should be purely traditional, or if it should include new and explored territory like social media…

…and how you will go about doing business in an online world where squishy concepts like “trust” and “authenticity” are thrown about with such reckless abandon…

So much about marketing, in particular, is reduced to spreadsheets and numbers. But so much about social media is about trust and reputation, which are pretty tough concepts to reduce to numbers.

Don’t get me wrong: I am all about the quantitative analysis and the gathering and crunching of data.  But once you’ve got your budget and you’ve got your spreadsheet and you’ve projected your figures, be honest: Doesn’t there come a quiet moment when you take a deep breath, calm your mind, and listen to your gut?

And don’t your customers do the same thing, too?

This is why I’m curious about how this process works, and under what circumstances we trust one another.

How does it work for you?  How do you decide whether or not to trust, to choose, to commit?  What sensations do you look for? Do you prefer to follow the sense that what you are doing is absolutely right, or are you more in tune with what feels dead wrong?  Does your intuition attract you to the good, or repel you from the bad? Does it use a carrot or a stick?  I’m curious.

Also: What makes you feel like dancing?


new study: more colleges using social media for recruiting & research

Image by Srevatsan

Image by Srevatsan

Dr. Nora Barnes gave me a heads up last night on the findings from her research on the growing use of social media by colleges and universities to recruit and research new applicants.

I met Dr. Barnes at the Society for New Communications Research Symposium in November, where she delivered the keynote address.  The full findings of the report will be published in the Journal of New Communications Research, but the executive summary offers a nice look ahead.

What I found particularly striking was the growing use in higher ed of social media as a research tool, rather than as a form of outreach.  In other words, while colleges and universities have for some time been reaching out to prospective applicants through social media (especially blogs), they are now increasingly using social media to get a finer-grained level of detail about applicants — especially those applying to highly competitive programs or scholarships.

The percentage that use “search engines” is higher (23%) than those who use “social media” (17%), but I imagine that that is mostly because “search engines” are the only way most people know how to search for blogs, facebook pages, YouTube videos, etc.  I suspect that entering a prospective applicant (at the final round level — schools aren’t screening every student) into Google and scanning the first few pages is considered basic due diligence at this point.

At least I hope it is.

And I am going to bet that use of these tools will be higher still a year, two years from now.

So how will this change things, as more students become more educated about exactly who is looking at their online words and behaviors?

Just as the appearance of parents on Facebook changed how that tool is used by young people, the use of social media by colleges and universities will change it again.

I think it’s true that many students will do some purging and excising of their online content. But I also believe that many are already very savvy about their use of public social media, and about the way they present themselves there.  Ambitious, college-bound students are already using their blogs and YouTube channels as ways to further distinguish themselves.  They know these are online resumes of sorts.  These students will be more relieved than startled that colleges will be reading their blogs, much like a PR person is glad when someone actually reads their press releases.

I wonder if schools will also modify their expectations of online behavior, and recognize that some lightheartedness is appropriate to the setting. (Of course offensive behavior and inappropriate posting will always be taken into consideration when evaluating students.)

But observers are themselves changed when they spend any amount of time in a different culture.

Perhaps the question is not, “How will this change how people use social media?” but “How will social media change college admissions?”  And what impact will that have?

The full executive summary of the study is available here for download.

Check out the Society for New Communications Research’s Journal of New Communications Research for the full paper.  Dr. Barnes will also present the findings through an upcoming webinar, and at the SNCR annual conference.

this just in: internet not evil

The New York Times reporting on a study just released by the MacArthur Foundation that found that internet socializing by teens is not quite as harmful or dangerous as it was previously held to be:

Those concerns about predators and stranger danger have been overblown,” she [Mizuko Ito, lead researcher on the study] said. “There’s been some confusion about what kids are actually doing online. Mostly, they’re socializing with their friends, people they’ve met at school or camp or sports.”

New media allow for a degree of freedom and autonomy for youth that is less apparent in a classroom setting,” the study said. “Youth respect one another’s authority online, and they are often more motivated to learn from peers than from adults.”

the third thing

I’ve always loved the children’s book Miss Rumphius.

It’s about a woman who resolves as a girl to travel all over the world, to then live by the sea when she was done, and finally, to make the world a more beautiful place.

After she has achieved the first two goals, she becomes very sick and has to stay in bed for a very long time, slowly getting well in her house by the sea.

When she does get up, she decides to fulfill her third obligation by filling the countryside with lupines.

I just now realized that she only started planting lupines (strewing the seeds, really) after she was laid up sick in bed for a year.

She had to spend some time not doing anything, reflecting on things, before she realized the tragically lupine-free conditions under which her seaside town suffered.

So when she finally got out of bed, she knew what she had to do.

Beth Kanter posted today about the five steps to building a social media plan:

  1. Listen
  2. Prepare
  3. Engage
  4. Go offline
  5. Measure success

You can read the whole post to see where she’s going with this.

My thoughts about Miss Rumphius started popping up when I read about Beth’s fourth step:

Step 4: Go Offline

This is a really important step. Does anyone know of good posts that elaborate on this point and are written from a nonprofit perspective?

It is a really important step. I took a bit of a hiatus from blogging not long ago, and used the opportunity to reflect on what it is I’m trying to accomplish here, and what value I’m adding to the space by contributing to it.

You can read my reflections on the self-imposed hiatus here.

I wrote about feeling like I was missing out — on fresh thinking, on new developments, on what was going on in people’s lives — and I still feel that way when I miss a few days or when I am in the middle of a particularly intense time at work, as I am now.

So what am I doing to provide new ideas, new ways of thinking about things? Where are my lupines?

If you’re an organization reflecting on your first foray into social media, what would happen if you took this view of things instead?

Instead of focusing on YOUR return on investment, on how many dollars/donors/emails you won at the end of the game, what would your program evaluation look like if you asked yourself what did THEY get out of it?

What bright new thing did you place in the world?

How did your community members, how did any given individual, benefit from your efforts?

This isn’t another nonprofit final report question that reads something like “quantify the number served by this program.”

It’s more a way of asking: what freestanding thing of lasting value did you create?

Look for the lupines. Start by taking a break, and lying down for a while.

lingua franca

Flickr.com/jeremybrooksEver since I started writing this blog, I’ve thought about my role in social media in terms of some of my favorite metaphors, like Translator, Interpreter, and Ambassador.

As time has gone on, I have only become more convinced that this is what I’m really good at, that this is really what I have to offer.

I’m a translator, and, like most translators, I spend my time straddling two different worlds. Hopping from one sphere to another, listening for common themes and for different ways to tell each other’s stories.

Something Chris Brogan wrote in today’s newsletter clarified some of that for me, and extracted a lovely robin’s egg of clarity out of what had become a bit of a bird’s nest of twigs.

Chris wrote part of his newsletter this week on how to talk to the “senior team” about blogging and social media. This is a topic that I care about deeply.

YOU’VE come to accept that blogging and social media are cool. You believe that Facebook has business value, and that Twitter, used correctly, might be the greatest idea in the universe to build customer relationships. But how will you convince the powers that be of all this? Connect to their state of mind, their words, and to your existing practices. (Italics mine)

That’s the key, right there. Connect to their state of mind.

Why should any of us want to spend our precious time learning about accounting, and economics, and finance, and traditional marketing principles?  Isn’t all this new stuff much, much cooler?

So we can speak the language of the decision makers. Honestly. They don’t really have the time of day for us unless we do.

And it’s not enough to just toss around the occasional buzzword or acronym, like ROI or SCR or whatever else people are muttering this week. To get deep, heartfelt buy-in, you need to have a deep understanding of what makes businesses and large organizations RUN. And, perhaps more importantly, what sends them running the other way.

But wait, I work at a nonprofit, right? Things are so much softer and fuzzier in nonprofits, right?


Get this: instead of only having to convince one CEO of the value of social media, I have a team of — that’s right — THIRTY Board Members (most are VPs or CEOs in banking, insurance, education, finance, real estate, etc.) to win over, on every single newfangled idea of mine.

Thirty. Every single one of them operating from a business point of view. Every single one of them very good at what they do.

So, rather than spend my time and theirs trying to get them to see my side of the story, I’m going to invest some serious time trying to figure out theirs. Because it turns out that their way of seeing things is a lot more common, a lot more pervasive, and in fact holds a lot more water in this world, than mine.

As Chris points out,

Businesses WANT to be innovative, but that costs money, involves risk, and rarely pans out.

Businesses and business leaders aren’t deliberately setting out to be killjoys, after all. They would love to be a step ahead of the field, and to stand out in a positive way. But there’s always that real chance that they might stand out in a bad way as a result of your brilliant social media idea, and that tends to be really very off-putting. And can you blame them? Who really wants to be on the list?

What I love doing more than anything else is teaching. And by teaching I don’t mean that I get to stand up at the front of the room and tell you all what I think is true. It means doing tons of research, digesting it all, finding the patterns, and then talking to a community about it in a way that resonates with THEM.

If I don’t speak your language — and understand your culture in a deep, meaningful way — then I’ve got a pretty slim chance of success.

I already know how I think. It’s how YOU think that interests me.

social media adoption and its discontents

Check this out from Marshall Kirkpatrick over at ReadWriteWeb: “Ten Common Objections to Social Media Adoption and How You Can Respond

1. I suffer from information overload already.
2. So much of what’s discussed online is meaningless. These forms of communication are shallow and make us dumber. We have real work to do!
3. I don’t have the time to contribute and moderate, it looks like it takes a lot of time and energy.
4. Our customers don’t use this stuff, the learning curve limits its usefulness to geeks.
5. Communicators [bloggers, tweeters] are so fickle, better to stay unengaged than risk random brand damage. We don’t want hostile comments left about us on any forum we’ve legitimized.
6. Traditional media and audiences are still bigger, we’ll do new stuff when they do.
7. Upper management won’t support it/dedicate resources for it.
8. These startups can’t offer meaningful security, they may not even be around in a year – I’ll wait until Google or our enterprise software vendor starts offering this kind of functionality.
9. There are so many tools that are similar, I can’t tell where to invest my time so I don’t use any of it at all.
10. That stuff’s fine for sexy brands, but we sell [insert boring B2B brand] and are known for stability more than chasing the flavor-of-the-month. We’re doing just fine with the tools we’ve got, thanks.

If you haven’t already read the article for some possible answers to these oft-cited concerns and questions, go ahead and do so now.

Interestingly, Marshall then says

Ultimately, I’m not yet convinced myself that persuading anyone is the way to go. If you can make time on the side to use new tools and you can perform – perhaps the benefits can best speak for themselves.

…which is exactly the way I tend to go about things. This method keeps the focus on the results, not the tools, because you are allowing people to see the fruits of social media before they even know it’s social media that is doing the job.

This gets right to the heart of the ROI question. If you start to get results that the organization thinks are worthwhile, this opens the conversation about what tools you used to obtain that result. Yes, ROI has to come first. It’s paradoxical, and maddening, but there’s just no way around it.

I’ve always advocated that nonprofits first start small, and try using social media to address discrete problems that traditional media so far have left unsolved in your organization (like how to raise more donations from a certain demographc, grow audiences, get more press coverage, etc.). These small, segmented tasks can be carved out and used as test cases within an organization.

Provided, of course, that you first define what your objectives are, how you plan to go about achieving them, what success would look like, and how you plan to measure success.

{Thanks to Dan York of Disruptive Conversations for flagging this!}