Tag Archives: socialmedia

artists break rules

I’m on my way up to Boston in a little while to lead a workshop on Getting the Word Out for artists at a conference organized by my friend Kathy Bitetti, executive director of the Artists Foundation.  I’m pretty excited about it — it’s my favorite thing to do, work one-on-one with artists and arts organizations who are feeling their way around social media, trying to build relationships, broaden audiences, and generally raise their visibility.

So I was thinking, trying to come up with recent examples of how an artist or arts organization had succeeded in galvanizing me to come see a show, buy some art, or show my support in some other tangible way, and I only had to think back a few nights, to last Friday.

I had gotten home from school, pretty tired after my long commute, but excited about the long weekend ahead.  Sitting in front of my computer, catching up on the blogs and the twitter streams of my friends, when I received a quick and short little email from the theater down the street.

It was a reminder about the terrific review they had just received from the local paper for their current production, The Invisible Man.  It also reminded me how much I had wanted to see that show before it closed.

End result? I closed my computer five minutes later and headed down the street to see the show. Why is this worth remarking on? Well, it struck me that this email I received broke some classic advice about “effective online marketing.”

Who sends an email promo out at 7:00 pm on a Friday night? Anyone will tell you that it’s sure to be overlooked in Monday’s flood of competing emails, meetings, and crises.

But it was the right thing for the theater to do, because they got me at exactly the right time to make a decision.

Also, that email didn’t have a prominent Call To Action like it was supposed to.  It just pointed me to information I was interested in — how this local reviewer felt about the show — and let me take it from there.

In these harder economic times, we may be tempted to get a little harder about the sell in our online communications, try to push for more returns, more revenue, because that’s what it’s all about, right?

But the social web runs on relationships.  It runs on quirky, and it thrives on rule-breaking.

This is especially true for artists and arts organizations, and it reminds me why we need special gatherings like today’s conference in Boston, just for the arts community.  There’s a lot of advice out there for how to use social media for business, but some of it doesn’t apply to artists, or to cultural organizations.

Lots of it does — especially the basics, which always apply: Be Real, Be Honest, Be Helpful.

But the implementation might vary significantly for you if you’re an artist, a theater, a museum.

Artists, as we all know, are different.

And isn’t that one of the best things about them?


Red Cross Road Block

My mother is a long-time volunteer for the American Red Cross. She is a retired teacher (special ed., eighth grade, which alone I think earns her a big shiny gold medal) and registered nurse, and now that she is retired she flies all over the place for the Red Cross, helping them set up shelters and large-scale disaster relief logistics.  When she’s home, she teaches CPR and First Aid and disaster preparedness classes and then she shows up in the middle of the night if your house burns down.

She’s pretty amazing, quite honestly.

The American Red Cross does amazing work.  We all know this. They have continued to do amazing work, despite some serious organizational and financial hurdles over the last few years.

The American Red Cross has also been simply blowing me away these last few months with their social media efforts and outreach.  I knew they had a Flickr page.  I knew they had a YouTube Channel. During the recent spate of hurricane action (during which my superhero mom was deployed to Houston), I noticed they had a Twitter account.  A damn good one, too.

But did you know just to what extent they have their social media groove on?  Check it out, and tell me you’re not impressed.

Today, they are asking us all to pay a little more attention than usual to the folks who desperately need our help.

I know we all care, and we all help as much as we can, and holy cats is money tight these days, what with Wall Street exploding, and we’re all a little more careful with our money than maybe we were a few weeks ago.

But really.  Do you have a home right now?  A safe, dry place to sleep? Your pet by your side?

Me too.  And holy cats am I grateful.

That’s why I just donated a little lunch money to the Disaster Relief Fund of the American Red Cross.

If you feel so moved, you can too, right here.

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…

why I am a blogger

I’m off to the Simmons Leadership Conference tomorrow, and I’m excited to meet some of the faculty in the Simmons MBA program, which hosts this annual conference. I’m particularly hoping that new faculty member Jill Avery will be around, since her teaching and research interests sound eerily similar to mine.

But before diving into bed to get some decent sleep before my 4:30 am wake-up call and 2-hour drive to Boston, I wanted to take a quick stab at answering Chris Brogan’s questions about my first steps in social media.

What were your first steps into social media?

Who were your early people you admired and followed?

How did you get started?

I started blogging in 2003, because I was working exclusively from home as a freelance book editor and had limited if any human contact on a daily basis.

I was lonely and desperately craved interaction.

I was reading the blogs of a few excellent people I had known in grad school, and those blogs led me to other blogs, and eventually I was reading and complaining to myself that those bloggers just weren’t posting nearly often enough, and I found myself writing long responses to their posts in the comments and one day somebody said why don’t you write your own posts and stop writing novels in my comments and I said OK.

Then one or two people found MY blog, and they started commenting, and became loyal readers, and this encouraged me tremendously. I kept writing, and reading, and commenting, and my circle grew ever wider.

I stopped editing books, and started helping others — especially artists and cultural organizations — learn how to get involved online, through blogs and social networks and other online forums. It’s work that I find more rewarding every single day. It’s a little embarrassing, almost, how much I love what I do.

I’m going to have to put off responding to the last two questions for tomorrow, after the conference, if I have any juice left, or Sunday, if I don’t.

Here are the questions:

If you were going to give advice to someone starting out, what would you tell them?

What will you do in the next few months with social media?

Of course I answer that question frequently on this blog, as that’s really the main question I am concerned with, how the beginner can get started, depending on their goals, needs, objectives, personality, time, skills, hair color, etc.

But what will I do in the next few months with social media?

THAT is a very interesting question indeed.

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.


I took a week off from writing, for several very good reasons, and now I’m back.

Miss me?

Of course you didn’t.

One of the reasons I took a brief sabbatical was my reaction to this post by Chris Brogan on what it felt like to not have a blog for eight days.

In it, he talks about how losing this communications tool made him feel blind, deaf, and mute. He then wonders how this extends to companies who don’t blog — they lack this incredibly effective sounding board/community builder/line of communication, but they don’t know what they’re missing:

Should all companies blog? Not sure. But boy, I sure felt wrapped in gauze by NOT having some kind of sounding board back and forth.

That’s an interesting question, for exploring another time. You can be all bound up in the most pleasant, softest gauze, and not know how trammeled you are. Blah blah blah gilded cage blah. Anyway:

So I wanted to know how it felt to not blog for a week. I’ve been blogging since 2003, and I’ve always either been consistently blogging on my own site, or as a weekly columnist on other sites, so this would be the longest non-blogging spell in five years for me.

How did it feel?

When I was in middle school, I hated school. I was good at it, but I had few friends, I was terribly awkward, and my peer group was, shall we say, less than supportive of me in my struggles to navigate my early teen years.

In middle school, I sometimes skipped school altogether and spent the day in Provincetown. The outsider culture there, especially in the off-season, suited me fine.

I’d buy some Portuguese sweet bread at the Portuguese bakery on Commercial Street, some fudge at the fudge shop near Town Hall (these were the only two stores open during the winter in the mid-eighties), and sit on the wharf and enjoy the solitude.

Things changed dramatically for me in high school. I lost weight, and a lot of my awkwardness. I found friends. I not only did well academically, I thrived socially. I had, in short, a blast.

Suddenly, I hated missing school, because I felt like I was missing out on the unfolding drama of high school life. I felt like a missed day would mean I had missed out on all sorts of things that were happening, and I didn’t want to hear about them second-hand, I wanted to be there. I wanted to contribute.

That’s what it felt like to not blog for a week. Like I was missing out on the unfolding drama.

The worst of it is, life goes on without you.

So last night, as I reflected on my week of self-imposed silence, I wondered what it was that I was doing to actually contribute to this unfolding story. How, exactly, am I adding value? How can I add more?

Here’s what I decided:

One of the greatest strengths of this whole new media/social media world is that we each have a voice. It’s so open and democratic, and so easy to self-publish in so many different ways.

I often advise people to learn the culture of blogging and social networks before jumping in, but it’s also incredibly important to bring your own self, and not to mold yourself into what you think your online persona should be.

But it can be easy to assimilate too much, and to take on too much of the accent and mannerisms of those who came before and found success here.

What I want to do is be authentic first, last, and always. Because that’s how I (and you) can add value.

I’m a very quirky individual, with a meandering and non-linear path that brings me to this moment, at this keyboard.

Rather than try to hide those quirks, to fit into my projection of an idealized version of myself (which is, I believe, one definition of the word avatar), I’m going to embrace them more, expose them more, and explore them more.

It’s really defeating the purpose of this democratic, wide open space out here if I’m trying to be someone I’m not. Why bother? That’s so totally not why we’re here.

I’m not saying that I have been. Just that I’d better not, and that I’m sure I can do better.

I’m guessing that you’re quirky, too.

Nice to meet you.

non-integrated social media

Paul Dunay of Buzz Marketing for Technology lobbed a mild offensive last week against the mindset of some marketers that one can “use” social media for a PR campaign:

Here’s the point: There is no overnight success when it comes to social media. Sure, we all are reading about some superb viral results out there, but they are the exception, not the rule. And to say you can systematically achieve those results for your clients (either internal or external) is not accurate.

He goes on to explain that it is equal folly to think that you have “integrated” social media into your campaign just by blogging it, or “slapping a podcast” on it (which makes podcasting sound a lot easier than it actually is, but whatever, sure) and that it will then be taken joyfully up by the masses, hoisted like the proverbial petard, and will subsequently, as a matter of course, “go viral.”

As wiser heads than mine have so often pointed out, it’s a paradigm shift, not just a new bit of code. Flipping the funnel, crowdsourcing, and all those other funny words we use to describe this new-ish way of communicating with each other — it’s not something you just add onto your existing MO, like sticking a third arm onto a Barbie Doll.

That’s like when adults try to use a few dubious bits of teenage slang and then expect their kids will now want to “rap” with them, yo.

One doesn’t “use” social media like blogs and podcasts and forums and communities, one gets involved.

It’s not an add-on, it’s a way of life. Like surfing. Or bowling.