Monday, November 30, 2009

Book Review: The Cluetrain Manifesto

The Cluetrain Manifesto was one of the more frustrating books I’ve read on the subject of the Internet and marketing. Not only do the authors assume that all marketing and PR workers shamelessly misuse the Internet for their profession, they also slander them in the process (p. 160, “Dishonesty in PR is pro forma. A press release is written as a plainly fake news story, with headline, dateline, quotes, and all the dramatic tension of a phone number.”). Additionally, the authors presume that their way of leveraging the Internet (by joining the conversation online, giving up corporate control of online communications, and relating to real people rather than a “target audience”) is the best and only way to do business. However, the one-size-fits-all-people-versus-the-man approach to PR and marketing through the Internet is just too simplistic, arrogant, and frustrating for the little valuable insight that I got out of the book.

While this book may have been revolutionary when it came out at least ten years ago, the main point – that individuals doing business need to leverage the Internet with authenticity, truth, and with a sense that the people on the other end of the computer want to be a part of a conversation - seems to be common knowledge to most marketing and public relations professionals today. Most good marketers, public relations officials, and general business people need to contend with a number of strategic issues that were not addressed in the book and that would help make the author’s ideas more realistic: budgets to hire enough staff to join all of these Internet conversations, and finding the appropriate target audiences, and if, how, and when those target audiences use the Internet to know how to best shape a strategy.

Contrary to what the authors assume, there there doesn’t seem to be just one way to address customers through the web. Instead, the authors make claims like the one on page 159, “Engaging in this open, free-wheeling marketplace exchanges isn’t optional. It’s a prerequisite to having a future. Silence is fatal.” Yet, in some circumstances, silence may make sense. Law firms may not want to staff for online conversations when they'd ideally like to bill for them, organizations that work in high-security situations probably don't want to have free wheeling employees presenting their ideas and opinions online.

I found the most useful chapter to be the one on the hyperlinked organization (Chapter 5) and that was primarily for classification purposes. It talks about the democratization of the Internet through hyperlinks. The authors provide seven basic traits of the web that I found useful. They include:
1. Hyperlinking, which is a way to connect one web page to another, enabling the linking of information.
2. Decentralization. No one manages the Net.
3. Hyper time. Internet time moves much faster than normal time. People want faster answers and faster connections.
4. Open, direct access. People can access information directly.
5. Rich data. Information is linked, contains graphics, and can contain data from a number of sources.
6. Broken. The web isn’t perfect, and will never be so. It is ever-evolving.
7. Borderless. Hyperlinks make it unclear where one person’s stuff begins and another person’s stuff ends.

Overall, however, I don't believe the information gleaned from this book justifies its arrogant tone.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Book Review: Millennnial Makeover

According to Morley Winograd and Michael Hais, the authors of Millennial Makeover, a major political realignment occurs nearly every four decades. The causes of these political shifts are generally attributed to greater-than-average population growth in the years leading up to the change and rising immigration. This book was written before the 2008 presidential election, however the authors were eerily accurate in predicting that the next man or woman to govern our nation would be the person who can transcend the communication traditions and political styles of past generations to reach the next generation of voters, the Millennials.

Millennials are individuals born between 1982 and 2003. They are the largest generation of Americans and are also the most ethically diverse. They grew up in homes where parents were more likely to raise them through co-parenting, a system where both mothers and fathers played an equal role in child rearing. Most Millennials have mothers who have entered the work force, making this arrangement necessary.

Millennials largely grew up in supportive, encouraging environments and perceive themselves to be valued members of their families, schools, and communities. Therefore, their outlook on life can be both optimistic and idealistic. They have a strong group orientation and are very comfortable with the Internet, mobile communications, and online social networking.

Politically, Millennials are more tolerant of policies that encourage inclusiveness, and are more willing to rely on the government to deal with economic and social issues so everyone can have a chance at a better life. Due to the extent of racial diversity that this generation grew up with, this generation favors policies that support racial preferences and affirmative action programs. This group does not discriminate against homosexuals, however, they do cling to more traditional family values in terms of policy. They are also more supportive of women entering the workforce.

And finally, Millennials (thus far) identify more with the Democratic Party. Results from election polls in 2006 indicate that 43% of 18-29-year-olds (the majority of people in this group are Millennials) aligned themselves with Democrats while only 31% aligned themselves with Republicans.

So what does this mean for the future of politics, campaigning, and advocacy? Anyone who wants to reach this group of people will have to meet them were they spend their time: online. Like radio, motion picture, and television before it, the Internet is changing the ways campaigners communicate with and reach their target audiences. History indicates that, though new communication tools won’t replace tools of the past, they most likely will become a dominant force in the communication mix in the present and future.

Young voters are two times more likely than others to use the Internet, rather than newspapers, to find information about candidates, so candidates need to post profiles and campaign information online. Their online communications should support, rather than replace their more traditional offline channels of communication (television, radio, print). However, since Millennials are the largest generation ever to vote, campaigners need to develop thoughtful and effective online strategies to reach and engage them.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Twitter hump?

The longer I stay on Twitter, the more I wonder if I've crossed the Twitter "hump"? When I first joined, I had a large number of followers and I followed a large number of people as well. Now I've noticed that most people who follow me seem to be spammers. Is this because my tweeting has slowed or is it that I've saturated my network of potential followers?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Summary of "Best Practices for Political Advertising Online" Report

10 things you may not have known about effective online advertising campaigns, based on the report, “Best Practices for Political Advertising Online”:

1. Planning ahead means three weeks! To build an effective ad campaign, the report recommends just a few weeks of planning, hiring a professional team that can help place and track the ads, and hiring professional creative services to help develop an effective message. (I was surprised by the short amount of lead time recommended in comparison with more traditional forms of media.)
2. Online advertising is most effective when it is integrated into a strategy that uses other forms of traditional advertising. It probably doesn’t make sense to conduct a major online political or advocacy campaign without a print and/or broadcast presence. Offline viewership typically drives online information-seeking.
3. Education level is positively associated with Internet use. Regardless of ethnicity (Caucasian, Latino, or African American), the more education a person has, the more likely he or she is to be online.
4. In the political arena, the demographic groups that are most likely to respond to political communications include: young voters and democrats, men (38%) who respond more than women (28%), and liberal constituents (39%), who respond more than Republicans (29%) or moderates (25%).
5. Poli-fluentials are defined by the George Washington University’s Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet as individuals who are both politically active and involved in their communities. They are an especially appealing group to political campaigns in that they are more likely to volunteer, read the news, be highly educated, be an equal mix of men and women, make more online political contributions, and have broader social networks.
6. Political consultants rank the Internet as one of the top ways to reach loyal voter bases. However, the Internet is not the best way to reach swing and Independent voters. Television advertising is twice as effective for those groups.
7. Search engine marketing is a powerful tool for political campaigns. It is cost effective, can be tracked and adjusted easily, and reaches potential voters who are actively seeking political information. Google, Yahoo!, and MSN are the top three search engines to use. Informational key words drive the most traffic.
8. 30-second commercial ads that run on websites that reach the target audience can be effective in building the brand of the candidate and increasing likeability. This relatively new information may surprise marketers who believed that impact could only happen through television ads.
9. ‘Lead generation’ is the technical term for supporter recruitment.
10. To conduct an effective lead generation campaign, it is best to work with a professional vendor with a strong track record. The vendor should be able to ensure security of the transfer of potential supporter information, should be able to monitor and measure your efforts in real time, make modifications as needed, and ensure that a clear privacy policy is displayed.

Friday, November 13, 2009

NY Times Article on Social Media and Non Profits

This NY Times article from November 12 has a quote from Charity: Water founder, Scott Harrison. He mentions that his organization uses social media for the sake of scale. He wants to involve more supporters in his organization than those who will solely write large checks.

Monday, November 9, 2009 is a cross-partisan website that provides insight into the web usage of the 2008 political campaign and beyond. With a focus on politics at all levels, President Obama's initiatives, and user-generated political content, founders Andrew Rasiej and Micah L. Sifry, and their staff provide timely coverage and analysis of online politics.

The website offers blogs, charts, writings, and resources that users can access free of charge. Membership isn't required to participate in the online community, though users are encouraged to sign up for a newsletter or register for the site.

One interesting and humorous interactive portion of the site is called VoteVid. It asks users to vote on their favorite political videos. When I clicked today, the first two videos were called Beyonce - Single Ladies Spoof, which started with the image of President Obama raising his right hand to be sworn into office. The other video that appeared above the fold was called Yes We Can - Barack Obama Music. Users can vote and share the video with the click of the button.

The "Resources" section of the website includes links to official candidate website and blogs. There is also a section titled "Grading the Candidates Tech Policies" where the editors of evaluate Republicans and Democrats based on their policies and reverence for the Internet.

This website is well-designed and is easy to navigate. I wasn't overwhelmed with large amounts of information, which I appreciated.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Twitter Note

So I have noted that the more active I am on Twitter, the more responsive others are to me. When I lag in my tweets, I get very few new friends and its almost as if my profile has completely disappeared.

What I gained in knowledge through the social media 101, I have now experienced through firsthand practice: that to be successful or even relevant with social media - things like Twitter and Facebook - you need to be an active participant in the community.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

GREAT PSA by Charity: Water on YouTube

Here's the link to a very powerful minute and seven seconds:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Book Review: We the Media

Dan Gillmore’s We the Media provides an account of the transition of influence from big, traditional media to the blogs and social media tools of the citizen journalist. We the Media covers a number of topics, from the history of publishing, to laws and Internet regulations, to use of the Internet for activism. Since this blog is focused on reporting on news and information that is of interest to non-profit communicators and other types of advocates, I’m going to focus on three areas of tension that I picked up on from Gillmore’s book that may be helpful to highlight for these groups.

1. The tension of truth and fiction. On page 49, Gillmore provides an example of a Microsoft ad that was designed to counter Mac’s “switch from PC to us” argument. The ad pictured an attractive freelance writer who supposedly switched from a Mac to PC, with a caption, “Mac to PC: Mission Accomplished, Convert Thrilled.” The ad showed up on a watchdog website, noting that the image of the freelance writer came from Getty Images, and highlighting that depiction of a real woman who made the switch, was nothing more than a fabricated marketing ad.

The Internet allowed an interested party to look up the image and find that the ad
claimed to be something that it was not, which was authentic. While the Internet can seem like a playground for uncontrolled falsehood, since so much can be written in anonymity, it can also be an arena for watchdogs who seek out truth and authenticity. Authenticity is key to any marketing or communications campaign online or offline. Though it may seem easy to

2. The tension of control vs. freedom. In the chapter, “The Gate Comes Down”, Gillmore quotes a journalist who describes how a community of passionate individuals can become advocates for a product or service:
“…with the Internet, an effective campaign creates a community that will on its own begin to market your product for you. Properly done, you won’t be able – or want – to control it.”
Gillmore provides an example of the company EchoStar, a maker of home satellite TV systems that maintains a presence online. The company has communications officers that participate in online discussion boards to help correct false statements about their product. They don’t seek to control the information, just bring truth into conversations that go astray. I’ve heard this concept referred to as “gardening”. The Howard Dean campaign of 2004 was credited with maintaining a good balance of control and freedom in their Internet strategy.

As a marketer or communicator, how would you equip people to talk about your campaign or issue, but also develop infrastructure to maintain truth and the credibility of your organization?

3. The tension of trust vs. risk. Chapter 9 points out the ways in which the Internet can become a place of abuse, lies, and manipulation. For example, Hollywood studios took heat for building false websites designed to create buzz for their movies in 2001. Often, authors and other public figures are misquoted through haphazard cutting and pasting practices and bloggers and citizen journalists are not held to the same fact-checking standards as those who make a living in traditional media. This can cause the spread of false information and lead to incorrect and unfair criticism. So how do we balance the need to build trust with the risk that comes from creating and distributing information through viral, online tools?

Marketers and advocates must maintain high standards for truth and authenticity. Setting up false blogs and creating fictitious ads will do much to discredit a public reputation. Meanwhile, journalists engaged in online media should attempt to main their core principles of truth and fairness in their reporting. When citizens and consumers can believe in the values and integrity of a company, consumer-producer relationships will thrive.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Gov 2.0 Summit - Texts for Africa

A few weeks ago, I attended the Gov 2.0 Summit in Washington D.C. that was put on by O'Reilly Media. Speakers from business, the government, and non-profits were on hand to present their latest work in the area of Gov 2.0. One particular presentation caught my attention - I'm posting my summary of it here.

Texts for Africa

The Unicef innovations team came up with a creative idea to leverage the increased rate of cell phone use in Africa (65% now have access to a cell phone!) to help malnourished children: they built an open source framework for SMS-based systems. In partnership with graduate students at Columbia University’s SIPA school, Unicef designed an information system that enabled health care workers to take malnourishment measurements in children and text them to the government. The government aggregated and mapped the data in real time, which provided information that Unicef could use to help the health care worker deliver appropriate care. Unicef responded to the health care workers via text with appropriate medical information and a message of thanks for their service. Unicef also distributed the information so other humanitarian partners could view it.

This system is now used to track food distribution, AIDS data, and number of other development indicators. The only costs to this program were training the health care workers and the cost of sending the text messages. In other words, it was a very inexpensive, but effective tool.

Should every large humanitarian aid organization have an innovations team that uses open sourcing principles?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Politics-To-Go for the NGO

After spending five and a half years as a marketing director for a global humanitarian aid organization, I am shocked by how much I missed out on in the area of mobile marketing. Or perhaps it has just evolved that much in the six months since I left! Of course, I was a part of a global poverty reduction organization, and Bono was our man. We all knew what he was doing at U2 concerts to generate support through SMS for the ONE Campaign. But we were clearly a different organization with different strengths, weaknesses, and tactics.

Bono aside, if I were queen for a day back on my old stomping grounds, here are the top five ideas I would steal from the Politics-To-Go Handbook and incorporate into a communications strategy somewhere in the organization:
1) Info-to-go! Make available: digital cameras, small video cameras, access to a non-profit blog, access to social networks (that the organization is building currently or starts building immediately), to staff who travel internationally. Provide training on how to capture and share stories. has some great how-to information.
2) Develop citizen/supporter journalists (p.93). Empower volunteers to share their story. Empower those who receive help to share their story of transformation. Give them space and a place to share. And don’t just empower them – train them! Tell them how to write and publicize a powerful story. Develop a loyal group of non-profit bloggers. Leak stories to them first. Offer exclusives when appropriate. The Politics-To-Go handbook states that mobile blogging can be an effective way to build relationships with an audience.
3) Use mobile marketing to remind supporters of events and advocacy campaigns. Mobile marketing is such a personal and contextualized medium; messages reach people wherever they are: home, school, work, etc. Messages must be tailored accordingly and ONLY sent when the recipient has opted in.
4) Because constituent relations are so important to most non-profit and politically oriented organizations, ensure trust with your supporters by developing a privacy policy and following it. This is something my old organization took very seriously. Though I wouldn’t change a thing they’ve done in this area, the privacy policy is something I would make sure continually update, clearly communicate, and maintain a high level of accountability for.
5) Make every mobile message a clear call to action. Then ensure that other channels are integrated and have consistent messaging: billboards, websites, social media, and any other forms of traditional marketing.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

All time favorite Seth Godin Post (Re-posted here): The problem with Non

The problem with non

Non as in non-profit.

The first issue is the way you describe yourself. I know what you’re not but what are you?

Did you start or join this non-profit because of the non part? I doubt it. It's because you want to make change. The way the world is just isn't right or good enough for you... there's an emergency or an injustice or an opportunity and you want to make change.

These organizations exist solely to make change. That's why you joined, isn't it?

The problem facing your group, ironically, is the resistance to the very thing you are setting out to do. Non-profits, in my experience, abhor change.

Take a look at the top 100 twitter users in terms of followers. Remember, this is a free tool, one that people use to focus attention and galvanize action. What? None of them are non-profits. Not one as far as I can tell. Is the work you're doing not important enough to follow, or is it (and I'm betting it is) paralysis in decision making in the face of change? Is there too much bureaucracy or too much fear to tell a compelling story in a transparent way?

Beth has a great post about the feeling of vertigo that non-profits get when they move from the firm ground of the tried and true to the anti-gravity that comes from leaping into change.

Where are the big charities, the urgent charities, the famous charities that face such timely needs and are in a hurry to make change? Very few of them have bothered to show up in a big way. The problem is same as the twitter resistance: The internet represents a change. It's easy to buy more stamps and do more direct mail, scary to use a new technique.

Of course, some folks, like charity: water are stepping into the void and raising millions of dollars as a result. They're not necessarily a better cause, they're just more passionate about making change.

A few years ago I met with two (very famous) non-profits to discuss permission marketing and online fundraising and how they might have an impact. Each time, the president of the group was in the room. After about forty five minutes, the meetings devolved into endless lists of why any change at all in the way things were was absolutely impossible. Everyone looked to the president of the group for leadership, and when he didn't say anything, they dissembled, stalled and evaded. Every barrier was insurmountable, every element of the status quo was cast in stone. The president of the group was (he thought) helpless.

When was the last time you had an interaction with a non-profit (there's that word again) that blew you away?

Please don't tell me it's about a lack of resources. The opportunities online are basically free, and if you don't have a ton of volunteers happy to help you, then you're not working on something important enough. The only reason not to turn this over to hordes of crowds eager to help you is that it means giving up total control and bureaucracy. Which is scary because it leads to change.

If you spend any time reading marketing blogs, you'll find thousands of case studies of small (and large) innovative businesses that are shaking things up and making things happen. And not enough of these stories are about non-profits. If your non-profit isn't acting with as much energy and guts as it takes to get funded in Silicon Valley or featured on Digg, then you're failing in your duty to make change.

The marketing world has changed completely. So has the environment for philanthropic giving. So have the attitudes of a new generation of philanthropists. But if you look at the biggest charities in the country, you couldn't tell. Because they're 'non' first, change second.

Sorry if I sound upset, but I am. The work these groups do is too important (and the people who work for them are too talented) to waste this opportunity because you are paralyzed in fear.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Review: The Argument and Measuring Influence in the Political Blogosphere

In his article, Measuring Influence in the Political Blogosphere: Who’s Winning and How an we Tell?, Dave Karpf evaluates the top conservative and political blogs and puts forth something called the Blogosphere Authority Index (BAI), a system for evaluating online influence.

Karpf claims that there are four key areas where blogs can gain their influence. They include: “network centrality, link density, site traffic, and community activity.” His index combines data from current ranking systems, such as Technorati,, and Truth Made Bare. To determine which blogs were the most influential, he converted the top fifty progressive and top fifty conservative blog scores into an ordinal ranking system. When evaluated against the four key indicators of the BAI, Karpf found that the progressive blogosphere was larger than the conservative blogoshere.

While his article provides and interesting framework for blog analysis, it would have been helpful for Karpf to more clearly define what he means by “influence”. Who is being influenced and for what purpose? Is the true measure of a blog about politics the number of votes generated, the two-way conversations had, or the number of times blog content was reproduced in traditional mass media for people who are interested in politics, or is it the number of potential new voters who are brought into the debate? And is it enough to measure the number of viewer hits or acknowledgments by other bloggers, or is there a way to take measurement of influence all the way to the polls?

Matt Bai’s, The Argument: Inside the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics, tracks the evolution Democratic Party’s focus on their communication systems and message. He spotlights blogs as a way that grassroots progressives have stepped out to help identify communicate their message. He notes that the successful conservative communication machine and the 2004 election ultimately spurred the Democrats down this path of innovation and reinvention.

Bai shows how blogs and bloggers have helped turn the top-town politics into a meritocracy. Rather than wait to hear what issues elected officials wanted to push, or what message those in power wanted to get out, blogs made it possible for people like Jerome Armstrong, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga and their followers to have a powerful voice in the prioritization of issues.

Bai highlights a story from the 2004 election, when Jerome Armstrong, “The blogfather,” was one of the first people to receive exit poll information. Within minutes, Armstrong provided context and posted the information for the world to see. After Yahoo News posted a story highlighting Jerome’s information, his blog crashed because so many people visited it. This story highlights the decentralization of data, and the widening circle of power within politics.

While it is clear that blogging plays a key role in American politics (many elected officials hold “blogger roundtables”, where they share information, solicit feedback and answer questions from bloggers), I still wonder how we truly measure the influence of this medium? Bloggers seem to have an aversion to traditional media, yet consider it a measure of success to be featured on national television. Additionally, do blogs serve refine and broadcast a message, or can they truly be evaluated for their ability to build influence that tracks to the polls?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Seth Godin's When Will the World Make Fun of You Post

Marketing guru Seth Godin focuses on the non-profit, TOM'S Shoes, and notes that organizations should strive to be prominent enough that people parody them. This one was good!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Review: Politics to Go Handbook and Dr. DigiPol Blog Post

In The Politics To Go Handbook, the text message is noted as one of the most important uses of mobile communication for advocacy mobilization, largely for its ubiquitous nature (nearly everyone in America and even most citizens in a number of developing countries own a mobile phone) and for its ability to reach people whenever, wherever they are. The text is an especially powerful tool for coordinating large groups of people in a time-sensitive situation. Yet, editor Julie Barko Germany and her team note that a text serves as more than a “push” medium. It should be used as the glue that holds together pieces of a campaign.

For example, in 2001 hundreds of thousands of Philippines gathered together to oust President Estrada. Over 70 million text messages went out over a span of several days that drew increasing numbers of people to the protest. The text messages, in combination with radio and television coverage, served to educate citizens. The combination of visual imagery provided by the television and print stories, along with the reach of the radio and the immediacy of text messaging, served to mobilize a large group to support the ousting.

I was struck by contributor, Clay Shirky’s, point that using mobile technology can “replace planning with coordination”. Rather than saying “I’ll meet you at the bar at eight”, people now text “call when your meeting is over and we’ll grab a drink”. We are becoming less specific with our plans and more fluid and spontaneous in our coordination.

This trend can be dangerous for those who use mobile technology for advocacy purposes. If we have databases of hundreds of thousands of constituents, but are not thoughtful in our planning and coordination tactics, we will have a long list of constituents who aren’t bought into the mission enough to take action when the time comes.

It is also interesting to note that these social networking tools can be used for both helpful and harmful causes. Alan Rosenblatt, author of Dr. Digipol, posted a statement by the Aryan Resistance, a white supremacist movement in the United States. The post highlights the Aryan Resistance’s online social communications savvy, as described in detail by the group’s leader in 1998. The group’s goal was to raise awareness for their cause and recruit new supporters. Though the post does not tell us whether or not the group was successful with their tactics, the strategies noted are similar to the ones mentioned in the Politics To Go Handbook, which was created years later in 2005.

While it is interesting and helpful to consider mobile technology strategies that can be used to promote a political position, aid a humanitarian cause, or help secure democracy in some part of the world, we also need to keep in mind that these tools can be used for harm.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Seth Godin's Free Conference

It's a shame that this conference only has 40 spots!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Book Review: Here Comes Everybody

Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody (2008) is a smart, engaging look at the power of the Internet to mobilize groups of people around a common cause. Shirky begins the book with the story of a woman named Ivanna who lost her cell phone in the back of a cab in New York City. She enlists the help of her friend, Evan, a programmer in the financial industry, to help her retrieve the phone. Evan launches a full-scale online campaign, harnessing the power of passionate “passersby” on the Internet, the media, and even the NYPD who all become actors in the narrative to get the phone back.

Eventually, Ivanna’s phone was returned and Evan’s quest for justice was satisfied. The point Shirky makes in telling this story is that the Internet has broken down the barriers to forming groups that have the power to take substantive action. Someone like Evan, with time, passion, and social capitol can organize a goal-focused at very little cost. The Internet has reduced management and organizing expenses, therefore nearly anyone with access to a computer can advocate on behalf of a cause.

Similarly, in the media industry, the costs of reproduction and distribution have gone away, therefore anyone with a desire to express him or herself can become a publisher.

One of my favorite chapters in the book focused on the power of the Internet to solve social problems. Shirky notes that contrary to what many trend spotters predicted, the Internet did not reduce the desire for people to meet in person. Rather, the Internet has provided the ability to connect online in a manner that compliments offline interaction.

New York City entrepreneur, Scott Heiferman, the founder of understands this concept quite well. After he read Robert Putnam’s classic, Bowling Alone, Heiferman decided to found an organization that would help online users facilitate offline interaction, and possibly help U.S. communities rebuild their social capitol. Putnam’s book highlighted the decline of weakening communities in the United States, providing two key observations:
1) The United States has been an effective country, in part, because of our ability to generate social capitol
2) Yet, participation in group activities was declining in America

The interesting thing about is that the majority of groups that have formed tend to fall outside the bounds of typical, socially approved groups. For example, groups called “Witches” and “Vampires” fall into the top 15 most active groups. Rather then solely reviving old groups, Heiferman developed a platform that enabled new groups to form. And those new groups are typically less supported by the broader U.S. culture.

No only has the Internet reduced the barrier to entry for active online, goal-driven groups. It has also enabled the proliferation of new groups to form, groups that didn’t always have a voice in popular culture.

As a marketer for a non-profit group, this book could help you think about how you might best equip your known or even unknown supporters with the tools they need to advocate on behalf of your organization. Who knew witches and vampires were so interested in organizing and meeting up?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Online Politics 101: Resource for Non-profits

In Online Politics 101, Colin Delaney presents a thorough and very readable report on how to use the web to develop an effective political campaign. Much of what he writes can easily be applied to other types of online campaigns, such as a non-profit marketing or advocacy cause. I was especially impressed by the way he integrated descriptions of older Internet tools, such as email, websites, and databases with web 2.0 tools such as social media, blogs, and blogads.
Since I hadn’t previously read it in Ben Rigby’s book, Mobilizing Generation 2.0: A Practical Guide to Using Web 2.0, I was enlightened by Delaney’s sections on online advertising, customer relationship management, and online promotion. A key point that can be so easy to forget: “The first step in promotion is to be worth promoting – content that is broad and deep will attract readers from every source.” By focusing on having an idea, concept, or some type of information that can be helpful to others, non-profits and political campaigners alike can lay an excellent foundation for promotion and eventually action.

Non-profit 2.0

A recent post by marketing guru, Seth Godin, criticized non-profits for resisting change on the Internet, when change is the very thing they are about. According to Godin, not one non-profit organization falls into the top 100 Twitter users. And I couldn’t identify one non-profit in the top 100 blogs listed on Technorati just before I wrote this post. The idea that non-profits are underutilizing web 2.0 tools was top of mind as I sat down to read Mobilizing Generation 2.0: A Practical Guide to Using Web 2.0, by Ben Rigby.

In the book, Rigby highlights a number of non-profit and political organizations that have tested how to use various forms of social media including blogs, social networks, video and photo sharing tools, mobile campaigning, Wikis, maps, and virtual worlds. In each section of the book, he discusses the merits and uses of a specific medium, provides useful tips and terms, explains how to get started, and notes challenges to the medium.

I was especially impressed by three organizations’ use of social media. First, the American Cancer Society was able to obtain strong fundraising results by developing a virtual relay in Second Life. They raised $75,000, more than any other effort detailed in the book.

Second, the Nature Conservancy developed a photo contest through Flikr that generated more than 30,000 entries in 2007. Some submissions generated more than 14,000 views and received more than 140 comments, which helped contribute to advocacy for the organization’s mission.

And finally, ILoveMountains used mapping techniques and rich media to tell the story what coal mining from the tops of mountains is doing to communities in Appalachia. As viewers are engaged in the campaign, they are consistently invited to donate money or write to congress.

To be effective like the organizations listed above, Rigby recommends keeping four points in mind:

1. Understand how people use technology. It is no longer okay to have a website that reads like a brochure and it is equally unacceptable to post a one-way message on social networking sites.

2. Dedicate time and resources to making web 2.0 tools work. This can begin in a low-cost manner by asking a staff member to dedicate 30 minutes a day to starting and managing social network profiles and responding to a few blogs.

3. Develop a people-centric approach to social media. Show people why they should participate in something and equip them with the tools to do it. Tell a good story.

4. Embrace the 2.0 ethos of handing some control over to supporters. Be willing to share information liberally and reduce hierarchy. Rather than micro-managing content, an effective organization could serve as a guide.

While the non-profit examples of web 2.0 campaigns above provide a strong foundation, few substantial results were reported by non-profits highlighted in Rigby’s book. Clearly, web 2.0 is a realm where many organizations are just beginning to get their feet wet, yet I’ve seen friends raise nearly $10,000 through Facebook for personal causes in just three weeks. I know high returns are obtainable through passionate advocacy and creative thinking.

Is it time for a non-profit executive director to make it a goal for his or her organization to take the lead in developing strong, mission-focused web 2.0 strategies? As agents of change, it seems as if non-profits and web 2.0 certainly shares similar values.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Word Cloud From Gov 2.0 Summit Notes

I was trying to summarize my eight pages of notes from the Gov 2.0 Summit this past week and decided to put them into a word cloud to help identify key themes from the conference. Here's the link if anyone's interested:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Case Study on Military Health Care Social Media Portal

I’m listening to Booz Allen Hamilton consultants Grant McLaughlin and Walton Smith discuss social media case studies. One fascinating example is called, a one-stop social media portal where military health care groups, including Tricare, drive into it. America’s Military Health System is a unique partnership of medical educators, medical researchers, and health care providers and their support personnel worldwide. The Military Health System is prepared to respond anytime, anywhere to military operations, natural disasters and humanitarian crises around the globe to ensure delivery of health care to all Department of Defense service members, retirees, and their families.

The Government is using the portal to better understand their customers. For example, by reading through blogs, leadership learned that constituents were unhappy with the level of benefits distributed to different types of rape victims through Tricare. Different services were provided victims depending on the location of the rape: on or off base. Upon learning about the issue, Tricare leadership acted quickly. They revised the benefit policies and were able to continue provide top-notch health care to all types of rape victims.