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 meetup.com 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 meetup.com 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 Health.mil, 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 Health.mil 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.