Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
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
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.
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
Friday, September 11, 2009
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.