Why do you click “Donate Now”?

It’s been a while since I posted to this blog. If you’ll allow me to make excuses, I do think I have a couple of good ones. I’ve been madly working to finish my master’s degree at Johns Hopkins in digital communication while working full time. On top of it all, I’m currently 35 weeks pregnant! I’m now in the final stages of two of these three all-consuming activities (being pregnant and completing my master’s) and I’m hoping I can get your help on the latter. (If you want to help me with my pregnancy, donations of caramel apples are warmly welcomed…that’s all I crave these days.)

Over the next several weeks I will be writing a thesis on social networking fundraising strategies. I’ll conduct several focus groups with people who are plugged into social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Yes, I’m looking at YOU.

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Great video that inspires action: How non-profits can better use this fast-growing medium

Sometimes the best video comes from authentic voices, not fancy equipment.

Video is one of the fastest-growing attractions on the Web. It brings new viewers to your site and can engage potential donors in new ways. So how can non-profits make the most of this valuable medium? I was really struck by Avaaz.org’s use of video to demand action. The example is not a new one, but it teaches some evergreen lessons to non-profits everywhere. Namely: Continue reading

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First Grade’s Hairy Way to Soak up the Oil Spill

In most cases I try to keep the content on this blog pretty tightly concentrated around my observations on innovative digital media. However, in this case, I’m going to have to go off topic. I think you’ll agree it’s a worthy topic. This is an example of how grassroots movements begin at the most simple levels.

Huge caveat: This example is from my mom’s first grade class. I’m biased because I think she is a brilliant teacher. Read on and you’ll see what I mean. Everything here was completely driven by her 6 and 7 year olds. These truly are our country’s future leaders… Continue reading

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Survival Tips: Life without an iPhone

“NOOOO!” I heard myself issue a blood-curdling scream as the realization sunk in: Someone had just stolen my iPhone. The young punk ripped my lifeline out of my hands and ran through the closing metro doors before I could do anything. I leaped to my feet, banging on the doors to no avail. As the train gradually eased from the station I turned to my fellow passengers in utter desperation. “I WAS JUST ROBBED! HE STOLE MY PHONE!” A few lazily looked over in my direction. One woman unsympathetically muttered, “mmm hmmm, they do that.”

Didn’t they realize that I had just lost my connection to the world? What was I supposed to do without my iPhone? I was heading to the airport. How on earth would I survive a flight? What if someone sent me an e-mail? What if I got lost? My world slowed to a halt.

Despite herculean efforts on my part…from yanking the emergency brake to stop the train (in case anyone from the DC Metro is reading this, you might want to look into those bad boys. Both of the brakes on my car were loose in their sockets)…soliciting the help of a slightly over-eager DC policeman to track down a similar-looking guy and frisk him…getting the metro police to agree to review the tapes from the station to try to match our suspect to the theft…nothing worked. To make matters worse, I nearly missed my flight.

Here I am, two weeks later, still using a $20 Nokia phone with one ring tone, no games and of course no data access. It has been an interesting process. Some would probably say that I needed the cleansing. I disagree. I’m trying to hold out until the new iPhone comes out this summer. Until then, I’ll have to resign myself to the following lessons learned: Continue reading

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The Sugar-Sweet Positivity of Facebook vs. Shock and Awe Hype of the News

There’s a trend for Facebook users to present an almost irritatingly cheery image of life. The standard “news feed” of friends’ activities is littered with news of the latest engagements, babies’ first steps, graduations, etc.

Meanwhile, our friends in the professional news business (especially local TV news) seem to have the opposite approach to life. “Could your new kitten kill your children? Find out at ten!”

Why the contradiction? Why is it that when we write our own headlines we spin everything toward the positive, while the most popular news outlets do the opposite?

Does Facebook bring out the inner PR agent in each of us?

We carefully weed out only the best, most complimentary photos of ourselves and our family, share the high peaks of life, and minimize the low ones. Our grumpiest moments are converted into cryptic messages that only the closest friends can decipher: “Jane Doe is done.” But across the board, it seems that if something really great happens, you’ll see a photo album dedicated to its celebration.

All of this positive spin on our own lives made me wonder what would happen if skimming headlines of major news outlets read more like a Facebook news feed? Would anyone read the news? Or is cheery news only interesting when it comes from people we care about (along with those people from High School who we think we remember and can’t bring ourselves to “ignore”).

What would the alternate universe look like? Which approach do you prefer?

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When buzz turns to bucks in a disaster: Hope for Haiti

Buzz often starts with a great story. When Americans heard about the tragic 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti, there was a lot of buzz. And one group that did an excellent job of turning that buzz into bucks was Hope for Haiti. They used social networking sites to encourage chatter, they brought together major celebrities for a benefit concert, and they presented transparency on their Web site, by assuring potential donors that their 100% of their money will be spent on the relief effort.

In sum, they followed seven keys to inspiring word of mouth:

  1. They had an excellent story–it was a tragic event of historic proportions. And everyone was talking about it, and how they wanted to help.
  2. Their supporters could show their involvement in a visible way–by donating and then asking their friends to do the same.
  3. They offered something new to talk about–more than 100 world-famous celebrities gathered for a star-studded benefit concert.
  4. They let their supporters be creative by donating through any possible medium–text message, tweet, Facebook causes, and more. They asked for people’s involvement and organized volunteers interested in rolling up their sleeves and helping in Haiti.
  5. Anyone could participate.
  6. In return, donors were given thanks and could feel that they became part of an unprecedented donation drive.
  7. They made it clear how to spread the word–every badge, button and highlight on the Web site leads visitors to either donate or encourage others to do so.

In all, the power of the buzz brought in $57 million in donations, which will be used to help a nation recover from a disaster that left more than 230,000 dead, 1 million homeless, 380,000 orphaned, and 63 million tones of rubble in its wake.

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Why Foursquare is a Bad Idea…and Twitter still reigns

Look out folks, it's on the rise.

Foursquare is what some in social media circles are calling the Twitter of 2010. It is a social media game that rewards you for logging your location at any point in the day.  Eating a burrito? Tell the world where and when! The more you do, the more “badges” you earn. If you are the person who has logged the most visits to a specific place on Foursquare, you will win the additional honor of becoming the “mayor” of that location. Smart locales are playing along and giving out freebies to their “mayors.” Taste D-Lite lets customers accrue extra points on their TastiRewards cards for Foursquare check-ins and tweets.

From January 2010 to February, Foursquare passed the 1 million mark on Twitter (you can opt to have all your posts on Foursquare automatically post on your Twitter stream as well). In that month’s time, the number of check-ins doubled–showing remarkable promise. It list of seed-money investors include some of the most innovative minds in social media, including Digg Founder Kevin Rose, who endorsed the site to the tune of $1.35 million.

Some cite the brilliance of Foursquare in the fact that real-life social interactions become a virtual game. The person who wins the game is the person who is best able to show the world that he/she has the most interesting life.

So why do I think it’s such a bad idea? Continue reading

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Creating a Meaningful Social Media Strategy for EnTeam

I’ve been working hard on coming up with a cohesive social media strategy for EnTeam Organization, a non-profit based in St. Louis, MO. If you want to read the full thing, ping me and I’ll be happy to send you a copy.

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[Video] Cooperative Learning: What’s Involved?

I found a very simple, but still compelling slideshow/video on the benefits of cooperative learning. What do you think? Is cooperative learning as simple as just working in groups? I would argue that this presentation oversimplifies the process, but I still find the message endearing.
As we continue to explore ways to make crowd-sourcing an effective news-gathering and dissemination tool, I would argue that our education system should start listening in as well. Clearly a top-down approach doesn’t work for the media, and it doesn’t always work for our kids either.
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How dog fights and old couches can define a community

What do you think about the longtime debate of how society is impacted by the Internet?

What do you think about the longtime debate of how society is impacted by the Internet? Are we all doomed to bowl alone?

Craigslist and outdoor markets both form communities, but in very different ways. Many would argue that a physical community will always be stronger than a virtual one, but even the biggest fear-mongers for the evils of technology admit to a certain cohesion that forms online.

Robert Putnam is famous for arguing that technology is eroding society. In a review of Craigslist, however, he opens up the definition of community to something that can be meaningful–even when when entirely virtual. The paper ends with a quote from Craig Newmark:

People started telling me that they felt connected in some kind of community

sense. I used to be doctrinaire about definitions and I didn’t feel it was

a community site, but I eventually said, if people feel connected, it must be

a community.

So how does your definition of community change when all the interaction is online?

I had a recent experience that made me think of community in a new way. I was eating breakfast with my sister, her family, my husband and my in-laws at a popular outdoor market in my neighborhood when my husband got a call on his cell phone. “Do you have a white dog with black spots?” Our stomachs flipped as we ran over to the place where we had tied our dog. She had snapped the metal clasp on her leash and attacked another dog in this very busy outdoor farmer’s market. One woman had broken up the fight and had blood on her hand. Completely oblivious, our dog was lying on her back, wagging her tail as two policemen and a crowd of people surrounded her.

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