From the Field

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This article was written for PINK Magazine, published today.
How do you grow when consumers and clients are spending less?  Maintain or increase marketing your business spending to get ahead of competitors who don’t, adjust your product portfolio, support your distributors, adjust pricing – all risky and challenging when cash flow is down.

Thanks to Web 2.0 and social media, your customers are giving you a perfect opportunity to put minimal dollars to find out what they’re saying about your company. And if they’re not, ask them…..

[For the full article, please visit the PINK Magazine site]

Earlier this month I posted some thoughts on legal issues when using social media in your organization.

We had a really great comment to that post, and one that deserves being called out and highlighted.  Doug Davidson, who blogs over  at Secure Value, works with ” business leaders and executives who are nervous their company’s critical data might be exposed and who are scared they are not compliant with government rules and regulations” and he had some in-depth insight into this topic:

Great points and good advice when working with legal.

I wanted to share a point on working with the legal department and identify two close relatives of legal that may present similar constraints as legal offers.

First, don’t forget our legal system is built on precedent. While legal departments may act like Luddites regarding new technologies they are following training and practice. You have to be patient enough to wait for case law to begin to provide them guidelines to work within. Most corporate or institutional counselors don’t relish being in that cutting edge that defines case law. That in my non-legal professional opinion is a great reason much of the innovation in this country comes out of small business who don’t have legal departments in the first place.

Second, if legal departments are an obstacle you’ll find compliance officers and security officers/departments will quickly follow. The technology is here to build the social networks but our ability to implement within a regulated framework is not. For instance, we haven’t entirely solved the problem of managing access to accounts. And we haven’t adopted tools yet that prevent protected information types (health care, student records, etc.) from exposure in the networking stream.

I recommend that when you are dealing with a regulated business in areas that touch on protected data take some time to understand the issues. For higher ed that is going to include an alphabet soup including FERPA, HIPAA, HITECH, NACAA, Payment Card Industry’s DSS, each state’s data notification law (you MA folks have one of the toughest) and so on.

Failure on the part of a school to follow correctly this alphabet soup can result in fines (HIPPA = $25K per individual exposed) or criminal penalities (HITECH which is an addendum to HIPPA).

You don’t need to KNOW the regulations just be familiar with the pressures they create and how it might impact your projects.

Coaches can not text with prospective athletic recruits. Can they twitter?

FERPA protects student records which includes communications with the school. But a record isn’t a “student” record until a class is taken. When does Admissions consider a record to be a student record?

With that knowledge pick projects as pilots that are high impact without the risk of leaking or mishandling protected data or crossing compliance boundaries. If you can show low risk to the legal, compliance, security triangle your path to success might be a whole lot easier to travel.

Doug

Thanks for the follow-up Doug!

An important piece of news was revealed yesterday, as Facebook purchased FriendFeed for a total of $50 million - $15 million in cash and $35 million in Facebook stock, which Mashable reported is worth about $6.5 billion. Facebook has apparently discussed joining forces with Friendfeed since 2007 and this deal only came about after an acquisition attempt by Twitter reportedly fell through. Though this joining of forces cost quite a sum, according to TechCrunch, Facebook also acquired the Friendfeed team, which includes ex-Googlers such as Paul Buchheit, Bret Taylor, Jim Norris, and Sanjeev Singh.

Though Facebook has already based many aspects of the News Feed off of FriendFeed, FriendFeed is superior in several ways and will certainly enrich the News Feed experience for Facebook users.

On FriendFeed, stories appear and then re-appear at the top of the feed as new users make comments on them, and updates occur as they happen. Facebook’s feed has to be manually refreshed.This acquisition allows for the integration of popular social networking sites, including Twitter, because it enables users to continue conversations or exchanges from Twitter to Facebook, or even use the two interchangeably.

People are now able to comment on a tweet through Facebook and leave a longer comment than they could on Twitter due to the 140-character limit. Instead of Twitterers and Facebookers using one or both separately, users can also publish their Twitter stream to either FriendFeed or Facebook, which means Facebook and Twitter can pretty much be used interchangeably.

According to Marketing VOX, it is likely that Facebook will see improved integration between its community of users, as well as Twitter users, through Friendfeed’s more open interface and the flexibility Facebook offers. It will be interesting to see if these two social networking communities will maintain some level of distinction, or continue to merge.

Socialbrite is a hub that brings together social media tools with social causes and philanthropy in the online community. They provide people with tools and information about using the different social media platforms to directly impact their social cause. Here are a few reasons to check out socialbrite:

1. The Sharing Center on the Socialbrite page, while not directly part of socialbrite.org, is a resource for guides, tutorials, videos, and other how-to’s about social media for worthy causes.

2. In addition to the Sharing Center, Socialbrite has a list of organizations and platforms that address social causes in the nonprofit setting.

3. Socialbrite also offers services to NPOs and social change organizations, including strategic planning, community outreach, fund-raising, site development and much more. Visit their social solutions page for a full list of services.

4. Perhaps most useful is their tools section. This section includes information on using social media for social cause, from basic video tutorials on how to tweet Flickr photos, to SEO tips specific to a nonprofit website.

So whether you are a non profit organization looking to learn more about how social media can help your cause, or whether you are just a person looking to connect your social media skills with a good cause, Socialbrite has something of interest for you.

Colleagues Mary Joyce, Timo Zaeck and myself have just released the findings of a study on Digital Activism around the world through DigiActive’s [email protected] ([email protected]).

To download the full report click here (in .pdf format):

Abstract:

Our goal in creating this survey was to collect the first international demographic data on the new group we call “digital activists”: people who use digital technology as part of grassroots campaigns for social and political change.

From late mid-February to mid-April of 2009, DigiActive collected 122 responses through an open online form, followed by three rounds of qualitative and quantitative analysis.  Despite the challenges of researching the world’s digital activists we felt a need to record - in some rough way - this evolving demographic.  Our original data set is available for download above and we welcome comments below through [email protected]

Key Findings:

Economics Digital activists, particularly in developing countries, are much more likely than the population at large to pay a monthly subscription fee to have Internet at home, to be able to afford a high-speed connection, and to work in a white-collar job where Internet is also available. In short, digital activists are likely to be prosperous.

Access Intensity of use, rather than simple access, is critical as to whether or not a person is a digital activist. This high use is only possible for people with the ability to pay for it. The Internet may be democratizing, but its effects are felt most strongly in the global middle class.

Causes Across regions, “rights” emerged as the most popular cause, with 21 different types identified by respondents.

Broadcast The plurality of respondents (37%) believe digital technology’s greatest value for activism is one-way communication. What makes social media useful for digital activism may not be its interactivity but rather the fact that these technologies collapse the barrier to broadcast.

Mobiles Respondents with more features on their mobile phone - such as Internet, video, and GPS - are more likely to use their phones for activism. This is another indicator of the importance of financial resources for digital activists, both quantitatively, in terms of greater technology access, and qualitatively, in terms of better (mobile) hardware.

Platforms Social networks are the most common “gateway drug” into digital activism.

Skills Findings on technology and advocacy skills acquisition challenge the assumption that those who have a facility with technology are more likely to become digital activists and gives encouragement to programs that seek to teach technology skills to traditional activists.

Age Older activists in the respondent group are most likely to use digital technology to increase the efficiency of offline activities, such as training and evidence collection, and less likely to participate in activities which have gained popularity because of the availability of online tools, such as posting original content on web sites.

The purpose of [email protected] ([email protected]) is to produce applied, thought-provoking, actionable research at the cutting edge of Digital Activism. It seeks to highlight and disseminate studies in the new academic field of digital activism by publishing short papers by promising scholars. To submit a paper or get more information, please contact our Director of Applied Research, Patrick Meier, at Patrick AT Digiactive.org.

As we at Other Side Group are interested in non-profit organizations, we’re regular readers of Beth’s Blog. This blog features several guest posts to give great perspective from different people, and we immediately thought it was something that deserved attention.

It is a great resource to help NPOs use social media effectively to their benefit, whether they are just starting up with their Twitter and Facebook accounts, or already have a presence, but need some social media management guidance.  Beth’s blog features several guest posts, all of which address the investments (not just monetary) and potential returns (again, not just monetary) of using social media platforms.

While all of the posts on the blog have helpful information for non-profits entering the social media world, I have picked a few of the most recent guest entries that I think are exceptionally helpful:

1. Katya Andresen on “How to Convince Your Skeptical Boss Social Media Has Merit

Despite those of us that are using social media feverishly, many still resist and are skeptical of its return for business purposes. It can be frustrating when you see the potential returns of social media, but none of the “decision makers” do. This blog highlights small actual steps you can take to create awareness and gradual acceptance of social media, that don’t require hypnotizing or hijacking your boss.

2. Frank Barry on “4 Facebook Tips for Nonprofit Success- See What Others are Doing

Many businesses now have a presence on Facebook. It is more common to have a Facebook presence than a Twitter presence because it has been around longer and more people are familiar with Facebook and its use. This guest blog points out some great points for starting a presence on Facebook, such as making a page instead of a group or a cause. This is important because some organizations have been on Facebook awhile as a group and do not have a page, but because they have had a Facebook presence for awhile, do not think they need to update their efforts.

3. Nancy Schwartz on “Don’t Even THINK about Social Media until Your Web Site and E-news are Working Well

Nancy makes a great point in this entry: before you even begin to think about drawing additional attention to your company, make sure they are going to like what they see. Implementing social media without thinking ahead of what happens once people start following you can be treacherous for your brand image.

4. Kivi Leroux Miller on “Tips for Giving Social Media Projects to Interns

Especially in this time of economic instability, many companies, large and small, are taking on unpaid interns. Because social media is a huge time investment, interns are a great way to put man-power behind social media campaigns. Kivi gives a few tips about how to best introduce your interns to social media and how to use it with your organization in mind.

5. Alistair Croll on “Using Twitter for Fundraising- Lessons Learned from Beers for Canada

This blog highlights a fundraising campaign from Beers for Canada. Alistair points out valuable tips, including steps before, during, and after the campaign and what worked best for fundraising purposes.

Check out Beth’s Blog for new posts about social media use specifically with non-profit organizations in mind

It’s a different world out there as more people are tweeting, meeting and friending left and right. The explosion of social media has brought a lot of light to the online community for purposes beyond practical use. However, some people are very hesitant to get involved because they are wary of sharing personal information.

Any internet user should definitely be smart about what information they are displaying, but to cite a great point from a fellow social media user, Mattan Ingram, there is a difference between privacy and security. Before you put up the paranoia guard, there are a few things to keep in mind:

You get what you put into social media
If new media is being used solely for purposes that the general public is not interested in, then it’s not as much of a concern that you will be “discovered” and “passed on”.

Viral marketing is only really successful if many links on the communication chain are interested in passing the information on. If someone is too paranoid to be followed by or chat with a stranger on Twitter, then it will be impossible for them to really understand and utilize social media effectively because that is the beauty of social media. The rise of social media increases open two-way communication. As Mattan said,

“The more transparent society is, the better and healthier it will be. We just have to get through the adjustment period. Transparency is not just top down, Big Brother style. It goes both ways.”

This applies to many areas, from consumer-business relationships to government-citizen relationships. The paranoid resisters are actually the ones that could benefit the most from social media; yes by putting up a profile on Facebook, you allow others a snapshot into your life, but in turn you’re also allowed access to theirs. Again, this can apply to individuals, businesses, or government.

We are not lost behind the computer screen. You still have your identity and it is an extension of your being
In a different vein, some people use social media interactions to hide behind a computer screen and act in a completely inappropriate fashion…Ever read YouTube video comments? It’s best not to if you want to keep faith in mankind. To be honest, many of these people probably would never say those things face-to-face, but for some reason have a really nasty internet alter ego.

Be it comments on other peoples’ blogs, YouTube videos, or other opinions, some people really take their comments to the level of just blatantly offensive. This deters a lot of people from using social media because they just don’t want to deal with arrogant rude people, or are afraid then of voicing their own valuable opinions.

Now with more streamlining, such as Facebook Connect, where a Facebook user can use their account to log in to other 3rd party websites, instead of making a separate one for that site, our identities are following us online. This may again strike a note of paranoia in some, but if you think about it, it could actually make the internet community closer and safer.

Of course there will always be weirdos, people who make multiple fake accounts, hackers, etc, but isn’t that say the same for face to face interactions? There will always be people who cut you in line, people with road rage, criminals, etc., but as long as you are smart with what information is put online, just the same way you lock your car door, then we can continue to be comfortable in the online community. For example, if you are reading a review on Citysearch, it has more merit when you can see their Facebook profile and know there is a real person behind it, even if it is a stranger. It eliminates the internet unknown, which is what strikes fear in some.

Where does this leave social media?

While not everyone is on board, there are plenty of people who see new media and internet services as an opportunity for information and positive communication. I consider E-mail, Instant Messaging, and other internet based communication as an opportunity to think about what you say before you open your mouth, instead of saying something completely distasteful, and not having to deal with repercussions, or anyone seeing who the person behind the screen is.

I must say that opinions are great. I like when people don’t agree with me because that is the basis of a good conversation (read: conversation, not a YouTube comment battle). However, when people take disagreements out of context and make personal insults, they are not going to get anything of value from their social media presence, and will also deter others from interacting.

Even though social media is being stunted by two angles, paranoia and terrorizing others, by nature, social media is working on breaking down these barriers. Paranoia is being resolved as more people begin to see that these platforms are used for listening to others, gaining insight/opinions, and communicating with people they normally wouldn’t. Online bullying is being battled inadvertently by creating more ties between different internet platforms. There will always be some resistance, but ironically it could be that as social media grows, it has the potential to resolve some of the current oppositions.

How do you feel about social media? Have you embraced it yet? How can we help make the online community more constructive? Please feel free to share thoughts, comments, ideas.

Social media is a great marketing tool for businesses because it has little initial cost. However, what many do not take into account is the man-hours needed to establish and maintain good communication with the community, be it followers, fans, or friends.

Recently I came across an article about Fortune 100 CEOs’ lacking presence on social media. The obvious explanation is that the CEO of P&G or Bank of America has a little free time in the to day to Twitter, much less than Ashton Kutcher who updates quite frequently.

Something else I read on Mashable, informed me Twitter for Busy People is saying that’s not an excuse anymore. Twitter for Busy People allows you to glance over the most recent tweets of the people you’re following.

This interface by Blue Java has many useful applications, such as:

  • It helps prevent less active twitterers from being pushed off the page by that one person who updates what they ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and every thought in between.
  • For larger follower bases, it allows you to see a smaller picture of a larger volume. This is useful to make sure you are interacting with a broad range of followers, not just a few very active users.
  • It allows the user to see a glimpse of a feed or update, which helps discover and determine relevant conversations.

Reading about this new interface reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend last week. She has been a Twitter user for awhile, but uses it solely for personal use. We were sitting on the couch, and I was in a clicking frenzy, toggling between Twitter accounts on Seesmic Desktop.

When I finally stopped, in my exasperation, I asked if there was an application to subscribe or prioritize certain people’s updates, and, in doing so filter, out others. She looked at me and asked, “Why would you follow them if you don’t want to read all their updates?” Good point. Clearly, Twitter accounts for businesses are approached differently than personal accounts, but her question haunted me.

Remembering the article on Fortune 100 CEOs not having an active presence on Twitter or Facebook, many of the CEOs were criticized for not having a presence on social media. It was thought their lack of presence could be taken as disinterest or being distant.

So why are we being so critical? Is it better to not be on at all if you’re not going to do it right? We are always disinterested when we find out that a celebrity is not really tweeting his or her own updates. Is the same for business Twitter accounts?

One of the key strategies to a successful social media campaign is interacting personally and individually with your follower base. If new interfaces allow us to only see a small piece of our follower picture, it seems to undermine the whole foundation of social media. My friend’s question made me realize that in my wishing for an app to prioritize and filter updates, we could be taking the social out of social media.

We are always hearing tips and tricks for social media, but regardless of how much or little you know, it’s pretty understood that having an existence on social media is not enough. If you are not executing effectively, it can translate to wasted resources, or even a negative impression of a company. Are we eventually going to have filters to prioritize certain chosen followers, and the others are merely numbers? How then do we determine who should be chosen to follow?

If information on social media platforms is becoming one-way, without the open flow of communication back and forth, it is no different than traditional marketing. It is important to keep the social aspects of social media as a priority, or else we risk losing the outreach and communication, what made social media effective to begin with.

What do you think about the direction of social media? How do you think these new tools, interfaces and applications might change social media?

We like non-profits and socially responsible organizations here at Other Side Group.  Being a non-profit, community involvement is especially important, and it seems a natural progression that non-profits would become more involved in social media outlets.

We’ve highlighted five non-profit organizations that are not only involved in but effectively using social media:

1. The American Red Cross has an established presence on both Facebook and Twitter. With over 70,000 fans on Facebook and 18,000 followers on Twitter, they not only have successfully reached members of the community, but they are doing several things right: When directing traffic to their Facebook page, all visitors land on the photos tab. This may seem like a minute detail, but so much of the support for the Red Cross comes from community involvement. Without fail, any page visitor will see, even briefly, the photos taken of real-life volunteers from blood drives, disaster relief efforts and other community events.  The Red Cross Facebook page has even set up the Causes application to accept online donations directly from their Facebook page.  They also are communicating with their followers well on Twitter. Being such a large organization, it would be incredibly difficult to track down all the tweets regarding the Red Cross, but they do a good job of individual retweets. Also, to support community involvement, they post relevant tweets to their blog feed with a short personalized message: Red Cross Blog.

2. Babson College is also on both Facebook and Twitter, and managing the two quite well.  Their Facebook content is dynamic enough that fans are consistently interacting with it by posting comments etc.  Additionally, they have content fed into Facebook from many sources: the blog, manually, notes, fans, etc.  As for Twitter, while they could be posting more frequently, they are responding to people directly and creating conversation.  They’ve even set up a blog for students to share their summer internship stories with the community (All fed into Facebook of course).

3. Share Our Strength interacts on their Twitter with members of the community and other organizations with a similar agenda. They tweet very frequently, (even on the weekends!) which is the best way to stay involved and current.

4. The Livestrong Foundation has a very interactive Twitter account. They create a close community by responding to individual tweets, and interactions are based a lot on personal experiences, support and sharing. Because they have created such a strong community foundation on Twitter, it is a good way to spread information about events and fundraisers.

5. The National Wildlife Federation is also active on Twitter. They have the NWF main account, and other accounts for their other campaigns, such as Green Hour, which gives tips about being active outside. This allows them to reach different niches with appropriate information.

There are many ways non-profit organizations can use social media to their advantage: fundraising, recruiting, spreading their message, etc. Depending on each organization’s needs and goals, social media interactions can be different for everyone, but the above organizations are definitely using these outlets effectively to their benefit.

Interested in seeing what social media can do for a non-profit you’re involved in? We’re having a contest, and the winning non-profit organization gets a free social media report!

I’ve recently begun following the information musings of Kim Cofino at her blog, Always Learning. Kim is currently teaching at the International School Bangkok in Thailand as a 21st Century Literacy Specialist.  She describes her positions as follows:

I see this role as a bridge between the library and technology, and therefore, a key aspect of this position, which makes it different than a traditional technology facilitation position, is the strength of collaboration between all three teams.”

Kim has a lot of very interesting and informative posts concerning optimizing the classroom setting using Web2.0 technologies.  Some of our favorites are:

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