Lessons for profit-making enterprises also

What’s your social media elevator pitch for your nonprofit’s executive director or board?:
[Via Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media]

Photo by Marco Wessel

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending one of NTEN’s “Ask the Expert” calls and chats with Wendy Harman who is the professional listener for the Red Cross. She has a social media elevator pitch just in case she runs into one of the senior managers. It goes something like this: “I’m the social media lady who builds relationships with our stakeholders online.”

I bet she also extends that pitch to include the phrase “that results in increased goodwill, improves our reputation, and donations.”

You have to be able to explain social media, Web 2.0, etc. in terms that people can quickly understand. ‘Social media is about connecting online.’ ‘Web 2.0 is all about online conversations.’

As Jeremiah Owyang noted in a post the other day, measurement of social media is key because when marketing dollars are stretched, marketers are under pressure to prove their programs. With social media being largely experimental, it is imperative to measure quickly and make real time course corrections and to figure out what is working. This underscores the importance of listen, learn, and adapt.

But when you’re just starting out, organizational culture can get in the way of embracing social media. Wendy Harman shared some insights that Wendy shared parallel what has worked in the corporate sector. (See this IBM Social Media/Corporate Culture Case Study). What’s important is a social media policy

In order to measure something, you have to know what it is and why you do it. While the touch-feely stuff may make people feel good, measurables will be what makes it successful.

A couple of takeaways from Wendy:

  • First thing every morning, she spends a couple of hours listening – reviewing hundreds of mentions that have been captured in their monitoring radar using a variety of free and professional tools, including Radian 6. Wendy estimates it’s about 1/4 of her time presently. I suspect it took more of time in the beginning as she developed her work flow and got over the learning curve – and of course was able to upgrade her tool set.
  • Senior management is not turned off by the term listening. She often writes social media manifestos, filled with examples, pros/cons, and shows tangible, measurable results from their social media strategy.
  • She has a social media elevator pitch in case she encounters one of the senior people at the organization in the elevator: “I’m the social media lady who builds relationships with our community online.” Perhaps she extends that to include “that results in increased goodwill, improves our reputation, and donations.”
  • She and the others on staff are no longer afraid of negative comments or posts. “The opposite of hate is indifference, if someone bothers to post a negative comment it means they care.” She was also pleasantly surprised about how much was positive. Negative comments are an opportunity to educate and improve what they are doing. “It is about being polite and honest.”

Concerns of content and concerns of negative comments are big in most organizations with respect to Web 2.0 But, as Wendy says, hate can actually be more useful than indifference. Engagement and conversation can deal with hate, perhaps ameliorating it. Indifference will not respond to engagement.

People hate faceless organizations. They very seldom actually hate an individual who has a name and is trying to help. Listening is a very important aspect of Web 2.0 tools.

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A resilient company

coinsby Joe Geranio
Social People and The Big Conversation:
[Via A Journey In Social Media]

Sometimes you get things right. Whether you’re smart, or lucky, or a bit of both — it should be a moment for rejoicing since it doesn’t happen as often as you’d like :-)

It’s struck me that when we put our overall corporate social media strategy together, there were two big themes: encouraging social media skills and applying them to ever-wider conversations.

Looks like that was the right thing to do …

The Germ Of An Idea

David Spencer offered up a telling comment to my last post that confirmed my thinking here.

“At EMC we didn’t tell people where to go, what to play with or what not to play with.

We have smart, social people who feel empowered to represent our brand and themselves at the same time all over the place, and the payoff is nearly automatic.

There are certainly other approaches to take, but I really enjoy the organic growth that our approach has led to.”

He’s absolutely spot-on. That’s exactly what we did.


By empowering its employees, by letting them volunteer rather than be chosen, this company has positioned itself to be able to rapidly deal with the unexpected forces the world throws at a community. Because their online social networks so effectively map real-life social networks (something rarely seen in corporate organizations), they have an added ability other companies lack.

Humans evolved social networks to help them cope with a complex world. The most successful cultures are those with resilience, that allow the entire community to help solve problems. The most fragile are those with a leader at the top, who controls all actions, but who is unable to cope with a changing world.

We have had many years of calm, a Pax Financialis. That is breaking down now, just like the Pax Romana eventually did. We will see more companies like this because they will be the ones who flourish in the coming years. Those following the older models will break and fall away.

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Not such a killer, perhaps

tubes by Hey Paul
Why article tagging doesn’t work:
[Via Bench Marks]

Reading William Gunn’s recent blog posting, Could this be the Science Social Networking killer app? got me thinking more about the many online scientific reference list repositories like Connotea, CiteULike and 2Collab, and why they are failing to catch on. William is suggesting a Pandora-like system of expert reviewers tagging papers to set up a recommendation system. I’m not sure this would be really helpful–what you get from a scientific paper is very different from what you get from listening to a song, and their interconnectedness works in very different ways. And it brings to mind the failings of organizing your references by tags.

If you’ve ever dealt with any of these social bookmarking sites, you know how incredibly tedious they are to use. Even for journals like CSH Protocols, where we have buttons on every article to add it directly to these sites, you still end up jumping through hoops, filling out forms, writing summaries, adding tags. You’re on the spot at that moment to come up with a list of tags that will remind you about the content of that paper. As your worldview changes over time, and with it your research priorities, you’re probably going to want to revisit many papers and add additional tags. Even with all this time-consuming work, you still may not have added an appropriate tag to let you find what you want to find at a given moment. Did you add a tag for every method used in the paper? Every conclusion, every subject referenced? That band on the gel in figure 3 that you’re ignoring today might be very important to you tomorrow. How are you going to tag the paper in case you need to find it again?


I totally agree with David. There are two kinds of list-making people in the world – those that make lists and those that don’t. Applying tags to articles works well for the list-makers but many, many scientists are just too time-deprived to fill in boxes or check off squares.

But the real problem, as notes, is that in research the semantics change very rapidly. A paper that was really useful for a its description of a new cell surface marker may, at a later date, become important for a particular technique. How are you supposed to know beforehand which tags to use.

And in many cases since the research is at the cutting edge, there are no appropriate tags. So I make up one – call it IL-99. But someone else working on the same protein, adds a new tag called EDFWR. How in the world to the tags properly link these papers?

And, finally, no researcher gets any credit for really annotating a paper. Taking the time to do this, or to recommend a paper, is time they can be focussing on getting tenure, getting a grant in or writing a paper. Where is the payoff to the individual scientist?

Tagging research is not an easy problem to fix. We may all agree that it is worthwhile but we are a long way from any reasonable solution.

Begin at the beginning

A Model for Applying Common Craft Videos:
[Via Common Craft – Explanations In Plain English –]

People often ask how our presentation quality videos are used in professional and educational settings. From talking to educators and influencers, we’ve learned that our videos are often used to introduce a subject – to get everyone on the same page at the beginning of a class, workshop, etc. Recently, as part of our planning for 2009, we came up with a model that helps tell this story. We call it the A-to-Z Scale.

NEW AtoZ by you.

The scale represents the path to learning a subject. On the left side are the basic, fundamental ideas. On the right, the details and applications of the ideas.

For example, let's consider the subject of biology. We might find topics like these at corresponding parts of the scale:

CC atozbiology by you.

As you can see, the scale goes from big, fundamental ideas to specific details.

When we think about our videos and how they can be applied, we think about the scale and what parts of it represent the biggest opportunities for us to have a positive impact.

The Problem We See:

We believe that one of the real problems in explaining subjects is that people assume too much about what people already know. Their explanation doesn’t account for people who are new to the ideas and have major knowledge gaps. They start in the middle of the scale:

NEW AtoZ by you.

When this happens, people feel lost. They don’t have context for what is being taught or how the idea fits into the big picture. They’re forced to build on an insufficient foundation.


When anyone starts a conversation, it is a good idea to move as far backward as possible. Normally when we speak, we can gauge how well it is going. Online, however, it is really easy for us to start in the middle, and speak to the already engaged, not knowing that the majority may not have a clue.

Common Craft gives some nice insights into how to undo this approach.

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