Self-Actualization 101: Unravelling “The Four Agreements”

Humans hardly know what they want, how they want it, or when they want it.” 
― don Miguel Ruiz

I admit it. I am a personal development nerd. Perhaps, it’s because I am still searching for the best version of myself and my life ― as well as a way to heal from the experiences that have (gratefully) led me to this moment in time. But, with each new nuance of enlightenment comes another level of responsibility.

Lately, I have been thinking about the “The Four Agreements.” If you have not read don Miguel Ruiz’s multi-layered, yet elegantly simple work of modern philosophy, I urge you to grab your copy immediately. It’s more than “a great deal” on Amazon Prime Day. It will utterly transform the way you see your life ― and live it. This platform gives you a fresher, healthier way to engage in relationships, activities and even difficult encounters. It’s another installment in my continuing #InsideJob series.

The real challenge is practicing them in a disciplined away ― basting your brain in profound yet practical consciousness until it becomes second nature.  Perhaps, that’s why all Four Agreements are so appealing. In a way, they are a practical guide to peace. I am just going to take each one, summarize it and then, briefly provide an action item. Pretty sensible, right? Try them out, and let me know what happens. (We’ll start with the first two in this post.)

Agreement 1: Be impeccable with your word. 

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using your word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

I think this means consciously aligning your words with your truth and heart. Your words are your power to create ― and they are an extension of your divine energy.  Choose them carefully, because they can manifest your reality before you know it. They can also deplete, diminish, discount and sabotage. So, be mindful in every moment ― “one mindfully in the moment,” as we say in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Yet, this is easier said than done ― especially when you consider Dr. Joe Dispenza’s observation in “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself”:

Even when we engage our conscious minds, they comprise only about 5% of who we are. The     other 95% is a composition of our subconscious minds ― our habits and behaviors that have been deeply programmed on our mental hard drives throughout our lives.

In other words, it takes work. We may all need to spend some quality time in #BrainBootcamp, but the glorious payoff is the confidence to take full responsibility for your actions. Release any element of judgment or blame by speaking from this authentic place of kindness, love and truth. Wow, wouldn’t that make a difference in our divided world?

ACTION ITEM: Pay attention to the actual words you use today ― and those other people say to you. They are potent messengers. For instance, what is your default when you respond to a compliment? What words do you say? Do you express a desire by planting yourself firmly and saying, “I need . . .”  How does that feel?  How comfortable do you feel asking a question in a meeting or open forum? Become aware of your own inner dialogue (or that pesky inner  critic) ― how you speak to yourself. I know I find myself saying things like, “Goofball, why did you do that?”  That’s not helpful. Rewiring, Will Robinson! Write them down, and then consider how you can turn them around to produce a more positive result.

Agreement 2: Don’t take anything personally. 

This one is the game changer for me, but then, as an over-functioner from way back, I tend to be far too focused on what other people are doing, saying or thinking.  It’s all about understanding how to set healthy boundaries.  But, here’s the deal ― nothing other people do is because of you. Period. What someone says and does is simply a projection of his or her own reality. Ruiz says, “All people live in their own dream, in their own mind.” It’s not your version of the world. What’s worse, taking things personally makes you ripe for abuse and pain. When you are impervious to the opinions and actions of others, you take back your power, escape needless suffering and find peace on your own terms. Love that.

ACTION ITEM: Make a list of people who seem to “push your buttons.” Notice where you end and where the other person begins in any given conversation. You do not need to take another person’s bad behavior personally. You may notice an emotional impact, but you are free to choose whether to continue engaging or not. Knowing it is not about you is incredibly freeing.

The trauma other folks express goes far deeper than the current interaction with you. However, even though the behavior is not about you, your reaction to it may have something to teach you about you. What is it triggering? What wounds are you activating in you subconsciously? Ruiz says, “You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you.”  What a productive way to contextualize difficult folks in your life.

The first two are magic. Love them so much.  Next post will look at the other two. Can’t wait! Stay tuned. 

Northwestern Alumni Get a Taste of Pizza Hut’s Secret Sauce

whatsoverI had the opportunity to attend a meeting of Dallas area Northwestern University alumni last night.  Pizza Hut/Yum! Brands on Plano’s corporate super highway hosted us—in all our purple panache. Great, convivial crowd—including DFW graduates of the Kellogg School of Management, as well.

Scott Bergren, CEO of Pizza Hut U.S. and Yum! Brands, was a delightful, genuine, and inspiring raconteur. In fact, he launched his presentation with a preamble that demonstrated he is a leader who truly walks his talk. He has effectively turned this fast food ship around through a precise understanding of his customer, as well as his business. He shared that he even did some market research about the NU group’s expectations of his presentation, and he discovered we prefer to hear stories—the tales of his life, personal dilemmas, successes and the connections to Northwestern that have helped propel his life’s trajectory.

He did not disappoint.

Open about being in his mid-60s, the fit and facile corporate mogul spoke with conviction about his intention to keep delivering the pizza profits— indefinitely. Along the way, he inserted several delicious nuggets of wit and wisdom—worth repeating.

  • Be a “possibilitarian.” Bergren  described himself as such—committed to seeing the possibilities in everything and every idea.  He explained that many corporate cultures reward the naysayer and the hole-puncher. The solution may not always be obvious, but he is willing to be relentless in finding one. That’s how true innovation is nurtured and achieved. He observed, “Steve Jobs did not really make anything. He made things happen.”
  • Make your ideas “sticky.” As marketing copywriter from way back, I love this one. It’s not enough to have idea. It needs to resonate and to literally “stick” in the human psyche and/or organizational zeitgeist—working with external markets or internal teams.  His example was his latest buzz concept — “Rebuild America”  inside Pizza Hut. His staff members in the audience nodded enthusiastically. It started out as something like “Rebuild the Pizza Hut business in America,” but it became the internal battle cry for an audacious goal and compelling vision as “Rebuild America.”
  • Find a “work buddy.” This does not mean the girlfriend you go to lunch with and to review the latest gossip. Bergren is talking about a challenging mastermind relationship that provides a rigorous intellectual workout. He says this is particularly important for leaders. He suggests cultivating a comrade in a completely different discipline or functional area—someone who thinks differently. It may be an accountant or a software programmer—someone who can help you see the things you can’t—and from a completely different perspective.
  •  Ask the right questions.  Bergren explained that one of the most critical success qualities in asking the right questions—significantly more important that serving up the right answers. He attributes his success at Pizza Hut to knowing what questions and when to ask them.  Cultivating curiosity. He recommends asking those questions of everyone involved—from customer to colleague.

After all, “There are no right answers to the wrong questions,” says Ursula K. Le Guin.

This was just a taste of last night’s our fascinating fast food feast.  Great times with my Northwestern tribe. Go Wildcats!

What was questions are you asking today?

TEDx-traordinary in Chicago

Am loving the first day of moderating a TEDx independent corporate event — a cultural juggernaut for one of our nation’s most formidable brands — nestled just outside the Windy City. From the fusion of black holes on the frontiers of deep space, to social media-facilitated upheaval of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, TEDx packs a wallop.

I’m savoring the opportunity to orchestrate the live and in-person talks as this conservative, yet thirsty, corporate employee audience drinks in the the intoxicating elixir of ideas worth sharing. Now, back to the stage. . . .

Have you experienced TED or TEDx? would love to know what you think.

Conducting Your Social Media Symphony

Elaine Gantz Wright is a speaker, writer, and social media strategist. Contact her at elgantz()yahoo.com.

A client  told me last week that he hired us to “do” social media so that he would not have to be involved.  What!? Really? Would he ever consider having a storefront without a sales staff? This is the essential conundrum we have been wrestling with in recent weeks.  Businesses, particularly small businesses and nonprofits, are running lean and over-tasked—especially in this rocky economy. Therefore, it’s difficult for many of them to even conceive of adding a litany of new online tasks to their already maxed-out agendas.

And yet, a thriving, organic social media presence is critical to practically every business’ success in our new-media marketing universe.  From texting to tweeting, we recognize the value of involving customers and empowering word of mouth online, but the question is — What is the best way to get it done? How do we manage it all?

It seems to me it comes down to two options — coaching or doing. Should you hire a coach or consultant to train you and/or your employee(s) to blog and work the key social media platforms? Ideally, strategy and daily activity must work in concert to achieve best results.  A post here and there does not a social media campaign make.  The other option is t0 hire someone outside of your organization to “handle it” –posting, responding, blogging, monitoring, driving, and analyzing.  What is most productive?  How will you optimize ROI? How will this outside person or team integrate with yours and the unique needs of your operation?

Here’s the rub — we are trying to force social media into a traditional public relations and advertising paradigm.   Hire an agency; produce some ads; run the ads; hope for good response, and move on to the next campaign. However, social media defies the typical one-way, sequential marketing communications models. It requires ongoing attention, 360 degree tending, focused involvement, authenticity, transparency, systematic monitoring, creative energy, and a real persona. Thus, we need an entirely different delivery system and process. But what will that be? How does that look — parsing together so many pieces:

1. Blogging
2. Promoting your blog
3. Driving and participating in conversation on your blog
4. Commenting on other related blogs
5. Monitoring and responding to Tweets
6. Tweeting and responding with value opportunities
7. Driving Twitter crowdsourcing campaigns
8. Facebook product launches
9. Facebook “like” campaigns
10. Facebook applications and lead capture
11. Driving Facebook conversation
12. Integrating social media in email and website
13. Promoting social media connection in your store.
14. Rewarding Foursquare or Facebook checkins
(Just to name a few.)

Of course, the program will vary in size and scope –whether you are Best Buy or Frank’s Nail Salon, but the realities of execution  may not be that different. For many retailers, it’s all about customer service – an inside team that monitors and responds to customer comments and complaints. For others, it’s about launching new products via Facebook, for example, or running limited-time discounts and deals. Regardless of the content or appeal, the relationship-building objective probably surpasses the importance of the final tallies of coupons redeemed or contests entered. It’s not realistic to think you can have a “social media department.” It should be woven in to the fabric of your operations.

So, maybe we need to think of “doing” social media more like conducting an orchestra in real time, as opposed to, say,  downloading a series of iTunes.  An orchestra needs a conductor to keep time in real time, indicate when to come in and when to stop – or know when to staccato  or to legato. Like an orchestra performance, a social media campaign can be led by a “conductor.” But for maximum effectiveness, the organization’s actual players (the musicians) should be directly involved in making the music. They listen to each other, sense the audience’s reaction, drive the melody, layer the harmonies–and know the score.

What do you think? How are you managing you social media efforts? What has worked and what has not? What are your biggest challenges? Share your stories.

50 for Facebook

Elaine Gantz Wright is a speaker, writer and social media strategist, helping neighborhood businesses expand word-mouth-marketing exponentially–driving referrals, repeats and revenue.

I love working with small businesses. Their drive, energy, creativity,  spirit and commitment are remarkable–day after day after day. Working in a small business, myself, I appreciate the essential magic of clarity–that is, precisely understanding your value proposition, product and unique benefit.

That’s why I need your help. My goal is to develop the quintessential checklist of social media action items for small business. I read recently that social media is not a money problem. It’s a question of time, and I want to help businesses define social media in terms of opportunity cost. What constitutes the best use of time, engagement and conversation?

We’ll start with Facebook and move through the major platforms. Please review the list below, and add your comments–pro or con with anything I might have missed. I’ve compiled thinking from the likes of Brogan, Falls, Jantsch, and Qualman, but I am interested in your thoughts. What has worked best for your business? We want to know. In fact, I’d love to interview you about your experience. Email me at elgantz()yahoo.com.

Facebook

1.       Create Facebook business page.

2.       Calibrate wall settings  to display posts by you, all comments, and posts by friends.

3.       Monitor daily.

4.       Deliver prompt, personal response to all comments in your brand voice.

5.       Approach social media as a continuous process that requires regular attention.

6.       Content: Keep your page updated with compelling questions and fresh content?

7.       Photo :  Adding your logo as a photo to your Fan Page helps brand your Facebook Fan Page and can bring more awareness to your brand.

8.       Fan your own Fan Page and suggest it to your Friends list.

9.       Engage in conversations.

10.   Message fans regularly but not excessively  to keep prospects, customers returning to the site.

11.   Post Contests , Polls, and Surveys.

12.   Allow fans to Vote on products, events, etc.

13.   Post one-day-only specials.

14.   Promote nonprofit opportunities.

15.   Feature customers  and how-to videos.

16.   Promote submit-a-photo campaigns.

17.   Gift-card purchase promotions online.

18.   Publish product-related quizzes.

19.   Co-promote coupons with surrounding non-competing businesses.

20.   Create and invite friends to “Events.”

21.   Tag your customers in business photos.

22.   Encourage sharing: Provide free information and encourage others to share it– engaging new potential customers and tapping the power of bloggers with high readership and a large number of Fans.

23.   Offer tangible benefits to fans, such as exclusive deals and complimentary items, sneak preview, for advice that is unique to your business.

24.   Developing custom Facebook applications that are attract your target customers. For example, Static FBML (Facebook Markup Language) allows you to add custom HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) to customize your page.

25.   Launch and test Facebook advertising campaigns.

26.   Since Facebook is set up to tie your personal profile to your business page, update the privacy settings on your personal profile to ensure you don’t have any potentially embarrassing content visible to business contacts?

27.   Use Facebook tabs to add more content to your Fan Page. Changing these settings by checking or un-checking a box on the Edit Page section of your Facebook Fan Page.

28.   Events: Let your fans know about upcoming promotions, sales and other events.

29.   Links: Make it easy for users to see your business’s main website, partner business, newsletters, nonprofit association or other value-added information.

30.   Images: Visuals are at the top of the online interest pyramid.   Showcase products, tout events, and highlight customers.

31.   Reviews: Encourage fans to leave reviews about your business. This can be a good tool to interact with your customers and hear honest feedback. Monitor this closely and respond immediately to any negative feedback.

32.   About :  Provide useful information to describe your mission and who you are. List other ways people can connect with you (main website, blog, and social profiles you maintain).

33.   Video: Appealing videos can really help keep your content fresh and interesting so Fans will come back to your page and share your content/brand.

34.   Display exclusive discounts to your Facebook Fans in tabs.

35.   Provide helpful information about topics that are on the mind of your ideal customer. Include intriguing details about your products or services, but don’t get too “salesy.”

36.   RSS (really simple syndication) feeds from your Blog(s) and Twitter® account—automatically inserting the content from your blog posts and tweets into your Facebook page.

37.   Constant activity on your Facebook page to help your Fan Page rank higher in organic search engine results.

38.   Vary Content.

39.   Post Facebook stream widget on website.

40.   Create an internal (staff) blogging/social media policy.

41.   Make friend suggestions on behalf of new members.

42.   Fine-tune you email notification settings to manage inquiries and comments on the go.

43.   Advertise inside social games.

44.   Put your name on virtual goods.

45.   Launch your own branded game.

46.   Sell (or allow customers to earn) Facebook Credits (the social network’s virtual currency) as gift cards at brick-and-mortar stores.

47.   Gain exposure through Facebook’s new “Like” page browser. Likely to be part of the on-boarding process for new readers.

48.   Facebook-first product reveals—2011 Explorer. And new product creation—Vitamin Water.

49.   Corporate e-commerce —  Disney pre-sales of Toy Story 3 tickets and Mark by Avon product sales.

50.   Cause marketing – such as Kohl’s Cares Facebook initiative to give away $10 million to 20 schools; nearly 2 million Facebookers voted for their schools.

Share your thoughts. . .

Finding Community Where We Live

I heard Peter Lovenheim, journalist and author of In The Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time, on NPR this morning. His commentary resonated with me as I considered the meaning of community—online and otherwise. Lovenheim felt compelled to write the book after a tragic murder-suicide on his Rochester, NY street, because he suspected less anonymity among his neighbors might have saved the woman’s life.

Lovenheim wonders how people can live side-by-side and know literally nothing about each other, so he brazening invites himself to “sleep over” at the houses of his neighbors. Startling stories unfold. Throughout, he waxes nostalgic about idyllic days of neighborhood barbecues, sipping lemonade on the front porch, and sharing coffee around the kitchen table. This reminded me of that classic 1960 Twilight Zone episode, “Next Stop Willoughby,” in which the addled, frantic advertising exec dreams of a simple, stress-free, small-town life in the late 1880s. (I won’t spoil the twist if you haven’t seen it.)

In his neighborhood, Lovenheim mourns the loss of a slower pace which allowed the time for casual, incidental, face-to-face contact. “We just don’t have the old-fashioned conversations with our neighbors,” laments Lovenheim. One postman he interviewed remarked, “More than 90% of the time, customers would rather give misdirected mail back to me than walking it over to the person next door.” Could our desire for privacy and independence be trumping our basic need for human interaction?

As Lovenheim reaches out to those living in closest proximity, he finds others also secretly searching for connection and yearning for an era gone by. He asks the question—do neighborhoods really matter, and is something missing in our lives when we live among strangers? What makes a group of houses or apartments a neighborhood? Just as our IP addresses have no real meaning in terms of our identity online, our street addresses have become less important components of our personal definitions of “community.” Of course, there are exceptions, but no matter where you are, building front-yard community takes a deliberate effort.

Our lives are fuller and more hectic than ever—with dawn-to-dark work schedules, overly programmed children, mind-numbing commutes, single-parent households, and vehicles available to whisk us off to soccer games, book stores, and gyms across town. Could this lack of physical, local connection be part the dramatic revolution driving social media behavior? After all, isn’t it where we live?

We have to pass laws now to keep people from texting on their mobile phones while they drive. Facebook has become a verb, and I’m in touch with friends I never see in person through their 3:00 and 4:00 am Twitter/Facebook posts. Personal stories. Tales of insomnia. Crumbling relationships. Critically ill relatives. Job losses. Despair. Joy. Finding pig for Farmville. It runs the gamut. And when we do converse real-time, it most likely includes a conversation about the latest iPhone app. Our communication behaviors are no longer sequential—talk on phone, go next door to borrow an egg, then sit down to watch the evening news. Communication is integrated and intertwined. It’s more like a tapestry. I text my son and check email on my mobile phone—while standing in line at the grocery store. No wonder we all fried by the end of the day.

Longing for human interaction, we have moved to online neighborhoods for the same casually intimate, psycho-social interactions that earlier generations experienced in the driveway or on the front lawn. Today, the difference is we access them on our own time. Many say the Internet is detrimental to human relationships, but it’s really a double-edged sword. I contend the Web is really creating a new context and a revised process. In fact, there are a growing number of sites designed specifically to facilitate interaction within neighborhoods, apartment complexes, and subdivisions. Examples include ineighbors.org and aroundme.net. Even Neighborhood America, a large white-label online community company, has recently rebranded as Ingage Networks.

However, social media just may be coming full-circle—trending back toward geo-location. Maybe you really can go home again—virtually speaking, of course. Whether we’re tracking nearby Tweets, stamping your Passport on Gowalla, or unlocking a Swarm badge on Foursquare, we are reorienting our interaction geographically – focusing to people and places around us. The operative question on all this geo-updating is—does anybody really care? But isn’t that what they said about Facebook and Twitter?

Hmm, could a virtual lemonade stand be next? What do you think?

ElaineGantzWright’s blog is for people interested in using the Web and online marketing to make a difference. Elaine covers social media for business, education, and nonproifts. Contact her — elgantz @yahoo.com

Will Social Media Make the Grade?

Integrating social media into business in a meaningful way is more difficult than I thought it would be—academically speaking, of course. In fact, it’s really ironic. Though higher education is ostensibly about forging trails, igniting discourse, and driving innovation, the reality is that the business of academia is still working on how to maximize the high-octane power of social media. Methinks it’s probably just a little too out-of-control and outside the box for those venerable educational brands.

I think the real rub is the expectation of immediate results versus the fear of unbridled conversation. But it really comes down to justifying the opportunity cost (now that’s a vestige of my 25-year-old MBA trickling out of my baby-boomer psyche). Truthfully, social media may even be the ultimate paradox. In a world of 24/7 e-commerce, instant gratification, and auto-responses, business leaders want immediate profitability and irrefutable ROI. But social media in business is more about the journey than the destination. It’s process. And that’s very hard to justify in a dollar and cents world—especially in today’s, re-orged, laid-off, downsized, bailed-out, and bedraggled business climate.

As many experts have said about social media, it is more a mindset or behavior that a channel or tool, in the traditional marketing parlance. More and more, I see how companies really need to transform from the inside out. We must radically rethink everything—communication, marketing, and sales to truly maximize the power and effectiveness of social media—and marketing, in general. The online social media space is not an environment where ROI can necessarily be calculated based on standalone, one-off calls to action—but where we build an intertwined, 3-D, online “ecosystem” that enables customers, constituents, or alumni to respond—whether it is buying the latest alumni directory, dog food, or a tax preparation service.

It also means integrating a company’s brand and grassroots employee behavior into the rhythm of the social media dance. To be successful, we can no longer be afraid of engaging through our own profiles, website, and presence. We as small business can carve out a more profitable future if we are willing to fully engage in the opportunities. Granted, social media for business is a revolutionary concept. We must be willing to test, test, test, experiment—and even fail. We must also be willing to allocate time and resources. Some ideas:

1. Perhaps this means training a core group of employees (or volunteers for nonprofits) or interns to nurture, tend, and cultivate social media farm, as Chris Brogan calls it.

2. Start from square one on the brand, value proposition, and core products. It is important to analyze and synthesize online behaviors to best understand how to trigger them. Online activity is a very different behavioral energy from the traditional one-to-one sales call transaction. We must understand the dynamics of both.

3. We must spend as much time listening and participating online at posting calls to action. Social media expert Chris Brogan emphasized this in his recent Dallas presentation. This means actively posting, conversing, and responding on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Gowalla, YouTube, the university website, and blogs. The rehearsal is just as important as the performance. It’s about igniting behavior, interest, and activity – then making the pitch.

How will we know that we are successful? When we have increased our goal of social media lead generation and revenue impact, we will know. In addition, web response tools help us continually clean email addresses, physical addresses, and contacts. Streamlined e-marketing can also drastically reduce dependence on snail mail, thus enhancing the profit margin of each project.

What are the appropriate metrics to track? We will implement a series of initiatives and promotions for each type of product offering. We will measure their effectiveness based on fans, followers, click-thrus, and incremental increases in revenue. Key indicators:

• Brand activity and campaigns on Twitter, Facebook, Digg, blogs, online communities, and more traditional news.
• Website traffic.
• Conversions of social media traffic to leads and sales.
• Daily user engagement via online communities.
• Benchmarks for measuring the impact of social media efforts.
• Content on multiple blogs and syndicated content.
• Competitive programs and initiatives within the online product/service community.

A well-meaning, yet hopelessly pedantic friend recently sent me this quote that resonates for me in this context:

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Begin it now.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

ElaineGantzWright’s blog is for people interested in using the Web and online marketing to drive social action. Elaine covers social media for education, nonprofits, philanthropy trends, online giving, cause marketing, random life musings, and more. Contact her — elgantz @yahoo.com

Connecting in Isolation

Montreat, North Carolina

I just returned from four days in a miraculous place— Montreat, North Carolina. The peaceful, picturesque village sits nestled in a perfectly pristine pocket that exemplifies some of God’s finest handiwork. Though the temperature hovered near the single digits, the still, stately Black mountains seemed to envelope the eleven of us like a lush, tonal blanket—sprinkled with glistening stars of ice in the day and shimmering droplets of light in the deep, velvet night.

The event featured many fascinating people, presentations, and workshops—intertwined with personal introspection and self-discovery. It is what many have deemed a “thin place”—a location on earth where the veil separating the spiritual realm and the material world is slightly more diaphanous—perhaps, even permeable at times.

This is a place where hearts hunger and souls search.
It is a place where the emotional epiphanies are as significant at the intellectual insights—where relationships with acquaintances deepen and the murkiness of life’s choices becomes profoundly clear.

But this serene setting was only part of the magic. The Rev Brian Blount, President of Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education, a commanding, compassionate presence, proclaimed during the first night’s session, “You are those God has called” to help nurture and guide our youth. And much like Dorothy, who travels to the exotic Emerald City in search of what is missing in her life, I found the most potent wisdom right there among the very people who accompanied me to this remarkable destination. Silly and seasoned; sassy and sweet; sardonic and soothing—these special spirits shared rich truths and many a poignant moment.

I was humbled and honored to be in this eclectic First Presbyterian Church entourage.

Erika Funk, Youth Initiative Minister of Broad Street Church in Philadelphia, spoke about the lack of empathy she sees in so many of our youth. Is the pseudo interaction of texting and IMing developing a false sense of intimacy—impairing our ability to measure, assess, and manage interpersonal communication effectively? Fundamentally, are we losing the ability to truly “be” with people? It’s a disturbing notion. She is concerned that our young people may be stepping back and away from those in need. “I see a fear of the homeless,” she says. She suspects this may be the consequence of this under-developed empathy and increasing personal isolation. It’s as if our powers of observation and understanding are evaporating.

“There are just fewer and fewer instructions for being human,” Funk laments.

That resonated with me. The paradox is chilling. Is our humanity really waning as we mindlessly create more and more ways to connect? ‘Tis a question worth pondering—in many realms of life—especially since turning back the hands of time is not really a viable option. If this “erzatz engagement” is the new reality, perhaps it is time to revise our expectations of interaction. Or, is it? What does it mean to the way we approach and frame our communication—now and in the future?

What are your thoughts? What do you think about the behavior changes media drives?

Peas in a Pod

ElaineGantzWright’s blog is for people interested in using the Web and online marketing to drive social change. Elaine covers social media for nonprofits, philanthropy trends, online giving, cause marketing, random life musings, and more.

Peer Factor

In his epoch-defining book, The Long Tail, WIRED editor-in-chief Chris Anderson explores the statistically rooted theory of the same name. He suggests, “Our culture and economy are increasingly shifting away from a focus on relatively small number of hits (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve, and moving toward a high number of niches in the tail.” He romances this theory in the context of dominant market forces, including the diminishing physical requirements of distribution and the proliferation of individual content producers empowered by the Internet and new media technologies. His clarifying point is critical,“The Long Tail starts with a million niches, but it isn’t meaningful until those niches are populated with people who want them.” Ay, there’s the rub.

The Democratization of Production and Distribution.

Everything really comes down to the basic economic concept of demand and supply. The difference now is that the cost of reaching niches is reducing dramatically -– thus driving the democratization of production and distribution. In his addendum chapter, Anderson addresses the “the Long Tail of marketing.” The premise of this chapter is that the fragmentation of markets is requiring the fragmentation of marketing. More important, as I have proposed in earlier posts, the user-driven Web is turning the paradigm of traditional marketing communication on its ear.

“(With) individuals trusted more—institutions trusted less—the most effective messaging comes from peers. Nothing beats word of mouth, and as we’ve seen, the Web is the greatest word-of-mouth amplifier the world has ever seen.”

Understanding the Dynamic of Influence.

The integration of the multimedia Web and mobile technologies has forged a brave, new frontier. The medium is really no longer about the message. It’s about the relationship. Therefore, businesses and institutions must shift focus away from managing the message and move toward relating with the influencers. This means leveraging personal affiliations, relationships, and their voices. It also means listening and monitoring through resources, such as:

TechnoratI
Google Trends
Social Networks

The hyperlink is, indeed, the new response device. Traditional metrics, such as audience size and readership are becoming increasingly stale and even irrelevant. Now, response is measured in real-time interactivity—clicks and click-thrus. Action. Anderson says “The hyperlink is the ultimate act of generosity online.” Placing a hyperlink in content signifies tacit endorsement of the associated content and simultaneously gives the author a new brand of authority—the power to refer.

The Power of the Peer.

Given this new focus on the influencer, we as fundraisers could not be in a better place. The development “sweet spot” has arrived. We know that that people give to people, not institutions. And now, the cultural evolution of communication is giving our volunteer fundraisers more power and influence than ever before.

We just need to find the right tools to make them the most successful “askers”— and us the most effective “impresarios” of generosity. Let us know what you think. Ask a question, or leave a comment. Tell us know what you are doing to lake advantage of this rare moment in history.

Elaine Gantz Wright writes about social media that matters. Find her at elgantz@ yahoo.com

Organizing Chaos in 2010

Those who ponder the power and possibilities of social media—and its role in our organizations, lives, and culture are all positing predictions for 2010. But, at the end of the day, the big question on everyone’s lips seems to be, “What is the next big thing”? Will it be about catching the Google Wave, the open source document sharing platform—or will our growing mobile obsession drive the success of location-based applications like Foursquare and Brightkite?

Even the experts are unsure. However, I’m not sure forecasting the next Twitter is really the useful question—particularly for those us who focus on leveraging social media in a business context. Most thoughtful professionals I know—particularly in the educational advancement and alumni space—are looking for ways to harness the tools that are already in play more effectively and strategically. Approaching the social media landscape is a little like trying to take a drink from a fire hose—like organizing chaos. We all see the strength of the tools, but we wonder how it all fits and how it will make a difference in our organizations. With this concept as a backdrop, here is how I interpret my crystal ball:

1. Social Media Will Become Less Social.

First of all, I’d like to revisit the term “social media.” There is something about this nomenclature that sounds almost trivial or lacking in substance. I’d like to coin a new term – “engagement media.” It’s more active and deliberate. David Armano said on his Harvard Business School blog recently, “With groups, lists, and niche networks becoming more popular, networks could begin to feel more ‘exclusive.’ Not everyone can fit on someone’s newly created Twitter list and as networks begin to fill with noise, it’s likely that user behavior such as ‘hiding’ the hyperactive ‘updaters’ that appear in your Facebook news feed may become more common. Perhaps it’s not actually less social, but it might seem that way as we all come to terms with getting value out of our networks—while filtering out the clutter.” And I think David is spot on here. We will be looking for more sophisticated, relevant experiences—greater value and ROE, return on engagement.

2. More Enterprise Social Software Platforms Will Emerge.

As an extension of the above development, major software providers, such as IBM, SAP, and Oracle will continue to innovate and launch enterprise-grade social networking and Web 2.0 collaboration applications/suites. Already, Oracle has Beehive; Microsoft enhanced SharePoint with social media functionality, and IBM offers Lotus Connections. Targeted niche solutions will emerge to address industry and stakeholder-specific needs. Currently, many organizations are piecing together solutions with blogs on TypePad/WordPress—or investing significant amounts of time and money in developing in-house communities using tools such as Ruby on Rails.

3. Social Media (“Engagement Media”) Fundraising Will Become More Integrated.

Organizations of all sizes will see the value of fully integrated multi-channel strategies. Using social media channels alone for fundraising will not be as effective as designing coordinated campaigns and communication strategies that include traditional fundraising techniques. This includes email, your website, Google ads, face-to-face events, and managed promotion to the online and mainstream media. Beth Kanter confirms this predication and gives a great example. Just last week, GiveMN, a new online web site that hopes to encourage more Minnesotans to give and help create a stronger nonprofit community for Minnesota, raised over $14 million dollars in 24 hours using a multi-channel campaign.

4. Relevance and Ease Will Become Increasingly Important in Peer-to-Peer Fundraising.

There is no more compelling spokesperson for an organization or school than a passionate supporter. This is the core strength of peer-to-peer fundraising. And there are a range of scenarios—from a class agent soliciting annual fund gifts for his or her school, to a stakeholder requesting donations in lieu of birthday presents or wedding gifts for an organization. In fact, Facebook Causes now offers a birthday wish feature, and we will likely see more peer-to-peer fundraising applications sprouting up in the coming months. In 2010, I suspect donors will demand more meaningful interaction—not so much with organizations, but with recipients and “the mission on the ground.” Epic Change’s TweetsGiving 2009 connects friends around the world with Mama Lucy Kamptoni, who used income from selling chickens to build an innovative school in her village’s community in Tanzania. Last year, TweetsGiving, raised $11,000—with a goal of$100,000 this year.

5. Email as We Know it Will Become Passé.

As Erik Qualman says in his popular Social Media Revolution video, GEN X and Y already view email as passé. And the trend will accelerate—or rather, morph technologically. The New York Times iPhone application recently added functionality which allows a user to easily share an article across networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Many websites already support this functionality, but this next iteration of sharing behavior will gradually replace email list communications—particularly through the exponential expansion of mobile phone adoption. And this will provide renewed opportunities for withering content purveyors, such as traditional newspapers and network television. So, stay tuned. Fasten your seat belt.

It’s likely to be a wild ride! What are your prognostications?