2011: From “Oh, Wow!” to “So, How?”

Elaine Gantz Wright is a social media coach and consultant — providing the practical tools and action plans you need to survive and thrive in the brave new media world. She is a listener, writer, blogger, speaker, actor, and mom. Contact her ellagantz@sbcglobal.net

What have you always wanted to know about social media but were afraid to ask? Register for Breakfast and Blogs, a very social session with Elaine to find out. Start off your New Year with real social media sizzle.  Thurs., Jan 13  — 9:30 a.m.– 12:00 p.m., $10 at La Madeleine Preston Forest.

I’m really not sure how many people do this sort of thing, but I am actually going back to my predictions for 2010 – to compare them to what really happened.  It was as daunting and perplexing a task as I imagined. Especially since social media evolution is anything but linear. One thing we do know it that Google Wave never quite hit the beach.

My most significant memory from last year’s missive was actually my delight when Chris Brogan actually chimed in. Wow. Now that’s what I call social media He wrote:
I like and agree with the first four. I disagree with 5. Email is still the main protocol of the Internet age. I *wish* it were different, but definitely not in 2010. Great post.”

My number #5 was: “Email as We Know it Will Become Passé.”
So, I guess we’ll begin with the end – #5. Well, as Chris Brogan said, email did not go away in 2010. But, I venture to add this was probably just slightly premature. With Facebook’s Messaging Hub beginning to bubble up and mobile technology/SMS infiltrating our lives in terms of behavior, I think we are looking at more of an email mutation than elimination.  When Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg made her prediction that email is “probably going away” at the Nielsen Consumer 360, many balked, but her point about teenagers is well-taken. Stats she cited indicate that only 11% of teens email daily, and as we know, teenagers are really “the beta testers” for future techno-media trends. In fact, I have my own focus group right here in my own home. My 18-year-old would rather text than talk. He has Facebook up on his laptop whenever it’s turned on, sends very few emails and never uses the speaking function on the phone. My 14-year-old son is really text only. Good thing I have unlimited texting, or I we would be under a bridge somewhere. He never opens up email or even Facebook. Should Mark be worried? Hmm. We’ll just wait and see.

The most interesting shift between late 2009 and late 2010 is that the questions people are asking have changed dramatically. People don’t seem to be asking, “Hey, what’s the next big thing?” “What’s the next Twitter?” It’s more about implementation and impact – “What’s the most effective platform for my business?” “How do I integrate this into my daily operations?” “Where’s the best ROI?”  It’s no longer “oh wow!” It’s “so, how?” Social media tools and behaviors are now a given, our modus operandi. We just need to figure out how to do it. The old advertising model of trading money for attention is the anachronism. The new formula is trading time (even  energy) for attention. The activity is just as important as the message.

“Social Media Will Become Less Social.”hmm
I’d still like my term – “return on engagement.” It’s more active, deliberate and participatory. However, I think our trajectory has been very different from what I expected — largely due to the meteoric growth of Facebook. Engagement is now defined by the quality of the experience itself, rather than some tangible outcome. The value I spoke of last year was a slippery concept, because “value” can now be defined in brave, new terms, as well. Who knew Farmville and Mafia Wars would become the new American pastimes? Who could have predicted you can actually buy Facebook points in the grocery store? And the metric that “one-third of women 18-34 check Facebook when they first wake up in the morning,” according to an Oxygen Media study?

“More Enterprise Social Software Platforms Will Emerge”oops
Enterprise platforms continue to exist, but boy was I wrong on this one. I did not see the mobile app locomotive, powered by Apple, flying down the track. I think the branded in-house community concept has quite literally jumped the rails. And, to think, I was once so on board with that idea.   Simply, there is an app for that – in fact, what many signify as the emergence of Web 3.0 – targeted, segmented, defined and delivered to the user on demand. So, interesting how things can change in a year. Still, we may be moving in this direction yet.  Fast Society, a new iPhone app, allows the user to create small groups to text with on the fly, and the groups last for three days. Facebook is also providing ways to communicate with smaller networks. Facebook’s new Groups Feature allows segments friends into personal, professional and interest-based communities to better manage privacy. Watch for more of these smaller, closed networks to launch in 2011 as people seek deeper connections online.

“Social Media (Engagement Media) Will Become More Integrated”bingo
I think I get the winning buzzer for this one. Organizations of all sizes are embracing the value of fully integrated multi-channel strategies. Using social media channels alone for marketing, customer service or fundraising will not be as effective as designing coordinated campaigns and communication strategies that include traditional communication techniques. This includes email, website, online ads, SEO, face-to-face interactions, print advertising, social media platforms, blogs, events, and managed promotion to all media. This has become pivotal to social media success in general. Integrate and align with overall objectives. It’s a must.

“Relevance and Ease Will Become Increasingly Important”yep
There is no more compelling spokesperson for an enterprise or organization a passionate customer, employee, or supporter. This is the core strength of word-of-mouth advertising and peer-to-peer fundraising. And there is a range of scenarios—from a class agent soliciting annual fund gifts for his or her school, to a customer making a recommendation for a new restaurant on YELP! The brand voice is now filtered through the customer in his or her own geographic and psycho-graphic universe.

As we look to 2011, we can’t deny or ignore the brand power of Facebook “likes,” which will become the core advertising and promotional objective for many businesses on Facebook. “Like” strategies will become increasingly sophisticated and integrated into the overall marketing strategy.  For instance, instead of doing A/B testing between two photos to see which generates more Facebook “Likes,” the savvier brands and agencies will be leveraging technology that can simultaneously deploy 10,000+ ad variations to yield the lowest CPA (cost per acquisition) of those “Likes.” The art and the science.

Finally, there’s mobile and SMS. The app has arrived and has consolidated the expansiveness, chaos and clutter of the worldwide web to the simplicity and focus of a tiny button the size of a stamp that fits in the palm of your hand.  . . . Oh, wow!

What are your predictions for 2011, infinity . . .and beyond?

What’s the Next Layer on the Stack?

pancakesI was privileged to speak to a class at Southern Methodist University last week on social media for nonprofits. Nina Flournoy, the charming, accomplished corporate communications professor, was taking a very practical, professionally focused approach to the material. Clearly, the bright, enthusiastic students were hungry to comprehend the marketing power of social media.

They asked great questions – What makes something go viral for a business or nonprofit? How do I know what to post? When to post? How do I find my audience? Looking back on the day, my insights were many, but I was surprised to notice that though we may be asking similar questions, our points of view were remarkably different. Facebook, Twitter, and social media are as much a part of their daily lives as the telephone or the iPod. In fact, they live perpetually connected lives. Therefore, looking at these social media sites as marketing channels to be managed or positioned can feel incongruent. Social media is simply how they live, how they interact with the world and each other. It’s second nature—breathing, eating, sleeping—and tweeting! The reality is here:

As part of a slightly older generation of professionals, I am still experimenting with ways to integrate, coordinate, and differentiate somehow. But whether you are Generation X, Y or Z, I think these are questions we as marketers must address right now, in the moment. We are all trying to figure out how to weave social media tactics into the overall marketing mix—and manage them effectively. As we know, setting up a Facebook account or a Twitter profile is just the beginning—definitely not the whole story.

Content is king—but even more important is the conversation it triggers. Social media is less about information and more about participation. And geez, that is very hard to schedule! It is an activity, behavior, and process. Therefore, the question is—does the user experience have value? I think that’s where businesses and nonprofits are stymied. They look at social media and ask, “how is this relevant?”

And yet, that’s probably the flawed interpretation. Twitter, Facebook, and Linked In are really relevance-neutral. They are only as effective as their context. Sage North America recently released survey data that “88 percent of U.S. and Canadian nonprofits are using some form of social media, although less than half of this number have been using it for more than a year.” The surprising news is, “Of those who have not adopted a social media campaign, 45 percent indicated that it was because they were unsure of its relevance or advantages. Others said that they were unable to devote the time or resources.” The other hesitancy seems to be an uncertainty about integrating existing online transactions with social media environments. “91 percent of nonprofits said that they raise funds online, yet only 58 percent of these respondents said they use social media for fundraising.”

The challenge is to embrace the social media landscape in a valuable, productive way. That is, from a business perspective, we need to find a way to aggregate the vast, messy world of social media into a usable set of metrics, messages, behaviors, and/or outcomes. As I have written in earlier posts, it’s the new success measure—ROE, return on engagement.

At the end of the class, the SMU students asked me the question, “What’s next? What’s the next big thing?” What a fabulous and provocative question. There is some buzz about this among thought leaders. They suggest it is the question is really “What’s next on the stack?” We need to think about the media communication world as a stack or a progression. Many point to aggregation, dashboards for marketers, and consolidation tools. Chris Vary of Weber Shandwick and the Dallas Social Media Club says he suspects Twitter has probably peaked in terms of growth, so we should keep our eyes on the social media horizon. I have read there are 11,000 registered third party apps built on top of Twitter and probably more for Facebook; therefore, I’m thinking the cycle dictates some sort of consolidation or filtering.

Thinking back on my visit to SMU, where I earned an MBA and an MA, I am dizzied and overwhelmed by the acceleration of change. When I was sitting in those same chairs in the Hughes Trigg Building (well, maybe replaced since then) twenty-ahem years ago, I was thinking about taking my box of punch cards to the guy who worked on the other side of the little window in the mainframe building. No PCs. No Internet. No email, even. Still had the old Smith-Carona and Liquid Paper, for heaven’s sake! So hard to fathom.

gartner-social-software-hype-cycle-2009
Gartner Social Media Hype Cycle

And now, I can’t imagine a day without my iPhone and HootSuite. I guess I’m sort of a hybrid. As I wrapped up my remarks, I waxed a little nostalgic and encouraged the students to stay open, curious, and highly, highly adaptive.

The human condition is evolving at hyper-speed—intertwined with high-velocity technological innovation focused solely on expressive capability. As NYU professor Clay Shirky observes, “The moment we are living right now, this generation, represents the largest increase in expressive capability in human history.”

So consider this—social media as we know it right now will not be recognizable in 3-5 years. What do you think is next? Are you ready?

Elaine Gantz Wright writes about social media and other communications phenomena. Please post your comment below and join the conversation. elgantz@ yahoo.com

What are you?

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. Find out more at SocialFuse.

ringquestion I am the first to admit it. I am an anomaly—a distinctive amalgam of eclectic experiences and pronounced passions. I am a seasoned, accomplished professional, schooled in the most traditional marketing media techniques; but I have also journeyed to the cutting edge of the vast social media abyss. It’s largely uncharted territory for my brethren “of a certain age,” so carving out my professional niche while straddling disparate worlds, approaches, and generations can be a challenge.

In fact, I am still processing a recent conversation with a respected nonprofit headhunter in Dallas. The silver-maned, super-savvy staffing pro peered over his polished tortoiseshell reading glasses, took a breath, and asked, “So, Elaine, what are you?” The silence was palpable. I’m thinking in my rattled brain things like—single mom, daughter, job-seeker, brunette, social media consultant, and . . . derailed.

He continued, “So really, are you a fundraiser, or are you a marketer? Which one? I think you need to decide.” My first reaction to that was, “Well, of course, I’m both, and that is the value that I bring to my clients and my employers.” I’m not sure he bought that, because he added, “Well, you have to understand that my client needs to churn out hundreds of funding proposals.” I think he was just a product of his context—his pre-Web 2.0 consciousness.

All weekend, I have pondered that three-hour conversation and its many nuances. Lots of food for thought as he expertly excised ever decision I have ever made since age four. Invasive yet thought-provoking. Later, I mused that I really do hate labels, but I understand they are a necessary evil in the recruiting biz—especially with this economy with such a buyer’s market. But, I suspect I do have to address the question—what (or who) am I, anyway? And what is it I am on this earth to accomplish?

I know I have I entered the social media space for a reason—even though I am not your typical demographic for the job. And I believe more strongly than ever that social media is becoming the new norm and the essential vehicle for product and service communication—whether it’s for nonprofits or for-profits. It’s merging the accepted definitions of marketing, sales, public relations, market research, customer service—and even fundraising for nonprofits.

socapThe recent Socap 09 Conference is a salient example of this invention and innovation. It exemplifies our morphing toolbox for addressing social needs. The whole realm of social enterprise fascinates me. Though the concept of the “social entrepreneur” may even seem like an oxymoron to some, it’s the emerging reinvention of society’s approach to achieving results in the social sector—a new way to think about ROI and change the world.

Socap09 in San Francisco brought together a unique mix of the world’s leading social innovators—traditional investors, impact investors, social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, new media evangelists, NGOs and nonprofits, wealth managers, development agencies, venture capitalists, MBA students, and other groups interested in the growing opportunities related to social capital. These folks account for a new breed of philanthropist—the social catalysts. Last year’s conference gathered more than 650 leading global investors and entrepreneurs from 26 countries. This year’s sold out again and featured speakers from the Skoll Foundation, Food Inc, LINKtv, Invisible Children, Global Giving, the World Economic Forum, Virgance, Kiva, Change.org, Ushahidi, McKinsey, The Economist, and many others. The opening keynote will be given by Sonal Shah, director of the White House Office for Social Innovation.

Founder Kevin Jones said, “In these turbulent times, social innovators in the public and private sectors, from foundations to social venture funds to development agencies to grassroots Web 2.0 activists, are working together to build a new economic foundation for the world.”

I heard about one panel that particularly intrigued me. Having worked with a fledgling cause website, I know this space can be tricky and challenging. “The Future of Social Innovation on the Web” panel was facilitated by Dennis Whittle of Global Giving and featured Premal Shah of Kiva.org, Jonathan Greenblatt of Our Good Works, Steve Newcomb of Virgance, and Ben Rattray of Change.org.

Beth Kanter attended and interviewed several of these guys after their presentation. She reported that Premal talked about the need for creating “magic for users” and building in workflow software that actively facilitates relationship-building through a clear process of engagement. In talking about the next Web transition, he said, “If Web 1.0 is about one-way communication, and Web 2.0 is about two-way communication, then Web 3.0 is about building a bridge between two-way online communication and offline actions and impact.”

Ben Rattray commented on the effectiveness of social media platforms—now and down the road:

“The vast majority of social good platforms have failed because they have modeled social-good platforms on commercial applications. We assumed that if we created a generic platform that people would start their own actions. They don’t. It isn’t as easy to throw up an action on the web as it is to throw up a video. The vision is to provide a platform for collective social action, so it is easy for people who care about an issue to connect. There must be catalytic organizations. If you build the platform, will spontaneous organizing happen? No! Synthesis of grassroots organizations is needed to channel social change.”

And from Premal Shah:

“Kiva is at the intersection of money and meaning. There is going to be a socially responsible investment. There is a third access – it is not about ROI or social impact. It’s the user experience that drives adoption. Never underestimate something that is fun and has short feedback loops. If we want people to engage, it has to be easy, fun, and addictive. Return on experience versus investment.”

Clearly, the line between for-profit and nonprofit is blurring. It’s less about “what you are,” and more about what you can achieve.

Stay tuned, hold on tight, and think about it . . .
“What are you?” or better yet, “What do you want to be?”

Social Media Engagement: From Buzz to Benefit


Just as you figure out what’s happening on Twitter, the next iteration of social media is dawning. It is no longer enough to stay in the loop—you need to be out in front of it. Check out the slide show above. It is a great review of where we have been and where we are going. Here is a summary of the Web’s hyper-speed trajectory to provide some context:

Web 1.0: The Information Source
• Creating your own message and your own content online.
• Categorizing the worldwide web in directories.
• You manage your own little corner of cyberspace—you Web brochure.
• Static and segmented.

Web 2.0: The Social Platform
• Building community, interactivity, and scalability.
• Validating and creating through the power of community.
• Integrating “hooks” for future integration – RSS feeds, APIs, etc.
• Chaotic and overwhelming.

Web 3.0: The Harmonic Convergence of Technology, Content, and Participation
• Networked applications and content repositories creating more seamless interoperability and integration between the complete range of devices.
• True data portability through open identity, APIs, and data formats
• Implementation of a consistent Web language
• Intelligent agents, natural language processing, and machine learning
• Making the Web more relevant and individually defined.

Social media tools are born from technological advances, but they are rooted in the most basic elements of human communication – conversation, curiosity, caring, and connection. I guess you could call them the four “Cs “of social media – a girl’s “second” best friend, I suspect.

In any case, we should all view social media as simply another tool in our communication and fundraising arsenals. So, approach with the same intentions. When you think about diving into Facebook, Twitter, or other online universes, you may be thinking, “Where do I begin?” The exciting thing is that we are staking the trail. It’s a brave new world, and it’s all about trial and error. Be willing to fail—and learn. You date before you pop the question, so think of social media relationships the same way. Get to know your “friends” before you ask them for anything. Here are some places to start:

• Comment on and reply to other people’s observations, posts, and ideas. Participate.
• Proved personal anecdotes about the impact of your cause or organization, and empower your volunteers and supporters to do the same.
• “Retweet” someone’s status message in Twitter.
• Initiate conversations around specific topics – in small groups or forums online. Build community around your organization or issue on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Ning.
• Share good information freely, such as pointing to great blog posts, ideas, or articles.
• Make virtual introductions when you see obvious like-minded people who could do to know each other.
• Create useful media like blog posts, ebooks, or videos that help people.
• Find mutual interest points and talk about them.
• Remember things about the other people, such as whether they have big meetings or if they are dealing with sick children.
• Help when someone is promoting a big event. Spread information for other people liberally.
• Reply to people and build conversations.
• Recognize those who are making a major impact—volunteers, donors, and angels.
• Thank people.
Share.