Thursday, December 10, 2009

I love a good presentation...

Great looking visual aid, Great information on charitable giving in the US.

budget planner –

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Twitter says "Don't Tweet About It"

I think twitter is using reverse Jedi on me. I have been reading about the new "lists" feature that twitter been working on. Presumably it is the functionality that many have been already using in web applications like tweetdeck and seesmic.
So I was surprised to see this splash banner come up on an account I help facilitate.
I will run to try out the feature now. I just thought it was funny how twitter announced this private rollout.

If you can't read it in the picture, the text says, "Lists are timelines you build yourself, consisting of friends, family, co-workers, sports teams, you name it. You're part of a small group receiving this feature, so don't tweet about it yet!"

They so want me to tweet about it, right?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Community Hunger Day - Tell Us How it is Going!

So many of our friends have chosen to participate with us on Community Hunger Day. I will give a tally of the total impact, number of participants and amount of donations in the coming days.
For now, I wanted to give us a public space to share some thoughts on how things went for you throughout the day. Please leave a comment and share some thoughts on the day.

I have several hours left before the day is over. I am sure I will notice my own hunger as the day turns into evening and I don't have work to distract me from my stomach. What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

Video in Your Print Magazine

This is a bit awkward, at this stage, but I am sure this is the first of many integrated media campaigns that make unexpected combinations. Eventually it won't be unexpected.

I predict that this ad will be talked about as the first...then you won't see any copycats for more than a year. Then print media will continue to decline and suffer. Then, a few years from now, you will see versions of this everywhere. Not quite the promise of video paper that Popular Science has been showing us for years, but the technology is getting cheaper and better.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

University President's Online Persona

I had a representative of a university president's office ask me about getting their president up on twitter. I thought I would share part of our exchange. The short research that I did might help you in a similar decision.

My initial response...

I would be remiss if I didn’t ask a couple of questions.

Is the president wanting to partially participate in a profile that is also being updated by others?
Is [president] already the kind of person who creates content on a regular basis?
Aside from simply being an active participant on twitter, does [president] have any specific objectives he’d like to see met as a result of his participation? (I can suggest a few)

Based on the answers to these questions, I would suggest a specific approach to managing his profile.

After another exchange that clarified the questions I asked, I provided the following overview of other university presidents that are using the tool and how they are using it. -Arizona State is clear that this is the “Office of the President” President Michael Crow has a personal profile here The office of president profile has largely turned into a newsfeed. This could be a way we would choose to approach, and then push [president] to do his own tweeting while at high profile events through the same channel. The disadvantage of this approach is that it is a bit contrived, stiff, and the opposite of what regular twitter users would expect from someone seriously interested in using the tool.
This is something we could do for you with a little training and consult. We could set it up and turn it over. Someone in the president’s office is best suited to manage the feed on an ongoing basis. It would be difficult for us to manage this type of feed for you on an ongoing basis, but it is (remotely) possible. - Ohio State University, obviously more personal than ASU, but guarded and not engaging. You’ll see he never @replies or Retweets or asks questions or engages in the conversation that is available. It could easily be Gordon Gee’s personal assistant transcribing an event off of his calendar. It is Less newsy, more personal, not interactive (which is the point of twitter [but not if the user isn’t willing to embrace the tool and be transparent])
Other similar examples…
We could assist in setup, launch, and a bit more extensive training and consult to both [president] and an assistant of his. It would be very difficult for us to manage this kind of feed on your behalf and we would not recommend ghost writing. - Rhode Island School of Design, President Maeda is extremely engaging, uses the tool well. Intentionally follows others and has a huge following because of his obvious transparency and willing to use twitter as it was intended. Notice all the Retweets and questions and @replies. This user has actual clout and influence in the tool. He likely never has anyone else share his feed. He has completely embraced it as part of his daily rhythm.
Other similar examples… - President of Union University in Jackson, TN
We could assist in setup and launch and provide exhaustive training and consult in explaining philosophy and practices behind becoming this kind of user. We could NOT operate this kind of feed on an ongoing basis.

Let me know what you think?
Do you know of any other school presidents who are doing a good job tweeting?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Alumni Association Twitter Use - Baseline Comparisons

What kind of influence score should the typical alumni association reach for? At this point, in this data that we have collected, we have only established a baseline of comparison that allows the different association feeds to look at each other. But as an overall average, should we compare ourselves to something else?

Here is a quick comparison of scores taken and averaged from a dozen random real people (not internet marketers or spammers or profession social media types). The commonality between this average person and the alumni associations we have looked at is that they have the same number of average followers.

You'll notice that the average user who has 560 followers has more than three times the influence and eight times the clout as the average alumni association feed. So my question to you, because I don't think this is the best comparison, is who should alumni associations compare themselves with? If we are going to establish a baseline of comparison to determine that our logistic performance in the tool is better than average or desperately in need of improvement - who should we compare ourselves to?

Brand names?
Membership associations?
Central communication feeds for the schools?
Small Companies with a similar sized customer base?

Sound off in the comments...what do you think should be the comparison that makes the best sense?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Little Funny

Found by way of my friend, Jeremy Gregg, over at FundVisor.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Alumni Associations Twitter Usage Report

Don't let the fact that I am not able to offer you a fully functioning version of this data with an attached, preloaded pivot table stop you. I would love to put a call out there for someone to do their magic with this data and give it back to us. I ventured into this project with a few basic questions I wanted to answer. I collected the data and set about to answer those questions. There is, without a doubt, a hundred other questions and answers that one could derive from this data, so have at it.

If you plan to do your own analysis and discover some answers to your own questions, you should know a few basics about the tool I used to collect this data. Twitalyzer is a website that runs the numbers you see represented in the data. Twitalyzer takes a snapshot of the past seven days of your use of twitter and runs the algorithm to arrive at a score in 5 different categories, influence, signal, generosity, velocity and clout.

A couple other things you should know...If you haven’t used twitter in the past seven days, it doesn’t matter how much influence or clout you had, Twitalyzer will give a zero return on data. This does NOT mean that your influence scores will reset, start over from zero, and need to build up again. Part of the Twitalyzer algorithm accounts for the number of followers you have, and previous profile scores that have been analyzed in the past. It is important to understand how some profiles might go from an influence score of 2.4 to zero and back to 2.2. The “no data” score is not technically a score of zero, even though it might seem that way in how you choose to present data. Twitalyzer basically answers the question, “what is your influence in twitter in the last seven days.” Where one can easily make the case that a profile that hasn’t been updated for the past week still retains some influence (based upon user accessibility to previous updates), Twitalyzer only shows trends limited to the previous tabulations that have been run on a given user name. In the basic report page, an ongoing tabulation of the scores is only presented in terms of averages… and not trends. If you would like to see the information presented in a line graph, over time, Twitalyzer will give you a look at that information in a couple of fun ways here.

Based upon this information, it seems inappropriate to present these numbers in a line graph, over time.
This raw Twitalyzer data should be seen as a snapshot average, tabulated five times, between the dates of May 27th and June 22nd , 2009.
If any one data collection time returned “no data” that time was not counted as a zero in the average, instead it was not included in the average.

So, lets get into the questions and answers about Alumni Associations.

I took time to select the top 40 twitter profiles (based on number of followers) by searching for user bios or user names that contained the words "alumni association." the remaining group of alumni association feeds came from a sampling of feeds that were interesting to me for one reason or another. For instance, the two profiles at the bottom of the list were selected because they were started within a couple of days of when my data collection began.

What does the average alumni association feed look like?
After collecting data over the course of a month, what was the aggregate growth seen in each time period?
The typical twitter profile for alumni associations started off with 454 followers and following 303 twitter users. Those numbers grew. By the end of the month, the typical alumni association profile was following 356 users while being followed by 559.

Lets average all the scores together for all 49 profiles that were traced over the course of the month.

The fact that alumni associations have an average influence score 0.4 give us plenty of comparisons to make among the ones that were analyzed. Should alumni associations be happy to be above average? Do their twitter feeds rank low in comparison to other similar industries? More on that later.
For now, here is several quick looks at how individual profiles compare.

If you have been reading these posts from the beginning, you have heard me make the case that judging a profile based on the number of followers is a horrible way to measure success. It is still a statistic that most would be interested in. Here are a couple of ways to look at that statistic. There are a couple of ways to determine how engaging an alumni association is being with this social web tool. One quick way I did this was to look back through three pages of updates for each feed and see if they had a tendency to @reply any of their followers with conversation. If there were none, it is easy to conclude that a feed was dedicated to one-way communication. Those profiles that choose to engage with @replies saw slightly higher growth in followers than those who did not. While I personally hold to the insight that it is better to have 50 responsive followers than 1000 that ignore you, this data comparison can help one make several observations.

There also seems to be a relationship between high clout/influence scores with those profiles who make a practice of following a high percentage of users that are following them. This is seen, in twitter, as a more generous and engaging way to act as a user.

The question becomes, to the alumni association, if the simple act of following back the real people who are following your feed is worth the little bit of extra time it takes to do this. The influence scores say yes.

You can see that the majority of alumni associations fail to take time to enact a follow strategy that leads out and initiates a relationship with another user by following first. Those that do, and follow at least 90% of their following, have more than three times the influence and clout of those that follow fewer than 50%.

While I have several other observations to make about this data. This might be enough to get our conversation started for now. What do you think? Feel free to pull down the spreadsheet and run your own numbers? What does it tell us? What recommendations can we make?
More to come...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

All For Good is All Good.

Non Profits have just been given a gem of a tool to publicize their volunteer opportunities. All for Good is a collaborative effort that has given you access to some of the most talented software engineers in the world. The video below and then the remainder of the videos on youtube will be a great overview and explanation.

It's a search engine for volunteer opportunities near you.
Very cool. Check it out.

This has come from out of a cohort of volunteer effort among the Craigslist Foundation, Google, and Jonathan Greenblatt from UCLA. There is tons of potential here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Alumni Associations = Twitter FAIL -- Part 3

Yes, I am sticking with the flaming title for this series of posts. I do recognize that it is very unscientific of me to publish the hypothesis prior to the findings or even the research being collected. But this is a study that is remaining open for criticism and some midstream corrections. It also seems like it would increase the readership of the series. (My alternate title is something to do with making millions in fundraising dollars per month from the comfort of your own home!)

I am in the midst of collecting my fourth data set over the course of the last four weeks. There are some trends that are beginning to show themselves. It is interesting to watch the percentage growth of those twitter feeds that started with the most followers. It looks as if it will show that once a twitter profile reaches a certain level, it will continue to have steady growth no matter how the Alumni Association chooses to manage their outbound communication. This will be an interesting point to consider and, if true, can have several recommendations that emerge from it.

I am most interested in influence and engagement. Unless it is simply a branding exercise on the part of the alumni association, there is no reason to have a profile on twitter if you are not going to consider how much clout or influence the communication has. For example, would you rather have 2,000 follower who ignore your information or 150 followers where 50 will always reply back or retweet you?

This is the question the Katie Johnson considered as she began to manage the twitter presence of Cal State, Fresno. Katie is a numbers person, perhaps a statistician at heart. She was asking the ROI question from the very beginning of their feed. She also asked the questions early, of what kind of news and information their alumni might want to hear from them, and employed the answers she received directly to her outbound information.

SIDE NOTE --- I think it's great that she took the time to consider these important questions. I also think alumni associations everywhere should consider whether their twitter profile should be managed as a news distribution channel at all. In some cases, depending on the objectives and strategy, considering twitter use might not result in the question, "what kind of news do you want from us" but rather "how can we show our alumni our loyalty" or "what needs to our alumni have that we can meet." Those kind of questions and answers might result in the revelation that twitter is not the social web application you should be using.

Katie's orientation toward metrics caused her to use and track her tiny urls every time she sent out a news update. She has been tracking every outbound tweet, that has a link with it, for the past several months. There is quite a bit of information that can be reported on from this data. Here are a couple of basics.

Average click through rate when an update has a link - 4.2%
Highest click through rate of any update - 25%
Highest unique number of clicks on any one update - 52 (with 390 followers at the time)
Typical Time of Day for highest open rates - 2:30PM Pacific
Typical content source for highest open rates - YouTube and

This is one universities feed. I could only dream of being able to access analysis from all of the alumni associations I am observing. (If everyone were like Katie!) But it is an interesting analysis I recommend any mature feed employing. You can get these kind of clickthru rates using HootSuite or thru the new StumbleUpon tool that is in beta. Some of you might have additional tools that can give you similar statistics.

So leave a comment and lets talk about it. What should we compare our clickthru rates to in order to show we are doing well? Should they be better than email open rates or clickthru rates? Should this be a discussion about updates mimicking email subject lines with the tiny url mimicking the clickthru? I prefer this to be a discussion about engagement, but those numbers are not ready to be published yet.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Alumni Association Research

The followup post is coming, I promise.
I have had a few people asking.
I am still in the data collection process on what will be a fuller report on the state of typical alumni association use of twitter.

In the mean time, I have a couple of other data sets that have been sent my way that will make for a nice little post. This is not it.

I don't imagine anyone is sitting there hitting the refresh button while staring at my my blog, but you should expect to see something in the next couple of days. I apologize if I am adjusting your expectations.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Alumni Associations = Twitter FAIL -- Part2

I have received some wonderful interaction (both online and off) from part one of this series and this research. This interaction has led to some adjustments I am considering and I'd like to hear what you think about some of these ideas.

Don't just lurk, feel free to chime in on the comments, I'm happy to hear ideas from friends I haven't met yet. One of those friends is Katie, who chimed in on the comments of the previous post. I even got to spend some time on the phone with Katie today. We had a good, invigorating conversation...I love when online introductions turn into offline interaction. (go to a tweetup some time, you'll really like it)

Anyway, a few things that have hit me as we are half way through this experimental analysis...


I need to come out and admit this right away. The title and opening paragraphs of my initial post on this topic were intentionally over the top.
It was my intent to pull readers, especially alumni association officers, all the way into the research. It is not my intention to publish a scathing diatribe about collective ignorance. I pledge to leave this kind of tactic in post one, and intentionally become affirming and offer help in the remaining posts on this topic. If the use of this tactic lured you in to reading, I'm happy for that. However, I don't want you to hide this report or it's findings from your VP or director because it felt like I had an agenda to make you look ignorant.

That being said, I am going to allow the numbers to be what they are, even if that means they are brutal.

There are a handful of Associations in the data that are doing remarkable with their feeds. Only a portion of this partial study has been published. I chose not to make any commentary on any individual feed, but there are some conclusions you can start to draw from looking at this limited data set.


Baker alludes to this in his comment on the first posting. I had an offline conversation with him that expounded this idea. I initially chose to show a glimpse of two twitter power users, Beth Kanter and Chris Brogan, in the partial findings. I wanted to give a view of how their scores are coming out, not because I intended a comparison to show that Alumni Associations were awful. Instead, I wanted to give context to the scores generated by the twitter analytic tool I used. I would love to compare the AA feeds to the average or aggregate twitter user, but I don't know where to find a tool that can give those numbers. I could find or choose several random twitter users to establish this baseline, but I believe it might be more appropriate to compare AA analysis to a brand name or business organization. I think this point should be open for discussion. I'll be happy to take suggestions of who or how to establish an appropriate comparative baseline in the comments of this post.


This idea came from the conversation I had with Katie. Her concern was that AA behavior and tweet habits might be affected based on the partial release of the findings. Feed managers like her will react to this release by awareness that I'm watching. This would result in skewed results for the second half of the data.

Scientifically, this is true.

Practically, I @replied to about 35 of the AA profiles that I was examining with a link to the blog post. I have heard from 6. I think a control group might naturally emerge from among those who hardly read their @replies.

Katie's suggestion also means recruiting a few feeds that were not in the study to take us up on the findings and recommendations we make once the study is over. Let's see if our recommendations are effective. That turns this into a much project for me. (A second project, in fact)

Either way, I'd love your thoughts on this point that Katie brings up.


Bill asked me this in an offline conversation. I think the foundation of this question is wondering if I am suggesting that twitter is the thing Alumni Associations should be involved with.


I like the idea of doing a similar analysis of facebook and Linkedin. Katie pointed me to Alumni Futures. This is written by Cal Tech's, Andy Shaindlin. His colleague, Elizabeth Allen, has written in several places about Linkedin best practices. Facebook recommendations are all over the place. I guess I just needed to start some place with twitter. I do think that objectives and strategy are important. I think those should be determined before AA's dive into any one of these technologies.


I have heard several variations of this comment, and I think it is fair to bring up. I used some language in the opening paragraphs of the first post that would lead some to believe that I think a certain way about most of the AA twitter profiles that have been opened. That they are being managed without thought or examination of objectives or strategy. Though that may be the case for many of these feeds, I don't think it's true of all of them. Some of this analysis will come out in the final report and recommendations I'll put together.

That being said, I do believe there is well-intentioned, but faulty, strategy that exists among these feeds. I would like to refrain from talking about this too much prior to the data being collected completely. I am eager to engage in this as a constructive conversation. I think I have some practical suggestions that Alumni Associations can apply that will create both efficiency in the amount of time they spend while increase the engagement level of their alum followers.

If you have any metrics that measure effectiveness of your twitter strategy that are not represented in the tools I selected, I would love to know either the metric you want counted or a tool I might use to capture those numbers.


My plan is to collect data three more times over the next two weeks. This will give us a look at the numbers over a month-long period of time. I plan to invite suggestions into the process along the way so the results are both beneficial and encouraging to the Alumni Association community. Feel free to leave your suggestions.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Alumni Associations = Twitter FAIL

“You are not doing it right.”
This is a bold statement that might be better suited for a manifesto. The statement is directed at alumni associations who are (for the most part) failing to use twitter the way they should.

You are showing up to a cocktail party with a megaphone.

On twitter, your alums think of you as the obnoxious guy who is unaware of himself and unable to carry on a normal, human conversation. Do you know this guy? The one who only talks about himself…incessantly, completely oblivious to the nonverbal cues he is being sent that clearly communicate he should be quiet, ask a question, or take a breath? Yeah…that guy… is you (on twitter), and I have the numbers to prove it.


Finding your twitter feeds wasn’t that difficult. Most of you have the word “alumni” in your profile name. A few of your colleges and universities may have a consolidated feed that is named for your school and not for the association. Feeds that are managed by your central communication departments have the advantage of being unified and clear in the distribution of status updates, but the gigantic disadvantages of needing to crowd out the human voice that might come through a twitter feed compounded with inability of the alumni association to have a voice.

For instance, take a look at the feed of the University of Southern California. USC’s feed, at follows nobody, engages none, is primarily filled with automated feeds surrounding their sports teams, and boasts one of the largest followings among universities using twitter. Their contrast is Marquette University, . MU maintains a very engaging feed, has an even larger following than USC, but has little room or time to focus on alumni association goals.

Translation – twitter feeds controlled by your school’s marketing have large followings and don’t have time for the alumni association.

Therefore, I have ignored the feeds that are named for your college and university, and have focused this analysis on those feeds that have been named specifically for the alumni association. You won’t be able to blame central communication for this one!

The Obvious Numbers

What you will see here is sampling of 50 alumni associations and the brief analysis I found using free tools, easily available, on the web. The top 40 were intentionally chosen for analysis based on the size of their followings. Ashton Kutcher has taught us all (unfortunately) that the size of your following is what is most important. [You’ll see that the analysis of this report runs counter to that notion, but I went ahead and selected and organized these twitter feeds based upon this misunderstood metric] The last several entries were chosen as a cohort that was intentionally chosen for being low in followers and brand new to twitter. It sounded interesting to have input from this representation.

I'll arrange the first look at these based on the way that a casual twitter user might measure influence and clout - based on followers alone. These numbers were recorded as of May 27, 2009.

Don't let the follower metric fool you. What does it mean to have 1873 followers?
Is that follower number a metric that really matters?
What was the reason you opened up your alumni association twitter feed to begin with?
Was this a series of questions you even asked yourself prior to jumping into twitter?

The Not-So-Obvious Numbers

If we take a quick look at the way that these alumni associations engage their followers, we can come a little closer to the value of having over 1,000 followers. By looking at the feeds themselves, we can get a sense of what strategy is being used to increase followers as well as the approach that is being utilized in the day-to-day use of twitter.

* A twitter feed can be used as purely one-way communication and can also be used to speak with and republish others content.
* A twitter user that engages in conversation can be easily spotted by the number of @ replies found in their feed.
* A twitter user that intentionally republished others content can be easily spotted by the "RTs" that lead their updates.
* A twitter profile that asks questions is intentionally engaging followers and eliciting @replies.

An organizations tendency to follow or refollw people also says a lot about the way they have chosen to use twitter. Most of the time, those that just deliver content (and don't engage their followers by asking questions, engaging in conversation or refollowing them) expose themselves as users who are only using this social web platform as a distribution channel (while ignoring the social components).

Here is the same sampling and a look at how these organizations strategically use their feed.

The Numbers You Should Be Looking At...

Which would you rather have... 1000 followers who don't pay attention to you or 40 followers who are actively listening and participating with you?
What is 10,000 followers worth if you are causing your feed to be lost in the twitter noise?
To take a quick look at how engaged these feed's followings are, I took a quick look at their last several days of tweets. By doing a simple search of the twitter profile name you can count how often the feed name is mentioned by other twitter users in the past few days. This is a broad representation to how often people are retweeting, replying, or answering questions the alumni association is asking. This chart also gives you a general idea of the frequency of the outgoing updates by each of these feeds.

Do you see what these numbers are saying? Chris Brogan's twitter name is mentioned 100 times in the past 3 hours and 92 of those mentions are other people talking about, replying to, or retweeting what he has said. That is influence!

Speaking of Influence...

Influence is the real value of any social network. Your follower number is a deceiving metric, especially if you have inadvertently trained your followship to turn a blind eye to your updates. I suppose you could be satisfied with the idea that your alumni network is among the early adopters of this growing social network. As a branding exercise, this may cause you to not care about your influence in the conversation. As long as your profile isn't embarrassing you, maybe you couldn't care whether yor alums are actually listening. But if you do care, this last set of numbers will have some significance and education in themselves for you. This is a snapshot of the recent activity your profile was engaged with in the end of May. based upon the tweets of the previous seven days in combination with a whole host of metrics, these are the scores given to your twitter profiles by a great little tool found at

I don't see any reports that show what the average Clout or Influence score is across all twitter users, but from a brief twitalyzer search of a handful of my active twitter friends and a few brands, it seems that a clout score of over 2% is above average and an influence score over 1% is perhaps a bit above average. Either way, you can compare yourself among others in your field to see where you fit in while comparing yourself to other alumni associations that are using twitter. I am not suggesting you should tweet like Chris Brogan does, but I do think there is a lot more value in these number than simply measuring success by your growing followers.
Here is a quick word about the scores you see and how the are mined. These are lifted directly from Twitalyzer's explanation.

Clout -
Clout is often thought of as "special advantage, pull, or influence" in the real world, as in "the senator's nephew has a lot of clout with his uncle." In our usage, clout is the likelihood that other people will reference you in Twitter, as in "gee that @Mashable sure does drive a lot of traffic!" The more people who reference you, the higher your clout.
Our definition of clout is simply the number of references to you divided by the total number of possible references (as governed by the Twitter Search APIs).

Velocity -
Your velocity is simply the rate at which you contribute to Twitter. Since the Twitter Search APIs limit us to 1,500 records, at least for the time being, you are judged against a theoretical maximum of 1,500 updates per week.
This is not to say that you should attempt to write 1,500 updates every week, especially if you don't have very much to say and would end up telling your followers about your cats, lint, or your feelings about your mother. But the reality of the situation is that the most influential people in Twitter are, by and large, writing a lot which helps increase the awareness of their personal brand, the likelihood that they will be referenced, and the likelihood that they will be retweeted by others.
Conversely, Twittering a lot about nothing will increase your velocity but decrease your signal-to-noise ratio. And while the latter is not directly factored into the influence calculation at Twitalyzer, in our experience if you start to ramble about nothing you will lose followers very, very quickly.

Generosity -
We believe that Twitter is a lot like life, only in fewer characters, and that being generous with others is extremely admirable. In Twitter, we think of generosity as one's willingness to pass along ideas and call attention to those ideas we think are great. Our measure of generosity is one's propensity to "retweet" someone else, thusly creating awareness of their work and ideas among your own followers. Specifically, our measure of generosity is based on the ratio of retweets you pass along to all updates you publish. Simple, huh?
This leads to the obvious (yet cynical) conclusion that "if you want to game the Twitalyzer's influence calculation, all you have to do is retweet other people a lot." Yes, yes that will work. And if we are able to get more people to share information in Twitter just to eke a few more points out of their influence score, well, then we believe we have done good work.
Incidentally, if you retweet more frequently, you'll also increase your signal-to-noise ratio as well. Sweet, huh?

Signal to Noise Percentage -
One of the great things about Twitter is that you can say anything you want (in 140 characters or less.) Some people choose to pass along information, others choose to share anecdotes, and still others talk about their cats. The Twitalyzer has observed that people tend to gravitate towards strangers who are passing along information. Our signal-to-noise ratio is a measure of the tendency for people to pass information, as opposed to anecdote.

By our definition, "signal" will be counted for any update that includes at least one of the following elements:

* References to other people (defined by the use of "@" followed by text)
* Links to URLs you can visit (defined by the use of "http://" followed by text)
* Hashtags you can explore and participate with (defined by the use of "#" followed by text)
* Retweets of other people, passing along information (defined by the use of "rt", "r/t/", "retweet" or "via")

If you take the sum of these four elements and divide that by the number of updates published, you get the "signal to noise" ratio. For example, if you published four updates and two of them contained links, your signal-to-noise ratio would be 50% (2 updates with signal / 4 total updates).

Influence -
As Twitter becomes increasingly important to online communication, the creators of the Twitalyzer believe that the need to measure the impact of our efforts in Twitter will increase a commensurate amount. While some believe that "popularity" is an appropriate measure of success, we disagree, eschewing this easily gamed metric in favor of something more robust, more fair, and more difficult to cheat.
The Twitalyzer solution is our measure of "influence in Twitter" calculated based on:

* Your relative reach in Twitter, measured by the number of followers you have
* Your relative authority, measured by the number of times you are "retweeted"
* Your relative generosity, measured by the number of times you "retweet" others
* Your relative clout, measured by the number of times you are referenced by others
* Your relative velocity, measured by the number of updates you publish over a seven day period.
Each of these measures are weighted but otherwise the calculation is incredibly simple. We believe that what you get is a measure of success in Twitter that can be applied in a variety of ways. We know this measure is not perfect but, well, we're not perfect and we don't believe in holding software to a higher standard that we ourselves live up to.

What do the Real Numbers teach us?

They teach us what we suspected from the beginning. Don't make too much of the following. Your influence is a much better indicator of effectiveness and usefulness. Your questions of whether you whould change your approach or turn this into a place for fundraising appeals is a question for your original objectives in particpating. Perhaps you are satisfied with the knowledge that your update habits are teaching your alums to ignore your messaging, as long as you have an active feed.

I am going to monitor these feeds (a total of 50) over the next several weeks and report on progressing numbers. I'm interested to compare tactics with growth rates and report on other observations that will come with time based analysis. Stay tuned!
When I have done a snapshot of the data over several weeks, I'll give you a look at all the numbers and all the feeds.

Fail Whale image via

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Selling Twitter to my Mom


I jumped on twitter a few months ago. I told you about it at the time, but you noticed it before I even brought it up. You saw it because of the increased number of status updates and weird characters that were showing up in the "Michael is..." box at the top of my facebook profile. I thought I'd write a few thoughts out to help you for if and/or when you decide to try twitter out.

Selling the benefits...
Staying connected with the grand kids was the top benefit we talked about. You liked the idea of having your 4 kids and 8 grand kids sending out status updates from their cellphones so you could have a feed of what was going on while you were in San Francisco and the rest of us were spread out across the country.

I should correct a couple of things about this "benefit." When your grand kids get old enough to use their phones and tweet their status out, twitter could be long gone. That seems incredible, seeing that your grand kids are just a few of years away from all having their own phone. Things change so fast in digital media these days, you might prefer to wait to see how they are communicating and adopt that tool, instead of adopting a platform that they may not be interested in.

That being said, you should jump into twitter just to explore and keep your digital communication muscles nimble. If there is one thing that distances you from most in your generation, it is that you are willing to try and learn new things all the time. Your abandoned myspace page is proof that you are exercised in trying these experiments. Keeping up with you grandkids and great-grandkids will be easy for you.

Introducing the tool

Twitter is not a logical progression from facebook. When you set up your profile it will be an easy process. Using the tool for the first time will be a little awkward. I went back into my settings and preferences a dozen times in the first couple of weeks of using twitter until I got the service working for me just the way I wanted. You will find yourself using it differently than I use it, and it takes active use to really figure out those preferences.

Following on twitter is not like friending on Facebook.
Some people will follow you because they want you to follow them back. You don't have to, and it's not expected. You should think of twitter as two two services. Ask yourself two different questions, and feel free to leave them independent of each other.
1. Twitter lets others follow you. If it freaks you out that strangers will be following your status updates that are meant for only family, you have the freedom to block others from seeing your updates. It's not rude. There might be a pressure in facebook to accept everybody's friend requests, it is not necessarily that way for twitter.
2. Twitter lets you follow others. Follow those you are interested in. Don't feel the pressure to follow people just because they are following you. This is not like facebook where a friendship is accepted and then both of you can see each others full profile. If you don't want you cell phone cluttered with text messages from people you don't care to follow, you don't have to. You might want to follow a celebrity or two, but once you are following more than about 20 people or so it gets you into a different frame of reference to interact with all those messages.

Status Updates are not your email inbox.
You don't have to read them all. Nobody does. Feel free to skim or even ignore the ones that come across your feed. If, after a few weeks, you seem to be not as interested in following a particular tweeter, unfollowing is something you can do. Twitter etiquette allows you to be in charge of both your followers and your following.

Twitter from your phone.
Text messaging is not difficult to pick up. Most kids learn to type blind on a phone keypad within a couple of months. It is odd, that the most advanced communication device is something we have chosen to type on, but it is actually much more convenient than I expected.

Twitter from your laptop.
There are lots of free apps you can download so you can manage twitter from your computer desktop. Most avid users of twitter have three or four ways that they access the twitter network. You will choose your favorites over time. I would recommend you look into TweetDeck for you desktop, tweetie for a smart phone, and you will do straight text messages to the phone number 40404 when using your traditional cell phone.

While I have written this in a personal and affirming way. If you are just wanting a straight up tutorial on what twitter is and how to use it. You can check a couple videos out here and here.

Hope this helps you as you consider diving in. Thanks for letting me use you as an object of this write up. I hope it will be a help for others as well as you. Don't feel any extra pressure to open a twitter profile just because you are the object of a blog post.

Love you,

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I'm a Jerk, No It's My Personality, My Personality is a Jerk?

From the time I first started sharing my reflections here, on the use of emerging technology, I have been aware of my potential in becoming what I despise. As I start recognizing behavior in myself that I have already characterized as "bad," I can either stop that behavior or I can analyze it to the point of justifying it.

I don't want to do either. It's possible for me to treat myself in an experimental way that I can make impartial judgments and observations about how I'm handling it. Morgan Spurlock did it effectively in Supersize Me. A.J. Jacobs has done it several times, most notably in The Year of Living Biblically.

However, watching and reading these works will give you a glimpse into the personal lives of these folks and make you realize that these guys drove their wives crazy. They can't help but drag their friends and family with them into the experiments. They must.
They are incorporating these experiments into their entire life.

So...I think I am starting to frustrate my wife, and I think it's because I am doing a poor job of showing her what's really going on with what has been defined (by this blog) as "experiments and observations." I will try to explain the difference between my personality and what seems like jerky behavior. Maybe we can lure Jennifer out of the lurk to leave a comment. Maybe it will be a comment that doesn't feel like a punch in the throat.

Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting the Social Technographics Ladder. Don't check out because of the name! You can find yourself

This handy reference was put together by the smart people over at Forrester Research. It was heavily referenced in Josh Bernoff's and Charlene Li's Groundswell. I highly recommend reading both the book and the blog if you are excited about this kind of thing.

Take a look at this ladder. This is an interesting analysis of the kinds of people who are online. It seems these classifications are largely tied to how a person's personality and temperament is wired and the resulting behavior that emerges when you put that individual on the interwebs. Perhaps a case can be made for someone moving up the ladder based on their experience with the web, but I believe a person remains stuck on a rung that is informed by who they are in "the real world."

I have realized myself as a Creator. It is largely tied to the kind of behavior I exhibit in offline arenas. My online behavior has been a progress up the ladder. I moved from being and Inactive to being a Spectator and then a Joiner. I have never been an online Collector or Critic and have landed myself squarely as a Creator. You can take this quiz as a help to identify your own spot on the ladder.

I have embraced this label. My personality typically doesn't embrace labels, but my online behavior has born out that I am securely on this rung of ladder.

Move this conversation into the realm of social web and the emerging technology I am experimenting with...
I send a twitter update while I am out with my wife.
A friend chimes in to scold me.
My wife is sly in her agreement with scolding friend.
I feel like I deserve a punch in the throat.

But hold on a second.

Am I rudely texting while while ignoring an active conversation in front of me? No. Jennifer is elbowing me in the ribs for creating and sharing while we were at This American Life.
Am I answering email because I can't stop working? No.
Or am I simply continuing to be a Creator as applied to the social media space?
Am I justifying bad behavior? Or am I embracing who I am in this larger, digital conversation?

If Jennifer remains who she is, she will be a Spectator and not post a comment.
Perhaps will can draw a few Spectators and Joiners out to comment on these thoughts. Perhaps some of them will be thankful to finally identify themselves as something and realize they don't need to feel like they need to be a Critic or a Creator to be an appropriate online participant.

I think this is why so many blogs fail. Too many Critics trying to exhibit Creator behavior?
This is why twitter has exploded. It is an easy tool for Joiners to act like they are Creators.

So who are you on the ladder?
Do you buy into this?
Am I just making excuses for being a jerk?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Campaign to Ban "Online Gifts"

This study has been stuck in my craw for weeks now. Not only does this write up not point to or give us access to the data, but the analysis seems to generalize all activity that happens online to fall under the general category of "Online Fundraising." The term seems to be used interchangeably with "Online Gifts" throughout the piece. No other communication channel has this misunderstanding. I think it is a problem.
I heard it first through Allison Fine and her blog, but I don't think it's original with her. It seems the the idea of the internet was original sold to development officers as a walk up ATM. Insert "Donate Button" here. We are still trying to live that down.
As we try to live it down, I suggest a move toward a small terminology change. There is a difference between Online Gifts, Online Giving and Online Fundraising. Please tell me what you think. Can we make movement towards this fundamental understanding?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Frost/Nixon Review

I wouldn't normally care to write a review of any movie, but an interesting thing has been happening to me since I started to both blog and microblog. I have a strong compulsion to share and review and rank just about every new or unique experience I find myself in.

My wife went out with her friends. I just put the kids to bed. I had two movie options from a free month of Blockbuster's answer to NetFlix. I checked in on twitter and facebook real quick and posed a quick question and asked for my friends to decide which movie. I got 8 responses on twitter and 7 on facebook. Frost/Nixon won with the immediate responses. Andy Stuart, Matthew Slay, and Jason Mitchell came in with late votes for Milk, making the overall race much closer. But the responding crowd had spoken! Joshua Quiring asked for a review so I am compelled to oblige as thanks for his part in the conversation.

Frost/Nixon was great.
Moving, emotional, full of soul and questions, human.
Great piece of casting, especially in the role of Nixon. Frank Langella made me forget that I wasn't watching Nixon himself.

I was born the same year Nixon resigned, so I don't have any personal recollection of watergate, the impending impeachment, or the press coverage following the resignation. This one one of those portrayals that makes you want to go read some history about the subject matter. Here is the youtube clip you want to see after watching the movie.

What I love about the story that was portrayed in this film was that Nixon struggled, and hid, and dodged his own soul, and finally found redemption in the truth. What a great theme.
The stuff of many great stories.

Unfortunately, the satisfaction you get as a viewer of this story didn't actually happened that way for Nixon. The text that scrolls the screen at the end of the movie gives you a hint of what the truth was. If Nixon did find personal redemption, he never let that be seen in the public eye. He avoided the general dignitary public appearances of all other expresidents. I wonder if he was as forthcoming in the actual interview, he may have found the kind of redemption he brushed in the movie portrayal.

Either way, the movie is well worth your time.
And for those of you who voted Milk (most of which were friends from San Francisco that I grew up with) I will definitely make time to watch it as well.

Monday, April 27, 2009

My New Favorite Podcast of all Time (for now)

As a rule, I don't choose favorites.
I avoid them.
I hide from them on purpose.
Every once in a while, they find me.

In the world of podcast listening pleasures, I have several weekly regulars.
Sound of Young America. - love
This American Life. - double love
Radio Lab. - quad love
All three of these are easily searchable and accessible by itunes.

My new favorite podcast found me over the weekend. I've been hiding under my three regulars.

People who care...I introduce to you...The Age of Persuasion. Terry O'Reilly is seasoned ad man and a professor of his profession. He cut his teeth on writing radio spots and he knows the ins and outs and history of his business. For three seasons now he has been taking his classroom to the public through the Canadian Broadcast Company's microphone (Canada's sister to America's NPR).

I went looking for it on itunes and it is not there. Tech Hermit got stretched for a digital scavenger hunt. Never fear, you can find an optional feed (that opens in itunes) right here. When the prompt comes up asking what you want to open the feed with, choose itunes (or whatever you use) and begin adopting this as your own new favorite.

In this day and age, we are all marketing experts. Some are more expert-er than others, Jason Mitchell, Kerri Urbanski and Bev Hutney, so settle down. We see enough images a day to be keenly aware of what is effective and what is not. I think this is one reason that hooked so many of us into Mad Men. (you know you love it) So listen to Terry's radio class and become a little more of an expert. It will give us some credibility as we are shooting our mouths off.

One final quote for Bob Roman and the rest of the Citgo Syndicate. Terry O'Reilly loves the godfather of ad men David Ogilvy. Check out what this bastion of modern advertising said in his 1963 autobiography.
I have a passion for landscape, and I have never seen one improved by a billboard. Where every prospect pleases, man is at his vilest when he erects a billboard. When I retire from Madison Avenue, I am going to start a secret society of masked vigilantes who will travel around the world on silent motor bikes, chopping down posters at the dark of the moon. How many juries will convict us when we are caught in these acts of beneficent citizenship?

iPhone(mullinex), meet Age of Persuasion.
Age of Persuasion meet the six people who read my blog.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Newspapers are Ineffective: A Response to the Washington Post Facebook Cause Article

The Washington Post article, To Nonprofits Seeking Cash, Facebook App Isn't So Green, published online Wednesday, April 22 by Washington Post Staff Writers, Kim Hart and Megan Greenwell.

I wrote a response and had conversation emerge from it. I felt my own sense of correction in the way I responded from folks like...
a kind email exchange from Amy Sample Ward
a fantastic post by Allison Fine
from my post
fromLateef and others on twitter and blogs all over the web.

I told Amy I'd have to apologize to the Cause App by redeeming my criticism of it. I begrudgingly thanked Amy for the extra work she assigned me. (that I didn't need!) Grrr...thanks again, Amy.

In my attempt to gather some research for my revision/apology, I decided to reach out to the writers of the original Washington Post story. There is no place to leave comments on articles anywhere on the Washington Post's site (not even a newsvine seed link) so I clicked on the link that let me send them an email. I wrote...


On twitter and in the blog world that deals with development and social media, you guys are getting hammered on a couple of points.

1. Old information rehashed. Nothing new here, what prompted you re stirring this year old conversation?

2. You focused on wrong stats. Network for good only works with a 8000 causes that have used causes to also ask for donations. 242,000 causes aren't asking for money, aren't registered with network for good in order to ask for money. You evaluation is off because you confuse causes with intentional fundraising.

3. You blanket sweep the word "ineffective" with donations being your only metric. The development cycle measures effectiveness in very different ways. Some causes are about advocacy, not donations. Some cause are about both, but don't use the cause app to ask for money.

Either way, you are getting dismissed.
If you are having trouble finding where the conversation is dismissing you, let me know, I'll steer you to the most influential of the bloggers who are leading the charge against your analysis.


An hour later, I got a response...

Hi Michael,

We're well aware of the blog chatter out there. We stand by the reporting, obviously, and dispute the alleged factual inaccuracies. While it's true that only 8,000 nonprofts with Causes pages have signed up with Network for Good, it is incorrect to say that those are the only ones who can raise money through the site -- just by having a Causes page, a nonprofit can receive donations through Network for Good without signing up or doing anything special While not all of those nonprofits got into Causes with the goal of raising money (a point we made in the article, quoting the Nature Conservancy), those who DO hope to fundraise through the application have not raised much -- thus our point that it's ineffective as a fundraising mechanism. That doesn't mean it's a worthless operation, just that it hasn't shown a ton of progress on the fundraising part of its mission.

As for the point about it being old news, I don't think that's true except among a small number of social media types. I know similar topics have been undertaken on a number of nonprofit/social media blogs for as long as Causes has existed (we quoted the author of one of those blog posts), but the vast majority of our readers don't follow those blogs, and we thought it was important to bring an analysis to the general readership. Others are free to disagree on that point, but that was my perspective when I decided to crunch some of those numbers.

I hope this is a useful explanation, and I'll say the same thing to anyone who contacts me. We're not in the business of responding to criticism on blogs, but if people are interested enough to contact me directly I am more than willing to have a conversation with them. So thanks for writing!

I put this here to publish their answers, but I'd like to say more about what's going on from a macro level. No wonder newspapers are dying! The discussion is the story! How can they not participate in this!

I wrote back...

Really, you don’t respond or interact with the subsequent conversation that happens around your articles?

Is that an organizational standard or do some journalists make a practice of participating in the ongoing discussion?

I only point this out to you because I suspected you would have answers to the three main points that are being thrown around.
The points you make to me are great, but I don’t think I am a big enough fan of yours to advocate or defend you (not naturally, I might now)
If you knew this is the standard answer you would give. Wouldn’t you want it to be voiced in the place that the conversation is taking place?

Thanks for your time,


No response is slow...they may have realized that I blog and decided to no longer respond to me?!? :)

So, feel free to keep the discussion going.
What do you think about their response?
And, on an entirely different point, what do you think of their standard operating procedures regarding blogs?

Megan, From the Post, wrote me back Monday afternoon.
She has written an exhaustive response to Allison Fine that I hope she chooses to share. In her response to me, she notes that...
...there is no Post policy against reporters participating on blogs.
...she has a few reasons, she explains to Allison, as to why she doesn't typically practice it.
...she is up for changing her mind.

Either way, I admit that I took this conversation off topic. I do think there is more to discuss on the initial issue that was brought up by the Post. We ought to continue to draw out that discussion, even if it is drawn from email, and leave the other points to a different discussion thread.

Additional insight on Facebook causes and the Post's perspective from Lauren Miller, Beth Kanter, and Lateef.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Washington Post Rehashes Year-Old Facebook Fundraising News

Facebook Cause app is not getting any love from the Washington Post. The article, dated this morning, makes the same points that have been made for more than a year by social web consultants who know their business. I put together a short slideshow on it myself, just last week, after writing this blog post the previous week.

The Post is quoted...
Trouble is, there is no new information in terms of strategy and understanding the way the medium is working. A little bit of new information came out of the interview.
He said Causes raises almost $40,000 a day across its groups, up from $3,000 a day a year ago. "The biggest successes have been tiny nonprofits who don't have the name recognition of the big guys."

But in the majority of cases, that theory hasn't translated into significant dollars. Fewer than 50 of the 179,000 groups on Causes have raised $10,000, and just two -- the Nature Conservancy and Students for a Free Tibet -- have cracked the $100,000 mark.

This is great information, however, there is some buzz around the stats not being completely acurate. I would love to know if there is a public report out there that gives us access to the raw numbers related to this topic. It sounds like Allison Fine might have something for us later in the day. Either way, at the end of the day, those numbers are nothing new.

Allison Fine put together a great response on her blog. here's an excerpt that will make you want to go read the rest...
There are around 250 thousand causes on the Causes platform. A cause does not have to be associated with a specific nonprofit, and most of these, over 200,00 aren’t. That leaves about 46,000 nonprofits that are connected to a cause. But, of these only 8,000 are using Network for Good, meaning they’ve created an official profile, can use their npo dashboard, and can raise money. Therefore in trying to determine the average size of donations, it is more accurate to use the 8,000 active fundraising efforts for nonprofits rather than the 176,000 used in the Post article. When the universe of causes that includes the Green on Sundays groups is included in the overall cause number, divided by the total amount of dollars given resulting in an itty bitty average gift. This is enormously skewed by the number of inactive causes on FB or the number of causes who never intended to raise money using Causes. So, according to Network for Good’s data, 8,000 causes have actively raised money using Causes for a total of $7.5 million — or an average total of donations to each cause of over $930.

Comments coming out of twitter around this discussion include...

@tactphil...maybe fundraising isn't the point?
@SMacLaughlin...Facebook Causes isn't raising a lot. Really? Duh. Social networking is friend raising not fundraising.
@weinrichc...My $.02: this enhances not replaces other efforts
@iChrisJones...Facebook app does not replace hard work, direct mail., etc... in fundraising(washpost)
@kanter...they just rehashed all the stuff that was written about this last year
@Afine...I'll be using the N4G stats in my blog piece and you'll be able to see them there.
@jeffshuck...(in response to facebook being best used for awareness building)Yes! Agree on both points! My main contention is that too often "awareness" is used after the fact to justify poor fundraising.

The point is, fundraising is hard work. Every aspect of the development cycle is hard work. Technology can build in some efficiencies, but beware building in too many. Automating your communication and solicitation strategy, and giving it over to the cause app (or any automated application)is counter productive to your cultivation and affinity building. In the case of facebook causes, it just comes across (and is ignored)like spam.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Twitter Fundraising Strategy for Sunny

Commenter, Sunny, wrote the following comment in the Comprehensive Facebook Fundraising Post a couple of days ago. I though I'd reply to all...

Sunny 2 days ago
Brilliant Mike!! You have inspired us to 'borrow' your approach and aim for $100 000 for our favorite charity:

Strictly speaking we're entering Hugh Jackman's competition:

We will get a thousand people, around the World, to pledge pictures of themselves holding a banner.

Any chance you could cast an eye over our 'strategy'?

Keep up the inspiration

Hugh Jackman, has limited his announcement to a single update. I have seen no other explanation or expansion on the rules other than the one tweet...

--- "I will donate 100K to one individual's favorite non profit organization.Of course,you must convince me why by using 140 characters or less."

Part of me wants to dive into figuring out what Jackman's judging criteria might be. It looks like we won't get that from him through Twitter.

It looks like you have chosen to get as much attention as you can by challenging 1000 people to pledge a picture.
My guess is that Jackman won't recognize that as a group effort unless the text of the tweet is also the same tweet, written the same way. Part of what I'm guessing is that he won't be clicking on a ton of links as he reviews all the different pitches that he has to sort through. Plus - you could make the case that it is a waste of some of your 140 characters to include a tiny url. The one rule "140 characters or less" might be violated by including a link!?

The picture holding a banner idea is great, but, I think that you might get more attention (in Jackman's feed) by having everyone change their profile picture for you, instead of including a link in your tweet. This way, you also avoid the possibility that a link is something he ignores.

-Suggest common wording in the actual @reply you ask people to send to Jackman
-Suggest commonalities in the way the banner is made. 3x5 card with bright red marker.
- Provide a suggested picture (if people don't want to make their own banner) so your respondents want to just use a picture that you provide.
-Your request, to the people who might take you up on this, needs to be simple enough to consume and understand in 140 characters. But also be easily found in a place where the strategy, case statement and inspiration can be consumed in a long form (blog post)
- Make the strategy easily forwardable, part of your 1000 will come from people who you will never meet.
- Try to get the charity involved (even in a small way) for them to show legitimacy to your campaign.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Facebook Fundraising Tips...the visual version

A couple of posts back I posted some tips and best practices for facebook fundraising. I figure that part of the population would prefer a visual presentation of that information. This slideshare is the result. Feel free to download, remix and use in whatever way it might benefit you.

Does anyone know the standards that facebook operates by to suspend or expel a user's profile?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

One Man (Ashton Kutcher) takes on The Man (CNN) and is winning!

If you are not familiar with the twitter race to one million followers between Ashton Kutcher and CNN, you can get caught up by watching this, this and this.

I don't know why I am in to watching this unfold, but I am. It's emerging technology showing itself (in an odd analogy) of like the anti-John Henry story. One man is beating the steam drill juggernaut that is CNN. The representation of Ashton Kutcher (John Henry) taking on the new (old)establishment (broadcast media). About there the analogy breaks down, but it can be fleshed out better than that if I spent time with it.

For now I just want to show you something.
I'm sitting here hitting refresh on my browser on both the CNN Breaking News twitter profile and the Ashton Kutcher profile.

I started this little experiment and CNN had 953,969 followers while Kutcher had 931,056.
I hit refresh periodically over the next several minutes. Sometimes it was 30 seconds later, sometimes it was a couple of minutes later. The refresh rates were being tracked in a parallel way.

Ashton - moves from 931,056 followers to 931,079 thats +23 followers
in that same time
CNN - moves from 953,969 followers to 953,982 thats +13 followers

periodically over the next several minutes
Ashton - 931,079 - 931,130 +51 followers from previous benchmark (ffpb)
CNN - 953,982 - 954,006 +24 followers from previous benchmark (ffpb)

Ashton - 931,130 - 931,199 that is +69 ffpb
CNN - 954,006 - 954,029 that is +23 ffpb

Ashton - 931,199 - 931,399 that is +200 ffpb
CNN - 954,029 - 954,124 that is +95 ffpb

Ashton - 931,399 - 931,589 that is +190 ffpb
CNN - 954,124 - 954,206 that is +82 ffpb

Ashton - 931,589 - 931,860 that is +271 ffpb
CNN - 954,206 - 954,276 that is +70 ffpb

Ashton - 931,860 - 932,060 that is +200 ffpb
CNN - 954,276 - 954,375 that is +99 ffpb

Do you see the trend? Ashton is adopting followers at a rate more than twice that of CNN. With the gap between where they are and 1,000,000, Ashton will surpass and win this little race.

The overall lesson...
In the social media arena, authenticity will beat out press releases every time. If Ashton starts to use his twitter feed as a press release, he will get dropped by many of those followers. Keep it real, Ashton, and people will continue to follow. CNN can't keep it real.

Hey, Non Profit Organizations, keep it real in the way you use your feed. Cultivate your following audience. Don't press release or solicit them. Until you recognize that "donor loyalty" is about you being loyal to the donor, you won't use social media in it's most effective way.

Interesting news, CNN recently acquired the news feed hosted at from James Cox. James is a random dude from San Francisco who has nurtured the account on his own for the past couple of years. Read the Silicon Alley Insider news story here. Turns out, the race is exposed as John Henry vs. Jon Henri.
It will be an interesting footnote in the overall story.
Now that CNN is operating the account, it is now officially your old steam drill.

LA Times broke this story this morning. Turns out that although CNN didn't "own" the feed. They had contracted with James Cox to maintain it for them since mid 2007. In that sense, one man vs. THE MAN is back on!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tech Hermit is Getting an iphone

This is not something to be excited about, not necessarily.
I am joining the ranks of millions of others.
I know I am late to the game, but hey, it's OK for a hermit.
I am nervous. I really don't want this thing to own me. (I'll keep you posted)

So I think I have a learning curve, but I fiddled around with several of my friends iphones and I am most excited about exploring the app store. Would you mind telling me your favorite free app and your favorite paid app?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Comprehensive Facebook Fundraising Tips Almost Anyone Can Do

I conducted a little experiment last October that was combined with a passion and fund raising cause that I was challenged with. I obviously set the goals on my experiment too low, as you will read.

Community Hunger Day is a yearly event, started by Central Dallas Ministries to raise awareness about the hunger problem in Dallas and raise funds for their food pantry. On a day in October, each year, CDM challenges people to go without food for a day and donate the money they would have spent on food to their food pantry. CDM, in coordination with several partnering food programs, can feed a family of four, for an entire week, for $28.

CDM, three weeks prior to Community Hunger Day, sent me an invitation to become a fundraiser for this day. I said, "yes," and pledged a goal of $1000 dollars. The experiment part came in when I decided I was going to focus my efforts using only the profile page that I set up on the Community Hunger Day website and facebook. No email channel, no face to face asks, no telephone calls...just facebook and a link to a secure, online donation page. I wish I could should you the microsite and profile page I set up for myself on the site, but the site is under construction and redesign in anticipation for the 2009 day in October

Here is the appeal I crafted.

If you are a professional fundraiser, try these numbers on for size.

List size - 334
Historic Open rate - unknown
Average Donor Profile - Nondonor
Gift rate - 19.5%
Total Gifts - 65
Total Donations - $1850
Average Gift - $28.46 (right at the requested appeal)

Here's the thing, Non Profit officer, what if you could get 100 of me to do the following simple things. That's nothing to sneeze at. That best way for you to leverage facebook could be to AVOID THE CAUSE APP! If you are active on facebook, you know how many causes and invitations you ignore on a weekly basis. It has become spammy. By the way, you, non profit, cannot leverage facebook. You may only leverage the relationships you have, that is (almost) all that matters in the world of social media.

The following things I did while avoiding the spam channels that most facebook users ignore.

1. Create a video appeal that addresses your facebook network specifically. Use the voice that your facebook friends know. Don't "put on" a fundraiser voice. Be yourself, that's who people will give to.

2. Group your list of friends into groups that facebook calls "friend lists." This might take you a little while, but it will help you manage your follow up much better. So do it prior to uploading your video message. If you have over 300 friends, it might feel difficult to sort through the list.
- Export your friend list with this handy app so you can use excel easily group them into commonalities
- group them into friend lists where those friends know each other. When comments start to spread about your asset, it is easier for community to be built in that comment thread when the commenters already know each other.
- friend lists can only contain 20 people, so you might be titling these lists things like "workfriends1", "workfriends2", "collegebuds1", "randomfacebookies1", "highschool1", etc.
- it is OK to leave some space to grow in each friend group, but keep track in your CSV export who is in what group. Facebook doesn't help you manage your group size at all.

3. Upload your video multiple times. You are able to tag as many as 50 of your friends in each video. You can't tag a video asset with a friend list (that would be great!) but you do want to follow the pattern that you set when you established your friend lists and group the 50 that you tag in any video with the same groups of people who know each other. Tagging your friends in the video not only causes the video to appear in their own notifications, but also sends it to the feeds of all their friends.

4. Place a link to your giving page in both the description of the video and in the first comment under the video. The URL in the comment will be hyperlinked text. The URL in the description will not be hyperlinked text, unfortunately. This is an important part of the donor funnel. If your non profit you are raising money for doesn't have a precise giving form or donor destination, consider opening yourself up a chipin widget or something like it. Community Hunger Day had a very slick, custom sponsorship microsite that was built for them by Pursuant.

5. Cultivate others comments by replying to and engaging with each comment.

6. Do a daily, stewardship, thank you and update. Here is what ours looked like.

These thank you videos should be tagged with the donors names. I had one friend who told me that he gave just so he could hear my kids say his name.

7. Half way through your campaign, and just before the end of your campaign, craft messages (video or note) that gives an update of progress. These updates should be created, uploaded and then "shared" with your friends. You don't need to upload multiple updates as you did with your initial video. Instead, you can send the one asset out using this share button several times. You friends lists show up as you begin typing them into the sent line of the share function. Facebook currently has a limit of sharing an asset with 25 friends at a time. This asset will show up in your friends inboxes instead of their notifications.

8. If you are an active facebook user, I am confident that these tips will help you reach your fundraising goals. If you are a passive facebook user I would recommend you spend three months commenting on friends photos, commenting on friends videos, uploading your own quality photos and videos, involving yourself in conversation around your friends notes and status updates. Without effectively developed relationships on the site, it will not be a quality channel for you to make a solicitation. If you are a non user of facebook...that is a discussion for another post.

Disclaimer -- Having used this precise method several times, I have never run into facebook suspending my account. I know of others who have deviated from this distribution plan and have been temporarily suspended. I don't know what triggers a suspension. Anyone who does know the current, specific triggers for suspension, I'd love to know.