Report the Facts and Create a Conversation (a Tweetwally Review)

Today I’m going to kill two birds with one blogging stone – this post is my review of a recent philanthropy webinar, utilizing a catalog of my live tweets of the event. Don’t worry about how boring this all sounds…just enjoy the goodness.

On October 19, I attended a webinar hosted by my friend, Allison Lewis Lodhi, entitled “Report the Facts and Create a Conversation.” Allison was presenting some great research regarding donor retention, attrition, stewardship and more. While she didn’t offer earth-shattering findings, Allison’s work reinforced what most fundraisers should know (but too infrequently act upon) – that engaging donors is a continual effort that requires ongoing, open and transparent communication. We’d all like a road map to major gifts, but every individual donor requires some individual, customized touches.

Allison Lewis Lodhi

I had planned on providing a bullet list of my live tweets from the webinar, but thought I’d instead utilize a newly discovered tool to do the heavy lifting. I recently learned about Tweetwally – a tool that lets you create custom “Tweet Walls” for whatever username, keyword and/or hashtag topic you want to search. The result, for me, was a dedicated URL of my live Tweet’s from Allison’s #npreport webinar.

Still confused? Check out my Tweet Wall, read Allison’s insights and tell me what you think!

Allison Lewis Lodhi, CFRE, is Vice President of Consulting at Pursuant. To view her on-demand webinar and/or view her PowerPoint slides, please click here.


Update: 10/27 @2:30 pm — apparently, Tweetwally only catalogs tweets for 7 days, so my entire Tweet Wall is gone. That’s a pretty big flaw, huh? So much for the infinite storage of the world wide webs.

When a ‘NEW BLOG POST’ Isn’t Exactly New

I click a lot of links in my never-ending quest to find valuable and inspiring social media material. Some of my favorite “Twisdom” is discovered in blogs. In fact, seeing the words “NEW BLOG POST” in a trusted colleague’s Tweet nets a near 100% CTR (click through rate) from me.

And yet, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend as I spread my blogging horizons: a lot of allegedly new posts aren’t really new! Instead, one writer’s “New Blog Post” is his third share of yesterday’s post; another’s is her reworded blurb about last month’s entry. As a fledgling blogger myself, I understand that the word “new” builds a lot more interest than a more accurate alternative (“old,” “recycled,” “outdated,” etc.), but if our blogs are our brands, aren’t we jeopardizing our good names with blatant false advertising? And, almost as importantly, doesn’t this piss off anyone else?

The answer to the latter question is, thankfully, yes. My friend (and respected nonprofit blogger) Nathan Hand recently tweeted about this phenomenon and we chatted offline so I could get his full opinion. Nate’s take:

I usually tweet a bunch on the day a new post comes out – then don’t promote it anymore unless a relevant situation comes up. There are a couple folks who seem to make a habit of regularly tweeting content that they wrote over a year ago.  It just irks me a bit because I’m expecting new content and I get old stuff – just to increase their page views.

I could not agree more, Nate. Perhaps it’s the nature of a social media community increasingly driven by stats; our Klout scores, page ranks, comments, click-throughs and more have become the currency with which we (and others) evaluate our online influence. But to favor quantitative metrics over good, old fashioned content? This can’t be what God imagined when he invented the interwebs.

Is honesty too much to expect from the blogosphere? Can’t we all agree that something is “new” only once…just as we can all agree that something can still be pertinent, interesting and/or original even if it wasn’t first shared an hour ago? We have a society driven by immediacy, but that doesn’t mean that some among us aren’t still willing to look to the past for answers to our future questions.

I ask you, blog readers and writers – am I missing something? Do the ends (your page views and response rates) justify the means (dishonesty about what’s new)? Shouldn’t this be something we all take action to change?

How and Why to Personalize your LinkedIn Invitations

A Tweet I recently faved is the logical follow-up to yesterday’s post about when one should like, follow and/or connect with a new contact through social media:

I don’t know Arik Hanson. I don’t know Lisa Grimm. I barely know of Trista Harris, (a fundraising pro I follow on Twitter) whose RT helped me discover these sage words. But none of that matters, because widespread sharing in social media means that it’s the message – not the messenger – that matters most.

Lisa Tweeted out her frustrations about receiving LinkedIn invitation connections from unknown people, something that I’m confident has happened to many of us. Arik followed up Lisa’s vent with a solid recommendation. And thus, problem met solution and they lived happily ever after.

Too simple? OK, let’s re-examine my LinkedIn connection criteria:

Have we worked together, either for the same employer or on a common project? Have we talked about working together? Did we swap business cards as more than just a courteous formality, but as a means to ensure we could stay in touch?

If I invite a new contact to connect, he or she has met one or more of the above criteria, and thus – despite my generic name – they are likely to remember me and appreciate the reason for my invitation. But even if that weren’t important, does a little extra friendliness ever hurt? It takes just seconds to change the boring, default LinkedIn verbiage into something that’s professional, personal and relevant. For example, why do this:

When I can do this instead?

I met Jay Frost at the Association of Fundraising Professionals conference, and wanted to stay in touch with him because of his passion for philanthropy, willingness to innovate and connections in the field. In case my name didn’t resonate, I reminded him where we met. If he needed more background, I included my Twitter handle. Jay’s response shows that he understands personal professionalism – of course he wanted to connect and stay in touch!

Maybe I could have simply left you with the Lisa and Arik’s wise words, but I wanted to remind you that our new forms of digital connectedness are called “social media” for a reason. A personalized LinkedIn invitation tells the new connection that you value your relationship; ideally, they will value you too. And isn’t that the point?

Social Media Connection Criteria

At the top of my blog, I have links to my Twitter, Facebook (fan page), LinkedIn and Klout – ostensibly so my readers can learn more about me. The truth is that it’s also a semi-veiled exercise in vanity. The more people who choose to connect me with, the more important I am…right?

But a couple of weeks ago, a real-life encounter with a woman I knew through Twitter made me realize that not everyone thinks the same way I do. “Hey – are you @_______?” I asked (I’ll keep her identity anonymous because she’s one of those smart, passionate people who makes her living as a “Social Media Expert”).

“Yes,” she replied, at first struggling to place me. “Oh you must be that guy who keeps Tweeting at me.”

That guy who keeps Tweeting at you? Isn’t that the point of social media…to make virtual connections and convert them into tangible relationships? Why was my extroverted digital identity being greeted by a look and tone that (I can only imagine) are usually saved for stalkers? Isn’t this how we’re supposed to connect in our increasingly digital 21st century world?

After a few chops were busted, the woman and I buried the hatchet and have since started a friendship in the real world (we’re also connected on Facebook, LinkedIn and through reciprocal follows on Twitter).

Another anecdote: in describing the importance of social networking to a colleague who carries an “old school salesman” approach, I told him that LinkedIn is increasingly replacing the “business card culture.” No one likes trading and collecting business cards anymore; people – especially those under 40 – are more likely to connect with a fresh contact on LinkedIn than store a 2 x 3.5 inch piece of paper in something as old-fashioned as a Rolodex.

My colleague was horrified. Not only does he still insist on handing out and collecting business cards, but he explained that he is loath to connect with anyone on LinkedIn with whom he does not have a REAL relationship. Rather than use the social networking tool as a virtual means to collect and manage real life contacts, he filters out his “connections” to include only those people he actually knows…and knows well.

I suppose our two approaches can be broken down to something as simple as the difference between “leads” and “customers,” but since I’m not in sales, the conversation further reinforced that I have a very different idea of what a social network “connection” really means.

For simplicity’s sake, here are my criteria for deciding on who to friend, like, connect with and/or follow:

  • Facebook – have we met in real life? Do we have a social circle with even a modest overlap? If we went to high school together, would I intentionally make eye contact if I saw you on the street today?
  • Twitter – do you have anything interesting to say and/or share?
  • LinkedIn – have we worked together, either for the same employer or on a common project? Have we talked about working together? Did we swap business cards as more than just a courteous formality, but as a means to ensure we could stay in touch?

To me, that’s common sense…but not everyone has to agree. Does anyone else subscribe to specific criteria before determining whom they should friend, follow and/or connect? What are your social media criteria, and how do you get the most out of social networking…without picking up a virtual restraining order?

There’s No Such Thing as a ‘Social Media Expert’

I have a hunch that this headline will solicit more than a few defensive guffaws. You see, I’m friendly (both on Twitter and IRL) with several intelligent, passionate people who make their living as social media experts. And if I have the audacity to claim their job titles — if not expertise as a whole — is non-existent, then what am I really saying about them?

Slow down, cowboy. Without question, there are a number of people whose knowledge of social media concepts far exceeds that of the average user…and certainly a fair amount whose comprehension dwarfs my own. I don’t mean to diminish anyone’s intelligence, research abilities nor his or her means of making a living; I’m just wary of self-proclaimed experts. And here’s why…

According to the Harvard Business Review, the phrase “social media” is used three ways in modern communications:

  1. As an umbrella term that covers all uses of the new social technologies — aka social collaboration, community collaboration and social computing.
  2. As a term for environments on the Web — aka social Web, collaborative Web, ReadWrite Web and Web 2.0 — referring to social sites open to the general public.
  3. As a term for environments created by non-Web organizations to enhance collaboration between employees or between a business and its customers, prospects, suppliers, etc. — aka Enterprise 2.0, social business, social enterprise and social organization.

No matter which definition resonates with you, what do they all have in common? I’ll tell you: they all agree that social media is about new and evolving technology. I submit that if a concept is still evolving, who amongst us can be so arrogant as to suggest we are an expert?

Let me put it another (potentially offensive) way: calling oneself a “social media expert” in October 2011 is akin to calling oneself an expert on Christianity in 33 AD. Sure, Jesus’ disciples knew the man and his teachings better than anyone, but the Christian religion would not become something anyone could fully understand and appreciate for years – perhaps decades or centuries – later.

My premise, then, is that social networking is so new that no one has accumulated enough experience and information to be a true expert. Much like Jesus’ disciples had insights that dwarfed those of their peers, so do many of today’s “social media experts” understand methodology, ROI and more better than the masses. But relative expertise does not an expert make, just like proximity to Jesus did not a Christian leader make.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe one’s “expertise” can and should only be evaluated in the context of his or her peers. But I believe that as long as there’s more to learn, none of us should brand ourselves as experts – in social media, religion, sports, politics or a thousand other subjects. And I believe that we should always be wary of anyone’s expertise if their knowledge of the past or present represents as small a sample size as what’s currently available about social media.

Call me a skeptic. I’ve been called worse…and if you make a living as a social media expert, I’ve likely just called you something much more hurtful.

What’s Your Social Media Routine?

Growing up, my dad was a creature of habit. He would wake up and “liquidate his assets” for what seemed like a ridiculously long time. Then he’d go downstairs, turn on sports radio and eat a bowl of cereal with one-quarter of a sliced banana (yes, we had quartered bananas in saran wrap in our fridge on the daily). He’d go back upstairs, have his daily constitutional, then get dressed and head off to work.

Why am I sharing details about my father’s internal waste management system? For some reason, I thought of him today after launching into my morning routine…a routine that revolves largely around social media.

When the alarm clock goes off, I hit snooze and get back in bed. The nine minutes of silence are usually enough time to check the overnight Twitter updates on my phone (I fave the Tweets I want to read in detail later). The second alarm gets me up and dressed to walk the dog, during which time I check out Facebook. After a shower, I get on my laptop to peruse sites not ideally viewed on my iPhone. This includes viewing my favorite daily deal sites (woot and shirt.woot), as well as checking out my Klout score and any new perks that may have popped up.

(Quick tangent that may be better served as its own blog post: how effing addictive is Klout? And why do I even care about the rating I’ve been given by some arbitrary algorithm? And why am I obsessed with Klout perks? And why are perks often posted before being publicized, causing freaks like me to obsessively check to see if we’re eligible for free stuff?)

Every day. Wake up. Twitter. Walk the dog. Facebook. Shower. Laptop. Get dressed. Go to work. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Is my social media morning routine indicative of today’s hyper-connected world, a world in which I know more about people I follow on Twitter than people who live next door? It’s certainly possible that my borderline OCD behavior is unique…but I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not alone in making social media the center of my daily habits.

What is your social media routine? Do you lie in bed on your Crackberry annoying your significant other, or is he/she busy furiously scrolling through messages at the same time? How often do you check back on social media sites throughout the day? How regularly do you post? And how do you manage the insanity of thriving in multiple virtual worlds without sacrificing output in the real one?

I’m truly curious to learn how social media has part of your daily routines…just feel free to leave out the “waste management” information.

The Birth of a New Blog

I have authored three blogs in the past: one that was an exercise in vanity and unemployment, one that had political aspirations (and middling success) and one with tepid commitment from your’s truly. So what will make this effort any different? Geez, it’s just my first paragraph. Get off my back.

The truth: I believe that I have something to contribute to the conversation in the rapidly evolving worlds of social media and philanthropy, as well as the intersection of those sometimes aligned, sometimes adversarial circles. I am not a social media expert; I am not a philanthropy guru. I’m just a guy with 10+ years of experience in the nonprofit sector…who is fascinated by the power of social media and gets easily distracted by shiny objects. Ideally, the lessons I’ve learned and my slightly skewed takes will prove interesting to readers other than my mom.

If not, I’ll try (and often fail) to make you laugh. It’s the least I can do.

Your snuggle bunny,

PS – many of you are more accomplished and knowledgeable bloggers than I am. I will happily accept any and all constructive criticism. Destructive criticism? Keep it to yourself, bub.