Facebook and the Zombie High School Reunion

Mrs.matthewsm1th’s high school class celebrated its 10 year reunion last weekend, but they did so without my better half. “Why would I pay $200 to hang out with people I never really liked?” she reasoned. “Especially when Facebook tells me everything they’re all doing for free.”

I had a nice little rant planned about how reunions have been killed by the proliferation of social networks, but some Google research proved that I’m hardly the first to come to this conclusion. Instead of regurgitating the same old anecdotal stories and cherry picked stats, I thought I’d instead offer a few tips to the reunion industry to help it come back from the dead.

You know, like a zombie (and you thought the title was all about search engine optimization).

If you’re part of the organizing committee for your high school reunion, here are five ideas you can implement to ensure that Facebook doesn’t drain the life blood out of your guest list:

1. Real Life Superlatives – whatever happened to your high school class’s “Most Likely to Succeed?” Did he launch a successful internet startup and sell it to The Man for a cool $500 million? Or did he drop out of college and focus full time on fantasy sports management from his parents’ basement? At your next reunion, recognize the guy or gal who actually DID succeed and watch as the registration list fills up with Wall Street, Silicon Valley and lottery winner types. (TARGET DEMO: Neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerds!)


2. Arm Wrestling Contest – OK, so maybe the life success barometer won’t entice too many blue collar types to attend, but a physical challenge? Sign me up, coach! TARGET DEMO: jocks and the “Jersey Shore” types. Plus, anyone who likes jokes about Lincoln Hawk.


3. Who Wore it Best? – inspired by the asinine and ridiculously popular feature in US Weekly, a panel of catty class fashionistas reviews reunion styles and passes judgement. TARGET DEMO: women who make themselves feel better by saying nasty things about other women. Also known as 98% of women.


4. Baby-Free Zone – most of the people with whom I went to high school have kids…and most of those people use their kids’ faces as their Facebook profile picture. No more passing around iPhones or making the unwed/barren feel bad about their disposable income and regular sleep schedules. After all, reunions should be about the people, not the procreations. TARGET DEMO: the childless…and the people who hate their own kids.


5. Embrace a Cause – did you really think a philanthropy-inspired blog could leave off a philanthropy angle? Each guest picks one cause close to his or her heart. $10 of everyone’s registration fee gets pooled together and, at the end of the night, one charity is selected at random to receive the funds. TARGET DEMO: anyone with a heart.

Got any more Zombie Reunion ideas? Please share them below.

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CEO Leadership Tips for Young Professionals

  1. Julie Smolyansky was the youngest ever female CEO of a publicly held firm when she assumed leadership of Lifeway Foods (NASDAQ: LWAY) in 2002. On November 16, she joined the Young Professionals of Chicago for a breakfast conversation about leadership, overcoming challenges and achieving success as a young professional.
  2. Not one to hide behind podiums, Smolyansky immediately endeared herself to the audience by making herself accessible (sorry for the poor photo quality).
  3. CEO of @lifeway_kefir, Julie Smolyansky #YPCceo http://lockerz.com/s/156663287
    November 16, 2011 8:36:09 AM EST
  4. Smolyansky was thrust into CEO position when her dad died suddenly. Stock crashed next day. “It totally pissed me off.” #YPCceo
    November 16, 2011 8:50:23 AM EST
  5. Smolyansky’s father was the founder and CEO of Lifeway.  After his sudden heart attack, she was asked to fill his very big shoes. She had to simultaneously grieve AND lead — a responsibility made difficult by the fact that few people seemed to think she was capable of sustaining the company’s growth. Her anger may have provided the initial fuel, but Lifeway’s subsequent success can be attributed to rational leadership.
  6. Smolyansky on thinking outside the box: “the rules aren’t what you assume they are.” #YPCceo
    November 16, 2011 8:42:16 AM EST
  7. Smolyansky: “your skill set is your skill set, but your passion & tenacity can take you anywhere.” #YPCceo
    November 16, 2011 8:50:31 AM EST
  8. These two leadership quotes sum up Smolyanksy’s leadership style; she feels very strongly that her passion and daring made up for any shortcomings in her leadership resume.
  9. On company’s natural foods vision: “how you treat your body is how the world treats you.” #YPCceo
    November 16, 2011 8:52:03 AM EST
  10. Smolyansky: “The core of what we’re doing is healing the world through food.” #YPCceo
    November 16, 2011 8:54:14 AM EST
  11. “It’s good business to find ways to help society.” Nice that @juliesmolyansky knows giving back is about more than tax write-offs #YPCceo
    November 16, 2011 9:10:29 AM EST
  12. “The next generation of people & companies bears the responsibility to actively make the world better.” @juliesmolyansky #YPCceo
    November 16, 2011 9:01:57 AM EST
  13. Smolyansky frequently peppered her advice with words like “karma” and “doing the right thing.” She expressed her obligations not only to stockholders and consumers, but to spread the gospel about healthy, sustainable and local foods. More on Lifeway’s corporate social responsibility
  14. Smolyansky: “It’s up to every [young] professional to find their passion and make it their career.” #YPCceo
    November 16, 2011 8:55:15 AM EST
  15. “There’s a leadership gap in the modern business world. Young professionals need to step up to the challenge.” – @JulieSmolyansky #YPCceo
    November 16, 2011 8:59:54 AM EST
  16. Perhaps she was just telling the room full of 20- and 30-somethings what they wanted to hear, but Smolyansky urged her audience to step up to leadership, rather than wait for the opportunity to be handed to them.
  17. “If you’re comfortable, you’re not growing. We’ve never been comfortable.” @juliesmolyansky #YPCceo
    November 16, 2011 9:15:23 AM EST
  18. A great leadership mantra. Smolyansky implored her audience to do what she asks her employees to do — experiment outside their comfort zones to achieve maximum success.
  19. “The future of corporate social responsibility isn’t cash donations…it’s building business models around doing good.” – Smolyansky #YPCceo
    November 16, 2011 9:24:06 AM EST
  20. When asked about Lifeway’s philanthropy, Smolyansky said she thinks the future isn’t in a conventional grants model. She is fascinated by micro finance and seems focused on social entrepreneurship more than old-school charity.
  21. *****

After the event, Smolyansky and I exchanged emails and I asked her for a few closing words for young professionals (since my live Tweets ended abruptly). She was kind enough to humor my request, so I’ll let her words serve as a conclusion:

If you have any doubt about your abilities to lead, to contribute…let them wash over you now and get on with it. We don’t have time. The time is now. We need you to step up, challenge yourself, innovate, be who you were meant to be. Join a movement you believe in or create your own. Just do it. The world is rooting for you.
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Pretty inspiring stuff, no?

5 (More) Fun Ways to Celebrate National Philanthropy Day

November 15 has been declared National Philanthropy Day – a day meant to recognize and pay tribute to the great contributions that philanthropy – and those people active in the philanthropic community – have made to our lives, our communities and our world. My friend, Nathan Hand, posted 10 fun ways to celebrate NPD on his blog. It was a great list…but I think he could have gone even further.

So without further ado, here are five more ways you can celebrate National Philanthropy Day:

  1. Watch the National Philanthropy Day official video…and share it across your social networks– ready to be inspired? Watch this three minute video:
  2. Follow the high-level conversation on Twitter – all day, the White House is convening a forum on nonprofit leadership. Though closed to the public, this event – featuring discussions led by White House officials and business and nonprofit leaders – will be Live Tweeted at the hashtag #NPlead.
  3. Research and recognize philanthropy’s all-stars – the Association of Fundraising professionals today released the names of its 2012 Awards for Philanthropy winners. These amazing people and organizations deserve to be publicly lauded!
  4. Talk about philanthropy – our personal and professional lives – while often fulfilling – are a constant drain on our energy and attention. Maybe we can’t always afford to think and act philanthropically, but for one day, we can talk about it. Mention philanthropy in your next conversation…chances are, you can be an inspiration!
  5. Blog about National Philanthropy Day – see what I did there? Let’s all keep spreading the word!

Have any more celebratory ideas? Post a reply below!

Start Something that Matters…and Win a Free Book!

This blog is just over a month old, so it’s high time that I give something back to my tens of loyal readers. And what better for a social media/philanthropy blog than a philanthropy-themed contest promoted via social media?

Let’s back up a few steps. Yesterday, I was thrilled to get an email from one of my favorite for-profit companies, TOMS Shoes:

I was fortunate enough to hear TOMS founder and Chief Shoe Giver Blake Mycoskie speak at the 2011 Association of Fundraising Professionals International Conference and was so inspired that I bought a pair of TOMS that night (I even wore them during my wedding two months later!).

Photo via Dawn E. Roscoe Wedding Photography (that's me and my TOMS on the right)

So now you’re probably saying, “Enough about you…didn’t you say something about a contest?” Fair enough. As part of the Books for Bloggers program, I will be giving away one copy of Blake’s book, “Start Something that Matters.” Here’s how you can win:

I want to hear how you’ve done something that matters – something in your community, regionally, nationally, globally, or even at a one-on-one level. The winner won’t be selected because of the number of people he or she influenced, but rather by the originality of his or her inspiration. Frankly, you could have even been unsuccessful in your efforts…results don’t matter as much as passion.

Enter this contest by posting a synopsis of how did something that matters in the comments section below (note: your candidacy will be given a boost if you can document your efforts). While I’d love to hear entries via the blog’s Facebook page and/or through Twitter, only those entries submitted as a comment on this post will be considered. I reserve the right to subjectively choose the winner (please be prepared to share your real name and mailing address if you win). This contest will end on December 31, 2011.

“Start Something that Matters” is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and most everywhere books are sold. No retailer compensates me for referrals, so I’ll let you find the links on your own. Good luck!

Sharing Information or Shameless Self-Promotion?

Maybe it’s a generational thing, as Gen Xers were told from an early age that we were special, our thoughts unique and we could grow up be anything we wanted. Maybe it’s a technology thing, as the prevalence of social media mediums has given all of us opportunity and impunity to broadcast our most mundane opinions. And maybe it’s just a me thing – maybe I’m just self-absorbed and obsessed with tools that let me focus on my favorite subject (hint: he’s got blond hair, blue eyes and wears a smirk like nobody’s business).

Whatever the explanation, there is no arguing the fact that our online interactions have become increasingly bombarded with self-promotion…and really, why shouldn’t I fall in line with the masses? Today I’d like to share with you two tech tools that I will be using to communicate both my ideas and “matthewsm1th” brand.

The first is paper.li – billed as a content curation service that enables people to publish online newspapers based on topics they like. I’ve seen various “Dailies” on my Twitter feed and decided to create one of my own. For all your philanthropy, social media, nonprofit communication and related reading, I encourage you to check out the matthewsm1th.com Daily. This electronic newspaper will update each day, so bookmark it and return regularly.

For some, my Daily may be a bit broad. I have limited control over what the algorithm selects and have neither the time nor inclination to read every article published. Clearly, I can’t exactly expect anyone else to do so. That’s why I’m super excited about Twylah – a site that catalogs all my Tweets and organizes them (by topic and hashtag) into a sleek newsletter format. The result is something that, at first blush, resembles my paper.li Daily. Upon further review, however, you will notice that my Twylah page contains only the content I intentionally pushed to my Twitter followers. Still in beta testing, this tool provides a sleek way to organize and monitor content, while “showing the world who you are and what you’re about at a glance.”

Again, it’s entirely possible that these sites appeal to me simply for their power to broadcast my thoughts, inspiration and smiling face all over the interwebs…but it’s also possible that there may be some genuine value contained within. Check out my Daily and my Twylah and tell me what you think!

Is it Ever OK to Share your Foursquare Check-in on Twitter?

Yesterday I posted a rather lengthy diatribe about the over-sharing of foursquare check-ins across social media networks. My point was that there is no reason to cross-share a majority of 4sq check-ins on Twitter or Facebook. In fact, I think that most of the time, doing so is both rude and redundant.

And yet, there is a time and place for sharing your foursquare activity on other networks. Here are three examples of occasions in which you should feel free to share your check-ins across multiple social media platforms:

  1. You’re at a conference, class or event – yes, apps like Sonar will help you find and meet other attendees, but if your network may have a legitimate curiosity about where you are and why you’re there, I say share away.
  2. You’re somewhere relevant with someone relevant – you don’t have to be doing something interesting to warrant a 4sq check-in, but we’ve already covered why those activities need not be shared. Do something WITH someone interesting, however, and almost any mundane activity becomes pertinent for others as well.
  3. There’s swag at stake – many businesses give perks to customers who check-in on foursquare; often, you simply have to show your phone to a staff member and the freebie is yours. However, some businesses demand to see that you pushed your check-in to your Twitter or Facebook feeds. Though your friends may suffer from your oversharitis, anything goes if it nets you a free appetizer.

That’s it. Your home, office and/or favorite coffee shop – lambasted yesterday for stupidity of shared check-ins – may even apply. Just use your head, a sense of decency and remember that your social media activity should always be personal, never automatic and as relevant as possible to people not walking in your shoes.

Because otherwise, what’s the point?

Stop (Over) Sharing Your (Stupid) Foursquare Check-ins

Twitter is the source for a large majority of my blogging inspiration. That’s why I want to draw your attention to a Tweet from one of the most brilliant and handsome people communicating 140 characters at a time:

I told you he was good.

Don’t get me wrong – I like Foursquare. Hell, I even use Foursquare (to excess). I simply don’t understand why people feel the need to share their check-ins across multiple social media outlets. I’m so fired up about this that I feel the need to explain how you may be using Foursquare incorrectly…and how to change your evil ways.

We all know them when we see them, but I’ve taken the liberty of listing the virtual world’s three most over-shared, annoying and pointless Foursquare check-ins:

  1. Your office – yeah, I know where I can find you during normal work hours – it’s printed on your business card. Unless your employer uses Foursquare in lieu of a time clock, spare us the update. It’s interesting to see when John and Jane Q. Public come walking in your business’s door; it’s pointless when Ted from Accounting shares his cigarette break comings and goings.
  2. Starbucks – got a craving for a half-caff nonfat venti cappuccino? No one cares. Your daily errands may help build your Foursquare score and clout with businesses, but who’s so arrogant as to think their contacts care? If your check-in is all about you, best keep it to yourself.
  3. Your house – how desperate are people to “game” the Foursquare system that they create a location for their homes and check in every time they walk through their front doors? Before Foursquare recently changed their privacy settings for residences, I was fond of checking into obvious “home” locations and posting statuses like “going through the underwear drawer” or “nice Bieber memorabilia!” What can I say? I’m a class act.

Perhaps you think I’m missing the point about Foursquare. Sharing check-ins is a great way to build commonality across networks, meet new friends and learn what’s happening to contacts in real-time. Here’s the thing: I’m not missing it. I get it completely. You can utilize Foursquare perfectly and still not be an annoying, over-sharing attention whore.

“But,” you whine, “if I’m not sharing my Foursquare check-in on Twitter, how will anyone know where I’ve been?” That question deserves a detailed answer, one that you can provide by asking yourself the following:

  • Is there any reason someone would WANT to know about this check-in?
  • Am I connected on Foursquare to the people whose knowledge of my check-in I so desperately care about? Why or why not?
  • How will people find out about something important if I don’t share it?

If no one has a reason to care, it should be pretty clear that your check-in doesn’t need to be shared. If you believe they may care, invite them to connect with you on Foursquare. That way, every one of your check-ins can be accessed without overwhelming all of your connections’ timelines. If they don’t choose to connect with you, they’ve told you they don’t care.

The last question should steer you in what I believe is the direction best suited for location-based social media. You can still build your network through shared experiences – amongst friends and random strangers alike – without pushing pointless updates across platforms. I do so with Sonar – a mobile application that uncovers the hidden connections shared with nearby people. Linked to my Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, Sonar tells me when I’ve checked into the same location as another contact…or when I’ve checked in to the same place as someone I may/could/should know (“Jane has also checked into Whole Foods. You share two Twitter connections. View her profile here”). Best of all, Sonar runs unobtrusively in the background of my iPhone and pushes me relevant notifications without bothering anyone else (the Android app is on the way).

Isn’t this a much better option than the endless amounts of location-based bait dropped in the faint hopes of catching new connections? Why, in a world of Sonar (and similar apps), are people still sharing insignificant check-ins across multiple platforms? If ignorance was the excuse, I hope you’ll reform your bad habits. If you have another reason, for the love of God, please share it in the comments section on this post.

Just don’t post your rants on Twitter. My feed is already crammed with worthlessness.

Coming tomorrow – proof that I’m a hypocrite: the Foursquare check-ins I approve of sharing across social media networks.

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?