Building A Talk Using Social Media

In late January, the New York Time’s David Pogue gained a bit of Twitter infamy with a stunt. He didn’t mean anything by it. He was making a presentation and as a way to demonstrate the “power of Twitter,” he asked for a cure for hiccups with Twitter running on his screen. He got lots of immediate responses, in real time, in front of the audience.

But when he told the Twitter users what it was all about, he got decidedly mixed reactions. You can read all about it here. The incident has become an iconic example of what it means to treat one’s online social connections with respect and transparency.

One person pointed out that Pogue might have added the word “demo” in his initial tweet, in order to be more transparent.

This is on my mind because I am asking my online social connections for help putting together a speech. As a part of a program with the Phelps Stokes Fund, I’m talking to a number of francophone African diplomats on “transparency and governance.” I don’t want to just say “transparency is a great thing!” so I thought I would go looking for a few ideas.

So, I posted a video on Seesmic asking for help, connected to it on Twitter, and posted a link on Facebook. The response was quick and has been very helpful.

First of all, to my amazement, people I do not know are responding to me — in video — on Seesmic. (See the whole thread here.) Secondly, I have gotten very, very thoughtful comments and FB emails from friends.

If you have time, I do recommend taking a peek at the Seesmic thread. There are a lot of interesting (all video) comments.

I plan to use all this material in my talk. My head is spinning from this brave new world.

Tweets Squeezing Out Rants

Brian Solis of TechCrunch wrote an important review of an interesting trend in today’s social media world.

We are learning to publish and react to content in “Twitter time” and I’d argue that many of us are spending less time blogging, commenting directly on blogs, or writing blogs in response to blog sources because of our active participation in micro communities.

With the popularity and pervasiveness of microblogging (a.k.a. micromedia) and activity streams and timelines, Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed and the like are competing for your attention and building a community around the statusphere – the state of publishing, reading, responding to, and sharing micro-sized updates.

This new genre of rapid-fire interaction is further distributing the proverbial conversation and is evolving online interaction beyond the host site through syndication to other relevant networks and communities.

In most cases attention for commenters at the source post are competing against the commenters within other communities. Those who might typically respond with a formal blog post may now choose to respond with a tweet or a status update.

Result: The “traditional” venue of blogs-and-comments has been disrupted and faces challenges. Just as deadtree news laments its disappearing readership (and hence business model) — blogs face the very same disruptive situation.

This is an interesting conundrum for content-creators. On the one hand, you want to get your stuff out there is widely as possible. So you write a blog post, Tweet it, status it, and import it as a note in Facebook. Oh, and of course you syndicate it. So far, so good. But, that gives multiple access points to your readers, which means that any discussion sparked by your ideas is going to be diffused. For some people, this is not a problem — they generate long comment tails. For others, this is indeed a problem. If, for example, a “hot” post of mine generates, say, five responses, when you spread them across all of my platforms no one is talking to one another.

So that’s one problem.

Another problem, for those who are trying to monetize their work, is how to do this? How, for instance, do you monetize someone “retweeting” your work?

I don’t have answers, just the questions. And I am very certain these are not the only ones. 

Finally, the irony is not lost on me that one way of looking at this is that the immediate (twittering, statusing) is once again pushing out the slower (in this case blogs) — and this is exactly what blogging did to print and other one-way media.


Boy, I feel for Abigail Pardou. Why? Here’s how Washington Post’s Marc Fisher sets the scene:

As much as any elected official in Washington, Harry “Tommy” Thomas, the D.C. council member from Ward 5, carries himself like a good old-fashioned machine politician. Son of a council member, Thomas is a cheerful and omnipresent face in Northeast, a ward-heeler who prides himself on bringing home the bacon in the form of park facilities, schools and other city projects.

Abigail Padou is the editor and proprietor of Brookland Heartbeat, a bimonthly newsmagazine about the neighborhood near Catholic University. The paper, mailed free to 10,000 registered voters in the area, is a non-profit run entirely by volunteers and supported by a small group of local advertisers.

Last week, for reasons Padou cannot fathom, Thomas posted on his web site a letter to the editor and to all Ward 5 residents accusing the Heartbeat of salacious headlines, biased reporting and a conflict of interest. Thomas was so angry about a story that ran in the paper last July that he demanded a retraction and threatened to go after one of the Heartbeat’s most important advertisers, the Long & Foster realty company. “Long & Foster will be held accountable for its role in underwriting the Brookland Heartbeat,” Thomas wrote, “as well as the businesses that support the publication.”

The article that got Thomas’s goat is a nicely reported, fully sourced, and utterly unsensational story that examines what Ward 5 gets out of Thomas’s position as chairman of the Council’s committee overseeing libraries, parks and recreation. The story’s conclusion: The ward gets very little.

I can relate. To read Fisher’s piece, Thomas is bullying Padou unfairly.

Here in the little town where I live, there are from time to time controversial issues that come up and in my community blog, I try to write about them. I don’t hide my opinions (nor do any other contributors to the blog), but over time as the site has grown people begin to view it much like a newspaper. So I have started to get angry emails (and hear about angry tirades in meetings) about the site’s (and my) supposed bias. These are the same kind of notes that any editor of any newspaper gets, and when I am properly detached I view them as evidence that I am probably on track.

Let me be clear: I never set out to write slanted coverage, and I make a point of trying to lay out my own biases (if any) in any article. This feedback is more a byproduct of the fact that there are controversial issues on which people disagree deeply — not because of anything I have actually done.

But, I am also a neighbor, and so when I am in another frame of mind, such emails can hurt. I don’t have a thick skin.

These kinds of notes can push me to back off, because it feels more trouble than it’s worth to cover some issues. However, I know that I need to lean against that — otherwise the angry cranks become bullies.

Still, sometimes it can be a drag to keep one’s positive attitude. It can be harder than it looks to stay in today’s public square! You become a target.

Study: Religions Losing Ground

An important new survey on Americans’ religious behaviors and attitudes was released this morning. The American Religious Identification Survey was first fielded in 1990 and was updated in 2001 and now in 2008.

The survey shows that just about across the board, Americans are less religious today than they were two decades ago. From USA Today:

The percentage of people who call themselves in some way Christian has dropped more than 11% in a generation. The faithful have scattered out of their traditional bases: The Bible Belt is less Baptist. The Rust Belt is less Catholic. And everywhere, more people are exploring spiritual frontiers — or falling off the faith map completely.

These dramatic shifts in just 18 years are detailed in the new American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), to be released today. It finds that, despite growth and immigration that has added nearly 50 million adults to the U.S. population, almost all religious denominations have lost ground since the first ARIS survey in 1990.

Of special interest is the “none” category — people who answer they have no religion or spirituality. That share is 15%. From the article:

So many Americans claim no religion at all (15%, up from 8% in 1990), that this category now outranks every other major U.S. religious group except Catholics and Baptists. In a nation that has long been mostly Christian, “the challenge to Christianity … does not come from other religions but from a rejection of all forms of organized religion,” the report concludes.

Here is a presentation by Barry Kosmin, study director, about the “Nones.”

Giving A Presentation

This morning I am in historic Williamsburg, Virginia giving a talk to the opening session of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership’s Political Leaders Program. We’re in the Wren Building, which dates to the 1600’s. I feel a little bit in awe.

I also want to do a good job. This is the kickoff of a ten-month leadership program, and Sorensen depends on me, in part, to set the right tone. So I want to do right by them.

Yesterday, Seth Godin — and expert presenter, among other thing — blogged about the two elements of a great presenter. They are: respect (from the audience); and love (to the audience).

[E]very great presenter earns the respect of the audience (through her appearance, reputation, posture, voice, slides, introduction, etc.) and captures the attention of the audience by sending them love. Love takes many forms. I love you enough to teach you this. I love you enough to help you. I love you enough to look you in the eye.

I am going to try to keep this in mind. Thanks, Seth.


I take a dim view, ordinarily, of the silly habit large organizations have of naming everything. If there’s a big, multi-day story, news networks will give it a name and a logo. New pieces of legislation have to have stupid acronyms that remind the reader of fourth-grade English homework (think of the USA PATRIOT act). Every time a major politician goes on a trip, it has to have a “theme” and a name emblazoned on the podium and behind the speaker.

So you’d think I would take a similarly dim view of the government’s plan to add a logo to all the projects that are underwritten with stimulus money.


From ABC News
From ABC News

But I actually think it’s a pretty good idea. Here, the logo is actually being used in teh way it is supposed to be: as a reminder, a branding mark.


My beef with the incessant titling of things is that it always seems more driven by bureaucratic issues than by real-world concerns. Ordinary people do not need a title for a presidential trip, and they don’t think of the budget as a book . . . they think of it as “the budget.”

But a recovery-funds logo is a nice reminder and can actually be a branding mark. It can help organize disparate things (all the different, specific programs being supported with recovery money) into a unified whole. This is palpably different than the typical use of titles and “themes” that I described above, which is all about spin.

By contrast, this is actually helpful and can serve a civic purpose.

Real World Social Media Workflow — How Much Time Do I Spend Listening?

Social media maven Beth Kanter has been attending a conference on nonprofit use of technology. One of the speakers was Wendy Harman, who runs social media for the Red Cross.

Beth has a great recap of that session here, with these key takeaways:

  • First thing every morning, [Wendy] spends a couple of hours listening – reviewing hundreds of mentions that have been captured in their monitoring radar using a variety of free and professional tools, including Radian 6.   Wendy estimates it’s about 1/4 of her time presently.   I suspect it took more of time in the beginning as she developed her work flow and got over the learning curve – and of course was able to upgrade her tool set.
  • Senior management is not turned off by the term listening.  She often writes social media manifestos, filled with examples, pros/cons, and shows tangible, measurable results from their social media strategy.
  • She has a social media elevator pitch in case she encounters one of the senior people at the organization in the elevator: “I’m the social media lady who builds relationships with our community online.”   Perhaps she extends that to include “that results in increased goodwill, improves our reputation, and donations.”
  • She and the others on staff are no longer afraid of negative comments or posts.  “The opposite of hate is indifference, if someone bothers to post a negative comment it means they care.”  She was also pleasantly surprised about how much was positive.  Negative comments are an opportunity to educate and improve what they are doing.  “It is about being polite and honest.”
  • Wendy balances her personal/organizational social media profiles.  When she uses her personal social networking or twitter account, her rule is not to say anything that would embarrass her mother.
  • Challenges include dealing with the tidal wave of information that they have to analyze and manage. One of the values of a professional tool is that it saves a lot of time in the work flow.  Focusing on the how to represent learning in a visual way.  Laura Lee Dooley shared this example (bookmarked posts of people talking about her organization fed into Wordle)
  • Their community now knows that they are listening and the conversation has changed from talking to how we help you.
  • They have an extensive social media participation policy that has helped spur adoption internally.

Looking at my own workflow, I realize that my mornings are often spent “listening” — yet I don’t call it that. I have seen it as time I am wasting and that I ought to minimize. Now I see I ought to perhaps consider boosting it a bit.