Archives for March 2010

Mar 29

Crowd sourcing the cephalopod

Victoria Baxter

The octopus is finally getting the attention it deserves.  Pandas are so last year.  The octopus, the smart but spineless creature, is the new star of the National Zoo. An octopus is surprisingly smart and curious, which can lead to some unfortunate mishaps and escapes from aquariums.  They are also extremely flexible, like the octopus in Boston that stuffed its entire 7 foot body into a 14 inch glass cube to get at lunch. 

But don’t just consider the octopus, name him (or her – they are not 100% sure of the little detail yet!).  The National Zoo is holding an online contest where people can name the zoo’s newest “charismatic cephalopod.”

Crowd sourcing has been a hot topic of late in social media circles. Our team recently attended a session on crowd sourcing at the SXSW Interactive Festival.  Does this contest count as crowd sourcing and does it add value to the zoo? 

The contest definitely fits into the broad category of crowd sourcing by allowing zoo fans to name the newest arrival.  One limit the zoo imposed is that you select one of four possible names. (Olympus, Ceph, Octavius and Vancouver, if you were wondering.)  The contest could have been more participatory by allowing people to suggest their own names.   But then again, the zoo doesn’t have to live with what would have been my well organized campaign to name the octopus Smarty Pants.  Even still, the contest is a way to build engagement with fans of the zoo. Not a bad move when trying to build excitement for an animal that doesn’t have a panda’s star appeal or its own TV show

Get your vote in before April 7th.  The winning name will be announced on Facebook and Twitter.

Mar 24

The Power of the Connected Community

Adrienne Caruso

People at South by Southwest find themselves surrounded by “digital celebrities” – the bloggers we all know and read, journalists with Twitter followings in the thousands, authors of books that aim to change the way we use the Internet. These leaders in social media and the digital world, and more importantly, their vast networks and following, can be the key to a successful awareness-building, engagement or media campaign.

It’s all about tapping into a connected community or – as we often tell our clients – meeting people where they are online. By leveraging the power of digital thought leaders and their networks, your organization’s message or call to action can spread like wildfire. Consider the following factors when you engage the online community:

  • Engaging a connected audience. Meet people in their online spaces; don’t ask them to come to you. Understand where your audience works, plays and goes online – and meet them there with information or an “ask,” whether it’s through a leading blog, Twitter conversation or engaging a digital leader as a champion.
  • Leveraging a timely hook. SxSW is an ideal example, but consider other convenings of like-minded individuals (digital or industry-based – TED and NTEN come to mind), where your audience is already connected to online conversations about the issue. This ensures that your user engagement remains timely and action-oriented.
  • Creating an easy “ask.” By tapping into a digitally connected audience, you open up to some very easy initial “asks” (i.e. just open your iPhone and tweet about us!). You don’t need to require your audience to do any heavy lifting (digital or literal) to begin to build a relationship and promote your cause.

The key to these strategies is driving conversation to spark action. Whether your goal is raising money, attracting Twitter followers or seeking media coverage, it all starts with engaging your audience – and influencers in your space – to generate conversation about the issue. For an example of our work with the Pepsi Refresh Project, check out our Pepsi Refresh South by Southwest Challenge, an online activation to fund digital ideas that were supported by influencers(@GaryVee, @adamostrow, @ConsumerQueen) at the conference this year.


Mar 23

The Most Exciting Things We Saw at SxSW


You should probably scan this with Stickybits.Our time at South by Southwest may be over, but the Social Impact team is still sorting through all of the incredible innovations that we saw in Austin. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be working to develop some of the ideas we came across into new strategies that can help our clients. Until then, here are some of the more exciting new things that we encountered in Texas:

Stickybits – This iPhone and Android based app lets you scan any barcode and attach photos, video, comments, or hyperlinks.

Barcodes for your favorite products are standard: the code on every box of Wheaties is the same. So if you attach something to one box of Wheaties, you attach it to all of them. And there’s a lot of potential for creative marketing in that technology. PS - scan the barcode in this post.

Venmo – It’s your best friend’s birthday, and you’ve got twelve people who want to split dinner onto twelve credit cards. The waiter gives you the look of death; he’s not going to split the check twelve ways.  This is where Venmo comes in. You put the dinner on your card, and each friend uses Venmo to send you their share via text message. It’s charged to their card, and when you get home, you deposit it into your bank account. I can’t wait till all my friends use this.

Razoo – This has got me really excited for our nonprofit partners. Network for Good is a trusted way to process donations, but they take a small transaction fee – and no matter what online payment system you use, there’s some fee involved. If you give through Razoo, Network for Good still charges their fee. But Razoo issues an equal grant, replacing the transaction fee and allowing the nonprofit to receive the full amount of your gift.

With all the talent and brainpower at SxSW, there are scores of great ideas out there that we haven’t touched on – which were your favorites?
Mar 22

Is Social Media Driving Social Impact? Thoughts from SxSW


It is easy to be blinded by all the shiny objects at the South by Southwest Festival. There are so many new tools and trends that it takes real effort to see real fundamental shifts in the landscape. I'm wondering if one of those shifts was inherent in Valerie Casey’s keynote when she asked the question “What if social media was about social impact?

Technology has become a great equalizer. It has torn down communication barriers, allowing people to connect in real-time across geography and social station like never before. Many Members of Congress rely less on their auto pens, and more on Twitter, to communicate with their constituents. Farmers in Africa can now share crop prices and tips with fellow farmers thousands of miles away. We have reached a level of interconnectedness few thought was possible.

But does this interconnectedness make us care more about each other and care about our collective social impact? Does the mere fact that we are directly connected to people through technology make us care more about the collective good?

Not according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Well, at least not yet. In a September '09 report Pew found that  that 37% of internet users in the 18-29 age bracket use blogs and social networks as a venue for political or civic involvement as opposed to only 17% of 30-49 year olds. So maybe these connections and this idea of inherent social impact has started to become ingrained with the so called "digital natives." 

From an organizational point of view this tells us that we we have to keep thinking of ways of making direct connections with our advocates and donors. We need to tear down the barriers that surround our organizations and connect people directly with the work and the people behind the stories. This is the power that technology provides us and the expectation that comes with it.

Mar 19

Crowd sourcing innovative social change

Paul Massey

Social Impact attended the SxSW Interactive Festival to listen and learn. We’re sharing insights from the experience on our blog.

The Crowd Sourcing Innovative Social Change panel, moderated by Beth Kanter, with Amy Sample Ward, Holly Ross, David Neff, and Kari Dunn Saratovsky covered a lot of material, including discussion of the definition of crowd sourcing and some creative examples of crowd sourcing from nonprofits including Open Green Map, Seattle Free School and Invisible People. Check out Marcia Stepanek’s blog post for a great recap of these examples.

The discussion I enjoyed most, however, focused on this question: Does crowd sourcing add value? In other words, do the ideas and input generated from the crowd contribute to a lasting outcome? Or is it, as some people have joked, an example of how organizations can get others to do their work for them? 

My take?

Crowd sourcing is appealing for a number of reasons – it surfaces new perspectives, invites people from nontraditional sources to contribute, and infuses real energy into the process of generating ideas and content.  It can also be empowering – creating opportunities and platforms for people to give voice to ideas and to contribute to social change efforts. It’s a way to build engagement and relationships with new audiences – to open up organizations.

Yet, above all, crowd sourcing only works when it’s used in service of the right outcomes. In other words, as several of the panelists noted, you can’t crowd source an organizational strategy.  (Amen.) 

Crowd sourcing works best if it:

  • Focuses on a well-stated challenge
  • Links to clear, well-articulated outcomes 
  • Balances input from non-experts with guidance from “experts”
  • Targets communities with particular perspectives or experience, rather than general crowds
  • Makes clear how participating will be valuable for the crowd


Mar 18

Reflections from SxSW

Paul Massey

Social Impact attended the SxSW Interactive Festival to listen and learn. We’re sharing insights from the experience on our blog.

Our team is back from Austin – and hoping that you enjoyed some of the live tweeting, and twit pics, from SxSW.  Wow.  That was a whirlwind:  great (and some not-so-great) sessions, fun activations with our Pepsi Refresh client, and interesting conversations with people around nonprofits and technology, the role of social media in advocacy, and what’s coming next on the interactive front.

We’ve distilled some of our impressions into a series of posts that we’ll share over the next few days.  Let us know if they prompt questions or comments, and if you were at SxSW, if you had similar reactions and takeaways from your time in Austin.


Mar 18

Closer to the bump-to-donate world?

Victoria Baxter

PayPal released a new iPhone application that allows you to bump iPhones to exchange money.   If you needed to pay your friend back the $10 he lent you, simply choose his name from your contact list and bump your iPhone against his.  Information is exchanged between the phones and the money gets transferred instantly.

This is great for paying back friends, but has so many possibilities for collecting donations at live events.  You want to catch people when they are most inspired, but sometimes your event is at a place that won’t allow you to accept cash donations or people don’t have cash or a checkbook handy.  (Who’s walking around with a checkbook anyway?)

Sending funds through PayPal allows you to donate more than the current $5 or $10 donation level you can make through most text to give programs since you are sending money from your own account and not applying the donation to your cell phone bill.  The obvious limitation is that, at least right now, you need a donor with an iPhone and you both need a PayPal account.  Many nonprofits have set up accounts with PayPal, which has developed reduced transaction fees for nonprofits.

My nonprofit wish list for this bump app is to include the option to automatically post a message to your Facebook and Twitter profiles to let your networks know that you just donated to a great cause and encourage them to join you by giving them all the information they  need to donate and a link to the organization’s site to learn more.

Mar 17

Gaining an Edge on Sustainability Reporting


Companies and organizations can stay ahead of the game by adopting a new integrated reporting format proposed in “One Report: Integrated Reporting for a Sustainable Strategy,” the latest book from Robert Eccles, senior lecturer at Harvard’s business school.

Nonprofits that connect the dots between mission, outcomes and more efficient operations may attract more funding over the long term.

According to Eccles, by publishing a comprehensive, single report, companies can communicate a single and consistent message to their many audiences while clearly demonstrating the linkages between financial and non-financial performance. In a single report, investors, consumers and internal audiences are able to see how the company integrates their business operations, financial results and sustainability work into a single, long-term vision for the company.

How does a company successfully integrate their reporting? Eccles outlines the following key strategies:

  1. Engage leadership throughout the organization – Ultimately, the CEO has the responsibility of ensuring all information is accurate; however, leaders throughout the organization need to coordinate, ensure fidelity of data, communicate goals and objectives and help carry the message to all stakeholders.
  2. Invest in innovation to measure non-financial performance – Companies will need to invest in consultants, advisors and measurement tools to help develop a system and methodology for measuring non-financial performance.
  3. Utilize the Web to supplement report information and engage stakeholders – Eccles points out that a key ingredient to enhanced reporting is using online communications platforms (e.g. blogs, podcasts, commenting tools, etc.) to solicit feedback and allow for two-way conversations. It also allows companies to distribute additional information, resources and data that is too exhaustive to publish in paper format.

In a survey of nonprofits, Eccles mentioned that more than 75 percent of those surveyed welcomed this new approach. It’ll be interesting to see where this trend leads in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors - whether you’re implementing or advocating for sustainability initiatives.

For non-profits this is a good trend. Effective tools that openly and transparently communicate your value to your donors, members and other stakeholders could mean increased opportunity for funding.

Mar 16

In defense of social media

David Leavitt

Today’s Wall Street Journal questions the value of social media, quoting critics who say it’s “overrated” and that the “hype right now exceeds the reality.”

The article cites a puzzling survey finding that just 22 percent of small business made a profit last year from promoting their firms on social media. Nineteen percent claim to have lost money from their social media initiatives.

The reasoning? Businesses found that it took more time than they anticipated. Well, yes. It’s not a good idea to invite people to join an online conversation if you don’t have the time yourself to take part.

Nonprofits and businesses should participate in the social media space only if:

  • They’ve determined that’s where their audience spends its online time
  • They have the time/resources to regularly interact with fans and followers

Measuring whether it is a profitable tool can be tricky (and we could certainly put other communication tools — such as e-mail or the telephone — under the same microscope). But new data released this week shows that consumers who become a Facebook fan or Twitter follower of a brand are more likely to buy/recommend that brand.

Social media channels allow for conversation, but they don’t dictate what the conversation is. That part is up to you.

Mar 12

Social Impact Team @ SxSW – Reporting Live


Members of the Weber Shandwick Social Impact team are heading to the SxSW Interactive festival to listen and learn. Follow @p_massey, @cmoffett, @axelhonkrod, @acaruso and @bradleyatwork for useful tidbits and musings that organizations can use to help with their own digital strategies.
We’ll each be posting updates to the blog and covering as many sessions as we can. Right now we’re looking at sessions like:

Let us know if you see other panels that look interesting and we’ll check them out.
And if you’ll be there drop us a note and we’ll connect. You can leave a comment here or @reply us on Twitter.


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