Social media overload, yay or nay?

I am pondering the topic of social media overload.

I love that everything is becoming social. I am convinced this is the way of the future, as we are naturally social beings. Just the other day, I sat with a friend in a video iChat window, comparing shoes on Piperlime. Social shopping. Felt natural. And yes, the shoes are on their way now.

And I love Facebook. I love to see what my friends are up to. I love that I now have a small window into the lives of relatives that I never see otherwise.

And I love what I do. I love to think about how business, brands, non-profits and other organizations can connect with people using social media tools.

So it’s all good.

But here’s the thing. There is just so must to keep up with. I mean, I could easily fritter my entire life away on Facebook between posts shared by friends and news from all 353 pages I “like.” And then there is Twitter. A treasure trove of links to pursue. And on top of that I have a really scary RSS inbox with all the blogs I meant to stay on top of. And new technologies to check out. And new apps to experiment with on the iPad or the iPhone. And. And. And. OK, must breathe now.

And then I come across posts like this one about how to follow 15,000 people on Twitter and my head just about explodes.

No one can possibly keep up with it all. OK, some people are better at it then others, and I suspect most of them are employed as social media experts. This has been the number one question I have been asked AFTER speaking engagements. No one seems to ask it publicly, but they approach afterward wondering how to cope. So I am thinking about it. I definitely cope by, well, just not dealing with everything. But what are the filters that I am using to prioritize? A related question, and the one that always comes up from clients (and potential clients), is “how do I find the time to add social media into my job?”

I hope to find the time to write more about this as I process it. But meanwhile, what do you think? Do you feel overwhelmed at times by social media? Or has it simplified your life?


Shameless self-promotion: Strategy Webinar on Wednesday

I will be giving a webinar on social media strategy this coming Wednesday morning. It is targeted towards museums  but is likely to be of interest to anyone who is facing the question of how to approach social media strategically.

Check out this video preview and see if it’s for you.

FourSquare? Gowalla? Yelp? Huh? I mean, why?

A colleague writes about Yelp’s check-ins, and it got me to wondering:

Here’s the thing I don’t get about Yelp’s check-ins (yes, I was looking into this very recently) — they don’t show up anywhere. I couldn’t find check-in histories on my friends’ pages nor on the businesses’ pages.

For example, if I look up the California Academy of Sciences on Foursquare, I can see that over 1100 different people have checked in there. On Yelp, nothing of the sort. I assume it is just a matter of time, but it left me wondering where the check-ins go. They seem to just vanish.

I agree with Bruce, much more useful information when you check in on Yelp, but the history piece would be nice too.

And that still leaves us with the question of why check in at all. I use Foursquare — very erratically. I just can’t seem to get all that excited about badges, nor about being mayor of my local gas station.

Facebook is driving me nuts. (Or, why Facebook is changing the delivery of news in a major way.)

No, my friends aren’t driving me crazy. The problem is not their opinions of this weekend’s health care reform vote, nor their envy-inspiring jaunts to Paris and Antigua. In fact, my friends generally keep me sane. The problem is the rest of my news feed. Take a peek:

A two-hour snapshot of climate change news, the consequences of a natural disaster, pesticides, and water issues. Happy happy joy joy.

The truth is, there is a great deal to worry about: overpopulation, climate change, pollution, depleted natural resources, overfishing, poor soil, toxic pretty-much-everything. Because I work with many different clients, I have become a “Fan” of a wide range of news outlets, businesses and organizations on Facebook. And because of the nature of my clients (including a science museum, a wellness portal, a burger joint serving pasture-fed beef, an environmental non-profit, and an emergency preparedness non-profit — several of which appear above) I am constantly fed a diet of articles and other links about food and water issues, climate change, natural disasters and more. In addition, many of my friends have the same concerns that I do, and will often share articles as well.

Of course, it’s not like this news wasn’t available previously. The internet is chock-full of this stuff and has been for years. But until Facebook became a regular part of my life, I didn’t consume news throughout the day. And it certainly wasn’t interspersed with things that I do want to read, such as my friends’ humor, news and opinions. I have never had a good relationship with a portal, a dashboard, an RSS reader or any other structured form of news delivery. (There are relatively few people who actually make RSS work for them in a news reader. Don’t believe me? Check out Forrester Research’s profiling tool. “Collectors” are a relatively rare.)

Today, thanks to Facebook, I read news constantly. And not just any news: curated news from organizations and friends. I am so much more informed than I ever was.

I’m sure I am not the only person to experience this. Facebook is a very different sort of distribution channel than we have experienced in the past. The only times that I go directly to a news channel is when I follow a link from Facebook. (Or occasionally Twitter, but Facebook, with its longer posts, images, and videos, is more likely to compel me to click.)

Because I use Facebook so heavily in this way, I have taken the time to review which pages show up in my feed. The tools are basic, but usable. The result: News tailored to me. Which is now making me miserable because I wish I could ignore it. I think I need to find some more upbeat Pages to add to my Feed.

Preparing for our #SXSW conversation: #toolsforgood

Yup, I’m getting all jiggy with the #hashtags. I just figured out that they are preassigned in the SXSWi catalog, so I may as well start using them.

Yesterday, I answered Maria’s questions as we prepared for our panel. Today, she answers mine:

Sorel: If you could give one piece of advice to a non-profit looking to stand out from the crowd, what would it be?

Maria Giudice, Hot Studio

Maria: Do not scrimp on the power of good design to get your message out and stand out from the crowd. Non-profits really struggle to find budget when it comes to spending money for a great brand strategist or social media strategist to use words in a powerful way. Or hire a designer to create compelling online and offline materials. So many non-profits fall prey to “that non-profit” look and feel and tone and voice which causes them to blend into the noise rather than be differentiated in a crowded field of social gooders. non-profit can stand out from the rest by:
Establishing a solid and frequent messaging strategy
Use a clear and distinctive voice and tone
Making sure your visual presence is powerful, unique and clearly stands out from the rest

Sorel: What is most interesting to you right now about the technology landscape for non-profits?
Maria: Technology was been both a boon and the bane for non-profits and many ways, but here are my top two:

The good
The uprise of citizen journalism. Now more than ever before, world events can no longer be hidden from the world. Take the most recent election in Iran. As much as the government attempted to stifle free speech, we got to see the terrible uprising and outcome unfold before our very eyes. Technology has enabled us to record and broadcast images and words as they happen in real time. Helping others or witnessing suffering is now less abstract in someone’s mind and the demand immediately to respond through volunteerism and donations increases exponentially.

The bad
The downside to technology enabling people to see events as they unfold in real time is the fact that people’s patience and attention span has led to a somewhat ADD culture. Some causes become viral and take off in the social sphere. However, as quickly as something can go viral, just as quickly it can be passed by and be forgotten. How do you keep your social causes continually relevant in such an ADD techno world that is full of noise?

Sorel: Going beyond the Facebook page: Is it realistic for small organizations pursue new technologies? Isn’t the flashy stuff just for the big guys? What are some ideas for achieving innovation in tightly budgeted environments?
Maria: That’s a really good question. I’ve always admired Architecture for Humanity’s ability to reach so many people in a really scrappy way. Before we designed the Open Architecture Network where we donated our time along with Sun Microsystems and others, they were using a ton of free social tools, like Meetup for example, to extend their reach and communicate with their chapters and other audiences. There are so many social tools out there like Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook that are free to use. There are lots of downsides with that as well, such as the data from those social sites does not belong to you and it’s difficult to collect in aggregate.

The innovation comes from your energy and ability to attract and maintain a loyal following. If you are active in the social sphere and are communicating often, you will attract followers and they will turn around and tell their friends. When you to reach out to friends of friends, you can extend your reach in an affordable way. And don’t forget about having real face time with your constituents. Get out there and meet people in person. The cost of course becomes your investment of time.


Please join us for this conversation in Austin on Saturday, March 13 at 12:30pm in Room 7. If you can’t make it, feel free to email us or ask questions as comments to this post. You can also follow along on Twitter: Just look for the hashtag #toolsforgood. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas on this exciting topic!

Tools For Good: Design Meets Technology in Service (SXSW core conversation)

As promised, here is the first half of the discussion between me and Maria. She will also be sharing this discussion on her blog.

Maria: How can organizations integrate messaging, build communities, and raise money across multiple platforms?

Sorel: In short? Break it down. Integrate where you can. Know your strategy.

These days we have both good fortune and the potentially overwhelming challenge of having many outlets for all of these activities online (and offline as well). This can be tough for an organization that is attempting to connect meaningfully with its followers. Facebook Causes,, Care2, GlobalGiving, Universal Giving, GiveMeaning, FirstGiving, GiveATweet… The list goes on and on, not to mention the organization’s eNewsletter, the organization’s website, Facebook page, YouTube channel and more. Many of these channels may play a role and it can quickly become baffling.

As with any communications program, it is critical to begin with a clear strategy and know whom you are talking to. It may require segmenting your target into specific affinity groups. Each site or communications format may have different requirements. Having a big picture overview will simplify the process, but it requires thinking about each channel separately to effectively connect with the people on that channel.

Integrating fundraising across multiple channels has its own special challenges. You need to know how each community responds to solicitations, what tools are available to you, how the money is being collected, how this can be integrated with your own backend systems and data collections needs, and more. Plan thoroughly, and expect to learn a lot.

We are still in the early days of these technologies, so for now, go forth and experiment.

Maria: What do you see as the biggest roadblock for organizations who want to leverage social media for social good?

Sorel: Time/time management, assuming that executive leadership is on board with the concept. Social media is often perceived as (and can in fact be) a huge time suck. It is critical that organizations wanting to move into this arena are clear about what their objectives are and that they are committed to assigning the manpower.

Social media can be integrated into a workday and there are many tricks to make the workload realistic, including sharing the burden among more than one person. It is essential, however, that spending that time remain a priority. If an organization does not commit to truly engaging with people on the social web, they may as well not bother.

Maria: How can a single person do good and help create change inside their organization?

Sorel: Every change begins with one person. So the question is really, what is it about one person that can make a difference?

* She is clear about her objective. (I sound like a broken record here!)
* She shares energy and enthusiasm for the new without insulting the old.
* She embraces those who resist, bringing them along slowly by understanding what the source of the resistance is, and sharing information and perspective.
* She doesn’t stop communicating. She listens carefully. She provides context. She uses the tools and technology available to them: wikis, blogs, social networks, websites and more. She shares the successes of other communities and organizations.
* She is patient. Slow and steady wins the race.

One thing I learned from rock climbing: when you are stuck and see no way to move forward, change something. It doesn’t have to be big. Maybe you just step up one inch. It doesn’t seem like enough to make a difference, and yet, afterwards, your perspective has shifted, and you often can see your next move. Big changes start with little changes. And even a little change can affect your outlook.

We Want to Hear From You

Please join us for this conversation in Austin on Saturday, March 13 at 12:30pm in Room 7. If you can’t make it, feel free to email us or ask questions as comments to this post. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas on this exciting topic!

Me, talking. Take two. This time at SXSW.

Woohoo, WiFi on the plane. My book is languishing, but at least I can get this blog post out of my head and onto the interwebs. (It’s a really good book, too. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. I can barely stand to put it down.)

Twice this month, someone else’s change of plans turned out to be my good fortune. Last week I was invited to participate in a panel at the California Association of Museums, on the topic of online Revenue Generation, when someone else could no longer attend. My focus was, of course, social media, drawing from my experience working with the California Academy of Sciences.

This week, I have again been invited to replace another speaker, this time at SXSW. I am thrilled to be facilitating a core conversation together with the deeply knowledgeable and high-energy Maria Giudice of Hot Studio. Maria has an impressive depth of experience from her agency’s awesome work with museums and other non-profits. I met her originally through my work with the California Academy of Sciences, whose web site they built.

To get our planning started, Maria and I asked each other questions. I will share the discussion in my next couple posts. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, are you going to SXSW? Say hi. I confess, I have way too many social profiles and I can’t even remember what they are for. I will definitely be checking some of them. The most likely candidates are below. (never mind. Can’t deal with checking in to more than one site.) (still have account, but don’t see value at the moment.)

I also think I have FriendFeed,, and Plaxo (does anyone actually use Plaxo? or is it just a professional nagging service? I seem to get email from it everyday, which obviously I never read. I just peeked at the site and it seems to have rebranded itself. Apparently it’s the address book I never knew I needed. Huh.) Who knows what other profiles I might have. I know I can’t keep track.