Category Archives: Social media

A feast of social media know-how

Megan Hubscher presenting at the Sustainability Trust office

Megan Hubscher speaking about how the Sustainability Trust use social media, in their central Wellington showroom/ venue/ office

In the world’s coolest little capital NetSquared Wellington hosted two talks this week. We showcased different approaches to social media as part of a programme of 40 events during the global #SocMedSep themed month.

From the the Sustainability Trust we had Megan Husbscher tell us about they are using to reach out to a broad range of customers, supporters, volunteers and people seeking to have greener lives.

So as not to get tangled in policies and procedures, Megan says the Trust has a philosophy of getting out there and doing it. Their motto is learn as we go.

Reflecting diversity and allowing people across the whole organisation to use social media is what Megan would like to see happening. It’s not as easy as it sounds, as people are busy doing their day jobs.

When asked what makes a good post, Megan said “anything that comes from your heart, that genuinely moves you, will move others.”

Helen Player pointing out sights in Wellington harbour, post talk.

Helen Player from Positively Wellington Tourism sharing the view of Wellington harbour after the #net2welly talk

Getting more people to get out and about in Wellington is the aim of the capital’s tourism agency Positively Wellington Tourism. Talking about their work Digital Marketing Manager Helen Player gave the impression they get to be very creative in how they approach this.

To run with this fresh approach Helen summed up their rules of thumb in these five tips:

  1. Beat print and other newspapers (otherwise you’re too late)
  2. Track what you do
  3. Be relevant – everything has a Wellington angle
  4. Cater for mobile – including any apps
  5. Make it easy to take action.

Competitions are a big thing – theses are used to attract people and encourage them to stay in touch. This included a virtual wishing well that mimicked a infamous fountain in grungy Cuba Street, where people outside the city can win trip. More are coming soon.

It was fantastic that both our #SocMedSep presenters shared fine-grained detail, including statistics.

The two talks were only possible because we had two people step forward from within NetSqaured Wellington willing to help. Thanks to to Justine from Plunket and Eileen from Kites.

We sounded people coming about being able to access personalised advice at a social media surgery. Despite being introduced to the idea by me wearing a medical mask and stethoscope, and wielding a plastic scalpel (though no rubber gloves, just yet!) people seem responsive. We’ll look to organise something before the end of the year.

PS I’ve been appointed one of four global NetSquared regional ambassadors – in this role I’ll support the active groups across region, plus can help if you’d like to set up a group in your town too. THe ambassador role is honorary, though I will be meeting other ambassadors in Washington DC next march, and attend the annual Nonprofit Technology Conference run by NTEN.

Websites aren’t going anywhere

White ship's anchor, stowed,

Some things we take for granted: Rome wasn’t built in a day. Pigs don’t fly. From little things, bit things grow.

But when someone says websites aren’t relevant any more, well, that’s not a statement that’s easy to swallow.

In the last few months this message has been repeated to me by three or four folk. The rise and rise and rise of social media is the main reason given: people can stay in touch and find out everything about our organisation without going to a website.

I thought I’d restate why I say community organisations still need to a well maintained, easy to use and attractive website in their online communications mix. NB the reasons don’t apply equally to everyone.

A website allows your organisation to:

  • Control what goes where. The relative weighting given to content and the structure are all decided by you. 100%. You’re not left stranded by the arbitrary decisions of a faceless multi-national corporation.
  • Make available essential, if somewhat dowdy, accountability documents, eg annual reports. These are in there rightful place, alongside any news, organisational information, etc.
  • Publish longer research, essays or other articles. Not just bon mots.
  • Add multiple ways for people to support you: sign petitions, volunteer, give stuff or donate cash. Donating isn’t only about collecting one-click gifts, it can entail things like membership, longer term APs or bequests. This information needs to be available, alongside a button or link.
  • Host dedicated areas for your constituents or network members. This could be about discussion, archives or e-learning. Private and simple are often key features.

Of course, there are times when a website does little for an organisation, except suck in time and money. I’d be the last to suggest a website is mandatory. Yet, nor would I too easily dismiss them.

In my experience, websites act as an anchor of an organisation’s online presence. Solid, dependable and even somewhat immutable. Reflected in a tightly packed few pages is information about what you do, how you’re making a difference and how people can get alongside you.

For those that care what people say after visiting an organisation’s website, not something that everyone is too bothered by, then keeping things spic and span is essential.

Is your website still a core part of your orgnisation’s communications mix, or has it been eclipsed?

Useful resource

Aspiration Tech highlight the differences between web and social using spectrums of online engagement. Get some insights into why social can achieve different things to websites.

Photo credit: Phill Lister

Register now – Beth Kanter workshops in Aotearoa, May 2013

Photo of author and master trainer Beth Kanter, wearing red stetson

As the sun rose on the New Year it was pretty obvious the upheaval caused by social media will continue unabated. People still flock online to connect with others in lots of different ways.

Looking ahead it is hard to know what will rise, what will fall. Will the effects of Facebook’s share float permeate even further? Could Bebo make a comeback alongside MySpace? Will Pinterest keep rising?

Whatever happens to individual sites and services, we can be sure that social networking is here to stay.

A deep understanding of how online networking works, along with awareness of the sweeping demographic and cultural changes bubbling underneath the surface, can really help organisations thrive when communicating through social media. On the other hand, without a grasp of the big picture, using social media is something of a lottery.

Having an impact also takes knowing what works well. What truly engages people? To count “Likes” or “Retweets” is a start. Bigger questions about whether it’s worth it need a robust approach to measurement. And time to reflect too.

To grapple with these types of challenges I’ve invited someone I consider a true leader in social media use to run two workshops for community organisations and NGOs in Aotearoa New Zealand. In May 2013 author, trainer and blogger Beth Kanter is coming to share her tried and tested frameworks, and knowledge of the practical application of social media practices from around the globe.

Ever since I met Beth at a workshop she ran at the Connecting Up conference in Brisbane in 2008 I’ve developed a very deep respect for her work. She generously shares her experience, is open to different cultures and always keeps a light touch.

I struggle to keep up with Beth’s prolific sharing on her blog, but I found her (short) book “The Networked Nonprofit” (2010), co-authored with Alison Fine, very helpful. I’m now half way through “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using data to change the world” (2012), co-authored with KD Paine.

My view on the benefits of digging more deeply into social media is shared by my workshop co-hosts. I’m delighted Mangere East Family Service Centre and Volunteering Auckland are coming on board to each co-host one of the workshops. Support from The Tindall Foundation and Connecting Up is a big help too.

If 2013 is the year you want to extend your organisation’s social media use, come along to one of the workshops:

  • “Improving social networking practice with measurement” workshop
    A full day workshop and peer learning network, intermediate level, Saturday 11 May, Mangere, South Auckland. More information and registration page
  • “Be networked, use measurement and make sense of your data” workshop
    A half day workshop, introductory level, 1pm Monday 13 May, Auckland. Registrations open next week

Don’t expect Beth to tell you which social networks are best for your organisation. Nor to predict what is the up and coming one to get into. However, you will walk away with insights that will help you deepen your practice using social media.

What to tell a ‘friend’ when they’re not one

Small sculpture on four clay figures embracing each other in a circle, in friendshipIt’s something of an understatement to say the word friend is overloaded with intended and unintended meaning. With the term carelessly appropriated by Facebook and others, I feel the strong word is being diluted.

Yet, when it comes to telling someone she or he is no longer a friend buttons are invariably pushed. What it means to make friends may be irrevocably morphing, but taboos surround even talk of unmaking them.

If I was actually thinking about unfriending someone I’d want to know how to do this in, ahem, a considerate way.

Illinois romance writer Arlyn Presser might be someone to consult on this. She systematically purged de-cluttered her Facebook account, but only after contacting and asking to visit all 325 of her ‘friends’. (See “Facebook and Twitter: the art of unfriending or unfollowing people” from The Guardian.)

In this instance, it’s an awkward friendship of another sort that I’m thinking about.

I’ve recently come across two community organisations that seem to have accidentally set themselves up on Facebook using a Profile, rather than using a Page or Group.

As a friend, any of their friends can readily see what I share (unless I customise my privacy settings). I know the organisations’ won’t intentionally misuse any updates, strongly worded opinions or trivia, but I don’t know about all the friends the oragnisation is linked to.

Other reasons why an organisation with a Profile may like to switch to a Page or Group include:

  • being able to access tools to ensure your Facebook presence is well run, including setting up multiple admins and access to statistics
  • if you don’t do something, your Profile maybe deleted. It’s against the rules for an organisation to use Profiles.

Facebook take some of the pain out of switching. You can use an automated process to shift over your bio, and transfer friends to Likers (see Facebook’s Profile to business Page migration page). Everything you’ve typed in and uploaded can be downloaded, then manually uploaded (if you so wish). Instructions on how to covert are outlined in a short blog post by Beth Kanter.

But which way to go: a Page or Group. Each has pros and cons, which are ably set out by misty on the Social Source Commmons blog.

A dilemma remains: how do I tell my ‘friends’ they should sort out their presence on Facebook? Perhaps I’ll heed Oscar Wilde’s dictum: “True friends stab you in the front.”

Photo credit: drhenkenstein

All in a twitter at Connecting Up Australia

Tweeter Nictatt said "put a twitter name, or FB id or even QR code on everyone's name tags. Another way to connect"Now that they’re sweeping out the aisles at the Crown Convention Centre, all that I’m left is memories, screeds of scrawly notes and a heavily annotated programme.

Well, that’s what I would have written before Twitter. Even though I often wonder how many tweets I will see in the second half of my life (too many to contemplate), seeing how tweeting was used at the Connecting Up Australia conference gave me another glimpse of how powerful it can be.

Anyone online at the event could swap notes with others, give feedback, crack jokes, ask questions, and make contact. Those from afar could watch in by following the tag #cu11. I know this happened as I had a couple of messages from New Zealanders listening in asking about specific topics.

Watching tweets gives you a chance to get a sense of what people stand for, their interests and personality. From 140 characters on screen, you can arrange to meet others. Or invite people with a similar interest to meet next to the barista at morning tea (or something similar).

Twitter provides a layer of participation, in ways that passive listening doesn’t allow. During the more tedious parts of the programme (of which there were few) it’s possible to reveal in the twitter back-channel.

The dozens of tweets have not totally disappeared into the ether, as @HelloBehTeoh has created a storify narrative based on #cu11 tweets (see below).

Checking my stats, here’s the results (which I’m not sharing to show off, but to give an idea of the impact of tweeting in a setting I don’t find myself in everyday).

  • 21 pageviews of my workshop resources
  • 82 views of links to resources I shared
  • 35 new subscribers to my e-newsletter

Of course, this doesn’t mean anyone actually read them. Nor can the actions people took be directly attributed to what they read n Twitter, as visitors to my website would have seen other ways to read or engage with things I do.

A conference would be no fun if you didn’t have face-to-face spontaneity as well — chatting with people in the queue or over coffee — so I wouldn’t suggest privileging tweeting over real life interaction. It’s a supplement. As @nictatt suggested “put a twitter name, or FB id or even QR code on everyone’s name tags. Another way to connect”.

Of all the thousands of tweets I didn’t see or hear of anything outrageous. Really, truly I think it’s a useful supplement to other ways of connecting at conferences. If you haven’t tried it, you might like to be open to the suggestion if you get the chance.

Here’s the storify record from the Connecting Up conference:


Where do I find the time? #cupnz impressions

Connecting Up New Zealand logoI don’t think I’ve ever been to a conference where people haven’t cited time as an obstacle to trying out new things. It’s a hoary chestnut and it seem to doesn’t matter what the subject is.

When it comes to talking about digital technologies and online communications, as we just have at two days of the Connecting Up New Zealand conference, it’s no surprise to hear people struggle to find time to try twitter, read blogs let alone write something and keep up with the flood of new things.

Research does show time is an issue, something I think is amplified in the resource scarce tangata whenua, community and voluntary organisations. For instance, respondents to the MeasureIT audits and survey (PDF 833KB) in the Australian state of Victoria indicated that “23% of CSO staff nominated lack of time as a barrier to IT use.” I’m sure it’s the same in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Nothing surprising here. But yet again get tied up wondering when things will change. By the next conference I hope, though given it’s 11 years since the first Flaxroots Technology conference when we first talked about such things, I’m not confident things will happen by accident.

My response: people might be convinced to put time into using digital technologies and getting better at it when they see results. Tangible ones. Could be small, could be world changing.

If you’re not convinced adopting a new practice or activity will achieve benefits it makes sense to push it away. It’s perfectly logical and sensible being suspicious of the promise ICT projects to deliver.

As Earl Mardle so effectively raised in his workshop “ICT Failures – What to do?”, IT projects fail often. So getting better at upgrading or changing IT system, implementing new software applications and using online communication tools is essential.

If we were more confident that projects would come in on time, in budget (with long-term costs of maintenance factored in) and with full implications for organisational cultures addressed, perhaps managers and boards would be more willing to embrace ICT initiatives.

Many of the speakers addressed this, even if at a tangent. Earl has shared an earlier version of this talk, and I’m hoping might sum up his insights (gentle suggestion, no pressure).

Getting better at calculating and explaining benefits in ways that decision-makers can understand is part of it too. This might be through promoting personal use of tools, business cases with full ROI analysis or sharing details of what comparable organisations are doing.

It’s also about examining what we currently do. As Logan from NZFVWO asked, are we actually convinced everything we’re already doing is super effective? From time-to-time, perhaps we could consider whether we need to do all the things we do. Make some room perhaps.

As I don’t run an organisation, I have the luxury of not having to ask anyone what systems I use nor strategies for staying sane in a hyper-connected world. No sign-off required before I tweet. But what I do notice is that it takes a long time for any new tool to become something I use by habit. Exploring all the online world has to offer doesn’t have to happen in a rush, all at once. Drip, drip, drip to quote Tina Reid.

Turning to the cloud was an underpinning theme of the two events. Regrettably, the expositions on this didn’t get much beyond fluffy hype – I think I might have missed the real life examples of going from here to there. Nor was there much analysis of the issues associated with moving to the cloud. What grates with me about all the talk of cloud is anyone mentioning you must have internet connected computers, virus/ malware/ nasty free within a networked office. Presumably these machines haven’t learned to look themselves once you’re floating in the clouds.

Looking for an antidote to the pall I have returned to the acerbic Bruce Sterling, an outsider, sci-fi writer and Texan, who expounded on the absurdities of web 2.0 at Webstock on 2009. His deflating critique of the cloud would laughable if it didn’t ring so true:

“The cloud as platform.” That is insanely great. Right? You can’t build a “platform” on a “cloud!” That is a wildly mixed metaphor! A cloud is insubstantial, while a platform is a solid foundation! The platform falls through the cloud and is smashed to earth like a plummeting stock price!”

We’re fortunate that many others are going through the same agony, and are willingly sharing hard won insights. With reference to re pas dujour – social media (as social as all the hip young folk call it) – I look no further than Beth Kanter’s framework for getting started. She simply says listen first, then join the conversation (thereby building up a network), and only then start your own conversation. Joining the conversation isn’t dependent on having your own blog or social media presence, but making comments, sharing stuff and publishing guest posts elsewhere.

If there is something I’d like to see more of at the next community ICT event in Aotearoa, it’s more local examples and people sharing the nuts and bolts of how digital technology is being successfully introduced and organisations adapting.

After all the back and forth conversation, I have arrive at seeing the opportunities afforded to engage and help people, get organised and so on, as an embarrassment of riches, rather than a glass half full. The promise of digital technologies is as disruptive today as the day internet was born (which I happen to think is a good thing).


I was delighted to be co-present a case study of the DrugHelp websites with Catherine Milburn, which I think shows what can be done by an organisation which digital technology in alignment with its mission. Long before the web development project started the New Zealand Drug Foundation already had a sound and stable platform, and much experience using online communications. From this foundation an innovative and effective way of reaching people is being developed. The light bulb was shining brightly.

When you start seeing the potential for influencing people through online communication, the internal and support resources follows. Catherine shared with people at Connecting Up New Zealand the ‘infographic’ or ‘visualisation’ (embedded below) to show how complex policy ideas can be highlighted through a visual medley. It’s a kiwi example of data sharing that keynote speaker Holly Ross promoted.