Exploring the Social Media Ecosystem

When you explore a new place, how do you process the new information? Whether I’m hiking a new trail, observing a stream or exploring a new social media site, I’ve noticed I behave similarly and try to react to my surroundings.  I try to find my “niche” even if it’s as a quiet observer.

I tackle new situations by:

  • Listening
  • Asking/Documenting Questions
  • Experimenting
  • Creating
  • Assessing and Analyzing

I used this chart in a recent presentation to explain how I break down my time on social media.

I want to continue recording my experiences online and improve at capturing data so that others can learn quickly, what has taken me time to figure out.

I recently presented (the presentation below) to National Wildlife Federation’s social media users. It was a ton of information in a short time, but I’m hopeful that we can continue to tweak how we measure our success and map out future outreach and relationship building. I love that online allows us to connect with wildlife enthusiasts far and wide.

When you explore…what questions do you ask? How do you keep track of the information?

Great Tools for Creating a Free Petition for Nature

I’ve collected a number of free ways to create a petition and hope that anyone (mom) who reads this blog can put them to good use for protecting the environment and wildlife. As always, I welcome feedback and hope you share your tools and techniques with me!

Change.org: Even from the homepage, Change.org encourages members to create petitions around issues they care about. Not only that, but if done well, the community may even promote your petition. In a few easy steps, you can create and promote your desired “change” to your contacts and other nonprofit organizations on the site and on social media.

What’s required: Change.org account
The Impact: Very easy to maneuver, and change.org has fantastic content as well, so sometimes it’s even possible to link your petition to content that’s available. The community is buzzing with social causes and if you can get your action featured in their newsletter you can see the impact.

Care2: There is so much a user can do on Care2, that you can forgetabout how simple it is to go to the petition site and create a place to collect signatures for the cause or campaign of your choosing. It’s very easy to get distracted, but there are many passionate users and good causes. You can even join like-minded groups and promote your petition that way!

What’s required: Care2 login
The Impact: Similar to Change.org, there’s a very active community that if you’re willing, you can get involved with and illicit their help and expertise.

This site gives you a quick way to create an action campaign on Twitter.Take the person’s username and target your messaging in 140 characters. Then ask your supporters to re-tweet it and that serves as a signature. It takes very little time to set up but can have a huge impact. Especially if the user on the receiving end is an avid Twitter user!

What’s required: Twitter usernames
(both you need one and your target)
The Impact: May not be as impressive as calling your representative, but can be overwhelming to the person managing the Twitter account and can definitely build a movement over an important issue. It also takes no time to set up, which can be a definitely benefit for quick turn around campaigns!

Facebook Causes Petitions:
If you’re an administrator for a nonprofit or advocacy group and you’re looking to increase Facebook engagement as well as ask people to take action, I think experimenting with the petitions on Causes is a good step. In order to get a good idea how to create a petition, check out this helpful video.

What’s Required: Nonprofit Causes partner login.
The Impact: As a nonprofit you can leverage your communities on Causes to help petition on your behalf. The names are displayed in a way so that you can export them and hand them to the person you’re trying to target and can be very effective in spreading the word.

There’s also a FANTASTIC post by SocialBrite that lists a bunch of tools like iPetitions and Petitionspot I didn’t mention here. I highly recommend people check it out. If you’re someone who’s passionate about an issue and you don’t work for a nonprofit, I definitely recommend you use these petitions to get on the radar of people who do (me!).

Surveying Soil and Social Media?

I knew I would find soil fascinating, so I decided to take a night class titled “The Living Soil“.  I was also interested in learning about soil so that when the inevitable zombie apocalypse strikes I may be able to plant some food for my dear family and the few remaining survivors. Currently I’m just a serial killer of plants and fail to keep the sturdiest of them alive.

A few weeks ago we had our first soil field trip and I was able to get more hands-on with a stream bed and some soil-y colleagues. We were each instructed to attempt to identify different horizons as well as the texture, color and structure of a small area of soil in Maryland.  It was mucky, interesting, and I felt like I was guessing a lot of the time. But in learning how to survey soil, I was reminded how similar it is to surveying social media and how each site offers different aspects with a unique function.

In soil, you determine physical properties by examining the:

  • Structure: (type, size and grade)
  • Texture: (percentage of sand, silt and clay)
  • Porosity: (air and water space)
  • Color: (hue, value and chroma of the soil)

It’s very easy, because soil scientists and people surveying  soil can reference any number of information sites and decide how to address the next step. But what if someone is curious about using social media? There’s no obvious key. People have to swim around in the social space and copy their competitors.

If we had to decide on how to determine the attributes of social media sites that we would need to survey I would say:

  • Structure: Profiles, Groups, Pages
  • Texture: Friendly, Intellectual or Marketing Heavy
  • Intensity: How often must you check it? How much does it take to update it?
  • Design: How user friendly is it?

Keeping in mind that I’ve only had a few moments to think about this,  I think sites like Twitter would be the topsoil and sites as built out as Ning would be the bedrock. But maybe I should just get back to studying…

Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders and the Future of Bat Guano

Back in early April I participated in a training as part of the  Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders. Not only was the group spectacular, but I came away with a fantastic team and a very interesting project! We are going to develop the international standards for harvesting bat guano. In many countries there are no standards or best practices that protect both the bats and the cave ecosystem and so it goes from a renewable resource to a devastating event. We’re hoping that through our research and collaboration we can work together and help Bat Conservation International develop these important standards.

As for the training session, we learned so much! I’m happy to share with anyone who is interested. Here is just a broad overview of what the training covered:

•    Professional mission statements and goal setting
•    Leadership skills and work-life balance
•    Successful campaigning skills
•    Communications and messaging strategies
•    Planning tools for advocacy campaigns
•    Adaptive management techniques
•    International biodiversity funding opportunities
•    Coordinated organizational response models
•    On-camera media training
•    Tools for dealing with conflict in the workplace
•    Fundraising Advice

While I think the environmental movement keeps getting stronger, it’s important we stick together and help one another. We can do that online, in person, and through special events and trainings. We must do this, I think it is imperative to our future.

On the tech side of this whole project, I’ve been playing more with Google Sites and figuring out how to make it a friendly, collaborative place to share documents and information.  It was very simple to select a template and then manipulate it to make it functional and relevant (bat photo).

Great collaboration tools so far:
1) Google Docs (both spreadsheet & docs)
2) Google Calendar
3) Skype
4) Google Sites

What tools have you used for group collaboration? I need recommendations!

Google Bundles for Nature Lovers

Being an avid news-junkie, loving RSS feeds (RSS = Real Simple Syndication) that make staying up to date on key issues easy and amusing comes with the territory. I love them so much that I sometimes get carried away and I overpopulate my Google Reader. I subscribe to everything from nonprofit technology bloggers to key science feeds that update so frequently I could be checking them every minute and they would still have content for me to read.

I also use Google Reader to monitor NWF’s mentions and it was when Google first launched “Bundles” that I though perhaps this an excellent way for people sharing and trading information through blogs, sites and search terms they follow.

Google Bundles Allow for Easy Feed Sharing

What I found was really interesting! Google bundles are something that anyone with a Reader account can create, and they make sharing information about your organization, cause or focus much more accessible.

Here’s how you create a Google Bundle.

  • Go to your Google Reader Account
  • Click on Browse for Stuff (left-hand navigation)
  • Once you click “create” you are set to start naming your bundle and dragging and dropping the feeds of your choice.

The real reason I’m telling you how to do this? So that you can help me compile a great list of nature blogs! I’ll add my public feeds here and please write your bundles in the comments and I’ll add them to my list.

My Google Bundles:

What are your bundles? Share with us!

(If you don’t believe I really love feeds… here’s presentation from a recent webinar!)

Identifying Wildlife With Question and Answer Sites

Identifying Wildlife With Question and Answer Sites
Virginia State Parks Asks for ID

I like to share great examples of nonprofits using social media, and I get even more excited when people engage around wildlife.

I saw a great example in wildlife identification from Virgina State Parks on their Facebook page. They asked their friends to help them identify this bird–>

We’ve talked about the benefits of crowdsourcing, but more and more I’m seeing several benefits to asking the community great questions.

In case you haven’t read about Quora, this site has recently received some attention and it works similarly to Yahoo Answers or Aardvark. Since I’ve been curious about the growth of sites like these, I found this chart helpful for comparing the strengths and weaknesses of the Q&A networks. Both nonprofits and nature lovers could use it as a chance to answer and ask questions while building relationships.

And you know I’m all for that!

Who’s testing Quora out now? What do you think?

Digital PR Summit – Who says NYC doesn’t have Wildlife?

Yesterday I presented with a number of talented PR professionals at the Digital PR Summit in New York City.  It was a great experience and I learned so much from everyone there. Special thanks to my co- panelists, Johna Burke and Tim Marklein.

Here are my slides from the event:

I Heart New York City’s Wildlife
What I love about the city, besides the amazing energy that everyone talks about, is the fact that wildlife is ever present. I notice them slinking behind trash cans, climbing Central Park trees,  or weaving around your feet (pigeons). I find their adaptation to city-life fascinating. And where it’s lacking on the biodiversity, fragmented habitats and the animals that survive in them are still incredibly interesting to me.

If you live in a city and want to learn neat ways to get involved or ways to help the local wildlife, here are a few sites I recommend:

So yes, who thinks there isn’t any wildlife in NYC? I certainly know there is…and I also know those PR people can add the wild to life any day! 🙂

5 Social Ways to Help National Wildlife Federation’s Oil Spill Work

1) Become a fan of Perry Ellis on Facebook:
For every “like” on their Project Beach tab on Facebook, Perry Ellis will donate $1 to NWF’s  Gulf Oil Spill Restoration Fund.

Keith Powell2) Donate through Keith Powell: I’ve been watching Keith every chance I can get on “30 Rock” and so I was thrilled to see he was using social media to help wildlife. If you choose to donate through Keith’s fundraising page, he may make an awesomely hilarious video confessing his love for you and making you laugh on the side. Pretty kind of him to do and a clever way for him to raise funds for the oil spill! Be sure to check out his Youtube videos as they are too hilarious to miss.

3) Donate Your Tweets: With justcoz.org you can volunteer a tweet a day to any nonprofit organization that has an account. We’ve been using it to spread oil spill information but haven’t tweeted from it every day (more like every few weeks). It’s a great way to help us if you’re comfortable with us updating your followers with oil spill information!

4) Use a URL Shortener: Through a service called edeems,  you can now shop or  shorten a link all while helping the oil spill work we’re doing. Go to http://nwf.honr.it/ . Whether your just looking to browse items or you’re looking to shorten a link you’re about to tweet…these are two clever and painless ways to help wildlife.

5) Join Our Tweet-athon:
By teaming up with Promojam, the National Wildlife Federation has been able to launch its first Tweet-athon! If you’re not really interested in giving a tweet a day, but would like to spread the word, feel free checking out this application that allows you to tweet with only a few clicks!

Tracking Oil Spill Content with Social Media

Since I work for the National Wildlife Federation, I’ve been spending 99.9% of my day thinking  about the oil spill and all the ways we can help.

Personally, I’d love nothing more than to hop on a plane and fly down to the gulf to clean some birds or monitor some water ways, but the truth is, the best way I can help is make sure people KEEP talking about the oil spill so the media KEEPS covering it.

That’s why we’re asking people to use social media to share information about the oil spill and give a voice to what’s happening in the Gulf.

We’re compiling a lot of it on our Tweetmixx page.

Our web team has done a great job of keeping our work and content up on our site. Because of this, I get the job of monitoring when and where we are being mentioned. By using my listening dashboard, I can see that people are sharing our content, but sometimes I want to know more! I want to know where they are sharing it the most and why.

[Figure 1: Our Addthis.com analytics for the first month of the Oil Spill]

The positive thing about social media, is that we can track when people share content! And of course, while the data in this graph is several months old, we’re seeing most of our traffic and sharing coming from Facebook. –> What does this tell me?

There are many website tools you can use to analyze social sharing activities and tracking where people are likely to share your content can guide your outreach and help you better equip your readers. But all of this would be useless if we don’t LEARN from it and change. The point that we need to take away from these analytics is that we MUST feature Facebook as a way of sharing and make it as easy for readers as possible to share with Facebook.

When I talk about this at the National Wildlife Federation, I like to stress the importance of giving a microphone to your current audience. Sharing content and making information easy to disperse is especially important when disasters like the BP oil spill happen, because we can better equip our audiences to become the messengers for events that need attention.

This oil spill disaster is on all of our minds, but I’m hopefully going to work to make it easy for you to get the information you’re interested in hearing… also, I’ll try and throw in funny things to offset the sadness that we all feel.

Improving Internal Communications with Social Media: Behave like a Beehive?

Note: Very few images show bees communicating so I went with the multi-bee approach. Forgive me!

Organizations can learn so much from insects– more specifically, bees. Bees have an amazing internal communication plan. They communicate with a dance and by releasing pheromones. They’ve even discovered how bees tell one another to stop collecting honey.

I think when it comes to social media, organizations should behave like bees and work to facilitate communication between staff. By improving internal communication, it would also allow organizations to let staff to go free and cultivate their own audiences (or flowers).  This brilliant plan of mine however, takes hard work on the side of internal communication so that goals and priorities can be met. Unlike bees, our priorities aren’t always to collect honey(or raise young, or guard the hive), they tend to differ between department are are extremely complex.

No matter the size of your nonprofit, sometimes internal communication falls to the wayside. Especially when you have  supporters who need your attention. The benefits of keeping internal communication strong though, is that you will provide BETTER information to your supporters while serving the community and the cause more effectively.

There are several ways to use social media to benefit internal communications. Many companies and organizations have an intranet or newsletter that regularly serves as a reminder of current projects and priorities. While these techniques are good, they are mostly one-way and offer little collaboration with sharing ideas, and offering fast and current updates that happen suddenly.

I’m going to share a few ways we use social media to improve internal communications at the National Wildlife Federation– but I encourage you to share your ideas as well.

Here’s a presentation Kristin Johnson and I did for the Social Media for Government Conference (we focused on the journey of discovering tools that facilitate communication!) :

Internally Facing

1. Google Chat or AIM – many of us at NWF use Google Talk or AIM to chat with coworkers, we still pick up the phone when needed, but chat allows us to answer quick questions AND document what’s said so that it could be used as a reference later.

2. Skype Chat – Skype was something we used more frequently a few years ago, but it’s a great way to create chat rooms that can be saved. Instead of conversations that are one on one (like in Google chat) we could hold greater discussions.

3. Yammer – Yammer is our internal “Twitter”, that allows us to update people and coordinate messages we tweet and prioritize. We also use it to ask questions and circle back on social media thoughts or resource sharing.

Externally Facing:

4. Twitter – Staff chat and support one another on Twitter, helping spread the news of important things and staying up to date on current events.

5. Facebook: Many staffers will also chat through Facebook chat as well as re-post updates that we see are interesting from our news feeds.

(Figure: NWF’s internal chat, Yammer)

We still have a long way to go when it comes to letting all of these tools talk to one another. There are new plugins and tools all the time. For example, Yammer can be integrated into your Outlook, Downloaded to your desktop or smart phone, and connected to your Google Talk. With all of these options (and you better believe I have all of them) — it can be hard to suggest what is the most useful because it differs for everyone. However, the import thing to know, is that the more we behave like bees, the happier I’ll BEE.