Grace and Grinches

This time of year seems to bring out both the best and the worst in people. I almost succumbed to the latter this week after reading enough nastiness and social media BS to feel inspired to write a contrarian blog. But instead of becoming yet another grinch, I opted to write this appeal for grace.

The holidays can offer a beautiful time of year, but they can be really depressing and hard. Not everyone has a strong family, if they have a family at all. Some people are alone. Some people just feel bad. And others don’t want to be held, talked to, or greeted.

Holiday misery is a condition, a rut that sometimes we cannot escape. I have been there. One Christmas when I was in my early 20s I was so depressed I decided not to come home, and just sat in my house in DC, and tried to drown my misery in booze, food and other pleasures.

Today, I know that when I surround myself with such negativity, I often succumb to it. It’s so easy to lash out when I feel bad. And as you can see, it creates a ripple effect.

But I am older and more experienced now. Instead of contributing to the angst, this year I am simply passing on it, and choosing to be present for those who want a warmer conversation. I understand those who are suffering, but at the same time grace is about rising above, and offering a warm spirit no matter how hard the Grinches try to spread their seed of misery.

Desperately Wanting

Whoville by L_D_SAINT

So welcome to the Whoville Christmas (from a Christmas Tree Jew, no less)! What could I offer during this time of year when so many people are focused on getting the gifts they want?

Perhaps what we all desperately want in our deepest innermost souls: To be acknowledged and respected regardless of place or time or position or race or…
We live in the era of the selfie and the like. People want to be acknowledged and want attention. Whether it’s a grocery clerk working extra hours or the social media celebrity posting their 80th selfie of the year, people do want their peers to respect them.

While social media empowers and amplifies this desire to a sometimes distasteful level, that base need to be liked remains. Just like it did before Biz, Zuck, Jack and the rest of the social networking pioneers empowered us.

Here it is, a big shout out to some of the many people in the online world who made my 2013 brighter.

Kaarina Dillabough: You coached me up off the floor last January. I will always be in your debt.

Scott Stephens: For being my friend on and offline even when my knee wouldn’t let me run again.

Margie Clayman: You are always lifting me up, whether you know it or not. You have a big, big heart, lady. Thank you.

Patrick Ashamalla and Shonali Burke: xPotomac… It’s back, and better than ever thanks to you.

Seth Godin: I did my rounds and made my amends over the past two years. You were the last one. Thank you for your grace, welcoming me into your office, and treating me with respect. I will never forget that. Thank you.

Andrea Weckerle: Thanks for asking me to help your Civilination fundraiser. It helped me, too, and I think we did some good.

Erin Feldman: We grew together quite a bit this year. Thanks for being my editor and mobile media cohort!

Jennifer Stevens: Hard to believe that we have worked on three books together. To our fourth next year!

Howard Greenstein: You really have become a fantastic friend. Thank you!

Mitch Joel, Jay Baer, C.C. Chapman, Tamsen Webster, Tom Webster, Scott Monty, Jeremiah Owyang, Christopher Penn, Laura Fitton, David Armano, Richard Binhammer, Todd Defren, and Jason Falls: You remain kind and present, and I have noticed. Thank you.

Jess Ostroff: You worked so hard to help me make my novel-writing dream come true. Thank you!

Rogier Noort, Ralph Rivera, Shelly Kramer, Todd Jordan, Brian Meeks, Ian Gordon, Chuck Hester, and Rob Whittle (who just published Pointer’s War), Susan Cellura, and so many others I can’t even possibly list them. Thank you for supporting me on Exodus. It was a scary leap of faith to publish that thing, and the most fulfilling words I have ever released to the world.

Brian Vickery: Your presence is amazing, consistent and always friendly. You rock, sir.

Daria Steigman: Where to begin? Nats, baseball chatter, and all things Exodus.

Bob Fine: Another Nats fan who has paid it forward in so many ways. Bob, I look forward to returning the favors.

Anne Weiskopf: You are a deeply courageous person. Thank you for your strength and beauty.

Bob LeDrew and A.M. van den Hurk: Your punk fundraiser showed me the good side of PVSM when I least expected it. Cheers.

Michele Price: Lots of love my friend for many good radio shows and conversations. Cheers!

Kevin Chick-Dockery: We learned a lot together, and more than any person you helped me to stay on Facebook. Because I really did come close to pulling the plug on the Zuck.

Brian Solis: Thank you for your words at INBOUND.

Kami Huyse: You helped on that thing via the backchannel. I didn’t expect you to, and you did.

Jason Konopinski: What a roller coaster ride of a year. You ended up where you wanted to be, and we got to share a few stogies along the way. Cheers!

Lisa Gerber: We are not alone. And we both like guac, who knew?

Liz Scherer: We seem to be on the same path of gradually softening, maybe. LOL! Love you, Liz.

Richard Becker: Your fight with cancer this year was scary and courageous. Congratulations on making it. Glad we will have a few more conversations about this and that.

Stacey Miller: It was a blast newsjacking and shredding up the social web together on behalf of Vocus. Cheers.

Brian Driggs: Your comments are insightful, your vision is admirable. Thank you for visiting as much as you do!

Grace is not my strong suit, so forgive me if I left you out in my sleep deprived dotage. If you liked this post, rather than sharing it, please pass the spirit along and give someone a random appreciation today. Everyone could use a little more peace and happiness rolling into the new year.

Thank you, and I hope you all enjoy the holidays.

Image by Barry Graubart

Win a Copy of Amazing Things Will Happen

Amazing Things Will Happen
Image by Aliza Sherman

My friend C.C. Chapman released his second book, Amazing Things Will Happen. Continuing a tradition of book give-aways here, the five best answers/comments in response to C.C.’s question will receive a complimentary copy of the book from me (and Amazon).

First, let me say, Amazing Things is a great read about how to make your dreams come true. I thought it was the blogger’s version of the Artist’s Way. Amazing Things is full of ideas and tips to spark, complete and enjoy that next success. It’s a fast and enjoyable read.

Perhaps most importantly, the book sparked me to re-engage in a personal project that I had left fallow for years. I realized the time would never be right unless I made it so. Fate doesn’t just happen, we have to do the leg work. C.C. reminded me that all of my successes were because I ventured forward.

If you don’t believe me, see what the Washington Post had to say about it.

C.C.’s question for you:

What would you love to see more businesses do to make the world better?
Continue reading

Contest: Does Social Strategy Need Content?

C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley

C.C. and Ann, image by John Wall

It’s time for another Zoetica book contest! This time we are giving away five copies of Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman‘s Content Rules to the person who best answers a question posed by Ann, “Can you have a social media strategy without a content strategy?” To answer and win, please comment on the Zoetica site. As with prior contests, to get the conversation started Kami, Julie and yours truly will also endeavor to answer Ann’s question.

The short answer is no, you do not need content to have a social strategy. This assumes a conservative definition of content: The intentional creation of writing, video, imagery and/or audio that is produced for a social community. If you include conversations then yes, you must have content as part of your social strategy.

That doesn’t necessarily mean a social strategy without content is smart. There are different factors that may make an organization lean that way, mostly time and resource capacity issues as well as rigid cultures and governmental regulation. The following two sections demonstrate different social approaches that don’t necessarily include that conservative definition of content, and why content makes them better.

Other Approaches to Social

Chess Board
Image by Sam Howzit

In Welcome to the Fifth Estate, four types approaches or strategies towards social media are outlined. Content is the second approach discussed. An excerpt of the book ran in PR News this May, which highlighted the other three strategies:

1) Participation: This may refer to an individual (often called a social media or community manager) or, in more sophisticated organizations, a team of people whose job is to have conversations with their communities of interest. The primary purposes of their activity are interaction, building trust and developing relationships. Most customer service accounts on Twitter fall into this category.

Participation also is a precursor for success in the other three primary areas of social media strategy. In many ways it’s a two-step of listening and responding—basic, functional and necessary for any kind of dance, and utilitarian enough that you can get away with it for one night.

One of the best examples of an organization that fosters participation is the nonprofit Social Media Club. It’s no coincidence that co-founder Chris Heuer is one of the original proponents of participation marketing on the social Web. Social Media Club began in 2006 with meetings in San Francisco. Now more than 200 chapters exist around the globe to host conversations on and offline that explore key societal issues raised by transformative social technologies.

3) Top-Down: Many organizations assume they will not be able to invest the time in the grassroots effort necessary for full community participation, nor do they want to commit to a long-term content offering. Instead, they opt to build relationships with influencers, people that the larger community trusts and responds to, from bloggers to active social network participants. They seek blog coverage or social network profile endorsements using a relevant offering to the influencer. By building relationships with influencers, they hope the communities that follow those leading voices will follow suit.

The Gap engaged in an outreach program before the 2010 BlogHer conference, offering 100 influential female bloggers a $400 shopping allowance and a styling appointment at a local Gap. These women were described as influencers and speakers at a conference where Gap clothes would be seen by hundreds of other women. Many speakers tweeted using a #gapmagic hashtag and blogged about their experience, and most wore their new Gap clothes during the conference.

4) Empowerment: The hardest of all forms of social media strategy, empowerment assumes that the organization will commit to building a far-flung community. The empowered Fifth Estate members create conversations and ideas that are so extensive they exist well beyond the organization’s reach. Instead, the company or nonprofit becomes much more of a host and facilitator, available when called upon. The organization then creates initiatives and helps to sustain the effort over the long term. Crowdsourcing—including large-scale multi-city events, cause-based initiatives and far-flung internal organizational communities—is the most common example of the empowerment strategy.

Consider 350’s efforts with this type of strategy. The nonprofit organizes an annual global day of environmental action to reduce carbon dioxide omissions. It uses social tools to help local organizers develop their own events, to promote the events and to keep their stakeholders informed. In 2010, 350 organized 10/10/10 Work Parties to get people focused on actions, signing up more than 7,000 event organizers in 180 countries.

Why Content Makes Social Better

Chocolate Bark
Image by Rositata

Just because you can go online and achieve results without creating content, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. There are so many benefits to content in its own right, which Ann and C.C. make clear in their excellent book (see Beth Kanter’s review).

Beyond that it makes all of the other strategies easier. Sometimes content can serve as air cover, supporting initiatives like blogger relations with great conversation starters, links, round-ups, and counterpoints.

In the case of participation, if you are in tune with a community, what better way to serve its informational needs than with great content? This is like the old two-step. In a conversation with Klout CEO Joe Fernandez he mentioned almost anyone on his network with scores of 70 or higher is a content producer. Not that Klout scores are a good metric, but it just goes to show you, content sparks conversations.

On the crowdsourcing side, there are many outcomes that don’t involve content such as votes, new intellectual property and events like 350’s, but content helps support support these initiatives. How-tos, highlighting community member successes, etc. are examples of smart community management. Further, a good portion of crowdsourcing efforts seek user generated content in its own right.

Yes, it can be tough to produce content, but there are methods for making it easier (also covered in Content Rules). And in tandem with other approaches, content makes for a much more comprehensive, strong social strategy.

So what do you think? Can you have a social media strategy without a content strategy? To answer and win your copy of Content Rules, please comment on the Zoetica site.

This post was added to the Fifth Estate Strategy wiki.