#BlogPotomac Keynote Beth Kanter (@kanter) on the Future


Continuing our informal series of interviews with BlogPotomac speakers at the Final BlogPotomac (October 23, at the State Theatre, register today!), our keynote Beth Kanter answered our questions about the future of social media. Beth is the author of Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media , one of the longest running and most popular blogs for nonprofits. A frequent contributor to many nonprofit technology web sites and magazines, Beth has authored chapters in several books, including “Psychology of Facebook Applications,” edited by BJ Fogg, Stanford University and “Managing Technology to Meet Your Mission: A Strategic Guide for Nonprofit Leaders,” edited by NTEN both to be published in 2009.

BP: What social media application or network is really exciting you today and why?

BK: Right now I’m not excited by any one specific social media application or network, but the result of connectedness that these tools provides. I heard Jerry Michalski use the metaphor of the global brain. He mentioned that we were halfway through a transition process where we are renegotiating social contracts and connecting with people in a way that we haven’t before. The benefits innovation and creativity to be sure.

I get excited now that in a couple of clicks that I can go to site like slideshare and see ideas on a topic some of the best thinkers on that subject and recreate my own meaning of it or collectively recreate meaning with my friends. Or that I can send out a question on Twitter and get back lots of new ideas.

The point is that knowledge is now externalized in our global brain of connections with colleagues and other organizations. I think that this connectedness will thread together both individuals and make the boundaries of nonprofit organizations very porous – so that we’ll have colonies of organizations working together on issues/causes versus isolated islands. This melting of boundaries will happen from inside out through individuals working in nonprofits using social networks to
connect across silos and organizations.

BP: In your mind, what’s the biggest barrier facing corporate adoption of social?

BK: A lack of understanding about how the social contracts have changed and what it means. Changing this in organizations that have a decades or centuries of experience doing their work in a particular way is difficult. It means giving up control, being more open to being, well open, and a faster way of working. It means being a learning organization. That transition can be a big barrier. It doesn’t have to be – the right conversations inside about worst case scenarios, adjusting our expectations about failures, and having contingency plans – this can mitigate adoption issues.

BP: What current or future technology do you see impacting social the most over the next five years?

BK: Hmm .. I’m preparing a virtual keynote for the week after I speak at BlogPotomac – and I’d love to know what you and other readers think. With that said, I think real time web and mobile social will have tremendous impacts over the next five years. I think there will also be changes in “humanware” – where we’ll see more and more people who have grown up with the Internet come of age in terms of leadership of their nonprofits – this will an impact.

BP: Do you think social media has positively or negatively impacted society and why?

BK: Well, both. I think there are many benefits that we can take way from the age of connectedness – creativity, innovation, leveraging and much more. Today I was a training with a long-time activist from the 60’s who told me that her organization’s goal is to reach a wider audience and engage them – but can’t do that without being engaged on social networks. Movement buildings need to happen both online and off and social media a big part of that. There is also a dark side that we need to acknowledge – issues of security, privacy, and