Beyond Facebook and Twitter

Photos by Chris Suspect

NonProfit 2.0 crystalized as a great event last Friday with incredible conversations, even amongst competitors. But perhaps what made it most special was the utter lack of Facebook and Twitter sessions. No one, from keynotes to 23 attendee generated “unsessions,” wanted to talk about how-to Facebook or Tweet. That was the first social media conference in memory that did not include at least one conversation centered around Facebook or Twitter.

For some, there will always be a need for the basics, particularly about Facebook, which seems to change its interface and features every month. But it seems that the need for this type of information was not needed, at least in the DC Nonprofit 2.0 community. Not last week.

This was refreshing. It marked a line in the sands of time. Maybe it was an anomaly. Or maybe it is finally time to start talking about the pragmatic use of these tools rather than the basics. As a blogger who has covered social media use for more than five years this feels really good, providing a sense of the sector’s arrival.

Beyond this simple epiphany, Epic Change’s Stacey Monk delivered a stirring keynote on re-instilling love and compassion into cause work. Crowdrise’s Robert Wolfe opened the kimono discussing Edward Norton Jr’s involvement, and how MooseJaw led him to create a fun social fundraising site. Social fundraisers Razoo (client), Crowdrise, CauseVox and Causes demonstrated a congenial affinity for each other that you rarely see amongst competitors. It was really cool.

But in the end, the big takeaway from Nonprofit 2.0 was the quiet yet obvious absence of Facebook and Twitter as topics. What do you think? Are communicators moving beyond the need for simple information about these social networks?

Loathing Groupon for Thrusting the Truth Upon Us

Much has been said about Groupon‘s questionable ads that ran during the Super Bowl. It’s reached a point that Groupon pulled the ads and CEO Andrew Mason apologized for making people feel bad. Yet, little has been said about why the ads invoked such visceral reactions other than change maker Stacey Monk’s spot-on reflection. Frankly, we hated Groupon’s ads because they showed Americans our true nature.

Specifically, the United States as a country gives nonprofits a lot of lip service, but when push comes to shove, we fail to change. Consider all of the talk about environmentalism, yet America still consumes more than any country in the world. We fail to act, and though we emote, our collective actions as a society are demonstrative of a deeper apathy.

Groupon thrust our hypocrisy into our faces, and we responded with wrath. We eat Tibetan food, instead of taking action for Tibet, or a Brazilian wax instead of helping the rain forest, or a ticket to a water amusement park instead of helping to save the whales. Think about it. We talk mindfulness while we walk vain consumption.

“We thought we were poking fun at ourselves, but clearly the execution was off and the joke didn’t come through,” said Mason. “I personally take responsibility; although we worked with a professional ad agency, in the end, it was my decision to run the ads… To those who were offended, I feel terrible that we made you feel bad.”


Were the ads well executed? To create this kind of visceral reaction, the ads hit home harder than anyone at Groupon or their agency imagined. The joke fell flat, and the message felt like a punch in the gut. In that sense, yes, the ads were in poor taste. But the message remains.

The blogodrama should end with Groupon’s apology and pulling of the ads. Now it’s time for the crowd to look deeply within to understand why it became so enraged. Compassion means more than idle conversations.

Side Note

Kudos to Chrysler and Eminem for an incredible advertisement that reinvigorated spirit into Detroit, an economically ravaged city. Some Super Bowl ads do hit the mark.

Marketing Causes Harder Than Products

Homeless Image by Raileen Viorel

Marketers love telling nonprofits how to market their social solutions. They get miffed when they see a perceived slow road to change, an underfunded website written by someone in their 20s, and a general failure to resolve society’s ills. Of course, the answer must be the crappy marketing. Having worked with both types of organizations closely, it’s easy to definitively say social change marketing is much harder than marketing a product or service.

Quora Response

Look, whatever your experience is — Procter & Gamble, Old Spice, Cisco, start-up sold — great! Yes, selling domain names and marketing organic strawberries is hard. But the difference between marketing and activism will always revolve around this truth — People want stuff, but they don’t want to change. Getting people to want to change themselves is much, much harder.

Think about it. Do you want to change? Do you want to buy a more expensive electric car (kudos to Ford for announcing the world’s third major electric car at CES)? Yeah, most Americans get sustainability — it’s one of the most over-marketed words out there. But when push comes to shove, people don’t want to change, otherwise green legislation (forget electric cars) would be a top priority in the United States.


How about cigarette smoking? In spite of every marketing trick in the book including severely negative product packaging deployed by the best minds in the business via the Ad Council, in spite of every piece of cancer causing knowledge out there, 20.6% of U.S. adults still smoke.

Beyond that core communications difference, causes are not businesses. They do different things than shilling burgers or IT services. Causes and people fight to affect social change. They have to make every donor dollar count. They don’t have the resources, staff or the wherewithal that a business does.

Quora Responses

There are too many causes because every entrepreneur who made a little scratch goes off and starts yet another Foundation or cause to do it “their way.” And for every fat well-known cause out there like Komen, there are dozens fighting an avalanche of apathy, scrapping to make ends meet.

Yet business people think they suck because they don’t market right. Maybe the marketers are that good, but there’s only one way to find out… By doing some actual field work. Please report back the research!

What do you think? Is it easier to communicate for causes or for-profit endeavors?

Thanks to Florian Engel, Jennifer Rosenberg, Stacey Monk, Kevin Vine, and Joe Waters for their answers on Quora.

Mashable Outtake: Tweetsgiving’s Stacey Monk (@staceymonk)


One of my recent columns on Mashable tied together overarching themes from mega charity events like Twestival, 12for12k, Tweetsgiving and CrisisCamps. To get the information, I interviewed the four organizers cited in the article. Each interview was fantastic and informative in its own right. So with my editor’s blessing I am publishing the unedited interview source material over the next couple of weeks for general consumption.

The following is Stacey Monk‘s Twestival interview. Stacey founded Tweetsgiving, an event that has spread gratitude in the most altruistic of ways throughout the country at live events around Thanksgiving, and through the interwebs. Here is Stacey’s interview:

GL: What makes Tweetsgiving unique as compared to other large-scale social media events?

Stacey: I think TweetsGiving is unique in that, by asking participants to share their gratitude, it asks participants to contribute from their hearts first.  It’s also one of very few to be successfully implemented by such a small, upstart nonprofit.

GL: How does Tweetsgiving attract the long tail (large amounts of people) so successfully?

Stacey: By asking people to reveal a part of themselves, and participate in a global conversation on a universal theme, we create an opportunity to cultivate the sense of heartful, authentic human connection we all crave.  In addition, many, many people who participate in TweetsGiving do not choose to give financially.  

Asking for money is difficult for many, but gratitude is something most of us are happy to share – so the meme spreads faster than typical “donate now” campaigns.  Finally, truthfully, I don’t think it feels slimy like some corporate “follow us & we’ll donate” campaigns which people are sometimes reticent to spread because they feel like the cause has “sold out,” so to speak.  

GL: In spite of its size, people seem to feel a relationship with you and local Tweetsgiving organizers.  How did you achieve that?

Stacey: We are connected.  This is old-school grassroots love.  People who participate feel like they know me, because my heart, my authentic self, my gratitude, is all up in this thing (You can read this to find out why). 

I’m not sure how else to say it.  Avi, a Twitter volunteer who reached out to a foundation who funded his salary – and our only paid employee, does a great job too of imbuing each community member with a heartful connection to him, me, Mama Lucy, and our story.  I’m also not willing to sacrifice the heartfulness of TweetsGiving for the sake of rapid scale.

GL: What can a cause learn from your effort?

Stacey: I hope causes learn to respect the humanity of giving – to stop trying to reduce the act of giving to the push of a button or the sending of a text.  To change the world, we need people to realize our connectedness even more than we need their money.  Stop designing for dollars, and start designing in ways that restore the humanity of giving.  

I also hope causes begin to learn that we are not two communities – a community of donors & a community of beneficiaries.  We are one.  Last year over 550 tweets came from students, teachers & parents who stayed up all night to share their gratitude from Tanzania.  We were all part of the same conversation, and I think that’s incredibly important.

GL: What’s your favorite social media tool that you used for Tweetsgiving?

Stacey: Can I choose three? I love Twitter for the connections it creates.  I also love Tori’s Eye, the beautiful visualization tool by Quodis that they graciously customized for our use on the TweetsGiving site.  Finally, BuddyPress is rad in its ability to create a community and retain the data. Make that four: Eventbrite rocks too.