Thursday, July 22, 2010

Non-Profit Tweetup

I attended my first #nptweet – up. If you don’t know, a tweetup is an event organized solely via Twitter. This one, labeled with the hashtag “#nptweet” focused on social media strategies in the non-profit setting.

I’ve attended others like the Online News Association (#onadc) and the D.C. Media Makers (#dcmm), but this one made me feel at home since my new job is in the non-profit setting.

If there are any takeaways, it’s these (you should also look at the conversation stream by checking #nptweet on Twitter):

  • Sometimes, instead of focusing on social media ROI, you need to measure actions taken.
  • Great tools for measuring social media are: backtweet, topsy, tweetmeme, whatthehashtag and twazzup. (I won't link them all; look 'em up).
  • If you have some IT assistance at your non-profit, you should work with APIs, which help replicate information cross-platform. For example, if you want to develop a “donate” tab on your org’s Facebook page, you can use an API to assist.
  • In the future, the genesis of profile information will be such that volunteers/funders/etc. will be able to customize which platforms they want to hear certain information from. For example, a volunteer could arrange settings to follow the Red Cross Twitter page, but not the Facebook page – all within one aggregated platform.
  • Our fellow employees are going to be our best advocates for implementing social media strategy. If they’re not on board, how will you encourage the members, volunteers, donors?
  • Don’t get caught up in the “shiny tools” – focus on value, ethics, brand.

Super-glad to meet Wendy Harman, who developed one of the best examples of a social media policy for her org – none other than the American Red Cross. Frank Gruber, from #DCweek, moderated the amazing panel.

In the future, I would love to see a panel that incorporates social media pioneers at smaller non-profits, and learn from folks who have had difficulty getting buy-in from senior management.

I would also love to gather opinions on this question: How do you approach social media at a member-based org? I’d argue that you need to employ different tactics from the grassroots, volunteer orgs. Leave a comment…

After tonight's discussion, I don't want to ever see a headline like this again.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Unhooked From Relationships

Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both" is a 2007 investigative non-fiction piece from Washington Post’s Laura Sessions Stepp. It is evocative, and hardly sugarcoated.

After reading it, I can't help but believe think about how things have changed. The dating traditions I’ve heard about from my parent’s dating years don’t seem to be in place anymore. Anyone else with me? Even a recent post from Slate writes about the new memoir sub-genre - young, single women exploring a new territory:

"This crop of books is laying out what it feels like to be a young, professional, economically and sexually independent woman, unencumbered by children or excessive domestic responsibility, who earns, plays and worries her own way through her 20s and 30s, a stage of life that until very recently would have been unimaginable or scandalously radical, but which we now – miraculously – find somewhat ho-hum."

Many of my female colleagues are ambitious. Some have serious relationships, and some do not. One has a promise ring from her boyfriend – a symbol for the pre-engagement phase. Another friend finished her undergraduate studies in 3 years, and has knocked out her first year of law school at Norte Dame. My friends are in all stages of relationships - some serious, and some not.

Do you remember your first love? Does it make you squirm? Apparently, that's pretty common.

Stepp, the author of “Unhooked,” interviewed Lloyd Kolbe, formerly an adolescent health director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kolbe said most adults would prefer to talk about almost anything other than their early (first) loves. He said even the topic of sex comes up more often in conversations: “We demean first love, deny it, trivialize it, and so our young people trivialize it. We lose the opportunity to talk about real things, like the difference between lust and love. Sex is part of it, but not the central part of it.”


Journalist Stepp suggests that as daughters grow up, parents begin worrying that crushes may become too significant, “distracting girls from more important things like algrebra.” Stepp says parents tell their daughters to “love moderately” lest they lose a college scholarship.

Stepp interviews two sisters - Cleo and Nicole - over the course of a year. The sisters grew up in a Texas suburb with manicured lawns. The girls were never allowed to play in the front yard – only in the backyard where the ‘rent and neighbors could keep an eye on the kids. Cleo notes: “We’ve had everything handed to us.”

Thus begins another commentary on our generation: The Spoon-Feds, the Silver Platters, the Pampered Ones. Stepp notes that we are “spectacular specimens raised in glass houses that are temperature-controlled and as disease-free as humanly possible…their opportunities for learning how to be responsible are few.” (Though there is room for debate on that one…).

Studies show that young women are likely to be optimistic, rule-followers who value school (Uh..check, check, check). But will they make good marriage partners, Stepps wonders? She concludes that our generation has learned little about making tough choices, attending to others’ needs or bearing burdens solo.

Stepps found that young women weren’t alone in their hang-ups about relationships. One guy told her: “To find someone, that’s really scary. Everyone wants that, but its for the rest of your life.” What happened to "going out" on a "date"? Again, it seems as though this generation is only interested in casual sex or committing to a serious relationship. Traditional dates have gone out the window. (Even someone on Urban Dictionary wrote: "Hooking up has replaced mainstream dating....It's no longer, "Omg! When will he call?" but...."Omg, that was awesome, i wonder when he'll ask me out after [last said hookup]."

Stepps continued to meet with students who viewed relationship as one of two things: (1) a serious, long-term relationship that would suck out a personal life, or (2) a series of meaningless hookups devoid of meaning.

Cultural and generational changes have affected the hookup culture. In two ways:

(1) Generational: Even 20 years ago, college residence halls enforced curfews. If a girl didn’t want to sleep over at a guy’s place (she thought he was slimy), she could politely remind her date of the rules in place. (Sometimes rules actually have a purpose – imagine that!) Technology, too, has played a role. Conversations become more informal. Some even argue that the Internet can rob romance of its mystery.

(2) Cultural: A GWU student who studied abroad in Dublin remarked that her Irish university did not provide student housing. The result? She felt less obliged to go home with a guy. Today, the campus lifestyle is not suitable for formal dating traditions. Students work all day, and squeeze in social time with gal-pals, while hitting the social scene. It makes for a pretty full schedule. Hookup is made easy when the two bedrooms are right down the hall from one another.

Hookups are, by defintion, brief. They leave little time for either party to reflect, much lest acquire feelings or emotions. Stepp says many young women deal with depression, and in serious cases, eating disorders up to 6 months after a particular hookup. Stepp says, “This means that girls who hook up serially have to work very hard – harder than they may know or admit – to squash or deny natural feelings of connection, making themselves even more vulnerable to depression.”

Kolbe, the health education professor at IU said, “Hookups are purposely uncaring. If they turn off their emotional spigot during this time, what will happen to them as adults?

Stepp attempts to answer that question. Indeed, how will young people grasp the responsibility of adulthood and mature relationships if all they’ve ever known has been emotion-less and last only 24 hours?

Stepp says “College women say they’re not ready to commit, and indeed many may not be. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to think about it.”

Our Gen-Y has grown up observing that 1 out of 2 marriages end in divorce. One of the students Stepp interviewed said, “I think our generation is less likely to stick around and work out problems in a marriage.”

Why else are the online dating services raking in millions of dollars? Do we really not know how to date? Do we know how to develop a relationship? I agree with Stepp that there are few models for women on how to build and develop healthy relationships.

Caveats: On one end, Stepp makes a great case for encouraging more guidance on relationship development. She made clear to make this point more than once: “A girl can tuck a Trojan into her purse on a Saturday night, but there is no such device to protect her heart.” What resources exist for our generations? And what models can we look to? On the other extreme, Stepp borders closely on criticizing a woman’s freedom to choose her path. Several friends pointed out that feminists didn’t take too well to Stepp’s criticism of the third-wave movement.

An interesting piece from NPR reviewed the latest Twilight movie. One comment stuck out: the movie reviewer wondered if the reason so many young women were ga-ga for the plot was because it involved delayed gratification – a foreign concept for most of Gen-Y. Yet perhaps that is why so many young women are enthralled with the story. Are they yearning for delayed gratification?

One young women said it best: “…You don’t have to marry someone in order to learn from spending time with them. There are some relationships that aren’t going anywhere, but you can still learn about yourself…”

What do you think?

Friday, July 16, 2010

I Smite You From The Last Pew

I found this rather humorous photo via

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

When The Game Changes, So Do The Rules

Over the last five years, social media has developed into a professional role to aid businesses, politicians, non-profits, the arts and more. What's most interesting is to see how this "new" industry is changing the game - and how it's changed to fit particular organizations.

Today in the Examiner - DC's free daily - highlighted this career, and how some orgs have used social media in different ways.

It was neat to compare how two social media directors use Twitter in two very opposite ways. See, part of the challenge with tweeting on behalf of a whole organization is that, in some cases, you need everything approved.

New Media Director Neil Sroka runs the Twitter account for Secretary of Commerce Locke (@SecLocke). He says they've "cut down on a lot of red tape" but that "we have to follow procedure."

Lindy Kyzer, social media consultant for the US Army (@USarmy), explained that she has been encouraged to "be edgy" in the tweets. She used the account to report and respond to the Fort Hood shootings - as they were happening. "Our efforts would not have been as successful if I had an intense approval process."

Is one way better than the other? Who knows. But I think an organization needs to decide what fits best with the company culture - that's how they'll know how to best approach social media.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blog Hopping (And My 100th Post!)

My inspiration to become a blogger started with Evan McBroom back in March 2009. I met with the church marketing entrepreneur at an Indianapolis Panera to learn about his career path.

I expected to do all the listening, but within the first five minutes I was the one put on the spot. He asked me point-blank: "So, what's your blog about?" Oops. I didn't have an answer. It was enough to get my hands to the keyboard and start whipping up an idea for one. Thanks for the inspiration, Evan! And here's what happened next:

Digital Disciple has been my primary blog to explore faith, media and ethics through the Meg Biallas lens. It started with coverage of first-ever conference: the Religion Communicators Council in March 2009. Since then, I've written about observations in technology, the future of journalism, musings on faith, and more. Thanks for reading it, too, because this is my 100th post for Digital Disciple!

I started Capital Comment in August 2009 to keep a running commentary of my adventures as a D.C. intern last fall. But all good internships must come to an end. I never believed I'd be able to resurrect the blog, but I have - and with good reason: I moved right back to D.C. for a job! I'm still working out some of the fancy kinks of Wordpress, but its been a great learning process for me.

My supervisors at National Public Radio let me blog for NPR's All Tech Considered, which covers technology and culture. I explained Facebook policy changes, wrote about iPhones that control smart homes, and even ticked off Google when I questioned if Google's free holiday airport wi-fi was truly "free."

Then in December, I met Gen-Y career blogger Heather Huhman on Twitter. She had just started a blog called the Classroom To Cubicle Project, driven by recent graduates and pending grads. That a fabulous experience - I read job hunting advice from my peers all over the U.S., and contributed what I'd learned in my search as well.

In my final semester at Butler University, I wrote a guest post for the admissions web portal. It was fun to take what I learned about social media from the NPR Social Media Desk and give tips to incoming college students.

And now? I'm a weekly blogger for The Bluevine Collective, a multi-author blog project funded by the United Methodist Church. It's run by two awesome church guys from Indianapolis - Pastor Stan Abell and Media Ministry Dude Matt Peyton. The project is experimental -- we hope to evolve into a place of spiritual growth and even a mode of worship. My most recent post sparked a series of comments about ...well, you'll just have to read it. We also take submissions - poems, commentary, musings - all of it!

Thanks for sharing the blogging journey with me!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Techno-Human Balance

"Our life is half natural and half technological. Half-and-half is
good. You cannot deny that high-tech is progress. We need it for jobs. Yet if you make only high-tech, you make war. So we must have a strong human element to keep modesty and natural life."

- Nam June Paik, modern video artist