Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

17th June
written by Marisa Seitz

Hello all! My name’s Marisa, and I’m the new social media intern here at the Alliance (there’s actually a LOT of new folk here this summer – but more about us later).

On June 14, I was given the opportunity to attend a series of talks on social media and media in general, as part of Digital Capital Week, an event focused on technology, innovation, and all things digital in Washington DC.

I was sent because, as the Alliance has noted on this blog before, the use of social media tools in poverty and homeless assistance organizations continues to drag behind as compared to other movements.

So we’re studying up!

In a discussion about the use of social media tools in news organizations – “Social and Traditional Media: How News and Media Organizations Are Getting Social and Why They Need to Do It” – panelists were all quick to agree that there is no longer an “if” as to whether businesses and organizations should use social media. Andy Carvin, who works for NPR, noted how people have been “social” with the organization for years, even since the late 1970s when people would send self-created audio files to local stations. Today’s social media platforms – including Facebook and Twitter – are only newer, faster ways for an audience to interact with organizations.

The panelists also agreed that the beauty of social media is that it acknowledges the power of the people. According to Carvin, when NPR seeks to add something extra to a project, they often turn to their social media outlets and ask people who follow NPR to help out.

And you know what? It works.

Listeners have submitted complex Google maps that explained Hurricane Gustav or analyzed trends of an election. The listener base that NPR had fostered online offer their skills as a way to get involved. Fellow panelists agreed with Carvin, noting that social media was a powerful tool that allowed their audiences to become interactive communities.

Jeff Pulver, founder of Vonage and VoIP industry leader, elaborated on this concept. The digital social media we use today, he argued, is serving an important function: to connect people.

Pulver talked about social media’s ability to take a single voice and amplify it, a phenomenon often seen on Twitter through the use of re-tweets. Change comes from ideas – and social media affords new ways of spreading ideas and affecting change. Pulver also stressed that the way to best use social media like Twitter was to be genuine, to try and establish connections to people, to care enough to reply directly back to them, to thank them when they pass along information.

Lee Rainie, Director of the acclaimed Pew Internet & American Life Project brought a data-based perspective to the conversation he discussed their latest survey on the Internet.

Rainie showed the difference in Internet consumption in the last decade.

Rainie talked about previous surveys, what they had correctly predicted (such as online security becoming a problem) and what they had thought would happen that did not (such as change in classroom structure). He then went on to discuss the results from their most recent survey, explaining some of the questions they asked and how their group of experts responded.

  • Will Google make us stupid?
    Most experts said no, saying that cognitive sentiments will shift. New literacies will emerge, there will be the rise of “extreme googlers”. That people are people, and any characteristics that people seem to be gaining from the Internet were there before, and the Internet is only giving people a chance to express them.

  • What is the future of online anonymity?
    Either online sharing will be sharply curtailed or information will still be pretty easy to get in 2020, but experts are split as to which it will be. They believe that new laws will emerge, but perhaps people will realize that it is really confidentiality and autonomy (the ability to choose who can see your information) and not privacy that they want.
  • What will be the Internet’s impact on ready and writing?
    Experts agreed that writing will mostly improve. The Internet encourages participation, often through writing and reading, and as there is more writing and reading, skill will improve. It was also noted that with younger generations where there is concern over writing skills because of the way people write in things such as texts, it is mostly unfounded because teens don’t see texting as writing, but as a conversation, and know to write differently in the classroom.

It’s a big social media world out there – and the promise of their utility is overwhelming. It’s up to us, it seems, to make sure that we capitalize on the opportunities that our foray out into the digital landscape offers.

Nowhere is that promise more important than in serving the most vulnerable communities among us. We’ve been doing a lot of finger-crossing lately – lots of planning and thinking, too – and now we’re transferring our best wishes to our best efforts.

Wish us luck!

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17th May
written by naehblog

You’ve been asked before – and no doubt you’ll be asked again.

Yes, the Alliance is asking you to participate in an online survey. (We’ve gone to great lengths to try and ensure it’s as quick and painless as possible – I promise.)

Here’s the thing: like all nonprofits navigating our way through an increasingly social, online world, we’re trying to figure out where you’re finding us online – and then move in that direction.

Like I mentioned in last week’s post about social media in the homeless assistance field, we’ve been trying to make the best use of these great new online tools. Our own personal social media journey has been a pretty rewarding one. We launched social networks in June 2009 and with our one-year anniversary around the corner and a slowly-but-surely-growing audience of supporters, friends, and colleagues, we want to make sure that we’re meeting your needs and expectations.

  • What do you want to hear from us?
  • What do you find most helpful, least helpful?
  • Where do you connect with us – and what forum is most useful for you?
  • Where do you see the Alliance in the homeless assistance field? How do we fit into your efforts?

These are all important questions – questions that will undoubtedly inform the way we do our work. And only you can help us find the answers.

So please, take a moment to fill out our social media survey. It should take you a scant 10 minutes at most – and the data will be invaluable for us.

You can take the survey here.

Thanks for participating, everyone. I really appreciate it.


14th May
written by naehblog

One of my responsibilities at the Alliance is to manage our social networks, and in the era of furious blogging and even more frenetic tweeting, it can get chaotic. Often times, I find the need to stop, take a breath, and evaluate exactly how all this social media frenzy contributes to the Alliance’s goals and mission.

Which isn’t to say I don’t see the value in the mediums. I’m the lucky product of a world full of information technology and social media tools. I grew up with high-speed internet at my fingertips and an iPod on my hip; I was an early adopter of Facebook and yes, I have my very own Twitter account. And while I would hardly call myself a pusher or an expert, I do truly believe in the potential of social media tools to cultivate change, progress, and conversation.

It’s is why I’m so excited to be doing it in this field. While nonprofits are often slightly behind the curve to pick up new technologies, it’s been my personal experience that my own field has been particularly slow to adopt new media platforms. At this years Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC), I found a small cohort of colleagues in the homeless assistance and housing field to swap stories with – and a major theme of those stories is our missing presence among nonprofits utilizing these new tools.

And many of us are.

At NTC, I took a workshop analyzing the way nonprofit organizations use social media. The numbers are staggering – more and more nonprofit organizations are stepping into the world of social media. A few highlights of the 2010 Nonprofit Social Media Benchmarks Report:

  • Facebook dominates the field with a staggering 86 percent of nonprofit organizations reporting some kind of Facebook presence, up from 74 percent last year
  • 60 percent report a Twitter presence, nearly doubling last year’s number.
  • A few nonprofit sectors have stronger social media presences, those sectors including international, environment, animal welfare, and education nonprofits.
  • Marketing, fundraising, and advocacy are among the intended goals/uses of nonprofit social networks.

I’d like to do a similar study, surveying only my colleagues in this industry, to gauge how active a strong a presence we have on social networks. I’m sure the data would suggest another picture entirely.

Which strikes me as curious. If the intent of social media networks is to build communities, share information, and open another portal of communications (which I posit are some goals of social media networks), then I can’t think of a industry better suited for those networks than human and social services. Our industry requires as much communication as possible – we’re working to directly better the lives of some of the most vulnerable of our friends and neighbors.

Or am I entirely wrong?

Don’t hesitate to comment and let me know – I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And, if you feel so inclined, you can call me out on Twitter, Facebook, or shoot me an old-fashioned email.


13th April
written by naehblog

The 2010 NTEN Conference is officially done and over – we all said our goodbyes to lovely, friendly Atlanta, the gorgeous Omni Hotel, and all our new friends and colleagues.

And after six sessions, two keynotes, three receptions, and endless networking – followed by a plane ride and a night to sleep on it – I’ve finally come up with some official lessons from the NTEN conference.

  1. We are not alone!
    Nearly 1500 people descended on Atlanta, GA to take part in the conference – communications officers and IT professionals and fundraisers and executives and a host of other non-profit stakeholders. It was incredible to see the role that technology played in the professional lives of such a diversity of people and positions.

  2. Technology = tools.

    A lot of times, I think we get deluded and think that these new gadgets and gizmos are the answers to our problems. What resonated loudly to me, at least, are that all these innovations in technology are tools – they’re instruments presenting new ways an strategies to make us more effective at what we’re ultimately trying to do – and not the answer in and of themselves.
  3. Technology can be small and intimate…

    Andrew Sullivan’s take on the intimacy of blogging and the social media platform was a new idea for me. Of course I was familiar with the idea that social media is all about relationships, but the idea that blogging, in particular, is a one-on-one discourse moved me. With the seemingly infinite reach of the web, it can seem that we’re screaming into the vast abyss, so it’s remarkable to think that when we make contact, we’re making small, personal, intimate contact.
  4. …and technology can be grand and profound.
    On the other hand, I see the remarkable lesson that Asi Burak’s theory of utilizing video games for the social good (who I met personally in the lobby on the last day of the conference!) can teach. Harnessing the utility and engagement of video games to explore the ideas of hunger and war and charity seems so far-fetched, but he’s showing us how effective and powerful it can be.
  5. We really really really like penguins.
  6. Goals + planning = success…

    In every session that I went to, each presenter seemed to emphasize the importance of goals and planning. Sometimes, it seems like we’re drowning in a sea of possibilities: do we need a Facebook page? Should we be on Twitter? Is it time to blog? Do we redesign our website? How can we increase online donations? And as newer and shinier toys and tools come at us faster and faster, that panicky threat of getting behind is only more salient. But before jumping on ever bandwagon, it’s critical to examine how these new instruments fit into the overall goals of the organization, and how they contribute to the the mission.
  7. …and in that same vein, think strategically – act tactfully.
    I stole that from a speaker in my last session, Demetrio Maguigad, who had it rolling across his iPhone screen in front of his name tag. It’s another theme I heard over and over again in my sessions – think in the long term. Consider how each new tool, each new idea, each new strategy fits into the long-term plan. Consider your mission. Approach each task from different angles, consider every perpective, analyze every approach. It’s easy to get carried away with the motion and fervor – but success is earned with deliberation.
  8. There really is such a thing as southern hospitality! It was ALL over the conference and city!
  9. We can learn from each other…

    You know what there was a lot of during sessions? Case studies. Case studies about SEO in my first session, case studies about testing landing pages in my third. Case studies about communications strategy in my last session and case studies about leadership skills in my fifth. In every session I went to, I heard story after story after story about the trials, foibles, and successes of people who had tried it before me and failed – and people who had tried it before me and succeeded. And not only was it very entertaining to hear the stories of others, it was reassuring to note that I was the first and I will certainly not be the last. I learned there is a wealth of experience out there, experience willing to share an insight and lend a hand.
  10. …and we’re in it together.

    On the last day of the conference, I took a picture with David KrumlaufBecky Trombley, and Mark Horvath. We’re an odd bunch – to be sure – but we were the small homeless assistance cohort at the conference. As Holly Ross told us again and again, we are a community of people coming together around the idea that we can make the world a better place – and we can help each other do it! – using new and innovative ideas. What brings us together is our commitment to that idea, and our commitment to achieving that goal.

So that is the moral of my story for now. But more later soon!


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31st August
written by naehblog

Earlier this morning, Mark Horvath came over to interview Alliance VP Steve Berg on the landscape of homelessness.

In a short conversation (maybe about 15 minutes), the two discuss the recession, housing, and the future of homelessness – both best and worst case scenarios.

If you missed the live broadcast, you can watch it here! Please let me know if you have any reactions, questions or thoughts!

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18th August
written by naehblog

After holding out – for months! – I’ve succumbed to the awesome power of Facebook.

As you can see, we’re brand new to the site and we need your support! Please use the link below to become a fan of our organization on Facebook, and get updates on new homelessness research, legislation, and Alliance activities!

Thanks all for your continued support!

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17th August
written by naehblog

Happy Monday, all!

We here in the research arm of the Alliance are kicking around an idea for a podcast series.

We’re thinking about profiling social innovation leaders in the homelessness field. Recipients of social innovation awards, or just organizations and community heavyweights who are leading the charge in looking at homelessness in a new and different way.

Would you guys be interested in something like that?

And would you prefer it live (calling into an audio conference) or would you prefer it taped (posted to our website with maybe some materials)?

Please let me know! I’ll hold out for about a week for feedback!

Thanks all,

30th July
written by naehblog

Whew! It’s been a LOOOONG day!

Adolfo Carrion, the new Director of the White House Office on Urban Affairs Policy gave the lunchtime keynote, followed by acclaimed scholar Dennis Culhane – whose work informs so many of the most effective and promising strategies in ending homelessness. Adolfo, a self-described “urbanist,” reiterated the notes that Secretary Donovan had left us with: together, as a community, we can approach homelessness is a collective, effective, and successful way.

Then, the time came: the communications & advocacy workshop! My big workshop!

I know I’m biased, but I tend to think that communications and advocacy not only go hand-in-hand, but are critical components to our mutual mission to address, prevent, and end homelessness. Our issue is such a delicate, complicated, and expansive one – and effectively relaying those nuances in an intelligent and digestible way requires careful thought and skill. And – as Leslie Kerns of M+R Strategic Services and Ehren Reed of Innovation Networks taught us this afternoon – a strategic campaign to get that message across to those who can sympathize, affect, and make a different.

The two taught us that a great advocacy and communications strategy requires a careful examination of goals, the audience, the message, and a launch – and that examining these factos and making sure that all of them line up are instrumental for a successful campaign. I’ll post the materials and ideas generated from the workshop in the next couple of days – look out!

Participants working hard in the Advocacy and Communications Workshop.

Leslie Kerns of M+R Strategic Services discussing communications strategies.

Adolfo Carrion on the big screen…

…and Adolfo Carrion himself!