A recent news article on PBS.org makes a great point about the value of social media (and directly correlates to one of my favorite talking points about our Campaign 2.0™ iPhone application) — social media removes the filter of the Mainstream Press and puts campaigns and organizations directly in touch with their supporters and with those who want to learn more about them. It allows the campaign or organization to structure their message in their own words, and to help their supporters deliver that message consistently as they advocate for the cause.
Ask any marketing professional what is the very best kind of advertising, and you’ll hear, “The Testimonial!”. Better yet is the testimonial delivered in an authentic voice, by someone known to the recipient of the message, and in the context of normal conversation instead of in an artificial “commercial break”. Social media delivers exactly that — messages that are authentic, in context, and user generated.
But let’s face it — our advocates don’t always get the message “right”. They emphasize the points they most identify with, they forget the details or mess up the statistics, and they don’t always put the highlights in the carefully crafted memorable phrasing we’ve spent so much time developing! Any time you have untrained people advocating on your behalf, you run the risk of a blurred or inaccurate message. Granted, the messaging is essentially free, but…what if you could get all the advantages of social media messaging AND deliver that message consistently?
With NonProfit 2.0™ and Campaign 2.0™ we’ve addressed that challenge. The most important messaging can be provided word-for-word in a “Talking Points” webview. The webview can even have an embedded YouTube video that contains a direct message from the candidate or CEO. And the specific message that gets Tweeted or Facebooked or Emailed or Texted in the Share section is composed by the application owner.
We’ve combined the best of both worlds, then — the direct and viral nature of social media, along with message control to ensure the communication is as effective as possible.
What do you think — does that work? Will messages be most impactful if they’re composed by the campaign or organization, or would they be more effective if they were drafted directly by the application user?
It’s been said by many people, but perhaps best by Clay Shirky: “The Internet lowers barriers to action,” he says. “It doesn’t make people behave differently – it just lets them do more of what they would do anyway.” (That’s paraphrased, but close.)
Shirky is a researcher and scholar on the ways people use Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia, and all the other fascinating tools that allow people to come together and collaborate online. His book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, is a wonderful tour of the best examples of online collaboration creating socially useful products. It’s also one of those great books that helps you to articulate something you’ve been thinking all along.
I’ve been struck, as I delve ever deeper into the world of Social Media, by the awesome democratizing power of these tools.
Take publishing, for example. The Internet has removed the old-school barrier to sharing your “content” with the world: the editor and publisher. An ebook or a blog post no longer has to get past the boss with the red pencil; just type and upload, and the whole world can read your musings. The all-powerful critic has been replaced as well. The best content is now identified by the crowd in social ranking sites like Digg.com and Reddit.com. The best videos are identified by the number of views on YouTube.com.
The impact of Social Media is also obvious in the world of politics. In winning the Presidency, Barack Obama made masterful use of text messaging both to communicate with supporters and volunteers and to collect massive amounts of small contributions, reducing (though certainly not eliminating) the disproportionate influence of large contributors. Twitter brought the moment-to-moment events of the protests in Iran to the attention of millions of people who would never have paid attention without the compelling stories it enabled. The second most popular politician on Facebook is Sarah Palin, with almost a million supporters.
Social Media are changing the face of philanthropy as well. Kiva.org and other microlending sites essentially take the nonprofit “middle-man” out of the picture, by enabling contributors to direct gifts to specific individuals all over the world. Facebook Causes are making team-fundraising easy for anyone to set up, even without a web designer. And mobile applications put a constantly-updated message in the hands of advocates and evangelists. (Okay, yeah, that last bit was a plug for my company’s mobile apps.)
What implications does this democratization have for the behavior of those of us in the nonprofit space? I can think of a few very quickly:
What else should we keep in mind? What opportunities — and dangers — does the democratization of Social Media deliver for nonprofits?
We’ve been expecting for some time that phones using Google’s Android operating system were going to be serious players in the smartphone market, and sure enough, it’s happening! The number of devices available is set to jump from just one in August to as many as 30 by the end of the year. Three of the four major U.S. carriers are now offering Android devices – can you guess which one is not?
The fact that AT&T is not (yet?) selling an Android device is no accident – it’s almost certainly a concession they’ve had to make to Apple as part of their agreement to remain the sole U.S. carrier for the incredibly popular iPhone. The iPhone has been extremely good to AT&T, driving ARPU to over $60, the highest in the industry, and attracting millions of new subscribers, and they certainly want to keep Apple happy. And yet…are they missing out on an explosive new platform, and setting themselves up for rough times ahead?
The iPhone is unquestionably an amazing device, and it’s transformed the wireless phone market. The application-centric approach, multi-touch interface, and large, bright screen now define the standard for attractive wireless handsets. The flagship devices offered by all carriers now carry most of those characteristics, including Samsung’s Instinct line, Palm WebOS devices, RIM’s Blackberry Storm, HTC’s large-screen Windows Mobile devices – and of course, the first devices out the door with the Android operating system.
And yet – the iPhone’s basic design is now over two years old, a lifetime in the high-tech gadget industry, and Apple’s vise-like control over the platform may be strangling what could be even greater market growth as well as the natural evolution that any device needs to go through in order to remain popular over time.
Limiting the device to a single carrier puts it out of reach of millions who have long-term contracts or just don’t like AT&T’s spotty network coverage in their areas. Limiting the physical device to a single form factor makes it unattractive for people who want a physical keyboard, or a removable/replaceable battery, or a smaller device. And the stranglehold that Apple maintains over application submission and approval works only as long as there are no other alternatives for developers.
But the first-to-market advantage Apple and AT&T have enjoyed for two years is finally about to end.
The second round of Android devices now entering the market offer the same bright screen, application-centric interface and multi-touch manipulation that have made the iPhone so popular. They’re less-expensive than the iPhone and offer greater diversity in form factor with keyboards, removable batteries, and all the other bells-and-whistles that appear when a diversity of manufacturers work to differentiate themselves. They’re offered on multiple carriers, so new users don’t have to break a contract or leave a network that’s working for them.
The extra open-ness of the application platform will also benefit corporations and smaller organizations that want to create and deploy applications without having to hassle with Apple or make the apps available to the entire world. The corporate market is one that Apple has always struggled with, and the Android platform will rapidly squeeze whatever penetration the iPhone has been able to achieve thus far.
All in all – users, developers and organizations interested in a smart phone application should keep an eye on the Android. There will be a substantial shakeout in the market by Spring of next year, and Apple may suddenly find itself in a position it has avoided since the demise of the Macintosh – as a company playing catch-up in the high-tech marketplace.
What do you think? Will Android be as big as we expect, or will it remain just another second-tier device in an iPhone-dominated marketplace?
Here at MTB Mobile our core product is called “NonProfit 2.0”. Our soon-to-be-released product for political campaigns is called “Politics 2.0”. The “2.0” doesn’t mean these are the second release of the products – it means these products are built on the key concepts of “Web 2.0”. But what is Web 2.0?
Anyone who spends time on the Internet these days will have heard the term Web 2.0 many times, but it’s generally used without explanation. Broadly, it refers to a new generation of uses of the Internet that make it more interactive and democratic – more “conversation” than “presentation”. Where a (retroactively called) “Web 1.0” site might just contain information from a publisher to be consumed by a reader, a “Web 2.0” site enables and encourages interaction, user-generated content and sharing within a community.
Broad examples of Web 2.0 categories include:
Social Networks. Sites like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn provide users with the chance to share information about themselves, find others with matching interests and backgrounds, and participate in a community-generated conversation. Users can be individuals, businesses, nonprofit organizations, or just groups of people organized around a topic.
Micro-Blogging. Twitter is the best known example of a micro-blog, but others include Friend Feed, Plurk and Jaiku. Micro-blog users post short messages throughout the day, and these messages are automatically published to anyone who “follows” the user. When done badly, micro-blog posts can be frivolous and self-referential. When done well, the posts provide insight and information to a community of interest.
Social News. With the profusion of information on the Internet – much of it user-generated Web 2.0 content – it has become increasingly difficult to find the “good” content, meaning content that is interesting, accurate and relevant. Social News sites allow users to “vote” on content so that the best content moves up the list and the worst ends up at the bottom. Sites like Digg, Delicious and Technorati all make it easy for readers to quickly access the best – as determined by their peers – of what’s online.
So what does this mean for nonprofits? Web 2.0 is actually very exciting, because it offers the opportunity to create deeper and more lasting relationships with supporters.
People love to hear themselves speak, and they love even more to see themselves in print. You probably know from experience that one of the most effective ways to create a positive impression with someone is to ask them to do you a favor. Similarly, a supporter who has written about you or shared your story verbally has invested a little bit of herself in you, and is more likely to support you in the future. Enabling and encouraging supporters to create content about you turns them into advocates and can impel financial support as well.
You also know that the most effective advertising is user-generated testimonials that come across as conversation, not as marketing. The user-generated content of Web 2.0 is a perfect application of this principle, and has the potential to be a major new driver of growing your support base.
So, bringing this conversation full circle, why do we call our products “2.0”? We do it because they extend the benefits of Web 2.0 into the mobile space, facilitating user-generated communications via Facebook, Twitter, Email and SMS and making it simple for supporters to become advocates. And in just the way that every organization today has a (1.0) web page, and most organizations have a presence on (2.0) Facebook and Twitter, it won’t be long before having a mobile presence is a baseline requirement as well. Your increasingly-participatory advocates will demand it.
Some great links for further reading on Web 2.0:
Have you seen the iPhone? I mean really seen the iPhone? I’m a mobile technology professional – I’ve worked in this field for more than 10 years – and I can say that I’ve never seen anything more likely to completely change the industry than the iPhone.
First, it’s gorgeous just to look at. Sleek, rounded, shiny – it just shouts “fast, fun, cool!”
Second, Apple took that gorgeous right on into the user interface. Even the fattest-fingered developer can create screens that feel balanced and proportional and transitions that slide like oil on a suntanned back.
And to top it off, the Application Store! It’s a candy store for the iPhone owner, chock full of thousands – tens of thousands! – applications that range from the stupid-but-funny (iFart and all its iterations) to the uniquely useful (UrbanSpoon, a restaurant finder with a personality). The applications turn the iPhone from a cool looking phone and music player into a truly engaging handheld computer.
Now, I know, the iPhone has been out there for almost two years! Why so late to the party? Well…living in Kansas City I have to admit to being a Sprint partisan. I’ve been reluctant to consider a device that Sprint doesn’t carry. Sprint has had a reputation for such a long time as the leader in data and device innovation – surely they’d have the iPhone if it was truly worthy??
Well, friends – I was wrong. (My wife will probably print this and hang it on the refrigerator.) I had a chance to play briefly with some iPhones over the holidays, and it’s just been growing on me since then. This thing is truly incredible.
More to come!