Bliou Enterprises


Posts Tagged ‘Social Media Today’

What’s Left That Is Private?

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

The social media world has encroached upon our privacy in ways we’ve never considered before.  Usually, that’s meant Facebook, but Mark Zuckerberg is just the most blatant, declaring that people don’t “care about privacy anymore.”

The truth is, many marketers have been secretly collecting, harvesting and selling customers’ data – from their own computers and elsewhere – prior to Facebook and since then.  It’s simply a matter of who pays attention, when they get caught, and what the penalties are.  Unfortunately, the repercussions are rarely an incentive for the next offenders to be discouraged, and so it goes again.  The next offenders violate at least as much privacy as the prior ones, collect data and profit from it until they are caught and punished, too.

Privacy issues go beyond the bounds of marketing the bounty of data scraping, however. The technology in this case moves so quickly, that not only can the law not keep up, but most people affected can’t keep up.  When default settings are placed in obscure locations and frequently reset with permissions that allow more and more sharing, such as facial recognition software of photos uploaded (and permanently stored thereafter, whether the photos are removed or not), it takes a while for people to realize what’s occurred, let alone object.

Many users choose to participate in location software programs, such as Foursquare and Gowalla, and voluntarily post where they are and what they are doing.  What all smart phone owners may not realize is that the GPS located in their phones often sends the same information to a variety of marketers.  The [I Agree] button depressed with each app downloaded often is a contract that sends the app designer a great deal of data from the phone, including one’s address book, calendar, GPS location information, and so forth.  A free app may cost in other ways . . . every time you use it.

Klout has recently come under public scrutiny for their duplicitous offer to delete accounts, since they were still monitoring data and ranking people with the same accounts, but simply not displaying the data on the “deleted” accounts.  In addition, Klout’s system of ranking people – who have registered or not – was discovered to include minor children, which incensed quite a few users.

The issues of anonymity and social media cross one another like they never have before, and bring up a multitude of situations, both personal and work-related.  As more and more situations arise, a great many of them head for the courts, where the law begins to adapt and get reinterpreted to fit new technology as it never has.

Until all of the legal policies are in place, it’s best to consider what your own personal and organizational policies will be, with regard to data collection, sharing, privacy, etc.  Even if you have a policy, it’s best to pull it out and review it.  If it’s more than two years old, chances are that situations could arise that wouldn’t have applied when your policies were conceived and written.  (e.g.  Does your policy even address situations of what can/can’t be posted on social media channels?  How to handle a problem posting there?  What about text messaging?)

In times like these, when technology changes so quickly, it’s best to be proactive instead of reactive.  Once a constituent feels that you’ve betrayed her trust, it’s not easily regained.
Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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How Well Do You Know Your Data?

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Data is such an all-encompassing term that it can seem insurmountable, but it’s essential that marketers and fundraisers delve into their data and know as much as possible about its nuances. The secret to success lies buried deep, not on the surface.

It’s not necessary to become a statistician, but a basic working knowledge of your organization’s statistics is crucial – as well as its history.  Otherwise, there is no way to learn if your campaigns’ performances are improving or getting worse.

While every organization wants to have increased participation and giving in all areas, this is unrealistic and unlikely; therefore, segmentation when marketing and tracking is the wisest course of action.  Learning which demographics respond best to what approaches during which times will assist when planning future campaigns.

This not only applies to segmenting your donors by age, gender, etc., but also by longevity of engagement, since acquisition files require more time and attention before they become profitable.  You’ll also want to consider tracking responses with respect to the type of channels of engagement – e.g., direct mail, email, phone, social media, etc.

It’s also important to remember the basics, however:  garbage in, garbage out.  How often does your database get reviewed, updated, scrubbed, verified, etc.?  Does this go beyond NCOA?  What about email addresses?  Do all of the bounced emails get checked and updated/purged after X bounces?  Do you have a policy for it on file?  Do you check for deceased records and mark constituents as such regularly?  The easiest way to offend a constituent is to repeatedly address them incorrectly . . . especially while asking for support.

Making a regular, concerted effort to keep the database current can prevent many lost connections, misunderstandings and offended donors.

Outside of your own organization’s database, it’s good to learn how to read your website’s traffic with Google Analytics.  You or another staff member can take a Google Analytics IQ certification exam for $50 and the study materials are free.

As Seth Godin points out, there is a certain tenacity to the professional who has a long-range view of her goal, and doesn’t take a short cut to make a single sale.  When you keep the big picture in mind, you realize that it encompasses many smaller points of data . . . and the sum of the parts becomes greater than the whole.

Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Elliott* emailed a coworker about a report the new boss wanted and remarked on her unrealistic, demanding ways.  The coworker sent the final report attached to a long chain of emails, which mistakenly included his comment, copied to the boss.

Elliott knew that his coworker didn’t intend to send this (his coworker had sent him similar remarks about her via email), but accident or not, the damage had been done, and his supervisor immediately reprimanded him for his poor attitude and “not being a team player.”

Although Elliott was apologetic, staff meetings seemed stressful after that, and he felt that in her eyes, he either couldn’t do anything right, or was just barely tolerated.  A couple of months later, his annual review reflected that feeling as well.

Elliott didn’t believe that his manager had been on board long enough (less than half a year) to give him an annual review, but he reported to her, and that was company policy.  He got “average” or “below average” in each category – a far cry below his previous year’s review.

Shortly after that, the company fell on difficult times, and when layoffs came around, he was in the round of people let go.  While most of the staff affected were those employed with the company less than two years, Elliott had nearly five years with the company, but was told that his position would be “redundant with the restructuring planned.”

In addition to regular job searching techniques that I provide clients, I worked with Elliott on how we could Fix It! at his new position, to help him avoid making the same mistakes again, or getting caught in a similar trap.  In the end, the quality of his work mattered very little, once he had been viewed negatively by his manager.

The first thing I advised Elliott to do was to upgrade his phone to a smart phone, so that he could entirely separate his personal communications from his work communications – phone calls and emails.  With a smart phone, there would be no reason for him ever to make any personal calls or emails using company equipment (which can be – and often is – monitored).  I also advised him to limit the amount of time spent during work hours on any personal communications, including social media channels, such as Facebook.

Second, I googled Elliott via several different searches, including combinations of his name, nickname(s), past employers, clubs, schools, associations, emails, etc. and showed him what results I got.  He was surprised at the results when I included the photo sites as well.  This was an eye opener to Elliott about the power of the web and social media in general, and the need for discretion online.  When I explained that many employers ask for permission to check credit sites and other protected information, so they will learn much more than I was able to find, this became even more of a wake-up call.

Obviously, Elliott didn’t need to be told not to put any disparaging comments in writing in the future.  Not only did he recently suffer the consequences, but there have been several examples in the press of foolish postings online.  However, I did mention the need for good etiquette in the workplace and how far networking can help down the line.  A recent study showed that basic courtesy appears to be sadly lacking, in most people’s opinions, which makes it that much more appreciated when displayed.

It took Elliott much longer to find his next position, due to his not having a strong reference from his previous job, as well as being let go, but once he got hired, he made a point to display a positive outlook and demeanor, and keep his private life – and communications – separate from his work life as much as possible.

He has been complimented for his professionalism on more than one occasion, and plans on keeping it that way.

Faye* had been in her position for nearly a year, when she felt blindsided with the news that she was being let go from her position.  The reasons that she was given were all totally unfounded, she felt.  She even considered consulting an attorney, but decided to start with her direct supervisor, since the news came from top management.

For example, she was told that she failed to reach her stated goals, and this was completely untrue.  She hoped that her director would advocate for her, since he knew her work better than upper management.

It would take a couple of days for Faye to pull together all of her necessary figures and have everything completely and accurately prepared.  She asked for a meeting with the necessary parties at the end of the week, which would give her enough time to have an adequate rebuttal, she believed.

The day before her meeting, Faye learned that not only had upper management decided to remove her, but her director had been given a termination notice as well.  Apparently, the nonprofit organization’s budget was suffering so terribly, the board had decided to make drastic reductions.

Faye heard talk of a possible audit, as well as chatter of how she wasn’t the first person in her position to be removed in under a year for an ambiguous “failure to perform,” reason, and she felt betrayed . . . and a bit naïve.  She also wondered about the overall health of the organization.

Rather than consult an attorney and try to fight for a job with an organization that might not even be able to pay her if she won, Faye decided to consult me on how to seek a job with a healthier organization overall.

I coached her that certainly part of due diligence is to search a nonprofit’s 990, but that is only the beginning.  More research must be done.  Particularly with the news that many nonprofits may have fraudulently filed their paperwork in order to meet recent deadlines.

Faye and I spent time reviewing certain warning signs about certain types of organizations and/or job listings that will indicate she should Forget It! and not bother applying, because they may well be a very transient organization.  This included questions to include during interviews for organizations, to ensure that they plan on being around several years from now.  (Are they preparing for the future, or are they scarcely catching up to yesterday in a desperate attempt?)

She also found useful the LinkedIn organizational listings of employees, which showed their longevity with the organizations, indicating their general health.  Also, simply whether or not an organization bothered to have its own LinkedIn listing was an indicator of how seriously it took itself in the world of social media, for one thing.

While older, larger organizations tend to be viewed as more stable, Faye didn’t limit herself only to these, and she ended up working at a mid-sized nonprofit that was less than twenty years old.  It has a well-rounded combination of new and veteran employees, and she feels more secure than she has in a while.

If you’ve been laid off, what signs of stability or other factors do you strive for with your next employer?

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

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TMI – The Chicken Or The Egg?

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

When someone asks, “How did this start – everybody’s private business being so public?” a lot of fingers get pointed.  People interested in civil liberties will claim that corporate lobbyists pushed through laws, allowing more access to individuals’ information.

On the other hand, one only needs to watch an evening of the poorly named “reality” shows to see that there must be some truth to Mark Zuckerberg’s claim that “people aren’t interested in privacy anymore.”  It seems that nearly anyone will debase themselves publicly for a price and 15 minutes of fame – or less.  Often, they don’t need a price . . .  just an audience will do.

Just as the constant use of a brand as an everyday term will water down its meaning, rendering it useless, so too is privacy diluted in meaning if  we pull out all the stops and leave nothing to the imagination or have no barriers whatsoever on which information is to be considered “off limits” to the general population.

This isn’t just a social media issue, but ventures out into many areas of customer service that concerns constituents in a variety of venues regarding data collection and its relevance to the actual transactions:

•     Vance* objects to gas pumps that require him to enter his zip code first at the pump.  “They claim it’s for ‘security purposes,’ but when I go inside to pay instead, they take my credit card without requiring my zip code . . . or ID, so how secure is that?”  Vance says he makes a point not to frequent gas stations with this requirement.

•     Wynona* concurs, and says that when various cashiers ask for her zip code prior to ringing up her purchases, she always replies with, I don’t want to participate. “Sometimes, though,” Wynona says, “The cashier will be so surprised at my response that they don’t know how to proceed.  They’ll explain it to me, as though I don’t understand, or something, and when I re-explain to them that I’m not going to, they get a deer in the headlights look before figuring out how to enter a fictional zip code that allows them to proceed ringing up my purchase.  It’s sad, really.”  Wynona doesn’t usually shop at such places on a repeat basis either.

•     Albert* makes a point not to sign his credit cards.  He feels that it is offering up his signature to a potential thief to easily forge, and knows that if his card is stolen, he would only be liable for the first $50.  “Most merchants don’t bother looking, anyway, except during the holidays, and then they ask for a photo ID to verify that I’m me,” he says.  He considers these “security measures” to be a joke.

•     Bertha* recently learned of how much geotracking smartphones are doing of their customers, and wondered if there isn’t even more happening than is being disclosed.  While she was on vacation recently, she visited relatives who watched a great deal of satellite television – programs she typically doesn’t view.  Bertha spent the time in the same room (with her smart phone) either visiting with relatives, catching up on work, or playing her favorite game on her phone.  By the end of the week, she noticed a stark difference in the ads that came up during her handheld’s game.  It was promoting television shows on the network her relatives had been watching that week.  She had never seen these ads promoted during this game before.  “I don’t mean to sound paranoid or delusional,” Bertha said, “But honestly – I wouldn’t put it past Apple or Google!”

•     Cecil* recently moved to the area and was setting up an appointment with a new doctor.  As they took down his insurance information, name, address, etc., the receptionist also asked him for his social security number.  He balked at this and asked why it was necessary, only to be told, “for identification purposes.”  When he persisted in knowing the reason that the doctor’s office needed this information, the receptionist narrowed the field and said that “the last four digits” would suffice, actually.  Once again, Cecil insisted that his social security number was not related or needed to him being a new patient, and required an explanation.  The receptionist didn’t even respond to his question, and instead simply moved on to the next question on the form.

•     Diane* has met with similar superfluous questions when it comes to medical personnel, and she feels that it is often targeted toward women more than men.  “Very nearly always, I am asked about my marital status on medical questionnaires, and I always refuse to answer.  It’s archaic and irrelevant to my medical health,” she says.  They don’t ask for ethnicity or religion, so why marital status?  That’s not the same as emergency contact.  I’ve even had someone argue and try to insist that I answer this question.  Needless to say, I didn’t return there.”

Each of these individuals were all keenly aware of the fact that their data was being solicited, tracked and harvested by various vendors, and they objected – but it’s the exception, not the rule.  Most people are unaware of their default settings and to what extent their data is revealed to others.

More commonly, tracking is being embedded – almost seamlessly and invisibly – into something disguised as philanthropic, so that people give permission for their data to be harvested without even realizing it.  Vendors are now trying to slap the word charity on their marketing and having the general public peddle their wares to their friends via social media.  If it starts with a nonprofit promoting it, all the better, companies figure.

Take care what causes – and channels – you support, lest a scandal come back later to bite you.  Even if the public didn’t realize what a campaign was on its face, they will care a great deal about what was behind the mask when all is revealed.

More people DO care about their privacy being guarded than the Zuckerbergs of the world would lead us to believe, and trust lost isn’t easily won back.

Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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Stone Soup – What’s YOUR Recipe?

Monday, October 11th, 2010

There are many versions of the story of Stone Soup, but most people have heard one or another. The point, of course, is that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. I tend to view all of the soup ingredients as the various aspects needed for a good “Annual Giving recipe” these days.

While one could certainly make a meal out of a basic chicken broth and noodles (e.g., a couple of direct mail pieces and an occasional phone call), that really isn’t a very fancy “soup,” when you consider the plethora of ingredients available on the market these days: email, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, video, text messaging, and so on.

Although not every non profit is equipped to do as much as the next, this year-end giving season is the perfect time to seize the opportunity to learn and do more with your Annual Giving plan. Particularly with projections looking less favorable for donors to increase their giving, non profits will need to find new and creative ways to compensate.

Several organizations have already seen their increased social media efforts pay off – many of them in substantial ways, either with publicity efforts, volunteer support, or outright fund raising.

Recent studies released show results not only how much the four most frequently used social media sites are being used by various age groups, but also additional details on their frequency of using social media, texting and much more. It’s clear that, while the Millennials are the technology leaders, they are by no means the only demographic consuming social media, videos or using their cell phones for internet or texting.

It’s important to take notes from other successful sites and see what you can do at this time.  One such organization is the ASPCA.  While your site may not be as sophisticated as theirs, it’s worth viewing the wide variety of social media interfaces on their Get Involved page and general Online Activism center.   For example, perhaps you could provide instructional videos or PSAs about your mission or services – or, conversely, you might invite your constituents to submit their own videos about how they are involved in lobbying, serving, or otherwise supporting your cause.

Whichever segment(s) you choose to add or modify to your campaign, though, it’s important to track and/or segment what you do. Keeping up with industry research is vital to planning, but tracking the reality of how your organization’s data actually performs is crucial to your follow up. In many cases, it will follow industry standards, but not always. It pays to prepare your data ahead of time.

It will depend on the parameters of your data, but several segments that many organizations typically segment and measure may include current donors, LYBUNTs, SYBUNTs, lapsed, lower-level, mid-level, upper-level (however this is defined at your organization), and also perhaps certain membership levels (duration, geography, age range, etc.).

Additional tests are useful, such as days of the week for electronic communications, as well as various wording of subject lines or calls to action. For direct mail, testing results take longer to receive, but are worth doing to continuously improve results. These include letter length, enclosures, envelope design, size, etc.

If you believe that campaigning in social media is going to be too difficult to accomplish in your organization because of persuading those in charge, one way to broach the subject may be to suggest testing. Try Group A with what you have typically done with your campaign, but supplement Group B with a social media conversation about what you are doing, and why donations are so meaningful, what will be accomplished (that is meaningful to them), etc.

Just as Boomers have come to the social media party late – but they have finally arrivedso, too, it would seem have many executives. A great deal more are beginning to realize the value of social media. They have even become participants in larger numbers recently. Some still have their concerns, of course, so tracking and proof can help to alleviate such anxieties.

Just as in the story of Stone Soup, the more buy-in you can get for adding additional ingredients, the better the final product will be.
Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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