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social networks

Audiences Are Changing on Social Networks. Is Your Nonprofit Ready?

social media party

Here’s help to make sure that your social strategy can hold up to inevitable change.

This article is part of a four-part series intended to help visitor-serving organizations understand and respond to emerging trends that will impact their financial and mission-related goals. Learn more about the series here. 

While many professionals conceptually understand that audiences and behaviors on specific social media platforms shift over time, there seems to be a disproportionate concern among organizations about how to react to these types of changes. This concern may indicate a need for a broader, more integrated online strategy to best communicate your unique brand attributes to your audiences.

There seems to be a general sense of worry among organizations about Facebook’s evolving demographics in particular (younger audiences may be spending less time on Facebook in favor of other networks) and what this means for an organization’s engagement strategy. Facebook, with over 1.23 billion active monthly users as of January 2014, remains the most utilized social media platform – and, yet, somewhat shockingly, I’ve overheard leaders at multiple organizations frustratingly say things along the lines of, “This whole shift means we need to really reassess our strategy and reconsider if we should be on Facebook.”

Really?!  Did organizations think that all audience segments were only on one platform and would forever only be on one platform? Organizations should be prepared for both changes in the number of platforms that audiences use, and shifts in the ways that audiences actually use them.

Here’s how smart organizations approach these (and other inevitable) demographic shifts and social media evolution that we are sure to see in the very near future:


1) Make change a constant in your digital communications strategy and adjust accordingly (and accept that this approach may contrast a more traditional, slow-moving nonprofit mentality)


Shifts in platform usage are entirely expected, and if your organization finds itself surprised by evolving usage patterns, then that surprise – in and of itself – is cause for concern. Organizations should anticipate changes in who is using specific social media sites and how they are using them.

Social media platforms are constantly changing (which are utilized and how). This understanding is a cornerstone of an effective social strategy. The rapidity of social media evolution is the genesis of many organizational tensions, including: difficulties in measuring true key performance indicators related to social media; ever-increasing staff needs related to digital engagement; and the perils of “writing in stone” an engagement plan that becomes functionally irrelevant weeks after its publication. Digital engagement simply doesn’t work this way. To be effective, tactics must evolve to best meet audience needs while serving your organization’s broader strategies.

If your organization is paralyzed by the concept of shifting demographics and the evolving uses of specific social media networks, then it may indicate that your organization’s social media strategy is too focused on tactics and not sufficiently thoughtful of overarching marketing goals and strategies. For instance, a strategy may be to utilize content to improve your reputational equities as an expert on mission-related topics with a goal of increasing financial support. Posting a specific status on Facebook that is related to your mission (but also relevant to your audience on that platform) is a tactic. If you need to change that specific status to best serve a different audience than that which may have been on Facebook a year ago, then that specific tactic has evolved. When considered this way, can you see how extreme preoccupation (rather than acceptance) of the need to evolve tactics may be indicative of a lacking or unclear overarching strategy?

In short, updating your strategy may be difficult but updating your tactics should be expected. If it’s too hard to update your tactics, then you may have tactics standing in for your strategy…and that’s no strategy at all.


2) Keep tabs on where your market and supporters are/are going as social media networks evolve (and they will). Be present at those parties.

Remember: you need your community of supporters more than they need you. Act accordingly by making it easy and by providing compelling reasons for your audiences to connect and engage with you…or they won’t.

Stick with me here (because I love bad metaphors): Let’s say that your potential supporters hang out at a reoccurring, weekly party. Things are going great! You totally hit it off with the early adopters drinking a microbrew on the lawn, you spend time talking long-term goals with the preppy, high-achievers on the porch, and you also make time to bond with folks who are already your good friends in the kitchen. You’re building and maintaining relationships. This party seriously rocks!

…Until the early adopters decide to start spending time at another party…and the preppy folks from the porch attend a different party yet. You’re torn (and, because you’re a nonprofit, your resources are limited, which makes this even more frustrating).  Suddenly, your potential reach has lessend because you are no longer building relationships with key market segments who may profile as important influencers and supporters.

Because the market is the arbiter of your organization’s success, it’s generally best for you to keep on top of where your audience is and what they are doing and go to them.  As we head into the madness of March, at IMPACTS we offer a quick tip familiar to any basketball junkie: “Beat the market to the spot.”  In basketball and business alike, it’s the difference between shooting free throws and fouling out of the game.

Go with your key stakeholder or target audiences to the new parties and, once you’ve determined which parties are worth your energy (more on this to follow), then be ready to greet “old friends” as they arrive.


3) Understand that digital platforms are not mutually exclusive and multiple (thoughtful) presences often allow for more effective influence as platforms evolve

If your organization can only be in one place at one time, then consider expanding your resources because you may be missing or mishandling too many “touch points” to be effective. There may not be a single “magic pill” social media site that allows for the most efficient or effective influence on all of your audiences.

Let’s go back to my earlier party metaphor: Thanks to the web, it’s possible for an organization to have a presence at more than one party (or, on more than one platform). That said, we still need to make a decision: Knowing that having a presence on additional platforms takes resources, being on which platforms will be the most efficient use of our resources?  Nonprofits don’t need to be on every social media platform – especially if they cannot put proper energy into that platform. (If you go talk to those hip folks on the lawn, but you come off as a true outsider or barely make an effort to communicate, then you’ve done yourself more of a reputational disservice in being there then you would have been simply staying away.)

Decide which platforms are worth your time and energy based on where your market is most heavily influenced and you will have the most effective “touch-points.” But know that – increasingly – this is likely more than one platform (though 73% of adults focus on five social networks, sometimes certain platforms may be ripe for more targeted audiences). When demographics and uses change, respect the communities that you’ve already formed online. The quality of your fans is more important than simply pursuing reach, and be very cautious about abandoning one platform for another without careful consideration of how this will affect your current community. (Preempting the assumption: No! Many current users will not immediately follow you to another platform.)

The increasing fragmentation and micro-segmentation of audiences – such as young users spending less time on Facebook and more time on other platforms – may indicate that your organization should be prepared to be in more than one place at one time.  In turn, this may necessitate re-allocating resources to maintain connections and foster engagement with your online audiences.

In sum: Yes – millennials (or others market segments) may leave Facebook or other platforms, but, NO – it shouldn’t be something that strategic marketers necessarily need to worry about. Right now, Facebook remains a primary engagement tool for a majority of the market that is active on social media. That could (and likely at some point will) change. If your organization 1) has a solid strategy and identified goals, 2) thoughtfully continues to consider the value of each platform while making execution decisions, and 3) understands the possible need to cultivate extra resources to engage audiences on multiple platforms, and then your organization will not only easily adapt to changes without a hitch, but it will thrive.


*Photo credit: ed Social Media

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Posted on by colleendilen in Big ideas, Branding, Community Engagement, Generation Y, Management, Marketing, Museums, Nonprofit Marketing, Nonprofits, Public Management, Social Media, Technology, The Future, Words of Wisdom 2 Comments

How Planned Parenthood Used Social Media to Create a Win-Win Situation for their Cause

Over the weekend alone, more than 357,000 people signed Planned Parenthood’s online open letter to Congress to oppose the recent vote from the House of Representatives to bar federal funding for the organization. Planned Parenthood utilized social media to help reposition themselves from a “losing” situation (facing cuts in federal funding) to more of a win-win situation (garnering public support and raising awareness and passion for their cause).

Nonprofits rock at using social media because it supports storytelling, inspires personal connections, and heightens the transparency required to attract donors. It does these things better, and at less of a cost, than a Superbowl ad (or most any ad, for that matter). But there’s an ongoing tension between social media and its ability to have a direct, positive monetary impact for organizations. Like so many actions in the world of nonprofits, it’s hard to monetize and determine the ROI of the effort in terms of dollars.

Planned Parenthood has created a win-win situation: If Planned Parenthood succeeds in overcoming the recent vote to bar federal funding for the organization, then they will have a monetary benefit that resulted from online engagement efforts (they kept funding that might otherwise be lost). But if hundreds of thousands of social media users signing an open letter causes no change in government action, Planned Parenthood still wins. They’ve managed to create a compelling call to action that got their cause into the newsfeed of millions of people in an urgent and compelling way that folks are likely to remember. These people are potential donors with a new reason to contribute. If Planned Parenthood inspires government funding or not, it was still a huge success to summon potential donors who may give money to the organization, should the cuts go through. If your nonprofit organization is going to lose federal funding (which is almost never a “win”), it probably doesn’t hurt to capture hundreds of thousands of hearts in the process.

For better or worse, this case illustrates some interesting ideas about how people relate to causes via social media. Here are some observations that may have led to the organization’s online success:


1. Planned Parenthood’s open letter made it easy to be an evangelist for a cause. Signing the letter takes less than a minute and the letter may have received a lot of attention for that very reason. It made caring about a cause easy and it let people think that they were doing something extremely significant. And they actually were, indeed, becoming evangelists for something significant. Public service and social causes are growing increasingly important to us as consumers (read: supporters and donors), which also may have aided in inspiring thousands to sign the letter. This is over-simplified, but here’s the point:  making the letter easy to sign made it easy for people to do something “good,” and because that’s cool and you are cool when you support social change, people want to share that they support it. Result? Lots and lots of easy evangelists.


2. The call to action wasn’t the most important one. It was the most urgent. The call to action isn’t for monetary support, though that would be more active and likely have a bigger impact than adding your name to a letter that may or may not be considered significant in the eyes of officials. Although I hope that it is, it’s not a stretch to see how this online letter might not be taken too seriously. Case in point? The Facebook group called “We Hate the New Facebook, so STOP CHANGING IT!!!” has 1.5 million fans. Not even Facebook cares to listen to the group and it’s on their own platform. Like the Planned Parenthood letter, there’s no threatening action here to make leaders think these people care all too much when it comes down to it. The letter and its support could easily be written off as something that may have more to do with exposure than passionate belief that funds formally allocated to Planned Parenthood shouldn’t go somewhere else.  Putting your name on an online letter is something, but it’s far from the most active thing that Planned Parenthood could ask their supporters to do. In fact, Planned Parenthood didn’t seem to ask for active donations at all in their I Stand with Planned Parenthood campaign. Was that the right move? Maybe. Maybe not.


3. Planned Parenthood has cultivated 400,000+ emotional investors just online. That’s a lot of potential passion and a lot of visibility. The above points are far from proving on any level that the social media push was not a great idea for the organization. In fact, though it likely wasn’t the primary goal, Planned Parenthood succeeded in creating a large-scale spread of the most valued kind of marketing: word of mouth. Facebook is interesting territory for marketers. It’s a great way to create conversation and spread your message. However, it is a relatively closed network compared to, say, Twitter- where statements can be searched and seen by anyone. To expand your fan-following on Facebook, you need to get other people to spread your message so that it comes up on the newsfeeds of the users’ networks. Planned Parenthood mastered this by sending a follow-up email to each person who signed up for the open letter with a prominent button asking you to make the message your Facebook status.  It was easy and it worked. It’s likely that all 400,000+ supporters knew about Planned Parenthood before coming across the letter, but now those supports have done three valuable things:

  1. learned more about the organization, assuming they read the letter they signed
  2. took action to support the cause (emotional investment)
  3. and many stated their support publicly (solidifying their emotional support and integrating it into their online identity).


4. What Planned Parenthood does next, counts. The organization has built incredible momentum and Planned Parenthood will likely have to do something to harness that momentum before it dwindles. If you’re a museum person, this is the same problem that the Museum of Science and Industry faced after they chose their Month at the Museum winner. How do you keep people engaged for the main event? In this case, how do you get these people to stick around to see if Planned Parenthood gets federal funding? More importantly, how can you utilize this momentum to get people to help support the organization financially if it doesn’t…. or even if it does? There’s a lot of potential here, and there’s a lot that nonprofit organizations can learn about the role of social media in advocacy through what happens next.


As a side for museum-focused folks out there (and others!), Planned Parenthood isn’t the only organization that risks losing funding. There are some scary anti-museum amendments being considered by Congress for FY 2011. While reading about Planned Parenthood, it’s hard not to wonder what the online museum community would do if a severe anti-museum amendment threatened the industry that we both care about fiercely, and that supplies jobs to fellow museum aficionados. Nonprofit organizations in general can learn a lot by watching and supporting Planned Parenthood’s efforts right now. Particularly with regard to the evolving tool of social media which will likely play a growing and important role in advocacy, enagement, and summoning public support to create and realize change.

Please weigh-in with comments about lessons you are taking away from the situation and interesting tidbits that may help shape how nonprofits can use social tools to cultivate political support.

Posted on by colleendilen in Branding, Community Engagement, Education, Management, Marketing, Nonprofit Marketing, Social Change, Social Media, Technology, The Future, Uncategorized 2 Comments

4 Valuable Online Resources for Museum Futurists. No…Right Now-ists.

There are six practices of high-impact nonprofits, according to Crutchfield and Grant’s findings in their book, Forces for Good. One of the central six? Nurture Nonprofit Networks. It means share knowledge (grow the pie, work together for change…) Knowledge sharing is a practice that nearly all of the world’s most impactful nonprofits have in common.

Nurturing networks and spreading best practices is one of many things that sets the nonprofit sector apart from the private sector, and it may be one of the biggest differentiations. You won’t catch Thomas’ English Muffins freely giving away the secret to their “nooks and crannies” just to bring the entire world (competitors included) one step closer to creating the perfect English muffin. If they can’t do it, they don’t want anyone else to do it. But nonprofits will put themselves out of business if it means bringing the world one step closer to a common goal.

People are becoming a bit like organizations as individuals build personal brands and play important roles in information dissemination to advance social change. A museum must be conscious of its brand and the professional advantages supplied by the institution. But a museum should not overlook the more personal/professional advantages that can be leveraged when museum employees have the tools they need to connect and engage with other professionals If nurturing nonprofit networks creates high-impact nonprofits, then certainly nurturing nonprofiteer networks leads to even higher-impact nonprofits.

These are four basic online resources for arming museum professionals with the social technology tools needed to embrace new media and encourage both sector transition and innovation:


1. MUSEUM 3Museum 3 is a nonprofit organization dedicated to exploring the future of the cultural institution sector. Since it began in 2007 as a social network, Museum3 has grown to almost 3000 members from across the world. In 2010 Museum3 incorporated into a not-for-profit organisation. This has allowed us to plan for extended services including conferences, masterclasses, public talks, new partnerships and new cultural products including podcasts and vodcasts.” One of the reasons why I think that this site is so cool is because it’s international. Talk about sharing the knowledge.


2. MUSEUM-ID: Another cool connecting site is MUSEUM-id, which is also run through Ning and called an “ideas exchange and social network for museum professionals.” Let’s not go nuts here- neither of these social networks is booming with the activity of your Facebook or Twitter feed, but when you consider that these social spaces exist to exchange ideas with similarly-interested professionals, the spaces are pretty darn cool and extremely useful.


3. MUSE TECH CENTRAL: How did I find the leads for so many of these innovative museum social technologies? I started out on Muse Tech Central. I adore it. Muse Tech Central is the Museum Computer Network project registry and it’s a gold mine of museum inspiration. It’s pretty simple, too: it is a list of new and ongoing technology-based projects taking place in museums.


3. CFM’s RESEARCH ROUND-UP: Recommending AAM’s  Center for The Future of Museums to museum futurists (right now-ists) is like recommending Mashable for a social media fan; it’s been done and you probably already know a lot about it. Yes, the blog is awesome… but have you checked out their Research Round-Ups? They have everything from academic findings to news articles to essays to commentary. It’s a great complement to the weekly Dispatches from the Future of Museums that you can sign up to have arrive in your inbox, but I don’t see the Research Round-up celebrated as frequently. Knowing what research has been uncovered can be a powerful tool for your museum. Why reinvent the wheel? It helps to take a look at what we’ve figured out thus far.


Getting involved in these networks and checking out these websites probably shouldn’t replace normal social media activities like engaging professionals in your network on Facebook and Twitter- but it’s a great start and a terrific complement to those efforts. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that keeping an eye on these resources will keep you smarter than the average museum social media guru. Not to mention, they’ll keep you thinking, questioning the future, and preparing for new ways to engage audiences online.

*Header image from The Nonprofit Quarterly

Posted on by colleendilen in Community Engagement, Leadership, Management, Museums, Nonprofit Marketing, Nonprofits, Social Change, Social Media, Technology, The Future, Words of Wisdom 1 Comment

The Key to Modern Day Marketing: Is Your Museum Utilizing Free Agents?

It’s no surprise that business practices, and especially marketing strategies, are evolving due to current changes in the way people operate and communicate. We didn’t have Facebook ten years ago- now organizations that are not cultivating online networks are doomed to fall behind in building brand loyalty and summoning the benefits of organizational transparency.

These changes, combined with the growing influence of Generation Y in the workplace, have created a new force to be recognized by your organization’s marketing and development departments: free agents.

Who and what are free agents? I’ll tap into The Networked Nonprofit for my favorite definition: Free agents are individuals working outside of organizations to organize, mobilize, raise funds, and communicate with constituents for a cause. They are generally comfortable with and adept at using social media. Bloggers are free agents, influential tweeters are free agents, and your tech-savvy and socially-connected nephew who believes in your organization is a free agent, too. They are social citizens dedicated to a cause. Though not all free agents are members of Generation Y, Millennials have grown up communicating and creating networks on the internet. They have a tribe to tap into when they want to spread an important message or highlight a cause. I’ve argued before that this is a good reason why museums and nonprofits should hire candidates with personal brands: they have a network. They can help you reach people.

Why your organization needs free agents. Free agents are connected individuals who care about your organization’s cause, and their network is likely to consist of similarly-minded people who are also likely to care about your cause. Free agents not only spread awareness of your organization, but they increase morale, and may even put together events or programs to benefit your organization. For instance, a free agent may have a party in which all proceeds go to a certain organization. Though they do not work for the museum or cultural nonprofit, free agents will champion your organizations message simply because they have a network and they believe in your cause.

  • A little example of a free agent in action. The American Association of Museums runs The Museum Assessment Program. It is a wildly affordable program for small and mid-size museums that helps strengthen operations, improve planning, and better serve communities through a process of self study and peer review. Applications are due by February 18, 2011. I do not work for AAM and nobody is paying me to let you all know about this seemingly-awesome resource (if you didn’t know about it already). I am writing about MAP because I support the program’s mission and I know that quite a few of you work for organizations that might benefit from MAP. I am playing the role of a light free agent for AAM because I, personally, think this program is really cool. But free agents can play more active roles as well. I might host a meet-up to discuss the benefits of MAP with museum professionals, or ask my blogger friends to spread the word, or run a marathon and raise funds for AAM to take another mid-sized museum into the program. It is not unusual for free agents to do these things.

How free agents work. Because free agents are internet-savvy folks who are independent of the organization, they are hard to control. In fact, an important part of utilizing free agents is understanding two key concepts:

  1. You cannot control free agents. It’s important to work with free agents, but treating free agents as if they work for you is a speedy way to lose a free agent. This is particularly bad news if the free agent you are working with has gone to great lengths to cultivate excitement around your museum or program. This also connects well to my second point.
  2. Free agents will come and go. Many free agents are members of Generation Y, and this generation is loyal to causes but feels skeptical about long-term loyalty to an organization. While free agents may come and go, remember to keep the door open in case they want to return to promote your organization.

Why free agents are good for your social media mentality. Certain thought leaders in the advertising field have argued that you don’t need a social media strategy (hint: It’s about values and people, not the tool). Working with free agents requires an openness and eagerness on the part of the institution. The fact that you cannot control or plan for free agents (aside from making yourself accessible) helps put museum professionals in a good place: focusing on community and values instead of trying to make rules about using social media. And “rules” have a way of fuzzing things up when it comes to brand transparency.

In sum, keep the door open for free agents. While nothing replaces face-to-face communication, it’s easy for professionals (especially members of older generations who are particularly unfamiliar with social media) to underestimate the value of online networks in helping an organization to reach marketing and fundraising goals. It may seem particularly strange to be encouraged to devote time and energy to cultivating young, sometimes still-unproven professionals. But try ignoring young professionals who are looking to support your organization, and you may find yourself slapping your forehead and (just for laughs) relating to this scene from Pretty Woman.

*Image based on photo from

Posted on by colleendilen in Blogging, Branding, Community Engagement, Generation Y, Management, Marketing, Museums, Nonprofit Marketing, Nonprofits, Social Change, Social Media, Technology, The Future 2 Comments

Art Insight TV: A New Way to Share Knowledge About Art

Check out this video in which Art Insight TV creator, Aladine Vargas, uncovers the design and composition behind Norman Rockwell’s Triple Self Portrait. It’s a left-brain approach to art that you may not be used to seeing. Is Vargas’s website the art-lover’s blog of the future, and how can museums benefit and learn from this type of website?

I’ve got to chalk up another point for social media.

I initially came across Art Insight TV through Twitter and I was immediately intrigued. It’s fitting that I stumbled upon the website through a social network because, as website creator, Aladine Vargas, shared with me during our interview, the website aims to evolve based upon the needs and understandings of the art-interested community.

That’s me; I’m an engaged member of the art-interested community! …So what exactly is Art Insight TV and why should I pay attention to it? Last week, I was able to speak to Aladine on the phone in an attempt to answer this question.

The web site’s tag line says it all: Art Insight TV- a behind-the-scenes look at what makes artwork- work. The site is composed of several videos collected and/or created by Vargas, that aim to give visitors the ability to see the intelligence and strategy involved in making art so that they may appreciate the artwork from a different angle. One method in which Vargas does this is by calling our attention to popular works of art such as Rockwell’s Triple Self Portrait (check out the video above!) or Charles Bargue’s Turkish Sentinel and uncovering Saint Andrews Crosses and root-two rectangles within the paintings. If you don’t know what these things are, check out these links and enjoy this public space for curious folks who want to learn about the careful design that goes into making artwork. The site also includes interviews, short lectures, and Aladine’s own artist ‘square-off’s. While this is certainly not the first or last website dedicated to inspiring an understanding of artwork, Aladine may be onto something with his video blog-like method of sharing knowledge.

Art Insight TV is very closely tied to the interests of its creator. When I asked Vargas why he created the website, he said, with regard to art, that many years ago, “we threw out the baby with the bath water.” Through this website, Vargas seeks to spread knowledge that will cultivate an appreciation for design; an appreciation that has been lost. He explained that the goal of the website is not primarily to teach or for him to assume himself an expert, but rather to serve as a vehicle to share his knowledge with the community. Critical themes in regard to his method of sharing knowledge are design, tradition and heritage, and composition. They generally outline his interests, and are things that, according to Aladine, make the artwork work.

The importance of design in creating and understanding artwork was the very first theme that Vargas mentioned in our conversation, explaining that “design is drawing, and drawing is design.” To Vargas, design is the cornerstone of successful art. Vargas says that if you want to read the art, “follow the design and it will tell you the story.” It directs your eye, and lets the viewer know what is important in a picture. His belief in this concept traces back to his own development as a professional artist studying under Myron Barnstone of Barnstone Studios in Pennsylvania. Barnstone continues to be a great teacher for Vargas, and several of the videos on Aladine’s website are attributed to the studio.

Vargas has a passion for the lineage of artists and their work throughout time. In fact, one might say that Vargas follows the same drawing tradition as Barnstone, continuing his heritage of design and serving as a link to Barnstone’s teachings. On Art Insight TV, Aladine shares the inner workings of his own professional artistic lineage, and hopes to uncover links within well known families of artists.

Composition is another important area of focus for Vargas, and it should come as no surprise that successful design, according to Aladine, is often the basis of a successful composition. Vargas discusses design rather mathematically, in a way that was refreshing for someone like myself who studied art formally, but didn’t spend much time focusing on the lines and geometry of masterpieces. The videos certainly do make me recognize and appreciate the work behind the artwork.

Who is Art Insight TV made for? To this question, Vargas said it was simply for the folks visiting the site. For better or worse, he is not aiming his videos toward a certain demographic, but rather sharing his knowledge in a way that makes sense to him. He admits that the site would be best understood by adult audiences who are interested in learning more about the design behind artwork.

Does Aladine Vargas’s website offer a sneak-peak into the blogs of art-lovers of the future? In these days of heighted social networking and personal branding, I suspect that it does. A recent post by the Center for the Future of Musems (which I find myself quoting quite a bit recently) states,

We are entering an age in which people don’t just want to be lectured to by experts, they want to contribute and curate their own content. In this environment, curators may evolve from being lecturers and authors to being moderators of discussions and editors of content.”

Art Insight TV’s mission is much like that of the traditional museum: to share knowledge in the hopes of inspiring interest in a certain area. The difference? Aladine creates a community based upon his own interests and findings. That is, this website is personal, but it also it seeks to create personal connections to site visitors. This is a website that I believe the museum world may benefit from following. There may be opportunities for community engagement on the rise from this kind of fact-based personal and interactive site.

Perhaps the most delightful thing about my interview with Vargas was his sincere ardor for cultivating an understanding of art history and his great hope to make a splash in the history of art history. He is a passionate speaker, groping with larger questions about the divorce between the artist and the public, telling countless stories of his personal experiences, and utilizing left-brained thinking that seems sometimes forgotten when examining artwork. For example, when I asked Aladine about the many lines, crosses, and rectangles that he attributes to good design and how they might allow the artist to practice creativity, Vargas had an interesting answer: he said that boundaries make you truly creative by providing an area for creativity. I nodded my head. How could I forget Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous quote, “Man built most nobly when limitations were at their greatest? But the truth is, I did forget this quote. Aladine and Art Insight TV made me remember and, in a way that I wasn’t used to doing, it made me appreciate the left-brain guidance in a generally considered right-brained practice.

Aladine’s whole site is like this. It’s a one-man show, sharing his knowledge of design and tradition with those who are willing to learn. Aladine has a deep love for Norman Rockwell, so don’t be surprised if more of those works pop up on the site in the future. Will we see any Pollock, Max Ernst, Kandinsky, or any members of the abstract expressionist lineage on this design-heavy site that values the rectangles and ratios?

I don’t know, but I’m excited to keep visiting Art Insight TV to find out.

Posted on by colleendilen in Arts, Blogging, Community Engagement, Education, Museums, Social Media 1 Comment

The Mind-Numbing Evolution of the Term “Entrepreneur”

I’ve found that nearly everyone nowadays calls themselves an entrepreneur, is interested in other entrepreneurs, and strives to be considered a successful entrepreneur.

Photo from

Photo from

I must admit that when I hear the word (which inundates conversation and — more interestingly– the personal summaries of seemingly everyone over the age of twenty on my two favorite social networks), a little voice in my head channels Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, and I say to myself in a nerdy accent to the entrepreneur in cyberspace, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

After tweeting about the loss of affect that the word has on me as a user of social media, I had eight new twitter followers within two minutes. I think it was because I’d just used the word entrepreneur (and consultant– another word that I admitted was losing its awe-factor to me). The interesting part about my twitter follower story? About four of those eight followers have become great resources for me. In fact, we share similar goals and have the same kind of ambition and willingness to take charge and create change. With the rapid onset of social media, does the word entrepreneur mean less because we are all entrepreneurs? Is generation Y an entire generation of entrepreneurs? We certainly seem to be.  The generalization is that a Gen Yer’s ideal job is a self-building job, which explains why we may have a strong desire to classify ourselves as entrepreneurs on social networks.

With every other professional describing themselves as an entrepreneur, the word has changed its meaning. I suggest is that we acknowledge the widespread use of the word, and adapt to it’s changing meaning.

I’d argue that sometimes young professionals call themselves entrepreneurs when they mean to call themselves entrepreneurial. Perhaps this is because the word has come to represent an ambitious mindset, instead of a person who has founded venture XYZ.

The power of personal branding has played a large role in our ability to classify ourselves as entrepreneurs. We value the branding of ourselves as a move for professional advancement. While I agree that personal branding is a worthwhile venture, I’ve seen blogs of several young professionals touting the label just because (from what I can tell) they set up directions on how to contact them for consulting purposes. This is not to say there aren’t great 23 year old consultants. This is simply to say that there sure are a lot of them, and regardless of whether they are good consultants or not, how do we know who is the real thing?

The title of entrepreneur– especially when said in description of oneself– is losing its meaning to me and I wonder how long it will be until the word has virtually no meaning at all.  Perhaps my scope is skewed, and this is an issue among all social network users, regardless of generation.  When I read entrepreneur in a person’s description, I think, “I need to learn more.” Do you find yourself thinking something similar? Please share your own associations with the word. I most certainly cannot speak for everyone when I say that the word is a lot like eating only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a month: at first bite, it’s lovely- but after a while, it’s just a thing to eat.

Posted on by colleendilen in Blogging, Generation Y, Leadership, Lessons Learned 6 Comments