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social technology

38 Ways Zoos and Aquariums are Engaging Audiences Through Social Technology

Shortly after writing 41 Ways Museums are Merging Social and Tech to Engage Audiences, I was approached by a couple of lovely marketing professionals at the Tennessee Aquarium asking if I’d mind sharing current social tech happenings in zoos and aquariums, specifically. Boy, is there a lot going on!

In preparation to facilitate an upcoming workshop on social technology at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Mid-Year Meeting on March 23rd, I’ve put together this list of innovative initiatives that I’ve uncovered with the help of a survey sent to AZA participants. Quite expectedly, the industry’s natural creativity, passion, and aim to inspire and educate are quite clear in zoos and aquariums in much the same way that they are apparent in other types of museums and creative learning environments. Zoos and Aquariums are playing a big part in moving the nonprofit sector forward through social media, crowd-curation, and mobile applications.

Interested in seeing- at a glance- which zoos and aquariums are using social media (or were by November 20, 2010 at least)? Check out this awesome spreadsheet created by  Anthony Brown of the San Francisco Zoo. It lists which zoos and aquariums are using Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube, as well as basic engagement stats.

Check out some of the classic, creative, charming, and kooky ways that zoos and aquariums are using social technology to make waves in their communities and beyond:

 

Utilizing Basic Social Media Building Blocks.

1. Twitter. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums maintains a twitter list with over 127 accredited zoos and aquariums on Twitter. But from the looks of things, there are many, many more than that. Among hundreds of others, you can follow the Oregon Zoo, the California Academy of Sciences, the Seattle Aquarium, the Fort Worth Zoo, the Georgia Aquarium

2. Facebook. 7% of all humans are on Facebook and zoos and aquariums are effectively using this space to cultivate networks, create interaction, and share information. The Tennessee Aquarium always surprises me with cool facts in my Facebook news feed.

3. Flickr. Holy cow! If there’s one social media platform in which zoos and aquariums are taking the lead, it’s on Flickr. When asked (in a survey I crafted in collaboration with AZA), many zoos and aquariums reported Flickr initiatives as their most innovative uses of social technology. My favorite straight-up use of Flickr? That’s a toughie… but the Shedd Aquarium’s Flickr group is up there.

4. YouTube. There’s so much good stuff here, too. Zoos and Aquariums are mostly using this site to help them give visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the institution. I like the San Diego Zoo’s YouTube channel.

5. Website. Have you noticed that many of the biggest and most visited zoos and aquariums feature links to social media pages above the fold on their websites (even if it’s small)?

6. Interactive Pages. Many zoos and aquariums are putting their web-based social and educational resources in one place. Check out the New England Aquarium’s awesome interaction page.

7. Blogging. The Dickerson Park Zoo’s blog posts and short and sweet- and a lot of fun. Speaking of blogs, the Houston Zoo has four of them. They use fun facts and photos to share information on conservation, education and Trunk Tales, a blog covering elephant news and happenings at the zoo.

8. Mobile Applications. These ones by the Woodland Park Zoo, the Memphis Zoo, and the Dallas Zoo aim to make the visitor experience as comfortable as possible by providing basic information on the zoo and the exhibits. They even feature GPS so you can figure out how to get to your favorite animals.

9. Foursquare. Remember to check in when you visit the Sacramento Zoo. You’ll be rewarded with a free carousel ticket- and the mayor gets a free gift.

10. Virtual Conferences. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums is on top of creating engaging webinars that allow zoo and aquarium professionals to connect and share stories online. Couldn’t make it to the AZA Annual Conference in Houston? No worries.

11. Podcasts. The Aquarium of the Pacific’s (for instance) podcasts share information about the aquarium as well as news and information about issues facing our oceans and our planet. It’s music to an audible learner’s ears.

But that’s not even close to the end of it. Prepare to be inspired… and learn a thing or two about sea creatures, four-legged friends, the environment, and everything in between…

 

Storytelling and Online Engagement

12.  It’s a boy! This baby gorilla was abandoned by its mother, and then had to be raised by hand and trained with a surrogate mother at the San Fransisco Zoo.  The sensitive situation meant months of no on-site press. But it was no problem for the zoo. They captured the baby gorilla’s pertinent milestones on video. Everything was filmed and edited internally, uploaded on the Zoo’s YouTube channel and then distributed to the press. It worked beautifully and the press used these video links on their own Web sites and in print. Broadcasters pointed viewers and listeners to the YouTube channel and also aired them during newscasts.

13. Talk about streaming cuteness. The Knoxville Zoo’s creative partnership with the Mozilla Foundation raised awareness of endangered species through a 24 hour live stream of two red pandas (firefoxes). Their names, Ember and Spark, were determined by online voters. I cannot lie: sometimes I open this tab on my browser and check-in throughout the day. It’s that cute. (Please don’t judge…)

14. Meet Essex Ed. Turtle Back Zoo’s resident groundhog, Essex Ed, took over the Zoo’s twitter account during the month of February, expanding his prognostication prowess beyond winter weather predictions. Look out @SUEtheTrex & @NatHistoryWhale.This furry futurist was quite charming (even if his lovable predictions weren’t always correct).

15. Turning print materials into links. The National Aquarium transcends the divide between printed materials and the web by using QR codes on printed materials that link to their YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or Flickr accounts.

16. Information share within the industry. Impactful nonprofits share their knowledge with others. That’s basically what the San Fransisco Zoo is doing in this video. One thing that I think is cool/important: the zoo doesn’t just leave twitter to the marketing department. They know that many departments should be at least a bit involved.

17. A picture’s worth a thousand words. The Monterey Bay Aquarium holds photo captions contests to engage visitors.

18. Going Meta. The Shedd Aquarium makes celebrating Flickr and Facebook fan engagement through Facebook look easy with their Fan Photo of the Week.  They encourage Facebook users to tag themselves in photos in order to vote for their favorite. It’s a genius voting system. When folks tag themselves to vote, it often shows up the newsfeed for people in their networks, spreading the initiative.

19. Live tweeting… from the ocean? The Birch Aquarium at Scripps took the middle-man out of education-based communication when they created a Twitter account specifically for whale-watching season. Their Naturalists tweet live from the boat!

20. Apes, Elephants, Pandas- oh my! The San Diego Zoo invites you to live stream their apes, elephants, pandas and polar bears! And while you’re on the site, try your hand at the Elephant Odyssey Game.

21. No photographer wants to be photo-bombed by strangers. The Aquarium of the Pacific takes Flickr photo contests to another level and uses it to bring folks in the door. They created regular Photography Nights in which photographers (and photographers-in-training) are welcome to take pictures without worrying about the general public.

22. Let’s tweetup! The Houston Zoo conducts so many of them that they have a separate Twitter account for them.

23. We advise you to visit the aquarium. Got a good rating on Trip Advisor thanks to great visitor service efforts? Flaunt it. Word of mouth marketing is thought be to the most trusted and effective form of marketing. Take a lesson from the Oregon Coast Aquarium: link to your ratings on Trip Advisor and make sure folks know how much your visitors love it.

That little owl icon in the right corner says, "People love this place!"

24. Know your assets! In this case, it’s a Great White Shark. Kind of. I dare you to take a look at this Flickr album of enthusiastic visitors to Birch Aquarium at Scripps, and tell me you don’t want to take a picture with this shark.

25. Because “Fluffy’s Daughter” is a bad name for a baby python. And the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium knew it was a lame name, so they called in help from their community. Their naming contest on Facebook resulted in thousands of submissions and 1,200 original names, which were narrowed to five and placed back on Facebook for voting.  Talk about well received; more than 500 people voted in the first 20 minutes and the zoo significantly boosted their “likes” on Facebook! (Spoiler: The name “Hanna” won with 816 votes)

26. The good ole’ ‘Fun Fact’ route never goes out of style. Rosamond Gifford Zoo tweets healthy doses of “Today’s Wild Wisdom,” by popular demand from their online community. A little bit (more) proof that social media works best when educational or exciting information is shared… and not just used as an announcement board for holiday closures.

On the West Coast? Not a problem for the Columbus Zoo.

27. Calling all ‘Mommy Group Organizers!’ Using the social tool Meetup.com, the San Diego Zoo makes it easy to set up playdates at the zoo.

28. Are you on Jumo? The Palm Beach Zoo has a page. No pressure.

29. Cell phone audio guides are a classic. At the Florida Aquarium, kids can listen to birds, fish, alligators, and otters through a cell phone audio guide.

30. State lines are for dummies. The Columbus Zoo offers special distance learning classes to K-12 kids across the country. The program “brings the zoo to you” using standard audio/video teleconferencing equipment.

 

Fundraising, Working the Market, and Strategic Uses of Social Media

31. Mobile devices= tools for donations. The Cameron Park Zoo launched a mobile giving campaign, which allows guests to donate $5 or $10 via text message. .

32. Making fundraising social with new tools. The Museum of Science in Boston uses Fundrazr, a social fundraising tool, to raise funds. In fact, the museum has raised over $2500 for the renovation of the Charles Hayden Planetarium exclusively through its network of online followers.

33. Meet the parents. The Knoxville Zoo knows who makes up a big part of their market- and they utilize a local online social resource called knoxmoms.com to connect with parents in the area.

34. Zoos vs. Aquariums: Who does it better? The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium is already rocking the contests tab on their Facebook page to engage audiences- but one of their greatest contests featured a friendly race that pitted them against the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, IA. The race was to see which one–Aquarium or Zoo–could promote their page in order to get the most new likes/fans for their respective Facebook page by the end of the contest on October 31, 2010.  It was close, but in the end, the aquarium lost and had to do a full day of “dirty jobs” for the zoo.  But both organizations were winners in the end because of the increase in fans resulting from the competition.  The Aquarium increased it’s Facebook fan base by 283%!

In the spirit of sportsmanship, zoo employees also agreed to do some "dirty work" for the other team. On Facebook, this photo is titled, "Zoo marketing guy tries working at the National Mississippi Museum and Aquarium."

35. A collaboration to strengthen community. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo partnered with the Division 1 college hockey team in town, the Tigers, to promote both partners’ community-strengthening missions. They agreed to publicize for one another through their social media channels. In exchange, the Tigers promoted the zoo by showing video footage of the zoo’s tigers during period breaks, on the concourse, and on TV big screens at games. The zoo and the hockey team also conducted a successful meet-and-greet with players at the zoo, all the while shouting out to one another and publicizing these events through social media.

36. Make it easier for fans to give. In celebration of National Adoption Day, the Rosamond Gifford Zoo did a two-day promotion in which they significantly discounted their Adopt-an-Animal program. They created a custom package that was smaller than a traditional package (and therefore less expensive for us to produce). The result? An easy way to make an additional $350 for the program while getting the word out and giving their online community a sense of special perks.

37. Don’t forget gift shop sales! Folks at  Clyde Peelings Reptiland say that Facebook is their favorite way to  promote new items in their gift shop.

38. Tapping social technology for active feedback. The first step in evolving in order to best need visitor needs is to know what those needs are. By listening to audiences on social media, organizations can learn a lot about those needs- but the Brevard Zoo is taking an even more direct approach. They created research site that asks visitors how the museum can improve. The site allows them to get active feedback, create focus groups, and engage in private forums.

The Brevard Zoo wants your opinion.

Do you know of any zoos and aquariums utilizing social technology to engage audiences in ways that aren’t mentioned here? Share them in the comments section and add them to the list!

*Big credits to ourfunnyplanet.com for the top two photos.

Posted on by colleendilen in Community Engagement, Marketing, Museums, Nonprofit Marketing, Nonprofits, Social Media, Technology, The Future 5 Comments

Nonprofit Management: 3 Ways That Social Media Builds High-Impact Museums

The Exploratorium is one of the twleve organizations identified by Crutchfield and Grant that displays all six practices of high-impact nonprofits.

Nonprofits risk missing out on several opportunities when they entertain the mindset that social media belongs to the marketing department. This is especially true for museums. For one,  audience-inspiring stories often stem from inside operations, such as conservation, horticulture, and life sciences departments, not to mention anecdotes and lessons from  floor staff, interpreters, docents and ongoing programs. The opportunity that social technology affords museums in spreading their mission of educating visitors cannot be ignored. Social technology helps educational initiatives transcend museum walls, and even the most common social media sites offer opportunities to engage different types of learners.

But the issue extends beyond the notion that social media helps nonprofits and museums better fulfill their missions. Social technology can (and soon enough, in everyday life, will be) used to make nonprofits stronger organizations overall. In preparation for their 2007 book, Forces for Good, Leslie R. Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant examined twelve of the nation’s most impactful and successful nonprofit organizations. They pieced their findings together and outlined six practices of high-impact nonprofits: inspire evangelists, nurture nonprofit networks, share leadership, advocate and serve, make markets work, and master the art of adaptation.   Today, social technology plays a leading role in helping organizations to meet more than half of the critical six practices of high-impact nonprofits. And chances are, social media will continue to evolve so that we can even better utilize social media to take on these critical functions.

1. Inspiring Evangelists. Successful organizations turn outsiders into insiders in order to help spread a message. Evangelists often have a personal connection to an organization’s cause and they cultivate their own networks to support the cause. This effort helps build the organization’s overall community. Successful organizations open the door to outsiders and seek to communicate with them and creating meaningful experiences. Because being social is at the heart of social media, sites help to efficiently create conversation and cultivate evangelists. In the world of social media, we call these evangelist outsiders free agents. It’s no wonder we’ve developed have our own term for online evangelists in the last four years;  the Internet makes it easier than ever to connect with causes- and to connect with people who support your causes.

2. Nurturing Nonprofit Networks. According to Crutchfield and Grant’s research, successful charities recognize that strengthening their organization involves also strengthening the sector and sharing information. The notion that a good nonprofit tries to put itself out of business is at least conceptually true. A step forward in innovative educational outreach for one museum is a step forward for the power of informal learning for everyone.  Social media makes it easier to grow the pie and share knowledge. Several significant online resources are free to everyone. If one museum has developed a new exhibit that has been shown to have educational value, it’s easy for museum professionals to share the information. In fact, the blogosphere is great for information-share and overall sector-strengthening. Information sharing not only strengthens museums overall, but it helps to develop individual leadership. And we need strong and knowledgeable leadership for this evolving industry. As a related side, here are some of my favorite, basic resources for individual museum professional development.

3. Mastering the Art of Adaptation. Social media not only facilitates the development of this organizational skill (adaptation), but having good social media requires it. Forces for Good shares a cycle for adapting to change: listen, experiment and innovate, evaluate and learn, modify. This is the exact approach that is advocated (yes, for lean start-ups, but similarly) for developing social media strategies. In order to be effective on social media, folks representing museums and other nonprofit organizations must listen, try new things, and take note of how audiences respond to those initiatives. Moreover, mastering adaptation involves balancing bureaucracy and creativity. As museums embrace social media, they find themselves both hungry for online engagement but also apprehensive of it. Radical trust is an issue for museums. Taking on social media mimics the organizational process of adopting change, mostly because adapting to social media is a big change for many institutions. The cycle never ends. In order to be taking full advantage of social media, organizations must be constantly listening, testing, and fixing. They must be constantly adapting.

Nonprofits are moving forward in utilizing social to aid in the final three practices of high-impact nonprofits as well.

  • Advocating and serving. Crutchfield and Grant found that high-impact nonprofits both provide their own services and advocate for policy reform. It’s no surprise that social media is a good tool for building awareness and spreading a message. In fact, Planned Parenthood is a good example of an organization tapping into networks to support policy advocacy.
  • Sharing Leadership. “Great nonprofit leaders share power,” Crunchfield and Grant write. Social media can help share information in order to educate professionals and cultivate leaders. It prepares professionals for the sharing of leadership, and empowers them to create their own professional voice through their personal brands.
  • Making Markets Work. Social media can help nonprofit and for-profit partners connect to create collaborations that financially aid nonprofits and lend a reputation for promoting social good to for-profits. One way that museums leverage the market is by selling admission. In this case, social media really does work as a true marketing force, and online tools and mobile applications can help visitors purchase admission remotely.

Social media is a key resource for museums that want to develop nonprofit management techniques to help raise their organization above the rest. However, this will not be the case for long. Before we know it, those organizations that have not tapped into online networks to strengthen their museum will be far behind. Using social media to actively and consciously cultivate sustainability and long-term impact will be commonplace. At some point we may find that online engagement through social technology is not just a smart business move, but a matter of long-term nonprofit survival.

Posted on by colleendilen in Book Reviews, Branding, Management, Marketing, Museums, Nonprofit Marketing, Nonprofits, Social Media, Technology, The Future 1 Comment

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

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 tremendousnews.com

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

3 Smart Reasons Why Nonprofits Should Hire Candidates with Personal Brands

Recently, there’s been talk among nonprofit millennials about how personal branding might negatively influence the potential for an individual to be hired…. even though personal branding will make you better at your job. The idea is that nonprofit HR folks may note the strength of a candidate’s personal brand and take it as an indicator that a candidate may be more concerned with their own brand than the organization’s brand. Overlooking a candidate with a strong personal brand because you’re worried that they will care more about themselves than the company is like throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Some of that worry is practical. Members of Generation Y (a large portion of those with personal brands) don’t feel the same level of personal connectivity to their jobs as Baby Boomers and Traditionalists that came before them. In fact, members of Generation Y aren’t as likely to consider their organization of employment to be as integral an aspect of their personal identity, and Gen Y has different workplace motivators. Is that a bad thing for organizations? Maybe. But the world keeps moving and we are entering a future that is ruled by information, ideas, and an entrepreneurial mindset. A big part of that is keeping a fresh perspective.

 

1. Personal branding is indicative of an Institutional Manager– which is the kind you want to hire. In the popular Harvard Business Review article, Power is the Great Motivator, David McClelland and David H. Burnham identify three types of motivation: power, achievement, and affiliation. Arguably, of these three, candidates with a personal brand fall into the desire for achievement category (there are over 50 million blogs so power isn’t as direct, and personal branding doesn’t necessitate a need-to-please, especially since controversial posts often get the most traffic).  The Institutional Manager is identified as the most effective organizational leader and is someone who is highly motivated by both power and achievement. On top of this, the authors found that for folks with balanced power and achievement motivation, then “stories about power tend to be altruistic.” This is more than an ideal manager; it’s the ideal nonprofit manager. This ideal leader is driven by achievement motivation; the same kind of motivation driving those with personal brands.

The opposite of the institutional manager is the personal-power manager. This is the kind of manager that people think they are weeding out if they cut out candidates with personal brands. These candidates are only motivated insofar as the organizational operations result in personal power. The personal-power manager has high power motivation like the institutional manager, but has low achievement motivation. Not only is personal branding indicative of an institutional manager because it necessitates achievement motivation, but it is directly at odds with literature on the personal-power manager.

 

2. Personal branders allow you to tap into a tribe. Speaking of power motivation, we nonprofiteers have that, too.  According to popular blogger and author, Seth Godin, what we all want is to change things. Nonprofit employees, arguably more so than private sector employees, want to change things. Many of us believe strongly in large-scale change or we wouldn’t be working in the sector. What Seth Godin argues is that leaders spread ideas about change by leading tribes. Tribes are silos of interest and Godin argues that tribes will change the world; “It’s about leading and connecting people and ideas.” People with (good) personal brands and a message usually have a tribe– or a group of similarly interested folks who are interested in or agree with their message.

Especially for those interested in nonprofits, personal branding is often about connecting people in order to create change. When you hire a person with a personal brand, you’re signing on their tribe. Your organization will be a key part of their ideas and learning, and that person will share their lessons and passions for your organization– and likely its mission. As a slightly related side, word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most powerful kinds of marketing.  Social media is a mecca for word-of-mouth marketing and if you’re signing on someone and your organization is becoming part of their personal brand, then they are recommending you to their tribe.

 

3. Personal branders are social-tech, brand, and community conscious– and you likely need these areas of expertise in your organization. People on social media are constantly connected to other people, and they often know what’s going on in an industry thanks to their networks. A successful personal brand utilizes social media. If you hire someone with a strong personal brand, then that candidate is likely knowledgable in at least three areas that are important in the business world right now: social technology, branding, and community.

  • Social technology: This person knows how to utilize Facebook, Twitter, and other sites to spread a message– or at the very least they’ve had experience with spreading a message.
  • Brand: If the candidate has built a strong brand on their own, then they’ve developed branding skills that can be utilized by your organization. There’s a lot to learn here: the proper amount of transparency, tone, and the way to think about brands in this era of the social media revolution. Hire someone who knows and you’ll save time on trial and error.
  • Community: As mentioned above, a good personal brand is about building a strong community and getting the attention and respect from the right tribe. This person knows how to connect with other people through the Internet; a skill that will become increasingly desired.

 

While there may be a tendency to think that job candidates with personal brands may be personal-power managers, the tendency is often unfounded. This is not to say that there aren’t a few bad apples in the bunch, but if a person would be a personal-power manager, there are likely hints of this in their personal brand. Instead, it may be helpful to think of personal branding as a resume of the future; folks can often control their personal brand much like they write their own resume. Social media is already helping organizations hire employees more intelligently. Looking for candidates with personal brands that match your organization’s goals and mission may be a key indicator that the candidate has the characteristics your organization not only wants, but needs in order to survive.

And if you don’t have a personal brand, what are you waiting for?

Posted on by colleendilen in Blogging, Branding, Community Engagement, Generation Y, Leadership, Management, Marketing, Museums, Nonprofit Marketing, Nonprofits, Public Service Motivation, Social Change, Social Media, Technology, The Future, Words of Wisdom 12 Comments

How Social Media Transforms us From Managers into Leaders

While traditional business literature has identified an aching for leadership qualities in business and government positions, we’ve all come together to exchange ideas in the last few years- likely making traditional leadership qualities more obtainable than ever before.

Ask any MPA or MBA student about the staple literature for every organizational management course they’ve taken and you’ll likely see their eyes grow dull as they recall Abraham Zaleznik’s 1992 Harvard Business Review article, Managers and Leaders: Are They Different? They will grumble the opening words, “What is the ideal way to develop leadership?…” If you haven’t read the article, it outlines mutually exclusive and contrasting qualities of leaders and managers. And if you haven’t taken a class in which the article was highlighted, the first question seemingly every professor asks is, “Which one are you? A manager or a leader?

Here’s the answer: Thanks in part to the social revolution, we are (increasingly) both.

Here’s how managers and leaders measure up, according to Zaleznik’s famous article:

According to Abraham Zaleznik's HBR article "Managers and Leaders: Are They Different?" Managers have less than desirable qualities and leaders are rare.

And here’s how social media and current trends are melding us into leaders:

1) Leaders change what’s possible- and thanks to new technologies, we all have an opportunity to do this.  Zaleznik draws a strict differentiation between a manager and a leader’s attitude toward goals.  For managers, goals arise out of necessities, not desires. Leaders, however, “change how people think about what’s desirable and possible.” Social technologies are increasingly altering the way we communicate, and– in many cases– the ways to use social technologies have not yet been perfected. This provides an incredible avenue for potential leadership, especially for tech-savvy and still-unproven members of Generation Y. Things are changing. Social networks are now hitting more than 50% of the online audience- and there’s a rush to get your online strategy figured out by 2014, when social technologies are projected to capture 165 million users. There’s a need to be filled. Go leaders (everyone), go!

2) Leaders take a personal, active outlook- like you are taking right now as you read this post.  Did you know that there are well over 133,000,000 blogs on the web and more than 346,000,000 people read blog globally? That’s a lot of people putting their thoughts into the world- and most of them are not blogging for money.  Like leaders, these bloggers are taking a personal, active outlook on their industry or interests. The 346 million blog readers are also taking a personal, active outlook as they subscribe to sites and form their own opinions about what they read. Crowdsourcing (that’s a Wikipedia link; I figured it was only appropriate) is growing increasingly common and it is dependent upon people exerting time, energy, and willpower to a problem or cause. Utilizing all of these active leaders on the web has even been championed as a way for organizations to make better decisions.

3) Leaders develop fresh approaches, and we are now armed with more information than ever before. Another quality of leaders– in which managers are again lacking, according to Zaleznik– is that leaders have the rare ability to come at obstacles with fresh perspectives and an ability to increase options. Yes, we are undergoing a social media revolution, but this is occurring in the midst of (or perhaps as a subset of) the much-larger information revolution. Especially in the last 20 years, finding fresh methods to increase options to tackle business problems has become significantly easier. Just hop online and conduct a Google search to discover academic articles and blog posts about techniques being used in any industry. Moreover, not only are lessons regarding your industry of focus shared, but lessons can be easily gathered from other industries allowing folks to gather more information and create these fresh perspectives.  Utilizing this technology comes at little cost and, on a similar note, some of the greatest businesses in history were born out of recessions or times of resourcefulness.

4) Leaders make transparency a value. Consumers love social media because doing it well requires brand transparency (and the web is full of tips for marketers about how to do this); whether it’s an organizational brand or a personal brand. Truth be told,  Zaleznik doesn’t use the word “transparency” to describe leaders. He uses “passionate” and “personal.” He describes managers, on the other hand, as being apathetic, coercive, detached, and frequently using ambiguous words and gestures to avoid blame. When using social media, those characteristics just won’t fly. What does fly is honesty, sincere relationships, and adding value- qualities that align more with leaders in 2010 than with Zaleznik’s managerial qualities. In order to successfully utilize social media, you must have at least some of Zaleznik’s leadership qualities or you’re organization will only have one Facebook fan (Good thing your mom just figured out how to “like” organizations on Facebook).

5) Leaders do not tie their identity to an organization. Leaders and managers possess a very different sense of self,  Zaleznik argues. Leaders feel that they are separate from the organizations that employ them while managers feel their organization is tied to individual identity or purpose.  Right now, we are experiencing a trend toward organizational separateness. In fact, for members of Generation Y, the line between work and life is so thin that the idea of previous generations feeling intrinsically tied to an organization could be considered extreme to them (well, to us).  This is also a generation of multi-taskers with their own ongoing side-gigs that allow them the ability to intertwine work and life by doing the things they love. But Generation Y most certainly isn’t the only generation with side projects and developing their own leadership identities! In fact, Peter Drucker’s (awesome) Harvard Business Review article, Managing Oneself, is not generally considered an HBR leadership favorite for nothing. Social media helps us bridge the gap between work and life and our professional and personal ventures.

Leaders are traditionally thought to be rare and hard to come by. But it has never been easier to be a leader than it is right now. Times are changing and perhaps we’ll even find ourselves in the opposite position in 2042 than we were in in 1992: aching for more analytic managers than awe-inspiring leaders. Or the entire idea of a manager will become irrelevant as organizations become more organic and self-governing… or leaders will evolve to be people who can walk the line between do-er and thinker… or something else will happen as our business practices evolve. Either way, the clear-cut line between the contrasting characteristics of managers and leaders is blurring. Not only are we called upon to demonstrate both skill sets on a day-to-day basis, but we simply must be both managers and leaders in order to compete with our similarly talented peers.

Posted on by colleendilen in Uncategorized 2 Comments