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12 tips on social media use for nonprofits, from YNPNdc’s Social Media Summit

August 8, 2010

About 150 young nonprofit professionals gathered in DC on Friday to learn about how social media can be used by nonprofits to further their goals. It was a fast-paced, information-packed day organized by the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of DC. Tamara Rasberry’s event recap details many of the speakers and topics covered.  Here are some key tips from the amazing speakers and panelists at the conference, from tweets and notes.

  1. Start small with social tools. One person doing well can lead to greater organizational buy-in. Have a short-term plan for what to do in the first 30, 60, and 90 days.
  2. Internal education and communication is essential. Education will help others in your organization understand the value of what you want to do, why you should be in the social media space. Share this Social Media Revolution video with skeptical colleagues to demonstrate the importance of having a dedicated social media presence.
  3. Promote and communicate your successes. Formalize regular internal reporting of what you’re gaining (awareness, followers, positive mentions, etc.) by having a social media presence. If something big has happened, such as a huge jump in website traffic, donations, members, or campaign actions, market your social media success story assertively to your colleagues and organizational leaders.
  4. Find and follow tweeps who cover and talk about your subject or issue using tools such as WeFollow and other Twitter directories, and event and topic hashtag searches. (Bonus tip: WeFollow used to allow only three tags on your account but now allows up to five. If you signed up a while ago or have changed your focus, you may want to update your listing.)
  5. Keep your content retweetable. Keep it short enough that your handle and additional characters can be added without requiring editing.
  6. Keep in mind that social media can act as a democratizing force for smaller organizations, allowing you to spread your message, gain followers, and even win contests and mentions, no matter how big you are.
  7. Twitter and Facebook can foster a higher level of interaction and more interactions than blog or news article comments. People often use their real identities, pictures, and names and have an easily-findable presence on social media forums.
  8. Cross-generational information sharing can be a great way to help older workers better understand new media and younger workers better understand the organization’s goals and processes. Institute formal mentoring or info-sharing sessions to make this happen.
  9. Keep an eye on what people are talking about, the top news stories and trending topics. If trending topics are related to your programs, messages, and goals, jump in the conversation! Use hashtags to be found more easily. Think about unique connections you can make, such as using a hot-button political issue as a way to encourage more voter registration.
  10. What do you want your audience and community to think about you, to know about you? What reputation are you trying to build, what are your goals for participation? Answer these questions to stay focused. (This point was also an exercise in the Blogging for Branding 31 days to a brand new blog challenge from Rosetta Thurman.)
  11. Content curating is becoming a highly valued skill; seek out and share the most relevant and important content in your area of expertise or practice. Keep in mind the 80/20 rule: no more (and often less) than 20% of your posts should be self-promotional. 80% should be engagement and sharing others’ content and successes.
  12. Combining social media with traditional PR is all about building relationships. Be where key reporters are, follow them on Twitter, comment on their articles, help share and fulfill their requests. Be a resource for them, and they’ll be more likely to think of you for a story or respond to a pitch.

And finally, I have to share this funny cartoon shared by Lisa Byrne. Attendees were eagerly soaking up, taking notes on, and tweeting the great information and examples presented by all the speakers. A big thanks to YNPNdc, John Chen, Malcolm Furgol, and the organizing committee for organizing a valuable, fun conference.

Thank you to speakers and panelists Tammy Gordon, Brian Dresher, Reggie Henry, Peter Panepento, Alison McQuade, Chris Golden, Ayofemi Kirby, Jason Rosenberg, Rosetta Thurman, Ashley Parker, Debbie Friez, Mariah Craven, Amanda Miller Littlejohn, Kye Strance, and Jordan Viator for sharing your experiences and insights.

Movie review: Step Up 3D

August 8, 2010

No one is going to go see Step Up 3D for a creative plot, but if you love dance, you’ll truly enjoy this movie. The first dance movie made in 3D and the third installment in the Step Up film franchise, Step Up 3D showcased some incredible hip-hop and breakdancing. Viewers of So You Think You Can Dance were exposed to repeated promotions for the movie, and it was enough to get me in the theater. So what was great and what was lacking? To break it down:

Plot: B- Surprisingly, there was actually a fair amount going on plot-wise. None of it was particularly original and most of it was predictable, but there was more going on here than in the average romantic or buddy comedy. The plot centered around Luke, the leader of a close-knit dance crew; Natalie, the new girl in the crew; Moose, a college freshman trying to balance school and dance; and Camille, Moose’s best friend. The crew, of course, has to battle with a rival dance crew to win a contest that has big implications for their future. Light romance and conflict ensue.

Characters: C+ The characters are pretty flat and stereotypical, without much development. There’s the usual business about pursuing your dream and figuring out what really matters. Luke happens to have a passion for making film, and his films allow us to see glimpses of the dancers’ thoughts on what dance means to them and where they come from in documentary style, providing some of the most real emotional moments in the film. Some of these supporting characters, while providing comic relief and more dancing, seem more real than the leads because they’re not forced into a predictable plot role – they seem to be appearing as themselves. The main characters are likable and provide a good-enough vehicle to move the film along, but are ultimately forgettable, blending into a long line of dance-loving protagonists.

Dialogue: C There were moments in this movie when I would literally turn to my friend and whisper the next line before the character said it. Like the plot and characters, the dialogue was utterly predictable and forgettable in its over-the-top cheesiness and “believe-in-yourself-ness.” I was often laughing at the film instead of with it, but the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, either, so the cheesiness often becomes funny instead of merely groan-worthy.

Dancing: A+ Finally, the reason I paid $13 to go see this film in 3D. The movie featured a huge cast of over 250 superb dancers. There were incredible hip-hop dance sequences by some amazing dancers. And not only were street dancing and breaking featured, but there was a tango sequence and a fun dance reminiscent of the famous Singing in the Rain number. Fans of So You Think You Can Dance (and another popular TV musical show) will recognize familiar faces. The quality and originality of the dancing in this film were simply amazing, far better than any other recent dance film.

Visual Effects: A The 3D in this film was very realistic, making the dancers and environment pop off the screen as elbows and knees were popping and locking. Only a few times did I notice that some aspect of the environment or a particular dance move was done in a certain way only because of the 3D, like an awful lot of arms pointing straight at you. But short of seeing dance in person, seeing dance in 3D is as good as it gets. Dance is movement, and 3D enhances movement and body positions. I think the scope and sheer number of dancers would be a little lost in a traditional flat film. The final dance sequence had some highly inventive lighting, provoking genuine “oohs” and “aahs” when combined with the dance moves and 3D effects.

Bottom line: if you are a fan of any kind of dance or a fan of 3D movies, go see this film! You will not be disappointed by these aspects, and you might find yourself laughing and enjoying the cheesy plot in site of yourself.

National Dance Day celebration on the National Mall

August 2, 2010

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the National Dance Day event on the National Mall, presented by So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD) Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton of DC. (My Congresswoman! Who still can’t vote, but does great work anyway.) Norton introduced a resolution in Congress declaring July 31st officially National Dance Day and presented Nigel with a plaque of thanks from Congress for increasing awareness of dance as an important fitness activity.

Highlights for me included simply seeing some celebrities from the worlds of dance, politics and fitness, including:

  • Nigel Lythgoe himself, Executive Producer and Judge on SYTYCD
  • Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton
  • Dominique Dawes, Gold medal gymnast from the 1996 women’s Olympic gymnastics team in Atlanta (one of my favorite group of athletes of all time, right up there with the 1995 World Champion Atlanta Braves), Currently Co-Chair of the President’s Council on Fitness
  • Russell Ferguson, Season 6 winner of SYTYCD

The event organizers gathered together an incredible variety of local dance talent who performed an amazing array of dance styles, including contemporary, hip-hop, tap, swing, DC hand dancing (official dance of the District of Columbia), Zumba, Irish dancing, African dancing, ballroom, and flamenco.

No dance day event would be complete without enthusiastic crowd participation. Russell, Congresswoman Norton and friends led the crowd in the Electric Slide, and Step Afrika! led the crowd in some basic stepping and call and response. The diverse crowd, from toddlers to seniors, danced along with some of the hip-hop songs and fitness dance routines. And of course, there was the Tabitha and Napoleon Hip-hop choreography many of us had learned. We reviewed the choreography extensively before the show began, and all participants were pumped to present it for the cameras. Watch SYTYCD on Fox this week for clips! (The crowd choreography was one thing I didn’t capture with my camera – I was too busy dancing!)

What was also really fun to see, besides the pure joy of the crowd in dancing, participating in the show and watching the dancing, was the pure joy and enthusiasm of Mr. Nigel Lythgoe. Being British and tie-clad, in his seriousness on TV, what doesn’t always come across clearly is how much this man truly loves dancing. You could see in his face, his smile, his playful dancing at the beginning of the show how truly happy and inspired he was to share his love of dancing with the gathered crowd and folks across the country.

As the show wrapped up, many participants continued to dance for the cameras. I followed Nigel and Russell with my camera, getting a few paparazzi shots of the dance celebs. Russell was sweet enough to pause for photos with fans!

I love the show So You Think You Can Dance because I love dance. I was thrilled to be a part of the (hopefully, first annual) National Dance Day celebration. A couple friends and I kept the party going at a cookout hosted by my roommate at our house. As was fitting for National Dance Day, the cookout wrapped up with a small impromptu living room dance party.

Keep on dancing! I know I will. And please check out my photos from National Dance Day on Flickr!

Three cat tales

July 30, 2010

I don’t plan on blogging extensively about my cat, but once in a while, it may be necessary. And this is one of those days. Three amusing cat-related incidences have occurred in the last few days.

A Cat Bath

Unfortunately, I didn’t capture any photos or video of my six-year-old cat’s first bath. It took two of us just to hold him and wash him, so we didn’t have a photographer. But, surprisingly, Cat handled it pretty well. I followed the rules I had read online: run just a few inches of water first, keep it a mild temperature, put a towel in the bottom so he can get a good grip, and trim the claws ahead of time.

When the time came, I bribed him with treats first so he’d be happy and not hungry or whiny to start, then carried him upstairs to the ready bathwater. He whined and clawed a little at first (I have one cat-scratch paw print on my leg), but once he got settled and realized nothing too terrible was going to happen, he seemed to almost enjoy the attention, massaging, and cool water. I am relieved he handled it so well and happy to have a cleaner kitty.

Since I didn’t get a photo of Cat-in-the-Bath, here’s a fun one of Cat-in-the-Box:

Orange and White cat in cardboard box

Fat Cat Food

Besides the fact that Cat likes to squint in photos, you might also notice that he’s a rather plump kitty. To work to remedy this, I’ve purchased “Weight Control” cat food on a few occasions. Cat does not seem to like the diet food very much. A few months ago, he seemed to take to it ok, but the last bag, he all but refused to eat unless he got really hungry.  It sat in the back of a cabinet, forgotten, until I purchased a new bag, and realized, “Hey, I should try to get him to eat up this old food first.” So I’ve been mixing the older diet food with regular food, about half-and-half, until today, when I realized why Cat didn’t like the diet food.

Exhibit A: Two bags of weight control food:

Two bags of weight control pet food

Exhibit B: Why Cat didn’t like the older bag:

Close up of pet food label: reads "dog" with faint picture of dog

Oops. I guess cats are not big fans of dog food. From Exhibit A, you can see how I could have grabbed a bag from the store shelf assuming it was cat food without looking too closely. The bag on the left is actually cat food, on the right, dog food. Hopefully, cat and dog food are nutritionally similar enough that no significant damage was done to Cat by his consumption of dog food for a few weeks. Any veterinarians, dog and cat owners, or pet food manufacturers that can comment? A few takeaways:

  • Pet food manufacturers, especially Iams: Please make your cat and dog food packaging significantly different with large, high-contrast pictures of dogs and cats so one does not have to look too closely to see which is which.
  • Safeway and store stockers and managers: Please look closely at pet food bags and make sure they are stocked in the appropriate shelf area.
  • Pet owners: Please look closely at the bag before purchasing it to make sure it is the right kind of food. Looks may be deceiving.

I hope Cat likes the diet cat food better than the diet dog food. (Update: food bowl empty. Looks like he’s happier with cat food, even the diet kind!)

A Feel-Good Story

A few days ago, as I was headed out on my bike to a Nationals/Braves game, I noticed a guy on his bike calling out, “Slinky! Here, Slinky! (kissy noises),” clearly looking for a lost pet, flyers in hand. I asked him for a description of the lost pet. He described a cat with distinctive black/white/grey swirly spots/stripes; I said I would keep an eye out and headed on my way. After the game, I biked home, sweaty and tired, and dragged my bike back into my basement.

Fast forward to today. I headed down to the basement to take care of some laundry, and noticed “Oh merde, I left the basement door unlocked again!” It had happened once before after bringing my bike back. This time, the door was open a few inches, and I scanned the basement to see if anything was out of place. All seemed fine, and I secured the door and made a mental note to not let it happen again.

A couple hours later, I headed back to the basement to get the bike to run some errands. My cat was nosing around the kitchen. I did a double-take when I opened the door to the basement and there was another cat sitting on the steps! I shut the door, startled, as the strange cat darted down the steps. I realized this strange cat fit the description of the man’s missing cat: black and grey patterns. I went down to the basement, wandering among the piles of junk calling, “Kitty! Here, kitty! (kissy noises).”

I found Lost Cat cowering among some piles of stuff in the front basement area, brought him down some cat food (regular cat food, not diet, not dog food) and water and went out to find the phone number from a flyer. I called the owner and left a message and kept checking on Lost Cat as I waited for them to call back. Lost Cat seemed scared, but happy to have some food and water. About a half-hour later, a lady called back, cautiously optimistic that I had found her family’s cat.

She and her adorable twin boys, about nine years old in matching soccer uniforms, came over, identified the cat as theirs, coaxed him out of hiding, and happily took their mewing cat back home. Lost Cat was now Found Cat! I was happy that my carelessness had resulted, not in an evil intruder, but in providing shelter to a sweet kitty during a couple days of thunderstorms and heat. But I’m still going to lock my basement door next time I bring my bike back in.

Lost Cat happily, cautiously eating:

Grey cat licking his lips at a food bowl Grey cat between a box and pile of stuff peering out at food and water bowls

Theater review: Avenue Q

July 24, 2010

Puppets. Profanity. Purpose. (Today’s review of Avenue Q is brought to you by the letter “P!”) Playing now through August 15 at the Lansburgh Theatre in downtown Washington, DC, the Broadway musical Avenue Q had the audience laughing out loud and letting loose at the decidedly non-PC antics of a talented and engaging cast.  A show not-for-kids, I would call it a must-see for adults who know how to laugh. The show came highly recommended by all friends who had seen it, and I strongly agree – GO SEE IT!

Musical highlights include: “It Sucks to be Me,” “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” “Schadenfreude,” and “The Internet is for Porn.”  If those titles sound amusing and intriguing, you’ll love the show. If you’re blushing and not sure if you can handle mature themes and R-rated puppets, well, you’ll probably enjoy Mary Poppins, currently playing at The Kennedy Center.

Besides the giggle- and guffaw-inducing adult subjects and music, what makes Avenue Q so enjoyable is how real it is. The actors, through the puppets, lay forth in raw, honest emotion the heartaches, yearnings, pains, and struggles of the human experience, with plenty of wit and humor.  You’re not just laughing at the puppets’ antics – you’re laughing at yourself, and your friends and neighbors.  Having your eyes opened to the humorous side of difficult or taboo subjects and experiences is a relief – a big stress-relieving catharsis.  And most of us could likely use a good laugh right now; I know the show lifted my spirits and made my week.

And even better, Goldstar is offering steeply discounted tickets! Only one performance date is showing availability right now, but they’ve been periodically adding new dates. (Disclaimer: I do receive a tiny credit towards future service charges if you purchase tickets through the above Goldstar link. But I would recommend the show and discounted tickets regardless!)

Congress, you have oil on your hands

July 22, 2010

Oil covered foam hand in front of CapitolClimate activists rallied at the Capitol on Tuesday to demand that Congress enact “Clean Energy Policy Now!”  The BP Oil Crisis spurred many organizations, including 1 Sky350, Code Pink, Friends of the EarthGreenpeace, and concerned citizens to demand that oil money and influence be cleansed from our politics as oil is being cleaned from our shores. Rallying cries included:

  • What do we want? Clean Energy! When do we want it? Now!
  • Oil on your hands, Pollution in the air – Congress, it’s time to show you care!

There were calls to action from environmental leaders and moving speeches by Louisiana residents on the impact of the oil disaster on their lives. An oil-soaked, money-eyed “BP representative” was running around, making a mockery of cleaning off a turtle.  Friends of the Earth had a “Wanted” sign listing “The BP Ten,” the ten Congresspeople who have taken the most money in campaign contributions from BP.  The most wanted list includes well-known names like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Congressional offices of each of the BP Ten were visited by volunteers and activists from Friends of the Earth, who demanded that oil money contributions received in the last two election cycles be donated to Gulf Coast recovery efforts.  Sign a petition on the Friends of the Earth website to pressure Congress to reject dirty oil money.

The women of Code Pink ended the event with a humorous yet poignant song, to the tune of the Beverly Hillbillies Theme (posted with permission):

“Let us tell you the story ’bout Company BP
It wanted more oil so it dug deep into the sea
They wanted more profit so they did it on the cheap
And up from the sea came a bubbling leak
Oil, that is. Black Gold. Louisiana Tea.

So the birds and the shrimp and the fish began to die
And the people on the gulf, they all began to cry
They asked the folks in Congress to listen to their pleas
But Congress was in bed with the oil companies
Oh no, get them out! That’s bad.

Get oil money out of Congress, we want green energy
The sun and the wind and the waves of the sea
We can’t stick with oil cause we’re running out of crude
If we don’t make the change, the planet will be screwed.”

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Movie quick take: Inception

July 20, 2010

I saw Inception this weekend and enjoyed the thrill-ride, but left with a nagging feeling that something was missing, that I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the hype, peer reviews, and my expectations had led me to hope I would.  I realized my problem with Inception after reading Roger Ebert’s blog post discussing David Edelstein’s critical review. This line from Edelstein stood out:

“Nolan is too literal-minded, too caught up in ticktock logistics, to make a great, untethered dream movie.”

I agree with this assessment – for me, the movie was too strictly logical for a dream film. I expected and wanted fewer rules, more like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or The Matrix. I realize, the movie I expected to see was not the movie Christopher Nolan wanted to make, but I had been led to believe from the trailer that there would be more than just a handful of scenes that bent the rules of physics.

If your subconcious does wacky illogical stuff that bends the laws of physics, why couldn’t the Architect and others in your dream? I can buy the dream extractors and everything within the film except that limitation. If an Architect can build a world that’s accepted by the subconscious as one’s own dream reality, that fabricated false-world shouldn’t have to behave and look so normally. I just don’t buy the explanation Cobb gives in the film that your “subconscious projections” start to notice odd physics but are ok with a world created by a different mind.  I guess it’s a nuance of the dream technology.

I did enjoy the movie, but didn’t find it the “best movie ever.” I loved the layers, the overall plot and character development, the way it left me thinking, the idea itself of invading the mind through dreams. I guess I’m just a sucker for mind-bending special effects and visuals. (My Netflix suggestions have me pegged pretty well.)