Good afternoon everyone. Thank you all for coming. I hope you’re all comfortably seated with your beverages ready to go. Because today I am going to attempt to answer the question “What would Harvey do?”
I hate intros & bios. They’re dull. So, I’m not going to tell you about me. If you want more info, there’s a link at the end of the presentation.
Another good metaphor, and one that helps guide people with their comfort level and privacy concerns, is The Street Corner: Here’s a shot of Yonge & Dundas, one of the busiest corners in Toronto. It’s hectic and there’s tonnes of distraction, just like the online world. And at least one guy on the corner will be asking if Jesus has saved you yet. Now, on this streetcorner would you say out loud in a clear voice what you’re about to publish online? If not, don’t do it. Would anybody care if you said it? Would they pay attention? How would you try to find the kind of people who would care enough to stop and listen? Would you put that picture you’re considering putting up on Facebook, on a lamp-post on a this street corner. If yes, fine – no problem. If not, don’t do it. And here’s an interesting question; would you expect complete strangers passing by your street corner to care about what you’re saying? If not, don’t be surprised when complete strangers online fail to care about what you’re saying.
It’s probably about this time that you’re thinking wow this guy’s a downer. He’s the cranky old man of presentations. What’s he going to do next? Tell us to get off his lawn?
Number of followers is probably the least useful indication of social media success, but it’s illustrates a point in this case.
Most commented story on my blog ever.
If you think you have nothing to learn about community-building from comedy and entertainment sites, think again. Dedicated community he’s built up over time that is buying t-shirts, books, beer mugs, cookbooks & more from, and it’s his full-time job. How many people here wish they could have that kind of community?
Inconvenient truth behind this: not everyone has as established as strong a connection with their audience as they think they do.
Anybody heard of them? Hands? Finnish firm with American arm
Wanted to try something different Wanted to build the brand and sales
Tremendous enthusiasm for crafting and scrapbooking Didn’t have to even try to create enthusiasm. Which is good, because you can’t manufacture enthusiasm. You can only grow it. ...
And now, without further ado, what would Harvey do?
I love that quote because I’ve been that guy doing the job of 4 other people.
This is a group of voluneers on one of Harvey’s campaigns, crammed around a dinky little radio in Harvey Milk’s Castro Street camera store, listening to election results coming in. You can’t get that degree of immediacy and connection online – you really can’t beat face-to-face human interaction to create a connection. But you can get a valuable connection nonetheless, and on a scale many thousands of times larger, using....
I think it’s a slam-dunk that Harvey would have used a social networking site like Facebook to achieve this, and I’m sure none of your are particularly surprised by that. One of Milk’s top concerns was reaching out to people and engaging them, which social networking sites excel at. By combining instant messaging, updates, groups, events and more, Facebook would have let Harvey multiply his efforts immeasurably without having to knock on thousands of doors and making thousands of cold calls to achieve it. Centralizing all those functions – and enabling people to interact with each other – it’s a tremendous medium.
Ok, so 21st century Harvey now has a community in place, but he’s still got to organize events and get people out. You still need face-to-face human interaction – especially if you’re going to agitate ofr change. You can definitely accomplish that kind of organization with Facebook , but as far as organizing meetings & events, there’s a slightly older social media tool – less glamorous, perhaps, but I think even more useful for Harvey’s intents and purposes:
It has one distinct advantage over Facebook or Ning in that its sole purpose, really, is to organize events. Another advantage that Meetup would have for Harvey is if you look at his audience. Harvey reached out to a lot of disparate, marginalized groups: low-income earners, recent immigrants, and the group that I’m going to choose, senior citizens. That’s a group that has a comparatively low adoption of Facebook, much less Ning. The barrier for entry is lower with Meetup than with the other technologies – don’t have to set up an account, conceptually it’s easier to understand what it does, it’s a dedicated application, one which works very well at what it does.
Joe was the man behind the Howard Dean campaign in 2003/2004 Joe was responsible, among other things, for raising tens of millions of dollars exclusively online. And in one fell swoop, he dragged fundraising and campaigning kicking and screaming into the 21st century. He wrote a book about the experience called “The Revolution Will Not be Televised,” which I’ll mention again at the end of the presentation. His work also became the basis for the successful campaign of another man I’ll mention later, who happens to have the last name Obama. Trippi’s notable for us, because he pioneered the use of meetup.org in politics, specifically to get people out to support Dean.
Here’s how Harvey connected with indviduals back in the day, and made asks: one on one And like I’ve been saying all along, it’s still the best way to connect. What would Harvey do to get that one-on-one connection online, make direct asks, and get people to do specific things?
Speaking of twitter, here’s microblogging circa 1975. Or maybe advertising. Or maybe both – I’m not sure. Now that microblogs like twitter are serving ads and now that Google Adwords is putting tweets in its ads, the border’s blurred.
How Twitter defines conversation: One-way streeet: twitter chat
Really coming into its own with real-time messaging and coordination
This is a staffer at Milk’s campaign headquarters back in the day. Phonecalls are still a great way to connect with people. And annoy them, if you catch them at dinner.
Here’s the slightly new way: SMS messaging, or Short Message Service. SMS messaging is the most widely used data application on the planet. 2½ billion people have access, by one count. That’s ubiquity, baby. MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) also exists, but it lacks the ubiquity and focus of SMS. And it’ll will also cost you more in data charges. Get a dedicated short code (one of those 5-digit numbers you’re told to respond to on radio station promos, for example) Also, make SURE you have white-listed phone numbers – that means a permissions-based list. It takes very little to get labelled a spammer and shut down.
I couldn’t talk about a politician like Harvey without mentioning the best example of correct messaging, certainly from the last few years, and maybe from this decade. Obama did a few things right with his asks: Brief / Requested people take direct, simple, measurable actions / Empowered his constituency to feed back, and then -- hold onto your hats – his staff acted on that feedback and gave back to the people who made it McCain did a few things notably wrong: Used social media much more for static updates on where he was and what he was doing / Had a very rigid, corporate feel, at least at the start of the campaign / Never devolved much responsibility or power to his constituency / And he never really embraced social media
Here, as a one-time PR flack, is an issue near-and-dear to my heart: publishing
Here’s how it’s done now: bloggin. With a plethora of platforms, hosted on existing sties or which can be implemented on your own site. More and more they’re meshing with existing social media like Facebook and LinkedIn where your blog posts can appear automatically or in your twitter stream. I don’t like to do that because I’d rather customize my posts on FB, etc. It’s not like I’m updating my blog every hour and need that level of automation
A lot of you live and die, not by selling widgets or anything, but by getting people to care enough about an issue to give you money to keep doing what you do. That usually means getting people to interact with you. Which means giving them a reason to want to do so. The ACA wanted to start a newsletter to do just that – it was the start of the recent recession, and they needed to demonstrate value to their membership to keep them from falling away We knew it wasn’t going to be a printed piece, because we polled our audience and asked them how they wanted to receive it. Which brings up a good point
People like being asked their opinion if it’s done in the right way. One right way is to ask how they want to be communicated with. If it’s a legitimate ask and not marketing disguised as an ask, there’s no real reason to avoid asking people their opinion. Don’t do it too often, and don’t wrap it up with another ask, but don’t be afraid of it. So the membership told us that they wanted to receive...
What did this accomplish? First of all, it got eyes on the site It converts people. We can track those conversions Finally, because it’s a blog, it gives people the opportunity to leave comments and track mentions on other blogs and social media.
Think creatively about your publications. Don’t use them as a “Here’s what’s new at our organization” blast. Those go nowhere – people sniff out the self-promotion in them right away and most of them tune it out. Use your online publications as an opportunity to give your audience useful information, direct them to your other properties, and increase their engagement with your organization. They’re an opportunity for you to show people why they should care about you, and get them excited about an issue.
Attention: Don’t forget, in the end, this is all about making people care. Harvey understood that people have to care about an issue before they’ll engage with it. He made straight people care about gay rights – not an easy thing to do in the 70s. But he also made everyone care about ordinary, everyday issues like the dog poop epidemic in San Francisco Find a Champion: for most of his life, Harvey wasn’t interested in being a crusader, but he eventually realized no one else was stepping up, and he did. Walk the walk: one thing Harvey did was to support local business in the Castro area – he was more than just a politician spouting rhetoric. He walked the walk and showed the neighborhood that he was the real deal.
Be authentic. People can sniff out phony corporate identity in a heartbeat. Put some personality into your communications. Be succinct. Brevity is the soul of wit – that’s easy to do with 140 characters, but just because you’ve got a blog post (for example) and can go on and on if you want, resist the urge. Attention spans are reduced in the online world Be useful. Don’t just give people an update about news in your organization. Give them news they can use. People don’t care much about what’s going on inside your organization. They care about what you can do for them. Be honest. Never, ever bend the truth or it will come back to you.
Act On Principles – a site that monitors law makers voting records on social issues and informs and organizes people about what they can do to influence that voting record, using social and other media The Dallas Principles – a social media-based site agitating for social equality
What Would Harvey Do? Social media through a hero's eyes
WWHD: What Would Harvey Do?
An introduction to social media using the (hypothetical)
case study of Harvey Milk
On today’s menu
• A brief introduction to social media via one of the great, and recently
celebrated, social activists.
• What technologies Harvey Milk would use, if he were trying to accomplish
his goals today?
• Not a survey of what social media tools are being used by community
groups and non-profits.
• Not a biography of Harvey Milk, nor an analysis of his accomplishments.
• A fun intro to the world of
social media, with Harvey
Milk as an example, with
case studies and insights
to guide you in your
The Truth about Social Media
• Before getting into Harvey’s story, a few things to remember about social
• No other discipline in the history of communication is so fraught with
hyperbole and SHEER HYPE!
• But social media isn’t quite the moving-heaven-and-earth experience you
may have been lead to believe it is.
• So don’t worry – it’s much simpler than you might think.
• The important thing to remember at all times, is that the fundamental
nature and aspects of human communication haven’t changed since we
came down out of the trees.
• It’s still just someone talking to someone else.
• So do what you would if you were talking with an acquaintance.
• Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do if you were talking with an
A kind of magic?
• With social media, as with all communication, you don’t get something for
nothing: social media isn’t magic. It’s not going to solve your
communication ills or change any communications fundamentals.
Don’t, don’t… don’t believe the hype
• Too many people fall into the trap of believing that social media is a
shortcut to more bang for their communication buck.
• They put a couple of
wheels in motion, and then
wait for wonders to occur.
• Wonders fail to occur,
anger and disappointment
ensue, and then the
offending media get
• Social media isn’t a campaign. It’s a conversation.
• Yes, that’s a cliche.
• Yes, it’s 100% true.
• If you treat it like an ad campaign that you turn on and off, and
expect results, you’re going to be mistaken.
• It takes time to either build a network or tap into an existing
one that’s going to care about your brand, and your product,
whatever that may be.
• So start building your network now for when you really need
results to happen later. Get people interacting with you.
• Just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll come.
• Time and again I meet organizations that see the exterior trappings of
social media, and execute some of them at their organization, in the belief
that it’s the mechanisms that make social media happen:
• Usually, this fails to
produce the desired result.
So what does work?
• Every time I see social media work, above all else, I see two common
factors, time and again:
• Me: 130 followers.
• Sockington: 1,513,649 followers.
• Typical Sockington tweet:
EEEETCH oh come now this belly
doesn't rub itself
DO I HAVE TO DROP ALL THE
HINTS AROUND HERE
• 1,513,649 followers
• 7,538 “Likes” on Facebook
• 434 people are part of his community
page on Facebook
• My best-commented piece on webheresies.com:
13 comments, not including mine
• Achewood’s last cartoon: 221 comments
• The monster social media success stories you sometimes hear about
happen because someone tapped the natural enthusiasm an existing
group of people demonstrate for a particular brand.
• The difficulty: not everyone has a strong brand.
• Inconvenient truth: not everyone has as established as strong a
connection with their audience as they think they do.
• Social media can’t create that kind of connection out of nothing, but it can
help you build it out if you’re willing to put in the effort.
Success Story #1: The Fiskateers
• Fiskars wanted to try something different.
• Hired Brains on Fire to help them.
• Combined social media with real live people.
• Created “The Fiskateers,” a group of user-evangelists who combined
in-store visits with an online community.
• Goal: recruit 200 more of these ambassadors in six months.
• Fiskars achieved that in 24 hours and reached 20 times that number within
• Goal: increase “chatter” (online conversations mentioning the company
by name) by ten per cent.
• It increased by 600 per cent over a 20-week period.
• Goal: increase store sales in specific areas by ten per cent.
• Increased 300 per cent in the first year alone.
Success Story #1: The Fiskateers
• What did they do right?
– Tapped into people’s natural enthusiasm, specifically their natural enthusiasm for
a brand (and an activity)
– Didn’t limit themselves to the virtual world – married social media with face-to-face.
• Some of the most interesting and impactful success stories with social media
happen when the virtual & real worlds get together and have a party.
– Worked from an existing, strong brand.
– Fitted social media to an existing infrastructure and audience, not vice-versa.
• E-mail me for a link to the complete case study.
• Milk’s #1 goal was to motivate and
• So what social media work best for
motivation and organization,
especially for social change?
• Social Networks
• E-mail (yes, e-mail – stick with me on this one)
The good ol’ not-so-good-ol’ days
• Dan Nicoletta
– “One thing about a lot of the political movement of
that time that people don't realize is that it was the
same 10 people doing everything... we imagine
that it was epic because it was epic sociologically
in terms of what was shifting, but it was the same
ten people doing everything... well maybe 20 on a
– Social media changes all that.
– To borrow a term from the military, it’s a
‘Force multiplier’ – it allows you to do things you
couldn’t normally otherwise do, by increasing your
capacity and reach.
– In the case of social media and social change,
it enables others to help you make that change.
• Not the only game in town, but close enough - Roughly ½ of all Canadians
are on Facebook.
• For some people, it’s becoming the web.
• Used to be a choice between setting up a fan page and a group.
• That choice is gone now, thanks to the ‘like’ button.
• Replacing previous tools like Evite for many functions.
• One of the best ways to promote a broad engagement with the public.
• Still works well. Completely unglamorous, but completely useful.
• And more importantly, it’s direct, in a way that thing like FB really aren’t
• Compare: about 106 million people world-wide have Twitter accounts.
• More than twice that number of people
have e-mail accounts.
• In the USA alone.
• E-mail lends itself to direct calls
for action because it’s direct:
one e-mail per person. It’s a
personal medium, not a
• Not to say it’s the only way to
make a call for action, but it’s a
Microblogging, circa 2010
• Great way to quickly, easily get your thoughts out there.
• It’s also an outstanding way to coordinate people in the field in real-time.
• What it doesn’t do as well as those things is conversation.
• Can Twitter be used conversationally? Absolutely?
• Is it being used conversationally in most cases? No.
• Twitter is still too often a communication one-way street.
• How Twitter defines ‘conversation’
Microblogging, circa 2010
• Twitter is becoming more and more versatile, but it’s not a panacea. Its
limitations haven’t changed, even as its popularity has increased.
– 140-character limit.
– Demographic reach: elderly, marginal communities, others.
• Success stories:
– Chilean earthquake
– Iranian protests
– Thai protests
Staffing the phones
• Recently old days
– SMS messaging.
– Dedicated short-code?
– Make SURE you have a white list.
Staffing the phones
– Social media goes mobile:
• Twitter (Twitterific, HootSuite, etc.)
– Dedicated apps:
• Providing value or just a novel way of promoting
• Approximately 150,000 apps on the iPhone store.
How will yours stand out?
• What’s the ROI on a $10K layout?
• Dan Nicoletta
– “I think the first campaign's literature is really clunky
and was done on some funky mimeograph machine,
for example, just because the guy across the street
had one and was willing to run stuff for the
campaign... and then later our own printing press
and silkscreen operation, etc., etc. to save money
we didn't have in the first place... “
Lessons from Harvey
• You have to capture people’s attention and interest before they’ll listen...
• ... and you have to get people to care before they’ll act.
• Find a champion (and it may be you).
• Walk the walk.
• Take risks (smart risks).
• Learn by doing.
The killer “Be”s
• Be authentic
• Be succinct
• Be useful
• Be honest
• Social media trends & analysis:
• Technology news, including social media:
• Examples of how to do it right:
• Social activism: