German youth fear Facebook

September 10, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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So in July I went to Dresden to facilitate a ‘media team’ of young people participating in the youth pre-assembly of the Lutheran World Federation General Assembly, which happens every ten years or so.   We had about 11 members to our team ages 18-30, from Hungary, Kenya, Rwanda, Madagascar, Nigeria, India, Papua New Guinea, the US and one German.   They worked hard to produce content for lwfyouth.org and I loved them all.  To do a training like this is to see the hunger of young people across the world to create meaningful content and use technology no matter how much money or schooling they have had.

A few lessons I took away:

  • While blogging at a conference is fun, its good to produce a daily newsletter for the people who are not online.  Our main target audience was the conference participants, who had a full day of meetings and no time to get online.  So — the old fashioned paper hand out was still a good idea to create buzz, enhance reputation and drive traffic to the blog.
  • There was a huge interest in video, which is not my area, and it was very hard to manage as an amateur youth media team.  A professional is definitely needed to lead that and do only that if that is an important end goal.
  • Create ahead of time your strategy of how you will distribute the online media you are producing — e.g., write all your blogging friends and press offices and work out a home page highlight at least a week BEFORE the event starts.

Mid way through the conference when our blog traffic was not going up enough I changed tactic.  Instead of urging participants to go to lwfyouth.org, I told them to go to our Facebook page. They were already going to Facebook, so it was easy enough to get them to go to our lwfyouth page there… and then they would hopefully post an update, tag or comment and then jump over to the blog.  Asking them to visit the blog directly was too big a step of behaviour change in an environment where there was not a lot of time to go online.

So to do that I made a passionate plea to the plenary asking  people to tag themselves in the pictures we posted on FB (everyone loves pictures!).   This was a trick to drive traffic to FB and then the blog.  The photo tagging continues months later…   But the bigger result was getting the German youth attending the conference all riled up.  They came to me and said that they had discussed it as a group and asked that we moderate a forum on if Lutherans of the world should use FB at all?  At this point I was dead tired and generally not enthused about the German culture which seems to shun any form of PR.   I could not think of anything better to say than, Facebook is here, get over it, my job is marketing, I know what I am doing, we have quality control here. Luckily a friend of mine interpretting gave a standard more diplomatic speech in defense of Facebook.   I asked the girl who was giving me an earful if she had a Facebook account?  Yes she says, but she uses a fake name and only uses it to talk to her friends in Latin America.  Her main concern was that a future employer would see photos of her online.

But the incident still bothers me to this day, so I was interested to read German blogger Peter Bihr’s account of giving a workshop on social media to German youth, he writes:

On a side note, I have to say I really enjoyed particularly the discussions with these students. We talked a lot about privacy on social networks and the implications of using these online services. I was surprised on more than one occasion: Not a lot of the participants use smartphones, which may be a budget thing given they’re all still studying. The crowd was much more critical of online social networking than I expected. (There was a strong split in the group, with those seeing chances rather than risks on one side and those highly critical of social networks on the other.)

Two things became very clear, though: (1) Just like German society overall this group had a significant part of online critics (with varying degrees of informed argumentation). (2) All of them are acutely – almost painfully – aware of the role of privacy and how it’s being affected by voluntary participation in online sharing behavior (social networking, Twitter etc), involuntary sharing (government involvement) and commercialization (all major actors are international corporations).

While I wished the overall discourse (on a societal level) about the complex issues of privacy/ownership/control of data online was based on a more informed basis, it’s very clear that we’ll be having this discussion for awhile to come. And that’s good: Keep thinking, discussing, debating. Just please make sure to stay away from panic and fear driven rhetoric as well as hyperbole. And if you happen to encounter such arguments, feel free to drop in some facts and see the fear go away.

My pursuit to understand social media in Europe continues, but  you can see we have some work to do.

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living in Europe: my social media withdrawal

September 10, 2010 at 11:03 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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When I first moved to Germany there was one thing that surprised me — posters. Tacked up on lamposts, pasted to buildings, these advertisements for tradefairs and concerts are on every main corner. Of course, staid Germany would never allow for rampant posters, but the point is that the communication was like being thrown back in time.

Since I got here I have been wondering, where are the websites? Where are the social media?  The websites I do find are built as photo images, or if they are halfway decent they are probably owned but the government, like Stadt Bonn. There is no where to interact, just a growing list of websites I should awkwardly check if I want to know if anything is going on. But complaining about social media in Germany is too easy — I should not let myself get caught up in sloppy thinking. There must be some good social media being used in Germany and Europe. Its time to be better informed.

First, what are Germans doing online?

View the full slide show here from Trend Stream.

According to this study, motivations in Germany to use social media are first, to research purchases, and second stay up to date on news and events. (Which is similar to the US- the same categories are important to Americans, but they do them at greater levels). But as a culture, Germans do not shop — you can’t use a credit card here if your life depended on it — and this must ultimately limit web purchasing.  And, traditional news via the printed newspaper, radio and TV had not seen many of the changes the have hit the American media. News comes on the hour on public-private stations in a even-keeled voice, and there are few pundits or opinions.

But maybe, living in Bonn, a small city, I am just in a social media withdrawal that would occur if I had moved to the middle of Indiana…. but I doubt it, because I would still watch TV that would drive me online (to share a pissed off opinion to Fox news… or look something up I saw on TV). It’s probably more like the same withdrawal I would get to moving to any small town in a country where I do not speak the language. I think it is more an urban-rural barrier. Apparently London is the social media capital of the world according to top number of users of Digg, Twitter and FB. And Russians are the giant social media users of all of Europe (see the Trendstream slide show.)

The differences in social media use in Europe and the US is a subject for a book — one that would immediately go out of date. But, my new plan is to SEEK out this information and make a more informed analysis, instead of just grumble about what I miss from NYC. First order of business, find some hot social media Euro bloggers to read regularly.

Can’t get enough Waka Waka

June 27, 2010 at 11:53 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The good thing about currently living in Europe is all the World Cup games are at normal time of day and there are TV screens everywhere.  So my Saturday night was spent in a public square watching the US get defeated by Ghana while a bunch of Germans cheered.  That was a bit painful, my national loyalties had been stirred.

But I have a new strategy for moments when I am feeling down, and I hope I remember it in the depths of winter a year from now.   Shakira’s ‘Waka Waka’ never ceases to cheer me up.

While its been criticized for not being sung by an African, I think that is a cheap shot.  No one is a bigger GLOBAL icon than Shakira, and Africa and the World Cup deserves the very best.  Anyhow the song was first made popular in Cameroon in 1986

Cameroonians are glad to do their part, according to the New York Times:

Cameroonians are actually very proud of the remake. In cybercafes you see both versions of the song playing on repeat. Young people don’t know the original as it came out in 1986. […] But the older generations know the clip off by heart, especially the bit with the presidential guards’ parade. The song was released just after television arrived in the country so we remember it well.

I only hope the original songwriters get some royalties, their remuneration plan sounds a bit vague. And true to social media spirit, the song is being used for a good cause (universal education) and has inspired a global dance party — even dolphins are in on it

Now, a day after the sad defeat of cute Donovan, Dempsey and BocaNegra, all I can say is Go Black Stars! And call me if you want to do the Waka Waka.

Twittering for a cause – what is the potential?

April 4, 2009 at 4:05 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I have been a blog-o-holic lately, reading like it is going out of style, trying to find the answer to: how does social media help fundraising? So, as you probably already guessed, it’s a little early to tell, and depends on what you are up to. But there are some great reports out there about how organizations use it best, like this whitepaper courtesy of Nten, the scoop on the money-making  Twestival for charity:water and this study of social media for social causes.  I love this one — it focuses on donors age 30-49 online habits.  This group is looking to give to organizations that they trust and are credible, and the study implies that they trust bloggers and the media, as well as their friends.   In a conversation for my thesis research I learned about an organization that got a grant from a foundation because it was so active on Twitter.

So this tipped me over the edge of curiosity, and I finally  joined up: @emilydavila.  I am still a rookie, but I am excited about the potential because Twitter really is a conversation.  While Facebook keeps you up to date with your friends, wherever they are, and is fun and gossipy and occasionally useful for planning a fundraiser or pimping a new article,  Twitter at its best is a professional conversation.  If you want to join twitter,  join with a point of view.  In my case, I am on there for Sustainable Health Enterprises, a social enterprise start-up selling low-cost sanitary napkins in Rwanda.  

So far, I have signed up to follow other social entrepreneurs, foundations, women in business, general non profit gurus and super bloggers like Beth Kanter, Chris Brogan or Sean Stanndard-Stockton.   For me, twitter is about people I don’t know, but would like to know, like these 6 wonder bloggers, or the communications people at the Skoll Foundation who were going bananas on twitter during their recent world forum.  

So, I jumped in the pool and am having fun.  I would love to hear from others how twitter has helped them accomplish organizational goals.

taking back the cognitive surplus (from the TV)

May 2, 2008 at 1:42 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I love this speech.  It is about how we are living in an era of surplus leisure time that is being gobbled by the TV, and he argues that we are now using wikis and social media and taking back some of this time for social benefit…. 

“And this is the other thing about the size of the cognitive surplus we’re talking about. It’s so large that even a small change could have huge ramifications. Let’s say that everything stays 99 percent the same, that people watch 99 percent as much television as they used to, but 1 percent of that is carved out for producing and for sharing. The Internet-connected population watches roughly a trillion hours of TV a year. That’s about five times the size of the annual U.S. consumption. One per cent of that is 100 Wikipedia projects per year worth of participation…

“I was having dinner with a group of friends about a month ago, and one of them was talking about sitting with his four-year-old daughter watching a DVD. And in the middle of the movie, apropos nothing, she jumps up off the couch and runs around behind the screen. That seems like a cute moment. Maybe she’s going back there to see if Dora is really back there or whatever. But that wasn’t what she was doing. She started rooting around in the cables. And her dad said, “What you doing?” And she stuck her head out from behind the screen and said, “Looking for the mouse.”

Here’s something four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. Here’s something four-year-olds know: Media that’s targeted at you but doesn’t include you may not be worth sitting still for. Those are things that make me believe that this is a one-way change. Because four year olds, the people who are soaking most deeply in the current environment, who won’t have to go through the trauma that I have to go through of trying to unlearn a childhood spent watching Gilligan’s Island, they just assume that media includes consuming, producing and sharing.”

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