I have chosen two people to shadow, in two different modes of communication:
Nathaniel Whittemore, cofounder of Northwestern Univ. Global Engagement Summit via Facebook
Kerri Feazell, cofounder of Project LACE (Loving Abandoned Children Everywhere) via Twitter
So far, my experience following Whittemore on Facebook was not what I had hoped it would be. I figured he would probably post his blogs from Change.org (which he did), but I thought such posts would inspire insights and unique perspectives from his FB friends. Yet, I don't really see that happening at all. It's basically a bunch of people saying they like it, which is great, because support is helpful, but you also need to have people who don't agree with you, to help you fully understand an issue. Following him on FB feels like a vacuum to me, yet I do like the blogs he posts on Change.org
My experience following Kerri on Twitter is equally dispassionate. Although she does not self-promote her own work, as she mainly posts blogs written by others or perhaps an event she is attending, I also feel like this exchange with her exists in a vacuum. I learn next to nothing about her, beyond what she enjoys reading.
I agree that social entrepreneurs should:
1. Self-promote: People want to know why you are qualified to share your perspective, and the best way to help people understand that is to share your own works in the field.
2. Post articles of interest: If people are interested in your cause, they will also likely be interested in articles/books you have read or doc**entaries/films you have watched that have a message to share about that cause.
Both FB and Twitter lack that human interaction with the person that makes me want to care about what they have to say in the first place. Nathaniel can't force his friends to converse about the articles he posts, but maybe it's how he's posting them in the first place...or maybe he only surrounds himself with yes men. I doubt that last one, so perhaps he should be asking more questions to encourage communication. That would really give someone a reason to follow him on FB. Right now, it's pointless.
With Kerri on Twitter, I think she could infuse more of her own personal beliefs and life experiences, and use those to share why she is recommending an article or advocating for a cause or attending an event. In order for people to want to click on the link in the first place, she has to give them a reason to care. I know twitter is an exercise in brevity, but we could all use some lessons in that. I recommend she start studying haikus :)
I was really surprised about what this shadowing experience has taught me about social applications. For them to matter, you can't just mindlessly post a link. Social applications are all about fostering communication, whether it's among a global community or among your friends. We are not utilizing these applications well if we throw our ideas out there in a way that does not demand audience participation.
I don't doubt that Nathaniel or Kerri are model social entrepreneurs. Everyone out there who is doing their best to evoke positive change is a hero in their own right. Yet it may be a "forest for the trees" kind of moment for them. Maybe they are so used to blogging about their own experiences, that they have forgotten how to ask questions that can enlarge the conversation...for the good :)