Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

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 :)

Views: 27

Comment by Mita Williams on April 5, 2010 at 2:42pm
Interesting. Thanks for sharing your experiences with the network - especially as it didn't work out as well as one would have hoped. I recently read a good article by Clive Thompson in WIRED who makes a pretty good case that socializing doesn’t scale - in short, that even small scale "celebrities" can't maintain group conversations. I wonder if that is the case here?
Comment by Chris Lancaster on April 5, 2010 at 3:15pm
Good post. It takes Courage to share when things don't work out as we hoped, and also that's when we can learn most from them.
Comment by Meghan D. Saar on April 6, 2010 at 2:54am
@Mita: I read that article too, and I definitely agree that it's possible that the audience might be too large. If you have 10 people in a room, you can usually get them all to say something about a topic, but if you take those same 10 people and put them in a room of 1,000 people, then the chances of them saying anything at all is much less.

At the same time, I think salespeople have taught all of us that you can engage people on a large scale. So I really think we just need to become better salespeople: share an interest in the group; ask questions; share your own life experiences to create a comfortable environment for others to open up as well.

@Chris: Thanks! I didn't really see it as courageous, but I never turn away a compliment :) I do agree that failure comes hand in hand with success. It's what we do with that failure that usually determines if it will lead to success; if we let it lower our spirits so we give up, then we probably won't be successful. If we see it as a part of success, then we should take what lessons we can from it and move on! I think blogging about this is going to help me utilize my own social networking for the better, so even though I was surprised by what I found, I am thankful for it!
Comment by Chris Ke Sihai on April 7, 2010 at 4:22am
I enoyed this post a lot. It is very insightful for someone like me who doesn't really 'get' social media.
Comment by Meghan D. Saar on April 8, 2010 at 2:34am
@Chris: Even if that were true, you wouldn't be the only one. But actually, if you get evoke, you probably do "get" social media. And communication is definitely key to social media working :)
Comment by Elora Ramirez on April 16, 2010 at 12:52pm
Love this, Meghan. I think so many people automatically assume social media=narcissistic updates. But I've learned in the past year it can be such an incredible resource. My husband stayed with a guy we met via twitter in Richmond (@robbmajor) because of our collaboration via the network during Invisible Children's The Rescue. We never met Robb before Russ stayed with him. This is just an incredibly small example of the power of networking, regardless of your instrument. I think social innovators have an opportunity unparalleled in history to make something of their idea and to inspire others to join their cause/movement/creativity. One of our dear friends is a networking genius (@charlestlee) and he always says that social media isn't meant to be a bulletin board. There's no excuse for not engaging with those who follow you - whether that be responding or even asking questions or linking to an article which helped you in the process of brainstorming...like you said.
Sorry this didn't work for you, but I'm so glad it turned out to be a learning experience! :)


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