Monthly Archives: March 2009

All hail the rat and his frozen overlord

Those of you who know me well, know that at least once a year I prove my love for my wife by going to Walt Disney World so that she can enjoy the happiest place on earth and I can help pay for the cryogenic upkeep of Mr. D. himself.

As much as I’m loathe to admit it, however, the Rat Mouse House has important lessons to offer about the care and feeding of secondary allies and supporters when you’re building and maintaining your coalitions and networks.

I’ll be sharing those in an upcoming series of posts.  But now I must elude the fun police.  Pray for me.

4.5 things I’ve learned blogging

So here’s what I’ve learned from the personal blogging experiment that is The Coalitionist – lessons that may or may not have some application to your own electronic outreach:

  1. It would be best if you just shot me now. It would provide fresh content for the blog and an exit strategy.  If you think Great Whites are insatiable, try keeping to a regular production schedule of new postings.
  2. Speaking of content, your best ideas inevitably will come to you while driving at high speeds or late at night when you can’t sleep. You will be so impressed with your own genius, you will not write down your great idea, confident that it will stay with you forever.  It won’t.  Go ahead and clutch the wheel between your knees, and jot down your fabulous insight on a McDonald’s napkin.  Your readers will thank you and, should you careen off the road, see Lesson #1.
  3. There’s value in what you do even if no one reads it (messaging improvement, thesis testing, person development, etc.). That’s what you’ll tell yourself anyway every time you look at your blog stats.
  4. Think about where you’re going with your blog so that you can strategically plan out its evolution.  Hey, look at that! The Star Trek episode with the evil beatnik Spock is on. Now, where was I? 
  5. Dang it! Where’s that napkin?

Sharing shows how you’re faring on the web

How frequently people share content they find on your website, blog or other electronic outreach may ultimately be the most important measure of well you’re building and maintaining your issue or action coalition.

If the people you reach out to are forwarding, Digging, Delicious-ing the content you are generating, then they’re voting with their actions that what you have to say is important because it:

  • Contributes to or furthers a conversation they think matters;
  • Advances their self or civic interest; and/or
  • Confirms their values, beliefs or ideas.

The key, then, is to make sure that the content you’re generating is “share worthy” by concentrating on its:  

  • Trustworthiness – Do you take every step possible to make sure that content is accurate, complete, low on spin and authentic to the style and culture of your organization?
  • Relevance – Do you know in great detail who your coalition partners are, what interests and motivates them, and do you provide them with what they need and want?
  • Immediacy – Is the meaning and value of your content instantly recognizable as valuable without requiring a complicated explanation.
  • Usefulness – More than ever before, content is king, especially well-written, timely and relevant news, how-tos and other material that adds value to everyday life, or at least makes it easier and more productive.  

Bottom line, any time you’re posting information, ask yourself: “Will my partners and audiences use this material and, if so, how will their task/day/life go better?”  If you and your content have an answer, then odds are what you have to say is “share worthy” and thus an Internet success.

Quick tip: Heads up on a new Twitter tool

From E-Media Tidbits:

“A new Twitter interface application, Twitterfall, has been around for a month now.  … this is a must-see — for about 10 minutes. Then it becomes a must-use.

Here’s what Twitterfall does:

  • Scanning. You can choose to watch everyone’s tweets go by, or log in to watch only the tweets of those you follow. Thanks to Comet technology, Twitterfall has an especially fast search service. You can alter the speed from 0.3 tweets per second to a mind-scrambling 10 tweets per second.
  • Keyword tracking. You can see the most popular terms of the moment, and just follow tweets containing those keywords (including hashtags). Or you can enter your own search term (as on the Web-based Twitter service Monitter) to track tweets mentioning it. You can combine keywords, too.
  • Geo-filtering. You can enter a location to narrow down your display to tweets from that location that also mention keywords you choose (again as with Monitter). The words Mumbai and Chengdu come to mind.
  • Basic usability. Unlike Monitter, you can use Twitterfall to post tweets yourself, reply to tweets and mark tweets as favorites. Just hovering over a tweet pauses the whole thing. You can also follow a user with one click — a feature some popular clients like Tweetdeck lack. You can filter by language and choose to exclude retweets. You can save favorite searches. And you can customize the appearance of the interface, including the font size.

This is quite simply the best-designed Twitter interface …”

Quick Tip – Test your coalition to build understanding

People love quizzes and surveys – at least when their GPA isn’t at risk.

And it appears that, besides the entertainment value, taking “tests” actually helps you better remember what you’ve learned, even if it wasn’t covered on the test.

It works even better than simply giving people more time to study, at least in terms of long-term recall of the materials, according to the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

The lesson here is that an effective – and entertaining – way of educating coalition members about information and messaging may be to occasionally let them test and cement their knowledge with a casual survey or quiz offered online, at meetings and in other forums.

Quick Tip: Twitter demographics

As you think about whether Twitter makes sense for your next communication campaign, here are the latest Twitter usage and demographic stats:

“As of December 2008, 11% of online American adults said they used a service like Twitter or another service that allowed them to share updates about themselves or to see the updates of others,” according to a Pew Internet & American Life Report.

Other findings:

  1. Twitter and similar services have been most avidly embraced by young adults. Nearly one in five (19%) online adults ages 18 and 24 have ever used Twitter and its ilk, as have 20% of online adults 25 to 34. 
  2. Use of these services drops off steadily after age 35 with 10% of 35 to 44 year olds and 5% of 45 to 54 year olds using Twitter. The decline is even more stark among older internet users; 4% of 55-64 year olds and 2% of those 65 and older use Twitter.
  3. The use of Twitter is highly intertwined with the use of other social media; both blogging and social network use increase the likelihood than an individual also uses Twitter. 
  4. Twitter users and status updaters are also a mobile bunch; as a group they are much more likely to be using wireless technologies — laptops, handhelds and cell phones — for internet access, or cell phones for text messaging.

Overall, Twitter users engage with news and own technology at the same rates as other internet users, but the ways in which they use the technology — to communicate, gather and share information — reveals their affinity for mobile, untethered and social opportunities for interaction. 

View PDF of Report

The Anguish Patient

“Oh-oh, that’s the hootchie cootchie,” my roommate called out at the top of his quavering voice.  “That’s naughty.”

I pulled the pillow tighter around my head, failing to stifle the noise from his running commentary on the Hip Hop Abs infomercial playing at a volume that would have done Godsmack proud.

In another 30 minutes, if I couldn’t get to sleep, I would call for another shot.  They might be unwilling to move me, but they’d give me all the morphine I’d let them stick in my arm.  God bless American healthcare.

So went the ninth hour – or was it the 9,00th – of my recent two days in the hospital with a mild case of Scrivener’s palsy complicated by effluvia.

My nonagenerian, stone-deaf, slightly confused, pneumonic roommate spent the whole time babbling, snoring and playing the TV at decibel levels to rival a jet engine with the throttle stuck wide open.  

All other times he was querulously questioning nurses and physicians regarding his diagnosis, treatment and release.

It all made for such an unappealing combo (with my own whining added in) that the staff kept our room’s door always closed. They minimized their interaction with him, since every contact had a Emily Litella-like quality. And when they did try communicating with him, you didn’t need Gene Hackman’s trick bag from The Conversation to hear the condescension in their voices.

Bottom line, as far as they were concerned, he was a pain that was obstructing the patient-care process they had set up – for their benefit and efficiency.

I’m not faulting them. I was desperate to get away from him, too.  But in quieter moments, like the time he got stuck for 30 minutes watching and commenting on the QVC Jewelry Showcase, I contemplated how liking the unlikable, and effectively working with them, may be one of the toughest challenges we face when building and managing coalitions.

(No. Really. That’s what I thought. Cut me some slack.  I had nothing else to do.  I sure wasn’t getting any sleep. And one of the first lessons I’ve learned from this blog is that you’re pretty quickly hoovering the universe for content for the insatiable, Borg-like demands of a regular publication schedule.)

After all, boiled down to basics, my roommate really only wanted a meaningful role in what was happening.  He wanted people to talk to him in ways that were respectful of his personhood and situation, in language that was clear and meaningful to him.  He wanted to know what the likely outcomes would be, when they would occur, and how he would be affected.

When none of that happened, he began “acting out” more and more from boredom, anxiety and alienation.  And the process – and the personnel – instead of refocusing efforts on meeting his not-unreasonable expectations, just excluded and ignored him even more.

That may be the lesson that I take away from this whole incident (oh – and the one about how it’s easier in a hospital to get narcotics than move 20 feet). That when building and maintaining coalitions, difficult or fringe constituents may be more than unlikeable souls.  They may be a symptom that the engagement process has become focused on the implementers, instead of on those it was designed to serve.