140+: In the Moment


Does Social Media Open Doors or Distract Early Childhood Educators?

I’ve always marveled at early educators’ ability to focus so intently on the children, families, and staff in their programs. To me, it’s a huge blessing. It’s also a curse.  We are so mission-focused that we often don’t have the time or inclination to step back, look at the bigger picture, and decide how our work fits in to the overall scheme of where we’re going. Don’t get me wrong, I know from firsthand experience that operating programs that offer high-quality early learning experiences takes 100% of our energy, focus and passion. By the end of the day, there’s often little energy left over for much else. But, is our laser focus on our programs a help or a hindrance? And, does engagement through social media distract us or help us do more?

Laser Focus: Help or Hindrance?

Think about a laser for a moment: It shines a very intense light on a small area.  Lasers do a great job shining through a swath, but leave other areas untouched. Are we so focused on our missions to make a difference for the children in our care that we fail to make important conceptual, political, and professional connections that can have more impact? I know when I operated programs, I often thought, “leave the political and networking stuff up to other people. I have my hands full, and I am doing important work.”  Once I left the  my programs for other related early education jobs, I saw that I missed incredible  opportunities that would have benefited the children in my program and the direction of the field in general.

Why is it taking so long for us to engage?

Why am I writing about this now? I’m lamenting the void of engagement and sources of timely, relevant information in early care and education. I’m frustrated by how long it is taking for program practitioners to look up from guiding our lasers to see that there is a country and a world in which we operate, and it’s full of opportunities and insight. I’m also surprised to see how slow our community leaders are to add blogs and other social media as strategies to engage their members, supporters, and advocates.

But, I know I am  preaching to the choir. Given that you are reading this post, you probably  read other blogs, and engage on social media sites. YOU are probably NOT one of the hundreds of thousands of early childhood practitioners who are don’t  purposely set aside time to learn more, network, advocate, or exchange ideas related to their work. (And, I ask you, what are you doing to encourage your colleagues to test social media?)

There is a dearth of social media interactivity and engagement in our field. Stop to think about the size of our field. It’s hard for me to fathom (and harder to find the real data) about how many early childhood educators there are in the US. (Statisticians, if you can wrap your head around this one, give me a shout!)  I do know that there are only a handful of  commonly read reliable and credible blogs and journals in our field to serve (conservatively) hundreds of thousands of educators.  And, having been actively searching for early educators on social networking sites and listservs for many years now, I can estimate that less than 1% of us are engaging online. Contrast those (admittedly rough) stats with those related to business, and you can see how technically and engagement-challenged we are as a field.

We need to connect to learn from and partner with others in our field. That is not a new concept. We all connect through community or committee meeting every once in a while. We take a workshop or go to a conference a couple of times a year. We already read Young Children, Child Care Information Exchange, or one of the few journals for early childhood education. Awesome!  Those IRL (techno-speak for “in real life”) experiences and activities are absolutely vital.  Adding social media to those activities widens the circle of influence by allowing you to connect with others exponentially. The folks at CommonCraft illustrate the point so well. If you haven’t seen this yet, take a look at Social Networking in Plain English. Do you see how using social networking before or after meetings and conferences can extend the benefits well beyond the walls? This is just one example of the power the Internet has to help us influence and educate one another.

So, is social media a distraction for early childhood educators or an accelerant?

I assert that we need more to do more. We need more blogs. We need more interconnectedness.  What do you think? There’s a lively conversation about just this issue going on in the Internet4ECE group on LinkedIn. Of course, you need to be a member of LinkedIn and a member of the group to read it. (Oh, am I secretly trying to illustrate engagement on the Internet? I would never be so sneaky.)

Resources:

I have a nice list of ECE blogs on slide 22 of my presentation from NAEYC’s Professional Development Institute: Supercharge Your ECE Program With Web 2.0. There’s a lot of additional information about social media in our field in that presentation, and you will find other resources on the Social Media for ECE on my website.

I’m dying to convince you. I’m dying for you to convince others, Check out some of my other presentations, resources, and the Social Media in ECE Directory I am compiling*, and share them if you find them helpful. Let me help you convince others that social media is a professional development, advocacy, and outreach accelerant, and an isolation-buster, bar none.

*If you would like to be included in the Social Media for ECE Directory, register! It only takes a couple of minutes!
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Conducting Webinars to Engage: The Good, The Bad, and The UGLY!

good webinars, bad webinars, and just plain ugly webinarsYou’ve probably attended a webinar or two along the way in your career. If you’ve had good experiences, you may have thought: “I can do that!” You’re right, you can! Webinars are great for business of all kinds, but there are some important things to consider before you jump in.

Over the past 10 years or so, webinars have grown increasingly popular and increasingly effective for marketing and training because they work. You can find thousands of articles and webinars about how great webinars are for lead generation. Many of the webinar software vendors offer webinars about various related marketing topics to generate leads for their companies, and include pitches for their software. But, they might not give you the nitty-gritty behind the scenes reality show version of the story. That’s where I come in.

In as much as I am an evangelist for webinars, I’m also a realist. I have presented and produced webinars for the past 10 years. I attend at least one and sometimes up to three webinars per week. However, as a producer and as a consumer, I have to be realistic: There’s good, bad, and ugly news about webinars that you should know before you build them into your marketing plan.

The GOOD

Webinars generate leads, begin a cycle of engagement, and can help you nurture relationships. Presenting on the Internet is a great way to introduce people to your organization, your products, and to your expertise. Webinars are also great for:woman celebrating a great webinar

  • demonstrating products
  • technology orientations
  • professional development
  • building your brand by demonstrating your thought leadership

Online presentations are like a virtual handshake in the beginning of what will hopefully become a deepening authentic relationship with those who attend. Depending on the content you present, they can help you nurture leads into sales, advocates into donors, and constituents into conducting. And, obviously, the convenience and cost effectiveness of attending or presenting a presentation in your jammies or at your desk is hard to beat.

Great. We’ve established that conducing webinars are a strategy worth exploring. So, what’s not-so-great about webinars?

The (Potentially) BAD

Well, there’s nothing inherently bad with webinars, but there are some potential problems that might not make them the ideal tactic to use without some planning, practice and preparation.

Producing and delivering online presentations can be time-consuming because:Thumbs down: webinar problems image

  • You absolutely MUST HAVE great content that is relevant, meaningful, exciting, and delivered exceedingly well. Developing content that will attract the right kind of audience can be time-consuming.
  • Typically, it takes time to build up a critical mass of people who want to consume your webinar content and are willing to invest their time in your webinars. Having just one will not have as much impact as having a series or multiple series. Be prepared to generate a lot of content.
  • You must research the webinar software vendors and pick the one that strikes a balance between the technology you need and your budget.
  • While you are getting started, researching best practice in webinar production, and practicing your presentation (A LOT) are paramount.
  • You will have to make sure the graphics are compelling and exciting and are not cluttered with a lot of text.
  • The key to success is filling the seats! You will need to spend time marketing and promoting the webinars.
  • You will have to be prepared to follow up with webinar attendees with meaningful practices.
  • Initially, you will need someone to help you practice, prepare and monitor the session while it is live. (When you become more experienced, you may not need the help, but you will initially.

Well, so far, the bad isn’t bad. It’s all just a matter of preparation, right? You’d think so…

The UGLY  

Even with the best software, great content, lots of practice, preparation, and promotion, things go wrong. There are many variables to being successful with webinars, only a few of which are addressed here. Even though I have a lot of experience producing and presenting webinars, I’ve had a bad experience or two. It happens. Once you’ve made a poor impression on attendees, it’s hard to recover. You might not get a second chance.

I’ve only scratched the surface of the pros and cons of delivering webinars. For more detailed information about webinar software vendors, best practice in webinar production, and presentation tips, you might want to:

Join me for a presentation on

11/9/2012 from 8:00 AM – 9:30 AM

NAEYC Annual Conference & Expo, 2012

in Atlanta, Georgia

Georgia World Congress Center, Room B308

Despite the drawbacks, I strongly encourage the use of webinars for many businesses. As a matter of fact, I offer webinar production services that are designed to help the uninitiated get started, and for the business that don’t want to be troubled with the technical details. If you would like to chat about webinars, give me a call or drop me a line. I’m here to help.

Cross-pollinating with Hashtags on Twitter

Cross-pollinating on Twitter?  What is she talking about now?

I’ve blogged about the joys of Twitter as a tool in non-profit organizations (specifically early childhood education) and mentioned hashtags before, but today, let’s go a little deeper to see how hastags can help unrelated twitterers (or Tweeps) connect through common interests. The Twitter Fan Wiki explains that “Hashtags were developed as a means to create “groupings” on Twitter, without having to change the basic service.”

First, the basics:

What is a hashtag?
Hashtags refer to the practice of placing the “#” symbol prior to a “tag” (or topic category) to indicate that a tweet will be of interest to anyone who is interested in the topic.

Here’s a sample tweet to help illustrate hashtags:

What you see is a tweet with information that would be interesting to anyone who is following the topic #ece (or early childhood education),  #teachers, #education, or #educationcareers.

Hashtags are very helpful because you can easily find information about topics that interest you without wading through lots of tweets that are not interesting to you.

How do you use hashtags?

If you are not already “following” topics, you can easily do so by using the search function on Twitter or your twitter client by entering the search term you want to follow. If a tweet about information that interests you is posted, but you are not online at the time to see it, you can see it whenever you search.  For example, I am interested in #leadership, #nonprofit issues, #fundraising, #socmed (social media), #marketing, early childhood education (#ece, #earlychildhood, #NAEYC, #PreK), #parenting, women’s issues (#women), progressive issues (#p2), and #advocacy, among other topics. So I keep my twitter client (Seesmic) set to search for those hashtags. Whenever I start up Seesmic, I can quickly scan to see what’s been posted.

You will rarely find a tweet from me in which there is not a hastag. I just believe tweeting without hashtags is like shouting into the wind. The only way someone is going to see it is if they happen to be online, or if the organic tweet includes a commonly searched term.

Now onto the cross-pollinating concept:
I use hastags very strategically to allow people who are interested in one topic discover other related topics and communities. For example, I often read information related to leadership from which  managers or people who follow #management might benefit, so I add #leadership #management. I also see tweets with #ece that parents might like, so I retweet with the #parenting and #parents hashtags.  Also, I really want to make sure the ECE community becomes aware of social media and technology resources, so I not only add #ece to my social media tweets, but I also created the hastag #ecetech. (How did I do that? I just started using it in my technology related tweets along with ece, and people started picking it up, and now we have a little group. COOL!)

Hashtags are great for live tweeting or creating chats at specific times. For example, there were a lot of tweets from the NAEYC conference with the #NAEYC_AC hashtag. It was great to stay on top of what was going on.

Hashtags can help you participate in Twitter chats. Let’s say you want to have a conversation about a specific book. You would just post a tweet like:

Hey, Tweeps: #booktitlechat at 8 PM Tuesday, 4/13. #topic #topic #topic

  • #booktitle = the title of the book
  • chat indicates that there is going to be a live Twitter chat
  • #topic= a related group or topic that people might find interesting.

Of course, to make the chat really work, you have to give people a lot of notice and tweet about it a lot…right up until the time you are ready to start. Notice that the various #topic hashtags help cross-pollinate, and  bring various groups of previously unrelated people together. As the chat gets underway, the various Twitterers can find more people with whom they might like to connect, and then follow them.

Does cross-pollination on Twitter make sense now? Add a comment if you have other ideas or if you think I am just plain nuts!

Social Media Resources for Newbies- There’s nothing to fear! (I promise!)

Are you little intimidated by all the weird terms and concepts you’ve heard so much about? Don’t worry, social media is in its infancy, and we are all learning… some of us have a bit more experience, but we were all newbies once. Relax! Here is a smattering of great resources that will help you understand the basics.

The FIRST STOP:

(Do not pass GO… Start here!) CommonCraft Videos
The absolute easiest, most user-friendly, and basic source of information might just be found at CommonCraft. The folks at CommonCraft develop and deliver outstanding videos intended to make the most complex concepts simple and interesting. They sell their …In Plain English series of videos to trainers and large corporations, but they make them available for non-commercial use on owner Lee Lefever’s CommonCraft channel on YouTube. (Wait, I might be losing you with channels on YouTube. We’ll get there, but for now, just click on the links!)

Here are a few of my favorite ComonCraft Videos!
Social Networking in Plain English
Blogs in Plain English
Twitter in Plain English
RSS in Plain English (If you want to keep up with lots of blogs, you MUST see this video!)

There are many more on the CommonCraft channel on YouTube

A quick Glossary, courtesy of Socialbrite

api app astroturfing blog campaign cause marketing civic media cloud computing copyleft Creative Commons crowdsourcing CSR Digg digital inclusion digital story double bottom line Drupal ebooks embedding Facebook fair use feed flash mob Flickr geotagging GPL GPS hashtag hosting Internet newsroom lifecasting lifestreaming mashup metadata microblogging moblog MySpace net neutrality news reader NGO nptech open media open platform open source open video OpenID paid search marketing permalink personal media platform podcast podsafe public domain public media remix RSS RT screencast search engine marketing SEO smart phone SMS social bookmarking social capital social enterprise social entrepreneurship social media social media optimization social networking social news social return on investment social tools splogs streaming media sustainability tag cloud tags technology steward terms of service triple bottom line troll tweet tweetup Twitter Twitterverse UGC unconference videoblog virtual world Web 2.0 web analytics Web conferencing webcasting webinar wi-fi widget wiki Wikipedia word-of-mouth marketing WordPress YouTube

Best overall resources

Mashable’s Social Media Guide
The overarching guide to social media that is updated several times a day:
Mashable’s Social Media Guide

Hubspot’s Internet Marketing Blog
Hubspot sells Internet Marketing software, so they want you to visit their blog, but in general, the information offered in this blog is very good! Highly recommended!

HubSpot’s Inbound Internet Marketing Blog

Articles and Webinars

From Joanne Fritz’ excellent Non-Profit Guide on About.com (a great resource for all things nonprofit, not just Social Media): 12 Tips for Nonprofits on Getting Started with Social Media

You’ll find a lot of Social Media articles in the Social Networking section of Network for Good’s Learning Center, Fundraising123

NTEN Artcles – Articles from the Nonprofit Technology Network
NTEN Webinars–  Affordable webinars from NTEN

Blogs

This is a hodgepodge of blogs that focus on  Social Media and its application for marketing and fundraising. Some are  written for nonprofit organizations, but offer excellent reading for small businesses as well.

John Haydon’ Blog
Heather Mansfield’s Blog
Kivi Leroux Miller’s Nonprofit Marketing Guide
Allison Fine’s Blog
Beth Kanter’s Blog

NTEN’s Blog

Wild Apricot Blog

Organizations that offer articles and training on Social Media for Nonprofit Organizations (but offer great resource even if your business is not nonprofit)

NTEN
Idealware

Association of Nonprofit Professionals

Books, CDs, DVDs


The Nonprofit Marketing Guide: High-Impact, Low-Cost Ways to Build Support for Your Good Cause
by Kivi Leroux Miller

I’m On Linkedin– Now What? by Jason Alba

Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking, Revised Edition by Andy Sernovitz

Guides and Whitepapers

Beyond the Hype: A Social Media Guide for Nonprofits and Advocates
from Texans Care For Children

Reference
If you are ever stuck, you can look up words, terms or phrases through Google:
Enter keyword: define: (the word  or “phrase” you want to look find)

For more specific information, fast, I recommend Webopedia.

And, of course, the ever popular Wikipedia is helpful, but can be overwhelming.

Hey, Smartipants: Add your recommended resources here!
There is an overwhelming amount of information about social media! This is hardly a complete list! I’d love to add your favorites to this entry, so leave a comment to make this resource richer! (Yes, I know, a wiki would work better, but that’s a subject for another day!)

Nurturing Donors Online is NOT Magic

Have you ever been disappointed with the results you are getting with your online fundraising program because you thought it was going to be so easy? As you began the process, you might have thought you’d put a donation button on your web site, and suddenly the donations would start flowing. That is a common misconception, and it’s one that often sabotages online fundraising. Getting donations online requires some effort, some  creativity, and a few key tools.  Of course, you must have online donation software that actually processes the transaction, but that’s only a fraction of the story. You have to set all of the action into play! You have to ask for donations, remind supporters about your great work, and then ask again. Online fundaising should one tactic in your overall fund development toolkit, and should be combined with other strategies. But, if you are asking for donations through postal mail and events, you may miss opportunities to engage donors on the spot, in the moment that they are considering your well crafted appeal. The immediacy of the connection between an email that links to your donation button offers opportunities to capitalize on the natural need for immediate gratification. There’s a natural cycle involved in engaging donors online. It looks like this:

The Online Fundraising Cycle

The Online Fundraising Cycle

What are the two most basic tools you need to make the online fundraising cycle go around?

  1. You’ve got a great website (check?) (Think carefully about what “great” means!)
  2. You are using well designed, high-impact, regularly delivered email newsletters and email blasts to keep your supporters, donors, and constituents informed (check?)(No? Download The Nonprofit Email Marketing Guide from Network for Good.

If you are missing either of these elements in your online fundraising toolkit, it’s time to get to work! Here’s what you can do to improve your organization’s chances of becoming an online fundraising superhero: Your Website and your DonateNow pages When was the last time you took a look at your site as if it was the first time you visited? Sit down at the computer and pretend you have never been there before.  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the site provide information that is compelling, complete, and tells the story of your organization’s work?
  • Does it include a form for visitors to complete if they want to learn more about your organization or subscribe to regular email communication from your organization?
  • Do you ask visitors if they would like to receive an email newsletter?
  • Do you know how to capture those addresses and use them to contact potential supporters?

Take a look at the sites of other similar organizations. How does your site look compared to the “competition?”

  • Is  your site as attractive and does it look as professional as the other sites in your field?
  • Are you proud of your site?
  • Would you be proud of your site if a potential grantmaker visited?

Ask a friend to take a tour while you watch. See how that friend gets around and be prepared to ask questions.

  • Is it easy to find your donation links?
  • Do your DonateNow pages tell your story?
  • Can your friend easily describe your work and tell you why your cause is important and worthy?

How did your site stack up? If it did not meet your expectations, don’t worry! Maintaining a website is an ongoing process.  You should expect to care for your site regularly, and do a significant facelift every 2-5 years.  It doesn’t have to be expensive to make sure you are hitting the most important elements. If you need help, take a look at these resources: Web Sites 101 on Fundraising 123 by Network for Good 10-Point Basic Website Checklist for Nonprofits Is Your Website a Tool for Doing? Your Email Newsletters and Email Announcements If you are not using email to communicate with potential and current donors and supporters, it’s time to think about subscribing to a professional email provider. If you already are using a system, consider the following tips to optimize your results:

  • Make sure to place the email newsletter sign-up form in a very visible place on every page of your website.
  • Be sure to ask for donations and link to your donation page in every issue or announcement.
  • Refresh your email list every time you send an announcement or newsletter with the new addresses that have been entered since the last time.
  • Plan an editorial schedule with topics that your donors and supporters are likely to want to know.
  • Be flexible with your editorial schedule. If an emergency or natural disaster occurs, you will want to include information that is interesting and relevant.
  • Write compelling stories about the impact your organization has had. Make them as personal as possible. Think like a donor….they want to know that their donations have had an impact and made a difference for the cause.

There are literally thousands of e-mail marketing systems. Here is a list of a few of them:

MailChimp

VerticalResponse

ConstantContact

EmailNow (Nonprofit Organizations only)

iContact