A front row seat for the social media revolution.

I have spent the last decade chronicling the breathtaking shift in power from institutions to individuals. Social media have catalyzed this shift by enabling anyone, anywhere to speak, critique, organize, protest and start a business. Customers, clients, donors, volunteers and other constituents who are now empowered by social media are speaking, but no one is listening. The organizations that hear them and make them matter will be the ones who do well in the future. In the process they also rejuvenate their cultures with a refreshing mix of smart safety and relevance that is less exhausting and more productive for everyone. I call this new way of working and leading Matterness. I look forward to continuing to write and speak about how we are living and working together to create a more prosperous, equitable and just society.
Action Cascades Over Viral Videos
Fearless Leadership in a Social World
Verizon and Anti-Matterness
Why Giving Matters More Than Receiving
Matterness Launch Roundup
Matterness: What Fearless Leaders Know About the Power and Promise of Social Media
3 Steps to Go-Go Juice
Why the NFL Needs to Be Different Not Just Do Different

Action Cascades Over Viral Videos

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 12.15.52 PMInvisible Children announced yesterday that it is closing its doors. You may not know the organization, but you almost certainly know their signature effort, the Kony 2012 video.

The video is very long, 30  minutes, on an obscure topic and was an instant viral sensation. It now has over 100 million views on YouTube. The video was an amazing piece of storytelling, alas, it was filled with half-truths. Moreover, the organization however was a mess roiled by mercurial and incompetent management.

All organizations should be managed better than Invisible Children or risk rightly going out of business. But there is another lesson here worth considering.

In Matterness, I discuss the need for organizations to shift their thinking from viral videos to action cascades. A viral video is a stand alone event. It certainly feels good to have lots of people watching what you have produced and sharing it with others. But there needs to be something to do baked into it. Max Siderov took the viral video of Karen Klein being bullied on a school bus outside of Rochester and turned it into an action cascade by raising money for Karen on Indiegogo. [Note: I put the link to the video of Karen being bullied here for context, but I don’t recommend watching it, it is cruel and shouldn’t be honored with a viewing.]

Organizations are too often rushing to create content that they hope will go viral without enough thought of giving people quick, easy and meaningful things to do to support an effort.There is no  way to guarantee that something will go viral, but there are ways to ensure that people could take constructive action as a result of watching it. The best actions to encourage are very specific ones. Not just share the video, but send it to three friends and ask them to do the same.

The Ice Bucket Challenge was an action cascade. The effort spread so widely not because of the videos, but because of the personal challenge to other specific people to do the same or donate within 24 hours.

My advice to people creating stories is to make sure the story is emotional and well-told, but also make sure it is connected to bite-size actions to turn it into a cascade of doing.

Fearless Leadership in a Social World

An article for the Stanford Social Innovation Review I wrote about the pivot that organizational leaders need to make to focus on Matterness.  “We need a different kind of leadership to enable organizations—whether traditional legacy organizations, start-ups, or all-volunteer networks—to focus on Matterness. Organizations that enhance Matterness are open to the input of constituents, and encourage leaders to be real human beings with flaws and vulnerabilities. They value Matterness relationships over transactions, and focus on facilitating crowds of people with their own good ideas and resources, rather than trying to own them. These organizations follow as often as they lead, listen more than they speak, and co-create with their crowds rather than dictate to them.”

Verizon and Anti-Matterness

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 12.27.04 PMAs you all know, I am currently immersed in Matterness, the space where organizations make their people matter more. Where they listen more than they speak, engage as real human beings and work with not at people. The only problem with this mindset is that it makes the inevitable instances of anti-Matterness are even more startling and stark. In addition, the usual suspects like a doctor’s office or a telecom are almost too easy to criticize because, well, you know why.

Nonetheless, I need to tell you about how much anti-Matterness is baked into Verizon.

We had a service call scheduled for last Tuesday. They sent an email saying the service person would be here between 8 am – 8 pm. Hmmm, seems like a pretty big window. So, I called and was told they couldn’t make the window any smaller. So, I did what I do and took to Twitter. And there I got an immediate response, the service technician would be here between 3-5 pm. Here was the rest of our conversation via Twitter:

  • Why wouldn’t the telephone people tell me this?
  • Because they don’t have the data.
  • Why do you have the data?
  • Because our group focuses on escalated complaints.
  • This wouldn’t be escalated if the telephone people told me this.
  • That’s our policy.

Of course, the anti-Matterness here is egregious, but there is also something else interesting going on. Verizon considers Twitter the place where customers go to yell at them. Now, they get yelled on the telephone, too, but Twitter yelling is public for the world to see. Therefore, the job of the Twitter group is to quiet complaints very quickly. Instead of the whole system being engaged in making customers matter, the system is organized to give out as little information as possible and to mollify customers who start to squeak. This really is a Bizarro-world way of working with customers.

If anyone has any insights as to why Verizon works this way, I’d love to hear it.

Why Giving Matters More Than Receiving

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 9.06.51 PMOn the heels of the wildly successful #GivingTuesday (first estimates put money raised at nearly $46 million just online, more than double last year’s total!) the idea of giving is in the air.

My friend Lisa Colton told me an interesting story today. She was facilitating a board retreat recently and asked the participants to pair up and talk about when they felt that they really mattered. The room was abuzz, she said, as the participants shared their stories with one another. When they reconvened she asked, “How many people heard stories about feeling like you matter when you receive something?” One person raised their hand. Then she asked the opposite question, “How many people heard a story about feeling like you mattered when you gave something?”  Forty-four hands went up. 44!

Of course, the old axiom, “It’s better to give than receive,” immediately comes to mind. But in an organizational context there is more to it than that. People want to be of service to organizations that they care about. However, as organizations became more professionalized over the last century, it seemed to be easier, faster, more efficient, less painstaking, for staff people to do more and more, for organizations to hire people to do jobs that volunteers used to do. Just because volunteers may not be available on Tuesday mornings anymore doesn’t mean that people don’t want to participate in meaningful and creative ways to help organizations. Instead, too many organizations have substituted fundraising for engagement.

Social media provide great opportunities for people to matter by contributing in lots of ways. People can help raise awareness of an issue, problem solve, gather people for discussions, do online research. The opportunities are almost endless for the ways that people can matter more to organizations. The challenge is for organizations, and their leaders, to see this as amazing opportunities to involve many more people in many more interesting ways! #GivingTuesday is a beginning, now we need a year round effort by organizations to make everyone matter more.

Matterness Launch Roundup

Book wheelWow, what a day yesterday! Hundreds of tweets, Facebook posts, Instagrams, emails to support the launch of Matterness! In addition to individual posts, there were a number of articles up about the book. Here is a roundup of the articles:

The book is launched, and now the marathon begins as, hopefully, people read and discuss it on land and online. I look forward to hearing what folks have to say about it, and, again, thanks for all of your help and support!

Matterness: What Fearless Leaders Know About the Power and Promise of Social Media

Matterness_Cover_RGB_200 dpiToday is the launch of my new book, Matterness: What Fearless Leaders Know About the Power and Promise of Social Media!

Matterness is the culmination of ten years of my thinking and writing about how people and organizations can be better together with social media. What I have found is that when people matter the most, the priorities of leaders change. We begin to see our organizations from the outside in, listen to suggestions and ideas, work with and not at other people and organizations. When we’re in conversation and connected we can direct how we want to work, get to the essence of our personal or professional goals, and make work manageable and enjoyable again. Matterness explains that we don’t need better people; we need better leaders.

This book feels like the end of a trilogy. Momentum described what social media was beginning to enable people to do that only organizations could previously do. The Networked Nonprofit focused on how organizations that embraced social media changed their shape and operated more like social networks than traditional hierarchies. Matterness is squarely aimed at the C-suite (and those who aspire to it) and imploring them to change the way they look at the world and their roles in it. We need leaders who aren’t afraid to be human and who want to be in conversation with people inside and outside of their organizational walls as co-creators and problem solvers.

When people like Jennifer James put Matterness to work amazing things happen. Jennifer created Mom Bloggers for Social Change, which brings together moms and causes and, in some cases, finds sponsors for trips overseas for the bloggers to help spread the word about efforts to cure a disease, get clean water to people in developing countries and alleviate hunger or poverty. In addition, the moms are actually helping to shape policy. UNICEF asked help shape the agency’s Newborn Action Plan with suggestions of ways to encourage new moms to seek perinatal health care for themselves and their babies.

Whether they like it or  not, people and organizations across every sector desperately need one another. Marrying their interests, rather than pitting them against one another, is the pathway to profits, sustainability, and success.

One last thing. Writing books are like running marathons, success requires cheerleaders and water cup holders and course correctors to make it through the course.  I will be enormously grateful to anyone who buys the book, but I also wanted to share today you how thankful I am for all of the support folks have shown me during the long writing process, and especially this week as the launch neared. I appreciate the well wishes, the emails with “hang in there!” and the little cartoon a friend gave me last week. Can you guess how it all makes me feel – it makes me feel like I matter!


3 Steps to Go-Go Juice

It is just about a week from the launch of my new book, Matterness: What Fearless Leaders Know About the Power and Promise of Social Media! Here is an excerpt published last week in the Nonprofit Times about the variety of different ways organizations (and people) have available to them to raise capital for their efforts. They called it 3 Steps to Creating New Capital. I used Go-Go Juice for this post because anytime I can write or say go-go juice, I think I should. Same thing for whackadoodles and wingnuts!

Three Steps to Go-Go Juice

Gathering crowds to help your cause is an essential part of working in a networked world. Crowds create capital, or “go-go juice,” that can include human connections, intelligence and expertise, resources like equipment and furniture, and, of course, money. Ideas and ventures that would have been impossible when capital was scarce are now possible because of social media platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Creating capital is an essential part of what I call “Matterness,” wherein the interests and talents of people meet the needs of organizations.

Crowds can be difficult for organizations to work with because people come and go as they please, not necessarily according to the wishes of organizations. Here are the three essential steps for turning crowds into organizational go-go juice:

Understanding the Need. The first question to be answered is: Exactly what kind of “go-go juice” do we need? As mentioned above, crowds can contribute lots of different skills and resources, however, too often organizations think of them only as potential check writers. Simply asking what kind of creative go-go juice we need helps to change the internal thinking of organizations used to doing everything by themselves internally. Thinking creatively about working with crowds is a way for organizations to move from working at people to working with them.

Creating “No Fake” Zones. Crowd members want real, meaningful opportunities to help an organization. Fake requests like: Send me money today, or my opponent will win and send your children to Russia for kindergarten! do more harm than good. Fakery also include messages that look like they are from real people but are from black-hole email addresses like “no reply.” Social media are conversational vehicles. People are smart, they can see through artificial requests for help that are really just excuses to ask for donations and opportunities to capture contact information. Building trust with a crowd is essential to keeping people engaged longer.

Following As Well As Leading. There are times when what an organization wants to get is different from what constituents want to give. When this happens it is smarter for an organization to become a follower rather than a leader. Organizations need to be on the lookout for crowds that form that can enhance their efforts — but beware, these crowds cannot be “owned” by organizations. Leaders need to focus on Matterness in these instances and find the sweet spot that exists between what crowds what to give and what an organization needs. It’s there, it just may take some conversations between the crowd and the organization for it to emerge.

Successfully leading crowds takes clarity of purpose, intentionality, and some elbow grease. People need to be treated with dignity and respect, which means ensuring that their time and intelligence are respected and used well. Organizers need to think clearly about specific benefits to the crowd participants that are mutually beneficial, not to the exclusive benefit of either organizations or their crowds.




Why the NFL Needs to Be Different Not Just Do Different

Here is an op-ed I wrote for the Chronicle of Philanthropy as part of their Rethink Pink series.

Against the NFL’s ‘Limousine Philanthropy’

On September 27, Roger Goodell stepped from his limousine to spend three hours visiting the offices of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The stories he heard from victims of emotional and physical abuse moved him to tears.

The NFL, safely ensconced in its Park Avenue headquarters, has a history of limousine philanthropy. Heartwarming commercials highlighting the donations the NFL makes to United Ways so they can give to local social-service groups. The breast-cancer-awareness campaign every October symbolized by players wearing neon pink cleats and sweatbands has become a signature effort of the NFL.

These are painless and impersonal ways to do good for an organization that spent years dismissing the debilitating mental and physical affects of playing football and ignoring the almost routine violence against women perpetrated by players. It is easy to know that domestic violence exists—to even see the toll of its aftermath as a woman is dragged unconscious from an elevator—while still staying at a safe distance from its awful reality.

The NFL faces an existential crisis about its outsize role in American culture and whether it is going to be boxing circa 1975 or a new kind of organization that operates on a set of core principles that begins with taking care of its own players.

The NFL, its executives, team owners, and personnel should spend the next year answering the phones at domestic-violence hotlines, visiting former players suffering from dementia and poverty. They should sit with a single mom the night before her chemotherapy appointment and help her figure out how her kids are going to get to and from school the next day and who is going to feed them dinner. They should spend the next year getting out from the behind the fortress walls of the NFL and truly experience what it means to be poor and sick, the victim of an abusive partner with very few choices, the victim of a national system of demonizing the working poor by offering no paid sick leave.

After a year of experiencing life of people with few choices and resources, the NFL will have ideas of ways to truly help people and communities that they, and their phalanx of consultants, could never imagine today.

The NFL’s charge right now isn’t to do something different, but to be something different.


Copyright © 2018 Allison Fine