5 Social Networking Resolutions for 2013

I really dislike New Year's resolutions. I'll just put that right out there. I haven't made any for years. The last couple of years I've been creating dream boards; twisting and morphing and rephrasing the "lose weight" to "get healthy", and "get on a budget and stick with it" to "save for a dream vacation and kids' college". Let's just say it's been moderately successful and leave it at that.

But social networking resolutions — hey I can do those! I've been thinking about them off and on through 2012, and I'm ready to put a public stake in the ground here, and stop my procrastination in its tracks!
  1. Switch from Tweetdeck to HootSuite, which many of my IBM colleagues are using. I've been happy with Tweetdeck, but it makes sense to follow the crowd in this case, and take advantage of the best practices with the tool.

  2. Put myself on a regular writing schedule. I write for this blog, the IBM Social Business Insights blog, the www.ibm.com/able website, much less frequently on BlogHer. It tends to be hit and miss, because I'm not very disciplined about writing, and do it when I have a deadline or I'm feeling particularly passionate about a subject. (I have a very smart and extremely talented colleague who reserves Friday afternoons for inventing, and it really works for her.)

  3. Cross-post guest blogs with other bloggers. (I know, Blogging 101, but it just didn't happen in 2012.)

  4. Test a new social app once a week, and share my thoughts on them once a quarter.

  5. Do a better job of tying together and writing about my passions: volunteering / making the world a better place, accessibility and social networking. There are so many ways social networking can help galvanize and connect people and ideas, and I'd like to ferret out those connections and possibilities, and share them.

Are you making any social networking New Year's resolutions?  I'd love to hear what they are.

Have a happy and healthy 2013. :-)

Image courtesy of Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sharing the Grief — Connected in Tragedy

My heart breaks and bleeds for the families and friends of the victims of today's elementary school shooting. This is not a political post, even though I certainly have a strong opinion on the topic. This is instead recognition of how social networking is enabling a nation and the world to share prayers and thoughts and news, and ultimately, mourn this tragedy together, regardless of where we're located.

We've seen the power of social networking in the face of natural disasters where traditional communication failed: the March 2011 tsunami in Japan, and more recently Hurricane Sandy on the U.S. Eastern Seaboard.

I've been watching Twitter and Facebook today and feel connected in my grief for the innocent lives lost, and all of the people whose lives have changed forever. 
I've also seen this mindful and helpful quotation today on Facebook:

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world." ~ Mister Rogers

To those in Connecticut whose worlds changed forever today, please know that while we can't feel your pain, we are feeling pain and anger and sorrow that you've lost someone you love in such a brutal and senseless manner  — something no parent, grandparent, sibling, spouse, significant other, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend, neighbor or coworker should ever have to do.

The Huffington Post has some suggestions about what the rest of us can do to help: Connecticut Elementary School Shooting: How To Help.

And hug someone you love.

Update: Honoring those lost by sharing their names:
Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Madeleine F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Benjamin Wheeler, Allison N. Wyatt, Rachel Davino, Dawn Hochsprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rosseau, Mary Sherlach, and Victoria Soto

Image courtesy of Darren Robertson / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Word Clouds and Sunday Procrastination

I just created a word cloud graphic for the One Brick Silicon Valley Facebook page, a volunteer organization that I'm deeply committed to and involved with, and I was pleased with how it turned out. Still feeling semi-creative and heavily into procrastinating about all the things I should be doing instead; I decided to create a word cloud for my blog too. A moment to step back and take a look as 2012 is racing to its conclusion and take a semi-analytical look at my blog post themes.

Surprisingly, there were no surprises in the form of subconscious ideas sneaking into my writing.

Social analytics are becoming more sophisticated every day. It's going to be interesting to see where they are in five years, and what your digital footprint will look like then, don't you think?

The word cloud shows words in different size fonts -- the larger the word, the more times it appeared in my blog. The top words in order of size are: social, video, ibm, blog, neworking, media, business, search, captioning, insights and engine.
Add caption

How Social Networking Won an Election and Paid for Cancer Treatment

I've always loved TIME magazine. It's well-designed — lots of action shots, catchy headlines, and insightful and informative articles. Now I follow TIME on Facebook and on Twitter, so I don't always read the hard copy that shows up at my house every week. I do try though. I've been taking it in the car — grabbing a few minutes while I'm waiting for my daughter at school or an appointment.

The December 3 issue — yes, the one with the colorful fruits and vegetables on the covers supporting an article on What to Eat Now by the well-known Dr. Oz — had two articles that grabbed my attention.  Unfortunately, neither article is available online unless you're a subscriber, but they both very matter-of-factly focused on how fast and how much social networking is changing our world. I mean I know this — I'm passionate about it and do it every day — but to see it in black and white next to world news, the AIDs epidemic in South Africa, and an article about the fiscal cliff.... I was immediately pulled in.

The first article, Friend Request. How the Obama campaign connected with young voters appeared in the Nation section: fair enough. If you've read some of the campaign post-mortems that I've read, you've seen that it wasn't the much-publicized Latino vote or female vote that swung the election for President Obama, but the youth vote — voters under 29. And it turns out that over half of the voters in that age group targeted in swing states didn't have landline phones, making the traditional last minute phone calls impossible.

Image of smart phone with the word "Vote" displayed on it
Instead, the Obama campaign, a social-savvy team from day 1, built a Facebook application. (Are you thinking, "Of course they did!"? With the perfect vision hindsight gives us, I don't know why I was surprised.) It was rolled out to the more than one million Obama backers signed up. This app, like all Facebook apps, gave the campaign permission to look at the subscribers' Facebook friends. And communicating with this highly-valued, hard-to-reach target audience was made even easier because who do you trust more than your friends? Not some political campaign or advertiser. More than 5 million contacts were reached by the 600,000 Obama supporters who agreed to share messages. And so the campaign was won.

And the final word from TIME Magazine?
"In 2008, Twitter was a sideshow, and Facebook had about one-sixth its current reach in the U.S. By 2016, this sort of campaign-driven sharing over social networks is almost certain to be the norm. Tell your friends."

The second social-networking article that caught my eye was in the Health section, and titled, Crowdfunding a Cure. The sick are getting strangers to pay their medical bills. A quick glance at the sidebar shows you this headline: How This Cancer patient Raised $144,000.

I've been fascinated with the growth and potential of crowdfunding this year; writing a three-part series on the IBM Social Business Insights blog (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Instead of people raising money from their social circles for projects such as books, gadgets, CDs, or documentaries, crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe and GiveForward enable patients and their families to raise thousands of dollars for medical treatments such as surgeries and cancer treatments that would otherwise be out of their reach.

We're on the cusp of the most amazingly creative period in human history. Hyperbole? I don't think so. Worldwide collaboration, powered by social networking platforms, will give everyone a voice. Gender, age, ethnicity, language, location, education, ability — none of this will matter. Innovative companies like IBM will continue to pioneer enterprise-level collaboration platforms, enabling the worldwide, mobile, collaborative, inclusive workforce*. And consumer networking platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter and Kickstarter and GoFundMe and tumblr will continue to enable the collaboration and crowdsourcing that can help build a better world, for all of us.

Now truly, doesn't that just make your day? :-)

*Full disclosure — I am an IBM employee, and totally amazed by the forward-thinking creativity that goes on at my company every single day.
"Vote Button On Mobile Screen" image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
"Financial health" image courtesy of renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
"Social Network" image courtesy of  cooldesign / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It's #GivingTuesday. What Are You Doing?

I don't think it's a secret that I'm a big fan of volunteer work and giving back. Maybe it's my age, maybe it's the fact that I feel very blessed, but whatever it is, it's an important part of my life.

Today is GivingTuesday, appropriately following Black Friday and Cyber Monday. givingtuesday.org has this great image on their Facebook page:

Giving Tuesday. It's easier to take than to give. it's nobler to give than to take. The thrill of taking lasts a day. The thirll of giving lasts a lifetime. ~ Joan Marques. November 27,k 2012. www.givingtuesday.org Get involved!

And Mashable has jumped in with a great list of 10 Ways You Can Take Action for #GivingTuesday.

So what am I doing? I made a donation to one of my favorite nonprofits, One Brick, that matches up nonprofits and volunteers to make a difference in local communities.

And I'm part of the Thunderclap going out today. There are some other things I'm doing, but you get the idea.

So what are you doing? :-)

An update on the day after #GivingTuesday.

This image was on the GivingTuesday Facebook page, and I just had to share it!

The 5 Reasons I Volunteer

Updated and reposted from my blog on BlogHer.

Three and a half years ago I decided volunteering and giving back to the community might help me acquire more balance in my often-frantic and frequently unbalanced life of corporate employee, single parent, homeowner, pet guardian and all of the other roles I fulfill.

I signed up with a local volunteer organization, One Brick, and showed up at my first event, helping Sunset, a local magazine with a gorgeous campus (lots of test kitchens and gardens), sell tickets to a tiny home tour. We toured the home and an amazing outdoor kitchen setup for free – while others were paying $10 for the same privilege. It was fun, the people were nice, and it took me out of my own life for a while.

I did a few more events, and then was asked to join the event management team – since the more managers One Brick has, the more non-profits we can help. Without any hesitation I said yes – managing two to three events a month felt doable and I figured it would keep me committed to consistently volunteering.

And I do. My hours vary based on what else is going on in my life, but I’ve done so many different events – just to name a few:
  • Sorting cans and fruit at the food bank
  • A repair a bike workshop for kids in need
  • Fundraiser event support
  • Handing out water for a 5K race
  • Picking up trash along a creek
  • Rose deadheading in a city park
  • My latest favorite – helping to serve the meal at a local soup kitchen that serves a free dinner five nights a week. (I'm now coming up on the end of two years of serving dinner at the soup kitchen once a month, and it's consistently a highlight of my month.)
 And I’m in good company – according The Chronicle for Philanthropy, which cites a report by the Corporation for National and Community Service, 63.4 million adult Americans ­— nearly 27 percent of the population — volunteered to help charitable causes in 2009.

So here are the reasons I volunteer. I hope that some of them resonate with you and will encourage you to volunteer in your community.
  1. While I won’t say that volunteering has perfected my life and smoothed out all of the rough spots, it does help me in my struggle for balance by taking me out of my daily life for a few hours and letting me focus on serving others.
  1. On days when I’m feeling at my most cynical – volunteering helps me feel the buds of hope for our world blooming in my heart, and I can smile.
  1. There’s something about spending several hours with a group of like-minded people – who are working to help others and who want to make the world a better place – that helps you be a better person. At least for part of your day, you’re more forgiving, more accepting, and more grateful for the blessings you do have. Since many people use the Thanksgiving holiday as a way to work on being centered and grateful for their blessings, volunteering is a perfect way to spread the wealth.
  1. Volunteering is good for your health. According to a report from the Corporation for National and Community Service, there is a close relationship between volunteering and health. People who volunteer are found to have lower mortality rates, stronger cognitive ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.
  2.  I'm always working on publicizing our volunteer organization via social media channels (including managing our Facebook page), extending our reach, so even when I'm not doing my social media day job, I'm using my social and marketing skills and knowledge.
I find that when I volunteer and help someone in need, the benefits definitely go both ways, tangible and intangible.

So give it a go – you have nothing to lose and so much to gain. :-)

Infographics: The Graphic Visual Explosion

Top 15 heaviest coffee drinkers. 1. Scientist/Lab Technician 2. Marketing/PR Professional 3. Education Administrator 4. Editor/Writer 5. Healthcare Administrator 6. Physician 7. Food Preparer 8. Professor 9. Social Worker 10. Financial Professional 11. Personal Caretaker 12. Human Resources Benefits Coordinator 13. Nurse 14. Government Professional 15. Skilled Tradesperson  Coffee consumption trends in the workplace 46% of US workers claims that they are less productive without coffee. 61% of the workers who need coffee to get through their day drinks 2 cups or more each day. 49% admits to needing coffee while on the job in the Northeast where the workday coffee ritual is the strongest.  Editors/writers, government professionals, teachers are most likely to add flavor to their coffee. Human resources professionals & Personal caretakers are most liekly to enjoy their coffee with crea and sugar. Judges, attorneys, Hotel workers are most likely to take their coffee black.
The exponential growth of social media channels and the popularity of graphics and visuals on those channels has spawned a new visual format on steroids with a new name: infographics.

Like many social fans and practitioners, I enjoy how clever and informative infographics can be, and try to collect the ones I like on Pinterest. Today's find was this one about which profession drinks the most coffee.  It seemed quite fitting, since
1) I love coffee,
2) I drink a lot of coffee, and
3) my profession overlaps both categories 2 and 4.

Once I started down this blog path, I googled "infographics" to get some sense of how many infographics have been created in the last couple of years and if someone has counted/cataloged them. 14 million results were returned for my search. Yes, 14 million. Seriously? And the quick survey I took of the links showed that some of them were for multiple infographics.

So after Google, my next stop was Wikipedia of course, which included this definition:

Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly. They can improve cognition by utilizing graphics to enhance the human visual system’s ability to see patterns and trends. The process of creating infographics can be referred to as data visualization, information design and information architecture.

It made me think of a class I took years ago that used two of Edward R. Tufte's books: Envisioning Information and The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. They're beautifully printed books, but they haven't left my bookshelf in years before tonight. (I'm going to look through them this weekend now that they've caught my eye again.)

UX and design practitioners are probably very familiar with his work, but I looked him up and was amazed at his expertise and list of works. (I don't think I appreciated the one-day course I took those many years ago nearly enough.)

I remember very little about the class, but what I remember clearly is the poster we received of Napoleon's March of 1812, a graphic by Charles Joseph Minard, which was published in 1869. I liked it so much that I had it mounted and framed, and still have it hanging on a wall in my house. I pulled it down to take a fresh look at it, and I'm impressed all over again.

Tufte's website states about Minard's work: "Probably the best statistical graphic ever drawn, this map by Charles Joseph Minard portrays the losses suffered by Napoleon's army in the Russian campaign of 1812."

The poster includes this description in the legend: "Six variables are plotted: the size of the army, its location on a two-dimensional surface, direction of the army's movement, and temperature on various dates during the retreat from Moscow."

The alt text field on this blog post software isn't long enough to include the legend on the graphic. so it's at the bottom of the page.
Almost 150 years ago, Menard visualized, and created by hand, a complex visualization that is as compelling today as it was then. I'm a little less impressed by the coffee consumption infographic from this morning, just because it is one-dimensional, and pales in comparison to Menard's masterpiece. I'll continue to be amused by today's infographics, but now that I've revisited this classic, it's going to take a lot more to impress me.

Image 1 source: http://img.gawkerassets.com/img/180x5gza1jl9rjpg/original.jpg
Image 2 source: http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/posters
Alt text for image 2 : <This information is included on the poster>
Napoleon's March to Moscow  The War of 1812
This classic of Charles Joseph Manard (1781 - 1870), the French engineer, shows the terrible fate of Napoleon's army in Russia. Described by E. J. Marey as seeming to defy the pen of the historian by its brutal eloquence, this combination of data map and time-series, drawn in 1861, portrays the devastating losses supffered in Napoleon's Russian campaign of 1812. Beginning at the left on the Polish-Russian border near the Neimen River, the thick band shows the size of the army (422,000 men) as it invaded Russia in June 1812. The width of the band indicates the size of th army at each place on the map. In September, the army reached Moscow, which was by then sacked and deserted, with 100,000 men. The path of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow is depicted by the darker, lower band, which is linked to a temperature scale and dates at the bottom of the chart. It was a bitterly cold winter, and many froze on the march out of Russia. As the graphic shows, the crossing of the Berezina River was a diasaster, and the army finally struggled back into Poland with only 10,000 men remaining. Also shown are the movements of auxiliary troops, as they sought to protect the rear and the flank of th advancing army. Minard's graphic tells a rich, coherent story with its multivariate data, far more enlightening than just a single number bouncing along over time. Six variables are plotted: the size of the army, its location on a two-dimensional surface, direction of the army's movement, and temperature on various dates during the retreat from Moscow

Repost from IBM Social Business Insights Blog: Video captioning (Part 2 of 2): Win/Win for accessibility and search engine optimization (SEO)

  Earlier this year I started blogging for the IBM Social Business Insights blog as part of a team of IBM Redbook Thought Leaders. I'll be reposting those blog posts here on my personal blog. Video captioning (Part 2 of 2): Win/Win for accessibility and search engine optimization (SEO) was originally published on August 8, 2012, and is owned by IBM. I recommend checking out the IBM Social Business Insights blog for some compelling and though-provoking content.

Video captioning (Part 2 of 2): Win/Win for accessibility and search engine optimization (SEO)


By Holly Nielsen, Social Media Manager and Webmaster, Human Ability and Accessibility 

In part 1 of this two-part series, we reviewed some of the statistics supporting the skyrocketing usage of video, for both personal and business use. Now let’s get to the heart of why you’re missing out if you’re not captioning your videos. 

Captioning videos for accessibility  

Have you ever tried to watch a video without speakers, or with your sound off? Annoying, isn’t it? You might be able to catch a little of what’s going on, but you know that you’re missing most of the action. People who are deaf, hard of hearing, non-native language speakers, using mobile devices, or in a noisy area run into this problem constantly. It’s estimated that the majority of videos on the Internet are not captioned, and therefore inaccessible to these audiences.

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) defines captioning at its most basic level:
Captioning is the process of converting the audio content of a television broadcast, webcast, film, video, CD-ROM, DVD, live event, or other productions into text and displaying the text on a screen, monitor, or other visual display system. 

There are two elements to making videos accessible.
  • The first element is the captions themselves. For a full explanation of the requirements for creating captions, see the IBM web accessibility checklist Checkpoint 1.2a: Captions, or the WGBH, NCAM Guideline H: Multimedia.
    Captions can be open or closed: Open captions are burned into the image, similar to subtitles, which the user cannot turn off. Closed captions are a separate data stream that is synchronized with the multimedia. The user can turn these captions on or off. (IBM has developed an enterprise-level research technology, IBM AbilityLab Media Captioner and Editor, which automatically creates open captions and transcripts.)
  • The second element is a text version (often called a transcript) of the video content. The IBM web checklist, Checkpoint 1.2b: Audio and Video (Prerecorded), describes the requirements for creating a text version of the content that can be accessed by anyone. It was created as a way for blind or visually impaired users to access the visual information, and for hearing impaired or deaf users to access the audio information in the content.
    A full text alternative describes everything that is happening in the video. In addition to the visual information, the text alternative also includes a transcript of all dialogue, and also textual representations of all of the video, audio, and interaction from the video.
Videos that include both captions and a text alternative can reduce or eliminate barriers to rich media access for many potential users.

The sweet spot: Where videos, accessibility, and SEO meet

Where does SEO fit into this picture? Right here. After all, if your customers can’t find your videos; they can’t view them. And if search engines can’t find your videos; they can’t rank them. But after you’ve captioned a video and included a transcript, you’ve now created exactly what the search engines require for indexing – making that video searchable – impossible to do with an uncaptioned file. Both users and search engines can search for and find keywords from your video; enabling video SEO.

The sweet spot of SEO: A Venn diagram showing where Videos, Accessibility and SEO intersect.

SEO has been around as long as there have been search engines, web sites for the engines to search, and site owners wanting to increase traffic to those sites. It’s constantly changing as search engines evolve and become more sophisticated. Video SEO is a relatively new, but growing field, and will continue to gain in use and importance as Internet users continue to watch videos and new video captioning legislation is signed into law and enforced, such as the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 in the United States.
As a competitive advantage, captioning your videos is a winning strategy – both for promoting your messages, products, and services to a much broader audience by enabling more of your customers to find your content, and by making the content accessible to all of your customers, regardless of disability, device, or native language.

There's Always a Flip Side, and Sometimes It's Dark — Online Bullying and the Price It Exacts

I saw a tweet yesterday that caught my attention; yet scared me at the same time.
I took a deep breath, and clicked on the YouTube link.
My story: Struggling, bullying, suicide, self harm

I watched a beautiful young woman tell her story — pouring out her heart about some stupid mistakes she made, and how miserable she'd become from the incessant bullying that had taken over her life, even through multiple school changes. Of course I was crying before the end of the 8 minute and 55 second video. And with a heavy heart, I googled her name to find out that she committed suicide last Wednesday.

And I'm heartbroken. And discouraged. And finally, outraged.

How did we get to this? I've been an outspoken advocate and supporter of these amazing new technologies that enable us to connect, person-to-person, with others around the world: fighting injustice, toppling evil regimes, collaborating, crowdsourcing and sharing news, ideas, solutions, projects and money, encouraging words, and yes, even funny cat photos.

But when and how did this instantaneous connection and documentation of our every memorable moment flip to this dark side where bullying and the never-deletable online mistakes can so haunt our youth, leading some of them to believe that their lives are ruined, and no longer worth living?

If you were a teenager who never did a single stupid thing, please step forward or raise your hand. Yeah, that's what I thought. We all did it — it's part of growing up and self discovery. Of course, our mistakes were usually kept small and local, and not publicized to the world at large.

The first glimpses we've had at this public outing of teenage growing pains were with young stars — actors, musicians — who did their growing up in the bright and unforgiving lights of the public view. Could anyone forget Britney Spears' or Lindsey Lohan's breakdowns and mistakes paraded for us all to see? And. awful as it is, that public exposure of foolish or thoughtless moments that should be private are considered one of the costs of fame and fortune.

But Amanda Todd? She wasn't famous. Or rich. She was just a confused teenager who made a few bad decisions, including her selection of "friends". And was bullied and harassed until she felt like her life was not worth living, and ended it.

And that is wrong. Morally reprehensible. Unforgivable.

So how do we stop losing any more of our children and teenagers to the public humiliation that makes them choose to leave us?

I have three suggestions:
1) Education and awareness
2) Activism
3) Legislation

Education and Awareness

Education is critical. Education for teens and for their parents. Your digital footprint and shadow are permanent. Once a photo or post is out on the Internet, it's not retrievable. Last year IBM created some activity kits — amazing resources that are free to the public to use and share. I presented Control Your Online Identity. Help teenagers learn to protect their personal data online to two groups of middle schoolers attending a summer camp at the IBM Almaden Research Lab. I'm a pretty savvy social media user, and I still learned a few things. There is a second activity kit available for parents and/or teachers on Cyber-bullying.

Both kits can help concerned adults help this generation navigate a safe path through this uber-connected and uber-documented online world we now live in.


Raise your voice. Use your social connections to inform the corporations who create and own these social media tools and platforms that privacy is of utmost importance, and is not to be ignored or minimized. Bullying and harassment need to be dealt with harshly.

Tweet, send emails, make comments on their brand pages, sign petitions. These companies are listening — of that you can be assured.


The Children's Online Protection Privacy Act of 1998 was the last time a federal privacy law for minors was enacted. And it only protects children under the age of 13. Hello? 1998? With all of the changes that have occurred online in just the last three years? Contact your legislators and tell them that new, stricter legislation is critical to protect our youth, all of our youth, against bullying, harassment, and unathorized usage of images. Today.

Amanda Todd and her potential are gone. Her family's hearts are broken. But maybe we can save other lives.

October 16, 2012 Update:  Amanda Todd's Alleged Bully Named By Anonymous After Teen's Tragic Suicide

Repost from IBM Social Business Insights Blog: Video captioning (Part 1 of 2): Win/Win for accessibility and search engine optimization (SEO)

IBM Social Business Insights blog logo
Redbooks Thought Leader logoEarlier this year I started blogging for the IBM Social Business Insights blog as part of a team of IBM Redbook Thought Leaders. I'll be reposting those blog posts here on my personal blog. Video captioning (Part 1 of 2): Win/Win for accessibility and search engine optimization (SEO) was originally published on August 7, 2012, and is owned by IBM. I recommend checking out the IBM Social Business Insights blog for some compelling and though-provoking content.

Video captioning (Part 1 of 2): Win/Win for accessibility and search engine optimization (SEO) 

By Holly Nielsen, Social Media Manager and Webmaster, Human Ability and Accessibility 

In this two-part series, we’ll look at the exploding growth of Internet video, and how captioning your videos can make them search engine friendly and available to more potential customers.

Let’s face it. We’re becoming a world that documents our every waking moment with video, and shares that video with our social networks.

Video started out as a medium that only the professionals could afford and had the skill to use. Technology evolved – shrinking in size and cost so that every smartphone and most cell phones now include a video camera, and we’re all amateur videographers.  
Amateur videographer using a camera

Who’s watching web videos?

Not only are we creating video content, but we’re watching it too, all over the world. A few examples:

  • Pew Research Center reports that “More online Americans are using video-sharing sites and they are doing so more frequently. As of May 2011, 71% of online adults reported watching videos on a video-sharing site such as YouTube or Vimeo.”
  • comScore, Inc. noted in 2011 that Internet users in Germany, Turkey, Spain, and the UK watch an average of at least 30 minutes a day of online video.
  • An article by Forbes about the explosion of online video in Latin America reported that in "March 2011, more than 80% of all Internet users in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Chile watched online video;" in fact, 4 out of 5 users watched an average of 8 to 11 hours of online video during that month.
YouTube is the world’s largest video repository, and as of July 10, 2012, the latest statistics were remarkable:
  • 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
  • Over 800 million unique users visit YouTube each month
  • Over 3 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube
  • In 2011, YouTube had more than 1 trillion views or almost 140 views for every person on Earth

Businesses are embracing video

Businesses, both business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C), have jumped on the video bandwagon, with good reason.

According to an article on Business2Community, watching a video can have an impact on the bottom line of your business, especially as high-level executives flock to video channels:
  • According to emarketer.com, a majority of business people surveyed by Forbes in October 2010 said they watched more video currently compared to the previous year.
  • Virtually 60% of respondents said they would watch video prior to reading text on the same webpage, and 22% said they generally liked watching video more than browsing text for examining business information.
  • 75% of all executives said they watched work-related videos on business websites at least once a week, and more than 50% use YouTube to watch those videos.
  • 65% of U.S. executives surveyed by Forbes in October 2010 visit a vendor’s website after viewing a work-related online video.
  • 53% conducted a search for a vendor, product, or service for more information and 42% made a business-related purchase.
Invodo has collected a plethora of statistics supporting how video drives conversion and traffic for retailers, including these:
  • 52% of consumers say that watching product videos makes them more confident in their online purchase decisions. When a video is information-intensive, 66% of consumers will watch the video two or more times. (Internet Retailer, 2012)
  • Product videos play a key role in consumer purchase decisions, citing a 9x increase in retail video views at the start of the 2011 holiday season. (MediaPost, 2012)
  • Visitors who view product videos are 85% more likely to buy than visitors who do not. (Internet Retailer, April 2010)
  • Retail site visitors who view video stay two minutes longer on average and are 64% more likely to purchase than other site visitors. (Comscore, August 2010)
So now that we’ve confirmed that the use of video as a communication medium will continue to grow, we’ll look at where accessibility and SEO intersect when it comes to videos, part 2 of this two-part series.

Grey Poupon Mustard and Exclusivity: Reversing "Like" Mania on Facebook

You knew it was coming, right? Someone was going to reverse the constant cattle drive for Facebook brand pages to get any and all likes, regardless of value, and become an exclusive social networking destination.

According to one of my favorite fun and snarky news sources, Adrants, "The [Grey Poupon] campaign, developed by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, will employ an algorithm that will search and judge users' profiles based on their proper use of grammar, art taste, restaurant-check ins, books read, movie selections and other indicators of "classy." If the algorithm detects poor taste in music or TXT speak, for example, they could be rejected for membership. Those who do not qualify, will have their Like rescinded and asked to refine their profile before trying again."

"Those who "cut the mustard" so to speak will be invited to take part in the chance to win prizes and a Grey Poupon-approved "classy" badge they can post on their profile."

 Take a look at the Grey Poupon Facebook Timeline photo.
Screenshot of Grey Poupon Facebook timeline photo showing the Becoming a Member and Member Only modules
Notice the Become a Member/Application and The Society/Members Only modules.  When you click through to the Application page, it states, "Only applicants with the most discerning palates will be admitted. Those whose applications are declined will have their LIKE rescinded."

Okay, I did it. I applied. After giving the usual app permissions to access and use my info, etc, etc, it actually shows a ranking of my number of friends, education, musical taste, and an example of my grammar usage in a charming and fun little program. And whew, I made it!

My acceptance post into "The Society of Good Taste".
I'd vote this campaign an A+. I just finished a book club book called, "Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me)" by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, which confirms what most of us already knew — if you have to work harder for something you'll value it more.

And we all know that the Gold Rush for fans and followers and Likes is a heady rush, but ultimately, engaging with one good prospect is better than attracting 1000 indiscriminate followers. I think we can count on seeing a lot more of these types of differentiation programs to drive prospect nuturing and customer conversion now that Facebook has passed the 950 million fan mark (as of September 2012). And eventually the other social media channels will follow suit.

So did you cut the mustard? What's your score? Inquiring minds want to know. :-)

Repost from IBM Social Business Insights blog: Crowdfunding: Harnessing the power of social networking to raise money (Part 3 of 3)

IBM Social Business Insights Blog logo
IBM Redbooks thought leader logoEarlier this year I started blogging for the IBM Social Business Insights blog as part of a team of IBM Redbook Thought Leaders. I'll be reposting those blog posts here on my personal blog. Crowdfunding: Harnessing the power of social networking to raise money (Part 3 of 3)  was originally published on June 29, 2012, and is owned by IBM.
I recommend checking out the IBM Social Business Insights blog for some compelling and though-provoking content. 


Crowdfunding: Harnessing the power of social networking to raise money (Part 3 of 3) 

Part 1 and Part 2 of this Crowdfunding blog series look at some successful crowdfunding platforms for creative projects in the United States and the rest of the world. Part 3 looks at two additional crowdfunding uses: microlending and charitable causes.

Crowdfunding for microlending

Investopedia defines microfinance as: A type of banking service that is provided to unemployed or low-income individuals or groups who would otherwise have no other means of gaining financial services. Ultimately, the goal of microfinance is to give low income people an opportunity to become self-sufficient by providing a means of saving money, borrowing money and insurance.
Man teaching a boy to fishMicrofinancing is based on the old adage, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Crowdfunding has simplified microfinancing by using social networking to more easily connect the lenders and the borrowers.

One of the most well known crowdfunding microlenders on the scene, Kiva, summarizes its purpose as: “We are a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world.”

And their statistics are impressive. As recently reported by MicroCapital.org, “Kiva has released its annual report for 2011 indicating that its loans to microfinance institutions increased from USD 71 million in 2010 to USD 89.5 million in 2011. The number of individual lenders who fund these loans increased from approximately 371,000 in 2010 to 457,000 in 2011. Kiva reported 26 new field partners who joined its network in 2011.”

MicroCapital.org also states, “Since its inception in 2005, Kiva has loaned a total of USD 313 million, which came from approximately 765,000 lenders and was disbursed via field partners to 782,000 borrowers.  The average loan repayment rate is reported to be 98.9 percent.”

As with the other crowdfunding ventures, if the full amount, in this case a loan, isn’t fully funded, it does not happen. I’m helping finance two separate entrepreneurs with Kiva, and it’s a gratifying experience that I’ll continue funding. My first loan was part of a total $3,000 loan to a woman in Armenia, who wanted to purchase cows and develop her business, which will help her get more income and cover her family’s daily costs, plus one day start her own family.  She has paid back 34% of this loan on a 24 month payback schedule.

The amount I have invested in Kiva is small, but I enjoy getting updates on the two entrepreneurs I’m helping.

Crowdfunding for charitable causes

Although crowdfunding for creative projects is fun and exciting, crowdfunding for charitable causes is near and dear to my heart. As a concept, it’s been around longer than the other variations of crowdfunding. Organizations such as Lymphoma & Leukemia’s Team in Training (TNT) and Avon Walk for Breast Cancer create fundraising pages on their websites for their participants, who turn to their social networks to raise money for these charities. TNT, for instance, has raised over $1.2 billion to fund lifesaving cancer research.

Other sites such as Just Giving, a British fundraising website, enable charities to create fundraising pages on the Just Giving site, instead of having to host their own pages and handle the donation taking and distribution of funds.  Using Just Giving’s website, 21 million people have helped raise £1 billion for charity since its inception in 2000.


I’ve shared a few examples of crowdfunding, but you can see it’s clearly a growing trend. I’m always a little shocked by those who think that social networking is a fad that will fade away in the next two or three years. It’s clearly a paradigm shift in our communications with each other, and will continue to evolve as our mobile devices become faster and even more ubiquitous.

Using Graphics to Explain Social Media

We've always been a very visual society. And with the implementation of Web 2.0 technologies and the proliferation of social media channels — digital images and graphics are everywhere — perfect for the visual learners among us.

 If you're not familiar with this learning model (one of many), Wikipedia briefly describes Neil Fleming's VAK (or VARK) model that divides learners into three types:
  1. Visual learners who think in pictures and learn best with visual aids (infographics would work well)
  2. Auditory learners who learn through listening (these are the podcast and book on CD people)
  3. Tactile learners who learn through doing and touch (those who need to experience it themselves to learn, enjoyed science lab immensely)
I'm definitely a visual learner, and it doesn't matter if there are words or images — it's still all visual. For instance, I've always been one of those people who is inspired by quotations (that's the point, right?) that resonate at different phases in my life. And I keep a file of relevant quotations for the Facebook pages I manage, and I enjoy sharing the ones I find on my own Facebook page. But lately, I've noticed the words alone are no longer enough — they're always included on or with an image. (There's a potential  argument here about too much of a good thing diluting value, but I'll leave that for another time.)

So recently, this graphic came across my Facebook news feed, and amused me to no end (so of course I had to share it).

FACEBOOK: I like cupcakes; Twitter: I'm eating a #cupcake.; Foursquare: I'm here with a cupcake.; Instagram: Here's a pic of my cupcake.; YouTube: Look at me eating a cupcake.; Last FM: Now listening to "Cupcakes".; Pinterest: This is a beautiful cupcake. Myspace: The name of my band is "Cupcakes".; LinkedIn: My skills include eating cupcakes.

And it reminded me of one I saw a few months ago. (I guess food and a sprinkling of snark cross most if not all social, ethnic, and gender boundaries, so it makes for a good example.)

And whether or not you're familiar with all of these social media channels, you can still get a good feel for how people use them by these tongue-in-cheek examples.

And really, isn't that the point of them?

Repost from IBM Social Business Insights: Crowdfunding: Harnessing the power of social networking to raise money (Part 2 of 3)

IBM Social Business Insights Blog logo
IBM Redbooks thought leader logoEarlier this year I started blogging for the IBM Social Business Insights blog as part of a team of IBM Redbook Thought Leaders. I'll be reposting those blog posts here on my personal blog. Crowdfunding: Harnessing the power of social networking to raise money (Part 2 of 3)  was originally published on June 22, 2012, and is owned by IBM.
I recommend checking out the IBM Social Business Insights blog for some compelling and though-provoking content. 

In  part 1 of this series, I reviewed the concept of crowdfunding, and why the growth of social networking has made crowdfunding easy, possible, and popular. I also reviewed Kickstart, which is the most popular of these types of project-funding platforms.

Ulule logo
Only US residents can create projects in Kickstarter, though anyone in the world can help fund one. For entrepreneurs in the rest of the world, the leading crowdfunding site is Ulule, run by a team from Paris. It’s smaller than Kickstarter, but has a broader set of project categories including:
  • Film and video
  • Music
  • Comics
  • Games
  • Photography
  • Stage
  • Solidarity
  • Technologeek
  • Journalism
  • Design
  • Sports
  • Travel
  • Books
  • Fashion
  • Green
  • Childhood
  • Craftsmanship
  • Fine Arts
  • Politics
Ulule also explains to potential project owners about the reward system, recommending a tiered system that increases in value as the donation increases in value, and that gives donors rewards closely linked to the project such as an invitation to screenings of the movie created, a recording of the concert being financed, or a postcard of the mountain to be climbed.

To assist in crowdfunding, for creative project owners, Ulule has a primer available that describes the need for trust, and about the existence of the three circles of crowdfunding:
  • Friends and family
  • Friends and acquaintances of friends & family
  • Everyone else
Three circles of crowdfunding
Project creators must start in the first circle, or inner circle, and work their way outward, gaining trust and attention as they work through their networks. (Plus, they can’t publish on the site until they have at least five supporters.) The third network is the one with the largest amount of available funds, and the most difficult to crack.

An IBM colleague of mine from Italy, Nicola Palmarini (@nipalm on Twitter), first brought my attention to Ulule when he posted a personal project called The way to l'Olympia: A documentary on barriers between dreams and reality – a wonderful documentary about dreams, disabilities, and accessible travel. His project received 109% of funding and is in its final stages.

About his experience, Nicola said, When I started the project I didn’t have a single cent in my pocket to make it happen. So I just said myself ‘Is there any other way? No? So let’s try.’ This was a first of a kind – I’ve never done such a thing before. And it worked out. We are now finalizing the documentary of bringing Eleonora, a mobility-impaired friend from Nettuno (a small village near Rome), to attend the concert of her favorite band in Paris. She had never crossed the Italian border or flown in a plane before.”

Nicola is willing to share the lessons he learned from his experience:
  • You need a good idea to move people to help you.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate; if you can use multimedia even better, but never leave your funders alone. 
  • When you set the funding amount, be very careful, it’s a double-edged sword. If you set it too high, then maybe you’ll not be able to reach the goal, that is, all your efforts will be in vain. If you set it too low, then you’ll have to explain that you reached the target but you need more money anyway and ask people for more funding. Not easy at all, trust me. 
  • Build an outer circle strategy; start from your closest friend and then enlarge the list in ring 
  • The kickoff is all you need to boost immediately and raise the temperature of your fundraising from day one. 
  • Now it's your time, good luck!  

Ulule, like Kickstarter, takes a 5% commission on fully funded projects. It’s currently available in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish (beta), Italian (beta), and German (beta).

Stay tuned for the third and final part of this series, where I delve into crowdfunding for microlending and philanthropy.

Great Innovations — Crowdfunding with Innovocracy

I'm a huge fan of crowdfunding, and recently wrote a 3-part series on the IBM Social Business Insights blog that I'm in the process of reposting here on my blog (Part 1). But I'm so impressed with this crowdfunding site, innovacracy.org, and at least one of the projects on it, that I wanted to give it a special shout out.

According to the website, the idea behind Innovocracy is bridging the gap between ideas and reality in academic research:

"Both pure and applied research often reveal potential products and services that can have a positive impact on society. But taking that research and developing it into working prototypes or demonstrating a proof of concept can be challenging. In the academic environment finding the funds to build out and test ideas with commercial applications is often a challenge. Yet finding those funds can unlock the potential of the millions of dollars and thousands of hours spent on research programs. Innovocracy was created to bridge the gap between powerful ideas and beneficial applications of those ideas. We offer a funding source that connects people who want to support innovation in academic research and those innovators found on campuses around the world."

The innovation that really caught my attention is the Web-Based Volunteer Support Network for Blind and Low Vision People.

Screenshot of VizWiz in action.
The captioning reads: iPhone: Double tap the screen to take a photo.
Double tap again to post card and start asking question.
The basic concept is a wonderful example of crowdsourcing at its best. VizWiz is an iPhone application that blind people can use to answer visual questions in their everyday lives. Users simply take a picture and speak a question they’d like to know about it, and their questions are answered by people out on the web, usually in under a minute and all for free.

VizWiz logo
It was released to the Apple® App Store a little over a year ago, and has been a booming success with more than 5,000 users asking over 50,000 questions. So successful in fact with both users and potential volunteers that the current setup is unsustainable and the creator, Jeffrey Bigham, PhD, from the University of Rochester, is looking for $5,500 by September 14th to expand the service by creating a web site hub and answering center.


Repost from IBM Social Business Insights: Crowdfunding: Fundraising with a Social Twist

IBM Social Business Insights Blog logo
IBM Redbooks thought leader logoEarlier this year I started blogging for the IBM Social Business Insights blog as part of a team of IBM Redbook Thought Leaders. I'll be reposting those blog posts here on my personal blog. Crowdfunding: Harnessing the power of social networking to raise money (Part 1 of 3)  was originally published on June 12, 2012, and is owned by IBM.
I recommend checking out the IBM Social Business Insights blog for some compelling and though-provoking content. 

Crowdfunding: Harnessing the power of social networking to raise money (Part 1 of 3)

By Holly Nielsen, Social Media Manager and Webmaster, Human Ability and Accessibility

I’m fascinated with the power and reach of social networking. Every day I find something new – another clever idea of capitalizing on the power of all of these connected people who are online daily making new connections, sharing content, collaborating… It truly is a new world of interacting with others, and in many ways makes our huge world of seven billion residents feel a little smaller and much friendlier.

One of the social networking areas that’s captured my attention recently is crowdfunding, an offshoot of crowdsourcing. Oxford Dictionaries even has an official definition of crowdfunding:

The practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet.

Crowdfunding is being used successfully by many types of people and groups for a broad range of projects and causes including creative projects, entrepreneurial products or technologies, artists, bands, or independent filmmakers seeking support, humanitarian aid, political campaigns, charities, and microlending.

Crowdfunding creative projects
I’m fascinated with three-year old Kickstarter – a platform that enables potential entrepreneurs with a creative idea to float the idea within the Kickstarter community to see if the people like the idea enough to fund it; lowering the barrier to entry dramatically. When you think about it, what an inexpensive (as in free) means to do market research and build your customer base, in one fell swoop.

Kickstarter logoThe Kickstarter project funding categories are broad and range from art, to food, to publishing, technology, and theater. The average project is raising under $10,000, but take a look at the Most Funded page for a list of successfully funded projects and how much they received (one of them was 15,454% funded for a total of $77,271 pledged!) 

Only 44% of the projects meet their financing goal, and a project that doesn’t meet its goal receives no money that is, if the project doesn’t meet its funding goal, the supporters get their money back, so it’s a no-risk funding situation. But if you look at Kickstarter’s FAQs, it does talk about accountability, and do not take responsibility for the project creator completing the project after the money is handed over. It’s up to the donor to check out the project and creator thoroughly. The FAQ points out that “Because projects are usually funded by the friends, fans, and communities around its creator, there are powerful social forces that keep creators accountable.”

According to the website, more than $200 million for 20,000 projects has been raised. Kickstarter takes a cut, 5%, but only if the project is fully funded. In contrast to traditional venture capital funding, the project owners keep 100% ownership of their work.

Like all truly integrated social networking applications, Kickstarter is tied into all of the major social media channels, giving the project owners an easy way to promote their projects through their online and offline communities.

So what do investors get for their most popular pledge of $25 or average pledge of $70? There’s no tax write-off or ownership of the project, but the project creators offer rewards, related to the project itself. According to Kickstarter, here are the four most popular types of rewards with examples:
  • Copies of the item: The album, the DVD, a print from the show. These items should be priced what they would cost in a retail environment.
  • Creative collaborations: A backer appears as a hero in the comic, everyone gets painted into the mural, two backers do the handclaps for track 3.
  • Creative experiences: A visit to the set, a phone call from the author, dinner with the cast, a concert in your backyard.
  • Creative mementos: Polaroids sent from location, thanks in the credits, meaningful tokens that tell a story.
Projects with creative and tangible products are the most likely ones to get funded.

Stay tuned for part 2 to find out about how non-US residents can crowdfund their creative projects.

Video Mania: Resistance is Futile

Some days I'm not sure what's going to take over our brains and world first:
  • inspiring and uplifting quotes Photoshopped onto photos of beautiful scenery or cute animals and kids
  • funny videos
Today I'm voting for videos to take first place for world and cerebral domination — have you seen the latest YouTube statistics?
  • 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
  • Over 800 million unique users visit YouTube each month
  • Over 3 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube
  • In 2011, YouTube had more than 1 trillion views or almost 140 views for every person on Earth
 Regardless of your sense of humor ironic, wacky, snarky, slapstick, dark it's guaranteed you can find a video that will make you laugh. (A slight detour here an interesting article that actually spells out 10 different humor types in dating profiles.)

Here are two videos that grabbed my attention today, and tickled my funny bone, as the old saying goes.

The first one is fiendishly clever. Clemenger BBDO created a vending machine to test how far humans will go to get a free snack. And the resulting video is somewhere between a evil, mad-scientist-type experiment run amok and impromptu performance art.

The second video that had me laughing out loud is this (scripted but still funny) video of two men who attempt and fail miserably to resist singing along with the annoyingly catchy Gotye song, "Somebody That You Used to Know". Come on, don't deny it you sing it in the car too. :-)

So what type of humor and videos make you laugh out loud all by yourself, or are so perfect that you share them with all of your social networks?