The Adventure Project

“Our vision is simple. We believe we can end extreme poverty in our lifetime by reinventing how we give. Ways that spur economic opportunity, promote dignity, & save lives.” – Vision Statement of The Adventure Project.

The Adventure Project

That is Perfect.
Well said.

An amazing mind in the non-profit world (who I feel very lucky to call a friend) co-founded an organization with a simple, but effective message; lets all get our heads together and figure this out. The Adventure Project, founded by Becky Straw and Jody Landers, has an insane amount of potential, and I’m proud to say I’ve joined the tribe. Check out the site, join up, and we can figure out some sustainable solutions.

Oh, and they have an amazing option for holiday giving. I spent this past Tuesday packing coal into boxes for gifts… but they weren’t for the naughty, they were some of the nicest gifts ever. Find out more here 🙂


Twestival 2010: A Global Experiment

I’m new to the Nashville area, but I’ve been lucky enough to team up with some very talented locals to help out with Twestival this year. I’ve heard from these awesome new friends that there are a couple big questions about Twestival that are common around here. The main one is why should we support a foreign cause when there is so much work to do locally? The other is about the frequency of the Twestival (“Didn’t we just have one of those?”). I wanted to take a second to give my opinion on these issues.     

The idea of Twestival is by nature a global thing. It is realizing new media’s potential to unite groups of likeminded people to tackle bigger issues then we could tackle on our own. Twestival in September targeted local charities, picked by the city organizers. While I like this idea, I feel that it loses something when hundreds of cities are raising money and awareness for different causes. Communities are more than capable of arranging “tweet-ups” to address these local problems, and hopefully this global event can inspire them to do so. The point of Twestival global is for cities in every continent on the globe to exercise their creative ability and motivate their local communities to be represented in a global movement. This movement’s goal is to work on a worldwide problem and that is what’s happening this year on March 25th for education.

To address the second issue I want to point out that even local online communities change very quickly. I promise the event this year will have some of the same faces, but plenty of new ones will be there to interact, network, and to simply satisfy curiosity. Welcome them with open arms, because the whole idea is to meet other people you would have never encountered otherwise.

It’s also important to remember that despite how quickly the rest of the world moves, the same problems are still there. Last year charity: water gave clean water to thousands with the money raised by Twestival (see the results here). Entire communities received a basic need which will help jump start them out of their situation. Despite all the good done, the checks signed, and the pats on the back given that night it solved approximately 0.0002% of the overall water crisis. We have to remember that Twestival is another grand experiment in sociology, and it is testing ways to mobilize the world to solve its larger problems. Bi-annually doesn’t seem like too much to test, tweak, and push the limits of this technology that brings people together in new and fascinating ways.

If you’re in the Nashville area I hope I can see you on the 25th to support a great cause! Follow @twestivalnash for more details. If you’re not in the area find one near you or throw an event yourself!




The Suggested User List: Nothing Gold Can Stay…

It was the holy grail of the twitterverse; the Midas touch of social media… and now it’s gone… le sigh…

    The suggested user list has proven its ability time and time again to create the overnight digital celebrity. It’s taken people, organizations, causes, and brands and lifted them into impressive followings of six digits or more.

    For those under the proverbial rock, the suggested user list was a list comprised of some of the “best twitterers.” This was decided by an algorithm, followed by a manual review conducted by the twitter staff. The list of many would show up when a user first signed up for twitter, and gave an option to follow 20 of them (chosen at random) or not. The simplicity of clicking yes led many of those new users to agree, and follow profiles they may have heard of, or be exposed to new people/companies. On January 21st, Twitter decided to change the practice.

    The biggest difference to those included on this new list is the ease of the follow. Before it was a simple yes or no to the user, and now you have to go through categories, and individually select those whom you want to follow. It basically went from an almost default yes, to an almost default no. This has obviously severely stemmed the growth of those included on the suggested users list.

    Now that we are a couple of weeks out from the change we can see trends developing with the following rates of those included on the list. Here’s the most interesting part; not only has the rapid and steady advance in the following slowed, it’s reversed. A sample of a twitter user that was on the old suggested user list, and has since moved on to the new suggested user list is below.

The growth of the following hits a complete wall on the day that twitter switched the style of the suggested user list. Surprisingly it then begins a slower, but still impressive steady decline at about the rate of a thousand followers a week. Is this a reflection of spam and dead accounts being deleted by twitter on a daily basis? If this deleting of accounts so severely outweighs the number of followers being added when will the decline stop? Is twitter also deleting the 60% of dead accounts out there (going off Nielson’s famous estimate of a 40% retention rate)?

There are many questions about the statistics, but the thing that is sure is the suggested user list is no longer a guarantee of droves of followers. A simple addition of a click made all the difference, and the wheat is now separating from the chaff. In my opinion this is a great thing, sticking with the idea that success can’t be bought on the social media playing field, it has to be earned. This is an equalizer between established brands and newer brands that are earning a following with good ideas and great content.


Mobile Giving: The New Grassroots Revolution?

UPDATE: Stephen Joos from mGive commented on the post below (second comment) and updated a couple of facts about mGive. Please take time to read his comment after the post.

(disclaimer: Due to the overwhelming number of inquiries that mGive has been receiving re: Haiti fundraising I was not able to get in touch with a representative to confirm their donation process. Any information I have published about mGive has been directly from their website. Any conjectures about the Red Cross’ giving practices are simply that; conjecture. I have not been able to get in touch with a Red Cross representative to ask how the campaign has shaped their relief efforts.)

We all know the stats: a six figure death toll, millions left as helpless refugees and more than a billion in damage dealt to a country that has been stricken with poverty for decades. The tragedy in Haiti has been one of the largest in recent history, but has also resulted in the largest outpouring of international aid since the tsunami that rocked the coast of Southeast Asia in 2004. One effort that stood out to many of us was the “text Haiti” campaign sponsored by the Red Cross. We’ve seen it as a trending topic on all the major social platforms, top searches in the major engines, and even primetime plugs by the first lady and presidential blogs. Mobile giving foundations and campaigns have been around for the past few years, but never has one been relied on so heavily to quickly and effectively transfer funds to a first response organization, where days count and hours mean the difference between life and death.

How Does it Work?

The overall process is fairly simple; however a few players are involved. Once the text donation is submitted, the information is sent by the wireless carrier to a foundation (The laws surrounding this information are very strict, and only the phone number and amount can be passed along, no other private information is transferred). In the case of the Haiti campaign by the Red Cross, it is submitted to the mGive foundation. The information is immediately passed on to an ASP (Application Service Provider) which generates reports and provides the ability for the non-profit to have real-time access to view the donations received. mGive in this case is not only the foundation, but the service and software provider as well. Usually there is a transaction fee per donation with the foundation and the ASP as well as a monthly ASP subscription fee depending on the size of the organization and traffic through the donation network (It should be noted that in the case of the Haiti campaign mGive has waived all transaction fees).

The process does take time. The wireless carriers pay out to the foundation on a regular cycle decided by the carrier (The full donation amount is paid to the foundation as regular text messaging fees do apply). After the foundation receives the donations it will divvy them up to the proper organizations, however this also takes time. Per the mGive website they pay out on a ninety day (overall) cycle. In the case of an organization the size of the Red Cross, they can immediately plug the numbers into their accounts receivable figures, and that would theoretically shape the amount of money they are willing to immediately send into the field; essentially post dating a check they know they will be able to cash. This is light years beyond waiting for checks to come in through the mail and clear, and is much easier and more trustworthy to the donor than calling in a credit card number. All parties win, and in a disaster relief situation this real time transfer of information becomes an invaluable tool.

Here is a visual of the process: (click to enlarge)


After the transaction is completed on the donor end, regulations state that they can receive no more than two follow up text messages from the foundation. In the case of mGive, the non-profit does not have the option to choose the first two texts. They do have the ability in these texts to ask if the user wants to receive more information on the organization, and if they answer yes the number is submitted into a data base where they can receive mass texts from the organization (via the ASP). If the user reply’s with anything but yes or doesn’t reply at all the users number is deleted from the database. This assures that there is no spam in this system, and the lists of numbers cannot be bought, so no future texts will come to the donor.


Now what?

    This experiment has proven the worth and necessity of this technology. It really covers every social requirement one can hope for in requesting donations. It’s easy, it’s fast, it doesn’t require an immediate exchange of currency and it’s one of the most widely spread platforms on the market now. Plenty of people aren’t on certain social networks, but who doesn’t have an SMS compatible cellular device these days? Also, it has been proven time and time again that the vast majority of the population is “impulse donors” and every step added to the process of making a donation greatly decreases the number of donations received. With this development, one has the ability to make a donation with two simple text messages with a mobile device that the donor will most likely have accessible at that moment, making this arguably the easiest way to contribute to a cause with current common technology.

    The next question is, what is the most valuable channel of marketing? I think the answer is fairly obvious here; all of them. I first saw instructions on how to donate in this fashion spreading through the social media landscape like an indomitable blaze, apparently sparked the White House via their blog. I continued to see it float around the web through search engine traffic and trending topics as well as imbedded widgets on multiple sites. They even hit the prime time specials, where I saw the first lady plead for the nation to start using those thumbs to grant relief to the people of Haiti (I would have liked to see a ticker with donation info the entire program, but beggars I suppose…). With this blitzkrieg strategy on many of the large media outlets, we watched the number jump over a million in the first day, to just over eight million by week’s end. We can all agree that the massive support for this cause, especially considering it was delivered in fixed increments of ten dollars, is pretty incredible. The question though is what needs to be improved on before the next disaster? Should the wireless carriers be able to send “request to donate” texts directly to their client base? Would that even be legal? Now that this is an accepted technology how quickly can you get the instructions to donate out over the net and on the airwaves? Can this technology eventually gain the popularity to rival government outpouring of aid (currently topping four hundred million collectively)?

    In this day and age the foundation also has to be more aware of the fact that the donor is more intelligent than ever. Is there an issue saying donations go towards Haiti when the Red Cross will not see the actual check for months? Is that negated by the fact that the Red Cross will most likely spend the money immediately anyway, and just use that check to replenish the funds already spent? Also, should there be more of an effort to make it transparent that the mobile giving service does cost the non-profit money? Is the fact that there is a cost negated by the fact that the full amount is granted from the foundation to the non-profit and the fees (Please once again keep in mind that mGive has waived all fees for this campaign in light of the crisis) are paid seperately? Is it simply enough to have a transparent website such as mGive has (although it is more aimed at selling potential non-profit customers their service) so that all the potential donor has to do is a little research? In my opinion, everything has been done right so far. I am a big supporter of the informed donor doing their own research into the methods and financials of a chosen non-profit or cause. With a few searches it is fairly easy for the laymen to assess the situation, and the cost of the service at hand (Which is relatively small).

I am, as always, wondering what you think about the situation, the advancement of this technology, and the responsibilities of transparency with the providers. I look forward to reading and responding.

P.S. I’m already working on a blog about the passive use of this technology for non-profits in everyday fundraising, so I would love to keep this conversation limited to immediate mobilization of funds in crisis and disaster situations. Thanks!

Customer Service 2.0

I use Scout Labs (@scoutlabs) as my preferred analytic tool for monitoring social media accounts. I’m not going to go into all the functions because this isn’t a product review but trust me, it’s pretty killer. What I want to talk about is a simple email thread that I had yesterday. I canceled my scout labs account because at the moment I have nothing going that demands everything it offers, and with a price tag of $100 a month I decided to take a break from it. After I canceled within a few minutes I received an email from a scout labs “listener/brainstormer.”

Hi Evan –

I’m Erin at Scout Labs – nice to “virtually” meet you! 🙂

I’m sorry Scout Labs didn’t work out for you! Can you give me an idea of why? Was there a service you needed that you didn’t get or did you decide to go with a competitor? Thanks for letting us know – we find the feedback VERY useful!


That was pretty standard, so I responded by saying that I love the product, cannot justify spending money on it now but will recommend it to clients, so on and so forth. I get this back:

1) any time you’d like me to run a search for you, just let me know. I’d be happy to give you a couple of screenshots so you’ve got something for your proposals.
2) of course a client can always go to to set up their own account. However, if you want to curate the conversation, you can send over to me a purchase order with the billing info and we’ll be happy to set up an account (we can still deal with the free trial). You might like that option because once you ask us to create an account, we can invite you to the workspace to set up for your client. You can then invite them to the workspace instead of the “fingers crossed, I hope they do it” method.

Anyhow, I’m glad that it’s not over between us. That was almost VERY sad.

🙂 Erin

That right there was above and beyond for me. Even though I was a leaving customer they were doing their best to bring me back for future transactions. They not only recommended approaches to clients, but offered to help me build proposals and broker deals, keeping me in the loop.

I’m a fan.

Now for the kill shot… I of course do what I normally do when something catches my eye like this… post it on twitter…

Not even two hours after I posted this I get this response:

talk about making someone’s day! thanks for the tweet shout out!! 🙂 Erin

That was amazing to me and here is why: they took a personal interest in me. This means that someone in the customer service team at scout labs was checking their mentions, saw that I mentioned Erin in customer service, took the time to let her know about it, and she took the time to make the connection and thank me for the public mention. It took seconds out of her day but the extra small effort made all the difference on my end.

That’s what customer service in web 2.0 should look like, and I’m now an evangelistic client of their service.

We could all learn from the simple little email threads like this.

Being Truly Global in your SM Strategy

Ever heard of QZone? If you have good for you, but if not you’d be surprised to know that it claims to be the world’s largest social networking site.

I don’t have an account… because my mandarin is shaky at best.

QZone is China’s most popular social networking website, and also is responsible for their most popular instant messaging program. It’s easy to get caught up in the Twitter/MySpace/Facebook craze, but it’s important to remember, especially with global initiative non-profits, that different sites are gaining popularity in different regions of the world. For example, I myself still occasionally use Friendster as a punch line, as I’m sure we all have from time to time. Friendster has thrived though, redirecting its efforts from the suffering American market to a southeastern Asian market.

France has its Skyrock, Japan has its Mixi, and Russia its Vkontakte. I always recommend that brands or non-profits build a social structure using all available tools (don’t just pigeon hole yourself into a Twitter or Facebook page), however I’m now considering the possibilities of new foreign markets through international sites.

Are you signed on to of these sites? If so what are they and how do you use them? Also, try and consider the next gigantic social media revolution, is it going to be one of the sites that is already out there and popular overseas?

My Top 5 2009 Twitter Moments

Auld Lang Syne indeed…

This year went by insanely quick for me, and a lot of things came into my life that completely changed the person I am. One of the biggest things for me was my personal growth in the field of new media, and for the first time seeing how it can truly have a global impact as a popular form of communication. In the hallowed tradition of top (fill in number here) lists, I figured I should lay out my own. I am all about simplicity however, so I decided to keep it to a “simple to digest” number of 5, and break it down to just Twitter. Also, rather than list whatever I saw as the most world changing moments in twitter 2009, I figured I would keep it to what I saw effecting myself and the people closest to me most. So without further adieu…


5) Ashton & CNN duke it out

I know, I know… I’m not quite happy about this making my list either… but you have to admit that a lot of mainstream attention was brought to twitter with this little battle to a million followers (doesn’t it seem a little silly to think there was a time when no one had a million followers on twitter?). Overall it was an entertaining battle to watch, but the biggest thing for me was quite a few of my friends who had never really used Twitter all the sudden got involved. It also highlighted a lot of celebs on twitter, and whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing… it’s a thing… and a reality we have to deal with now.

4) “Miracle on the Hudson”

It was pretty interesting to be in NYC during this time. I was barely introduced to Twitter at this point, and didn’t even have the same account I have now. I did have breaking news texted to my phone however, and while running work errands around NYC I caught wind of this. This was my first experience of how fast Twitter can break news to people, and it happened to take place in my back yard. I could walk a couple of blocks to the river at this point and see one of the most captivating news stories of that time develop, and Twitter is what tipped me off.

“The Twitpic heard round the world…”

3) Hugh Jackman gives 100K to charity via Twitter

This was just a feel good story for all of us. Hugh Jackman (@realhughjackman) announced that he was giving 100k away to charity via Twitter; you just had to convince him in 140 characters. The charity: water following came through big here, and he ended up announcing on Seacrest that he was splitting the donation between c: w and Operation of Hope (@operationofhope). I was listening live online and almost had a heart attack when he made the announcement

listen to it here

Also… I have to say… it was pretty cool getting a RT by wolverine (even if he messed it up) J

2) Iran Elections

This is something that everyone knows about, so I figured I would share my personal experience with it. I happened to be at the 140 characters conference in NYC put on by Jeff Pulver (@jeffpulver) when this story was really making an impact, so I was lucky enough to be surrounded by some of the best minds in social media while this was taking place. One of my favorite panels at that conference was the Televised News panel, featuring Rick Sanchez (@ricksanchezCnn) and the wonderful Ann Curry (@AnnCurry). Seeing a world event being shaped by social media, and being able to ask questions to a panel of traditional media giants in the middle of it was pretty enlightening. It was most interesting to see the nervousness and uncertainty between new and old media types as to how the fields were developing a co-existence. Needless to say, it got a little heated at times. I linked to a video of the tail end of the panel (all I could find unfortunately), and you can get a feeling of the tense mood in the room.

Watch the panel here

Also have to shout out to @pistachio for calling out Clayton Morris of Fox News at the very beginning of the video. He was making fun of the relevance of trending topics, one of which happened to be “Cold Medicine.” After he laughed at that she looked it up she realized there was a story there, Kudos Laura!



1) Twestival 2009

Everything that happened this year in my Twitter world started with Twestival. Amanda Rose’s (@amanda) brilliant idea of worldwide event organization via Twitter to create social change was an inspiration to a lot of people. I was simply lucky enough to be working for charity: water (@charitywater) at the time to watch it all happen. Admittedly I was skeptical at first; we all were. When social innovator Julia Roy (@juliaroy) was tasked to come in and teach the charity: water staff the basics of twitter, she had a task ahead of her. After looking into it a little more, we quickly realized the serious power and speed of online social mobilization, and from there everything took off. Over 200 cities were involved, over $250,000 was raised, and my love for new media was solidified. Thanks again to everyone who was involved!

Also have to give a special shout out to Twestival Local in September. I happened to be in FL, and was invited to attended and speak with rock star Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan) at the Ft. Meyers Twestival (@twestivalSWFL). They did a great job and raised a lot of money. Cheers to those guys.

2010…. Bring it 😉