Online Civility, Part 3: Ranting is Hazardous to Your Health

Part 3 of 4
rantCivility on my own Facebook page took a hit in late 2012, after the contentious presidential election ended only to be bumped from the headlines by the shooting at Sandy Hook — and the accompanying debate over gun control. Many of my friends shared my perspectives on both events, but I was quickly reminded that my 1,300 friends are a diverse and opinionated group.

After I posted a few items that I didn’t think were provocative or controversial, my page was full of comments and arguments — between people who didn’t even know each other. I realized that reading political attacks (on both sides) and reactions to my own posts was bringing me down. I decided to be more selective about my posts, and how I worded them. I don’t like to unfriend people, but I also hid several people from my news feed — and almost immediately felt a sense of relief.

It turns out there’s a scientific explanation for what I experienced, because research shows that “Ranting on Websites May Just Make You Angrier.” Several studies published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking show that people who rant online often feel better after posting, but feel more anger generally. And reading and writing negative comments is associated with negative mood shifts.

Lead author Ryan Martin explains, “The Internet brings out impulsivity problems more than anything else. It’s too easy to respond right away when you are most angry.” The anonymity of the web makes this problem even worse. “People are angry at big groups of people — Democrats, Republicans, illegal immigrants. People want to feel like they’re doing something and think just expressing their feelings to the world will help.”

Martin said there’s nothing wrong with feeling anger, but it’s healthier and more effective to get involved, solve problems, and try to make a difference.

How do negative comments and posts affect you? And what have you done to minimize negativity?

Online Civility, Part 2: Haters and Your Reputation

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One of the best ways to protect your own online reputation from “haters” is to steer clear of negativity yourself.

In “The Connection Between Online Anonymity and Civility” on reputation.com, Shelly Wutke warns that online haters can damage your internet reputation and gives tips to steer clear of online hating. She says the best way to protect your own reputation is to “leave the online hating to others.”

You can’t control what others post, but you are in charge of your own online behavior. Wutke advises that you:

  • avoid posting negative comments to celebrities and large corporations;
  • don’t pretend to be someone you’re not; and
  • think twice before sending a negative tweet or comment (specifically, wait five minutes before hitting “send.”)

Online Civility, Part 1: Huffington Post’s Ban on Anonymous Accounts a Necessary Step for Productive Dialogue

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Part 1 of 4

The Huffington Post’s recent decision to ban anonymous commenting has sparked a debate about privacy and civility online. Do people have a right to rant, attack, and hate online? Do news organizations have a responsibility to provide an open forum for anything anyone wants to post?

In “The Reason HuffPost is Ending Anonymous Accounts,” managing editor Jimmy Soni offers a compelling defense for this decision.”We are capable of doing far worse things to one another when we do not have to own up to the things we do,” he writes. “One glance at our comment section or the comment sections of other sites demonstrates what we’re all up against. Trolls have grown more vicious, more aggressive, and more ingenious….

“We’ve reached a point where roughly three-quarters of our incoming comments never see the light of day, either because they are flat-out spam or because they contain unpublishable levels of vitriol.”

Soni explains that users will not have to share their identity in connection with each comment; they simply need to have their identity confirmed when setting up an account. In my next few posts, I’ll cover the ways negative posting can hurt your own online reputation and specific ways you and your organization can help facilitate more civility online.

Do you support the Huffington Post’s decision?

 

Infographic: Make the Most of Your Posts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and Vine

I recently posted tips for Facebook posts, and My Clever Agency just released another good resource that provides simple tips for many of the other popular social media platforms. An important caveat is that your content, and the timing of your content, should be tailored to your particular mission and audience. But you may see more engagement if you follow these simple guidelines.

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Read the original post from My Clever Agency.

Use Facebook as a Community, not a Commercial

If you could watch TV or listen to the radio with no commercials, would you? What if you could opt out of those pesky “sponsored posts” on Facebook?

It’s very convenient to have access to hundreds of TV channels, free radio, and powerful tools like Facebook, but commercials and ads prove that nothing is really free. If you’re using Facebook Pages for your nonprofit, a company, or your own business, ask yourself whether you would choose to read your own posts. If not, your followers may find your posts as annoying as ads and commercials. (And they may have already hidden your posts.)

Your content strategy should aim to give your followers want they want when they open Facebook, and build a relationship before asking them to give money or support you in any other way. Here are some ways to do that:

Be real. Talk to your followers they way you would talk to your personal friends. Don’t market to them; engage with them.

Listen. Listening to your followers doesn’t just mean reading the comments and counting the number of likes your posts get. Look at the posts that get little or no response. What can you learn from that?

Show, don’t tell. There’s a reason Pinterest, Tumblr, and other platforms are so popular. Photos, infographics, and other visuals meet our needs for quick information without requiring us to read a lot. On Facebook, Google+, and increasingly Twitter, photos and short videos are among the most engaging and successful content.
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Be relevant. Keep up with cultural news, trends, and fads. The nonprofits that do this best adapt popular memes to bring their work to life, tap into major events like the Super Bowl, and even leverage celebrity scandals to engage their audience in serious ways. But they do it selectively, they don’t overdo it, and it doesn’t seem forced. Being relevant also means recognizing when a fad has passed or grown tiresome, so please don’t make a Gangnam Style video, even if your boss suggests it.

Entertain. You don’t have to be a standup comedian when you post, but don’t be afraid to show some personality — it will make your cause more interesting. Remember, people choose to follow you and invite you into their news feed, and they can just as easily change their mind. Give them a reason to stay engaged.

Here are some other tips from ShortStack and the Social Skinny:

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The Everlapse App: 5 Ways Photo Sharing Can Support Your Cause

Like many other apps, the potential of the new Everlapse app will be determined by the people who use it. Even the creators have said they aren’t sure what this cross between a photo app and a video app will lead to. What I can tell you is that it’s easy to use (at least on the iphone and ipad, because an android version hasn’t been released) and takes photo sharing to a new level.

Basically, you choose a selection of photos from your camera roll, and the app strings them together to create a looping slideshow that can be shared with others. Many reviews describe it as a way to share your Instagram photos, and it does allow you to very easily create an Instagram highlights reel. But you can use the app with any photos on your device, and what makes Everlapse different from Vine, Instagram, or anything else available is that it allows others to add to your creative project (and only with your approval).

To make my first two flipbooks, I copied photos from iPhoto on my Mac, sent them to my ipad, and then pulled them into the app. If you’re using photos already on your phone or ipad, it’s even easier. The first is a random collection called “Things I Saw,” and the second is “Mannequins.” (I’ve always thought mannequins were interesting to photograph, because you don’t have to ask their permission, and they offer the perfect combination of life and non-life.)

Everlapse then shares your finished flipbook with others who use the app — and then you can choose to share it via email, text message, Facebook, or Twitter. You can also embed it into your website or blog. (It works perfectly with Blogger, but not WordPress.)

I’m always interested to see how nonprofits use new tools like this. In its first flipbook, water.org shares the powerful statement “1 in 3 people don’t have a toilet. Show us yours.” While it seems silly to photograph and share your toilet, it’s real engagement about a serious global issue. A group called Crawfish for Cancer, which raises money for melanoma research with tasty events in several cities, shared photos of their most recent feast in New York. Haiti Partners does a great job demonstrating their impact, with lots of uplifting photos of their Children’s Academy. Click links to view their creativity.

Here are a five ways you can use Everlapse to support your cause:

1. Demonstrate the need for donations. For example, if you’re providing relief after a natural disaster, invite people in the affected community to submit photos. If you have multiple offices, have your staff and volunteers contribute to a flipbook.

2. Show your organization at work. Everlapse is a perfect way to capture service days, construction projects, and other efforts — especially if they’re done in different locations.

3. Show a “day in the life” to bring your cause to life. Have your staff, volunteers, and regional offices contribute photos on a selected day to give your donors and supporters an inside look.

4. Show impact. What are the results of your work? How are people’s lives improved? Do your supporters a favor and ask them to share how they’ve been touched by your mission. Chances are, they can tell your story better than you can.

5. Say thank you. Show your donors how their support is making a difference — preferably through compelling images (people, animals, etc.) that personalize your mission. What other ideas do you have? Please send examples of how you or other nonprofits are leveraging this new app.

Make a Difference with Social Media: Start Here

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A professional colleague called me last week for advice about social media. Her nonprofit has decided they need to boost their digital presence, and her boss has asked her to lead that effort (in addition to her other responsibilities). She has a Facebook page and uses LinkedIn, but she hasn’t used social media channels professionally — and she didn’t know where to start.

My answer was easy. I told her to start with the Case Foundation’s Social Media 101.

I was fortunate to lead communications for the Case Foundation at a time when Jean and Steve Case were ramping up their efforts to leverage technology to make philanthropy and civic engagement more accessible and efficient for nonprofits and individuals. There was no better place and no better time to learn about the potential for technology to make a greater social impact — and keep up with trends that continue to shape social activism.

In my first week working there in 2005, I learned that my top priority would be to leading the development of the foundation’s first website. It was both exciting and intimidating to be asked to develop a plan and launch a site within a few months — for the founder of AOL, nonetheless. But what I learned over those months, and over the entire time I worked there, was that the Case Foundation was the ideal place to apply my experience while constantly learning new things and developing new skills.

The Case Foundation was (and is) a think-tank for changing the world in new and innovative ways. It’s a culture that expects, demands, and rewards big thinking and “swinging for the fences” (one of Steve’s favorite metaphors). As an employee, you’re surrounded by talented people who are passionate about making a difference, and all staff at all levels have a chance to contribute.

By the way, the website we launched nearly eight years ago — a robust journalistic site about philanthropy and civic engagement — looked nothing like the Case Foundation’s site today. Always looking to leverage new tools and capabilities, the foundation ‘s site is now a real-time hub for blogs, videos, and social media feeds.

Which brings me back to where I started this post. Whether you’re new to social media or are ready to take the next step, “Social Media 101” offers carefully selected articles and videos to help you “harness social media tools and platforms for good.” You’ll get helpful tips for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Foursquare, mobile, blogging, video, photography, and more.

The Case Foundation’s website also has videos, publications, and other resources on philanthropy, social activism, and corporate responsibility. And if you’re trying to convince your boss, board members, or others about the value of social media for nonprofits, show them this video:

What resources would you recommend for someone getting started in nonprofit social media?

Google’s New Android App Encourages Social-Giving: A Solution to Apple’s Ban on Donation Applications

Apple’s got to catch up with what people are asking for. Just as consumers want to be able to shop through an app, they want easy and safe ways to support causes they care about. Good for Google for supporting socially minded businesses and nonprofits (and the people who support them) this way.

Millennials and the Future of Your Nonprofit: Q&A with Derrick Feldmann

If you’re not paying attention to the influence and power of Millennials (people born in 1980 and later), you’re not paying attention to the future of your nonprofit and your cause(s). The 2013 Millennial Impact Report details how Millennials give, connect, and involve themselves with causes — and contains specific tips about how to engage young people.

I recently caught up with Derrick Feldmann, CEO of Achieve and the head of research for the Millennial Engagement Survey, and asked him about what his research means for old people like me.

Q: Many organizations like mine have an established donor base of Baby Boomers and Traditionalists. If non-Millennials make up the majority of current donors, how do you recommend that nonprofits balance the needs of Millennials with the more traditional needs of older donors?

A: I think the needs of older donors and Millennials are merging. For instance, the movement for more transparency in fundraising is not specific to Millennials but becoming a trend across all generations. Millennials are helping our causes understand how to better communicate the direct impact of gifts, how to report information on the cause issue, and how to create better relationships. This is how philanthropy is changing and in time, other generations will not only ask for these type of relationships but demand them.

Q: How can nonprofit professionals make a case for engaging Millennials, when their bosses see that most fundraising dollars are coming from other age groups?

A: I always say that if your organization is strapped for cash, you have other things to worry about — i.e., your business model and how to generate dollars for programs. For those not in that position, the case is simple and it stretches beyond giving. Millennials are the best marketers for the organization. In terms of outreach, a Millennial, within their own words, can spread an idea better and faster than any other demographic. Use this talent and skill to share the most relevant information about the cause. In addition, Millennials spend discretionary dollars on things that matter to them. Take this opportunity to engage a first time donors in micro ways in order to generate brand ambassadors for the organization.

Q: As you talk to people about your research, what are the biggest misperceptions about Millennials?

A: Millennials don’t give. It is not true. They give in micro ways — time and dollars — and it tends to be impulsive at times but giving is occurring. Another common misperceptions is around the workplace. Millennials demonstrate work life blending and at times this can be confused as work life imbalance or even disengagement. Millennials merge their professional and social lives and for some that is a challenge when their generation was focused on work life balance.

Q: Are Millennials unique in their attitudes and behaviors, or do they simply reflect the changing world around them? In terms of their social activism, how do they differ from other generations?

A: It goes back to the blending concept we have been talking about. Millennials are blending their interests in social activism in everything that they do — especially in consumer spending. Millennials seek to understand how products are produced and how they have an impact on the world. This is a unique characteristic we see in Millennials.

Q: Your research shows that a pet peeve of Millennials is getting too much email. How does a nonprofit know how much is too much?

A: We have watched international development and environmental causes send emails once a week and their Millennial followings enjoy the content and continue to subscribe. Why? Because the content is brand new each time. It is relevant, contains images, personal, and draws you in as a reader. The complaints about too much email comes from Millennials who receive the same content every other week from an organization. Frequency should be based on your organization’s ability to produce content about your cause — not your organization. Information about what is happening related to the work – not about your organization doing the work. In the examples I gave, the organizations that send information every week have something to report on the issue and Millennials enjoy reading the content.

Q: The Millennial Impact Report has lots of specific recommendations for nonprofits that want to connect with Millennials, in terms of calls to action, websites, social media, and volunteer opportunities. But nonprofit professionals have so many competing priorities. If they want to improve their engagement with Millennials, where should they start?

A: First, ensure you are not turning Millennials away. Organizations should examine the way they present themselves to external audiences. How they use human voice and show the people they help. Redevelop communications that speak to the manner in which Millennials like to receive such messages. Second, create micro volunteer opportunities. Develop small bursts of volunteer engagement for Millennials to perform anywhere. Third, talk with Millennials in social media. Seek out those that care about the issue and talk with them. Do not post — talk and describe something new every day that they may not know about.

Q. I know you’re optimistic about how Millennials will help shape philanthropy and social activism. What are some specific ways this generation will change social activism and the way nonprofits operate?

A: I addressed that question in a recent piece I wrote for the Case Foundation blog, “The Future of Your Nonprofit Organization and Why You Need to Join This Conversation.” In it I said I care about Millennials getting involved in causes, but I care more about the state of the organizations that are trying to make a difference in our communities. I worry they are not prepared to engage Millennials who want to be involved and have not adapted to the growing business changes this generation and others are demanding, such as transparency, real-time reporting, digital connectedness, and collaborative leadership. Rather than perpetuate the ongoing development of more organizations, why not find better ways to get Millennials and organizations working together?

What it’s going to take is getting organizations interested in operating differently — more openly, creating more collaborative work and constituent environments, and refining how external audiences can communicate with, involve, and give so it is easier, faster, and more trustworthy.

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Derrick is also co-author (with Kari Dunn Saratovsky) of Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement, which I highly recommend. For more information, download the 2013 Millennial Impact Report and follow Derrick and Kari on Twitter.

Facebook is the Suburbs, while Twitter is the City

A good analysis that explains why I find both Facebook and Twitter valuable, both personally and professionally.