Social media – It’s a trap (escape while you can!)

Lunch time phone stack at work

YES! Social media! There’s so much I can do, so many people to talk to, so many dog videos to watch and only 99 hours of Nyan Cat to go. It’s all so good – right?

If you have a spare 20 minutes or so, watch the TED Talk above. It’s a well thought out critique of today’s “connected” culture. If you don’t, here’s the break down:

Social media and the online world is going to eat your soul.

Don’t worry, I almost bought an Indiana Jones replica hat at Disneyland, so I know a little bit about escapes. I’ll show you how to get out of this if you’re brave enough. Hold onto your undies, this could get a little crazy.

Three steps to social media freedom.

Ok, here we go. You can do this – I have faith in you. There are three steps to this and while they may be shocking, it’s for the best. Once you conquer each step, take a breather, recover, and go for the next one.

Ready. Steady. Spaghetti.

1) Be the Sims but with less clicking.

Fact: Foursquare users are happier around others

Yes, I played the Sims – until my character accidentally married his neighbour and then I couldn’t handle managing two people. So. Much. Pressure.

One thing I did learn was that you get points for hanging out with other people. That makes sense. Good work, Sims. But do you know what’s better than the Sims? Real people, real life (no, I don’t mean Sims Social).

To ease you into this “real life” thing, how about organising a meetup of people you know online so everyone can feel awkward and be nerdy together?

Take Foursquare Day for example.

In an effort to get that elusive “swarm” badge, the #socadl tweeps organised over fifty people to check-in at the Malls Balls in Rundle Mall, Adelaide. It was great meeting people face to face and I’m sure it looked odd to people walking by as we were all staring at our phones, then suddenly bursting out with “We’re at 49! Come on!”

In this situation, it was fully expected that you would be glued to your phone, just like the others, but what was happening on our phones was also what we were talking about.

See, it doesn’t have to be so scary.

2) Play phone stack with friends.

Lunch time phone stack at The Sceptre

According to the Googles, phone stacking has gone viral. If you haven’t heard about it, here’s how it works:

Everyone stacks their phones (of course only after you’ve checked in, Instagrammed your cutlery and come up with a hashtag for your lunch meeting). The idea is not to touch your phone during the meal, resisting the urge to respond to that Samurai Pizza Cats ringtone you had been hunting down for so long.

The first person to cave, pays for everyone’s meals. Guess what – it works.

At Connecting Up, we look forward to Fridays. Not only because it’s the end of the week, or someone will, at some part of the day, give us a rendition of Rebecca Black’s classic, but we also head out for schnitzel. What we found was that at the lunches where we stacked our phones, we all talked more and we were having decent conversations. Not to say this didn’t happen before, but removing the constant distraction made it a lot better.

Try it next time you meet up with your friends.

3) Have you tried turning it off and on again?

Just turn it off!

Ok, ok. Don’t freak out. You’re almost there. Just turn your phone off for a couple hours, go have coffee with someone you haven’t seen in person for a while (or ever) and have a good talk.

Find out that one thing that they get pumped about. See the look in their eyes and the way they move forward in their seat as they explain to you what they’re excited about.

Share what you love.

Feel that tingle run up your spine when you realise that, yes, this is the stuff that matters.

Find a connection – that one thing you both laugh about.

It’ll be worth it. Turn it off.

You can turn it back on later.

I share therefore I am?

In all seriousness, I’m an advocate for social. There really is a lot of great stuff out there, but it’s important that we don’t start to kid ourselves that what’s online is the only thing that matters.

The video above really is worth watching. If you have a spare 20 minutes, hit the play button.

The problem with this new regime… is that if we don’t have connection, we don’t feel ourselves… -Sherry Turkle

Like Sherry Turkle, I’m concerned that the longer we spend staring at our screens and fidgeting with the phones in our pockets, we’re going to lose ourselves in it. I’m not saying we need to give up on it completely, but let’s keep it in perspective.

Don’t let it eat your soul. Escape while you can.

[box type=”note”]What do you think? Do you have ways to escape the social media black hole?[/box]

Thinking back and looking forward.

Ah, these times should be celebrated. That experience where you walk away with something stirred inside. It’s a vision of possibility, a spark of inspiration, a moment of clarity.

The past few of weeks have been invigorating. My family and I were over in LA and San Francisco, part work, part play. We did Disneyland and drove along the Californian coast. We hit San Francisco where I attended the 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference while Chelsea, my wife, took our 20 month old daughter to see the sights.

Coming back, it’s taken a little while to settle back in, but things seem to be a little different. The time away has helped me see things a little differently.

The possibility

Last night, I got to spend some downtime with staff and members alike, and I realized that the fun I was having was driven not only by the wicked sense of humor you all possess, but by something even better: big ideas. You all have them, and I was the beneficiary. – Holly Ross, NTEN

Some of the cool Net2 kids I got to hang out with

14 hours on a plane gives you plenty of time to stop and digest everything I had seen and experienced at 12NTC. If there’s one thing that I took away, it was the strong sense of community. It wasn’t a conference, it was a homecoming.

The people there celebrated seeing each other again, many embraced each other as old friends and for others there was delight in seeing each other in the flesh for the first time. It’s all because of what underlies everything NTEN does, community.

Executive Director, Holly Ross and her team simply ooze community (as you can read in the quote above from Holly’s post-conference letter, “12NTC: A Love Letter“).

You see it in how they write, how they address the 1700+ people in the room, how they conduct themselves – and you can see the benefit of this. Everyone I spoke to after the conference placed more value on the time spent with other people over listening to one speaker. Not only that but there was a strong sense of belonging, loyalty and camaraderie – people would be there just because it was NTC.

If I could see that in every community that I play a part in, that would be exciting.

The inspiration

Speaking of communities, how about the great people in the Adelaide Flashmob. Sure, it’s a bit of fun and singing to strangers and dressing up like ninjas is great – but after spending time with so many great people involved in social change, I’ve been thinking, what else could we do? This awesome group of people who love to have fun and love to create scenes for the enjoyment of others – what else could we do?

Over the past couple of days, the “Caine’s Arcade” video has been shared around Facebook and it’s amazing. The whole time I watched it, the same thought rolled through my head, “We could do this. We could do this. We could do this.”


A flashmob for good. Sounds a bit ridiculous, but we could do it.

The clarity

Family fun

I have to be in the mood to take on the Nine Letter Word Block Puzzle in The Advertiser, but I’ve worked with (and still do) people who love it. One guy I worked with had an interesting approach to finding out what the nine letter word was. He’d pick the newspaper up off the desk and drop it on the floor. He’d stand over the top and peer down at the puzzle. Within seconds, he’d see the word much to my amazement.

He told me that sometimes you have to take a step away from the problem to see the solution.

Two weeks in the USA is probably further than I really needed to go, but tonight, talking over dinner with my wife, a lot of what we had been talking about for months (maybe years?) was much clearer. Juggling time has always been a tricky one, and I love to get involved with things but know that I can’t be everywhere at once. Tonight, however, the pieces have started to fall into place, the solution is becoming clearer and seeing how Adelaide Flashmob, NetSquared Adelaide, social events, sport, church and of course family all work together makes more sense.

Things are that much clearer, and it’s glorious.

[box type=”note”]What about you? I’d love to hear what’s inspired you lately?[/box]

Community building at #12NTC – San Francisco, here I come!

Taking a quick break from packing bags. In a matter of hours I’ll be on a plane with my family to LA and San Francisco – part work, part play, but all fun I’m sure.

Hmm, what am I missing?

The main reason why I’m going is to take part in NTEN‘s massive Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC), representing Connecting Up along with work colleague Shai Coggins. There will also be four other Australians who work for not-for-profits heading across the ocean as part of a joint Connecting Up/NTEN scholarship and it will be good to compare notes with them.

While there’s a great line-up of speakers and topics, I’m more excited about meeting people doing similar work with not-for-profits organisations internationally.

One of the sessions I’m looking forward to is the “Local Community Organizers Affinity Group (12NTCLCO)” where I’ll be spending time with community organisers from around the world. It will be a chance for all of us to discover the challenges and successes we’ve had as community organisers and I’m sure we’ll discover plenty of overlap, despite our geographical and cultural differences. That’s worth exploring.

NetSquared Adelaide

Many of the people at this session are also NetSquared community organisers. The NetSquared group here in Adelaide is fairly fresh and still developing, and I’m excited about seeing new communities popping up in other cities around Australia. I’m also hoping that I’ll have time to pick the brains of the other organisers face-to-face and bring back ideas for our community here.

While I’m typing away, I’d like to say a big thanks to everyone who’s answered my Facebook questions about international travel. I’m thankful for all you jet-setters and your wealth of knowledge. There’s something to be said about hearing first-hand experiences and ‘inside’ knowledge rather than wading through websites trying to find information that isn’t out-dated. You’re all fantastic.

So, now time to get back to packing… I wonder how much room I should leave for a bit of retail therapy while I’m over there?

(Oh, and I’m just a little bit pumped about Disneyland too…)


Social good in Adelaide: The storm’s coming.

Summer Storm Terrassa AUG 2010
By Ryan Opaz on Flickr

There’s something stirring here in Adelaide. It feels like the calm before a storm. It’s like watching the rain clouds rolling in after a long heat wave. Here we are, watching, waiting for that refreshing rain and the cool change after breathing dry air for weeks. This is going to be something big, something exciting. 

Social entrepreneurs are rising up all over Australia, and we’re already seeing huge things happening in Melbourne and Sydney. Here in Adelaide, sparks are igniting around the city. Small communities springing up as like-minded people begin to gather together to talk about how they can take what excites them and use it to benefit others. Whether it’s TEDx AdelaidePecha Kucha Adelaide , NetSquared Adelaide, the #4good breakfasts,  Startup Weekend Adelaide or numerous other gatherings, people who are interested in positive social change are talking and sharing more.

When these people come together, from different sectors, different passions, different experiences but with the same over-arching goal of social good, things are going to happen. They’ll start working together instead of against. They’ll share their experiences and learn from each other. They’ll be the catalyst for the change they want to see.

Collaborate to Innovate

Today I met with two amazing young people, Liam Darmody and Vanessa Picker, both with amazing stories to tell, but also taking the new Innovation and Entrepreneurship course the University of Adelaide. Although their class size is small, if these two are examples of the others, we’re going to see some well equipped people who are ready to make a difference in their own ways.

What’s exciting about this is that these aren’t just people daydreaming of greener grass, they’re learning the skills they need to make turn their hopes into sustainable enterprises. There are good examples of social enterprises all over the world, and it’s great to see Adelaide being somewhere that people can learn, share and meet others with similar intentions – but there’s only so much the University can offer.

If this is going to succeed in Adelaide, people interested in social change will need to come together in some capacity. This means we’ll need to nurture those communities that have already gathered momentum, and possibly seed others that serve other areas. At some stage, we’re also going to need a space for all of those communities, groups, gatherings (or at least those who facilitate them) to come together as well.

Adelaide’s too small for us to operate alone.

Liam and Vanessa have started a new group on MeetUp called “Collaborate to Innovate.” Their first gathering is happening next Thursday (21 March, 2012) with the theme “Innovation and Entrepreneurship.” If you’re interested in networking with some interesting social entrepreneurs, this will be a great event (not only that but if they get 20-30 people, there will be free beer – that’s right). This may also be a great place to meet others who are organising groups interested in social change.

It’s people and initiatives like these that will start conversations about what’s possible – and as the ideas and actions start rolling in, they’ll bring a refreshing change to the way things are done.

Social enterprise. It’s exciting stuff.

Update 22/03/2012: There’s a lot of other great projects happening in Adelaide by a lot of great people. What’s here is just a small insight into a much larger picture and narrative in Adelaide. If you’re looking for more, Renew Adelaide is a great place to start.

Switching gears, time for a change.

This blog’s been on as much of a journey as I have over the last couple of years and it’s time for it to switch gears. 

Time to change.

This blog all started with my freelance web design work and wanting to share what I had learned about social media with clients, friends and anyone else who was interested. It’s always been (and probably will continued to be) flavoured with social media commentary or tips but now that I get to blog about social media for work at Connecting Up, it’s time for this space to change.

This will be switching gears slightly into more of a personal blog and a chance for me to share more. More of what I care about, more of what I’m up to and more of the things that I’m learning.

I’m pretty excited about it.

I’ll be updating the look and feel as well as the content with the new “About” page being the first addition. It will not only work to let others know what this blog is about but also helps me keep track of why this blog exists in the first place.

Here’s a snippet from the page.

It’s a mash up of the stuff that I dig and an insight into the things I care about. It’s a blend of community, social media, family, faith, technology, and probably a few references to 90?s video games and cartoons.

Well, here’s to a fresh new outlook on this space. Stay tuned for more!

Why Joseph Kony’s about to be famous

“Viral” doesn’t do this justice. The Kony 2012 campaign by the Invisible Children not-for-profit is making headlines across the world, and I’m compelled to share. 

Big C Harvey via Flickr

I haven’t been this inspired by a campaign for a long time. As a father I can’t help but empathise with film-maker and Invisible Children co-founder’s desire to make this world a better place for his children.

I see a movement that’s spreading across the globe, engaging and empowering young people and not only raising awareness of a grave situation in Africa, but also stepping in to combat it.

Invisible Children, a not-for-profit organisation based in the U.S. are calling on “culturemakers,” policy makers and individuals to raise support for the arrest of Joseph Kony who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for 33 charges – 12 for crimes against humanist and 21 counts of war crimes.

Since 1986, Kony has been abducting children to increase his army purely to maintain his power – the video tells the story.

The Kony 2012 campaign calls on people around the world to make Joseph Kony famous. By raising awareness of what he’s doing and by getting people to ask the question who Joseph Kony is, they believe they can impact the decision makers in the U.S. who can give more resources to those looking for Kony.

Is it possible? It’s only been a couple of days and it’s already making headlines.

Facebook world

ideagirlmedia via Flickr

There’s so much to look at here, and I don’t want to dilute the powerful message by talking too much about social media, but the film does raise some valid points about the state of agency in the digital world. A quote from the video says:

We are living in a new world, Facebook world in which 750 million people share ideas, not thinking in borders…

2011 showed us vividly how socially connected individuals and communities can pull together around a cause. Whether it was the Occupy movement or riots in the Middle East. We are no longer constrained by boundaries such as geography or language, and it’s exciting.

But it also challenges raises questions of authority, influence and power. Are we too easily influenced by what’s trending on Twitter or being shared on Facebook? Who is it that guides our direction – is it the one with the nicest looking video? Or are we succumbing to the old proverb which says “The mob has many heads but no brains”?

Maybe time will tell. It’s early days in this ‘Facebook world’ still and we’re all learning. We’re learning that not everything we see is rosy. Even this campaign and the Invisible Children organisation are getting their fair share of criticism.

But we can’t ignore the fact that things are changing in significant ways. Kony 2012 is reminding us of that.

[box type=”info”]Invisible Children have released a good response to their critics[/box]

Rocking content, making connections and the first rule of tweetchats.

Content Rules, book
Content Rules

I thought I’d share a bit about a tweetchat I was part of a little while ago. The actual roundup of the tweetchat is there, but I thought I’d throw in a little more. Hold on, it’s a bit of a bumpy ride, but we’ll get there…

I had the pleasure of being part of a #MyBookClub tweetchat with Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman, authors of Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, and Webinars (and more) that Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business – a book I highly recommend.

#MyBookClub is a monthly tweetchat covering social-media-esque books. They’ve had chats with authors such as Guy Kawasaki and Mari Smith and covered some books which are now on my list of books to add to my Kindle. #MyBookClub is run by the dynamic Peg Fitzpatrick who I came across when… wait…

I don’t even know how I first came across Peg… that’s odd. Probably through Twitter?

I can’t remember how I met her, but I know why I connect with her. Simply, Peg shares and creates great content – and infuses it with her own personality.

This is the thing about the social web. In many ways, the content we share will define the connections we make. This is what social media is built on. It’s all about what we share and create and the value that gives those we are connected to – social media is people.

So, on the subject of content – it’s not just for marketers – it’s for everyone online. If we are creating content, whether it’s through blogs, Instagram, Pinterest boards, MySpace playlists (hehe… yes!) etc etc we can all benefit from understanding online content more…

Oh right, #MyBookClub tweetchat.

First rule of tweetchats – share your snacks. This isn’t some metaphor for sharing the small bits of tasty content. Being my first #MyBookClub tweetchat, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but one thing I loved was how it started. As people rolled in, we started talking about snacks. It seemed everyone either had a glass of wine in hand or a plate of food in front of them.

“I like Twizzlers but yes! RT @cc_chapman: Is Brie and crackers an appropriate snack for #MyBookClub?” – @PegFitzpatrick

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about groups, food is the ultimate ice-breaker (that or 80’s/90’s cartoons). It’s easy to talk about food – what we like, what don’t like, and whether brussel sprouts can ever be cooked in a way that makes them edible. Hot tip: if you’re ever running an ice breaker, add “what’s the strangest food you’ve ever eaten?”

The tweetchat itself was well organised, and I enjoyed the discussions. Being able to engage with the authors of a book you’ve enjoyed is a real treat, and it was great hearing some more of Anne Handley and C.C. Chapman’s insights into the use of content.

If you’re looking at wrapping your head around content marketing, then I highly recommend it. Although it’s light hearted, it covers a lot of ground with very practical advice. There are also some great case studies at the end to help you with ideas.

Check out the Content Rules website and check out the free preview they have there.

Have a read of the tweetchat on Storify embedded right here from Peg Fitzpatrick’s Storify:

[<a href=”; target=”_blank”>View the story “#MyBookClub Chat with Ann Handley & C.C. Chapman about Content Rules” on Storify</a>]

Highlights from 2011

Woah, is it too late to post this? I mean, we’re a whole two days into 2012 and I’ve only just remembered that this was sitting in my drafts… ha! Well, there’ s a New Year’s resolution worth making. Wait, is it too late to make New Year’s resolutions? Oh well… here it is anyway.



Beginning the year with a 6 month old daughter meant that in 2011 Chelsea and I saw a lot of “firsts.” We’ve have been blown away at how quickly our little one has grown and the blessing she’s been in our life. Once she was up and running (literally) we began to really feel the strain of living in a one bedroom unit and decided it was time to move. We spent the last night on an inflatable mattress and moved on to bigger things. One of the best parts about moving is discovering what’s in the neighbourhood. Outside of the usual shops, we’ve already found a top little burger bar, a great walking/riding/running track and a handful of playgrounds spotted around within walking distance. It’s great to live where we don’t have to drive everywhere.


Connecting Up  

One of the biggest changes of 2011 has been work. Chelsea started back at work on a casual basis, and I found myself working for a great organisation called Connecting Up. Work for me has been a real eye-opener, being able to do much of what I’ve been doing ‘on the side’ (social media, web design, blogging etc) as ‘proper’ work. It’s been fantastic. The team at Connecting Up have also been great and entering into such a fun, relaxed culture has been refreshing. Through Connecting Up, I’ve also met some amazing people at various conferences, online and through a little community that’s being developed for nonprofits called NetSquared Adelaide. That brings me to my next highlight  – community.


Adelaide Flashmob: No Pants Tram Ride 2011  

2011 has been very much about community. If I look back at events that I’ve been to, discussions I’ve had, people who have inspired me and ideas that have excited me in 2011, it’s all been within context of community. I’ve joined, lead and watched different groups of people as they come together for their purpose throughout the year. With the Adelaide Flashmob, we’ve entertained Adelaide and managed to have our story picked up by the local media. With #socadl I’ve learnt more about social media this year than ever before and met some fantastic people. With the Green Team‘s Hindley Street Project and Activate I’ve been moved to action about helping others and faith expressed in practical ways. With the countless images of global events where people are calling for change, I’ve been challenged to think about my own position and my own contribution to positive change. It’s been a full-on year, and these are just a few of a long list.

What’s next?

Well, there it is – a really short glimpse at 2011. To be honest, I’m hoping 2012 is a little more relaxed. I’m not in the habit of making resolutions, but I’m hoping 2012 will be a year of focus. That’s all really. I can already see a few new things in the pipeline, but if I’ve learnt anything, it’s to expect the unexpected! So, with a brave face and the anticipation of surprises, bring on the new year.


Social Media is PEOPLE!

Social Media is PEOPLE

Heading home on the tram a few nights ago, I was thinking about the social media event I was coming from and was confronted by this question: “Has social media turned us into consumers of people?” Well, I guess so – but it’s not as horrific as that might sound.

For me, social media has become this pulsing ebb and flow of information from people that I trust. I’m influenced increasingly more through what’s being shared by people through social networks and less from traditional channels.

Surprisingly, I’ve notice that I start picturing in my head, these people I know, using the products, at the restaurants, drinking the beers, reading the articles. Maybe it’s an over-active imagination, but it’s dawned on me that what I consume is deeply infused with the personality of the people who have shared their experiences with me.

And I dare say I’m not the only one.

This social aspect to consumption means we’re consuming the recommendation of others and essentially entering into a shared experience. Social media is moving forwards in leaps and bounds and has significant implications for both businesses and individuals.

What does this mean for individuals?

Knowing that what we share is infused with our own personality, means we should aim to make our social media presence valuable for those we interact with. That doesn’t mean every status update needs to be a well crafted, literary masterpiece, but we should still try to bring value to what we share overall. The key point I want to make here is this:

Who you are matters.

You matter. There’s a reason why the people who are connected with you want to be connected. What you share online contains elements of your personality, your interests, your insights. Whether you created the content or shared it, whether you’re talking about what you’re eating or how you’re feeling, whether it’s been a good experience or a bad experience – you influence the people you’re connected with.

It’s up to all of us to make sure social media is relevant to each other. In the midst of the LOLcats and photos of breakfast, share what matters to you. It’s your way of not only influencing your networks, but infusing yourself into the social media experience of others.

For me, it boils down to my personal social media mantra:

Share what matters, contribute positively, have fun.

What does this mean for businesses?

From a business perspective, social media is word of mouth marketing taken to a new level as people are more connected with wider networks and can be influenced by just about anyone.

Be aware of what’s being said and who’s saying it.

  • Just because your business isn’t active online, it doesn’t mean people aren’t talking about you. And if they are, what they are saying is influencing the people they’re networked with, who could just be your future customers – or not.
  • If it’s good, acknowledge it. Showing your appreciation could make a loyal customer who shares their positive experience with your business.
  • If it’s bad, respond positively. You could flip a negative comment to a great example of customer service.

Participate and create sharable experiences

  • Social media thrives on sharable experiences, and you can have a hand in participating in these. Using FourSquare, for example, is a way to be active on a crowdsourced platform by offering specials, thanking customers and making sure your details are current.
  • Think small. You don’t always need to create extravagant campaigns. Multiple small, experiences (e.g. the customer service examples above) will create a broader picture of your business.
  • Understand the platforms. Find out where people are talking, and how the platforms work together. For example, FourSquare users will often cross-post to Twitter and Facebook – and that’s where the discussion happens.

Leverage online engagement for offline relationships

  • Be proactive, reach out. Don’t simply react to what others are saying, reach out to your customers. Twitter’s a great platform for this, allowing you to contact your customers directly. Ask how their day is, invite them for lunch at your restaurant, tell them when their dry cleaning’s ready. Initiate the conversation.
  • Make your customers feel like VIPs. It doesn’t take much to make your customers feel like they’re significant. If you’ve been talking to them online, give them recognition when you see them in person. Use their name, say hello, say thanks after – really, that’s all it takes.
  • Be a person. Be a person. Be a person. Steve Davis emphasised this at that a recent social media event in Adelaide (#socadl). Simply put, we need to tone down the sales copy and turn up the personality.

So, that’s all from me, and it’s over to you: Have you made decisions on what you consume  (e.g. news, food, products, etc) based on recommendations of others on social media?