‘Ello Ello!

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What is Ello?

There’s a new social media platform in town. And it is billing itself as the anti-Facebook. Say hello to Ello.

But, I gotta say, I don’t know anyone who’s going to use Ello because they really think it’s private or won’t sell consumer data to advertisers. Do you? Because really, does anyone actually buy the idea of online privacy anymore? And is there ultimately a new way to stay profitable or keep the lights on online – for the long run – besides advertising? I’m watching the Facebook and Twitter feeds of people who’re on Ello, and I think they’re using it because they’re some combo of curious, tired of Facebook, suffering FOMO, or early adopter/marketers who feel they need to know how the new shiny object works just in case it does take off. What’s your take?

And yes, I’m on Ello and consider myself in the last category: The professional who isn’t wild about yet another platform – (which will do what that the others don’t already?) – but doesn’t want to be clueless about what might be useful.

That said, people who know me well have long since figured out that what I really prefer is conversation, in person, preferably unhurried, and over coffee. Some things don’t change.

Why I’m Supporting #Milaap4Hope

Children, mostly girls, nearly always poor or on the lowest rungs of society, sometimes as young as 10. Given to temples and dedicated as Devadasis, or “servants of God.” Intended to spend their lives in servitude to the temple and the adults who run it. Good luck if the adults are abusive—physically or sexually, because there are no exits.

Medieval? Wrong? Horrifying? All of the above. Which is why reformers and abolitionists have fought the practice since the mid-19th century, and the Indian government outlawed it nationwide in 1988. But the practice still stubbornly exists—fed by poverty, and sustained by the prostitution that goes hand in hand with the “giving” of women and young girls in an already illegal practice. And, in a largely conservative society, there are no exits or do-overs. Not for the women, who are “tainted goods,” or for their children, who can also remain trapped in poverty.

Come to think of it, that’s not much different from sex workers in any part of the world, including the west – where for every award-winning Diablo Cody, there are many like Melissa Petros, who lost her job as a public school teacher after being outed for having been a sex worker in the past. Only, in India the alternatives are fewer, and the social opprobrium even harsher for Devadasis. A Devadasi in India has far less hope of ever getting into the mainstream, much less a platform to speak out when outed. Which is why I found myself advocating for Devadasis through crowdsourcing platform Milaap’s flagship program, The Hope Project. The project celebrates four years this week, and I invite you to be part of #Milaap4Hope.

Anyone who has ever reached out to sex workers or worked with them will tell you that it isn’t enough to “save” the people in that life. As a matter of fact, they don’t want to be saved, and they already know what it’s like to be an object of pity, so they certainly don’t want a handout. What they do want, and need, are options – a non-judgmental hand up, the ability to stand on their own feet, agency, and respect. They want the ability to make their own choices, particularly if they have had none so far like Devadasis. And they want, most of all, to be treated with respect as grown-ups who can be trusted to make good on a microloan that is highly affordable for many of us, but almost impossible for them to secure. Which is also why I find myself advocating for Devadasis through #Milaap4Hope.

She learned to sew and embroider at 51. A loan from you can help her launch a business.

She learned to sew and embroider at 51. A loan from you can help her launch a business. (image via The Hope Project/Flickr)

Most of all, I find myself advocating for Devadasis because there but for the grace go I, or anyone we know—female or male. There is no “them” or “people like them.” There is just a generation of women, and men, and children, who even their government and larger society around them recognizes and agrees should not be further victimized. There is just us, and the compassion we hope would come our way if we found ourselves with few choices. There is just our ability to give a little, and do a lot.

I gave. Will you?

You can get involved with #Milaap4Hope by:

Finding out more  about the project
Taking art in a global event on Monday, June 16, 2014
Start your own campaign, or
Make a lasting difference through mine.

However you choose to act, THANK YOU!

The Latest Facebook Tweak – A Marketing Reality Check

Facebook button count is wrong, use RealShare

image via Birger King

So is the party on Facebook over? That is the question.

If you’re not a communications professional and are therefore wondering what the question is about, here’s the short version: All those various businesses and stores and brands you’ve “liked” on Facebook over the years? You’re going to be seeing less of them in your feed. In fact, you already miss a lot. Which you probably haven’t noticed because good heavens is that feed cluttered to begin with already! And that’s the point.

You think you’re getting more information than you really are because who ever looks at their facebook page and thinks, “huh, I haven’t seen anything from XYZ company lately.” You either do see an update and read it, or you don’t and never notice it. And it’s probably just a matter of time before Facebook all but disappears your “liked” pages’ updates if they can’t pay to advertise.

I see both sides of the issue. [Read more…]

#AmericaIsBeautiful, In Any Language

It’s really interesting to consume pop culture in the absence of TV. That’s right, we cut the cord a couple of years ago. Words I never thought would leave my mouth – for I have always loved my color teevee…..But we (the husband who treasures the “kill your television” paperweight I gave him, and the rest of us with a wifi connection) don’t seem any the more deprived for it. Kinda hard to be between YouTube, Netflix, Amazon instant video, the Internet in general. (I submit that these days, if you can’t follow along with water cooler talk, you might really be willfully living under a rock. Not judging, an observation.)

That said, it is interesting to watch the cultural conversations from a remove, and get my water cooler talking points from the next best but hypervocal and hyperfocused lens of the twitterverse or my facebook feed. This morning’s takeaway – there was a game last night! The Seahawks pounded the Broncos! Payton Manning’s face! And all of that is less important than that ad – Coke dared to put out a spot featuring “America The Beautiful” in something other than just English and now ‘Murica is mad!

[Read more…]

The Super Bowl Trafficking Connection: Fact? Fiction? Something In Between?

FULL DISCLOSURE: I was raised partly in the Middle East, partly in India, and now live in the DC-metro region – all three major transit and destination points in the global human trafficking trade. So I come to the subject of trafficking and sex slavery with more passion than skepticism. Also, Rev. Lia Scholl, the author of “I Heart Sex Workers” is a very dear friend, the kind I consider family, and we remain professional sounding boards for one another.

There’s a shocking statistic going viral right now, the one that says: “There are between 100,000 and 150,000 underage sex workers currently active in the US.”

Except, I would submit that the problem has less to do with the Super Bowl than any situation where men are present in overwhelmingly large numbers – yes, women hire sex workers too, but let’s get real, it’s largely men. The corollary for women comes into play when you expand trafficking from sex slavery to indentured servitude and migrant labor. But I digress….

Susan Elizabeth Shepard questions the Super Bowl statistic, as have many others, and if you care about the issue of sex slavery, I urge you to read it as she makes some really good points – how that Super Bowl number came about; how it doesn’t hold up well to serious analysis; how it’s a really tough set of data to scientifically prove; and oh yes, the difference between sex and rape.

Unfortunately, it’s a long read on a deeply complicated subject, one with no clear, easily sound-byted answers, and no immediate marketing hook. Which is why it likely to get far less attention this weekend. [Read more…]

Don’t Drink The Water….

West Virginia National Guard

Do not drink use the water! (via West Virginia National Guard)

Three stories in the news this week, all significant: the decline of teen pregnancies in the US, the West Virginia Elk River chemical spill, and India’s three year polio-free milestone. All three underline something I consider crucial to fundraising – people have to be able to relate to a story, really viscerally instinctively relate without explanation, to be moved to action.

First the pregnancies. Apparently they are down in the US, noticeably so. And because of an … MTV show? Yep.Critics and parts of the viewing public “derided” the show. But they were not the target demographic – teens and young people saw past the TMI warts-and-allness of a reality show to see themselves in the parents documented on the show. They could see themselves instantly in the unprepared people becoming parents much too soon and watching their futures change irrevocably, sometimes for the worse. But for the grace of God, and the will to make informed choices, that was them on screen—being derided by a merciless public. Makes perfect sense that they watched and said, “That will NOT be me.”

Second, the Elk River spill. A much bigger story in a far shorter period of time and not happening under the radar. And yet, we didn’t hear about it for several days. [Read more…]

“You Really Gonna Read That?”

Last year I wrote about digital content in the classroom and software that makes it possible for college professors to track students’ reading habits. And of course, it’s a short hop from academics to writers in the wider publishing industry. Who doesn’t want to know what makes a reader keep turning the page all the way to the end of the book? And there are some “general insights” which will surprise nobody:

Scribd is just beginning to analyze the data from its subscribers. Some general insights: The longer a mystery novel is, the more likely readers are to jump to the end to see who done it. People are more likely to finish biographies than business titles, but a chapter of a yoga book is all they need. They speed through romances faster than religious titles, and erotica fastest of all.

At Oyster, a top book is “What Women Want,” promoted as a work that “brings you inside a woman’s head so you can learn how to blow her mind.” Everyone who starts it finishes it. On the other hand, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s “The Cycles of American History” blows no minds: fewer than 1 percent of the readers who start it get to the end.

I can see this being hugely useful for writers. But you know I’m going to point out the flip side, right? [Read more…]

Facebook Launches Donate Button For Non-Profits

Facebook just rolled out a new donate feature for non-profits. It’s not a small thing when the social media behemoth finally makes it possible for your donor to have fewer distractions between call-to-action that all important click-to-pay. And there was much rejoicing in the non-profit social media land…sort of.

One of Facebook's Mottos!

Yeah, not with the hard earned trust and dollars of donors though. (image via Mari Smith)

[Read more…]

Fundraising’s New Entrant: AmazonSmile

Amazon Christmas Presents

Probably coming to a holiday near you soon, yes? via Michael Lehenbauer

Allyson Kapin wrote a great article recently about why “viral” is a dirty word. If you haven’t read it, you should because it’s a thorough reality check for strategists and clients alike. And the thing I appreciated most is about the way “viral” gets used without any real understanding of what it means, or what is involved. Frankly, it’s like that for a lot of things in a lot of industries – ergo, this ramblation, which is about nonprofit fundraising, where Kickstarter is the new viral.

As some of you know, one of my favorite clients, the Vienna Choral Society, hired me over the summer to be a part-time executive producer. I could not be happier about the progression from consultant to executive producer. Of course, because it is a non-profit, one of my many challenges at VCS is fundraising. And at least once a month someone will ask me why we don’t “just start a Kickstarter project for the choir!” Well, for starters, it doesn’t apply. Because as fundraisers will tell you, it’s not just about raising money, it’s about HOW you raise money.  

At VCS we have all the usual fundraising mechanisms and revenue streams: grants, membership dues, ticket sales, season tickets, the CFC, and in the last couple of years, Razoo, and this year #GivingTuesday. (Full disclosure, I happen to write for Razoo’s blog “Inspiring Generosity,” which is how I knew it was an appropriate avenue for the choir.) And then of course there are the bigger fish – sponsorships, corporate donations, advertisers. But here is the conversation I have had at least once a month since I came on board:

Singer: “Why aren’t we doing a Kickstarter?

Me: “Because that’s for a project with a beginning, a middle, and an end. It doesn’t pay for operating expenses.”

Singer: “Oh.”

Me: “Also, if we don’t make our goal or project, we have to return all the money. The funds we get through Razoo or something like GoFundMe? We keep it even if we don’t make our goal.”

Singer. “Oh!”

imgres-1And now, I see a new conversation about to begin because non-profits have one more option in the mix – AmazonSmile. This is not to be confused with the affiliate program (which I confess I never could see being a good fit for VCS , because I don’t think the audience wants to be anyone’s business-like affiliate, they just want to hear and support good music). Instead, AmazonSmile is the online behemoth’s new .org focused giving arm. Of course, I’ve opened up an account for the choir, and as I put it on VCS’ social media upon launching the non-profit’s account: Amazon Smile is where “you do your thing, so we can do ours.”

But you notice I said social media, not email (which is far from dead). Why? Because marketing through email is against AmazonSmile’s terms of service.

Nope. Not kidding. The participation agreement says and I quote: [Read more…]

Chipotle’s Fake Twitter Hack

Image by Mashable

Image by Mashable

So, Chipotle hacked their own twitter account. Really? Really.

And why would they do such a thing? For attention. Apparently they wanted people to talk about them, and in that, they succeeded.   [Read more…]