Live and Learn…Social Media Style

Ever since the early days of the internet, you know back when we were all innocent, happily posting away, giddily anticipating as the square with the lightening (complete with sound effects) gave way to the one with the triangle…(or am I the only one who remembers the early days of dial up AOL?) There have also been warnings, few and quiet at first, becoming stronger and more dire as the years flew by…protect yourself and more importantly, your INFORMATION! Hackers are EVERYWHERE and they are looking for YOU!
As a college student I took the warnings with a grain of salt, taking the usual precautions: anti-virus software, awesome (I thought) passwords. Later as I became wiser and more involved with social media; I became a blogger, then later a public affairs officer and then a social media consultant; I became even more savvy to the evils of phishing, trojans, keystoke viruses and web/spider trawlers A.K.A. Hacker scum with nothing better to do than ruin your day, week, life…

However, as aforesaid social media consultant I had grown comfortable with my knowledge…a dangerous thing. I assumed I was safe..it would never happen to me…until it did.

Sometime yesterday my GMail account was viciously hacked. 623 emails (EVERYONE in my address book) was sent an untitled email with a link that appeared to be from Google but was actually a virus. Not only was this bad for my social life, but the emails that went out also went out to people I had sent resumes to, people that trusted me in my network (including government, politics, the military, social media and the entertainment industry) now all exposed for the world to see. The link was also conveniently posted to my Facebook, Posterous, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIN and FriendFeed pages just in case you somehow missed the email! I was not only angry I was mortified!
To top it off when I decided to be proactive and change all my passwords I discovered my Google account had been disabled for a violation of TOS (since my ADsense address is also in my address book, Google was also sent the virus!) And I guess they don’t appreciate that sort of thing.
Well I immediately contacted them, Facebook, Twitter and most of my other services to let them know what was going on. Thankfully Google did not take the most extreme measure which would be to ban me forever from all Google services, but I did get a really stern email about taking preventitive measures in the future which made me feel about two inches tall. And I of course had to send out about a million emails, tweets and posts to apologize for the hacking, which more than a few did not take lightly.
Well, what’s done is done. Did I learn anything? Hell yes. Am I a little humbled by my experience? Absolutely. Am I getting new virus software, changing passwords and encrypting the hell out of everything? Duh.

Live and Learn.

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Should PR and Media Pro’s Offer Opinions?

I was recently contacted by Jess Todd about a particular controversy that I couldn’t help but weigh in on. For the entire encounter you can read over his blog, but in a nutshell he was basically lambasted for offering his opinions on a topic that he happened to know something about, rather than go the standard PR route. Those of you in PR know what I’m talking about, something  happens, or will happen and you send a release, the reporters call and you hand them off to an “expert” of some sort, or occasionally just someone else. Well what Todd did was streamline the process by contacting the media directly and simply stating that ” “as a media consultant, I have thoughts and opinions on the story and am available for interview or quotes.”

A few media outlets took him up on his offer and called him. Others however…went off calling his methods into question, accusing him of dictating what they should print, that it was their job to go find the “news” yada yada yada.

So this brings up a very good question. Is there a more efficient way to do things, some of the time? I have never been one to say that just because we have new methods we have to use them exclusively. However there have been many times when I knew I could make the reporter’s job a hell of a lot easier if I simply contacted them first with ALL the info they would need, rather than require them to have to go on a fishing expedition that they most likely don’t have time for anyway. So many story ideas get dropped for this very reason. Tight deadlines and stiff competition for space/time means that the days of the reporter who does all his or her own pounding of the pavement are long gone. PR professionals are here to help…so let us help. So to get back to the particular situation, which was his commenting on the resignation of Rep. Anthony Weiner, he shot me an email saying he wanted my take on the situation and my response to him was this:

“I think you are actually right on the money. I used to work in-house PR sending out the standard releases and when reporters would call, it was always me putting them in touch with someone else, one more step for them to take, and not because I wasn’t qualified but because that was simply how things were done where I worked. We were PR people, and treated by management as having little value – just get the right people to the reporters. Well, having been in the media business myself, having worked as a social media consultant, I too have an opinion on many subjects. Am I always the best? No. Am I an expert at everything I like to talk about? No. But then I don’t claim to be either. I am simply someone with experience that knows a few things about what is going on in the world, especially if it has to do with social media, PR or wildlife conservation.”

Where is the best place for those of us who have become hybrids at what we do? Is there a time when being efficient becomes overstepping our bounds as PR and Media professionals? Professionally I find nothing wrong with what Todd did or the idea of offering our services straight out whether they be quotes, opinions, whatever help we can provide to reporters so that they can get their job done faster, better and with better quality. Isn’t that after all one of the core responsibilities of public relations?

I applaud Todd for staying on top of the newest methods of breaking through to media. In today’s lighting quick world, when a plane crash is faster tweeted than reported on the six-o-clock news, it is all too important that people like him, people like me even continue the all important work of media and social media research to make sure that the public is always well-informed.

Think I’m wrong? Right? Have your own opinion you’re just dying to share? I welcome your comments.

(image courtesy of PRtalknow.com)

Facebook Isn’t Going Anywhere…

There are approximately 6.9 billion people on Earth and some 2 billion of them are online. Currently Facebook has 550 million users, expanding by 700,00 new users every day. Facebook will likely reach all 2 billion internet users within the next five years.

I read the above in an article by TIME Magazine – their 2010 People of The Year piece on Mark Zuckerberg. (I realize I am probably a little late reading the magazine but it was a hand-me-down from my mother-in-law who I’m convinced gives me all her People and TIME magazines because she is convinced I would have no clue about pop culture or current events otherwise. As I have no television, she may be right.)

Despite my lateness I was both fascinated and more than a little creeped out to read about Facebook’s meteoric rise and how it will likely continue to grow…like the weed that you think you can just yank out of the ground and then you discover it has feeder roots spreading out in every direction 20, 30 and 40 feet from the original plant. Facebook is everywhere, those little blue and white boxes urging you, luring you, silently coercing you to LIKE them no matter where you are on the web. Thanks to Facebook Connect two million websites are already affiliated with Facebook and 10,000 new web sites integrate with Facebook every. single. day. And we are not talking web sites with only a few readers here. Facebook counts The New York Times, Amazon, YouTube and even social networking rival MySpace among the sites that allow you to not only log in using your Facebook Login, but also to comment publicly on the site using your Facebook Public Profile as an Avatar.

The logic behind this is that as you use Facebook and surf the web every person’s profile becomes customized to their individual preferences, and there is no guessing involved. The scary part is that the customization is eerily accurate because it is based on actual choices, clicks, LIKES. If you get an ad on your page for REI Outdoor Adventure Apparel – it is because you somehow indicated that as an interest. Therefore your page won’t look like your neighbor’s page or even your best friends. Your preferences will not only show up as ads on your sidebar but as items in your News feed on your wall. Even better for advertisers is that it also appears on your friends News feed – as a personal endorsement from you. As TIME puts it, the holy grail of marketing and advertising – you do the work for them.

When I first read about Facebook Connect in May 2008 I was both impressed and freaked out. While I have strict privacy controls on my own Facebook account I will admit to being just like anyone else when it comes to sharing. At times you feel compelled – it is like writing a good review for good service and who wouldn’t want to do that? (I spent approximately 10 years in one aspect or another  of the service industry so  perhaps I am slightly biased…) It goes the other way to. If you receive bad service you want the world to know about it lest the same thing happen to anyone else. Facebook also allows you the platform to sympathize/rejoice/bitch with one another about anything under the sun.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Truth about Facebook and Shared Shopping Experiences…

Say you had a great cup of coffee from a small unknown retailer – talk about it on Facebook and next thing you know five of your friends have had a similar experience, the store starts to receive increased business, offers a Facebook discount which leads to another good Facebook post – the circle continues. This can be great for the small businessman. However say you bought a purse from well-known retailer but they forgot to remove the security tag. you call and speak to the manager who assures you that all you need to do is come in and bring your receipt. You explain that you will do that but want them to know that you are going out of your way to do this and that you bought the purse for a special function that evening and will not be able to use it since the store is closing in ten minutes and you can’t get back down there until the following afternoon. You head down to the store the next day and are stopped at the door when you set off the anti-theft alarm. Despite your attempts to explain you are escorted to the back room where you are interrogated by security. The manager you called is not on duty and didn’t leave any kind of note. You finally get it sorted out but by the time you leave you not only have missed an appointment but are also twenty minutes late for the next one. When you finally get there the first thing you do is flip open your Blackberry and tell the whole world via Facebook about your experience. By that evening twenty of your friends have commented on the situation and you have pretty much decided you will never shop there again. Your friends on campus commiserate with you and promise they will stop shopping there as well making a public pledge on Facebook. By the time 24 hours has gone by a fan page dedicated to receiving bad service at that particular retailer has been created and over 100 people have become a fan, leaving comments either supporting you or leaving their own bad experience. Facebook allowed you the platform to single-handedly make a dent in the local customer base of a large retailer. Thanks to the social aspect of everything we do, including how we shop, the store lost not one, but probably more than a dozen customers. Powerful stuff.

What’s next for Facebook?

So back to the article. Zuckerberg was asked what he thought the future of Facebook was. Would it go public? Would he ever sell? Would it eventually take over the world? He didn’t seem to think that Facebook would go public anytime soon (he doesn’t exactly need the money) but was more interested in how Facebook would expand. For someone who values his own privacy to the point that you can’t even become his friend on Facebook he seems to have an almost obsessive need to connect everyone else, whether they want to play or not. (One of the latest features of Facebook is that your friends can “check you in” to places if they see you out somewhere without your permission and without you knowing…unless you un-check a box in at least three different places. So much for keeping your recent visit to the Ob-Gyn private, somebody saw you!) More people are on Facebook than any other social network (550 million) with Facebook having the population of a small country (3rd largest) and claiming more than 700 billion online minutes a month. One out of every four American page views is for Facebook even though 70 percent of its user base is outside the United States. In seven years we have gone from having Facebook be a college co-ed’s distraction to an entity that outranks Google with the terms “Facebooking” and “Facebookization” being recognized and used just as Google became interchangeable with Search.

Final Thought…

For as many people who love Facebook you can find almost as many who despise it and the way it has changed the way the world works. However the one thing everyone can agree on is that it has changed things…and there is no going back.

What do you think about the way Facebook is changing the way we do things? Will Facebook become the new Google and will it eventually reach every internet user? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Blogger’s Little Helpers

I recently came across a little thing on Twitter that many may already be familiar with but which I had only seen occasionally and never really followed up on. A little thing called the Follow Friday helper.

Apparently there are several of these services in existence and they all work mostly the same way. They analyze your Twitter account and then give you suggestions for your #Follow Friday listings.

At first I thought, wow, what a neat idea. I registered and then pressed the magic button to see what suggestions it would give me. Now I am not knocking the followers it listed. They were all great and the good thing about the service is that is does give you justification for why it chose that person. Either they mentioned you, RT’d you, or somehow or another engaged in a lovely act of reciprocity that garnered them a nod from the algorithm used by the Follow Friday helper program.

What I noticed however is that the main people it suggested are the people I tend to talk a lot with on Twitter. Again, not that I wouldn’t recommend them…I usually do. But that isn’t what I generally use my #FF listings for. When the time rolls around for me to make suggestions I really try to make it personal.

Maybe I am still idealistic (or maybe I am just not huge and famous enough) but I still take the time to go back through my list of 500 or so followers and look for those that had something interesting to say over the past week. Something that caught my attention, or someone who needs a boost – maybe they are really awesome, have a ton of potential but just need a few people to help push them into the spotlight. I love it when I do that for somebody. Everybody needs a little good karma now and then.

So it seemed to me that by automating the process it was impersonalizing it as well and I am not into that. Maybe one day, when I have millions of followers…I would consider it but at the same time it seems like the same argument as the automated welcome message debate.  Those who are successful will tell you that having an automated welcome message is a big NO-NO. It turns people off. If someone decides to follow you, it is because they saw something they liked. If you can’t be bothered to welcome them, send a quick hello without a sales pitch, or an auto-DM, then maybe you really are not worth their time after all.

I know what you are thinking, if I sent a message every time I got a new follower I would be tweeting constantly. Well I don’t do that either. I keep track of my new followers using a column on my Tweetdeck. Then once a week or so I send out a welcome to my new followers, thanking them for following me. Takes maybe five minutes of my time.

Therefore, while some of these services might be neat, I think that I will stick with doing my #FF’s the old-fashioned way, and keep things personal. After all, just because you are online doesn’t mean you are not reaching out to people.

What do you think? Do you use any blogging/Twitter “helpers”? Where do you fall on the automation debate? Is there a point where using a service becomes necessary?

Can Your Online Persona Strengthen Your Brand?

UPDATE:this post first appeared back in November. Due to a wordpress/human (??) error a first draft of it was re-posted on December 26th. I apologize for the double posting – still great info but the November final draft was much better.

Not long ago I was involved in a  discussion  about how many of us bloggers have a unique online persona, one we share with the “world” as it may and one that may be different than our random everyday personality. Good or bad, it does happen and if you do it right, this may just help you to succeed in the craziness of the online social media world.

From the feedback I received I realized that this idea is hardly new. Since the dawn of Hollywood and before, people have been using their public image to enhance their brand. I may not be a movie star, but many of the same techniques still apply. As a PR person, I learned many of these tricks and tips in school and thought I would now share them with you. So here is just a quick refresher on how to use your online identity (public persona) to help solidify your brand.

1. How important is a name? If you make a point to use your full name in all of your online interactions, that’s great…but remember that not everyone will agree and using your real name can inadvertently create enemies. As long as you remain thick skinned, this should be alright though. Another important thing to remember – if you use your name, all of your revelations whether they are professional or a rant against an insane boss are all linked to you. This can come back to bite you so if you choose to use your real name….be aware of the consequences that come with it. It is a good idea to go ahead and purchase your own domain while you’re at it. (oh and if you are curious…Google yourself and see what comes up – apparently I am an exotic dancer/stripper in Texas….who knew?)

2. Always use the same Avatar for all your online networks. We are a visual species. We associate images with ideas and with people, that’s why ads have crazy, easily remembered images that pop out at you every time you turn on your TV. Also if you have the same avatar then no matter where you comment anywhere on the web, people will automatically associate the image with your blog/website. Applications like Facebook Connect and Disqus really make this easy.

3. There are many great resources for additional information about personal branding. The magazine put out by Dan Schwabel is wonderful as is his book, “Me 2.0” – if you are serious about building your personal brand. Take a look around the internet and invest in a few resources.

Have other ideas? Feel free to share!

Can Your Online Persona Strengthen Your Brand?

Not long ago I had a very interesting conversation via TweetChat with someone who is excellent at one thing, Branding.  We talked about how many of us bloggers have a unique online persona, one we share with the “world” as it may and one that may be different than our random everyday personality. Good or bad, it does happen and if you do it right, this may just  help you to succeed in the craziness of the online social media world.

From the feedback I received I realized that this idea is hardly new. Since the dawn of Hollywood and before, people have been using their public image to enhance their brand. I may not be a movie star, but many of the same techniques still apply. As a PR person, I learned many of these tricks and tips in school and thought I would now share them with you. So here is just a quick refresher on how to use your online identity (public persona) to help solidify your brand.

1. How important is a name? If you make a point to use your full name in all of your online interactions, that’s great…but remember that not everyone will agree and using your real name can inadvertently create enemies. As long as you remain thick skinned, this should be alright though. Another important thing to remember – if you use your name, all of your revelations whether they are professional or a rant against an insane boss are all linked to you. This can come back to bite you so if you choose to use your real name….be aware of the consequences that come with it. It is a good idea to go ahead and purchase your own domain while you’re at it. (oh and if you are curious…Google yourself and see what comes up – apparently I am an exotic dancer/stripper in Texas….who knew?)

2. According to Erik Qualman (@equalman) the author of the incredibly awesome book, “Socialnomics” , if you choose to develop your online brand based on a singular persona, (real or not) it is very important to have a singular image across all of your social media outlets. This may be a logo or even a picture. I really had no idea that one image could be that important, and then I felt silly since this is one of the first things hammered into your head in all advertising and marketing classes. We are a visual species, and more than remembering what is written, we will remember an image whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, FriendFeed or a blog. Therefore, pick an icon/image/photo that truly represents your brand and use it across the web. Soon, those who are interested in you and what you stand for will begin to read your online responses, or notice your “ads” simply because they see your icon, regardless if they are actually interested in the topic of the blog post or article.

3. No matter how “big” you become online, remember that you have a life…in the real world. When approached or contacted to speak, give presentations, be a guest-poster etc, remember that you are representing both your online persona (the person/brand the world is familiar with through your blog) and you as a person. If there is too much of a gap then your brand awareness could become tarnished. No one wants to feel they have been lied too or led on. While this may seem contradictory, one of the main things I have learned is that although I have deveoped a brand through my work online, I am still me and that is the person that I want people to respect.

Have thoughts? Has your personal brand ever interfered with your personal (off-line) life? Please feel free to share.

’till next time!

Can Social Media Become an Agent of Conservation?

The following is an essay I wrote after watching “An Inconvenient Truth” while preparing to lead a class discussion on climate change. I think it neatly sums up why I do the things I do and is the first in a series of essays about using social media to effect real change for conservation.

I come to you today with what may seem like a radical concept. I admit that I have what some may consider a unique perspective on conservation, so what I want to do is to back up a little bit and tell you a little bit about how I came to feel this way.

As a child, I had a couple of events happen to my family that forever changed the way I looked at the world. When I was eleven years old, my house was destroyed by a tornado. This may not seem incredibly out of the norm for a weather event but the reason I say it began a shift was that I was living in suburban Marietta, Georgia at the time. Another factor is that I was home at the time and actually was right in the middle of my house being pummeled from all directions by a force that both terrified and awed me with its sheer power. We lost everything, except our lives. Yes that was traumatic, but what was even more traumatic, was what happened next. Of all the crazy things about that freak storm, this had to be the most bizarre. Despite our home being in ruins, the flattened street in clear view from the wreckage, the phone that was in our kitchen still had a dial tone. My father called 911. And this is where it gets even more interesting. The operator accused my father of making a crank call and hung up on him.

Let me fast forward a year or so. While on vacation to Lake Hartwell, my family decided to spend the night out in the lake on the houseboat we had rented. During the evening we received a distress call from another houseboat. They had hit a submerged stump and were slowly taking on water. They had a seven month old baby on board with them. You could hear the panic in their voices. The law enforcement guys from the area came on the radio and assured them they would be fine, that the houseboats were designed to take a little damage and that they would be okay until the sun came up when they could navigate back to the docks. I have never forgotten the words he told this frightened couple – “There is no way those boats will sink.” The man on board was a little skeptical and the LE guys gave them the option of attempting to beach the houseboat, which even to me, a twelve year old child, sounded ridiculous. The man cut off contact for a bit. My father paced a bit before hailing him on the radio. Turns out they were not far from us and with the help of a very bright spot light, the couple was able to hook up with us and come aboard. I gladly gave up my bunk for the exhausted little girl and her parents. The next morning, we stood in shock as only a foot or so of the boat remained above water.  Had they stayed aboard and gone to bed, they very easily could have drowned. An incorrect assumption that things would be as they always had been could have cost three people their lives.

So what does all of this have to do with conservation, natural resources and climate change? I’m getting there I promise.

Both of my childhood situations were made more difficult by one primary factor, human perception. These incidents helped my young mind begin to understand that people do not act rationally or logically most of the time.  We make decisions based on our unique life view, what we know to be true, in part based on the many events that have happened to us, our perceptions. We as humans also naturally look for the path of least resistance. Nobody wants to make their life harder than it has to be. Rather than consider what might be, we would rather slip back into the comfort zone of what we know, or rather what we think we know.

“1500 years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was the center of the universe. 500 years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was flat. And 15 minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.” – Tommy Lee Jones (MIB 1997)

While I am not convinced that aliens live among us, I am fascinated by human behavior, in essence, why we do what we do. In trying to find my way in the world I bounced around some, psychology, sociology, education before settling on public relations and journalism.  Why? It seemed to me that both PR and journalism encompassed a little bit of all of the things I found fascinating. Story-telling, human behavior, trends, education, shifts in belief. I saw something in that method of communication that spoke to me, something that at the time seemed radical to me but intrigued me none the less. I wondered if I could channel this vehicle, if I could somehow continue my environmental and human rights advocacy work but with an entirely new focus. Could I use the tools and ideas learned from public relations to try and save the planet? I was called crazy. Everyone wanted to work for Coke, Procter & Gamble, the Finance sector, etc. I was told that I would never be successful, never be able to support my growing family. (I was almost six months pregnant with my third child when I graduated from college.) I felt differently.

I decided that I wanted to be a part of the Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development program at the University of Georgia because although I believe in the science and the numbers, the facts if you will, I also believe that the science alone will not save us. Our planet’s main inhabitants, humans, are a highly reactive and emotional race. Individuals and organizations all over the world have made great strides, bringing us a long way in the process, but as a collective, we still have a long way to go.

“If Facebook were a country, it would be the fourth largest.”

Let me shift gears for a moment now and draw your attention to social media. Social media represents one of the greatest shifts in communications and human perception since the invention of the printing press.  It is transforming the way we live, do business and even survive.

I began to ask myself, how better to get through to people than by using something that is having such a dramatic shift in basic fundamental beliefs .

Have you ever been so passionate about something, so focused that everything else just fades away? Al Gore summed this up perfectly when talking about his son’s accident in the documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth”.  He said, “How should I spend my time on this Earth?” The life-threatening accident put the trivial into perspective.

Maybe I’m not making a fortune, but what I’m doing may have a profound effect on those that come behind me, my children, their friends, our collective descendants.

When Gore’s documentary was made, there was still a large controversy surrounding climate change. It was called a hoax, a fraud. Gore was called crazy. He stood by his convictions. It almost seems laughable, four years later with what we know now to think that climate change was ever considered “the biggest hoax ever perpetrated upon the American people.”

Let me go back for a moment to that tornado and the 911 operator. As my family huddled together, coated with blow-in insulation and misty February rain, what delayed the help we needed was that operator’s “knowledge” of the area, the weather reports, and what she knew to be true for storm history in the area. But in fact, she was wrong. The year after my neighborhood was ripped to the ground, the county purchased tornado sirens. When they were being constructed, some people complained. The towers were ugly, expensive and the majority of people felt they were unnecessary. There was a newspaper article that came out that explained to baffled county residents that even though the storm seemed to be a freak thing, it would be better for everyone if they were prepared in the future. Fourteen months after that first storm, the unthinkable occurred. I was at school when the sirens went off. My heart sank because somehow I knew. It ripped through my neighborhood and then hopped over the highway to exert wrath upon two other subdivisions and a trailer park. Two people died. When my mom called the school that afternoon, I knew. My teacher assured me that everything would be alright, that lightning simply didn’t strike twice. She was wrong. Although the damage was nowhere near as severe as before, it was simply incredible that it had hit the same homes two years in a row. Our brand new construction now had splintered gaps where the back porch had been, most of the pine trees lay on the ground, our camper turned upside down and smashed. People were amazed. This type of thing had never been a problem where we lived. This was new, and perception-changing.

It was only the start and there have now been regular tornadoes every few years around the state, both destructive and deadly. Things don’t stay the same because we want them too or even because we think they should. People’s views on climate change are like that. People who spend their time listening to radical pundits like Rush Limbaugh and firmly believe that global warming is a myth are in my opinion, desperately clinging to their outdated beliefs, not because they give credence to them, but rather out of fear. Fear of the dramatic shifts we are seeing all across the world. Social justice, climate change, human rights, war etc.

Those rabidly outspoken few, however misinformed, are not the scariest though. It is those who concede and say okay, yes the world is heating up, but who cares? There’s not much we can do about it anyway right? Those people are the ones I strive to understand. I have this idea that if I can just figure out what is going on in their heads that maybe I can change their mind. Isn’t that what advertising, commercials, PR, government and media have been doing ever since Edward Bernays, the father of modern public relations first spoke about the power of influence and public perception?

Okay, I don’t come from an incredibly strong scientific background. However, as I stated before, science alone can’t save us, which I think is the reason this master’s program is so popular. The teachers remind us that we must look beyond the numbers, to human behavior, community, economics, culture, media influence, etc. if we are to really and truly make a difference in the way we work to conserve what we have left and to make responsible and practical management plans that actually work. To repeat Gore, “What we take for granted might not be here for our children.” We can’t assume blindly that our actions however small, have no effect on the larger world. We can’t ignore what is happening all around us.

“No one can do everything, but everyone can do something” – WE ADD UP 2009

I was told that the climate change debate is an ethical, moral and philosophical issue and I agree. I only need look around to see that our world is consumed with the trivial, the superficial and the irrelevant. Why? Maybe I am crazy, and overly sensitive, but when I see trash on the road, people with fifty plastic grocery sacks, or people refusing to believe that all species have the right to exist, I feel physically ill.

I was hired only about six months after I graduated college, by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, as a public affairs specialist, a job I continue to hold. What I have learned has taken my breath away, has made the trivial insignificant. I learned through practical experience what amazing resources we have on this planet. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t learned this before and as a new “recruit” I couldn’t understand why others wouldn’t find it as awe-inspiring as I did.

I made up my mind that I would make a difference, somehow. I dove in to education, greedily devouring everything I could on why people behave as they do when it comes to conservation. I wanted to understand the concept of “buy in” and what is the determining factor that either makes an individual, organization or industry finally say, ok, we will work with you. I wanted to know if in fact there was a way to accurately measure behaviors so we could see where the change occurs.

“People play various roles in their own lives and take on different personalities depending on where they are or with whom they are interacting. People have their work personas that are much different from their nightlife personas, which in turn are different from their family personas and so on.

The same holds true for corporations; on one hand, a company donates millions to save-the-planet-type funds, but on the other hand, they dump millions of gallons of toxic waste into the clean water supply.

The transparency and speed of information flow caused by social media mitigates this type of social schizophrenic behavior. What does this mean for companies and individuals?” – Erik Qualman (Socialnomics 2009)

I ask, what does this mean for those fighting for conservation?  Will social media help improve transparency enough to actually change behavior? I think so. That is what I want to find out.