CrisisCamp comes to Miami

"I just want to help".

That's pretty much what every one of the more than one hundred people said this afternoon as they went around one of the largest conference rooms we have here at The Miami Herald, which helped host  CrisisCamp Miami, one of now 12 such gatherings that is focusing on technology relief efforts for Haiti. The room was full - of web developers, programmers, software engineers, people who focus on bringing Internet and VOIP services to developing countries - and others who just wanted to help.

CrisisCamproomWeb CrisisCamp started in DC last week, days after the earthquake hit Haiti. It's basically a grassroots effort that brings together the tech community in a series of collaborations, all designed to help Haitians and Haiti recover.

"I saw the DC one, and when I heard there was one coming to Miami, I said "Yes!"," Haitian-American web developer Harry Casimir told me. Casimir, a native of Port-de-Paix, now lives in West Palm Beach, and came down with his cousin, Jean Petit-Bois, and another friend, David Anderson, for the day, hoping to lend a hand with both their technological and language skills.

Casimir and Petit-Bois have family all over Haiti, and told me how frustrated they've been with how bad communication has been.

That's the idea behind CrisisCommons projects like Open Solace Haiti, which is trying to set up ways for Haitians in and outside of Haiti to communicate.

The goal for the day is for everyone to meet, brainstorm and begin collaborating. Organizer Alex de Carvalho told me he was excited about the turnout, and thankful that people had responded with such goodwill.

"I'm hoping some of these people will plug into these projects," he said, adding that he's hoping to further develop an infrastructure here not just to help Haiti, but that could even be used the next time South Florida gets hit with a hurricane or other natural disaster.

For more information on CrisisCamp, you can visit its wiki page, or, to keep up with them on Facebook, you can fan their page.

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Nonprofits and Social Media, Part II

If you've had a friend suggest lately that you become a fan of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida, you're not alone -- it's part of a new strategy by the local nonprofit to get involved in social media.

In six months, the group has created thousands of fans and even seen individual giving increase since it established a presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Richard Kelly, 42, the vice president and chief operating officer, dabbled in Facebook for a few months to get an idea of what he calls the ``nuance and power'' behind the site before the foundation created its page.

Kelly said initially the idea was to delve into social media just to create awareness about the organization, which fulfills wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses.

``We understand the demographics and the way that people get their news has changed,'' Kelly said. ``People get their news in many ways and we're going to deliver it that way.''

In the past year, the local arm fulfilled 479 wishes for the children and families it serves in 13 counties in the southern half of the state.

The staff of the nonprofit, based in Fort Lauderdale, modeled its page after the national Make-A-Wish page, which has more than 86,000 fans.

Once the local page was created, Make-A-Wish reached out to a core group of staff, board members and volunteers and asked them to suggest to 10 friends that they become fans of the Facebook page they created. In the past six months, the page has gained 4,250 fans.

``We're looking to share our stories and our mission -- and if fundraising comes with it, that's great,'' said Kelly, who said they have seen a small increase in individual giving to the local foundation in the six months since they've created a social media presence.

The Facebook and Twitter accounts are updated at least once a day by Kelly or other staff, who also monitor the comments and interact with other people.

The local Make-A-Wish Foundation is just one of many nonprofits that have started to establish a presence on social media sites. Recently, an Atlanta-based social media company called EVERYWHERE came up with a fundraising idea: for every mention of the phrase ``beat cancer'' on Twitter, in Facebook status updates and on blogs, they would have sponsors donate a penny.

Over a 24-hour period that started on Oct. 17, the group was able to get more than 200,000 mentions. The #beatcancer hashtag, a keyword that Twitter users use to keep track of similar topics, quickly became one of the most used terms of the day.

EVERYWHERE's Tamara Knechtel said the goal now is to use social media to generate large mass donations: ``If we were able to generate $70,000 in 24 hours, what do you think we could do in 365 days?''

Do you work at a nonprofit? How are you using social media to spread your message?

Oh, and if you made it this far: Kelly was also a guest on my Business Show that I host each week on

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How local Make-A-Wish Foundation is using social media

I spent some time last week with Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida's Richard Kelly talking to him about how the organization has developed its social media presence. In the past six months, the group has created a local fan page on Facebook, a Twitter account and a YouTube channel.

I'll post the entire Poked column about what Kelly is doing later, but in the meantime wanted to share some video clips of my interview with him talking specifics of how they did it.

Here's Kelly talking about all the practicalities of how they got started, especially with Facebook:

And here, he speaks about how they were able to grow their local Facebook fan base to more than 4,000 people in six months:

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Mashable gets a peek at Facebook's new design

It's been what, a few weeks, so it must be time for Facebook to roll out an entirely new look. Ok, I jest. But Mashable's got a details of a new Facebook design.

Among the changes: "The new home page emphasizes on toggling between views and feeds in order to personalize the experience," Mashable reports. "It also decreases Facebook’s load time, which will likely have a major impact on time on site and bandwidth costs."

Probably the most noticed changes will be to the news feed, Mashable said, including adding in a lot of more information that previously had gone away, such as photo tags, new friends and relationships. 

It seems like Facebook has heeded complaints from previous redesigns - but I wonder how many more headaches this will cause.

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How have your social networking habits changed?

A year ago, Bridget and I set out on a mission to help two kinds of people: Those who get social media and those who don't.

We've been poking and prodding you (and each other) for a year now to behave better not only on sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but also on the devices we use that keep us constantly wired.

We used data from to compare those three sites' traffic over the past year since we began writing this column.

Facebook--twitter-linked Facebook topped the trio, with growth of more than 200 percent in average unique monthly visitors. (Facebook itself releases data on the number of active users, which it estimates at 300 million, which, if it were a country, would be the world's fourth largest.)

Twitter was next -- much smaller -- at 23.5 million, but with exponential growth of 660 percent. LinkedIn clocked in last at 15 million, and a still-respectable 85 percent growth rate.

All of this shows that our entire communications culture is continuing to evolve rapidly. Networks are converging faster, with Facebook incorporating Twitter-like features onto its site, and more applications are being created to blur the lines between networks for the sake of saving time.

Case in point: I don't even go directly to Facebook's site that often anymore, because all of my Facebook friends' news feeds show up through Tweetdeck, a Twitter application she uses.

And people aren't just sharing news and information via these networks -- they're increasingly making real-life connections there -- especially during work hours.

So where this is all going?

We don't know. What we do know is that social media clearly isn't a fad that's going away, and we want to make sure that people think about how they act online.

Our advice until then is the same we've had when we first started: Think before you post, tweet or tag. When in doubt, use common sense: Treat others the way you would want to be treated. And don't get too mad at people who offend or commit faux pas, because we're all still getting used to the current networks -- until next week, when a new one pops up.

How have your social media habits changed over the past year?

I've been looking forward to this for 364 days

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Listen before you type

People tell us all the time that they want to get started on sites like Twitter, but they don't know what to say -- or do.

So here's some advice for them, as well as to others already immersed in the world of social media: Use your ears.

That's the one thing that stood out when I spoke with Peter Shankman recently. He's a New York advertising and marketing executive who runs one of the few organizations that has made money from social media. Shankman likes to say he thinks social media isn't a broadcast platform. It's not just a way for you to shout, or scream your opinions to the world; it's a two-way street that involves engaging people. There's a reason we use the word interactive.

That's a lesson many people who use social media probably don't do frequently enough. But it's also essential for people who are just getting started.

"The first thing people have to do when they get on social media is to listen,'' he said. "The concept of talking will come next.''

That's what Shankman did when he started a site called Help a Reporter Out (, which connects reporters to sources. Within a year, it went from a Facebook group to a company that made $1 million in advertising revenue, Shankman told a group of local public relations executives.

It helps to think of social media as the process of listening then talking, then doing more listening.

For example: You're a small-business owner who has thought about opening a Twitter account. Sign up. Fill out the profile, making sure you've added an appropriate photo.

At this point, most people start hawking: Buy my product! Visit my store! Instead, start following people with similar interests. When you find something that deserves repeating, retweet the message. Join in on conversations and offer valuable commentary.

Use it as a platform to showcase your expertise -- not just to push out links to your business. And, make sure you're asking your customers or clients what they want.

People are increasingly getting their information from social media networks. That's why you want to be part of the conversation, and why it's so important to be engaging while you're there.

Here's more of my interview with Peter:

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Local Social Media Club talks about being authentic online

I was at a Social Media Club of South Florida event last night where the group convened a panel of "creatives" - that is, an only-in-Miami mix of artists and the like:

I've never been to one of these events, and must give props to the moderator for controlling a rather rowdy crowd at Transit Lounge (the panel had to be moved inside because of the rain, forcing the social media types to try to talk about their thing while regulars drank at another side of the bar).

What the event got me thinking about what what Onajide Shabaka said about "being authentic" online -- being a whole person -- not just pushing out your art, your brand, or whatever -- but also being you. That's also good advice for people who don't know where to start on social media.

I was also really interested in the fact that many said though, even though they were definitely people, not just brands or their companies or whatever online, (mostly through Twitter, but also blogs) that they were careful about not being too personal - there are some things they just don't share except in real life.

All sounded great to me, and sounded like they had pretty clear ideas of what they do online versus real life. The great thing about Tweetups like last night, where Twitter folks meet up in real life, is they get to intersect.

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How to use social media to rule the world

The folks at South Florida American Marketing Association invited to me to their meeting today with speaker Peter Shankman, founder of Help A Reporter Out, a web site dedicated to linking people to journalists looking for sources. His other life is as a marketing and social consultant.

SkyDiverSpeaks1 Personally, I'm indebted to Peter (also known as @skydiver on Twitter) for telling a roomful of PR folks that that the best way to reach reporters is to be brief and be good. In that spirit, here's a recap of his talk today, which was a great introduction for people who may not know much about social media, as well as some insight for folks who are already pretty familiar with this world.

His basic point was social media is just a tool like any other -- just because you have it doesn't mean you'll be good at using it unless you learn how to use it. Learning social media isn't just about pushing out information -- it's about using it to listen to others. Here are a few of his principles, which are really applicable not just to business people but everyone using social media:

   TRANSPARENCY: The world we live in now basically requires this. Shankman made a point of saying companies, people, whoever is in charge of a Facebook page, Twitter account, or whatever social media you are using, needs to be honest about who's in charge. In other words, if you have the summer intern in charge of sending out tweets for the company, you should say so.

If you try to hide something, especially online, he points out there's always some 15-year-old kid out there who is dying to prove you wrong.

RELEVANCE: Given the information overflow out there, be as relevant as possible. Make sure you make an effort to find out what people want and how they want it. Our standards for customer service and relationships are so low these days, it's not hard to exceed people's expectations.

BREVITY: Shankman said the attention span these days of teenagers is about 140-characters, or 2.7 seconds. We're all inundated with information, so don't just be good -- be brief about it.

TOP OF THE MIND: Given all of this, it's important to remember to do things that keep yourself engaged with other people. He estimates that people really stay connected with just about 3 percent of their entire social network. If you make a point to listen, be relevant, smart and brief, you can stay connected to folks.

For me, his talk all came down to this: People today who are the best at using and sharing information will rule the world. And so many more people have a shot at that these days using social media to do it.

p.s. Thanks to @fsutoby, otherwise known as Tilson Communication's Toby Srebnik, for the picture of Peter.

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LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman on social networking, Part II

As promised, yesterday I posted some videos of Reid Hoffman talking about what he thinks about some netiquette issues, the future of social networking and how he handles the volume of his emails (although I must admit, he didn't respond to the one I sent him, so maybe he's not following his own advice!).

Here's some other things he said that I wrote about in today's newspaper column:

I didn't expect to walk into an interview with LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman and have him hand me his actual business card -- after all, Hoffman helped start the social networking site that lets working professionals connect virtually.

For the record, he had business cards because he was at a conference in Miami Beach called Endeavor Entrepreneurs, which brought together people from developing countries.

Usually in this space, Bridget and I provide tips for people on how to deal with their coworkers online. But since we had an expert in town, we thought it should be our turn to ask for advice.

Not surprisingly, Hoffman thinks working professionals who haven't yet should ''dive right in'' to social media sites -- not just LinkedIn, but Facebook, Twitter and the like.

''I think the reason it's critical is because if you look at it, every individual now is essentially their small business, and a little bit of an entrepreneur themselves,'' said Hoffman, who founded LinkedIn after running business development for PayPal.

The Silicon Valley veteran has helped finance sites like Facebook, Flickr and Technorati, and sits on the boards of Six Apart, Mozilla and most recently, Zynga, the online social gaming company.

With that in mind, I sat down to pick Hoffman's brain. In keeping with the spirit of our column, we spoke about his netiquette peeves, but also about what to do on LinkedIn at different life stages, and his thoughts about Web 3.0.

Q: Do you have something that people do online that drives you crazy?

A: I would say the primary thing, from a LinkedIn standpoint, is communicate to people you know. Don't send invitations to people you don't know. When I get them, I ignore them or sometimes hit ''I don't know them'' because this is meant to be a vehicle for setting up relationships with people you know.

If are thoughtful in how they write the invitation, I reply to let them know how the system should work, which is that I connect with people I know and have some basis of trust with.

Whenever you're writing to someone you don't know, make sure you understand why they should be interested. It's all interaction and an exchange, so be clear about what's valuable for them in interacting with you.

Q: Would you give different advice to a 20-year-old vs. a 40-year-old on what to do on LinkedIn?

A: When you're 20, frequently people think, ''I don't know what my professional network is.'' But you do. You have your family, friends who have recently graduated who are in the workforce, professors, people you've met in summer internships -- that's what your professional network looks like. When you're 40, it's not just that but colleagues and former colleagues, people you've met at conferences that you've bonded with.

Q: Where do you see the future, in terms of Web 3.0; what's the next step?

A: Silicon Valley's always mad after the future, the phrase Web 3.0 has been kicked around a lot. I don't know that it has coherent meaning -- people have used it to mean video, software platforms and building applications, to mean mobile. I actually think we're still in the midst of Web 2.0.

I have a specific definition: when millions of people participate with their real identities and their real network. LinkedIn is one, Facebook is one, blogging can be another. How do you build these really powerful applications that change how are you live in this world, here? That's one of the really interesting problems and opportunities. I think there are things happening in Web 2.0 that haven't even gotten attention today. I think the game is just beginning.

I was surprised at the firm stance he took about LinkedIn being about how people should really know each other -- and emboldened by the fact that he actually uses the "I don't know this person" button when a stranger tries to connect with me, because I've been pretty chicken to use it. But I guess there's a reason why that button is there -- because Reid  was probably behind creating it! Does anyone else out there use this button frequently, or do you just ignore them by archiving them?

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