Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How To: Benefit From Social TV

There are a number of things in the social space I'm looking forward to in 2012. One of them is the further integration of old and new media, particularly in the burgeoning field of Social TV. I remember when it was applauded by MIT as one of the top emerging technologies. Two years later, we've seen it move rapidly to the front of industry conversation.

Last year, Gavin Purcell from Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, explained on a SXSW panel how Social TV can work, and work well. The online world is incredibly diverse in terms of its users, and the range of platform choices we increasingly have. Oprah Winfrey, Ricki Lake and other tech-savvy stars have used as many tools as possible to identify their target audience, which helps tremendously with content. (In the interest of full disclosure, I am a part of the new media team of bloggers for Ricki Lake, who is launching her show this fall on a Social TV platform).

Image Courtesy of the Lorange Institute
Make no mistake: Social TV is here to stay, and will continue to evolve as companies figure out how to measure activity, and appeal to a wide variety of demographics. The launch of apple's much buzzed about television, or iTV, will only increase the chatter, and accelerate innovation. As Alicia Elder wrote eloquently wrote last December, when it comes to Social TV, it's about sharing and discovery. Here are a few things people should remember, and practice, to make sure their approach fits in with this "sharing and discovery" model:

(1)   Connect Shows With All Aspects of Social Media – This is crucial. Twitter is great not only for feedback, but to find groups that may identify with your message. The best way to do this is through the use of hashtags. And don't be afraid to think bigger...imagine using Foursquare for a road trip you send two fans on to promote your show; GooglePlus for a live, on-air opening of a business on the block; or Pinterest as you chat with fashion designers about their new collections, and so on. Facebook, Use all of it. Whatever platform is hot, you need to have a presence on it. Leave no stone unturned.

(2)   Communicate with Online Fans and Supporters – Why set up a social entity if you are not going to talk with the people who support your operation and identify with your values? This is about finding ways to reach the true advocates, the people who believe in your brand. When they see that there is a concerted effort to listen to them, they become your staunch defenders. “Digital listening” is essential.

(3)   Bring Your Audience into the Decision-Making Process – If there is a pilot show in the works, or topic you want addressed, it is smart to ask for advice. You're essentially giving your audience “part ownership” of the content. When someone sees a person they respect asking for help in social media, there is almost an immediate response. When filmmaker Kim Sherell and journalist Betty Nguyen engage their audience this way, I see nothing but positive results.

Simply put, there will be an explosion of excitement and anticipation as Social TV evolves. Success in the arena will depend heavily on creative content, and (direct) creative engagement with your audience.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Love, Charity, and Basketball

This is my new interview with businesswoman and philanthropist Heather Robinson. I co-wrote it with bloggers Amy Neumann and Mandy Hale. It is cross-posted in the Huffington Post Impact Section.

While many celebrities lend their support to worthy charities, some go above and beyond by lending their time, energy, funding, and even blood, sweat, and tears to the causes they hold dear. Oprah founded and funded the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa in 2007 to provide educational and leadership opportunities for academically gifted girls from impoverished backgrounds. And two years ago, Bill Gates made the world’s largest ever single charitable donation when he pledged $10 billion to develop and distribute vaccines to children.

In this circle of charitable celebrities, you’ll find noted businesswoman and public relations pro Heather Robinson, the wife of former NBA star Cliff Robinson. One of the sports world’s most active and involved philanthropists, she supports charities with an emphasis on education, scholarships, and poverty. This assistance also extends to natural disasters like the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. All of this has been a catalyst for the Robinson Network, her family’s new philanthropic endeavor.

In fact, she used her most recent birthday party to collect more than 1000 gifts for kids through Toys for Tots. But giving up one of her special days is not a tall order or a rare event for Heather. Charity is both her work, and her signature. Why? A strong compassion for others, and a belief that using one’s influence to make a lasting, positive impact is crucial.

The old saying “Come from a point of service to everyone you meet” could have been written by Heather Robinson. To her and her husband, just like in basketball, winning is a team effort, and people around the world who need a hand are part of everyone’s team.

You've done lots of charity work for the NBA and NFL, and participated in a lengthy and impressive list of celebrity fundraisers. What is the most rewarding aspect of giving back?

The compassion I feel for others is a strong trait of mine, therefore having the ability and desire to "give back" in some way large or small benefits my soul. I love to see people smile.

Tell us a little bit about some of the charities you've supported over the years.

First of all I praise everyone out there that has a charity, and is working to help mankind. It takes a special person to devote themselves to philanthropy. My husband and I have donated our time and money to several charities over the years. Educational programs and Scholarships for low income families are very important to us, along with helping impoverished communities in the United States and abroad. After the devastating earthquake hit Haiti two years ago my husband accompanied Haitian friend Jimmy Jean Louis of Hollywood Unites for Haiti to access the condition of the country while I stayed back making phone calls after phone calls soliciting supplies and donations. I visited the country last year and met with several organizations we support in Haiti. They are doing a great job and it has inspired me to continue on my path of philanthropy.

How helpful do you find platforms like Twitter to some of your social good initiatives?

I like using Twitter. It has been extremely helpful to my business. It's given me the ability to voice my initiatives quick and easily. Aside from the business networking, I have made "twitter friends". I love the positive tweeters. They brighten my day and make social media more enjoyable for me.

With respect to philanthropy, name some of the things you believe we should be paying attention to moving forward: trends, interesting people, and fundraising ideas.

I don't believe you have to be wealthy to give. It's not always about the money. People should pay attention to their surroundings. What you see in front of you. You can become a mentor to a child or volunteer at charity events and soup kitchens. A few years ago I signed up to be a bone marrow donor. There are many ways to help someone in need. Blood drives and organ donations are great ways to "give", and you could save a life! A very simple way to fundraise with little effort is to start a Food or Clothes drive. Poverty right here in America is extremely high and the numbers keep growing. If everyone would spend ten percent of their time "Giving Back" to society the world would be a much better place.

Heather Robinson and Cliff Robinson  

Speaking of social media…a lot of celebrities use it because it puts them in direct contact with their fans, the causes they support, and helps them control their image. What's your take?

The Cons of using social media are crazy fans and pushy people who can bombard you with requests or try and belittle your efforts or work. But, the pros definitely out weigh the cons. Celebrities are able to link with other professionals and can interact with fans on more personal basis. Another advantage for celebrities using social media is that it measures their popularity in numbers, via follower. In return it can secure them a high-profile endorsement deal. Social Media has become one of the most important deal points for brands, talent agents and even PR agencies to consider when negotiating contracts. The best thing of all is: no misquotes (laughs). Just make sure your posts don't come back to haunt you.

Philanthropy is a serious commitment. How are you involving your family?

I am currently working on The Robinson Network, a public charity that will support other non-profits, and promote professional athletes in their philanthropy. Giving back is something that my family has always been passionate about. So it makes sense for us to create a huge platform to positively impact the causes we endorse. We're excited.

To find out more about Heather Robinson and her charitable efforts through her family's Robinson Network, follow her on her Twitter feed.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Guest Post: 5 Tips to Connect in an Instant on Social Media by Ricki Lake

Social media has changed the world forever. In just 140 characters or an update to your Facebook status, you have the potential to connect with a complete stranger in the same town or across the globe. In an instant, Friendships are being formed. Business is taking place. People are connecting. And the world will never be the same.   But it isn’t that easy…    

Many people are standing on the sidelines of social media, unsure of how to jump into the conversation and contribute their thoughts. There is uncertainty about how one can form bonds with people they have never met “face to face.” Are you one of many asking the question, “how?” That is why we are here and you can know one thing for sure… 

You are in the right place! We have teamed up with Ricki Lake, one of the most engaged celebrities on social media, to share 5 tips for connecting with people in an instant on social media.

Watch this video to hear Ricki Lake’s #1 Tip for Connecting on Social Media

2. Be Respectful.
Leave judgment at the door and respect that other people on social media have beliefs and opinions that are their own. This is what makes them unique! Just as in offline relationships, if you want to make friends, you have to be one first. If you want people to respect you, start by being respectful of them.  

3. Be Inspiring. People like social media for many reasons. Many will share that they feel uplifted and empowered to live their best life by connecting with inspiring and positive people. If you want to make a lot of friends on social media, be inspiring. Be encouraging. Be a friend.

4. Be Generous. The more you offer to help others in life, the more “likeable” you will be. When on social media you can help others by supporting their work. Take the time to mention people, and give them positive feedback. When you re-tweet or share the content of others they feel good and are more likely to appreciate and connect with you. Remember, "it's not about me, it's about we".  

5. Find a Fun Community! Following a hashtag community on Twitter or joining a group or community on Facebook is a great way to connect with people who are like you and who are usually looking for the same type of connection you are looking for. Twitter and Facebook are the largest gathering of individuals on the planet. Communities are simply small groups within. Think of communities on social media as you would small break-out sessions at a very, very large conference. The name on the door is the community. Pick the door that tells you that you share common interests with those on the other side. Then, open the door, step inside and say hello via a tweet or a post on the Facebook wall. You will be surprised that many are waiting for... you!    

If you are looking for a community that is based on friendship and connection, please join Ricki Lake and the Friends of Ricki for a very special announcement and a first hand look at social media connection on Ustream at and using Twitter hashtag #FriendsofRicki at 5pm PST this Wednesday, February 1. We look forward to seeing you and connecting with you there!   Do you have any ideas or questions about making connections on social media? Please leave your thoughts in the comments and let's discuss.