One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for August 2012

Book Review – Making Social Media Tasty for Non-Profits

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(NOTE: a free  hardbound copy of The Tasti D-Lite Way was provided for purposes of review. My opinions are my own).

Once upon a long ago, I had one of my fellow consultant/non-profit types ask me, “Gordon, why do you go to business networking events, and not just stick to non-profits?”

The short answer is that I will use any tactic or way of thinking that works, regardless of the source. (Plus, with a thriving social entrepreneurship scene here in Chicago, I’m more than open to broadening my horizons when it comes to the social good). So when the opportunity came to read how a plucky New York frozen confectionary company learned how to build its social media presence from scratch, I eagerly jumped at the chance.

I’m glad to say that The Tasti D-Lite Way, written by the company’s chairman/CEO and VP of Technology, is a great, easy-to-read primer on how to begin thinking about and building a social media presence.

Upon initial reading, the discussion about “customers” and more business-oriented subjects may be a bit off-putting for non-profit types, but I suggest thinking about what’s presented in more non-profit friendly terms (“fundraising”, “development”, “community engagement”, etc).  Because The Tasti D-Lite Way is a great primer on how to build a social media presence, but more essentially, thinking about social media less as a way to promote and more as a communications channel.  While other social media books may focus primarily on buzzwords and marketing, The Tasti D-Lite Way manages to keep its focus on how businesses do social media “right”.

(For a great local example – and an organization that I have volunteered for – one needs look no further than the Chicago Red Cross, who have managed to do some groundbreaking work in using social media to engage citizens in local relief efforts.)

Much like a nice, sweet frozen dessert on a sweltering summer day, The Tasti D-Lite Way is a great, easy-to-read primer on how businesses (including non-profits) can better use social media to build their communities one cause at a time. Well worth your time and attention.

Speaking of literature and social media, I’ll be putting on a training focusing on social media through a Holmesian perspective. If you are interested in attending, please head to this Dabble page to RSVP. Thanks!

Have questions or comments? Please leave them below! If you want to reach out to me privately, please feel free to connect with me either via Linked In or my web site’s contact page. And as always, thanks for reading!


The Game’s Afoot: A Holmesian Approach to Social Media Measurement

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(Note: originally, this note was posted on a now-defunct blog in response to a Netsquared Think Tank request. This post has was updated on January 6, 2021)

Once upon a long ago, various Net Tuesday groups were asked  What are your favorite tools and tactics for listening, and how do you use your findings to inspire practical change from within?

Having had some experience working in social media measurement and engagement – two topics which most people would find, well, dry and academic – I wanted to post my own experience and insight.

Part of the reason I enjoy monitoring and measurement is that it engages my inner detective, stemming from a boyhood love of Sherlock Holmes. (Disclaimer – I also am a semi-regular contributor for I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere and have assembled a presentation specifically around Sherlock Holmes & Social Media). Although seemingly detached from the more human aspects of social good/non-profit work, how we monitor and use those insights provides us with the ability to be “more than human”, and to see our greater impact – or as Holmes himself once remarked, “From a drop of water, a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the other.”

So in monitoring, although there are many great social media monitoring tools like Hootsuite and Sprout Social, how we approach monitoring and measurement is much more critical.

  • Is our story being told? And how is it being told?  – Although this sounds dangerously close to marketing speak, it actually touches on our sense of mission and purpose. If we are working towards the ultimate benefit, how is our organization being spoken about (if at all)? How about our partners? Our overall issue? By knowing the tone and extent of the conversation, we can identify opportunities to more clearly advocate?
  • Who and where are people talking? – Twitter and Facebook are the de facto channels for consumer-driven conversation, but for our cause? It may be better to use monitoring tools to find channels of current activity. As Holmes once suggested, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories rather than theories to suit facts”
  • Look beyond the obvious – choose to observe rather than see – Part of monitoring is to find themes and patterns within an online conversation, both driven by your organization and by others. Be willing to make deductions based on what you are observing, and let what you find and deduce shape your approach to social media and online conversation. Because “Nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person”
  • Document your findings – Creating a regular report for monitoring can be as easy as a spreadsheet or document, noting both quantitative and qualitative data. It sounds counter to wanting to engage on a human level, but what this does is allow for further justification should you require to seek funding, other organizational support, etc.
  • Beware of a self-appointed “Moriarity” – Much has been said about the self-proclaimed “social media expert”; let me change this to a different type of person. A person who claims on some level to have “a web with a thousand radiations”, yet seems to have nothing more than a pleasant personality. Any efforts to engage within social media need to have a solid strategic basis which includes monitoring and further engagement.

In short, this is more of a good “first step” towards thinking about social media monitoring – to begin seeing it as a way to create very person-driven insights that allow you to further engage others online.

Or as Holmes asserts to Watson – “You know my methods. Apply them.”

(If you wish to reacquaint yourself with Sherlock Holmes, I strongly suggest the volunteer-created audiobooks at Librivox, many of which are also part of the Internet Archive. And I also welcome your questions and comments).

Written by gordondym

August 29, 2012 at 3:17 am

Meet Your Neighbor: Free Geek Chicago

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This week, I’m introducing a new, regular feature on the blog where I’ll be talking about a Chicago non-profit or organization that’s “doing it right”. Whether it’s creating new opportunities for tech, or driving a socially beneficial mission in a unique way, this will be a great way for you, the reader, to “meet your neighbor”

I love using open source software – not just because it’s free, but because it can serve as a microcosm of how communities should function. Imagine – a group of people refining a piece of functional software that benefits every user, working together towards a common goal. That same software – free of charge – helping to extend the life of older machines, and making computing accessible to all.

Now, I would like to introduce you to Free Geek Chicago – they’re a local organization who is dedicated to recycling old computer equipment and encouraging adoption of open source software. (They also have a unique governing system, and have been a gracious guest of Chicago Net Tuesday in the past). People who volunteer for a set amount of time receive vouchers towards purchase of a laptop or desktop powered by the  Ubuntu Linux operating system.

(As an Ubuntu user myself – it’s relatively easy and hassle-free. Remind me to tell you of my Ubuntu-powered Toughbook some time).

Free Geek Chicago is putting on a Software Freedom Day event on September 15th. Although you’re always more than welcome to visit at any time, this is a great opportunity to learn more about open source software, open source philosophy….and give them a visit. Just RSVP at They’re located at 3411 W. Diversey, and you can also follow them on various social media channels.

Interested in being featured on the blog? Know of a place that deserves to be highlighted? Please feel free to leave them in the comments below. You are also more than welcome to contact me either via Linked In or my web site’s contact form.

As always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

August 27, 2012 at 3:23 am

Avoiding Social Media Mission Creep

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(The following is a slight rewrite of a post from another, now defunct blog from long ago. However, many of the sentiments and ideas still fit.)

Currently, I’m working on a presentation entitled Sherlock Holmes & the Social Media Mystery, presented via Dabble, and flashed back to an incident at an earlier Net Tuesday meeting.

After advising those in attendance that their communications should tend to flow from their mission, a member of the audience begged to differ.

“I disagree with that,” she stated. “It’s not as important to be focused on the mission as it is to be human.”

(I am paraphrasing, in all fairness)

Although I countered that both were possible (and that the ideal is to be genuine), , it did get me thinking about the state of social media – more specifically, how people are regarding their participation in it.

As I like to believe, we all have a mission – everything from “I want to get a job” to “I want to make the world a better place to live in.” Whether we talk about it in a personal or professional sense, our engagements in the online (and offline) world need to reflect that mission.

However, there has been (and continues to be) some trending towards people who are focused less on the incredible things they do, and more on the “wonderful people” they are. Admittedly, although this has been predominant in the business world (specifically marketing), this trend is slowly and surely creeping into the non-profit/social good realm.

Just to clarify, when we engage on behalf of our causes, whether we’re doing it as employees or as private citizens, it is important to be human: to not just parrot press releases, or use “pre-approved” language. Social media is a great communications tool…

…but let’s not forget that social media isn’t an end in and of itself, but a means to an end. Without a mission, no matter what the communications channel, we run the risk of forgetting that what we say – and why we’re saying it – is just as important as how and where we speak.

Because as we’re trying to build our communities, it’s importantly that we speak the same language…and that we avoid the temptation to creep away from our mission and drift towards more meaningless communication.

But what do you think? Please feel free to leave your comments below. In addition, you can always contact me via Linked In and my personal web site.

Thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

August 24, 2012 at 5:50 am


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Some of you may know me as a comics/pop-culture blogger….or as the weekly contributor to Chicago Now’s Job Stalker.

But I’m embarking on a new, more appropriate endeavor – writing about non-profits, tech, and social media.

But this isn’t just another “non-profits-can-use-these-free-tools” or “here’s-how-non-profits-can-market-more-effectively” blog.

I have a great deal of experience working in the non-profit field…as a program administrator. I’ve worked with homeless shelters in St. Louis. My work has ranged from the city of Chicago to the outskirts of rural Missouri. I’ve helped mobilize merchants to not sell tobacco to youth and helping businesses in air quality prevention. I’ve also volunteered for the Chicago Red Cross (although it’s been marketing one of their fundraisers, and not the real work that those braver than I do on a daily basis).

Currently, I’m doing some consulting work for non-profits (and always seeking great professional opportunities). I’m always learning about how non-profits are integrating tech….and ways in which they can fulfill their mission more effectively. And you’ll be reading about them here, as well as a variety of other topics.

So if you’re curious to learn more about me, you can read about me via Linked In, Google, or my web site. Thanks, and looking forward to serving your non-profit/tech blogging needs.


Written by gordondym

August 23, 2012 at 10:25 am

Posted in Administrata

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