Girls with Macs conference wrap-up: what have the past few weeks taught?

After attending all of these big tech conferences lately – SXSW, NTC, and Women Who Tech – the trend I’ve taken closest to heart has nothing to do with technology at all. It actually involves doing the opposite of what this fast-paced industry has been pushing for years: slowing down.

OK, we’ve all equally enjoyed puttering around on Facebook, uploading images to Flickr and seeing how many comments we’d get, putting together photo books on Blurb, and building our own social networks in Ning, but now the initial “woah” has worn off (or there’s just too much damn stuff to keep track of) and it’s a good reminder to return to the business practices communications folks have been practicing for years: planning, frameworks, and process.

Web 2.0 applications don’t happen in a vacuum. They’re fun, definitely addictive, and continuously challenge us to look at what we do in new ways, but there is one thing they also consume of us – our time. We all know in the back of our heads that using these pieces of technology *should* have a purpose. Granted, I’m sure we’ve all thrown together a blog because the boss said so, or set up a Facebook presence because the folks at *that* campaign did it. The point is, getting the basics together upfront will pay off dearly in spades later on.

People in non profits have limited time and several hats. When you choose to do a blog outside of a larger technology framework, you’re committing some of your valuable resources to maintaining it, keeping those resources from something (maybe not even technology related) that could drive up your email numbers and/or increase your fundraising potential. I know I’ve caught myself time and time again, getting caught up in the excitement of the new challenge and the fancy GUI on that spiffy new Web 2.0 app, but patience grasshoppers. Patience and planning and a larger strategy framework will go a long way in not only your communications impact, but your ability to sustain and manage the technology initiatives you do pursue.

Other tech life-lessons I’m carrying in my palm pilot these days:

  • Buy-in for new tech is critical, and it’s not easy to get (even though you’re already thoroughly convinced that what you want to do is the ONLY way you can get 5,000 new emails). Web 2.0 scares a lot of senior staff . ROI is fuzzy and fluid. We’re working in a black hole and there isn’t a lot we can actually promise in terms of results. Implementing technology processes to compensate for concrete ROI data can help, but at the end of the day, your senior management has to be willing to take chances, be flexible if your plan doesn’t initially work the way you hoped it would, and accept defeat (because it definitely can/will happen). Encouraging managers to become users and champions of the technology can go a long way. ~ Holy Ross, NTEN; Cassandra Koenen, IFAW; Lynn Labieniec of Beaconfire
  • The new paradigm of marketing and reaching audiences is multi-dimensional (print, digital, synchronous, asynchronous, real-time, global, mobile, viral, *insert your adjective here*). I know it. You know it. But does your CEO know it, and better yet, is it identified in your communications plan? ~ Katya Andreson, Network for Good; Mark Rovner, Sea Change Strategies


  • and two of my favorites from my new friend Rose Vines:
    • Invite interaction in your new media – give people an opportunity to take an action, hand the job over to your audience, ask a question after every post.
    • The way to gain the trust of your audience is to show that you give a damn

What were your favorite takeaways from the last few weeks of tech inspiration?

1 Response to “Girls with Macs conference wrap-up: what have the past few weeks taught?”

  1. 1 Amy Allcock

    Great post Michaela! I couldn’t agree more with your call to slow down and go back to the basics of planning, frameworks and process. Just last week I spoke with a faculty member who wanted to create something “cool and neat” for an e-learning module and it frustrated me that the focus was on how to make something cool as opposed to how this module would enhance student learning. Whether we trying to communicate with supporters or learners, we need to stop and think about what exactly we are trying to do and think long and hard about how technology will enhance that experience.

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