Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Changing the World One Check In at a Time

A book that renames Earth “Eaarth.”

Group buying as the next big trend on the web.

Delivering happiness via social media.

What do they all have in common? Nothing, except that the ideas have been swirling around in my head, and now I found a place to park them all: CauseWorld.

Let me explain. A few days ago I read a review of a new book called "Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet." Author Bill McKibben claims that we’ve already done so much damage to the planet that it’s really not the same place as it was even a few decades ago, and we’re all going to have to adjust to living on this new, weather-challenged planet. It’s a sobering thought. And maybe because Earth Day is this week too or maybe because I don’t want to live on a planet that bares no resemblance to the one I was born on, I’ve been thinking about things I can do — things we all can do — to make the planet a better, more habitable place.

A few days after reading the book review I read Pete Cashmore’s latest blog on CNN, where he talks about group buying and all the companies that are investing millions in it. I couldn’t help but wonder why investors are so quick to jump on the opportunity to make more money off people buying stuff, but nobody seems particularly interested in spreading a little cash to help save Earth from its downward spiral. OK it’s a big jump I know. But it’s Groupon, not McKibben’s book, that’s getting front-page coverage on CNN.

So I’m thinking about Eaarth and mass purchasing power when I stumble on another blog about spreading happiness via social media. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh claims that’s what he tries to do with all his Twitter posts — a noble goal to be sure. And that’s when it hits me. What could spread more happiness than doing good things for a social cause? And why isn’t there a group purchasing site for people who want to make a difference in the world?

Turns out, there is. It’s called CauseWorld, and it works kind of like Foursquare: you check in at participating merchants, and you earn karma points that you can donate to the organization of your choice. Then you can tell your friends on Facebook about the good deed you’ve done. Pretty cool, huh? I’ve already downloaded the app, and I can’t wait to find a participating place to go where I can try it out. When I find out how it works, I’ll be back to write another post.

In the meantime, I’m still going to angst about the changing planet and why mass consumerism gets more hype than our home, but at least now I know of one small way I can use social media to make myself — and maybe Eaarth — a little happier.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Questioning the Trends of the Twitterfirst Century

It's official. Nobody I know gets Twitter. And if nobody I know is using it, do I really need to worry about it?

My tech-savvy kids are certainly not fans. "Twitter is dumb," my 18-year-old says as she multitasks on 3 electronic devices at once. "Just post your status updates on Facebook." My youngest did sign up for an account so she could follow Apolo Ohno during the Olympics, but her interest faded as soon as the games came to a close.

My friends don't get it either. I have friends who post YouTube videos frequently, and friends with 100s of friends on Facebook. I know quite a few people on LinkedIn too. So it's not as though all my friends and coworkers are social media rubes. They just don't see the point of Twitter.

And my work -- they definitely don't get it. We have a Facebook and a Twitter account, but I'm not really allowed to post much on either one. I couldn't even get an article about social media in our internal newsletter. Management doesn't want staff actually interacting with anyone, thus putting a lid on any momentum we might gain in gathering fans and followers.

I've read lately that Twitter's growth has tapered off, and that only a fraction of its 75 million users have active accounts. So does it matter that I'm living in a Twitter void? It certainly dashes my hopes of ever becoming a social media maven, but as far as communicating with everyone I need to in my little world, Twitter's not worth a tweet.