Adventures in Social Media with Ashley


Blogger Crush of the Week

Anyone in the JustMeans New York office knows I have many crushes in the blogebrity community. My first crush was Acumen Fund and NextBillion man Rob Katz, who is an upcoming featured blogger for All Things Reconsidered (!!!). He’s got passion and pizazz, I can just tell.

Then, after I discovered my favorite EarthFirst.com’s Top 25 Hottest Guys in Green list, Muhammad Saleem entered my life. Boy, he is dreamy. However, he didn’t respond to my emails and refused to return my Twitter follow. Bad form, Mr. Saleem.

Now, I’m on to Daniel Altman. He’s a Harvard grad, globalization expert, multi-book author, founder of a non-profit consulting firm and the youngest member of the New York Times editorial board….ever. Marry me and take me away to one of your three homes in Buenos Aires, Hong Kong or New York. Please.

So which blogger will be next to trip my fancy? Suggestions are welcome.


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Washing Up Greenwashing
July 15, 2008, 9:33 pm
Filed under: corporate social responsibility, social media, sustainability | Tags:

Yesterday I posted a blog on JustMeans All Things Reconsidered called Shades of “Going Green.” It covers a Wharton conference that explores some strategies that companies use to become more environmentally friendly and benefit financially. I briefly mentioned “greenwashing” as an interesting topic in the green economy, but didn’t investigate further. Greenwashing can be defined as “the unjustified appropriation of environmental virtue by a company, an industry, a government, a politician or even a non-government organization to create a pro-environmental image, sell a product or a policy, or to try and rehabilitate their standing with the public and decision makers after being embroiled in controversy” (from SourceWatch).

Here’s a video that shows the TerraChoice study that revealed that 99% of the researched companies were guilty of some form of greenwashing.

Here are what TerraChoice considers the Six Common Sins of Greenwashing:

1. Hidden Tradeoff

2. No proof

3. Vagueness

4. Irrelevance

5. Fibbing

6. Lesser of Two Evils

So what does this mean for consumers and companies? Because most businesses aren’t abandoning the bottom-line any time soon, it is up to consumers to research, ask questions and hold higher standards for the companies that sell us their products. Consumers should look beyond advertisements, packaging and branding, and start using social media to engage companies in a critical conversation about their joint environmental impact. At JustMeans, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to get companies to join the conversation, but it is up to consumers to make this dialogue interactive, important and ongoing.



Out of a job or not?
July 7, 2008, 8:27 pm
Filed under: social media | Tags: ,

I just posted a new entry on the JustMeans “All Things Reconsidered” blog collection. It’s called “FIRE! Interview from Fast Company with Charlene Li on Groundswell” and covers some of the author’s ideas on social media and business. In the interview she stresses the importance of employing a social media strategy that engages a company with people and NOT technology. I understand Charlene Li’s suggestion of discussion forums and interactive blogs as, ultimately, a new job market for web networkers, social media gurus and professional bloggers. Maybe I’m wrong, but in order to engage people in a constructive, corporate, yet personalized conversation, companies must build up their social media teams with smart people who can navigate the invisible.

So this brings me to my next, Fast Company reference. I recently read the article “Six Jobs that Won’t Exist in 2016” that suggested my highly anticipated career in blogging may be soon be obsolete. So, grappling with Charlene Li’s message to develop a well-researched and personalized corporate social media approach, where is my job as a blogger going? Get your story straight Fast Company, the caliber of my parents’ rest home depends on this.



Kiwi
July 3, 2008, 5:38 pm
Filed under: social media, YouTube | Tags: ,

Even though all of my posts have been related to food (Starbucks coffee, milk, Indian cuisine, Facebook Food Fling…) the title “Kiwi” is a bit of a misnomer. This is a famous YouTube video posted two years ago, but it is one of my favorites.  There is something really cool about how this little guy works so hard just to go SPLAT (make sure to listen to the audio).



Black Coffee (since we spilled all the milk)
July 2, 2008, 7:26 pm
Filed under: coffee, corporate social responsibility, social media | Tags: , ,

We know Starbucks has one of the best corporate social responsibility strategies around (supply chain sustainability? pretty smart…), but when should we put down the Venti Triple Shot Light Ice Mocha Mint Chip Frappuccino and take a look at their business practice as a whole?

Take a look at the smart things Zach has to say in The Cannibal Investors about Starbucks’ decision to close 600 stores.

Through my recent Twitter adventures, I also came across The Global Sociology Blog and some interesting opinions on the Starbucks Ethos water.

So what do I think? I switched to Dunkin’ Donuts months ago…



From Delhi Belly to New York Slice: Why I Work For JustMeans

It was the first day of medical anthropology class, a day after returning from summer, and my teacher asked the class to sit in a circle and individually announce our names, cities of origin, and a brief description of our summer activities. A girl raised her hand and said her name was Olivia, she was from Baltimore, and she spent the summer in Ghana working in a medical center that offered free reconstructive surgery for children with cleft palates. Impressive. The girl to Olivia’s left gave a similar introduction, but said that during the summer she lived in Bangladeshi slums and tested local residents for HIV. Wow. Full circle and twenty minutes later, it was my turn to sulkily say that I had spent the summer hanging out by the pool with my friends. My class’s reaction was only a little better than uproarious laughter.

So, in response to mild public humiliation and grasping my genuine interest in creating positive change, I caught the “save the world” bug. Last summer, I traveled 30 hours and crossed 12 times zones to Chennai, India to help commercial sex-workers and human-trafficking victims.

Before I tell you lessons and reflections from my experience, please picture this: a blonde American 19-year-old girl (alone) standing face-to face with a demented cow (later identified as an Asiatic buffalo, see picture below), knee deep in water saturated with fecal matter (explanation: Indian monsoon season, no public bathrooms, grossly inadequate drainage systems). While I didn’t have to endure polluted floods for my entire summer stay, I think that portrait conveys some of the basic obstacles I encountered while trying to, as I had set out to do, “save the world.”

More challenges to keep in mind: Tamil is the language most spoken in Chennai and the surrounding state of Tamil Nadu. It is a member of Dravidian language family and frequently contains the sound “ungue” (my best attempt at spelling) which, I have concluded, cannot be produced by an American tongue. While English is fluently spoken by many academics, professionals and the middle class, communicating with and helping prostitutes and trafficking victims became more difficult when they only spoke Tamil and I only knew how to say “red” (see-ka-poo). Beyond the language barrier, another hitch in my plan was something informally known as “Delhi Belly” (…the namesake of this blog). When you are curled in the ball next to the toilet (correction: porcelain hole in the ground), chomping antispasmodics and licking the bottle of Pepto-Bismol, you aren’t doing much for gender equality, sexual rights or reproductive health. And you are certainly not saving the world.

The point of these stories is not to discourage international service or Indian tourism (it’s a beautiful and magical country, I promise), but to illustrate why it is important to learn and understand where and how you can create efficient, effective and lasting change in the world. Don’t get me wrong, I would never trade my experiences and encounters abroad, but applying my skill set to ideas beyond a medical center in Ghana, Bangladeshi slums or an Indian flood can create bigger and better impact.

This brings me to my desk in the new JustMeans midtown office (goodbye Harlem) and why I am here. In my work at JustMeans, I use social media tools to bring attention to the JustMeans platform and engage more individuals, companies and organizations in social and environmental responsibility. By promoting JustMeans, I know I am making a greater impact than last summer, because beyond avoiding time wasted wading through sewage, I’m working with important initiatives of multimillion dollar companies and the global reach of the internet. Through my work at JustMeans, I can apply my knowledge of business, politics and economics and my skills in writing and the English language (not Tamil) to efficiently affect change. So, join JustMeans (www.justmeans.com) and learn how you can use your job, social media, corporate initiatives, and networking to change (save?) the world.

(Side note: For more information on the Indian experience, see JustMeans CEO Martin Smith’s “Fair trade is failing” http://martinsmith.wordpress.com/2008/05/24/fair-trade-is-failing/ for accurate coverage of well-loved Indian transportation.)



Why I Outgrew Facebook

Before I start spewing out my opinions about Twitter, Digg, del.icio.us, Second Life, or any other recent variation of social media, let’s go back to the basics. Here is a short story of how my relationship with social media began and how it changed. While “Chapter 1” in your social media story may start with another network, my tale starts with an oldie, but goodie…FACEBOOK.

FACEBOOK CHAPTER 1: Deviance

I first heard of Facebook when I was a junior in high school. Because Facebook was restricted to college students only, my friends and I were forced to steal or somehow obtain passwords from our older siblings. Sleepovers suddenly became Facebook stalking sessions, where we monitored the profiles of graduated boys and scrutinized the pictures of older girls to see if they had fallen prey to the freshman 15. But beyond gossip, we participated in other exercises of hilarity. A favorite prank was to change an older brother’s status from “single” to “in a relationship” and watch the mass arrival of “Who are you dating?!?” wall posts and “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me!” secret messages.

FACEBOOK CHAPTER 2: CyberCollege

When I was finally admitted to college and awarded an “.edu” email address, the real uses of Facebook became clearer. By posting my dorm and hall name on my profile, I was able to contact and start friendships with my new college roommates before I had even met them. Through Facebook Events and Groups, I received invitations and notifications about club meetings, study groups and, of course, parties. When I was wondering about friends from home, I could easily read their status updates or view their newly posted pictures. Likewise, I was able to upload my own pictures and notify interested viewers of my thriving college social life.

FACEBOOK CHAPTER 3: Creeps and Apps

Two alterations quickly turned Facebook both creepy and cluttered. As Facebook was opened to anyone smart enough to register for an email account, my message inbox became disturbingly full with “u r cute” friend requests from middle-aged men and other concerning characters. Another revision, the introduction of the “App,” made casual “facebooking” a game of wading through useless applications like “Food Fling” (the virtual food fight) and “Name Analyzer” (finds hidden meaning in the letters of your name). Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good game of Scrabulous now and again, but with almost 30,000 Apps, Facebook has lost its fun.

So, why did I outgrow Facebook? Am I deterred by Facebook’s overwhelming growth or are my interests changing? How do I engage with social media so it fits my needs and feels less frivolous? Niche networks that connect people with similar interests and goals might be the answer. At any rate, join JustMeans (www.justmeans.com, shameless plug) to use social media in a meaningful and world-changing way.

More adventures to come.