The 2014 Citizen Diplomacy Summit and Building Cultural Bridges in the Social Media Age

Imagine if everyone got involved?

I’m honored to have been invited to the panel last night for the 2014 Citizen Diplomacy Summit  in Cary, North Carolina, at The Cary Downtown Theater.  The panel was moderated by Dr. Calvin Hall from NCCU, and included Leila Bekri, who works in promoting diplomacy and cultural exchanges for an international leadership program, Leslie Huffman, who founded LOL Marketing, and Wesley Lo, an international student exchange advocate from NC State University.  The panel theme was Building Cultural Bridges in the Social Media Age.  Learn more about the panelists here.

“Citizen diplomacy is the concept that the individual has the right, even the responsibility, to help shape U.S. foreign relations, ‘one handshake at a time.’ Citizen diplomats can be students, teachers, athletes, artists, business people, humanitarians, adventurers or tourists. They are motivated by a responsibility to engage with the rest of the world in a meaningful, mutually beneficial dialogue.”  –The U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy

And it was terrific to learn more about this program.  The centerpiece of the summit was the video competition that ran this year, free to entrants ages 18 to 25 and living in North Carolina.  Congratulations to grand prize winner, Ilayda Yigit (North Carolina School of the Arts), who received $500 for her film MeetCute, and Misha Tobar (NCSU), who received 2nd prize and $250 for her film, Citizen Diplomacy in France.  Both videos were publicly screened at the beginning of the evening, and had two different takes on the meaning of citizen diplomacy. MeetCute is an abstract take on the television/film term, meet-cute, which is a scene in film, television, etc. in which a future romantic couple meets for the first time in a way that is considered adorable, entertaining, or amusing.  Citizen Diplomacy in France features a montage of multi-cultural scenes, including food, music and dance, from a trip to France, edited with energetic music pumping in the background.  Judges for the film competition were Alan Buck, Lorenzo Collado, Joan Conwell, Terry ‘Doc’ Thorne.  Read more about the judges here.

This was the sixth annual Citizen Diplomacy Summit, which is co-sponsored by the Sister Cities Association of Cary and the Town of Cary.  The Sister Cities Association is a non-profit association that, according to their website, strives to further global understanding and to encourage and assist sister city relationships between the citizens of Cary and cities throughout the world, especially Cary’s four Sister Cities, Le Touquet, France, Markham, Ontario, Hsinchu, Taiwan, and County Meath, Ireland.

The evening started out with networking over terrific food, with perhaps 40 or so people in attendance.  Dr. Hall opened the discussion with the question, How has people-to-people diplomacy changed as a result of social media?  This is an exciting time with technology outpacing use, our governments and laws, and we are only beginning to scratch the surface of how to use it to affect real change. Our definitions of the word tribe are changing, opening up, to include a global community.  Wesley told the story of when he was tasked with the opening of a building at N.C. State, and so he created a short, one-minute video, and uploaded it to Instagram and sent it around in e-mail.  The next morning, there was a line outside that building to get in.

And that’s the point.  Social media is a tool, a powerful tool, in connecting us all.  We have ideas and tools and we can use them for the greater good.  But be careful we do not leave others behind.  To the notion that “if you’re not online, you’re irrelevant,” I say that it’s not a good idea to lose track of people with wisdom or experience or knowledge just because they may not be online, and it is incumbent upon those of us who have a platform to speak for those who do not, or can’t.  One of the challenges we all face is reaching people who are not connected, especially in other cultures. And we must be mindful of how we use social media and those who would abuse it, or any government that would try and control its citizen’s access.

The exchange between audience and the panel was fantastic, highly interactive, and the young people in the audience shared their stories and perspectives with us. I loved that part, honestly. There was so much of a spirit of collaboration and community in those moments, and it made the evening really special for me.  Topics ranged all over the map, including B Corporations (businesses who are part for-profit and part non-profit, with a social or altruistic goals as part of their business plan), citizen journalism, cyber-bullying, Net Neutrality, and global citizenship. And we didn’t get to talk about crowdsourcing and the video trend as part of social media, but that’s a significant piece of the next steps.

Imagine if everyone, EVERYONE, got involved?

Consider a neighborhood food co-op that wants to grow the food to feed its community.  Or a crowdsourced scholarship fund for the NC Foundation for Alcohol and Drug Studies, dedicated to a lost loved one.  Or a writing project for cancer patients to provide them both with the healing power of writing, and beautiful and personal headscarves.

It was a meaningful conversation, and everyone agreed that it should continue.  By social media, perhaps.  🙂

Thanks to the organizers and sponsors for putting such a wonderful event together, including Sister Cities Association of Cary, the Town of Cary, RTP Global, and the Cary Chamber of Commerce.  And very special thanks to Joanie Conwell and Birgul Tuzlali for inviting me into it.

xo

Content and Blogging for Business

The word “blog” seems to still conjure up, in some, images of family vacations or meals on the table.  It’s a dated term.

writing_content_for_SEO

But content writing/blogging for business has never been more important.  Because of the way SEO works, Google, Bing and Yahoo all rank sites according to the content on your site.  And now, more than ever, it’s important to get yourself found.

Fresh content + more content = Higher Search Engine Ranking

People find businesses differently now.  Instead of opening up the Yellow Pages and finding an attractive ad, or even searching and finding an attractive website, your potential customers are doing their due diligence.  They are searching.  They check you out and then they check out your social media.  They might check Yelp.  In other words, they have a look around.
You (or someone you hire) should be writing for your website at least once a week, and editing for SEO.  (My article on editing for SEO is coming soon.)  Fresh content is going to constantly send Google the message that you are consistently adding to your site —  and give your social media followers something to look at.

Watch your analytics for search engine phrases that your audience wants to know.

You have expertise.  You could talk for hours upon hours about your widgets, about where they were made and why that factory uses a superior process or alloy, and how over time the degradation of competitors widgets is all too common.  Your potential clients want to know, instead, which widget works best in the kitchen and which one is better for travel and are Googling such.  Don’t fight it.  Bring your vast knowledge into your articles — but by all means answer their questions.

One client of mine and I realized that almost 80% of his traffic was coming in on countless variations of the same question.  Turns out, it’s an important question and key to being found early for his consulting practice and area of expertise.  So we’re embracing this need for information with countless other means of information and media.

Graphics and Images:  Potential Destroyer of SEO

Not kidding.  And another story.
When Joe and I first started working together, he came to me with a beautiful, image-rich site to showcase the gorgeous furniture he sells.  Also on his site at that time was a local news story in which his local charity work was featured.  Not only was he THE source for furniture but a great guy as well.  Who wouldn’t buy furniture from him?
But very little traffic was coming on to his site.  His Google Adwords weren’t working.  So what was the problem?
One look at his analytics told us the answer.  Because there were a lot of graphics and very little content, Google believed his site to be about his favorite charity as it was unable to read anything of the gorgeous images he’d chosen.
Are there ways to use graphics in a way that Google understands?  Of course.  Does everyone do this?  Apparently not.
Writing your site and keeping the content fresh is the best way to make sure you get and keep Google’s attention.  Building your social is important, too, and shouldn’t be forgotten, but content first.  Show the world your expertise.  Put it out there or let me help you do it.
Stay tuned.  We’re just getting started.  🙂
/melissa

The difference between SEO and Social Media and why you need both

Basic guerrilla advice for building web presence, online marketing.

Q:  How do I get “found” by Google, Bing, and the search engines?

To explain SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to my friends and clients whom are small business owners, I use the metaphor of a large pond to describe the Internet.  Okay, a really large pond.  Give yourself a moment to think of how you would get found, should you find yourself sitting in this large pond along with others just like yourself.  Splash.  Kick.  Skip stones.

Blog posts, Youtube videos, and web content are all ways of creating those ripples.  Over time, steady contribution creates larger and larger ripples.  More ripples means more likelihood of Google and Bing and the other search engines finding you.  What are the stones you keep in your pocket?

Q:  I’m very active on Facebook.  Won’t this get results?

Yes and no.  Social media is not SEO and shouldn’t be touted as such.  You can Facebook your fingers off and it will not change your SEO results.  Your website is the best tool you have to find new customers and explain your company to them.

Your Facebook is perfect for reinforcing your brand and also a way to keep your brand at top of mind.  What do your customers and potential customers find when they look at your social media?  Take stock of your offerings.

There are loads of options in Social Media to consider beyond Facebook and Twitter.  LinkedIn.  Pinterest.  Tumblr.  Instagram.  The list goes on and new ones seem to pop up overnight.  We can help you sort through which pieces work for promoting your business.

Contact me for advertising, media buying, SEO work, or help with building your social media platform.  336-937-5319 — Melissa