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VT Cast #20: Social Networking & VolunTourism

Synopsis

What is Social Networking and why is this sector growing so rapidly? How are social networking sites incorporating VolunTourism into their member services and offerings? What can we expect from social networking communities in the area of VolunTourism in the future? We will address these topics and discuss others during this episode of The VolunTourist.

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Past Webcast - January 8, 2008
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Guests

Rebecca Carpenter, Marketing & Brand Strategist, Razoo.com [Bio]; Nick O'Neill, Creator of, All Facebook.com and SocialTimes.com [Bio]; Alyssa Royse , President & Editor-in-Chief, Just Cause Magazine and JustCauseIt.com.[Bio].

Quotables

[Can social networks like Razoo.com enhance people's experience, before, during and after a VolunTourism trip?]

"Well, I'm glad that you mentiond Razoo there because that's exactly what Razoo is currently being used for is small groups of people who have a common interest - whether it's a trip that they've taken together, or a cause that they're really passionate about, or a project that they want to tell the world about - there are hundreds of small groups on our site that have formed for that very purpose, either to plan something they want to do together in the future, or to talk about something that they've done together in the past, or just to share general ideas on a topic.

So building off of what was said earlier about - - what do you start you're own social network or do you go to one that's already existing? I feel like you absolutely need to use the resources and tools and sites that are already out there rather than starting from scratch. You have to go where people already are - so go to Razoo, go to JustCauseIt, go to Facebook, go to My Space to find the people who have the shared interest or the shared desire to take this type of volunteer trip or are other returned Peace Corps volunteers from Kenya. Because, they're out there somewhere and chances are pretty good they're on one of the big social networks already.

So when I look at the non-profits who are trying to generate community around their individual mission or cause, the one's that are doing it the best have this diversified approach where they've, instead of trying to get everyone to come to their website, they go out to where all their constituents already are. So they have a presence on Facebook, and they have a presence on MySpace, and they have a presence on Razoo, and they have a presence on Idealist and they are everywhere that their constituents are. And that's the most cost-effective way to do it right now." Rebecca Carpenter

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[What tools are available to help entities launch their own VolunTourism Social Networks? ]

"Well, I don't think launching you're own social network is necessarily the best step to take; I would first go find where the existing communities are and participate in them. There are tools that you can use, such as a blog, or Twitter, perhaps, or Facebook, or Razoo, in this case, or a number of different locations that they can go and participate and join the conversation. I mean, that's really the main key in social media is just join the conversation wherever it's taking place. So it's not just one location; you need to diversify.

I just wrote a post yesterday about social media being a numbers game. So pretty much you need to go participate wherever that conversation is taking place and eventually, in one of those places, after practicing and becoming active, you eventually will, hopefully get a larger voice in one of those locations." Nick O'Neill

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[On the challenge presented by individuals being able to express their passions in social networks...]

"Yeah, I think it's always a challenge, obviously, when you let people express themselves freely, right?!? [laughter] But I also think that's where opportunity lives. This great friend of mine said to me once that he hates it when conversations come to agreement. And I said, 'Well, why's that?' And he said, 'Well, because once everybody agrees, the conversation stops.'

Now, if you take that principle, and he's right, conversations are really animated when people are disagreeing and they do tend to come to a halt when everyone says, 'Oh, yeah, you're right,' and then there's that silence. But if you take that principle and you apply it to online social networking, specifically where social causes and certainly international stuff is concerned, those places of disagreement are where the most engaged dialogue lives and if you create an environment where people are able to dialogue openly and honestly, the chance for learning and growth just magnifies - enormously.

So when you look at something like - - on any online social network, I'm sure that Razoo is finding this; I'm sure we'll find this, and anyone is finding it. If you take an issue that feels controversial - - like, I'm currently on a childhood obesity tangent and this has been surprisingly controversial - - because, there are people who will say, 'you're telling people how to eat,' and everyone will chime in and say, 'well that's your value system, or that's your value system,' but out of that becomes really interesting things to think about - - well, if you approach an issue from only one perspective, you're probably not going to impact change.

So if you take that and you look at that in terms of international travel and what you can do, those active dialogues are where people are going to gravitate and you are going to become aware of more issues than you would if you were just delivering information straightforward in a news story. So it strikes me as a tremendous opportunity. I'm all for controversial dialogue; I think that that's where it lives, and it's a unique opportunity that we have, I think more so at places like Razoo and JustCausIt.com than someplace like Facebook, which is still, really, kind of a push-shove information dialogue - there's not a whole lot of back-and-forth that happens on those.

And I think it's really exciting; I think this is where... this is where global change is going to live because you're going to be in this engaged dialogues with people who you consider your friends - - people whose profiles you read and blogs you read, you start to trust and that that's the opportunity we have." Alyssa Royse

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Guest Bios

Rebecca Carpenter, Marketing & Brand Strategist, Razoo.com

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Rebecca Carpenter, a marketing and brand strategist, has fifteen years of experience helping companies build powerful brands. She specializes in the launch of consumer businesses, from multi-million dollar global brands to formative start-up ventures. Rebecca is a Principal and Founder of Reach Consulting, through which she provides brand-building services to clients such as Disney, National Geographic, Madison Square Garden, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and most recently, Razoo.com.

Prior to founding Reach, Rebecca worked for industry leaders Procter & Gamble and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. She holds an MBA from the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia, earned dual degrees in Marketing and English from James Madison University, and studied at the Centre for International Studies in Paris, France. She is passionate about global travel, and recently completed a six-month trip around the world.

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Nick O'Neill, Creator of, All Facebook.com and SocialTimes.com

Nick O'Neill is the creator of AllFacebook.com and the newly launched Social Times. A serial entrepreneur at heart, Nick has spent the past 8 years developing creative solutions for individuals on the web. Working from within agencies and startups, he has gained significant experience working with clients and overcoming extreme challenges. Being highly active in the web and entrepreneurial communities, locally and nationally, Nick helped to bring the first Tech Cocktail to Washington, D.C. With the opening of the Facebook platform, Nick saw a huge opportunity and has become fully dedicated to covering the social networking phenomenon and developing creative applications for clients looking to gain exposure. Since the launch of the platform Nick has been featured on NPR, Fast Company, Practical Ecommerce and multiple other national publications.

Note on the Social Times:

The Social Times mission is to empower passionate individuals to cover the topics that they are most passionate about while learning the ropes of new media. We are a breeding ground for new media professionals and entrepreneurs.  Read more at http://www.socialtimes.com.

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Alyssa Royse , President & Editor-in-Chief, Just Cause Magazine and JustCauseIt.com

An award-winning journalist, PR professional and community advocate, Alyssa Royse is intricately involved in the charitable community, serving on several boards and countless committees. As a journalist, her stories have appeared regularly in The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, Seattle P-I, Puget Sound Business Journal, as well as local and national magazines.

Alyssa is a co-founder of the Twin Towers Orphan Fund, a 100% volunteer organization that raised money for the children who lost one or both parents in the terrorist attacks of September 11. For her work creating and managing the TTOF, Fast Company magazine named Alyssa one of the top 50 entrepreneurs in the world.

As a marketing and PR professional, her achievements have ranged from pre-launch PR and positioning for a major online pharmacy to content and editorial oversight for an online retailer for which she was recognized with a local, regional and national Addy. As a PR consultant in Seattle, Alyssa's work with a wide variety of clients - from multi-national corporations to start-ups and non-profits - resulted in PR News naming her one of the country's top 15 PR professionals under 35 in 2002.

Alyssa's primary charitable work tends to focus on The Arts and Education. She began her career as a teacher with an innovative non-profit organization that offered curriculum enriching classes in the struggling Saint Louis Public Schools. She designed and implemented curriculum to teach creative writing and theater arts in elementary schools, for which she received a great deal of media attention and personal reward. She then took her teaching to the juvenile detention system where she used language as a way to help students explore themselves and their lives. She also designed a curriculum called "The Culture Of Childhood" that taught anthropology to fourth grade students by looking at what it was like to be 10 years-old in countries around the world.

She has degrees in playwrighting and anthropology - an odd, but surprisingly useful, set of skills if one wants to look at the worlds problems and find ways to create dialogue about them.

Alyssa lives in Seattle with her husband and their 9 year-old daughter.

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