Deanna Zandt is a media technologist, the author of Share This! How You Will Change the World with Social Networking, the creator of a killer TEDxBerlin talk and an all-around bad ass. Chatting with her is always fun and informative — plus, we got hearing Samuel L. Jackson singing Taylor Swift out of it… She’s emceeing Day 2 of Ideas Connected at Global HQ, so swing by and see her in person. In the meantime, read on!
1. What is your or your organization’s greatest success with social media to date?
In early 2012, the Susan G Komen Foundation decided to no longer fund Planned Parenthood’s breast cancer initiatives. Outrage erupted, and while many advocates were focused specifically on the funding and financial issues, I wanted to focus on stories. I thought about the women who didn’t have money with which to speak their minds by donating or taking away donations; these were the women who would be most affected by Komen’s decision, and lose access to low-cost and free breast cancer screenings.
I created a Tumblr blog called Planned Parenthood Saved Me, where I asked people to submit stories of how Planned Parenthood had changed their lives. It caught fire; in 4 days, 300 stories were collected and shared, and mainstream media outlets like Rachel Maddow and the New York Times were referencing posts and sharing excerpts. But the real story lay inside the social numbers: More than half the traffic — 29,000 unique visits in 4 days — came from social media, and before any major media mention. The fire came from us sharing our stories with one another.
2. What do you think is the most exciting thing happening in the emerging technology and/or new media space right now?
The tension, and possibly an erupting battle, for the open web and web standards is pretty exciting. We see increasingly bolder moves towards silo-ed information and walled gardens, and that’s just not sustainable. The web yearns to be free, and I feel that we’re on the cusp of those starting to break down. Remember when AOL was the end-all-be-all Internet service? And how that model fell apart as both users and technologies became more sophisticated? This, too, will come to pass with the social web.
3. What speaker or event are you most looking forward to at SMW NYC?
I probably sound like a lush, but honestly, the parties are always fantastic during SMW NYC. Not just for going-out-fun-value, but for connecting and reconnecting with good people. I’m looking forward to spending offline time with my communities!
4. What do you think is SMW’s greatest value add to the tech/media space?
I’ve loved SWM’s ethos with regards to wanting to make the world a better place, and I welcomed the opportunity to bring the networks that I’m a part of– social, gender and racial justice communities– to the table to help shape the content. Those voices are often missing in the technology and media spaces, and I’m thrilled that SMW wants to dig deeper there.
5. What is the most creative way you’ve seen social media used?
Honestly, anything with a little bit of humor generally gets my attention– to be funny on social media, you really have to have an extraordinary combination of skills: timing, wit, writing, some tech savvy, etc. From the old meme games we used to play on Twitter (I’ll never forget #unseenprequels and #SamJacksonSlowJams [NSFW]), to fake accounts and image macros (the Willy Wonka series almost never fails to deliver), to the White House responding to the Death Star petition… yeah. It’s a nice reminder that we’re all human and can poke at each other a little bit.
Deanna Zandt is a media technologist and the author of Share This! How You Will Change the World with Social Networking (Berrett-Koehler, June 2010). She is a consultant to key progressive media and advocacy organizations, and her clients have included The Ford Foundation, The Daily Beast/Newsweek, and Jim Hightower’s Hightower Lowdown. She is contributor to Forbes.com via her ForbesWoman “Prospect: Tech” blog, and a social media advice contributor NPR’s flagship news program, “All Things Considered.” Zandt specializes in social media, is a leading expert in women and technology, and is a frequent guest on CNN International, BBC Radio, Fox News and more.She works with groups to create and implement effective web strategies toward organizational goals of civic engagement and cultural agency, and uses her background in linguistics, advertising, telecommunications and finance to complement her technical expertise. She has spoken at a number of conferences, including TEDxBerlin, SXSW Interactive, Personal Democracy Forum, Netroots Nation, the National Conference on Media Reform, Facing Race, Web 2.0 Expo, Bioneers, America’s Future Now (formerly “Take Back America”), Women Action & The Media, and provides beginner and advanced workshops both online and in person.