Connecting the media lab with nonprofits

Last week, Michelle Rogers, director of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, presented "Digital Communication Tools" to the SouthEastern Michigan Computer Organization.

Last week, Michelle Rogers, director of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, presented “Digital Communication Tools” to the SouthEastern Michigan Computer Organization.


Through my outreach as director of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, I’ve had the pleasure of presenting and working with numerous nonprofits. In the last week, I’ve traveled to Oakland and Macomb counties encouraging nonprofits to use digital communication tools.

The SouthEastern Michigan Computer Organization invited me to present on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Meetup and Eventful March 9 at the Mahany/Meininger Senior Community Center in Royal Oak. SEMCO talkIt was a little intimidating at first knowing I would be presenting to computer nerds, who are at a whole other level in their knowledge and understanding of technology. I feared they would look down on me and see my suggestions for social media tools to help take their nonprofit to the next level as elementary or pedestrian.

Boy, I was wrong.

For the most part, the group, ranging in age from about 55 to 75, was in awe of the knowledge I was imparting. They asked a lot of questions and really seemed quite fascinated with all the tools I presented on. They had so many questions that I ran over my two-hour time allowance, and had to push through Eventful pretty fast. In addition, I was running the PowerPoint from my GoogleDrive and livestreaming on UStream all off a personal hotspot that, as you can imagine, was running down my battery at breakneck speed.

As I wrapped up, many members asked if I’d be available to present to other nonprofits they are involved with, as well as return to SEMCO to drill down deeper on individual communication tools and teach a more hands-on workshop. I call that success.

Facebook Post

The following Friday, I paid a visit to the Macomb Literacy Partners at the invitation of Executive Director Ken Lampar. We had met a few weeks earlier at another presentation I had given to Macomb County nonprofits. Ken was looking for me to come in and meet with his assistant and himself so they could “pick my brain” about social media and digital media, and their current social media strategy.

It was a different experience than the earlier presentation to 40-plus people who had attended the SEMCO meeting. Working with them one-on-one in their office as an adviser felt rewarding. They looked to me as an expert and I enjoyed recommending tools and strategies after learning about their mission and main goals.

Among other things, we talked about adding a YouTube channel featuring the success stories of some of the people they are working with, the stories of volunteers and why they devote their spare time to Macomb Literacy Partners, as well as video updates from Ken and his staff, and tutorials. They also liked my suggestion of setting up Twitter lists to be better organized and facilitate more retweets and two-way conversations with their audience on the site. I also recommended the tool WeJoinIn for scheduling events and volunteers.

Their No. 1 priority, or task to accomplish, will be to launch a blog and write about their efforts at Macomb Literacy Partners, share success stories, recruit volunteers and announce special events. The blog will feature widgets or links to all of their other social media channels, and it will be linked to The Macomb Daily news site as part of a blogging partnership. In return, we will ask them to add our headline widget to their blog to help attract readers to our content, as well.

If you are involved with a nonprofit and you’re looking for a speaker to present on digital storytelling tools or social media, feel free to reach out to me via the comments section of this blog or tweet @CommunityMediaL.

We’re approaching the two-year anniversary of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab. Helping the community — including nonprofits, businesses, government and individuals — embrace social sharing and use digital tools to communicate a more engaging message is what we set out to do, and I love every opportunity that comes my way to do that.

SEMCO post

Tout Training for 21st Century Media journalists, editors

The Southeast Michigan Media Lab is on Tout. Follow us!

The Southeast Michigan Media Lab is on Tout. Follow us!

Tomorrow I will be holding a live chat and livestreaming video of training on the video platform Tout for our newsrooms. I am pretty excited about the potential this new tool has, from visual storytelling to community engagement, and I plan to promote its use at the Southeast Michigan Media Lab.

The video platform allows you to provide real-time video updates, known as Touts, and community contributors, bloggers and news consumers can do this alongside multimedia journalists at Digital First Media, which includes The Oakland Press, The Macomb Daily, Daily Tribune in Royal Oak, The Morning Sun, Heritage Media, The News-Herald in Southgate and other news websites across Michigan, as well as scores of others across the United States. Local reporters will be producing videos, up to 45 seconds long, and sharing them on our websites, embedded in articles and on our social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter. Touts also can be shared through email, texts and links.

Viewers can follow individual journalists and news organizations on Tout.com or through a free application on their smartphone, or watch those videos on our websites. Touters can choose to download the application on their iPhone or Android or create a Tout using a webcam on their computer.

Advantages of being a Touter include the ability to share videos and reply with a video, whether it’s to comment on a video’s content, respond to a question posed by a reporter or add companion content. For us, this interactive element is appealing as we strive to connect with our audience on different levels. Our journalists are now using it to share breaking news, weather and traffic reports, teasers to upcoming coverage, share clips from interviews, video of local events, and to engage their communities in real-time conversations, as well as look for news leads.

I like what John Paton, CEO of Digital First Media, told MercuryNews.com May 1: “Tout’s real-time video reporting platform gives Digital First Media the ability to show, not just tell, our audience what is happening in real-time. Our audiences want immediate news and information, and our partnership with an emerging technology provider like Tout is an example of our commitment to provide just that.”

So, if you’re not on Tout yet, I encourage you to sign up, follow our journalists and branded accounts, retout us, mention us and reply to our Touts, and we will do the same for you if you catch our interest. Be sure to mention us (@heritagenews, @macombdaily, @theoaklandpress, @newsheraldMI, etc.) so it comes to our attention faster. You can follow the media lab on Tout by clicking here. I also encourage our bloggers to add their Tout stream to their blogs, like I’ve done on mine (see photo below). This will make your blog more interactive and give your audience another platform to consume your content. You can also feed it int your RebelMouse page, as I have for the media lab.

Happy Touting!

Link Tout to your blog so your audience can easily access your videos.

Link Tout to your blog so your audience can easily access your videos.

Creating a social front page with RebelMouse

Our RebelMouse page embedded in our Southeast Michigan Media Lab blog.

Our RebelMouse page embedded in our Southeast Michigan Media Lab blog.

RebelMouse, a real-time social blog that can serve as your front page, is my latest obsession. I was on a webinar May 2 to learn more about it and it has sparked my imagination.

After creating a RebelMouse page to represent all of my activity on social media through my personal Facebook page, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ and ideaLabHeritage Twitter account, I decided to embed it in my ideaLabHeritage blog on WordPress, where I write about my efforts as a member of Digital First Media’s ideaLab. I was confused at first, not knowing if I use the embed code or some other code RebelMouse provided, but an email to early@rebelmouse.com was promptly returned and I was in business.

Next I set my sights on my ideaLab project, the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, wanting to feature it on a RebelMouse page, as well. I have fewer social media accounts associated with it (just Facebook and Twitter), but I do have YouTube video and ipadio audiocast channels that I was able to add through RSS feed. I also embedded the page on my Community Media Lab blog on WordPress.

As a result, I have two live blog pages, where people, who may not be following me on all of my social media channels, can see all of my activity. From my Facebook posts about upcoming presentations in the media lab, videos on YouTube from our workshops, recommendations for digital media tools, as well as tweets — my own and those I retweet — are all featured in a single feed. The page is visually pleasing, showcasing photographs and video, with headlines and text. And, best of all, it’s not static like a blog. Every time you tweet, post and share, it’s there for the world to see — like your own personal front page.

After adding the RebelMouse pages, I spoke to a colleague about the site’s potential. On the webinar, Megan Berry of RebelMouse talked about how you can pull in a Twitter hashtag campaign, add RSS feed from numerous sources, including Facebook groups, customize your design, move things on the page, freeze elements, add posts to the page, and integrate it on your own sites as a social sub-domain, front page, social sidebar or front page for your blog. This was all very exciting to hear and got me thinking.

First, I thought it could be a valuable tool for our blogging partners, who often struggle to post a couple times a week. If they are more active on social media, they could make their RebelMouse page their blog’s front, which could take the pressure off as it would have fresh, active content as they interact on their social media channels. What’s also great is the page has infinite flow, meaning all of your posts can be seen without disappearing into archives.

In talking with Joe Gray, a colleague at The News-Herald in Southgate about the upcoming Downriver Cruise, I thought it would be fun to create a hashtag campaign around the event and pull in the community’s tweets and retweets about the cruise, and videos and photographs of the cars to capture the buzz on a single page we can host on The News-Herald’s website.

Megan said media outlets using RebelMouse have seen a 10 to 30 percent increase in page views. She also said time spent on RebelMouse sites is twice the average. It’s obviously a powerful up-and-coming tool and I am pleased to be one of the early users of it.

Monica Drake is spending time in the Southeast Michigan Media Lab

Monica Drake, the community engagement editor at The Oakland Press, part of Journal Register Company’s Michigan Group, is now joining the Southeast Michigan Media Lab on Mondays. She is a great addition to the lab, and offers expert advice on search engine optimization to bloggers and business owners with websites, and can talk to bloggers about how they can monetize their blogs

Monica Drake

Monica Drake

using Google AdSense.  Make an appointment at the lab or come see Monica between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Mondays.

Today at the lab, we worked on setting up a reader focus group for The Oakland Press and Monica began experimenting with the cloud-based presentation tool Prezi. If you haven’t seen this tool in action, you’re missing out. It’s truly awe-inspiring, and Monica plans to master it and teach it in the lab. In addition to the presentation, we will have a survey for readers to fill out in person and another version online compiled using the digital tool SurveyMonkey.

Also today, we reached out on Facebook to student newspapers and area colleges and universities, sharing information about the Southeast Michigan Media Lab via a PowerPoint link on Scribd and encouraging students to come in for free assistance. We also reached out to The Oakland Press and Macomb Daily/Royal Oak Tribune blogger groups on Facebook, and individual blogger prospects. We’ve added four new bloggers in the last two weeks and we’re working with eight others to get them linked to our news websites across Michigan. If you have a blog or are interested in starting one, please let us know. We would like to recruit 100 in the next year.

We also have plans to present on the Southeast Michigan Media Lab March 22 at Saline High School in hopes of recruiting students for blogging and news-sharing partnerships. The opportunity will be a great learning experience for them, as well as a way to build their portfolios before they head off to college. We’ve also reached out to officials at Belleville and Willow Run schools, and would like to make contact with students across Southeast Michigan.

Three upcoming workshops are planned at the media lab, so mark your calendars. Chris Wechner, director of The Ultimate Analyst, will present “Marketing blogs so people know and want to read your posts” from 1 to 3 p.m. March 28; Monica Drake will present “Understanding Search Engine Optimization to help drive more traffic to your blog or website” from 6 to 8 p.m. April 11; and Toni Jones, a professor at Eastern Michigan University, will present on Google Drive from 6 to 8 p.m. April 24 at the media lab, 215 W. Michigan Ave., in the SPARK-East building in Ypsilanti. Sign up on our Facebook events page.

Helping a business set up a YouTube account

Technology can be intimidating to some people, even if they made their living from technology 15 or so years ago, like Donna Lavin. That’s why the Community Media Lab in Ypsilanti, Mich., is an invaluable resource, whether you’re very familiar with technology and the Internet, somewhat familiar or a total novice.

For Lavin, who owns the Lavin Lift Strap company with her husband, and other business owners, being out of touch with the latest technology tools is no longer a problem if you’re willing to take an hour or so out of your day to come visit us. And the best part is that it’s free. We have a reporter or editor at the lab, 215 W. Michigan Ave., between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday available and at your disposal.

At the Heritage Community Media Lab Aug. 24, Lavin popped in to see us and we helped her set up a YouTube account to showcase her company’s demonstration videos. It was probably something Lavin could have done by herself, but having someone next to her, guiding her and letting her know she was on the right track and helping her come up with tags, provided a sense of security and gave her confidence.

We also talked to Lavin about the next step — setting up a Twitter account to help build an audience and engage that audience by sharing links and information about her product and related topics, as well as retweeting, answering questions and commenting.

Also at the Community Media Lab, we helped freelancer Leslie McGraw map out her multimedia plan to continue a series on the achievement gap in Ann Arbor Public Schools and we spoke to a local resident interested in getting more news published about what’s happening in the local court system. We encouraged him to set up a blog and promote his work using social media, and we may partner with him on it.

If you haven’t had a chance to visit the Community Media Lab yet, we hope you will make time soon. Whether you work in public relations, volunteer as a media liaison for a community group or nonprofit, you’re interested in blogging or sharpening your social media skills, or you’re just uncomfortable using technology and want to get up to speed, we’re here to help you. We’ve helped people set up personal and professional Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, blogs, and edit video. We’ve also hosted a variety of workshops, on everything from writing a press release to editing audio for podcasts to using the Freedom of Information Act to navigating a wiki. Click here to check out what free workshops we have planned for September and October.

We also plan on presenting on our Community Media Lab at local senior centers, chambers of commerce and classrooms. To make arrangements for us to visit, email communitymedialab@heritage.com.

Blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Audio, Video and More


I spent Thursday afternoon and all of Friday in the Community Media Lab and had many conversations about reaching an audience, how to grow an audience, and building relationships on social media. Some of those conversations were more organic, evolving from a chat about today’s media landscape, while others were more focused and specific.

Michael Mathis, an Ypsilanti attorney who says he’s now “shifting gears,” was my first visitor Thursday afternoon, but he really wasn’t there to “visit” with me specifically. I just happened to be in the SPARK East building, where our Community Lab is housed, at the same time he was attending a Shifting Gears support group meeting. While he was waiting, he asked me if I worked for SPARK. I told him I was part of the Community Media Lab and then explained the mission to him. Michael seemed very interested and mentioned he was leaving his career and considering his options. A mentor had suggested that he start a blog. In addition to law, he has a background in journalism and has done voiceover work on Internet radio. He was planning to attend a workshop on the blogging platform WordPress at the Ypsilanti District Library. As soon as he’s done, I suggested he come back and we would help him set up his blog. I also suggested BlogTalk Radio for an Internet talk show. His first hurdle, however, is figuring out what type of content he would be providing. He’s also interested in making revenue from his online activities, so I steered him toward Google AdWords. I don’t know much about it, but I know the Google offices in Ann Arbor offer 20-minute time slots to chat, or he could simply “Google” the information. I wish him the best of luck as he starts his new venture, and hope he returns to us as a content-sharing partner so we can add his voice to our website and the community at large.

Bob Cummings, a community blogger who partners with us, stopped by on Friday to learn more about Scribd.com, ipadio.com for capturing audio and he wanted links to a workshop presented by Leslie McGraw that he missed on integrating social media into your professional development. Bob has been a regular visitor to the Community Lab and has attended some of our workshops. I consider him our super fan because he is so supportive and enthusiastic about our efforts in the lab. He’s also a dream to work with because he is so curious about all of the technology tools out there for him to share his message. After a couple of hours, Bob had his Scribd and iPadio accounts up and running, and tested on his WordPress blog. Bob is a big fan of Twitter and has had a lot of success sharing his message using the microblogging tool. He also has a true understanding of social media and its power. I look forward to reading his new blog posts and seeing how he incorporates the two new tools he learned about to enhance his storytelling and information sharing.

Donna Gilkey-Lavin also stopped in Friday just as Bob was leaving. I had been expecting her after receiving an email from Kyle DeBoard of SPARK, who referred her to me for help with social media. Donna and her husband, who reside in Belleville, started the company Lavin Lift Straps. She has a very interesting story, which she shared with me as we talked about her business and its needs. The Lavins are getting assistance and advice from SPARK, which is good, but she was looking for a little insight about social media and how she can use it to promote her business. We talked about setting up a Twitter account and Facebook page, and I suggested she check out ipadio.com, Scribd.com, Capzles.com, Flickr.com and we talked about YouTube for sharing her product demonstration videos, as well as video testimonials. The company also recently won an award, and I suggested she return to the lab for help on writing a press release. She was so grateful and appreciative, which reminded me how useful the Community Media Lab can be for people. It really is a great resource. I encouraged Donna to set up a Twitter account tonight as a first step. I also suggested she return any weekday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to speak to any of the reporters and editors here, who can help her decide on a blogging platform that fits her needs, educate her more on Twitter and help her set up a Facebook page for her product, as well as a YouTube channel.

While some days spent in the lab can be slow and we use that time to work on our own content for Heritage.com or explore new technology tools, it’s days like yesterday and today that make me feel good about the service we provide in the Community Media Lab. The challenge is spreading the word about what we offer and utilizing those very tools I promote to help reach a larger audience.

Introducing a senior to Facebook — twice

The point of the Community Lab, in part, is to help the public feel more comfortable using technology and to incorporate it into their lives, so they are able to enjoy all of the benefits it has to offer. On Friday, I had the privilege of helping someone I know finally set up a Facebook account.

While I was helping our new education reporter, Danny Shaw, get set up with equipment, tutorials and accounts, my own mother stopped by the Community Media Lab, 215 W. Michigan Ave., in Ypsilanti. At 70 years old, she  bought a new touch-screen computer about a year ago and has been slowly getting familiar with email and the Internet. And when I say “slowly,” I mean (at a turtle’s pace) slowly. She says it has been taking a while because she is so “busy” in retirement. But I am more inclined to think technology may be intimidating to her and she has found other things she would rather be doing, not fully knowing how much the world will open up to her once she becomes familiar with the Internet and everything it has to offer.

As a test, a couple of months ago, I sent her an email saying that once she received it, she should email me back so I know she received it. Well, as I said, it has been two months and still no response. So, when she showed up to the Community Media Lab, I was happy to see her take the first step.

My mother’s Facebook profile picture — for two accounts.

To get her started, I snapped her photo on my iPhone and then placed it in my DropBox so I could easily access it on my laptop. Next, I logged onto Facebook and asked her to enter the information required. Facebook asked that we enter an email address and then retype that address, and we did. Things were going smoothly at first, as I had her fill out her work history, hobbies, interests, high school and college education, and graduation years. We found friends from her high school class, suggested by Facebook, and sent friend requests. I thought we were good to go, until we started ‘liking” pages and Facebook told us we had to access my mom’s email and confirm our Facebook account first. That’s when we ran into trouble.

When I asked my mom to log into her email account and confirm for Facebook, she couldn’t remember her password. After four tries, we were locked out by Comcast. So, I initiated a live chat with a Comcast representative, but after a back and forth, we soon discovered we would have to talk to a live operator because they needed her account number. But my mom — like most people — doesn’t know her account number by heart. After a back and forth again, we learned Comcast wouldn’t reset her password unless she called from her home phone so they could verify her identity. This was especially frustrating since she had driven all the way over to the lab in downtown Ypsilanti and we wanted to get her Facebook account set up. We wondered why Comcast couldn’t simply ask her a few security questions so we could move on with our mission.

Since it appeared to be Comcast’s way or no way, my mom made the trek home and the plan was for her to call me with her new password from Comcast. When she called me, however, she was still trying to get out of contacting Comcast again and wanted me to try two or three more possible passwords. I had to explain, again, that we were locked out and she would have to make the phone call. So, she did and called me back with the password. But, it didn’t work. And that’s when she started complaining about technology and how frustrating it is and it is not as simple as people think. I had to remind her that it’s not Facebook or Comcast’s fault that she couldn’t remember her password, so let’s not blame technology.

My mom called Comcast again and they gave her another password. I suspect she wrote down the first one wrong, but she insisted that she had not. The second one, however, worked. She said the Comcast representative repeated each letter slowly and assigned a noun for each letter (B, as in bear; S as in sloth). That was a good move.

I managed to get into my mom’s email account and looked for the confirmation email from Facebook. But, alas, it was not there, among the 160 unread messages. Hmm, strange. Why would that be? I returned to the Facebook account information and looked at it closely. As I looked at the email account information, I noticed it was a few characters shorter than the email address she had given me to help her access her Comcast account. So, without the ability to verify her Facebook account, I couldn’t make any changes. And we were back to square one.

This was very frustrating. But, again, you can’t blame technology. It was human error.

All I could think to do was start from scratch and create a second Facebook profile, but this time with her correct email address so it could be confirmed. I did so, trying to recollect, as best I could, what she had entered for the first profile. I sent a “friend” request to myself and confirmed it, and uploaded a number of photos from my mother’s youth through young adulthood, midlife and to date. I was fortunate to still have these photos on my computer since last August, when I created a photo collage using BigHugeLabs for her birthday.

So, now, I am friends with two Nancy Rogers on Facebook, and her high school friends, who were sent “friend” requests, I imagine, will be very confused to get two requests from their friend. I just hope they “confirm” the right one or accept both requests and become friends with two Nancy Rogers on Facebook, as I have.

And if anyone knows how to delete that first Facebook account, which we can’t verify because of an incorrect email address, please let me know.

I am confident this little test in the Community Media Lab has helped me fine tune my trouble-shooting abilities as I try to help community members become better connected with the world around them and learn new technology.