Category: My Projects

It’s Time For a Freelancer (R)evolution

In the 2+ decades I have been working, freelancers have always played an important role in providing expertise or filling in talent gaps for organizations. There are a number of benefits that come with hiring a freelancer including keeping headcount down and reduce payroll to having access to unique expertise with a vast amount of experience.

There are many benefits to being a freelancer as well such as flexibility and taking control of your career path.

However, the downside to both organizations and freelancers is the fact that many hands-woman-legs-laptop.jpgfreelancers work alone. They are responsible for sales and marketing, accounting, project or account management, keeping their skills up to date, and the specific tasks they were hired to do.

My experiences of being a freelancer and managing freelancers sparked an idea of how we can keep all the great things about freelancing while easing the struggles that come from working alone.

Amplified Concepts is a freelancer community where the expertise of individuals are highlighted, a community of freelancers gather, and dedicate teams come together to learn from each other, collaborate, and share resources.

If you would like to know how you can be a part of this (r)evolution, contact me.

The Power of Influence

Last October, we worked with the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau to host the first annual Social Influencer Travel Summit. As you can see from the Infographic below, it was a tremendous success.

What led to such a powerful event, beyond the amazing experiences that the city of Atlanta has to offer and the wonderful host that ACVB is, was that we brought influencers in as a group. The social networking was happening offline as well as online. Each attendee was able to learn and be inspired by each other. We are excited to announce we will be hosting another SITSum this October.

You can download the full report about SITSum 2015 here.


Can we have real relationships with the people we meet online?

This question comes up in almost half the presentations I give.  It is a great question and one that I would like to explore a bit.

People are so busy.

Between work and life and all the demands to be in so many different places both on and offline that it is a struggle to capture a person’s attention enough to show them the benefits of paying attention or socializing with you and your organization. There is a perception that it is noisier online, and that the social web is not as personal, therefore, more difficult to build quality relationships.

I have found that the opposite is true. The demands of our offline world limit us to the people that are in our geographic proximity (work, school, spiritual centers, and so forth). We can not seek out a person who has similar taste as us in music, or a closet writer, or game enthusiast by typing in search terms at a local event. We spend our time bouncing from person to person making small talk about work, the weather, sports, and what our kids are up to.

People are spending more and more time socializing online because there you can pause, read a journal someone has chosen to share, explore and learn from each other, discover other people within the group, all before introducing yourself.

How does this affect our personal interactions with each other? Well just look at a blogger’s enthusiastic expression when they tell you they got to meet their friend that they have known online for some time, notice the trend of all the conferences popping up just so these new found friends can meet each other in person. They already know each other and they already know that the time and money invested in attending an offline event will be well worth it.

Sensei Project worked with the Atlanta Convention Visitors Bureau organizing an event (SITSum) for social media influencers who write about travel, food, family, and entertainment. The event was organized to empower peer-to-peer learning. The event was a success in a variety of ways, but what made it special is people who knew each other online met in person and the people who traveled from various parts of the world to meet new friends get to stay in touch long after the event was over.


My take is that online communities are helping us to slow down a bit to get to know each other again. It is not a substitute for personal contact, it is enhancing the need and desire for such contact.


Want to learn more about the Social Influencer Travel Summit? Download the report.

Trees Atlanta Wins The Change Challenge!

originally posted on Concept Hub

Last summer as I was watching The Voice an idea hit me. What if we put teams of people together to compete on developing and implementing a social media strategy. After a few months of bouncing the idea around, I teamed up with Jake Aull and Terry Coniglio and The Change Challenge was born.

The Change Challenge was made up of 4 teams of 4 volunteers that supported  4 different sponsoring nonprofits. Led by myself, Terry, and Jake the teams received hands-on training on developing a social media strategy and integrating social media into business processes. Ultimately The Change Challenge was a competition where each team was judged based on Creative Problem Solving, Goals Met, and a Sustainable Implementation.

A couple of weeks ago The 2011-2012 Change Challenge volunteers celebrated their incredible journey with an awards breakfast.

A special thanks to our judges:

  • Dr. Naveen Donthu, Department of Marketing Chair, GA State University
  • Jeannie Ericson, Executive Director, Integrated Media Association
  • Cindy Cheatham, VP Consulting Services, GA Center for Nonprofits

Volunteers from The Change Challenge had the opportunity to present at SoCon12 and will be presenting at the CXO Forum and the GCN Summit.

Congratulations to the Trees Atlanta team for winning The 2011-2012 Change Challenge. 

Comments from the judges:

  • “Goals were well defined and met.”
  • “Their focus on a content calendar was key to creating a sustainable implementation.”
  • “Everything they did seems very creative but logical and well thought-out”
The Change Challenge Trees Atlanta Team

Trees Atlanta team included: Abby Schwimmer, Kent Jones, Sara Cheshire, Elyse Klova, and their nonprofit sponsor Bethany Clark


“I applaud the team for persevering through all their challenges. Their flexibility and creativity kept the idea alive.” Judges comments related to the Atlanta Mission Team. 

“A lot of good came from the project in terms of understanding what kind of effort must go into a real social media campaign.” Judges comments related to the Adaptive Learning Team


“Really thought through where you want to go and the opportunities to expand” Judges comments related to the Emory Center for Injury Control Team.

This was an incredible experience and I sincerely appreciate and am still in awe of the dedication and hard work from everyone that was involved.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead

Making the “Holiday Ask” Personal (A Case Study)

It’s that time of year;

  • The ringing of the Salvation Army bells
  • The opportunity to donate food as you buy your groceries
  • Events that require toys for tots as an entry fee

Whereas all of these activities are successful because they make it easy to give, they seem to lack the personal touch of knowing who you are supporting, where your gifts are going, or how you are changing lives. They also require enormous effort to attract partners and volunteers to be everywhere shoppers and party-goers are.

Even though the end of the year is a time of giving both for altruistic reasons and for tax reasons, it is also a time of great competition for dollars among nonprofits. The smaller nonprofits need to be extra creative within very tight budget constraints.

My client, Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation, has created a campaign that is creative, compelling, entertaining with a personal touch.

It starts with a video, Santa Claus Needs New Eyewear.

The video is funny, showcases the work that the Lighthouse does, and has a call to action. The Lighthouse produced this video by showcasing the talents that existed in their own building. The lyrics were written by a staff member and the vocals were provided by another staff member.

The call to action is for you to visit their holiday website Check It Twice.  At the website, instead of just asking for a donation, the Lighthouse has developed a holiday gift catalog where you can choose the amount you would like to give by choosing the gift you would like to give. Not only does this make your gift more personal, in one snapshot it also tells the story of all the work that the Lighthouse is involved with.

While you are the site you can also read the touching letter from Gary who continues to be a productive member of society thanks to the work of the Georgia Lions Lighthouse.

Not only has the Lighthouse developed an entertaining campaign that is seeking end of the year gifts,  they are also effectively enhancing the community’s awareness of the work that they do all year long; work that not only makes a difference to the lives of individual clients but also makes a difference for the whole community.

Social Story-Telling (A Case Study)

About a year ago I was offered the gift to work with Liz Hayes, the Marketing Director for the Center for the Visually Impaired, to build out their social media strategy. Liz is one of those amazing clients who is not only a sponge for information and ideas but also someone who will effectively implement those ideas.

The past couple of months Liz and I have had the opportunity to co-present at the Georgia Center for Nonprofits. At a presentation yesterday Liz was able to showcase how all her hard work in social media is paying off.

Each time I speak to a group of nonprofits I start by asking a few questions.

1. What is your mission? 

Practically everyone can answer this question….by rote memory.

2. Why?

Because the mission statement is usually memorized, it is too common that people have to think for a moment about why their mission is what it is.

3. Who have you specifically helped?

90% of the time this question is answered with a statement that sound like it is right out of a marketing brochure. “We have helped 25,000 people who have found themselves without the means to….blah blah blah.” There is nothing to pull at my emotional strings in such statements.

The statement that more the 7,500 soldiers have died in Afghanistan does not have the same impact as hearing about the soldier who had only 2 more weeks left in Afghanistan before he could come home to see his newborn daughter but was killed while on the side of the road changing a tire for a stranded citizen.

4. How does what you do impact my life?

This question almost always stumps my audience. The typical answer is that they are there if I  or anyone I know ever need them. That is great, but how are you going to raise money when the only people who know about you are the people who need you?  The goal of this question is to help my audience see how what they do has a larger positive impact on society as a whole and that we all benefit from their work and therefore we all have a responsibility to support them.

This is the consultation that Liz has run with at CVI. The CVI Facebook page is full of personal stories, valuable resource information, inspirational stories, and stories of how CVI impacts society as a whole. And it is paying off tremendously.

In a year her community has grown to over 400 members – which is a strong following for a locally focused nonprofit organization. However what is so impressive is the 25% of that following is talking about CVI to their friends.

And what are people talking about? Personal stories of the impact that CVI is making on people’s lives and on society. 

Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 11.25.59 AM

Jack and Luke are four years old, visually impaired, and on the path to a lifetime of learning and adventure as braille readers. You can help Jack, Luke and CVI clients of all ages with the vision to see beyond their disability.

What is the secret to CVI’s success? Liz would tell you that before she posts anything on Facebook she thinks about who it is for, why they would care, and what action they would take. She always puts herself in the shoes of her community first.

The Concept Behind The Change Challenge

originally posted on Concept Hub

If you have been following on any of my networks, you should have seen me promoting my latest project The Change Challenge. If you have not heard of The Change Challenge yet, it is a 6-month project that Concept Hub, Inc and GSU have partnered on. We are putting together 5 teams that will support 5 different nonprofits through social media. At the end of 6 months, there will be a conference where each team member can showcase their expertise and case studies as well as an awards dinner where teams will be recognized for their achievements. I have recently posted a few FAQs about the project.

The Change Challenge is a project that was created to solve a few problems I have recognized.

Long ago when I got started in social media, it was all about grassroots activism. Recently we have read and watched big stories about revolutions being credited with social media. That is great, but what about using social media to make a difference in our own communities. That is where the power is, but due to a lack of training and resource, many nonprofits are still well behind the curve. The Change Challenge will provide 5 nonprofits and provide them with the training and resources to get a good program launched.

But who will be on these teams? I have met many, many people who express a desire to learn social media. I have also met many people who have gotten involved with social media and are trying to get some credibility for running a project. What if these people joined a team and received 6 months of hands-on training for FREE? That is what The Change Challenge is offering to those who are selected to be part of a team.

By making it a competition, the whole project becomes fun for us to watch. That is what is really unique about The Change Challenge. You could go to 5 events a day and hear about a social media case study, but can you watch 5 competing cases as they evolve?

We are approaching our first milestone. This Saturday the team will be meeting to select the team members and the nonprofits. There is still time to get your application in. If you are interested send me an email at sherry[@] or give me a call at 404-386-9801.

Should you hire a community manager?

About a year and a half ago, in addition to running Concept Hub, I also started working with eRollover as their Community Director. What I enjoy most about doing both jobs is the ability to get a 360-degree view of integrating social media into an organization. I have years of experience helping a variety of clients as a consultant, and with eRollover, I get the experience of working inside an organization.

A couple of weeks ago I had an epiphany. The companies who need community managers the most are typically larger companies that are faced with the challenge of changing human behavior internally. Smaller, more agile companies and especially start-ups can create a culture that embraces social media as part of everyone’s job. I suppose I came to this conclusion because of how quickly eRollover is becoming a social company from the inside out.

As I pondered this, I came across an infographic published by Mashable that suggests an integrated approach gets more results than having a dedicated social media team. Their examples compare larger organizations with different approaches to social media.

Of course, the integrated approach within a larger organization has many challenges. How do you keep everyone on message? How do you harness and distribute the valuable information that can be gathered from social media? How to you keep everyone involved in social media up to date with what seems like daily technical changes happening on the social web? How do you keep people focused on their core job as opposed to getting distracted by the social web? When, how, and what should be measured on the social web?

A community manager should be managing the entire community, both internally and externally.  Perhaps a community manager is not so much a “social media expert” but someone who specializes in change management and organizational development.

Should you hire a community manager? As I ponder that question I now believe that depends not on the size of your organization, or the maturity of the organization,  but on the expected rate of change your organization is facing.

What do you think?

Ego Challenges

Not long ago I was browsing through the bookstore seeking inspiration. A book called The 33 Strategies of War got my attention.

War is a constant reality for my generation. I can not think of a time in my life where there was not some war somewhere that America was somehow involved with. At the same time I have the ability to go through my day to day life without thinking about war at all. Even when it was brought to our homeland on 9/11/01, it did not take long for many people to get back to their daily life.

My generation has grown up with war, but at the same time, with the ability to ignore the realities of war.

I am enjoying the book. It is a leadership book that points to strategic warfare of historic battlefront leaders.

What the book has done for me so far is to help me think about the life and death situation and what such a situation does to a person. I also have been considering what does defeat do to a person? I think about the American obsession with sports and wonder is that a way for us to express and live out our desire to be at war? Is war more natural than we would like to admit? We like to ignore the ugliness of war but many people will also admit it is the life or death struggle, the competitive death matches, that have brought out the best in people.

How much good does living the comfortable life do for us? There are stories in the book of people being stuck because of comfort and not pushing themselves to greatness – not being forced to think of creative solutions.

When I initially thought of writing Defeating the Ego, I was in the midst of a battle myself. A battle against my feelings toward people who I felt wronged me in some way, a battle against my own inhibitions, and a battle against feeling stagnant. However my initial theory was that if we could learn to defeat our egos and work together, to be less competitive and more cooperative, we could progress much faster. I thought that our own evolution would make us aware of our own unique strengths and that it is better to partner than to conquer.

I think this is true at times, but that we still need conflict and competition to focus our strengths and open our minds to creative problem solving. We need egos that want to win, that drive us to win and that make us reflect on our actions that keep us from winning.

But that is where we face our ego challenges. The times when we need to call on our great self confidence and perhaps our exaggerated sense of self worth, but we need to so without letting the ego take charge.

Perhaps that is more what Defeating the Ego is about. Times when egos grew too big and destroyed the very entity that needed a big ego to build. How to balance drive and determination with a clear head that knows when it is best to step back and listen, or to let go and trust the process, or to be a number in a game of collaboration. Perhaps my book is about war – a war we fight everyday with our ego – where we are defined by the outcome as either great leaders or great losers.

Learning how to relate as partners rather than dominators

My last post explored ideas about managing people based on their individual concerns and desires as opposed to threats or concerns for the brand. As individuals though, we still seek to be part of a larger system.

We enter into social systems, whether for work, fun, or community as individuals but we seek to be a vital part of a whole. People are inherently social creatures who want to be a part of something larger than themselves.

As stated in the book  Conscious Evolution:

Self actualization occurs when we find our vocations and express them meaningfully in the world. Our vocations are drawn forth by the process of finding others we need, by enlivening our individual lives and the quality of life in the community.

There was a time when people feared that the Internet would keep people from being social creatures, but the rapid adoption of the social web has shown just the opposite. People want to join in the conversation and have an impact on their world. People are working together to make a difference and to make their mark without regards to traditional methods of compensation. What they are working for is to create value for themselves and for their world. It will be our collective values that will guide the use of these tremendous new capabilities.

The dark side of the collective web is the use of loud voices and large, organized numbers of people who gather to go on the attack. All to often special interest groups fortify themselves by putting others down.

Consider for a moment that all ideas are human-made and none are the absolute truth. Common sense dictates that we evaluate our beliefs on the basis of how they affect us.

For as we see reality, so we act, as as we act, so we shape reality.

-Conscious Evolution

So how does this relate to “defeating the ego” and the social web?

One of the most common concerns I hear about the social web is that people now have the ability to personalize what they pay attention to. This will enable people to listen only to news that they agree with and to connect only with people who think like them. We will all get tunnel vision and become blind to diverse perspectives. This is a very valid concern. It is a human behavior that has existed in many people in many ways long before technology enabled such actions.

However consider for a moment that shared values are the result of listening, appreciating, building consensus, and practicing conflict resolution. For people to understand the values and come to agree with them, they must participate in the process; unity is forged, not forced.

Never will there be two people, much less a group of people that think the same way. As groups of people form, each individual will bring to the group different ideas and perspectives. The difference between groups being formed in a digital world from groups that were formed in the past is that every individual has a means to communicate their unique perspectives. Communication is no longer top down.

What I have witnessed and experienced over the years are connections made online by two or more people who would have never have met without the Internet. People who lived very different lives and had very different ideas. However when two people find one common passion, whether it is politics, spirituality, sports, or their vocation, they will form a strong bond around that connection and will then open themselves to other ideas from that person which may be opposite from how they see the world.

Functional egos look for shared values. Dysfunctional egos impose their values on others. The social web is defeating the ego by enabling people to share their values and seek others with similar values.

Other changes that have shifted the power from dominating personalities to that of collaborative partnerships is the increasing need to stay ahead of or keep up with the innovation curve.

Innovation comes more from listening than from telling. Product and service innovations tend to come from customers, clients, vendors, people in labs, and people on the front lines; process innovations from the people doing the work. More and more we are seeing companies turning to their employees of all levels to find out what direction they feel the company needs to go. Consumers are more empowered than ever to dictate to companies what products and services they want and how they want to be treated.

Basically, now that everyone has the ability to communicate and share, everyone has the ability, and I would argue the responsibility to behave as partners in their work, community, and family lives. More and more dominators have no place in this new world.