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.

Image is Everything! Finding Pictures that Tell a Story

In this of rapid information flying at us from every direction, it is vital that communicators are careful to craft a compelling message, nay a story, that can cut through the noise and resonate with their audience.

The best way to do that is through imagery. And the best images are able to tell a story all on their own.

Take this picture.


There are many stories that a pair of dirty worn out shoes can tell. When Communities In Schools  of Georgia paired that image with a bit of text that read, 

Did you know many students will come to school hungry, homeless, ill-clothed or lacking basic medical care? Teachers are overwhelmed by their level of need. In fact, a poll this summer of teachers nationwide found that last year alone, 54% of teachers used their own money to help feed students and 49% of teachers helped their students get new clothing or footwear.

they saw an increase in reach of over 5000 % from previous posts.

Today I will share my top go-to sights for finding pictures that can tell their own story.

Stock photography gets a bad rap but those shoes mentioned above were found on my favorite stock photography website Photodune. Not only do they have some compelling photos, you can buy most images for as little $1.

You may have noticed that here at Sensei Project we like to use photos of the real world around us on our website and social media sites. We find most of those beautiful, and free to use photos at

I know many people who go to Google Images to find photos. If you don’t search for the right kind of photos you could get yourself in trouble. Be sure to go to the advanced search option, 


and then scroll down to usage rights and select the right license for your needs.

If you are looking for some amazing pictures of history, you need to scroll through New Old Stock which provides vintage photos from the public archives.

Finally, if you are looking for great pictures with an authentic feel, you should subscribe to Death to the Photo Stock and you will receive emails with great photos that you are free to use.

Do you have any favorite go-to places for photos? Please share with us in the comments section.

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?

Social Media Consulting Vs. Community Management

originally posted on Concept Hub

Since 2005 I have had the privileged to provide consultation, training and project management to several clients in the Metro Atlanta area. One of those clients, eRollover, has provided me with the opportunity to round out my experience by serving as their Community Director.

I  have always believed that social media needs to be integrated with the various in-house job functions. As a consultant, my role has often been to guide my clients to adopt social media in the various ways that the organization felt ready. For some clients, it was as basic as getting their employees set up on Linkedin, for others it is was launching a branded niche community. As a community manager on staff with eRollover my role has been to continue to push the organization to be a social company from inside out.

Although my responsibilities include driving traffic to the website, getting followers on Twitter and Facebook and encouraging engagement on the various sites, I also need to ensure that each team member is also part of the community, not just on our site, but throughout the web.I have had the opportunity to sit in the strategy meetings for every aspect of the company to ensure that we are leveraging social software for everything from raising money to generating revenue.

What I have learned in the past year is:

Consulting is a lot easier than managing! As a consultant, I am still very hands-on with all the tools and personally apply the best practices. But when I apply my theories to my personal brand or even the Concept Hub brand, I am personally involved and the positive results have often been a result of the fact that I am aligned with people of like minds. As a manager of a brand, I am trying to align the brand (a start-up brand at that) with a community of people who are already involved with other similar brands. I need to do this in such a way that I am not the center of attention, but the brand is, as well as the various team members. What has worked for me personally is not always working out for the brand.

Community Management cannot be a silo-ed position! This is not a surprise to me, it is what I have believed all along. Social Media touches every aspect of the business. Any effort in the business can be enhanced by social media. A community manager not only needs to be in the boardroom and at various team and strategy meetings, they need to also be meeting one on one with all the decision managers helping them understand the impact that social media can have on the direction of the business. I am very fortunate that I am working with a team that believes this as well.

You need more than one voice on the web. Although ultimately I am responsible for the direction and the success (or failures) of our social media program, I cannot be the only voice on the web. I am representing only one perspective. In the case of eRollover, I can align with Gen Xers who have realized they need to do more to save for their future. Others on the team are active investors and can align with like minds. Although it is the eRollover brand that needs to be the center of the conversation, conversations happen between people and the more voices we have on the web from the team the more people we can align with.

Guidelines evolve! For many people who have managed a brand for a long time, social media continues to present some mind-boggling challenges. Especially now that brands can be involved in the conversations in the case of a branded twitter campaign or the new roll out of Facebook Pages that enable brands to comment on other brand pages. As social media continues to evolve your guidelines need to evolve. For example, if your community is gathering on a particular political site, should your brand be there?  If yes what will others who are from the other political spectrum think of your brand?

Social Media roles are here to stay! at least for awhile. I have read many opinions that social media is going to be swallowed by existing roles such as PR or Marketing. What I believed long ago when I started this agency and what I have found to be true in my role as Community Director is that there is a need for a new role focused solely on social media. We need PR to focus on PR while integrating social media into their role. We need marketing to focus on marketing while integrating social media into their role. But organizations will also continue to need an agency or person who can continue to find new ways to push the company to be more innovative and to include new markets which will be the role of the savvy Community Director and Social Media consultants.

Perhaps the titles will change as more people try to differentiate their offerings. Perhaps the roles will vary based on the needs and culture of each organization, but I do believe the need for expertise in social media will be needed for a good long time.