Monday, March 28, 2011

11 Lessons in Forming a Sustainable Movement

I gave a talk recently at Bannister Academy about my story and experience as a "digital influencer". To prepare, I used my Maven Secrets talk notes as some sort of a guide. But something happened, I was expected to deliver a speech, not the usual Powerpoint presentation. End up scribbling notes from pages torn in a small notebook.

Good thing there were friendly faces in the audience, blogger friends, where I shared insights that I haven't told anyone before.

At that time, I was reading the book "Brains on Fire" by Robbin Phillips, Greg Cordell, Geno Church, and Spike Jones. It is a great complement to Seth Godin's "Tribes". It provides a lot of valuable insight especially to those of us who get to handle projects that intends to mobilize people and form communities.

The book note of 10 lessons in forming a sustainable movement. Will also use my personal experience in expanding each further. They are:
  1. Find the passion conversation.
    Finding people who talks about your product is not easy. They are usually by-product of a bigger conversation where your brand is just a part of. In my case, the passion conversation centers on e-commerce, blogging, and search engine marketing. As I share knowledge on these subjects, participation and engagement increases in the DigitalFilipino Club.

    In this passion conversation, you will also discover the frustrations and some form of "injustice" experienced by some that can provide ideas on how you will further shape the movement in mind. Whether that being tired of organizational politics (DigitalFilipino Club), looking down on new bloggers or blogs (Top 10 Emerging Influential Blogs), protest on fee-based awards (DigitalFilipino Web Awards and Social Networking Awards), promoting Internet publishing for kids rather than just games (Philippine Schools Cyberfair), lobbying for a law (Philippine Internet Commerce Society and One Internet Day), among others.

  2. Start with the first conversation.
    People join movements for different reasons. Back in the old days of the Philippine Internet Commerce Society, it was stirred by a common passion of making e-commerce possible in the Philippines by pushing for the passage of the E-Commerce Law or Republic Act 8792. The organization didn't got formed with just an idea of one person of course. It was sounded off and the opinion of others got asked. The integration of ideas then formed the charter of the organization's formation in 1997.

    In the year 1999 and 2000, the young organization was a major player for the passage of Y2K Law and E-Commerce Law. It happened through the sustained conversation and activities of the community that gradually grew as days go by.

  3. Look for inspirational leadership.
    This chapter of the book made me reflect really hard. In my last three public speaking stints, I have expressed concern that as influence can be made and developed over time, it has also become a commodity. We've seen this with celebrities who function as product endorsers. As their contract expires, it won't be a surprise anymore when they start endorsing competing brands. Therefore ruining the idea as to what "influence" is really about. In some cases, this has happened to bloggers as well.

    Therefore, the pressure is on for brands to really look for passionate people who has a buy-in with the brand to begin with. That buy-in has to be genuine rather than be seen as a business transaction where it expires as soon as the deal is over.

    It takes only one passionate and committed person to start a movement. When the DigitalFilipino Club started, I thought at first, only active e-commerce players will join the community. Surprisingly, quiet people started joining the group who are just there to learn. But in getting to know them further, I realize that they have so much to share as well and to learn from too. As knowledge sharing gets fostered through conferences, networking events, articles, and video interviews, members were able to inspire each other and the audience at large.

  4. Create a barrier of entry.
    Free or with fee? Open to all or meeting a specific criteria? Community builders should be reminded that it is all about quality rather than quantity. Personally, I strive to hit 100 members in DigitalFilipino Club, 100 active bloggers in the blog network, 100 clients, 100 contacts in the inner circle, among others. Whenever I go beyond it, the quality of attention dissipates. However, each one can be supported as well to create their own 100.

  5. Empower your members, followers, stakeholders, fans with knowledge.
    I think when members of a community segment gets to learn and exchange knowledge with each other, it naturally booms. I guess that is the reason why iBlog: The Philippine Blogging Summit has thrive and now on its 7th year.

    From participation, through attendance or submitting a topic proposal, a lot who has joined the event became its evangelist who help spread the word by blogging about it, put the badge on their blogs, and refer sponsors.

    There is that sense of community ownership as one takes pride taking home the coveted iBlog shirt and express concerns on some of the speakers whose topics get approved or how the event was handled. I guess there is strength in diversity.

  6. Integrate shared ownership into your movement.
    When lobbying for the passage of the E-Commerce Law, one activity that we embraced in year 2000 was One Internet Day - an event where we celebrate the anniversary of the Internet in the Philippines. As the Philippine Internet Commerce Society and later DigitalFilipino did not have enough resource to mobilize a nationwide event, Internet users from different parts of the country were encouraged to organize their own One Internet Day. This activity led to the formation of organizations in various areas of the country, follow-up activities, and fostered strong bond among organizers. 

  7. Build it on a powerful identity.
    It is natural when building a community or organization, people will either just love you or hate you. It is really meant to polarize. When the Top 10 Emerging Influential Blogs writing project came to life, those were the two reactions elicited. When strong emotions are stirred, support or against, then you are really on to something.

    When bloggers are able to share which blogs they regard as influential and up to the point when blog owners get recognized for their blogs, it becomes a powerful identity earned through respect from peers and relationship built over time.

    Having a clear identity is important as that will set you apart from the rest. If done right, you can create a niche category or sometimes be referred to as a "category of one". Find the spirit that makes you who you are (you or your brand).

  8. Tie online and offline efforts and tactics together.
    Online can help in terms of getting the idea across or spread the word. But offline cements the relationship. That is why leaders must take the effort of spending time talking to members and stakeholders, get to know them better, in both formal and casual environment. Build trust.

    When the rallying point comes, the relationship infrastructure built gets tapped and cooperation put to work.

    In the DigitalFilipino Club, in most of our networking events, it is not the business owners who usually attend. There is this "you should attend or meet this..." scenario for every club event. Later on, I realized, it does pay off. Sooner or later, some of the folks who got sent to our club workshops or events start their own business or move on to other organizations. Then an e-mail will usually arrive where their new-found company or employer will join the group. The cycle continues.

    The same happens as well when I get to speak in various blogging events throughout the country. Time gets invested to ensure that relationship is formed.

  9. Make those members, advocates, fans of yours feel like rock stars.
    When forming a club or a site, the challenge is there to ensure that it won't be about the proponent. I guess that is the reason why we have activities that puts the spotlight on others such as the ones mentioned earlier. In addition, we also have the DigitalFilipino Talks, Web Awards, Social Networking Awards, and Philippine Schools Cyberfair.

  10. Get results.
    Results can be tied to the bottom-line, new project opportunities, and some are priceless as well. We have maintained a club membership retention rate of 70%. Project opportunities on the rise that allowed us to invest in one season of DigitalFilipino Talks this 1st quarter shouldering its full cost.

    The priceless rewards will always remain. This includes referring employment and project opportunities, facilitate business partnerships, support advocacies, finding love, among others.
My lesson #11 that I like to share is all about leadership and agility. Have determination to pursue your vision. Have humility in recognizing that you are not perfect and re-calibrate to adjust to feedback. Don't hesitate to reach out and tame your ego at all times. Be patient, kind, and always have peace in your heart.

There will always be politics and stumbling blocks along the way. Forming a movement requires you dealing with a lot of personalities. Some are good, critical, destructive, and helpful. With limited time, learn where to best invest and share valuable moments with.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

One country, one blogging community: A Manifesto of Filipino bloggers and netizens (draft manifesto)

(Update: Tonyo Cruz already posted the manifesto in his blog where people interested to join can sign-up.)

Hi everyone. I am sharing the draft manifesto that Tonyo Cruz sent through e-mail for input (received mine last February 20). The idea with this document was for it to be posted online by bloggers, interested to be part of the group, in their respective blogs and tag others at the lower portion encouraging others to join the effort. If I'm not mistaken, this was inspired by similar call to action made by other groups when they were still forming their bloggers association.


One country, one blogging community
A Manifesto of Filipino bloggers and netizens
March 1, 2011

We, Filipino bloggers and netizens from across the Philippines and those based overseas, coming from diverse backgrounds and specialties, using various new media outlets, hereby come together and call for the formation of a bloggers association of the Philippines that shall unite us around common and beneficial objectives and aspirations, mainly:

  • The promotion and defense of the right to free expression
  • The promotion and development of blogging, vlogging, photoblogging, microblogging and other online creative and expressive forms in all their diverse categories, topics and types
  • The gathering and sharing of Philippine blogging’s best practices that reflect our contributions to ourselves and our online communities, media, causes, organizations and businesses, government, the nation and the world. 
  • The drafting and adoption of a code of ethics that underscore the community’s responsibility and maturity; and
  • The discussion of issues and concerns that confront the community and members of the community
  • The promotion of more affordable, reliable and better internet access in the country  
The association we aspire to form is voluntary in character, national in scope, democratic in decision-making, and progressive in outlook.
  • We draw inspiration from and ask the participation of the city-wide, provincial, regional and island-wide associations, summits and conventions initiated by bloggers across the country.
  • We want an association that makes decisions based on democratic processes, consensus-building and mutual benefit.
A long time has passed since the first blog posts and first blogging events. We are now a bigger, stronger and influential community. Businesses, causes and government have started to organize themselves to interact and engage with us. And we also face challenges within and outside our growing community.

The Philippines, our country and people are also expecting more from us, and we bravely and fearlessly say that we want to do more and achieve more.

In view of all these and more, we declare that there’s no stopping the formation of a most awesome bloggers association for our country.

One country, one blogging community.


By posting this manifesto on my blog, I express my desire to be a founding member of the association.

I also nominate the following bloggers to be founding members as well:


Told Tonyo then that a website or discussion group link will be needed - where interested parties can go to help pursue the discussion in the group's formation. Content-wise, I think it is good.

Based on my discussion with Tonyo last March 3, he got mixed feedback through e-mail as well but one that stand out was the manifesto may not be necessary. Just let interested people sign-up and start with the discussion.

Hope you can give inputs on the improvements of its content (what to remove, what to add, or is the manifesto necessary). Thank you for your patience.

Related note:

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Frequently Asked Questions: National Bloggers Association and Professional Bloggers Association

Last January 31 and February 1, I asked readers on the idea of forming a National Bloggers Association and Professional Bloggers Association. There were questions posted at that time. However, things turned lately to a different level, even got confused on how far the discussion has gone, and I hope that this FAQ will help clarify any misconception.

1. Are you forming a bloggers association? Why?
I am now open to the idea of having a National Bloggers association and Professional Bloggers Association.  The Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP), where I am a founding and current board member, will be updating its Internet and Mobile Marketing guidelines that shall include blog advertising either this year or next.

When that time comes, rather than having limited opinions from individuals, I feel it is best that interested bloggers from all over the country can have its own discussion on these matters and form position papers when needed.

However, I recognize not all blogging groups are into policy development. Hence the suggestion of forming a national and professional association separately whose initial focus is to interact with other groups planning to release policies that will have impact on blogging, directly or indirectly.

IMMAP, an AdBoard member, will need all the inputs it can get. To date, hardly any blogger is a member of the association and having my 1 vote out of the 15 board member slots can be a challenge. However, if there is a national and/or professional bloggers association in place, the discussion can be on a different level.

2. Who will lead the association? Won't it be manipulated by a few?
I think the stage now is who would like to be part of it. From there, let the group decide on who will be its initial 15 board members.

Ideally, these are people who can take the initiative and make time on policy matters. It needs bloggers who see themselves as pro-active contributors in the process. Those who are bold in embracing changes in the days and years to come as blogging and social media becomes mainstream in the Philippines.

To avoid leadership monopoly, the charter board can set guidelines, based on members input, on who can be nominated and set terms on the number of times they can be board members.

3. What is your role in these associations?
My role is to help facilitate its formation and will support the organization (and its voted leaders) in the best way I can.

4. What is the role of Tonyo Cruz in these associations?
Two years ago, Tonyo expressed interest in forming a national bloggers association and committed my support. This is the same moral support that I have given to bloggers and groups in different parts of the country when they were organizing themselves. As I always say, we need leaders and support those who have the best intentions that can help the community.

Tonyo, based on my discussion with him, saw that there are a lot of proposed policies to date that deserves a much broader participation. Without an association, the voices of the popular few will only be heard and may become the de facto on what the community thinks.

With an association in place, I think policies can be set up to ensure that there won't be a monopoly of ideas from the popular few and give those with potential an opportunity to be of service to the members of the association.

Tonyo picked up the ball after my video interview with him. His effort to gather bloggers' support was his initiative already. However, when I got attacked, I realized that a decision has to be made on my end. That is whether I would support or not. Recalling as well what happened two years ago when Tonyo made first attempt in pushing for this.

So this time, I decided to give my full support but had to be clear on what level.

5. Will the association(s) censor what can be blogged or not?
I don't think any association for that matter, even these planned ones, can do that. As bloggers, I think we all share a common belief for freedom of expression and responsible blogging. We should eye the creation of a Level 5 Tribe.

6. Are the planned associations gaining support already?
Many have welcome the idea. I say let all like-minded people move forward and help shape what these association(s) shall become.

7. What can you say to those who are saying that this / these association(s) should not be formed?
I am not open to forming an association just for the sake of it. However, with #1 happening anytime soon and with Tonyo's (#4) observation, my perspective change and I believe it is important to have one.

Definitely, this is a go. It is just a matter of encouraging interested stakeholders to join. I will spend my time with stakeholders who have a buy-in with the idea more than converting people who have closed their minds as soon as the idea was brought up.

8. If I express interest to join, what happens next?
Tonyo Cruz just made a sign-up form in his blog post. He will set up an open / public discussion group to discuss next steps. I request those who volunteer to be part of its formation to help in inviting others and clarify any misconception that is perceived in these groups' creation.

9. There are anonymous attacks posted online that I assume refers to you and Tonyo. What can you say about it? Aren't you afraid that this will destroy you - as what others who have tried forming this earlier have experienced?
I think people who are willing to go out of their own way to ask people - if they are in favor of forming a national bloggers association and professional bloggers association - deserves response from those who can own up to their opinions and converse as industry or professional peers. These efforts are for the interested members kaya sana walang personalan.

I have two beliefs that serve as aid whether I will respond to another person or not:
a. "If we find we cannot help others, the least we can do is desist from harming them."
b. Not to take things personally.
(In short, we all have the option of picking battles that are worthy. "Bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results.")

The least I want is for Tonyo to lose momentum just because I got attacked. Hence the reason for this FAQ with the intent of giving the necessary clarification.

10. What was the bloggers manifesto about?
Tonyo came up with a manifesto and was thinking of encouraging those who are interested to join to sign it. If I am correct, I think this was inspired by other blogging groups whose expression of interest to join is by electronically signing a manifesto or post it on their own blogs.

Tonyo circulated the manifesto to get inputs from people on its content before it will be posted online. I guess to prevent any miscommunication in the future from those who received (and then forwarded to peers for further insight), a discussion group will be necessary where ideas can be discussed and people can interact openly.

11. Will this group have a bloggers certification or special activities like blogger olympics in the future?
There is no discussion on that at the moment.

12. Will the group be mandatory for all bloggers to join?

13. Will there be a fee for joining?
In its organization phase, none. In registering the association, there are fees that needs to be paid for by founding board members. Let the founding board members decide from there on the next steps.

Although most associations have a minimal membership fee to support its administrative operations and annual filing report to government agencies. They can also raise funds through sponsorship rather than membership.

14. Will there be restrictions on who can join?
I gave suggestions on minimum membership requirement for the Professional Bloggers Association. Although again, let the founding board members eventually decide on that. No discussion yet on that for the National Bloggers Association.

15. How do I make sure that these groups won't go into undesirable activities or release position papers I am not in favor of?
Take part. However, be sport enough when outvoted by the majority. (That is easier said than done for I am not good in that either. Continuously learning.)

16. Instead of forming an association, why not just expand existing associations like IMMAP and let them include bloggers?
Bloggers can join IMMAP if they want to. There is a membership process flow in the organization. If more bloggers will join IMMAP, I think that will be cool.

During the Big Bad Blogger issue, it seems IMMAP scope right now is more on how should advertisers deal with bloggers. In terms of blog content, that would fall under the scope of the Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP).

So rather than be put in a situation where associations will decide on how to deal with bloggers on an advertising and public relations perspective, then bloggers responding individually, it seems to be more proactive to already form a body who can interact with these associations, arrive at an agreed position, should situations need to be addressed in the future.

17. Do we need to have a majority vote from all the bloggers in the Philippines to get this organized rather than having a few decide in forming it?
I have been part of several organizations in its formation that intends to encourage membership nationwide - using the word "Philippines" in its organization name. They were formed by 15 people or less. That is why an online fora is being arranged to get more people to participate. This is a long process and won't just happen in weeks. May even take months to get the nitty-gritty done.

Whoever will take interest in its formation can also include in the discussion the final name of the group. In short, nothing is fixed as of this writing as what we have at the moment is call for interested parties to organize.

18. How about expanding Digital Filipino to accept bloggers as members to be represented in these discussions?
There are members in DigitalFilipino Club that are bloggers. However, it is a club rather than an organization.

19. I got the impression that you are promoting Effective Measure in the Philippines. Will you be using the association to promote them?
I am not sure where folks got the idea about this. Sorry to disappoint but am not connected with them. Just got the opportunity to write about the "MOU signing of Top 7 publishers in the Philippines with Effective Measure" as I was there when it happened representing IMMAP (board members got invited during the said event).

Seeing that traditional online media will be adopting a common standard for online audience measurement, I added that in my post for possible discussion as the same advertisers / ad agencies may sooner or later look for something similar in blogs where they will like to advertise. Regardless of tools, I think it is more on the presentation and data format where concerned members can agree to in the future.

20. Can the National Bloggers Association focused on "helping bloggers become better bloggers" or knowledge-sharing in a sense? Take out the "political" parts in the manifesto such as the "better Internet" movement.

My personal bias. Being exposed on policy-making, this is a task that can't be underestimated and has long-term repercussion. To be able to voice out concerns and opinions requires consultation, structure, credibility, and organization legitimacy.

On "better Internet", I believe all of us wants to have a better Internet infrastructure in the Philippines. At this point, I don't see anything wrong that by joining the group, you also want to see improvement in the Internet infrastructure and do your share. As to what they are going to be exactly shall be decided upon by the group.

Also, if it is focused as knowledge sharing body, then I will likely be the first to say that it doesn't have to be referred to as a national bloggers association and maybe redundant as the various blogging organizations throughout the country are doing that already too.

21. Does this body have political aspirations - like run as a party-list?
I don't think bloggers are a marginalized group in the country. I suggest to those who are not familiar on the election process not to confuse people by suggesting scenarios that are not possible in the first place.

22. There are similar "national" associations that were organized in other countries that failed due to its inability to muster support. Are you ready for that scenario?
That is the reason why the purpose for its creation needs to be explicitly clear. I mentioned upcoming issues that require attention and proper representation. It is also the reason why this organization will not be dependent on number of people joining. It is the quality of members, insight and time they'll give, that shall matter.

It also takes strong leadership (from the founding members) to organize a national organization. I would rather see one that tried and failed - than not try at all.

24. The beauty of the blogosphere is in its diversity. By creating a non-mandatory organization that is national in scope, it creates exclusion. What do you think?
Not all folks can be forced to join the group. However, members can be encouraged to help spread the word on policy papers and other positions about to come out. In the process, help in getting opinion from non-members on what they think. All the inputs gathered can help make the group better in coming up with position on various matters. Hopefully, it will also attract non-members to see value in being part of the group in the future - when they are ready to take part.

25. I noticed that the proponents of this movement have poor organization skills. How will you be able to pull this off?
It is fair to say that this movement shall happen and will not be dependent on one or two persons only working. The founding members have to combine their strengths to help each other and make this possible.

Changes in the Philippine Blogosphere

Blog marketing for SMEs (Blogs as alternative to traditional online media ads)

If you have further questions, kindly post it here. Thank you for your patience.