Leave Your Shoes at the Door

sign for nice peopleOver the last few days I have been interested to see the many and varied reactions to David Armano’s efforts at fundraising for his friend, Daniela. You can read the original post here (and Scott Drummond’s excellent coverage here).

While there are a number of supporters, there have also been a number of detractors. David, himself, has come out and admitted that this has turned out in a way that he had not predicted:

On that note, there are all kinds of attention being drawn to this including criticism. To say I knew what I was getting into would be inaccurate. My initial concerns were for the safety of my own family, not what the pundits have to say about this … I am not a fundraiser. I'm a dad, husband and full time employee—and an imperfect one at all three. Belinda and I decided not to sit this one out. It's really that simple.

Some of the questions that have been raised go directly to the heart of social media … what does it mean to be “connected”, where does responsibility overlap “connection” and what happens to our TRUST when money is involved?

Scott Henderson, for example, writes a provocative post claiming I Gave $10 to David Armano to Help Daniela and Now I Regret It and Mark Mayhew seems to have spent some time visiting various blogs questioning the trust that been placed in the David-Daniela story. I am sure there are plenty of other articles available – both positive and negative.

David Armano simply activated his network to change a situation – he asked people to donate a small amount of money. In doing so, he put the trust of that network to the test. He put his credibility on the line. He opened his personal actions to the scrutiny of the world (or at least the several thousand connections he has created over the last few years). In doing so, he has raised over three times the amount that he had aimed for (which was $5000).

We have seen the power of social networks before. A similar approach raised over $16,000 for Variety via The Age of Conversation (and Age of Conversation 2 continues the tradition) … and I have been involved in a number of more personal projects that benefited particular individuals. And let’s face it, the job of a marketer is to encourage people to participate (in a relationship of some kind). However, this is not simply a matter of raising awareness, or even raising funds – once it takes hold, these SOCIAL projects become MOVEMENTS and grow quickly beyond our grasp.

As Spike Jones from Brains on Fire explains, a movement can begin with a single conversation:

If that conversation is filled with honesty, transparency, true interest and a LOT of listening, then the first seed is planted. The movement has begun in one mind and one heart. And that’s usually the beginning of something powerful, meaningful and full of potential that gets realized more every day.

And this is what David Armano has begun. It is what a great number of people have participated in. For many, it is their first time. Perhaps they found their participation thrilling, exciting. Perhaps, like Scott, they felt worried afterwards. But this is exactly what social media is about. It is going beyond the merely social. It is moving quickly from words to action. It is about risking your trust. It is not always strategic. It is not even always tactical. But it is ALWAYS personal (for someone) – which, again, is why businesses find it challenging to get started.

Take a look at this great post by Mack Collier and his discussion with Olivier Blanchard – “The point [of social media] is really to help people connect better”. It is through social media that we begin to not just “connect” but find the place where we BELONG.

So if you get involved in a social movement like this … remember, leave your shoes at the door. It’s not “safe” in the way that you would normally consider “safety”. It’s not controlled by an administrator. It’s not overseen by a government department. You might think, after the fact, that your participation could have been different, more tempered, focused.

But your participation marks your initiation into the tribe. You can never unlearn this experience.

The rules are different. And now, so are you.

UPDATE: Alan Wolk has a great post on this topic, and Scott Henderson follows-up yesterday's discussion after chatting with David Armano.

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15 thoughts on “Leave Your Shoes at the Door

  1. Having just come up to speed on this story, I now understand why I am becoming less interested in what social media “gurus” have to say. Many are simply blowing hot air, and stories like this continue to confirm it.
    I constantly hear bickering about companies needing to this, that and the other. But, as soon as someone does something nice for someone or few, the reaction comes off as the world is about to end.
    As much as I hear all the bantering about about social media, rarely do I hear people talking about how it can be used to help society. Shouldn’t that be a part of the discussion as well? Furthermore, there is absolutely nothing wrong with people wanting to help people they see everyday. In fact, we should expect nothing less. If they cared more about their network versus the people that directly impact their life offline, then I would have to respect them less.
    And for those that regret donating $10 dollars, it shouldn’t matter whether you helped a family, or ten families. Helping is helping no matter how many are involved.
    In my book, giving and helping is the real definition of being part of a community – digital or analog.

  2. It is easy to take shots at someone else’s work or efforts – but much harder to actually stand up and change something or someone’s life.
    As you say, helping is helping. We should all be blessed to have an Armano in our community (should we ever need it).

  3. Nice write up and thanks for the shout-out. We also say that movements need resistance.If everybody loves you and loves what you’re doing, then something is wrong (just as it is when everyone hates you).
    When it comes down to it, social media tools might run on technology, but they are people-powered. And people have emotions, breaking-points and are fallible. It’s so easy to criticize and be criticized and that just makes an atmosphere of bullying and fear. If that happens, then nobody wins. The day belongs to the courageous.
    Great post.

  4. That post of yours has stayed with me for some time!
    I had completely forgotten about resistance. Too true! Without it we may not be challenged to try so hard.

  5. I thought you might like to see my follow-up post to the one you linked to in yours. Here it is:
    Helping Our Neighbors: Further Thoughts on the Armano Family’s Act of Charity http://tr.im/5jlr
    Personally, I don’t agree how you have placed me in the same bucket as the other gentlemen. I have taken great consideration and thought to this issue with the intent of reframing how we view charity in this new era. One can only guess what the other guy’s motivations are, since he is yet to articulate them cogently.

  6. Thanks for commenting, Scotty, that’s an excellent follow-up. The title of your post was certainly provocative – so you definitely succeeded in generating conversation on the topic. However, I had no intention of placing you in the same bucket as Mark Mayhew, who as you say, has some as yet undisclosed agenda.

  7. Hi Gavin,
    Thanks for the post. I must have had my head in the ground 9or somewhere else) following David’s effort, as I had no idea this many people were picking it apart.
    It is easy to take shots at someone else’s work or efforts – but much harder to actually stand up and change something or someone’s life.
    As you commented above, helping is helping. I’m not quite sure where it seems the crowd turned – or the exact dollar amount that was the tipping point turning this gift into “too much” for a reported person in need to receive.
    Can’t it just be that as a group we donated a little something to help a stranger? The fact that that concept incites speculation into ulterior motives saddens me beyond words.
    I’d love to see people just embrace this as a good deed, get a warm fuzzy and help another stranger. Think what a nicer planet we would leave to generations to come if we could just “pay it forward” without analyzing it. (yes, I am an eternal optimist… and plan to stay that way.)
    I’m a fan, Gavin.
    @brandiei on Twitter
    p.s. I donated $10 and I’d do it again.

  8. Hi Gavin.
    I think what David did was heartwarming and an example to us, not only of the way he raised the funds, but the way he opened his own home to a family.
    Raising funds for a nonprofit using social media is proving to be a rewarding experience, but also a very challenging and educational feat because the stories are not as personal as Daniela’s (eg I live in different country to the people I am trying to help.) However, I am constantly amazed and surprised by the generosity of people who will help to promote a good cause (helping to end poverty and transform a community in need.) Thanks as always for sharing your insights and observations.

  9. The Internet, in particular the Internet marketing world, is rife with both hype and folks who want to believe in instant weight loss, overnight wealth, or larger sexual appendages. Our desire (and I include myself) for more money, power, love, or fame drives the impulse to trust naïvely and then blame the one we trusted when they let us down.
    At the same time, the Internet has a long tradition of authentic trust characterized by freely giving and receiving without an eye to the short-term rewards. Authentic trust is something that develops over time, and David Armano certainly put in his time.
    It doesn’t make sense to freak out when anyone, whatever their motives, makes a claim on our trust. Who we trust and on what basis is always a matter of choice.

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