Toronto Net Tuesday: Why non-profit marketers and PR pros should give up movie night
Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 6:23PM
Karen Luttrell in Net Tuesday, cloud computing, data visualization, digital marketing, gamification, infographics, social media, technology

popcorn photo by KozumelThe Net Tuesday event had popcorn, was fun, and was far more informative than a typical movie night. Perfect for non-profit communicators who want to better understand the tech at their disposal. Photo by Kozumel. The Toronto Net Tuesday meetup that TechSoup Canada held on January 24th was affordable, informative, and more fun than a movie on discount night. My first Net Tuesday meetup was also inspiring – something I don’t say about many Hollywood films.

Held at the Centre for Social Innovation, the event was titled Exploring tech trends & the opportunities for non-profits. Co-organizer Jane Zhang presented an interesting overview of technology trends affecting non-profit organizations. Zhang gets bonus points for illustrating her presentation with Star Trek clips.

For non-profit marketers, communicators and public relations professionals, a good understanding of the technology tools at our disposal can help us make our organizations stand out and get noticed. And it can help us inform and engage the right people. So I would happily recommend the Net Tuesday meetups, even if they hadn't offered tasty popcorn.

Co-organizers Jane Zhang and Tierney Smith outlined five major technology trends that are affecting non-profits: big data, mobile, cloud computing, gaming and gamification, and social media.

I’ll share some of the key take-aways, and a few thoughts of my own below.

Big Data

The human race has created a data explosion. Zhang told us that we are generating 25 quintillion bytes of data each day. That’s 25 plus 18 zeros.

Our first challenge is to store, organize, and access this data effectively. To this end, Tech Soup proposes we put our heads together and start developing some open data standards. The goal is for all of us in the non-profit sector to be able to share our data across organizations for more effective collaboration and a better understanding of trends, needs, and progress.

The next challenge? Once we have access to all this great data, communicators must turn it into information and present it in a format the public can understand and absorb. Enter data visualization and the infographic.

The word cloud is one simple type of graphic that I’ve seen many non-profits using. You can create your own word cloud for free with Wordle.  Some organizations may use the free Google Chart Wizard as well. But we, as communicators in small non-profits, need to step it up.

Last spring Fast Company shared a short list of free infographic tools but personally I’m looking forward to new tools in this area. Have a favourite tool for data visualization or creating infographics? Please, please, please share it in the comments.


The trend in consumer electronics is toward ever increasing mobility, with an emphasis now on ultrabooks – a combination of laptop and tablet.

Cloud Computing

As we share all this data we are generating and process it into meaningful information, a lot of the computing is happening in the cloud. It’s not happening on your phone, tablet, or ultrabook.  Cloud computing can open up collaboration opportunities and offer alternatives to expensive software packages. A classic example is the suite of free Google Docs.

Gaming and Gamification

The technology used in gaming has created a rich, interactive and even three dimensional environment with which we can create a whole new level of user experience and educational opportunity.  One interesting example of what's being done with Google Earth can be seen in this YouTube video.

If you’d like to see what your organization can do with Google Earth, you can download the application.

Social Media and Engagement

In a small group discussion about social media and how it has changed the way non-profits work, group members said they engage in multi-directional conversation. This means they listen to their audience more and are more cognizant of the messages they are putting out. They also found that social media has made them more connected to colleagues outside their organization and they collaborate more through social media connections.

The multitude of social media tools, and how to choose between them was another important topic of discussion. Until last night my favourite infographic to help with understanding social media options came from But now my favourite social media infographic is the Conversation prism by Brian Solis and Jess3.

Larger versions of the Conversation Prism by Brian Solis and Jess3 are available at

Thanks to Liz Rice of Re-Source + Eco-Events for sharing the conversation prism.

If the topic of social media for non-profit communications interests you, be sure to take advantage of Social Media Week 2012. Some events sold out right away but new ones are being added until the first week of February and I hope to see you there! Or maybe at the next Toronto Net Tuesday event?

Until then, let's carry on the conversation. What technology trends are affecting your non-profit organization? How are you using new technology to communicate and collaborate?

Article originally appeared on Karen Luttrell Communications (
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