The Age of Conversation & Youth: A Social Media Primer

aoctalkbubble.jpg“Social networks get things done,” says the narrator of this short video primer I found on Kim Klaver’s blog, who happens to be one of my co-contributors in The Age of Conversation.

Wow, I’ll say. Today Drew and Gavin’s visionary book, The Age of Conversation comes alive! It’s already featured in Social Computing Magazine here, the Ad Age bookstore here, has its own Facebook group, LinkedIn network, and teaser on YouTube. An alphabetized Google map shows the global scope of contributors. And a fabulous profile roundup of the 103 co-authors from 10 countries and 24 states on Arun Rajagopal’s blog in Oman. (he admirably took the time to visit each co-author’s site personally and offer a virtual handshake)

Why is The Age of Conversation so important? It’s just a book, right? This global social media experiment to benefit children’s charity embraces the power of the internet today’s kids are growing up with, which parents truly need to understand. Blogs. Chat rooms. Forums. Social networks...all 21st century digital conversations that youth embrace as a ‘given’ when parents may still be at the inquisitive ‘huh?’ stage. Parents must ‘get it’ to preclude any accusation of slippage into the Pleistocene era, for it’s key to open communication and being able to understand your own child!

The Age of Conversation also has the ability to fast-track cause-marketing and rock the world of digital philanthropy if we unite with innovation and purpose, as Michele Martin points out in The Bamboo Project blog here. Further, Beth Kanter’s brilliant primer on mixing digital social media and fundraising strategies is a nonprofit must-see. (pdf file here)

When I talk about youth’s potential to mobilize a digital dialogue in a nanosecond, I’m speaking of the exact same social media phenom that’s transpiring here for our book!

Think about it. Drew McClellan and Gavin Heaton have never met each other, live in opposite parts of the world, and shared a few commonalities that seeded an idea.

In three months time, these agents of change have brought a top quality book to market and a fully published probono project to fruition, uniting disparate views and voices into a digital conversation that will no doubt spark new thinking among communicators everywhere!

“That rocks,” as my tween might say.

I’m particularly thrilled to be a co-author in this ground-breaking global collaborative because the ENTIRE effort exemplifies the Shaping Youth tagline and vision when we say we’re “Using the power of media for positive change.”

So what IS a social network, anyway? Is it a community? Is it a conversation?

I’ve been asked this a gazillion times by perplexed parents trying to figure out the Bebo and MySpace phenom, much less the Imbee and Club Penguin tween online social media scene or the latest mobile social GPS trackers like Benephone, or Loopt, Google’s Dodgeball, and other integrated social networks.

This fun YouTube clip from the Common Craft Show literally draws a line to sketch out the ABC’s of social networking. “It’s all about who you know, who your friends know and who your friend’s friends know, like a map for a highway to further a conversation.”

Cynics might say “sup?” on a MySpace page or “hey!” coming out of an animated penguin “chat bubble” isn’t exactly worthy of mental floss brain stimulation to qualify as “conversation.”

But for youth, it’s ALL about self-expression in its many forms and variations.

Whether kids are zapping short code text to Twitter, or taking the conversation into more meaningful dialogue on blogs, forums, and specialized sites like Shelfari, the fun Readergirlz community, or LibaryThing which we wrote about here…It still falls into this primal notion…

Human beings have a profound desire to connect, relate and engage.

Echoing back to traditional French salons from the original Age of Conversation era, it seems the dialogue has simply shifted to a digital extension.

While I firmly believe the art of genuine face to face conversation needs desperately replenished, (yes, there are plenty of social illiterates out there) it doesn’t seem to be an ‘either/or’ conundrum. The conversation doesn’t need to be causally linked in an accusatory, “kids today would rather text each other than meet in person” diatribe. (Yes, that happens, but no, let’s not generalize)

Seems there’s room for conversations of ALL kinds to flourish…online, offline, safely with friends, or safely with strangers. (assuming a precursor of media literacy and age appropriateness, settle down parent posse)

Look at the Harry Potter Alliance of strangers worldwide uniting together for Darfur, Andy Carvin’s Stop Cyberbullying network on Ning, Anne Collier’s BlogSafety forum, the teen eco-efforts at FamilyThrive. Note the sophistication of online conversations created by teen bloggers at Global Kids in Teen Second Life’s virtual world, or kids’ story submissions to start conversations within specialty networks like Michele Bushneff’s preteen site, Girls Horse Club.

It’s all conversation…it’s just a matter of what you DO with it. Whether you want to further dialogue, or shut it down. Open minds or close them.

This hilarious article called “Conversational Terrorism, How NOT to talk” has excellent dramatizations culled from real life conversations that we should all use as a tipsheet of ‘don’ts.’ Social networking and digital dialogue is capable of furthering all of the above in a flash…the good, the bad, and the ugly.

There lies the responsibility for civility in The Age of Conversation for us all.

So ‘talk on’…rock on…support The Age of Conversation.

And for those teens, nonprofits, and NGOs using social networks to inspire agents of change, remember Ayn Rand’s words in The Fountainhead…

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”

Now let’s go out and make some money for these kids at Variety, the Children’s Charity!

103 co-authors. 10 countries. 24 states. And two great leaders. Gavin and Drew, we salute you. Congratulations on bringing this conversation to life. Can’t wait to see where it goes next year. Special thanks to Mindblob for this ‘at a glance’ summary and handy alphabetized list on his blog.

Our illustrious leaders: The Age of Conversation

About Drew McClellan: Drew’s Marketing Minute (“tells stories, asks questions, milks sacred cows”…)

About Gavin Heaton: Servant of Chaos (“born on a boat in the Indian ocean…”)

The other 101 Authors (no, not dalmations)

Valeria Maltoni
Emily Reed
Katie Chatfield
Greg Verdino
Mack Collier
Lewis Green
Ann Handley
Mike Sansone
Paul McEnany
Roger von Oech
Anna Farmery
David Armano
Bob Glaza
Mark Goren
Matt Dickman
Scott Monty
Richard Huntington
Cam Beck
David Reich
Luc Debaisieux
Sean Howard
Tim Jackson
Patrick Schaber
Roberta Rosenberg
Uwe Hook
Tony D. Clark
Todd Andrlik
Toby Bloomberg
Steve Woodruff
Steve Bannister
Steve Roesler
Stanley Johnson
Spike Jones
Nathan Snell
Simon Payn
Ryan Rasmussen
Ron Shevlin
Roger Anderson
Robert Hruzek
Rishi Desai
Phil Gerbyshak
Peter Corbett
Pete Deutschman
Nick Rice
Nick Wright
Michael Morton
Mark Earls
Mark Blair
CB Whittemore
Mario Vellandi
Lori Magno
Kristin Gorski
Kris Hoet
G. Kofi Annan
Kimberly Dawn Wells Karl Long
Julie Fleischer
Jordan Behan
John La Grou
Joe Raasch
Jim Kukral
Jessica Hagy
Janet Green
Jamey Shiels
Dr. Graham Hill
Gia Facchini
Geert Desager
Gaurav Mishra
Gary Schoeniger
Gareth Kay
Faris Yakob
Emily Clasper
Ed Cotton
Dustin Jacobsen
Tom Clifford
David Polinchock
David Koopmans
David Brazeal
David Berkowitz
Carolyn Manning
Craig Wilson
Cord Silverstein
Connie Reece
Colin McKay
Chris Newlan
Chris Corrigan
Cedric Giorgi
Brian Reich
Becky Carroll
Arun Rajagopal
Andy Nulman
Amy Jussel
AJ James
Kim Klaver
Sandy Renshaw
Susan Bird
Ryan Barrett
Troy Worman
S. Neil Vineberg

Google Map locating all the authors courtesy of Matt Dickman, cover art, David Armano, see Drew’s thank you list for all the ‘props’ as the digital hipsters say. (i.e. proper acknowledgements!)

p.s. Maybe Shaping Youth should throw our hat in the ring as a nonprofit beneficiary for next year’s book. Consider the irony: marketers writing on behalf of counter-marketing? Good guys of marketing bringing ethics and accountability to the industry itself? Hmn, newsworthy indeed. 😉

Speaking of youth media & marketing, I’m off to do recon at the YPulse Mashup event in San Francisco! Stay tuned…

Newsflash! Midnight: 48 hour update per Drew: The Age of Conversation has sold 382 copies and made $3071.91 for the charity already! Bravo!

Project goal is $10,000. Help us do it, spread the word and order your own books to support the kids here!

It’s already been written up in:

Social Computing
Media Post’s Marketing Daily
Media Daily News
Marketing Profs Daily Fix
Fast Company
Des Moines Register
Stay tuned for updates here!

Update 8-4-07 Had to go back inside this posting to insert this link to Sean Howard’s YouTube video, since he’s a ‘viral’ guy and chose to ‘drop trow’ to promote the book for the kids! I’ve heard of giving the shirt off your back to cause-marketing, but…um, wow…

This is one to take to the Writing for Change conference which carries the tagline, “changing the world, one book at a time.” (hey, wait a sec, I used that tag already for my Francis Ford Coppola probono work at North Beach Citizens…”changing the face of North Beach, one citizen at a time.”  Oh well…all for good causes, eh? 😉 –a.



  1. Wow, what a great post and I’m so glad I discovered your blog. I love this idea … got me thinking about whether or not a book like this could be written for nonprofits.

  2. It absolutely could! And yes, I was even thinking our Stop Cyberbullying site could use a collaborative input list of case studies, first hand experience and solutions, to help kids weather the storms! (might be a great way to integrate youth into the mix with their imposter profiles probs and the BlogSafety forum’s resources, forensics folks, etc.) SO many topics we could tackle…Also might be a great BlogHer model.

  3. 7/18 webcast of web mgrs mentioning Age of Conversation for Children’s Charity in Washington D.C. at 8am on 7/18 per Peter Corbett, AOC contributor:

  4. Hey Amy … why don’t you throw down a challenge to Steve and the others of us who do some of the writing for — always up for an interesting challenge 😉

  5. Love this idea, Gavin…I’m at the Women Leaders for the World conference right now and seeing how the power of media could really help out the delegates from all of these amazing countries with their own projects…

    If each took a chapter and challenged our ‘brandingwire connex/AOC bloggers to ‘address it’ we could maybe have the proceeds go to to help fund the leaders they’ve brought over to join us here from Uganda, Rwanda, China, Pakistan, Peru, Kenya etc.—It’s a phenomenal group to be a part of…
    this has already been a real eye-opener!

  6. Amy, I’ve been excited about participating in this project since the very beginning, and your post reinforced the significance. My opinion is that one of the things social media can do is to help bridge the generation gap, so your work with Shaping Youth is very interesting. Thanks for all the effort you took to make this post a great resource.

  7. Update from Drew McClellan 7/30/07:

    “Wow….what a two weeks this has been…I just checked the site and as of right now…we have sold 695 books and earned $5,674.37 for Variety! The tip jar is looking a little meager but I am sure that will change. Right now, we’ve got $150…”

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