Reverse Mentoring in action… Or learning about social media from my daughter.

Teach, your parents well” -CSNY

Reverse Mentoring is a phenomenon that has been noted in many business publications including the WSJ and Forbes. Reverse mentoring involves assigning newly hired young employees to help educate experienced executives about technology or most often social media.

Reverse mentoring is obviously a reversal of the traditional model, although the bonds formed may be even stronger and more helpful to the newly hired over the course of their employment with the organization. I have effectively benefited from reverse mentoring from teaching social media to demanding young undergraduate and MBA students. I have also benefited from living in the same town as my daughter, who has both artistic and entrepreneurial interests.

Chris or Kiki as she has re-Christened herself has shown me that 15 second Instagram videos can be funny… and that Snapchat has uses beyond the obvious benefits to someone like Anthony Weiner…

Crowd-funding New Art

Some months ago my daughter decided to teach herself to paint with acrylics. She had already used water colors and had sold a number of oil paintings but wanted to learn this new medium. She was tight of funds since she has been employed in a pre-launch start-up, so she decided to crowdfund her new skill.

 She looked into Kickstarter, which had the benefit of a pack of loyal followers who would search for campaigns to donate to, but decided instead to use Indiegogo for their partial-funding model and lower barrier to entry. Indiegogo also has a reputation for supporting artists in particular whereas gadgets often end up on Kickstarter.

The first thing she did was research as much about crowdfunding campaigns as possible. There was a lot more information regarding Kickstarter campaigns, so Kiki read through  it, deciding which bits would apply to her own campaign. Ultimately she decided a shorter campaign (less than 30 days while the maximum is often 60) would benefit her the most, and that she needed to drive eyes to the site through social media as much as possible.

She had learned from her readings that the vast majority of funds would be pulled at the first three and last three days of the campaign, so from the very first day, Kiki posted on her own Facebook, her artist Facebook page, her Twitter handle, MY Twitter handle (I’m a supportive father), her Instagram, and even her Pinterest account.

Kiki had set her goal at $500, calculating that she would need at the minimum $450 for high quality paints and canvas. She factored in the cut that credit cards would take (3-5%) and Indiegogo’s cut, which would be 9% if she didn’t make the minimum of $500,  and only 4% if she did. What she hadn’t anticipated was the overwhelming support of her family and friends, all of whom were familiar with her art due to her habit of posting progression photos of her paintings on both Twitter and Facebook.

Friends from high school, college, and work all signed up to donate $40 to choose from one of the 31 paintings Kiki intended to paint, and a few acquaintances paid $80 to have an original painting from a photograph. (This is a much lower price than what my daughter usually charges for her work, but as it was a new medium, Kiki was worried that the quality of her painting might not start out as high as with her oil paints.)

In just a few days, Kiki made more than her goal of $500 and actually had to contact Indiegogo to have them stop her campaign early, as that is not usually an option. Kiki’s reasoning behind this was that the success of this campaign was a sign she should do another in the future, and since she had a limited number of friends and family, it would be best not to fatigue her pool of potential supporters by pushing her first campaign too hard.

Art Portfolio:               Twitter: @ChristineSchirr

Customer Service

The most important thing Kiki learned from the Indiegogo campaign, though, was how to fail gracefully. While in a fit of artistic hubris, she had promised to paint one painting a day, but quickly realized that the stress of that was hurting both her health–she came down with a bad stomach virus–but also the quality of her work. So she wrote to all her supporters and made sure that it was okay with them if she delivered her work a little later than anticipated. One or two of her friends had intended the paintings as a gift, so for them she worked out specific deadlines and was sure to meet them.

However, the 31 paintings remain 3 paintings short of completion at the writing of this article (one of which is mine). Kiki has been documenting the process of painting each one and spends 2-3 days on every painting instead of a few hours–her customers don’t seem to mind (or at least they haven’t vocalized their concern for the delay) because as many have said it’s better to have quality than speed.

If Kiki hadn’t kept her supporters in the loop, however, it could have gotten ugly. She is well aware that many Kickstarter campaigns have failed to meet their deadlines and then remained silent on the matter. When the campaigns seem to vanish off the face of the Earth, the natural reaction of supporters is outrage, as it should be. If it is necessary to deliver after the deadline, be sure to keep your supporters in the loop.

Of course, Kiki now says, it’s much better to just double your estimate of product delivery time in the first place, so you can deliver on your promises!

Promoting Art… And distinctive names

As noted in the crowdfunding section, Kiki’s habit of posting progression photos of her paintings on both Twitter and Facebook. She was recently thrilled when a digital image of an earlier painting of hers was posted on instagram by hip-hop artist Diddy (the artist formerly known as Sean Puffy Combs).

Kiki says that a simple but distinctive name is very valuable on the internet.  She insists that even though she is proud of her given name, her new moniker helps with search results.

Perhaps this will spawn a new trend of Googling baby names. Kiki had heard that people are snapping up name URLs for their infants, so for her 21st birthday she  purchased  It is from that site’s mostly abandoned portfolio that Diddy (formerly P. Diddy, formerly Puff Daddy, born Sean Combs) pulled a picture of a commissioned portrait of the Notorious B.I.G., Diddy’s deceased mentor, and posted it to his own Instagram.

Ironically, he helpfully tagged it with her name to give her credit: @christineschirr –but she instead uses @kikilessthan3 on Instagram! So while the photograph got thousands of Instagram “likes,” she saw no boost in her Klout score. A lesson might be that while it is good to have a name with high SEO, consistency is actually the key to success.

Launching a New Service and App

Chris is running marketing for a new venture to provide an online trainer through an online service and mobile apps: I will probably follow-up with lessons from her startup in a later post.

Don’t forget the wise words of CSNY… Mentoring can go in either direction!!!

(Since I am talking about her, I should note that @christineschirr also has a short story being published in issue 18 of Shimmer Magazine…)

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6 Responses to Reverse Mentoring in action… Or learning about social media from my daughter.

  1. When it comes to generations, I think there is a lot we can learn from each other. Having friends of diverse ages makes your life more rich in general, so I totally agree with this post. We are headed down to see an former neighbor who is living in St Augustine, Fla. over Presidents Day. She is in her mid-eighties! She sure knows a thing or two about reverse mentoring by inviting my family to see her each year (my kids are ages 10 and 13!).

  2. Tom Pick says:

    What a wonderful post, Gary! Your daughter is talented, certainly, but even more impressive is the originality, resourcefulness and work ethic she combines with that talent.

  3. elkement says:

    I really enjoyed this post! I remember a conservative professor of mine who should probably read this.
    I once attended a lecture by a visiting professor together with a student I supervised; the student had to prepare a short paper on that special topic. The conservative professor told me that I should try not to let the student know that the stuff was new to me too – as I am supposed to be his senior etc. 😉

  4. Carla Reese says:

    I experience reverse mentoring ESP in social media all the time… As an aspiring social media marketing educator, I find pointers from my teenage daughter often very helpful! While she’s not old enough to start her own business, she certainly knows what media platforms appeal to her age group and how that age group uses social media.

    I also recently read your article on crowd sourcing a SMM course… I’d be interested in hearing more about your experience teaching this course since its first offering in spring 2012.

    Thanks again for an interesting post!

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