Can social media ruin memories?

The great thing about social media? You can reconnect with long lost friends. The bad thing about social media? You can reconnect with long lost friends.

I recently hunted down a friend I had in high school whom I absolutely adored. He was funny, smart, and the reason I have lots of good memories from my senior year of high school. He was a platonic friend; someone who brought out the best in me, made me laugh, and always served up a good time.

I finally found him on LinkedIn (after many unsuccessful searches in the past) and sent him a note. I was my usual smart aleck, yet bubbly self. He responded and we traded a few brief emails, and I suggested that we catch up on the phone. No answer. Months passed and I dropped him a note to follow-up. I told him how much I was eager to hear about his life (according to his LinkedIn account, he's done some amazing stuff) and jokingly called him Mr. Flaky Flake for not responding.

Now, this is someone who was a grade-A sarcastic prankster when I knew him. Always flip, funny, and unflappable. However, after I joked with him (as I always did), he got very defensive and called me harsh. Very methodically citing his obligations and how he had been busy. So much for picking up where we had left off. This was very obviously not the same person I knew in high school. What a bummer.

Now, instead of remembering all the great times we had in school, I think of how serious he's become. I mean, I've grown up too, but my personality remains intact. Seventeen-year-old Amber is still in me, being silly and joking with those who really get me.

I looked for this guy for years before I finally got ahold of him. And my reward? I now think he's a fuddy duddy. Way to blow a bunch of good memories, Amber!

With all the great social media platforms out there, we can now track down almost anyone. Nobody is further than a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google search away. That's pretty neat. But, the question is: can reconnecting with people after so many years actually ruin the good memories we had about them?

Have you ever reconnected with someone online and wish you hadn't? How about friending someone whom you've quickly discovered that you've outgrown? Are some people better left in the past?

Social media and the Amish

If you're reading this post, you found it because you spend time online. Chances are you saw a tweet, a Facebook update, or some other social platform with this link on it. Frankly, I'm grateful that you're here. But, you know who won't be stopping by my blog today? The Amish.

This month, my power got knocked out for two days because of a wind storm. My landline and cell phone were both down, too. For more than 50 hours I didn't have technology and it reminded me of how life might be for the Amish. After the initial social media withdrawals subsided, I actually felt really relaxed. Nothing to log in to, nothing to maintain. It was liberating!

In this uber-connected world, more and more people are complaining of social media burnout. Too many platforms to update and a plethora of needless information. If you're Amish, however, your days are busy, but lack the ever-growing demands of technology.  Just think about it.

If you're Amish:

You tell your family that it was a good meal. 
Tweeting it to someone who's five feet away from you isn't necessary.

You say hello to the shop keeper to let him know you're in the store.
No need to check-in via Foursquare.

You do things because getting something accomplished is it's own reward.
Yes, actually people do things that don't earn them badges!

You write love letters to your sweetheart.
Because love means more than just changing your Facebook status to "in a relationship".

Your skills and abilities are widely-known throughout the community. 
No need to maintain a LinkedIn profile.

You sing whatever song comes into your head.
You don't have to search through other people's Spotify playlists to entertain yourself.

You do business with someone because your family has had a relationship with that person for generations
No reason to log on to Yelp to read or write reviews.
You use circles for knitting or storytelling.
Remember before Google+ when you didn't judge yourself by the number of circles you were in?

Your friends are people you know and like.
No hurt feelings if someone doesn't follow you back or accept your friend request. 

There's much to be said about living a life of simple abundance. Technology is great and social media is fantastic, but it can take a toll on our frazzled minds. So, why not take a break from it all this weekend?

Pretend that you're vacationing in an Amish town. Set down the smartphone, turn off the laptop, and enjoy the things that really matter. Have a conversation, nurture offline relationships, and focus on what and who is in front of you. After you stop shaking and sweating from the social media deprivation, you just may feel calmer. I know I did.

Disclaimer: I've always been fascinated by the Amish and this post is in no way meant to be disparaging. I understand that this post may include some generalizations that don't apply to all Amish sects. I also realize some teens who go through Rumspringa do not return to the Amish way of life and may be using technology and all the other amenities of the 21st century. This disclaimer is written by someone who has absolutely no legal training, but watched all eight seasons of The Practice.

Success is like a 26-toed cat

When you look at something, do you see what it is? Or, do you see what it could be?

No one succeeds in this life by being ordinary. To succeed, you must set yourself, your business, or your product apart from the competition. To do this, it frequently requires the ability to see beyond the traditional. Case in point, the Milwaukee Animal Rescue Center.

The shelter was facing a rent increase of 100% and was scrambling to raise funds to buy a building where all their animals would be safe. One of those animals is Daniel, an orange and white tabby who happens to be polydactyl (meaning he has 26 toes instead of the standard 18). Someone at the shelter had the brilliant idea of centering their fundraising efforts around Daniel, asking supporters to each donate $26 to the building fund--$1 for each toe!

The shelter has raised $80,000 dollars so far, $50,000 of that coming from $26 donations. Now, this is a creative promotion that has really delivered! (Daniel has since been given permanent residency at the shelter and is its honorary mascot. To donate to the relocation efforts, click HERE)

So, I ask, would you look at a kitty with way too many toes and see a freak? Or would you see a solution to your money woes? What are you looking at each and every day and completely ignoring? Is opportunity right in front of your eyes, but you can't see it?

What is your 26-toed cat?

10 things I'm grateful for as a blogger

When I first started my blogging journey, I wondered who in the world would want to read what I have to say. Everyone's busy and I'm just an Average Jane. Who cares about my take on things?

In the beginning, when no one visited, commented, or shared, I told myself to stick with it. Now, years later, I am so happy that I kept plugging away. Today, I'm so incredibly thankful for the great people who have come into my life as a result of this blog and the wonderful opportunities that have presented themselves. As they say, nothing worth having comes easy.

That said, I give you the top 10 things I'm grateful for as blogger:

1. Every person who has ever taken the time to visit my blog. Whether you stayed, left, or came back, I'm thankful you took the time to see what I have to offer.

2. The amazing folks who chime in on the comments. You are the lifeblood of Words Done Write. Your opinions, information, and thoughts further the discussions here and help the conversation evolve.

3. The people who make the effort to share posts. Whether you tweet, like, or stumble the content, your support and promotion are both greatly appreciated. Truly, I mean that.

4. The wonderful subscribers who have added this blog to their readers, email, or followed through Friend Connect. I didn't offer subscriptions when I first started the blog, because I thought no one would be interested. Thank you for proving me wrong.

5. Those who have added me to their blog rolls. I'm honored that you've chosen to link to my site and share my blog with your readers. Your generosity has not gone unnoticed.

6. Fellow bloggers who have riffed on what I've written and linked back to my content. Thank you for reading and giving credit back to the initial post. You have impeccable manners!

7. Visitors who read more than one post. The blog has some oldies but goodies in it, so thank you for digging around through the archived content!

8. The fabulous people who have invited me to speak or guest blog as a result of reading my blog. Thank you for appreciating my insights and quirky style.

9. Those who have been kind enough to recognize my efforts here by writing about me or my blog. I'm honored and humbled.

10. The dedicated readers who stayed with me all the way through the last item on this list. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your day. I know you have lots of things to do and ways to spend your time. I'm grateful you chose to squeeze me into your otherwise hectic schedules. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

If you're a new blogger, stick with it. Your hard work will eventually pay off, so keep your chin up. If your a veteran blogger, I have no doubt that you're grateful for some of the same things I am (but let me know if I left out something!). If you don't have a blog, thank you so much for being a reader. Those of us who write are nothing without those of you who read

Have something to share about your blogging journey? Or, perhaps, your thoughts on reading blogs? Want to share something (anything!) that you're grateful for? Sound off! The stage is yours...

Can social media erase ageism?

One of the things I love most about social media is that it doesn't discriminate based on age. There are people in my Twitter feed who are college students and others who are senior citizens. At tweetups, I've had the pleasure of chatting with 22 year olds and 65 year olds. At social media events, I've seen young adults learn from their elders and grandparents learn from recent graduates. I love that age seems to have no bearing in social media circles.

Age discrimination is alive and well in our world, however. Too many people jump to conclusions based on that stupid, little number. You only know this much if you're under 25 or you don't know something else because you're over 50. Personally, I never ask someone's age. I don't want to know.

At the age of 26 I actually had a supervisor call me a spinster because I wasn't married. In this day and age, I still marvel at the small-mindedness of it. Heaven help a gal who puts her career first! I'm a complex, driven, and passionate person. My age does not define me nor dictate where I should be in my life. Neither does your age.

I'm grateful that social media seems to be chipping away at ageism. I frequently see folks tweeting with others who are 10, 20, or 40 years their senior or junior. For some reason, those who are most active on social media seem to have a greater understanding that we're all just people. We can all learn from one another. We can all laugh with one another. We can all enjoy each other's company. We all have something to offer. We all have value.

I'm not sure why, but age seems to be unimportant in social media. I would love to think this is a sign of things to come. A world without age discrimination would be a wonderful thing. I know I want to be judged on the things that matter and not something as arbitrary as a birth year. Don't you?

How to hire a freelance writer

Credit: Charles Shulz
In this new era of content creation, many folks suddenly find themselves responsible for writing. Unfortunately, lots of them either have no interest in writing, lack the time, or don't consider themselves qualified to produce well-written material. So, how do you create blog posts and other materials if you don't want to write? Perhaps it's time to hire a professional!

If you've never worked with a freelance writer before, here are some tips to help:
Ask for recommendations
Just like when hiring a plumber or roofer, having someone you know vouch for a person's work puts your mind at ease. Ask your friends, family, former and current colleagues for a recommendation. Chances are someone you know has worked with a freelance writer at some point and may have a name or two to send your way.

Place an ad
If your network doesn't come back with any referrals, try looking at elance, Freelance Writing, the writing section of Craigslist, or Google "writers for hire".

Set a budget
Writing fees have plummeted during the recession, so there's a big gap separating high and low wages. I've seen ads offering $5 to $10 for blog posts (which, as a writer, I think is criminal). For comparison, several years ago when I worked at a publishing house we offered our freelance writers $125 per 500 words. In short, there's no hard and fast rule on what to pay. However, sometimes you can offer less if you can guarantee a constant stream of guaranteed work (if, of course, the first assignment goes well).

Ask for links to the writer's work
If the person is an active writer, he or she should have work published somewhere on the web (online samples with attribution are better than Word docs because they are less likely to be plagiarized ). Look at their writing style, range, and voice to determine if it's a match for you. Also, check out the person's LinkedIn profile to read what others have said about working with him/her.

Determine whether your writer gets a byline
Writers like to have samples of their work, so some may be more inclined to accept less money in exchange for a byline and/or a link back to their own sites. If, however, you're looking for a ghostwriter, you may have to offer more money since the person won't receive any added exposure by writing for you.

Agree on editing
Writing is not a math. It's subjective and, as such, can vary greatly. Be very clear up front as to what you want the piece to accomplish and the tone of the writing. Then, agree upon how many rounds of rewrites are included in the fee. Up to two round of edits is acceptable. If you require more than that, chances are you may not have been clear enough about your expectations.

Ensure everyone understands the terms of the work
Do you just want the writer to write? Will he/she be responsible for all the research? Will you be providing resources? Will the writer be tasked with finding images for the post? Inserting links? Designing the post? To make sure your project goes smoothly, make sure everyone understands the parameters of the project before you begin.

Choose a payment option
You can compensate a writer by the hour or by the project. Each has it's own set of pros and cons. As a writer and a client, I personally prefer a flat rate. That ensures that the project doesn't exceed your budget and that both parties understand the terms of the work and the compensation up front. Before getting started, clarify how and when the writer will be paid (e.g. upon final approval via PayPal).
In this new world of social media, content creation is quickly becoming everyone's responsibility: accountants, mechanics, sales people, realtors, etc. If you choose to outsource your efforts, be sure you do your homework and be clear about deliverables. That will spare you and your freelancer a lot of headaches.

Have you ever hired a freelance writer before? If so, what did I miss? Are you a writer? What else should potential clients consider before making a hire?

9 tweets you need to stop sending

Social media is notorious for bringing unnecessary noise into our lives. Meaningless, worthless static that heightens the amount of buzzing in our heads and makes baby Santa cry. Don't you wish you could just focus on the good stuff?

All of us are guilty of sending a tweet here and there that devalues the Twitter streams of others. But, if you're sending any of the following tweets on a regular basis, you should seriously rethink how you're using the platform:

1. @insertusername Thanks for following me!
Gratitude is nice, but generic tweets to every person who follows you is spam.

2. I'm listening to (insert song here) via (insert platform here)
Lots of people have their Pandora or GetGlue accounts hooked up to Twitter, but no one needs the play by play on every song you're listening to. Skip it.

3. I just posted today's blog. Check it out: www.bitly.ReadMyStuffButIWontTellYouWhatItsAbout
If you want to promote your blog via tweet, remember to give us a clue as to the subject. The fact that you've written and published something isn't breaking news.

4. I got 5,000 followers from (insert site here) and you can too: www.bitly.TheGuyOnlyHas400Followers
Aside from the fact that buying Twitter followers is downright sleazy, if you're going to tell us we can do something, why don't you do it first, eh?

5. Please like my Facebook page (also "subscribe to my YouTube channel", "follow my blog", etc.).
And the million dollar question is...why? Give people a reason. How will it benefit them?

6. Any tweet including the #NomNom hashtag
Let's leave the food tweets to those with food blogs. Knowing that you just ate pumpkin pie is noise in its purest form.

7. I walked ___ miles in ___ minutes
Having your Daily Mile activities feed into your Twitter stream is unnecessary. You're telling us about your daily exercise routine why?
8. I'm watching (insert show here) via (insert platform here)
Just like the music tweet above, telling your followers that you're viewing "Hawaii Five-0" does nothing to enrich our lives.

9. The _______ Daily is out! tweets don't help you make money, get more clients, or enrich the lives of your followers. It's time to say buh-bye. 

You'll notice that a great deal of these tweets are a result of giving other platforms access to your Twitter account. Automation is rarely a good idea. Giving sites permission to tweet one's activities is generally the default setting because it provides exposure for the site; however it's not of benefit to the user or their followers.

What tweets are you sick of seeing? What do you think adds to the noise?

ABC to 123: Giving adults social media grades

As a child, the report card validates us. A, B, C, D, F. Those letters affect our self esteem, self confidence, and future success. As we grow, those letters morph into numbers. In social media, it's all about how many Twitter followers, blog subscribers, unique visitors, Facebook fans, and retweets we have. And, don't forget the Klout score! Living and dying by numbers can be exhausting.

For my last several blog posts, Twitter hasn't been indexing tweets to my posts and, therefore, Disqus (my commenting system) hasn't been accurately logging reactions. I know I have 60+ on my last post and only four are showing. Oh, the inhumanity of it all! No! No! No! Where are my numbers? Validate me! Love me! Show me the numbers!

I admit that I notice the numbers. Don't think less of me. But, if we're honest with ourselves, most of us do care to a certain degree. Numbers are one of the ways we measure success. And, of course, don't forget when we add a dollar sign to the front of a number (as in our salaries). Numbers, numbers, numbers.

Numbers are the adult version of grades. And, although I did well in school, I'm sick of being graded. Is the number of Twitter followers I have really an accurate representation of my knowledge? No. If I have a bad traffic day on my blog, does that make what I have to say any less valid? No. Will my Klout score help me live longer or be healthier? Absolutely not.

I'm a person with value outside of the numbers. I donate things instead of throwing them away. I volunteer. I recycle. I don't litter. I get things off high shelves for senior citizens at the market. I'm a person who tries to make a positive change, both personally and professionally. I know you are, too. So, despite the fact that society says numbers matter and that they represent our value, let's start a new revolution. One that puts a greater emphasis on the right things.

Let's forget about the social media grades. Let's focus on what matters. Family, friends, growing our businesses, improving ourselves, and being home in time for dinner. Who's with me?

The BlogWorld Gold Star Awards #bwela

The fifth annual BlogWorld & New Media Expo just concluded & many exhausted bloggers are on planes, trains, and in cars on their way home. Lots of great information this year and some real stand out performers amongst the 4,000 attendees, 150 sessions, and 275 speakers. So, without further adieu, let's give out some gold stars!

The I'm Gonna Rock Your World Award
Best Session
Marcus Sheridan
If you didn't attend Marcus' session on 7 Blogging Ideas That Will Brand Your Business, you missed out big time. This high energy session gave attendees actual executable ideas and Marcus' enthusiastic and humorous delivery kept people on their toes and laughing throughout. If you ever have the chance to see Marcus present, you simply must go. I guarantee you'll leave the room smarter and with a few more laugh lines. 

The Branding is in My DNA Award
Best Physical Branding
Mari Smith
If you don't know Mari as the Facebook Marketing maven that she is, perhaps you know her as the alluring blond in the turquoise and bling. Mari uses turquoise and sparkly things throughout her branding (e.g. website, Twitter, Facebook, etc.), but Mari takes her branding one step further. She wears it. Walking about the conference in turquoise clothing, shiny earrings, and a turquoise rolly bag, there was no way you didn't know who she was. Mari doesn't just talk branding, she oozes it in everything she does.

The I'm Totally Smart, Funny, and Know How to Make Money Award
Best Keynote
Peter Shankman
Peter is best known as the guy who started Help A Reporter Out (HARO) and who worked like a maniac to complete the Iron Man. However, I think many folks had no idea how amazingly funny this guy is. His keynote was filled with inspirational stories of how he took chances, seized opportunities, and made a ton of money because he didn't let fear hold him back. Forget going to your local comedy club or searching Amazon for a book to inspire you.  Peter delivers both and serves it up on a silver platter. If he's ever delivering a speech in your town, go see him and pay whatever it costs.

The Just Because We're Celebs Doesn't Mean We Don't Get Social Media Award
Best Panel
Rick Fox, Aisha Tyler, Jace Hall, Justine Ezarik, Tim Street
This was the final session of the conference and, as such, many folks had already bailed. What a loss for them! This panel was great and the highlight was Aisha Tyler, who brought the house down with her nonstop jokes and antics. Jace did a superb job as moderator (a job that most people stink at!), Tim had all the guys in the crowd with his stories of lingerie models, Justine is iJustine so of course she has a built-in fan base no matter where she goes, and Rick Fox is a genuinely likeable guy who brought the star power.

The Standing Room Only Award
Best Filled Room
Amy Porterfield
Even some of the best attended sessions had empty seats scattered throughout the room, but not Amy Porterfield's Facebook Marketing session! Every chair was filled, people were sitting in the aisles, hugging the walls, and trying to look in the door. Amy knows how to fill a room (and a hot topic doesn't hurt, either)! Give this girl a larger space next time, guys!

The I'm Gonna Use My Entire Marketing Budget To Make You Happy Award
Best Swag
The Exhibit Hall had lots of companies. Some handed out candy, a few gave out sippie cups, others gave out t-shirts, but hands down the best giveaway came from the Yahoo! booth! These guys knew their audience and weren't stingy. The gave away a canvas tote bag, a t-shirt, and the best part was The Yahoo! Style Guide: The Ultimate Sourcebook for Writing, Editing, and Creating Content for the Digital World book. Five-hundred pages of great info and the most useful conference freebie I've ever received. Kudos Yahoo!

The Going for the Easy Laughs Award
Best Use of Klout Humor
Tom Webster
Klout is a easy target for those in social media. Want to go for the laughs? Mock Klout. However, the way Tom did it was absolutely fabulous! He was talking about how all of our parents remember where they were and what they were doing when Kennedy was shot or when the Space Shuttle exploded. We, however, will all remember the day of the Kloutpocalypse--the day last month when all of our Klout scores plummeted. And the funny part is, if you're in social media, that is totally true!

The Don't Go Home Without Saying Howdy Ya'll Award
Best Connector
Mack Collier
Mack's live #blogchat session concluded with Mack passing around the microphone to everyone in the room and asking them to say their Twitter handle. This was the best value-added move in the entire conference. Turns out there were four people in the room who I had been searching for for three days, but hadn't yet connected with. There were many more there who I didn't recognize by sight, yet knew right away once they said their Twitter name. Had Mack not done that, I would have never known those people were sitting in the same room as me. Nice way to bring your audience together, Mack!

Your turn! Who do you think deserves a BlogWorld Gold Star? What did you enjoy about the conference? And, if you didn't go, will you be attending next year?

Social media conferences are like Vegas

Social media conferences bring together thousands of people from across the country, sometimes the globe. People who have built friendships online finally get a chance to meet in real life. And, despite the great content that's offered at conferences such as Blogworld and SXSW, attendees know that the parties are where some of the best networking is.

Since social media quickens one's comfort level amongst strangers, when people finally meet in the flesh they feel as though they're longtime friends. This is one of the great aspects of social media, however that can also lead to some Vegas-like shenanigans. And we all know what happens in Vegas, ends up on Facebook.

For those attending a social media conference, remember that there are thousands of attendees with smartphones, laptops, tablets, and video cameras. The majority live on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ and most have blogs. These uber-connected folks make a habit of capturing the world around them. It's second nature.

So, if a social media conference is in your future, stay clear of the Vegas drama. Remember these 5 tips to maintain your reputation:

1. Nothing is private 
Even if you think you're having a private conversation, think again. People love sharing OH tweets (for newbies, that means tweeting something you've overheard).
2. You're always under surveillance 
Ok, it's not like when you're being watched by security cameras at the department store, but everyone at social media conferences thinks of their gadgets as their BFFs. Pictures and video are the life blood of these events. Know that at any moment, what you're doing could be documented and posted online for all the world to see. 
3. Everything you do is potential content 
What you say, what you look like, how you act, where you spend the night are all potential fodder (and content) for your fellow attendees. Bloggers are always on the lookout for something to write about. 
4. You're judged by the company you keep 
As with most every multi-day conference, people eventually fall into a crowd. A group they meet up with for meals, cab rides, and after hours antics. Others always notice the company we keep, for better or worse. Are you hanging out with the really smart kids or the ones who drink too much?
5. Don't overshare 
Opening up to people is great, but the person who you really like on day one could be your mortal enemy on day three. Do you want them to have all the dirt on you? Remember, don't gossip about others and don't freely divulge anything that could be used against you.

Remember, conferences are great places to learn and to network. The social gatherings are just as valuable as the sessions and the entire experience can help get you closer to your goals. Just make sure that your professional reputation is still intact by the time it's all over. 

* If you're reading this post via email or in a reader, click the headline to see the video that accompanies this piece.

Adding Tabasco to your social media presence

The world is full of ordinary people. Boring, average, run of the mill folks who are as bland as white rice. You know the kind. They blend in, do what everyone else does, and, therefore, are destined to lead lives of mediocrity. The winners in the social media space know that to succeed online, they need to stand out, think differently, and take actions that make people take notice. The folks who go furthest push aside the salt substitute and go for the Tabasco sauce!

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Jim Dougherty on Twitter. (Despite the fact that Jim says we're old friends, that's really not the case. I recently called him a new friend in a tweet and he politely corrected me, reminding me that we connected on Twitter weeks ago!) In any case, imagine my surprise when Jim sent me a tweet this week with a link to the video below:

I sifted through Jim's Keek videos and it looks as though he's been doing a few dozen of these Follow Friday videos each week, for the last several weeks. Each one about :20 to :30 in length. In some, Jim tells the recipient why he enjoys following them on Twitter; in others he shares his reasons for recommending the person. Here's another video Jim created; this one about Peruvian blogger Samantha Luy.

Jim is investing a modest amount of time, yet doing something to really set himself apart from the crowd. Jim is adding Tabasco to his white rice and creating something deliciously wonderful!

Do you settle for the ordinary? Is your virtual spice rack full of empty bottles? Or, are you making the most of your efforts by bringing the hot sauce?

Interacting with porn in the social media space

You may like pornography (I'm not here to judge), but would you "like" pornography in a Facebook kind of way? Would you publicly like an XXX page, comment on the content, and give thumbs up to the posts?

When I take my dogs for a walk, I sometimes pass a gay porn video shop. In front of the mirrored windows that block out the inside of the store, there's always a sandwich board on the sidewalk with specials. Recently, they've added "Like us on Facebook!" to the board.

Now, I'm going to be honest. I've never seen an X-rated movie. It's not my thing. But, even if I did watch porn, I would never advertise the fact. I can just see it in my friend's Facebook streams, "Amber just liked Spanky's Adult Video Palace".  And, heaven forbid a future employer checked out my Facebook likes!

Is this era of social media when we all willingly sacrifice our privacy, is it no big deal for people to put it all out there? The good, the bad, and the ugly? Would YOU "like" a pornography-related page on Facebook?

Does greed make people mislead?

We see it all the time. Bait and switch techniques abound. A lie here, a half-truth there. Get people now no matter how you have to do it. The only problem is, what happens when they realize they've been misled?

Last night I rented a horrible move, A Fool and his Money. As you can see from the photo on the right it's a Sandra Bullock film. Yeah, right. That's just what the greedy SOBs who pimp the film want you to think. Sadly, after wasting two hours on the flick, I Googled it and realized it was originally released in 1988, but re-released in 1995 after Bullock achieved fame in Speed. Some wiseguy decided to capitalize on her popularity and showcase her prominently on the DVD cover, despite the fact that Bullock appears in the film for no more than four minutes combined. A Sandra Bullock film? Not a chance.

I'm sure you've seen misleading practices before. We all have, sadly. But do they win the race in the long run? Sooner or later, people always find out that you've misled them. Is the short term gain worth the long term alienation? I'd say no, but lots of folks say yes.

That yes usually comes from greed. More money, more customers, more subscribers, more readers, more impressions, more sales, more traffic, more, more, more. But, after the truth comes out, after everyone finds out they've been misled, the damage is irreparable. Is a white lie still a lie? Is a half truth still 50% fact? Why gamble with your reputation when that's really what defines you in the end?

The next time you push anything out into the public, do a reality check. Is this an honest and fair assessment of what people can expect? Does your webinar address the content that you said it would? Is your brochure copy true? Does your store actually carry the products advertised in your sales circular? Will your product deliver on the promises you've made?

Misleading folks only leads to short term gains. Aren't we all in this for the long haul?

Are Twitter's elite making reciprocity uncool?

The one thing I really enjoy about social media is the elevated sense of etiquette. People share, support, thank, and make meaningful connections on the site. Generally, folks have a wonderful sense of reciprocity. Follow them, they'll follow you back. Share a link of theirs, they'll share one back or say thanks. Good manners abound on Twitter (at least in my stream). That's why I'm saddened to see the latest trend gaining momentum: unfollowing.

It started with Chris Brogan, then Darren Rowse followed suit. Both said it was in an effort to help clean up their Twitter streams and DMs. Now, plenty of ordinary people are saying, "If the big guys are doing it, I'm going to do it, too!". I'm seeing mass purges everywhere. I'm disappointed that some of social media's most influential names would legitimize this sleazy practice. Perhaps their reasons made sense to them, but they've set a trend that is contrary to the philosophy of social media and the idea of community building.

Here's the reality. Most people who have a large number of followers built their numbers on reciprocity. They connected with someone and that person followed them back, or vice versa. Those numbers were built on a mutual connection (let's face it, only "real" celebrities can get tens of thousands of followers from scratch and only follow back a handful of people). Now, much to my dismay, it's the hip thing to say your Twitter follows are unmanageable, your DMs are being hijacked, and you can't focus on anything in your stream. You simply must unfollow everyone so you can start over with a clean slate. Know what I say to that? Hogwash.

It's no secret that I despise those who work the numbers to artificially inflate their followings. I have 5,000 followers, yet could have far more if I followed back every bot and spammer. But, I don't (I firmly believe in quality over quantity). Instead, I look at each and every Twitter profile and decide whether or not to follow back. If the person doesn't break one of my 12 Twitter rules, I'll give a followback. As such, I don't get any spam. Ever.

Today I saw a post by Daniel Newman that talks about the purging practice and the rationale behind it, going as far as to say "Don't pee on me and tell me it's raining." He does a great job of outlining the ways that anyone could combat the problems that people are citing as reasons to unfollow. Danny Brown also has a post on the subject. He shares a "leaked" email that implies the mass unfollows were to get attention. Although quite amusing, this was never my theory. However, I'm glad Danny called out the the unfollowing practice, too.

I still think Chris and Darren are smart people. If you read my blog regularly, you know I've raved about how much I love Chris. Darren is a darn great guy, too. However, it's kind of like when you learn that Santa Claus is really your mom and dad. Don't preach about community and then tell me unfollowing your community isn't anything personal. It may not be personal to you, and lots of people may kiss your backside saying you're a trailblazer, but I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid.

Big names in the social media space serve as role models; teaching by example. When they do something, they set a trend. Granted, everyone can do as they please and there are no official rules to any of this social media stuff. I get that. However, now those who work the system with mass follows and unfollows are no longer sleaze bags and charlatans. They can now conduct those shady practices knowing full well that they have the perfect defense: "If the social media gurus can unfollow everyone, why can't I?"

Turning "I can't" into "I can"

I have an elderly neighbor who likes to tell me "You can't". You can't fix that, you can't lift this, you can't solve that. For years, I've responded the same way. "I'm smarter than you think" or "I'm stronger than you realize". Every time she's said "You can't", I've quite handily conquered the challenge.

However, if there came a time when she said "You can't" and I actually had a problem doing whatever it was, I would find a way to do it. I'm determined and pride myself on finding solutions. I'd find a way if only because she said I couldn't.

Cheerleaders in our lives are important. People who support us, give us compliments, and inflate our egos. However, naysayers can be just as motivating. The desire to prove someone wrong can be just as powerful as the desire to make someone proud.

If you think you can't, you're probably right. But, if someone else thinks you can't, release your inner Hulk and show that person what you're made of. Success is even sweeter when you accomplish what others thought impossible.

Now, go seize the day...

The pitfalls of cussing in the workplace

Profanity in the office is unprofessional. It's lowbrow and uncouth. Educated people shouldn't resort to foul language to communicate their unhappiness or frustration. There's a whole world of words out there that don't escalate arguments or take conversations in a volatile direction.

For the last six days straight, the web has been buzzing over the PR agency vice president who called a blogger an effing bee in an email (I've cleaned it up, but the guy used the real f word and b word). If you don't know the story, check it out on PR Daily, Gawker, or Business Insider. In short, his agency made a silly and untargeted pitch to the blogger, the blogger sent a snarky response, the agency rep said they'd steer advertising opportunities away from the site, and then the VP accidentally hit reply all and called the blogger an f***ing b***h (again, the asterisks are mine; he wrote the actual words). Needless to say, the blogger unleashed social media Armageddon on the company and the backlash against the agency has been mind blowing.

Industry publications have latched on to this story, calling out the veep and using the exchange as an example of how not to engage with bloggers. However, let's look at it another way. What if the guy hadn't cussed? Suppose he had said any one of the following things instead:

  • "My gosh! Her response was unpleasant and unnecessary!"
  • "Let's be sure to never pitch that woman again!"
  • "Wow. That was a little over the top."
  • "Onward and upward, troops. You can't win them all!"

Instead, he wrote, "What a f***ing b***h!"

These four little words have turned this guy's world upside down. He's deleted his Twitter account (probably to avoid hostile tweets) and been lambasted throughout the industry. If he had shown his displeasure with the woman and the situation without resorting to profanity, I honestly think this would have played out differently. There's just something about those two words in particular that can blow a disagreement into a full-fledged battle.

Am I being naive? Perhaps a little too wholesome?

Does cussing not matter in today's world?

The power of words

“Words—so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”

I love the dictionary. The thesaurus is a close second. And, of course I have some great quote books. Words are a marvelous gift and vocabulary is so much darn fun! Nothing makes me more giddy than a well-written sentence or a clever retort. Yes, words are wonderful.

One of the most important things about words is the power they hold. They can inspire, belittle, motivate, or alienate. Well-chosen words can move you to make an unnecessary purchase or save for a rainy day. They can shape your mood so you feel good or bad. They can impact whether your business runs in the black or the red.

Words. Just 26 letters that, when put together in assorted ways, can start wars, create opportunities, break hearts, or change lives.

How much thought do you put into your word choice? Do you make the most of every letter, every syllable, every sentence? Do you waste your words? Miss opportunities? Or, do you embrace the power of each and every verbal or written communication? Every thing you say, type, or scribble brings with it the chance for success.

Are you using your words to make things better? To create happiness? To inspire positive change? If not, why?

*WORD NERD BONUS: If you like words as much as I do, you might have fun with this quiz. You have 12 minutes to guess the top 100 words in the English language. Click HERE to get started. Good luck!

How to succeed in business by acting like a puppy

Want the world to be a better place? Act like a dog! Want to do better in business? Embrace your inner puppy!

After spending an afternoon at the dog park with a six-month-old pup this week, I got a kick out of watching him in his element. He met new dogs, caught up with long-time playmates, sniffed everything in sight, chased rogue tennis balls, and enchanted the humans. If only we could all be so happy and successful, I thought.

Perhaps, we do all have a little Rin Tin Tin in us, though. If only we hung our heads out the car window and let our fur fly more often! Want to succeed in business? Why not embrace your canine instincts and try out these five puppy-approved tips:

Be enthusiastic 
Dogs are always happy to see you! They give you a fabulous greeting, make you feel special, and aim to please. Seems like the basis of a good customer service policy to me!

Take risks 
Dogs are all about doing. They don't make excuses, talk themselves out of adventure, or ponder their limitations. Pups seize the day! Shouldn't you?

Be social
Whenever a new dog enters the gate at the dog park, there's always a handful of dogs who run up to meet the newbie. "Howdy do!" Sometimes they hit it off; sometimes they don't. But most dogs put their best paw forward and are approachable, friendly, and not afraid to flash that happy smile. How about you?

Be curious 
Dogs sniff everything. What was here? What does it mean? What action should I take? Canines are inquisitive, just like little, furry detectives. Could you benefit from asking more questions?

Don't quit
At one time or another, we have all met a dog who thinks fetch is the best thing in the entire universe. The ball is dirty, full of slobber, and downright disgusting, yet Fido still brings it back in eager anticipation of it being thrown again. No matter how much you don't want to touch that ball, Fido persists. "Throw it! Throw it!" Most of us give in and give that slimy toy a toss. Fido wins. Fido never quits. 

So, I challenge you. Just for today, act like a puppy. During your encounters with your boss, your customers, and potential clients, embrace your inner Lassie. The world is your dog park and you've got a squeaky toy! What will you do to succeed?

"Following your passion" isn't enough

Google "follow your passion" and you'll be bombarded with a million, sticky sweet inspirational quotes. Yes, they all say to be successful in life you must do what you're passionate about. Ok, sure, I believe that. However, passion is only one piece of the magic equation. You can be passionate all you like, but without these seven things, you'll never be truly successful.

The "fake it 'til you make it" mentality will only get you so far. Unless you know your stuff, you'll be found out quickly. 

It's all about keeping it up. Go, go, go. On good days, on bad days, just keep going. No one ever says, "He's a real quitter! I've got to meet him!". 

Put out your best work--all the time. When people know you can be counted on in a consistent manner, that's how they learn to trust you. 

Good Timing
Sometimes you can create your own good timing with research or by being agile. Other times things are just out of your hands. Timing is a variable that can fluctuate like the weather, so don't get caught without your umbrella. 

No one wants a carbon copy of what's already out there. No matter what your product, service, or brand, shake things up a little! Nobody's ever made a huge difference by playing it safe.  

The fact of the matter is people achieve greater success when they have someone to champion them or their cause. If someone lends you a hand, cares about you, or supports you, don't take it for granted. Champions are hard to come by. 

Good ole' Lady Luck comes into play with many things we undertake. You can do everything right and still fail. Sometimes, you can mess up and come out ahead. Luck is real and it can play a role in your future. Ask anyone at the card tables in Vegas.  

Sure, passion is the foundation for success. However, these seven things are your building blocks and mortar. Better than straw. Better than sticks. Just ask the three little pigs...

Do you think passion is enough? If not, what would you add to the list?  

Is your favorite blogger a dirty, rotten thief?

I hate thieves. Being taken advantage of and deceived are things that fail to make me all warm and happy inside. That's why I didn't enjoy getting spammed by a fellow blogger who stole my email address.

I recently commented on someone's blog for the first time. Within a few days I received a spammy promotional pitch from the blogger. I didn't sign up for his email list and I responded to the note, asking him to remove me from his list. His response? By commenting I was bound by his comment policy and agreed to opt into his newsletter. 

I checked out his commenting policy and there was nothing that said by commenting I agreed to opt into mailings. Nothing. Was his response an intentional lie? Hmmm. I emailed him again and once more asked to be removed from his distribution list (since there was no way to remove myself). He said there was no list; it was a plug in. He went on to say I was the first person to ever complain about it.

I asked yet a third time to be removed from his distribution list. He finally said he'd "try" to remove me. Never, not once, apologizing for the situation. Did he really think forcing me to be on his list was winning me over? Is it smart to make someone ask three times to be removed from your list? Is that the way to create meaningful online relationships? As far as I'm concerned, Mr. Spammy McUnethical stole my email address and used it without my permission. Dirty, rotten thief.

Those of us who have blogs are sometimes privy to people's email addresses. Depending on the commenting system and the way a commenter chooses to log in to comment, email addresses may be visible to the blog owner. I've seen many of my commenters' email addresses when they leave comments and, you know what? I don't collect them, sell them, or do anything unethical with them. I delete them. It's someone's private information and I take that seriously. My mama didn't raise a thief.

But, apparently, some bloggers out there are a little fast and loose with your private information. Beware. And, most of all, don't put up with it. If someone betrays your trust, move on. If you condone their lapse in ethics, you enable them to continue. Data theft is no different than property theft.

What do you think? Even if it was in the commenting policy (which is was not), does that mean a person can never ask to be removed from someone's distribution list? Isn't the whole point of having email lists to help strengthen the bond with your community, not alienate it? Is it alright for a blogger to use your personal information any way they choose? Have you ever been the victim of data theft?

Print is dying, but are more people reading?

I have a couple dozen sites in my Google reader with many more bookmarked. I have some RSS feeds emailed to me, I read content that's tweeted, Facebooked, and Google+ shared. I read a lot! I bet you do, too.

Although print publishers are starting to embrace mobile, kindle, and blogs, they're late to the party. No news there. However, I think the irony is that content is more easily shared and consumed than any other time in history. We're smack dab in the middle of the information age and people are more engaged than ever!

Within a few minutes on Twitter, I know the day's headlines. A few more minutes going through my RSS feeds gets me the latest tech news, social media trends, and business highlights. I read first thing in the morning, all throughout the day, and I begrudgingly turn off the computer or smartphone before I shut off the light for the night. I'm a readaholic.

I'm smarter than I've ever been in my life. I know more, I'm more well-rounded, and I'm exposed to a greater variety of ideas, viewpoints, and voices. I'm more business savvy and more marketable than at any other point in my career. I'm an educated woman of the 21st century and information is my BFF.

Do you read more today than you did five years ago? Do you know more? Are you relying on print less, but smarter than you once were?

Ignoring loyal fans: A social media how-NOT-to

I love it when companies use social media to see what people are saying about their brand. I love it even more when they acknowledge those folks. What I don't love as a consumer is feeling ignored. Enter Sharpie.

The famous marker company, Sharpie, recently offered a perk through Klout. They gave so-called "Sharpie influencers" a bunch of free stuff to do all kinds of artsy things. I love crafts and was bummed I didn't get the perk; so I sent a tweet (I'm a smart aleck, what can I say):

Sukhraj Beasla responded to my tweet and said she was disappointed, too. We started kidding back and forth about how much we loved Sharpies and wanted Sharpie to love us, too. Soon after, Lindsay Fultz said she was laughing at our funny tweets and joined in. Hugh McBride was next. He changed his avatar to a pack of Sharpies and started sharing great photos of things created with Sharpies! Then, Shana Ray joined and tweeted a photo of her Sharpie table.

We started using the hashtag #sharpiechat on some of the tweets, and even more folks started tweeting about Sharpie. People shared how they used Sharpie and what they liked about the product. Sheetal Makhan from South Africa asked what Sharpies were and of course I told her about all the permanent marker goodness. What had started off as a joke had turned into a full-fledged chat on how great Sharpie products were!

For nearly two hours that night, we traded tweets, shared Sharpie art, revised song lyrics to include Sharpie, and kidded about who loved Sharpies the most. It was terribly fun and at it's peak, #sharpiechat had more than 20 participants. Twenty-plus people sharing their love of the product and giving Sharpie's twitter account lots of love. When I went to bed, I thought, "I bet the Sharpie folks will get a kick out of seeing all those tweets in the morning. And how much will they love that we started the first ever #sharpiechat!".

Well, imagine my surprise when the next day came and Sharpie said nothing. Nada. Zilch. I even looked at the Sharpie Twitter page to see if they had respond to anyone from the previous night. Negative. Sharpie hadn't even followed me back (nor have they in the subsequent two weeks)! Granted, I didn't host #sharpiechat for any self-serving purpose, but not to even get one tweet from Sharpie? I thought that bit the big one. (For the record, not everyone put "@sharpie" in their tweets, however there were enough who did that Sharpie undoubtedly saw the surge of mentions and could have tracked the #sharpiechat hashtag.)

So, here's the free advice for the day. If your customers say how great you are, thank them! Respond, engage, do something! The last thing you should be doing is ignoring them. And, since Sharpie didn't see fit to acknowledge anyone who participated in #sharpiechat, I'd like to do that now--because that's how social media works.

Thank you to the following individuals:


And special thanks to: 
@lindsayfultz for coming up with the hashtag
@hughcmcbride for scouring the net to find the most amazing Sharpie-inspired content to share
@sbeasla for responding to my initial tweet, which got the whole conversation going

Want your customers to love you? Remember to love them back! That's how brand loyalty is created. That's how you turn customers into full-fledged fans. That's how ordinary companies become extraordinary!

Are all creative people just D-list performers?

Credit: Mark Parisi
I recently attended a benefit concert for Stitch the dog (to help Stitch and his family, click HERE). I noshed on bread and fruit and soaked in all the original music by some fantastic local artists. Some were just amazing! Just as good, or better, than the folks you hear on reality TV shows or the radio. I thought to myself, "It must be frustrating to be so talented and never make it big. Poor people. Only a small group of folks will ever be able to enjoy what they have to offer." Then it hit me, "These singers are no different than me!" 

I write on this blog a few times a week and I, too, only reach a small audience (although a wonderfully smart and good looking audience, I might add!). I'd love to make it to the big leagues one day, but even if I don't, I'll continue to write--because that's what I do. I am extremely grateful for the community of readers who support me. I don't take any blog comment, tweet, like, or other nicety for granted!

Each blog post I write is pretty much on par with the gig of any indie artist who plays at a local beer hole. I do what I do and cross my fingers that someone shows up! Neither of us is reaching millions, nor are we household names, but we will continue to be creative in our own ways because that's how we express ourselves.

There are so many wonderfully talented people out there who will never receive the accolades they so rightfully deserve. Whether one's talent is sculpting, writing, picture taking, painting, writing music, drawing, singing, playing an instrument, glass blowing, or some other creative endeavor, only a few folks will be discovered. Even fewer will prosper. But, create they must. They go on, because they're called. Because it's their passion. Because it's who they are.

Am I any different? I can't say that I am. I'm a D-list performer, just like the singers I pitied. Funny, how that reality took awhile to set in. But, I love what I do. And if only a handful of people dig it too, well, that's enough for me.

So, in true beer hole fashion, I'll sign off. This post was dedicated to the readers in the front row. Thanks for coming out today, my friends. Be true to yourselves and express your creativity in whatever way you can. Remember to tip your waitresses and drive home safely.  I'll be here all week...

Buffy the Vampire Slayer made me a lazy blogger

Think, think, think. I'm tired of thinking. Career, family, social media commitments. My mind is always on. Therefore, I've turned to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to save me.

I'll be honest, I've had some personal and professional setbacks lately. It's gotten me down. I'm probably also suffering from a little bit of social media fatigue (lots of people have been blogging about it since the launch of Google+). But, fortunately, I've found a safe haven. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Series DVD boxed set.

I've been delighting in turning off my brain in the evening and watching Buffy slay demons and dust vampires. It's helped me unwind and been wonderfully frivolous entertainment. What it hasn't helped is my blogging.

Scott Stratten of Unmarketing fame says don't blog unless you have something amazing to say. On the flip side, content creator extraordinaire Chris Brogan writes more in a week than most of us do in six months. He does this by skipping the time gobblers like television--and Buffy DVDs.

The great thing about our new uber-connected lives is that we're always in the know. The bad part is we never truly get away and unwind. There's no shortage of real life and online commitments nowadays. Heaven forbid you don't update your Facebook status for a week and people think you've died!

I've worked long and hard on this blog and it's not anything I ever intend to stop doing. However, laziness has been known to strike on occasion. Buffy just made it worse.

How do YOU keep yourself from getting lazy? Is it important to have mental breaks from our online responsibilities? Or did Buffy and her quest to fight the forces of darkness just bring out my inner slacker?

Free speech, public safety, and cell phones

Consider this scenario: You own a business. For some reason or another, people are angry at your business and decide to protest against it. The protesters tap into a service that your company provides to organize disruptive activities meant to hurt said company. Should the company be allowed to cut off that service?

Now, let's put some facts to this story. San Francisco's BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system has been on the receiving end of some heavy duty public discord this summer. In July, crowds shut down three of BART's train stations as they protested the shooting of a knife-wielding transient by a BART police officer. Last week, organizers were planning another protest against the city's transit system. However, BART shut down its underground, cell phone network in select stations to prevent people from organizing activities that would negatively impact train activity.

Keep in mind, BART actually owns and controls the wireless network that services the subterranean train tunnels. It didn't have to work with a cell phone provider to jam signals or cut service. It owns the system and simply turned it off. As a result, the protest didn't happen. People were unable to organize activities in real-time, tweet the locations of BART police, or use mobile devices in any way in several train stations. That, in essence, put the kibosh on the protest before it ever started. The American Civil Liberties Union cried foul; BART defended it's actions saying protests on station platforms would put the public at risk.

Were transit authorities truly concerned about commuter safety or did they just wanted to avoid a protest? Only a few people really know the answer to that. But, if it fair to say any business must continue to offer a service that is being exploited by people who are trying to do that business harm? Of course, this issue gets stickier when we consider that BART is a service of the city of San Francisco--obviously funded by taxpayer dollars. (Note: As a result of the recent wireless shutdown, another protest has been organized for this Monday.)

What do YOU think? Is the BART action the same as the government ordering social media shutdowns in Egypt and other countries that have faced civil unrest? Should BART, or any other company, be legally obligated to maintain a service even if it goes against the business's best interests? Does it make a difference if the entity owns the service or mandates another company cut access? What if that business is affiliated with the government?

No jammed signals here! Sound off below and exercise your right to free speech!

The business of bums, breasts, and butt cleavage

Some things make me scratch my head. Others make me fear for the future of the human race. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but these things get a big thumbs down from me. How about you?
1) QR codes on women's butts

As part of a new advertising campaign, the British women's beach volleyball team will now be sporting QR codes on their bums. Yep, as if men didn't stare at women's butts enough, now they're being encouraged to zoom in and take a photo! The codes will appear on women's derrieres starting today.

2) Little girls strapping on boobies

Spanish toy company Berjuan has introduced a new doll that breastfeeds. Little girls just need to strap on the halter with petal-covered nipples and they're ready to nestle their doll's face into their non-existent breasts.

Yes, I know some women will say that this toy will help breastfeeding in public become more acceptable or help kids better understand their bodies, but I say let little girls be little girls! Part of the joy of childhood is being blissfully unaware of the adult responsibilities of life (I'm also anti toy vaccuum, but that's another story).
Let's leave breastfeeding to the grown ups with real nipples, eh?

3) Event photographers with butt cleavage

This month I went to an event for journalists, sponsored by Facebook. Lots of professionals on the panel and in the audience. I was in the front row and, much to my dismay, was exposed to massive amounts of butt crack. Yep, you read right. Butt crack.

A guy was there taking photos for his company (a photo collective in Los Angeles) and every time he kneeled down to take a shot, he mooned the audience. Consider this free advice: if you're going to take photos at an event, wear pants and underwear that cover your rump (I can't believe things have gotten so casual in business that I even need to say something so ridiculous!).

So what say you? Is this all just too much? Are you fed up with droopy drawers, sexually-charged advertising, and inappropriate kids' toys? Or, do I need a chill pill?

Let's hear it!

Jan Brady would love social media

"Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!" No matter your age, everyone knows this notorious complaint from middle child Jan Brady of The Brady Bunch. Marcia was more popular, prettier, and everyone wanted to be like her. Jan? She was always in Marcia's shadow; trying to be noticed.

Jan Brady would love social media.

In many ways, social media is the great equalizer. Anyone can put information out of the web, grow an audience, and make a name for themselves. If Jan Brady were capable of popping out of the TV, I have no doubt that she'd embrace the world of new media. Through Twitter, Facebook, and blogging, Jan would have access to platforms that would allow her to be heard, show off her talents, and achieve success. Social media would allow her to compete with her sisters.

Ah, yes, the Brady girls and their hair of gold. When it comes to social media, we can all be lumped into a category that represents one of the "very lovely girls", can't we? In the real world, we're all a Marcia, Jan, or a Cindy.

The big names in the space are generally Marcias. People know who they are, listen to what they say, and want to be near them. Marcias have free products sent to them all the time and get access to exclusive events just because of who they are. Their Klout score is high because they've already made it to the big leagues, but Marcias disapprove of Klout and the idea of scores (perhaps it's easier to be indifferent when you're already successful). Marcias exemplify success and are the frequent objects of envy.

Then, there are Cindys. Cindys generally use social networking sites casually. They don't put a lot of effort into creating an online presence; they mostly use the tools for fun. Much like Marcias, they sometimes mock those who check their Klout scores. They're carefree with little to no interest in competing or being ranked. Despite popular belief, not all Cindys have a lisp (insert 70s-style canned laughter here).

As for Jans, they haven't made it to the big time, but they're trying. They want to make a name for themselves, they're trying to be recognized as subject matter experts, and they want to achieve success and all that comes with it. Jans know the stakes and want to stand out. They put a lot of effort into maintaining their social media presence, hoping it will help them reach that next level. Jans check their Klout score regularly and are excited when they get a perk (e.g. freebies offered through Klout). They want to be better than average and aren't afraid to work hard to get noticed.

Jans want to play with the big boys.
Jans want to make something of themselves.
Jans want to be Marcias.

If you're carefree like a Cindy or a powerhouse like Marcia, more power to you. But, remember, Jans are people, too. A Jan who wants to do more and be more is a good thing.

After all, who wants to live in someone else's shadow? Especially Marcia's.

Is a "brat ban" good for business?

Prefer to watch a movie in the theater without the chatter of restless kids? How about being able to walk down the grocery aisle without a herd of rugrats cutting you off? Rather enjoy a nice meal at a nice restaurant without the bellowing of an infant? What about flying cross-country without an antsy five-year-old kicking the back of your seat?

This week, Piper Weiss wrote an interesting story on the no-kids movement. In her piece, she listed an airline, restaurant, grocery store, and travel site that offer kid-free experiences. Some banning kids altogether, others offering customers kid-free hours where they can shop amongst adults. Adweek writer Robert Klara says "brat bans" could change the landscape when it comes to leisure marketing. It's no surprise that childless couples usually have more disposable income than families, and businesses are discovering a way to get that dough.

If my local movie theater offered an adults-only showing of Shrek 4 (c'mon, you know there's gonna be one!), there's no doubt in my mind that I'd choose that over the one open to kids. If my supermarket offered kid-free shopping hours, I probably wouldn't care. However, if Walmart announced a child-free shopping option, I'd be all over that. The way parents let their children scream at the top of their lungs in that place blows my mind. Granted, the parents are to blame just as much as the kids. But, that doesn't make the bellowing any more bearable.

These days, there are lots of niche businesses. Plenty that cater to animal lovers, singles, Christians, gays and lesbians, or other such groups. So, it makes sense that childless couples and individuals could be a profit center, as well. But, are parents going to tolerate being banned? Will they leave their kids in the car while they shop or eat? I think that's a double no.

Back in the 70s, adult-only apartment complexes were all the rage. Mix and mingle at the pool. Get hot and heavy in the jacuzzi. Adult fun. However, after lawsuits from disgruntled families started to hit the courts, those kind of apartment houses went the way of the disco ball. People don't like to be restricted from places. However, would a family have a more enjoyable experience if the childless people who didn't delight in the antics of wee ones had all shopped earlier during the kid-free hours? No reprimands or dirty looks from anyone if their kid did something disruptive?

What do YOU think? Would you enjoy having a child-free option for entertainment, dining, or travel? As a parent, would you be happy to get those people out of your hair or would you feel discriminated against? Is a "brat ban" the next big thing?

Google+ is destroying 1-on-1 communication

Some of the most important people in my life today are folks who were strangers to me before Twitter. I've nurtured and developed countless personal friendships and valuable business contacts thanks to the one-on-one interaction that Twitter provides. I use the site to establish real relationships.

Send me a tweet? I answer. I send someone a tweet? They respond. Conversation. How beautiful is that?

Enter Google+.

Although I think this new platform has promise, it's to communication what mold is to bread. Just like Facebook, Google+ utilizes threads. Someone asks a question and lots of people can respond. On Google+, up to 500 comments can be logged. I've seen several posts meet this cap, and others come close. When you comment, you're nothing special. You're one in a long thread of folks. I don't want to be one in a sea of comments. I want to be heard. Don't you?

On Twitter, if you send someone a tweet and he doesn't respond, it's the equivalent of him sticking his fingers in his ears while you're talking to him in person. Rude, right? On Google+, however, a great number of users are getting intimate with their ear wax. "Engage with me, but I'm going to be selective about who I respond to!"

Unfortunately, based on the behaviors I'm seeing on Google+, many people are enjoying collecting comments, but mostly just responding to their "real friends". It's this kind of lopsided interaction that prevents people from creating meaningful relationships and having satisfying one-on-one dialogue. (Of course, this practice may vary based on the number of people who chime in and that person's style when it comes to social networking.) The beauty of Twitter is that it knocked down walls, giving us greater access to people--even important ones. Google+ is building back up those walls, denying many people the courtesy of a direct response. Shutting down meaningful communication and, in some cases, making people groupies instead of equals.

If you have the desire to know me, connect with me on Twitter. Send me a tweet and I'll answer you. Strike up a conversation with me and I'll happily engage with you. If I want to know you, I'll do the same. However, I refuse to be one comment in a long thread on Google+. After all, if I take the time to engage with you, shouldn't you engage back?  Threads destroy one-on-one communication, plain and simple.

I'm a person. Talk with me; I talk back. It's called conversation. I'm not in high school anymore and I'm not going to compete in a popularity contest. I won't be one in a crowd, fighting to be heard or acknowledged. I'm worth more than that. Aren't you?

Are you branding or are you blowing it?

Whether you're talking about a company or a person, building a brand takes work--and consistency. Who are you? What does your company represent? What words do you want to spring to mind when people think of you or your business?

Martin Lindstrom wrote a great piece in Fast Company called, "Your Business Card is a Billboard for Your Brand". Not only does he show some neat examples of great cards, but he uses Ikea as an example of consistent branding. Its do-it-yourself image is conveyed in everything it does. It's business cards have "name", "email", "phone" printed on them with a blank line for staffers to fill in their own info. New employees are shown to their empty offices, which are later filled with boxes of Ikea furniture. Ikea lives its brand.

Do you?

Branding isn't just about your logo. It's about your public image. Kind of like the keywords you use in SEO, but only this is real life. What do you want people to think when your name or company is mentioned?

Personally, I've found Klout's +K feature to be very insightful when it comes to my own personal branding. If you're not familiar with the tool, it allows people to endorse others on the topics that Klout has determined they tweet about the most. This is good for two reasons:

1) You can see if your given topics are things that you want to be known for (and, if not, you should fix that!).
2) Based on the number of +Ks you're given by other Twitter users, you can get some insight as to how others perceive you.

Above are the top five topics Klout has said I'm influential about (based on my tweets, retweets, conversations, etc.). Are these things I want to be known for? You betcha!

Your branding is cemented with every action you take and every word you speak. Are you putting in the thought that's required to shape your brand? Think about the following weapons in your promotional arsenal and whether they're solidifying the image you want to create and the brand you're striving to build:

  • Business card
  • Twitter bio (including background and avatar)
  • LinkedIn profile
  • Email signature
  • Collateral materials
  • Recruitment tools (if you're a business, your brand should promote a culture to prospective employees)
  • Google profile (more important than ever since the launch of Google+!)
  • YouTube channel
  • Blog
  • Search results

Unlike the old days when the media was the only one able to tell your story, today's web and social networking tools have empowered us all to be our own PR firms. If you do it in public, you're saying something about your brand. Will that message be positive or negative? It's up to you.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...