Thursday, December 31, 2009

I am a Kool-Aidaholic

My name is Tiffany. And I drank the Kool Aid.

Most recently it was the social media Kool Aid. But it goes back a lot further, starting with a junior high discovery of the Sex Pistols. I bought every album. I covered my walls in posters. I died my hair purple, bought combat boots, safety pinned my torn t-shirts and memorized every word of Sid & Nancy. I was punk drunk.

I can't remember all of the flavors and varieties that have since sent me reeling. (Which is probably for the best) This isn't to say that I am fickle, floating about from one shiny object to the next. I've been hooked on some for years. In fact, as a professional bartender, Hubby's is a particularly intoxicating blend that I plan to imbibe in copious amounts for years to come. Because not all Kool Aid is bad. So, how can you tell? That's a question I have been pondering a lot lately.

I am admittedly overzealous by nature, but I think that there a few factors that propel me into dizzy sugary gluttony:

- Peer pressure. I am a glutton for approval.
- The urge to belong. Who doesn't want to find a community of like-minded people?
- An innate passion and enthusiasm for the Kool Aid at hand. This is where it gets tricky.

I am a passionate and enthusiastic person. I get caught up. I get excited. But for every Hubby there are a thousand Sex Pistols. Don't follow? For every good flavor that will sustain you for years to come, there is another that will ultimately leave you with a bad case of heartburn.

I've decided on a few rules of thumb to keep myself in check and avoid sleepless nights.

1. Read the Ingredients
On the back of that Punk Rock Kool Aid package are a bunch of ingredients that still appeal to me. Non-conformity, rebellious spirit, questioning authority, propensity toward profanity, etc... But there are even more that don't. Anarchy, nihilism, loud noise, disdain for yuppie middle America. Turns out that while I will always identify with a certain counter culture ideology, those aren't the traits that define me. My high concentration ingredients don't match up.

2. Sip. Don't Gulp.
Oh, moderation, you cruel beast. I am more of the "Gimme more! Gimme more! Nom, nom, nom." excessive type. Screw the sample cup, I'll take a gallon. But, if you gulp, you miss the nuances of each individual ingredients, both good and bad. And I find myself asking, what's the rush? Slow down. Savor the flavor.

3. Step Away from the Spokesmodel.
Who doesn't love the Kool Aid Man? He's smiley. He's friendly and fun. And...he has no depth. He's a mascot. Over the past 75 years he's changed dramatically to suit the current trends. He shifts based on popular consumer opinion-likely sourced from shopping mall focus groups. Basically, he is a cleverly crafted character created to manipulate you into buying what he is selling. Think used car salesman, but with cartoon charisma. Ah, charisma. I am a sucker for charisma. Flash me grin, give me a compliment and I will gladly buy your neon orange Pinto. Did I say "will?" I meant "would." The jig is up. Go sell crazy elsewhere.

4. Serve to Friends.
Best case scenario, your BFF loves it, asks for a crate and you blissfully discover yet another common interest. But, if BFF takes one sip and spits it out, take note. Now, defend away. To each her own. By no means succumb to peer pressure. It's true that some things are worth fighting for. But, if you find yourself regularly fighting your trusted circle, you have to think that maybe they have a point. Step outside of the fishbowl and get some feedback. It will help you hone in on the faults in your arguments and potential save you from hazardous allergic reactions.

5. Create Your Own Ratio
I love me some social media Kool Aid. Bring on the pitcher! But lately, I've noticed that high concentration leads to negative side effects, so I am tweaking the formula. One part professional, one part personal, then dilute. Don't be afraid to mix. A dash of Sex Pistols here, a dash of Community there. Variety is the spice of life and you might stumble upon an incredible new combination.

So, there you have it. My shopper beware Kool Aid guidelines. Posted mostly entirely to keep Yours Truly from making poor decisions. Added Bonus: I am now comfortable knowing that I have triumphantly beat a metaphor into submission.


*Gulp* (Damn. Baby steps.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Yes, I Shaved My Daughter's Head

This year has been a whirlwind. That's my excuse for completely neglecting my blog. When I came across Gwen Bell's challenge, I signed right up to reflect on the year with daily posts. Which I then immediately neglected. Hey, I got busy.

"I got busy."

When did that become my daily mantra, sprinkled with the occasional "I'm so tired" and "Meh?"

When I saw today's topic was this year's biggest challenge, it made me think. About how I started a new job and created a new department and the daily challenges of staying on top of the ongoing chaos that is social media. About keeping focused on the important things like friends and family and husbands. About the daunting pile of laundry that is forever building force to wage battle against the dust bunny armies in on-going domestic warfare. Meh. I'm tired.

Well, boo-effing-hoo.

Today Danger (my 2 year old daughter) got a new cast on her right foot. One of so many casts that I have lost count. But that hasn't stopped her from tearing through the house, dodging dust bunnies and laundry piles with unabandoned glee, her little bald head bobbing.Yes. That's right, her bald head.

I shaved my daughter's head.

Actually, Hubby shaved her head while I sobbed in the background. And that one act is the greatest challenge that has taught me the most this year.

It started innocently enough. She twirled her hair for comfort as she fell asleep. No biggie. Then she started pulling a little harder. Tiny bald patches appeared. No problem, we put gloves on. She pulled them off. Bald patches spread. We try hats, fuzzy stuffed animals, even a swim cap. Bald "patch" turned to bald "half of head."

At this point I am furiously searching Google for answers and discover that ingesting hair can cause serious intestinal damages. Crap. See, Danger has kind of a history of stomach issues that include three surgeries by the time she was two. But, that's all resolved now and I'll be damned if a little hair twirling is going to compromise that. Enter the clippers.

If I thought the act of shaving her head was hard, I was totally unprepared for how hard it would be afterward. She looks different. People stare. My closest family members have questioned my choice. And, by question I mean calling me a terrible mother and threatening to report me to child services. (I'm pretty sure they were bluffing since the doorbell never rang) Someone asked if she had cancer. Another if she'd had surgery. But, instead of being embarrassed or shamed, I stand strong by the decision. She isn't pulling her hair and now loves the fuzzy blanket that is her new nightly comfort.

And guess what, she doesn't have cancer. How great is that? She also doesn't have stomach problems. She is healthy and more importantly happy. I'd be lying if I didn't get sad that her beautiful curls are gone. In fact I've been reluctant to take Santa photos. But, in the grand scheme, it's just hair. And she will take Santa photos regardless of who stares. And I will show it to her first boyfriend at which point she will probably glare and twirl her fabulous beautiful hair (which if she's anything like her mother she will have dyed about stares).

But, back to the challenge and what I learned from it. First, I will never doubt the choices I've made as a parent in the best interest of my child. But, I kind of knew that already.

The biggest revelation was how much my self worth depends on the judgment of others. Am I doing a good job at work? Is my house clean enough? Am I good mom? Watching people instantly judge Danger based on her physical appearance has opened my eyes to how much control I give to other people's opinions.

I think everyone seeks affirmation and validation from outside sources. But, it took a toddler's happy smile and ease at overcoming any challenge to teach me that strength and joy come from within. She's too young to care what other people think or to know that she should be hindered by a cast. She's unstoppable. And I owe it to her to encourage that. To embody that.

OK, I am not going to shave my head in solidarity or anything. I'm probably not even going to fold that laundry tonight either. But not because I am too busy. Or too tired. Because that's my choice. And I'm confident in that choice.

Unless, of course, you are planning on coming over. In which case give me 20 minutes to sweep away the dust bunnies. And fix my hair. Meh.

Baby steps. After all, I need challenges to overcome for my December 2010 post.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Have you hugged your computer today?

To all the computers in my life...

I have been taking you for granted. I toss you in a bag and throw you in the backseat with little regard. I roll my eyes and mutter hateful things when you don't accommodate my need to have 63 tabs open. I eat toast with reckless abandonment, carelessly dropping crumbs on your keyboard.

I owe the World of 100 for this graphic and knocking to me to my entitled senses. It's incredible how differently things look when put into a smaller perspective. I now fully understand how privileged and lucky I am to have you in my life, computers.

XOXO- Tiff

Friday, October 9, 2009

Team Starnes Needs Your Support!

You have undoubtedly heard me make mention of TribeCon recently. Probably several times. OK, let's face it it's all I talk about! But, just in case you haven't heard about it, you can find all the details on the site or Facebook Page.

But, this isn't about just about TribeCon. This is about a little healthy competition between myself and my co-producer Chris Schultz. See, Chris made these really awesome high quality videos promoting the conference. They are really nice. And I don't care at all that I don't have any glossy videos myself. Because see, I am all about the grassroots, authentic gritty truth. Which is the only reason I posted my own videos. It wasn't about competition at all. Really.

But then he kept posting those fancy videos. And before I knew it, in a fierce fit of competitiveness, I challenged him to sell more tickets than I could. Loser has to perform an embarrassing act of the onstage prior to the TribeCon keynote. Thing is though, Schultz has like 5 million Followers and a "real" blog that people actually read. So, I am basically screwed.

But, before admitting defeat and practicing my "I'm a little teapot" dance. I am going to give it a shot. And I need your help. Even if you aren't a geeky tech Twitter freak. Please make me look popular and save some face! At the very least help me talk some smack on Facebook.

So, if you buy a ticket to TribeCon, enter the code "Starnes" for a 25% discount. If you don't buy a ticket, at least join the Facebook page and add smileys to everything I say.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mommy Blogging- You Got a Problem With That?

Since I began blogging, I've questioned the "mommy blog" label. Sure, I am a mom. But I write about my career and professional frustrations. Nary a diaper or baby food tossing post here! Oh, no Sir-ee. This is a bonafide career woman blog.

But, recently, as Danger's second birthday approaches, I have been torn with wanting to share a personal side, but not wanting to blur the lines and potentially compromise my professional reputation. And then I thought, WTF. I mean this is my blog after all. (And I a pretty sure my 5 readers will get over a momentary lapse.)

So, here goes. My first mommy blog. If you are looking for sarcastic social media musings, check back later. If you are looking for professional success stories, hit me up for some case studies. But for now, I am feeling blurry.

I looked forward to the day we found out Danger's gender from the split second I peed on that stick. Hubby and I looked through teary eyes at the screen as the doctor went through his ultrasound checks and measurements trying patiently not to scream "ALRIGHT already!" That's when the doctor frowned. That's when he found the abnormality. There was something wrong with her feet. Yes, "her" feet. It's a girl! And there is something wrong with her.

Two hours later after an immediate amnio, we left the office thinking less about pink bedding patterns and more about infant mortality.

The longest ten days of my life later we received the good news: It's not one of the dreaded syndromes. And the bad news: It's a rare chromosomal deletion with only 4 cases on record all of whom have additional disorders and severe disabilities. We were advised to expect the worse. We were given pictures of potential deformities and contacts for late term abortion clinics.

We decided to name her Danger. (Middle name of course, we're not crazy).

It didn't happen in a split second and I can't quite recall exactly when I changed. But, at some point I started feeling courageous, empowered, resilient. These are not the typical adjectives I would use to describe Yours Truly pre-Danger. In fact, emotional, klutsy and irrationally curious are the top to come to mind. Nevertheless, I earned my PhD in Google research and braced myself for the upcoming challenges.

Danger was born premature with a feeding problem and three holes in her heart. Her lung collapsed her 3rd day in the NICU. She's had three stomach surgeries, one foot surgery and spent her first 6 months in toe to heel casts. She wore corrective shoes and a hip brace for several months. She has 4 therapists whom she sees three times a week. And until a few weeks ago, she had a feeding tube.

Now before you get all weepy, you should know that she starts nursery school on Friday. "Normal" kid school. With no tube (she devours some edamame) and her shoes are fancy-pants pink tennies bought from a posh Uptown boutique.

By all accounts she is "normal." Except that she will always be ours and hence never really "normal." Because it turns out that despite all the attention we gave to the long arm of chromosome 2, all of those other genes she adopted from Hubby and me are pretty strong. They might even potentially outweigh that one that got messed up. For better or worse, that includes the klutz gene, the curiosity gene, the spoiled gene and thankfully my newly discovered empowered, resilient and courageous genes.

So, there you have it. I am a mommy blogger. And proud to be in the company if they will have me. I am also a wife, professional, community activist, art lover, voracious reader and proud owner of two cats. I like butter. I hate exercise. I have no idea what my favorite color is. And, PS I am a lactard.

Bye bye, box. Hello, big picture. Welcome to my Not So Doris Days: full disclosure.

*Oh, God. What have I done? Press publish. Quick!*

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Six Degrees of Serendipity

Let me tell you a story. I am pretty sure it has a point, so bear with me.

  1. The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.
  2. The fact or occurrence of such discoveries.
  3. An instance of making such a discovery.
I was talking on the phone with my friend Sloane. We were actually talking business, but as usual, we meandered onto the topic of community, something we both hold dear. We talked about the importance of being positive and not getting distracted by tools douchebags people who use social media solely to boost their own egos. She told me about the Art of Non-conformity and how there is a community of like-minded travelers she has found via Twitter that keep her inspired. We discussed the ability to find mentors, inspiration even , dare I say boyfriends. *my lips are sealed*

This got me thinking about my Twitter mentors. The people who I rely on to keep me focused. The first person who really inspired me was Gwen Bell. She has a nurturing positive attitude that makes you feel like your safely snuggled in a big fluffy blanket with a cup of hot cocoa and a best girlfriend. And then there is Lisa Barone. She is a foul-mouthed feisty vixen who knocks down pedestals faster than you can say F**k you, Goliath!

In a weird twist of fate, that very morning while I was talking to my social media crossed buddy, the planets aligned and...Gwen Bell was a featured guest writer on Lisa Barone's agency blog! Creepy right? All this cosmic hippy dippy kismet action.

I was feeling all warm and fuzzy when I hung up the phone. Lighter. More positive. It occurred to me how amazing it is that we met, communicate and plan future collaborations all because of social media. And as I am musing on this, I look down at the page where I had doodled The Art of Non Conformity and make a point to look it up.

But first, I needed to comment on that post. You know the "Lisa Baronne & Gwen Bell are buds and that's just so appropriate in a weird way because I kind of stalk them both" post. The post announcing this:

Hi, I’m Gwen Bell and I’m an entrepreneur. Today is the launch date of my latest co-created venture, along with Chris Guillebeau from The Art of Nonconformity. The name of our project is The Unconventional Guide to the Social Web.

Gwen Bell announcing on Lisa Barone's site that she is working with my gal Sloane's like-minded traveling do-gooder Chris Guillebea. Dots connected.

Karma? Kismet? Nah. Social media allows people who have something in common to connect and share and listen from across the cubicle or across the world. And I can't help wondering who I will meet today.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Don't be a Tool. Be a Crafstman.

Let me ask you something. Would you trust a contractor who shows up for a job with only one tool? Let's say a hammer. No level, no wood saw. Just a hammer. But, to be fair, it is a very shiny hammer. And all of the cool contractors are using it. To be completely honest I don't know a drill from a wrench so I am probably not one to be giving you advice on shiny hammer guy. But I do know a little bit about social media and the most successful efforts require a strategic mix of tools and tactics. And each tool is different depending on your client's goals. Yep, I said goals. Let's take a second to discuss goals.

Client: I want 1000 Facebook Fans!

Clear goal. Easily qualified metric. If the client gets 1000 followers, that is a social media success, right? Well, before you break out the champagne, consider what those followers mean to your client's business and bottom line. If you can't answer that then you don't have a real life business goal. So how can you even begin crafting a strategy or marketing plan?

But, your client really, really, really wants to be on Facebook!

Well, I wouldn't tell my contractor what drill bit to use. I trust that he will choose the appropriate tool to get the job done. And as a social media marketer it is my responsibility to understand my craft and all of the tools at my disposal. So that when a litigation specialist asks for a Facebook Page, I can gently inform her that well, it's not likely anyone will "like" Chinese dry wall litigation. But, depending on what she wants to accomplish, I bet I can use my keen listening skills (aka bionic ears, thanks Tom Martin) to find someone else out there who is talking about it. And then together we will figure out the best tool to reach them.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Hot for Teacher

I'd like to buy the world a Coke. And then teach them how to TwitPic it, upload to Flikr, YouTube & Vimeo and share with a friend on Facebook.

I am rabidly obsessed eager to teach everything I know about Social Media to anyone and everyone who will listen. This prompted a friend of mine to ask "Aren't you making yourself obsolete if you teach everyone to do what you do?"

First of all let's remember that Twitter is 140 characters followed by a big "UPDATE" button. If my ultimate talent was Twittering, I'd be in pretty big trouble.

Secondly, the entire premise of social media is the ability to have authentic real-time conversations. The most appropriate person to own and publish that "authentic" voice and personality is therefore the client himself. Ironic that Web 2.0 makes the customer/ brand relationship personal again.

There is no longer a need for carefully crafted content held tightly to the chest until it is "released " upon the public through professionally recommended media outlets. These days anyone can create and broadcast content. The gates are open and the gatekeepers better start looking for a different line of work. Brian Solis does a great job explaining this revolution (he even gives away some resources...for FREE).

"The socialization of the Web and content publishing disrupted the balance and is now forcing a media renaissance that is transforming information distribution, human interaction and everything that orbits this nascent ecosystem."

That said, the shifting communications paradigm does not make marketing and communications specialists obsolete. But it does change the way we look at the purchase cycle and define and sell to our best customer. *Gasp* Did she say SELL? Damn, right I did. All this talk of conversations and discussions sometimes neglects that the ultimate goal for most companies is to make a profit.

This is not a dirty scheme. As long as you are upfront about your product and have something of worth to sell, there is likely someone out there who is interested in buying. Say for example you sell comfortable eco-friendly flip flops with a triple bottom line business ethic. Eco-bloggers, philanthropy advocates, crunchy granola folks- there are a ton of people who would be interested in that product. And there are a ton who wouldn't. According to a recent NY Times article this is a prime opportunity for PR folks to find their niche and develop valuable relationships.

"P.R. is important because it’s pretty intensive to figure out who [the power users] are."-Donna Sokolsky Burke, co-founder of Spark PR

So, consider me your Social Media GPS. Vetting and identifying appropriate communities is something I love doing. It takes time, honesty and a certain stalker quality. (Remember in that last paragraph when I said "valuable" relationships. If not, go straight to jail. Do not collect $200 and certainly do not read the next sentence. You will never understand it). It also requires the ability to and interest in listening. Once you find your target's lair, it's not pounce time. It's not time to spam the community with "Look at Me" display ads and guerrilla forum postings. It's not about you.

That's right. Once again SoMe does not stand
for "So...let
me tell you all about Me". It's about listening, participating and giving. So go buy someone a Coke. And then listen. Even if they don't sing in perfect harmony. Because once you know them a little better you can recommend a voice coach.

Friday, July 3, 2009

LPTV- An Ode to Old White Guys

This went off on old white guys. Again. And now I am officially over it.

PS This super special extra flattering thumbnail is an added bonus. I promise I'm not drunk. No. Really.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Why I love Feelgoodz

This week I interviewed Kyle Berner about his success with Feelgoodz. He is a social media dream. Authentic, passionate and absolutely adorable. Hear how he survived on a $45 food budget for 3 weeks...oh, and quadrupled his sales.

Confessions of a former Yes Woman

Today I got in my first fight with a respected peer and close friend. About social media. I was fully pissed off about a project that I was passionate about that I thought was being handle entirely wrong. (Never mind that said project isn't even one I am working on.) I had strong opinions and knew that I was right and pretty much said so. Because that's kind of what I do.

And then it dawned on me...that's kind of what I do. Since when? How did that happen? See, not long ago I was a quiet yes man. Yes, it's true. Yours Truly was an insecure ad gal pushing traffic orders. I don't know exactly how it happened. I started out with a vision and a dream. But, then I spent way too long being held back and began accepting mediocrity. I did what was expected and didn't cause trouble. Went with the flow. So I began to retrace my path to today's social media smack down.

It started when Danger came along. I discovered a community of mommybloggers that inspired me and rekindled a fire inside that was all but extinguished. I followed them, discovered this thing called Twitter and got involved in a conversation that was empowering and real and candid. I was hooked. And then I found other people in my own backyard that were just as hooked. And then I realized that these people were making things happen and changing the game. And before I knew it I was one of them. Suddenly, I was part of this crazy revolution of authentic passion that refused to bow to mediocricy. Well, I had to do something.

So, I started doing rogue social media campaigns for clients. They worked! Bye Bye rogue, hello full frontal honesty. And adios mediocrity. Off I went to follow my dreams and pursue my passion. So that's the story of my transition from yes man to social media champion. A transition that happened so organically that I totally missed it. Until today.

So, there you have it folks. Tiffany Epiphany. Thanks for listening.

Disclosure: This is my blog. My personal rant about all things me. It is not a mommyblog nor it is not a place for intellectual discourse on social media strategy. It's just me. And my 2 faithful readers:)

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Twitter Reply Conspiracy

A while back Twitter changed the reply function so that you only saw responses to people you were following. Which means when you send an @tiffanystarnes message, instead of going to everybody that follows you, it only goes to people who follow both the me AND you. So your college buddy in Wisconsin won't ever see your pithy response to my eloquent 140 chracter genius.

I try to explain this "Tiffany style" on LPTV. Pretty sure I wasn't drinking, but also pretty sure I only confused the situation further. Long story short...if you want everyone who follows you to see your Twitter posts, put a period before the @ when you Tweet.

But, if you want to hear about Dianne and the band guy carpooling to a U2 concert...

PS. Yet another Phoenix commercial. Maybe I need to get an Associates degree.

What's a Friend Worth

Another Launch Pad TV post from the archives. I talk about whether IRL (In Real Life) connection is necessary to build meaningful relationships given the bevy of online tools to connect.

Oh, and um, like, my hair is totally much better in this one.

PS. Still can't get rid of the Phoenix ad. I am not a Phoenix. But good for them.

Launch Pad TV

The last few weeks I've been doing a segment on Launch Pad TV about whatever I happen to think is interesting in social media. It's basically a random blathering diatribe about one thing or another and usually involves lots of "um, so totally, like" Tiffisms. Well, for some reason they keep asking me to come back. Meanwhile my blog is off in the corner pouting at my blatant neglect. So, I figured, why not post my social media rants here?

This week, I , um, like totally talk about the social media impact on the Iran elections. With a touch of a hangover. And dirty hair. Don't judge.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

SoMe...So All About Me?

Last week I found myself sucked into the black hole of bitterness- full of hate and resentment for social media "posers." It started with this survey that says that even people who have absolutely NO experience with social media marketing consider themselves knowledgeable.

I'm sorry? No experience=knowledge? Huh? In what parallel universe?

Then there's Ashton & Oprah. Twitter has officially gone mainstream. And all of the "experts" and early adopters are feeling threatened because suddenly anyone can do social media. And, really, how dare they enter our inner Twitter sanctum? We were here first. We own this. I had more followers than you last month, buddy.

Wait. Hold on. Here's the thing, I hate those blowhard Twelebrities who want tons of followers but never seems to have case studies for actual clients. I am the girl who laughs at people who make SoMe into So All About Me. But, as my followers grow, apparently so does my ego. I find myeslf getting pompous and holier than thou. I stand on a soap box instead of listening to the crowd. Am I *gasp* turning into one of "them"? I find myself looking in the mirror and asking "Who the hell do I think I am?"

And, at just the right moment, I came across Rob Key, who slapped me back to reality with a peek into where my real value lies. He pointed to the difference between monitoring and mining. Monitoring is listening. As in shut the hell up with your sales pitch and see what your customer is saying. Good first step. Mining is the actual analysis of those conversations. What are they actually saying and what does it mean? And more importantly, how can you add value for your customers based on what you have learned?

Monitoring is pretty easy. Singing your own praises is even easier. Sitting back and actually hearing is a little trickier. But, I am up for tricky. In fact, I love tricky. I am a sucker for analysis. I am positively giddy to know what someone thinks about my client's brand. Hey, that's the reason I was psyched about social media in the first place. But, oh, wait, look at that shiny object.. someone is talking about ME!

And, back to "who the hell do I think I am?" Well, here's my answer. I am incredibly passionate and enthusiastic about the tools I now have to communicate with like-minded people who can teach and inspire me on a daily basis. I am prone to defensiveness and sarcasm. I love my clients and have a persistent nagging voice in my head asking "how does this effect my brands' business goals and long term success?" I also have a teensy bit of PR and marketing experience under my belt. BUT, none of these things make me any more of an "expert" in social media. Let's face it. We are all new to this game and the rules change every day.

So, instead of spewing easy sarcastic barbs, I resolve to try to add value. To listen to learn. To not get sidetracked when rockstars acknowledge my existence. And when I get extra pompous and snarky, I hope you will kick that soap box right from under me and ask, "What have you done for your clients lately?" Because at the end of the day, my success is making my clients loved and adored and relevant and famous.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Yes. It is Another Hair Post.

GL Hoffman is my hero. Obviously he totally gets it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Social Media Stylist

After months of recession hair, I finally got myself to a professional for a long overdue haircut. Now, I have been prone to break out the scissors after a few glasses of wine to "trim" my bangs. It's what I like to call Drunk Styling. Some people call their exes, I add layers. And, while I might think I look pretty good, I always amazed at how much better I look when I leave it to the professionals.

So, while I understand that everyone has access to social media tools, if you want it done well, you will hire a professional. And by professional, I mean someone who makes it their sole responsibility to do something extremely well and with passion and dedication.

Sure, you can create your own Twitter account. You saw how to do it on the Today Show! But then what? How are you going to use it? Who do you hope to connect with? How are you going to track and measure success? More importantly, in an industry that is changing daily- maybe hourly- are you going to devote time to studying best practices, industry trends and standards?

Yes, I know what scissors are. But, I have absolutely no idea what an elevated angulated long layered bob is. (Hint: I don't even think it exists.) That's why I go see Chris at Paris Parker.

So, all you folks out there who want a DIY bowl cut social media strategy. Go for it. And when people point and laugh, you will eventually seek professional help. I'll be waiting. And I promise not to judge.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stalk Marketing: How Far is Too Far?

Social Media gives brands and advertisers a new level of access to their customers. When used well it's a Win/Win. As usual, Jeremiah Oywang sums it up perfectly.

It seems easy when the situation is simple:

Customer: I really need a stainless steel waffle iron.

Waffle Iron Maker: Buy mine here.

Transaction Complete.

But, what happens when the brand wants to continue the conversation? At what point does it shift from marketing to stalkering? Yesterday Chris Schultz asked the Twittersphere their opinion on getting an unsolicited DM from a local establishment after making a purchase. The responses definitely trended toward creepy. On the other hand to quote a girlfriend "JCrew could call me at 3am and I would happily answer the phone."

So, consider this scenario...

You are browsing the interactive Anthropologie aisles, throwing embroidered cardigans in your cart willy nilly. After amassing Supermarket Sweep-style quantities of couture, you head to your cart for some editing. (Bedazzled boy shorts? Seemed practical. But, on second thought... Click. Delete.) So, you've narrowed it down to the necessities. But, alas, you must abandon your cart for whatever reason- indecisiveness, bankruptcy, kitchen fire. When you return 2 days later to seal the deal, the object of your affection is *gasp* SOLD OUT!

In this situation, would it be intrusive for the retailer to send you a head's up that there are only 3 size 2 dresses left? (Shhh, online anyone can be a size 2) What if they sent a coupon for 20% off those adorable flats languishing in e-commerce purgatory? Or a recommendation on a new blouse in stock that would look great with the slacks you bought last week? How far is too far?

And what makes some engagement tactics better than others? Is it the approach? The offer? The circumstance?

It's a whole new game, and the rule book is still being written. As a professional in social media, I occasionally find myself questioning how to use the Web 2.0 tools at my disposal to avoid overstepping the bounds. At the end of the day, I try to remain honest, offer value and ask myself how I would want to be approached. Game Plan Golden Rule.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Take my money. Please.

I recently switched bank accounts and forgot to update my car note automatic withdrawl. So, because I am extremely financially responsible (and not at all because I was crunching numbers to see if I could afford a new shiny object) I caught the mistake a few days later and called my car company. The conversation went something like this:

Me: I'd like to use a new account for my auto draft payment.

Extremely Helpful Customer Service Rep: I'm sorry, you can only change your account 9 days prior to your bill due date.

Me: OK, then let me give you my credit card number.

EHCSR: We don't accept phone payments.

Me: Huh?

EHCSR: You'll have to send a money gram.

Me: I don't have a money gram. (In fact I can't say I really know what a money gram is)

EHCSR: You can get one at Walmart.

Me: So, let me let this straight. I have to find a Walmart to get a money gram to pay for my car.

EHCSR: Yes, maam.

Me: But I can pay you right now with my credit card. I have money now. And you want my money now, right?

EHCSR: Yes, maam.

Me: But you won't take my money?

EHSCR: No, maam. We will only take a money gram.

Me: Thank you. You have been extremely helpful (Read: You have wasted 20 minutes of my life that I will never get back)

So, nevermind the fact that my car company apparently has some evil conspiracy plot to get me into Walmart, I am shocked at how difficult a very simple transaction can become. At the end of the day, if I have something you want and you have something I want, shouldn't we just trade? I win. You win. It's that simple.

This afternoon while listening to the webinar "Using Online News to Drive SEO" Lee Odden hit the nail on the head.

In the case of news content, make it easy for consumers and journalists alike to find your message on the channels and in the format they prefer.

Peter Shankman has done exactly that by connecting reporters with experts through his Help a Reporter Out (HARO) press queries. Journalists describe what they need, an e-mail goes out and experts respond if they have the answers. The same model can be used in advertising. Social media provides instant insight into what your audience wants. All you have to do is listen. What does your customer want? Then, if you have they are asking for, make it easy for them to buy it. Duh, right? Keep it simple and always add value.

Example: If I tweet out that I am jonesing for a cheeseburger and BK sends me a coupon, what are the odds that I am going to truck it over to BK? (Hint: I am saving up for shiny things and really big on instant gratification.) Now if they send me a coupon that is only redeemable on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 4-7am with a with a minimum $107 purchase while supplies last...yeah, not so much.

P.S. Anyone looking for a lovely, barely used solid-gold sedan can find me in line at Walmart.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Twitter Gras

I've been noticing a lot of Mardi Gras tweets and I love seeing the season through other people's eyes via their posts and TwitPics. Then I came across Tom Martin's experiment to live stream his weekend on Twitter. What a great idea!

But, I got to thinking about how cool it would be if everyone posted their Mardi Gras experience and tagged it with #mardigras. That way you could aggregate all the unique things people are doing around the city in one place and really get a 360-degree look at the festivities.

It works great for conferences, right. And if you have never watched your favorite TV show with the Twitterverse, you should try it. It's like sitting in your living room with a bunch of really snarky friends. Like tonight when @blathering totally called Collichio out on his roux knowledge on #topchef...but, I digress.

So, if you are out and about in NOLA for Mardi Gras, tweet it out and add #mardigras at the end. Or, if you are stuck behind your desk in Seattle wishing you were here, just search Twitter for mardigras and enjoy some real time vicarious living!

Happy Mardi Gras. Let's share our fun. Show us your Tweets!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Job. New Media.

When I first met Adele I thought "She has great hair!" It only took a few minutes to discover that under those lovely locks is a crazy big brain. We are founding members of Net2NO, a secret speakeasy for New Orleans tech geeks (which is now gloriously not so secret with over 150 members, but that's another story). We became fast friends on Twitter, sharing resources, insights and more than a few laughs. We met "IRL" for a quick lunch that spiraled into a 2 hour geek-out. Now, six months later, I find myself in my dream job sitting across from my well coiffed mentor tossing around ideas and html puns.

In a dire economic environment riddled with lay-offs, I managed to land a killer position with a stable and cutting edge agency. I'm sorry, am I DREAMING?? Coming from a traditional advertising background, I know that marketing budgets are the first to be cut in hard financial times. Bye-Bye big shot TV director and craft services. And, dare I say, good riddance. Not to let the cat out of the bag, but there is an better way. *Shhh*. It's online. When Alec Baldwin is touting Hulu on network TV, you gotta think something's changing. Listen closely, Detroit, nobody is watching those beautifully crafted car commercials. OK, maybe a few folks are. I'll give you that. Hey, I watch Superbowl ads. But how can you know for sure that it's working? Where's your measurement, your ROI, your conversion?

Maybe I am getting swept up in my interactive love fest. Maybe I am part of the instant gratification generation. But, when I look at the analytics for a successful online campaign, I know my client is winning. When I get instant R&D from my prime demographic through social media outlets, I thank my lucky stars for not being behind a one-way mirror focus group in some unknown town. And when I have doubts and long for a craft service bagel, I look across my desk for instant gratification and relish my homemade blueberry muffin from #coffea.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Chuck, Mt. Everest, Earthquakes in Japan and... Hubby Love?

Hubby: I can't believe nobody told me that Chuck was in 3-D :(

Yours Truly: Were you expecting a secret decoder ring from the NBC team?

Hubby: I didn't get an e-mail. Nothing on Facebook. Not even a Tweet.

Hubby is not an internet geek. Or in advertising. He owns a cafe. (An incredibly delicious, truly one-of-a-kind cafe.) And, he is *dare I say* an "Influencer". That elusive group of early-adopting WOM mavens that marketers dream of.

Our conversation about Chuck is evidence that traditional advertising doesn't really work. Hubby figured that any one of our like-minded buddies would have filled him in on the obviously important fact that the show was in 3-D. I am sure that there was heavy marketing behind this little endeavor. TV? Print? Interactive? Whatever the medium, it completely missed the target audience... Or, maybe we live in a bubble. I am totally open to that possibility.

Except that my bubble just burst wide open. I am leaving a group of highly creative, inspiring ad people to explore the Web 2.0 frontier. It's an exciting venture, but not one without its "What the hell are you thinking" moments. I love my job. I admire the founders of my company. But, I have this gnawing beast inside of me that needs to be fed. That would be my inner geek (hungry little devil). So, I am abandoning my comfortable nest and flying off to a new agency that resides on the bleeding edge. And that edge overlooks a long, long way to fall.

Ironically, I am reading a book about a Mt. Everest expedition. Apparently, there are many terrifying edges to overcome before you get anywhere near the summit. And that's where I am heading. To the summit. To plant me flag.

Wait a minute! That expedition ended in mass causalities. OK, breathe. Think Chuck. Think about the future of communication where people get their information online and expect their networks to keep them informed. Think about the fact that when I am looking for breaking news I turn to my TweetDeck search cloud (FYI: there was an earthquake in Japan today). Remember that I haven't read a newspaper in months because I subscribe to the RSS feeds. And most importantly, when I question my choice, know that I will always have Hubby by my side reaffirming my convictions- whether he knows it or not.

So, there you have it. My first blog post in months. But, hopefully, not my last. Wish me luck on my expedition!

PS Thanks to BFF on the randomly appropriate reading material.