Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Hope for the Holidays

It doesn't matter where you come from or where your travels lead. Doesn't matter how much money you have in your pocket or the significance of your job title.

You can always give hope. 

This holiday season, I invite you to find a way to spread a little more hope around this planet. 

Pass an unsolicited smile. Wave a friendly hello to a stranger. Pick up something someone dropped. Hold the door open. Let someone go in front of you. Compliment someone out of the blue. Wink at a child. Drop a quarter in the bucket of someone less fortunate or extend a hand to help someone up in whatever tiny way you can afford. It doesn't have to be much and you don't have to tell a soul you did it. 

Just do yourself a favor and make the world we live in just a tad more bearable. It'll do wonders for your own sense of hope. And the best part is...hope is contagious. So please pass it on. 

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2012

They will always be children.

I'm been struggling with how I might address the horrific tragedy that visited Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT last Friday morning. 

My college-aged daughter phoned me just after it happened and neither of us mentioned a word. It was too tough. My two-year old has been picked up and dropped off at preschool twice since it happened and neither time can I face the reality of it all.

I can't find the words yet. Maybe I never will. But I keep thinking of that Olympic commercial where the brand says "To their moms, they'll always be kids." I know it's ridiculously trivial, but it's all I can allow to cloud my thinking and remind me that to every parent, they will always be kids. Maybe I'm pretending that it didn't happen and that life is nothing more than one big marketing campaign, but it's all I can do to not weep incessantly for the parents left behind.

To those parents, we ache as a nation for peace for you.

To an entire nation, the following babies will forever be heroes:

Charlotte Bacon, Feb. 22, 2006
Daniel Barden, Sept. 25, 2005
Rachel Davino, July 17, 1983
Olivia Engel, July 18, 2006
Josephine Gay, Dec. 11, 2005
Ana M. Marquez-Greene, April 4, 2006
Dylan Hockley, March 8, 2006
Dawn Hochsprung, June 28, 1965
Madeleine F. Hsu, July 10, 2006
Catherine V. Hubbard, June 8, 2006
Chase Kowalski, Oct. 31, 2005
Jesse Lewis, June 30, 2006
James Mattioli, March 22, 2006
Grace McDonnell, Nov. 4, 2005
Anne Marie Murphy, July 25, 1960
Emilie Parker, May 12, 2006
Jack Pinto, May 6, 2006
Noah Pozner, Nov. 20, 2006
Caroline Previdi, Sept. 7, 2006
Jessica Rekos, May 10, 2006
Avielle Richman, Oct. 17, 2006
Lauren Rousseau, June of 1982
Mary Sherlach, Feb. 11, 1956
Victoria Soto, Nov. 4, 1985
Benjamin Wheeler, Sept. 12, 2006
Allison N. Wyatt, July 3, 2006

Here's to the moms and dads of those little lost angels...thank you.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

FWIW: A Social Year In Review

It's that time of year again. 
Looking back. Holding our breathe. Peeking around the corner of the oncoming year. Getting scared and then looking back again. Some call it "A Year in Review, " but I think of it more like a wrap-up report; identifying metrics, trends and hopefully learning from mistakes. The best part? Celebrating victories. Small or large, life should be more about celebrating and growing than shrinking from fear. 
It's also a time of welcome quiet and reflection. The last few days have seen horrible national tragedy that I'm not yet ready to tackle in prose, so please join me in looking back and cultivating hope for the future. 
With that, please don't take too much from this post. Keep in mind that it doesn't mean much because it's all in the past. It's really indicative of how much time we collectively spend online and what content we share while we waste spend time online. For what it's worth, I present the year in social review...
The most popular tweet to date came from President Obama, containing three simple words of victory:  “Four more years.” Retweeted 810,000 times,  the second place Tweet was a message shared from Justin Bieber about the devastating loss of a 6-year old fan. The Biebs continues to claim the title of Twitter King and until maybe Kate's new baby get it's own handle.
Twitter released it's top trends for 2012 via Washington Post. It's a little sad and a lot predictable and truth be told, kinda boring, but I get bored easily. I'm never really interested in anything social jokers like Pope Benedict XVI or Kim Kardashian have to say in life or in Twitter, but the facts don't lie. Twitter has spoken.

Are you looking to find Facebook's review of 2012 or are you really looking for YOUR year in review from Facebook's point of view? Either way, you are covered. Start here and check out what FB had to offer our annual collective content: From Superstorm Sandy, the elections, Whitney's death and the Olympics, it's all captured from open graph data. Make sure to not overlook the overwhelming fact that Facebook grew it's international audience to over 1 billion this year. That's big news for Facebook.

But what about you? Learn how to take a look at your biggest social moments via the year in review page that allows you to see your top moments of 2012. If you want to take a closer look at your social activity in general, head over to Vizify.com and create a collaborative account that will pull in data from across your own social graph and throw it all together on a cute little customized page. More to come from that type of algorithm in the future. Cheers to that; the future, that is:) 

Last Wednesday, Google released it's Zeitgeist 2012 Video on YouTube. It's gained nearly 4m video views already and that's pretty funny, considering IT'S ALL OLD NEWS. Whitney Houston topped the list of more than 1.2 trillion global searches. None of the other most popular search terms turned out to be a surprise to me, and I bet it's the same story for you. Still, it's entertaining and should be included in any story about how 2012 will be remembered. 

A leading destination that seems to be the most corporate-approved site for daily news consumption, Yahoo pulls in content to display a live feed of trending images, stories, tweets and such in their Year in Review news page. It's a good place to catch a global glimpse of what has been covered, but offers little creativity and probably the most annoying Advertorials ever. 

Pinterest, Instagram and other image-based social sites
2012 was just the start. Pinterest just launched it's business strategy recently and walks folks and brands through steps to start taking advantage of this emotionally-driven image-based existence. Instagram users and brands are just starting to monetize the channel. 2013 will see more integration, development and all-around improvement in how users use their mobile devices and hardware to soften the heavy blow of having less human interaction over more social engagement by concentrating on uploading images. Of life...and enjoying life. Showcasing life over social media channels means committing time and resources to managing those channels and that really means spending less time enjoying life. Pinterest, Instagram and other social sharing image-based social sites are allowing people the perception of blending the two things together better than any other channel thus far. Expect a good deal from these show-stoppers in 2013. Including building (p)interesting image strategies.

Ahhhhh YouTube. Providing video content to the masses. 2012 saw continued growth in how people consume video and 2013 will undoubtedly extend that growth into untapped areas as consumers desire to control their digital journey becomes ever more powerful. The funny thing is that the content isn't evolving as fast as the consumer expectations are. You want to see what everybody else watched this past year? Okay. You want the best branded ads of 2012? Got it. You want boring, imaginative or stupid human acts of the decade? Check. You kind them all on YouTube. One way or another, all good video content ends up on YT. That's the power - and the price - of digital freedom.

Social Media in general
2012 was the year of social networking, many have said. Last year's year in review told stories of how social media would become mainstream and more part of the American BAU (business as usual) landscape than ever before. It has. Some would even say that social media, in general, transitioned into mainstream media this past year. Here is a wrap-up report of the ten best social media campaigns from 2012. So what should we expect for 2013, for social media in general? More sophistication, says HispanicBusiness.com and I tend to agree. Not just because I earn a paycheck in the arena of social media, but because it's a fact that can't be disputed. Like those horrible Advertorials on Yahoo.com, we gotta get better at engaging content and social campaigns or we run the risk of becoming last year's trending topic that fell flat just as soon as the next hot topic bubbles up. My hope is that social networking, social interactivity and eCommerce will continue to do nothing but evolve. As practitioners (and humans) we want to do all that we can to be prepared and enlightened, but let's face it. We never know what is truly coming until we commit to rounding that corner and taking it all head-on. It's the art of discovery. For me, that's part of the appeal of social. And life. 

Here's to celebrating 2012 and looking forward to making each day of 2013 a little better, one tweet at a time.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

All is fair in love and social

Under normal circumstances, I would not site Perez Hilton as a newsworthy source. 

But, nothing about social media is normal. Except people, that is. 

So for today's post, I wanted to concentrate on a dangerous trend that is, well, trending. 

Lately, it's pretty easy to find news stories written about not so much how many people are using social media as their preferred public channel choice to communicate in general, but a channel that is being used as something much more intimate and intimidating. Which makes me want to ask the question, "Are we ready for everything in social to be fair game?"

Take @jennyjohnsonhi5 and @chrisbrown. Jenny Johnson is a comedian and writer. Chris Brown is a woman-abuser and a singer. How are they related? I don't know, but it goes like this: Chris says something dumb in Twitter and Jenny retweets & responds, much to the delight of her 349.9k followers. They appear to feed off each other, but we all know Chris can only handle so much domestic felicity before he loses it in a big way. In the latest battle, which Perez covered nicely on his blog as did HuffPost and most notably, Billboard showcased the spiral out of control from offensive banter between two celebrities to a serious offense that may be examined from a legal perspective. The result? Chris Brown deleted his account again. Wah. Questions still remain if he can be held accountable for the content of the tweets, or worse, that his threats and the threats of his fans can be considered harassment enough that if she wanted, Jenny Johnson could press charges. Will she? Probably not. But the question remains. How far is too far? Or rather, how will precedent be set in the ever-evolving field of social media. Because some of these tweets are downright death threats. 

Speaking of warnings, death threats and ongoing battles via public channels of communication, the battle between Israeli Defense Forces and Hamas' have taken texting to a whole new level. Not a good one, either. Digital Trends recently published an article outlining the trial and error that is being played out in Twitter right now. One official account threatens another and Twitter is being called on to stop the madness. Is it really Twitter's responsibility to police their channels for abusive and illegal communications or should another party be held responsible? Remember, all social channels are governed by their Terms of Service; something a user must agree to in order to set up an account. And when that user does not comply it's nothing until someone gets hurt, right?  It's a question of balance of power vs personal freedom. 

It's an old question. New technology. Old issue. It's the First Amendment again, folks.  Freedom of speech. Freedom of press, belief and assembly. Freedom of expression without government interference. The very elements that makes social communication so compelling. However different we are, some basic civil liberties are guaranteed to all in the U.S. 

The more things change, the more they stay the same, indeed. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

On The Fringe & Other F Words Business' Avoid

You know what happens out at the fringe? Innovation, that's what.

If you don't believe me, it's because you can't. You are probably too close to the center, or the flame, so to speak. Maybe you have different marching orders or you simply march to a different beat. Maybe your vision is myopic. Maybe you are just too darn tired. Either way, it's not your fault.

Or is it? 

Who decides where the fringe is or what people get to experience it?

Amazon seized the fringe back in 2002, then again in 2008 and again in 2010 and according to some, keep grabbing at wispy tails of innovation as part of their overall business model to transform the way people shop.

Google constantly gets media attention for their fringe-investigation and goodness knows everyone wants to know details about what they are doing next. (Google Sandbox is my favorite playground.)

Target has been cited for leading innovation for the conventional retail sector from the fringe and beyond as well, by really integrating technology into their enterprise leadership.

Much has been written about Facebook and it's wild west business strategy, but no one can argue with 1 billion registered users as a true indication of global domination.

Some organizations decide that only certain people get access to the fringe while other organizations thrive on pushing people into the fringe as part of their overall strategy. It's okay either way, if it's okay with the employee base. There is a secret sauce to what I am talking about. And it's based on opportunity, corporate culture and a few other F words that business' typically avoid.

The biggest opportunity for the fringe is in the social and digital sector, where the unraveling of conventional business seems to be the rule instead of the exception. It's not a straight up abandonment of traditional business practices. It's more like a propensity to challenge the norm, embrace all sorts of behavior changes (and lead in some really cool cases) and finally, my personal favorite...really connecting with the little people. When smarty-pants editors and researchers at places like Harvard Business Review write up articles about "Disruptive Innovation," they are really telling people that social media will lead this evolution because its the one part of business that normal "little people" can relate to. They use it every day. But let me be clear about that before I go on...connecting with the little people is built on the foundation of ONE REALLY BIG THING. That all people are created equal. Not all Christmas gifts are created equal, for God's sakes. But all people. Should be. At some basic level. Like the internet.

The internet. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Pinterest. Etc. all are platforms that break down traditional and conventional business endeavors and at the very basic level give access to everyone. Everyone with a computer. And access to wi-fi. And time. And willingness to learn new skills. And when appropriate, become thought leaders or advocates for changing things for the better. So, yeah, in that sense, there are limits and requirements like any good ole conventional business process. And there should be in order to increase the stickiness of the next new advancement, in addition to the overall sustainability of the business motive. But the one wild card characteristic that we can't forget is that social should be FUN.

On the fringe AND fun? We all know what that means. It means we are not serious business professionals. It probably means we are just playing around and don't really care about success. It means we are only having fun and wasting time, right? Not at all. It means that we are changing the way we do business and changing the way people do business with us.

We want doctors to be serious assholes. We need lawyers to give us guardrails. But we spend time and money with brands and Friends we love. (That's the last F word I'm using today.)

What's your favorite F word? 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Running on fumes, running for the white house: all in a day's work

This last past weekend, I ran the Chicago Hot Chocolate 15k. It was tough. I'm glad I did it, but not entirely convinced I need to do it again.

The race started at 7 a.m., but I could not sleep the night before, so I was up at like 4 a.m. trying to decide just how many layers were going to be necessary to keep the cold away and keep me dry & safe. 

The conundrum about it all is that this race was my choice. I knew it ran us near the Lake so I knew it was going to be brutally cold. I knew not many people would venture out to withstand the elements only to cheer us on. I knew that my body was not up to peak performance for a PR of any type. I even knew that I had terrific date night plans the night before and I would be fighting the urge to drink a cocktail the whole evening. But I fought through it all and I made it to the finish line. I didn't drink a cocktail the night before, but I did overdress and nearly melted at mile 7. I didn't enjoy the two hour wait line at the expo to pick up my packet, but the hot chocolate at the end of the race was alright. I complained a little in Twitter and I posted more than one Instagram documenting my experiences, but I certainly didn't go overboard in sharing too much on my social channels because I did it for me, after all, and I didn't have to do it in the first place. 

Which is really how I feel about the elections and social media. I wish people would use their voice to do good and make great things happen instead of using their social channels as a way to make other people feel like crap. I fear it sounds trite, but I think as a country, what we need is irrational optimism more than anything else. It's a trait shared by all the great entrepreneurs, but also great world leaders. At the end of the day, people will be people and they will finish their own races as they should. These elective offices will continue to be filled with people who will act as pace setters, but we all know the truth; beauty is in the eye of the beholder and no one but yourself can cross your finish line. During these past few months worth of sometimes heated, sometimes tepid presidential debates, I have unfriended more than one friend on Facebook and unfollowed more than one person in Twitter for content that I found to be offensive in regard to the election. And I'm hard to offend, I pretend. I'm all for sharing information and sharing for the sake of connecting more intimately with people, leaders, organizations and brands that you care about, but using social media channels to spread hatred and squash hope is not the answer. If you need to offend in order to get your point across, perhaps a public channel is not the right place for you to be making a claim? 

All I can say is that I don't care who you vote for. I just want you to campaign for something that makes tomorrow more beautiful than today. Also, please vote for Dove over VS. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pressing Pause

In television, every serious life matter can be adequately dealt with in just under an hour. It's a damn near miracle considering how long it takes me to drive to the office each day, but it's true. Seinfeld can find his Chunky, Timmy O'Toole can be rescued by Homer Simpson and teenagers across the nation can lose their virginity and find happiness on Glee. All before I make it one way. 

Pressing pause -- in media and in life -- is a simple but true step that everyone needs to do every once in a while. Popcorn has to be made, potty breaks have to be taken, clothes need to be switched from the washer to the dryer and puppies need to be let back in from the backyard. 

We are all human, after all, and just because we want to watch a movie from start to finish, sometimes our own bodies betray us and we are not allowed. It's okay, really. It's okay to press pause. 

I was just telling my dear friend to go ahead and embrace the ability to press pause. She woke up quite recently and life had unfairly smacked her square in the jaw. Stomp on pause, if you need to, we both cried this weekend. And then it hit me. I want to hit pause. I want a little more time to breathe and a little less time hurrying and scurrying and feeling guilt no matter what. 

The problem is, I'm not sure what my pause button looks like. I'm certain it has nothing to do with this laptop or any of my 4 Apple products or my other two non-portable computable devices in my household. In fact, I fear those vices are among the reasons I ache for such a pause. This idea of being connected at all times has left me feeling a bit disconnected in all the right ways and a smidge overwhelmed in all the wrong ways. And to tell the truth, if I found the pause button in life, I just may use it on behalf of others who are too bothered or too distracted to do so themselves. I would hope they would return the favor if ever I needed it. It's that important, I think, to the rest of the story. Indeed, I believe the pause button is so powerful that it may influence the end of any particular narrative. A perfectly placed pause may change it all. That's something to think about, now isn't it? 

So I'm off in search of that giant red pause button. Let me know if you stumble upon it. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Crinkle, Crinkle, Widdle Star

Today, a man took a giant leap out of a little metal box while traveling among the stars. My baby pooped in the potty. A dear friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer. I used the last of the cottage cheese for a dirty lasagna dish for dinner. 

Filled with fear, delight and wonder, it's been just another Sunday afternoon. Hang in there Cara. Life is certainly a shit show, but we really only need to take one small step at a time. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Places like Pinterest

I write about things I love.

It's that simple. Call me naive, but life is too tough to not look for things that make you smile and then find ways to have more smiles. 

For a lot of my friends and colleagues, places like Pinterest have been delivering more of those smiles. In social media, we know what happens when that happens. We share.

Back in 2010, Chad Mueller of Inspiredology wrote an interesting article on the jQuery Masonry plugin. You know the one. It's the foundationary design behind Pinterest and all the other sites that look or act like Pinterest. Mueller originally described the unique design template as one that would allow page content to be organized yet also appear free-flowing and organic. Seems Chad was onto something.

In February 2012, Sarah Kessler of Mashable Design published an article on How Pinterest is Changing the World of Web Design

I've covered this topic a few times, because I write about things I love. And I love wonder. 

And then just today, Neha Prakash of Mashable Lifestyle penned an update in the evolution of image-based social commerce by announcing that Zappos just launched Pin-Pointing -- a companion tool for shopping Pinterest. 

I tried the tool out by searching for my Twitter handle and it turned up some interesting results. Most of the content correlated nicely with my real interests and topics of online intrigue. But let me be clear, the only reason there is a Wedding category is because I entered to win a ridiculous wedding vacation package from a popular style site so I could learn from their UX. I AM NOT PLANNING A WEDDING. However, this content from Pin-Pointing reminded me that with each online move I make across the world wide web, I may be affecting future online experiences just like this. The more the average consumer knows about this type of data algorithm, the smarter we will all be. I only wonder how long it will be before we treat our online browsing as commerce itself.  

Oh, and seriously, I really need those leopard print smoking shoes. And I don't even smoke. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

One Billion Hamburgers Sold to One Billion Facebooks

All good things come in three's. Or, if you would rather, Alle guten Dinge sind drei. Same thing.

Back in 1962, McDonald's sold it's billionth hamburger and in the same year introduced that goofy red curly-haired clown so that the fast food chain would appeal to kids better. Insightful, the leaders of that Oak Park, Illinois burger chain were as they saw that people -- and kids too -- needed a reason to connect with a brand. On a very personal level. "You like clowns? You'll like us." They seemed to say.

Fast forward fifty years and we haven't changed. We still eat burgers. And brands still want to connect with us. In real and relevant and not so obvious ways. That's why I'm not at all surprised by the latest billion brand boaster. 

On October 4, 2012, Facebook announced that they have more than 1 billion registered users. That's one in every seven people on the planet. That use Facebook. Some every day, hour and some may say, minute. Some have long since abandoned the platform for one reason or another. But most of us fall in between those two extremes. 

The interesting correlation between a McDonald's hamburger and Facebook is that in all reality, we need neither product to thrive, or even survive, this world. Goodness knows there is far better food choices than what McD's pushes across a counter a million times a day. And all the news, gossip and conversations that occur on Facebook live outside the frame of a screen in more ways than necessary. We need not the burger nor the network, but we love them both. 

As for menu items and page attributes, we both fear and eagerly await the next newest addition just as we cheered for the McHotdog  but mourned the death of Facebook Places. But why do we care? Because at one point we connected with this particular brand and for five more minutes of a particular day, we were delighted. 

It's those moments of wonder and delight that keep us alive. My only question at this point; where's the beef? Maybe it's the third...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The #iPhone was the biggest star at NYC #FashionWeek.

I work in digital and social marketing. It's pretty awesome.

I also turned an extra bedroom into a giant walk-in closet. That's how much I adore fashion.

Imagine my delight when I recently attended Fashion Week in New York. I was there for work; to report on trends, mingle with trendsetters and ultimately have a presence at one of the most influential events in the apparel industry. So that was cool.

We saw it all; leather, lace, blue eye shadow, high ponytails, low chignons, red RED lips, nude lips, nude nails, nude in general, stillettos, smoking shoes, platform heels, skinny jeans, wide belts, high waisted billowing trousers, peter pan collars, pencil skirts, fur, blazers, shorts, animal prints and more. Every where we turned was an outfit, a personality or a trend just waiting to be discovered. 

But there was one thing everyone had in common. The iPhone. 

At NYC Fashion Week, the iPhone was the shit. 

Check it out...