Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Another reason I don't want a new Bissell vacuum for Christmas.

I hate house cleaning. And I don't cook. But I do own more pairs of heels than I care to admit and I enjoy socializing. So pretty much, I'm just like Cathy Bissell. You know the one, the lady who plays the main character in all the recent Bissell vacuum cleaner commercials. 

She tells the audience that even she is challenged with keeping her carpets clean, and she is part of the Bissell family. Imagine that. Busy family, pets, parties and more, means poor Cathy needs to vacuum just as much as me. 

But, tell you what, she sure as shit seems to enjoy it more than I do. Take a look at one of her commercials where she dons a silk shirt and heels while she vacuums her stairs, then cleans up after the dog. It's almost as ridiculous as Kim Kardashian trying to convince us that she really buys her fashion collection from department store bargain bins, except maybe worse because vacuuming the stairs in heels -- even kitten heels -- is not safe. And the notion that women can have it all -- a successful business that claims more than 20% marketshare with over $900m annual revenue, her own family with all the normal overcommitments, and a hectic yet necessary social life -- AND still have to get down on their hands and knees and clean up after everyone...is fucking ridiculous. 

While the initial marketing flaw appears to be a message that is not very believable (that Cathy Bissell really cleans her own house, let alone wears silk and heels while doing so) the bigger issue is that the whole campaign does not connect to a mom who REALLY does vacuum her own floor. Because no mom who has it all wears heels to vacuum. Not one. 

And a recent study published by The Next Web showed that women make or influence more than 85% of household purchases and that women control $7 trillion (WITH A T) in consumer and business spending. So to ignore her is bad. For women and business. 

But I'll give credit where credit is due. I think what the brains behind this marketing campaign did do was try to pinpoint their target to directly hit moms. And because moms are such a critical subsection in the category of the female audience, it should be noted that what Bissell was really trying to do was connect with moms, according to published best practices. 

Caroline Winnett, of Nielsen wrote an article for Forbes recently, where she outlined proof points why moms brains are wired for shopping more than any other group. A moms brain has more capacity to multitask, over deliver, identify efficiencies, and they value community, giving back and shared ideology systems so that they can make excellent marketing targets if you combine the earlier fact that they also make at least 85% of the household purchasing decisions. So, sure, mom likes to have it all and have it all at the same time. She is searching for solutions (brands) that will allow her to do just that.  She spends more time on social media channels, online shopping sites, in brick and mortar retailers than any other group and by far, is the best influencer group, both online and offline. So it was noble for Bissell and other brands to try and connect with her. She makes the majority of purchasing decision based on a lot of factors, but emotional connection is critical among the path to purchase. Bonds have to be built and marketing messages must be sustainable. Then mom will likely give you a chance...even a second chance. 

Unless of course, you piss her off by vacuuming in heels. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Are the best things in life really free or are they crappy retail loyalty programs?

Oh, the season of shopping is upon us. Deals, offers, coupons and marketing tricks, oh my! A new report from Nielsen takes a look at what makes retail loyalty programs tick. And stick. Especially through the bitter holiday shopping season. What has people signing up for and coming back again and again for more? 

According to Nielsen's report called "Free and Easy Loyalty Program Benefits That Matter Most Globally," there are a few things that a retail loyalty program better get right if they want a program that has potential to "to be a successful strategy for increasing store traffic and inciting loyal patronage."

There are some differences depending on geography & demographics, but here is a quick list of what people respond positively to:

1. free shit
2. discounted shit
3. free shipping
4. good, no great, customer service
5. exclusive offers (These are savvy shoppers. They know when a store uses the same offer in direct mail, email, online, other...and that shit will piss them off. Be honest or fail.)

So is the goal really to increase store traffic and incite loyal patronage? Because that's a noble, not ideal, but noble goal. And also, I have participated in loyalty program strategy sessions where the end goal was never so simple. The end goal was always to guarantee that every single customer would buy more, buy more often and did I mention...buy. Wait a minute. Does that mean that there is a way to guarantee a purchase? Aside from Amazon's drones, of course. Who wouldn't buy ANY OLD KIND OF SHIT if you thought there was a chance a freaking drone would deliver it to you. I would call for a neighborhood backyard barbecue if I were to order a drone-delivery. And I would be a viking for it, too. 

But seriously, that's the question. What is the goal of the loyalty program? Is it to try and guarantee a purchase from someone who may otherwise not care to purchase or is it more? 

That may or may not have been a question that surfaced during one of these meetings; you know the meeting I am describing...the decision makers for the business, the creative agency people who need more billable hours and the analytics team who always recommends their interpretation of data as fact and all others as opinion. Of course, there is no real response to that ridiculous claim...of course you CAN NOT guarantee a sale, because you will always have to factor in the human factor. The one that was also, interesting enough, missing from the meeting.  

If the customer is not represented in a real way during the formation of a loyalty program strategy, they will remain that way. Missing. You may get caught with a deal or a free piece of shit, but you did nothing to "incite loyal patronage." Inciting loyal patronage comes from forming a bond that is intimate, real, lasting and mutually beneficial, just like in real life. If you can do that and also increase your card-carrying memberships, then good for you! And good for the card-holders, too.

But if it's not authentic, it won't last, no matter what your dev team promises or your metrics guru has calculated. But don't worry. That's not a threat, that's free advice. 

What do you think? What loyalty program do you subscribe to and why? 

For more information, be sure to check out Nielsen's date-rich report on loyal customers and their real cost/worth: http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/reports/2013/how-loyal-are-your-customers.html


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Snapchat bets on bacon

If there was one piece of advice I could offer to anyone anywhere, it would be this: bet on bacon. 

Don't know what to make for dinner? Make bacon. 

Having a fundraiser and want to bribe a big crowd to show with tasty delights? Serve bacon.

Going to the VMA's on Sunday and want to get more attention than Miley Cyrus? Wear bacon. 

Have a bucket of money you want to dump into solid investments? Bet on bacon. 

Try it. Think up a problem and hardly a solution could not be more improved than adding a dash of hope and a strip of bacon. It's fun. Seriously, try it. 

I'm sure that the folks behind Twitter are eating a ton of back fat goodness, now that the company is rolling in as what some investors and financial industry writers (Forbes) are calling a very bright start as "the most expensive large-cap company on the New York Stock Exchange."

And Instagrams's 13 employees definitely eat as much bacon as they want since Facebook bought it last year. The photo-sharing application is free to users and is worth more than the New York Times. It has more than 30 million users and Facebook bought it last year for over a billion dollars. That's a lot of bacon.

Which brings us to Snapchat, the little instant image-sharing app that self-destructs the content of a sent message within a 10-second time period once the receiver starts a download. Recent news sources reported that Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel rejected a $3 billion offer from Facebook. The industry is in uproars with the idea that a 23-year-old tech founder could dare go against the great tides of the almighty Facebook. People are wondering how immature and stupid Evan is with his decision to say no thanks, but I think that's the point. The idea of Snapchat is not for everyone. Facebook is for everyone. If Snapchat took the deal, they would have to walk away from their business and Evan does not seem ready to let it go. And that's his choice. Don't you remember what it's like being 23? I do...it was fantastic...so much hope, so much energy, so little that could dissuade me from thinking that the world really was my oyster. That was fun. More people should be 23, donchathink?

I think it takes a lot of bacon to walk away from Facebook and it's $3 billion offer. Kudos to Evan and the Snapchat team. I'm sure their biggest fans will become even more loyal and if I were a betting person, I would bet that this move is a strategic move that will ultimately result in an even larger fanbase for Snapchat. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bacn is almost as good as bacon

Or rather, for those who sweat like a pig, today is your lucky day. 

Enter bacon-scented deodorant. Yeah, that's right. Deodorant that makes your pits smell like a pit...as in, a smoking pit filled with piping hot pork goodness. 

Order a stick now, but just like the website says, "Do not eat or hike in the woods without a firearm while wearing POWER Bacon. 

In similar news, it's snowing in Chicago today, so -- fingers crossed -- our crime rate will dip and maybe, just maybe Chicago will fall from being recognized as America's murder capital of the nation. Recent reports tell a promising story of how police effort has led to nearly 6k illegal guns being removed from the streets and overall shootings are down 20% year over year, making recent stats the lowest murder rate in more than a decade. 

Finally, I just wanted to take a moment and applaud Gmail's latest attack on bacn. Bacn is email that a person subscribed to, but rarely reads. You know the stuff; it's better than spam but not nearly important as personal email. After a week of transitioning files, emails, photos and more from a PC to my new MacBook, I'm pretty excited about my current level of email organization, thanks mostly to Gmail's auto-tabs and filtering. Trans-fat or not, they make bacn almost good for you. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day in a single word.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cancer Awareness via Simpsons humor

It was one year ago that I sat across from Cara as she detailed her cancer diagnosis. She showed off her scar and talked about getting a port. Her hands were shaking and as she talked about telling her boys. An occasional tear would appear and quickly drip off her cheek. But she smiled through it all. I sat there and held her hand. It was one short year ago that I sat there and now Cara is gone. I wrote about her journey - our journey - in a previous story on how Facebook helped Cara die. It was part therapy for me, but it was also partly something more. Sharing her story meant supporting the fight against cancer through awareness and education. 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 7.6 million people die each year from cancer-related deaths. Together with the International Agency on Research for Cancer (IARC) and the Union for International Cancer Contral (UICC) the WHO recognizes February 4 as World Cancer Day, to "promote ways to ease the global burden of cancer." Because let's face it. Cancer fucking sucks every day. 

Since it's October, a decent amount of online content has been dedicated to supporting the cancer awareness message. I'm sure you've read some of the stories -- or lived through your own. It's humbling, it's emotional, it's personal and it's timely. Sometimes the stories are familiar and warm, even riddled with sarcasm and humor. Other stories are scary and painful. Some stories contain celebrity authorities and others are about celebrities. The stories have lives, struggle and even death. With cancer, there is no room for judgement and opinions. While the journey may appear similar, the fighter is alone and the battle is her own. The rest of us are there to support, love & laugh as much as we can for as long as we can. That's what I have learned. 

One other mantra I've picked up from being around cancer survivors, is that we should all celebrate more, laugh more and try to worry and cry less. It's not as easy as it sounds, but it's certainly sage advice. So here is my Simpsons' tribute to cancer awareness this month of October. Recently, Marcia Wallace (voice of Edna Krabappel) passed away due to complications of breast cancer. And Sam Simon, producer of Simpsons remains in the throws of battling colon cancer himself. #godspeed

Friday, September 27, 2013

Could Google Glass Impact Chicago's Gang Violence?

If you follow Chicago news at all, you know that we are making headlines across the nation for an unfortunate crime wave, resulting in weekly-if not daily-stories about record-breaking shootings. A rather high percentage of these victims appear to have some sort of tie to gang violence in the city, but all agree on one thing; it needs to stop.

One person who appears to want to stop this violence is Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who recently agreed to a conversation about possibly sending Illinois State Police to act as reinforcements to the most troubled areas. Adding armed military personnel has also been positioned as a potential answer. But maybe it's not military action but social strategy that could be used to combat this disease. Commander Kevin Ryan, head of the Chicago Police Department's Gang Enforcement Division, was recently quoted in an ABC News story on Chicago's gang violence and the use of social media. In the article, Ryan said social media "amplifies" conflicts between rival gangs, but is not the root cause of conflicts between them. "I don't think it's going from Facebook to the streets. It's going from the streets to Facebook," he said. "It's not something social media has created, it's an amplification method."
This is a pretty key statement. Without amplification, even the most intense human emotion subsides naturally over time. With Facebook and Twitter to constantly and continually feed the fires, these emotions can get out of control. Fast.

 (source: Wired.com)
Just take a look at the latest victim that was shot in the face on September 19, 2013. I won't post a photo image of the 3-year old all bandaged up, but you get the picture. I did --- in my Facebook feed. I follow a local news channel and they posted the image. It broke my heart. It made me cry. It's no wonder gang violence is spiraling out of control. I can't even imagine the emotions people nearer this sad situation must feel.

So this is a plea to Google's Larry Page, Sergey Brin and maybe even Isabelle Olsson (lead designer) to not look the other way. If humanity depends on social behavior and I believe it does (and so do the gangs using FB, Twitter, Instagram to track rival gang members as clearly illustrated in a recent Wired.com article that will leave you sick) and I believe Google would agree, then maybe Google Glass can help the Chicago gang violence crisis.

Arm them with power which knowledge gives.
Maybe arming the police, community activists or others with Google Glass could help curb the behavior long term and more imporantly in the short term, could potentially impact specific high risk areas immediately. James Madison said, "Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."
Technology has a way of evolving much faster than legislation can dictate. While we wait for military response, more governmental funds and protective programming or other solutions that stop our babies from being shot in the face, technology is being used in the war on crime. Why not figure out a way to make that technology contribute in a more positive manner?

Whether you think Uncle Ben (from Spiderman) or Voltaire said it, who can disagree that, "With great power comes great responsibility."


Monday, September 23, 2013

Karrie Brown has passion for (fashion) people.

I really do not care that Kendy Kartrashian lightened her hair. I know it's a Monday, but still.

Speaking of people, I do think that Wet Seal has done some good work with this latest marketing campaign. And I would say that even if I didn't personally know adore the CEO of the company. Thanks to Facebook (say what you will about the old FB, but I am a fan of that too) yet another branded story is moving above the fold and to the front of the news portal for something other than XXX videos and bad press (there is no such thing as bad press, but I digress...)

In a time of Abercrombie making the news for making fun of everyone and the masses mistaking Syria for Miley Cyrus, it's nice to come back down to earth for a bit. It's nice to see big brands behaving like they want to win your loyalty and not crapping on you for having any in the first place. It's not always about being tricked into buying something (take note email marketers of insidiously broken loyalty programs) sometimes it about the passion of the people.

Karrie Brown has passion. Facebook was just lucky enough to be part of her story.

Here is the delightful story on NBC News.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pinterest and other Stupid People News

What does Rakuten, Etsy, JcPenney, Barney's New York, The Fancy and Pinterest have in common?

Well, for starters, they all believe in the art of inspiration.

Rakuten, described in a recent Forbes article as the biggest eCommerce site in the world, has also been called the "Amazon of Japan" since it purchased Buy.com in the U.S.s and other similar eCommerce platforms in Germany, Brazil, France, Thailand, Malaysia and Taiwan; building what appears be an impressive global domination. Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO of the Japanese e-commerce site Rakuten, is the man responsible for this quiet giant.

Along with acquiring Buy.com in the U.S., Rakuten has bought out e-commerce sites in Germany, Brazil, France, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan. Rakuten also made a multi-million dollar investment in Pinterest last year. It appears that Mikitani cares more about the user experience than he does about flipping a shopper over to the online basket as effecient as possible...which is an interesting path that Pinterest is about travel.

In a recent Business of Fashion article, The Fancy reportedly raised more funding from the owner of Barney's New York, whose son also happens to work at The Fancy. But even more interesting than that is that while billionaire retail investor and owner of Barney's, Richard Perry is throwing more money at the inspiration-inspired side of eCommerce, he also raised his stake in ailing retail giant JcPenney. Makes ya think.

It's all something to watch, for sure, as Pinterest puts together a plan to add more ads and Jcp and Barney's looks for a way to stay inspirational and young in the face of the unknown for retailers and shoppers alike.  It should also be noted that some of the same investors (Andreesson Horowitz, namely) for The Fancy also invested in the last round of investments for Pinterest; so it appears that even the investment community believes in the art of inpiration to some point.

In other news, Etsy just launched a collaboration with brands on it's local handmade goods site to offer curated social shopping pages. In an article that appeared on sproutsocial.com, the author admits that the new pages look an awful lot like Pinterest pages. Not that we haven't seen Pinterest-like platforms or pages in the past. It seems that EVERYONE wants to inspire and that's a good thing, right? Read an article in Pinit.com that helps explain the scene a little more and why pinning is the next wave of social media...and it's over a year old. Still good.

And now the best for last. A letter from Ben. Ben of Pinterest. (I like Ben. I wrote about how he looked like hell. I also wrote about his passion when I wrote about the need to never cease to wonder. so, yeah, I'm a big fan.) So you can imagine how surprised and delighted I was to get an email from him, telling me that Pinterest was about to launch something called a Promoted Pin; advertising on Pinterest. Of course, there has been much ado about nothing from this news, but only time will tell. Will Pinterest push out the best of advertising in a way that doesn't deteriorate it's inspirational value or will the onboarding of less-than-interesting brand advertising cloaked as pins prove to be as inoculous as Gmail ads?

I've said that people are stupid before (back in 2010, but I didn't really mean it), but what I really meant was the opposite. People get it. More than advertisers and platform developers and even investors want to believe. We get it. But sometimes, when conditions are just right, we will buy it. More than ads and new talk from new dads, that's what is being hedged.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Weekend of Photobombs & Twerking

I watched it happen. Erin Andrews tried to show off her tan lines while America was mesmerized with the two jackals that stood behind her during FOX's post-game NFL show this weekend. It was almost as cute as Eminem's interview on ESPN with Kirk Herbstreit and Brent Musburger during the Notre Dame-Michigan game. When I say cute, I mean odd and sort of creepy in a "man-he-smoked-way-too-much-weed" sort of way. Perhaps it was an anti-anxiety Rx...

 source: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2013/09/erin-andrews-photobombers-funny/

source: http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/ncaaf-dr-saturday/eminem-joined-brent-musburger-kirk-herbstreit-spectacular-video-023530984--ncaaf.html

Of course the only thing more awkward than that is researching the origin of Miley Cyrus' twerk. After much in-depth scientific studying and forensic testing, I think I've stumbled onto something on Youtube. It's a video where a certain Miley lookalike looks like she (he, actually) is going to break out into a full-blown twerk. Luckily for this little bitch (no, not really, but it metaphorically works better if I refer to the dog as a she) her loved one comes in and tells her to stop. [Hint to Billy Ray!]Check it out for yourself. Notice that her ears look a lot like those little tightly twisted top-knots Miley wore to the VMA... so very kinda cute.
Happy Monday!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Maybe I'm No Lady but I Believe in Second Chances

Stories are the peanut butter and jelly in the sandwich of life, yes?

Really good ones are fresh and juicy and when you devour it, you don't care that it gets all over your face or hands or even in your hair a little bit. They are messy deliciousness and that's what living is really about.

There is one recent Facebook post making the rounds that seems to be the makings of a pretty good story. It's got a crusty outside, a totally ooey-goey middle and it's easy to cut in half. There are people who LOVE it and there are people who HATE it. Or rather, there are people who "like" it and share it and other people who won't "like" it but have reacted to it.

It's the story that Kim Hall originally posted on her Christian mom blog, "Givenbreath.com" and it was an open letter to all teenage girls. In the post, Kim condemns teenage girls for their social media content even though some of the content was not meant for her consumption, she admits. Kim, who is the Director of Woman's Ministry at All Saints PCA in Austin, Texas, originally hailed from my current hometown of Wheaton, Illinois; known for a certain stifling sense of conservativeness. For those reasons, and three more distinct reasons you are about to read, I felt obliged to write a retort to her original essay.

But here is my disclaimer: This is all my opinion. Further, it's my opinion that Kim is a good mom and maybe a great mom that loves her boys more than anything, like any good mom does.

My problem with Kim's story is that it's not fair. What a luxury it must be for a person to take to Facebook and condemn ALL others in such a public way. In the face of such omnipotence, I have broken down the essay into three buckets of considerations: 1. It's a global gender-inequity issue when the author blames women for the behavior of bad men 2. It's a culture issue where technology adoption hasn't caught up to user maturity and finally, 3. It's an issue of self-righteousness where forgiveness and support that was afforded to the author is not being paid forward to those who may need it now.

1. Global gender equity takes form in many grotesque ways.
As a mom of 3 ladies; aged 20, 18 and 3; I can speak only for myself. And in this case, my daughters. So shame on you, oh holy mother of scantily clad boys on the beach posing to show off their brute force strength and non-intellect, how dare you tell my daughters how to act around your weaker sexed offspring? In your plight to claim 'purity' as your motherly goal, you place blame and guilt on those outside influences that ultimately will betray you and yours. No one is pure. No one lives on an island. Everyone must go through their own learnings that include successes and failures. If you think a photo of a bra-less classmate or a more graphicly vulgar Hustler centerfold is going to destroy your baby and how he treats all women in the future, you need more than prayer, sweetheart. And don't even get me started on how awful it is to think that a woman is telling another woman that it's her civic responsibility to WEAR A BRA for the comfort of others. Jesus have mercy. Dolly Pardon the pun, but that's too much god-damned pressure. How is it my daughters' responsibility to help sway your boys actions in one direction or the next via the act of wearing a bra or not? What a ridiculous double standard you are, with all your fancy topless photos of hot male-on-male beach action.

Of course I don't want to see my daughters vamping it up like Kim Kardashian and a greased string of strategically placed pearls, but I do want them to figure out who they are on their own terms. I am my daughters mother and not my daughter. I do not want to live her life for her nor would she permit it. I have raised her to be strong and fearless yet I also recognize that no one is perfect nor pure. You seem to claim otherwise and that makes me feel sorry for your boys as they will surely face a cruel reality in no time at all. Why, just the fact that they have access to tumblr tells me they have seen plenty of porn already. The fact is, as moms, we do our best for those we love and then we set them free. It's fraught with disaster and we need all the support we can give each other. Raising kids to be their own person no matter the outside influences is the only way we can foster true integrity. But lt's face it; it's exhausting. It certainly takes a village. A very diverse village. And the more humans they are exposed to, the more humanity they will preach.

The more dangerous part of your prose is the way you place blame on an over-sexualized culture and how that is the fault of teenage girls on Facebook. That sickens me to my very core. And it's ignorant to think that the social sharing platform founded in 2004 is the root cause of impurities among men and inequity among the sexes. Why it was back in 1781 when Jeremy Bentham penned the Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation and then in 1949 Simone de Beauvoir wrote The Second Sex; both literary pieces that deal with the need for equal moral standards between men and women. More recently, S.E. Smith wrote a handy dandy article on xojane.com that you may want to share with your boys; 31 Things That Are Not An Invitation To Rape. Perhaps we should petition to add another rule and make it 32: Posting selfies on Facebook is not an invitation to rape. Because when I ready your FYI letter, it's almost like you are warning ladies out there that it would be their fault if your pure boys could not restrain themselves after seeing something sexy they could not unsee.

And I'm not the only one. Just read the eloquent words of Kyle David Greenberg, career counselor at Loyola Marymount University when he wrote this comment on your original blog post:
"Everyone seems to be caught up on the “double standards” issue…while I think there ARE double standards on display here, I’m worried that the truly alarming nature of this post is being ignored.
As a few have said, the behaviors and thoughts of your sons are theirs alone. Ultimately, the only person who has control over their behaviors and thoughts are them. I can understand removing stimuli when possible (such as blocking certain people), but I absolutely reject your appeal for every female your sons meet to cater themselves to your standards.
I reacted so strongly to this article not because of the double standard, but because of the repercussions of telling males that it is the female responsibility to make sure they don’t break their standards for sexual behaviors/thoughts. These repercussions are accessories in the rape-culture America so fully embraces: women are afraid of reporting sexual violence because they are constantly bombarded with messages, messages just like this essay, that tell them it is their fault if males “can’t control themselves”; men rampantly blame their victims.  
If you want to block girls’s social media pages, fine. That is your prerogative. But don’t you dare cast guilt and shame on your sons’ friends while concurrently teaching your sons that it’s easier to ignore than to know how to deal. As others have said, you can only block so many stimuli and for so long; your goal shouldn’t be to have sons who never have to deal with stimuli…your goal should be to have sons who are equipped to deal with any stimuli when they do come…because they will.
2. Facebook is only a channel -- not an end-all strategy for anything, especially parenting.
In publishing such a public message, you also show ignorance in understanding channels of communication that you COULD be using to parent, guide, influence and otherwise engage in your boys lives and the lives of others that, like I said, will have a far-reaching and ever-powerful influence on them (and you) as they (and you) become more independent and mature. The other issue behind Facebook privacy that you simply don't understand is that it's simply a channel for social connections. It's not a means to an end. If you think otherwise, perhaps you should study the real reason why Mark Zuckerberg founded the original Facemash.

Being a Facebook friend with one of your boys means being a Facebook friend to the family, really? What about your boys' right to privacy? Do you read their diaries or stop them from having wet dreams because you want to keep them pure? Come on now. Perhaps your entire family should delete your Facebook profiles? That would certainly keep those pretty boys pure. And while you are at it, petition your local grocery store to stop selling alcohol and posting those annoying posters of girls frolicking on beaches while drinking it. God knows that kind of influence could someday make your little men think that drinking beer is fun. And of course, television is awful with all that News Reporting of crimes and movies and commercials and other nonsense. I mean, have you seen the movie Spiderman with Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire? One word; nipples! Imagine the horror! And then there are video games, chat rooms, Skype, Snapchat, Instragram, Vine, and about 900,000 other apps for the iPhone, not to mention email, co-ed classes at school, shopping malls, baseball games, soccer leagues, track practice, band (OMG those band kids; wink, wink) and then maybe the worst of all church youth groups and preacher kids that everyone knows is code for Molly parties, oral sex and binge drinking. Clearly I've gone too far. But certainly you see how over-generalizations and preconceived notions muddy the waters of reality. And the reality is; these kids will grow up by living life. With or without Facebook.

3. There should always be second chances.
This one is tough. It may be the toughest for me to tackle because it's so personal it's almost religious. Or rather, it should be. It's my belief that people -- even 'ladies' as Kim puts it -- deserve second chances in life, in love and in Facebook. If not, I don't want to be a lady. Because even ladies are human. And humans make mistakes; they have to in order to grow up and figure out things for themselves. And news flash, humans NEVER STOP MAKING MISTAKES.

For Kim to proclaim such a harsh judgement under the guise of good parenting makes a mockery of the very difficult act of parenting and that is just plain wrong. Don't hide behind oppressive small-mindedness -- OR YOUR RELIGION -- by claiming that you are protecting your children. You are not. You are hurting them and you are hurting other children and other parents along the way. By stating that there will be no second chances, you become a poster child for discrimination at best and a blasphemy of Christianity at worst. But, like I said, it's just my opinion but I believe everyone deserves a second chance in life, in love and in Facebok.

Monday, September 2, 2013

How Facebook Helped Cara Die; Among Friends

Cara was a friend of mine. She had a lot of friends. She wasn’t the popular kind. She was the kind kind. 

What Cara did best was connect. She was an advocate for progressive change. And she was very good at what she loved. 

This is a excerpt from her Linkedin profile:

“I love the challenge and the independence of working in small organizations. I love building things, the team sensibility, the scrappiness I keep finding, and especially, making things happen. 

I have worked for over 10 years in internet research - a career I never would have thought of that as an undergrad acting major! But you can make a lot of things happen via the internet. It's an amazing connecting tool (get on it, you'll be amazed how many people you will meet, in person).”

This post is dedicated to Cara and her effect on social connections.

This is the third and final part in a three-part series I wrote on social connections. I didn't plan to write such a personal account of how vital people are to the success of social media, but it turned out that way in a funny real-life-meets-social-media-meets-real-life sort of fling. Truth is, I am in the business of social, but Cara made being social her business. She shared that with me -- and everyone else privileged enough to cross her path -- so I want to use social to tell her story.

Social Connections: the Business of the People.

The Story of Cara
When I met her, she immediately dropped the f bomb and coincidently I immediately felt a connection. She wore lots of silver jewelry and sometimes didn't shave her legs.  She had an undergraduate degree and a Master’s degree in Theatre from Montclair State University and Florida State University, respectively. Her life was dedicated to the act of activism and as her Linkedin profile still displays, she was an expert in nonprofit organization management. She was a mom -- a real and great mom -- who prided herself on raising her two young boys to be the type of men the world needs most. She had the most amazing laugh and a smile that would stop traffic. To top it off, she is whip-freaking-smart and sassy salt of the earth.

Once, while at dinner with a circle of girlfriends, a waitress asked her if she wanted sugar on the rim of her margarita. “Sugar? What the fuck? Salt, my child, salt, like a real woman,” she responded with the best smile ever. And so began our monthly girls night out meetups. Through marriages, babies, divorces, jobs, moves and more, we tried diligently to make our monthly gatherings. If I was lucky, I could claim Cara once a month, but one thing let me have instant access to her; Facebook.

Cara was an early adopter. She embraced emerging technology like no one I had ever experienced. Ten years of internet research is what she claimed on her online profile, but anyone who knew her knew she was an expert far beyond that. As warm and friendly, she was intelligent and technologically sharp…always citing sources, reading investigative journals and brushing up on the newest forms of communication, research and entertainment. She amazed me then and amazes me now. Her background was the arts. She worked in academia and was the single biggest activist for the betterment of society I have ever encountered. She did things her way, but always remained passionate and compassionate. So naturally, Facebook as a channel was a perfect fit for her and her many goals in life; blending news with entertainment with local causes and connections. Facebook was a space and a place that allowed her to vent, promote, research and collaborate to really make a difference.

So when someone created a Team Cara private Facebook group on October 9, 2012, I immediately knew something was up.

192 people were invited to join the group that would allow friends from all over to “follow what is happening and offer support.”

On October 9, a shared friend posted a note about how Cara just had a softball-sized tumor removed from her colon, but that the surgery was successful.  Still in bewilderment, a few people piped up, but not too many. Mostly it was likes and short comments that said thank you for keeping us up to date.

Then on October 10, a friend posted a note that said Cara was back at home, enjoying “Fentanyl, morphine and home-made chicken broth – the holy trinity of post-op recovery.”

People started responding with notes of hope and prayer; asking if she needed anything, seeking detail or direction, but overall wanting to help. This is also the time when the overall theme of the page developed; onward and upward.

Cara left her first message on October 11, 2012 and gently reminded folks to make sure they don’t use the “C” word yet; especially around her two young boys.

A particularly well-written friend wrote this quote from Samuel Butler, taken from “Speech at Somerville Club”, 27 February 1895, “You are definitely not flying solo through this experience. You have created a marvelous foundation of love for just this purpose. Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes along.”

And so it began.

On October 12, Cara posted a remark about how a tiny tickle in her throat had caused discomfort, and people responded back with helpful hints. Tea and honey. This and that.  We were eager to help in any small way.  

And so it continued. Helpful hints, tips, tricks, anecdotes, stories, humor, inspiration and support from everyone formed this community that Cara could count on.

Very soon after, one friend had started a mealtrain.com plan so folks could send dinner to Cara and family. Another friend was able to reach out through Facebook contacts and move an important doctor appointment up for Cara, so she could start a mending plan asap. The community listened and responded appropriately because we had one clear goal. To help Cara.

On October 13, 2012, Cara announced to our small private Facebook community that she had been diagnosed with colon cancer, adenocarcinoma. It had metastasized to her liver. She told us she was proceeding with “curable intent.” And we believed her.

A few friends immediately signed up to run the Colon Cancer Alliance: 2012 Peoria Undy 500. They even posted pictures from the event. Thong and all. Cara squealed with delight and we, as her community of supporters, were beyond happy to see our girl stand up to cancer.

Near the middle of October, the page was flooded with prayers, well-wishing for a good cancer ass-kicking and links to funky hats and scarves, healing products and more. Team Cara community wanted warmth for our dear girl and nothing less.

Cara sprinkled in notes that contained medical terminology like how she told us that the cancer was “run of the mill adenocarcinoma” but that 10 to 12 of the spots were in her lobes. We didn’t need to ask for clarification, we just wanted her to know we were listening and would continue to do whatever she wanted. Joke, share, comment, show-up, send a baked good, donate a few bucks, pick up the kids, whatever. It was all too easy to be present in Cara’s life with cancer on that private Facebook page.

By the end of October, Cara was a little more forthcoming into the difficulties of battling cancer and trying to live the life of a normal healthy person. She admitted to us that she was stunningly exhausted, but her stories were vivacious, her words alive with thought and intelligence and joy. Her words fed our hungry hearts and made the situation seem hopeful and surmountable.  And above all, being connected to Cara during this time, in this very personal way, made us feel blessed.

On October 28, the word “curative” came back into the conversation she had with her oncologist and we all cheered with Cara. Meals continued to be delivered and Amazon packages started to show up on her doorstep.  Friends listened to her request and comments in Facebook conversation and acted upon those. She once asked for book recommendation about eating healthy while battling cancer. I think she got about 12 different books sent straight away! I remember talking to her in person and her remarking that she should have asked for something more tantalizing; like a truckload of vodka or a giant Hershey bar.

On November 11, Cara notified us that her CT scans and PET scan showed that 65-70% of her liver was affected, but she reassured us that she only needed 20-25% to live. She also informed us that she was going to start into chemotherapy and at the same time, would be traveling to University of Chicago for a second opinion. She also told us more about Taco and Bella, her two dogs and what a pain in the ass those dogs were. God, she was so thoroughly funny.

On November 16, Cara informed us that she was taking the “all too accurately named 5FU” chemo drug. She was so effing funny, even in the face of fucking cancer.

Later in the same month when Cara learned that another young mother friend of hers from Seattle had just lost her battle with cancer, we stood up to the challenge and supported her while she waffled a bit. She deserved to mourn. We deserved to carry her during this trying time. We were honored to do so.

On December 2, she celebrated her birthday on Facebook by admitting she was a bit overwhelmed, raising two little dudes, taking care of two busy puppies and kicking cancer in the face. Who could blame her? Not us. We rallied once again for our girl.

And she responded by posting this, “All of you are the best community of support I could wish for.”

The next week, she started chemo #3. She also went Christmas shopping for the kids. She wrote about their school functions, daytime television and the trials of everyday living we all so clearly understood.

For the holidays, she flew off to Pennsylvania for a much needed family trip with the boys and we cheered her on. By the New Year, she wrote about a new technique she was trying; the art of visualization. She was going to visualize the cancer cells dying. She was visualizing a healthy body and we were delighted to hear it. We did the same in our own free time.  By mid-January, she reported that tumors were dying. More needed to die, but progress seemed to be happening. As a group, we could not have been happier. But it was a roller coaster ride and by the very next week, she declared – out of pure exhaustion -- that “Everything’s annoying. Even Facebook. Love you all nonetheless.”

And we did. Love her.

Through her next few months of astrological inspiration, yoga, cancer massage treatments and a newfound love of reiki, we listened, read, commented and liked all her stories. We were fascinated by the details and in love with the fight. What a girl.

In February, Cara posted lyrics to a new song she found on YouTube by Melanie DeMore. “I am sending you light to heal you, to hold you. I am sending you light, to hold you in love.”

Friends sent around a www.breastcancersite.com url for clicks to fund mammograms and Cara encouraged us to share it. Another friend sent a realplayer video about nursing staff dancing around a cancer center and it just tickled Cara and she “liked” it and thus, so did we. By the end of February, a friend started a virtual gift fund to raise money for Cara (at www.youcaring.com) because of all the financial difficulties that come with battling cancer on your own. We used www.signupgenius.com to create a schedule so we could all help with housework, too.  The dogs and the boys needed help while our girl still needed help. We were there to lend as much help as we could. For some, it was showing up and cleaning the kitchen, while for others it was daily prayer from far away. Cara needed it all and was so grateful for each and every contribution.

In the middle of March 2013, Cara announced that she had bad news. Chemo #9 started showing new signs of growth. Cara ensured us that her doctors were on the hunt for the next best thing and she was willing to buckle down for the long haul. We were too. By March 22, Cara was able to post that she had had “a pretty damn good day!” And we were thrilled for her and the boys.

April brought a day trip to an indoor water park for the boys and a mouth full of sores for Cara. Magic mouthwash made her smile, as did we. Another success story for April was that Cara finally got her book published. She sent the Amazon link out and we all celebrated for her.

At the end of April, Cara posted a long, descriptive note detailing financial hardship, overwhelming pain and fatigue, numb fingers and toes, and whoozy chemo brain – and yet, she did it all in a very positive, funny manner. She left the message by writing, “Okay, that’s all I can muster right now. Peace, love, and happiness to all of you wonderful, awesome friends! Xoxo”

We responded in kind, in line and with notes of prayer and inspiration. It was all we could do and we wanted to do it all.

In May, she posted about planting petunias with her parents. She wrote of the kids often. She gave us updates that were sometimes foggy on medical details (to protect us probably) and other times laid it out like a doctor’s journal. It’s amazing how much a cancer patient has to become a cancer expert in order to make sense of it all. We were in awe by this, by her. We left comments to inspire and lift, but along the digital journey, we learned a good deal from our dear Facebook friend Cara.

It was during this difficult time that a close friend started to provide some of the updates for Cara, for us. She told us how the doctors finally confirmed the chemo was not working and that they were working on a new plan to cut off the blood supply to the affected part of the liver. Then they would try new experimental therapies to kill the cells. Sounded like a plan to us. We cheered and wished well. We liked and commented with prayers, poems and moments of inspiration.

Cara wrote, “Who could fail to thrive in the loving arms of such awesome people.” And I cry each time I imagine her typing those words of comfort to us.

Shortly after that, Cara took a whirlwind trip to San Francisco, to visit her brother and his lovely family. She took the boys to Alcatraz. They ate Chinese buffet at R&J’s. They rode the cable cars and they jumped at a trampoline gym. Then they returned to Illinois to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Right after she returned home from Northwestern, Cara took to Facebook to fill us in on the exciting news. She was going to be BEDAZZLED. (Her words!) Tiny glass beads full of radiation were going to be injected into her bloodstream through an artery in her thigh. Those beads would build a defense against cancer from the inside out. She was so thrilled to be part of this learning and her words filled up with excitement and hope. She even published a link to a video where we could learn more: www.therapheres.com

Our response, of course, was to applaud. To cheer our dear girl on. BEDAZZLED or not, she was our shining star.

The new therapy left her beyond exhausted and on June 29, she described how difficult it was to even lift a toothbrush. Prayers came in waves from across the country.

July started with fluid in her belly and a blocked bile duct. She told us about what was happening to her in vivid detail. Her eyes were yellow, she exclaimed, but we felt her smile coming through in each new update. It was this time, though, and it was the first time, though, that Cara asked for no visitors.  Reading these words left a hush across our virtual community as if we had all agreed to hold our breathe for her, hold her heart for her.

As quickly as the hush fell, she rebounded with a note of joy. She had asked for more (better) pain meds and she got what she wanted. We were thrilled to read that her pain was subsiding, even momentarily. She also told us about a family trip to New Hampshire she was preparing for and we were all thrilled and wished her and the boys the very, very best. Photos from the trip poured in; big, floppy hats, yellow sundresses, lakes, swimming, fishing, napping, smiling. Gorgeous Cara and her beautiful baby boys. The images uploaded to Facebook provided our small community more comfort and joy than anyone can possibly imagine.

Cara returned home and on July 23, left a message about biting nails that we all knew she didn’t have, while waiting for blood work results and CT scans. Later in the same day, Cara reported news we didn’t want to hear. News she had not hoped for. News that the radiation didn’t work and the tumors had grown. She was jaundiced. Her liver had distended. She said there was nothing left to do but pray.

And so we did.

Prayers and stories from all corners of Facebook poured in and peppered our dear Team Cara page with hope, support and above all, love for Cara. 

Hospice was called in and our small circle of Facebook friends responded by turning inward and supporting each other as Cara would have demanded. We knew she was in no shape to share or comment, but the family reassured us that they took time to read Facebook comments to her every day. So everyday we posted fresh stories and prayers.  

And in the end, all we prayed for was peace. 

One friend wrote this:

“Went to bed with you on my mind and woke up with you on my mind. I guess it helps to write it down on this page. Thinking a lot about your boys and how much they love and need you. Hard to work like it is just another day…but it’s not.”

Another friend posted this:


Another friend posted this brave and heart-wrenching essay on Cara, Facebook and the importance of staying connected online and in real life, on a public Facebook page:
"Facebook is a time-wasting, attention-span-draining self-fest. But, like most technology, its functionality can be user-defined. Facebook is also a revolutionary method of communicating with the people whom, throughout every chapter and circle in our lives, we hold of value. If one can see beyond the games, likes, YouTube shares, selfies, political rants and laptop farming, there is a genuine connection, albeit digital, wherein we can share moments as important as the ones which brought us together. I'm not proud to say that I must have been lost, distracted or absorbed in the wasteland of my own self-service that I lost sight of what is truly important. A dear old friend, Cara Andrichak Rossen, had been posting updates as she entered each round of chemo treatments in her fight against cancer. I had known about her battle, but regretfully assumed she was on her way back to health. I missed many opportunities to wish her the best at each and every stage of her fight. I got news last night that Cara, who had entered hospice last week at the ripe old age of 41, had passed away. I turned to her page and saw her smiling face, along with photos of her two young boys who are growing way too fast. As immature and mindless as Facebook can be, let's not forget its simplest, most genuine ability to connect us together.
— with Cara Andrichak Rosson."

My dear sweet friend Cara Rosson passed away on August 1, after putting up one helluva fight. Amid all the grace and foolishness, Facebook was there for us all. There is now a public Facebook page dedicated to the memory of Cara Andrichak Rosson; pulled together from her own Facebook timeline and her beloved friends from all over the globe. Thank you Facebook, for being so global, so local and so emotional. Thank you Facebook, for allowing our girl Cara to go onward and upward in peace, among friends. 

Until we meet again, love. 


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Social Connections: The Business of the Artist

Part two in a three-part series on social connections, this post takes a look at the developers, artists, writers, coders, techies and engineers who dream it, do it and then push it out into the world to either flourish or flounder.

It's a lot like giving birth, only not as messy. Joking aside, are we able to compare the birth of a baby to the birth of an idea?

I suppose if we can look at it from the perspective of an engineer, then maybe we can. 

That's because the birth of an idea is the spark that sets off a chain reaction to so many other possibilities and it's the potential behind those possibilities that drive the makers, the doers, the leaders, the designers and the storytellers. That which dreams are made, really. 

So let's salute a few dreamers today and each day we feel the need to remember the important role the developer plays in making technology emerge. 

Let's first salute the web developer tutorial community out there that works so hard to democratize the digital journey; you know, the ones who stay up late and rise really early to do what they do best; code. They often share their code for free; while their vision is only part of a bigger story they share with other artists.  This may be the single biggest difference between an angel investor and a developer; the way they share. An investors definition of a share is deeply tied to shareholder value. A developer's idea of sharing is to give it away so that the masses and the masters can make it better. 

These new age freedom fighters develop small -- and sometimes very complex -- snippets of code  that enrich the daily lives of the little people. They hack for the fun of it, build games that entertain, dashboards that help connect the dots, networks that aim to connect and apps that encourage online behavior day in, day out. Why? Because at their very core, it's part of who they are. And you know who I am talking about. You need not look too far to find an example of how a web developer changed the world one line of code at a time. Sometimes they call themselves "technocrats" and it's totally understandable. They build and regularly give it away for free, just for the art of it.

I wrote about Pinterest last year and maybe a few more times beyond that. I think Pinterest is an interesting case study in that it is easily examined from all three perspectives; the business, the artist and the user. Based on referral traffic and daily active users, Pinterest has quickly grown to be the world's third most popular social network, following Facebook and Twitter. In March, Wired ran an article about how Pinterest drives bigger baskets and traffic than other forms of traditional digital marketing. And yet they have been slow to develop a rich business strategy to collect brand marketing dollars on their platform. Why? Because they claim to not want to commodify people's passions. That shows they have (he)art.

But it's easy to talk about the potential monetization of Pinterest as a marketing platform because it was built on open source data by a developer who had one thing on his mind; to inspire. And if there is one thing people collectively adore and business universally takes advantage of, it's this: inspiration. At the very core of social connections, the emotion of inspiration is a very real goal. A gem, indeed. Inspiration is hope and when hope is on fire, it becomes action.

Read more about how Pinterest aims to inspire from the perspective of the artist developer at Designshack. Also, maybe check out the guide to the basics of jQuery fundamentals, if you want. If you want to learn more, there are myriad artists out there just waiting to break your fall. Help is out there, trust me. Better yet, trust the  the jQuery team at the jQuery foundation.

But if you want the real creator perspective, read the blog of John Resig. A Rochester Institute of Technology graduate, Resig is a true pioneer in the plight to democratize the internet. He is a computer programmer that is most often attributed to the creation of the jQuery JavaScript Library. He used to work for Mozilla and now works for the Khan Academy, whose mission is to provide a "free world-class education for anyone anywhere," according to the non-profit website and it's former hedge fund analyst Salman Khan. (Can you say serendipity?)

 "Write less, do more," is the slogan for jQuery.com because as a developer, Resig wanted to inspire people to do more. Of course, we all know what happened after that. Acquiring Punchfork, Livestar, top-notch engineer talent and user after glorious global user, means Pinterest could be looking at a funding round that takes the cake, starting with the letter b, as in billion, and probably more than a couple. So please don't worry about Pinterest. They will undoubtedly do more. Certainly it's future remains as unclear as it does telling. And the art of it is only part of the story. But it's a critical part that so often is overlooked in our daily search to find and make.

For more information and super fun photo images (like the one to the left) from BarCamp (the technocrats unconference at which jQuery was introduced back in 2006) visit any old BarCamp wiki or in the very least read more at Wikipedia. These little developer jam-sessions are where we can witness the birth of the next new big idea, the next VC-funded experiment and the next set of social solutions for the everyday users. It's quite impressive, really.

And remember the next time you have to call the help desk or the next time you see a maker-party/code fest happening in the back room of your local coffee shop or neighbors garage, don't stop to judge. Stop to salute. For it's the makers, the doers, the leaders, the designers and the storytellers that aim to inspire and so often get overlooked after the investors come in and the users show up.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Social Connections: the Business of the Business

One time I bought a designer vintage dress because I loved it, but more than that, it was a smashing good deal. I paid $80 for it and I could easily sell it on eBay for $200.

I know, that's not a huge return, but I feel pretty good about it. Plus, like I said, I really like the dress and the designer. So I'm a sucker for a feel-good-growth-investment opportunity.

I think Jim Breyer is too. Back in 2011, a Forbes writer interviewed Jim Breyer of Accel Partners, a global venture and growth equity firm whose specialty is identifying technology-focused companies with potential to define new categories. The Forbes writer, Nicole Perlroth, seemed a bit smitten by the man known for tracking down promising digital opportunities and then matching them up with proper suitors in the investment world. She called him the "comeback kid," which is ironic, considering he works for Accel Partners; founded by Arthur Patterson and Jim Schwartz in 1983.

The real ironic part is that back in 2005, the boyishly handsome, soft smiling blue eyed Jim Breyer (Nicole's words, not mine) was struggling. His company, Accel lost some serious funding opportunities and turned to a bold move of investing $12.2 millions on "a website run by a college dropout,"said Bloomberg's Ari Levy. Apparently, Breyer saw potential in the vintage dress social network and wanted to see it flourish. I'm sure he was a bit smitten by their value prop as well. It's well believed that Accel's investment in the early Facebook business may in fact be the biggest return on investment ever for a venture firm. That's pretty awesome. And best of all, it's a story of human success. As people, we love that shit.

To date, Accel Partners has grown it's portfolio to be $9.6 billion in assets under management, according to a recent article in WSJ that detailed another Accel-backed mobile technology venture, Pixate, a free agile development mobile platform for developers. Other successful investments include Brightcove, Bonobos, Responsys, Groupon, AdMob, Dropbox, Glam Media, Spotify, Etsy, Angry Birds, Kayak, Walmart.com and many more. 

Breyer himself is worth approximately $1.2 billion, according to Forbes, and he has been named as one of the most influential minds in tech. He also decided to step down from the boards at Walmart, Dell and Facebook earlier this year. No real reports have detailed his next bold move, but I for one, hope it involves rest, relaxation, family and a little dose of reality. Maybe finally wearing that vintage dress for a dance or two. (Me, not him. Not that there is anything wrong with that...) The fast paced world of tech and the neck-break speed VC's need to maintain makes for a difficult human perspective, one would imagine. And there doesn't seem to be a slow in the scene along the digital journey.  

Why just yesterday, Ryan Holmes, founder of Hootsuit, sent me a Linkedin note about his company's latest news. After acquiring it's biggest competitor last year (Seesmic), it seems Hootsuit may have a trick up it's digital sleeve. Watch out TweetDeck and all your Twitter wonder you are working on. A partner in the deal, Accel joined up with Insight Venture Partners and OMERS Ventures by dropping a record-setting investment of $165 million in Ryan's social relationship -- otherwise known as social media management -- platform. (It is very nice, btw.) You can read more at the company's blog.  You can check out all the staffers smiles below. 

It's another digitally interesting story of human success, really. The most interesting part to me, of course, is the users who use these technologies, the engineers who create and the investors who fund it all. Congratulations Pixate, team Hootsuit and Jim Breyer. May your contributions make it easier and better to enjoy life through connecting, including a little dancing now and then.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Getting Mature or Getting a Date. You decide.

I have an open spot on my social media team at work. So I have spent some time hunting through Linkedin profiles, resumes and internal posting boards. I've learned enough to know that I need to continue learning. So is the plight of the social media practitioner.

Simplehired.com has 41,943 jobs listed in social media. Mediabistro.com has 1,226 listings. Careerbuilder has 6,232 calls for social media candidates. And on and on.

Digiday ran an interesting article that outlined how the social media manager has grown up, citing that the days of tweeting to tweet are over. The author called it a maturity model, but I rather think it's a learning curve that never will end. And that's okay. The social media manager is one that does not look to grow predictable. Exactly the opposite. Most social people I know would certainly perish in a world not busting at the seams with every turn. It's the adventure-seeker who seeks social and their love affair with pursuing new ground is what makes us restless and hungry. But the need for restraint and the pressure to produce ROI data may be what the article refers to as having to be mature. It's not fun always being mature, but it's not mature to always be fun.

Take Facebook for instance. I wonder if the general population ever stops to think about the high level of advertising activity that takes place in the background in order for the content of the page to populate? If everyone knew how the ad platform worked, would that change their behavior and lead to more mature daily posts? I think not.

Facebook was born out of the idea to have fun, make connections...get a date.

If one out of four people friend-request before the first date, according to a recent digital dating survey, that says a lot about the integrity of Facebook friends connections and the very idea of community.
It either means that as a people, we are pretty desperate for authentic connections or that we are pathetically trusting for no particular reason...in both Facebook and the dating scene.

Either way, I don't want to pick on Facebook
alone. Let's look honestly at Twitter. People collect followers like Pez, only sometimes in a much less tasty manner. Sure, you can do it the old-fashioned way by paying for Promoted Accounts, Trends or other ad platforms, or you build out content and connections using your wit and intellect. Or you can go the quickest route and visit Tweetmogul and buy them with a swipe of the credit card. In the search for transparency and integrity, the social media journey is always a colorful ride. Just like dating. Just like life.

It's a topic talked about over and over since social becomes more omnipotent; offline vs online dating. CNN published an article back in February that said, "Online dating is like a buffet," Marni Battista, founder and CEO ofDating with Dignity, said. "People are ruling out more than they're ruling in. After a date, they go home, get online and look for someone else. We're in this digital instant gratification age, and there is no patience for the dating process." The article also gave some practical advice to finding your next date that I find interesting when applied to finding your next social media job. 

1. Be self-confident and genuine 

2. Orient yourself
3. Take your time

That's #sageadvice no matter what learning curve you are trying to accomplish. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Why asking why can shift perception into reality

Perception is deeply routed in experience. Plus, it's a byproduct of observation. What that really means is that what we do and what we see shape how we judge the world around us.

A few tricky things about perception, though; it's not the whole picture and unless you poke around for more details or other views, you may never discover how much you are missing. 

Take a look at the 50 Euro on the red car image above. What do you think it? Do you wonder how they shrunk that car? Norwegian design studio Skrekk√łgle is responsible for the coin on a car image.

(Spolier alert; if you don't click through to the site, you won't learn that the design studio actually made a giant nickel and placed it on an actual life size automobile -- and a few other things -- to showcase the power of perception in a rather clever way. Scroll below to see more.)

The point is; the power of perception is real. Real powerful, too. The good news is that the only thing that can undo a bad experience (or perceived bad experience) is a good one. 

Or, as Wharton "Iron Prof" Jonah Berger recently told Forbes contributor Dan Schawbel in an article on making virality part of your marketing strategy, "Stories from angry customers are more likely to spread than stories from disappointed customers, but the only way to stop the spread is to fix the problem."   

So part of virality is making sure the right content is what people are talking about, instead of ignoring the nay-sayers. Tackling the negative perceptions is part of the strategy for amplifying the positive stories. That's sage advice, Mr. Berger. Changing someone's perception via experience and storytelling is not as easy as it sounds though. It takes a fully integrated offense to manage customer expectations, drive positive story affiliations and romance & incenticize behaviors that will hopefully result in positive perceptions for a brand. And make no mistake; there is no cookie cutter recipe for success. It's more personal than that. And it's more personal than Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, too. Berger explains more in his new book, Contagious; Why Things Catch On, where he reported that while word of mouth is 10 times more powerful than traditional advertising, only 7% of word of mouth is online. 

If we know that changing reality is based in changing perception and we know that perception is based on reality, what's a brand to do? Focus on why, suggests Berger. "Focus on psychology, not technology. Think about WHY people talk and share." 

Another aha moment, indeed.