Category Archives: Social Media

In Real Life

Riding the Camel057Several years ago, I lived in Sonoma, California and worked in a small business. I hired a marketing assistant who became a friend. I was single and Trish was married but we connected. She made plans to travel to Tunisia to visit her husband’s family and she invited me to accompany them. It was a unique offer. I had never actually considered a vacation to Tunisia. It turned out that we would need to fly through Paris, so that was going to be a few days’ visit. I decided to do it. It was an interesting trip. I had not thought through the language challenges. Her husband was tri-lingual and I had assumed his family might also be but they were not. So while he spoke English, no one else did. He sometimes would translate into French for Trish (she was bi-lingual) and she could turn around and let me know in English what was happening. Sometimes I could not follow. Perhaps the funniest episode was we were driving and I got excited as we spotted a man walking with a camel. A camel! Live, in person, just walking along the road. I wanted to take a picture, so we stopped the car. Then, Trish’s husband approached the man and said something to him in Arabic, so he stopped to pose for me. It got better! He invited me to jump on the camel. OK—I reacted without hesitation! Perhaps I should have paused to consider it more. As I sat on the camel and it stood, I was almost pitched off its back. You don’t think about it but how a camel is built, with long legs and neck, means it is a bit awkward in its movement. As it stood, it rocked forward and I did not expect to go in that direction. So I squeezed with my legs with all my might because I immediately thought of flying to the ground and having to go to a hospital where no one spoke English and then calling my mother to tell her I was hurt and thousands of miles away. This could not happen. It did not.
Well, Trish ended up quitting, then getting divorced, and she moved to Chicago. Then she returned home to Tennessee. Years passed and I moved to Chicago. I got married and had a son. She became an artist and produced theatre work. We have sent each other Christmas cards and Facebook came into existence, so we have watched as we posted random notes or photos. We have visited each other twice since I moved to the Midwest.
A week ago, I had a business trip to Nashville and she came to get me. We realized very quickly that it had been TEN YEARS since we actually had seen each other in person. TEN YEARS! I’m not sure how that much time had passed. She’s never met my son. I never met her second husband. We ate lunch, we drove to the airport, and we chatted non-stop. It was so much fun and it reminded me that I need to get to Nashville more often. I cherish the friendships I’ve developed over the years and I rely on social networks to keep in touch. For the most part, it feels like it works. After all, we can’t jump on planes and travel all over the country every year. But seeing someone live, in person, really is so much better. That short visit covered so much territory.
I have other friends, who live in California, who I’ve seen more than once in ten years. Like my friend since junior high, Susy, who was in my wedding and has come out to Chicago multiple times. Or, Aileen, who I have known for more than two decades. I saw her son as a newborn and her second son just had his Bar Mitzvah. Their kids have grown up mostly in pictures, so it is nice when you can see them in real life. Status updates or tweets only provide a limited amount of information. It is good to be reminded how to connect the old fashioned way.

Do you know a guru?

Someone’s comment on Twitter got my attention and made me laugh: “If you use the word “Jedi” in your bio & don’t carry a lightsaber, please punch yourself in the head for me.”  I have the same visceral reaction with the term “Guru.”  Social media has spawned so many people who offer their services (giving themselves those titles) and when you dig into their backgrounds it sometimes is not very impressive.  When is someone legitimately qualified to say he/she is an expert?

The term “social media expert” popped up the other day (in a job post) and I wondered how it was defined?  I’ve been on LinkedIn since 2004 and Facebook since 2009.  I’m active on Twitter, Foursquare, and Blip.  I’ve just started trying SCVNGR and Quora.  Is blogging applicable?  Does this make me an expert or advanced?

I actually got into Facebook because of my job.  I have specifically not talked about my job and the day-to-day trials, because I did not want to get into the politics or issues associated with what is my intellectual property vs. work product.  Now I am a free agent and I can certainly draw upon all my experiences as I begin to write more on PR and social media.  I was struck by one co-worker who liked to call meetings and try to motivate others in the area of social media.  But, in terms of what her influence might have been, it was questionable. A Twitter profile that showed fewer than 100 tweets, with fewer than 100 followers, what sort of engagement was that?

I have spent several years investigating social media and have used it at work as much as it pertained to my functions.  I have a clear understanding of some of the limitations these tools have.  But there is so much more to explore!  Please, just don’t ever call me a Jedi.

Spring Cleaning A Twitter Account

I seem to have grown my followers in spurts, and I tend to add who I follow in bursts, as well.  One example came after attending a social media conference last year I followed a number of the others who were in attendance.  When I find people I like, then I watch who they tend to engage with or retweet.  That can be a slow process but it does ensure higher quality.  I used to check into a service called Mr. Tweet for recommendations but the last time I tried to visit, it was closed.  I add journalists whose work I enjoy and I also try to identify interesting mommy bloggers, people in PR and marketing.   Recently it has felt like I was not “seeing” some of the regulars in my network so I was wondering what happened to them.

Today I read an article that I found interesting about how people are gaming the system and boosting their numbers by following, then unfollowing people.  I think this is how my network got cluttered.  For more on how Twitter is trying to police the accounts they suspect of that behavior, read more in CNET.

In recent weeks, I had looked around and found a tool called Tweeter Karma and it was really useful.  It laid out everyone from my account: who I followed, who reciprocated, who followed me that I did not follow.  It showed the avatars along with the names so it is easy to identify those people I follow (especially in media) who I do not expect to follow me vs. those who I did not recognize.  We probably all tend to have favorites—you see a face and expect someone to make you laugh, or provide some ideas that make you stop and think.  Some people are perpetually positive or inspirational.

I used Tweeter Karma and managed to purge 150 people, and I saw an improvement in the stream of information.  This week, I went back and used it a second time, this round was about 100 more.

I hope this tool helps others.  Please share how you manage your network.

The Choice to be a “Working Mom”

Today I read two different posts on the topic of parenting and working.  In one, a mother addressed the question of why she would choose to work outside the home.  No one has dared to ask me that directly.  I have worked since I graduated from college, and that was more than 20 years ago. I’ve had a career in public relations the entire time with varying amounts of other marketing duties.  I like my current job.  It allows me a certain amount of flexibility in my daily routine.  I can control when I travel.  All things considered, it is pretty good.  I’ll refer to it as my day job.

It hit me recently how much I do when I get home.  Most regularly, there is meal preparation and other chores around the house.  But, then I schedule all doctor and dentist appointments for my son and usually take him.  I have tended to be the one to research baby/child-related matters.  For example, I took tours of multiple daycare facilities and my husband went to the top two choices so we could make a decision.  When our son was late in starting to speak, I had him evaluated and a speech therapist came to our home on Saturdays.  Then, it transitioned to the local elementary school and I now take him once a week prior to heading to work.

My son’s birthday parties have been organized by me.  One year that meant renting equipment for the backyard.  This year, we went to a place that provided most of the entertainment/services and all I needed to bring was the cupcakes.  I ordered those, too.  I won’t list all the random other things I tackle because I think any mother recognizes that life constantly presents us with on-going demands and we just adapt.

The professional job I accepted with a written understanding of what I would do.  Being a mother is uncharted territory for me and is a constantly evolving process.   Why do I continue to pursue this career now that I have a son?  Well, I have invested a great amount of time and effort in it to simply walk away from it.  For another, I crave learning new things.  I don’t know that I would be as involved in social media if not for my job.  So the intellectual part is pretty significant.  Finally, as a homeowner, the income is necessary.  Working outside of the home does not mean I can skip my responsibilities there.  It means I have less time there and double the overall workload.

The other blog was by a man who noted that he has been praised for his involvement in parenting but given that both he and his wife work, that should be expected.  I think that is probably exceptional on his part.  My husband absolutely participates at home.  He tackles the outdoor projects like getting up on the roof to clear gutters, repairing the deck, or mowing the lawn.  He installed baby gates and put together the crib and other equipment.

So here I sit doing one more thing.  However, this blog is for me.  It is time for me to reflect and I’m hoping it will allow me to engage with some new friends.  The thing is when the week is through I usually have something left over that went unfinished that goes on my mental list of things to do for the following week.  We don’t have homework yet, so what will get knocked down on the list for that?!

I’ve made different choices than most—pursuing my career first and motherhood later.  Now I’m doing both.  I’ll suggest that while stay-at-home mothers seem to resent the notion that they don’t work, there also seems to be a reverse discrimination toward mothers who have jobs outside.  Is it possible that I am less maternal because I want to be in a work environment with other adults?  I don’t think so.  And I think it is reasonable to expect my husband to contribute along with me after a day at the office.

Have you ever been questioned for the decisions you have made regarding your career or motherhood?  How is the division of labor in the home changing?

Who inspires you?

I am finding more sources almost on a daily basis.  There is a bit of information overload but as I make new connections via the web, I am discovering new people who are very cool.  The people I included on my blog roll are writers who I knew nothing about a year ago.  I’ve been on twitter since November 2008 and it has opened up the world to me.  I really do not think I am overstating this.   I started by following media and PR professionals and from there my network keeps expanding.  Journalists share the news but also how they are confronting the 24/7 world of the Internet.  I try to pay attention to comments, or how people re-tweet posts, and I end up finding others with common interests.  People react to events and share their personal experiences in a way that reminds me how people are more similar than not.

I keep trying to read mommy bloggers out there but have actually found one of my favorite parenting blogs is by a man: Scott AdlerJason Falls, who is in PR and is a social media consultant, actually also writes a personal blog that I enjoy.

Then, there is Julien Smith, who I find difficult to categorize.   His posts are relevant to me in the working world but also in terms of my own development.

These three men share the ability to write interesting posts that tell of lessons learned, or their own insights, in a way that makes me stop and think.  Then, I might even be inclined to take action as a result.  That combination is a powerful thing.  I have plenty of opinions rolling around my head that don’t quite come together when I sit to write on a topic.  This is one reason I do not post on a daily basis.

While much of this is intellectually focused, there is also definitely an emotional component.  I’m much more aware of social responsibility and the efforts of countless people who are embarking on worthwhile causes.

I feel better informed and I also believe I have added new skills in the past year outside of my work environment that will actually help my career in the long run.   I’ve found more like-minded people out there and can learn more from them as we all explore social media, blogs and the rest.  That being said, I should mention that my husband and son constantly inspire me, too.  Those small moments between the three of us are too numerous to list here.  Perhaps another day.

But, back to my original question: who inspires you?

I’m a Fangirl

When I attended Stanford, I landed a job in the football office.  It was kind of a dream come true.  I had qualified for a University job (I don’t recall if it was called “work-study” but the point was that a student could then apply for positions in departments all over campus) and I decided to wander into the athletic department and see what might be available.  I was told there were two jobs: one in accounting and the other in the football office, working for the recruiting director.  That was a no-brainer.  I opted for the football office.  A couple of interviews and the job was mine.  I did data entry for him.

I would sit and enter names and statistics of high school athletes across the country to be considered for scholarships.  Sometimes they had made inquiries, other times it was coaches making us aware of their players.  I began to learn about the traits of different positions and the other factors being considered.  I was invited to participate in recruiting events when we had families visiting our campus.  I started inviting my friends to help and we’d tour the prep visitors around and answer their questions—they seemed to like to hear from students who were not necessarily athletes.  It was fun and nerve-wracking to watch the process each season (I went through three recruiting classes) and then see who ended up joining our team.

Over the years, I was able to hear about guys I encountered who went on to become professional athletes.  Most did not and I never knew what paths they chose after graduation.  Last year, I found out that Cory Booker was a mayor.  I think I caught a mention via facebook and then did a Google search.  I read a profile of him in Time magazine and was floored at how his life had developed.  He was one of those young men I had met so many years ago.  Now, I was reading that he had gone onto become a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and then he pursued his law degree at Yale. He was active in public service even as a student athlete at Stanford and now was embarking on an effort to revitalize a city with a terrible crime rate.  The article described how he drove around with police patrols in the early morning hours.  His attack on crime paid off when this year Newark went one month without a homicide.  On April 1, 2010, it was the first time in 44 years that no murders had been reported for 30 days.

My interest grew and I found that Booker was on twitter (@corybooker) and facebook, so I decided to follow him and became a “fan.”  That’s when my husband started calling me “fan girl.”  Booker’s status updates on facebook are about 80% inspirational thoughts or quotes.  I often repeat them in my updates and I consistently get positive feedback on them.  I figure spreading his ideas is a good thing and he responded to one of my comments.  And, in the process, I get to introduce him to an entire audience that would otherwise not have met him.  On twitter, I don’t seem to catch his tweets too often but when I check, they tend to mimic much of what he does on facebook.  The other 20% of his updates relate to specific events or programs in Newark.

He has been re-elected to serve a second term.  He won with 60% of the votes and while this would be celebrated for the most part, it was not as big of a margin as his first win.  In any event, he can continue with his initiatives and we’ll see where his career is headed.  Do you have any fun stories of people you’ve been able to rediscover with the help of social media?

One World Emerging?

NASA GOES-13 Full Disk view of Earth August 3, 2010

I decided to write a post dedicated to former professor of mine, Alex Inkeles.  I was a research assistant for him back in the day.  He recently passed away and it has occurred to me, often, how keen his insight was then, and how he influenced me.  I was an undergraduate studying sociology at Stanford University and I had taken one of his classes and I really enjoyed it.  I do not remember the details of our meeting but I approached him and asked about his research projects and I ended up helping him for a couple of years.  The theory we were seeking to prove (simply put) was that there was convergence among industrial societies.  Why do I think you might care about this?  I think Twitter demonstrates how this is occurring.  If you found me via Twitter, then you and I are part of this process.

I actually just bought a book of his and he began by describing how “massive forces driving social change are surging through the world.”  He had studied various regions across the globe and he provided some detailed examples.  Skipping ahead: “We start with the assumption that some human needs and aspirations are more or less universal…the second realm of convergence involves the movement of national populations…toward the adoption of attitudes, values, and modes of daily behavior that constitute the elements of a more or less common world culture.”

As I sit looking at my Twitter stream, I see names and faces from across the US, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Europe and Asia.  I think I’ve chosen a diverse group to follow but I do limit it to English speaking.  That being said, we all witnessed how trending topics were impacted by the World Cup this past summer.  Natural disasters have also made  it into the dialogue across time zones.  More and more often, news gets tweeted by the public at the same time that news organizations are formally reporting. Events in Iraq or the Gulf Oil spill have been shared and captured in real time.

Trying to think like a student, I’ll make the assumption that most of us are self-taught in the protocol on Twitter.  There is some community outreach and leaders emerge to teach the newbies as they join.  But think of how we all manage to connect and communicate in 140 characters or less?  Then, also, there are other supporting technologies such as our mobile phones and digital cameras that are contributing to our shared content.

As I think back to Professor Inkeles’ primary premise and how we studied modern American trends.  We sought to find patterns in behavior via legal cases and other traditional means.  With the impact of technology, as demonstrated by the increased use of social media, I think his convergence theory is definitely occurring and at a speed much faster than he might have anticipated.  The beauty of it is that the world is becoming a much smaller place.  I think it helps us bridge some differences and recognize our similarities with greater ease.

Creative Commons License photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video

I do PR

I think PR is one of the most misunderstood and/or not known professions.  I’ve been asked what I do by friends and family and when I say “PR” the reactions vary but more often than not, I get a blank, somewhat dazed sort of look.  So, then I might offer an explanation of the stories in the newspaper or on television were likely set up by someone like me.  We pitch companies/products/services/executives to reporters to tell a story.  That is a really simple way of putting it but it provides a tangible example that most people should be familiar with and hopefully understand.

Here’s the thing: there are so many more facets to the job on a daily basis.  And, depending on the company we can get called upon to help on a myriad of tasks ranging from internal communications, community relations, event planning, town hall meetings, etc.  Of course, the growth of the Internet has also helped my job description to expand to a host of other tasks: responding to consumers online, website content management, social media monitoring, etc.  The news cycle now is 24/7 and stories can be posted at anytime.  The traditional, close of business day deadlines are less common.  Then, there are those crisis management issues that arise out of no where.

My professional counterparts  add to the problem by using different terms and insisting upon drawing various distinctions.  Marketing communications (“MarCom”), corporate communications, integrated marketing communications (“ICM”), media relations, public relations, etc.  Do we really need to argue over “having a seat at the table” where we can “be strategic partners” with the executives in the company when we can’t figure out what to call ourselves?

In my more in-depth conversations with my husband I share that at the end of the day, I will continue to roll over in my head the conversations I had with reporters or how announcements will be received and I wonder about the impact of my actions.  You see, for most people if they screw up on their jobs, they worry about their bosses discovering it.  My mistakes will be public.  The audience size grows now that articles live on the Internet and they do not go away.

Adding to the confusion, though, is the use of the term “PR” by people in conversation when it may not be pertaining to my profession.  How often do I hear “that was good PR.”  And often it is a mixture of promotions or advertising being discussed.  Certainly situations like the BP Oil spill bring into focus a PR disaster for all to see.  The analysis of how the company did or did not address concerns and the missteps along the way might actually educate more about the function.

I was reading someone else’s blog today and it made reference to a recent ranking of the most stressful jobs in America.  It was actually reassuring that mine is among the top ten according to this study.  I’m not sure if that will bring me any sympathy, or better awareness by friends or family, but at least I can validate those nights when insomnia strikes.  I’m not alone.


I’ve been in various conversations with colleagues about social media and how much information people share.  It seems that “Millennials” are accustomed to being online and posting nearly everything.  However, it has been shown that more employers are checking social networks before making hiring decisions.  All that information can cost people job offers.

Then, there is the issue of sharing personal stories and/or pictures of friends and family.  I may think about this too much because of my job in public relations.  I have had to secure releases from people who agree to let a company use their name and/or likeness before I can issue a press release or photo with caption.  I look through online albums (especially in Facebook) and I wonder how many friends knew they would end up online after attending a party?

I am particularly conservative with my son and husband.  That’s how I refer to them—not by name.  I figure if someone knows my family, they’ll know them.  Since my son is only 4, he is also too young to consent to having his image all over my page.   When I do include him, it is typically a profile shot or his face is otherwise obscured.  Or, I’ll wait a while and include a photo after he has already grown and changed a bit.  Do I overthink this?  Perhaps, but I also am too aware of the many creeps out there who might misuse my personal details.  I would rather not risk it.

That being said, there is a wide range of people linked to me and we all need to decide for ourselves how much to share.  Do you use Foursquare?  When you check in, do you let that information go out to all your friends and twitter network?  Sometimes I do, sometimes not.  I’ll occasionally use it to indicate why I’m offline for a while.  I’ll also check in as I am leaving someplace rather than arriving.  I guess I don’t mind people knowing where I have been.  I don’t necessarily use it to meet up spontaneously.

If you are on LinkedIn, do you post your Twitter updates there, as well?  I tend to think that is too much information and the communities are different, so I don’t link the two.  I’ve seen others with an often-updated status and I wonder what the benefit is of doing that.  If you have had success by connecting your networks this way, I’d like to know about it.  Otherwise, I tend to agree with Chris Brogan, who recently suggested there ought to be limits to that sort of thing.

In the end, I think we all share the desire to engage and create relationships.  How we go about is still open to interpretation.  I think that is what I like the best about social media: it affords us all the ability to chart our own path and use it how we like.

Worlds Colliding

When I think of Facebook and my collection of friends there, one phrase comes to mind: “Worlds Colliding.”  Over the course of my life, I have moved multiple times.  So there is the simple issue of geography keeping groups separated in my real life.  Jobs came and went and now I am able to reconnect with former co-workers.  But there are deeper divides that exist.

I attended a private, Christian school during grades 5 through 12.  If you can remember the setting for the movie “Footloose,” you have a close approximation of that environment.  There were no school dances.  There was a strict dress code (read: dresses for girls) and demerits were given out in an effort to manage our conduct.  In science courses we were taught how evolution was wrong.  Bible was a required course and there was a weekly chapel service.  Now, I should mention I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Who would expect such a conservative group mere miles from Berkeley?

When I went away to college, just across the bay, I lived in a co-ed dorm.  My next door neighbor that freshman year was an atheist.  Imagine the culture shock!  So then there was an entirely different set of friendships cultivated during those four years.  Another dorm experience: the emergence of gay students.  I obviously had been exposed to that lifestyle by virtue of my proximity to SF but now I was meeting and living with guys and had a more personal knowledge.  Learning about the religious differences was also really interesting to me.  I started to develop friendships with Jewish students, too.

I have lived in Los Angeles, New York and returned to the Bay Area, but now I live in Chicago.  My friends have dispersed across the country and are scattered across the U.S.  When I look at my news stream on Facebook, I read updates by Democrats and Republicans, parents and singles, issues of faith, the desire for gay marriage or protection of Christian values, all mixing in a way that does not seem like it should be part of one person’s life but this is the quilt of friends and family that I have collected over the years.  It gives me pause when I think of how some friends might not accept others.  I wonder who might be offended by another.  But I also believe that some would have a sense of humor and laugh off the rest.  It makes me wonder where I fit in the mix.

One newer group is the virtual friends I am making in social networks.  On Twitter, in particular, there are people who I follow and who I engage in conversations with but I may never meet them in real life.  I managed to attend a social media conference recently and I did meet a handful of people there who I ‘knew’ online.  It was rather surreal.  You realize how limited your perspective is when you only know what they say in 140-character messages.  Of course, most of these people also post to blogs, etc., so there is more to learn.

Worlds colliding: I am connected to pals from grade school and then I correspond with these new friends online.  It makes life much more interesting.  So, do you keep your various ‘lives’ separate or let them mingle?  How’s that working for you?

That’s me in the picture with my childhood friend who I have reconnected with on Facebook decades later.