Sunday, June 30, 2013

#Editorial: #Facebook #Hashtags

Since this is my blog, I guess everything here is an editorial of sorts. Still, this post is particularly “opinionesque.” Understanding the level of passion some of my friends also have about this topic, I’m sure to get at least one overly long email with some CAPS plus excessive and/or lack of punctuation. 

Controversy aside, it’s just one of those things I feel I must address. I can no longer stay silent.  

So... you may or may not know that Facebook recently announced the addition of hashtags. Maybe you heard, but don’t care? My social media addicts friends will #tell #you #that #you #absolutely #should #care. #A lot.

Here’s what I think:

Advertisers like hashtags because it will someday help them target customers so they can sell stuff and make money. Facebook likes money too. It’s a match made in cyber-heaven.

For those who think Facebook is just trying to make the experience better for you and it's not about revenue, I'm sorry to burst your bubble.

It's a basic rule of commerce:  If it’s free, you are the product, not the customer.  

Facebook isn’t (just) a product that you are using. YOU are a product that Facebook is using. 

That said, if you are leveraging the Facebook platform to sell stuff and/or to exert your influence for a specific purpose, then you too can harness the power of the hashtag. 

You can. But will you? Should you?

Like most decisions in life, it's wise to start by clearly identifying your intentions as well as possible outcomes and limitations. Know the best way to achieve your goal(s) prior to hurling yourself into the hashtag mosh pit. Otherwise, you'll just trample / annoy your entire friend-o-sphere, thereby negating any strategic benefits. I have some additional thoughts on this that I will share in a moment.

In theory, hashtags make it easier to find posts on a theme, make new friends, form groups, and have as much fun as them folks in Twitterland.  

But ya know: “In theory there’s no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.”

Personally, I'm curious to see if enough people will adopt the practice to make it truly worthwhile. To that point, I asked Facebook friends for reactions about hashtags coming to our heretofore #-less space.
Here are the comments:
  • “Hate it.”
  • “I use them when I tweet so why not on FB?” [i.e. "in theory.']
  • “Yes on Twitter. No on Facebook.”
  • “Too complicated for most people."
  •  "Don't like them - just makes words messy and cluttered. Maybe I'm just old?"
  •  "I use them to make a particular word or phrase stand out." [Isn't that what bold is for? Oh right, FB doesn't do that.]
  •   “I haven't had hash in...wait..... Wait... I don’t think we’re talking about the same thing somehow. What are hashtags?!”
If you do decide to venture forth into Facebook hashtagging, I beg of you – as your friend and trusted advisor – to consider the following:

1) Since Facebook doesn’t have a character limit, it makes zero sense to hashtag words in the middle of a sentence. It’s much less invasive if you type your status update as you normally would, then # the keywords you want associated with that post and to be potentially searchable by your target audience.

2) If you INSIST on using hashtags in the middle of your text post, think in context of someone using air quotes in real life. Imagine how annoying it would be if you were hanging with a friend and they did “rabbit ears” in your face every time they said a word. Annoying right? “Trust me.” It’s “wicked” “freaking” “annoying.” Less is more.

3) Run a basic Google search and pretty much every article about Facebook hashtag etiquette says to keep the number of hashtags to a max of three per post. I’m good with that. I’d also recommend variety. Particularly if you are an entrepreneur, remember that social media should still be social.  For example, I sell (among other things) the world’s most delicious and nutritious coffee. Even my best friends and customers will tune me out if I’m all like #coffee #coffee #coffee every single day.

4) Since you are still the product even if you are also selling stuff, you could be targeted with your own hashtags, particularly once Facebook figures out the analytics piece. No whining about "privacy" or being surprised when you “coincidentally” see crazy ads on your Facebook sidebar. Remember that funny sign you saw in #Mexico about #free #Viagra? Yep, so does Facebook.

Finally, please know this: 
Even if you intend to be as friendly, helpful, and entertaining with your status updates as you always have been -- once you introduce hashtags, the dynamic changes. It just does. It’s the difference between having coffee with friends and being on a conference call. No matter how much I love you, when you #hashtag at me, it feels like you are yelling into the Polycom. 

Once video surpasses everything else in social media, this whole discussion about text hashtags might be mute. In the meantime, thanks for listening to my rant #advice.

Yours truly,

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Got Stress? 5 Sanity-Saving Sayings

So, how's your week going?

Me? I've been on vacation in the Shenandoah Valley, so no complaints here. I'm (mostly) feeling my "inner zen" despite keeping up with emails, daily branding tasks, and a sales call or three. One of the benefits of loving what I do is that it never truly feels like "work."

My husband keeps saying things like, "Tell them there are no meetings on vacation." Poor dear. He just doesn't understand.

And I... simply can't help myself. "Oh look!  My Facebook fan page just passed 600! I must create a congratulatory graphic!!"

I'm sure there's an applicable support group somewhere in Virginia though I have tried to limit myself to early or late hours so as not to take away from family time.  I'm not a monster, ya know.

Despite my general sense of enjoyment, of course there are stressful moments here and there. There are contracts not getting signed quickly enough, various scenarios that don't go as planned; plenty of people, places, and things that aren't as I think they "should" be.

Oh -- and I have a budding teenager. Hormone jackpot. Yikes.

When life gets hectic, it helps me to have a few mantras that I can quickly pull out of the mental toolbox. These are the basics that keep the "overwhelmed" feeling away.

True life balance comes from the inside-out and all that.

As we wind up the week, I thought I would briefly share some of my favorite sanity savers:

1. This is not life or death.  When I had a regular "office job," I used this one quite a lot.  Even still, if I ever need to talk myself or someone else off a ledge, I remind them/me that we are not doing brain surgery. Sometimes we make little things far bigger than they deserve. We must keep things in perspective.   (My experience in Cannes helped me learn this.)

2. This too shall pass.   Sometimes you may feel like you won't live through certain situations. But you will. (Well, most likely... unless you're having brain surgery and your doctor ascribes to philosophy #1.)  It helps to think of all the other crap we've survived which is now a mere memory.  This will pass.  The good times pass too so this is also a great reminder to be grateful when things are going well.

3.  Life is about choices.  While we do not have any control over other people, places or things, we do have control over our reactions and (to some extent) our feelings about what happens around us.   Still, when I feel like I'm giving way to much power to others to the detriment of my own sanity, I take that power back.  I choose peace, health and happiness. 

4.  Put it in a bubble.  Sometimes, in order to get to #3 we have to let go.  Put it in a bubble and let it float away.  This is in the category of "it is what it is."  You can also sweep it or flush it.  As an admitted over-thinker, this is an important one for me. 

5.  It's five o'clock somewhere.   Hey, we all have our vices. Whatever works.

Hope you all had a GREAT week.  What are your favorite sanity-saving sayings?


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Sunday, June 16, 2013

10 Things I Learned From My Dad

Today being Father's Day, I find myself missing my Dear Ol' Dad more than ever.  There are so many amazing things happening in my life for which I am very grateful; I hope it doesn't sound greedy when I say that I only wish he were here so I could share it all with him.  This is a piece that I wrote in 2009.  I read it at his memorial service a year later:

I had started writing a completely different post when my son came up to me and said, "Mommy - I think you're a Super Hero. I like you!"

How do you not stop whatever you're doing and just soak THAT in for a while?

Of course there are several ways to interpret a statement like this coming from a four-year old. If you are the parent of (or have ever been around) young boys, you know that almost anything can be emphasized with what we call in my house, "potty talk."

The fact that my son didn't further clarify his compliment to me with something like, "Super Mommy Stinky Butt" is very encouraging.

That said, the happy incident reminded me of a conference I attended back in my early career days. I was at one of those outdoor networking luncheons. We were sitting at round convention tables, trying not to feel like we were on a first date with eight other people.

Everyone at these things wears name tags stuffed in little pouches which are hanging from logo'ed lanyards. You've seen them: the first name on the tag is really big but all of the other information (title, company, location) is just small enough to make trying to read it really awkward.

The guy sitting across from me might as well have said, "I'm really not checking out your cleavage; I'm just trying to see if you're important enough for me to spend my valuable time talking to you."

Anyway, an executive from a large IT company decided to get the lunch conversation started by asking everyone to go around and describe their "hero" to the rest of the table.

Right then I knew my position in the world had been elevated. Most of my previous ice-breaker experiences involved describing my favorite vegetable. But now we were getting "deep."

When it was my turn, I told everyone that my hero was my Dad. Typing it now I guess it seems like a corny response.  It's the kind of thing a pageant contestant would say if she had no intellectual or historical frame of reference to come up with a "real" hero (as the rest of my table did.)

But at the time, people seemed genuinely surprised. The IT executive said, "Wow - I'd say your dad is a pretty successful guy....for his daughter to say that. I sure hope my kid says that someday."

So when my son called me a "hero" last night -- despite the fact that he's four and goodness only knows what he really meant -- it made me think of that luncheon and my dear ol' Dad.

As I tried to fall asleep, I kept thinking of the various lessons I learned from the man who is still my "hero."

Here are the first ten things that came to mind. I'm keeping them concise on purpose so I don't spoil the chance to provide embellishment in future blog posts.

1. You can't burn a candle from both ends... at least not for very long.

2. If you're forcing something too hard, you're doing it wrong.

3. Sometimes pain doesn't actually teach you anything but it sure will show you what you're up against.

4. Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty but the pig likes it.

5. If you want to get more done in the day, wake up earlier.

6. If you really want something, it might be worth going to 15 different places to look for it.

7. Good education is about learning how to learn.

8. You don't have to like everyone and not everyone has to like you.

9. People in love think they're invisible.

10. When you're thinking about someone, let them know -- it will make their day.

THANKS DADDY!  I love you and am thinking about you!

Happy Father's Day.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

'Til Death Do Us Part

Today marks the fourteenth anniversary of my marriage to "Big. D."   (Cue the balloons, confetti, and champagne!)

As has become the tradition, I will again overshare the romantic story of how we got engaged and then married just a few days later on a tropical island:

It was 1999 and I was pregnant with our daughter. It was very much a planned pregnancy with the “out of wedlock” piece planned as well.  Shocking, I know.  I was once introduced as, “our son’s girlfriend who is pregnant with his child and whether or not they will get married nobody knows.”

Still, given both our previous experiences with the official marriage thing, we figured it was better to leave well enough alone. We actually liked each other. Why take unnecessary chances?

Instead, we planned a romantic St. Maarten getaway in June to celebrate the upcoming birth of our baby and enjoy some time alone together.  

A few days into the vacation, Rob and I went on a beautiful sunset cruise. Luckily I did not have issues with nausea on the catamaran as we sailed along.  Puking may have ruined the romantic moment. We were joined by four or five newly married couples, all aglow and basking in their “til death do us part”-ness.

Rob turned to me and said, “It feels kinda weird being surrounded by all these newlyweds and we’re not.”

I shrugged casually. (“Cool with me. Whatever.”)

He continued somewhat hesitantly, “Well, what... would you do... if I asked you... to marry me?”

I replied maybe too sarcastically, “Well, duh… I’m carrying your child so you’re stuck with me anyway.”

He held up his hand. On his pinky finger was a round diamond solitaire ring, “Well, will you? Marry me, that is?”

Okay – stop scene for a second.

Normally, this is where the woman says breathlessly, “Of course I will!” They hug and kiss. Everyone around them claps and happily cries "awwwwww!" The sun sets as they sail off into the horizon. Just two happy silhouettes starting their happy little lives together.

In my story, (well, what really happened), I responded to his proposal by laughing hysterically. Then, I punched him on the arm and said sardonically, “SHUT UP!” 

I looked around trying to figure out which chick had lent Rob her engagement ring so he could pull this prank on me. “Okay – give it back,” I said. “Very funny.”

Rob had a look of complete horror on his face. One, because when I punched him he sort of bobbled the ring. Keep in mind we were sitting on catamaran rope net traveling at a fast pace over ocean waters. (Luckily he didn’t actually drop it.) And two, he was suddenly not sure of my answer.

“No REALLY,” he said somewhat panicked. “Will you REALLY marry me?”

Okay… now you can refer to the traditional ending as described above.

A few days later, we were married near the ocean at our resort. The couples who had been on that cruise were our guests and witnesses. Our “reception” was a nice lunch followed by snorkeling.

And they lived happily….ever….after.

Happy Anniversary Babe!

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I'm Really Not a Bitch, It's Just My Brain

Thanks for visiting! This post has been moved to my NEW website and "Sparks of Insight" blog.

I'd love it if you would go there and check it out.


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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

You Say it's Your Birthday? It's My Birthday Too (Yeah!)

It might be a sign of my age that I think of the Beatles song with the above lyrics before the traditional "Happy Birthday" song.  I thank the movie "Sixteen Candles" for this. Naturally.  Since of course, I wasn't alive yet when the Beatles version came out. Okay, okay.... barely alive.

I won't admit to using a calculator to figure this out but I was also 16 years old when the Molly Ringwald movie came out celebrating the same milestone.  Or if you prefer (and/or under the age of 30), the Jon Cryer movie.

Anyhoo, here's my observation:  People bitch way too much about birthdays and getting old.   

I catch myself doing it too.  You should see how many times I rewrote that first paragraph.  It's a "thing," especially in America for some reason.

When I was little, I remember my step-mother looking in the mirror on her 30th birthday with tears in her eyes asking me, "Do I look OLD to you?"  

She was (and is) a very beautiful woman with not a wrinkle in sight, but I was a kid. Of course she looked old.  All adults looked old to me. Despite my wisdom in not admitting that to her at the time, she simply stopped celebrating birthdays for years after that.  It always made me sad. Then she hit 50 and decided she no longer gave a damn.  SO much more fun.

My message to you on my birthday is to ENJOY your birthdays.  Bask in the glow of getting old.  Every year and every day for that matter, be grateful for the opportunity to grow older.

Getting older sure beats the hell out of the alternative.

There's a reason they make brightly colored balloons and sweet, fluffy cake; why we sing and celebrate.  It's not an evil plot designed to distract us from the dire truth. I promise.

Yes, we are all going to die.  But guess what?   Death is not dependent on birthdays.  It has nothing whatsoever to do with getting older.  Ask anyone who has ever lost a child.

I also won't take any crap about not looking as good, not being able to do as much, or not having as much energy.

Lack of memory?  Ok, I'll give you that.  I can't remember a darn thing anymore.  I can, however, afford a more expensive day planner now so it's all good.

The truth is that I feel (and probably look) more alive at 45 than I have at any other age so far.   And yet, there is not a single doubt in my mind that the best is still to come as long as I continue to wake up each day knowing the gift of getting older.

If you want to give me a little present today, I would love for you to stop by my Facebook page and leave a message on my Gratitude & Positivity thread.

Carpe diem, my friends!

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