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Is Twitter the New Face of Diplomacy?

This was written by me and originally posted on September 1, 2010 by Social Media for Political Campaigns at http://socialmediaforpoliticalcampaigns.com/?p=299

The world was shocked when it was released that North Korea joined Twitter. In a land where censorship is nothing out of the ordinary, joining a social network like Twitter seemed like an unlikely move.  The official Twitter account, @uriminzok has a surprising 10,000 followers but it doesn’t follow a single other account. With quick help from Google Translate, the Twitter feed can be roughly translated to English but this provides little help in understanding many of the tweets.  Why join a social network if one does not intend to be social?

Despite a lack of interaction via Twitter, US State Department Spokesman Phillip J. Crowley has made numerous attempts to create a dialog between the US and North Korea with pointed tweets and hashtags of #Korea. He has even gone so far as to specifically reference the country’s censorship on public communication saying, “The North Korean government has joined Twitter, but is it prepared to allow its citizens to be connected as well?”  Crowley is referencing a known penchant for the North Korean government for censoring media. It is believed that despite the government’s involvement in social media, the people of the country are actually unable to view such content. This paradoxical situation seems quite unfair to most of the world.

Twitter is not the only social media outlet North Korea is engaging in. They are also found on Facebook and YouTube. Is this a new form of diplomacy or just a new way to fight back at accusations? North Korea has yet to respond directly to any tweets or posts, yet they continue to tweet and post their own content which includes making accusations and harsh comments towards both South Korea and the United States. Social media could be just a way to progress their political agenda instead of communicate with the outside world. Until a response is given however, why not continue trying to reach out using social media as the new form of diplomacy?

Why the Rush? Maybe More People Should See Runaway Bride…

So I know this might sound bitter, but it really isn’t. I do not want to be married at the tender age of 22. Within the past two weeks…three people I  know have gotten engaged. Within the past six months, seven people I know have gotten engaged. Two people I know are getting married this weekend. In the past six months there have been four weddings on my RSVP list. The average age of these nuptial is about 22. I realize that women used to be married off and mommies by the age of 16 back in the day, but isn’t that why we had the women’s rights movement? I don’t understand why so many fail to realize that our lives have just begun after graduating college. There is so much to look forward to. There is still so much growing to be done. Forever is forever so it will wait for the right time. I’m sure being married young is right for some, but those are rare. Why can’t they get settled in their careers, find stability, and grow into adulthood together without a white dress, big rock, and a marriage license? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about getting a big rock to wear on my finger but not any time soon. I’d prefer to wait until it’s right and not end up signing my name on a bill of divorce. But for those who have more faith than I, best of luck young ones! I hope your marriage stays sparkley far longer than your wedding ring.  

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Promotional Contests and Social Media: A Precarious Relationship

This blog was written by me and originally posted on August 27, 2010 by Social Media Solutions http://socialmediasolutionsllc.com/archives/1456

Social media is all about connecting users, right? Businesses were quick to realize that social mediaprovides a marketing platform that will connect their brands with their audiences. Soon companies had their own Facebooks, YouTube channels, and Twitter accounts. Now brands were able to interact with consumers at the most convenient touch-point. With the evolution of the social media business plan, companies began to use their new social media presence as part of promotional campaigns. Tweets were seen reminding users to sign up for giveaways. Facebook pages featured posts with links to promotional websites. YouTube channels boasted television ads about contests. All of this seems run-of-the-mill ordinary…at least at first. A recent clothing company has gone beyond the familiar territory when it comes to incorporating social media into their marketing.

As I opened their mail catalog to scope out the newest fashion, I saw an advertisement for a promotional contest. With great prizes such as a spa weekend, a shopping spree, or gift cards, I was quickly intrigued and enticed to enter. All I had to do was go to the website. Unbeknown to me, going to the website meant first signing in to my personal Facebook account. Why? So that they could bombard me with questions wanting me to allow them access to my page. By allow access, they meant give them permission to see my information, post things on my wall, and track pages I went to. All I wanted was a day at the spa and they wanted my entire Facebook life? This is not the first time I have seen such a blatant invasion of privacy in the name of data sourcing or marketing. I know companies want to better serve their consumers, but wouldn’t a survey be sufficient? Maybe I just think myFacebook is private, but it seems that having a brand post on my personal wall is a little extreme. I’d much more prefer to fan the company’s page where I could post on their wall. The relationship between promotional marketing and social media lies on a very thin line. If a company oversteps this boundary, they can make their audience feel alienated and invaded. It can turn a positive interaction into a nightmare that will drive consumers away. Social media has been proven to be an effective marketing tool but if used without proper respect, it can be the antithesis of good marketing.

Geocaching: From Virtual to Reality

This blog was written by me and originally posted on August 26, 2010 by Social Media Solutions http://socialmediasolutionsllc.com/archives/1439

Social media started with connecting users through virtual networks. Now social media connects users via location. Location based apps have been on the rise lately, both in popularity as well as number of apps on the market. This latest fad in recording your location by “checking in” has taken a new turn: geocaching. With geocaching.com, there is a unique twist allows users with GPS devices to input geographical coordinates and find treasures called geocaches. Instead of sharing locations with their friends, users can use locations to find geocaches with treasures left by other adventurers. These geocaches all feature logbooks where you can sign in as well as trinkets or items. They are cleverly hidden and thrill seekers must find their coordinates first and then hunt for the secret geocache.

After you log in on geocaching.com, users can input their zip code and see nearby geocaches. What starts as an online community ends as a real connection community. You can take or leave a new treasure for someone else to find, checking in at the same coordinates you were at. Its sort of like buying a used book. You open it up and think about how someone else at one point was doing exactly the same thing, looking at exactly the same thing. Through geocaching, someone can tangibly feel a virtual community, at least for a brief second.

5 Facebook Apps to Help Your Business

This blog was written by me and originally posted on August 16, 2010 by Social Media Solutions http://socialmediasolutionsllc.com/archives/1359

Facebook emerged as a social media platform that connects people. Quickly, we began to see how powerfulsocial media can be and businesses rapidly developed social media marketing plans. Now, Facebookserves more than just people. It serves businesses by providing them with an interactive platform where they can engage the audience in communication and information. With that being said, here are fiveFacebook applications that will help your business communicate and interact with your audience more effectively.

1. RSS Feed: Social RSS

Social RSS is a useful application for Facebook pages because it will automatically pull content from RSS feeds and post it directly on your fan page. According to Facebook, it is the most popular RSS reader application offered by Facebook.  This is great if your company has a blog or something similar so that users can have access to the blog while on the Facebook page. It also eliminates the hassle of having to manually republish content to the Facebook page after it is posted to your company’s website or blog.

2. Poll: Poll Application

Social media is all about interacting with your audience. Facebook’s poll app not only gets youraudience engaged, it also provides you with direct feedback from consumers. If managed effectively, polls can provide unique insight into your readers allowing you to learn more about them and their needs. Facebook’s Poll App easily lets you post a question, set answer options, and then publish to wall or news feed if desired.

3. Video Content: YouTube for Pages

YouTube for Pages is an application that allows users to link their YouTube channel with their fan page. Any time new videos are posted, they are automatically pulled to the fan page for users to view. Not only is this more convenient for your audience, it also increases the likelihood that they will watch the videos.  It also features archived thumbnails of older videos and also allows users to denote their favorite videos.YouTube for Pages is a developer based app using involver. All you need is to create a free account and set it all up!

4. Promotional Marketing: Promotions Application

Everyone loves free stuff or great prizes. The Promotions application easily allows companies to create a promotional Facebook campaign for giveaways and contests. Promotions are a wonderful way to engage the audience and create interaction between the brand and the consumer. The application is set up for special deals, coupons, giveaways, and contests. It is also a developer app produced by Wildfire.

5. Advanced Customization: Static FBML

For those especially tech savvy businesses, the Static FBML app will allow you to personalize your page by creating a box or tab that is blank. You then fill it with whatever content you want using HTML or FBML (Facebook Markup Language). Static FBML gives users the ability to completely design their own box instead of using the generic look Facebook has. In a world of uniformity, Static FBML gives you a chance to break out of the mold and set yourself apart from other fan pages.

Ever Wonder What a Friend Bought or Where They Bought It From?

This blog was written by me and originally posted on August 13, 2010 by Social Media Solutions http://socialmediasolutionsllc.com/archives/1340

A friend of mine attended a social media seminar while interning at the FBI this summer. Well, being the FBI, naturally this included security concerns especially since social media's penchant for location check-in's and linking multiple accounts with sensitive data can lead to trouble. With everything I've seen withsocial media, one site had slipped through. Blippy.com is a content sharing site that allows users to share with friends everything they are buying, or at least some of what they are buying. By linking credit cards or e-commerce receipts to Blippy, users can share their latest bargain, restaurant experience, or other new purchase.

The philosophy behind Blippy is that whenever anyone goes shopping or buys something new, they are immediately asked, “What did you get?” or “Where did you get it?” Blippy makes answering these questions automatic. Blippy’s website ensures they maintain the highest security to protect user information and has strict guidelines on account activity. Despite their assurances, I am not sure that I will be joining Blippy anytime soon; however, for the social media fanatics out there or Blippy’s 3,577 Twitter followers, this is probably right up thier alley.

The Social Media Wave Brings a Wave of Free Goods

This blog was written by me and originally posted on August 12, 2010 by Social Media Solutions http://socialmediasolutionsllc.com/archives/1329

By now, it seems that pretty much every person and brand imaginable is somewhere in social media. They have their own Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, YouTube channels, or blogs. They are continuously expanding their web of connections and building their virtual network. The power to share content is endless. Although this can be overwhelming, it does bring a nice perk with it. Long ago, brands and companies realize the best way to get people excited about a product is to let them actually use it. Thanks tosocial media, promotional products have achieved an even higher status since getting product samples is so convenient. The rise of freebie websites is exponentially growing, but here are just a few:

1. Hey It’s Free

Heyitsfree.net is a great website for those looking for more humor in their lives. Each freebie posted is usually accompanied by a clever quip that is good for a chuckle. The website quickly breaks down deals into different categories for users looking for specific products. They also have a large variety in the coupons and deals they provide. I’ve seen everything from health cereal to diapers with everything in between. You can also follow them on Twitter (@heyitsfree). Conveniently, Twitter is also now allowing people to follow users without actually having an account via text message. So now these freebie deals could be sent right to your phone! More importantly, there is also a Hey It’s Free Facebook page. Here, users give details of they products they got, how long it took to get them, if they liked them, etc. They can also interact with other deal-seekers if they are having problems getting codes to work or if other issues arise.

2. Money Saving Mom

Moneysavingmom.com is a great website for mothers out there. Moms are always looking out for great bargains, especially for their families. The website features a variety of deals, including Walmart bargain updates! They also have a pet section so even the four-legged family member can get in on the freebie action. Money Saving Mom is also found on Facebook. Here, moms can share tips, recipes, and other deals for all to see on the Facebook wall. Money Saving Mom is also available for Twitter (@moneysavingmom) which provides a quick list of deals and their appropriate links making it easy to look for bargains on the go. Moms always know best!

3. Dealspl.us

Dealspl.us is another discount website with a more organized and professional feel. Larger brands such as Home Depot or Samsung are featured with discount coupons. This website includes food, clothing, electronics, and even movie tickets and vacuums! This would be a great site if your looking for housewares or gifts or anything. Instead of the familiar “Like” button, Dealspl.us features a “Plus” button. Users can rate the deal and give it a thumbs up or down if the deal worked for them. This website definitely offers the most variety for discount coupons. Their Facebook page is also worth checking out to read user reviews. Find them on Twitter (@dealsplus) for up-to-date discounts.

The beauty of sharing all of these free deals and coupons via social media is that it leaves room for interaction with other bargain hunters. Often, people will stumble across deals of their own and share them on these sites. I found a great deal for free music through a people.com offer and iTunes, only because someone was nice enough to post it on a Facebook page. The downside to all of this is being jealous when you read about users getting giveaways and freebies that are not eligible in your state of residence.

These are just a few of the numerous ones out there. Also check out: fatwallet.comslickdeals.net, orfreestuffrocks.com (city specific deals)

3 Factors of Success with Social Media and the Web

This blog was written by me and originally posted on August 11, 2010 by Social Media Solutions http://socialmediasolutionsllc.com/archives/1303

By now, the end of Google Wave probably is not that surprising. In fact, many may not even know what Google Wave is, er…was. Google Wave was Google’s attempt at a social network. Originally, users had to be invited by other users so the adoption rate of the product was slightly more invasive. Not having free access to the network however was not the biggest problem facing Google Wave. Seeing Google Wave say “Good-bye” reminded me of three important elements to being successful in maintaining a social mediapresence on the web.

1. Easy Access-Users must be able to find it

Google Wave’s limited access for users to join the network proved to be a significant deterrent for people. Users need to be able to do a basic web search to find the network and have it show up on the screen after a click of a button. Remember, if you want readers to see your Twitter, blog, etc. they have to be able to find it first. The most convenient way is to provide links to your social media websites directly on your website.

2. Easy to Use- If it’s too complicated, no one will take the time to use it.

Perhaps the biggest complaint of Google Wave was that no one understood how to use it. Thinking back to the days when Facebook showed up on the scene, it was so easy to type in your email and instantly, you had a profile. It was even less complicated to add a photo, information, and find friends. There were buttons to guide you for everything. Google Wave’s complex network that combined instant messaging, e-mail, and content sharing, the organization or disorganization of it all was overwhelming. Realistically, todays users are most concerned with convenience. They do not have time to do a tutorial on how to connect with others or share a video. The easier, the better.

3. Easy to Enjoy-Relevant and useful content make it an enjoyable site for users

The last success factor is the easiest. The content you provide on your website must be useful for the audience. The goal is to keep your readers coming back. They need to find your content engaging and relevant for them. Over posting, tweeting, or blogging can alienate the audience. The same effect can happen if all of the content is redundant or boring. Users should enjoy perusing your sites so that they want to come back and even better, tell their friends and colleagues to visit your site.

AT&T App Brings TV to the Smartphone: Are We About to Cross the Line?

This blog was written by me and originally posted on August 10, 2010 by Social Media Solutions http://socialmediasolutionsllc.com/archives/1283

AT&T’s cable and internet bundle, called U-Verse, has now released an application for smartphones that will allow users to download shows to their phones. The app is for U-Verse subscribers and works through Wi-Fi networks with the iPhone and the new Blackberry Torch.U-Verse already allows users to set DVR recording times through their mobile phones, but now they are expanding their service offerings. Chief marketing officer for AT&T Mobility said of the new service, “This lets us be the first one to marry what we think is the best TV product in the industry with the best smartphone in the industry.” The shows users download to their phones will not be the live airings but they will be available shortly after. This is just another way smartphones are being completely integrated into our everyday lives. Is there a limit on this boundary? Are our smartphones taking over completely? With the rise in dependency on technology, we have already reached a point where we feel lost without our mobile device. Now that television is joining in, consumers’ biggest time consumers can now be found entirely in one device.

Combining social media, email, the Internet, music, a camera, and now television creates an all-mighty mobile device that can serve as a barrier for relationships. Looking around any public social setting, how many people can be seen with their smartphone in their hands? Lots. How many can be seen standing within the same group of people? Several. It’s different when three or four people are crowding around one phone watching a YouTube video than when three or four people are standing around not talking to each other because they are tweeting, posting, blogging, or now, watching their favorite tv show. Consumers are connecting to others through social media, but with the inundation of media into our smartphones, are we also alienating more personal, face-to-face connections?

Are we about to cross a threshold where technology will be so consuming that we will ignore personal relationships in favor of digital connections?