Social Media

The First Time I Met @SimplyLeap

It was about five years ago now. I had just returned from work after my surgery and I was meeting someone I didn't know at a coffee shop near the Verizon Center in DC. (This was one of those this I didn't tell my mom about, but she's probably reading this....) Outside of some strange connections online, we didn't have a ton in common at the time, except for one glaringly obvious similarity.

We both survived brain surgeries.

I remember meeting Lauree like it was yesterday. She had just started her hug tour and we were meeting up because I'd never met someone who had survived something similar to what I'd been going through.

I don't remember everything we spoke about, but earlier today, I had a flash back to something she said.

See, at this point, Lauree was at the 5 year post surgery mark and had stopped celebrating different milestones because they weren't as important anymore.

I realized, I'm nearly to that same milestone. I'm about to hit my five year mark and I nearly forgot. Lauree was right.

Even though we suffer through MRIs, never ending doctors appointments, and, for me, a sizable amount of medication to counteract the spinal cord damage, it's ok. I'm ok. I finally feel calm.

For that, I say thank you Lauree. I don't think I could have gotten to this point without you.

Kickstarter: Feeding My Coffee Addiction

Dear god do I love anything that helps me produce a better coffee in the morning, well who am I kidding, any time of day. Kickstarter, for those that haven't heard of it, is an online platform for those who have a concept/idea/product to find funding through backers. When you explore their site, you find all sorts of creative ideas, concepts and products.

One morning shortly after my surgery, Joel came rushing into the living room ecstatically telling me that I had to back this one product. The project is called The Cosmonaut: A Wide-Grip Stylus. Unlike other styluses out there, it feels more like a dry erase marker than a pen. There really isn't a similar product on the market to compare this to other than the sharpie cap styluses (love my sharpies!) and those scare me. I picture getting a stylus cap, giving it to a coworker to play with and, then, I have a permanently branded iPad. It's not the exact look I am going for for iPad decorations. Or let's face it, I would probably do that pre-coffee.

So, how does kickstarter feed my coffee addiction? Well, after backing my first project I found the mother ship. :: angelic sound::

Enter Coffee Joulies.

Coffee Joulies are these coffee shaped thing-a-ma-bobs that you put in your coffee to absorb some of the super hot temperature; later, the Joulies release that heat back into your coffee to keep it warmer longer.

In full disclosure, I backed these projects when I was still on my pain medications, but even after being off those for several weeks, I am happy I did. Actually, I can't wait for my Joulies to get here. When I backed both projects, I backed them to a level where you received the stylus and a set of Jouiles. Now, I just need them to get here.

The one part of the Coffee Joulies story that I love (besides making my coffee better) is that originally they were going to manufacture the Joulies in Mexico. It is well-known that it is usually chepaer to manufacture goods there. The Coffee Joulies kickstarter project did so well, they actually moved their manufacturing from Mexico to upstate New York! It makes me happy that more than enough people all over the world are willing to back a project to the extent that they are able to re-open a closed factory and give people jobs that wouldn't have otherwise had them.

Kickstarter is gaining lots of ground with me and turning into my little fun project finder. You can back projects at all different levels and it makes me feel like a extremely small time Angle Investor. I get something for investing and I am able to help someone's idea come to life. I like it.

Leadership and Innovation: It's I have a Dream not I have a Plan

If you don't know why you do what you do, how will you get people to be apart of it? This is a message that many, many of the nonprofits I interact with are missing. So, do you know why you are doing what you are doing? Better yet, are you selling your messages those that already believe it? 

What do you believe? 

Leadership is a Discussion

One thing that I keep reminding myself of is a comment Jim Kouzes made in the Open Leadership discussion I attended a few weeks back. He said, "...leadership is a discussion; that is why social media is so important".  You can't lead others without talking, listening responding. This statement seems to be the answer to many questions people have been asking me lately.

The other day a coworker was asking me, why I love twitter so much. I asked her if she remembered what it was like to send her first email (she did). Take that exciting feeling of using a new technology, a new way to communicate with someone and you have twitter. Never before have I been able to communicate with NFL players, my favorite actors, and people like Jim Kouzes without a multi-step process that would probably end up with me being disappointed. Now, they actually talk to me! I am a better follower, in this instance, because they are directly communicating with me. The people that I highly respect that are normally out of reach are having discussions with me! They are making me feel special and connected because they are taking time out of their day to send me something in 140 characters.

So, why do people still only have one way communication with their accounts when there can be such a great return on their tweets? This is actually starting to turn into a pet peeve of mine because so much can be accomplished by talking to someone with twitter.

An example: A few weeks ago, I was searching for people who talk about leadership. I found and followed a few accounts. One leadership consultant posted a tweet that asked people to fill out a survey for his new book about leadership. I was interested so I clicked over. The first questions asks if you are a leader or not. Point blank. Based on the tweets of this person, I think the question he was asking was, "Are you a CEO?" assuming that because you are a CEO you are a leader and if you are not a CEO you are not a leader. I asked for clarification to twitter. A month later, no response. Outside of completely disagreeing with the premise of the question, I really expected a response from the person! Now, they are down a follower. I want to chat with people. I want to know why you are different and special.

Another example is something that happened yesterday. One person I follow tweeted about a sale at one of my favorite stores. I then preceded to purchase a few items from the sale and my friend and I tweeted back and forth a bit about it; at one point I called her a bad influence. I wasn't expecting the store to respond, at all, even though we included them in several tweets. Then:

How awesome is it that the store responded? They did have to. We were just having a conversation about them in a positive manner i.e. we both got great deals online at a sale that we were reminded about through twitter. 

Leaders can really take advantage of this. They can help develop their followers and find new ones. They can aid other leaders and connect people together. It is exactly what others are looking for! Plus, we are impressed and excited when you respond; which, in the long run, creates a more dedicated follower. 

Social & Leadership

The Friday before last I took an hour out of my day to listen to a webinar about Charlene Li's latest book, Open Leadership. (Shortly, you will be able to listen to this webinar and the other in the series as well.) This particular session was on redefining leadership. What exactly does leadership mean in the world of social media? Charlene had a great guest speaker, Jim Kouzes who wrote the Leadership Challenge and, his new book, The Truth About Leadership.

Two things really struck me about the webinar. The first is a comment Jim made. He said that he uses more social media tools, and uses them more often, than his 21 year old grandson. Then, he tweeted back to me: 

In my day job, I utilize The Leadership Challenge to teach leadership skills; now, the author is talking to me! He provided a personality for the book that I have read and have had many leadership students read. And he says he is more effective at social media than a person who is stereotypically suppose to excel at social. This is turning into more than I ever expected to get out of a free event. He is showing that "getting" social media is a mindset, not an age requirement. He is showing how he is leading with the tool as well. He is responding to his "membership".

Second, he is leading openly. What do I mean by that? Jim is being authentic about who is and what he stands for by putting himself out there. Unlike other "leadership experts" that you can find all over Twitter, he is responding. He is making himself vulnerable. He is really modeling the way for other leaders and executives. (Area 1, anyone catch that?) He answers questions and retweets too! It is exactly what I am looking for in a leader. He is demonstrating what a leader is in a different tool that is assessable by all. 

Fast forward a bit. I was in a meeting with 2 other staff and a member. The member was saying how she understands social but she isn't sure about it, but she really wants to do better. I went off on my little spiel and ended with what Jim taught me. CEOs, associations, and businesses in general need to embrace the tool as a means of leadership. It is a way to show who the organization is, what it stands for and where it is going. For the CEO, it is a way to lead your membership and inspire them in ways that haven't been attainable before. It can show your authenticity in ways that required you to be in person for in the past. In the end, the person got it. It took some time, but the added input on social not just connecting people, but allowing you to lead really hit home for her. 


Blogworld - Day 2

Day 2 - The last day in Vegas. Thank goodness. Although I thoroughly enjoyed parts of the conference, I learned that Vegas isn't exactly the city for me. By the end, I was craving Alexandria. I wanted to be home. Before I could go home, I still had some things to do:

Understanding Video Formats

John Foster had an awesome example of compression and what happens to your content when you squeeze it down over and over again. He took an advertisement, squeezed it and threw it across the room. Then, someone threw it back. He did this over and over again. Each time, we looked at the quality of the image. Each time it got worse. Surprised? No. But how many of us compress everything over and over again and don't think about it?

The point that stood out to me, based on what questions my community deals with constantly, is define what your target is. You don't need 1080p as your source if you are taking something large down to something for 720. Why bother? Shoot in that and edit from there and there is no need to compress. In the end, you are going to end up with a better product in the long run.

The Rest of the Conference

The rest of the time at the conference was really spent on the expo hall floor. I wanted to learn about several different products and take advantage of the Ford test drives that were going on. Where else can you hassle free test drive a car? So, we really did take advantage of the opportunity.

What we found, by test driving 4 different cars, was we are in the market for a crossover! (BEST part of the conference) It has taken me 1.5 years to talk the other half into something other than a sedan. Thank you, Ford. So, after a bit of independent research back in out hotel room, we decided that we are most likely going to get the Edge.

Why are we sold on the Edge? Outside of the physical aspects of what the car can hold, etc this is why:

Ford BWE Demo of My Ford Sync 

I did cut the video when Joel started explaining what the Twitter API is. I started filming again to get a bit more of the features. The only editing I did was to stabilize the footage.

Pt 2 of our Demo with Ford 

I would think for those of use that are connected to our phones, these features are becoming a necessity. I won't have to look at my Google Maps app to figure out how to get somewhere. I can still place a call and not have to fiddle with my phone and the list goes on. I hate talking on the phone and driving; let alone trying to manage the GPS. As most of my friends know, I get lost very easily in the DC Metro area. I hate leaving Alexandria because I will inevitably get lost. Having my favorite places plugged in ready to go with maps I can update with an SD card is perfect. 

So why are we most likely going to get the Edge? Because we are waiting just a bit. I want to see what the 2012 models look like, and to be honest, our current car will suffice for a bit longer. (Really longer than I want to admit.) But, that doesn't mean I don't want the Edge now! 

I should also note, the only thing I got from Ford through the conference was a USB key chain; just like everyone who went to their booth.

Final Thoughts

This had been one interesting event. I have learned a lot about me and where I want to take this blog. Partly, through insights from @Squarespace about the future of the platform and how maybe the changes I was looking to make design wise may need to wait. I also learned that I am not a Vegas kinda person. I beg, beg all tech conferences to move to San Francisco. I will gladly play a higher ticket price if that is what it takes.

For those looking to attend Blogworld next year, this was a very entry level event. I was really there for the expo hall because it was much better than SXSWi's trade show. If you are new to blogging, it is worth it. If not, you should look for events in your local area to attend. All-in-all, I am glad I made another trek West. Being able to see friends and make new ones is always worth it!

Blogworld - Day 1

It is Friday in Las Vegas, the city that really doesn't sleep. And I thought NYC had the hold on that statement. It seemed like most people were going to be when we were getting up at 7 am.

The best part of the conference for me so far, has been the expo hall. There are a lot of products and services I have been wanting to learn more about. The best place for me to do that is here. I am kinda excited to try out a few new toys when I get back to DC.

Networked Nonprofit

Session! Have been slow coming for me. I did catch a the end of an awesome session that Beth Kanter was a part of with Clare (@hope140) from Twitter. It wasn't anything too new for me personally, but they did provide some nice tips for organizations.

"We make many mistakes; social media is forgiving if you are real"

It is simple for nonprofits to excel in twitter; just follow Clare's 5 steps: T.W.E.E.T.

Target - you can't get anywhere if you don't know what your goal is and you need to customize your account accordingly. I am so tired of the standard twitter background that is everywhere. At least pick another option that they have. Even better, would be a background with your logo and contact information on it. Then, serve as an information source and personal face to the organization. It is social for a reason, so get out there! But, no matter your goal, customize, customize, customize

Write - Tweet! Get your worlds and thoughts out there. See what works! If it doesn't work, change your strategy.

Engage - Get people interested in what you are saying. Jump in in conversations. Favorite tweets and retweet. Engage with your followers. My biggest pet peeve when organizations don't do this!!

Explore - Search! Search for when people are talking about you and the issues that you are connected to. That is how people notice you. Good way to do this? Influencers. Develop relationships with key influencers, media, etc to eventually help promote your cause/issue.

Track - If it is working, then you need to learn how to simplicity. Depending upon your job, so it takes 30 minutes to 1 hour to manage your tweeting.

The Biggest Test

I cannot believe I am about to post this, but we test drove a Ford today. Thanks to the TWiT, Joel hears about Leo's car with Sync all the time. Since Ford is a major sponsor here, we decided to learn more about sync and to see if it does what we are looking for.

Ford Flex Test Drive

The main thing is that we want to be able to control our iPhone's through the car and have an integrated navigation system. Both of which we saw could be accomplished through their demo of sync on the show floor. So I signed us up for a test drive. Yup, I am a sucker. If it is well made and does what I want it to do, then I am sold.

Tomorrow we are going to test drive the Edge which is another car they have. The Flex, although rather nice, is just way too much car for us. Joel wants the Focus, I am pushing for something bigger. The Edge may just be the compromise we need. Plus, it has the new sync features in it that I want to demo.

The Future of Blogging Platforms

This panel was interesting to me because, well, I am trying to decide if I want to stick with Squarespace. Do I pay for a designer or do I totally switch? The facilitator is the head honcho at Woopra, which I love.

Future proofing your blog. The constant battle of staying up to-date. It is something that I am currently struggling with day in and day out. What should I be doing, especially when I feel my current platform isn't giving me the support it feel it should.

The best and worst part is the session never covered that. It did lead to a very interesting conversation with John Foster afterwards. We met John way back in '08 when visiting San Francisco and loved bumping into him during the session. Our conversation revolved around who actually owns the content on a blog if it isn't self-hosted. That really made me reconsider using WordPress and our server. Then, a Squarespace rep came over to talk to use because he recognized us from our many twitter "conversations". What he said about V6, which will be (fingers crossed) rolling out shortly, is making me rethink everything. I don't have the best answer yet, but I have a feeling I should wait it out and see. I am very intrigued by what he had to say (which I can't share here, sorry!).

With that, I will leave you with the quote of the session: "We'd do file management as well as SharePoint does the blogs" Sachin Agarwal

Blogworld 2010 - The Adventure Begins

I am off on what is turning out to be a very bumpy flight to Vegas for Blogworld. Based on the updates from a few friends who are already on the ground, it is going to be a great conference. We have the events planned, reservations for dinner are made, and tickets to a few shows. This is all going to be crammed into three days too!

Should I say that this is my first time going to Las Vegas? It will be my second time ever in a casino in the US. My first US casino was on a business trip in Detroit with their CVB. (Don't knock it! There was a Wolfgang Pucks and you have to go see the Westin with the Bliss Spa. Oh, so good.) Now, that your jaw is dropped, there are a lot of things that I need to see and do. Hopefully, while not spending too much! Conference wise, I will be catching as many sessions as possible. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I will learn a bit more than I did at SXSWi earlier this year. I really want to find a few designers that are extremely familiar with Squarespace. On that note, if you know any good designers, send them my way.

On this flight, I've come to realize how spoiled I have been with wifi on flights. Since this is a personal trip, we are on Southwest and not my usual airline, Virgin America. Don't get me wrong, I love Southwest. Their customer service is great. Prices are wallet friendly and I have been flying them a lot this year. But, not all of their planes are equipped with wifi. That makes for a sad 3.5 hours in the air to our stop in Denver. What did we ever do before we could tweet at 30,000 ft? I am going through withdrawal. Good thing the mifi will connect me once we are on the ground in.

As I posted to Facebook earlier, what happens in Vegas will be on this blog and on twitter. See, the saying what happens here, stays here totally doesn't apply to people like me. I will be tweeting about what is happening the entire time. For those of you that have been to Vegas, What can't I miss? What is the one thing I have to see/do? I am kinda hoping someone will say indoor skydiving.* I am really looking for an excuse to try it!

*Because no one should jump our of a perfectly good airplane. You should be enjoying the flight. :-)

NASA Tweetup Part 2

Better late than never right? So, I am flying to San Francisco and the wifi isn't working on the plane. Isn't it sad how accustom we get to something and miss it big time when it isn't available? I am forced to write these posts off line and repost when we are on the ground. (how sad, right? ;-) Anyways, the NASA tweetup.

This was my first NASA tweetup and talk about an experience. Their social team took the time to really think about how they were going to present the agency. From the badges and gift bags we got to the tech support on-site, everything was well organized.

@astro_TJ was the special guest!  He shared the story of his time on the International Space Station (ISS) and what his life has been like in the 50ish days since he has been back on Earth. Then, the audience, in-person and on twitter, got to ask questions.  Joel asked questions about the infrastructure on the ISS and I asked about what his favorite aircraft is to fly.

I found out after the event that people have flown in from Spain to NASA's tweet ups! I couldn't believe it. In our audience there were people who made a spontaneous vacation out of the opportunity. People flew in from all over the US. How great is that? I was actually slightly surprised I didn't know anyone who was there. I kinda expected to see someone I knew from my many aviation related tweets to be there.

All of the above photos were taken by my husband.

And we have wifi! Oh, how I have missed you. I feel connected to the word again.

Social + Community

Over the past year I have focused a portion of my time in the office on our young professional community's social efforts. The past two months have led to great strides in what we have been able to accomplish with the tools we use. Three weeks ago a national news source came to a happy hour I hosted and we were the top headline. Two weeks ago I was in Chicago for an event I was hosting and an on-site registrant came because of a facebook fan page update.

This morning, I was finishing my yougart and a tweet pops up that I wasn't expecting. (My program aggregates specific keywords I have set.) A person I haven't met wrote a thank you tweet to us for hosting an event last Friday; then a tweet went out about blog post was written about the community by someone else I haven't met. Both tweets were re-tweeted with all of our info over and over and over again. With a little analysis, from the first tweet, we had over 5,000 impressions. This is mostly in front of people we haven't reached before. For our community, with just over 700 members, this is a big deal! Add the second blog post in there, coupled with the total impact of the first tweet, and we are at 15,000 impression. On a Monday morning.

Now, take this to the next level. Where could this go? The great, and scary part, is that it can be taken to a whole new level. If we continue to cultivate this audience, on and off line, we will have a whole new grouping of potential members and program attendees. Plus, they are already more likely to get involved with my origination based on the positive experiences that were just reviewed. So, I think it was a great Monday for the community.

NASA Tweetup

Next Thursday is NASAs next tweetup at their Headquarters here in DC, and I was selected to go! As a want-to-be astronaut, this may be the highlight of my year (don't tell the newly minted husband this). The walls of our apartment are decorated with NASA items. I have a model Saturn 5 rocket on the bookshelf and my framed wings and group picture from Space Camp are hanging above my desk. I love flying and space and all things NASA.

If you are around Thursday, July 29th from 3:30-5pm EDT tune into NASA TV where you will see Joel and I talking (and tweeting) to Astronaut TJ Creamer!