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Your Opinion Matters

31 Dec

This week I experimented with crowdsourcing opinion on some new eyeglass frames.

It was a painful process and decidedly a situation where the warning, “Be careful what you ask for,” hit me in the gut.

Here’s the photo post that launched a host of comments:

Twenty people told me no, and the votes are still coming in. (This is not counting all of my family members, who also gave a unanimous and repeatedly emphasized thumbs-down.)

I should have known it was going to be bad from the start, when cousin David commented almost instantly:

Cousin David always compliments me. He’s a southern gentleman. While tactfully leaving room for another option that could be positive, this was decidedly NOT a compliment.

Meanwhile, people I haven’t heard from in years gave the glasses the thumbs-down. I haven’t made a post that has garnered this much extreme opinion EVER.

Very good friends were delightfully candid. This type of brevity was telling:

Many friends echoed with similar “to-the-point” reactions, along with additional guidance and welcome honest feedback:

This comment from a former Bexley neighbor sealed the deal:

Even after I reported back that I had decided not to get the frames, the comments continued to roll in.

I appreciate everyone’s efforts to save me from myself. Your opinion matters.

Clearly, I am not qualified to select glasses without supervision. In a fit of wanting to try something different, I went with the cool clear frames, a little bit bigger, with the benefit of being 100% recycled. Alas, I am not cool enough for these frames. They are different, but in a bad way.

And, as my husband wisely observed:

Who wants clear frames? It’s like people who try to hide their a$$es. What’s the point?

You need glasses, and you wear bifocals, so why not go big?

Correction, dahling: I wear PROGRESSIVE LENSES, not bifocals.

I made the trip to the optician’s again today and selected cat-eye frames that are much smaller, blonde tortoise-shell with blue on the flip side. I like them, my husband likes them, and everybody else had better like them.

I am not posting a picture until after they arrive and I’ve been wearing them for a while.

 

 

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Listen Here, Whippersnappers!

29 Nov

In the spirit of being Old Enough To Know Better (the long version name of this blog), I have reached the point in my life (officially 44 on Dec. 20) where I freely offer advice, to just about anyone.

Being old comes with privileges like that. Doesn’t matter whether or not people listen. That’s not the point. How handy to have this blog to help in my endeavor!

Along those lines, this post is a random collection of items that make me happy in life. Of course you want to know about them because they are sure you make you happy as well. Consider my tips an improvement over what you might find in high-brow periodicals, such as Martha Stewart Living, Oprah’s O Magazine or Real Simple—only better. The great thing is that I am sharing these happiness-makers with you for FREE, via my low-brow blog!

Here are five FREE! happiness-makers:

1. Make the bed every morning. No matter what.

This is something that I can easily control, even when the rest of my day is insane. Bonus: When I collapse in bed at the end of a long day, the covers are not in a messy heap. This gives me the illusion that I’ve conquered all chaos in my life.

Extra credit for remembering to sprinkle some baby powder between the sheets while making it…keeps things extra fresh.

2. Sit on a ball, not a chair, while at work.

I am not kidding. Unless you work in a profession that gives you frequent freedom to move about, your body is getting weaker every second you spend in that chair. Scientists agree with me, as empirically proven by this one study, as well as plain common sense.

At least sitting on a physio-ball ($20 from your local Target) keeps you working core muscles while you are sitting, because if you don’t work your core you will fall off the ball. The entire process will make you feel better. Especially the part about not falling off the ball.

Anyone who thinks you’re a weirdo has too much free time on their hands to be worrying about you and your ball…suggest that they get back to work and let you continue being on the ball.  Who can argue with good posture?

Extra credit for one or two backbends during the day, supported by your trusty ball. If you are both self-conscious and stealthy this can be accomplished while co-workers are in the kitchen or on bathroom breaks.

3. Even if you don’t like habits, pick a few that give you comfort and practice them every day.

I like change and don’t enjoy a lot of repetition in my days, so this is not an easy discipline for me. What hooked me on habits is that they are both nurturing as well as efficient use of time.

Getting ready for work or school and arriving at the same time every day is a simple habit that most of us have to do anyway, so that’s easy. Fitting in some time for meditation and journal-writing prior to work is something that I have grown to enjoy. Practicing an instrument is another.

If you have too many habits, make it a habit to drop some of them. This would include frequent trips to the office stash of Reese’s Cups (one of my too frequent habits).

4. Walk more than you do now.

This is something that just about anyone can easily do. I have for many years owned dogs that will drive me crazy if I don’t get them out for a walk or hard playtime in a field. This is terrific motivation.

There are so many little things that I notice about the world around me by moving more slowly than I can by car, and my body is thankful for the chance to blow off some steam and soak up the outdoors. Even in bad weather, being both outside and simply walking gives me a mood boost.

5. Pick one day each week when you will not use social media or electronic devices.

This is very difficult for me. I really hate it at first because I am quite obsessive-compulsive with being “in touch,” but it’s very beneficial for my peace of mind to go off the grid and not be always connected to everyone and everything.

All of it is still be there when I plug back in the next day. Most things can wait and don’t need immediate response. The Arcade Fire’s “We Used to Wait” is a good reminder that not so long ago we communicated with more delay between the send and response.  Immediacy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and being off the grid is a good reminder of how the world keeps spinning without my interventions.

There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee on these tips. I will give you a full refund if you are not happier after putting all of these into practice for a month. Promise!

The Death of E-mail?

25 Sep

crystal-ball-scary

Reposting this oldie but goodie….first published in August 2009.

Back in the early 1990s, e-mail was considered exciting and new. Hard to believe, Millennials, I know. There once was a time when e-mailing attachments was as exciting as sharing video with friends on Facebook. You could even send around prehistoric versions of Facebook quizzes and notes…they were called chain letters.

Long ago, in the dark ages of the 1990s, e-mail was considered revolutionary because it was “instantaneous.” We’ve come a long way, baby. “Instantaneous” is relative. It’s getting faster, and more complex, every day. Instant messaging tools from just a few years ago (like MSN Messenger and AIM) are now obsolete, replaced by social networks that facilitate instant sharing of pretty much any type of media that can be digitized–not just text. Even my mother, who is 71, recently joined Facebook so that she could see mobile uploads of her grandkids’ vacation photos.

As for snail mail, the U.S. Postal Service is considering the elimination of Saturday delivery. I won’t miss it. What about our not-so-old, reliable and not-so-instantaneous friend e-mail? What’s to become of one-sided messaging?

Here’s my prediction: As more baby boomers, Gen-Xers and Millennials transition to regular use of social networks for both personal and business use, e-mail will fade away. More and more of our time will be spent in real-time interaction through tools like Facebook and Twitter, and their successors, and less time will be spent in cleaning out our in-boxes.

Why? Because in a world of information overload, we are hungry for friend-sourced information. Just knowing that a friend recommended a particular article or video makes me more interested in seeing it. And commenting in a venue where other friends can comment back just opens up the conversation for more thoughts. Social networking creates a forum where I can read the news “with” my friends–having the added bonus of their feedback and opinions built right in.

It’s all about engagement in the context of information. Social networking makes us happy because it informs us and keeps us connected with friends, at the same time. While it doesn’t replace in-person interaction, social networking is a good complement, when used judiciously.

Not Your Mother’s News Media

21 Jan

A post from the Werth Mentioning blog — one part of my day job.

Social Media Time Management

26 Oct

514845946_7922cff51aWhat’s that sucking sound? It’s the sands of time, the ticking clock and and my unfinished to-do list — all being eaten whole by Facebook, Twitter and my blog. I have succumbed to the time-sink of social media, and I’m all too keenly aware of my addiction. How do people draw the line between true engagement and online time-wasting?

It’s a difficult habit to kick when it partially drives the economic engine of my professional livelihood. Working in public relations, I feed the beasts of my own personal social media presence as well as my agency’s and certain clients.

I was recently asked a question about this on a panel. The question was: How do you find the time to “do” social media for yourself and clients? Doesn’t it take up all of your time?

The answer? It can if you let it. The best way to carve out the time is to set limits on how much time to devote to each social media footprint. The worst thing for me is to leave my time wide open. When I do that, I get caught up in “the zone,” or my “flow” space, where I lose all track of time. This is fairly self-indulgent for me—although it feels good in the moment, I can’t usually afford to let my time evaporate. I’ve got a family to get home to, client deadlines to meet and other normal life to-dos.

I try to spend 30 minutes on each Twitter account per day, 15 each in the morning and the afternoon or evening. With the blog, it’s a couple of hours a week. Just one post a week, usually. And then I’m reading others’ blogs through my reader, usually an hour a day.

Then there’s Facebook. How much sharing is enough, really? I try to limit myself to sharing just a few items per day of others’ content, with a couple of status updates and/or content of my own. This one is my real weakness, because I pore through information obsessively and tend to think that everyone should also ready the cool stuff I’ve come upon. This is where I have to reign myself in and exercise some judgment about not oversharing.

There are people I’ve friended that I filter out of my feed because they are constantly putting up stuff from third-party sources. To me, that’s as bad as someone telling me the minute details of their life second by second. Get original. Have your own thoughts and insights.

It does add up, all told. At least 10 hours a week for myself, probably another 15 or so for work-related items. When examined like this, the opportunity cost of social media becomes more stark. What real-life experiences am I missing due to social media interactions? How much outside time am I sacrificing?

What are others’ experiences? Amber Naslund, Director of Community at Radian6,  just put up a good post about time management in the midst of social media. Bottom line, it’s about knowing one’s goals and setting priorities aligned with them. She shares helpful information to guide social media priorities.

For me, it’s all about the balance. Easy to write about, not easy to strike!

Corporate Twitterer: Mascot, Spokesperson, Teacher

14 Oct

stringphonehj1For several months now, I have been the woman behind the curtain of my company’s Twitter presence. Every day, I put up several tweets, and since we began tweeting we’ve organically built a base of 1,000 followers. That’s several million less than Ashton Kutcher, for the record. But our enterprise is more about quality than quantity, so we’re in no hurry to get there.

Being the designated twitterer has been illuminating. There are several keys:

  • Tweets demonstrate the company’s values and culture, adding content of value to the conversation.
  • Retweets are within industry and share helpful information to broaden the minds of our followers.
  • Mentions call out other respected thought leaders within the industry.

In short, serving this role has me behaving somewhat like a combination of mascot, company spokesperson and teacher. Mascot, because I am “in costume,” behind the walls of Twitter, not posting my own individual thoughts but engaging as the Twitteresque embodiment of our company’s unique combination of offerings. Spokesperson, because I am serving up the company’s thoughts and opinion. And teacher, because I am providing a curriculum of sorts for our followers, through which they engage back with the company to provide shared content.

We’ve stayed away from prescheduled, automated tweeting, believing instead in the power of real-time, I’m really here interaction. Our belief is that our authenticity and credibility are built on our actual presence in the space, to build our reputation and engage with our customers.

Next time you visit your favorite brand on Twitter, say hello to the Twitterer behind the curtain. You might be surprised by the conversation.

Social Media Policies: Guidelines or Rules?

17 Sep

Here’s an increasingly common question from clients:

I want to implement social media, but I’m afraid that my staff will take advantage of the freedom. What social media policies can we institute to shape use by our employees?

It’s a good question. Businesses are catching on to the practical necessity of social media for customer interaction and reputation-building. But it’s unwise to jump into the fray before preparing in advance.

Having a clear communications plan in place is the first step. Warning: If your plan involves only social media, do NOT activate. Social media is only one channel for communication. Comparisons with walkie talkies and telephones are apt. Just knowing how to use a walkie talkie or telephone doesn’t mean that you know how to WISELY communicate with it. It all depends on what you say, not whether you know how to pick it up and talk through it. Take Gap’s new Born to Fit campaign. They are leveraging social media—heavily—but only as one among many tactics within the media mix, that includes billboards and other examples of “old-school” ads. No television, though. Interesting.

Now back to the policies. The situation reminds me of a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Elizabeth Swann is trying to outsmart the Captain, and he reminds her of the flexibility around the pirate’s code:

Keira Knightley (Elizabeth Swann pretending to be Elizabeth Turner): … wait, you have to take me to shore, according to the code of the Order of the Brethren …
Geoffrey Rush (Captain Barbossa): … first, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement, so it must do nothing, and secondly you must be a pirate for the Pirate’s Code to apply and you’re not, and thirdly the code is more of what you call guidelines than actual rules, welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Miss Turner …

The same will be true of social media policies. The landscape is so dynamic that you cannot account for everything that could possibly happen. And not everyone will follow them, but without them you are rudderless.

Now back to the policies. Here are some common themes drawn from various social media guidelines:

  1. Use good judgment. Don’t write anything that you wouldn’t say in person.
  2. Be yourself. Never be anonymous.
  3. Preserve confidentiality and intellectual property. Don’t disclose client or proprietary information.
  4. Own your own content. Take responsibility for what you post.
  5. Disclose your blogging to your supervisor. And put a disclaimer on your blog clarifying where you work and that the opinions and views you express are not necessarily those of your employer.
  6. Link back to your corporate culture guidelines. These should shape your social media practices.
  7. Use social media at work, because the process of communicating through social media is so often now a part of our work. But don’t let social media use keep you from getting other parts of your job done. Stay productive.
  8. Follow the ethics code of your given profession. Respect copyright and fair use. Do not risk defamation.
  9. Be a courteous social media community member. Pay heed to mutuality, authenticity and timeliness. These concepts have special meaning in the social mediasphere.
  10. Clarify the place of social media within your overall business goals and communication plan. It should not stand alone.

Now go forth and post!