Day Fifteen: Tweets falling on cedars

The other day I briefly touched on the idea that social media is no longer just the stuff of the idle-minded. It’s a increasingly important venue for huge aspects of our lives. Put aside the idea of staying in touch with long-lost friends, or viewing pictures of a wedding you were unable to attend. Social media is now an avenue for the BIG stuff.

This weekend, my lovely little state of Connecticut was struck with an unprecedented snow storm. Half the state slipped into darkness as heavy snow and wind ripped down trees and power lines. This is the outtage map from Connecticut Light and Power as of this morning.

CL-P Outtage Map

Festively colored for Halloween

I have friends up in that black hole of the north-western state. But I know they’re okay. I know they’ve cleared their roads, and plan on making it to the nearest shelter to warm up. I’ve offered them my house, but they can’t make it down here. I also have not picked up the phone.

As the storm raged that night, my feed on Facebook was flooding. Each person instantly grabbed their cell phones and started updating. I knew who lost power and when, where the trees went down, and where the power lines had been spotted. I was lucky enough to hold on to power, and was able to watch the local news. As more and more of the state went dark, the newscasters encouraged folks to get on Facebook and Twitter to follow updates from an official source.

The day after the storm the pictures started coming in. Lovely, glistening snow over cracked and shattered trees. CL-P is trending on Twitter in my area as natives, local news outlets, and businesses keep up a tight network of information on who has power, and when we might expect it back.

What would we do without social media in emergencies? As my home state of Vermont was devasted by Tropical Storm Irene’s flooding at the end of August, I immediately turned to Facebook to check on friends, and gain an understanding of the damage. News outlets can’t give me the level of understanding that comes from the post of someone who just fled their house.

That brings up an interesting thought. Why would someone who had just fled their house even think about updating their Facebook status? Why would you waste your precious cell phone battery accessing the Internet to tweet about a downed power line? Because that’s how we survive. We’ve shifted our communities and our networks online. We’re not always next to a television, or a radio, but more and more of us are constantly linked to wireless device.

Check out this really compelling graphic  that focuses on emergency communications in social media. I find it utterly fascinating. Nothing spreads information faster than the Internet. If you can get one tweet sent, someone else can re-tweet it to thousands, who re-tweet it again, and, who knows, maybe save a few lives. I remember when the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks took place. My college had a sister campus in the city. During the attacks, students warned each other where there was danger. Twitter was essential for determining the safety of students. Traditional news agencies just can’t always move fast enough. 

So we have the birth of citizen journalists. There is, of course, downsides to this. Individual users see very small portions of a crisis. That one cell phone picture might not be an accurate portrayal of the events at hand. Inaccurate information can be sent out. However, I can’t help but think that the pros are much greater than the cons. Think of Wikipedia. In school, we were warned to death about using the site, as it was created by, “normal,” people who can post false information. I never fully bought that idea. If you let everyone share their information, inaccurate facts are ripped down almost immediately. Corrections are made before the problem is even realized.

The same principle applies to emergency response through social media. With thousands of average-joes on the case, we’re able aid in mapping damage, updating news sources, and checking in on our loved ones. While I still don’t think we should be replacing a call to 911 with a tweet to the local news, I don’t think it’s a far stretch to say that every person with a cell phone has now become essential to crisis management.

And you thought the Facebook was just for Justin Bieber fans…

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Day Fourteen: This is a post, I swear.

Full disclosure: I’m struggling for inspiration today. After a poor night of sleep due to our lovely little Halloween Nor’Easter, I’m feeling very devoid of word-vomit. The only solution is to make like Fellini and write a blog about writing a blog.

Back in the 60’s Federico Fellini made a film called, “8 1/2.” The entire premise of the flick focused on a film maker trying to make a movie with no inspiration. It’s an excellent movie. However, I’m not going to lie. I did fall asleep during it. It was late, and sub-titles make my eyes heavy. Now, re-make the film with musical numbers, and sassy leading ladies. Call it, “Nine,” and I’ll wake right back up.

Step one in creating a blog: Setting the scene.

I’ve discovered the perfect height for my laptop is resting on the couch, while I sit on the floor in front of it. Sitting on the awesome mediation pillow from India is helpful, but not necessary. Get a can of seltzer. The bubbles make you think faster, I swear. Turn on music.

Step Two: Avoid.

Get up. Work out while listening to more music. Decide the cat needs to be located. Locate cat. Repeatedly check phone for perhaps a missed text message that will save you from needing to focus. Return to pillow.

Step Three: Ask the Internet for help.

Hit up FunnyorDie.Com for comic relief. Find this video enjoyable. Discover that even the pros seem to be feeling a little dumb-struck today, but we all really like, “Angry Birds.” Give up on the Internet providing me with anything that isn’t related to what celebrities are wearing to Halloween parties.

Step Four: Force it.

Sometimes, a deadline is a deadline, and you’ve just got to create something. The best you can hope for is to make it slightly entertaining and full of ways for others to distract themselves from their own work.

And therefore I give you:

Baby bear in a grocery store!

A video about Cleveland.

Another awesome Muppet trailer.

And finally, Ryan Gosling eating pizza. (You’re welcome.)

Step Five: Claim Victory!

You know what I just wrote a blog about? How information is shared on the Internet through boredom. I just made myself your source for useless information on a Sunday when everyone is stuck at home. Happy viral video watching! (Thank you, Fellini.)

Day Thirteen: Speed post!

So I have only a few scant moments of Internet access before we lose power again to this October snow storm. While I’m thrilled to have four-wheel drive, and studded snow tires, I’m not so keen on the idea of losing a day in my writing challenge to Mother Nature.

So I’m going to type fast, and think in small sentences.

I’ve been dwelling on the idea that social media isn’t really, “important,” unless you’re a tween, or a pedophile. (Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Again, going for speed and impact here.) In the past few days, two interesting articles have caught my eye in regards to the scope this medium has on marketing, and our lives in general.

First, from Ad Age, a short piece on an award-winning marketing campagin to increase voter turn out that utilized Twitter as a key element.

Why Voters in Tunisia’s Turn Up.

So many marketing campaigns focus on what amount to the little things in life: Little, but still important. It was refreshing to be reminded that these principles applied to some really damn serious matters as well.

Up next, we have a really good reason to invest in a video camera:

Viral videos make people rich!
It seems so simple. The right place, at the right time, with the right puppy/ kid/ baby. Everyone is an entertainment producer. You don’t even need to be tech savvy, or a media maven. All you need is a link and forward button.

I’ll expand upon this idea soon. But right now, I need to batten down a few more hatches.

Day Twelve: Cover your ears if you don’t like cursing.

We’re going to take a little break from the social media discussion. Because, well, f*ck it.

It’s a phrase I find myself uttering more and more these days. F*ck it. It feels good. Say it with me. F*ck it. Okay, now say it like you mean it. F*CK IT. Better. It’s really satisfying, right?

No, really. Even scientists think saying it is awesome!

This past year has been the harborer of some pretty big moments for myself and my family. It’s held more than our fair share of life-is-too-short days. Perfect little reminders that being hit by a bus isn’t all that far out of the realm of possibilities. Which leads to the very essence of f*ck it.

(Okay, for the remainder of this entry, I’m going to use F’IT as a substitute. Those little *s are annoying, and I’m lazy.)

Saying F’IT always leads to something, whether it’s awesome, or awful and teaches a scarring lesson. F’IT is the breaker and the builder.

F’IT can be big or small, but it’s always a re-setting of the bones. I had a F’IT moment sitting in my digital marketing class during my senior year at school. Finals were about two months away. It was snowing. I looked out the window at Burlington, VT and wondered where my place was in that town. Then I said F’IT. As I walked out of class, I called my friend who lived and worked in New York City and left her a voice mail asking if I could sleep on her couch. Two months and one week later, I moved to New York.

Both a traumatizing and thrilling decision. It slammed the book shut on one chapter of my life, and altered many of my relationships forever. At the same time, I found my core. I was adopted by a few NYC natives, who taught me that socks are not a fashion accessory, and that I can’t wander into traffic. They also taught me how to laugh until you’re breathless in a dive bar, convince a cab to drive to Queens at 3 AM, and not to let anyone push me out of the way on the subway. NYC taught me the indescribable feeling of perfectly navigating a crowd of thousands, because you know exactly where you’re going. F’IT is what gave me that opportunity.

F’IT taught me how to kickbox and travel alone. It allowed me to fall from standing into a yoga back bend, teaching me that the world is pretty cool upside down. F’IT took me to the concert of a band I had never heard before, and handed my soul over to The Decemberists for about two hours. F’IT is the only way I’ve ever made my own life interesting.

And I need to say it more. (To myself, obviously, there might be sensitive ears in the area.) Life is much too short not to say f*ck it.

Day Eleven: So… you like me, right?

It’s a crappy day. It’s miserable out, and I’m just in one of those moods where everything is stupid. My car is stupid. The traffic near the high school is stupid. My dog is stupid. (Well, that one never changes. Love him like crazy. But he spends most of his time proving to me that I made the right choice by having him fixed.)

It’s the kind of day where the mirror isn’t always your best friend, and you feed all those nagging little irrational thoughts. Essentially, you end up questioning your worth. The projects you’re working on seem lame. You can’t remember why you thought that blog entry was any good. You wonder if anyone is just annoyed by your tweets and Facebook updates. There’s a term for this new cyber self-doubt.

Social Currency.

How much you’re worth online. Anyone who has a social media page any where wonders about this at one point. Does anyone give a crap? Did they take note that I re-tweeted that really awesome panda video, thus making me as adorable as a panda? I think of social currency as the modern day high school locker. You want to decorate your locker with really awesome pictures, intriguing band stickers, and photographic evidence of your communal activities. Why? So that when the jock walks by while you’re ever-so-casually fixing your hair, he becomes deeply enamored with your intellect. And awesome hair.

Companies suffer from high-school-locker syndrome as well. They, too, have crappy days staring at their Facebook page and wondering why no one talks to them. Now, most of us get over this quickly. We sigh wistfully, and five minutes later realize the “Jersey Shore,” is on, and suddenly life’s a blast again. Businesses evaluating their social currency can’t snap out of it quite so easily. They invent algorithms and formulas to expand and evaluate their cool factor. They hire companies to asses and create a plan.

There’s a fun little game they like to play called Klout. This service evaluates and ranks your reach and engagement within the online community. Wait a second. How does a computer judge the depth of engagement? How does it figure out when someone is feeling, “engaged”? Oh man, things are getting fuzzy! From my understanding, Klout even ranks your score based on the type of people and businesses you associate with online. Anyone else think that sounds like the fast-track to some really scary conversations?

I’m not the only one feeling this way. A Google search on Klout turned up this article as the third result this morning.

Nobody Gives a Damn About Your Klout Score.

I’m going to attempt to give those frowny-faced businesses a little bit of unsolicited, unqualified advice. My background is in Public Relations. Which means…relate to your public. Complicated, right? You can crack a code and increase your social media currency. But what the heck did that do for your audience? Thats’s cheating.

Sometimes I feel like the best social media plan is also the simplest. Not easy, just simple. Be human. Realize that you have an awesome venue for speaking directly to your customer, and don’t blow it. I’m sure if you throw enough money at the problem, any one can increase their social currency ranking. Realize that the ten fingers typing out that mass e-mail or Facebook blast are attached to a person, and chances are you’ll put a little more heart into it your communications.

Really, isn’t that just what we all want? To be loved? Come on.

PS- **My dog is currently trying to mate with the cat, and she’s beating him up. SO glad he’s been removed from the gene pool.**

Day Ten: I fall in love hard.

I like music. A lot. There are only a few things that occupy about 95% of my personal time; reading, eating, and listening to music. A hopping night for me is a combination of all three things at once. Don’t even try to interrupt.

I have work-out playlists for the gym that are classified not just by activity, but by what mood I’m in. (Running-Mad, Cycling-Optimistic, Yoga-Emo.) While driving, I can navigate my iPod to new artists and specific songs by counting the wheel clicks. (And I just admitted how old my iPod is…) I have fallen in love with songs with more emotion than I have some past boyfriends. (Sorry, boys, but if you were as perfect as a song we wouldn’t have broken up, now would we?) Music is a big deal for me, okay?

The discovery of Spotify was love at first play. To start, I thought it was something akin to Pandora. I liked Pandora, I did. But like those past boys, it began to ride my nerves. Seriously. Don’t limit how many songs I can skip in an hour. I KNOW WHAT I LIKE AND I DON’T WANT TO HEAR THAT SONG, OKAY??? Also, I’m creature who lives on instant gratification. When I want to hear a certain song, or band, I want to hear it RIGHT now. I don’t want to have to listen to three other bands who sound kind of like that.

I’m being very harsh to poor Pandora. It’s a great free service. It’s a wonderful way to stumble across new music. Basically, he was a nice guy, but wait until you meet my HUNK of a new boy- Spotify. Spotify basically fulfilled all my social media/ music fantasies.

But WHY can’t people send me play lists? 

But WHY can’t I post a song as my Facebook status? Posting just the lyrics makes me look so whiney!

And then Spotify came along and rocked my world. With one click, I can turn on a random radio. Pick a few music genres and maybe hear something new. Craving a certain artist? Just type the name. I can then listen to the song, or the whole album, or (if the artist has clued in) I can listen to a station of stuff THEY like.

Ohhh, and the ability to share the music. Be still my heart. So far, I only have a few Facebook friends on Spotify, but pretty soon, I’m making it mandatory friendship critera. I build a play list. They can listen. They build one. I can listen. We can build one together! It’s one more way to try and suck the cool from my friends so I can have it for myself.

The other night, one of my Facebook friends posted that he was sick of seeing everyone’s music clutter up his news feed. Yes, as you listen to Spotify, it runs the songs through your Facebook page unless you tell it to stop. I felt bad for about 1.5 seconds. Then I remembered that one time he wouldn’t give me change to take the bus home, and I got over it. I bleed music. It’s happening all the time. And I actually love seeing what others are listening to. It gives me inspiration, and jump starts a whole new playlist. He can deal or block my updates. (I say this with affection. He’s a lovely dude, but don’t be dissing my new boyfriend, Spotify.)

I cannot wait for Spotify to break through to a larger audience. I can feel it. It’s going to happen. (It’s totally happening right now.) Then I can run amok through everyone’s music like a vibe-stealing gnome. I also can’t wait until I have a disposable income and can justify getting Spotify Pro. Which means Spotify and I can go to the gym together. We’re SO never breaking up.

Facebook- Your New Personal Life Coach

*Disclaimer* I’m not a pro. I don’t even have an iPhone (DAMN IT!). Apps scare me. I enjoy Facebook, but I’m by no means an early adopter. (If you want to learn from an early adopter, check out Amadeo Plaza. I’m pretty sure he had an iPad in his crib.) When the new changes rolled out last week, I grumbled, but I understand WHY it happened. I’ve been a little taken aback by some of the strong negative reactions to the updates. And anyone who’s paid even a little attention to social media news is aware that Facebook is about to blow our minds with the Timeline profile.

For those of you who might read this and don’t know what’s happening, I’m telling you now: HOLD ON TO YOUR PANTIES. FACEBOOK IS ABOUT TO CHANGE.  I’m not even going to attempt to explain it. Brian Solis has an awesome blog about it here.

Intense, right? Basically, Facebook is presenting us with a challenge as users. You’re either in or you’re out. Facebook doesn’t have to ask our permission to change anything.  A company can’t stay static (*cough, “Myspace,” cough*), and we don’t pay to use the service. If you don’t like being told how to use your Facebook profile, delete it. Right now. Shut down your account. Why won’t you? Because Facebook has improved your life and you don’t WANT to give it up.

So for those of us who are sticking it out (and admit it, that’s ALL of us), we’re about to have an identity crisis. From my understanding of the Facebook Timeline, I’m going to be a really boring person. The Timeline will be pulling together all my old posts and status updates, so that time I updated with one too many tequila shots in my system is about to come back from the dead. Fantastic. But aside from that, I’ve got nothing. I’ve always kept what I’ve read, watched, and listened to from Facebook specifically because I wanted it private. Anything you put online is public. And anything public is open to scrutiny. I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of allowing scrutiny on what I do in my personal time. The Timeline profile has thrown down the gauntlet. Start sharing, or your profile is just going to be a hollow shell account. Facebook will now NEED you to use sharing apps in order to represent who you are.  Gone are the days when my biggest concern was whether cute boys would like my profile pic. Brian Solis wrote another great blog on how Facebook just bombed the wall between your public and private self (his brain is so dreamy).

Read it here.

So now you’re going to be aware that I watched every single episode of “Mad Men” in a two-week time span from Netflix. You’ll know when I’m having an emo day and have been blaring My Chemical Romance and Alkaline Trio for 5 hours.  First reaction? Ew. Get out of my room! (Slams door.) Second reaction? Well, maybe this isn’t so awful. I’m quirky. Should I be ashamed of that? I’m a nerd. I have awful taste in movies, and frequently Google search for very strange information. My friends love me for this because it makes me real. Maybe Facebook has just brilliantly tricked me into being myself.

With this thought in mind, I’m going to dive into the new Facebook timeline. We all have the option of switching right now, if we’d like. The change will become mandatory at some point in the near future, so why delay the shock to the system? Since I have no intention of deleting my account, I’m going to accept Facebook’s challenge, and let my dork-flag fly.

Day Nine: I attempt to make sense.

Who gets to be a pro?

I realized I threw this title on last night’s post without much of a connection. After a night of rest and reflection, things make a bit more sense to me now.

I attended the conference on behalf of my current job. They very nicely let me go even though the information presented has very little to do with my position. I expressed an interest and they appreciated that. So I sat in the audience as an amatur, learning from the professionals.

In my humble opinion, the professionals are the users. The people you hire to build your online marketing plans should be the students.

To expand a bit on what I started last night, the presenters at the conference were all great. Smart folks with a proven track record. But I didn’t hear them address the user experience, and, in the same vein, the future. Facebook is about the change. Google+ will most likely gain momentum. Businesses will have to find new tactics to successfully facilitate the personal relationships they all want with their consumers. When I think about Public Relations and it’s place in social media, I get a stomach ache. Literally. It can feel a bit overwhelming. It’s always changing. Your desired demographic will have a new online gathering place almost every other week it seems.

Brian Solis just published a hot little entry on the subject of what online brand loyalty actually means. We’re finicky little creatures, we users. We’re harder to figure out than any high school girl. When someone, “Likes,” or chooses to stop following a brand online, you kind of want to take them by the shoulders and scream, “What do you want? What are you trying to tell me??!!”

You can read the article by Mr. Solis here. You can’t just get a consumer to follow you. You’ve got to understand why they did it, what it means, and what they expect from you next.

At one point, a panel was asked how much time a day they spend executing their digital marketing plans. I wanted to ask how much time a day they spend preparing for their NEXT digital marketing plan. There’s no rest for the wicked in this game. If you want to find success in this field, you’ve got to always be looking, learning, and listening.

Julia Balfour, owner of Julia Balfour, LLC, was the one presenter I heard to push this point. She smartly addressed that you’ve got to be watching the, “Big Boys,” the companies whose success you want to emulate. When she asked the audience if we knew Facebook Timeline was coming, I wanted to run up to her seat and slam a high five.

Again, I’m smart enough to know that the opinion of one chick with a lot of coffee in her system and an iPad (me), doesn’t really stand up to those who have made careers out of their advice and knowledge. However, I spend a lot of time trying to pay attention. I’m a member of a demographic, and companies try to reach me through social media. I know what I like, and what I don’t. And I want to be a professional one day. I imagine potential employeers might ask about my experience. While I’d like to tell them I’m an undercover social media marketing ninja, I think this might be over kill. But I will be able to tell them I’m a user, consumer, and constant student, and I think that’s incredibly valid right now.

Day Eight: Who gets to be a pro?

Today, I had the opportunity to attend the Shoreline Business Conference. The panels and discussions this year all focused on success for one’s business in a digitally-driven environment.

While I didn’t agree with everything each professional said, a lot of good opinions were shared and tips traded. I do plan on further exploring the highlights of the conference, but I need a night to digest the information, and formulate a more thoughtful response. I tend to be quick to sarcasm pre-digestion.

One thing that struck me was, what I thought, a glaring omission. Each speaker seemed so eager to share their online success, and oozed (well-deserved) confidence on the subject. Many rattled off the tools like the ingredients to prosperity. However, I didn’t hear any of them address their customer’s experience. There was a lot of, “we,” going around. We build relationships. We have excellent follow up. We blog and use SEO.

Now to be fair, I couldn’t attend all the panels, but what I heard seemed to be lacking a customer perspective. Have they ever asked the 18 year old who works at their store how they use Facebook? Have they had their mom friend them? Did they get the neighbor to follow them on Twitter? They know what’s worked in the past, but social media is the antithesis of stagnant. How will they know what’s going to work next if they don’t actively experience it themselves? They seemed quick to crack jokes about the obsessive Internet use of youth. I don’t think they’ve considered the perspective that those youths are actually the social media experts. They’re just attempting to play keep-up. The gossipy teens, traveling tweeters, and reviewers with vengeance should be sitting in front of the microphone.

Consider this a prologue. This needs to roll around my head for a bit a longer.

Day Seven: Shut it, Patrick Stump.

Patrick Stump has a song called, “On the Bad Side of 25.” Now, if I keep up with this project, it’s going to become very apparent that Mr. Stump is my celebrity husband. Let’s just get that out of the way now. I’ve had a crush on him since I thought I was the most punk rock princess this side of Avril Lavigne. My musical tastes may have shifted (a bit), but my undying admiration has not. Let’s air this out now and move on.

Regardless of the lyrics of the song, the title alone makes me smile. It’s the perfect way to describe the way I’ve felt since 12 AM on July 24th, 2011, when I turned 25 and arrived firmly at my own quarter-life crisis. That’s when I took a good look around myself and thought, “Crap.”

25 is still, “young,” but it’s a big change. The world generally stops considering you a kid. Suddenly, if you were married, or pregnant, people wouldn’t look at you funny, or exclaim how young you are. You’re, “supposed” to be pushing forward in your career, thinking about home ownership, and just be an adult.

I feel miles away from that.

I graduated from college in the winter of 2008/2009. Just as the Recession became a very real, very scary thing. Parents, professors, and advisors stopped giving us the feeling that the world was at our feet. It felt a bit like being kicked out of the nest, but the forest was already on fire. Overwhelming. You’ve got to push as hard and as fast as you can. The competition for jobs was, and is, extreme. The glorious idea of chasing after your heart’s desire was suddenly protrayed as a silly, even stupid. Never, ever, turn down a job because it’s not what you wanted. Be happy you have one.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am incredibly happy to be employed, providing me with the ability to feed myself, and the two furry mouths that depend on me. I’ve learned so much in the jobs I’ve had since gradution. I’ve developed not just skills, but humility. I’ve dropped the self-indignant, know-it-all, act, and I dive in with my team. I wouldn’t change my path for anything. However, since the clock hit midnight on that fateful day, I can’t stop looking forward.

Do I spend every day doing what I love? Am I finally getting to the grown-up part? When can I stop accepting gas money from my parents every time I visit them? A quarter-life crisis doesn’t feel like a joke to me. I think my generation has some unique challenges. I’m sure many of us would love to drop everything and do nothing but push on in the direction our hearts tells us to go. But we can’t. The grass might be greener on the other side, but if we try to go over there, someone might atom bomb our current field when we’re not looking. So we stay put, and restlessly look around us; hoping we’ll have enough to maybe, someday, become grown ups.

Luckily, Mr. Stump doesn’t have to worry about this. I assume he feels fairly content with his lot in life. The rest of us, like me, are in a different boat. But the restlessness is starting to eat at me. I’m starting to try to rock the boat a bit, and feed my heart just a little each day. At the same time, carefully trying to make sure I don’t accidentally capsize myself. 25 is a bit of a bastard, and right now, I’m totally on his bad side. But I’m a pretty good sweet-talker.

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