Stop Being Disappointed

Have you ever been disappointed by family or friends? Do you have someone in your life who just isn’t doing the best that you know they can? Are you burdened by wanting to guide them down an easier path?

I tend to carry heavy loads on behalf of these people. I get frustrated when they won’t heed my advice. After all, I have walked the path already. I’ve learned how to rely on God and I’m willing to share shortcuts. Why won’t these people listen to me? Why do they make things so difficult?

Recently, I found myself becoming bitter because of this disappointment. I worried over the situation, letting my negative feelings fester, until I came to the point of proclaiming, “I am done with them.” Then I quietly said, “God, they’re in Your hands. I give up.” God immediately replied, “You disappoint me every day, but I am not done with you.  …and it never really was in your hands.” Some of you may think that is a harsh response but I would disagree. Although God disciplines His children (Hebrews 12:6), I knew this was the Father’s loving way of reminding His daughter that we are ALL sinners, and that many of us try too often to do His job. I was quite guilty of both at that very moment.

For one, getting angry with those who disappoint me – calling them stubborn, or uncooperative, or rude – isn’t in the best interest of my own Christian walk. Although it is necessary at times to be salt of the earth, it is just as important to be the light. (Matthew 5:13-16) Having just admitted that I have traveled the same path, I am no better than anyone else. Instead, this is my time to shine and show how Jesus didn’t give up on me. He didn’t call me ugly names and tell me He was done when I wouldn’t listen to Him. He patiently walked beside me while I stumbled my way around off-course, leading me back on the right track. No matter how disappointed I get, I have to remember to share His love. In doing so, those who are stumbling now will soon realize that Jesus is walking with them too.

1 Peter 5:6-7 reads, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Yes, ALL of your anxiety… not just some.  I have to stop trying to handle things for God. He doesn’t need my help! Some people need to stumble down a difficult path in order to come to these realization on their own. Not everyone learns the same way. Some can listen and get it. Others, like myself, have to try and fail before we understand. I guarantee someone had a burden of sharing shortcuts with me, but I was too stubborn and uncooperative to listen. It was through my disappointment and failures that I learned to rely on the Lord and trust His full control. He lifted me in due time – His time – and I have to believe that He will lift up those who disappoint me too.

Are there really shortcuts in life anyway? I am beginning to see that there aren’t. Well, none with positive outcomes. I want to help people, maybe you do too, but doing things for them can actually make matters worse. Instead of wanting to tell them the easy way out, we may need to show them through the hard times. We should focus on being the lantern to God’s light and find comfort in knowing the Lord will bring them to the same place of understanding that we, ourselves, have been brought to by Him.

Don’t Allow Social Media Contests to Throw Your Reputation to the Dogs.

I guess it is common for individuals to hastily jump on the social media wagon. I did it, and several years later, I still learn something new every day. For some reason, though, it surprises me when some businesses are quick to climb aboard and hire folks who say they’re Social Media Specialist without having any Marketing or Customer Service skills.

Social media is such a broad term. It’s fun to engage in it. Everyone wants a part of it. We may even benefit from it. Yes, it’s free… and literally just about anyone can do it. So why should businesses be any different, right? Why should they care if their Social Media Manager has no idea about Brand Identity, Creative Strategy, or Holding Power. Is it really necessary for them to practice Conflict Resolution or Stress Management skills? Would it matter if their Copy writing and Editing had errors? Some businesses are actually okay with their prospective employee simply having 500 followers, a blog in their own name, or a Facebook page history of 3 years.

I find that there is usually a noticeable difference between a business page run by a true social media professional versus a self-proclaimed guru.

I feel I should state here that I am neither. I have worked in Advertising & Marketing since 1999 and Customer Service for nearly 20 years. Even as an Art Director, I felt that I was never a guru in anything. However, daily I bring a new outlook from both Marketing and Customer Service that I try to convey in social media. I use social media in my line of work; social media is NOT my line of work.

The current fad on social media sites, like Facebook, are contests. I actually have one running right now through JennB.Creative. Contests generally are not a bad thing. It’s a great way to gain Likes or Followers, and create a buzz for your business. Where I feel businesses go wrong is selecting contests that are too far removed from the services that they offer, and failing to maintain the contest throughout its course.

I recently stumbled across a social media contest from a large car dealership. The dealership wants to give back to their community, so they created a 4-week Animal Rescue Contest. In researching their page, I was unable to obtain a written copy of the official rules. (Mistake #1 – Rules should always be clearly posted.) It appears organizations are allowed to post multiple photos of animals on the dealership’s wall as a means to campaign for votes. One participant even questioned if she was allowed to also post photos of animals that her rescue group had up for adoption. The dealership replied that it was okay to advertise the animals. (Mistake #2 – Limit the amount of wall posts from an organization to avoid a Spam-like appearance.) What I found most bothersome by this contest was the fact that – if I were a customer of the dealership who may frequent their page for oil & filter specials, recall information, or to preview their new car releases – all I see are photos of dogs. What do dogs have to do with this dealership? Is it really worth losing the Likes of loyal customers in order to gain 100 new Likes, who may Unlike you once the contest is over? I think the contest is truly a nice gesture. I am just not sure that it was well thought out from a Marketing and Customer Service standpoint. I literally had to scroll through weeks of photos and contest posts in order to find the last post made by the dealership. (Mistake #3 – Manage the contest and page as frequently as necessary in an effort to maintain the value of your page prior to the contest.) Contests should not inconvenience your customers or potentially damage your social media reputation.

Social media is a constantly evolving avenue that no one may fully master. However, the basics behind social media – Marketing and Customer Service – are fairly cut and dry. I encourage companies to not lose sight of these two important business factors. Remember to use social media as the tool that it is and not the lifeline that many want it to become.

Let Us Do Good to All People

I love to give. I will donate my time, my services, and/or my money to just about any legit charity. It apparently is no secret.

This morning, I awoke to a text message asking me if I’d like to purchase a tub of cookie dough for a preschool fundraiser. This is the 5th tub of cookie dough that I’ve been asked to purchase in the past week. Apparently, people freely spend $15 on 3lb of frozen lard & sugar. Although I have graciously declined everyone’s offer to purchase something so incredibly unhealthy, I don’t mind sending a check over to the schools to show that people actually DO give without expecting anything in return…

…or do they? Am I the only person who does this? My mind became cluttered with so many thoughts, and I suddenly questioned how (and why) these fundraising efforts work.

I have been fundraising for various charities for 15 years now. I have raised thousands of dollars for well-known nonprofits. The most successful fundraisers have been those where people purchased something, knowing that a portion of their proceeds go to charity. No one stops to ask how much; they seem fine with just knowing “some” of it does. The more I pondered over that, the more I became frustrated. Why do so many schools hold these fundraisers? Why cookie dough? Shouldn’t we be promoting a healthier society? Are these fundraisers really necessary? What is purchased with these donations? Why won’t people give just $5 to MY kids?

There… I said it. Perhaps part of my frustration is that I see healthy children going to private schools here in the United States of America trying to raise money – and succeeding – while “my” kids in Haiti struggle to have food to eat. Most of them do not own shoes, and their families (if they’re blessed with families) do not have transportation. That means these sweet children have to walk barefoot over rocks and through unclean water. So many Haitian children are still living in tents, having lost their homes to the 2010 earthquake. The “fortunate” children who live in houses still do not have running water and electricity. A large amount of children in Haiti never get an education. There are also a lot of children who have medical problems that cannot be cared for in their country. They have to go through a long application process and waiting period to see if they are even eligible to come to the US to receive treatment. Since when did a human life fall short to luxuries of education here in the States?

It is so hard for me to understand why I can’t even get small donations for our mission. I’m not asking for much… less than a tub of cookie dough! I am asking folks to please give up a McDonald’s combo meal or a Starbuck’s Venti Latte for just one day. Then, donate $5 a month to Invest Hope… or another charity in a country stricken with poverty and disease. If you’d prefer to stay local, please find a Children’s Home, Food Bank, Shelter, or Special Needs program in your area. Look for the small, struggling nonprofits who have a greater and more direct impact to their communities. Give to them without expecting anything in return… and I promise, you will receive more satisfaction from it than you will ever get from cookie dough.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…”
– Galatians 6:9-10 (NIV)

To learn more about Invest Hope, click here. For details on how you can invest hope in the future of Haitian children, please contact us at info@investhope.com or on Facebook or Twitter.

The Downside to Social Media

I sat down at the computer tonight to blog about Social Fresh and the tiny couple of seconds it felt like I was involved in the two-day conference, when I noticed a Tweet in my stream that stated, “All: @NBCNEWS was just hacked. DO NOT RETWEET THEIR TWEETS. They are FALSE…” I stopped in my tracks and went straight to the NBCNews Twitter account. What I found were Tweets from a band-of-idiots who had illegally-accessed the account and stated an attack had been made on Ground Zero.

This being the weekend of the tenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, I immediately became disgusted by the hackers, their comments, and sadly, yes… social media. Who finds it comical to make such terrible accusations? Who has so much time on their hands that they sit around guessing the password to accounts? And why is social media such an open target for these opposing situations?

Lately I have noticed an increase in negativity via social media. Let me be more specific; this isn’t the hate that an angry teen posts on her Facebook status about her cheating ex-boyfriend. The conflicts that I mention are those that impact society on a far wider scale; conflicts that are created by malicious hackers, devious businesses, or even so-called-gurus. Although we all see the potential that social media has, we cannot lose sight that it is simply a FREE, open forum with no real rules, just waiting to name its next victim.

Don’t get me wrong. From a marketing and customer service stand point, the world has really struck gold with social media sites. It allows us to engage with our audience of clients and potential customers in a quick and cost-effective way. Yet, I feel the industry is largely, if not solely, relying too heavily on these sites. I’m not saying those of us who use social media for the good are at fault, but we have to question if we’re setting ourselves up for failure.

What are some of the problems that we face by using these free, open sites?

  1. Although some of us use social media from a business standpoint, there are plenty of folks on these sites, bored and ready to cause problems. Take for example, the hackers who compromised NBC’s Twitter account. We cannot take any material on social media sites for more than face-value. You may ask, “Doesn’t this contradict using social media to promote the validity of a business?” Yes, to a degree. This is why we shouldn’t depend solely on Twitter, Facebook, etc. until there are ways to control them.
  2. Prior to social media, businesses primarily gained visibility by means of radio spots, television ads, or print space in a magazine. All of these marketing efforts cost a significant amount of money, required skill to execute, and were heavily managed. It made retaliation difficult, which made a business really “think before they spoke” negatively. Although word-of-mouth cannot be regulated, it takes a great deal of time for your opinion to reach an audience of 100 people. An individual or business can now say whatever they want about a business to a broad audience, whether their statement is true or not, changing the actions of their peers almost instantly.
  3. Some self-proclaimed social media ‘gurus’ have a tendency of sharing information, often aggressively, in an effort to sway friends, followers, or clients into believing that their way is the “right way” to use social media. The only right way to share in social media is with effectiveness and etiquette. After all, the last time I checked there is no written rule of how Twitter must run, or how often a business (or individual) MUST use their accounts. We should share why it would benefit an individual to use social media etiquette – i.e., too many similar posts will look like spam, avoid language that could be offensive, etc. – or how effective it can be for a business to engage with their followers. There are many people who are still unsure about social media and someone coming across as the Twitter or Facebook police, only looks arrogant.

Social media makes it very simple for an average Joe to express their opinion and influence a large crowd. What once took organizing a rally in a large area with a p.a. system (and guts) now only takes 140 characters and the click of a mouse. We are a far braver society now that we can voice our opinions while hiding behind our computer screens, smart phones, and tablets. We need to be reminded, as professionals and as humans, that our words can be hurtful when presented irresponsibly. I am just as guilty of this. Who hasn’t had an email they’ve written be misinterpreted? Who hasn’t Tweeted bitterly about poor service in the midst of disappointment? Who hasn’t told a little white lie as a joke, not considering the consequences?

I will find myself, at times, being disgusted with social media. The term alone “Social Media” can turn my stomach on certain days, like today. Why are so many people comfortable with it? …so reliant upon it? …completely fascinated by it?

Then I have to remember, this is all still relatively new… the businesses and even the social media professional are still learning. Sure, the shiny-new has worn off to some of us but others just created their account last week. There are even businesses who jumped in, completely oblivious to social media and struggled, and left their accounts dormant while re-evaluating their decision. For myself, in just two short years Twitter alone has brought me so many positives to my life. I have met so many terrific people, learned so many wonderful things, and been a lot of great places because of it! However, I once abandoned my account too. It was the encouraging words of my brother, not a series of aggressive or negative Tweets, who coaxed me back on to use the site to it’s full potential. Had I received from him the response of “You’re doing this all wrong. You suck. You’ll never get it.”, then I would have missed out on a lot. There is no capacity for social media. We shouldn’t try to scare off people who aren’t as knowledgable as we are, we should help them.

…which brings me back to Social Fresh. It’s a conference spear-headed by some of the most helpful faces of social media. You can truly see the real professionals shine during conferences like this one. They stand out.

Although I was offered a free ticket by one of social media’s brightest stars, DJ Waldow, I regretfully still wasn’t able to rearrange my schedule on September 6 & 7 to attend. Instead I waited patiently on Tuesday for the first Tweets to start popping into my stream, and shortly after lunch, I was already recapping the events from earlier that day. Around 4:30pm, I left work and headed to Charlotte. I had planned to meet my dear friend, and social media’s most sparkly star, Stephanie Wonderlin (whom I hadn’t seen in nearly a year) for dinner. We were joined by my brother, Dean, and a table-full of outstanding folks from Justin Levy and Carly Durham to Eric Boggs and David Horne. As I sat across the table from Stephanie, catching up on [and giggling about] real life, I wondered what my life would be like had I never started using social media. I hope that the positive impact Stephanie and some of the others have made on me, I am making on someone else. I really love to learn but I equally love sharing my knowledge with others. There is no reason to be negative in life… and certainly not in social media. If you have time to hack into an account and Tweet poorly-executed jokes or blog about how terrible someone is for not being as cool (i.e.; knowledgeable) as you are on Facebook, then perhaps you should step back and re-evaluate yourself. The time you spend being negative could be spent, instead, teaching others about social media, offering your time to show someone how Twitter or YouTube works, volunteering your time in the community, or spending time with loved ones. There is always a handful of positive options to counteract one negative effort, even in the midst of social media sites not having sufficient rules to keep others from being negative. Thank you to the crew of Social Fresh for pulling me out of my disgust and allowing me to see the good in social media often outweighs the bad.

Since my blog took a turn from it’s original path, please take the time to visit the Social Fresh Facebook page to read more about the sessions that took place on Tuesday & Wednesday in Charlotte. Hopefully you will take from this blog, and their notes, the positive impacts that social media can have in our society if we choose to share it.

SoGeeky South

I wanted to take a quick moment to share with you three upcoming social media/technology conferences that you may find worthy of attending:

SOCIAL FRESH Charlotte 2011
via www.socialfresh.com

During Social Fresh Charlotte’s two days of training – September 6-7, 2011 – our educational track can be broken down into a few core focus points:

Training Topics — Social Fresh is adding more and more training opportunities. Our sessions focus more on teaching actionable lessons and less on broader strokes or concept discussion. Attendees told us they wanted more hands on training, so now we have including training topics for teaching tactics and strategy throughout the entire conference. We avoid talking ABOUT social media and focus on showing you what you can do today.

We select the topics and sessions we think you will learn the most from. We include brand lessons that will teach you. Attendees from Social Fresh can hit the ground running after the event. They take away tons of notes and insights that can be implemented right away.

Better Speakers — I don’t know of a training event that can say they have the experience that Social Fresh has with finding the right social media speakers and topics for an audience of marketers. We have hosted hundreds of top industry speakers. The best speakers are one part high level insights, one part first hand knowledge, and one part not boring the attendees to tears.

We know who can convey the best social media lessons and brand lessons. We know who is rated the highest by your marketing peers, event after event. And we know which speakers can actually send people away inspired and more confident, as opposed to more confused and wanting more.

Our Charlotte conference has the best line up of smart speakers that we have ever put together. These thought leaders get it and put this stuff into practice for clients and big businesses every day.

WHY IS SOCIAL FRESH DIFFERENT?

Focus on Networking
Focus on Fun
Focus on Actionable Content
Focus on Case Studies

Hosted by Jason Keath and Corey Creed. Please visit the Social Fresh Charlotte website to read more about the event and speakers. Click here for ticket information.

ConvergeSouth 2011
via www.convergesouth.com

ConvergeSouth is the annual tech users conference held in Greensboro, NC. Entering our 7th year, the conference is organized completely by volunteers. Originally based on the “blogger-con” concept, ConvergeSouth has grown as technology has developed and has tried to meet new needs of our community via Social Networking, Social Media, App Development and more without ignoring new users’ needs – that’s why there will always be a “101″ or Beginners Track at ConvergeSouth.

Mark your calendars for October 6-7, 2011 in Greensboro!

ConvergeSouth has also added a one-day Nonprofit Track this year to draw in tech-savvy nonprofits who do so much for our communities. The three special sessions are designed at the introductory (101) level to assist nonprofits move deeper into the tech world.

Thursday’s keynote speaker is a globally-recognized blogger, educator, business consultant, and author who blogs at {grow} — one of the AdAge Top 50 blogs of the world, Mark Schaefer. Mark has worked in global sales, PR, and marketing positions for nearly 30 years and now provides consulting services as Executive Director of U.S.-based Schaefer Marketing Solutions.

He has advanced degrees in marketing and organizational development and holds seven patents. Mark enjoys teaching social media marketing courses at several colleges and is a faculty member of the graduate studies program at Rutgers University.

Mark is the author of The Tao of Twitter and has a new McGraw-Hill-published book arriving spring, 2012.

Please visit the ConvergeSouth website to read more about the event and speakers. Click here for full-event ticket information or here for Non-Profit Day registration.

GEEKEND 2011
via www.geek-end.com

Geekend is the interactive conference phenomenon you have been waiting your whole life for. It is your chance to interact with people taking the tech and creative industries by storm.

Geekend is the annual gathering of the geek tribe. Geekend is what you might call an interactive conference with some truly awesome parties. It’s the kind of event that you’ll be texting, Tweeting and Facebooking from, while making all your friends back home super jealous.

Geekend is a mashup, a meetup, and a Tweet-up all mixed together in a delicious Low Country boil of innovative ideas. It’s networking, Savannah style. It’s a veritable supermarket of fresh thoughts and delicious camaraderie. To sum Geekend up in one word is really quite impossible, but we tend to use this one: Fun.

Join us this October and November as the brightest geeks, designers, developers, artists, and social media mavericks flock to Boston and Savannah for several days filled with cutting edge speakers, fun-filled after parties, and amazing networking opportunities.

Go to our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter for all the Geekend details and updates.

Our Mission:

To bring together the brightest geeks, designers, artists, social media mavericks and forward thinking entrepreneurs.

Founded by Miriam & Jacob Hodesh and Sloane Kelley, you will be blown away by the events Geekend 2011 has in store for you. Visit Geekend’s website to checkout the schedule and list of speakers. Please click here for ticket information.

You will not want to miss these three conferences. Why are you waiting? Get your tickets now! Comment below if you already have your tickets and plan to join me. See you there!

Adventures of the iPad2

With all of the recent media hype, I knew that my wait was over. After spending nearly a year pondering the decision to purchase an iPad – and more so pouting over not having the money to get one – I had finally reasoned with myself to invest in a new iPad2.

Months of speculation, research, and brainstorming found me leaving work at noon yesterday – March 11, 2011 – with a plan to find a retailer who would have plenty iPad2 in stock when they went on sale at 5pm. I was determined to have one in my hand on launch day. Rumor that morning was that WalMart had not received a full selection, and still being unsure of the model that I wanted, I ended up in line at Best Buy.

I was approximately 45 in a line of 60 and growing. I was shocked at the questions being thrown out by folks in line around me. Had these people not done their homework? Were they really going to buy an iPad2 and not know what all it can do!? It was apparent that they weren’t the Fangirl that I was. I spent the next hour being the nerd, explaining the differences between the iPad and iPad2 and sharing out-of-the-box ways of using this wonderful invention. The one thing I couldn’t say confidently… would I buy the 16GB or the 32GB? I knew that I was buying the WiFi only, since I already own an iPhone that has 3G service. I knew I could also jailbreak my iPhone and use it as a personal Hot Spot. I couldn’t justify the 3G option on the iPad2.

The more I chatted with fellow buyers, the more I felt confident that I would end up with a 32GB. I kept texting my friends Angie & Shawn, who were standing in line at Best Buy in Greensboro, for opinions and updates. The more texts I sent & received, the more I began to worry. They were already being issued wristbands that confirmed they would be taking home an iPad2. I hadn’t seen wristbands at the Winston Salem store, or many employees for that matter, during any point that afternoon. Finally, at 4:50pm, six employees emerged with manila folders in hand. Each employee had two stacks of paper: one for the white iPad2 and one for the black iPad2. The first pair of employees had papers for the 64GB model. One employee had the WiFi only stack while the other stack was the 3G/WiFi model. Without hesitation, I asked the employee with the 64GB WiFi only stack to hand me a ticket for a black iPad2. Just like that, I had made my decision. I was going for the big one. It wasn’t until the next pair of employees came through with the 32GB tickets that I realized what I had done… but it just seemed right to have the 64GB. I was planning on using my new iPad2 for many things, including my photography. Card reader adapters are available for $29.99 which will allow me to unload my SD card from the Canon DSLR onto the iPad2 in virtually minutes. This will come in handy during long photo shoots.

Despite having the ticket in my hand ensuring that I would soon be the owner of a brand new iPad2, I still had a long road ahead of me. It was just past 5pm and we were still not allowed in the store. Once we made it inside, we were snaked through the entire store from front to back to front again. I finally made it to the register at 5:55pm. With one quick exchange, the paper ticket in my hand was replaced with a white box. At 6:03pm,  I walked out of Best Buy a very happy iPad2 owner. I am very excited to put this thing to use. Although I’ve had a small amount of guilt for dropping so much cash on a tablet, I have already used it as a gaming system, a video streamer, an iPod, and a laptop. I don’t doubt this won’t earn it’s value. I’m even writing this blog on it now!

If you’re looking for a great purchase, well worth every penny you spend, I suggest investing in an iPad or iPad2. I would assume the older models will drop in price, though I don’t anticipate it being by much. I believe after the frenzy yesterday, you may have a difficult time finding the new iPad2 for a week or so. If you can stand to wait while stocks are replenished, start putting back money and researching this tablet further. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I certainly am not!

Changes from the iPad to iPad2:
Thinner – down from 13.4mm to 8.8mm.
3G – AT&T and Verizon service available.
Processor – updated to A5 dual
Camera – Front & Rear-facing
Gyroscope
HDMI output