Sunday, December 27, 2009

eCards - Love 'em or Hate 'em?

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Christmas 2009
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I love this Smilebox Application. I used to spend a fortune making color copies of my Christmas letter and sending it out. Now it's all very simple.

However, just sending out a one-way newsletter or slideshow seems so ... self-centered! (Kind of like a blog, come to think of it!) I really like reconnecting with old friends. I know some people think eCards are not as "special" as the traditional cards, but my feeling is that the "special" part is not about whether it's a traditional card or an eCard.. It's about the personalization.

I say we should take advantage of these wonderful tools and technologies to write our not-so-personalized greeting with our news or our photos, but then spend the time to send a personalized greeting along with it -- whether that's with an email, a traditional card, a phone call, a lunch, or a facebook post. People like to know we're thinking of them and if we don't take the time to write something personal, we might as well be standing in front of a crowd shouting, "Look at me!"

I think that's true of Social Media in general. It's a great and easy way to promote whatever it is you're trying to promote. But you need to take the time to engage with others... to make sure your conversations are two-way and not just all about you.

Of course, I have yet to write all of my personal eCards, but now that I have the impersonal, self-centered, look-at-me part done, I'm ready to get going!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Obesity Mocumentary - Can it Go Viral?

I've been curious about how YouTube videos "go viral." I went to a Webinar about this the other day. First, you have to have good content. Then you have to share with influential people and ask them to forward on.

Well, my talented son-in-law and comedian, Chris Tidd, made this video starring my daughter, Meg, when she was pregnant. It's a spoof documentary on obesity and it's hilarious! Check it out and if you like it, pass the link on to your network or retweet. Let's see if we can go viral!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Best Gift I've Ever Received

You know that scene in "It's a Wonderful Life" when all of George's family and friends gather around helping him out of all the trouble he's in? It always makes me cry. That goodness in people... It's so heart-warming and moving. George realizes what a very rich man he is because of all the people who love him.

That's what I've felt like every day since I've gotten laid off. As I've stressed about the lack of income, I've never felt so rich in the love and support that I've gotten from my friends and family.

I don't think a day has gone by when I haven't been given something. I've had friends take me to lunch -- some of them multiple times! Just last night, a good friend treated me to a play we've wanted to see for months, "Girls Only!" This friend has suffered through breast cancer (an ordeal that can't even compare to a layoff) yet she always remains upbeat and giving. Other friends -- and even strangers -- have sent job leads or emails of encouragement. Even my ex-husband has been extremely generous in his support. I don't normally give him credit. Hearing others' stories of bitter ex-spouses, makes me realize how lucky I am.

The biggest gift was when my neighbors gave me 50,000 frequent flyer miles so that Scotty, my 15-year-old son, and I could get to Sacramento over Thanksgiving week. My father was in the hospital, undergoing life-threatening emergency surgery. Being able to see him and my mother was truly priceless. The amazing thing is, three other people offered me frequent flyer miles, too! (I imposed on my neighbors since I was the closest to them...) That kind of generosity... It's just mind-boggling to me!

Scotty has been a trooper, as usual, too. He's had to give up privacy when we rented out a room. He's asked for less. He helps more. He even offered to run around to trick-or-treat before everyone else so we could give away all the candy he didn't want to the trick-or-treaters that came to our house! (He assured me he was just kidding, though.)

As I accept gift after gift, my heart fills with gratitude. I know I will get a job soon. I so want to reciprocate and I've been waiting to get that job... To have some income so that I could shower my friends with lunches and gifts and invitations to celebrate. I want to show all these generous people that what they are doing matters. That it's filling me up, more than they can know.

I know no one is waiting for me to reciprocate, and, honestly, I don't think I ever could. There is no reciprocal gift. The gift they have given me is in my heart and will be with me forever. The gift of love and support is absolutely the best gift I've ever received. I feel extremely blessed. I'm a very rich woman, indeed.

PS for Friends and Family: This was a long way of telling you that you're not getting much more than love and support for Christmas from me this year, but it's worth a LOT! I'm still trying to figure out how to wrap it up... Hope I didn't spoil the surprise.

Thank You and Love to you all this Christmas...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Reusing Blog Content

This morning I blogged about Reusing Blog Content on my QA Blog. I'm actually going to reuse my own content (which references a lot of other blog content) and copy it here. It is perfectly acceptable to promote your own content and something I do regularly! Though people not in social media may think this seems a bit self-centered, those of us that do a lot of social media "stuff" realize that it, in fact, is self-centered, but that's what must be done to get attention.

But what's really great is that it's even easier to promote others' content and means you don't even have to think very hard to come up with something witty of your own! Retweeting in Twitter (done with a RT) is very popular. What it means is that you're passing along content that you like to your network. You give credit to the user who's content you're passing along (using @username) and then those who see the "retweet" may start following the user who originally posted the material. This is looked at as a good thing. The original tweeter feels grateful that you are passing along his or her content.

I haven't seen quite the same kind of nomenclature in the blogging world, though it's very popular to promote someone else's content. Usually you do so by including a link in your blog to the original content.

For example, this morning I read this post on the PractiTest QA Blog by Joel Montvelisky:

Learning Testing from Horse Trainers? (thanks to Adam Goucher)

Joel summarizes that in order to become a professional you will need:

- Talent
- Sacrifice / Selflessness
- Blood, Sweat & Tears
- Determination
- People Skills
- Bravery or Courage
- Character & Intelligence
- Develop a Plan

Adam Goucher's original post was referenced which in turn, referenced bullets and relevant quotes from Jessica Jo Tate, the horse-trainer, from which this whole discussion begins.

Now in the PractiTest QA blog, Joel says:

I don’t usually write blogs about other blogs but this morning I read one in Adam Goucher’s blog that really made it for me, and it was actually based on another article he read on a how to become a professional horse trainer… talk about recycling information :-)

I say... Recycle (ReTweet, ReBlog) away! It's a good thing! It's not like you're stealing someone's content claiming it as your own. You're passing along content that you think is informative and valuable, giving the original owner credit! This leads to readership and additional publicity for the original owner.

Now, I do think if the ONLY thing a blogger does is recycle others' content, THAT can be a little annoying. It's good to add your own commentary and have some original content as well. But, passing along good content to your own network is a very acceptable and welcomed practice in the world of social media.

So if anyone wants to reference this post, which references my QA post which references Joel's post, which references Adam's post, which references Jessica Jo Tate's site... please do!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Good News / Bad News

What a series of incredibly bad news and good news I've had in the past 48 hours.

Bad News: It started last week. My Dad was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. He'd had surgery to remove the tumor. There have been a lot of complications and on Saturday afternoon they felt more emergency surgery was necessary. They told us we needed to be prepared to say 'goodbye.'

Good News: Several friends offered me frequent flyer miles to help get me and my two sons to Sacramento to see my Dad. This generosity is so heart-warming that I can't begin to say how grateful I am. And even though it was Thanksgiving week, we were able to get on direct flights to Sacramento leaving early Sunday morning.

Bad News: The 6:52am RTD SkyRide bus to the airport never showed up! After waiting for 35 minutes, we decide we'd better drive.

Good News: We make it to the Wally parking lot by the airport in record time! Since I always take the bus, I hadn't been aware of this relatively low-cost parking option so close to the airport.

Bad News: The Wally shuttle takes an incredibly long time to pick everyone up. When we get to the airport, it's just past the cutoff time for getting a boarding pass. A very inflexible woman with a heavy accent tells me I'm going to have to pay $150/ticket to get later tickets that go through Vegas and LA and arrive in Sacramento at 7:30pm. I am uncharacteristically aggressive, insisting that she let me on the 9:15am flight. She doesn't budge.

Good News: I plead my case to an agent at the ticket counter. She tells me she doesn't think I can make it, but gives me boarding passes that will get us through security. We run through the airport. I duck under ropes, cutting to the front of the security line. A security lady tells me I can't do that. Having watched several Nicolas Cage movies lately, I sport a "Just try and stop me" attitude.

Bad News: I suppose acting like a crazy person caused some suspicions to airport security. They pull me aside and tell me they are going to inspect my bags. As they are slowly digging through my stuff, confiscating toothpaste and a prescription skin cream, I suffer from a total meltdown, head in hands, and sob like an inconsolable baby. Scotty pats my back and tells me it will be OK.

Good News: I recover my composure and carry on with the marathon-speed race through the airport to the gate, arriving one minute before departure time.

Bad News: They still don't let us on the plane.

Good News: They get us on another direct flight leaving two hours later at no additional cost. Considering it is Thanksgiving week, this is miraculous.

Good News: We make it to the hospital. Dad is happy to see us. Everyone says he's looking better. They may even be able to fix this latest complication without surgery. Mom is incredibly relieved, ready to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Bad News: My Mom wakes me up at 11:30pm. She's crying. They're taking Dad in for emergency surgery after all. Sobbing, she tells me of the final conversation they had...things he tried to remember to tell her, wanting to make sure she'd be OK, telling her a final, "I Love You."

Good News: I'm here with Mom. I crawl into her big bed with her and she calms down. We watch TV, doze, and pray as we wait for a phone call from the hospital. The last surgery took 11 hours. This one could take as long.

6am Still waiting and praying that the next phone call we receive will be good news.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pictures of Joy

When I got laid off, I had a long list of things I wanted to do every day. One of those things was to take a picture each day of something that made me smile.

During the summer, confident that I'd find that new job without too much delay. I enjoyed the long lazy days with my sons at home -- we were three unemployed bums taking advantage of picnics and sunshine. My daughter had a beautiful baby boy -- my first grandchild. I spent lots of time with family and friends. I took lots of pictures.

But then the Fall came. My older son went off to medical school and my younger one became involved in about a million activities. We agreed that we were "busier and poorer" than we'd ever been. Life got cold, dark, and overwhelming. The job search became a roller coaster - One day up, the next day down. The perfect jobs -- ones that I was sure I would get -- fell through. I spent all day in front of the computer, in an attempt to learn everything and anything that might get me closer to that job. I stopped going out, afraid to spend even two dollars on coffee, not wanting to impose any more on my generous friends. I stopped taking my daily picture.

Last week, I met with a friend and we discussed our weekly goals. I told her that my life had been so focused on the job search that I'd neglected spending time with my family and friends. She encouraged me to make an effort to take those "pictures of joy" again. And so I did. I took a picture of the surprise visit from my friend when he came to help me shovel after a snowstorm (I like to call this "a generous act of shovelry".) I took pictures when I went out to lunch and coffee again with friends. When I chauffeured my son to one of his many school events, we told jokes in the car. And even though I couldn't whip out the camera at that moment, when I got home, I wrote down the jokes in my journal, remembering that beautiful carefree attitude that I so admire in my son.

Yesterday I learned that my father has stage 3 colon cancer. Suddenly jobs and money no longer felt so important. When there is a problem, I want to find some way to control fix at least do something. My father is in a hospital bed in California and there is absolutely nothing I can do but wait and hope and pray that he'll get better. This did not feel like a day to take a picture of joy. I couldn't imagine anything that would make me smile.

But I had an appointment to meet with a friend to help her set up her blog. When I told her the news, she gave me a hug, and listened. She pulled out some home-made pasta sauce made with tomatoes from her garden, put on some soothing music, poured me a glass of red wine, and made me an Italian lunch -- just like my father would do. And, realizing it was more important than ever, I took my picture of joy.

Life is short. Don't take it for granted. Take those pictures of joy.

I love you, Dad.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Laptop Dancer Diaries - Getting Ready

A couple of weeks ago I printed the proof of my book, The Laptop Dancer Diaries. It's so exciting to have a real book in my hands! I just used a ready made cover for my proof copies, but I want to have a more custom one before my official release in February.

Over the weekend, my friend, Sue Campbell created 6 sample covers. They look excellent. My daughter created an impressive design as well. Her original design left the sexy lass on the right unclothed and I said... cute, but nope... get some clothes on the girl. I know sex sells, but I can't have people thinking the book is going to be as titillating as Sex and the City. I was tempted to name the book, No Sex and the Suburbs but one of my friends told me I might as well paint a big 'L' on my forehead if I name it that.

So what is it about? It's a humor memoir about a Single Mom(that would be me) with three goals: To Have an Adventure a Month, Write a Book, and Fall in Love. It's about having a "just do it" attitude... getting out and living your dreams, in spite of fears and insecurities.

I'd put off working on the book while I was in job search mode. I've been worried that a book about finding love would not necessarily help my IT Manager "professional" image. But my goal has been to have a book published before I turned 50, and my 50th birthday is coming up in 4 months, so, job or no job, I am moving forward. And though the book does disclose many embarrassing situations that I get myself into, if nothing else, it shows that I accomplish my goals!

Come join the Laptop Dancer Diaries FaceBook Fan Page and vote on the cover design that you think is best!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Blastoff Blasted Off Today

OK, if you know me at all you know that I love a good deal. Well, I got invited to join this Blastoff thing. Initially, I got emails from a couple of different people telling me it was going to be the biggest thing since Google. I was very skeptical. I checked into it more and it does look really cool. To be in on the "early" version, I had to pay money, so of course, I said 'no' to that. But as of today, I could join for free, and so can you.

It appears that I can get discounts on anything I purchase through the portal. This, in itself is good for me because I do a LOT of online shopping, especially for gifts. Then it appears that I can also get a percentage from all the people that join on my invite. If you join, you can get a percentage of your invites as well. It's like an MLM thing, but nobody (except the advertisers) has to pay any money. We only make money (I really like that!)

So, as far as I can tell this is a no-risk way to make a little extra cash. I really don't see what there is to lose. It was really simple to get started and it looks like a really neat site.

Oh, by the way, the system itself is really slow today since this was the day that everyone could join for free and invitations are flying. I'm sure the performance will be fine once it gets through this initial rush.

Check it out

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

15-Day Social Media Lesson Plan

If you're new to social media, the abundance of tools and available information can be overwhelming. It can be difficult to know where to begin. And then once you do start, you suddenly are distracted by site upon site of advice, information, and really cool stuff!

I always start by telling people to begin by figuring out their objective. Are you wanting to use social media to find a job? explore a hobby? market your business? Or maybe you don't even KNOW how you want to use these tools. You just want to get started, but the more you learn, the more you find out that you'll never learn it all.

Here are my tips for staying focused and a 15-day plan for someone who was interested in LinkedIn, FaceBook, and Blogging. This plan can and should be tailored for your needs. I'd suggest any person that wants to learn social media also add at least a week to learn about Twitter. Once you know the basics of the most popular tools, you can start exploring techniques for integrating the tools, gaining readership, internet marketing, forming a network, or ... just playing games, if that's what you want to do!

Staying Focused

  • Commit to spending 1 hour a day to learning how to use Social Media.
  • Decide at the beginning of that hour what you are going to accomplish. Sample "lessons" below.
  • During that hour, ignore your phone, other email that comes in, or any social media sites, other than those that are specifically associated with your purpose.
  • Each day, as you're learning, keep a "Notes" document window open that you can use to cut and paste links to sites that you want to explore later. Use the page to keep notes with questions, learnings, or reminders of features that you'd like to check into. Use a word processor that will keep the hyperlink when you cut and paste, so that you will be able to easily link to the interesting sites right from your document.
  • Set a timer for 55 minutes. Did you accomplish your goal? If not, why not. Write in your notes what you did and what still needs to be done, if anything to complete the goal.
  • If you finish your goal before your hour is up, then use a search engine (like Google or Bing) to search for your topic. Click through to the links that look the most interesting. Often you will find presentations, articles, blogs, tutorials, and many valuable sites. Copy those links to your Notes section to explore at a later time.
  • At least once a week use your hour to go back through your notes and explore the links that you have in your notes or to try and get your questions answered.
15-Day Plan

Week 1: Branding and LinkedIn


Day 1: - Determine your Brand - Create a folder with photos and documents (ie resume, HUB, etc.) that describe YOU and what you stand for. These can be used when you create profiles in social media tools.

Day 2: - LinkedIn - Create an Account and Your Profile Page

Day 3: - LinkedIn - Find Connections

Day 4: - LinkedIn - Join Groups

Day 5: - Use your Notes to explore more about LinkedIn

Week 2: FaceBook


Day 6: - FaceBook - Getting Started

Day 7: - FaceBook - Learn About Fan Pages

Day 8: - FaceBook - Privacy Settings

Day 9: - FaceBook - Groups

Day 10: - Use your Notes to explore more about FaceBook

Week 3: Blogging


Day 11: - Learn more about Blogging and why people do it

Day 12: - Get a Blogger Account and Start Tutorials

Day 13: - Write Your First Blog Post

Day 14: - Learn about RSS and sign up for a feed reader such as Google Reader so you can subscribe to blogs

Day 15: - Use your Notes to explore more about Blogging

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

There IS Such Thing as a Free Lunch!

I can't believe my luck since I've been playing "SuperFrug." A few weeks ago I put one of my new New World Social Media business cards (obtained for only the shipping costs, by the way, from into the fishbowl at the FlatIrons Noodles & Company Restaurant.

I didn't really think much about it until I received an email from Christina Walls, Assistant Manager, entitled "Free Noodles" (the word Free will always get my attention.) The email said:
You have been selected from our fishbowl to participate in what we call our
“Hero Lunch”. You and 5 of your friends/family are invited to Noodles
& Company at Flatirons Marketplace to partake in a free meal on us! We
call it a Hero Lunch because you will be the Hero of all your friends/family
that you treat for lunch or dinner. You will be treated to any dishes that
you might want to try along with any of our tasty soups or salads, drinks and
deserts. You can write me back or give me a call here at Noodles so we can
set you up for a date/time.

Well, being unemployed, and my obsession with frugality, I was elated! Add to that the fact that Noodles is one of my favorite places to eat, and you could say I hit the virtual jackpot! Of course, there were SO many people I wanted to invite to this Noodle party -- all the wonderful, supportive friends that have bought ME lunch and suffered through my penny-pinching ways.

Since the lunch was scheduled for 1:30, a little late for a work lunch, I decided to invite some of my fellow-frugal-friends that were not working (at least not in the traditional sense... where you get paid...) I actually ended up inviting 6 people, thinking we could all chip in and cover at least one meal, but Christina wouldn't hear of it. She very generously told us our whole party of 7 (me and 6 friends) could eat for free.

Now, we're not just talking about a skimpy little token lunch...we're talking LOTS OF DELICIOUS FOOD! A big full meal...drinks, soup, salad, bread -- the works! And then, with no order from us, Christina brings over this big tray of goodies...brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and Rice Crispie treats! When I went to tip Christina and the wait staff, they wouldn't hear of it. "No tips allowed!" they said.

"There's gotta be a catch," I thought. "How can they afford to give away this full meal?" I asked Christina what I could do to thank her for such generosity.

"Spread the word," she said. "We're getting hit by the economy and we need the business."

This was even more impressive to me... Even though this location is hit hard, they are giving away food. Well, you'd better believe that I am spreading the word, and I'll ask all of you to spread it, too. Their food is delicious, their service is wonderful, and best of all... they have big hearts. They deserve all the business they can get.

Help me spread the word:

Eat at Noodles & Company
635A Flatiron Marketplace Broomfield, CO 80021

And tell Christina that she's awesome!
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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Master Networker: Erika Hanson Brown

The other day I blogged about networking and kindness from strangers. What's really cool is when you can transition from stranger to a virtual friend to a real friend -- sit across from someone, talk, and really Laugh Out Loud. (I much prefer real LOL'ing to the over-used virtual lol.)

Erika Hanson Brown is one of those people that's fun to Laugh Out Loud with. Full of spunk and energy, you can't help but smile when you're around her. She looks and even sounds like Diane Keaton and we thought it quite the coincidence that Keaton played a character named Erica in Something's Gotta Give. (And while I cannot understand Keaton's attraction to Jack Nicholson, Erika totally gets it.)

Erika found me first because of a guest post I'd made about Networking on Jacob Share's JobMob site. Once I learned more about her, I found out that Erika is the Queen of Connections! She makes a career out of networking! How cool is that? An example of a successful entrepreneur written about in Denver Woman, Erika is the Chief Strategist of Steller Connections LLC. The company started as an executive search firm but has broadened into Relationship Brokerage, including services such as training and workshops on networking and relationship building. Erika is passionate about networking and writes about the importance of discernment in her posterous blog. Her system?

The Connectoring® Verities*

1. Be Real
2. Charm Them
3. Seek More
4. Move Boldly
5. Shamelessly Support
6. Deliver Cookies
7. Show Up

In the short time I've known her, I can see Erika leads by example, demonstrating these values. Authentic to the core, she will tell you what's on her mind, being fully herself. I asked her about #6... "Delivering cookies?" (Still in geek-mode, I wasn't sure if we were talking browser options here.) Erika said it used to be "Delivering Jelly" until the word "jelly" was met with a few raised eyebrows. She explained the jelly (now cookies) with a story from her childhood. She and her mother had traveled cross-country to New York in a Studebaker Golden Hawk with jars and jars of Montana jelly. Erika said her mother would freely offer up jelly to strangers who would often offer back kindnesses in return. She and her mother were soon rooming in penthouse suites at minimal rates and hob-nobbing with Ella Fitzgerald in jazz clubs. And it all started with offering jelly. She remembers her mother, an early networker before the days of computers, getting out her fine stationary to write thank you notes and keep in touch with her connections. Whether it be cookies, jelly, or a personal note, the point is to give something of yourself.

Though I only took a couple of photos, I'm posting the one that I think demonstrates Erika's Bold and Charming side. Jumping up onto a little wall outside of Whole Foods, she examines the overgrown plant of some sort, trying to discover it's identity. (She guessed giant sunflower, but I thought it looked a lot like the huge weeds in my back yard.) Ya gotta love that spontaneity. But what I think most captures the 7 Verities is the smile.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Picking a Blogging Platform

I've had three people ask me in the past 24 hours how to get started with blogging. There are so many resources that it's overwhelming!

If you're TOTALLY new, I suggest first taking a gander at this Blogging 101 slideshare presentation.

OK, so you know what blogging's all about. You want to get started, but you don't know which blogging platform to pick.

The two most popular free blogging platforms are and Google's I've been using Blogger for the past couple of years and I absolutely love it! But I'd been hearing a lot about WordPress, so just recently I started a new blog about QA Management on that platform so I could compare the two. I know that TypePad is popular as well, but you only get a free trial and then would need to upgrade, whereas and Blogger are completely free. I'm all about free stuff, especially when you're learning and these two platforms have all the bells and whistles to keep you happily blogging for years! I really can't believe that they're free!

As for which to choose? My preference is Blogger, but I've only been using WordPress for a week, so it could be that I just haven't gotten used to it yet. This comparison chart does a good job of showing the differences. However, one thing I can't find with WordPress is an up-to-date tutorial! I found a site with a very comprehensive set of tutorials about Blogger, though. I watched the first two videos and found them very informative. And it looks like the full set of 118 videos is free (did I mention I like free stuff?)

One other really nice thing about these popular blogging platforms is that many other social sites automatically integrate with them. So, for example, you can easily share content from your blog on sites like Twitter, FaceBook, and LinkedIn. You can also, very easily share content from other sites, like YouTube and SlideShare on your blog. If you have a custom blog, it's often not as easy to integrate.

With these popular platforms it's also very easy to add these cool "widgets" or "gadgets" as they're called. Those are the little applications you see on the sidebar -- the stuff to the right on this blog. I just added "Things to Ponder" for example.

My advice is get yourself a blogger account and just get your feet wet! If you want to blog for business, there's a lot more to learn. But for now, let blogger be your sandbox and get out and play!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Networking and Kindness From Strangers

Since I've been unemployed, I've been trying to take advantage of the time to meet new people, learn new things, and appreciate the good things in life. I've been to networking events and connected with people that I've found either at events or in cyberspace via LinkedIn.

I've experienced so much kindness and support from friends and family. I can't even begin to thank them all here, but I hope they know how grateful I am.

But what's really surprising and heart-warming is when someone that doesn't know me goes out of their way to connect, support, and help me. That kindness touches me. I've been trying to take a picture every day of something that makes me smile. I can't take a picture of that feeling I get inside when someone is kind and supportive, but at least I can write about it.

Erika Hanson Brown, Mark Chance are two of those people-- people I didn't know before my job search, who I now consider friends. And, again, there have been many more acquaintances and friends who have been incredibly helpful. Hopefully, it will all come back to them 10-fold with good karma. At the very least, I hope they realize that the thoughtfulness they show influences others to show that same positive energy with others and with that, they make the world a better place for us all.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Getting Focused

Did you ever see that email about A.A.A.D.D.: Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder? It starts like this:

"I decide to water my garden. *As I turn on the hose in the driveway, I look over at my car and decide it needs washing...."

It goes on for several more sentences with more distractions until the end where the guy says he can't understand why he got nothing done and he can't remember who he was going to send this email to anyway.

I'd repeat the whole text except I doubt any of us want to spend more than a few minutes reading it all. When I read it the first time, I remember thinking to myself, that's nothing! At least this old guy is getting away from his computer walking around his house as he gets distracted with the next thing. Those of us that are cyber-addicts will follow link after link reading all kinds of cool stuff and often never accomplishing our original goal!

For example, 20 minutes ago, I was cleaning my house (something I haven't done for quite awhile.) I came across an old insurance card and realized I needed to print a new one. Now getting on the computer at all is a big mistake, because I know that the endless series of links will distract me. Sure enough, there was an email from a LinkedIn Group that I glanced at (gotta keep up with this stuff, ya know) that had a link to a post that looked interesting:

"Networking and Business 101: “Excuse Me, But I Don’t Want to Talk To You Anymore”

Of course, I had to leave a comment for Samuel L Diener, telling him I'd add him to my blog roll since his blog is about Social Media. Then, of course, I had to peruse his Website. And, naturally, ask him to connect via LinkedIn. I didn't go on to peruse FaceBook or Twitter to see if he was on there because...well...I might as well be out here all day once I get on those sites. But, I did (obviously) write this blog post, which meant additional time spent trying to find that old A.A.A.D.D. article, finding an out-of-focus photo (which should have been simple if I'd perused my private stash) and then spending the time to actually write something.

How do we stay focused? I love reading, learning, meeting new people, networking, chatting, blogging.... I keep telling myself I have to schedule time and set a timer and when that timer rings, I'm off the computer! It's a beautiful day today and I need to get out and see real peopl ....DING!!!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Having a Clear Objective When You're Using Social Media

I've been telling people last week was like "finals week" for me. I've had two main objectives for using social media since I got laid off two months ago: 1) Find a Job and 2) Prepare for this Denver Chamber of Commerce Speaking Engagement. Last week I had final rounds of interviews with two companies both of which I'm very interested in as well as the Chamber of Commerce event. It was a busy week!

The outcomes? Well, I think they all went well. Until all is a done deal, I'm holding off on the celebrations or announcements, but I'm hoping my days of being unemployed are coming to an end soon. If all else fails, I can take my Social Media 101 presentation on the road (or out into cyberspace) for fame and fortune.

I'm convinced that if you have a clear objective and a strategy you will be able to accomplish anything you set your mind to. If you don't have an objective, you can get lost and overwhelmed by all the choices of tools, blogs, articles, and networks of people! Here are some examples of why people use social media:
  • Fun!
  • Job Search
  • Gain Expertise
  • Establish Online Presence and Credibility
  • Identify Trends
  • Get Support
  • Build Relationships
  • Get References
  • Spread the Word About Something Good
  • Customer Service
  • Network with Experts
  • Influence Others
  • Inbound Marketing

I could go on and on. With any of these, you can get more specific -- and the more specific the better. For example, rather than "looking for a job" my objective was to "look for an IT Management job close to where I live in Superior, Colorado." By narrowing down your objective, you're better able to build your strategy focusing on what you should be reading, who you should be networking with, and how you can best use the tools and technologies that are at your disposal.

One thing that is NOT on this list (maybe the only thing that I recommend against using social media for) is to sell. Now, one could argue that the reason for marketing and relationship building is ultimately to make a sale. I don't think people should make a secret of their products, services, or businesses. But don't make that your sole purpose of using the tools. If you do, you will be outcast as an annoying "douche-bag" and most people will avoid you. You don't want that to be your online reputation! Seek to help others as much if not more than you expect to receive help. (That must be some kind of golden rule or hymn or something. It sounds very pious, but it's really true.)

I used to wonder how on earth businesses effectively use social media to market if they couldn't sell their stuff. I want to be genuine, so you definitely don't want to pretend like you're someone's friend, and then turn around and ask them if they want to buy your latest weight-loss product (which seems to be a common product amongst spammers.) Well, the folks at have this great series of free teleseminars through their Inbound Marketing University program that give some very helpful advice and information about how to be effective at inbound marketing. I highly recommend these courses! In fact, I am a proud graduate of the program, having recently passed the certification exam! Yay!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sending Email to Your LinkedIn Connections

This morning I learned of a new tip about LinkedIn that I wasn't aware of - the ability to export your LinkedIn Connections into a .CSV file (or .VCF file) so they can be imported into your email address book.

The reason I even started investigating this was that I'd heard of a guy who'd gotten an interview by sending an email to all his LinkedIn Connections letting them know that he was searching for his next opportunity and giving them some insights into what he was looking for.

Now, if you're going to do this, you definitely want to tread carefully and make sure your email is worded very respectfully, as his was. The last thing you want is to be labeled as a spammer or you may find yourself permanently kicked off of LinkedIn. But I wasn't even sure how he was able to do this. LinkedIn is very sensitive about preventing anything that might be perceived as spam going out, so I've never seen the ability to send email to all your connections before. I sent him an email asking him how he was able to do this and I'm still waiting on his response, but meanwhile, I started doing my own investigation, and found this ability to export your LinkedIn Connections. You can even filter them by location or industry first if you have a targeted message you want to send. (And in my opinion, when it comes to job search, the more targeted the better. "I'll do anything" is not the right message! You may be desperate, but don't advertise it!)

Once you have a .CSV file, you can import into an email address book. For example, I went to Yahoo! Mail to import the email addresses. This proved a little more cumbersome than it should have been. I couldn't find the option to import a .CSV file in Yahoo! Mail's new version, but when I went to Classic Mail I found it quite easily.

Now I have my LinkedIn connections safely backed up in a .CSV file as well as in an email address book.

As for sending an email to all your connections? worked for him. I'd probably stick to updating your status on your LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter first, and keep the mass emails to a minimum, especially to your LinkedIn connections. If people start misusing this, LinkedIn might take away the option to export email addresses, so please be respectful and careful about how you use this! One more reminder: If you do send a mass email of any kind (LinkedIn connections or otherwise) always .bcc your distribution list!

So...message here is: Back up your LinkedIn email addresses and use them wisely! Target your job search messages...the more personal* the better.

*By personal email, I mean sending it directly to one person rather than everyone in your email address book, using their first name, maybe remind them how you're connected, etc. I'm not suggesting "personal" as in "you look very pretty." Speaking of that, however, I did, oddly, receive a LinkedIn email the other day from someone I didn't know that told me I was "beautiful." This is inappropriate on LinkedIn (though I still connected with him.) For future reference, however, the appropriate place to tell me I'm beautiful is on FaceBook!

PS. I did get an update that the guy did use the export option from LinkedIn and then imported into Outlook.

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