Archives for posts with tag: Social Media

About a year and a half ago, I decided it was time to make trash more noticeable. See, I noticed while walking around on errands in my every day life, that while I would notice overstuffed garbage cans on corners and trash on sidewalks and streets, others would (and do!) casually walk past either not seeing, or simply ignoring.  Out of irritation, on some occasions I would pick up the trash and dispose of it properly.

After a handful of these occasions, I sat down and created this tumblr page, “The Pursuit of Trash.”  Inspired by the Kid Cudi song, “Pursuit of Happiness”, I liked the ring of the title and went with it. How often do we find ourselves in pursuit of something? How many times is the pursuit instrumental to our soul and evolution? How many times is the pursuit nothing more than temporary? The Pursuit of Trash is nothing more than finding what trash means to me, to you, to the world and doing something about it.  As with every social media campaign, I had high hopes of it growing and starting a movement of conscious garbage creators and disposers. My goal was to open the eyes of people all over the World to see the high and unhealthy levels of trash that we dispose of without any thought.

My trash awareness came to me a few years ago. I noticed that I was buying disposable clothing and food in plastic. Both things that are the norm for many, but when the clothes get holes and the food is eaten these items get tossed.  My question became, “tossed where?  I had read articles about NYC shipping trash to other states to sit in landfills. I read about housing developments on landfills and started wondering about toxins and pollution and the other side of that, our limited natural resources – the energy that goes into creating one disposable piece of clothing and then shipping it to some store that uses more energy to be open so I can shop. I started thinking about the workers in the factors making these disposable items.

I started thinking about my footprint.  I watched films about artists using waste to create art, and landfill pickers in countries like Brazil. I started composting my food scraps and buying food from farmers, where I can put lettuce and other items in cloth reusable bags to carry home.  I’m not so idealistic to believe that every piece of trash I pick up gets recycled; I’ve often wondered just how these recycling centers work. My solution was to stop buying things I couldn’t recycle. If I can’t figure out how to use the entire item, I won’t buy it.

Now, I don’t expect everyone to take this attitude, but I think if more people considered their trash as they threw it in the nearest garbage can, waste might dramatically decrease.  I walked around carrying trash and thinking that I was crazy. It didn’t help that many other people told me I was crazy for being so obsessed with trash.  Yet, it didn’t stop me. In one case, I co-hosted a party with a friend whose apartment building didn’t recycle. I told her, I would carry all the recycling to my apartment in Astoria.  She thought I was nuts and yet, I walked several blocks from her apartment to the N train with 3 shopping bags full of beer cans and wine bottles and then carried them the additional seven blocks to my apartment to recycle them.  At that point she decided she would start recycling and I forged ahead with my attempt to document the over-abundance of trash on the streets of cities I visited until last fall.

Last fall, I went to Japan to study Washi, Japanese paper and paper making. That’s a longish story for another time, but while out in Japan, I discovered that while they are a country that consumes, they are also a country that recycles.  They are not perfect by any means, but every day involved me having to figure out where to put my trash.  I’ll never forget the day I ordered a coffee and had it placed in a bag with a holder in the bag. It was all paper, so it was easy to recycle, but as I drank my beverage on the street, I was left carrying a bag and had no way to dispose of it. I ended up carrying the bag and cup back home to throw it away properly according to Tokyo recycling rules.

All of this left me wondering, “how could we implement the same system home in America?” Then something miraculous happened!

While reading Good.is a few weeks ago, I came upon an article about an organization called “Litterati.”  Litterati is a social awareness movement. Using the hashtag “#litterati” on the photo social site Instagram, Litterati gathers data on litter and then, uses the other two social media behemoths, Twitter and Facebook to spread awareness of the cause and the movement. Litterati is allowing other conscientious citizens around the world an outlet to document litter with photography, share, and then properly dispose of each piece.

While reading the article, I gasped! I was utterly amazed that there was someone else in the world doing something similar to me.   In excitement, I posted an encouraging comment to the writer of that article, whom also happened to be the creater of Litterati, Jeff Kirschner.  Jeff immediately responded back and he and I have had several conversations about our mutual ideas and how to possibly make this movement bigger and stronger.

My own movement on “The Pursuit of Trash” has been a bit spotty. I moved to New Jersey recently and have been driving, meaning that my exposure to trash on the street has been limited, but I haven’t removed the tumblr page. In fact, I’m hoping to post my #litterati posts onto tumblr as a way to link these two ideas together.

When I originally started the tumblr account, I opened it to the public. I wanted others to notice trash, photograph it, and post it on the site.  My thoughts, after posting photos on Instagram using #litterati, are that “Litterati” is doing a much better job of engaging on the social level. In fact, many of the poster’s photos look so artistic they could be framed and sold!

Just to give you an idea, the “Litterati” impact has thus far documented 15,966 pieces of litter.  The top countries are: United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, and Germany.  The top States within the US are: California, Minnesota, Oregon, Florida, and North Carolina.  Cigarettes are the most commonly documented trash, with 1,019 documented butts.  A full list of items photographed and disposed of can be found on the statistics page of LItterati’s website.

Please know that this is not a competition. I am humbled that I have connected with Jeff Kirschner and am part of the Litterati community.  Even more I am humbled to know that there are other people in this World that want to make a difference and take responsibility for their actions.

“The Pursuit of Trash” will remain with a few tweaks. In the next few weeks, I hope to integrate my posts on Instagram onto tumblr, but I encourage everyone looking to bring awareness to litter on the streets, or the enormity of the trash issue to become part of the Litterati community.  They are a great group of people, like you and I, who are connecting and moving in a positive direction, one that the entire world can benefit from with enough action and engagement.

For more information on Litterati, visit the following:

Website
Instagram
Twitter

For more information about me, Sara Stroman, and all of my passions visit:
Flavors.me

Several Sundays ago, May 20th, I attended the National Stationery Show (post to come soon!) as a guest. I was Gina Mulligan’s guest and it was and she is awesome!

Me and Gina Mulligan.

For those of you who haven’t read my blog and don’t know what the big deal is about Gina and I meeting a few weeks ago, let me explain.

My relationship with Gina starts with the social network site Twitter. Yes, Twitter.

I don’t remember the specifics, but I somehow got wind of her and her non-profit Girls Love Mail, an organization seeking handwritten letters for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients, via a tweet that I saw and I contacted her immediately. Our brief exchange of tweets led way to longish emails talking about our respective projects and ways we could work together. They also included stories being shared – I shared with her my stories about my grandmother’s death from breast cancer and my father’s recent death and my subsequent dream and business and she shared with me her own story of being diagnosed with cancer and receiving letters as she wrote her book. We were both moved to start a collaboration and well, a relationship was born!

Meeting Gina in person for the Stationery Show was incredible.  Prior to last month, Gina and I had only corresponded via email, twitter and mail (she baked cookies and sent me some at Christmas!).  While I had no worries about whether we would get along or not upon meeting, I was definitely curious to meet the woman I had spent a few hours corresponding with. We were modern day pen pals! As I knew she would be, Gina turned out to be such an amazing person-kind and goodhearted and as I told her many, times, I thank Twitter for our meeting.

Social media is a great and useful tool, but too often we reach out and talk to people, but don’t make real connections. Meeting Gina was a moment where the power of social media merged with real life. Social media can be a huge soul sucking waste if all you’re doing is looking at people’s profiles instead of living your life, but it can also be an amazing instrument in bridging gaps and spaces that you might have never otherwise known.

See, I had been itching to volunteer with a breast cancer organization that is not the Susan G. Komen for the Cure. I’m not badmouthing Komen at all. They are a great organization and have done so much in the fight against breast cancer. In fact, I used to donate and run the Race for the Cure in Washington, DC in honor of my grandmother who passed away from the disease in 1992. I no longer do and it’s not because of the issue they had with Planned Parenthood earlier this year. No, I stopped because I worked for a cancer non-profit in my 20s and I saw the mismanagement of funds and started questioning what would happen if a cure for cancer in general was found. What would organizations like my old employer and Komen would do? They operate like corporations and are constantly after money, so what would their next steps be?

I don’t want anyone to think that I have a distrust for all non-profits, because I don’t. As a matter of fact, between 2006 and 2011, I ran four marathons and raised money for blood cancers through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society ‘s Team in Training program, but looked into their spending before committing to raising money. Having relationships with children and adults who have benefited from LLS definitely made that connection stronger and more visible. I know the same can be said for Komen, but something about them and I just didn’t match several years ago and I’ve since moved away from supporting their organization personally.

Having said that, Gina does work with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, but her organization does so much more and because of that, I feel like I’m more connected to breast cancer patients and the cause. The letters written to her organization go into the hands of women who need the positive energy that comes from written words and from knowing that someone, a stranger, is supporting them through a tough time in their life.  This is why I love Girls Love Mail and why I am so honored to have partnered with Gina when she first started the organization and to have a relationship with her. Her husband, by-the-way, is pretty awesome, too!

Again, I am so grateful to Twitter and for timing being on my side. (I don’t spend all day on Twitter, so having seen the tweet about her was good timing in deed!)  I also also grateful to the National Stationery Show for being held in New York City – it brought me and Gina, who lives in California, together for a few days and it was wonderful!

I encourage everyone to sign up to write a letter. The stationery sheet that you can download when you sign up was designed by me specifically for Girls Love Mail.What are you waiting for? Go write a letter! Bring a smile to a woman’s face.  I’m sure you’ll be smiling as well.

Oh, and Gina, if you read this post, THANK YOU! You are one rocking woman!

I am an “old dog” when it comes to blogging.

Yep. (I use this a lot, don’t I?) I have been blogging since 2004/5. I’m not exactly sure why I started blogging, but I did and well, I’ve never looked back.

When I started blogging, there were not as many blogs as there are now and the whole concept of making money off of your blog was not as prominent. I don’t know the true history of the blog and I find that the internet while providing data can not give you the end-all-be-all history of internet usage. I mean think about how many blogs there are now on how many different platforms? My first blog from 2004 is nothing compared to now.

Yet blogging has evolved and has given way to all sorts of personal sharing developments.  Look at pinterest. Sure you still need to find pretty photos from somewhere, but once you pin the photo to your board, you no longer need to bookmark that page on your comp, nor do you need to put together a blog of you “new favorite” items. It’s done immediately.

But that’s not why I am writing today’s blog. While I enjoyed trailing off for a bit there on the changes of blogging and the internet, the real reason I’m writing this post is because of a project I’m working on for the 9-to-5.  I am drafting a “social media policy” and as I work on it, I find myself considering the many ways in which I am and have been an active social media user and abuser.  These memories that are stirred with each suggested policy point reminds me of all the blunders I’ve made and well, I consider them valuable lessons for me and I hope for you, too.

My first foray into the world of social media always started with the sound of the modem connecting me to the internet world and the sound of “You’ve Got Mail!”. Yes, it was the AOL dial up days and I spent countless hours chatting my life away as a young teen. As a matter of fact, I met a still current friend in a chat room on AOL. It turns out that he was attending GWU as a freshman my sophomore year. It was a good connection, but what about the addiction it gave way to?

Once I moved on from AOL to the world of ethernet connections and owning a laptop and instant messaging from morning to night, sharing online became instinctive.  In 2004, when I started to blog it just seemed natural to do and thus a nine year addiction came to be.

1. My first blog is no longer with us. Sure it’s carcass remains on a server somewhere, but the chances of you landing on it are never. I had to disable that blog because well, I made the first and worst mistake of blogging- talking about what I didn’t like about my roommate.

I don’t think I just discussed how much I didn’t like and the reasons why, but called her names and made fun of her.  I was naive enough to think that she’d never find my blog and therefore didn’t need to remove incriminating details and maybe make it private.  As I type this right now, I think about how young I was at the time, 23 going on 24, but the reality is youth does not make the mistake better. I was a horrible person. I had no respect for her and our bond (because we were friends) and it resulted in her moving out and us not speaking for a long time. In the last three years we’ve rekindled our relationship, but I apologized and she accepted.

Lesson: Don’t think you’re not being watched, or can’t be found. Respect other people and their business and never share stories or details that will hurt and/or offend (although your opinion will inevitably offend someone) people, or destroy relationships.  It is not worth it. 

2. My addiction with social media is strong and waning at the same time.  When I say waning, I mean my personal social media use. When I first started on Facebook, I posted every thing – pictures, thoughts, what I was doing, etc. Now, not so much. I’ve created a filter of sorts. Also, there’s so much going on on Facebook that I often find myself with a glazed uninterested feeling.

But, I used Facebook for my business, and I blog, and I tweet (I was reluctant at first), and I use Pinterest, and I am on Etsy, and I have a website for my business.  So indeed, I’m everywhere, and yet, I’m no where at the same time. As the person behind my business, I control the information on all of these venues and I keep it real and honest, but I also filter what I want to share and what I don’t want to share. I practice this not just on these venues, but also on my personal Facebook profile. It is the way I’d want anyone to see it.

For example, one of my first blog posts on the blog that no longer exists was about how I would stare at my camel toe during my Bikhram Yoga classes. Yep. I kid you not. My friends, who were the audience found it hilarious! One friend even still quotes that blog from years ago (your thoughts are remembered), but I would never assume that you fine reader, on this blog that is about writing, stationery, design and being an entrepreneur a. want to read a tale on that topic, or b. want you to create an image of me based on that one posting. Now, I do realize that I’ve just shared this with you, but I did it so you would have a point of reference.  Don’t begin to think you know every thing about me based on that one sentence above.

Lesson:  People are reading, watching, and following you, so don’t share just to share.  Time is valuable and readers want information that helps them or makes them think as much as they want to engage. They will do all of this with people who are sharing honest and real content.  Think of it this way, do you really want to be remembered for some off-the-cuff comment you said without thinking? Probably not. 

3.  I have always been a bit crazy. I mean that in a good way. Because of this crazy, I’ve always been me. I’ve never shied away from my unique voice. And it helps. It really helps. It means that the people who do like my voice and my posts will like them and come back for more and the people who don’t will not. It has allowed me to become a better __________ (everything!) – writer, thinker, designer, artist, and experiencer of life.

What I’m really getting at is that I haven’t and I won’t change my writing for any reason. My writing skills have definitely tightened up, but my voice is still my voice. While I practice the act of filter, I don’t filter too much. I will never sound like a NY Times writer, nor do I want to. In other words, I’m embracing my talent without being a fool.

Lesson: Don’t try to be something your not.  It’ll come across as insincere and fake and nobody wants to read or follow someone who isn’t honest and real. 

On the blog that took over in 2006 after my first blog ended, I took most of those lessons to heart. I posted a picture of my real self, I started using my name in posts, and I dropped talking about people who were/are near and dear to me. I did write a few posts about dates and people who had hurt my feelings, but I left out incriminating details. Not so shockingly, my friends and other readers found these blogs and responded to them. They enjoyed the escapades of me on my travels and my very open accounts of dealing with my father’s passing.

See, I managed to find a way of writing about my life and sharing my stories without the casualties. I made myself accountable and responsible for the image I presented.  Every one using the internet should do the same. Not just for the professional implications, but for your own sense of worth and benefit.

“My dad’s advice was very helpful: Be good at something. Add value to that. Don’t get distracted.” – Scott Malkin, Forbes Magazine.

This past month, I read a lot. I wish I could say I read more personal interest books, but I did not. Instead, I read both the May 23rd issue of Forbes Magazine and the June issue of Inc. Magazine from cover to cover and a ton of blog postings (see below).  Under the Success category, I discuss the article in Forbes that roped me in: ” Like Father, Like Child: Is Entrepreneurial Success Inherited.” As I continued to read the magazine I became more and more enthralled with families of entrepreneurs and I discovered that my streak comes from my dad. I think. It makes sense. He opened his own trucking company and was successful until he got ill.

I followed that read up with Inc’s June issue which boldly states, “How To Be An Extraordinary Leader.” I recommend that you read the entire issue if you can get your hands on it. If you can’t, you can read the articles online. I highly recommend the cover article:  “Core Values of the Top Small Company Workplaces.”  I know as I start to develop my long-term business plans, the first thing is the core values of S2 Stationery and Design. After all, the values that I’ve kept to myself so far, are the reasons behind me moving in the direction I have followed and continue to follow.

With that, I leave you with the rest of my suggested reads for June.  Enjoy!

YOU:

I really should just have a section that is dedicated to Chris’s articles because I post at least two every month. Here is the first one. He’s talking about his World Domination Summit that I chose NOT to attend because I thought I was going to Japan (oh Universe, how unfair you can be sometimes!), but I’m excited to see how it goes for him and everyone else who attends and maybe I can go next year? We’ll see. Maybe I should schedule it now. Alas, my favorite part is his comment at the end: “Whatever your own venture / adventure is, don’t hold back! Don’t wait until you’re completely certain. It usually works out in the end.” That’s exactly how I feel!
http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/preview-of-world-domination-summit/?awt_l=8ByzZ&awt_m=1fmi.yxmgsnt7W

Now, read Sherry’s take on the event. I love that she wrote her favorite statements down. That’s something I’d do, too. Also, most of them are great. So great, I printed a copy of the article to have in my journal/planner. http://www.ottsworld.com/blogs/finding-inspiration-in-others/

EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS ARTICLE! I know I’ve fallen into this trap in my younger days, but not anymore. Now I can accept when I should step out of the trap and I do so happily. I know so many people who could benefit from doing the same thing. http://zenhabits.net/trap/

CREATIVE:

THIS is an argument I’ve heard a lot about in the crafting community. I’ll write a posting about it another day, but for now, I think it’s really important to think about copying and theft of art and what it means for the art world and the artist. http://www.scoutiegirl.com/2011/06/bad-artists-copy-great-artists-steal.html

TRAVEL:

I mentioned Sherry Ott two months ago, I believe, and she’s back on this month’s list thanks to a SPECTACULAR article about your personal tipping point. I read it and completely understood where she was coming from and appreciated her experience and how it will inspire my experience. Good stuff! http://www.ottsworld.com/blogs/the-career-break-tipping-point/

SUCCESS:

I finished my Forbes Magazine dated May 23rd and loved it! There is this great article about entrepreneurial success highlighting Ralph Lauren and Dylan Lauren called, “Like Father, Like Child: Is Entrepreneurial Success Inherited,” but then continues in sharing father/son and father/daughter accounts of entrepreneurship. It’s a great read! It also made me wonder about my own entrepreneurship. My Dad started his own company after years of working as a dispatcher for a trucking company and this was years after working as a bus and truck driver. He drove constantly and to the point of unhealthiness, but he did not like working for anyone, listening to anyone’s rules and restrictions, and thrived on being his own boss. Years later, I find myself in the same shoes. So maybe entrepreneurship is genetic after all? Or maybe it’s just learned behavior, but we learn to take and enjoy the risks, from the people who create our foundation, after all. Makes total sense.

I ask for feedback. I rarely ever ask for validation. This is an important article to read if you always feel the need to ask for other’s opinions about things. Yes, it’s a good idea to see how other people can help, but it’s always more important to follow with your own feelings and thoughts. It is your life after all. http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/an-important-thing-no-one-will-tell-you/?awt_l=8ByzZ&awt_m=1bO25YlBksnt7W

I hate having too many choices. Ms. Megan sums it up quite nicely here on what it takes to be a successful sales person and offer choices. http://www.craftmba.com/2011/06/09/the-paradox-of-choice-and-the-powers-of-mind-control/

This article can also fit below in Business Development, but I’ve chosen Success instead, because collaboration is key especially when you’re building yourself and your company.  http://mashable.com/2011/06/23/small-business-collaboration-economy/

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT:

I’m so glad Megan wrote this article! Here I am expanding and creating lines with all of these questions in my mind. I realize I’m a bit different as I’ve never had collections to expand upon before, but it was nice to read that I was headed in the right direction after all. http://www.craftmba.com/2011/06/08/5-questions-to-ask-when-expanding-your-product-line/

This is a long article, but I had a conversation on this topic last night. At the end, I was told by a fellow documentary loving woman, “stay idealistic.” Lets hope I do. I hope you make the right choice for your business, too! http://www.jonathanfields.com/blog/build-company-sell/

CRAFTING FUN:

If you’re ever on the market for rubber stamps and what to do with them, check out this list courtesy of Paper Source. Some great ideas here! http://www.paper-source.com/cgi-bin/paper/howto/rubber-stamping-recipes.html

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Very good article about using Twitter, which I recently signed up to use and am loving! http://www.openforum.com/articles/6-ways-to-monitor-your-brand-on-twitter?utm_source=The+Mogul+Mom+Subscribers&utm_campaign=f6ce762634-6_Ways_To_Monitor_Your_Brand_On_Twitter6_20_2011&utm_medium=email

 

Another amazing article from Ms. Tara Gentile from Scoutie Girl about the whys behind using social media. It’s a good read and one I encourage everyone who spends time and effort developing and cultivating a social media presence and plan to look into.  http://www.themogulmom.com/2011/06/why-are-you-using-social-media/?utm_source=The+Mogul+Mom+Subscribers&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=13570fef9d-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN

PASSION:

I most definitely found my passion, when I wasn’t expecting it. Which I think is how things tend to happen, but in the case that you are trying to find it, you may want to read this article. http://zenhabits.net/the-short-but-powerful-guide-to-finding-your-passion/?utm_source=The+Mogul+Mom+Subscribers&utm_campaign=c31e38442d-Cash_In_On_Yo_Passion6_10_2011&utm_medium=email

Not a recent grad, but this article rings true for anyone of any age seeking for their next steps. http://www.openforum.com/articles/for-recent-graduates-many-paths-to-a-career?extlink=sm-openforum-tw

I am putting this under passion because I think what Sherry is getting at is the pros and cons to following your passion and dreams. Yes, there are success stories, but as a good friend told me the other day, it takes a truly special person to really follow your dreams and make things happen. I also add this posting in this section because I really believe that Sherry hits upon areas that sum up how I feel as well. http://www.ottsworld.com/blogs/blogging-i-love-it-and-hate-it/

Following the same thread as above, here’s an article about what to do once you’ve found YOUR passion: http://zenhabits.net/passionguide/?utm_source=The+Mogul+Mom+Subscribers&utm_campaign=c31e38442d-Cash_In_On_Yo_Passion6_10_2011&utm_medium=email

That’s all for June. See you in July! Oh and have a happy and safe Independence Day weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

HOLD THE FREAKING PHONE! Word is that President Obama released his REAL birth certificate claiming his American nationality yesterday and he even held a press conference.

And guess what?

People still don’t believe he’s an American. Not only are they still speculating, many have moved on to his ivy league education. Sigh.

You may be wondering what the hell the President of the United States of America, a Stationer and Entrepreneurship have to with each other. Today, I’m sharing my thoughts on this issue, that I’d rather not discuss, but I think holds a great lesson in communication as a greater whole, and also to the many aspiring or already formed business owners, as well as a few large corporations out there that don’t seem to get “it.”

So, yeah, Obama released his real birth certificate on the White House website and held a press conference. Great! But for who? The people who elected him into office, that clearly don’t care? I don’t think so. The people who resent that there is a “black” man running our country? Most definitely.

I would be lying and skirting the issue if I left out the part about racism in this circus act that is known as the birther movement.  All of this disbelief comes from ignorance and a lack of understanding change or black culture in America. However, this is not a topic for this blog, but I want to make sure you readers are aware of  racism being a reality in America.

So how does this relate to existing and budding, new businesses?

In the following ways:

1. Transparency. We live in a society that has come to value transparency. EVERYTHING is transparent. All your gadgets track your whereabouts from both moments that require a bed-waking up and falling asleep.  I’m not talking about privacy theories or anything like that, I’m simply stating a fact. A fact that has become big recently thanks to learning that the iphone stores your location information.  Combine that with the internet and well, you’re so see through, you’re glowing!

The minute you share a tweet, post a photo on your social network,  write a blog, or share a video, you are being transparent. You are letting the world know about you, your likes, your dislikes, and anything else that you choose to share.  Many call this social sharing. Which is fine, but the reality is that some of us over-share. More importantly gone is the era of secrets and cover ups. You mess up and you will be caught.

The White House and President Obama know this better than any other President. Obama’s entire campaign was built on the creation of an online database. He, Michelle and his fellow partners send me emails weekly discussing their thoughts, their determination, their ideas and you know, it creates the idea of knowing the man and being part of a larger network of concerned citizens and Americans. But, there’s always a flip side to all the inclusion and knowledge…the expectation that you, me and everyone else should know EVERY detail of every thing.  Which can lead to a mob lynching if you’re not careful. In these days of the internet, no mob lynching is bigger than the ones you find via reader comments and feedback…

2. Sharing Your Voice + Over Sharing + Transparent Feedback.  The  internet, the glorious area of electronic communication, is not only constant and continuous, but it allows everyone to have a voice. And everyone has a voice. The fact that America is a “democracy” only fuels this belief that we have to and must share our voice. We all in some way want to share our thoughts, or for many find that ticket that is to the mega millions, regardless that few ever will.   Instead, they will find more voices like them to rant and vent and social share. There is nothing constructive about this negative behavior, nor is it conducive to building a stronger and better community of Americans.  I’m not trying to spin this negatively because I have had the pleasure of meeting/knowing people through communities online, but for those that use the internet for darker things, they can find their jackpot.

The birthers have found their dark place. In the same place that all extremists do. Every side has both a good and a bad, but when the lynching mob comes with their media backed outlets and their mama bear and bad hair piece wearing leaders, they are no longer have a dark place, they have an entire platform.

President Obama had to release his birth certificate because even though there are more important things to deal with, the lynching mob was leaving a feedback trail of disrespect, disbelief, injustice, and hurt all across the country.

Feedback is necessary to any business because it allows reflection to a busy owner that might not be able to see all the areas of improvement necessary. However, not all criticism or feedback is constructive. Or necessary for that matter. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard and read about responding to feedback on websites and allowing areas for communication with fans/readers/shoppers/potential clients/anyone who randomly lands on my page, and I agree (I allow for feedback on this blog).  But I also believe that real, honest, and genuine communication doesn’t always happen in public spaces. It happens in one-on-one situations where I can directly gather all the information I need from voice tones, physical body cues, etc.  Which leads to the next lesson…

3. Contact. I don’t necessarily think that President Obama’s initial handling of the questioning was mishandled. I would have handled it in the same manner, but I think by thinking that it would go away without properly viewing it from the opposition’s side showed a disconnect in communication. Or rather a disconnect in approachable communication. You can email everyone in the country until your face is blue, but what about the people who don’t have internet? (I know, completely unfathomable!) What about the people who don’t watch the news? There are people out there that simply choose not to connect via technology. What about them?

This is the same thing for any business. Business owners hear a lot about learning and exploring their target market. Something that is very important in deed, but what if they don’t connect to you the way you’re reaching out to them? How do you fix that? How do you make yourself more approachable? Sometimes, just sometimes, you won’t be able to reach those people. At this point, all you can do is make a decision to either go against or do nothing. Which leads us to the next topic…

3. Making a Decision + Laying You Cards Out.  Being President of the United States of America is no different from being the CEO of a business, regardless of size.  What Corporations got away with in the past such as being able to hide important details about their history and business practices, no longer is acceptable and clearly the same goes for the Presidency.  I am not speaking of say KFC’s secret recipe for fried chicken or Coke’s formula for their cola. I am speaking about whether KFC uses sustainable chicken raising practices or not.  Consumers doubt and lose respect for companies that do not lay out their cards on the table. Companies now have a million and one annual publications ranging from Corporate Social Responsibility to Financial Statements. Why? For the sake of transparency. In 2011, no one wants to be caught like Enron.

Which is why I understand why Obama went the route he did and includes the risk of media…

4. Media. When one group of people force an issue into the limelight and attention is given, the consequences, if not dealt with can be dire.  A recent situation that is brought to mind is the whole lawsuit against taco bell. (I know, right?)  Taco Bell handled the situation well. They never hid from any of the criticism. Using social media tools and traditional media outlets they were able to fight back against the claims of their meat.

Obama held a “breaking news” segment through the media earlier Wednesday to announce that he was sharing this birth certificate and noted how it garnered a lot of press. A ton of press actually. Doing this allowed his news to reach as many outlets as possible. To reach as many of the corners that needed to hear the message.  In 2011, I’m beginning to doubt that the Media understands its role. Again not the topic for this blog, but what I find the most striking is the love/hate relationship with media. If you listen to the first few seconds of Obama’s talk, he criticizes the media. As a matter of fact, the over all tone of that talk is one of a teacher scolding a classroom of students. Even though I’m not a person of the press, or a birther, I felt chastised after watching the clip.

I realize that this blog is a form of media (to an extent) and I realize that by discussing this issue, I am opening myself up to the wider arena of media, but I am also not the President of the United States, nor am I a celebrity.  I know the role I want media to play in my life and in my business.  What this issue has taught me is that anything that is sensational or resembles the lynching mob will be given attention by the media and when they do, they will use it to the max.

In this case, the birthers have been allowed to attack, yell, debate and undermine  Obama’s entire presidency, legitimacy, and authenticity thanks to the media at large. Why? I may never understand, but what I do understand is that I and everyone else who wants to be productive citizens and business owners, need to make sure that our relationship with the media is controlled.

Many people, one in particular,  seem to be taking credit for this document release, when in fact, I see this as President Obama’s way of saying “ENOUGH!” President Obama could have easily kept going down the road of  ignoring the onslaught of conspiracy theories and attacks, but instead he made a decision to go down another road, possibly a higher road.

In President Obama’s announcement yesterday, he noted that conversations and debates are part of a democracy, but that they should be used to discuss issues of great importance.  While I completely agree, I also agree that sometimes you have to bite the bullet, even when it’s something you don’t believe in to move forward. If you don’t, you’ll be left haunted your decisions and choices, or better yet be left in a stagnant period.  Nobody in life ever wants to be stagnant. Those that do are the ones that live with fear, or better yet have settled with their fear(s).

As an individual, it is rare that I believe in buying into things like this–giving attention to a group of people who aren’t worthy of it, but sometimes that is not an option. Sometimes, you have to face the naysayers, attention seekers, the Donald Trumps , doubters and haters and give them what they want.  I’ve experienced this both in my personal and business life. For as stubborn as I am, I’ve realized that  I have to do things I would prefer not to for the sake of moving forward. And in those few times, I always opt for the open, truthful roads because I want to keep my steps moving toward my goal.

As a business owner, it is important to realize that here will always be dissenters and lynch mobs, and if you feed them, or allow them to be fed, they will polarize. There are ways  respect the media that we live with today and be transparent all while using them to our advantage and being successful business owners and leaders. Yesterday, President Obama showed America that he heard what was being said and that he is a leader, one that is willing to face his opposition for the sake of moving forward. That is the kind of business owner I aspire to be as my company continues to grow. I hope it is the same for you.

Hi readers!

It is the end of the month. Holy crap, I can’t believe it! I have been scratching my head the past four days trying to figure out where January and February went.  Time IS flying by.  The good news is that I at least know that ups and downs aside, I have had fun. Hooray!

Now, the end of the month has come to mean that my last posting of the month is dedicated to my favorite reads from said month. The articles are all over the place: social media, entrepreneurship, time management, crafting, artistry and more.  I’ve tried to separate them based on their topic, but they all kind of blend together after a while. (BTW, please let me know if you find this topic separation helpful. I will really appreciate the feedback!) Here goes…

Business, Social Media, Entrepreneurship and Tools:

“Then I realized over the years that it’s actually more about right time than real-time. In fact, when information comes through, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s the right time to engage, capture it, and share it. I’m more successful now creating a list of information, relevant information, and then repackaging, repurposing, and broadcasting that information at the right time.” -Brian Solis, author of Engage

  • The quote above is one of my favorite that I’ve read this month! I believe wholeheartedly in timing, even though I also believe in moments and living in the moment (real-time).  However, what is most important between the two is knowing when the timing is right.  (Sara, you impatient, spontaneous, woman you, pay attention to your own words here for everything.)  In social media, it’s even more important to know your timing, especially when writing and editing  your own content vs. sharing the content of others. Read the wise words about the importance of curation and creation in this article courtesy of Mashable: http://mashable.com/2011/03/17/curation-importance/
  • Has social media hit a plateau? Good food for thought! This article on Mashable asks the question and follows up with some insight: http://mashable.com/2011/03/16/social-media-innovation-plateau/
  • I am so anti-twitter, but so many love it. I am also trying to balance my social media presence (or lack there of) with real tangible contact and connection. This worksheet is a must for those of you like me, trying to figure out which social media routes to take to help build a better, stronger, and more tangible communication platform. Thanks Mashable, again: http://mashable.com/2011/03/11/social-media-marketing-chart/
  • Last one from Mashable, I promise.  This gem is about brand consistency. For new entrepreneurs (myself, included) this article is a must read. You want to make sure you’re brand is strong and sings, yet rolls with the punches. Here’s some great tips: http://mashable.com/2011/03/22/brand-consistency-social-media/
  • Ah, Chris Guillebeau. You shouldn’t be surprised to see an article about him because I’ve written about him before. Either way, this article is fantastic! Not only does he offer tips on business planning and development, customer service, communication, but most importantly, shares a moment he had with someone he connected with randomly and made a huge impression.  Enough for Chris to promote his business. Articles like this, I appreciate when ruminating on my business. Maybe you will to:  http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/business-secrets-from-a-cambodian-tuk-tuk/?awt_l=8ByzZ&awt_m=1ewVoV.mvsnt7W
  • What is enchantment? What can enchantment mean to you, your business, your clients? Well, Guy Kawasaki kind of has it figured out. And I’m kind of in love with Guy Kawasaki because of this interview. Now, I want to read his book.  Check out this well done interview and let me know if you have, plan to or don’t want to read his book: http://www.bazaarvoice.com/blog/2011/03/17/interview-guy-kawasaki-on-reciprocity-influencers-ecosystems-and-the-art-of-enchantment/
  • This one is a bit tough because I think it can go under the money topic as well, but what it really gets to is pricing. I know I need help with pricing. Always. If you’re like me  (I’m sure you are), you’ll want to check it out: http://www.artsyshark.com/2011/03/26/are-your-prices-unrealistic/
  • Finding your niche is something people desperately look for. I know I’ve been wondering about myself and in discovering what my niche and who my target is, I’ve restructured and tweaked my branding quite a bit. This article by Ms. Megan Auman for Craft MBA is definitely worth the read:  http://www.craftmba.com/2011/03/22/niche-products/
  • Last, but not least in his category is another article from Ms. Auman that talks about our creative vs. business brains. This is a GREAT read, especially for crafters who make things and think they all have to be favorites and sell:  http://www.craftmba.com/2011/03/28/balancing-the-creative-brain-with-the-business-brain/

Time Management, Self Development:

Money:

You:

  • My dear friend, Jolie Guillebeau, is still a new friend, but I love her art, passion, talent and most importantly how sincere and heartfelt she is as a human being. I had the pleasure of meeting her several months ago and I knew that I liked her immediately.  I signed up to receive her newsletters shortly after our meeting and I love reading her words and seeing her work.  Earlier this month, she wrote a wonderful intro to go with a painting that she  recently worked on and it really resonated. She’s right–I’m tired of hearing people make excuses for how they think they’re perceived. Whether we are “beautiful” or not, we all have something to offer and the least important part of it is our looks. I suggest you check out Jolie’s work and read the blog posting called “Forty-seventh. Tired.” from March 17th: http://artbyjolie.com/stories/
  • Ah, the age-old question of should you quit your job before you’re ready? I don’t know that this article answers the question completely, but being that I’ve been debating this myself, I thought I’d share it with all the others in the same shoes: http://www.womeninbusiness.com.au/_blog/Style_and_Substance/post/Should_you_quit_your_job/
  • This article should be listed under “business,” but you know, I read it and wondered about losing my interest in my craft, not my business. I know that many people may have experienced this, or may be on the cusp of experiencing it, which is why I am listing it under “you”. As a crafter, you have to remember what you love about what you’re doing before you wonder about building a business empire. The minute that the flicker of light is gone, you’re in trouble: http://www.thebusinessofbeingcreative.com/2011/03/22/beginners-enthusiasm/

That’s all, friends-happy reading!  I hope you all find these as useful as I did/do. Please feel free to share any articles you love with me. I’m always looking for new perspectives.

Oh and happy last day of March!

“Even as he fought to discredit the spiritualists, Houdini battled professional peers who were working to duplicate his signature tricks.  Many feats such as the Handcuff, Milk Can, and Water Torture Cell Escapes were copied and publicized by other magicians over Houdini’s objections.  To ward off the imitators, he published books revealing some of his methods and credited himself with originating certain performances.” – Houdini: Art and Magic

This past weekend, I had a good friend in town visiting and we decided to check out the Houdini: Art and Magic exhibit at the Jewish Museum. It closed yesterday, Sunday March 27th, and I’m so glad that we went to see this exhibit!

I am not a magician. I’ve never been in love with magic, but I do respect the art of magic and it’s symbolism. I do love watching movies and reading books about magic, too. Maybe I’m wrong about not loving magic. I should phrase this as, I love being surprised by magic and falling for magic, but I don’t ever need to know the tricks behind magic. Much like a small girl at Disney World, I’d much rather be swept up in the moment of awe and surprise that magic provides, than get down to the details of how things work, or maybe appear to work.

The presence of magic is something that can not be compared to any other art out there. A magician is the art. How a magician goes about developing, performing, interacting and ultimately outwitting the audience is something that we could study forever.  I don’t mean study their methods or tricks, I mean study their art. It takes great persuasion and communication to be a magician and these are two skills that not everyone has that, nor will know.

As I walked around the wonderful exhibit full of art created by artists inspired by Mr. Houdini along side artifacts, videos, photos, and books, I realized that Mr. Harry Houdini was not just a master artist, he was a social media genius. Houdini was way ahead of his time! It finally all clicked when I read the quote stated in the very opening of this posting. As a matter of fact, I was struck so hard by lighting, that I pulled out a pen and a spare sheet of paper (that’s how I roll, not to mention photography was not allowed) and wrote down word for word what was on the display.

All along the exhibit there was language about how he invited photographers and news reporters to his performances to document his feats. As video came out, he invited people from that media outlet to his shows as well.  As a matter of fact, he often times conducted the performances in front of a news office to generate the news himself. People could attend and watch with their own eyes, or readers of that newspaper would have a first hand account in the next day’s paper. Genius!

Then, when people started duplicating his tricks, he turned to sharing his knowledge with the public. As stated in the quote, not just to credit himself with the creation of the trick, but to offer a bit of his mystery to the public and his fans. What social media guru doesn’t do this on a day-to-day basis? How many times have I read that in order to retain fans, you need to offer something in return, maybe something free. Almost all the bloggers I know do this–they offer free business tips or e-booklets with just enough information that you’re hooked and hungry for more. Well, friends, I love you, but Houdini did it first. Not to mention his whole image was based on mystery and yet, here he was inviting you into and giving you a little bit of his mystery. Genius!

Finally, in all of this, he created a following. Houdini is immortalized. To this day, magicians (even fake ones like David Blaine) follow in his footsteps. Google celebrated his birthday with a Google Doodle (which was awesome!) and the internet scooped it up like moths to flames.  The fact remains he did and owned all of what he did. He found his niche, tested its limitations, constantly challenged not just himself, but his craft and artistry and blazed a trail that left (and still does) many  in his shadow.  2011 marks the 85 years since he died and yet, everyone knows about Houdini. He is notorious. He is magic. He is/was (unbeknownst to those in the 20s ahead of the curve) the genius behind social media.

I’m so glad I saw this exhibit. Honestly this exhibit made me very curious.  I’m excited to see what else I can learn and unearth about Houdini’s skills and maybe bring to the social media development I have going on for S2 Stationery and Design.  I think maybe a few others out in the internet world might benefit from doing the same thing.

Like so many others, I am inspired by Houdini!  Poof!

First, what I’ve witnessed…

This morning:

Bus was stopped at light, a few feet from the stop.  Someone who missed the bus, knocked on the door to be let in and asked if she could get on and the bus driver through the closed-door said, “no.” She repeated his, “no” and looked shocked as the light turned green and the bus pulled off.

Yesterday morning:

Bus driver failed to respond to any questions asked about purchasing tickets to get on the M15 X (express).

Last week:

Mom with stroller trying to get on bus before it pulled off and in the rain, pushed open stroller with child onto bus. Driver, stopped her and told her she could only get on the bus with a closed stroller and to get off, remove the child and close the stroller and then get on.

Verdict:

The MTA has some rude employees. For every one that is kind, there are at least two more that are complete a-holes!

My problem with all of these examples is a lack of concern or propriety shown to the customer. Actually, there is a very clear and decisive angst toward the customer. Almost as if the customer had done something wrong.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I get on the bus some mornings and want to strangle my fellow brethren, but I can’t. However, rather than act rude toward them, I just ignore them. Yep, I ignore the woman whose bag keeps hitting me, or the lady who is really taking up two seats instead of one. And in most cases, if I’m really pissed off and the bus is really crowded, I just wait for the next bus. Which will inevitably be less crowded, if not empty.  I realize that I have a choice here. I can decide what bus to take or not take and to ignore the rude antics of my fellow human, where as a bus driver can’t, but I’m also not getting paid to provide a service.

And THAT is the golden ticket.  Maybe MTA employees have a right to gripe and be unhappy (heck I am often times unhappy with my place of employment), but when it comes to the people who are paying their hard-earned money to jump on a bus or train, those employees should at the very least be polite. Why? Because the consequences can result in a loss of riders, money (MTA is always complaining about losing money) and most importantly trust and faith.

The MTA is no different from a corporation, even though it is a monopoly, and therefore should have incredible external communication. Yet they don’t. Think about the times you’ve called a number to have to go through automated prompts and then when you finally speak to someone, they aren’t helpful and are rude? I know I make it a point not to use that company any more. With all the selections out there, I can find another company to meet my needs. In the case of the MTA, the lack of respect by their employees is showing NYers that they can use alternate methods of transportation–cars, bicycles (eco-friendly, full of exercise, and inexpensive), taxis and the good old walking (I know I’ve walked on several occasions just because the bus was taking too long, or I didn’t feel like being under ground).

Every time I encounter a rude bus driver, or subway staff, my interest in using MTA declines. Yes, it’s easy, especially when you’re running late, but the fact remains that since I moved here in 2006, there have been four fee increases (I know they’re not that high, but it’s the principle), they’ve decreased service at night and staff in stations, stopped several lines, yet are still moving forward with a line on 2nd Ave (which I get will help alleviate crowds on the 4,5, and 6 lines, but that’s costing several billions of dollars they can’t afford and then you rude employees. These are all major concerns and I think any corporation would buckle down on them before they got even larger or cost them severely.

As a monthly metro card holder, I sometimes wonder what would happen if all of NY stood up and for a day didn’t use the subway or bus system. What would happen? Would our collective voices be heard? Would it change the way the MTA views it’s users? Maybe this is something we should explore…

More importantly, there’s a lesson to learn behind this: how not to treat your customers. It’s fairly simple, really. Never shut the door in someone’s face. Even if you have a schedule and you want to get going, if you have a chance to treat someone kindly, or make someone’s day a bit easier, take it. I know (from experience), that in retail, it is often, “don’t kick out your customer, even if it’s after closing because you may make a sale.” I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about helping a customer whether they buy something or not. I’m talking about going above and beyond the ordinary. That means, not forcing a mother and her child back in the rain just to close a stroller, or ignoring customers that don’t understand a new system and are asking for help. A client/customer will remember your interaction and how you treated them always. If it was bad, well, every one they know will know. If it was good, every one they know will know. Not to mention, they will come to you always, even for recommendations.

Your customer base is everything and therefore should be treated with respect and courtesy. Employees can be one of the best marketing tools if they are happy, and the worst, if they’re unhappy.  When an employee is rude or shows no decency, they are essentially saying that the company does not value them and that is never a position a company seeks.

By the way, this posting is ignoring all the other ways bad customer service can be channeled; mainly through social media avenues. I’m using my examples as a way to show why bad customer service hurts, rather than complaining about how bad the MTA is, but people have taken their complaints to twitter and facebook. They’ve blogged about their complaints. Just because a company no longer responds to emails or phone calls, or for that matter has someone who works to answer these complaints, doesn’t mean that the complaint goes unexposed.  This means companies have to be vigilant and work harder to watch when they not only have continuous bad customer service incidents, but don’t offer explanations, consolation, or at the very least an attempt at change.  It would be cheaper for all parties if the company just owned up to it and implemented the changes necessary to fix the broken issues.

Thank you MTA for showing me what I will do, should I ever have an employee, or more even.  Make sure they understand the importance of good, helpful, and solid customer service.

I’m kind of curious to know what are some good and bad customer service experiences you’ve had. If you’d like to share, please do!

Last month, I did a round up of the articles I found most helpful to me through the year.  I’ll be the first to admit that it was kind of shoddy. Mostly because I wanted in some way to spread a bit of the people who have helped me in the past couple of months.  While I think that was a good thing, one of my goals for this blog and for potential readers moving through the new year is to instead space the helpful articles out a bit more.

So, having said that, sometime within the last two weeks of each month I will post the articles that came out in the month that I found the most helpful, complete with links. Should you choose to read them, you can.  And this way, I’ll be better at organizing the many thoughts that get sent my way without scrambling to find where I read that one really great article.

Here my friends and readers is my January listing:

Seven Steps to Understanding Online Advertising, The Mogul Mom:om: http://www.themogulmom.com/2011/01/understanding-advertising/

Build a Community with Social Media: 3 Things You Must Know, The Mogul Mom: http://www.themogulmom.com/2011/01/building-a-community-with-social-media-3-things-you-must-know/

I just can’t get ENOUGH of The Mogul Mom!

**How to Manifest Money, Steve Paulina: http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2010/11/how-to-manifest-money/

Will come back to this one a few times, I think.

20 Personal Money Practices that Got me to a Place of Grooving Prosperity. (Part 1), White Hot Truth: http://whitehottruth.com/business-wealth-articles/20-personal-money-practices-that-got-me-to-a-place-of-grooving-prosperity-part-1/

17 Money Practices for Business that Cost Me A Lot to Learn. (Part 2), White Hot Truth:

The Declaration of Deserving, White Hot Truth: http://whitehottruth.com/white-hot/the-declaration-of-deserving-just-because-youre-here/

Qualified Requests: How to Ask for Stuff, White Hot Truth: http://whitehottruth.com/business-wealth-articles/qualified-requests-how-to-ask-for-stuff/

Um, Danielle is on FIRE!

Bullet Proof Your Goals, Heartmade Blog: http://www.heartmadeblog.com/blog/bullet-proof-your-goals

How to Keep Your Creative Space Inspiring, Mayi Carles of Heartmade: http://www.ohmyhandmade.com/2011/contributors/how-to-keep-your-creative-space-inspiring/

Mayi is awesome!

That is it. I think. Any articles/links that come my way in the next two weeks will be included in the Feb list.  Please let me know if there are any articles YOU think I should read. I’m open!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,457 other followers