Social Media: Good vs Evil (or "It Might Be Time to Pull the Plug If…")

socialmediagoodvsevil

Social media. You crazy thing you.

Because of my access to you I’ve built a business, grown friendships, been confronted by a famous person, an acquaintance, and a stranger. I like you less when people use you to talk about politicians. I like you more when people use you to spread awareness about international crises and ways we can band together to make a difference

The truth is sometimes we need a breather from you—from your ever-present, all-access, overload of information. Sometimes people use you to complain, to be passive aggressive and to overshare. When we humans have a platform to share our thoughts it can get a little funny. So today I’m proposing ten reasons that we, your oh-so-faithful users, may need to take a break from you. (I’m going to move on to addressing the readers directly now. You may not want to listen…) 

It Might Be Time to Pull the Plug on Social Media If…

1. It makes you more angry than happy.

2. It makes you more jealous than happy.

3. You can’t resist the urge to lecture your friends and followers. 

4. You feel like your impulse control is waning. You check it at every opportunity. 

5. You spend a lot of time following people you don’t actually have relationships with in real life. 

6. You post content that you wouldn’t say out loud to a bunch of acquaintances. 

7. You can’t resist the urge to confront someone you know in real life on social media.

8. You can’t resist the urge to confront someone you don’t know in real life on social media. 

9. You feel guilty and voyeuristic about how you spend your time on social media. 

10. You’re so annoyed by the content that other people post that you volley back and post about your frustration. 

Perhaps you sense the common theme here. If social media draws out negative emotions in you more often than positive ones then maybe you should pull the plug. If you have trouble with boundaries and self-control on social media then maybe you should pull the plug. If using social media means you are observing life more than contributing to it maybe you should pull the plug. 

Social media is a mystifying animal. Just this week we Peanutized ourselves, raved about Ryan Adams’ 1989, and mourned the loss of Yogi Berra together online. We experience community with people we never would have had a meaningful conversation with at this point in our lives if it weren’t for social media. 

We can interact with like-minded people, learn from thought leaders, see our friends’ children grow up across the country, and even share a laugh together via social media. 

This vast landscape of online communication can be used for good and it can be used for evil. If social media brings up more negative feelings than positive ones, it may be time to shut it down for a little while or for a long while. 

Don’t forget that you ultimately hold the power. You are not held prisoner to any negativity that creeps into your life via social media. You can use the platform for good or you can opt out altogether. Just don’t be passive. That’s the big request here. Social media can be used for good or it can be used for evil. I encourage you, use it for good! 

Do you struggle with any (or many) of the items I listed above? What do you do to combat those tendencies? I’d love to hear about your strategy in the comments! 

The Secret to Success for Remote Teams

How to Succeed with a Remote TeamStarting this week I'm going to be sharing some of my favorite slices of my freelance writing work with you. I've gotten to interview over 30 executives in large national corporations and I'd love to pass on some of the nuggets of wisdom they've shared with me.  First up is Kirsten Mellor. Kirsten is VP and GC of CafePress, the Internet mecca for on-demand printing of products through user-generated and licensed content platforms. As of 2014, more than 700 million unique virtual products exist on CafePress, with an average of 100,000 new images added by users weekly. CafePress has 20 million-plus members worldwide and a staggering 11 million unique visitors each month.

Mellor works closely with a team of lawyers who are in her Bay Area offices as well as a team in Louisville. So, how does she keep things running smoothly?

“Over-communication,” Mellor said with a laugh. “The tools of the modern workplace—Skype, IM, email—make it easy to connect with each other.”

According to Mellor, face-to-face meetings also remain important. “I fly out [to Louisville] a couple times a year. The Kentucky people come here several times a year. The camaraderie of my team is very important to me. They need to meet and enjoy the folks they work with to produce at their highest level. We try to do some out-of-office team-building things whenever we get the opportunity.”

In my own work I've found project management tools like Basecamp, Todoist and Igloo incredibly helpful.

Do you work with a remote team? What are your tips for making a remote team wildly successful? 

You can enjoy the full-length original article in Forefront Magazine here.

 

6 Lessons to Learn from the Resurgence of Surge

Coca-Cola company
Coca-Cola company

Did you catch the news about Surge this week? If you’re a child of the 90s you may remember the lemon lime flavored highly caffeinated soda that was marketed to thrill seekers and teen boys by the Coca-cola company. The drink disappeared from super market shelves in 2001 but thanks to a grassroots social media campaign, Surge is back. Well, maybe not at your local gas station, but you can order a case of it on Amazon.

A Facebook group raised $4000 to buy a billboard near Coca-cola's headquarters in Atlanta, GA. The billboard said: "Dear Coke, we couldn't buy SURGE, so we bought this billboard instead."

The response to the news of the resurgence of Surge was pretty overwhelming. Amazon sold out of the sugary drink twice on Monday. Coca-cola’s move with Surge is a pretty big one: it’s the company’s first product launch that relies solely on social and digital media.

This whole story of how rabid fans got their voices heard via social media and got the sugary energy drink they so longed for to be made available again got me thinking…

What is there to learn from the resurgence of Surge?

1. Millennials have grown up to be the first digital native generation that has real spending power. Not only do they know how to grow a movement via digital media or use Kickstarter to fund passion projects, but they are also beginning to make decent money themselves. Children of the 90s are no longer just whiny, selfish millennials.Millennials are beginning to have the spending power of established adults with the digital prowess of teenagers. Pretty lethal combination.

2. Listen to brand loyalists and get creative in meeting their requests. As my friend and mentor Ben Stroup says: “say yes until you have to say no.” Coca-cola isn’t spending millions bottling Surge and putting it in every grocery store and gas station. That's way too big of a gamble. But they can say "yes" by making it available on Amazon to the super fans who are willing to pay a little more for it. They’re paying attention to a passionate niche market instead of writing them off. Coke isn’t planning to sell Surge in stores again, but if the Amazon wave goes well, they just might. How can you wow your audience in a creative way and say “yes” to them in a creative way? Niche market brand loyalists have power. Don’t discount them.

3. Capitalizing on nostalgia is a thing. How many retro t-shirts have you seen sold at Target or Old Navy? New Kids On the Block and the Backstreet Boys have combined their powers to become one giant boy band nostalgia ride. The technology we use now has transformed our culture. People look back on the pre-Facebook, pre-smart phone, heck--pre-iPod days with fondness. How can you access this nostalgia in your business? What can you do to delight your audience by tapping into familiarity?

4. Pay attention to what your audience likes about a product or service. Some things need to stay the same to be effective. Would fans buy Surge with such gusto if it had a snazzy new 2014 design? HECK NO. They are drawn to the fact that it is the exact same sugary beverage with the exact same logo it had when they were a teen and life was much less complicated. Innovation has incredible value but some things are valuable because they have not changed.

5. E-commerce makes what was once impossible, possible. There was a time when selling a beverage to a niche market was just too expensive. But e-commerce is a game-changer. Niche products and e-commerce are a match made in heaven. As Coca-cola put it: e-commerce provides the “democratization of demand.” What speciality products or services could you make available through e-commerce?

6. Sometimes things have to be minimized, made rare, or go away altogether to get appreciated. What does this mean for you? Should you post less on social media? Increase your prices? Be a little less available? Surge was discontinued because it wasn’t the popular success Coca-cola wanted it to be. Now it’s been gone for 13 years and a passionate (albeit small) vocal group have missed it and brought attention to it. Rarity increases value. How can you apply that to your business?

The resurgence of Surge indicates that niche markets matter, voices can be heard and thanks to technology companies can delight their customers in more ways than ever before. How will you use it to wow your audience?

My Top 12 Posts in Honor of HSL Creative's First Birthday

My 2nd birthday.
My 2nd birthday.

I’ve had a stunning revelation: HSL Creative, in its most recent incarnation, is officially ONE year old!

Cue the streamers, candles, and of course cake (my favorite.) In honor of our first birthday I thought I would share a countdown of the 12 most popular blog posts from the last year. (Get it? 1 for each month?)

Over the past year I’ve shared observations on social media trends, productivity hacks, career advice, information about our services, and even personal reflections about not living in a major city or overextending myself. So I give you the top 12 posts of our first year as voted by your clicks. So take a look, check out the ones you may have missed. And thank you, thank you, thank you for coming on the journey.

CHOCOLATE CAKE ALL AROUND, I SAY!

Here’s to year 2. Cheers.

12. Finding Margin: Confessions of a Wayward Blogger Whether you're an entrepreneur, a stay-at-home parent, or an employee of a giant corporation, there are always priorities and choices to make. And sometimes we have to say "no" to good things in order to say "yes" to great things.

11. 7 Hacks for Shaking off the Blahs and Getting Out of ProcrastiNation I have a war within me: lazy person vs. driven person. That conflict can easily manifest itself in procrastination. Here's some ways I combat it.

10. How to Launch Dual Careers I'm a passionate advocate of kicking the status quo in the face. If you are a soon to be college graduate, an early career professional, or just know in your gut it's time for a change, this post gives you the first steps to making the move to dual careers.

9. 10 Secrets to Getting Started in Freelance Writing If you've wanted to get started freelance writing but you're not sure where to begin, this post gives you tips on how to get paid to write.

8. 6 Reasons Someone You know Did the #ALSIceBucketChallenge Why the heck did the Ice Bucket Challenge raise over $100 million? How did that happen? Here's some reasons it worked amazingly well.

7. 10 Social Media Resolutions to Adopt This Year Need a cheat sheet for social media etiquette and smart habits (like knowing your privacy settings)? Here ya go.

6. 10 Ways I've Made Life Easier for Other Businesses, And How I Can Help You Too Don't really know what all we do here? Here are some of the most practical ways that organizations and individuals have used HSL Creative services in recent months.

5. 9 Surprising Things I Learned When I Met a Client in Person Bottom line: in this incredible digital age where I (and many other people!) make a living by never seeing anyone in person--the face-to-face communication remains irreplaceable.

4. The #1 Reason I Feel Ok Even Though I Don't Live in a Major City My industries are media and the arts. Of COURSE, I have a desire to be in a major city where patrons and potential clients flock. But here's why I think this small city life has been GREAT for me and my career.

3. 6 Ways Grad School Launched Me into the Career of My Dreams Grad school gets a lot of flack in creative fields. "It's not worth the money," they say. "You're avoiding the real world," they say. Well, I say it was the exact right move for me. Here's why.

2. Will You Do Anything Social Media Free This Year? Do you ever feel like you've become a little too attached to your technology? Do you twitch when you accidentally leave your phone in your car? Have you never left your phone in your car because you always make certain it's on your person? This one's for you.

And drumroll please...the most popular post of the last year is....

1. 5 Lessons We Can Learn from the Most Retweeted Selfie of All Time Did you retweet it? Do you know exactly which one I'm talking about? What makes us take part in viral activity online? These are a few of my observations from both academically and professionally studying people and their social media habits.

There ya have it! My 12 most read posts of the 1st year of HSL Creative. Do me a huge favor and comment here or on Facebook or Twitter with some feedback on what kind of posts you'd like to see more of in the future. I'm listening!

9 Surprising Things I Learned When I Met a Client In Person

My friend Erin and I enjoying the most delicious italian food and conversation.

My friend Erin and I enjoying the most delicious italian food and conversation.

I have one of those mainly-just-me-and-my-computer careers. (My 2nd career, acting, is another story--and another blog post.) On an average month my work demands that I engage with people in person four hours or less.

I, like many people these days, have clients that I've never met in person. Recently I got the chance to meet some face to face for the first time after having worked with them for several months. Connecting with them in person was so refreshing and reminded me of why the face-to-face experience simply can't be replaced by conference calls, emails or Google Hangouts.

1. Eye contact. It powerfully conveys authenticity and intentional listening. When eye contact is avoided our first instinct is to think that someone may not be trustworthy.

2. (Appropriate) physical touch. The occasional touch on a shoulder conveys warmth and amiability. Depending on your culture, this conveys a real sense of friendliness and accessibility.

3. Body language/mannerisms. Expressive gestures can contribute equally to getting a feel for someone's personality as their words do.

4. The comfort and joy of gathering around a table. Many of life's most meaningful moments are experienced when dining or drinking together. Ie Starbucks, Cheers, Thanksgiving, The Last Supper--you get the idea.

5. Veering off topic. Sometimes you just need to let conversation wander into unplanned territory. This can help people gain a better understanding of one another. This rarely happens when you're sticking to an agenda on a conference call.

6. Making a joint memory. Whether it's bearing witness to a disruptive person getting kicked out of a restaurant or simply having an excellent customer service experience from a waiter, going through an actual experience together builds camaraderie.

7. Chiming in without it being mistaken for an interruption. When adding onto something someone else has said it's often misinterpreted as interrupting if they can't see your visual cues that you agree or want to interject. When your eyes light up at something the other person says, they're less surprised that you want to add on to the conversation.

8. Shared experience helps to identify with one another. Clients, employees, contract workers, and agencies all become human when you get stuck in the same traffic, experience the same lovely 72 degree weather, and both get a free frappucino sample at the coffee shop. It's a great equalizer and reminder that after work we're all just humans.

9. Getting back to basics feels authentic. Putting technology away for an hour or two is refreshing. Taking it back old school without notifications, vibrations, and friend requests is a great opportunity to simply connect with other human beings.

Technology should be used as support for the in-person connection. After all, communication at its most basic is one person sending a message to another person. It can be done without anything Steve Jobs invented.

Does engaging with others in person make you nervous? Do you hate how technology has overtaken much of professional communication these days?

Hilary is fascinated by the intersection of social media and live experiences. She even wrote her masters thesis on it. 

7 Tips for Being Your Own Publicist Online

Secret's out: we are not all celebrities and big shots that have a Samantha Jones-esque worldly wise publicist looking out for the messages we are sending out into the universe. Today your social media personality contributes heavily to client and colleague and even potential employer perceptions of you. Here are seven best practices for keeping a positive image online.

1. Vent somewhere else. Feeling the need to let off a little steam? Text a friend, write in your journal, or share it with your spouse. Don't type a status update. Venting via social media may have more negative repercussions than positive ones. You may come across as someone who has poor judgment or looks as if they have no one to talk to in the real world. It's bad press all the way around. Don't do it.

2. Keep away from unpleasantries. Whether it's photos of dead animals, oversharing about your morning hygiene routine or the details of your illness--think about your queasiest friend. Would she want to hear about it? If not, then just don't mention it.

3. Don't treat social media like a megaphone. Engage with others! Respond, comment, like. Don't waste hours of your day, of course, but the truly adept social networker finds that happy balance between sharing with his or her tribe and engaging with them. It's just rude to constantly post messages online and not respond to anyone else. Online manners FTW.

4. Avoid potentially offensive or polarizing statements. You probably know someone who is relatively meek in person and then seems to be an angry confrontational jerk on Facebook, amiright? Chances are, your perception of him has been affected by what he posts. There's nothing like logging on and realizing that former quiet, coworker is a little bit racist. Avoid off color jokes, criticizing others, and making sweeping statements regarding current events. Whatever you post can and could be used against you. So, just keep it classy.

5. Balance out that self-promotion. Social media provides an incredible venue to promote work that excites you. There's no reason not to let the world know when your album drops, you have a big art show, or are speaking at a conference. Just make sure you don't only turn to the interwebs when you have something to promote. Experts say self-promotion should be 10% or less of what you post. Adhering to that rule is a good idea.

6. Observe the Grandma Rule. Great question to ask yourself before posting anything: would I want Grandma to see this post? If yes, then go ahead and post it. If no, just skip it.

7. When in doubt, less is more. People can't twist the words you never say (or, type).  Don't feel the need to post something every day. Click "send" when you have something to contribute. Our words are our legacy.

What do you think? Do you have any rules to live by as you use social media? Do you have any tips for what to avoid? Post em in the comments!