Tantrum-Central: Using Prezi

My house has been tantrum-central this week – and very few of them emanated from my kids.  I’ve been pulling out my hair, screaming obscenities at my computer screen, and viewing several (apparently useless) tutorials.

This week I revised a PowerPoint presentation for the San Diego LGBT Community Center and used a new (for me) presentation tool, Prezi.  The original PowerPoint presentation was text-heavy, and the look was out-dated.  It was an un-engaging presentation; its message lost in its busy-ness.

Here’s the original presentation:

Here’s my Prezi version:

I’d never used Prezi before, or any sort of presentation software other than PowerPoint.  There was a fairly steep learning curve for me, but the most difficult part (though less time consuming) was embedding the Prezi into WordPress.  The only way to learn new software or computer systems is to dive in, fail, and keep trying.  And I did… A few times…  Though there was cursing, I experienced significantly less anxiety using this new platform than I did when trying new platforms even 11 weeks ago. Progress!

The Virtual Village: Crowdsourcing in Parenting and Beyond

As a working parent, I often feel like I don’t have enough time to do anything as well as I’d like.  When I’m at work, I worry about not being there for my kids.  When I’m with my kids, I have the Blackberry at my side and feel constantly distracted.  Don’t call the health department, but the last time I mopped my floor was at the beginning of the summer semester (when I started graduate courses in May, I had to let the house go “a bit”).  Now as the mess piles around me and I can hear the kids fighting in the front yard, I’m at my computer thinking of strategic ways that social media can make life easier.  A survey out this week from McCann Truth Central indicates that the new generation of tech-moms are letting go of the need to be “supermoms” – they realize that it’s OK not to be there to kiss every skinned knee, to push the swing each playtime, to drink 1,000 cups of imaginary tea, to make their own organic baby food, etc.  According to the McCann survey, moms are using technology to make their lives simpler, be it with online scheduling of events, finding a babysitter, even rewarding their children’s good behavior with screen time or the latest app.  Even as a late developer, I use technology in this way. I have use shopping list applications, purchase apps to entertain my kids while I run errands, e-mail my takeout order to local restaurants, text message my babysitters, and use Facebook to keep in touch with my friends.  I’ve found that it really does take a village to raise kids – and now that village is available on my laptop or mobile phone whenever I need advice or support.  I have a fabulous group of friends and am not sure if I’d have survived my children’s early years – the breastfeeding and night wakings, the tantrums and divorce – without them.  My “friends” (on Facebook, and in the flesh) are experts at something, be it parenting, biology, cooking, event planning, or wine selection.  Some are expert listeners who help me deal with the next developmental hurdle, or just listen to my tired, burned-out raving.  This spring, I sent an evite inviting friends to help us erect a play structure in our backyard.

The village came – and even brought their own tools.

We dug and planted a garden in a friend’s sunnier backyard.

Nancy teaches Noah to hoe a row

Without this active virtual community, I wouldn’t be able to maintain the friendships I hold dear, and as a family, we would miss out on many enriching opportunities.  When it comes to my kids, I think the  more adults involved in their lives, the better.

Crowdsourcing is a buzz word in social media for good reason – with social media, we have access to crowds of experts almost 24/7.  Many non-profit leaders (and moms too!) feel bogged down and completely overwhelmed by their to-do lists.  The thought of having one more task to complete (checking Facebook/Twitter, etc.) in an already-overstuffed day makes people resist new technologies.  But, what if the technology could make your life easier? What if, by simply creating a Facebook page or sending a Tweet, you had access to hundreds (or more) of like-minded individuals who could be willing volunteers/donors?  In their book, The Networked Nonprofit, authors Beth Kanter and Allison Fine argue that we should build our organizations around the idea of abundance rather than scarcity.  Social media is one great way to access that abundance.  Sometimes, the best thing we can do for our organizations (and families) is step out of the way, allowing other people to connect and plug-in where their expertise is needed.  We can even barter for services, giving us a chance to lighten our load while someone else builds their resume (perhaps someone is trying to launch a new career in Web design and could work on a project with you) or they just find the work meaningful (who doesn’t like to see a kids’ face light up in a learning moment?).

How do we fit social media into our daily lives without further complicating matters? My takeaways from Kanter and Fine address ways to engage in social media without disengaging from the rest of your life:

  • Create a schedule.  Set a time each day to check certain social media channels (don’t try to check them all at once and don’t spend all day doing it).  Maybe you’ll decide the best times to check your e-mail is at the beginning, middle and end of each work day.  Commit to those three times, and let the rest wait.
  • Limit your time on Facebook, Pintrest and Twitter. Try not to get sucked in to browsing.  If you like to stalk your friends, build in some time after you put the kids to bed for this (and then try to explain it to your spouse).
  • Use the tools that are available to you! Set up Google alerts and receive e-mails when there is news on the keywords you give it.  Let Google keep track of the news while you move on to other tasks.
  • Choose tools carefully.  Focus on the few tools that work best for you based on your social media goals. Want a virtual community? Try building it on Facebook or Ning. Want to promote an event or make a cause more visible?  Try using Twitter, Facebook or a mobile tagging app.  Doing a few things well is better than doing many things halfheartedly.
  • Trust your sources.  Identify people (experts) you trust.  Read bloggers that you respect and look at their social circles as well.  Allow friends to forward your info on social media platforms and to shape conversations.
  • Use filters and preferences to become a better friend.  If you have so many thousand friends on Facebook that you miss the birth or death of a family member, perhaps you should filter your friends list to make sure you are getting the information you need most.
  • Crowdsource!!! Organize a bunch of people to work on one project – remotely – each helping in a small way to do something significant as a group.  Crowds can work together through social media to create original content, by submitting videos/photos for a show, voting on their favorite things as a way to encourage engagement, or donating a few dollars(which, combined, goes a long way).  Push for community-generated content that tells your story – it may be more genuine and effective as it is organic and grows from personal experience.

    It’s organic! (She’s holding a tiny lettuce seed)

Ice Cream on my iPod, Failed Experiments, Technology-Related Anxiety, and Other Daily Catastrophes

Today was one of those days when everything goes wrong.  There was dried ice cream on my iPod (which was in my purse, so seriously kids, WTH?). My Blackberry fritzed out, its screen a jumbled picture of nothing.  My kids were at each other’s throats all day: Anna (7) screaming in Noah’s (4) face when she was frustrated (all the time), and Noah lashing out with a 3-P physical assault (punching, pushing, pinching).  I finished a paper for school, and thought I’d take a peak at the next assignment on my list, which turned out to be creating an ad campaign using Google AdWords.  This is when socialmediaphobe began her freakout.

Perhaps what scares people the most about computers is that we mortals don’t understand how they work.  I don’t like feeling like my computer is smarter than me, struggling against its mystery logic in order to complete my assignments.  This whole learning-by-doing thing is risky.  Sure, I can set up ads on Google, entering the keywords I think people would use when searching related topics. I love the idea of driving more people to my blog and making new connections.  But I want to see the results – I want to be able to search on Google and FIND my ads.  What I don’t want is chart after chart telling me about low quality scores (which appear to have something to do with the keywords I’ve chosen, the content of the landing site, and the text of the ad) and I value my readers, but I can’t spend $10 per click.  

After staring at the computer screen, attempting to make sense of the charts generated by my keywords, I took a long break to take Anna to the park.  While there, I read and re-read the social media marketing sections of several books.  Anna was busy searching for sticks and leaves.  As I was in my failure-panic, my daughter was experimenting with aerodynamics.  She tried and tried to get her “kite” to fly, using all the different materials she could find (without tape or scissors, mind you) until she got so frustrated that she threw it on the ground, screaming “I QUIT!”  I put my books aside, picked up her kite and explained: “when you start something new, you’re going to fail more than you succeed; but you’ll never succeed if you don’t try.”  Uh, hello?  Instantly I was struck by how easy it is to dole out this sort of advice and how hard it is to hear.  We dug through my backpack for more kite-making supplies, and she decided to try again with a piece of scrap paper (which still didn’t work).  But she did persist in the face of failure, both in spite of and because of her failures.  Here’s to wiping the ice cream off the iPod, removing the battery from my Blackberry for a hard reboot, and digging in to AdWords again.

Anna experiments with flight and failure

Anna 7.5: The Summer of Her Independence

Anna 7.5

Anna 7.5 is a whole new version of child.  It’s not just the pierced ears and newfound ability to style her own hair – she rides her bike within a 2-block boundary unattended, coordinates her own playdates, prepares her own lunch, reads “chapter books” for hours at a time, runs races, and jumps off the diving board.  It’s been confidence building for Anna, and a lesson in letting go for mom.  I’m struck each day by her growing independence, and have to take deep yoga breaths the first few times she does something new.

Anna at 5 months

While watching newborn Anna sleep in her bouncy seat, my friend Laurie Hafner told me that as kids grow, it is the letting-go of parenting is the hardest. She said it sometimes feels like your heart has grown legs and is walking away.  Now, I remember her words and wonder if she was warning me of the chest pains and shortness of breath that I experience every time Anna goes off into the world on her own.  Yet it’s this independence that we’ve been preparing for since she took her first wobbly steps.  She knows where she’s going, pays attention to her surroundings, and always comes home on time.  She knows the rules of the road, uses hand signals, and always wears her helmet.  She consistently stays within the boundaries I’ve set for her.  She has proven herself responsible, trustworthy, and determined.  Each day I feel so grateful for the opportunity to know her, to learn from and with her, and to hug her (but not in front of her friends!) before she rides off into the distance.

Anna’s independence is about more than just letting her bike to her friend’s house – it represents a cultural shift in our house, a redistribution of power and a redefinition of our relationship.  In the world of business, a similar cultural shift must take place if an organization is to successfully implement a social media strategy.  In his book, Smart Business, Social Business: A Playbook for Social Media in Your Organization, Michael Brito describes the cultural changes necessitated by social media.  In social media and parenting, building the infrastructure to support change and encourage growth is indeed essential to success.

Here’s my version of Brito’s pillar:

  1. Get your house in order.  Brito argues “organizations cannot and will not have effective external communications with consumers unless they can have effective internal communications first” (p. 3).  Effective change begins in-house, where all involved (in business, employees; in parenting, family members) embrace and engage the brand and its evolution.  Everyone needs to be on the same page, with a clear sense of brand identity – the who, what, and why of your organization – and the ability to communicate that to others.  For Anna, this means knowing her address and phone number, the names of her parents, and having a sense of where her house is in relation to her community.  For parents, this means knowing what you expect from your kids, what you’ll do if they do/do not meet your expectations and being able to communicate that in a way that is heard and understood.  For families and brands, it’s about working together as a unit, collaborating on the important stuff and trusting others to handle their ends.  Similarly, in Engage, Brian Solis states: “Before a company can collaborate with its extended community, businesses must first learn to collaborate internally” (p. 171).  Engaging in social media isn’t just about conversing with customers, you have to listen to them as well, allowing their feedback and requests to influence the way you do business.  According to Brito, this process should start within an organization first: firewalls and information silos should be broken down, allowing employees to engage with each other and with customers directly.
  2. Best practices.  This is the “process” part of Brito’s book, which presents best practices for social media use in businesses, including the development of a social media strategy, the governance and training of employees, the integration of customer support into social media platforms, which technology platforms to use, budget management, how to get support from management and employees, and how to measure success.  Rules and expectations must be carefully defined and behavior monitored in order to “protect, inform and educate” (p. 63) the organization in its entirety.  Anna follows her own best practices, wearing her helmet, signaling turns, riding on the right side of the road, etc.

    Best practices

  3. The rules of engagement. Anna’s always been an early riser, so she’s ready to head out for her first bike ride by 6:30am, and I practically have to sit on her to keep her inside until 8, which for many families is still too early for entertaining guests.  We have guidelines about who she can play with, when she can call on them, and the types of play we’d like her to partake in (i.e., you aren’t going to your friends house to sit comatose in front of the television… GO OUT AND PLAY!)  To leverage the power of social media effectively, published content should be both relevant and timely, promote the brand, and reach the right advocates and influencers (a tall order in a 140-character tweet) at a time when they are likely to read and redistribute information.

Brito shows that social media doesn’t just change the way we communicate externally, it changes the way we think of ourselves as individuals, communities, and businesses.  Applying these insights to my client, The LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, reveals the need for a well thought-out strategy for social media use, with a clearly defined mission, communications that are relevant, and goals that are measurable.  Additionally, we need  to decide who the players will be, who will best advocate for our cause online, and establish or nurture our relationships with them.  A tall order, but it success is just a few tweets away.

Thanks Anne E!!!

Last night my daughter sang with her favorite singer/songwriter (and mine too!) in our backyard!

Anne E. Dechant and band, thank you so much for playing and for inspiring my little girl (and women everywhere) to do great things!!