How Photoshop Nearly Ruined My Vacation

This blog post is dedicated to the lovely people at the Marriott Sand Key who saved my vacation.

It seemed like such a good idea, getting away to a beachfront resort for a several of Cleveland’s typically dreariest days (turned out it was 70 degrees and partly sunny in Cleveland while we were gone, but that’s a separate issue).  With five work-free days and no real agenda but warmth, relaxation, and pampering, I did what many travelers do in the digital age: I consulted Travelocity.  On the screen, the Grand Plaza Beachfront Resort looks great.  There were only a handful of reviews, but the majority were quite positive.

The Grand Plaza Beachfront "Resort"

The Grand Plaza Beachfront “Resort”

This is the room we reserved and paid for online, the “deluxe beachfront suite”.

The Deluxe Beachfront Suite at Grand Plaza Beachfront Resort

The Deluxe Beachfront Suite at Grand Plaza Beachfront Resort

If this picture of the room we reserved online well in advance looks a bit like a mirror image to you, it was. We flew into the Tampa airport, took a $90 cab ride to St. Pete Beach, arriving at the hotel around 9pm.  The lobby, decorated with 70s style furniture didn’t impress us.  But when we got to our room, three weary travelers looking for a quiet, luxurious time, we were surprised to find only one queen bed.  The other, inches away, was a “murphy bed”. The furniture was uncomfortable, the bathroom so hideous I didn’t want to touch any surfaces with any body parts, and the WiFi so spotty that we kept getting kicked off as we searched desperately for a clean hotel that met our standards for the night.

Pictures of the pool, if not photoshopped, were at least taken by a photographer laying on the ground, trying her best to make the pool look twice its actual size.

Warning: Images online may  appear larger than life

Warning: Images online may appear larger than life

My only regret was that it was so dark that I couldn’t get a good picture of how tiny this pool actually was.  We left the Grand Plaza Beachfront Resort almost as soon as we arrived, disgusted by the dingy accomodations and headed for the Marriott Sand Key, the only hotel within an hour’s travel time that had a room for us.  When our smelly and overly talkative cab driver (another $60) pulled into the Marriott drive and we saw the lobby, we breathed a sigh of relief.  The concierge quickly gave us free drinks and a tour of the facility, with a huge pool and waterfall, heated to 86 degrees, and private cabanas for rent:

Marriott Sand Key Pool

Marriott Sand Key Pool

Also, they have patio bar with live music (that stops at a decent time so you can sleep with your windows open), plenty of seating facing the bay, and fabulous rum punch.

Kokomo's Patio Bar at Marriott Sand Key

Kokomo’s Patio Bar at Marriott Sand Key

All this, and a clean, comfortable room – for $100 less per night than the Grand Plaza Beachfront Resort.  I’m a Marriott convert and will stay at their hotels whenever possible.  Driving around Clearwater beach in the days to come, I realized that the term “resort” should be a warning sign for Florida travelers.  Lesson learned!


#Pi Day: 3.14 Socialmediaphobe Style

Thanks Leggo!

Thanks Lego!

Not your average Hallmark holiday, Pi Day is a holiday for nerds like me and, really, we all need reasons to celebrate all winter long.

Savvy businesses are using minor holidays like Pi Day to reach out to audiences, offering 3.14% off of purchases or other Pi-related incentives for engagement.  Pi day is among today’s twitter trends.  Musicians, artists, bakers, and bartenders are all getting in on the action.

Here’s how socialmediaphobe will celebrate pi day: I will gather my best 3.14 friends and make pumpkin pie martinis while listening to this musically mathematical rendition: 

Virality Is Not Accidential

Your Facebook feed is full of videos shared or liked by your friends.  Internet videos are showing up on CNN as news stories.  Everyone and their cousin’s cat has created their own Gagnam Style spoof.  What’s all the fuss about? Do you remember American’s Funniest Home Videos? Back before the Internet boom when we’d all gather around the television at night and watch complete strangers make asses of themselves?  Viral video is a lot like that, only instead of being chosen by a panel of judges, they are chosen by crowds.  Of all the millions of videos on the Web, a few rise to the top, and when they rise, they create such a buzz that it’s all anyone can talk about – for a week or two anyway.  There are varying definitions of viral, but about one-third of advertising executives say that to classify a video as viral it must have at least 1 million hits in a short time period (Eckler & Bolls, 2011).  Viral videos are short.  According to a study by Forrester Research, the average video is 1:42 minutes long, with more than one-third of videos under 60 seconds.

What makes a video go viral?

  • Ingenuity – Viral videos contain content that is new, either meaningful or funny (Eckler & Bolls, 2011). Viral videos show you a different way of looking at an issue, and give you hope:
  • Emotionality – If a video is to go viral, it must have some emotional draw.  Blogger Chris Atkinson says viral videos “should be arresting enough to elicit a physical reaction from the viewer (tears, laughter, goosebumps, gasps, etc.).” Viral videos make you laugh when you least expect it:   Viral videos contain an emotionality as contagious as the common cold: 
  • Creative disruption – Viral videos contain creatively disruptive content, according to blogger Christie Archer, forcing people to see things from a different perspective or surprising them with the unexpected:
  • Influencers – Videos don’t go viral on their own. Made by identifiable organizations or individuals, these creative videos are pushed to credible cultural influencers, who then amplify the publicity like this: 

Viral video production: Do potential advantages outweigh costs?

One advantage of viral videos is that the buzz generates more pull of content, and there’s less intrusive pushing by advertisers (Truong & Simmons, 2010).  People want to see what the fuss is about, and, like a good Super Bowl commercial, people tune in and expect to be moved by viral videos.  But, do viral videos really sell products?  They seem like a great tool for non-profit organizations seeking to change attitudes, or brands seeking to humanize or change brand perception in some way.  While counting the number of views is easy, measuring the impact of viral videos in the marketplace seems more difficult and is an area of future study.

My personal viral favorites

  • Viral videos inspire creative reactions: 
  • Viral videos make you cry, get you noticed, and make you famous: 

Mothering by the Numbers

Screen shot 2013-03-05 at 10.27.29 AM

Years pass, but what changes?

Years pass, but what changes?

At some point yesterday morning – maybe it was the third time my nearly five year-old son threw himself to the floor in a fit over cereal, or maybe it was the realization that I hadn’t done laundry all weekend long and that same son wore pants from the dirty clothes hamper to school – I decided it might be fun to count my daily chores.

  • Trips to school: 4
  • Loads of laundry: 5
  • Flights of stairs: 46
  • Meals prepared: 5 (kid and adult versions of breakfast and dinner)
  • Beds made: 0 (woops)
  • Books in Progress: 4
    • Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys by Drs. Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson
    • The Fiction Class by Susan Breen
    • Liking the Child You Love by Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein
    • Miraculum: Poems by Ruth L. Schwartz
  • Hours worked (for pay): 8
  • Trips to grocery store: 1
  • Miles on stationary bike: 13
  • Cups of coffee: 3
  • Cans of Diet Coke: 2
  • Times my four year-old son melted to the floor in fits of horror: 6
  • Mom blogs visited: 3
  • Times I checked Facebook on my computer: 2
  • Times I checked Facebook on my iPhone: 5
  • Times I checked Twitter: 2
  • Number of clicks on articles found in Twitter feed: 5

Moms represent such a huge and influential market that I thought I’d share some other statistics about the power of moms.

  • By the time of baby’s second birthday, there have been 7,300 diaper changes (Piekut, 2008)
  • Preschoolers require mom’s attention every four minutes (Piekut, 2008)
  • Moms mention brands 73 times per week vs. 57 mentions per week for men (Walter, 2012)
  • 64% of moms ask other moms for advice before purchasing a new product (Walter, 2012)
  • 63% of moms consider other moms to be the most credible experts (Walter, 2012)
  • One in three moms are bloggers (Bodnar, 2012)
  • According to the Department of Agriculture’s Center for Policy and Promotion, the average weekly grocery bill for a family of four was $236.60 (Sehghetti, 2012)
  • Moms represent a $2.4 trillion market (Walter, 2012)
  • The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are 85.4 million estimated moms in the United States alone (U.S. Dept. of Commerce, 2011)

So, the next time your spouse comes home and wonders why you haven’t changed out of your pajamas, let him know that not only did you ensure that your children survived the day, you also kept the market afloat.



Bodnar, K. (2012). 21 Internet marketing stats that will blow your mind. Retrieved from:


Seghetti, N. (2012). Prepare to pay an extra $875 for food in 2013 (unless you use these 4 tips). Retrieved from:


Walter, E. (2012). The top 30 stats you need to know when marketing to women. Retrieved from:


U.S. Department of Comerce. Retreived from: