Dear 20-Year-Old Me…

I met a group of college interns on the campus of my alma mater this afternoon. It didn’t take long for me to feel the distance of more than a decade away from campus. First, there is newness everywhere, restaurants, grocery stores, residence halls, apartment buildings, and brand spanking new, sleek computer labs that make the scary bowels that once housed the HUGE computers we fought over when I was in college seem more than a little gross.

Then, the strange realization that I didn’t even have a cell phone when I was in college, and these kids might not remember a time without theirs. But, more than anything, I realized how – as consumers of content – these writing students have very little idea how content is produced for the Internet, who puts it there, who pays for it, or why. Like other teachers of millennial students, I had to fight to keep their attention. If there was a lull in conversation, out came the smartphones.

I remember when DVRs first came out, and it was such a thrill to fast forward through commercials. I remember when we paid for our email service (AOL anyone?), and still had to put up with ads. I remember being plagued by pop-up ads, feeling interested and then annoyed when animated banner ads began to make it harder and harder to focus online.

Online ads have learned the art of camouflage. Does this mean that information consumers will become smarter? Surely they’ll eventually realize that content is sponsored. Here’s where my own bias about sponsored vs. unsponsored journalism gets me in trouble. I’m a brand journalist. A content marketer. I write quality content for brands all day. I always try to give readers something to walk away with besides just promoting the brands. Yet, I just skipped over all the promoted content on Mashable, turning up my nose because it was sponsored.

Screen shot 2014-04-15 at 3.56.58 PM The thing is, I’m not an English major anymore. I have to make money. As writers, we all do. Next time I see sponsored content, I’m going to give it a try, just for kicks. If it’s bad, I’ll pitch the company with my services. If it’s good, then I’ll walk away reminded what good brand journalism is.

We’re all fighting for attention, all the time. We’re all trying to get paid for the work we do, to support our families.

Dear 20-year-old me: You will end up selling out more than once. Get over yourself. Then, find a way to make it art. Loosen up!




Non-Profits Use Tweetchats to Discuss Social Media Best Practices: #CLE4good

Sharing best practices is good for business!  It doesn’t mean sharing all your engagement methods or branding secrets; it means gathering in the Twitterverse to share things you have in common with those in your community, building bridges of success together by sharing what works for you and what doesn’t.  This sense of community is even more important if you work for a non-profit, as you may not have the resources to hire a full-time social media strategist, may not be sure how best to use social media with the resources you have, and may be able to learn from (and teach) your peers.

Courtesy of: wikipedia

Courtesy of: wikipedia

Imagine my surprise as a Clevelander when I scanned through what was trending on Twitter this afternoon and found #CLE4good.  #CLE4good is hosted by The Cleveland Foundation (@CleveFoundation), and is a great opportunity for local non-profits to get together and discuss issues and opportunities in their area.  Go Cleveland!

Be Careful What You Tweet: You Can Now Search for Every Tweet in History

ImageI won’t say I told you so.

But, according to Mashable, it’s now possible to search for any historical Tweet.

That’s right.  The Tweet you accidentally sent while at happy hour with some friends about how much you wanted to quit your job.  That Tweet about your mother-in-law sent after too many servings of Thanksgiving turkey.  That picture your teen took that made her look 20 years older and sent to the Twitterverse.

So, I won’t say I told you so.  I will say: be careful what you Tweet.  Everything we post online is a reflection of our values.  It’s permanent.  Nothing is anonymous anymore.

And, if you’re nervous, take a deep breath.  There are some 450 million Tweets created every day.  Searching it will be difficult, just not impossible!

The Truth About #Hashtags: Making the Most of Your 140 Characters

A good tweet is like poetry.

With a few crafty turns of phrase, you can change your tweet into something that reaches and engages your audience in conversation.  But, with only 140 characters to work with on Twitter, every character counts.  Somehow, in those 140 characters, you need to convey a well-crafted message, while at the same time ensuring that your target audience will be able to find your tweet.  This is where hashtags come in.  A lot of times on my Twitter feed, I see a very short message (that doesn’t say much) followed by a stream of hashtags.  Not only are posts like this less engaging than a well-worded, 140 character post, they seem like a stretch.  It’s as if the message is less important than getting noticed, which might get you noticed (and then ignored by the Twittersphere for the rest of time).


So, what are hashtags and why are they important? Hashtags are keywords preceded by the pound sign.  Hashtags bring the thousands of conversations happening on Twitter at any given time into organized topic tethers, making it easier to search for and view like-ideas.  While there aren’t rules for creating hashtags, SocialMediaPhobe has a list of guidelines:

  • Hashtag target keywords. This will help people find your tweet, and enable them to make comments using the same hashtag to form a thread.
  • Which keywords to use?  This depends on your goal. Are you joining a conversation? If so, include the hashtag originally used, and copy it carefully.  Are you starting a new conversation? Search to find out which hashtags have already been used, and come up with a related, but different hashtag for your thread.
  • Use capital letters to start a new word rather than leaving spaces between them.  Like this: #SocialMeidaPhobe.
  • Make sure hashtags relate to your post.  Don’t just throw a popular hashtag in because you think you’ll get more followers.  To increase engagement, you need to add value to the conversation, not just retweet or rehash old content in an attempt to increase your popularity.
  • Try to stick to one to three hashtags.
  • Integrate the hashtags into your message.  Rather than adding a list of hashtags at the end of your tweet (and using up a good deal of your 140 characters), take a moment to think about your message and how you can work the hashtag in. People using Twitter quickly learn to read through hashtags; if you do it right, your followers won’t stumble or be confused by the pound sign.

Here are some examples of the grocery-list approach to hashtagging:

This one is off to a good start, but adds a ton of hashtags at the end.  Screen shot 2013-04-30 at 10.09.14 AM This tweet could be rewritten like so: Reduce #SchoolAnxiety: Focus on facts. #parentingtips by Mia Van Scha (followed by the link).Screen shot 2013-04-30 at 10.08.04 AM

This tweet could also be more effective.  “Looking to lower your #BloodPressure ? Add beet juice to your #diet. (And then the source).Screen shot 2013-04-30 at 10.18.33 AM

Here are some examples of effective integration: Screen shot 2013-04-30 at 10.06.38 AMScreen shot 2013-03-27 at 5.36.22 AMScreen shot 2013-04-30 at 10.12.30 AM

Many organizations don’t have a lot of time or resources to dedicate toward their social media use, but strategic planning (having a goal for your use, whether it’s to increase the engagement of brand-loyal customers or to grow your business) and using the tools appropriately only takes time initially, while you are learning.  A few minutes of planning and thinking about your message is better than burning out your followers with too many unengaging, hard-to-find tweets.

#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: 

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:

#ThingsGirlsLike – A Trendy PR Campaign

#ThingsGirlsLike is trending like crazy on Twitter right now, and if you’ve ever wondered how to use Twitter Trends to enhance your organization’s public relations campaign, this is a good example.  Amid the rainy days in yoga pants cuddled up with a novel and cupcakes, a few brands have social media staff on top of the trend who are posting their branded-versions #ThingsGirlsLike.

Screen shot 2013-02-26 at 11.38.43 AM Screen shot 2013-02-26 at 11.30.21 AMScreen shot 2013-02-26 at 11.29.49 AMScreen shot 2013-02-26 at 11.40.10 AMScreen shot 2013-02-26 at 11.40.53 AMScreen shot 2013-02-26 at 11.38.43 AM

By monitoring the trends on Twitter, these brands are meeting their prospective publics where they are and staying in the conversation.  It’s a simple idea, but here are a few things to remember:

  • Know your audience. This trending conversation is for you if you are an athletic brand looking to promote yoga pants, or perhaps a candy company launching a new chocolate bar.  If you sell diapers or baby bottles, you might wait for #ThingsMomsLike to start trending.
  • Your comments should relate directly to your brand in an obvious way. You only have 140 characters to reach someone, and at the rate things trend on Twitter, only a few minutes to be effective.  Consider tweeting again in an hour with original content.
  • Be authentic.  And positive. And cleverly G-rated.
  • Link back. Use a URL shortener to link back to your website.
  • Make the most of the opportunity.  It might just be that it’s lunch time as I write… I don’t even eat Kentucky Fried Chicken, yet it seems that the company could have used this trend to generate daypart sales today by offering a discount to people who mention that tweet.

And, if you’re PR campaign is more about your relationship with your spouse, it turns out that #ThingsGirlsLike include more than food and puppies. To gain recognition with this audience, try sending sweet good morning texts (we’ll see if my own spouse actually reads my blog).  As for #ThingsBloggersLike, add comments!!!