#happypanda

If I could describe myself in three words, I believe it would be the following:

  1. goofy
  2. loyal
  3. good-sense-of-humor-having*

However, I’m afraid the stresses that come about from being a self-diagnosed workaholic that spreads herself too thin by attempting to also balance an unreasonably busy social life have slowly been turning me into less of the person one would expect to meet from the three descriptors listed above and more into a snarky, high-strung, debbie downer.

I don’t like that Amanda. I dislike it so much that I refer to myself in the third person when I am like that. It’s honestly not representative of me at all, so I can’t fathom it’s becoming a common perception of me, something one would describe me upon first meeting. It’s almost repulsive.

I’m also slowly making changes to combat it, too. One of these attempts, though it may seem silly, is a little hashtag I’ve been using more & more often. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll occasionally see that I use the tag #happypanda. It’s my excuse to share something positive, whether it’s the love I have for my city, or getting to spend time with those I love, even tweeting that it’s a pretty day.

Where’d this come from? The “panda” bit has has been a nickname used by various people throughout the years, especially my sister. But in the past six months or so this nickname has picked up steam with various people, including those I work with and new friends. From “Apanda” to “Panda Pants” it seems the panda nickname will never leave. And I’m absolutely fine with that. Nicknames are used to create a sense of belonging, sort of like an inside joke, or communicate a higher level of comfort between people. When people feel comfortable enough to call me a nickname of that sort, it makes me, well…happy.

In an effort to not only be happier, but communicate that I am, in fact, that goofy, good-sense-of-humor-having Amanda that I claim to be, I am making a conscious effort to show people this side of myself. #happypanda is just one attempt, but it’s a start.

*Don’t knock #3, if it has tons of hyphens it totally counts as one word.

Pinterest is Racking Up Dollars On Your Boards

News outlets, influential bloggers, and the general consumer have all been singing the praises of the social network that is Pinterest. Aside from the ease in usability, allowing for faster and more widespread adoption, and the general attractiveness in design, the greatest success of this infant (and still invite-only) social network is the feeling elicited when participating in this social space. From the copy that gives the impression you’re working closely alongside the Pinterest staff, to the accomplishment one feels when creating a new board, there is so much positive sentiment towards this network that there seems to be no slowing down the momentum of pinning – that is, until recently.

Pinterest boards

I wonder how much money I've helped Pinterest make.

In between the constant reminders that Pinterest is becoming a powerful referral source online, and the fact that every woman I know seems to be infatuated with creating boards of their favorite recipes*, there has been a recent outcry against the network. It seems that the innocent gesture of the Pinterest team creating a network for those with a desire to create visual representations of their wants whilst connecting with those they know does in fact have an ulterior motive, and unsurprisingly it’s to make money off your pins.

So, how are they doing this? It’s actually pretty simple. With the assistance of Skimlinks, Pinterest takes a look at the pins you have published and, if relevant, add affiliate links to them. Should the trail from your pin lead to a purchase of some sort, both Skimlinks and Pinterest receive a portion of the sale.

Though the news of the clean-looking, approachable social network finding a way to monetize off your hours of wedding planning on boards and collections of cat GIFs, what many find most surprising is the social network has done so without explicit disclosure.

Personally, my surprise is only that this hasn’t been reported on until now. The site is right at the 2-year mark, but the popularity didn’t seem to surge until the latter of 2011. It could be the drummed up interest in Pinterest has also brought about the skeptics, true – I just think it’s about time we got to know Pinterest a little better.

Now that the cat’s out of the bag, it wouldn’t be out of the question that users would protest their works of JPEG art representing anything other than their ideas having come to visual fruition, but this does not seem to be the case. In fact, business seems to be carrying on as usual. And why not? A representative from Skimlinks responded to the recent inquiries with a statement that essentially informs the online audience that monetization of user-generated content has been going on for some time, and it’s perfectly fine, whether speaking legally or morally.

I find it fascinating that we’re finally cracking the code that is this wildly-popular niche network, sure, but I am in no way offended. Pinterest using Skimlinks is smart business, and the additions to my boards in no way jeopardizes the fun I’m having online.

I’ve discovered the truth that was hiding in plain sight, and I feel more than comfortable saying that I fully intend on continuing pinning. Maybe when an actual dirty secret comes about I’ll reconsider creating that next board.

Long Live e-Reading

The day has come. The day where I ditch flipping the pages for flicking the screen. Highlighters have been replaced with the tap of a finger to mark my place.

Yep. I am now an e-reader convert.

I was always one of those people, a purist if you will, that refused to get on the e-reader wagon. I considered them a waste of money (“It’s not quite a computer, and a little obnoxious for a book – what a waste.”), but more than anything I saw the rise of the digital book trend to be an end of the experience one has when reading.

You see, reading is so much more to me than the flip of a page. It’s a break from the norm, a chance to escape the everyday, and being that being on the Internet constantly is almost essential for my line of work, it’s always been nice to close the laptop and pick up a book.

Reading Technology

Was it not for my Kindle Fire Christmas present this past year, I can pretty much guarantee you I’d still be arguing that which I have above. That books are king, the e-reading business is going to kill off the already dying printing industry, we’re all becoming much too dependent on technology, yadda yadda. But now that I am the owner of one of these devil devices, I can tell you that having an e-reader doesn’t really affect any of the aforementioned arguments.

Sure, the printing industry is suffering quite a bit, but I hold out hope that things will take a turn for the better. My marketing instincts always steer my advice to clients and non- alike that an integrated marketing approach will help not only save the industry from going under, but keep it treading water and, eventually, more than stay afloat. Having a support system that encourages both online and offline customers will bring more revenue to the printing sector, and costs will be cut thanks to having a wider online audience. That may be a somewhat naive comment to make, but one must recognize there is value in that thinking.

And as for the argument of technology taking over, well, yes, there are more and more devices each day that take us away from traditional print, from writing our thoughts out and directing them towards the keyboard instead. However, what technology is helping us achieve should justify our greater adoption of tech devices. In this case, I may be shying away from print and finding myself clinging to the Kindle Fire more, but that’s just it – I am reading more than ever.

There are reports out there that due to social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, whatevz.com (not a network, but I felt another “yadda” would cheapen this post), have shortened our attention spans so much that we can’t stand to read something for more than a few minutes. Online video views are higher than ever, but people don’t particularly like to watch anything longer than 1-2 minutes. I work in social media – I am absolutely one of those people I’ve just described. But now I have access to a mini-library in the form of a portable tablet, and I’ll tell you, I find myself getting lost in the virtual pages for hours at a time. I am now skipping catching up on Hulu or continuing on my hunt for the world’s next best animated GIF to see what Peeta Mellark is up to, or pondering which I wish I’d known when I was 20. It may not be the preferred medium of college professors, authors, heads of The New York Times, but no one can knock the end result. E-readers can very well get us back into books. How can you be against that?

I am an e-reader convert.

Why aren’t you?

Down with the Auto- Era

Back in September of last year I wrote a post explaining how people use Twitter in the worst ways possible. I normal prefer to provide constructive criticism to those seeking guidance in online media, but these 7 items are some that I consider rookie mistakes. My hopes were that once many had learned that each was a social media faux pas, they would learn from the mistakes and change their Twitter approaches for the better.

Twitter

These "no-nos" are a Twitter FAIL.

As one might expect, there are still many more people “doing Twitter” all wrong, and these individuals outnumber those who have really grasped the platform. Hey, I guess that’s why there are consultants like myself available to help train people in the social space for the better, right?*

At the time I wrote my “rant” post if you will, I figured that would be that, and I would continue blogging about better business and social media approaches. As I look through blogs, fan pages, and Twitter profiles all day long, I come up with inspiration for new posts and the time (I have the jam-packed moleskine to prove it), but there is one aspect of my Twitter post that I’ve been dying to revisit in order to elaborate on. Care to humor me with this?

Here’s the one point that still greatly irks me:

the obsession with the auto (insert Twitter verb here)

Why must we automate such actions as direct messages and follow-backs on Twitter? How does this make sense for anyone to do? When you allow for a computer or some automated service to take the reigns of your Twitter account, do you not see how you are devaluing your reputation on the web? Your professional reputation? If you can’t even take on the task of deciding which individuals you would like to follow, why do you even bother creating your own tweets? Why not just sign up for a service that creates what they deem “relevant tweets to your following” and believe me, those services exist.

Don't check that box - just don't.

I haven’t even gotten started on the auto-DM. I’m honestly afraid to go in full rant mode for this one, so I will keep this part brief: if you can’t tailor a direct message that is personal to the given Twitter user, don’t bother sending one at all. The whole point of taking the conversation from the public space on the newsfeed to the privacy between you and the other individual is to have a one-on-one conversation. When you opt to send  someone a generic message, it essentially tells this person, whether new friend, client, or other, that you don’t care.

Twitter interactions already take place with at least two devices standing between individuals in a conversation, so there is no need to add even more to this equation. If you really want to build a following, and build relationships via this platform, then start abiding by the definition of the prefix auto- and do it yourself. Take your Twitter account back and let the automated systems continue being used by those not in the know.

How do you feel about the “auto- era”?

*Shameless self-promotion. I admit, it might’ve been too easy.

The Best is Yet to Come in 2011

2011 is already well under way, and if the bright and shiny new developments in social media and technology that have come about thus far are any indication of what we’ll be seeing the rest of the year, I really can’t wait. Bring it, 2011!

Google CR-48

This device is going to be huge this year.

As far as technology goes, one might expect me to address the rumors of the 2nd generation iPad coming to stores this year (I definitely think this is going to happen), or the iPhone finally coming to Verizon; nope, this post will not be addressing anything Apple related. Instead, I think the Google CR-48 is going to be one of this year’s most talked about releases in terms of technology. Google has finally entered into the realm of the netbook, and it looks like a fierce competitor to all others out there. Devices created primarily for the purpose of content consumption are seen everywhere these days, but the sleek Apple-like design and fast speeds of the CR-48 will help it stand out against the rest. Having played with the Chrome OS powered vehicle myself I think this will definitely be a big hit when it hits shelves everywhere.

Now we discuss the next steps in the social media realm. What’s the next big thing? What big innovation in social media will have everyone talking about it throughout the year? I believe the platforms that will have everyone talking this year will be the ones that encourage users to ask questions. And not only will they be a place for customers to ask questions, but see real time answers to their inquiries. We all know Quora has been a big hit recently, and I think this site will continue to grow in popularity. Another really interesting site that helps businesses field questions from their customers in a timely manner is KISSInsights. Have you heard about this? Using KISSInsights allows for viewers of your website to give you feedback right then & there to help you make your site more user-friendly. There’s no one better to tell you how a customer will enjoy navigating through your site better than the customers themselves, and KISS can help you do just that.

I have a feeling I will be making updates later this year with even more trends that we’ll all be witnessing in 2011. Who knows, this field is so dynamic that I could come up with umpteen other ideas by the end of the week.

What trends do you see coming about in social media and technology this year?

I Take My Coffee With Good Customer Service, No Sugar.

Coffee shops are like a second home to me. It’s the perfect place for a part-time telecommuter and full-time blogger such as myself, and these shops provide the perfect atmosphere to drum up endless blogging ideas. And yes, I am creating this post from a cozy swivel chair in a local shop as you read this.

Seeing as I frequent coffee shops, it’s important that I find a good venue that provides the setting necessary to help me work. Wi-Fi should be available (for the cost of free ninety-nine, s’il vous plaît), outlets a-plenty, and delicious coffee. Although Atlanta is home to many coffee shops that have incredible coffee – seriously, if you need a recommendation for a great cup o’ joe in my town, don’t hesitate to ask – the one aspect that I will not put up with finding a coffee shop to give my business to is bad customer service.

customer-service

Is good customer service too much to ask for? Never.

I understand that it’s an unspoken truth that all baristas must have a sense of entitlement when serving up an overpriced cup of coffee to customers, but where is it written that bad customer service is acceptable anywhere ever? You can serve me the greatest cup of coffee this world has ever seen (okay, tasted), but if you make me feel inadequate for not knowing the correct pronunciation of that rare Ethiopian roast, you can bet I will never give you my business again.

This situation doesn’t just arise in coffee shops: bad customer service is everywhere. Whether it’s the lack of training in front-line employees, or possibly too much empowerment of these staff members from management, these businesses should keep this in mind:

When you sacrifice customer service, you will sacrifice customers.

Every original business will have competitors that have practically identical product offerings, even that boutique coffee shop with the gluten free menu and 37 flavors of frappes. What will help them stand out against the monotony of the industry is superior customer service. Even something as simple as a smile when you take an order will make a difference to people, and that alone might secure you a repeat customer.

There may be a select few out there that will put up with anything in order to have this one specific roast at your coffee shop, baristas, but don’t count on those customers being enough to keep your business afloat. Start making better customer service a priority; otherwise your customers will find a quality chai latte elsewhere.

Remix Your Blogging Ideas

In the past few months I’ve been mildly obsessed with remixes. A song may be great the first time around, but if you cut it up, remaster it, replan it, remix it, it can become something brand new yet so familiar. Remixes are so much fun, and the thing is, pretty much anything you’ve heard could be made better with one.

remix-blog-posts

A remix could be just what your blog needs.

The idea of remixes reminded me of something that is brought up quite a bit in the blogging world. For those of us out there that write professionally, especially at a high volume, there comes a point when we will revisit old topics. I mean, I write over 40 blog posts a week making it nearly impossible to come up with something completely original each time.

When revisiting old topics, you may occasionally come across a post that you no longer agree with. Trust me, it happens to everyone. Whether your stand on the topic has changed entirely, or you feel that it didn’t really deliver the message you had hoped, this is a common happening for bloggers. But rather than get rid of your original post and start over, why not “remix” it? Here’s what I mean:

  • Write your own rebuttal. If you no longer agree with the content from a post, don’t delete it; simply write a new post touching on the ideas previously stated and tell your audience why you no longer agree with what you’d originally written.
  • Take one aspect of your original piece and develop it further in a new post. This is an excellent idea for those of you that create giant lists at one point or another in your posts. Pick an element from an old post and run with it.
  • Ask  someone to guest post on a topic you’ve previously used. Hey, remixes are even better when they feature new artists, right? Ask your colleagues to chime in, announce the opportunity to the Twitterverse, or even get your mom to tap away at the keys and see what she can come up with. Maybe not the last one, but you get the idea.

Just like songs, a post you’ve written can be given new life with a remix. It will cut down the time it takes you to create a post, and it can be really fun to see how you’ve grown in your writing, especially when you’re doing the rebuttal post. Revisit, remix and get to writing.

You can take my advice, and you should definitely take a listen – enjoy:

(track via The White Panda – get tons of their mash-ups for free at their website http://www.thewhitepanda.com/)

Better Safe Than Sorry is a Sorry Excuse

I like to give off an air of confidence, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t second guess myself from time to time. Or all the time. I find I’m constantly asking myself such as, “Am I good enough for this position?” or “Is my writing up to par with those I admire?” among other things.

Playing it safe is something I do rather well. I stick to my routine – cling to it really, venturing outside of the norm only on rare occasions. I’ve never really considered this to be such a bad thing until recently.

I was chatting with a friend about taking the next step and really putting myself out there as far as my career, while following each statement with an excuse for why I wouldn’t or couldn’t pursue such things. He then said something that really struck a chord with me:

“Where’s your sense of adventure?”

Good question. Being reckless is one thing, but aren’t you doing yourself more harm in the long run when you don’t take chances? No one ever got anywhere without taking that first step.

This is something essential to your career as well, especially when it comes to establishing a presence in social media. Everybody has to start somewhere, you’ve just got to take that first step and get started. I only recently dove back into blogging here, and it was a challenge, but one that was well worth taking.

So what about you? What risks have you taken to further yourself, both personally and in your career? Where is your sense of adventure?

7 Ways You’re Doing it Wrong – on Twitter that is.

twitterI will be the first to admit that I am no expert when it comes to social media. I think it’s hard for anyone to claim that title for themselves. This field is so dynamic that each day we are all learning something new.

I can, however, tell you that I know some people have just got it allwrong. There are tweeps I see each and every day on my feed that are sending tweets that just irk me. So in my passive-aggressive manner I have decided to create a little list of what I just LOVE to see on Twitter everyday (please tell me the sarcasm is easy to sense here):

  1. People telling me how much money I can make if I sign up for their services.
  2. Users that link everything back to their website(s).
  3. People claiming to be experts on engagement, yet never actually talk to anyone else.
  4. Those that call themselves a “guru.” Todd Schnick said it before me, but it never hurts to remind everyone of this faux pas.
  5. An entire tweet stream filled with inspirational quotes rather than ever saying anything original.
  6. Auto DM me as soon as I follow them back – as MarketerMikeE says, Don’t Auto DM me, bro!
  7. People that still have the default cloud background. Okay, now I’m just being petty.

This list could go on & on. Twitter is such a valuable tool for creating and supporting an online presence. If you misuse it in one of the ways listed above, there is a good chance you are eliminating possibilities everyday of creating connections, and engaging in meaningful conversation. And if you’re in this for business reasons, you can be sure you’re turning away potential customers each time you do it.

So, I’ve listed my 7. What would you add to this list?

Sweet Beard Hat? Check.

Someone, though I don’t know who, really made my day on Monday.

It was the typcial workday: blogathon for hours, meeting here & there, and the usual hiccups in between. But then something unusual happened.

The Admin Assistant to my boss tossed a package on my desk – strange seeing as I have never received a package in the 7 months I’ve worked at my job. I opened it up to find the most amazing thing ever:

sweet-beard

Sweet beard, bro.

I had tweeted a few weeks ago that I absolutely love everything taraduff has created for her Etsy shop, especially these awesome beard hats! All it took was one tweet, and a Facebook update, and bam! – I have a new hat.

So, to whomever gifted me this wonderful beanie I just wanted to say:

thank you.

I Tweet, You Tweet.

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