Too bad social media can’t change the weather

While the weather can change social media, it’s too bad it can’t be the other way around. Of course, Hurricane Sandy is trending and so is FEMA while the wind whips around my house and knocks branches off the trees. Just as I typed this, a big gust of wind hit and my dog went flying upstairs to hide.

In Baltimore, we’re bracing for heavy-duty winds from now until about 2 a.m. I can only hope my power holds out through the worst of it. My neighborhood has above ground lines so we lose power quite often during bad storms.

Social media is obviously abuzz over this storm. Not only are people posting about power outages, weather updates, but crazy photos of Godzilla walking in New York Harbor and the State of Liberty with a ominous looking, swirling cloud have been Photoshopped. Don’t believe everything you see, people!

Some of us, who are considered technically savvy people, look at every photo with a little bit of skepticism. We’ve manipulated photos enough to look the way we want them that we are naturally looking for shadows that don’t all go in the same direction or other signs of photo altering.

Knowing that people are home from work, and surfing cyberspace to wait out the storm, gives some of us the opportunity to reach people who don’t always see what we post. And, it’s nice to know that I can look on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Google+ and see that my friends are “hunkered down” as Baltimore’s mayor told us to do. I’m sure all of social media is working with higher than normal traffic.

I can at least see that my friends and family members are okay, when they are posting status updates and photos or forwarding someone else’s photos. Surfing and reading, that’s really a relaxing thing to do while you are “hunkering down.”

Cross your fingers, offer a good thought and let’s keep spirits up during Mother Nature’s latest attack on us. She seems really pissed today.

Photo sharing fun

Have you purchased anything that needs to be assembled lately? If so, you might have noticed that many things do not have words in their instructions. It’s all symbols and drawing. Maybe it is because the products are sold all over the world, but I wonder if it is not something else. It seems that today, sharing drawings, photos and videos is becoming just as important as sharing the written word.

Choosing a way to share your photos has become a competitive industry. There are many from which to choose: Hipstamatic, Pinterest, Instagram or a host of other apps that allow people to share their smart phone photos with the world. They are all easy to use, for the most part.

Unedited on left, edited version on right.
Unedited on left, edited version on right.

Hipstamatic wants people to find that artist within themselves. Pinterest seems to concentrate on style and fashion. Instagram became popular as a way to share food photos. Millions of people are using them, deciding which one(s) to use is a dilemma. It seems like just when I get used to using something, it falls out of favor and another has come to take its place. At the same time, I do not want to neglect the people I have already made a connection with. I end up dividing my time and photos among various photo sharing options.

Most of the photo sharing apps will allow the user to edit, crop and change the lighting. Many can make the photo look old-timey, artsy or have some special effect that makes a poor quality photo appear like the photographer did it on purpose (always good for my sad photography skills). Photos can be imported from the phone’s camera roll or taken through the app, manipulated and then exported to other social media sites. It is a way for people to share photos of every aspect of their lives, which seems to be important these days.

Unedited on the left, edited version on the right.
Unedited on the left, edited version on the right.

And, 300 words in, I get to the point. You can drive prospective clients to your website, blog or other page with your amazing photos. Allow people to get to know your brand. Use descriptions with hashtags making your photos searchable. Follow people who are in your target audience. They just might follow back. You can add text to the actual photo in some apps. Add your website. Give the people a way to find your business.

People are making money using these apps by funneling business to their more serious website, Facebook page, Twitter page, Google+ or blog.

Take some photos and give it a try. Who doesn’t like taking pictures? I took about 20 photos while walking my dog the other way to give a new app a try (see above). It is a fun way to get your message to the masses and grow your business.

Make the most of mobile media

using ipadPeople use social media at work and at home, but they also use it on their smart phones and tablets. As a marketing professional, you need to take advantage of that. Have you ever looked at your own website on a smart phone?

Some websites and/or blogs look great on a computer, but not so hot on a phone or tablet. You need to address this as more people are using their cell phones to look up businesses when they are not at home. Your phone number or contact information must be easy to find on your mobile site so people can reach you.

It is not out of the question to create your own app that can be downloaded by your clients. You don’t have to be a bank, sports team or large company to have an app. You can put some handy content on a smart phone app that will encourage clients to keep it on their phone. Give them something useful, reference material that your target market wants and needs to have at their fingertips. Every time the client turns on their phone or tablet, your app is staring them in the face. Your name becomes familiar to them and as they get to know and trust you, they will buy from you.

When you optimize online business listings, like through Bing, allow businesses to register and set up a mobile page. You can promote that on your social media so that people can bookmark your listing for easy access.

Put some thought into how people can use your blog, website and even an app when they are away from home. You might just discover a whole group of people that become new clients.

iPhone issues resolved

After a couple weeks of my iphone acting like it’s lost it’s mind, I am currently restoring it as a new phone. Poof! All of my hours of work on Angry Birds – gone! Poof! All of my work on Stupid Zombies – gone! I’m calling it work, because some of those levels were really hard.

I also feel like I’m having a long distance relationship with my contact at Apple. He’s a very nice person. Last week he was on vacation and I didn’t really want to work with someone else since he’s been so helpful. He would have stayed on the phone with me while my phone does its updating thing. I didn’t want to hold him hostage, so I let him go. He’ll be back. The Apple people actually call back when they say they will.

My issue, if you missed the blog a few weeks ago, was that I upgraded to iPhone iOS 6.0 and suddenly the icloud is not working. It thinks I still have my old, now defunct, email address. Everything is fine on my computer and mostly everything is fine on the phone. It’s just the cloud, which is one place to backup your data. It’s kind of important.

Please understand that I have had Apple products since the 1980s. I am a huge fan. This is now become my life’s work – to straighten out my phone and not lose all of my contacts, photos and other data. I’m sad that I lost my high scores. But, hey, I did it once. I can do it again! I didn’t lose any apps that I purchased. They will still be there.

I have to say that the people at Apple are extremely helpful when something doesn’t work. I have had problems with PCs, I didn’t even know who to call. Maybe I’m spoiled by fine products and English speaking help, but I think Apple’s customer service is top notch. I have engineers and technical people trying to solve my problem.

If only all of life’s problems were solved with such friendliness and a willingness to help. Sure, that’s what they are paid to do, but have you called a customer service person lately? You are lucky if you can even figure out how to speak to a human being. And, in the case of my cable/internet/phone provider, friendly and courteous service is not always offered.

My iPhone is updated. I lost my high scores. I had to reset all of my settings and re-enter my passwords on Twitter, Facebook, etc., but I’m back with my head in the clouds – AKA icloud is working again! All is well once more in the realm of my computer equipment.

“Wheel of Fortune” tryouts

wheel of fortune trailerI took a break from social media today as the Wheel of Fortune show came to town looking for new contestants. As a tribute in memory of my grandmother, who used to give me grief when I would blurt out the answers before she knew them, I decided to go to the tryouts. I must say, it was an incredible disappointment. The way they chose people to come up on stage was completely random, names drawn out of a big drum.

The event was held in a closed storefront that used to be a Best Buy. It was completely empty save a few tall tables with no chairs, a display from the local affiliate station and the stage.

I’m guessing a few thousand people were there, and only about 100 got to shine on stage. They encouraged people to be outrageous. One woman brought her husband up with her and they danced. Another woman sang. It nearly became a talent show.

The “traveling Pat Sajak” and “traveling Vanna White” (not the actual people, but people who play their parts during the tryouts), were less than spectacular. The man was practically yelling into the microphone and did a number of weird jumps and leaps on stage. I guess this is minor leagues for television emcees. I’ll say the man especially, was trying a little too hard.

The “traveling Pat” did his best to pump up the audience. He was asking people what their favorite show was. And the answer was a screaming, “Wheel of Fortune!”

There was no wheel to spin. The letter board was made up of small dry erase whiteboards. The “traveling Vanna” would write in the letters as they were guessed. After talking to five “contestants” they just asked each person to guess a letter and then they had three seconds to guess the puzzle. There was only one puzzle, then the next group of five came up to the stage and were interviewed. This went on for four hours.

I guessed almost all of the puzzles before the people up on the stage. I hate to brag, but I am pretty good at that game.

Each of the people who made it to the stage received some kind of WOF swag. The rest of us poor slobs got nothing. Well, I won’t say that. There were stickers and key chains from the local affiliate. Lame.

After all the “games” were played they promised that everyone would be put into a “second chance” drawing. In fact, even if people were picked to come up to the stage and even if they guessed the puzzle correctly, there was no promise that any of them would be on the show.

And, of course, if chosen I’d be responsible for getting across the country to where the show is taped. I seriously doubt they’ll be doing a Baltimore group of shows, but you never know. The best part of the whole experience was the ridiculous Winnebago pulling a trailer with the tackiest artwork on it (see above).

It was an interesting experience, but not too much fun. The person who was supposed to go with me had a pet emergency so I had to go it alone. They are doing it again tomorrow, but there is an Orioles baseball playoff game and a Ravens football game that need watching!

My feet hurt. Some people brought their own folding chairs. But those were the only seats available. I probably should have stayed at my computer. This is what happens when I leave the comfort of my home office and venture out into the real world.

Twitter is blowing up with political comments

Just when people are saying that social media does nothing for their business, a great stat about how effective it is blows that theory out of the water. Last night’s presidential debate was the biggest political event EVER for Twitter.

While making a statement about the debates does nothing for my business, or probably yours, it does show the impact that this powerful medium is making. According to Twitter, there were 10.3 million tweets in the 90 minutes during the debate. That is a lot of tweeting!

The most tweetable (if that’s a word) moment was when Mr. Romney asked to move on to a new debate topic. Moderator Jim Lehrer responded a cheeky “Let’s not.” There were 158,690 tweets per minute in that flurry of tweeting. I love it!

Seeing the full impact of Twitter gives me great ammo to use when I talk to people about social media. Of course, my clients’ small businesses are not going to generate that kind of traffic. But, knowing that millions of people are using this social medium at all hours of the day and night, demonstrates the powerful presence that Twitter has on today’s society.

Former VP Al Gore made comments about President Obama’s performance being altered by the altitude in Denver. He was mocked world-wide for his statements and is, as of this writing, still trending. Twitter has been buzzing about it all day.

Of course, Facebook was no slouch either. Many of my personal friends were commenting throughout the course of the debate. I’m sure that was happening all over the country and beyond. I’ve notice that a lot of people resent any political comments on their Facebook pages and have limited comments by friends who constantly talk politics.

A couple weeks ago, I was eating at a restaurant and the waiter happened to mention that he actually deactivated his Facebook account until after the election. While that seemed a little extreme to me, I can understand it. Personally, I like to keep comments about politics and religion to myself. But, I like to read what everyone has to say, if only to see on which side of the fence they stand.

Sports and social media

Continuing with a sports motif… Catch the Redskins game last night? Former Baltimore Raven and now Washington Redskin, Billy Cundiff, missed three field goals before kicking a game winner in the last few seconds of the game. You might wonder what this has to do with social media – actually, quite a lot.

Billy Cundiff missed a critical field goal for the Ravens last year during the playoffs and the entire city turned against him. His teammates were the first people to speak out in his defense. Ray Lewis was quoted as saying, “We win as a team, we lose as a team.” That did little to stop the horrible tweets, Facebook posts and other social media insults and threats.

Using social media for good instead of evil, should be our goal. Focus on what the kicker did in the last play of the game and not threaten his life.

Sometimes it is best to keep your opinions to yourself. This is especially true if you are trying to grow your business and use your social media to do that. You never know who is reading your posts or how they feel about any given situation.

There was an interview with baseball sportscaster Joe Buck on TV last night. He also received negative tweets and was reading them on his phone during the games. He said it affected the way he did his job. He had to stop using Twitter to keep his peace of mind. Are you driving people away from social media with negative comments? Let’s hope not!

Iran has blocked certain websites from that country, although they have unblocked gmail today. We live in a wonderful, free society and to take that freedom and use it to heckle, harass and browbeat people is wrong.

Let’s try and have some good karma. Think of at least one nice thing to tweet or post on Google+ , LinkedIn or Faceboo.