A word for the ladies…

sexual harassment in the workplaceWith all of the talk about sexual harassment and abuse in the news today, I feel like I need to go off topic and address this issue myself. I was a victim more than once of this type of abuse when I was young. The men were not billionaires or famous, just predators who thought they could do anything and get away with it at work. And they actually did.

The first situation was my boss. He constantly groped, grabbed and pinched me every single day I worked, even when his wife was there. I was happy when she worked because I knew there would be a lot less groping on those days, but it still happened.

I thought no one would have believed me if I said anything. I put up with it because I needed the job. Unfortunately, I stayed in that job over a year until I found something else.

I was in college at the time and didn’t know what to do or who to tell. I felt like it was somehow my fault, like I somehow invited his abuse. I know better now.

My fears extended to going to the bathroom because I knew he would be standing outside of the door when I came out. I would have to try and dodge him every time. I rarely succeeded in escaping. Some days I worked 8-10 hours so it was impossible to avoid the bathroom. This person terrified me. He had to know I hated it and was afraid. Perhaps that made me more of a target.

My nightmares were of him groping me. I couldn’t escape him when I was asleep. Even now, I get goosebumps thinking about that situation and how horrible it was. How did I endure this?

I wonder how many other young women put up with similar predators over the years. I never told anyone at work about this because he was the boss. Who could I tell? Telling his wife was an idea, although I probably would have been fired and branded a liar. I wouldn’t be getting any job reference from them if I suggested the boss was a molester.

The second situation was while I was a student intern at a local tv station. I worked in the newsroom and loved every minute of that job. Writing news was a dream come true. That was, until my boss asked me to go get him coffee.

He rarely asked me for such a menial task and we didn’t have a coffee maker in the newsroom even though people guzzled it constantly. I had to go up to the vending machine, where the coffee was truly awful. Why anyone wanted it was beyond me.

As I went up the stairway, I was approached by a guy at least twice my age who worked in another department. He cornered me in the otherwise empty stairwell, pushed me into a corner, grabbed my wrists and asked me how I liked being helpless. I think he was about to kiss me when someone entered the stairwell.

I shoved him as hard as I could, heart pounding like a frightened rabbit and ran upstairs to the vending lounge. I was terrified to come back down with the coffee, but I did. I figured I would just throw it on him if he came at me again. That man assaulted me twice in the same stairwell during the two semesters I spent at that job.

I was so afraid of going up those stairs. The second time he cornered me, I said I was going to scream and he told me to go right ahead. Again someone unknowingly rescued me by entering the stairwell and I took off running.

I told someone at the station after the first time and they told me that guy was “harmless.” When I said it didn’t feel harmless they told me to stop being dramatic – and this was another woman. She basically told me to grow up and stop acting like a kid. I was about 21 at the time.

I’m much older and wiser now. No way would I take that these days. At the time, I didn’t know how to get out of the situation.

If you are reading this and you are a female, please tell someone if this happens to you. If they don’t listen, tell another person or human resources. Don’t just take it like I did. Times are, hopefully, different these days. Although I wonder if they are with the conversations happening this week.

And if you are a man, I hope you never take advantage of a young girl the way these guys did to me. Who knows what kind of scars something like this leaves behind?

Keep it Simple 

Keep it Simple 

Here is my latest Ink Slinger newsletter:

ink slinger

My mom used to call me the queen of the simple sentence – I thought I was simply being concise. As a senior in college I worked for a tv station and wrote for the 11:00 news. In only 15-20 seconds, I had to relate my story. That’s a mere 4-6 sentences.

In the world of social media, being the queen of the simple sentence can be a good thing.

Writing for websites can be tricky. No one wants to read any more. Bullet points and short statements are the only way to get someone’s attention and hold it. Long winded dissertations are no longer used in advertising, websites and never, ever in social media. The creators of Twitter made it 140 characters for a reason.

I took a class in graduate school where I had to take a complicated insurance form and condense the information into one page. Then it was shrunken down to a few paragraphs, and then to one paragraph. The paragraph was turned into a single sentence that summed up the entire document.

Try to do that with your company information. Can you? Take the content from your website and condense it down in stages until you have one statement. The result is probably very close to your elevator speech. If it’s not, then maybe your mission is getting lost.

How do you get your message across when no one wants to read?

  • Use bullet points!
  • Only say what is truly worthwhile
  • Infographics tell a story with images
  • Write down everything you want to say, then pare it down to the bare bones
  • Add images to your posts
  • Add videos to your posts
  • Vary sizes and fonts to make text stand out

Deliver your thoughts in a way that is short enough to read over a cup of coffee. Anything longer and you begin to lose people. Don’t let your true message disappear in a sea of meaningless words.

social media engagement infographic_

From Drab to Fab

Social Squids owner, Holli Friedland, was involved in the some of the writing, editing and graphics of From Drab to Fab.
You can purchase this book about improving your image and your sense of style through this handy workbook. It contains tips on how to figure out what colors and styles work best with your body type, along with effective ways to go shopping. Edit your closet and get started on the new you!

Twitter tips

twitter-logo-2Microblogging with Twitter is a fast way to get your message to a large audience. Messages move at the speed of light. Often times headlines that have not yet hit other news media can be found on Twitter. Here are some handy tips that will help you get the most out of this social media platform.

One of the best examples of putting Twitter to use is a food truck. As the food truck travels, the driver can tweet where he is and where he is headed. Followers can see when the truck is nearby and plan lunch accordingly. Most businesses do not move around like a food truck, but posting updates on what is happening with your business is something you can do.

Retweet and follow posts on other accounts every day. Retweeting other messages shows you are not just posting messages, but you are also reading them. You are engaged in the process. Retweeting is a nice way to assist your favorite accounts and it will come back around to you in a good way when you get some new followers.

Search for your competition, good referral partners, your target audience and influencers in your field. Once you confirm your cell phone number you can follow up to 2,000 accounts. After that, you can follow 10% above the number that follows you. The more accounts you follow, the more will follow you. Most celebrities do not follow back, so only follow your very favorites.

Using hashtags will help people find your message. If you use #SocialSquids in a tweet and someone searches for that hashtag, the message will be more easily found.

If there is way to use a trending topic in your tweet – do it. Trending topics are the most popular topics or hashtags at any given moment and are listed to the left of your Twitter feed. In your settings, you can adjust for local trending topics if most of your business or interest is local. The mention of a trending topic will get more attention to your tweet and you may gain followers.

By adding a photo, your tweet is more likely to be seen (just like with all social media).  If you are able to embed text in the image, you end up with a longer message than a normal tweet. Add a video and get even more attention.

Making an offer or announcing a sale for your Twitter followers, helps you measure how many people are seeing your message by how many people ask for the offer. Twitter now has its own analytics. See how your account is doing by visiting twitter.analytics.com when you are logged into your Twitter account.

Send a direct message to another account by using the @ symbol and the account name. If you use .@ it will be seen by many more people because it will be in your feed and the other person’s feed.

Always remember that once you tweet, even if you delete it, your message is out there in cyberspace. Be careful and proofread your text. Be sure about an image before you post it. There have been countless “whoops” tweets by celebrities that have gone viral, but your tweet can get you in trouble too.

Once you get the hang of the lingo, symbols and using only a few words to make your statement, you will discover the effectiveness of Twitter.

Freedom of speech

Charlie hebdo gives us pauseIn the wake of the events of the past few weeks, many people throughout the world are realizing just how precious the right to freedom of speech is. As Americans, we sometimes take this right for granted. Between the terror events in France and the Sony movie The Interview, we are now seeing how some other people view our freedom.

In my business, I have the opportunity to write about a wide range of topics. The most controversial I have gotten in my work has been organizing your clothes closet or picking a team that might win tomorrow’s game. But I know I have the right to write about whatever topic I chose. This is not true for some people.

As a college intern, I worked at a Baltimore television station during the American hostage crisis in 1979 that took place in Iran. It was an exciting yet scary time to be in the news business. The Associated Press and United Press International alarms were ringing in what we called “the wire room” all evening, every evening with news updates and bulletins. Every time the alarm went off, my heart jumped.

Back then, we didn’t have a 24-hour news cycle, social media or cell phones. Okay, maybe there were cell phones, but they were about the size of a shoe box and few people owned them. At the TV station where I worked, they didn’t even have computers. We typed on typewriters with large keys so the stories could be put directly into the teleprompter for the anchorman.

As a young adult, it was the first time I was exposed to terrorism. I also learned a lot about patriotism and freedom during my internship. It has been a long road from that job to creating Social Squids, but freedom of speech has been there all along.

With the technology of today, people use freedom of speech and social media to instantly send images and words to the world. With this freedom people have gotten themselves into all kinds of trouble from “sexting” to sending out things by accident. Of course, many also use it for sending funny, informational, inspirational or newsworthy messages.

As citizens of the world and especially as writers, we should remember how precious this freedom is. Some people have paid the ultimate price. We should take advantage of our freedom of speech and use it wisely.

Je suis Charlie.

Perspectives

cool statue in downtown baltimoreThis is off topic, but I want to share…

Today I visited a Baltimore City civil trial involving someone suing a bar after a family member was beaten to death back in 2010. I have nothing to do with the case except knowing an attorney who is involved, but since I love reading crime novels and watching cop shows I thought it might be interesting.

The man responsible for the beating death is already in prison, but shuffled into the courtroom donning a Department of Corrections jumpsuit, leg irons and elaborate handcuffs. It was quite a show taking all of the shackles off the prisoner during his courtroom appearance.

I avoided eye contact. However, considering there were only a handful of people in the gallery and I was only one of two people who were not witnesses, it was difficult not to lock eyes with him every now and then. Thankfully, he was not facing me during the session.

He had an opportunity, representing himself, to ask questions of any of the witnesses because he is also a part of the lawsuit. He only asked a question of one witness, the bartender, but I’ll get to her in a minute.

The testimony was so dry at times that all six jurors and two alternates were having trouble keeping their eyes open. One alternate was obviously nodding off through most of the testimony. I hope they don’t end up needing him. One juror seemed very interested in every word, but even he was having trouble staying awake.

It was not until the bartender, who didn’t call 911 when the fight broke out, gave her rather bland answers that people started to perk up. It was her outfit rather than her testimony that woke up the group. She appeared in court dressed more for clubbing than testifying. Her skin tight leggings left little to the imagination. Her constant hair flipping and fidgeting were also a distraction from her words.

Is there really a price for your pain and suffering? The family of the victim was offered a pretty large amount of cash, but turned it down hoping for a bigger payday by going to court. It seems to me that the lawyers make out better than the victims in lawsuits.

As we left the building when court was adjourned for the day, we were stopped in the hallway for our own safety as prisoners were being loaded into or out of a couple vans. Once again I avoided eye contact. I have no idea why. They were shackled and there appeared to be at least one guard per prisoner. But it was still a creepy experience.

There were two times in my life I came close to testifying in animal related court cases. Once I was an expert witness in a case about a house full of reptiles that exploded. I was hired to talk about the values of the animals involved. The case was dismissed and that was the end of it. Lucky me, I was paid handsomely for the few hours of work I did.

Another time when I was running an animal rescue, I took in a bunch of animals confiscated in a cruelty case. Again, I never made it to the witness stand. I’m glad about that because I was a nervous wreck just thinking about it.

Today as I left the courthouse, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief even though I was not involved in the case. I think it was instinctual. The bumper to bumper ride up the JFX was as welcome as the fresh air of freedom.

If you are ever considering committing a crime, I recommend visiting a courthouse, even if it is a civil case. That will definitely get you on the road to being a good citizen.

Is your web contest too complicated?

I received an email from a company the other day about their upcoming contest. I’m going to show the actual steps you need to take to enter the contest, but also change any identifying information.

  1. From DATES OF CONTEST visit our COMPANY Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts to gather a daily clue
  2. Use your clue to find the hidden ITEM on our website
  3. Click the ITEM to receive the secret words
  4. Collect the words of the day for all 5 days to create the winning phrase
  5. Enter your submission on our website between DATES OF CONTEST for your chance to win 1 of 10 prizes!

contest too confusing?

I don’t know about you, but by the time I got to step three, my eyes glazed over and that was the end. I understand that this contest was developed to get people to engage in the company’s website and social media sites, however, most people are not going to spend that much time trying to win something. Maybe if the prize was a couple million bucks, people might do it. But this was for a basket of products that are worth a few hundred dollars at best.

Many companies use the “find the hidden item” idea on their website in order to get people to look at the entire site. That’s a great idea in itself, but adding all of the other rules of this particular contest makes it a little too complex for the average person. You would have to be totally devoted to the product in order to do this. And those people are already customers!

People may click on the first link and then lose interest. Once you complete all of the steps, you still only have a small chance of winning. Website visitors might find this scavenger hunt frustrating. That is not an emotion you want prospective customers to feel.

Sure, have a contest! That is a fantastic way to get people interested in your site and products. Intriguing people is the name of the game for online sales. But, when designing the contest, try to engage without annoying your page viewers.

Social media year in review

jpg_2013_bursting_open_boxThis has been the most spectacular year for those of us involved in social media. The entire industry has grown in leaps and bounds. More entrepreneurs and companies are using it to help grow their businesses. Athletes, musicians and individuals are so involved in social media that they use it multiple times every day.

Here are some of the highlights of 2012:

  • Facebook stock goes public. Mark Zuckerberg gets even richer.
  • Facebook buys Instagram for a big pile of money.
  • Obama is called the “cool” president, has impromptu visit on Reddit and crashes the system.
  • Infographics are on the rise, using pictures and words to get a message to huge numbers of people.
  • Twitter had a record number of tweets during Super Storm Sandy.
  • Angry Cat and other fun memes flood social media.
  • Pinterest becomes 6th most popular social media.
  • Finding lost kids is enhanced with social media. Since it is incredibly fast, it gets the word out almost immediately.
  • Gangnam Style goes viral. Do you know how to do that dance?
  • Find lost pets, rehoming pets. Gets the word out faster and to more people than traditional methods.
  • The new MySpace – it’s bigger, better than ever and making a comeback.
  • Instagram changes policy, people get angry, Instagram changes it back in a matter of a couple days.
  • School shooting in Newtown, CN has social media ablaze with outrage, gun control opinions, tributes and an outpouring of emotions.

No one wants to read text these days. That’s why this list is a list, in bullet form. Infographics are snowballing in popularity because the graphics make it simpler than a paragraph of words, to get the information to the masses. People all over the world want instantaneous information and they do not want to spend a lot of time reading it.

The best thing that happened in 2012 with social media is that people now take this method of communication seriously – more now, than ever before. So, here’s to the end of 2012 and to watching social media grow even bigger than anyone ever imagined in 2013!

Bookmarking sites can work for you

bookmark-your-blog-and-websiteBookmarking sites are the one easy way to spread your message to the most people in a short amount of time. If you have never heard of StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, BizSugar, YahooBookmarks, GoogleBookmarks, you are missing out on a way to reach countless people. For every blog I write, website I design and article I post, I spread the word through bookmarking sites.

There are tons of these sites out there, you just have to know where to find them. For the most part, the sites are popularity contests. Like or vote for the page, and it rises in the ranks.

By using the Add This toolbar to your browser, you have a convenient way to organize all of the bookmarking and social sites. You load your favorite sites, and when you use the toolbar, all of your social sites are right there. You can just click on them one by one and share your blog, site or article. Unlike Twitter, Facebook and Google+, many bookmarking sites can only be used once per page. Each blog entry can be viewed as its own page, so you can promote each blog entry through each bookmarking site for maximum exposure of your business.

Before you sign yourself up for a whole bunch of bookmarking sites, take a look at each one and see if it is appropriate for your business blog or website. Some, like BizSugar, are more appropriate for marketing and business related sites, but not so much for others. StumbleUpon, Reddit and Digg are more general and have lots of topics or subtopics from which to choose. If your business does not fit well into their custom topics, it might not be a good fit for you. Don’t waste your valuable time promoting something that is never going to be viewed. Remember to sign up for – and use – Google Analytics and see which sites and search engines are sending you the most traffic.

Another issue is how many members the sites have. Some of the bookmarking sites have limited membership, or the members may all be from foreign countries. That’s great if you market your business to foreign countries, but not if you don’t.

You have to join each bookmarking site before you can use them. But after that, it becomes easy and routine. Add This has sharing codes that are easily attached to your blog so other people can share the page too. You will see the share buttons at the bottom of each of my blog entries. Once you set up your accounts, you can add the codes to the blog. Be nice to the bloggers you like and share their page. Hint, hint…

The Add This sharing codes and toolbar both have loads of social media and bookmarking sites. That is why I chose to use their links on my blogs and websites. In order to grow your business, use these bookmarking sites as much as can. I’d love to hear about how bookmarking is helping you.