Life is filled with defining moments that are opportunities to grow and it is important that we try to nurture ourselves through these changes.

There are many definitive moments in our lives that are opportunities to make changes in our lives.  Of course, we don’t see most of them as opportunities because we get so caught up in the negativity or emotional attachment we have to the situation or persons or creatures involved.  For me, death has crossed my path more than I’d or anyone, as a matter of fact, would like. From my dad’s aunt to my pup to Anthony Bourdain. Each having their own influence on my life and each a different thought process or impact on how I’ve come to terms with their absence.

I don’t know about you, but for me when I get the news there’s always a sunken feeling in my stomach and am immediately overwhelmed with sadness.  I try to quickly go through my rolodex of memories and remember the last time I saw them or last words spoken. Most recently I received word that another family member passed and at that moment I just happened to be out with my girlfriends catching up over drinks.  It was like a moment in the Matrix and sounds were muddled and all that was in front of me was the present. I stared at each of my friends, the smile on their faces and it was if everything around me was still in motion, but I was just an observer. This was the third death that hit close to home within the last two months.  Topped by the tragic and senseless loss of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. I relinquish to the feelings of sadness, but the moment I feel slightly unsure of my path or the void sinks in I quickly resume my daily routine going back to square one.

Between everyday life responsibilities and just living our lives, we forget to make the time or to take a deeper look at the direction of our life — that is, until we are forced to by these definitive moments.  I strongly believe that it’s an opportunity to grow and maybe we don’t or can’t do it right at that moment and that’s ok. However, remember we are creatures of habit that more often than not find it easier to fall back on routine than taking the time to reflect and possibly make a change.  I find that my mind fills with thoughts that are all over the place, which leads to becoming overwhelmed and driven by anxiety because I can’t figure out where to start.

If this is you then know you are definitely not alone.  Here are 5 ways I’ve tried doing to calm and open my mind:

  1. Get Outside: Whether it’s a beach or park, just try taking a 15-minute walk or 30 minutes beachside and just observe.  Phone down, book or journal by your side and just listen to the sounds of the waves, rustle of the leaves or literally smell the flower.  You’re not trying to solve the meaning of life, but be present in that moment and appreciate just the simple things.
  2. Yoga / Meditation: yes everyone and their mother recommends this but there’s a reason why! Although you’re in a room filled with people you may or may not know- that time is all about you and allows you to get centered.  I’m not asking you to open your chakras, just asking you to take a moment to focus on you.
  3. Mini-retreat: doesn’t have to be 5 stars but a little getaway can help you escape what’s going on in your environment.  To be successful, you need to leave the stress, the worry and the pain behind, which is a difficult task depending on how difficult the situation you are in.  So, take a friend or loved one and hit the road jack! It can even be a coastal drive with small pit stops. Just remember to be present at the moment and enjoy.
  4. The Company You Keep: During challenging moments it’s important to surround yourself with level-headed, good spirited and kind-hearted people.  If you know you have a negative nancy in the group, then maybe it’s best to keep your distance from him/her for now.
  5. Treat Yourself: It’s more than just retail therapy, but about self-care.  Hanging out in the hammock or a little spa treatment or even hitting the gym.  Something that makes you feel healthy and nurtures you.

Remember the only thing constant is change.  Therefore, the more you expect that everything you are going through and the feeling is temporary the sooner you will heal.  Of course, dealing with death has its own challenges, but it is just as important that you don’t allow yourself to get carried away with your thoughts and feelings.  Go through the mourning process and in between try at least one of the five things listed above, but don’t settle into your daily routine when your head has begun to calm down.  Instead, take the time to reflect on the memories shared and experiences. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this? Is this what I truly want?” If you need to forgive yourself or anyone else then do it.  

Also, drive into your mind and heart that change is not easy, but you have to start somewhere. You may be scared or nervous about not making the ‘right’ decision. None of us have 100% control over the outcome of any of our decisions or actions and that’s all part of life.  It isn’t so much about the result but more about how well we take care of ourselves and making ourselves more aware and present through the process. Remind yourself that these definitive moments are an opportunity to grow and we must nurture ourselves through these changes.  You’ll get there, trust me.

Connection Request: Friend or Foe?

Protect your digital presence by making sure you know who is really behind those connection or friend requests with these useful tips.

I just received a connection request from what looked like to be a colleague on LinkedIn and immediately I knew something didn’t seem right.

I viewed their profile and noticed that they only had one workplace experience. The title was executive admin and I’m looking at the picture thinking that I don’t recognize this face at the office. Now try not to judge me here, but “normally” (and I use air quotes here because what’s normal is constantly changing) Emma is a girls name, but the image was that have a gentleman in a suit and tie. The profile only had 4 mutual connections all with fellow and former employees and their interest was their current employer.

So like a great detective I did a bit more digging. I did a name lookup in my work’s outlook address and nothing. I then used one of my favorite tactics of all times- reverse image lookup- and wallah!

The profile pic was actually that of a CEO from a bank!  I immediately reported the account to LinkedIn, sent an InMail to the CEO of the bank and notified my mutual connections that they should remove the connections.  After all, as part of a digital community, you’ve got to look out for one another.

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It took me 2 to 3 minutes to sniff this fake account out, but why did other colleagues accept the request? Quite simply, most likely because it was a request from what looked like a colleague and all colleagues are friends right?

And this my friends is why I say you don’t have to accept every single connection/friend request and to have your guards up! We need to remember to protect our digital presence. To help, below are a few simple steps you can take to figure out if that connection is friend or foe.

  1. Always click to view full profile
  2. Take 10 seconds to scan the profile
  3. Take another 20 seconds and do a reverse image lookup
    1. Simply screenshot just the profile pic
    2. Upload image to Tin Eye
    3. Click on the link in the results
  4. If it’s from a colleague, take 5 seconds to look them up in your company directory

When scanning the profile here is what you want to look for:

  1. Profile pic should give you a good start at matching up face to the name, job title, and experience
    1. Not to be an ‘agist’, but if the pic is of someone a bit more mature looking and only one or two places of employment- red flag!
  2. Any posts or activity on that channel
    1. If none or really low, then be cautious
    2. If there are a lot of negative comments, then this is typically a tell-tale sign of a troll!
  3. How many connections/friends do they have?
    1. If on the low or extremely high, then it’s another indicator of a fake or spam account

In the end, in this day and age of cyber attacks and digital bullying you can never be too careful. Take the couple minutes and get to know who you are connecting with first. And take a look at my other blog ‘The Era of Social Relationships’ for additional tips on things you need to consider when building and protecting your digital presence.

Round Trip Customer Experience: Ensuring consistency at every touch point

Learn how you can ensure that your customer experience is consistent across all touch points.

Recently I had the pleasure of making a trip out to Hawaii for a wedding. We began the planning and booking process well in advance. Like any avid traveler- we hunted for the best deals online and booked flights directly through an airlines website. The whole process was seamless and I even used the Airline’s chatbot to help with answering some basic luggage allowance questions. Overall, a piece of cake, but that’s where the happy customer experience ends. We embark on our journey only to find that the technology at the check-in counter was stuck in the 1970s and the airline staff was just there to do their 8-5 job and get out as soon as they can. Plagued with having to deal with old equipment and staff that are either too inexperienced or lack troubleshooting skills to make a horrific customer experience even slightly better. It took me over 60 minutes just get bag tags, which was followed by another 40 minutes of going through security check in – with the most relaxed and chill airport security staff in the world (and that rant I will save for another day, but hopefully you get my drift).

As I’m sure you’ve guessed it by now- I missed my flight. I tried explaining to the gate agent as the door slowly closed that their kiosks downstairs weren’t working and the staff only had 2 computers to help so many people. She just looked at me and with a stern voice said, “It’s not my fault you got here so late”. I dropped my bags and nearly lost my shit. I explained to her again the situation at check in and she looked at me and said, “Someone down there needs to say something to us.” She begins to enter the code and officially lock the gate.

Why am I telling you all this? Very simple- businesses are forgetting about the end to end customer experience. When I say end to end- I mean from Facebook ad to website to online chat agent to the in-store experience, which includes everything from branding to the staff. I feel like the disconnect between digital to brick and mortar is even more common as organizations get bigger and bigger. The expectation of having the best experience is probably higher from the small business owner because their end to end experience is way more humanized than an entity that’s 10,000+ strong. Yet you find the mid to enterprise businesses to either act small or take some attributes of being a small company and build that in their DNA. And of course, there are those that just don’t care either because they have the money not to care or there isn’t really anyone out there to take the business so they can do as they please.

I call bullshit on all fronts and ask for reform regardless of what size you are or want to be. I also acknowledge that no system is perfect and everything is subject to human error. In my opinion, it is that human error factor that needs the most work. We should strive to be better and acknowledge that employees are a key factor in making a change. You know that saying, ‘be the change you want to see’- well that works even for businesses of ALL sizes. It takes more than a customer service department to make amends and it isn’t fair to make them carry the burden of the recklessness of others. Every stakeholder has to take accountability and leadership has to

  1. Put their ego to the side and admit there’s a problem
  2. Identify all parties that are part of the experience
  3. Empower the team by making them feel accountable and have the ability to make change
  4. Consider what to do with those that oppose
  5. Take action and constantly follow up

Here are just some ideas on how you can ensure that your customer experience is consistent on all fronts:

  1. Training: one-time employee training is a thing of the past and so is the video of exec leadership explaining the company’s motto. Quarterly training, rewards program, company picnics, community service, the list goes on and on. Select department advocates/leaders to help drive customer service initiatives across the board. Get creative and have fun with it.
  2. Customer Advisory Board: Don’t pick your bestie- pick your foe. They are more likely, to be honest when you need it the most. But also acknowledge that some just like to complain for the sake of it- so if you don’t see their input changing or at least mentioning improvement- you might need to seek a replacement.
  3. Internal Customer Champions / Committee: have representatives from various departments meet on a regular basis to discuss challenges that they see impacting the customer and collaborate on finding a solution
  4. Leverage the Social Web: You can’t just rely on customer support team to get your information. Traditional ways of contacting support or getting help are circumvented by things like community forums, Twitter, Yelp, etc. There are so many conversations that are happening there are so many easy, cost friendly tools out there that you can use to listen in on relevant conversations that your customers, prospects and overall community are having.

It’s time businesses that say they are customer-centric or are wanting to put customers first- really take it seriously and walk the walk. Don’t try to tackle all the problems but pick one or two that you know you will have the most immediate and positive impact on the overall experience. Short wins help with the long-term strategy- notice I didn’t say battle. That’s because it shouldn’t be a battle. Providing service the way you would want to be treated is common sense that is ingrained in us since we were little. Treat others as you would want to be treated. Think that’s a common mantra we already know and now it’s all about taking action. What will you do to make a difference and bring a smile to your customer’s face in the most challenging of times? Sometimes a simple phone call is all it takes. Would you make that call?

I do: Committing to Social Media

Gain better understanding of the commitment level it takes to successfully build your social media presence.

Just the other day while sitting in a chair as my hair stylist, Eli, proceeded to slap on the color he asked what I did for a living. I mentioned how I head global social media for a big tech company and naturally, he then asked- what does that mean? I explained what I did and the inevitable happened, he asked the ultimate question that I always get. ‘What do you think I can do to grow my followers?’ Now I know like many, he wanted the quick and easy answer. Of course, for me, it’s not as easy because there’s a bit of thought that needs to go into place.

I think there’s a misconception of how ‘turnkey’ social is and that’s mainly due to the fact that there’s such a low barrier of entry. I mean anyone with a Gmail account can set up a Facebook or Instagram account in minutes.

So, naturally, I start asking my hair stylist, well what are you trying to do? Are you trying to bring in new customers? Drive awareness about your editorial portfolio? To quote one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes ‘Yada, Yada, Yada’ and he tells me in the end that the problem for him is that he doesn’t have time. This is probably the number one challenge everyone I know, from product marketing managers to CXOs to independent artists, like Eli. If you find yourself in the same proverbial boat, then here are some tips I shared with Eli that could also be useful to you.

First, you gotta have that mindset that social is a commitment. You can’t expect results if you don’t keep at it. Just like how Eli works on evolving brunettes to blondes- in my case a bronde beige. It takes time, some tweaking along the way and multiple sittings but you’ve got to make the commitment to get the result that you want. Same rules apply to social media. I recommend for the time constrained to spend at least 1 to 2 hours at your local coffee shop every other week for content development and at least 10 to 15 minutes 2 – 3 times per day to see if anyone is commenting/engaging with your posts.

Next, find tools that make it easy for you to use social and be more efficient. I recommend using a platform like Hootsuite for all small businesses or independent artists/business owners. Hootsuite is an easy to use tool that allows you to monitor/listen to relevant conversations and manage content publishing across multiple accounts. It also has an auto-scheduling feature so you can spend at least a few hours once a month to schedule out your content. Another function I like is the reporting/analytics. They make it really easy to understand how your content is performing, audience demographics, and many other metrics- so you can see what works and where you need to make adjustments. Now content publishing and performance aren’t enough. You also need to engage. Best way to do that is by monitoring comments/replies to your posts and listening to other relevant conversations. Hootsuite allows you to easily set up streams in your own dashboard- think of your Facebook feed, except you have multiple columns that you can customize what’s populated based on keywords you enter. Lastly, the platform offers some great training/tutorials and step by step instructions of how to set up your account and goes through all of these features and more. So, now you got commitment and a good tool- let’s talk content.

Content ideation can be fun, but daunting. I recommended that Eli do at least 2 to 3 posts per week across 2 accounts- do the math and you’re looking at 24 posts per month. I think his world collapsed at one point, but I reassured him that you just need to practice, commit and it will get easier over time. Easy place to always start is thinking of the needs of the client and if you aren’t sure- then just ask your peers or even clients that you have a good relationship with. Start with the client in mind and you are in good shape. In Eli’s case, I told him as an average human being with a 9 to whenever job- I need some quick and easy how to’s. Content planning/calendar helps focus your content creation process, but you also need to be responsive to any trends or hot topics that are being discussed. Hence, why it’s important to monitor conversations regularly- having your ‘Oreo’ moment happens once in a blue moon, but it’s those moments that can catapult you to the next level. In the end, whatever you are doing you need to make sure that you are providing value and have FUN!!! I say do this at least once or twice a month and build a calendar. I recommend reading Hubspot’s’, “The Social Media Content Calendar Every Marketer Needs” and use the free template they provide.

Finally, I recommend using resources from Social Media Examiner to gain the confidence and knowledge you need to ensure that you are at the top of your social media game. Social Media platforms are constantly changing algorithms or adding/removing features and that means you need to keep up to speed. Plus the more you know the easier it will be for you. I think reading at least 1 or 2 articles a month during your Sunday morning breakfast is a good start. Check out Social Media Examiner’s free subscription to get access to some great content.

I know I threw a lot at you but these are some pretty foundational guidelines you can start doing that will set you up for success further down the line. Remember you won’t get that transformation by not giving it a real chance and that requires commitment. Enable yourself by using tools that make social media easy. Get creative, do some content planning but also be spontaneous. Empower yourself by leveraging helpful social media resources from Hubspot or Social Media Examiner. Lastly, remember to have fun!

The Era of Social Relationships

Learn how to build your digital presence with these simple best practices.

Ever walk into a conference and you see someone squinting their eyes looking at you trying to determine whether or not they know you.  They slowly approach, give you a warm smile and say, ‘hey, I follow you on Twitter- you put up some good stuff. It’s so nice to meet you in person.’  As you try to jog your list of followers in your head, you just give up and embrace the moment. Obviously, you must have done something right to have someone reach out in person.  You chat for another 10 / 15 minutes, exchange thoughts, get to know a little more about each other (dog/family/home) and part ways, but that was just the next level of a relationship you probably didn’t even realized existed.

Long gone are the days of walking into a room without recognizing a familiar face and having to meet people the good old fashion way- awkward intros and nervousness of how that first interaction will go.  The social web has eased the pressure of cold calling or connecting at first sight. Your network which once existed in a Rolodex is now a Facebook Group or LinkedIn Connection. It has eroded barriers and made everyone accessible around the world.  Time zones don’t exist and no Visas are required. Regardless of our device or social app of choice, we are constantly connected.

Always being on, evokes insecurities, increases vulnerabilities, empowers ones that had a hard time finding their voice, gives others a platform to quickly spread their message amongst the masses but also to a very targeted audience.  It gives false hope, opportunities for fortune and success. So, how do you navigate such an uncertain and somewhat volatile environment that is constantly pushing boundaries?

Whether it’s personal or a business- you need to learn and execute some simple best practices.

  1. PRESENCE: Your profile needs to 100% reflect who you are as a person/brand. It takes time to build trust.  Therefore, having a profile that is less of a mystery and shares the most up to date information or images is an easy first step to establishing that trust. In addition, make sure that you are interacting or posting content that represents you.  You don’t want to be one person on social and another one in person. How can you expect someone to trust you if they don’t know who they are going to get?
  2. PURPOSE: Make sure to determine the purpose of your different profiles and who the intended audience is.  For instance, I use Facebook for family and friends, which means I don’t connect with coworkers or customers and the content I post there will be different than what I would post on LinkedIn.
  3. FILTER: Filter before you post and no I don’t mean a Snapchat filter.  You always want to think twice before replying or posting specifically when it comes to controversial topics like politics, religion, or personal beliefs.  Regardless of your right to free speech, no one is safe from corporate policies or the wrath of their readers. Integrity is key in your approach.
  4. IDENTIFY: Always identify who the person is by listening/reading their posts first before replying.  We have a tendency of having knee-jerk reactions to comments/posts that might be pushing our buttons.  How do you know that user isn’t a troll or just some really bitter person that enjoys getting people worked up?  
  5. CONNECT: Before you connect with someone you don’t know be sure to check out their posts and ask yourself, ‘Is  anything they posted is questionable that I wouldn’t want to support or be associated with?’ You also shouldn’t feel like you have to connect with everyone that does the same with you.  

Of course, there is so much more to think of when figuring out this new form of digital relationships that arise from the social web. Hope the above gives you a good start on what to think about as you continue your journey.  In the meantime, let me know what you think and be on the lookout for my next blog on making the social commitment.