Catching Up

23 Jun

Contrary to popular belief, I have not actually been living under a rock the last six months. Since I last wrote in February I’ve been working my face off full-time at a great marketing/social media agency in River North. While I haven’t been pouring my social media and marketing knowledge into insightful and provocative posts on my personal blog, I have been certainly been writing a lot for work. Here’s a glimpse into what I’ve been writing about in the past six months:

The Live-Tweeting Lowdown (2/29)

Instagram Your Brand (3/9)

Keepin’ it Fresh: Generating Content when your Idea Bank’s Running on Empty (3/23)

The SociaLogic of Creating an Internal Social Media Policy (4/10)

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: A Roundup of Recent Social Campaigns (4/12)

Pinning is Winning (4/23)

What Parody Social Media Accounts Can Teach Your Brand about Marketing (5/14)

When NATO and Social Media Collide (5/23)

A Little bitty of a Redesign (5/30)

The SociaLogic of Twitter’s New Hashtag Pages (6/21)

Here’s hoping another six months do not go by before I post on this blog again!

Tech at the Table

3 Feb

I’ve debated writing this post for awhile now. Anyone who knows me is well aware of how much I love technology and (especially) social media. It helps me find new restaurants, enables me to navigate my city, it allows me to search Pinterest for an absolutely perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe… but lately, I’ve seen how destructive it can be.

Growing up, my two younger brothers and I sat down to a home-cooked dinner with my parents almost every single night. I realize that I was more fortunate than most, growing up with a relatively functional family who enjoyed the luxury of spending quality time together every night. And when we ate dinner there were no books, no gameboys, no cell phones, and no TV. Some families only get that once a week, once a month, maybe never. Regardless of frequency, mealtime has always been about community– family, a group of roommates, friends. ealtime is a time to catch up on each others’ lives, to talk about that day’s highs and lows, to discuss goings on. But with the advent of new technology, which allows anyone to carry a computer in their pocket or purse, everything’s changed.

I’m a server at a restaurant, a job I’ve held on and off since I was 15 years old. In those seven years, I’ve encountered similar server annoyances, similar guests, similar situations in every restaurant I’ve worked in– except this newest problem which (beyond sometimes being a nuisance) simply makes me sad. Every single day I see fresh-from-work parents come into the restaurant, toting their little rugrats. They plop the kids down at the table, hand them each an iPad and tangled headphones, and wait to be served. Throughout the meal the kids sit zombie-eyed, staring at a screen with a game, a movie, whatever. They don’t really talk to each other, they don’t order their own food, and they don’t even speak to their parents. The parents are just as bad; they hardly even acknowledge the kids are there, except maybe to ask if they want tomatoes on their tacos. I wish I could say I’ve only seen this once or twice, but I see it every single day.

It makes me sad. I get it that kids are well-behaved when nothing is required of them beyond staring at an illustrated screen. They aren’t running around, they aren’t squirming in their seats, they aren’t even talking. But at what cost? Every time I see this happen, I wonder what the parents are missing out on, by not talking to their kids. I wonder if something exciting happened at school that day, and they don’t even get to talk about it. From a psychology perspective, I wonder what type of behaviors kids are learning when going to a restaurant become little more than plopping down in from of a TV and having dinner served to you. I wonder what social skills are lost when kids aren’t even conversing with their parents over dinner. Mealtimes are so valuable, and especially these days family time is precious and fleeting. Why waste it?

Almost as bad, but more frustrating than it is saddening, there are people who go to dinner with a partner, friend, or in a group, and spend the entire meal staring at their phone. If you wouldn’t spend a meal with one friend, spending the entire time talking on the phone with another, than why is it okay to spend the whole meal absentmindedly scanning Facebook and Twitter on your phone? I asked my friends on Twitter the same question, and it seems that most people feel the same way:

So this is the part where I step down off my soapbox and offer some remedies for the problem. I’ve come up with a few:

  • With a friend or a group, play the phone stack game. Everyone at the table stacks their phones in the middle of the table throughout the duration of the meal. If someone breaks down and grabs their phone, dinner’s on them.
  • If you’re afraid you’ll be tempted, leave your phone in your purse or pocket, NOT on the table.
  • Parents, 99.999% of restaurants put games and puzzles on the childrens’ menu to keep kids occupied. Play those with your kids.
  • Games like “I Spy” are great for restaurants where there is always a lot going on.

Am I alone in my annoyance at people who use cell phones at the table? If you’re a parent, how do you approach dinner out at a restaurant? What suggestions do you have to keep technology away from the table? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Let’s Get Artsy

1 Feb

Since getting a smartphone, by far one of my favorite apps is Instagram. Instagram makes it fun to catalog little pieces of my day, or just something interesting I see. Plus, the filters and techniques are always fun to play around with. In honor of my love of Instagram, I’m taking part in #FEBphotoaday, put together by Fat Mum Slim. Want to join? Head over to her blog for the whole spiel, and feel free to follow me on Instagram (@cbaumgarten). Happy photog-ing!

 

Power of the Pen– errrr, Keyboard

15 Jan

There are few things as satisfying as seeing a solid PR plan come to fruition. Web hits, page views, attendance, profit– all tangible results of a marketing plan well done. My recent visit to The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar demonstrated all of these.

I’ve been following Caitlin Boyle’s blog, Healthy Tipping Point, for awhile now. If you’re unfamiliar, its an awesome blog with Caitlin’s advice for exercising, healthy cooking, triathlons, and gratuitous pictures of her two adorable wiener dogs, Maggie and James. In the past year or so Caitlin has blogged multiple times about a trendy new restaurant called Cowfish, located in Charlotte’s Southpark area. After seeing numerous rave reviews about Cowfish’s sushi, atmosphere, and overall quality, I knew I had to give it a try. Though i live in Chicago, my parents live in Charlotte and I spent last weekend in Charlotte celebrating my mom’s 50th birthday with her four sisters and cousin. What better time to try out a new restaurant?

Cowfish had a lot of hype to live up to… and yet it still completely exceeded our expectations. Our server, Jamie, was phenomenal as she patiently explained the menu and pointed out all her favorites. The food was absolutely amazing, and I feel like I need to go back 10 more times just to sample something from every section of the menu. But my favorite part was when at the end of the meal when we got to meet the brains behind the operation, Cowfish’s founder and partner, Marcus Hall. Marcus came by our table right after one of my aunts had plucked six copies of his book, “The Legend of the Cowfish”, off the shelves near our table. We were in the midst of reading the book aloud when Marcus walked by, completely amused with my aunts and their antics. I chatted with Marcus for a few minutes, and told him we decided to come to Cowfish based on an article about the restaurant my aunt had read in Charlotte Magazine, and because I had heard of it from Healthy Tipping Point. He mentioned that he was really happy about the publicity Cowfish was getting, and was especially appreciative of traffic thanks to readers of Caitlin’s blog.

My aunts, mom, cousin and I with Marcus Hall

If anything can be taken away from this experience (and the Papa John’s fiasco of last week), it’s that social media has certainly overtaken word-of-mouth advertising when it comes to restaurant choices. For better or for worse, restaurants need to be diligent about managing their reputation, because one customer’s unpleasant visit can become a corporate nightmare. Sure, people are still asking friends and family for restaurant recommendations, but they’re also scouring Yelp, checking Google reviews, hearing about restaurants from blogs and Twitter, and more. While this obviously presents new challenges for the restaurant world, the smartest businesses are taking advantage of the opportunity.

Do you make your restaurant choices based on word of mouth, social media, or both? Any recent great recommendations or horror stories to share? What do you think about how restaurants are handing negative social media postings?

Secret Santa

4 Jan

I guess I’m what bloggers call a “lurker”. I’ve been an avid blog reader for years now, but since starting my own blog I’ve vowed to really try to be an active member of the blogosphere. Enter Mary (of Babble and Bloom) and her blogger Secret Santa. I always feel a little weird infiltrating the lifestyle/fashion blogger world because my own blog is more industry-focused, but I took the plunge and signed up anyway. I’m so glad I did!

The lovely Lyssa was my Secret Santa, and she sent me a gorgeous silver and gray scarf– the perfect complement to my new red winter coat. Thanks lady!

 

I was Mary’s Secret Santa, and when I learned that she studied abroad in London I knew I had to get her something that would satisfy her inner-Anglophile. Head on over to her blog to see what I got her! (PS, if you’re interested, the print in the frame is from this wonderful Etsy shop, full of little treasures!)

 

Thanks for organizing this Mary!

 

Social Media Resolutions for 2012

29 Dec

If the Mayans are to be believed, than the world is ending in just 360 days (December 21, 2012 for those of you who like to plan ahead). With so few days until the end of the world as we know it, I figure now’s as good of a time as any to get my social media accounts in check. Truth be told, I’m not one for new year’s resolutions because a lot of times they get pushed by the wayside as soon as February rolls around. Regardless, I know there is definitely room for improvement in my social media world, which is why I made some very specific and (hopefully) attainable goals for myself for 2012. Here’s what I aim to do:

10) Purge my Twitter following

Probably because I’m a chronic late-night tweeter, I develop crazed notions about whose tweets I actually care about reading. A few weeks later and my feed is overflowing with tweets by Chelsea Handler, various job listing services, and a whole slew of people I have no idea why I followed in the first place. This year, I want to fix that. By actually sitting down at my computer and spending a few hours scrolling through my feed and deleting those accounts whose tweets I NEVER read, it’ll streamline my tweeting experience and probably save me time in the long run. Plus, don’t you just get a smug sense of satisfaction from unfollowing someone simply because you don’t want to hear what they have to say anymore? Me too.

9) It’s a status update, not your diary

… need I say more? But actually I’d like to carry this philosophy into my tweeting as well. As I said in this post where I discussed my personal social media strategy, my Facebook is my most unfiltered and true-to-real-life-Carolyn social media account, with Twitter coming in second place. The fact that I include my Twitter handle on my resume and business card means I try to be cognizant of the professional image I’m putting forward in my tweets. By keeping my tweet ratio of professional/networking tweets to miscellaneous/nonsense tweets around 75/25, I feel like I’m striking a good balance between personality and professionalism.

8) Have consistent headshots

If I’m being honest, my current Twitter and Linked In headshot is a cropped picture from my best friend’s 22nd birthday dinner. To be taken seriously on Linked In, you need to look the part. This means, at the very least, I need to sit down and take a photobooth picture of myself looking polished (read: not like I’m about to go to the club) and with a neutral (read: not restaurant) background. For consistency, I’ll use the same headshot on my Twitter. I know a handful of people who use the same photo for all their social media accounts, and it goes a long way towards making them look professional, and keeping the accounts cohesive.

7) Hit 1,500 Twitter followers

Not exactly a resolution per-say, but a goal I’d like to hit in 2012. As of December 29, 2011, I have 947 followers, so I’d like to increase my overall following by about 60% to get to 1,500. I’ve increased my following about 200 followers in the last 5 months, so I think this goal is pretty realistic.

6) Regularly participate in Twitter chats

Twitter chats are kindof like the Skull and Crossbones societies of social media… minus the mystery, intrigue, and crazy rituals. But in reality, participating in tweet chats regularly creates tightly-knit friendships over whatever the topic of choice may be. In the past, I’ve joined #jobhuntchat (Mondays @ 9pm-10pm central) and #HFChat (Fridays @ 11am-12pm central), and found them both to be excellent resources for job seekers, future job seekers, people recently unemployed, and more. Looking forward to the new year, I’d like to get involved in these chats again, and maybe even seek out new chats that align with some of my other interests. As a job-seeker, it’s a great way to network and hear about new leads, which is always something I’m looking for! Plus, there’s a great bank of all the tweet chats, which is constantly being updated with new information. Check it out here to find chats that interest you (note: change the spreadsheet to “list” view if it isn’t displaying correctly on your screen).

5) Reconfigure my privacy settings

Facebook is notorious for being a sneaky little minx when it comes to secretly changing privacy settings without informing users. This year I resolve to check up on my privacy settings at least 2-3 times, to make sure I’m not inadvertently divulging my innermost Facebook secrets to people I’m not friends with.

4) Actually use Linked In groups

When I found out I was moving to Chicago six months ago, I joined about two dozen Chicago-related marketing/social media/event planning groups… and then basically never looked at them again. I want to be more of an active participant in these groups by joining conversations, using them as job seeking resources, and making connections with people. Having a Linked In page is helpful to direct people to, so they can see a social media version of your resume, but being active on Linked In will definitely help me make the most of the site.

3) Unsubscribe from all those annoying emails I automatically delete

Getting an iPhone has made me painfully aware of how many spam emails I get, because leaving the little red bubble counter of my unread messages gives me hives so I’m forced to immediately go through all my incoming messages. Maybe this isn’t exactly a social media resolution, but it’s definitely a streamline-my-online-life resolution. For all the time I spend immediately deleting annoying emails from lists I don’t even remember signing up for, I could spend an extra 30 seconds unsubscribing from them one time, and never have to deal with the spam again… that is until Bed Bath & Beyond reminds me that they email out 20% off coupons once (read: 17 times) a month and it sounds like too good a deal to refuse giving out my prized email address for. Le sigh.

2) Curate a daily/weekly Twitter conversation

Admittedly, I’m still in the planning stages of this resolution, but there are many people I follow on Twitter who use a daily/weekly question as a conversation-starter. What better way to cultivate relationships with your followers, drive engagement, and have an interesting conversation in the process? I would definitely like to put this tool into practice in the coming year, likely through something like a question of the day. Questions can range from asking my followers thoughts on a current issue in social media, to just asking advice about a problem. Either way, it’s a great way to start a conversation when I hit Twitter writers’ block.

1) Make a blogging schedule and stick to it

Without a doubt, the issue I’ve struggled with the most since starting this blog is being consistent with my posts. Without having an established schedule for my posting, it’s easy for me to leave the blog unattended for weeks until inspiration strikes again. No more. I follow about 75 blogs on Google Reader (more on my love of it here and here), and the best part about my favorite blogs is how consistently they’re updated, whether it be once a week, twice daily, or on the first Sunday after the first full moon in spring (just kidding about that last one… that’s Easter Sunday). I’m hereby resolving to blog at least once a week in 2012. Now that I’ve posted this, I expect angry emails if Sunday rolls around and you haven’t read my commentary of the week. Kidding…or am I?

 

Do you have any social media resolutions for 2012? Or any real life resolutions for the new year? I’d love to hear them!

Freedom of Speech Under Fire? Not Really.

7 Dec

Update: after speaking with the student involved, I’ve updated my post to reflect her side of the story.

Let me paint a picture for you:

A college newspaper publishes a story about the lack of security at an off-campus bar. A sophomore is quoted in the article as claiming to get in the bar over 21 with her fake ID. That sophomore was under the impression that her quote would be attributed anonymously, but the article included her full name. The university then investigates the sophomore for violating the honor code (for possessing a fake ID). The next edition of the newspaper comes bearing the heading: “HYPOCRISY EXPOSED”, delivering a scornful editorial directed toward university administration for “threatening free speech”. Confused? Me too.

For those of you not familiar with my background, I went to college at a small private school in North Carolina called Elon University. Because it’s my alma mater, and especially because of the reputation of Elon’s communication school (including the student newspaper), to say I’m shocked by this chain of events is an understatement.

After learning that the student, Hilary Stevenson, was being charged for her offense, The Pendulum has been in an uproar about the university’s reaction to the story. Editor-in-Chief, Anna Johnson, explained, “We see this as a blatant disregard for public forum. We see this as hypocritical from a university who is trying to promote an atmosphere of free speech.”

Did I miss something here? The university (or even The Pendulum faculty advisor) never attempted to exercise prior restraint and prevent the story from being published. The university never scolded The Pendulum for publishing a student’s name. The university didn’t force The Pendulum to reveal an anonymous source (in fact, Stevenson was under the impression she would be treated as an anonymous source). The university didn’t give The Pendulum permission (or deny permission) to publish this article. No part of the article was censored by the school. In fact, all the university did as a result of the story was investigate a student for a crime she openly admitted to committing… in a media outlet.

So here’s where the confusion begins, because newspaper is now trying to expose a smoking gun that never was. Did The Pendulum really think that just because the Stevenson’s admission came through a media outlet, that she wouldn’t be charged? That the school would look the other way? Would they expect similar treatment of a student admitting to stealing from the campus store, hazing on their club sport team, or selling drugs to make extra cash? If the university can’t be expected to turn a blind eye to admission of these types of crimes, than their actions in this case should come as no surprise to anyone.

…Not to mention, the main point of the article that started this whole hullabaloo was to point out shortcomings in drinking rule enforcement.

Quite frankly, I’m amazed this disparaging response article by The Pendulum was even published. How could they not see the university’s response coming? Conversely, if they weren’t worried about some type of disciplinary action in response to Stevenson’s admission, why would they offer Stevenson anonymity in the first place? And I’d love to hear the opinion of the newspaper’s faculty advisor on this whole situation. It would be pretty appalling to hear that a professor of communications actually believes the school’s actions to be contradictory of the first amendment.

Regardless of your personal beliefs regarding underage drinking, fake IDs, or the first amendment, private universities have a right to enforce school policies. According to Elon’s honor code, students are responsible for abiding by the honor code from the start of their time at the university until graduation. Admitting your crime in a public forum (whether it be twitter, facebook, a newspaper interview, or during a discussion in class) in no way offers immunity from the consequences of your actions, and this case is no different.

You can practically see angry journalists spitting out the final line of their response piece: “Elon administration has the responsibility to respect the integrity of those who choose to come forward as honest participants in this so-called open dialogue” (emphasis from original article). Pendulum, you let your desire for a controversial exposé cloud your judgement here. Don’t forget that Elon administration also has a responsibility to enforce the honor code policies that students are bound to. You can’t blame the school for finishing what you started.

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