Saturday, January 30, 2010

I Love This Picture

It's one of those magical moments for a photographer. And how more magical can it be to see 5 living presidents, together at the White House?! I chose this picture because its one of my favorites. Forget politics and ideology. Think more about the collective weight of their achievements. When you look at it that way, this picture then has a kind of quiet power that's awesome. It's a picture I have to have in my library.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Hope for Haiti" Telethon Rocked!

Last night, celebrities lent their name and time to raise money to be disseminated to the island nation of Haiti. In fact, the night was so special, so moving, so extraordinary, that it raised over $58 million! This far exceeded the expectations of organizers. But if you missed it, you can still contribute. Of course, you can donate via text or phone, or for the next six months, you can donate through the "Hope for Haiti" Web site, www.hopeforhaitinow.org.

This truly made my day!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Guest Blogger: Yasamin Beitollahi

Today's Guest Blogger is Huffington Post blogger and marketing specialist, Yasamin Beitollahi, known in social media for her enthusiasm for technology, and her love of cooking. She graciously allowed me to share her great post with my readers. You can follow her on her Twitter feed and friend her on Facebook page. This is an awesome piece below is about what's being done to positively impact the island nation of Haiti.


Global Aid Pours into Haiti

by Yasamin Beitollahi


Haiti is a nation plagued by diverse issues. With a population of 8 million, most of whom are living on less than one dollar per day, Haiti is considered to be the most poverty-stricken country in the Western Hemisphere. In addition to its high unemployment rate (80%), the country is also plagued by food shortages, poor drinking water, lack of education, environmental concerns and shifting culture. Adding to Haiti's misery is the devastation caused by the strongest earthquake in more than two centuries that rocked the nation's capital, Port-au-Prince, located just 10 miles northwest of the earthquake's epicenter.

Despite all advances of science and civilization, humanity remains helpless when the worst forces of nature unleash devastation. Now, the nation's only defense against starvation and disease consists of relief from generous lands. President Obama commented: "For a country and a people who are no strangers to hardship and suffering, this tragedy seems especially cruel and incomprehensible."

Yet even as the earthquake has shaken us to our core, heroism and humanity strengthen the foundations of our global family. Courageous, exhausted, rescue workers, scramble through crippled neighborhoods, digging with their hands, refusing to give up on life. A worldwide outpouring of compassion and generosity now laps at Haiti's shores, quietly defying nature's brutality. UN data reports that at least $567.67 million has been pledged by individuals, countries, companies and international organizations to date.

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Soon after the earthquake struck near the nation's capital city, Port-au-Prince, the Red Cross mobilized fund raising efforts through the social networking site Twitter.

Just before 10:00 pm (PST) on January 12, @RedCross tweeted:

"You can text 'HAITI'

to 90999 to donate $10 to Red Cross relief efforts in #haiti."


As of today, donations via text message for the American Red Cross's Haiti relief efforts reached over $21 million. Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeffrey Nelson, commented "These are donors who are typically the hardest to reach: young people. They're reacting to something that affects them and realizing their few dollars can make a difference. Texting has opened up a whole new world for philanthropy."

Cycling ace and humanitarian Lance Armstrong's Livestrong foundation has pledged $250,000 to support relief charities working to rebuild earthquake-devastated Haiti. The former Tour de France champion is giving generously to help those left homeless after the disaster and he's urging fans and friends to do the same.

In a video message posted on his website, Armstrong says,

"I think what's on top of everybody's mind is the earthquake in Haiti and the devastation we all have seen on television or the newspaper or the internet. Some say more than a 100,000 lives (have been) lost. On behalf of Livestrong and everybody at our organization we'd like to pledge $250,000 for the relief efforts down there for two primary organizations: Partners In Health - great friends of ours doing great work in that country - and also Doctors Without Borders."


Alyssa Milano, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, donated $50,000 to the charity's Haiti earthquake relief efforts, and has made a "Tweet Challenge" on Twitter asking corporations to match her donation.

The actress and philanthropist writes on Huffington Post:

"I challenge any corporation to match my $50,000 donation to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. 100% of every dollar will go directly to supplies that include tarpaulins, water-purification tablets, oral rehydration salts, family water kits, medical supplies, medical kits, food, shelter, and protection."


Musician Wyclef Jean, whose homeland is Haiti, is asking people to donate to Yele Haiti to help with disaster relief for earthquake survivors. So far, Wyclef Jean's nonprofit organization, Yele Haiti, has raised over $1 million for the victims of Tuesday's devastating earthquake from mobile donations alone. Yele's goal is to up that figure to $1 million a day as part of the SMS fundraising drive. With a series of urgent tweets, an appearance on CNN and the help of his famous friends the singer has mobilized a massive effort on behalf of his homeland, imploring followers to text "Yele" to 501501 to donate $5 to the effort.

Virgin Atlantic is flying much-needed aid along with key medical personnel, aid agency workers and rescue teams to the region in the wake of the Haiti earthquake. The aid and personnel will be flown out on a number of Virgin Atlantic flights to Miami, Orlando and Jamaica over the coming days. From there the aid agencies will arrange for the essential supplies to be transferred to Haiti. The airline has already committed to flying a minimum of 55 tons of cargo. Virgin Atlantic is also working with a number of other charities, including Save the Children and Oxfam, to assist them in their efforts to get crucial aid supplies and personnel to the region.


WAT-AAH!, the first functional bottled water marketed to kids donated 40,000 lbs of bottled water for Haiti relief.

Though its own facilities were severely damaged by the massive earthquake, Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) field staff have been establishing temporary clinics in order to treat injured men, women, and children in Haiti. MSF was able to respond immediately because international and national staff had already been running several projects in country.

Spurred by actor George Clooney and MTV, 11 broadcast and cable television networks have signed on to air a two-hour telethon Jan. 22 that will benefit the earthquake victims in Haiti. "Hope for Haiti," presented by MTV Networks, will air commercial-free at 8 p.m. on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN, BET, The CW, HBO, MTV, VH1 and CMT. The event, which will raise money for five relief organizations working in the ravaged country, will be hosted by Clooney in Los Angeles, singer Wyclef Jean in New York and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper in Haiti.

Haiti faces a bleak future. Its people need manpower, medicine, food and clean water. The impact of the earthquake is devastating, but the emotional and physical reverberations will wreak even more havoc if we don't increase humanitarian aid now. The international outpouring of help displays humanity's better angels -- a global sense of grief and sympathy.

And remember the people of Haiti in your prayers. May God give them strength in the days, hours, and months ahead.


Other ways to join the outpouring of humanity for Haiti: Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, UNICEF (1-800-4UNICEF), Direct Relief, Partners in Health, World Food Program, Mercy Corps (1-888-256-1900), Lambi Fund, The International Rescue Committee, Care, William J. Clinton Foundation, Meds & Food For Kids, Feed the Children, Habitat for Humanity


These resources include the highest-rated charities by Charity Navigator, which is an independent, nonprofit organization that evaluates charity groups based on effectiveness and financial stability.

Rising to the Occasion, and Living the Dream

On January 15, 1968, Dr. King spent his entire birthday in the basement of Ebenezer Baptist Church. He was there all day with white activists from Appalachia, and Latinos, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Native-Americans and other groups from around the United States. He believed in understanding the color-specific differences that make us unique, and vigorously embracing the color-blind commonalities that bring us together.

And at this very moment in time, Dr. King would be immensely proud of how international citizens, through the power of technology, have marshaled tremendous resources to help the island nation of Haiti. From Alyssa Milano’s wonderful $50,000 Tweet challenge, to the upcoming telethon George Clooney is organizing in concert with MTV Networks, socially conscious celebrities are also lending a hand.

However, Dr. King would be most proud of the dedication, and creative thinking, many nonprofits and charities are employing to assist Haiti. Care, The Red Cross, OxFam, Charity: Water, Yele, and so many others are making a difference. The most powerful way they’re making a difference is through the successful fundraising campaign involving texting. The Denver-based mGive Foundation is running the campaign for Haitian Relief. In fact, they raise money on behalf of 200 charitable organizations by text messaging.

Tens of millions have already been raised. According to the social media website Mashable, more than $20 million was raised on January 17 alone after it urged its readers to give generously. All of this speaks volumes about the human spirit, and the power of social networking sites.

Parts of this glorious, beautiful world have always been in pain. This is what fueled Dr. King’s thought-provoking sermons; his well-attended marches; and his awe-inspiring acts of civil disobedience. He felt connected to the world’s pain. He believed that forming constructive partnerships was the best way to affect change. The texting campaign for Haiti would most certainly qualify.

We can use this method of charitable fundraising going forward to not only rebuild Haiti, but to also relieve the human suffering and degradation that exists in every corner of the globe. Embrace. Empower. Educate. Expand. Enlighten. Let's do it.

Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Happy Birthday, Michelle Obama

Greetings first lady. You are, without a doubt, an amazing woman. No, not just because of your position, but because of your perspective. In one short year, you have led efforts to bring a rich diversity of cultural events to The White House. You have rallied support for the historic Lilly Ledbetter Bill, an inspiring victory by any measure. You push for greater educational opportunities and access for young people, and vigorously support military families, among other things.

There is so much on your plate. But you manage to do so much, so gracefully. You walk and talk with heads of state, and Kings and Queens, and you do it all, from what I gather, without ever losing your common touch. Yes, millions can relate to you. You run a busy office, yet your girls have to do their homework, and you and the president feel compelled to attend PTA meetings. I love the fact that you eat dinner together, as a family.

You rock, on so many levels.

Let me say this: when all is said and done Mrs. Obama, you will have transformed your position, and raised the bar to new, commanding heights of achievement. At the current rate, I wouldn't bet against it. Your success is proof of what The Woman's Movement was fundamentally about: choice. And your choices have led you to this point, where you are making sure that even greater choices are afforded to the next generation.

Continue representing the very best of what humanity has to offer. Continue to inspire the people of the world with your dazzling style, unquestionable intellect and visionary leadership. Continue to walk in the footsteps of awesome, historical women - from whose legacies we receive knowledge, and from whose spirits we receive strength.

Happy Birthday First Lady. Here's wishing you many more years of great health and happiness.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Fabulous Eco-Fashions of Nyla Noor

Make no mistake about it: eco-friendly fashion is not only red hot, but has been a major source of innovation and out-of-the-box-thinking. Traditional textiles are being replaced by greener ones that are safer for the environment. In fact, green designers are creating masterpieces by the hour, and, as a recent article aptly points out, adopting approaches that take into account the preservation of the environment.” This is an exciting time in the world of eco-fashion.

It is also an exciting time for the visionary minds of New York’s Nyla Noor, a fashion design firm poised to expand the creative boundaries of its industry. Their eco-friendly handbags are already generating major buzz and interest. The pictures say it all: Exquisite designs. Daring imagination. Amazing stylistic presentation. These are some of the elements that anchor Nyla Noor's beautiful Launch Collection.

Their genuine leathers are processed using an environmentally conscious method, and each handbag is lined with their signature SKAL Certified, 100% Organic cotton. The collection reflects the rich and culturally diverse backgrounds of its co-owners, sisters Saifra and Romaana Zia. Their design aesthetic has been heavily influenced by their expansive travels around the globe. Soft touches and feminine flair are complemented and balanced with edgy and bold accents. Hot!

Nyla Noor’s handmade creations are gaining favorable attention, and, helping the local economy, as each bag is made in New York City's famed Garment District. Their stunning collection is not just about a look, or an attitude. It’s about conscious living, and getting consumers to make informed decisions that take into account how they think, and how their actions impact our planet. Essentially, their handbags are the perfect accessories to the integration of a fashionable and conscious lifestyle.

My prediction: 2010 will be a great year for Nyla Noor. They have a great, mature approach to design, and a clear, forward thinking philosophy. Theirs will be a journey worth watching.

To learn more about Nyla Noor's eco-friendly designs, log onto to their website NylaNoor.com, and connect with them through their Twitter Feed.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Raising Money for Leukemia, one Mountain at a Time

Mountains have always been powerful metaphors for facing the unknown, overcoming obstacles, and conquering our fears. World class adventurer Paul Steele views mountains as opportunities to raise money for charity, and, to spotlight notable causes around the globe. On January 16th, he embarks on his most ambitious endeavor to date: climbing Mount Aconcagua (the highest mountain in the western hemisphere and the highest outside Asia) to raise money for The Anthony Nolan Trust, a UK charity well known for its emphasis on leukemia and bone marrow transplantation.

Steele’s original target was £5000 (approximately $8000), but he has more than shattered that goal. A popular and beloved figure on Twitter, he has brilliantly used social media promote his activities. His planned trek has captured the attention of people on every continent, and inspired many (this writer included) to make a climb with him as he takes on the Himalayas in 2011 with a Twitter team of explorers.

His impending hike up Mount Aconcagua (standing at 22,841 feet) will be met with conditions that are as ferocious as they are unforgiving: periodic storms; frostbite and altitude sickness, and, the infamous white wind. But this is Paul Steele: a man with the heart of a champion, and the passion and drive that no mountain can contain.

Steele has turned his love for our planet into a great way to raise needed funds for an important cause. The Anthony Nolan Trust has impacted his life more than once, so this is an incredible, thoughtful way to show gratitude. During a time when charities worldwide are struggling, this amazing adventure stands as a great example of what can happen when you marry a worthy cause with the worldwide reach and power of social media.

Simply amazing!

To read more about Paul Steele's inspiring climb for charity, read the official Aconcagua For Leukemia blog, or simply connect with him through his Twitter feed.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Flipbooks and the Power of Twitter

This is the first post in a 12-part series, TwitterPowerhouses, which focuses on the contributions of people who've helped to expand, influence, and redefine how we view social networking. I co-wrote it with blogger and world class chef Yasamin Beitollahi. It was cross-posted on The Huffington Post.

2009 was indeed the Year of Twitter. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it has generated words like Twitterati, Twitterverse, and uber popular Tweetup, which refers to meetings organized through the site. It placed second on the list of most searched topics on Bing. And most notably, the Global Language Monitor, which tracks trends in language, called Twitter the top English word of 2009.

The micro-blogging phenomenon rapidly matured into a global news service. From President Obama's Inauguration, to the protests in Iran, to Michael Jackson's untimely death, to updates on H1N1, Twitter has been a very effective way to give real time updates on issues of the day. Blogger and marketing visionary, Blair Semenoff, aka: Flipbooks on Twitter, has come to epitomize the website's dramatic shift towards great content and information.

Semenoff's understanding of social media and its applications for entrepreneurs and the growth of their businesses are remarkable. Beyond his knowledge, it is his ability to communicate it effectively that makes him stand apart while his humor in delivery keeps you coming back for more. Despite the limited words available within Twitter's micro-blogging platform, his high-octane style always manages to grab your attention. This clearly demonstrates his understanding of how this new and powerful social media tool should be used to engage and empower. If you want to unleash the power of Twitter for your business, Flipbooks is someone you should pay close attention to.

Authors' note: We hyper linked the words Tweet, ReTweet and Hashtags, which are used repeatedly in the interview below, to help give people unfamiliar with Twitter an understanding of how it operates. Enjoy!


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You're known as a "Viral Marketing Scientist." Can you tell us the story behind that title and define it for us?

Believe it or not, I studied Twitter for over four months prior to sending my first Tweet. This gave me time to understand how Tweets are broken down into keywords, stock pile content to bring to the community, find my niche and create a list of the first 1000 business prospects and more importantly "movers & shakers" of Twitter to follow first. I feel this is why the majority of people "fail" and quite using Twitter. They hop in and expect everyone to care about what they have to say. Guess what? That's not the case and it takes time to develop numerous friendships as well as getting your niche noticed. Sure ReTweets give you assurance that someone has read your Tweets but how many people read your Tweets is more important. People need to focus on their personal brand (bio & avatar picture), quality of content, as well as the copy writing of the Tweets while not destroying it with the wrong and/or too many hashtags.

And I am probably one of the very few people who documents and/or takes mental notes on the flow of keywords. What are keywords? Keywords are the searchable words/hashtags used in 140 characters. The more keywords you use the more visible this makes you on Twitter. This is why using and contributing to hashtag communities increases your visibility and how many followers you attract. Prior to Tweeting I used a program called Monitter to see the flow rate of keywords as well as allows you to see conversations in a certain mile radius. In fact, monitoring people/conversations nearest to your business is what most businesses need to be doing! Now I use Seesmic to give my brand maximum exposure by drawing the reader's eyes to 2 or more of my Tweets without spamming the keyword/hashtag.


The content of your Twitter Feed (page) has been described as exciting, exquisite, and a marketing goldmine. How do you decide which topics to tweet?

I can sum it up with two words: Diversification & Consistency. My niche is providing quality content 24/7/365. And due to the amount of information I sort through daily, I rarely use/read any of the content I Tweet but I know what a quality post should look like. If I wouldn't read it, I don't Tweet it. And consistency through quality! Where my sources of information come from and the amount of Tweets I send per day are key. A good Tweet is just as valuable the day it was wrote as months from now. I am also deeply emerged with the most active Tweeters and know what the "real" trending Tweets are, un-like the commercial way of thinking of trending topics as the ones chosen by the Twitter trending tracking systems.


You are the 29th person in the history of Twitter to achieve 100,000 ReTweets. And you did in just over 200 days. What's the secret of your success?

First make friends, and the best way to do that is by ReTweeting. Second is delivering value in each of my Tweets. Now value doesn't only come in the form of content on Twitter but actually being "social" and taking the time acknowledge as many people in your Twitter stream as possible. Most people don't see this from my Tweets since it was achieved through sending over six thousand direct messages. It's truly the best way to show someone you're thinking about them. Saying "Thank You" is the essential element of Twitter.


What advice would you give to someone who is new to Twitter and overwhelmed, confused, or unsure how to identify quality Twitter Users? How do you wade through millions and millions of Twitter users and connect Quality Twitter Followers?

Your brand and Tweets are only as strong as those who you follow and become friends with. I feel it's important to aspire to have more than thousand people in your Twitter stream because it broadens your audience as well as your perspective. Great directories like Twellow and Twitter Grader can connect you to amazing people and good sources of information. Now you're probably asking how do you keep track of 1000+ people? This is actually simple if you begin with using an application such as Seesmic or TweetDeck, and immediately creating and maintaining user lists and/or TwitterLists.


For those who may not know, what does your Twitter Handle (name) mean?

I use Flipbooks as my name and this decision was chosen for SEO ranking for my marketing company TruAction Flix. We actually had first page Google rank within 6 days of being on Twitter. It was also chosen based on psychology. The word flipbooks, which has been around for 142 years, needed to be repeatedly seen so it would be re-integrated into everyday conversation. With over 20,000 Tweets happening per minute, anything people can do to differentiate themselves is a key element to getting noticed on Twitter.


What's next for you in 2010? Word has it that you're going to be teaching a class on Twitter, and that it involves Fortune 500 Companies.

Yes this is true. To be honest, top-ranking companies should be ashamed of their presence on Twitter. It is the most powerful marketing tool ever created because it brings awareness to so many projects in the blink of an eye. So not only are they missing out on a priceless marketing opportunity, but they are actually not complementing how consumers see their brand on the web at large. First, what are you saying to your consumers when they're the ones who support you, but you don't have an online presence? Second, it seems the norm is to place one or two interns as their company's online community manager instead of creating a team of representatives to bring value to the company's social media message. It seems as though companies are too worried about what they say, instead of focusing on the positive information and value they can bring to their presence Twitter. The primary focus of an online community manager is to increase the public visibility of the company and make first contact with potential business prospects. It's critical to respond to online discussions with skill, consistency and aptitude. In many ways, a community manager is the evangelist for the company's products and a voice of the customer in internal discussions. The role is hard to understand from the outside but it's impossible to miss once a start-up in execution mode.


How would you summarize Flipbooks in 140 characters or less?

Flipbooks are the most emotionally engaging promotional product ever made & provides endless location for listing Social Media accounts. ~B

To read more about Blair Semenoff's innovative marketing strategies, log on to his site TruAction Flix. You can also connect with him through his Twitter feed.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year to all of my Readers!


I hope this finds all of you in the best possible spirits! We've made it to yet another year. It's another opportunity to empower ourselves, build on our dreams, and to represent the very best of what humanity has to offer. This is our opportunity to engage the very crucial issue of climate change, and make a greener, more eco-friendly planet. We can do it.

I appreciate all of your comments on my posts in 2009. From President Obama to Twitter, you have come up with great points and ideas, providing me with inspiration for subsequent posts. Thank you greatly. In 2010, look for an even wider degree of topics on this blog. I look forward to connecting with you. My readers make my blog awesome! Always remember that!

Happy 2010!