Wednesday, October 26, 2011

For Tessa Kravitz, Social is the Business

I must admit: it’s always great talking with someone who doesn’t think being business-savvy and social media inspired are incompatible. This is what you get when you have an extended conversation with Tessa Kravitz, one of the busiest people I know. It’s not just about building a large following she told me, but doing your best to consistently and engage that following, no matter the size.

From the Business Examiner to small business clients, her digital philosophy of “engage, empower and share” has its fans. Including me. While some are still unwilling to embrace and utilize popular platforms like Twitter and Facebook, Kravitz believes they are vital to thriving in the 21st Century Economy. As an entrepreneur, she looks at both sides of the coin, and tests every angle before making her judgment. This approach works well, and often wins over the social media skeptics.

You have a diverse group of business clients. How do you manage all of them online, and connect with a wide range of customers? 

Business visionary Teresa Kravitz
I use a few different tools to manage their online presence.  TweetDeck for Chrome is my favorite for managing Twitter from a computer (versus a phone), I like it because I can see all the mentions from the various accounts I manage in one column. On my phone I use Plume, which also gives me the mentions for multiple accounts in one column. For Facebook notifications I use Postling so I am instantly notified when someone posts and I can send the email to my contact when I need to get additional information to post. 

To find content I use Stumbleupon and also look over content that companies in their industry post and sometimes share that too.  I aim for 'informative and interesting' when I post, trying to keep the sales pitches to a minimum. We do use social media to showcase new items, sales, events, and anything else followers might want to know. 

I also have a Google Alert set up to find mentions across the web and reply to those as needed.  Which sometimes brings me to random forums that are related to their industry. For Twitter, I use Bufferapp to space out tweets and not blast a lot out at once. I collaborate with clients, I maintain a shared google document so they can see what I have in store to post next, and so they can drop in ideas as well, but they usually just email things that come up for me to consider posting.

In terms of who I connect with, I use Northsocial to connect with new followers and rally the troops to get current followers excited. We launched a sweepstakes recently and grew the page from 3100 to 5000 in a week and saw increase in activity on posts and random questions and comments coming in to us. 

How were you able to convince companies that social media would benefit them?

For the most part, my clients have come to me, so there hasn't been much convincing.  A lot of that is because the Business Examiner has a pretty strong presence in the local business community so most of my clients came from those relationships.  

For people that are hesitant to get on Social Media I tell them that they could be missing referrals, opportunities to say thank you to kudos from customers, and ensure that any negative comments are dealt with... having an open channel for customers to connect with you is amazing!

Even having a small presence is better than nothing at all. For instance, having a presence but never saying anything... as long as you answer when people take the time to reach out to you, that would be a step in the right direction.  To me, refusing to put your company out there where customers can find you, just doesn't make sense... you're missing out on so much.

To get a better understanding of how she combines social media and commerce, follow her on her Twitter feed.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Rise of the Tweet-Ready Marketing Event

It's one of the newest trends: companies inviting notable names in social media to a grand opening or product launch so they can post about it on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. As the Wall Street Journal vlogger Elva Ramirez (above) notes about the arrangement: "they're getting you to engage with their brand but they're getting you to tell all your friends about it too." So look for this type of marketing to catch fire in 2012.

Businesses have taken a big hit for not being responsive to consumers on social media platforms. But if done right, the "tweet ready marketing event" could go a long way towards reversing the bad press for their non-responsiveness. A failure to reach out to consumers is potentially damaging behavior in the short- and long-term, especially with a tech savvy generation more comfortable in the online world.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Art of Healing Our Wounded U.S. Veterans

This is my recent piece, cross-posted in the Huffington Post Impact Section.

Russell Simmons once said, "Art allows people a way to dream their way out of their struggle." The co-writer of this post, Lori McNee, couldn't agree more. Her work is extraordinary. As an artist, she gives back to her community through the expression of art. Recently, she had the unique honor to convey the healing power of art to a group of veteran women who have been severely wounded in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

 This opportunity was made possible through Higher Ground, an amazing nonprofit that taps into a network of resources to aid long-term rehabilitative efforts for veterans with traumatic brain injuries, blindness, severe burns, and much more.

Because we are particularly supportive of charitable efforts to look after veterans and their families, art therapy for wounded warriors is something to really get excited about. In fact, McNee's art session was a huge success. The majority of the women warriors had never painted before. So in order to alleviate any of their anxieties, they were assured that they were not there to impress anyone with the end result.

One healing factor of art is that it gives the participant some measure of control over what they do. It also allows the creator to focus on something positive, which takes them away from their discomfort and benefits their health in the long run. A safe environment was provided where the women could explore and courageously express their intuitive feelings on their own canvas, in a non-verbal way with the support of Higher Ground therapist, Cara Barrett.

Lori McNee and Women Veterans. Photo Courtesy of Higher Ground
The women were distracted at first, and some had a hard time listening to some of the instructions. This behavior is a common symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, once they started freely playing with the beautiful acrylic paints, brushes and other fun tools, the ladies became engrossed in their art.

They were taught about the hidden meaning of color and how artists can use color to express themselves, and to create a mood in their paintings. Some of the ladies chose cool, calming colors like blues and purples that represented the peace they were feeling during this art activity. A few of the others gravitated toward the warmer tones like red, orange and yellow to represent their courage, determination or optimism.

One lady even depicted an emotional memory of her late Troop Leader, while others painted abstract designs. Each woman enjoyed the process of creating her own work of art. Afterwards, the project was assessed and the women were asked how they felt while they were painting. The majority of them said painting felt wonderful; they didn't think about any of their injuries, pain and stress.

Another awesome activity from Higher Ground! Their summer and winter camps in the picturesque mountains of Sun Valley, Idaho are extraordinary. The veterans leave the camps with a restored sense of independence, a desire to improve work and school performance, and an increased ability to cope with combat related stress. Indeed, our veterans should also be cared for when they return home, and not simply on the field of battle.

This post was co-written by Lori McNee. To learn how you can help, please contact Sun Valley Adaptive Sports and Higher Ground.

The New Google Doodle: Claymation!

Google's new doodle pays tribute to claymation pioneer
Art Clokey. Image Courtesy of Google

There are few things I look forward to in tech more than Google’s Doodles. They have paid tribute to figures, historical periods, and the best of innovation. They are always creative, thought-provoking, and educational. Simply put, the folks at Google always swing for the fences.

Their new doodle doesn’t disappoint. It celebrates the work of Art Clokey, the godfather of claymation. I remember his work as a kid. He was a trailblazer in his field, so it seems fitting that he would be recognized in this way.

See more of his work here, in the Washington Post.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs: iVisionary

Steve Jobs. Photo Courtesy of Apple
Yesterday was truly a sad day. Steve Jobs passed away at the age of 56. He had a long battle with cancer, and he was visibly thinner, so we figured this day was coming. But Jobs was one of my heroes. And we want our heroes, and she-roes, to live forever. Jobs was admired on nearly every continent. A thought-leader and creative genius who believed in taking risks, and inspiring humanity to achieve the impossible through revolutionary design and cutting edge technology.

He started Apple Computers in his garage in 1976 with $1300. He failed, made lots of mistakes, and was repeatedly told no, but it never stopped him from working hard, and believing that he could give full substance to the scope and depth of his vision. He invented the personal computer, and revolutionized the music and phone industries with the iPod and iPhone. And changed the way we consume media with the iPad.

He also helped change the way we see animation with Pixar, the company responsible for some of the most stunning animated movies of the past 15 years. As Boing Boing editor Xeni Jardin pointed out, Jobs studied Buddhism, Hinduism, calligraphy and a host of other subjects - things that assisted his seemingly seamless merge of people with the power of technology. My mom met him in Los Angeles in 1982, and they had a great tech conversation. She remembered him as a great salesman for the Apple brand, and a serious "ideas" person. And she was right.

He created and debated ideas, but never let them sit on the shelf and just catch dust. I loved that! He was all about the WOW factor. Like Henry Ford, Maggie Lena Walker, Milton Hershey, Reginald Lewis, John D. Rockefeller and many, many others, his legacy will be celebrated long after his passing. As Steve Jobs himself once said:
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.
Indeed. Great words from one of civilization's greatest minds. R.I.P. Mr. Jobs.

Artwork by Jonathan Mak

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cory Booker's Amazing Speech at the Google Zeigeist

I love how Cory Booker starts his speech at the Google Zeitgeist Conference: about being optimistic regarding what can be, while having a "deep sobered understanding of what is". I have followed his career for almost seven years, observing the way he has greatly transformed the landscape of Newark, NJ. This has to be one of his best speeches. You'll be moved when he discusses the boy whose life he tried to save and his father's "grand conspiracy of love". From beginning to end, you'll see why he is one of the world's most inspiring and most talked about figures.