Why I'll Never Be A Social Media Expert

By now you have probably seen them… the people claiming they can help you earn unlimited profits by setting you up on social media. These people claim to be Social Media Experts. What these people are doing is actually turning a valuable marketing channel into a wasteland of spam and incoherent babble. The truth is, there are some great people out there that do know what they are talking about when it comes to utilizing social media, but too often they get lost in the noise.

I did a quick search via tweetdeck on the phrase “social media expert” and well, there is a lot of chatter. I then went over to wefollow.com and did a search on “socialmedia”, the result 24,231 users have tagged themselves with this. Now, not all of these people are claiming to be experts so I thought I would look a bit deeper and went over to twellow.com, did a search for “social media expert” and wouldn’t you know it, 656 results. Justtweetit.com, 414 listings for “social networking” and the old standby – I did a Google search on the exact phrase “social media expert”… 1,450,000 results (at least the top results were others lamenting the other “experts”.)

The issue comes down to what are the services these people truly provide? How many of these experts actually have helped a company earn true ROI utilizing this channel? (You know actual dollars and not just some stupid babble about engagement.) How many of these experts can actually help you track if your efforts are producing sales or influencing buying behavior? How many of these experts helped companies integrate social media into their current marketing mix? How many of these experts know social media is more than twitter, Facebook and Youtube?  How many of these experts actually have marketing experience beyond setting up their own pages on twitter and facebook and pimping out their own services?

The problem and actually the excitement behind social media is there is so much unknown and it is a constantly evolving space. I think it is great that so many people are on board and I think it is awesome that companies and marketers are finding ways to utilize SM. I just get infuriated when I think what damage these “experts” are actually causing.

This is why, I never want to be considered a social media expert.


Purdue, a Timeout and a Loss of Hope

I have had a few hours to digest the Purdue loss - but it is still one of the worst I have experienced as a Boiler fan. I don't think anything will surpass the Orton fumble game (at least I hope I never.) The thing is, I came into the game expecting a loss, when you lose to Northern Illinois you kind of figure that your season is garbage. But that changed in the second half of the ND game, that is until the final drive... and one of the worst coached series I have witnessed since Jim Colletto roamed the Ross-Ade sideline.

I have been a critic of Joey Elliiott all season, but in the second half he had me believing he was at least Billy Dicken... the problem was Coach Hope wasn't Joe Tiller. I know we all need to give Coach Hope time, but when you basically give away a game there is only so much of that the fans will be willing to take (you know, the fans that finally came to life last night and had the stadium roaring.)

Why, why, why do you go into a prevent...ever? Especially when your defense finally had a swagger they had not had all season. They shut ND's scoring down the entire half, until that ridiculous coaching decision - ND marched down the field, and as a result scored... meaning we will have to hear about the miraculous Jimmy Clausen for years (is he is courageous as Brady Quinn now ESPN announcers?)

But even bigger than the prevent defense... how, oh how do you call a timeout when you stop the other team inside their 5 with about 30 seconds, the clock running, on third down, when they have no timeouts? They would either have to rush a play or spike the ball making it fourth down. Guess what, your D stopped them on third down (on what might have been fourth if not for the timeout.) How do you call that? Because you have no faith in your defensive players to stop them and you want to preserve time. What kind of message is that - what kind of message is that when you include that with forcing the D into a prevent? What that does is deflate the players and you have to hope it does not carry over into future games... or you have lost them, and for how long.

Every loss to Notre Dame stings - but this one stung more. It stings because Purdue should have won, should have had momentum, but bad coaching lost the game. I can't take another lost decade of Purdue football.


My Apologies to Moby

OK, in a blog I recently posted about baby products for dads I made some pretty unflattering comments about the Moby Wrap. I believe my exact words were: "It is a baby carrier that once you get it all on you look like a ninja or a star wars fanboy." I also said I could never see myself wearing it. Well...

I guess this is where I apologies for that. 

Why am I doing this? Well, earlier tonight I wanted to make a sandwich, Torry was finally getting some time for herself after I got home and Logan was really getting upset. I knew that if I held him I could get him to calm down, but I also needed my hands to make the sandwich. Then I thought about the Moby. If I just threw it on quickly to make the sandwich (and eat it) it would be over quick. So, I put it on and got Logan into it.

Surprisingly it was really comfortable, and I had almost complete mobility. So after my sandwich I kept Logan in the wrap for some time after - it was kind of cool how calm he was and how natural it felt. So, for opening my mouth before even trying something I apologize. And, in truth, I didn't look half bad (however I would have looked much better in black to cover my love handles.)

On a somewhat more serious note I will add that I am someone that radiates heat and after an hour with Logan that close to me I was getting very warm, so if any other dad does try a Moby keep that in mind.

So in closing after further review the Moby would get a 4 out of 5 in my newly created (like just now) Dad Star Rating Scale.


Marketing to Dad

Over the last few months I have spent a lot of my time focused on all things baby and making sure we had everything set when Logan came home from the hospital. What amazed me was how much things had changed from when Bailey was born eight years ago. Especially when it comes to products specifically designed for dads or with dads in mind. It was actually nice that businesses finally realized that there are a lot of dads out there that actually do try to be a big part of the raising of their children, and carrying a pink diaper bag that looks like a purse is not high on our product wants list.

One huge difference now is baby strollers - back when Bailey was born we had what basically amounted to a one-size fits all stroller, it was big and it was ugly. But now there are about as many options in the stroller market as there are in the auto industry. What is amazing is you can see there was some thinking in mind about the fact that dads will be pushing these around. In fact Uppa Baby strollers were actually designed by a dad. In the end we chose the Bugaboo Frog. First, the thing just looks cool, but beyond that it is increadably practical from the suspension system to its easy manuverability, this thing glides through the city. Bugaboo makes other models that include really smart features like an extendable handle for the taller dads out there - while these aren't necessarily a dad product, they are a product a dad will love to have.

More specifically targeted to dads are all of the new diaper bag options. In fact, there is an entie line out now called "Dad Gear" - Gone are the pastel flowers and Winnie the Pooh, they have been replaced by messenger bags with skulls and flames. Personally, that doesn't really fit my style, but the bags with collegiate logos are very cool (but where is the Boilermaker Bag?). Another very cool option are what look like fleece vests or jackets that actually have hidden components that function as a complete bag. In the end my wife and I decided to go with a bag that worked for both of us, and settled on Columbia Treckster bag - which is a lightweight backpack that is easy for any of us (including Bailey) to carry, or, with its handle straps it easily can be attached to the handle bar of the stroller. I still may consider the fleece vest, and if the Boilermaker bag ever comes to the inventory list of course I am going to get that. But for ease of use, looks and price you can't go wrong with the Columbia.

One of the things my wife did buy that I just can't see myself using is a Moby Wrap. It is a baby carrier that once you get it all on you look like a ninja or a star wars fanboy. It actually looks cute when Torry wears it, but I would have preferred the Baby Carrier by Ergo. Once Logan starts getting heavy I am pretty certain that we will be getting one so I can help carry him in public.

These are just a few examples, let me know if you have any products that you think a dad shouldn't be without. I will continue to post my favorite products for dads.


All the Pieces are in Place

I don't often talk specifically about my day job on here, but I felt the need to do so since I am excited about some of the work I have been lucky enough to be a part of.

For the past year I have been working on launching and building the Social Media presence of SAVO. Yes, the past year. The process was long, but well thought out and well worth the effort. The final piece of the puzzle was put in place last week, Blog.SAVO.

Blog.SAVO offers the company the opportunity to extend the conversation and share expertise and experience with the public. One thing that is noticeably different compared to many other corporate blogs is that multiple voices, from all levels in the company are represented. This is core to some of the central thinking at SAVO that Tribal Knowledge can come from anyone within the company. I am lucky to work with a lot of very talented people every day -  and in time, as the content on the site grows, this wealth of information will be shared well beyond the walls of the company.

For me this marks a very exciting time - my vision is coming together. While we have implemented multiple pieces of the strategy already, the blog is my personal crown jewel (if it weren't for the birth of my son Logan three weeks ago I would have called it my baby.)

I see you... Who are you?

A factoid that might interest only me… I use Google Analytics behind the scenes on the blog here (side note, if you have a blog and you aren’t using some sort of analytics you need to be doing so) – anyway. Since I wrote the piece title Little Green Truth I have had a bizarre trend in my analytics. Each day I get at least one direct traffic hit to this article, even more interesting to me is that it comes from either Haverford or Havertown, PA. Whoever you are, first, I love you. Keep coming back to my blog every day.

It makes me wonder why, or what the reasoning is. Could it be a bot? I thought maybe it was some weird AOL thing, but if I am remembering correctly it would be a hit from WV not PA (I could be way wrong on this but it is what I remember.) Or, is it someone who is trying in someone strange way to help me drive traffic to this article? I know that isn't how it works, but a Google search for little green truth does find the article in the #1 spot. ;)

I use analytics all the time in my day job, monitoring traffic sources, patterns, etc – and maybe I just overlooked a similar anomaly occurring elsewhere on other sites, but this one is just a strange one to me. If anyone else has experienced something like this, or knows something I don’t – please fill me in.


#twitterbirth - the birth of a social media baby

contractions have already started (5:15 CST). #twitterbirth

With that post I began the process of updating the twitterverse on the pending arrival of Torry and my new son, Logan. In addition to keeping a running journal on twitter of short updates I continually updated my Facebook status for our friends and family.

Why did I do this? I am not really sure.

It helped calm my nervous tension - it helped connect so many people to one of the biggest moments of our lives - it gave us something else to focus on - it gave me a personal log of how I was feeling at any given time during the 23 hour process - and there is a lot of downtime in that 23 hour process.

But in truth, to me the biggest point was the connectivity. I was able to push out messages and emotional status and I had many people (mostly on Facebook) thanking me for the updates - I am sure there were just as many wanting me to shut up, but the great thing about social media is that you don't have to act on a conversation unless you want to.

I first became aware of the #twitterbirth hashtag on August 7 in a post from @icelander as he and his wife were preparing for the birth of their child. I thought it was a cool idea so I decided to give it a try - if it seemed odd or intrusive I would have stopped - but it didn't, it was actually pretty fun.

In the process I also read about other people in the twitter world having babies at the same time, some examples were @kellytirman and the birth in the first family of twitter @ev and @sara.

There are so many uses for social media, but in the end it is about connecting people and sharing what is important or valuable to you - to me, the birth or #twitterbirth of Logan is as important as it gets.

Welcome to the world Logan, you have a great big brother in Bailey and the worlds greatest mother. I am already in love.


I said I was done, but I guess I am back for more

OK, you know it, I have slight twinges of hippie – shocker. And I am going back to a topic I thought I would never touch again on this blog… diapers.

Why am I doing it again, because I think when studies are done and presented surrounded by ads of one of the key beneficiaries, I just don’t like it. Even as a marketer.

What am I talking about? A WebMD piece that claims to be solving the diaper dilemma, but did they?

The biggest issue I have with the piece is that it does what other industry sponsored pieces have done – hype up disposable advantages (in this case diaper rash and day care usage) and basically poo poo’s (heh) any advantage gained in using cloth.

The article, or center, is funded by Huggies. According to WebMD center funding means:

Content under this heading is funded by a third-party and independently created or chosen by WebMD. This content is subject to the WebMD editorial review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the supporting company except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the WebMD sponsor policy.

OK, I can be cool with that – you say it is balanced and objective by your editorial review – but it is funded by a third party – in this case one of the big winners in the piece. :/

Now since it is WebMD of course they don’t want to touch on the financial differences in choosing cloth vs. disposable – I can look past that. But the fact still remains that this cannot be seen as objective analysis the way it is presented.

On the topic of diaper rash, the winner for disposables, only one pediatrician is quoted? Where is the actual data to back this? That is what people want, not just opinion. In the end it may be true, but at least be fair in the assessment. I know from the experience when our first born was in diapers – he came home from day care with diaper rash often. He wore disposables. Does this make it fact that kids who use disposables and go to daycare will get diaper rash? No, obviously. So I won’t try to make people believe that, if I had scientific fact to back it then I would.

But this is not even my main point – my point is this information is pushed out as fact because there are big bucks supporting it. If WebMD had published this piece without tying Huggies name to it I might have given it more credit – but they didn’t, so I can’t.

Like I said in an early post on this topic, and to its credit the article does too… this choice is really up to the parent. People have different lifestyles, different values and different views. This is a good thing – but if we do want to make a choice and want to research it first it would be nice to have noncommercial examples to help inform us.

Really, I think this will be my last diaper post ever (until I get another bug up my butt that is.)


The Danger of rushing in to Social Media

As an advocate of how social media can be effective when incorporated into a corporation’s larger marketing program, it is painful for me to see when companies do it wrong.

A recent example of this was Marsh supermarkets and its Facebook Coupon. Marsh sent a $10 coupon to their Facebook Fans thinking that they would forward it to a few people – the result, mass produced coupons and some being sold for individual profit… Question here, what is the going rate for a $10 coupon?

As a result Marsh has decided not to honor the coupons resulting in an expected backlash. A Marsh statement reveals that this is one of the company’s initial initiatives to use social media as marketing.

This should serve as a lesson to any corporation jumping into social media (be it Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc) – make sure you have a solid plan in place, and like all marketing initiatives think through the campaign completely before launching it to the public. Something KFC hopefully learned from the Oprah debacle.

Social Media is hot, and it is smart for corporations to get in on it now… but only after you have decided what your desired outcomes will be. I think the Marsh coupon idea was a smart idea, but in my opinion they should have limited it to the actual Fans.

I don’t think Marsh should suspend future Social Media plans, but I think they need to realize the power of viral before launching the next campaign. I also think this should serve as a lesson for any other company wanting to jump the gun without having a plan in place.


Brand Bombing on Twitter

This past Friday I came across an interesting question on LinkedIn posted by Emily Luiz - The question was: Calling attention to negative review of competitor product via Twitter: Cool or not cool?

The post in question was tweeted by Red Mango and said the following: "OMG - The New Worst Drink in America Cold Stone Creamery PB&C Shake, with 2,010 calories + 131 grams of fat!!!!" The tweet linked to this article in Men's Health.

I will admit that I have never heard of Red Mango prior to this, so in a way it did a good job by raising awareness, heck, they are getting a blog post by me out of it - but, the question Emily posted is a very good one, is this a cool strategy or not?

A look at the answers to the questions shows that people view this as a bad move and in poor taste. But is it any worse than when Subway calls out Burger King and McDonalds in their ads, and on their napkins - spelling out that Subway is the much healthier choice and if you chose the other options you are basically a cow?

For the most part we accept this tactic when it is used in traditional advertising, of course Subway never starts and ad with OMG or calls a Big Mac the Worst Sandwich in America (that would be a straight out lie, at least to this dough boy.)

But is social media different? Is a move like this a poor attempt at a brand bomb? And in a case like this are you actually doing more harm to your brand than that of your rival?

Social media, twitter in this specific example, has become a place for brands to interact directly with consumers and prospects - it has changed advertising from interruption based to an actual dialogue where the end user has a voice - The brand takes on a living breathing role, there is a person running these accounts and it is no longer just a pushed message from the faceless corporation - that is why this specific brand bomb resonates.

I am sure the folks at Red Mango had to love the fact that a rival got called out, a few high fives at corporate were probably had - but to post the link to twitter, from your account, directly tied to your brand? That does hit a little low - because it is no longer the cold faceless corporation and an ad agency - it is your social persona, and your persona just came off as kind of a dick.

In reality, is a move like this any worse than what Horizon Group did when they sued a tenant over a tweet? To me they both are poor examples of how to participate in the message community, one example happened to get picked up by the MSM, the other just kind of passed through the Twitter silo.

I think this does give an opportunity to open the dialogue on what should be expected out of brands as they migrate to social media. Let me know what you think - was this brand bomb laid out by Red Mango a smart move? Or is it in poor taste and an example not to be followed?


Going Green - Where to start

Being a friend to the environment is something I truly believe most people strive for, but how to get there can be a challenge for some. That is why I wanted to introduce you to a very cool website, Green571.com. (5 Oceans - 7 Continents - 1 Planet)

The purpose of Green571 is to create an online community for people committed to creating a greener lifestyle. The site lists tips and information on everything from greener living around your home, to health care and nutrition (and all points in between.) Are you a big time investor, but you are in touch with our inner flower child? Green571 even has advice for you. And of course, of interest to those of us with little ones on the way, the site offers tips on green for your baby. In short, it is a one stop shop for almost anything you can do to make an impact to help keep our planet green.

Another cool project from the people behind 571 is just that, Project571. Officially licensed collegiate apparel made from organic cotton, bamboo or recycled polyester. The only problem to date is the lack of Boiler clothing, the site does say it is coming soon so I will be checking back.

I am always interested in finding out more about similar resources, please let me know if you have a site that offers resources for the eco-friendly.



The Fears of the Father

Any time in the next month, Torry (wife), Bailey (son) and I will be welcoming a new baby into our lives. This moment, of course, has brought a lot of excitement into our house. Bailey cannot wait to be a big brother, which is a role I know will suit him perfectly. Torry, although the pregnancy has been tough, is already in nesting mode and is so ready for this. Me, I am excited, but I am scared beyond description.

When Bailey was born just about anything that could be different was different. He is eight years old now, and Torry and I were 24 and 25 years old respectively when he was born. We lived the typical suburban life, even at that age. Both of us were employed and pretty fresh in our careers. For us everything was new, it was all exciting in a way most young parents can relate to.

Over the years Torry and I progressed in our careers, Bailey spent a lot of time in daycare and eventually moved on to Kindergarten and now is preparing for third grade. We have made a couple of significant moves, to Fishers, IN and then to our current location in downtown Chicago. Basically, the last eight years have been a whirlwind. But now, everything is different, but not in a bad sense.

We are living in a city environment and are out of the ‘burbs. Torry has put her career on hold and is doing a great job as a stay at home mother and care giver. Bailey now has a full time parent at his disposal, as will baby number two. And I am eight years older, and I feel every one of those years in my now out-of-shape body.

In those eight years we have experienced the horrible events of 9/11, we have seen our once strong economy decay, we are also more aware of the impact that each one of us has on the environment – it is just a different world to bring a child into. Add to the fact that we are living in Chicago and not the vinyl suburbs and the anxiety level rises. It is just an entirely different ballgame this time around.

In the end, I wouldn’t change our decision to add to our family for anything in the world. I know I am going to lose control of situations, but that is just part of the journey. It is going to be a crazy ride, and fear is a part of that, but I am glad to be taking it with Torry and Bailey.


Social Media and the #IranElection

In a world where our nightly news gives us stories about the love affairs of Jon and Kate and the trivial goings on of Heidi and Spencer it was hardly shocking that when news of protests came out of Iran main stream media was not leading the story. The protests, based on the controversial election results, came through the blogosphere via social media, and only now, days later, main stream media is trying to catch up on news that has become common knowledge to those who actively utilize social media.

Twitter has become the main source of information where a handful of trusted people are tweeting out of Iran, and at a high risk to their personal safety. The tweets are carrying messages about what is happening on the streets, warning people of dangers and countering the messages being put out by the state run media. Even more impactful are the images and videos being captured on cell phones and uploaded to photo sharing sites and youtube. The images are sometimes graphic and show a firsthand look at an uprising in the making. These images are not the ones that are typically screened and edited before making their way to the nightly news here in the US.

Another site, not really a social media site, is news aggregator Fark. This site has been an incredible source of information and conversation about what is happening real time, specifically from a regular poster that posts under the name Tatsuma.

What we are witnessing is not only a potential revolution in Iran, it is a revolution on how we consume news and information. Personally, as someone who is a consumer of social media I appreciate being one of the first in the know - however, as someone who frequents social media I know how fast misinformation can spread. This is a time where the world is starving for information from trusted sources, has this "revolution" shown us the irrelevance of traditional media? I hope not.


“Do you want to have access to baby food anymore?” - The Strange Battle Over BPA

With the recent news that members of the California Senate narrowly approved a proposal that would prohibit the use of a controversial toxic plastic additive from baby bottles, the issue over bisphenol A (BPA) has been getting a lot of attention. So much attention that according to scienceblogs.com a BPA Joint Trade Association Meeting on Communications Strategy was held on May 28 with the goal of developing a potential communications/media strategy around BPA.

Now, as someone who knows a little about marketing, I understand crisis communications planning and about developing PR strategy. But there is something to be said about not leaking your minutes from your meeting (or else you might need a crisis committee meeting on how to handle crisis committee meetings.)

Why do I say this?

Well, what is really interesting about this report is some of the specific tactics mentioned including this line that appears on it, "Attendees suggested using fear tactics (e.g. “Do you want to have access to baby food anymore?”) Which, to be honest, I am not completely sure how this tactic and this comment go together, unless they are talking about the BPA that is in formula containers.

Or there is this line in the report "The committee doubts social media outlets, such as Facebook or Twitter, will work for positive BPA outreach. The committee wants to focus on quality instead of quantity in disseminating messages (e.g. a young kid or pregnant mother providing a positive quote about BPA, a testimonial from an outside expert, providing positive video, advice from third party experts, and relevant messaging on the GMA website). "

Is this what it all comes down to now? Fear tactics and a young kid or pregnant spokesperson giving positive quotes about potential toxins? .... Seriously? Even though the FDA says BPA is safe at currently set levels there are scientists that accuse the FDA of using incomplete and unreliable data.

While I really would like the FDA to do as complete an analysis as possible, I am more concerned that there are group meetings being held where ideas like these are being developed, as opposed to facing the fact that companies may be selling a product that is harmful. It kind of reminds me of the current anti-smoking ads where they read old internal big tobacco documents. This will be an interesting story to keep an eye on to see what actually does come of these meetings and what tactics do make it to the public.


Toxic Baby? How safe are the products you use on your child?

As a parent with a baby on the way I constantly ask myself if I am doing everything to ensure the safety of my family. I don't believe in putting my family in a bubble, my son needs to get bumps and scrapes - he needs to be a boy. But there are issues that should concern any parent, things you take for granted that are safe because you have never been led to believe otherwise. 

Something that recently caught my interest was a report put out by The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics - now, to be honest I don't often read up on cosmetics but this report definitely struck a cord. The March 2009 Report, No More Toxic Tub, found that dozens of children's bath products are contaminated with formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane (chemicals found to cause cancer.) It wasn't just one or two small lesser known products, the CSC tested 48 products and had some pretty startling results.

61% of the products tested contained both of these chemicals, 82%  contained formaldehyde at levels ranging from 54 to 610 parts per million (ppm) and  67 percent contained 1,4-dioxane at levels ranging from 0.27 to 35 ppm. I will be honest, I am by no means a chemist, but I have to ask, any exposure that is repeatedly administered over a long period via multiple products can't be a good thing, can it? Especially if it can be avoided. And when China pulls your product off the shelves out of concern, well that is saying something (note, they did lift the suspension of the products.)

In looking at the CSC website I found a very cool link to Skin Deep, a database that ranks the safety of products including multiple baby products. The database bills itself as "filling in where companies and the government leave off: companies are allowed to use almost any ingredient they wish, and our government doesn't require companies to test products for safety before they're sold. EWG's scientists built Skin Deep to be a one-of-a-kind resource, integrating our in-house collection of personal care product ingredient listings with more than 50 toxicity and regulatory databases." It is an interesting site that I recommend at least taking a look at.

Like I said earlier, I know as a parent I can't completely take risk out of the equation, but I can take the formaldehyde out of my child's bath.

It's Not About Marketing

When I started this blog, my goal was to share marketing insights I had gained over the years – it was something I know well and can speak clearly about, but a post a few months back really got me thinking about the value I can provide in the wide world of noise (the internet for short.) As marketing has been a big part of me for the last 15 years, it is only a part.

Who I am as a person is obviously much more than that, and this is why when I broke from talking about marketing to issues of more personal significance I began rethinking. Ever sense I can remember I have always had a passion about improving the world in my own little way. Taking care of the environment has always been a big part of that, as I have aged I have not changed my view, but rather lessened my intensity on how I can make an impact.

As a parent with a new child on the way I think it is time to rekindle the flame. The world we live in has always been hectic, the fight for survival has always been there – but in a time when we are all more enlightened isn’t it time to stop making excuses and start working to make a difference?

From carbon emissions, the melting of polar icecaps, the increasing level of trash in landfills our years of excess have come at a cost that we are placing on future generations. In the instant gratification world we worry about what is in front of our nose when the real danger is sitting around the corner. It would be hypocritical of me to sit here and think I have not been part of the problem. For years I made choices based on convenience as opposed to what might be best for the world (Seriously, I love Fiji water, but in the end it is just water and I put a lot of plastic in landfills when I could have easily gone to the tap.)

So now my focus is on where in my soul I know it should be – sure I might sneak a little marketing babble in here or there, but in the end my blog is going to focus more on the social issues that matter to me. You will still get the snark, but there might be a little more vinegar too.

My challenge to you who read this is to do everything you can to educate yourself on the impact you have on the world and see if there aren't a few changes you can make. Also, if you have a reason to refute what I post, please do - in the end it is all about education and none of us is ever done learning.


Please follow my coworker @leahtn on her bicycle trek across California raising awareness and funds for HIV/AIDS - Aids Life Cycle alc8


How Big is Your Social Media Ripple?

Social media is quickly becoming the “it” phrase for marketers. We have flocked to twitter and are pumping out tweets to add to the collective conversation. We are using tools like tweetdeck to manage feeds and conversations of interest. We have put up a fan page on facebook to supplement our existing websites as a way to connect immediately with people who are our fans. We also are creating and joining groups on LinkedIn to leverage our position as thought leaders…but, this is not where it ends.

To truly understand social media and your place in this online world is to understand that almost every day there is a new channel rising up. Certainly a lot of these tools will come and go, but what about the ones that stick? Are you there, are you speaking to these audiences? If not, are your competitors? Have you looked to see if your brand is still available as a user name?

This last point is a big one. As social media grows, we marketers lose an element of control over our brands and place it squarely in the hands of the community at large. This can be a great thing, if you are using social media to its fullest as that is actually one of the goals. You want others to speak about your company to their followers, but what if someone takes your existing brand and starts a presence on an up and coming site? Celebrities deal with this all the time and it isn’t something that businesses should think they are immune to.

It is important to be aware of not only what is hot now, but what might be hot in the future. Even if you don’t have the time to manage every possible social community there are tools that can assist you in easily distributing your message over multiple platforms without much additional effort or time commitment. Even if you decide a certain channel is not appropriate for you, which is highly likely, it still might be in your interests to create a profile to secure no one else does first. In addition, a lot of these communities offer the ability to include your URL in the profile so at a minimum you are placing that link across a broader spectrum of the internet.

Following is a list of some of the larger social media sites, including a little basic information on each.

My.mashable.com: Mashable is a site you should be familiar with. Mashable is the leading blog focused exclusively on Web 2.0 and Social Networking. It is frequently linked on other social media networks. Basically my.mashable is your profile on this site where you can also add links to your other social networks along with other basic information. The site allows you to list your current activity, join and create groups and friend other members of the community.

Plaxo.com: Plaxo bills itself as “not a place to see how many online friends you can collect” It is basically an address book that allows you to post updates to the people in your book. It is a place to share blogs, photos, etc. Pulse works as a dashboard to view others social media platforms in one place. It is kind of the more grown up version of the better known aggregator friendfeed.

Friendfeed: it is just what its name is – a feed of all of you friends other social media activities – you can link twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc here and see everyone’s update in real time. What if your friends aren’t on friendfeed? No problem, it allows you to create a virtual profile for them until they eventually do jump on the wagon like they did for twitter and facebook. Also, you can segment your feeds into categories like personal, business, etc. You can also create and join groups relevant to you or your business interests.

LinkedIn: At the most basic level LI allows you to connect with all of your business contacts made over the years and serves as a living resume for you. LinkedIn also allows you to become a member or create groups with business professionals with like interests where you can share your insights and content with others who have opted in. Also, another big portion on the LI site is Answers – if you haven’t made yourself familiar with answers yet I recommend you do so soon.

Streetmavens: This operates similar to twitter with its microblog quality, but at a very local level. If you are a small business working in a specific geographic area it is something to consider as it is a place where people go to find out what is happening in their area. Plus, it offers a search feature that allows people to find what they are looking for happening in their city.

Twitter: The biggest microblog in the game

Ping.fm: this in itself is not a social tool you go to find information, rather it is a tool to use to create a message in one place and then it does the work of submitting it to your feeds on all of your other social sites. It is a blessing for those of us trying to easily get a message out to more than one channel fast.

Identi.ca: when of the up and comers in the world of microblogging. Its interface is not as clean as twitter, but navigating based on the tab based system is pretty easy. It does not have close to the community size as twitter, and is filled primarily with early adopters. A feature that identi.ca has that twitter does not on its mane site is the ability to create and join groups.

Koornk: Basically a twitter clone with clucks as opposed to tweets, which offers localization and opened support.

Kwippy: again, another microblog which offers the ability to share Gtalk, Yahoo and Facebook status messages with friends and have conversations around them. You can add kwippy as a contact in your IM and your statuses get stored and you get IM notifications whenever someone comments. Kwippy is still in early adopter phase and you need to submit your email to be invited to the community.

Multiply: Multiply is a community that allows you to update status, add photos, your blog, music, reviews and contacts all to one main dash. You can also create and join groups add videos and links to your profile. You can use the site for free, but Multiply also features a paid subscription that allows you to sort high res originals of photos and video, gives access to others hi-res content, higher video upload limits, ad-free browsing and one click album downloads.

Plurk: another in the growing number of microblogs, with a twist. Plurk shoes your 140 character updates in a timeline format instead of the traditional linear format used by other microblogs.

Tumblr: This site allows you to post photos, text, links, music, videos etc. You can post from your desktop, browser phone or even email. Tumblr also allows you to create an audio post from your phone. An added cool feature is the ability to add tags.

Vox: A blogging tool that allows easy integration with Flickr and YouTube.

jaiku: Yet another microblog, this time with the power of the name Google behind it. Jaiku operates a lot like twitter and allows the creation of channels (basically hash tagging) the biggest problem with jaiku right now is the lack of a good search feature, but with Google behind the scenes it may only be a matter of time.

Brightkite: Again a microblog, but the difference with Brightkite is that it is based on geography where you can check in to let people know where you are and add a photo of your current location – it is also a good tool to find out what is going on in the area you are. But in the end, functions like a microblog with pictures.

Youare: Basically, again, a microblog that was started in Spanish and moved to French and English speaking communities. Like twitter you can post updates in 140 characters, but you can also share video and pictures. However, here is where it is really different – full bios, including work life and education and the ability to add favorites and import from Flickr, YouTube and Delicious.

claimed / OpenID: A one stop place to create a log-in that can be used on sites like Livejournal, Magnolia, Technorati and Twurl (to name a few.) On your page you create a profile of all the sites that comprise your identity allowing you to easily prove ownership.

Slideshare: Have a cool presentation, this is the place to share it with the world – SS allows you to also embed shows onto blog or website, share publicly or privately, synch audio to slides, market events and join groups.

Delicious.com, Digg, diigo, Reddit, MisterWong: social bookmarking tools - start these accounts today and get to bookmarking your content today to help others discover what you offer.

Facebook: the standard line for facebook is it is an a living directory of everyone you care to keep connected with from birth to today and share what is going on in your world. On the business side there are fan pages where you can connect with the entire facebook universe if they become a fan. You can add events, pictures, updates and send messages to all of your fans quickly.

Bit.ly: URL shrinker with advanced analytics

Twurl.cc: URL shrinker that allows you to track number of clicks

Vimeo: A place for you to share videos

Seesmic: another place to add personal videos – the cool twist is the ability to create conversations with other people submitting their video updates.

YouTube: Beyond just uploading video you need to look at the benefits of creating a YouTube channel where you can add a detailed bio and links to your site – post recent activity updates and comment back and forth with viewers of the channel. Plus as you get subscribers to your channel they can be notified of new updates.


So, that is my list. Like I said earlier the world of social media is ever growing and in short time this list will be obsolete supplemented by the next 30 sites of interest. In the big ocean of Social Media, do you know if you have even begun to create a ripple? 


Do Not Click Facebook Links Ending In .im http://twurl.cc/ycr (via @mashable RT @JesseNewhart)


My Little Experiment

One of the cool things that have occurred based on some of my recent posts is the awareness level I have gained about some companies and products I didn’t know existed. From direct feedback to my own research I have learned a lot about these companies and the things they produce.

I have also had the chance to see that many of these cool little companies and products don’t have the bandwidth to market with some of the larger, better known brands. They don’t have the teams to help with SEO and PR to help pull their websites to page one in search ranks. They may not know about how a search marketing campaign can help drive traffic, or how inexpensive it can be. Also, some have not jumped on the social media bandwagon based on either not knowing how it works or not having enough hours in the day. These cool little companies and products are the small businesses that we hear so much about being the lifeblood of our country, and especially in times like this everyone could use a little extra publicity.

So, I have decided to do a little experiment. What I want to do is find out what cool products you feel need a little extra shout out (I hate that phrase, but whatever.) I am asking those of you that read this to send me a link to the company/product website (G rated of course) along with just a few words about why I should link them from the blog. Please note that I may use your comments along with the link to let others know why they should check this product out. In an upcoming post I will put together the links that pass my little sniff test and put them out to my readers (OK, I am not like CNN, but some people do actually read this stuff.) And in SEO every link counts (OK not every link, but that is not the point I am trying to achieve.)

Could this be a colossal failure and no one gives me anything to work with sure, but you get used to things not going as planned at times in marketing. So, with that said, if you think someone needs one more link on the web and a few words of love please let me know. Don’t be shy if the product is yours feel free to pass on the link. It doesn’t matter the industry or product, if I need to turn it into a couple posts so be it. As a consumer of knowledge (sometimes trivial) I really just want see what’s out there. You can message me on twitter or email me directly, I look forward to learning more about what is cool to you.


At the Bottom of Diapergate

Well here I am once again, finishing off a week long journey into the world of cloth versus disposable diapers. Asking and answering the questions that caused such a big stir after the airing of Jeffrey Hollender's, CEO of Seventh Generation, Big Green Lies on the Fine Living Network

In a nutshell, Big Green Lies aired a segment on it's Earth Day show about the environmental impacts of cloth versus disposable diapers. In the segment the conclusion was that when all environmental factors are considered a user is fine to use either type of diaper... but is this true?

I had an hour long conversation with Geoff Davis, a representative of Seventh Generation. Geoff, who also did the research for the segment that aired, was very personable and open to all of my questions. At the same time, over the course of our conversation he did mention he and his wife chose disposable diapers because they felt cloth diapers were hard to deal with. As I disclosed in my previous post, my wife and I are going with cloth for our upcoming birth - so obviously both of us have to have some level of personal bias if we are all being completely honest. But just like Geoff claims that Big Green Lies looked at the issue objectively, so will I.

One of the first things that I asked him was if he would go on record in saying there was no bias in the study, without hesitation he said that he stood by the information presented and that he spent a day to a day-and-a-half researching online and other places for this segment. When asked what research he used to prepare the segment he pointed specifically to two studies that came to similar conclusions. 

The first, a Franklin & Associates study done in the 90's, which even he mentioned was done for the disposable industry and should be taken with a grain of salt since reports like this can obviously result in a clear bias.

If this is true though, then why was it used in the analysis of the debate? The second report he referenced was done by the Union of Concerned Scientists. One source Geoff did not mention was the RDA. By looking at their site you can see a counterpoint to most of the arguements raised in the BGL piece. Knowing now at least a portion of the data used I had to ask the obvious question... how can a company like Seventh Generation that has a stake in the disposable diaper industry be seen as credible on this topic, how was this not an hour long infomercial to promote products?

Geoff immediately pointed to the fact that they were very careful not to mention any products, which is true. He noted that of course a certain amount of this discussion will happen when Seventh Generation people appear on the show. When he and Jeffrey started this project it was originally supposed to be a book but it evolved into the eventual TV show. The intent the entire time was to educate the public to make better decisions to protect the environment. Geoff pointed to a couple of publications he did work on with Jeffrey that actually tell people how to make some of their own earth friendly products (Seventh Generation Guide to Creating a Healthy Home and Naturally Clean.) 

While I completely agree that they did do a good job of not directly pushing product in the show, there still is the issue that there was the potential for bias in the reporting (remember the grain of salt analogy.) This was a big reason for a lot of the initial backlash on twitter. Geoff did raise a good point that what this did is it got people talking, and he felt that as long as people were talking then they did a good job. 

And people are talking, believe me I have heard from a lot of people and there is a lot that people want to say.

A big question was one touched on in the segment and that is the fact that disposable diapers are currently the third most common consumer item in landfills. In further research I found no one knows how long it takes for a disposable diaper to decompose, but it is estimated to be about 250-500 years. Also, disposable diapers generate sixty times more solid waste and use twenty times more raw materials like crude oil and wood pulp. When Geoff and I started the conversation on landfill waste he said that life is full of gray areas and everything involves a trade off, that every benefit comes with a disadvantage.

The next bit of conversation he said is somewhat subjective, but to him the single greatest environmental concern is climate change, and because of this he views landfill waste as less of a problem. He believes in looking more at the greater impact caused by carbon emissions than the impact of disposables in the landfills. I will add that I agree that one of the greatest environmental issues is the effects of global warming and the melting of our polar ice caps - but to me, why does it have to be an either or?

I asked him about a place like Hawaii that is seeing the closing of landfills, where they are running out of places to dump their trash. Geoff pointed back to the video where they do mention that people who live in areas like this should focus more on the landfill issue and for them cloth might be better, but for people in areas where water consumption is an issue that the greater focus should be on the effects cloth diapers and washing have. But to me, shouldn't we look at Hawaii as an example of what the rest of us might face if we don't limit waste? Anyway...

This was an interesting transition because the topic of water usage and environmental impact were also high on the list of things people were talking about. One of the first things I asked was specifically about the segment on the show where the woman who served as the pro-disposable advocate talked about being opposed to using too much water. The irony was that she was standing on a lush green lawn, so I asked about that and about why they didn't ask her about other ways she could be conserving water. Geoff couldn't speak to this issue because he was not there during the taping of that particular segment and mentioned that hours of filming were cut down to fit in the six minute segment. At that I mentioned there is a certain level of being unfair since it is placing an additional level of negativity on cloth diapers when the greater issue is water consumption in general.

To this Geoff gave the stats that washing diapers will average an additional 50-70 gallons used every two days at home, and that homes that wash cloth diapers use 27% more water and diaper services use 13% than if you were using disposables. What Geoff didn't mention is something I found in other research, the manufacture and use of disposable diapers amounts to 2.3 more water wasted than cloth. I am not a huge math person, but to me it looks like that both forms of diapering do have an effect on the consumption of water. If this is the crux of the argument for disposable, does this mean that the pendulum can't swing as far as disposable manufacturers want it to? This is not a reflection on Seventh Generation diapers since Big Green Lies was not meant to be, it is about all disposable manufacturers.

In addition to this information I asked Geoff if there were other ways to lessen the washing impact of cloth diapers. He said that  by lowering the washing temperature from the standard 160-170 down to 130-140, by using energy efficient washers and line drying that the impact caused by washing would be lessened. He added to this that it is not only the water, but products like bleach that are added to clean the diapers.

I questioned him about this, because in my discussions with cloth manufacturers (like sloomb and bum genius) they both recommend that chlorine bleach never be used on their products. In fact there are some cases where warranties are voided if bleach is used. Geoff had a reasoned reply that they looked at this based on what people actually do, and that people are using bleach. Since I don't know what every consumer does it seemed logical. But at the same time if they used time to mention this in Big Green Lies maybe more people would know and learn the appropriate way to use cloth diapers and lessen the environmental impact.

At the same time, some of the argument on consumer behavior benefits disposable manufacturers since the instructions on a disposable diaper package advise that all fecal matter should be deposited in the toilet before discarding. If all disposable users did that, how much water would be wasted with each flush? The fact that this is not happening means that it is not only the diapers building in the landfill, it is also fecal matter. Again, I am not an expert, but that seems just as nasty as washing a cloth diaper probably seems to some. 

I did ask if the Seventh Generation baby laundry detergent would work since the cloth manufacturers don't advocate bleach and he said it is not designed to be a zero residue product, that it is designed more for garments and not diapers. (So to a degree this adds to the argument that Seventh Generation has more of a stake in seeing disposables win this debate, but maybe that is just me.)

I wanted to find out why diapers are the only disposable product being put under the microscope, so I asked if Geoff recommends using disposable dishware and paper towels to regular tableware and cloth rags. Geoff felt this was a case of comparing apples to oranges - in his opinion we can't apply what we know about diapers to other things in the house. That in general reusable products are better than disposable and in general rags rule because of the lower impact they have due to the ability to clean your entire house with one rag before you toss it in the laundry. He also mentioned how often Jeffrey, even as the CEO of a consumer product company, goes out of his way to tell people to reduce consumption. I will agree with Geoff here that anytime you can reduce consumption you are doing a positive thing. But knowing some of the other data about how you can reduce the effects of water usage from cloth and the growing impact of disposables in landfills maybe cloth diapers have their place in this conversation too.

Geoff and I got back on to the topic of ways to reduce the effects from laundering in general, some of the tips he offered (and these do not all apply to diapers) are the ones mentioned above, also washing in cold water, use detergents that are 2x-4x concentrated as they use less packaging (along with a lower impact on shipping due to volume,) hanging clothes to dry and using naturally based products to launder with (he did reiterate he was talking in general and not just about 7th Gen products.)

When I asked again how by doing all this the pendulum does not completely shift, he mentioned the cost involved in purchasing these next generation washers that can run inthe $700 range. 

So I asked about the cost information I showed in my previous post and he agreed that you can more than make up this difference, but it is having to incur that large one time cost to purchase the washer that makes it much harder to justify for a lot of people. That people can find the extra few dollars every week to purchase disposables. While I see his point, the fact is still out there that there are ways to lower the environmental impact of cloth diapers and there is a way for people to save money (maybe enough to buy a better washing machine.)

Having felt at this point we had pretty much talked enough about the environmental impact I want back to the potential for a biased report. In the show there is a portion where it is mentioned that cloth diapers interfere with the enjoyment of the baby, I had to find out what this was all about. Geoff said that this was more about the fact that cloth diapers can be seen as a chore and that time spent cloth diapering could be time you are spending with your baby. That this is where the blush comes off the rose because of all the work involved. 

Now if this is truly unbiased reporting, why was an implication like this used for the cloth diapers and not something similar for the disposables (editorializing if you will). And also, why when they showed cloth diapers did they only show the old school diapers at the service and not any of the easier to use cloth diapers that are gaining popularity? 

To the first point, Geoff did mention that if they were to do something like this again this might have been looked at more closely and that he could see the point raised on editorializing. He said they might have bit off more than they could chew by trying to touch on so many issues in BGL. But in the end, he is absolutely pleased with what they did.

So, about the name, Big Green Lies - if disposables control 90-95% of market share, then is it really appropriate to call cloth diapering a BGL and to have devoted the time to it on the show if all things are unbiased? 

Yes, was the answer from Geoff. It was right to put it in the show even though most people choose disposables. Because many people struggle with this decision before deciding on disposable diapers and they wanted to let these people know that their decision is still a good one. And it is fair to call it a Big Green Lie because they believe the decision for cloth is not as clear cut a better environmental choice as some make it out to be.

Again, as I have said in previous posts, I agree that no one should feel guilty about a personal choice - but in all honesty I would like to see another media outlet pick up the torch to remove the element of bias that will be perceived here due to the relationship of Jeffrey, Seventh Generation and Big Green Lies. 

Geoff felt, and I agree, this is a topic worthy of discussion, and the blogosphere spreading this message shows that this has hit a nerve. Geoff closed with saying that he does not see what they have done since the airing as damage control (which is what I originally called it.) He said they love and encourage debate if it leads to healthy purchasing decisions, and that a healthy decision is one's own to make. He said that Seventh Generation always puts the earth first, customer second and company third.

Now, we have heard a lot from Geoff, but I wanted to speak directly to people on the other side of the argument too and give them a voice on this issue. One such person was Paula, the owner of BabyWorks in Portland, Oregon. When I asked Paula for a statement it was easy to see how passionate she is about the issue, and although she had a lot to say the following really speaks to her point of view:

"I think disposable diapers should be what they are - a convenience product that is simply not an environmentally sound choice.  That does not mean they do not have their place, nor does it mean a number of people won't use them anyways for whatever reason.  There are occasions they are useful for - mainly, situations which do not have access to laundry facilities (e.g., travel, no washer/dryer, etc.).  We need to let go of the environmental argument.  When I eat a take out meal, I am well aware that I am throwing the (paper) box away and that it creates trash, and so I don't do it often.  The restaurant does not tell me this is "better" than using my own dishes to try to get me to buy more take-out.  We all know what is going on, and in that moment, have made a choice.  People using disposable diapers should be aware they are creating trash.  It is not about making people right and wrong, it is about awareness.  This awareness might drive more people to make a diapering choice from an informed point of view.  They don't need more confusion from spin doctors
as in this infomercial."

So, with that I am drawing my own end to diapergate. I may not have done anything to sway anyone elses point of view, but at least I was able to look at all sides of an arguement and make a decision for myself... one that I am happy with. I encourage all of you that read this to do the same. Don't just accept the information given to you, seek out answers, educate yourselves and get involved. Find out what you can do to make an impact on the world we live in and make informed choices so you can be happy that you are doing all you can for the world all of our children will live in.


Little Green Truth?

When I decided to start this blog my focus was to discuss things that were important to me and also to share the marketing knowledge and tips I have acquired though the years. Even with my experience in social media I never expected to get so personally involved in a story that was buzzing in the twitter world. But that is exactly what happened when I recently wrote about how Seventh Generation was handling a public relations issue via twitter.

Even more than that, I never thought that I would be so publicly involved in a story about the environmental impact of diapers, but sometimes stuff happens. Full disclosure, my wife and I are planning on using cloth diapers when our second child is born this summer. I joke that it is because we are hippies, but there really is a lot more to it than that. Part of the reason we decided to go the cloth route is because we do try, as a family, to do all that we can to help the planet - but we also looked at the economic benefits of cloth diapers and that is what finally pushed us to go the cloth route.

We did consider using Seventh Generation's chlorine free diapers since (more disclosure) we do use a variety of their cleaning products. But in reality the final decision was strictly one of cost (since we thought either way we were doing the right thing for the planet.) The website diaperdecision.com breaks out the total expected cost of multiple cloth options versus standard disposable diapers. The site finds that a parent will spend roughly $900-$1,200 more for disposable diapers over the time their child will be in diapers. So we thought hey, we are doing something good for the environment and saving money in the process, it is a no lose situation.

But then a funny thing happened...Earth Day. It all started with the  premier of the Fine Living Networks "Big Green Lies." The show was created by Jeffrey Hollender, the Chief Protagonist" & CEO of Seventh Generation. In the show they discussed both sides of the argument of cloth vs disposable and in the video it appeared to many in twitterverse that BGL downplays the impact disposable diapers have in increasing waste in landfills but puts added emphasis on the fact that cloth diapers use more water in their lifetime. Thus, the show concludes the result is a tie and everyone should feel good about whichever path they chose.

I agree, nobody should be made to feel guilty about their choice, but is it fair for Jeffrey Hollender to be leading this public discourse as the show basically could act as a commercial for his products (as many people pointed out on Twitter.) Wouldn't this be akin to the CEO of a fast food chain creating a show explaining that you should not feel guilty about eating a double cheeseburger and large fries daily because he has data to prove that it isn't as bad as it seems?

So this is where my little blog comes into play. My wife is on twitter and follows multiple manufacturers and sellers of cloth diapers, she told me about a trending conversation regarding people being upset about BGL and the content on the show. So, I decided to follow the conversation and to look at Seventh Generations twitter feed to see how they were reacting - and they were reacting and doing, what I called, damage control. To be honest, I thought it was good that they were responding - they had their talking points in order and put the replies out there. I did mention that I wished the PR team luck, since as someone in the industry you never want to deal with negative PR, especially when it is coming from people who are buying your products.

Well, my article picked up some steam and was retweeted a few times (which I am thankful for, by the way.) It eventually found it's way to the people at Seventh Generation and this morning Meghan contacted me asking for a conversation. I gladly accepted Meghan's offer and we exchanged email information, so I am currently waiting for a conversation with her, or someone at Seventh Generation, to get their full side of the story and to get their answers to some questions about the cloth versus disposable debate.

In the meantime I have been doing some research, and have contacted some people on the other side of the issue and I am learning even more than I ever thought I would about diapers. I also learned about a really cool project being done by Sloomb called one diaper-one treetm. I personally found out more about this company by following their replies on twitter. 

Sloomb, was one of the more active twitterers, along with bum genius and Babyworks when diapergate hit. These companies were using the power of social media to push their issue to the forefront, and it is obviously working. 

This is why I love social media, and also why it can be scary for people who protect brands. We are able to have instant feedback on issues that impact so many and no longer can we assume that there are walls to hide behind. Hopefully I will have the follow up to this in the coming days where I can share some of the great information I have already obtained, and combine that with the information I get from Seventh Generation. I hope, in the end, that I can help clear up any confusion and can share a collection of data from all points of view so everyone can feel comfortable in the fact that they were given some Little Green Truth.


A Little Ray of Sunshine

It's funny how the mind works at 10:30 on a Sunday night. I have had multiple nagging issues that just weighed enough on my mind for me to think about for a few minutes and then shrug off. However tonight was one of those nights where they all just keep playing in my head keeping me awake. Then, for some odd reason I thought about my dog, Keady. She is a little Boston Terrier with a big attitude. However, the thing that popped into my head was what drew me out of bed and to the keyboard. 

It was an image of Keady lying in a sunbeam. This, by far, is what makes her happiest in the world. Even if it only lasts for a few minutes she will find a sunbeam coming in through the window and plop down determined to enjoy every last second of it.

The things that have been bothering me aren't the things that I typically like to write about (marketing, social media or whatever the Bears have done to make me question why I follow them like a religion.) What is really getting to me is what is happening in the world and the way everyone is reacting.

We are now living in a word of eternal pessimism, doubt and general anger. Trust and respect are two things that are hard to come by... and this is sad. I am sure I am not the only one that lays awake wondering about these things, but maybe others are worrying for other reasons.

It is easy to get caught up in what is wrong in the world. Everyone wants to talk about the latest scandal, how much money is being spent by big corporations and by our government, what is the latest pandemic, etc. But whatever happened to just enjoying life?

The thing I remember most after September 11, 2001 is the way America came together. How everyone really felt good about being American. How we took notice of the little things and were willing to spend the extra few minutes talking to our neighbors. It is sad that this didn't have a longer lasting place in our lives.

What happened is self-interest and greed once again took over. We went back to the world of wanting more and more and never being satisfied. We felt it was part of what made America the greatest country in the world - we pushed our fellowship of man to the back of our minds and pushed the new luxury car into our driveways. This is not to slight personal accomplishment, people should always push themselves to do more and people should be able to enjoy the rewards of their hard work... but think about this. 

Think about the first Thanksgiving. Sure, I wasn't there and it could have been a real crappy day, but think about what we have been taught about that day. It was a day for giving thanks for basically being alive. For overcoming long odds and surviving...this, more than anything that can be bought in stores, is America.

In my lifetime we have seen many upturns and downturns - and right now we are seeing a downturn of major proportions. We are fractured along political lines. We are fractured based on our views on what should be done to the people and corporations that are being put in the spotlight for the economic ills we face. We are fractured in our views on social issues and morality. We are fractured on our views on what our effect really is on our planet. We are fractured, but I truly believe we can be mended. We just need to find our rays of sunshine.

Obviously our economy is in the crapper (yes, I grew up in "The Region" and say the word crapper with no shame.) No matter what is done or is not done people are outraged. People also want to see heads roll and people punished for what is going on in the world of big business. For the most part I was one of those people. A lot of people lost everything, including a lot of good people. However, being angry has gotten me nowhere. I am not saying people should not be held accountable for their actions, but really I am more interested in what I am doing to make the lives of others better. I am more interested in living my life.

I am not choosing to bury my head in the sand, I know there are still tough times ahead. What I am choosing is to focus on what is good in the world - there is still some good out there if you are willing to look for it. However, it might mean you have to take off your political war paint.

Both sides of the aisle have some valid points and some great ideas, but too often we all put blinders on and refuse to acknowledge someone who is "red" or "blue" if we lean the other direction. When it comes down to it, we all want the freedom to run our own lives. We want to be happy in our own skin and respected for who we are. The thing is, in our quest for personal freedoms we have tuned out the voices of others, or we have taken to talking so loudly that we can't even hear what someone else has to say. This goes for both sides of the aisle.

I can't tell anyone what to believe, but I shouldn't have to try. People should be free to live their lives with equal access to happiness and fulfillment. We should not work to segment the population and quiet voices that our different. We should look for those simple things in life that make us happy.

In a couple of months my wife and I will be bringing our second child into the world. In spite of what is going on outside my doors, I couldn't be happier that our family will be growing. It is no longer about possessions or personal status, it is about being happy and knowing I am doing right in the world.

Personally, I am going to makes sure I spend as much time with my family as humanly possible. I am going to make sure I am doing everything I can to protect the planet I live on. Even if we don't know the full effects of our carbon footprints I am choosing to error on the side of going full hippy. I am going to focus on what I can do to make others around me more comfortable, to be more tolerant and patient. I am going to stop obsessing about money - either I will have it or I won't, as long as I have the support of family and friends I know there is always a way to make things work. I am also going to make sure I continue to be snarky and sarcastic and never take things too seriously, I mean really... lighten the hell up people.

Finally, I am going to look for my sunbeams. Even in the times when things are darkest I am going to seek out those little rays of light and soak them up for as long as I can.

(I was just about to hit publish, but I wanted to add that I really do feel better about typing this out. Writing was always something I loved, but just pushed aside when life got in the way. Even if I am not the greatest writer in the world it is something that has always been personally satisfying and I know I should do a lot more of it. I hope others can remember what that one thing was that made them happy that they put on the back burner.

There is a quote from the movie Dazed and Confused that I absolutely love. It is from the character David Wooderson and I think it is the only appropriate way to close this post. "The older you get, the more rules they are going to try and get you to follow. You just got to keep livin' man. L-I-V-I-N.")