Happy New Year! Now Update Your Facebook Privacy Settings.

Those quizzes you played over the holidays aren’t just there for giggles.

‘Tis the end of a decade and what a journey it’s been, right? Ten years and so many things have changed: Internet Explorer isn’t the top browser, free wifi is just about everywhere (not just at Starbucks), and Mark Zuckerberg is known more for his congressional hearings than for being TIME’s Person of the Year.

Other things change, too, and they matter – especially today, when we all value our data and private information just about as much as our valuables and family members. Guess what? The social apps we all use on the daily value our data even more than we do, and they’re always waiting with open arms to catch you (and your information) unawares.

So, as we get rolling into a brand new year and a new decade, let’s check your private parts, shall we? (Private parts of your social media apps, that is.)

Facebook Privacy Settings

Fortunately it’s fairly easy to make crucial review and updates to your settings in Facebook. For a quick video walkthrough, watch our YouTube video below… otherwise you can follow the screenshots through this article.

  • Go to Facebook.com and click on the question mark at the top right. This should reveal a slew of options: click on Privacy Checkup.
Screenshot of the privacy settings menu from Facebook's top nav bar.
Hidden within the question mark are some important features that relate to how safe you are online and on Facebook.
  • Work your way through the four (4) modules to thoroughly update your settings. You may be surprised at what you find (I was!), so it’s important to take the five minutes necessary to clean things up.
Screenshot of the four privacy setting modules in Facebook
Facebook will guide you through short reviews of visibility, security, searchability, and data sharing.
  • Once you’ve worked through all four modules, you aren’t done! Click on the Settings link at the bottom of the dialog box to get into more crucial options. Start with the Privacy tab in Facebook Settings (see below).
Screenshot of Privacy Settings within the Facebook website.
Under the Facebook hood are even more settings that you’ll want to review and update. They relate to Stories, tagging, and even face recognition!

It’ll only take you a few minutes to glance at each setting, from Privacy all the way through Face Recognition (gasp – what?), but it’s truly worth your time. Better to be rigorous for less than 10 minutes than to spend months fixing the loss of your private data!

Have a quarter.

We recommend that you check these settings about once every quarter (three months). Why? Because Facebook will change settings for you and/or you may accept changes that you forget about.

For instance, every time you change the visibility setting on your Facebook posts, that settings stays that way for the next post unless you change it back. By setting one post to Public, every post after that could be Public also… unless you change it back to Friends or something else.

Also, consider this: every so often Facebook will automatically update your feed settings so that any video you pause on will automatically play sound. (Annoying, right? Also embarrassing if you happen to be in a quiet environment.) If it makes changes for you on the feed, you can safely assume it could make changes to your settings without you realizing it.

Better to be safe than waaaaaay sorry.

What are your tips and tricks for protecting your Facebook privacy and data?

The Mom Dept.

A show about the business of being a professional mom.

“Write what you know.”

Mark Twain

It’s a good policy for writing, and the same goes for shows. We are the most passionate about the things we feel we know best, so it makes perfect sense to me that my return to livestreaming is a show about two aspects to me that I know all too well.

Mom + Professional = #TheMomDept

Screenshot of live broadcast of #TheMomDept on LinkedIn Live

When I’m thinking about doing a new livestream show about real, professional experience as a woman, and then learn I have access to LinkedIn Live, the theme of #TheMomDept was a no-brainer.

I know so many professional women, and a good portion of them are mom-figures in every sense. We navigate the choppy waters of being responsible for multiple aspects of our life, and often of other people’s lives, so there is no end to relevant topics we can explore.

Also, I can’t lie: the draw of making videos on LinkedIn is great, especially as the engagement there is more focused and amplified than on a platform like Facebook. YouTube is great, but right now video on LinkedIn is a small-enough, focused pond where great waves can be made.

What do you want to see?

Upcoming topics for #TheMomDept include:

  • The Whole Image Thing (make-up, fashion, appearance, etc.)
  • Dollars and Sense (budgets at work and budgets at home)
  • Back-to-School Balance…??? (is there such a thing?)

If you have a topic you’d love the show to cover OR if you’re burning to be a guest, email me! You can also InMail me on LinkedIn.

How to Handle Your Handles

When you’re taking your brand to social media, your handle matters. Your handle is your username on any social channel. It’s the unique identifier that appears after the facebook.com/, or instagram.com/.

The more you can make these names match up on multiple channels, the easier it will be for your audience to find you. Think how much simpler it is to say, “My handle everywhere is BrandX!”

When planning your website and social media handles, do your research to see if variations of your brand name are available. The more you can match them all up, the faster your customers will find you.

Visit bit.ly/howtosocialvideos for more quick hits by Really Social.

How to Do a Family Podcast with Your Kids (and Why)

Every hour as a parent starts to feel like a stolen moment, doesn’t it? To say “time flies” is a massive understatement as these children who were the size of my forearm are gaining inches in height and miles in maturity (or attempts at it) every single month.

Thus capturing the moments and memories is always getting more urgent. And I have one vital factor working against me: I am not a crafty mom. I don’t regularly schedule family photo sessions. I hardly ever think to use a Shutterfly discount code to order prints or even a photo book of my kids. And saving their school or personal projects? Those tend to pile up into an unwieldy stack of papers until we finally spend a whole day posting them to a memory wall downstairs.

Family photo for DCC
The last time I got a picture of all of us was for Denver ComicCon 2018.

In short, I suck at saving memories. But I’m great at digital communications, and that’s where I struck upon what has worked for my particular situation: a family podcast.

Why a Family Podcast?

This all was inspired by the Avengers movies which have been reigning in our entertainment horizons for the last decade. Our family is fully entrenched in the geekery of the MCU (that’s Marvel Cinematic Universe for those who aren’t at our level of nerddom) and, as the kids have grown older and attended movie showings with us, the debates about each movie run fast and furious the moment the end-credits scene closes out and the theater lights go up.

I noticed that each member of our family had no trouble airing our opinions about the super heroes, super villains, plot lines, comedy, and overall appeal of each movie we see together.

I also was getting perpetually harassed by my children – one in particular – about wanting to become a “YouTuber.” Any remotely digitally-savvy parent should be acquainted with the fears of allowing the full force of internet viewers and their anonymous opinions to bowl over their kiddo, and I knew that I wanted to provide a type of training curriculum for my children before the whole “YouTuber” plan would even be considered.

So… we started a podcast. It’s called UnpauseIt. Here’s why it has been a great overall experience for our family.

It teaches production value.

An audio podcast requires that you record moments, and we had to incorporate that mechanism into the normal course of our movie discussions. So I bought us a Blue Yeti microphone, positioned it in the center of our circular dining room table, sat everyone down, and began recording.

Our daughter giving her .02 about a movie.

The entire first season of our podcast (where we reviewed each Avengers movie from Iron Man through Infinity War) was a learning experience in recording. We learned that when we put a blanket on the table and under the microphone, we reduced the amount of ambient noises captured in our recordings. We also learned to never give the kids plastic water bottles for drinking, because a firm grip (and resulting plastic popping noise) clearly carried into the recording.

Dad and son discussing opinions for an early episode.

We’d let the kids listen to our podcasts once they were edited and published, and they could hear how they sounded or when they needed to speak clearly or stay on point. Additionally, we as parent-producers could hear when we should have paused for a “wiggle-break;” as the show progressed in episodes, we got better at organizing the flow so the kids could be cut loose during segments they found to be more “for the boring adults.”

It teaches leadership.

We wanted this podcast to fully include all members of the family, regardless of age. So each week, we would rotate in one of us to “drive” that week’s podcast; the driver would be the one to ask questions and decide which person responds with their opinion and in what order. They could choose the sequence of questions, plus they needed to come up with the unit of measure for when we rated each movie.

This didn’t happen without obstacles or hiccups! We’d hit days when the kid driving would start getting tired or disinterested, and we’d have to pause to either have a pep talk or discontinue the recording until we could regroup with more gusto. We parents quickly learned the best times of day to let a kid drive the podcast recording, as well as the value of letting them drive the movies they liked versus the ones they were “meh” about.

It captures memories.

My absolute favorite aspect of this family podcast project is being able to hear my children’s voices at the tap of a screen on my Stitcher podcast player or on our YouTube channel. When the kids were at their grandma’s house for the summer, I’d pull up what I knew to be a favorite movie for one of them and play through their giggles, their attempts to sound like a professional host, their animated discussions, and even their contentiousness with differing opinions.

Podcasting should be fun… right???!!!

I may not be a mom that’s good at framing pictures or building scrapbooks. But I’m a mom that’s good at media production, and being able to include my kids in that skill and use it to build media memories I’ll have forever is everything.

How Do You Do a Family Podcast?

Pick a theme or topic for everyone.

This one was easy for us, and my best advice for you is to take a week where you’re on the lookout for those times when your family is all fully engaged with something at the same time. Your family may have many opportunities to choose from, or you may have less; it’s all going to depend on your dynamic and each person’s interests.

The key is to not force a topic. Case in point: our kids ultimately gained more interest in video games than in movies, so we’re pivoting our podcast to do a season about gaming (which might be something they’re more into than we are, but it’s still a shared interest with all of us).

Get equipped.

You’ll need a few things to create a podcast:

  • A microphone.
  • An audio editing software.
  • A podcast hosting platform.
  • A graphic design tool.

Microphone

Audio quality is a big deal for podcasts, particularly if you have your sights on becoming well-known, popular on iTunes, and even sponsored someday by advertisers because you’re so freaking awesome.

That said, you can get away with the microphone included on your smartphone’s earbuds. It isn’t ideal, but it’s way better than relying on the open-air microphone of your smartphone or laptop.

Our family has used two microphones throughout our podcasting journey (and we’re still refining them):

  • Blue Yeti USB Microphone – I bought this to allow for a variety of recording patterns, but primarily for the omnidirectional recording we used it for at our circular table.
  • Zoom H1n Handy Recorder – This mic has been key to when we want to do mobile recordings. It records to an SD card and lets you have free reign and range of mobility, tethered to nothing, able to walk and talk and thrust your mic into anyone’s face who will give you a word.
  • Audio-Technica ATR2100 USB Microphone – if both of those options are too pricey for you, I swear by this microphone for a great quality sound for a budget-friendly price. It’s USB-connected, but you can also connect it via XLR to a mixer (if you want to mix more than one person into your recording).

Audio Editing Software

Don’t get freaked out by this; thanks to the power of Google and YouTube, anyone can learn to edit audio. Really it’s like editing a sentence in Microsoft Word; if you type a sentence and want to remove a word that you don’t need, you would just use your mouse to highlight the word and hit DELETE.

The same principle applies to audio editing, except you’re working with a waveform and need to use your mouse to highlight the sounds or phrases you don’t need, then hit DELETE.

I monitor the peaks and valleys of our audio as it records (using Adobe Audition).

As far as audio editing software that lets you perform this magical process, you have some good options:

  • Audacity – It’s a free open-source audio editing software you can download off of the internet. I used this for creating some of my past podcasts before remembering that I had the next option already. Audacity is plenty capable for editing and finalizing a podcast audio file.
  • Adobe Audition – This was already a part of my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription (~$600 for a year, and even less for students), plus it has a podcast template included. As with all things Adobe, I only claim to know about 10-20% of each program because they’re so jampacked with tools and features.

Podcast Hosting

First thing here: do you already have a blog or a website? If so, you may choose to feature your podcast from that website… but that does not mean that each audio file of your podcast should be uploaded to or hosted on your blog or website. That would be like placing the city of New York on a train and expecting it to move at its top speed; it’s not going to happen.

That’s why you need to use a podcast hosting service to upload your podcast audio files to so they can be pulled from there when anyone wants to download your latest episode.

  • Libsyn – I use this service at the recommendation of business podcaster Pat Flynn and I’ve never been sorry for that choice. Their plans start at $5/month, and the price increases based on how many times per month you upload a large audio file (memory capacity) as well as if you want analytics on your podcast downloads.
  • Blubrry – I have never used this service, but I hear a ton about it. Plus it provides the plugin I use on my WordPress-hosted website to add the podcast audio link to the blog post for my podcast episodes.

Graphic Design

Once again, don’t get freaked out. This part is just about giving iTunes or any other podcast listening app a visual for your podcast, and that is something you absolutely must have.

Thankfully, here too you have a range of options ranging from free-ninety-five to, well, more than that.

  • Canva.com – One of the best things to happen to the world, allowing people to create pretty things without needing to know much about graphic design. (Though please don’t get me wrong; you’ll never create something in Canva that’s as good as what a designer can come up with.) In any case, Canva is a free website where you can use their templates or put in the size of what you want to create and use their elements to whip something up.
  • Adobe Photoshop – This is my go-to for creating visuals, though I will also use Illustrator for more complex or nuanced creations. However, if you want the “lite” version of Photoshop, it’s way more affordable and can still support your creation of a podcast thumbnail graphic.
  • PowerPoint – While being the absolute last tool I’d opt to use, PowerPoint can still let you create visuals and save the slide as an image file (JPG or PNG) to get by.

Record your first three episodes

Wait, why three? Can’t you just test things out and record one first?

Sure, except for this relatively recent new term as it relates to consuming entertainment: “binging.” People love to hear or watch one episode and then leap right into the next one if the content is riveting enough.

Since one of your goals in starting a podcast is to gain subscribers – those fans who will check their podcast player for your latest episode on the day they’re supposed to drop – you’ll want to get them hooked right out of the gate. So plan to record at least 2-3 episodes and publish them as your podcast launch. Bing-Bang-Boom.

Listen.

This is going to be the best part of creating a podcast but the one part you constantly forget to do. If you don’t listen to what you’ve published, you will miss the value of what you just created, as well as the lessons you can learn for what you will create in the future.

Enjoy the fruits of your family’s labor. Laugh at the goofs. Brainstorm new ideas. Relish the moments and the memories you just created together which will live on thanks to the magic of media.

Unpause It.

Now that I’ve told you all about the why and how of our family’s podcast, maybe you’ll want to listen to some of our journey. Our podcast is called UnpauseIt, which is what we always call out when we’re ready to start playing the movie or video game we’re currently enjoying once the bathroom or snack breaks are over.

Our labor of love. Lots of labor. More love.

It isn’t perfect. But it’s ours and, because of who’s in it, I love it with all of my heart.

Empathy is Everything

We’re all a little too into ourselves.

From dawn to dusk, from mirror to screen, we are all up in our own feelings and experiences. Why? Because it just feels right.

We feel right.

Which means anyone who doesn’t feel like us, sound like us, or look like us feels wrong.

I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t feel like connecting with a person or a brand who makes me feel wrong because they’re right. How about you?

Enter empathy in marketing.

If you’ve read this blog, you know it’s primarily about digital marketing. Social media, apps, writing, email… these are all things that make marketing happen.

So what does empathy have to do with marketing? Everything.

If you don’t believe that, I dare you to try something:

  • Walk up to a stranger sometime today.
  • Tell the person why your breakfast choice this morning is so awesome.
  • If they haven’t walked or run away from you yet, ask them if they’d like to try your breakfast choice for themselves.

who-are-you-why-are-you-talking-to-me-really-social-blogNow you may luck out and run across a very open and receptive person who entertains your impromptu interruption of their day. Consider this, however: most marketing is not done in person. It comes at each of us through screens or paper, very often without any noise or audio, so the in-person factor is absent.

So, if instead of you stopping someone, how would your stranger respond to a flyer or a a billboard talking about your breakfast?

“BYE!”

You and your audience need empathy. Take it from me. Take it from Brian Fanzo, who has been beating the drum for empathy in marketing and, well, everywhere else.

Enter empathy in life.

As much as we may not want to admit it, marketing is involved in just about every facet of our lives as human beings. And since we already demonstrated that effective marketing requires empathy, imagine the following scenarios:

Parents try to market to their children the right choices to make as they grow up.

Job seekers try to market to a prospective employer just why they are worth getting hired.

Elected representatives market to voters why they should be trusted with power, while voters market to their elected representatives why they should support certain policies.

Religious leaders market to souls why the message of their faith matters to life today.

Each day, you are probably marketing your own opinions (whether you see it that way or not) to friends, family, and strangers in an effort to help them think and act the way you do. You use words, possibly volume, and maybe even supporting links to convince others you have the right answer for them.

How’s that going for you?

If you aren’t practicing your empathy as you market your way through life to accomplish what you want, I guarantee you aren’t being effective.

How to get empathy.

We all sorely lack in empathy, and yet it is the most important tool for us today. Whether you are a marketer trying to promote a service or product, or you are a human being trying to be humane, you need empathy in your DNA.

Need some empathy? (Yeah, you do. Trust me). Here are just seven ways to give it, and your humanity, a shot:

Read a story.

Break out that library card. Open your Kindle app. Dive into a fictional story. By reading a narrative, you can tap into scenarios and reactions that may not have been in your experience. Even as you project yourself into a character you read about, your empathy gets exercised as you must imagine alternate situations where you don’t get to decide the outcome.

Think in questions.

In a discussion with someone else, your natural response is to think of what you’ll say once the other person stops talking. More often than not, you’ll want to talk about yourself and your experience.

Instead, try thinking up a question to say once it’s your turn to speak. Even if you’re aching to share your own perspective, have patience. You’ll get to it eventually! First, you can make serious effort to learn more about the other person and give your listening talents a workout.

Ask, “What if it were me?”

This one is tough because it tackles that no good, very bad tendency of human beings: judgment. We do it in a split second: we judge other people for how they look, what they where, what they say, what they do (or appear to be doing), and then we do the worst thing possible: we assume.

What do we assume? That we would do better and they don’t or can’t because, well, they just aren’t you.

Instead of judging and assuming, try this on:

“Wait a second… what if that were me?”

This question will stretch your privilege and soar your sense of uncomfortable into new heights. But if you take it seriously and try to answer it, you may find that you need to learn about concepts or situations where you only have part of the picture. You may look backward, currently, and forward as you try to anticipate how you would respond when placed in another person’s story. You may even realize that there is often no one right way to proceed. Life feels quite different when you step out of your own shoes and squeeze into someone else’s.

Play decision-based video games.

Your video game console may do more for you than simply providing a temporary escape. Games can let you follow a story that alters the macro outcome based on your micro choices. I’ve played games where I tried to make all the right or “good” decisions, and then I’ve gone back to make all of the “bad” or wrong decisions. A good video game will cause other characters and certain scenes to respond differently based on what you’ve chosen.

joker-awesome-use-of-power-boss-really-social-blog
Mass Effect, my favorite decision-based video game.

Peruse reviews.

If you want a pulse on how all types of people feel about a product or service, online reviews are a gold mine. Even if the brand has a very niche customer base, the opinions each person chooses to publish give invaluable insight into where they’re coming from and why they feel a certain way.

Be afraid.

Maslow's hierarch of need | Really Social Blog
Maslow’s hierarchy of need

My hope as you read this is that you hardly ever have to feel real fear. I’m not talking about momentary anxiety (the kind you get when your card is declined at the register). Gripping fear is when you feel that something you need to survive is at risk. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, they are listed as the physiological and safety needs of a human being:

Physiological (breathing, water, food, sleep, clothing, shelter, and sex)

Safety (Personal security, emotional security, financial security, Health and well-being)

When these basic needs are threatened, a human being—you, me, or someone in our circles—knows fear and will react to it in any number of ways based on who they are, where they’re from, and what they believe. Some feel this fear more often than others because they survive anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenges.

Fear is within our control, however the things which catalyze our fears may not be. Neighborhoods, cities, and even countries experience violence. People pursue agendas that threaten the livelihood of others. Accidents happen.

I’d like to think that I know how I would respond if one of my physiological or safety needs are threatened… but I don’t. And even my best guess would still just be for me, and not for someone who has not lived my experiences. Thus when I hear of or see someone else responding to fear, my goal is to reach into my empathy and respect the fear of their situation.

Ah. Respect.

Yep, it’s true. Empathy walks hand in hand with respect. While one deals largely with feelings, the other is ultimately a choice. And both are crucial to treating each other humanely, which is something sorely needed today.

As much as each of us enjoys feeling right, where does that get us if we never tap into what others experience? By practicing and perfecting empathy, you will be a smarter and stronger person than you were before. More importantly, you will be key to creating connections rather than building walls.


What are ways you practice and perfect your empathy? Comment below!

How to Use Facebook’s Messenger Kids

Do you talk to kids? Whether you’re a parent of a kid, or you just know kids in your life and want to stay connected, there’s a relatively new way to use our dear friend technology to chat with them.

Commence with the wringing of parental hands.

Click here to jump down to a resource link for how parents can protect kids online.

Big Bang theory breathing into bag
Being a parent is hard.

A Parental Preamble (or just skip to the how-to part)

As a mom, and especially one who uses technology on an almost minute-by-minute basis for work and play, I want my kids to appreciate its power as well as its pitfalls. My kids don’t have their own smartphones yet, but they do have their own laptops. They have their own email addresses, which I monitor closely. We allow them to watch YouTube videos, but we often will play them during common family times so we can ensure the content isn’t too mature for their increasingly aware minds.

My intent as a parent is to balance my support of the kids’ use of technology with a healthy dose of trembling awe. So it was with no small amount of hesitation that I finally ushered us into the realm of Messenger Kids by Facebook.

This post will be rife with my own tones of paranoia and hesitation, which I intentionally left in. The gravity of handing over a new part of the internet to our kids is not (in my humble yet strong opinion) meant to be taken lightly.

OK, here we go.

Go to Messenger Kids to create the account(s).

Facebook has (maybe too) conveniently put Messenger Kids in the Explore section on the left sidebar. You can also go to the Messenger Kids dashboard to get started: www.facebook.com/messenger_kids/dashboard/.

Once there, you’ll be asked to create an account for a child by entering their first and last name. Facebook, likely realizing this is a big step for parents who rightly realize the power of their data access and reach is causing anxiety, tells you up front that this action will not create a Facebook profile for the child.

Next is a screen which reassures you of the control you, as the account creator*, will have over the child’s contacts and content. It also tells you what information Facebook will store from use of this app.

*Notice I didn’t use the word “parent” here. There is no part along this process where the account creator is asked to verify if they are a parent, caregiver, or guardian of the child being added to Messenger Kids. There is only a message at the bottom of the image provided where Facebook indicates this should be a parent or guardian completing this process.

The final screen is a prompt for you to download the Messenger Kids app onto a mobile device. The kid being added must use Messenger Kids from a mobile device, which includes a Kindle reader.

Since my kids don’t have smartphones yet, the Kindle reader is their sole option to use Messenger Kids.

Your final step is to add approved contacts to your child’s Messenger Kids account. You will be able to add Family Members, Other Kids, Your Friends, and you can also invite others to use Messenger to connect with your kid(s). Once you add a contact, that person will receive a Facebook message that your kid is now available for chat.

Getting the Kids Started

Now that the kid’s account has been set up by a parent or guardian (hopefully), the app must be set up on the child’s device(s).

You can download the Messenger Kids app for iOS (Apple), Android, or Kindle (Amazon).

Once the app is installed on the mobile device or reader, you (the account creator) have one final step: you must authorize the use of the app by logging in using your Facebook username and password. This lets Facebook know the child hasn’t tried to set up an account without your permission.

Now you’re ready to hand the device to your kid! They’ll be prompted to take a photo of themselves for their profile image. (My child opted for one of her stuffed animals, which in light of the concerns I wallow in was just fine with me.)

Their home screen is a dashboard of contact tiles, each showing if the person is online and available for messages or even video chats. There are also prompts along the top for taking a picture or starting a group chat.

How Do You Message Kids Who Are On Messenger Kids?

(This was the part I couldn’t figure out until we got the kids full set up on their devices, so make sure you finish those steps first.)

If you’re an adult who has either created or been added to the child’s Messenger Kids account as an approved contact, you will be able to use standalone Messenger (the app or the web version) or Facebook chat to message the kid. You will only be able to do this if the account creator has added you as an approved contact; you will not be able to search for the child’s account to start messaging them. (Whew.)

Your chat with anyone using Messenger Kids appears alongside all of your other Messenger chats, so the interaction is fairly seamless.

You will not need to download the Messenger Kids app to chat with the child who has been set up on the service. That app is solely for the child to use to chat with their approved contacts on Messenger.

How to Manage Messenger Kids for Your Kids

If you created accounts for your children, you will always be able to go to the Dashboard to manage their contacts or delete their account if necessary.

Additionally, Messenger Kids will alert you via Messenger every time someone sends a message to your child’s account. This works the same as any other Messenger chat where you can manage your notifications. As a parent who sees each email my children receive, I like this level of oversight.

Other Messenger Kids Features

  • GIFs and frames for photos
  • Ability for your child or the account creator to report a chat
  • Ability for your child to block anyone they don’t want to chat with

More about the app, its capabilities, and any data information around it can be found on the Messenger Kids website: https://messengerkids.com


Also check out The Ultimate Parent Guide for Protecting Your Child on the Internet


Will you set up your child on Messenger Kids… or have you already? Let me know what you think about it!

Empathy By Way of Handicap Ramps

ONE WEEK. That’s how much longer I have until my foot surgery recovery hits the weight-bearing milestone. How long will my empathy for fellow humans with disabilities or handicaps last? FOR-EH-VER.

For the past five weeks, I have gotten from Point A to Point B via crutches or knee scooter. Each day has been a challenge with successes as well as sweat-inducing challenges. (My worst undertaking each day has been to crutch up our stairs in the morning… I keep feeling like one moment of imbalance will result in my death down the steps.)

Through all of this, I’ve experienced an existence which I had only before observed. Sure, I’ve moved out of the way on the bus for a person in a wheelchair or with a cane, or I’ve offered to hold a door open longer to help them pass through. But seeing and knowing are not the same thing.

I mentioned empathy earlier in this post, and that’s where I feel this experience has brought me the farthest. As a marketer and communicator, exercising my empathy muscle is one of the most important ways I stay good at my job. Throughout this last month, I’ve drawn many correlations between what I experienced with my temporary disability and what our customers experience when we lack empathy.

Read on and see if any of these ring true for you:

You can’t assume you know the other person’s story.

Climbing out of the car with crutches
Every morning, getting out of the car and ready to roll to work was a challenge.

By just glancing at me, you can immediately tell something happened to my foot. I’m carting it around on a knee scooter, it’s bound up with an ace wrap and a black boot of sorts, and I’m obviously favoring it with every motion.

But not every person living with a handicap is as obvious. In my commutes I often crossed paths with another woman who walked with a cane. She would join me on the handicap ramps rather than trying to climb up train steps. As we began to chat, she shared with me that, in spite of there being zero cartilage between her femur and tibia/fibula bones, many people assume that she should be able to handle a few steps. Even though she attends physical therapy and takes painkillers to alleviate what her body experiences, she has heard fellow passengers on the train grumble and opine as to whether she really needs to use the handicap area.

I’ll confess: when I used to see someone without a wheelchair make their way onto public transportation using the ramp, I would wonder if they just weren’t putting in the effort to climb the steps. My newfound friend on the train woke me to the fact that just because I don’t see someone’s ailment doesn’t mean they don’t live with one every moment.

In the future, I’ll never again judge someone for using the accessibility features in our world. I can open my mind to a world of possibilities rather than a mistaken assumption.


Your offer to help is about them, not about you.

The first week of my limited mobility was all about finding the ways I could move with assistance that was already built-in: ramps, automatic doors, smooth terrain, etc.

hill up Colfax from Civic Center Station
Throughout March, I’d wear sleeveless tops because of this hill. Two blocks of sheer exertion to make it to the top… and I didn’t want anyone to help me.

I also knew I’d be relying on the kindness and patience of others… and I have to tell you that my ego and self-sufficient tendencies mightily roiled at the idea. Since I was young, I have always been proud of my independence and ability to “be strong” my way through any difficulty.

I found myself working in ways to thank others for their offers to help while assuring them I didn’t need it. The first few times I could tell that my refusal of assistance was taken badly, so I worked on putting more sincerity and gratitude into my vernacular. My challenge was to try to see the person’s good intentions without internalizing them as a knock on my independence. I have found myself often timing my approaches to certain doors or ramps when no one is nearby who will offer a lending hand right when I’m about to accomplish the obstacle at hand.

Does this make a helpful offer bad or unwelcome? Not at all. But I know going forward that I won’t take it personally if my offer to assist is declined, because the other person may have it entirely under control without my help. They may also have other reasons why my help isn’t needed.


Happy endings aren’t for sure.

I mentioned that I have one more week until I can start trying to walk with two feet instead of one. My recovery is on pace and my left foot should eventually heal fully and allow me to walk without assistance (and in nice shoes once again!).

There are so, so many who don’t share this positive outcome. Their pain is chronic, their ailment has no turnaround cure, or their treatment options are limited (if existent at all). While I can chuck my crutches to the storage space in a week, they’re facing months and years of continued struggle and judgment just for making their way through each day.

As someone who experienced a temporary setback to my mobility, I can’t tell you enough how much I look forward to getting things “back to normal.” But that’s my normal. “Normal” for many other people means always using ramps, always needing handicap-accessible features, and always facing people around whom they must navigate.


If you aren’t accessible… really???

This was my biggest revelation: accessibility is important. It can make or break the ability for someone to relieve their bladder, carry out plans, gather with friends, perform a job, and generally live life.

Handicap ramp at light rail station
Each Light Rail station has a handicap ramp. I often had company on my daily commute.

I have been overall very impressed with the accessibility features in Denver. The Light Rail system has handicap ramps at each stop, from the parking area all the way to the front door of the train. Drivers of trains and buses readily helped me and other passengers get on and off safely, as well as reminding other passengers that the handicap area needs to be vacated for passengers needing assistance. Buildings like the Pepsi Center and state buildings are equipped with automatic doors and handicap-accessible restrooms.

Granted, I did run into some exceptions. A restaurant in the Highlands I visited with coworkers during my first week of recovery offered several sets of steps for me to traverse just to get into the door on a snowy evening. A public transportation driver would occasionally show impatience with having to lower and raise the ramp for me to enter. Even fellow Denverites would give attitude, or zero signs of yielding space, when I rolled on needing to find somewhere for my seat and my knee scooter.


Empathy matters. It’s what makes us human. Because whether you carry yourself around with a fully capable body or a fairly capable apparatus, you deserve to be treated with respect. You deserve to be seen and heard. You deserve empathy.

I know these recent experiences exercised my empathy and will continue to do so. How do you maintain your empathy for others, and how does it make you better at what you do?

How Can I Be Social in a Political Powder Keg?

We’re navigating dicey waters nowadays. With politics assuming as large a role in our feeds as quizzes and recommendation posts, engaging online continues to call into question what each of us believes and how (or if) we should express it via wifi.

There are all sorts of arguments for or against verbalizing political opinions online:

“I do business with my connections and don’t want to alienate a customer.”

“I can’t separate my politics from the rest of my posts.”

“Today it’s more important to stand for something than to stand for nothing.”

“It doesn’t change anyone’s minds anyway.”

It’s a hot mess out there.

The time for you to decide how you’ll navigate the social-political waters out there is now, if not already long past. But if you’re just now reaching the point where you need to plot your path forward, here are a few crucial considerations for you:

1. Decide what you’re willing to risk. Speak out or stay silent: either way, you stand to lose or gain something.

You may be thinking, “If I simply avoid sharing or engaging in political topics, they’ll never come up again.” That’s a fairly naive stance to think that your political sway is never going to impact your customer or your relationship with them.

Also, we aren’t just talking about business risks. Your moral compass, and whatever direction it points to, plays a huge role in shaping your motivations, your goals, and your results. If you decide to force your business endeavors in a different direction than your compass, that’s also a mighty risk to take.

2. Drop your assumptions. This one is tough, because we humans love to assume!

Whether or not you decide to allow your digital persona to wade into political waters online, you’re naturally prone to putting other online users into a box based on what you know about them—which is usually just a drop in a very large bucket.

Stop assuming things about others and using those assumptions when you interact. How awkward is it to find yourself typing and publishing a pat statement about why another person is wrong, only to have them come back with how you were wrong first

Instead, ask questions. Ask a lot of questions. By putting a ? at the end of your post, you instantly assume the role of listener, of one who wishes to understand instead of to attack, and of a learner who can be taught. (Also a very human trait.)

3. Own and stick to your beliefs. Once you know what you stand for, grab the wheel  with both hands and hold on for the ride.

In this uncertain landscape, one thing is the gospel truth: you will always encounter someone who passionately disagrees with you. The very definition of belief is “trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something.” Talk about a huge foundation on which someone stands! So if yours is threatened or you threaten someone else’s foothold, things are bound to get tense.

This is where research and true facts (as opposed to alternative ones) come in. Have credited research and statistics to back up your beliefs (to make your footing more obviously solid to others). If you can’t find the stats… well, perhaps you have another quest ahead of you.

4. Don’t be ignorant, don’t be an asshole, and above all don’t be an ignorant asshole. Yeah, this just went PG-13, but I’m willing to stand behind that statement.

You will win over exactly no one good if you are a jerk about it. I know, it’s very tempting to go for the zinger where you mentally (and ‘fess up, even literally) fist-bump yourself for your drop-the-mic comment.

But if your victory comes at the cost of unnecessarily embarrassing someone or, worse, ejecting them from a discussion when everyone could actually have learned something… what exactly did you win here? A momentary feeling of superiority?

Instead of going for the kill, think bigger picture and higher road and go for the change of heart. It may feel less satisfying, and the discussion may not even have a pat result for you, but you just planted a seed instead of decimating the growth which could be just ahead.

You can do this.

None of us is perfect at this. That darned human condition ensures we’ll always stumble and experience the awkward of interacting with other carbon units. But hopefully these general guidelines can help you put your best foot – or keystroke – forward with a fair share of confidence and, in the long run, who knows? Our world could become a better place for everyone.

How do you choose to interact online when it comes to politics?

Oh, the Humanity of Facebook’s New Algorithm!

TL;DR

The new Facebook algorithm will focus on people-to-people, not business-to-people. Like, a LOT of focus.


Welcome back from the rock under whence you came! If you’ve checked your Facebook feed, or really any news related to business, economy, or marketing, there’s a massive buzz around the recent announcement by Mark Zuckerberg that the Facebook algorithm is changing. Nothing new, right?

Wrong. This change falls into the “once more with feeling” genre. Emphasis on the feeling.

What’s about to happen?

Things are about to get way more personal on Facebook. The new formula for your Facebook feed will put you in touch with posts from other personal profiles (your friends, friends of friends, people’s posts you tend to find interesting, etc.).

Additionally, it’s about (yeah, I’m going to use that word) engagement. But not just throwing out a quick reaction so your friend can see that you saw their post even though you made zero time to linger. Facebook wants conversations to happen. You see a post, it spawns a reaction out of you, and you actually type words in a comment on that post to share your more-than-a-GIF-or-emoji response.

Great! So all I need to do is use the word “comment” or “tag” in your post text, right?

Nope. Facebook announced at the end of 2017 that they will absolutely penalize engagement-bait text used to make people do things to your post. This whole “LIKE if you agree, LAUGH if you disagree” tactic is out the window, friends.

Oh, and your Facebook Page posts? As a result of this change, they’re going to get far less play in the timeline. (Page admins should be used to this by now.)

can we panic now?

Should I, in fact, panic?

Noooooo. But you should take this for what it is: a robust scoop of change resting in a bowl of solid intention and topped with a dollop of upheaval.

Here’s what you can do (and probably should have been doing already):

  • Craft YOU-centric posts. I cannot tell you how crushingly tired we all are of posts which lead off with “we” or “I,” especially when they occur on business or organization posts. WHY do you assume everyone else finds your stuff as interesting as you do? Instead, your post should take you out of your own brain and thrust you into the experience of your reader, because that’s what they are interested in the most. If you can grab them in a moment of how they’re feeling or what they’re thinking, your post can make them linger and engage.
  • No more assembly-line posts. You know what you want to share right down to the hyperlink and one or two key calls-to-action (CTAs). But no longer can you just queue those up in a scheduler; going forward you need to flex more empathy and writing muscles to make the link timely and fairly crucial to the reader.
  • Cultivate power users. If your Page or profile has at least a handful of fans who routinely do more than react to your posts, it’s high time you put a ring on it: build a group of advocates. Acknowledge their importance to your content by connecting with them, assembling them into a VIP gathering, and making this relationship meaningful… because these users will get you through this change.
  • Get trained or get a resource. If you don’t know how to do these things effectively, you should either make the time to learn how or take the money to invest in a professional. I’ve got a short-and-sweet list of pros I can refer you to for digital work.

Where did this come from?

Zuck had a rough year.

There was that time when Facebook, along with Twitter and Google, appeared before Congress for grueling testimony about how much responsibility they own for political sway by foreign entities over their users.

There was the ruling by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that political ads on Facebook must show who paid for them that came in the wake of reports that Russian-based advertisers wielded their wiles through the Facebook feed to impact U.S. politics.

Then there was the report that scrolling through their Facebook feed (and social media in general) makes people feel generally crappy afterwards.

All of the billions of dollars or other currency in the world apparently hasn’t been enough salve for these wounds, and Zuck’s response is a more major shift than we’ve seen in the every-other-day changes Facebook routinely rolls out.

Where will this take us?

This is my favorite part. One reason I love social media is its role in shaping humanity and how we communicate (good, bad, or ugly).

I also love watching how the unique platforms change and thereby alter humanity’s course by slow degrees. This latest from Facebook is interesting to me on a few fronts:  Zuck’s willingness to take a fairly massive gamble for this change; the political ramifications at a point in our history when a mistake could lead to nuclear war; watching how we humans (mis)handle the communication tools held in our hands throughout the day.

As far as this specific Facebook adjustment, look for more on how we as personal and professional communicators might shift our approaches on an app we use to the point of addiction.

What do you think will need to change as a result of Facebook’s new algorithm?

Decisions, Decisions…

Change.

I’ve always thrived on how things change. As a child, I became used to our frequent moves from state to state (a natural consequence of having a father who worked for the federal government). As an adult, I rarely leased an apartment for longer than two years. My hair is always changing colors.

Change is something I’m used to, so it doesn’t necessarily freak me out to the same degree as it does for others.

Family.

Ah, this is something I’ve been schooled on throughout my life, even when I didn’t realize it. As a child, I took for granted the constancy of my family. When my parents divorced during my teen years, the upheaval probably wreaked more havoc than I would acknowledge. As a young adult, I spent many years putting my family on the backburner while mistakenly prioritizing friends and even acquaintances over them.

As an adult, I grew older and wiser to the importance of family. Getting married and then parenting two children has turned me into a different person than I was… which in itself is all about change. And even as my children get older and wiser with each year, and I know ultimately they’ll make their own changes to our family dynamic, I welcome them as natural consequences of being a human.

Decisions.

Toward the end of the 2017 summer, my husband and I sat down to discuss our family’s options. I had been throwing myself into building a digital marketing business since mid-2015, and amidst highs and lows I still hadn’t quite made it into a fully solvent and profitable venture. The possibilities were still there, but the timeline was beginning to feel pressure from our household budget.

Here’s the thing: I needed to draw a line. The line would tell me my limit for how long and how much I could sacrifice for my business (as well as how much I could expect my family to sacrifice). By the end of our conversation, a distinct line had materialized in the exact size and shape of our family’s 1,524 square-foot home.

Based on our budget, we had until the end of 2017 to try to make my business profitable so that our home mortgage would not be on the chopping block. So that day, I made a decision to keep pushing at my business, but I would also be active about applying for full-time opportunities. And oh, did I pray for the best and most rapid outcome? You bet I did. Serving two masters like that for a prolonged period wasn’t going to be good for me in any way.

Results.

So what happened?

Well, I applied to a position managed by one of my prior directors. From hitting the Submit button on the online application, through phone screens and interviews, to receiving a verbal offer for the opportunity… three weeks. That’s it. That’s IT. That was it.

Today, I work full-time in digital marketing out of an office in downtown Denver. My work serves Coloradans who need the most help at the worst times in their lives.

And yet my own business ventures are not fully dead or defunct. I am also blessed to be one of the weekly livestream hosts for an encoding platform which cares about its broadcasters and viewers, not just accumulating dollars. I get to share the screen with people I respect, entertain people I appreciate, and earn side income I can use to balance out all I put into my business since I started it.

My family is finding a new balance with my roles, and all is going well. My husband is thankful to be able to pay bills on time again, and in full. My kids are enjoying more times when I’m able to play a random board game, take them on a random shopping trip, or show them my new work digs downtown. I’m thriving on regular human interaction, meeting and surpassing work goals, and using all that I’ve learned through my business to excel as a team member again.

What about Really Social?

The full range of services provided through Really Social has been vastly pared down since these new developments rolled out. Currently I’m unable to take on side clients, mostly because there simply aren’t enough hours between working full-time, commuting to that work, and livestreaming on the side.

That said, if you need help with social media, I have a TON of amazing resources ready to work with you. It makes me thrill to be able to send work to a swath of professional and capable digital marketers. Plus, who knows where this livestreaming side-gig will lead? Just reach out to me via Messenger to let me know what you’re looking for, and we’ll make it happen.