Why I Hate March Break!


I have to be honest with you, and with myself when I say that I hate March Break.  I always have, and to be honest, I likely always will.

Growing up, I attended public school and we had March Break, but my family was not big into travelling so we never went anywhere, never had programs to attend to and never did anything interesting which at the time suited me and my anxiety just fine!

Yes, I spent the week playing street hockey from morning until dark and that was awesome, but that was all that I needed.  The break from school was much needed.

Fast forward to having children, all of which attended private secular schools which did not celebrate March Break (we had our break over the holiday of Passover instead), so while we were working and the kids were in school, people were heading south to the warmth and sunshine while we shovelled snow and continued living life as normal.

Now, with one child left in a secular school and the others in public school, I have some of us in school and some of them on break and my wife and I hard at work.

So now, March break consists of driving the kids to, and from programs, work, work and more work, and whenever I check social media, I see friends and family living it up down south in the sun, sand and surf.

It’s very much like previous years’ where March Break is not a time to go down somewhere warm and sandy but couldn’t because the kids had school and we had work.

I’ve asked all the travellers to please bring back the sun and warmth…

They’ll all likely forget because they’re having such a great time, or at least their social media posts depict a great time.

On the positive side, I was able to spend a considerable amount of time this March Break with my middle child at his hockey camp.  He attended Creative Hockey Development’s (creativehockey.ca) March Break camp – which was put on by my friend, Dusan Kralik, and his new business partner Daniel Erlich.

The camp was incredible!

The hockey skills and pace of the camp were fast and the players even faster.  I think Dusan found a match in Danny as someone who possesses an incredible hockey IQ to go along with his world class skills and speed.

The camp was well run, the kids came off the ice tired and they learned more than just hockey this past week.

Now, as for March Break itself…

Going forward, I’m have to make sure that I refrain from checking social media that week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are Your 6-9 year-olds Ready To Be Famous? Hillcrest Mall, North of Toronto, is Looking For Models!


Hillcrest Mall

Hillcrest Mall (at Yonge and 16th Avenue just north of Toronto) is conducting a private search for one or two fashionable and outgoing boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 9 to star in its Back-to-School social media campaign set for release in mid-August. If you know any style-savvy children who would be suitable for this, Hillcrest would love to meet them.

Here’s the deal:

The Gig: The selected child(ren) would star in their own 30-second videos (2 per child) where they would talk about their Back-to-School clothing trends. It would require one day of shooting.

The Kid: The ideal candidate will be comfortable talking on camera (ad-lib or answering questions from director) and can speak about fashion trends and Back-to-School shopping.

The Reward: Participants will receive a $500 Hillcrest Gift Card (and your child would be famous!).

Bonus Round: If the candidate(s) have a fashionable parent, we would love to have them appear in the video with their child.

So now what’s next?

Send any photos and/or video of the potential candidates with a brief description (name, age, special talents) to Heidi Ruggier at hruggier@budmanpr.com. Hillcrest Mall’s marketing director, Rashmi Aimiuwu, will review the entries and invite selected candidates in for a screen test (date and locations are TBD).

I’m not sure of the closing date, so make sure to act fast!

Update: As of June 10th, I can confirm that the event is closed!  Best of luck to everyone who entered!

Thursday Thirteen: 13 Social Media Mistakes to Avoid


I had a dream the other night that I had to send a very important email to a friend and instead I sent it to a client.  I then woke up out of a deep sleep in a cold sweat.  That would be pretty disastrous, wouldn’t it?  Well it happens more than you think it does, especially in cases where people or organizations have multiple social media accounts and the lines between business and personal becomes faint.  Social media can be a great way to build your brand, but if handled incorrectly, can erode these efforts in a hurry.

In light of this panic, I thought it would be a good time to post this article which had been sitting in my draft folder for over a year.  The 13 Most Common Social Media mistakes which can either damage your brand or cause others to look at it and then move on to someone else.

Back in the day, your handshake was your word, and if you shook someone’s hand and then didn’t follow through or did so with the intent on lying or being deceitful, it was your name that was ruined.  Fast forward, and it’s your brand.

13. Having Incomplete Profile(s)

Having profiles which are not completely filled out, or are filled out in a comical way, or through false credentials is meaningful to the person / organization looking for you.  It means that you are either:

  • Extremely unqualified that you do not have enough background information to fill a profile up.
  • Very lazy because you don’t have one hour to add all the information into your profile.
  • A joker who cannot take anything seriously, or
  • A scammer who has to make things up in order to cover up for something you must be hiding.

12.  Inconsistency among networks

Imagine this.  You are looking to do business / connect with someone and you think you have found them on Facebook, but when you check on Twitter, they have a name and email address, which is different from Linkedin, and from Pinterest.  So now you Google these names and email addresses and all kinds of stuff comes back to you.  What are you thinking now?  Probably that they’re hiding something, or that they are very disorganized.   All these micro-networks that make up your overall network should be as consistent as possible as a consistent image is key to building a memorable, identifiable brand.

11.  Using Social Media to make money after building a significant network.  

For this mistake, I am thinking about the blogging world where bloggers attract a significant following due to their writings, then they realize they can pitch products to their networks which eventually turns their brand into an advertising site.  Those are a dime a dozen, and readers often wonder if the blogger is endorsing a product that they actually use and support, or because they are getting it for free.  The message becomes lost.  There is a fine line between doing what made you popular, and losing credibility among your readership.

10.  Audience participation.

Have you ever wondered why you have invested so much into your brand, and get so little in return?  Could it be that you are not meeting the needs of your readers / customers?  It is important to make sure that you engage your base whenever they take the time to reach out, for whatever reason they have chosen to reach out.  Talk to them, not about them.  Also, have a look through your Twitter feed and see how many of the last 30 tweets engage others, and how many are just random posts to your entire network.  Successful brand-builders don’t just tweet and re-tweet.  They also respond, engage, ask questions, and answer questions.

9.  Not Interlinking Your Profiles

The simplest mistake to fix.  Take 10 minutes, make sure all your social network profiles link to one another because the more touch points that exist to connect with your network, the better.  Your next best connection might be a die-hard Google + user, but you might only use Facebook and Twitter.   Make sure you have all profiles linked.

8.  Being impersonal 

Connections are gold in this day and age, so don’t take a potential connection for granted and allow the service you use to send out a generic stock message when trying to connect.  Linkedin, for example, provides a stock message that reads “I’d like to add you to my professional network on Linkedin.”   Take some time and put some effort into a greeting which makes that person want to connect with you.  Surely you have 30 seconds to include your name and a personal message.

7.  Stay on-topic as much as possible

A first-time visitor to any of your social media outlets should be able to instantly tell “what you are about”.  Don’t mistake frequent posting with relevant posting or think that everyone you are connected to is reading each and every post.  Every once in a while, logout and review your posts as if you were a visitor to see if you messaging is “on-brand” and if it’s not, get back in there and fix it!

6.  Automated Direct Message

The automated direct message on Twitter is the biggest personal branding disaster that seen on a daily basis.  It says, “You’ve just met me, and you want to spam me with your blog or product?”  Epic fail, and a sure way to lose followers quicker than you gain them.  Instead, send them a personalized direct message or @reply with someone’s actual name and a message relevant to their area of interest.  This one message may lead to a lasting connection that might not have occurred otherwise.

5.  Tunnel Vision

Have you focussed your brand-building on you and you only?  The 90/10 rule of social media brand building generally states that

90% of what you share should be made up of personal insights and thoughts along with a heavy dose of helpful links, while 10% should directly benefit you.”

Keep this rule in mind the next time you want to Tweet about your site or product.  I guarantee that the 90% of the time you take to help others will increase the attention paid to the other 10%.

Also keep in mind that a successful social media / brand building campaign takes into consideration the views and opinions of others.  For every organization which has a social media manager, there are probably 10-20 other employees who have ideas, thoughts and suggestions about the business which, if implemented, will help the business grow and get recognized.  To ignore this dedicated internal network is a crucial error that many organizations suffer from.  The silos have to be broken down in all areas of the business in order to improve the brand, and relying on one person to know the ins and outs of every organization is not possible.

4.  Don’t forget the impact of your word

In the age of social media it’s easy to forget that what you say to someone on the phone or in person can still come back to bite you in the ass.  You may not be sending an email to someone because you don’t want what they say to have a living trail, however as much as people save emails and forward emails, people also take what you said and post it on social media, and this negative messaging can mess with your brand.   So make sure when you are dealing with others that you are prepared to be upfront and honest because there is nothing worse than having them erode your credibility over a matter in which you chose a less than professional approach to.

3.  Un-friending, Un-following, Un-linking

All of these connection removals can have disastrous impact on your brand, especially around timing and how seriously the other person takes your connection.  If, for example, a friend from highschool removes you from Facebook, you will certainly get offended and you might even ask why.  If a follower on Twitter removes you, you probably understand that they may have followed you expecting something but got something else, or they disagree with your views, the frequency of posts, or possibly they need to remove people in order to be able to add others.  If, however, someone on Linkedin removes you, the severing of the business network goes much deeper because what that message says is that they never want to use you as a connection in the future ever again and that all those other people who are connected to both of you as 2nd or 3rd degree connections can get caught in the middle.  Imagine if a 3rd degree connection was ready to connect, then found themselves no long part of your network, but choose to reach out using their previous connection as the link, unbeknownst that this connection ended badly.

As well, people forgive and forget, so to remove someone right away may potentially sever that relationship for good, and you never know down the road when you might really need them!  One should never cut off their nose to spite their face in this day and age and to do so without proper thought often comes back to bite someone in the behind.

2.  Keeping your marketing and social media objective quiet – internally and externally

You build a business / brand through communicating internally and externally your message so that not only will your network be engaged, but also your customers, clients, friends, family, colleagues, etc.  Keeping them in the dark, or only focussing on external networks does not take into consideration that employees have lives outside of the office or social networks of their own.  The faster the message gets out and to the greater number of people, the better are the odds that your business / brand will be successful.  To not tap into that network is akin to advertising a businesses services on a telephone pole.  Sure the message gets out but only to those who see it and tell others.  If this was the chosen method to advertise the business, would you not want every employee to post advertising flyers on telephone poles near where they live?  That already increases the network and the chances that your business is going to get customers.  To do otherwise, just doesn’t make any sense.

1.  Not having a Social Media plan

Not having a social media plan, including ways to promote your brand is the biggest mistake that an individual / organization can make.  By just signing up to multiple micro networks and using them here and there demonstrates a poor social media plan just as much as signing up for multiple social media platforms and never using them, or worse, using them to connect with networks outside of your desired market.  In the few seconds that someone checks out your profile, they are deciding whether to stay and browse some more, or go back and look at one of your competitors.  If they choose to stay and see empty networks or random connections they quickly come to a conclusion about your brand and social media plan, that you don’t have one, and they will move on.

Know beforehand what your social media plan is going to be and share it, along with the do’s and please don’t, so they can be on board and help grow the brand.  To not have a plan in this day and age, or to make one up on the fly is going to lead to issues, inconsistency and confusion for everyone involved.

The Importance of a Social Media Policy and Compliance to that Policy


English: Data from April 2011 Editor Survey th...
English: Data that lists Social Media activities (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a user of the Internet, for work or for play, it is extremely important to know and understand what the consequences can be when you use social media.

Many do not.

I am constantly amazed that people get caught doing, saying or showing things online which they later regret and the consequences of their actions can be very severe. It certainly changes the way people see them, and can change the way people treat them, with bullying, job loss, or lack of promotion some of the worse case scenarios.

I learned this the hard way. In the almost nine years since I started blogging I did so with the mistaken assumption that no one read my it and that the 5-10 hits a day were complete strangers who arrived there by error. Not having any comments, and being able to see the search engine terms used to get there it was easy for me to write whatever I wanted in complete anonymity. My blog was my forum to bitch, moan and complain about whatever I felt like, whenever I felt like it. Getting it all off my chest made me feel great.

Then it all came crashing down. I can recall this as if it were yesterday, when I hit send on one particular post from 2005 in which I complained about my employer and also lambasted some colleagues for their lack of work ethic. I never thought for a moment that there was a remote possibility that anyone from my company was reading my blog and that the information I wrote in that post, or in any of my previous posts were going to be spread around the office and used against me, like they were.

My hits over the next couple days went from 5-10 to 150 on that post and I started to receive anonymous ominous comments on that post. Stuff started to disappear from my desk, and I would get hang-ups in the middle of the night. Then some of my colleagues would start random conversations with me and include information from my blog that they would not have known if they did not read it there, like “how was the movie you saw Saturday with your wife at Yorkdale.” I was perplexed.

It was soon thereafter when I realized that I had made a really stupid mistake and if I wanted to continue to work there without having my stuff disappear, I would need to go into damage control and implement my own social media policy.

Some of the key points are below;

1) No mention of work. Ever. I’m a blogger building my brand first and foremost.
2) No mention of names of my family or friends unless they give me permission.
3) No posting of pictures on any form of social media except for family pictures on Facebook that I would be comfortable sharing with the world or a future employer.
4) I would never say anything online that I do not believe in or would not say face-to-face to someone.
5) If I am going to be critical of something or someone it had to be fact based and that required sources and a ton of research. No gossip or hearsay.
6) I am my own brand. I want my brand to be respected and taken seriously so I will have to treat others that way – good and bad.

The next thing I had to do was take a step back and see how this new social media policy worked for. I moved my blog from Blogger to WordPress and kept it hidden until I was sure that I could play by these rules. Once I came out from hiding, I not only started to play fairly, but I started to informally educate others about the consequences of using social media for I realized that whatever you post that can be traced back to you, or your brand, can and will be used against you at some point in your life.

I have seen people tagged in photos where they are with friends and drinking, and the picture is most unflattering – maybe they are winking but look drunk – or the comments to a photo are unflattering or rude, or a photo taken in an inappropriate position – like on the toilet, and even an innocent comment like “I’m bored” which shows up next to a mention about your place of employment. All these examples can have long-lasting consequences far from the original intent. Ignoring them is not an option and just removing them usually does not suffice either. Not being in that situation is the best choice a person can make, and letting others know if equally as important.

I’m being tough on myself, but it’s nothing compared to the tolerance that certain industries have for themselves and when tracking their massive employee base.

Financial services, for example, can be especially tough due to the high regulation and as an employer they must ensure that their employees are clear about the organizations expectations and the social media policy.

I, for example, when hiring for my tax units always spends a few minutes to check out the candidates Facebook page, LinkedIn profile and then I Googled them to see if there are any warning flags. To not do so, would be not be responsible on my behalf. If they post anything and their profiles are not neat and tidy it means either they are going to be social media nightmares for the company or I am going to have to do a lot of coaching and mentoring them to ensure they don’t get caught online harming the company’s image of their own brand.

One of the first discussions I would have with staff is to caution them about what they say when using certain social media outlets, like LinkedIn. If they are choosing to comment on posts and join discussions they have to remember that they are not just individuals commenting there but they are also employees so they have to be cautious to keep their comments on topic and away from anything which could get them fired or the company sued.

I treat all my online activities, whether blogged, tweeted, liked or commented on, which relate to any external business as being monitored and recorded by someone if the company is not doing it themselves. I expect the same from my staff, my colleagues and my peers. I know when I talk to staff who are not practicing safe, social media that it is just a matter of time before it catches up to them.

Implementing an effective social media compliance process isn’t rocket science especially when the company has a clear social media policy and everyone abides by it and that policy has to be more than reactionary and punitive. Effective companies outline how they interact with the world via social media and how they expect their employees to do so as well. Leading organizations empower employees to build the corporate brand but it is certainly a team effort every step of the way.

Almost every other department has a key role in shaping the message. Marketing defines the scope of the message, the IT group outlines which social technologies will be used and provides the devices to be used while the legal and social media compliance groups are critical to ensure that the messages meet the necessary regulatory criteria. Once all that is in order it is absolutely critical for the training and learning group to be engaged so that the organization be trained to understand the pros and cons of using the various forms of social media, the most common being Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

What most employees in large organizations do not know unless they are trained is that any output on a social media platform goes through a series of serious checks and balances before someone hits send. Static content, for example – such as Facebook and LinkedIn profiles – require documented pre-approval before being posted online, while interactive content such as updates to Twitter, LinkedIn, and other networks do not need to be vetted, however, regularly monitoring the content is extremely critical to ensure that there are no compliance violations or negative comments.

What most employees fail to understand is that these tight rules not only apply to business-related items posted by the organization but also if it comes from the employees personal social media accounts. It pays to think twice before speaking about your organization, their practices, clients or earnings.

Organizations keeping a close eye on their social media content in order to control the public message and ensure it is compliant with the organization’s policies and procedures. It also allows organizations to control their message and that makes sense from a brand perspective as quick accurate responses to comments shows a proactive organization while quick responses to, or removal of, derogatory or inappropriate messages displays a proactive social media policy. Keeping negative comments unanswered in a thread is a message to the general public that it is okay to pile on with more negative comments and spam the site. If these comments are removed and/or responded to quickly than others will think twice before hitting send.

Even prior to the monitoring the output, employees usually are not aware that many organizations prefer to control the message by utilizing tools to prevent rogue posts from ever hitting the web. Organizations assign limited permissions to certain employees and once that employee is finished creating a tweet, comment or update it is them moved into a queue to be edited or for managerial review before it moves to the compliance group, then on to marketing before it is approved and posted.

The best of these systems even come with their own archiving tools already built-in as financial services are heavily regulated and keeping all outgoing messages for a certain period of time, are a requirement of regulators.

Banning social communications altogether and hoping for the best, is no longer a viable alternative. Restricting communication, access to information and people networking is a practice which many organizations have been moving away from since smartphones have become commonplace on the hips of many employees. There is also the opinion that if organizations continue to resist, that their competitors and customers are moving ahead and talking about them to their current customers and to their potential customers.

To further that point, many organizations who are already heavy in social media are forging ahead with new social media positions, such as the social media compliance officer who among other things, lines up tweets for management’s approval and works closely with legal, marketing and training to ensure the right message is getting out and that all staff have been trained in a meaningful manner on the risk of non-compliance to these policies both for their personal brand and for their company.

Banks in particular, are moving forward quickly in all areas of social media, and with great reason. These customers tend to be more affluent and faster adopters of new, expense-cutting technology such as online and mobile banking, which makes them particularly valuable at a time when revenues are low and expense cutting makes the most sense. Getting them on the bank’s side also helps on the public relations front as these tech savvy folks are just as likely to comment online about good experiences, as they are to complain about bad ones.

So next time you fire up the computer, smartphone or tablet, make sure that before you press send that you are doing so responsibly. You don’t want to ruin your brand in a manner of seconds (or a few words) considering how long it took you to build it up.

Guest Blogging time at urban daddy: Elliott Hurst from Supernova.com steps to the plate


It’s about time for another guest blogger.

This time www.supernova.com CEO Elliott Hurst steps up to the plate and provides his insight into the world of social networking and how a movie from the 1980’s called Revenge of the Nerds may have come to life for Facebook CEO MArk Zukerberg.

Elliott, for those of you who may not know, was building Supernova in his basement in Toronto, while Facebook’s Mark Zukerberg was creating the next best addiction in Silicone Valley. There are some parallels…

Elliott, help me here. 🙂

Now on to Mr. Hurst’s post;

I just saw the The Social Network and was very intrigued by the story, the characters and the dialogue. Yes, it’s a really good movie. It may even win Best Picture (however, that is a relative term, and I’m definitely not saying it is in the same class as The Godfather, Rocky, American Beauty, Schindler’s List, etc.), but given today’s offerings, it just might.
Oscars are very political and affected by a myriad of factors including money. It may even win due to the fact that the spectacularly visual Avatar won last year and the Academy’s taste pendulum may swing back to a “substance” movie with a story. Plus, it’s a very hot topic.

Whether the story is 100% true, 50% true or even 10% true, it actually makes no difference, because as a story, it has just the right amounts of sub-text, irony, and tragedy and to make it a compelling film.

Sub-text: man seeks out to show the world his value based on his creation ends up alienating his best friend and business partner due to deep seated resentment towards his personal social success, personal success that eludes man.

Irony: man who creates a revolutionary service based on being social is actually socially inept in real life.

Tragedy: man who gains the respect and adulation of the masses, despite not being born into bourgeoisie blood lines nor being aesthetically or athletically gifted to be popular, can’t parlay that popularity into recapturing the love of his life.

But at the core of this film is a simple message that was first brought to light in the purely fictitious, 80’s gross out comedy franchise, Revenge of the Nerds. The premise? As Imdb puts it; “At a big campus, a group of bullied outcasts and misfits resolve to fight back for their peace and self respect.” Ok, so Zuckerberg wasn’t exactly bullied in The Social Network, but the goal was the same, and he and his computer nerd buddies were outcasts and misfits. The clearest example appeared near the beginning of the film when the popularity of Facemash was spreading like wildfire amongst the cool, popular kids through dorm room parties, while the nerds gathered around their lonely computers hatching the idea and tracking its popularity in solitude. In fact, the nerds turned the cool kids’ narcissism upon themselves to create a site so popular, it shut down the Harvard network within hours.

Facebook has accomplished so much more than that. And other sites like it. And all those sites were created by nerds. They are utilities now, as important to the world as the things that made the cool kids popular in school; sports, heritage, money, aesthetics, etc. Brain power. The nerds have it. The world runs on it.

It is now cool to be a nerd.

What was laughable fiction in the 80’s has actually happened today. Nerds are the new BMOCs. Nerds are the new Rockstars. Nerds are the new Quarterbacks of the football team. Nerds never got the girl. Well, actually, in the end, neither did the nerd in The Social Network. But the reason was best given by Rashinda Jones’ character toward the end of the film where she said, “Mark, you’re not an asshole. You just try too hard to be.” And that’s the tragedy. Whereas in the 80’s hi-jinks screwball comedy nature of Revenge of the Nerds where the main characters remained undaunted in their enthusiasm to prove themselves, the weight of this burden had the reverse effect on The Social Network’s Zuckerberg. Whether he was born with it or it manifested within himself since puberty, Zuckerberg is shown to continuously damage his personal relationships due to deep rooted resentment.

If The Social Network is Revenge of the Nerds 2.0, then today’s Zuckerbergs are finally being given their due.

But at what cost?