Super Bowl Shout-Out

Even those of us that explore social media and apply its wide-reaching abilities for businesses every day can lose appreciation for how POWERFUL it is. Last night I spent a little time on the couch during the Super Bowl, tweeting about the commercials. I was very impressed by the positive and tasteful tone of many of them, but one rose above. My tweet about the Coca-Cola #MakeItHappy commercial got a response from the beverage giant, and I followed the link to discover the immense goodness their giant branding power is influencing (see interaction above). It brings tears to my eyes to know the lives they can influence in a positive way.

Folks, realize how POWERFUL social media is. One little remark, comment, image, video can touch MILLIONS of lives. It can go viral. Are you prepared? Create content with that in mind.

Group of friends holding hands in meadow under blue sky

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Listen, Facebook. Let me be frank. You and I have been friends for a few years now, but lately…you have become quite controversial. Scandalous, almost. Now, really:  I get it. You’re in business to make money. Bottom line, that’s what all business owners need and want in order to keep serving and producing. You are in high demand and you touch a lot of lives. A lot. Like, millions and maybe even billions (the statistics seem a little conflicted). You are a country unto yourself.

So now you have decided, businesses have to pay to play on your playground. No more free press. Again, I get it. A lot of people are rumbling and grumbling about it, as do I sometimes. But I understand. It’s opportunity, and you are capitalizing. Because of the depth of your audience, you have the ability to make a huge, HUGE impact. Businesses should expect that advertising costs money. And really, they don’t HAVE to spend much with you. It’s an individual choice that everyone has the freedom to make.

But here is what has happened, whether it was intentional or not: people discontent with your new policies are finding different pools in which to swim and play. Now listen, you and I will always be friends, but I’ve decided…I have to check out my options. Me and that little blue bird Twitter have been getting a little more acquainted lately. Over there, anyone can see my posts. I don’t have to bother looking for a picture to tell my story; whenever the urge strikes me, I just type out 140 characters and a hashtag. Sure, it’s noisy and busy, like New York City at rush hour, but I can see anybody else’s posts and they can see mine. It’s like a huge cocktail party. Who doesn’t love parties?

And then there’s my good friend Pinterest.  Now we’re talking. Checking out all those cool DIYs and getting all kinds of ideas; I can even search and share and Pin what I love. Relax on a Thursday night with a glass of wine and Pinterest on my iPad. What’s not to love? Everywhere I go anymore I overhear at least one conversation where the word “Pinterest” is exclaimed excitedly.

I would be remiss to not mention my new bestie, Instagram. I know my mobile-platform friend is your step sibling, but still; I’m in love. Pictures, lots of pictures, and plenty of real estate for lengthy comments. Videos, even. It’s like a long string of blog posts, only more interactive and easy to find. My real-life friends are flocking to it every day. Talk about an up-and-comer!

Speaking of blogs, I’ve heard a lot of favor about Tumblr, but I’ve only just shook hands with that guy. One of these days we might just sit down for a cup of coffee together. Snapchat, SlideShare, YouTube, Vimeo, Vine…there are so many opportunities to get acquainted.

So, you see my old friend Facebook…it’s not you, it’s me. I just want some time to get out there and take a look around the social space. Let’s stay friends, but we just won’t be seeing each other as often. No hard feelings. Thanks for all the good times. See you around.

Cre8vely Yours,
April Signature SM

Cherry Blossom Finish Photo 20140406 with caption

Rich, Me, Rebecca and the Washington Monument photobomb

So, I’m not afraid to admit it. I turned 40 on April 7th. And I enjoyed it. No excuses, no regrets; just celebration. I spent the morning running through Washington, D.C. and across the finish line of the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler with a huge smile on my face and the feel of triumph in my heart. Afterwards I enjoyed a delicious lunch with my family and some great friends, and then a quiet afternoon at home with my boys. It was a perfect way to usher out the last four decades and welcome in a new one.

This forty thing is new to me, but so far I’m really digging it. The past two weeks have been filled with all sorts of self-realization and discovery. Something tells me that this is just the tip of the iceberg and boy, am I excited about it! Already I’m feeling a major shift in my life and business. (If you want to follow along with my daily revelations, follow me on Twitter. I would love if you would share yours with me as well!)

One of the realizations I’ve come to terms with is this: I express myself so much better with words than I ever can verbally. From the time I was a kid; I could pour my heart out in a letter but would completely clam up in a personal conversation. This is something that has not changed with the passage of time and onset of maturity.

I suppose that is why I am drawn to social media and the online world. It’s a way to, in essence, hide behind a façade and write your way into other people’s hearts. It’s a natural fit for me. Even though my words are genuine and my personality shines through, if you meet me in person I’m almost certain you will feel a bit of a disconnect between my online presence and my face-to-face demeanor. It’s certainly not intentional but it is a real part of my personality.

Is this you, too? Can you relate? I can’t pin down any particular reason for it, and I’ve come to accept it as a part of who I am. And that’s why I’m writing about it. Because authentic writing is a part of who I am, and I don’t want to hide any of that. You shouldn’t either. Be real and genuine, both online and in person. Don’t be afraid to express yourself with words and tell your story. There are people out there just waiting to meet you and get to know you. And, chances are, the people that appreciate your story are the friends and fans you want to build a sustainable relationship with.

Cre8vely Yours,
April Signature SM

100 Days of Gratitude

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A few months ago, in a chance encounter in a half-price bookstore, I happened upon one of the best books that I have ever set eyes on.  It is entitled “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff” and written by Richard Carlson, Ph.D.  I love this little book for many reasons.  First, it is broken up into short little passages so it’s easy to read in brief periods of time.  Second, each passage reads like an individual story and leaves you thinking, really thinking about what you just read.  And third, the message the book portrays is that of simple, stress-free living…learning to be happy and grateful for what you are blessed with in your life.

A couple of years ago, I decided to do away with the traditional year-end practice of choosing one – or many – New Year’s resolutions.  Instead, I started choosing one word that becomes my theme for the entire year.  In 2013, my “theme word” was passion.  By finding and following my passion, I rebranded and relaunched my business and had my best year yet.  Encouraged by my success, I went to work determining my theme for 2014.

This year, I am focused on practicing and sharing gratitude.  I am finding this to be more difficult than I first thought it would be.  However, I believe that by doing the work and conditioning myself to think more about what I’m grateful for than what I want or need or what others have, I will live a more fulfilled life and provide better service to others.

That is where this little book and my life intersect.  Using the book as my guide, I am going to post one of the 100 total passages every day, then write a short journal entry detailing how I put that principle to use in my life that day.  Please follow me on Facebook and Instagram and walk the journey with me.  I will be using the hashtags:  #100daysofgratitude, #nosweat, and #dontsweatthesmallstuff.

I am really looking forward to this journey and the positive changes I’m sure it will bring to my family, my life and my business.  I’m hoping that I can inspire others to join in some small way during these next 100 days.  Here’s to a grateful 2014!

Cre8vely & Gr8fully Yours,

April Signature SM

Building Real-World Relationships in a Virtual Business Environment

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Do you remember, back in grade school, passing notes across the classroom to your crush to ask if he/she will “go with you”?

Do you still use an actual paper phone book?

More and more, these “traditional” methods of communication are being replaced by our ever-present companion, the smart phone.  Relationship building has gone virtual.

This is good and bad news for business owners. It’s a wonderful thing to have global reach but the inability to connect with people in an intimate, face-to-face setting can really put a damper on establishing connections and building trust with customers.

So, how do you build those real-life relationships in a virtual world? It’s not as difficult or overwhelming as you may think. Following are six tips to help you get started.

1.  Be Authentic

I think we can all agree the internet is full of crap. Brad Paisley sings a song about online dating, where a 100lb flabby weakling that still lives with his mother brags on an online dating website about his 6-pack abs, massive bank account, and Lamborghini wheels. Don’t be that guy. Be real and be honest. People will pick up on it and respect you for it.

2.  Be Personal

Talk to any social media professional and you will get stories about how the post with the backyard bunny picture or the owner’s hiking adventure got WAY more attention that this weeks’ carefully designed sales special.  Listen, people do business with you because of YOU. They want to know the face behind the brand and they like to know what happens behind the scenes.  Let them in and let them get to know you and your team.  Don’t be afraid to let the “real you” shine through…quirky personality and nerdy tendencies, whatever makes you, you. Almost nothing else will work better to build trust with your virtual audience.

3.  Know Your Audience

How can you know what people want from you if you don’t ask? Research your fans, know what they do for a living, where they are from, and why they are coming to you. Watch the trends in response to what you are posting and give them more of what they want (even if it’s the bunny in the backyard). Send a survey or ask them questions over social media. We all like to have our voices heard; reach out to your audience,  then be sure you listen and respond in an appropriate time frame.

4.  Give Good Stuff Away

I am in the middle of reading a book called Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary is a well-known and respected leader in the world of social media, and is a staunch advocate of what he calls a “thank you economy”. He claims that he almost guilts his audience into buying from him because he gives so much good stuff away, people feel a responsibility to spend money when he asks them for it. Follow Gary’s lead. Put great content out for your audience without asking for their credit card in return (most of the time).  You need to do this CONSISTENTLY. When people come to rely on you and look to you as the expert, they are eager to read and learn from your next post or email.

5.  Show Your Gratitude

Sharing is caring. Follow your fans on social media. Share some of their posts and events. Give them mention in your content. Nothing says “I love you” like a share or a retweet. Send unexpected gifts and handwritten cards. In this age of electronic everything, there is nothing so special as knowing that someone intentionally took the time to do something especially for you.

6.  Interact with your Audience

Treat your fans as you would your best friends. If they ask questions, answer them. If they post a complaint on your social media site (everyone can see, gasp!), respond to them appropriately and quickly (so everyone can see how cool & collected you are).  We all want to think that no one else is more important than me, so treat everyone like they are your best customer.  It may take a little bit of time, but it won’t steer you wrong.

Whatever your feeling on virtual relationships and social media, the fact is: it’s not going away. In fact, it’s the wave of the future. Today’s teenagers that crazily text each other are tomorrow’s executives. It isn’t far-fetched to think that businesses will be conducted 100% virtually. Building strong relationships based on trust and respect are always going to be the foundation of successful businesses, but the manner in which those relationships are forged will continue to change at a whirlwind pace.  Practice these six tips and you will be able to ride the rollercoaster of business with a following of loyal and dedicated fans.

Cre8vely Yours,

April Signature SM