Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thats All Folks! Day Twenty-Eight

This is quite literally The Last Post; cue funereal bugle music... So what did we learn en route?

#1 GUARD YOUR PERSONAL DATA. We all know the maxim about the proverbial free lunch - so why were we surprised that Facebook was selling on our personal data? We think twice about giving out personal information to the cashier in a shop, yet we vomit out information online. Not any more.
#2 IT'S THE WILD WEST OUT THERE. Three interviewees reported how this is all uncharted territory; no-one knows for sure what they are doing. It's a case of throwing a lot of spaghetti at the wall to see how it sticks (or - more likely - falls).
#3 THE COROLLARY OF #2; THERE IS A WONDERFUL SPIRIT OF SHARING. It's a good time to join in the fun. The situation was aptly described as Frontier Land. Thankfully, there's stacks of info online. Don't suffer in silence. If you hit a technical snafu, then google it and join an online forum.
#4 DO ONE THING WELL. You have to spend a fair amount of time nursing the baby. You have to love what you're writing about day in day out (our 28-day blog started out as daily posts -- but slowed down when we hit the high teens...) As one marketeer advises, pick a single social media platform and devote yourself to doing that well.
#5 MAPPING A BRAND'S 'NOISE' IS THE FUTURE. Far and away, the most interesting activity we encountered was the concept of brand mapping. By identifying influencers who blog or tweet and mapping their connections/followers/discussion topics, companies can see what is being said about their brand or company in cyberspace. B2C companies are even exploring how to direct this chatter. An example of this is Gatorade's control center. For the full scoop, see's story. It's all highly reminiscent of William Gibson's visionary SF novel "Pattern Recognition," where a commercial 'cool-hunter' identifies the interstices in the global matrix of information to tip off companies about what will be the next big thing.
# 6 READ MORE SCI FI LITERATURE - someone somewhere has already anticipated our future.
# 8 CAN WE FIX IT...YES WE CAN. Remember that catchphrase?

We started off believing we were to blame if things go wrong. 28 days later, having endured multiple Twitter outages and danced around online forums and FAQs, we'll now assume it's a glitch in the product or service. How liberating.
#9 DON'T REINVENT THE WHEEL. It's like publishing an academic paper. Don't open your mouth until you've listened to the general conversation. Join related interest groups online and find out what's being said before sounding off yourself. This may enable you to capture an existing audience as opposed to building yours follower by follower.
#10 BLOGGING IS CATHARTIC. It's like publishing an interior monologue. Anyone seen Peep Show on BBC America? Remove the obscenities and that's what blogging resembles...but STEP BACK AND LET IT BREATHE FOR 24 HRS. Oxidization improves what you've written...

Now what? Well, we certainly achieved our goal in terms of gaining competence and confidence in social networking. We even felt sufficiently skilled to volunteer for a committee to promote a benefit for Reading Terminal Market using--guess what-- social networking techniques. (Seeing as we're doyennes now.)

We kind of like this immersion thing and are starting to mull over a few ideas for future 28 day blog research topics:

1. Gelato flavors
2. Spa treatments
3. The best sushi in town
4. Most luxurious hotel
5. Wine tasting
7. Cooking the perfect steak

Suggestions welcome......

Posted by: Claire and Keri

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Dark Side of Social Media: Day Twenty-Seven

In general, we have focused on the positive potential of social media. As a business tool it offers tremendous opportunity if used creatively and correctly; see Day Four; Day Eighteen; and Day Twenty-Four. But are there other consequences to the proliferation of social media in our society? Research and observation say yes.

According to Susan Greenfield, Professor of Synaptic Pharmacology at Oxford University, Social Networking is changing children's brains. This is not a change for the better. Her research shows that children who are active in social media risk shorter attention spans, a need for immediate gratification, lack of empathy and loss of personal identity.

From our own personal observations, we are seeing self-promotion becoming paramount to substance. Consider Tyra Banks on The Tyra Show. We squirm at the flagrant exhibitionism but she's certainly got an audience. We see kids like our daughters taking endless pictures of themselves and each other, recording their adventures, mundane though they be, for later enjoyment. There's a profound metaphysical shift in the way we interact and experience the world--a fragmentation of personality--Greenfield confirms this in the article cited above. We seem to have taken the position of an outsider looking in (spectator ab extra) who distances herself from the action and yet comments readily on it. Social media encourages this, but it's mastubatory. In addition to projecting a persona, real or idealized, we are also, in a sense, consuming ourselves.

Regardless of the neurological and sociological consequences, however, social media are here to stay.

Rather than becoming a Luddite, or worse, making it the forbidden fruit that your children will pursue in secret with possibly disastrous consequences, employ safe, family friendly strategies to introduce your kids into this world. Sites like Togetherville and Club Penguin are good entry level social networks that are geared to the younger set.

Speaking of forbidden fruit, marriage counselors report that Facebook is a factor in 20% of the divorce petitions filed in 2009. Relationship advice is not something we are here to dispense but clearly the ease of interacting on Facebook makes infidelity, at least in the emotional sense, a little too convenient, seeing as shaved legs, lipstick, the buying of drinks and opening of doors are not required. If you find yourself spending more time in cyber flirtation than with your significant other, please take a long hard look at both. Signing off now to go say hello to my hubby.

Posted by: Keri and Claire

Friday, June 25, 2010

Social Media Revolution, Some Flabbergasting Facts: Day Twenty-Six

When we started this blog, we aimed at achieving a semblance of competence with social networking and determining whether it had applications beyond keeping in touch with friends and family. If I am to be totally candid, we also viewed the concept with some skepticism: lonely housewives facebooking about their grocery lists and harmlessly or not so harmlessly flirting with old flames; stargazing wannabes monitoring how many crunches Ashton Kutcher does at the gym today; maybe a few uber techie businesses utilizing it for online sales.

Whether we achieved a level of competence depends on how you define competence, but we are certainly more comfortable and confident than we were on Day One. As far as the applications of social media beyond showcasing vacation photos, well, the sky's really the limit. Without overstating it, we are in the midst of a revolution.


--1/8 of couples that married in the US in 2008 met via social networking.

--There are over currently 200,000,000 blogs on the web (with all those choices, thank you for reading ours!). 54% of bloggers post and/or tweet daily.

--YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world and has surpassed online porn as the most popular web activity. (That's good news, right?)

--With an estimated 400,000,000 users, if Facebook were a country it would be the 4th largest in the world.

--96% of Generation Y is currently engaged in social networking activity.

--80% of companies now use LinkedIn as their primary source of prospective employees.

--35% of's sales are now for Kindle products.

--1/6 of higher education classes are currently taken online.

Thank you for those staggering stats.

And here's another one:

--24 hours worth of video is uploaded every hour onto YouTube. But who is watching all of that stuff? Apparently we are. In 2009, online video viewing increased a shocking 53%! Don't throw your plasma screen out to salvage yet, but as Hulu and YouTube soar in popularity, there may come a day when television is obsolete.
Thank you

Posted by: Keri

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Facebook for Grown Ups (actually it's called Ning): Day Twenty-Five

  • Got a website? Check box.

  • Are you represented on LinkedIn? (The online white pages of Business today.) Check.

  • Are you posting stuff on your Facebook page? Check

Ahhhh, but do you have a custom professional network -- a hub that's exclusive to your own members..? Thought not; few companies do. The global association of 100 Women in Hedge Funds Foundation, however, does, and it's called Connect,

Why did they head along this route? Why add yet another networking tool to the ever lengthening laundry list of one's professional and Social Media responsibilities?

"We looked at both Facebook and LinkedIn. But Facebook seemed too social - best used for connecting with family and friends - and LinkedIn seemed flat," remarked Mindy Posoff of the influential professional body for women in hedge funds a.k.a 100 Women in Hedge Funds (actually make that 10,000 women worldwide).

Rapid global expansion drove this association to ponder how best to formalize and nurture the relationships between their members and create a professional networking forum representative of their diverse activities.

In a typical week, these activities might range from:

  • hosting a financial affairs summit in Toronto,

  • to distributing a webcast interview with a hedge fund superstar,

  • or encouraging participation in one of the Foundations many philanthropic activities.

As Posoff explained, they wanted a Facebook-like experience whereby they could keep members informed, involved and share their professional know-how.

Of their 10k membership, 3000 have to date joined this social ampitheater. Joining has been deliberately layered; "we didn't want the website crashing before we'd tested it out, said Posoff. All roads lead to Connect though; look for 100 Women in Hedge Funds on Facebook, LinkedIn and you'll find big red arrows directing you to join their organization and the connect network -- that is, if you meet the professional criteria.

How well patronized is this networking hub?

"We know we have a lot of members who use the site for content and connections. But our membership is pretty cautious about expressing their opinions in online forums as this is a professional association. We know there's lots of activity though...One woman was attending a conference in another city and she wanted to organize an important meeting there. She didn't know the city that well and so she posted a query asking other members for advice. Several women jumped in and offered suggestions, based on their first-hand experience. We also use an analytics tool to find out what our members are most interested in. The content, the event and the jobs section are extremely active. We know as we continue to have ongoing unique visitors to those areas on the site.”

For more information on 100 Women in Hedge Funds go to To find out more about the Ning social networking platform, (catchy name, not...), hop over to

Posted by Claire

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Food For Thought: Day Twenty-Four

We found a great example of a business using social media skills brilliantly, and it's in a field that is not typically known for networking of this flavor. Green Aisle Grocery, a small, organic gourmet food purveyor in a hipster up and coming neighborhood of South Philly, has developed a business model that rivals the proverbial sliced bread (which, in their case would be made from locally grown grains in small batches by artisan bakers). The part of the model that interests us (besides the amazing inventory that tempts these two foodies sorely) is the innovative approach to moving their merchandise, much of which has a very short shelf life. It seems so obvious now....immediacy is key, so Green Aisle Grocery Tweets. They have over 700 followers, and these followers are engaged, active participants in Green Aisle's operation.

Tweets keep customers apprised of the newest, the freshest, the most precious, the limited supplies and the promotions that are on offer all day every day. Recent tweets announced a special sale on milk, as well as a delivery of Berks County raspberries, first of the season, and what to look forward in the produce section on Friday (zucchini blossoms!). Frequently they get their hands on something really special from a local chef--Zahav's hummos anyone? They tweet it, and plugged-in foodies scramble to Passyunk Ave in the hopes of getting their hands on a gustatory gem.

In addition to the clever use of Twitter, Green Aisle's dynamic website showcases their inventory, keeps customers updated on supplies of specific items, features frequent plats du jour recipes that utlize the recently arrived merchandise--garlic ramps or merguez sausage, say. This creates desire and demand, and helps their followers discover new and delicious ways to consume their offerings.

I had dinner with two seasoned vets on Philly's food scene last night and described this place. They were both aghast and characterized Green Aisle's approach as "sheer genius."

Now I'm off to buy some of this chocolate cherry candied almond cookie dough before they run out. Bon Appetit!
Posted by: Keri

Friday, June 18, 2010

More on Blogging (or Moron Blogging): Day Twenty-Three

Having jumped into the pool, we continue to paddle our way around, occasionally sinking, but ever availing ourselves of the life rafts that surround us in the forms of online resources and local experts who are willing to be interviewed for the price of food and booze.

Recent searches have turned up some useful articles and suggestions:

Are You a Digital Slowpoke? 10 Ways to Catch Up. (Don't you love the title?)

Found lots of other interesting stuff on

General consensus is that serious bloggers use Wordpress. While I may aspire to such heights eventually, I will think long and hard about abandoning blogger, where I have achieved a modicum of competence. Research indicates that Wordpress is less user friendly. Our experience supports this. We attempted a brief foray into Wordpress round about Day 13 thinking we might transfer this whole kit and kaboodle but were flummoxed at the starting block, so we pressed on with blogger. There are pros and cons to each platform, detailed here. Thank you

Loved this list of "Awful Blogging Practices". (Gosh, I hope we've avoided them!) Here's the full article. Thank you

The Seven Deadly Sins.....

1. Lack of Focus--Think boutique, not Wal-Mart.

2. Impatience--Technorati says most top ranked blogs are at least three years old.

3. Social Bookmarking Overload--Don't crowd your template with these icons--most readers don't know what they are ignore them.

4. Overabundance of Ads--To generate income from a blog you must: 1) build useful content; 2) attract targeted traffic 3) monetize the traffic with ads and affiliate programs. Don't reverse the steps by posting ads first; Content is King and that's what will make your blog a success.

5. Ignoring Stats--To maximize traffic, you've got to crunch the numbers.

6. Ineffective Post Titles--Each post is a hook--you'll notice that we've nixed the practice of starting our post titles with "Day Twenty-Three"--because that tells you nothing and attracts no one.

7. Overly Formal Tone--Online writing is conversational, so adjust your style accordingly. Unless you are writing for the United Nations blog or some equally esteemed institution, lighten up, include your readers, encourage comments.

So comment, NOW, dammit!

Posted by: Keri

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Shooting for the stars: Day Twenty-two - not exactly a giant leap for Mankind...But definitely some not so small steps for us.

It's difficult to apply the classic marketing rules of engagement to our own situation. We're publishing a not-for-profit, experimental blog; we're not selling anything to anyone. We're curious about Social Media and want to share our experience with others who are interested in taking small steps in the same direction. But what if we were earnestly promoting our blog..? What should we be doing to increase visibility?

The Universe of Metatags, Key Phrases and Search 'Bots'
We gamely interrogated another friend (seduced to offer information in exchange for Keri's coconut brownies). This chocolate lover was -- in a previous incarnation -- also a web designer who learned about Internet marketing by promoting his own bricks and mortar business. We asked him to explain the mysteries of Google rankings. (We're still puzzled about why certain older days of our blogs continue to rank higher than more recent postings -- when everyone tells us that the search 'bots' like fresh content best.)

According to our source, metatags (i.e. the information that attracts the attention of search engines) comprise three levels of information:

  1. Title of your blog/site
  2. Keywords
  3. Description

The title of your blog is the most important source of information for the search engines. It needs to be relevant and reflect the content of your blog. Keywords have become incredibly sophisticated, and to get this right requires an ongoing military campaign. Our expert suggests that keywords are insufficient these days. Instead, he favors key phrases; a minimum of 2-3 words in a single phrase.

The (Internet) Space Race

To identify useful phrases for your own blog/website, he recommends typing the key phrase you are thinking of using into Google and then look at, say, the top 10 pages of results to understand the sites associated with this phrase. Then look at the source code for several of the top ranking sites and work out which key search terms they are using. (Sounds like industrial espionage this, but apparently, it's fair play as people jostle for pre-eminence in Google's rankings!) Google analytics is another useful source for identifying trends, however, as our insider confirms, yet again, this is an inexact science, a case of ongoing trial and error: "If anyone could really tell how Google ranks sites, what algorithms its search engines use, they could make millions." Another word of advice, make sure that you repeat your keywords and phrases in the body content of your blog. Apparently one of the things that the search engine looks for is relative relationships, that is, whether the key phrases you have flagged is supported by the actual content of your site.

A short digression while we revisit the issue of the naming of our blog... "It's one of the silliest names I've ever come across," confirms our source. "When you pick a name, keep two rules in mind; can you say it over the radio without having to spell it out? Is it three syllables or less?"

With only six more posts to write, we'd like to end on a cultural note and cite words of encouragement from a Victorian poem Andrea del Sarto by Robert Browning.

"Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a Heaven for?"


If we hadn't come up with a silly name and started writing this silly blog we'd never have found out about any of this silly stuff.

Posted by Claire