Using dedicated hashtags on Twitter

are you dedicated to Twitter

This is day 15 of 30-day blog challenge. Read day 14: “Inspirations to keep going”



are you dedicated to Twitter

Using a dedicated hashtag

Most Twitter users know by now what a hashtag is, but many seem to use the tool as a joke instead of as a way to search, connect and position. I like the idea of a positioning statement or a slogan that instantly places your product or services in your consumer’s mind. What I like about it is the possibility to make a genuine impact. A dedicated hashtag is an opportunity to position a brand, product or service in others’ minds, but you have to stay sincere.

I try to write about social media and how marketing online often comes in the form of social networking. I generally use hashtags that identify the core message for individual tweets. Some of the dedicated hastags I use include #socialmedia and #content because I want to distinguish myself as part of this industry. I avoid using a hashtag just for the sake of using it, and I try not to “sell” socially.


Listening is key to engaging

One thing I read or heard somewhere involves the idea that in a real-world situation at an office party or networking function, you wouldn’t just walk up to a group of influential people and interject with whatever you wanted to talk about. You would walk up to the group and listen. The first stages in marketing and advertising always involve research, which means listening.

Many mistakes in social media marketing have been made by companies and individuals trying to capitalize on an event or social issue. Imagine a company trying to increase sales by using a hashtag just to jump in the conversation (like #HurricaneSandy), then announcing a 20 percent-off sale! Similar things have happened!

When listening and understanding line up with timely quick wit, you see marketing genius in hashtag usage. Like Oreo’s brilliant tweet during the SuperBowl blackout. The image of an Orea cookie against a dark background that announced something to the effect of “Lights out? You can still dunk in the dark.” This quick-witted and timely tweet used a touch of humor and its core brand image to light-heartedly join the conversation.


How most people use hashtags incorrectly

Other than just joining the conversation to say what you want to say, without listening ad engaging, another way to incorrectly use hashtags is to use a lengthy hashtag as a joke. Using a hashtag once or twice as a joke is just ineffective. Using a hashtag phrase with more than three words is generally considered annoying and is ineffective.

Many people and organizations search by hashtag, so using hashtags like “socialmedia and #content will help me associate myself and my ideas with others in the same conversation. The other way to use hashtags is to create or dedicate a hashtag to your brand.

I’ve advised Russell Eldridge (my husband) to try using #toddlerguitar in tweets that refer specifically to teaching our 3-year-old daughter to play guitar. My idea here is to create a dedicated hashtag that he can use to distinguish his ability to teach young guitar players. Not that 3-year-olds make up a large market for guitar students, but it’s my idea that if it works well, he can stake out part of this niche.

Also, in using a dedicated hashtag like #toddlerguitar, future students or interested individuals can search the hashtag and follow the progress. I’ve recommended he use this as a way to gather content and possibly blog about the pros and cons of teaching such a young student.

Test it out by searching for #toddlerguitar. Leave me your thoughts in the comments about how you’ve used hashtags on Twitter.


Categories: Branding, Social Media | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Inspirations to keep going

hell is a mindset


This is day 14 of 30-day blog challenge. Read day 13 “Social media strategy”


We all have those days where our heads ache, we’re overwhelmed and just plain tired. Being stuck inside and trying to focus with the entire family around is difficult. Humans are creatures of habit, and cabin fever affects me as much as not being able to stick to my routines.

When moments, days and weeks where I have trouble focusing come around I often resort to a few classics to re-inspire myself. I’ll post them in no particular order so I can keep plowing through this 30-day blog challenge, despite having a headache and moody toddlers.


Russell Eldridge playing “All Alone” with Delusional Mind

This was the first show my husband played with the band he joined a few months before we met. I wasn’t at the show, but it happened two days after my birthday. I used to watch this song on repeat while I wrote sappy poetry about finding true love and living happily ever after. This video to me means hope. I’m sure Russell wrote the lyrics thinking about the people who had broken his heart, and I’m sure he performed it this night without even knowing I existed. But it worked. The melodies and the mood joined forces to touch my heart. Sappy. But, when I’m distracted or otherwise feeling moody, I watch the video to see where we were all those years ago. And how far we’ve come.


e.e. cummings and love


(of Ever-Ever Land i speak sweet morons gather roun’ who does not dare to stand or sit may take it lying down) down with the human soul and everything else uncanned for everyone carries canopeners in Ever-Ever Land (for Ever-Ever Land is a place that’s as simple as simple can be and was built that way on purpose by simple people like we) down with hell and heaven and the religious fuss infinity pleased our parents one inch looks good to us (and Ever-Ever Land is a place that’s measured and safe and known where it’s lucky to be unlucky and the hitler lies down with the cohn) down above all with love and everything perverse or which makes some feel more better when all ought to feel less worse (but only sameness is normal in Ever-Ever Land for a bad cigar is a woman but a gland is only a gland)

I often think about the above  e.e. cummings poem around Valentine’s Day, with its line about love being perverse and making only some feel more better when all ought to feel less worse. His purposeful freedom with breaking grammar rules fueled my sense of rebellion as a young writer. I don’t like all his poems, but this one has stuck in my mind for decades.


The Sandman by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman books acted as my companion throughout high school. The characters became my siblings, and the metaphors became my inspiration. I still aspire to write like Gaiman one day. But this particular image and quote centers me in some of my beliefs about the nature of good and evil in the world. Without getting religious, I know in my heart that the good and the evil men do is carried in their hearts. When you allow too much negativity and hate into your life, you carry it. It cuts you down and keeps you hurting. I try not to carry hell around with me anymore. I work to live in the moment and let the past go, while always “giving the devil his due.”

hell is a mindset

Tool: “Right in Two”

Again, not to get too into religious ideas, I’ll just say that this song in particular sums up the answer to why bad things happen to good people. Free will. Whatever you believe, you must accept that mankind has free will. We make choices to destroy our planet, our resources and ourselves. We carry around hate and project it onto everything in our path. This song reminds me that I have the power to change only myself and feel the positive energy in the world. And it’s Tool. The progression and song dynamics have such power over me.


Other inspirations to keep me going

I resort to listening to much of the music that got me through my teenage years: Tool, Ani DiFranco, Radiohead and Tori Amos are often quick choices when I’m feeling uninspired. I also listed to Dream Theater quite often. Music has that power to help us find ourselves by getting lost in chord progressions, pounding drums and whispered lyrics. Art, especially surrealist art can also revive my senses as does poetry. Trying to make sense out of things that are purposefully skewed, I guess, resets my ability to create.


Categories: blog, Writing | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

The simple truth about social media strategy is no secret

create a strong social strategy


Day 13 of 30-day blog challenge. Read day 12, “Bread, Milk and Eggs in a Snowstorm”

 create a strong social strategy


Everyone with a business knows that Facebook and Twitter are essential “tools” for online marketing, but the secret to social media really isn’t a secret. No one–no matter how much anyone promises to deliver results for large sums of money–can develop an overnight solution to capitalizing on social media. Time is money and social media isn’t really free. Paying for Facebook likes or Twitter followers can damage your efforts by diluting your audience, effectively lessening your engagement.


Facebook advertising: don’t pay for likes. Ever

Here’s a great video on how one marketer proved that Facebook ads can actually hurt your business:


Social media strategy is no secret

Seriously, social media strategy is no secret. The way to market anything online is by starting with a mission and at least one objective. Why are you on the platforms that you are on socially? When people seek solutions to problems they will likely ask a search engine or a group of Facebook friends, “What kind of car should I buy?” or “Who do you use for life insurance?”

Word of mouth means personal branding is important. You want your friends and acquaintances to know what you do for a living (unless you’re in computer repair. Then your friends will seek you out more than you may like). I’m only kidding for the people who don’t want extra business, which isn’t most people.

Just remember to be yourself and stay passionate about what you do. If you make scarves or if you repair cars, make it known. The main reasons anyone is online include socializing with family and friends. Stalking or gossiping if you will. No one checks Facebook to see what’s on sale at the local grocery store. So, I recommend everyone to have a blog.


Why content marketing is crucial

Content marketing is one of the things I do for people. I am realizing more and more that without a social media strategy in place to create and distribute genuine content designed to help others, you may as well just share photos of the kids or quietly stalk your relatives. When you blog about engine repair your friends and family may not rush to read your latest post, but they will remember that YOU are the mechanic to call when they have car trouble. And that’s what positioning is all about.

When you develop your social media strategy (or consult me to do it for you and your business), think about what problem you solve for others. Then, think of a genuine and honest way to share your information and knowledge socially. People will remember. They will follow your social media platforms because they support you and you business as well as for your tips. When they need your services, they’ll call.




Categories: Social Media | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Why bread, milk, eggs and snowstorms go together

Day 12 of 30-day blog challenge. Read day 11: “LinkedIn Open Networkers: marketing mistake”



I’ll consider today’s blog one about “parenting” as I try to organize this blog by category. We in the South–Georgia to be exact–are expecting snow for the second time this winter. Many schools, including Kennesaw State University, where I attend college, are already closed. I published my thoughts on the first “Snowpocolypse” of the season in an issue of The Sentinel that hit stands with the previous week’s issue because we were all stuck inside.


thoughts on parenting from ground zero

So, I’m over it. I’m over the weather warnings and winter advisories. I’ve calmly accepted that my guitar teacher husband will have to excuse his students. Again. Maybe the family can watch a documentary on NetFlix. Something that teaches us how to make shoes from cardboard or boil baby drool into pudding.


Why bread, milk and eggs in a storm?

meredith3As I think about trying to just enjoy the day off and the time cooped up with the kids (they’re more adorable in half-day bursts), I ponder over the fact–not joke–that people really rush out for bread, milk and eggs in preparation for a snowstorm. I’ve often wondered why, without putting much more thought into it. Why bread, milk and eggs in a storm?


Wouldn’t it make more sense to stock up on non-perishables? Why stockpile the things that spoil quickly? I’m guessing it’s emotionally-based. Seriously. We want French toast. We want hot cocoa made with whole milk. We don’t want to believe that the storm will last longer than our perishable comfort foods.


My habit is for my husband or me to head to the grocery store every few days. Though we often fail, we try to eat fruits and veggies as the bulk of our diets. My husband is a vegetarian (that’s a Native American word meaning “bad hunter”). So, I hit the store the other day. I realized last night that I forgot coffee. Posting it on Facebook as a joke, I planned to go to Kroger before work to get coffee and anything else I could think of needing over the next few days.


Surviving Southern Winter

I bought coffee as well as an extra loaf of bread. I decided I would make the family French toast with strawberries and syrup for Tuesday breakfast. You know, since neither I nor my husband would be hitting the gym. I’m glad I went early because by midday the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported shots fired at a local Kroger. I seriously hope others can calm down and quietly accept this is an extreme, but rare, winter in the South.


As I left the house, I took the phone charger (and no one in my immediate family spent time stuck in traffic two weeks ago when the ice made Atlanta a laughing stock). I asked my husband to go ahead and buy an extra phone charger on eBay. We need one to leave in the car. Then I remembered that KSU offered a course called “Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse” that I laughed at. The most ironic aspect of the class is that it’s offered Wednesday nights – so if campus closed Wednesday, Feb. 12, the class would miss two sessions. But I bet they have tons to discuss!


Too late to register and classes canceled for Snowpocalyse anyway!


Emergency preparation isn’t a joke. Having two small kids makes me nervous; I want to protect them. Especially when I heard about children stuck on school buses and friends whose kids were dropped off at places other than where they were supposed to be left. Terrifying. No matter who has or has not learned a lesson, I know winter weather in Georgia is no joke. Those in the northern states (like New Jersey, where I grew up), can’t handle the heat and cancel school in the rare extreme summers because they don’t have air-conditioning. Well, we don’t have salt trucks nor enough snow plows. So, we’ll just stay in and eat our French toast. Try not to get into a gun fight over it, though.


Categories: as the laundry rolls | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

LinkedIn Open Networkers: marketing mistake

could being a L.I.O.N. hurt your career?


Day 11 of 30-day blog challenge. Read day 10 “Controlling creativity: 5 tips to managing inspiration”


could being a L.I.O.N. hurt your career?


I’ve made a more concerted effort lately to use my LinkedIn account for networking, and as a place to engage with others in my industry (I join groups about marketing, social media and journalism. I’m a top contributor in a group called Brand Journalism). And while I’ve had the account for a few years, I haven’t added just anyone.


Over the years I’ve accumulated more than 500 connections, but I’ve been cautious to only add people in my local area as well as people who work in the same fields that I want to work. I’ve kept my eye on a few companies and followed some thought leaders.


One thing that really irritated me (and even caused me to disconnect from a LinkedIn associate) is the LinkedIn Open Networkers groups. L.I.O.N.s, as they refer to themselves, make it publicly known that they will openly connect with anyone from any industry. While I understand the concept of networks and Venn Diagrams, the idea of a social networking site dedicated as a form of online resume means to me that I would want to limit my associations. I want to be seen as part of a particular field.


I saw a LinkedIn connection broadcasting her L.I.O.N status and streams of email comments from any and everybody followed. My stomach turned. Don’t we have enough spam and “investment opportunities” come through our email addresses?


This blog is just a short pet peeve kind of stream of consciousness, but the central idea links back to how I believe people should use social media networks. Each platform has its advantages and disadvantages.


When it comes to developing your personal brand, you want to first know what your mission is. How do you define yourself and your business? Are you an illustrator or a dry cleaning business owner? Whatever you “are” is what you need to keep in mind when socializing personally online as well as professionally.


The advantages to an open approach to networking exist, and opportunities can arise, but as a general rule you want to start with a solid sense of yourself and your business. From that “mission statement,” begin thinking of how to position yourself. When do you want people to think about you and your services? A nutritionist who posts pictures of fried food dinners probably won’t get the calls for advice that a nutritionist who posts healthy choice recipes.


Everything in personal branding comes down to implementing your vision of yourself and your business. Set goals to connect with others in your industry or to widen your reach. Just keep your vision in mind with each connection you make and each post you publish.


Categories: Branding, Social Media | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Controlling creativity: 5 tips for managing inspiration

Does your creativity keep you up at night or leave you blocked?

Day 10 of 30-day blog challenge. Read day 9 “Social Media Limit”


Does your creativity keep you up at night or leave you blocked?


We makers know that when inspiration strikes we might be dead asleep or butt-naked in the shower. Actually, I think the connecting theme for those two situations is the idea of relaxation. The mind reels when the body relaxes.  But, in an industry where freelancers and independent makers (from writers to photographers and anyone who creates something) struggle to constantly create and improve, how can we slow down enough to manage creativity?


I’m sure I’m not alone in having lists of great ideas for novels, plays and songs. I have half-written grocery lists and incomplete Pinterest boards with recipes to try. Making creativity mind a schedule or come at convenient times often means stifling inspiration and stagnating in your production of art.


1. Listen to other makers and watch people who create

One of the best ways for me to get inspired is by watching and paying attention to others in my industry or similar fields. I enjoy not only writing but also music. Quite often I remind myself that my husband teaches guitar and if I could just carve out a few more hours a day I could accompany myself in songs where I only have lyrics. When I take the time to watch an open mic poetry and music event, I find myself thinking, “Oh, I know I could do that!” I feel like my goal to compose a song made of a few chords and moving lyrics isn’t that far off. I get inspired, and I go home to practice changing chords to my poem’s pentameter.

Listening goes for any medium and any business field as well. If you’re trying to control creativity, you are trying to make your ideas flourish and work for you. When the ideas come all-or-nothing, you can too easily become overwhelmed or burn out.


2. Controlling creativity by relaxing

This idea of controlling creativity and managing inspiration means taking dedicated time out to nourish your thoughts. A healthy mind might still wake you at 3 a.m. to start writing the exposition for a character. But, by taking time to relax your body and mind on a regular basis you allow for refreshing. A solid nap in your car during lunch time can mean a terrific blog post after dinner.


3. Don’t take people who create personally

Don’t let any person or any thing defeat you in your journey. Children start out so eager to please and so dedicated to imagination that adults look on with amazement. What changes is when we allow other people who create to knock us down. Sometimes, even letting others’ thoughts of your work inflate your ego can be damaging to your creativity because you feel like you have too much to live up to. Just know that your process is a journey. Take the compliments with the rejection and listen to not only those around you but also your heart. Your art and your process will dictate how best to manage your creativity.


4. Stay social to stay inspired; share

This idea is similar to the idea of going to an open mic and thinking to yourself that you could do the same things with more practice. There is nothing wrong with engaging and admiring other creative people’s art and writing. By acknowledging what you sincerely like, you tell your own sense of creativity how to innovate. I’m sure a quote or two exists speaking to the difference between good artists who borrow and great artists who steal, but I cannot recall the author at this moment. Share what you like, what inspires you and invite those in your network to see more than just your content, but what’s in your mind.


5. Have a breakable routine

We humans are very much creatures of habit. I can tell you how my mind deteriorates without my schedules, but those schedules stay flexible because I freelance and have to be able to rearrange my time. Even with this 30-day blog challenge I don’t have the luxury of a set time to create. I manage my creativity by thinking ahead, using a blog calendar and constantly writing down my mental notes. I quite often run dripping from the shower to write down a golden idea for a blog, but I control creativity by allowing myself a routine for structure with flexibility to stay creative. I realize this simply isn’t possible for artists and writers with full-time jobs, but as much as possible balance your routine with flexibility.

This last idea really gets at the heart of how difficult it is to be a freelance professional. The flexible jobs that we love are juxtaposed against an inability to depend on a single source of income or a solid routine. Life doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. We can live in the moment while staying both grounded (as in a schedule) and open to inspiration (as in flexibility).


No matter what happens in life, with work or to the ones you love, know that stagnation or writer’s block doesn’t mean you have to abandon your creative works. Just pick the pen, paintbrush or guitar back up and start when the inspiration hits. You can control creativity and allow inspiration without suffering from a need to work nonstop. Take breaks. Love yourself. Feel your energy, then create something magical.



Categories: Freelancing, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Social media limit secret: you only have 150 connections

How well do you know your friends?


Day 9 of 30-day blog challenge: read day 8 – “Why Google Plus is No Joke”


How well do you know your friends?


We all know the importance of human connection and a sense of community, but many of us may not know that Robin Dunbar claims 150 is the magic number when it comes to just how many people we can maintain a meaningful connection to. Or, at least Dunbar means our biological programming has us naturally grouping in communities of about 150.


I read an article by Chris Street, “I Culled Half My Facebook Friends…,” where Street made the point about quality over quantity even in the face of our psychological need for belonging. The article made sense in that face of effective use of social media as well. Only recently have I begun trying to brand myself as not only a writer but also a marketer who can, through the implementation of a blog, help small businesses.


Trying to balance my belief in quality over quantity and managing an effective social media marketing strategy, I’ve started rethinking my Facebook strategy. When I heard about the Dunbar idea of a community only comprising 150 people, I wondered whether social media was changing all that.


I’ve come to the conclusion that no, social media saturation does not change the communities and their natural groupings of 150. Think about it: while we nearly all have a Facebook account (and several of us maintain two or more), we only see those posts in our news feeds from the same friends and family members with whom we interact most. Much of this has to do with EdgeRank, the algorithm Facebook uses to determine what you see in your news feed.


Why we always see the same friends’ posts in Facebook

The idea that your social media is limited comes from to the simple fact that Facebook cannot show you every single post in chronological order because the volume is too high. Another social media application, Path, limits the number of connections to 150 based on the desire to cultivate a true, deep community.


For any of us trying to keep in touch with high school and college friends, we can connect on Facebook and use the database as an online address book. When we need to look up cousin Jane or nephew Francis, we consult the search bar for our Facebook friends and as long as we are connected the account will pop up. But as far as actively engaging and networking for some purpose or branding goal, we should make conscious decisions about the friends we accept and how we maintain our news feeds.


On LinkedIn, my rule is to only accept invitations from people I know–and not only know but also want in my job-seeking community. Some friends and even family members will do nothing for your professional appearance. I will also accept connection requests on LinkedIn from those in my industry and in my local area. I’ve grown a decent network that has led to job offers and more freelance work.


For Facebook, I still largely see the site as the public. By that I mean that though I want to network and grow my personal brand, I hang out in the downtown atmosphere of high school friends, college roommates and family members. I don’t feel it’s worth the drama or trouble to unfriend someone I’ve met in real life. I don’t generally have trouble with overly political or negative people, but I make it a point not to interact with those who tend toward the, er, dark side.


A truth-in-jest joke I heard at a conference made sense to me as I wrapped my mind around starting a Twitter account: Facebook is where we connect with all the people we went to high school with, but Twitter is where we connect with those we wish we went to high school with. On Twitter, I actively engage and follow those who write their own content on social media marketing, content management and journalism. As a rule, I follow anyone back who is in my industry and who shares articles I want to read about my industry. Social media is always changing and growing. No one is an expert but he or she who studies it constantly.


So, the secret to social media isn’t much of a secret in light of what we’ve gleaned from evolution, biology and psychology. We humans gravitate toward smaller, manageable communities where we feel we belong and where our self-esteem can flourish. In cultivating a strategy for personal branding and social media marketing, though, think carefully about how you interact and with whom across various networks. Maybe you maintain close relationships with hundreds of people–if you do, please leave a comment and let me know.





Categories: Branding, Social Media | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Stop laughing: Google Plus now has 1 billion users

social media google plus

Day 8 of 30-day blog challenge. Read day 7 post: “10 ways to improve social media marketing overnight”


Who's still laughing at Google Plus?

First off, if the infographic above bothers you because Pinterest and Instagram aren’t in order along the bottom, know that I didn’t create this graphic.

Now, if the infographic bothers you because you thought you didn’t need to worry about putting your business on Google Plus, I understand.

Since the evolution of Web 2.0 into a true two-way street, businesses and people have been trying to figure out how to act online and how best to engage. Marketers know that one-way, static web pages that block user comments only send feedback through the social media tunnels. And most businesses and individuals have accepted social media and joined Facebook at the very least.

The biggest reasons I have been encouraging engagement on Google Plus involve the fact that Google is largely becoming synonymous with the Internet itself. The largest and most often used search engine, Google has even become a verb, meaning to search the world wide web, in everyday language. Please don’t forget also that Google now owns YouTube, which happens to be the second largest search engine.

If you are promoting your small business, your corporation or trying to share pictures of the babies with the world, Google is your friend. A friend with a wide circle of influence–like the popular clique in high school. Getting locked out of or pushed down in Google’s search engine results means failure for your business. If you’ve been laughing at Google Plus as a social media wanna-be, now is the time to stop laughing and form a strategy for marketing via Google Plus as well as the business Pages and on YouTube.

Categories: Social Media | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

10 ways to improve your social media marketing overnight

social media marketing


This is day 7 of my 30-day blog challenge. Read day 6: “Abandoned Addiction”


social media marketing


Your business needs more than a Facebook Page to be active in social media marketing, and it certainly needs someone more experienced with setting up marketing strategy than your Millennial neighbor. Just as you need a plan for your business, you need a strategy for reaching your potential clients and consumers.


Marketing for the sake of marketing accomplishes little, so if you don’t know where to begin with setting up social media, here are a few tips that you can put into action immediately:


1. Have a plan and set S.M.A.R.T. goals for social media marketing

Measuring return on investment in social media comes down to examining how well your business is reaching its goals. Did you create a Facebook Page to drive visitors to your website? If yes, you can use Google Analytics to measure referred traffic. Likewise, if your goal is to increase brand awareness and engagement you can use Facebook insights to monitor how many people like your Page or share your content. It all starts with your objectives.

Set objectives effectively by following the well-known acronym: SMART. A SMART objective is:




Realistic and



2. Have a presence on all social media platforms

This may seem obvious, but many corporations as well as small businesses make the mistake of neglecting certain platforms. Maybe you think your target market isn’t on Tumblr or Pinterest won’t drive sales. The biggest reason to create an official presence on every social media account is to prevent fake accounts from representing your brand. As soon as you or the person or people in charge of your business’s online marketing hear of a new blogging medium or app, check it out and see how best to incorporate your brand with it.


3. Use a dedicated hashtag on Twitter

Come up with something you can use over a period of time that others will associate with your brand or line of social sharing. Network with industry professionals as well as listen to what your target market is saying.


4. Do not feed one social media platform into another.

This is most commonly observed between Twitter and Facebook. Use each separately. If you have your accounts linked, unlink them now.


5. Set up Google Alerts

Monitor your online reputation. Simply create an alert for the name of your business and any phrases that may be associated with your brand.


6. Don’t feed the trolls

Anyone can have a rotten day and stumble across what are commonly known as “trolls” on the Internet. These users exist to ruffle our feathers. Don’t feed them with negativity. This is something business owners need to remember every time a negative review is posted or anytime a political post makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.


7. Have a Google Plus Page for business

Each Gmail user automatically gets a Google+ page now, whereas that wasn’t always the case. Your business, however, may not have a Google+ page and you should create and post from it. Also, using your Google+ page to interact with others in the community will help brand you as a thought leader and encourage customer loyalty.


8. Have a Pinterest page

More and more marketers are giving Pinterest credit. The social site turns 4 March 2014, and Pinterest has grown rapidly. The click-through potential is what has people excited because the visual grabs attention and if the product or article entices, the pinner can click straight through to the website or online store and make a purchase (or pin the image to an album as a personal wish list).


9. Create a Page (not a profile) for your Facebook presence

Honestly, I’ve been advising people to move more toward Google Plus and Pinterest than to focus too much on Facebook, but the popularity of Facebook means you must have a strong presence. On Facebook, a personal account often means higher engagement and networking, but the Page isn’t limited to 5000 friends. A Page interacts with other businesses and if leveraged properly works as a B2B networking tool.


10. Create your own unique content

Every small business (and even big business) needs a blog to contribute to the conversation that is social media. People don’t interact online for sales pitches. People love to buy, but dislike being sold. So, offer valuable content via your website blog and turn visitors into clients. This won’t happen overnight, but by writing a blog a day (or weekly), you build your brand as an expert in the industry and position yourself to be the solution people think of when they need your product or service.



If you or your business needs help with any of these things or with setting up a strategy for social media marketing, contact me at Ellen [@]

Categories: blog, Social Media | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Abandoned Addiction: thoughts on finding Hoffman dead with a needle in his arm

abandoned addiction


Day 6 of my 30-day blog challenge. Read day 5 “The benefits of a blog calendar”


abandoned addiction


George Willis Jr. grew up and became the mighty Lester Bangs before dying from a heroin overdose, with a needle still sticking out of his left arm. I didn’t want to write about Philip Seymour Hoffman. My heart has just been so heavy. I want to share my thought process in discovering this loss, and why I am writing about it.


I have a hard time ( it’s pathetic really) distinguishing people’s faces. I often joke about it, but my husband worries if something is wrong my ability to perceive.  But, when I saw Hoffman’s face flooding my news feed, I remembered first George Willis Jr. from Scent Of A Woman (1992), which is one of my favorite films. I later recalled Lester Bangs (Almost Famous, 2000); that expression on Hoffman’s face betrayed some secret knowing about the people he played. He mastered the characters in two of the most inspirational movies for me. I should make it a point to watch the rest. Many I haven’t seen, but in several I just don’t recall his character.


The first few mentions just said Hoffman, 46, died February 2, 2014. I scrolled as the thoughts began to process. Of course I felt embarrassed that I only suspected he was in Scent Of A Woman. Then, I saw the post by The New York Post that mentioned in its excerpt the details of Hoffman’s death.He died with a needle still stuck in his left arm.


Like blood trapped beneath a bruise

That image stabbed me in my memory, tearing open an old wound buried under emotional scar tissue. I began to bleed again. I bled for the memory of Dan Calderone, 15, who died from a heroin overdose in Parsippany, N.J. when I was maybe 17. He was a friend of my brother’s and sat on my family’s living room couch just weeks before he was found dead by his grandmother. I don’t think I’ve ever typed his name publicly.  Doing do now feels tremendously like pushing on a bruise to see if it still hurts. Dan wasn’t even the closest person to me to die from a heroin overdose.


My mind screams at me to stop thinking about the people in my life who battled against booze, drugs and self-destruction. The “clotting factor” to stop me from emotionally bleeding out is that I’ve learned about the connection between creativity and mental illness. We can never abandon addictions. We must fill the void with love.


It was always the creative ones in my life, the artists, musicians, writers and actors, who seemed the most filled with life–and the most likely to want to use drugs. They felt life so fully that they needed to temper that connection to positive energy by binging on negative. I say “they” like I’m not included. But I’ve felt the highs and suffered the lows. Had it not been for finding a secure foothold in my husband who knows where I would have ended up.


Though I’ve pulled away from every relationship tinged with destruction, I feel connected to some who still struggle. Though I don’t know him personally, I interviewed last year the musician who took Shannon Hoon’s place in Blind Melon. Travis T. Warren told me about his solo project, and that his decision to donate proceeds to MusiCares came from his battle with addiction. Warren’s otherwise excited voice changed to a more somber and mellow tone when he described his childhood friends. I nodded in agreement as we let the topic trail off. Warren posted last week on Facebook that he suffered a loss. I didn’t stalk the details, but I had a feeling it was a similar situation to what I’ve been through too many times.


Abandonment won’t heal. We need love

My thought process in thinking about yet another heroin overdose made me feel like I shouldn’t pay it any attention.  Like I should abandon addiction and suppress negative thoughts and avoid negative people. But if I’ve learned anything it’s that ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. An abandoned addiction festers when not filled with something. Many makers try to fill that emptiness with their art. The brilliant ones win recognition, money and even lust. Yet that ever-elusive love cannot be won, bought or manipulated. So my heart hurts.


We creative types need to take care of our community. We need to do more than write songs about love and look the other way when we see the characters our friends play take on residence in their minds. From generation to generation we must remember to give back in our words and our art the ideas that helped heal us. If only temporarily. I know better than to ignore the wounds within myself. I’ve covered over the pain with layers of years, allowing time to heal, but the memories remain.


When I got married in March 2009, we took a road trip to New York. We spent some time in Pennsylvania, with one of my best friends from high school, and we spent time in New Jersey visiting my old stomping grounds. During this trip Duane called me and asked if I wanted to hang out. I missed him, but I didn’t want to see him. I knew he still suffered. I prayed he would get through it. I tried to be a friend, but kept my distance for my sanity.  That fear of reading my friend had been found with “the needle still in his arm” resonated with each ring of his phone call. So, I didn’t see him. We headed back to Georgia, and a few months later Duane died of a drug overdose. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised. What I felt was guilt.


Could anyone have done anything to help Hoffman? He had money; he must have had connections. I’m sure someone loved him. And I know from personal experience that the only one who can save an addict is himself. I don’t blame anyone for Hoffman’s death. Or Duane’s. And I know today many more deserving men and women are sacrificing themselves. I know we should spend more time in the news recognizing them than clicking on sensational news items like Hoffman being found dead with a needle in his arm. But we are talking about it.


So, let’s take the time now to look around at our friends and our family members. Are we running out and sliding deeper into the characters we play and becoming too similar to the narrators of our novels? Can we please reconnect to reality and check in with our artist friends to make sure they feel loved? Love can fill the hole once we pull the needles out. We don’t have to die with them still sticking in.



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