Monday, February 28

May I Help You?

I'm not afraid to ask for help. I have always been the sort of person who knows when something is beyond my capabilities and knows that there comes a time for each of us when the words "Can you help me with this?" just have to be asked. I remember being a little kid and struggling with the zipper on a jacket and realizing "I need help!" but was too stubborn to ask - I waited until my frustration level was too high and broke it. Lesson learned. Waiting too long to ask sometimes has results we're not happy with.

Over the last few years, I've realized that knowing when to ask for help is only one part of the issue. Knowing how to ask for help is often the part we get stuck on. No matter how badly we need assistance, if we ask in a way that isn't conducive to receiving it, we're still in a bind.

You've been in the situation, I'm sure: Someone asks you, completely exasperated, "Can you just help me??" Yes, they're exasperated. Yes, they're struggling. Yes, you want to help. It's really difficult to help someone who's already reached the "I hate this!" stage, though. They don't listen as well, they're probably argumentative, they're thoroughly frustrated with the entire situation, and you know going into it that harsh words are a good possibility. It makes helping a chore instead of a pleasure.

Regardless of what you're doing, whether it's at work, at home, in a social setting, is to take a step back. Breathe. Count to ten. Do whatever you have to do to be in the right state of mind to ask for and accept help. Remember - when you ask for help, you're about to learn something. Your way of going about the problem wasn't successful, and you're looking for another viewpoint. Realize that it's not going to be the way you'd do things - you've already tried that avenue. Be open to learning. Be open to suggestions. Accept that there is another way - and accept that by learning that way, you're not only fixing a problem, you're also opening your mind to another way of thinking.

No, I don't get asking for help "right" every time. I'm human - I get frustrated and lose my temper and feel like a buffoon. More often than not, however, I find myself taking a step back, breathing, and realizing that before I can ask for help, I must be ready to accept it.

How can we help others accept help? Do you think there's a way to position ourselves with customers/clients/friends/etc? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, February 16

Is Anyone Out There? Yes - And They're Talking!

As part of my new position with Sandy Bay Networks, I have the pleasure of introducing clients to the wonderful world of interacting with their customers; instead of simply having a website online, I aim to help companies understand the importance of interaction and engagement.

In a recent meeting, I found myself explaining why social media is important for this particular client. My words were, "There's a conversation happening about your company. Whether or not you choose to be a part of it, whether you choose to harness the opportunity to interact with your customers, is up to you."

Since that meeting, I've had some time to really think about what this statement means - not just for that client, but for all companies and organizations. Once you're in the public eye, once your brand or name is known, a new level of conversation can be attained. Instead of simply saying "Here's our website - enjoy!", it makes sense, especially in today's culture, to actually interact with the people who are discussing you. What better way to help create brand loyalty than conversation?

Humans are an interesting lot. We'll go to the same restaurant or coffee shop for years, receiving friendly, reliable service each and every time; we'll come to expect it, take it for granted. Chances are we won't discuss it with others unless someone really goes above and beyond - but what about that one time that our meal isn't perfect or the girl at the counter gets our XL-three-cream-no-sugar order wrong? Then we'll complain about it - it's in our nature - but more likely to our circle of people, not to someone at the place we experienced the bad service.

I asked my client to look at it this way: Imagine you've just opened a new store. Your business is doing well, but you want it to do better. You're at a loss - why aren't people coming back? Why is the customer return rate so low? Here's what you don't know: your bathrooms are always unkempt...and customers are not only turned off, they're telling other people. It's a seemingly small thing, right? Something easily fixed, correct? But what if you don't know?

Okay granted, it's probably a silly example. My point remains the same: without all the information, you're not making educated decisions. If you knew people were talking about your shoddy bathrooms, you'd change them - or at least you'd know that the problem existed to then decide whether or not to act upon it. Being a part of the conversation gives you the opportunity to ask questions ("Wondering if anyone can let us know how we can serve you better!" on Twitter, or an informal post/question on Facebook would do the trick!) and have your customers respond and interact with you.

How does your organization interact with customers/clients? What about with other businesses? I'd love to hear your take on it!

Friday, February 11

What I've Learned From Twitter - So Far

Months ago I said to my friend @mamajoan, "Can you help me learn Twitter?" After she stopped laughing (I assume ;) ), she said "Absolutely! You can do this!"

So in I plowed. I wasn't unfamiliar with the concept or the medium - just the ins and outs. I wasn't 100% what a hashtag was, I didn't know what RT meant, I had no ideas "how to get followers". I just knew that I was dying to "listen" to other people who were interested and involved in the same things I am.

The first few days were like an overload of information. I clicked on links, I read until my eyes were dry, I followed people whose bios sounded interesting. I worked up the nerve to RT and Reply to others - somehow it seemed like a much bigger deal than it actually is! - and I read articles that let me know what hashtags and chats were. I went out of my way to learn as much as I could as quickly as I could - I don't like being a "Newbie"!

It didn't take long for me to realize a few very important TwitterTruths:
  • RTs are important - they show people you agree with and support what they're saying, or that you think what they have to say is relevant
  • Replying to someone's Tweet isn't rocket science - and it'll more than likely be met with appreciation
  • While it's not difficult to find people to follow, getting followed back isn't as simple - it requires you to actually engage people and be interesting
  • Bots & spammers do not a following make - there are plenty of them out there
  • Just like on any other social media network, there is good and bad content - it's up to you to weed through and decipher what's relevant to you
  • An amazing network of people exists out there - and they're actually interested in having a conversation, not just talking and being heard
It's worth repeating: reciprocation is a major theme on Twitter - and so it should be! Whether you're Tweeting for your organization/company/non-profit or for yourself, engaging and conversing should be your main goal. There's really no such thing as a one-sided conversation, after all. are you to learn from others if you're not participating?

I have no illusions...I'm still learning. However, I can say this without hesitation: It's worth the study, and I consider myself lucky to have "met" the people in my network - both those I'm following and those who follow me. What's life without a conversation, after all?

Monday, February 7

What Do You Do?

I grew up in an area of Canada that, while absolutely stunning, isn't well known for its technological prowess. Not that it's completely backward or anything - I think it's just a matter of people here having a much different pace of life. The town I currently work in is small, but it has some industry here, and the people seem to do well. Considering that this time last year I worked in Toronto, there are certainly some major differences. One of the major differences? How I answer when people ask, "So, what do you do?"

In Toronto I worked for a market research company as a project coordinator/community manager for their custom panels and online communities. When people there asked what I did, I felt I could go into some detail about my position - I'm not talking job description detail, but enough so that I knew most people "got" what I was talking about. It's a little different here in small-town Nova Scotia. The Internet is still, in some ways, regarded as that "new fangled thing that all the kids are talking about". While some of the bigger businesses (including chains) have websites, the smaller companies are still in the "Why on earth do I need a website??" camp - and they're very difficult to "bring over to the Darkside" (even though we DO have cookies!).

When I'm asked about my job here, I tend to glaze over details a little. I've just joined a wonderful company called Sandy Bay Networks that specializes in CMS and website design - I've joined as the Social Marketing & Client Services Manager. I consider myself very lucky - I didn't think I'd be able to find anything even remotely "in my field" here and I've found a place that's exactly what I was hoping for. However, trying to explain what exactly it is that I do requires a level of explanation that I wasn't prepared for. Everyone understands the Client Services part...the Social Marketing has a few heads shaking.

Maybe I'll take my mother's answer and run with it: "Oh I don't know...something to do with computers." The funny thing? People accept it and move along - and I get to sound brilliant and somewhat mysterious.

Thursday, February 3

My Creativity...Where Is It?

I've always found it easy to write. As far back as I can remember, writing has come as naturally to me as breathing; I'd pick up a pen and the words would just seem to flow, almost on their own. Essays, school assignments, work-related writing task was too big.

So why can't I write?

For the last few days I've been in a fog. I know there's no such thing as "writing yourself out", but that's exactly what it feels like I've done. I've considered and rejected two dozen or more possible topics - noting seems to really grab my attention.

Maybe it's the weather? It's grey and overcast and we've had a lot of snow. Looking outside is like looking at a washed out painting; everything is blah.

Maybe it's the headache? I've had a sinus headache for a few days. It ranges from "bad" to "irritating", changing it up now and then just to keep things interesting.

Maybe it's my surroundings? I'm in the same room as a tv and everyone walks in and out constantly. Perhaps I'm just too distracted.

I honestly have no idea. I just know that I feel frustrated and a little let down. I want to write. I want that feeling of reading something I've spent time on and feeling fulfilled and content with it.

I want the writing goblins to bring back my words. If you see them, send them my way?

Wednesday, February 2

You Realize It's Winter....Right?

Let me say this first: I know I'm probably guilty of it too. I try not to complain about the snow and sleet and ice, but somewhere around the fifth storm of the season my little brain just snaps and that's that. I don't know if it's the salt rings on my jeans and shoes or that one wet glove that never quite dries, but at some point it happens; the complaining begins.

The media makes it worse. Coining terms like "Snowmageddon", "SnOMG" and "Snopacolypse" help make the hype of every storm feel like "The Big One". Truth is, most of us haven't seen a good old fashioned snow storm in years - they just don't make 'em like they used to. I will admit to finding it interesting that places where people have never seen snow are now getting warming? I don't know, I'm no expert. I just think it's interesting.

So what is it that makes us, especially here in Canada where harsh winters with lots of snow are the norm, complain so much about it? I think it's because we expect each other to, plain and simple. When you live in a climate that gets as cold and icy as ours does, talking about (and complaining about) the weather evolves into a national past-time. It's like hockey; you're going to talk about it, you're going to defend your team even though you know they're horrible and you're going to complain about the calls. That's just the way it is! (Are my Maple Leafs' roots showing?)

It's simple: It's Canada. It's February. This isn't difficult math - we know it's going to snow, we know it's going to blow and howl and be cold and miserable. We know we'll be snowblowing and shoveling and trying to find our cars in snowdrifts. We do this every year; we're pros! We'll expect it, we'll practically be able to smell the snow coming (hey, don't laugh...some of us can do that!), we'll moan and groan over snow days and kids home from school...but we're going to complain about it.

It's the Canadian way to handle winter, eh?

Tuesday, February 1

It's A Brand New World!

Yeah okay, I know. I take too long between posts, I don't blog enough, I'm a slacker....I got it. And you're right, and I should write more. Mmmhmm. Now that I've been chastised (and agreed! Don't forget I agreed!), can we move on? Please?

So I won't bother regaling you with all the backup nonsense, but sufficed to say, I'm on the next chapter. I know it's the next chapter because it's new and fun and I'm excited. Uh....can I just take a moment to say this:


Seriously. Yay. It's how I feel. I mean, a few months ago I was sitting at home feeling like I was going to be at home forEVER; I was having a really difficult time with the whole "being at home" thing, and yet because of where we were living, I didn't think I'd be able to find a job I'd like. I even tried the whole "from home work" thing, and THAT didn't work out, either. So was a little depressing. When we made the decision to move home, I honestly thought I was condemning myself to an even longer sentence of "at home"-dom, but the move was "The Right Thing To Do". Aaaaaah, sacrifice. How I loathe thee.

HOWEVER! Here we are, just one short month later, and I'm EXCITED and HAPPY about what I'm doing! Who would have guessed? Certainly not me - let me tell you a little about the place I currently live in. Small towns are notorious for being "behind" technologically - this place is no different. Sure there are lots of businesses here, including successful small businesses. They're just a little behind in terms of learning to use the tools that are available to them when it comes to things like marketing, customer happiness, etc. I don't say this condescendingly, by the way - I have great respect for people who run businesses! I think it's just that on this end of the country, we're oftentimes more concerned with making it work than worrying about things like online marketing, websites, e-commerce, etc.

I'm happy to say that I'm getting the chance to educate and be a part of something that I absolutely love being a part of - how many people get to say that?? I feel good about where I'm at - it's a great feeling! Especially since I'm really not very good at being at home. In fact, I'm downright horrible at it. I'm a thinker. I must think!

So stay tuned...I think maybe I'll stick around a while.