About Alexandra

Alexandra lives in New York where she leads the social media practice for a public relations agency. In her free time, Alexandra enjoys writing, reading, and cooking vegetarian food. Please feel free to comment here and throughout her blog, to suggest articles and content ideas, or just to say, "hi."

The Art of Follower Recognition

Long gone are the days when brand auto responses were socially acceptable. And by socially, I mean on social media. We call them consumers, but at the end of the day, the people who flock to a brand’s social channels are part of an audience, a community, if you will. They choose to dedicate however many minutes — and in some cases hours — each day to following their beloved brands, for whatever reason, and can all too easily get lost in a number.

Like many people in a social strategy leadership role, I’ve spent much of my career working with clients and colleagues to demystify vanity metrics, teaching what success actually looks like — numbers that actual have strategic implications versus what’s just shiny but ultimately without long-term brand value. And the reality is, for so many brands, the community gets lost in the numbers.

As we push brands to embrace engagement as the lead performance indicator, we have to identify opportunities to recognize and reward the “every-follower” — the person who’s not necessarily an “influencer” (its own class of buzzword that requires clear definition), but has nonetheless made the conscious decision to follow and actively react to a brand’s social story.

 

  • Start Simple: People don’t hear the words “thank you” often enough. Not every brand action on social needs to be draped in pomp and circumstance. If your main goal is to showcase appreciation for your community, start by saying it with words.
  • Say it with a Surprise: Don’t be afraid to go that extra mile for a person (or people!) who has been an especially active and supportive member of your brand’s social community. Surprise them with something offline, like a handwritten thank you note and their favorite product from your portfolio, or even something brand-agnostic based on what you know from being a careful listener and community manager.
  • Build Sustainable Relationships: Nurturing your existing community is as important as growing it. Establish a regular community management routine that involves not just “listening,” but learning — about your audience, their interests, their motivators, and their values. Get to know the people who believe in the brand messages that you’ve worked so hard to craft. Their follow, like or retweet is their way of saying “we care,” and as a community manager, it’s your job to look for ways to keep that message reciprocal, and ongoing.

 

 

Progress vs. Perfection

For whatever reason, it feels weird to admit that it’s taken me most of my life to-date to truly cultivate a sense of self love. It’s simply not something that comes natural to me. As the youngest of four children, who took a very unorthodox — for my family, anyway — path to success, I have a lot of chatter in my head, and it’s mostly criticism.

But then I discovered fitness.

I’ve never – read: NEVER EVER – enjoyed any element of exercise. As kids, we were never pushed to play sports; my parents focused on academic excellence. Until the pounds poured on.

I saw fitness as the enemy; exercise, in my eyes, was something only the naturally thin could endure without collapsing in misery.

And then I met Frank Duffy. And through Frank Duffy, I met my friends in fitness. And through that crew, affectionately dubbed my “gym baes” — judge me, I dare you, I’ve discovered a sense of self.

Coaching, which for me is now long distance, has truly changed my life. I’ve met friends who are invested in similar, highly personal health and wellness goals and strength has truly bonded us. We are grounded in our goals, and go above and beyond to support one another. The community aspect has been a critical component of my success; other gym-goers are not your competition. They should be your motivation.

I’m at a point now where I care about myself in a way that goes beyond a number on a scale or dress size. I care about my wellbeing and having a clear mind, much of which has been achieved through regular exercise and a balanced diet.

I see each workout as an opportunity to be a little better — in form, weight lifted, number of reps, etc. — and each meal as a challenge to be more creative with nutritious ingredients.

I’ve found comfort in community and accountability, and have found direction and purpose in owning each meal and workout. I’m not focused on perfection, but on regular progress.

Call me a convert, but I’m now a Franky Duffy Fitness devotee, and have found a form of exercise that enables me to feel stronger, better and happier each and every day.

 

Divorce

Divorce is a hot topic. From conscious uncouplings to trial separations, celebrity divorces dominate headlines. As a happily married late 20-something, I’m fascinated by how love, marriage and the dissolution of marriage have evolved over time.

I caught wind of HBO’s new series Divorce because of one of its Executive Producers, Sharon Horgan. Her work on Pulling and Catastrophe perfectly reflect my sense of humor. She’s tackled love and marriage, so perhaps divorce was the natural next step. It also didn’t hurt that Sarah Jessica Parker (SJP) was billed as the show’s star.

I found time on a Sunday to watch the early premiere of the series on HBO Go, and was really pleased. SJP broke free from her mold as Carrie Bradshaw, introducing viewers to an equally complicated lead named Frances.

The show is charming and rugged — kind of like 90s grunge — set cozily in the swanky suburb of Hastings-on-Hudson. The first episode established a lot of foundation while confronting major issues. Viewers were also treated to a darkly comedic side of Molly Shannon, whose character is both wildly dysfunctional and likable at first glance. She’s the friend whose safety and sanity you fear for, all while fiercely protecting her.

I’m excited to see how each character evolves. Thomas Haden Church and Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement add just the right amount of complementary quirk to the rest of the ensemble. 

While SJP’s celebrity friends helped raise awareness for the show’s early premiere — her interview with Eva Chen was a favorite of mine — I also happened upon an unrelated installment from The Guardian called “The Moment Our Marriage Was Over” that really struck a chord with me. Couples shared sincerely touching essays about the vulnerable moments when they knew their marriages were over.

We focus so much on the romantic part of love and marriage, but there’s a functional component — almost like how leadership factors into management — that doesn’t get the same level of limelight, perhaps because it’s the most painfully relatable element.

I love my husband dearly, but the highs and lows captured even in the first episode of Divorce will surely resonate with every couple, and inspire at least a little bit of sympathy and quite a few laughs.

The Human Side of Zuck

Articles pop up all the time about the importance of social media for C-suite executives. It’s a great promotion tactic for thought leadership, helps humanize a brand, and at its core, it’s a great way to network.

Enter Mark Zuckerberg, the 32-year-old CEO and Co-Founder of Facebook. I have a combined fascination and appreciate for Zuckerberg; in many ways, he paved the way for my career in social media strategy with the launch of Facebook. What’s fascinating though is his personality; he’s a textbook developer whose success has thrust him into the limelight since Facebook’s launch in 2004.

I work with a lot of digital people — most of whom would join me in a collective eye roll at being labeled “creatives.” The faces of our web design and development team are pretty fabulous, and while they’re definitely social, their work is so screen-centric that I find myself chatting with them on gchat or via e-mail more than in person.

Mark Zuckerberg didn’t strike me as much different — as a developer, but also as a CEO. He regularly updates his personal Facebook feed with major brand milestones, all of them so perfectly on-brand and message — ie: clearly vetted by someone on his comms team.

But here’s what special, and where he breaks free from the mold: he embraces the innovations that he’s invested in. From Oculus to Instagram, Zuckerberg has started to add a deeper layer of personality to his updates. Since adding dad to his resume, he’s even offered subscribers of his feed a glimpse into the life of his beautiful daughter Maxima.

Alongside Facebook’s investment in virtual reality, its not-so-new Live feature is perhaps one of the most important for the channel, and one that Zuckerberg has really embraced. My favorite broadcast was one that he aired before Sunday’s debate. Zuckerberg streamed live from his Palo Alto backyard, where he was drinking sparkling water and smoking meats. Commenters, myself included, began to dub the broadcast #GrillTalk, and I sincerely hope it takes off.

While Zuckerberg isn’t the only Facebook exec that I follow (I recommend following along with Boz and Ruchi Sanghvi, too!), I think he’s a game changer for C-suite execs who are open to letting the public in a little.

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On Being Human

After a tough day at work, or a rough day of deadlines, we tend to placate ourselves with reminders that our work, however important, is neither brain surgery nor rocket science. Ok, so I’m not my brother the radiologist, or my sisters the engineers, but with a job function that shapes how a brand communicates online, my work still tends to follow me after hours.

The communications industry has, over the years, contributed to a broader culture of people pleasers. As a perfectionist and overachiever, you’d think this would be a natural fit. Disappointing someone, or falling short in any which way, even if only by my own perception, can sometimes feel like getting that one B+ amongst an otherwise suite of straight As.

The reality is, though, when you’re your own worst critic, it’s easy to get lost in someone else’s reaction, feedback, or otherwise unfavorable opinion. Reading between the lines of an e-mail, a phone call, or worse yet a text, can set off a destructive spiral of self-deprecation.

I sometimes wonder if the solution is really about work-life balance more than anything. If we powered down, would we think a little more about what we say, how we say it? Would we be more enthusiastic if we unplugged after hours? Setting boundaries is definitely part of it — how people should speak to you, when they can reach you, what you’re actually able to do and responsible for — all of these elements contribute to a transparent — and most importantly respectful — working relationship.

Instead of devaluing the work that we do, it’s important that we remember to instead find ways to move on and move forward. After all, we’re all human, right?

 

The Feedback Funnel

Giving bad — or even “clumsy” — feedback reflects just as poorly on a manager as responding to feedback defensively does on a direct report. Feedback is crucial to career growth, and at its core is a very good thing. Receiving feedback shows that your work is being recognized and acknowledged, and that someone in a leadership position is invested in your success.

Part of making feedback feel natural is making positive and negative (stings just as much when we dress it up as “constructive criticism”) feedback more routine.

  • Be Direct: Speaking directly to the source — the person for whom the feedback is intended — is a sign of respect. Trafficking feedback up to a senior leader without having shared it directly with the employee shows a lack of commitment to your working relationship, and signals that you’re not interested in fixing the problem. Reserve the red flag for repeat issues.
  • Schedule Regular 1:1 Meetings: Feedback shouldn’t be saved for a performance review, and isn’t always appropriate to share during team meetings. Block off time on your calendar for your team members to regularly engage with you, and use this time to address any issues that might require more attention.
  • Celebrate the Small Wins: I’ll never stop championing the idea of small win recognition. I don’t necessarily believe that negative feedback should always be couched in a positivity sandwich so to speak, but regular positive feedback helps foster productivity and pride, as well as trust and respect between a manager and direct report.
  • Focus on the Future: Feedback is often hard to stomach because it’s related to one particular issue versus being communicated as part of a bigger picture for improvement. When giving feedback, or even when processing it from the receiving end, consider the role it plays in the broader context of your work so that you can demonstrate ongoing improvement.
  • Foster Two-Way Communication: Giving feedback means you have to be willing and open to receiving it. Soliciting feedback from your direct report(s) or even from lateral colleagues will make you a better manager.
  • Be Available: It’s easy to settle into a closed-door comfort zone, but it’s critical to over-communicate your availability to your team so that they know you’re there when the desire for feedback or guidance may be more abrupt and off-the-cuff.

Trattoria Thompson

I grew up in a house that had a beautiful kitchen. Really and truly. The secret to keeping it beautiful was a combination of my mom’s obsessive attention to detail (read: constant cleaning on top of having a regular housekeeper) and minimal cooking.

My adult life has been made up of rentals, and as such, less than stellar kitchens. In my married life, though, I’ve done my best to make the most of what we have in our modest Queens apartment. I’ve learned how to prepare meals that aren’t just suited to my tastebuds, but that can work well with meat for Adam, too. My only rules for our kitchen in this home, though temporary,  are that meals be kept healthy (whole grains, no salt, natural ingredients), no pork, and no shellfish (Kosher style, so to speak).

I’ve conquered a few of my foodie fears in feeding my husband. I’ve made challah, toum and poached eggs. But tonight, I tackled a beast that I failed to tame as recent as two days ago: homemade whole wheat pasta.

I tend to limit my grain intake to post-workout, but I had a rough day from some muscle pain and had a hankering to try my hand at it again. And it was a wild success.

I followed the recipe that came with my KitchenAid Pasta Extruder, and decided to make a shape that I can rarely (in fact, I think have never) found in a whole wheat variety: bucatini. There’s something charming about a chubby spaghetti-style noodle that’s hollow in the center.

Charm meet flavor when I added the final product to sautéed heirloom eggplant, heirloom tomatoes, garlic, Spanish onion and a little bit of olive oil, topped with French feta.

The recipe made a huge portion that satisfied my husband and me, with plenty leftover for lunch or dinner tomorrow.IMG_2328.JPG

I highly recommend the recipe and the attachment for your stand mixer. It was super easy to make (less than 30 minutes from prep to plating), and just as easy to clean and store. Next up will be a whole wheat spinach pasta, and by then, you could call our kitchen Trattoria Thompson.