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.

 

Love, Marriage and Politics

Working in public relations, especially on the digital end of the spectrum, I’m no stranger to keeping my politics private. Most people who know my husband and me, know that we have wildly opposing political views, and wonder how in the world we make our marriage work.

Early on in our relationship, I dedicated lots of time to polishing Adam’s rough edges. Don’t get me wrong; he’s brilliant. Really and truly. But he’s strong-willed. Deciding to get married on the heels of an election year, I never thought I’d have so many, “Shit Republicans Say” reactions to his political commentary.

Love is funny, though. I’ve kept him up until the wee hours of the morning following debates to extend my soapbox, and he’s engaged me, exhausting his talking points in hopes of tuckering me out. He’s not often successful.

We make it work for two reasons. The first, and perhaps most important is that at the foundation of our marriage is a mutual respect. We respect each other’s opinions, because they’re not sound bites. Second, and still important, is that our political positioning, though inherently opposite, overlaps and aligns on issues that have the potential to directly impact us as a unit.

I sometimes wonder if our marriage is actually stronger because our views differ. Either way, it certainly keeps conversations interesting.

Let Me Be Clear: I’m Not Sorry

I take my work seriously, and to some extent, personally. I think anyone who crushes her parents’ dreams of her being a power lawyer in favor of working as a penniless publicist in the publishing industry has to hold on tightly to what pays her bills. Years – but not many – later, I’ve left publishing and have situated myself more securely in the world of social media strategy.

From where I sit now, I’m quite comfortable. But getting here? The phrase “whoa nelly” sums it up squarely. I’ve been called “aggressive,” “domineering,” and “challenging” – and only one of which was ever said to my face.

And, at the end of the day, I want to be clear: I’m not sorry.

As a woman – and a young one at that – in business, the world we live in labels me as an opportunistic millennial (a marketing buzzword that I wish would just putter out already), and as such am pitted against allegedly seasoned — read: old and male — professionals who can roughly talk at the same relative shtick as me. And for that, I should apologize?

I think not.

My motivation for writing this post was hardly a reaction to an experience. In fact, my agency (and boss, team, etc.) are fantastic, and have almost always recognized and rewarded my demonstrated experience above all else.

Writing this post was instead a means to vent against a pathetically patronizing wave of articles about women that have popped up as of late.

It started with a wedding announcement shared on Facebook. Using something as coveted as a New York Times wedding announcement as a platform for exploiting rhetoric about a woman in academia accepting her job as a one-way ticket to becoming a “Mrs.” was so disappointing.

Follow that with unsurprising Jezebel coverage on the percentage of women in tech who have been told they’re too aggressive, and well, there you have it — a real recipe for rage.

After two days in Nashville for a work retreat, I noticed that too many people were starting sentences with conditional statements about the quality of their contribution to a discussion, and most troubling to me was that many of them — especially the women — were starting their phrases with “I’m sorry.”

In my mind I was screaming, “FOR WHAT!?”

I will never be sorry for adding my two cents and for doing my job to the best of my ability, and hope that in 2016 and beyond, we can work together, gender aside, to create a stronger culture of confidence in the workplace. I’d like to think that doing so will help foster those small wins that make big things possible.

Sticks and Stones

I thought words would never hurt me. Until tonight.

I was taking the train home after a late dinner with cousins. I felt that in terms of “financial karma” — if I spend responsibly, bad things can’t happen — it was the right thing to do.

Cold weather be damned, I hopped on the Q train towards Astoria, and made it to the 39th Avenue stop before things took a bitter turn.

Five or six high school-aged kids came through one train car into ours, and their immediate rowdiness and crassness didn’t bother me. Until I became their focus.

Three of the kids pointed at me, and proceeded to call me all sorts of insults on the fat scale. Fat was the least offensive, so was ugly.

I’ve worked so hard to even be where I am now, and five or six disturbed youth aren’t going to ruin that, at least not after tonight. Tonight, I’m shedding a few tears, because more than being hurtful, it was scary. These kids showed no remorse for their comments directed at me, or anyone else on the train that became their target. I honestly didn’t know what their next move was going to be, and that scared me.

At the end of the night, even as I sit here writing this in tears, I’m coming home to a safe place, and to someone who loves me. I don’t know for certain that it’s the same for those kids, and maybe that’s even sadder.

iThink: Web-based Television

My relationship with TV is a deep-rooted one. I remember being in the first grade — back when I shared a room with my older sister Anne — and my parents gifted us with a tiny — maybe 15-inches — television sans cable. It was a big deal, even without the ability to tune into Nick at Nite

As I grew older, I developed my taste in programming — mostly British or other such things beyond my years. I watched Seinfeld and Friends at ages where I couldn’t possibly comprehend the concepts of being on a break, or being master of one’s domain

In college, TV was the only thing I made time for on weeknights besides studying, friends, and jaunts to IM West. I had upgraded the device itself from a tiny tube-style unit to one of the flatscreen variety. 

Before I knew it, shows like Gilmore Girls and the Sopranos were over, and there was a lull in my screening schedule. 

I’m far from an early adopter of online video. I’m much more comfortable embracing text-based tools and platforms, as well as tools that embrace static visuals. That said, I love a good cute animal video, or other giggle-inducing viral varieties, and I turn to YouTube for all sorts of random things — from Jacques Pepin’s perfect omelet tutorial to a guide to making toum (garlic whip sauce). 

Using YouTube — or any site for that matter — for anything beyond easy amusement or questionably ethical streaming felt weird, but a friend of mine had suggested a video series featuring Michael Cera and Clark Duke that I had to check out. 

Clark and Michael was my first foray into programming produced specifically for the Internet, and while I can’t say that I went chasing after other similar series as a result of watching — and loving — Clark and Michael, I will say that it opened my eyes to the possibilities that exist in that respective space. 

In fact, when I realized that CBS produced and owned Clark and Michael, I figured it was only a matter of time before other media companies followed suit. 

Where I sit now, I spend most of my time on my computer, and only part of that is because of my job in social media. The truth is, my computer has actually replaced almost any desire I ever had to switch on my physical — for some reason I’m tempted to say hardcopy as if I’m referring to books — television. I say almost instead of totally with respect to the desire to turn on the TV because I still thrive off of the ego-bloating satisfaction of watching a show that’s currently in-season on its premiere date, to contribute to the ratings, etc. 

And in that sense, the way I interact with the TV and my programs of choice is still quite different. Instead of calling my mother to talk about what trickery Julian Fellowes has cooked up on Downton Abbey, I turn to Twitter or GetGlue to see what the buzz is in cyberspace. 

With YouTube now cultivating its own content across various channels, and Netflix producing its own series with stars like Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, my faith in web-based TV grows significantly stronger. I’m especially partial to Netflix for its revival of Arrested Development. I find it interesting that these platforms have turned into providers of proprietary content, whereas the networks have used video streaming to support their existing, more traditional shows. 

What do you think about the future of television? We talk so heavily about printed media — books, magazines, etc. — but we seem to leave the performed media alone. We shouldn’t. What’s your opinion? 

Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland

Dorothy perkin
dorothyperkins.com

Allsaint
allsaints.com

Platform heels
mytheresa.com

Pearl earrings
$13 – debenhams.com