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Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

Safe Topics for the Holidays: Stick to the Turkey

November 22, 2011 7 comments

People are evidently nervous this time of year. I’m seeing a myriad of “How to Survive the Holiday” topics in the blogosphere, and #StuffBetterFast is trending on Twitter. North America is buzzing with hints and tips on surviving this time of year, when we are stuck inside with no choice but to engage our extended family in scintillating conversation.

This can be a terrifying prospect, wherein the only solution can be found in the bottom of a bottle, be it ruby red or palest garnet. I, however, have been handed an extended family which frowns upon such liquids which might put a hint of joy in an otherwise morose day. My sober state has paid off in spades however: I’ve learned how to talk about absolutely nothing with ease, and at length.

If you, too, want to navigate the holidays free of catastrophe, stick to the following topics:

1. The cooking of the turkey. Is the white meat moist, while the dark meat still falls off the bone? Bonus points! This will always vary from holiday to holiday, so bears mentioning, and will allow you to explore the meals of holidays past, wistfully or otherwise.

2. The texture of the turkey. Is it gamey? Bland? Does it melt in your mouth? This can be explored while the gravy is being passed around, and don’t forget the cranberry sauce in the event of an overdone bird.

3. Where did the turkey hail from? Usually good for a tale involving lineups and holiday frenzy. Beware the temptation to sojourn into the topic of organic, free-range turkeys, however, as this can lead to polarization from one’s relatives. Ahem.

4. The turkey accessories. Do the carrots complement the dinner? What is the consistency of the mashed potatoes? Is the gravy perfectly lump-free? Is the group assembled pro-brussel sprouts or con? (For some reason we share a collective forgetfulness with this issue, so need to revisit it each occasion, but it never gets old.) The turkey accompaniments can provide you with minutes of frivolity; play around a little and have some fun.

5. The temperature of the meal. Is everything bubbling hot? The water ice cold? This can naturally send you into another blissfully safe topic to round out the meal: the weather.

Now, if you sail through these topics before second helpings are distributed, or Aunt Betty’s apple pie is polished off,  you can always revert to my standby: round table bets on how many dinners will be gleaned from leftovers. Add a quarter to the pot to add excitement and intrigue.

Generally, if you stick to the above conversational points, being sure to lean on the positives of the meal, while downplaying the negatives, you should be able to navigate your way through the entire meal without offending anyone, and you can retire to your football game stuffed, but otherwise intact. (Or in my case, a scene out of 1950, where the men retire to the football game and the women clean up the mess.)

It goes without saying that politics, greenhouse gases, the deficit, the euro crisis, whether fighting in hockey should be banned, ‘who is Kim Kardashian anyway?’, Glee, and anything else that could be considered remotely interesting, are all potentially hot topics which could leave someone in tears. Engage in these controversial subjects at your own risk, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Easter will be here before you know it.

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Who Inspires You?

April 17, 2011 5 comments

I went into journalism thinking it would be a way of meeting and building up already fantastic people, and got out of it because in fact it was more about tearing them down. The things that sold newspapers was not what I wanted to write about, for the most part.

Real people and real stories can inspire me to move mountains. And it has always been thus. Long ago, whenever I happened upon a Shape magazine, I would flip to the success stories. Irregardless of the fact losing weight has never been a big priority, I love to read about these people who overcome personal hurdles and achieve their goal of a svelte silhouette and healthier lifestyle.

Since starting my blog, I have been introduced to interesting, dynamic, energetic people. They are bold in their mandates, incredibly hard-working, often see obstacles as opportunities, and motivate me like nothing else.

I’m planning on profiling one of these people a week. Mothers, fathers, bloggers, entrepreneurs and business people, they have achieved great things in life on the heels of their hard work. Inspired like I am by Twitter, I’m calling it Motivational Monday, my blogging answer to Thankful Thursday and Follow Friday.

Because in social media we like to spread the love and highlight the positive, I’m hoping these people will inspire you as well.

Parents Need to Get Their Hands Dirty With Social Media

April 11, 2011 7 comments

When I visit my family each summer, I watch my nieces and nephews text each other furiously. Their fingers are working overtime to host constant communication. I asked if their professors had any trouble with this during lectures, and my niece replied that they all have their phones on silent, but can still easily text without looking at them.

So while a professor may see a sea of attentive faces, quite likely they are deep in thought texting.

Tcchnology has changed the way our children communicate. How you feel about this personally is irrelevant. Texting, skyping, and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are only gaining in popularity and children are finding ways of adapting them earlier.

Your mission as a parent, if you choose to accept it, is to become versed in social media before your child has to teach it to you.

There are two reasons for this:  If they are on Facebook or another social networking site, you can (attempt, at any rate) to be on their contact list, or ‘friend’, and therefore watch what they are doing more closely.

Being knowledgeble yourself in social media is to take away another layer of potential misunderstanding between you and your children. You are bridging a gap. If you are using social media effectively, your children are more likely to see you as an ally when they most need one.

Cyber-bullying is a nasty consequence of the proliferation of online communication. It’s easier than ever to be mean behind the cloak of anonymity. The rash of suicides amongst teenagers citing online bullying as the cause is rapidly increasing. As governments and teachers rush to react with preventative policies, teenagers will continue to circulate hurtful lists on their smartphones with a vengeance. They will start nasty Facebook campaigns and they will tweet nasty comments. Cyber-bullying won’t disappear, so arm yourself and your child against it.

Yet I know a lot of parents who know nothing about social media. They view it as a waste of time. They can’t get their head around it. They prefer traditional methods of communication. Knowledge is powerful, and learning this strange new world of interacting and socializing is to learn the language of our children.

Adapting the attitude that social media is child’s play will only keep you out of the conversation.

Tips for Twittering the Time Away

March 21, 2011 5 comments

When major events happen while I sleep, Twitter informs me first thing in the morning as I wipe the sleep out of my eyes, hovering over my keyboard. I found out about Japan’s horrifying earthquake by watching a moving target of text decrying the devastation; learned of Egypt’s social unrest by a Twitter feed figuratively fist pumping the revolution.

It’s the de facto answer for late breaking news, the final stake in the heart of the printed newspaper.

So when people ask me why they should be on Twitter, I answer it’s where the world is. Are you in or out?

I have made lots of mistakes on Twitter. I have unknowingly used bad etiquette and snubbed those trying to be helpful. I followed all the wrong people. I didn’t know what to talk about, so stood, like a wallflower, on the sidelines. When I did start tweeting, I only talked about myself. Come to think of it, I made a lot of the same mistakes I did in Junior High School.

In an effort to save you from the same pitfalls, here is a list of dos and don’ts to make a smoother entry into the world of microblogging.

Do not set up a direct message reply to your new followers along the lines of “Thanks for the follow! Come check out my blog, http://www.spammer.com.” I was perplexed by these: was I supposed to thank every person who decided to follow me? The easy answer is no, you don’t. In fact, mostly spammers send these out, and the word on the street is to unfollow anyone who has sent you one of these. If you didn’t know any better and set one up, now would be the time to cancel. Very uncool.

Do thank people who Retweet your tweets, at least once. If someone is paying attention to what you’re saying, and likes it enough to retweet it, then show a little love by thanking them, it’s the least you can do. At first I didn’t get this, what was a RT? To those people who I didn’t initially thank, thank you. I get it now.

Do not just talk, be a listener. Nobody likes having those conversations where you are waiting for the other person to take a breath so that you can get a word in. Take time to answer random questions in your feed, or respond to something that moves you. It’s not just a one-way conversation; social indicates a two-way street.

Do add value with your tweets. Again unknowingly (I really could have used some tips before I started, thus my present mission to help people…) all I did until very recently was post links to my own blog posts, hoping to gain a few new visitors. My mandate was completely selfish, never looking at other people’s tweets. Embarrassing. I didn’t understand that Twitter is actually one big love fest, a forum for highlighting good works and deeds.  Now I tweet other blogs I find useful, YouTube videos that are inspirational, quotes I like. Follow Fridays (#FF), where you shout out to people who have been helpful to you, highlights that the mission of Twitter is actually goodness. I apologize to my followers for inundating them with my posts. Disclaimer: since this is particularly Twitterable, I will share this one, but nothing else for at least a week.

Don’t be all flash and dash. Pretending everything is perfect in your life doesn’t fly in microblogging, so leave your corporate mandate in the boardroom. Twitter is a more informal platform, a place to let your hair down a little, while not letting it all hang out. If you happen to have a personality, this can work to your advantage.

Do follow the right people for you. Someone once told me to follow who ‘good’ people were following. So I brought up a ‘good’ person’s list – an influencer, who had lots of followers and was in my target area of women who blogged, and simply clicked on people like a madwoman tasting jellybeans for the first time. This is so easy, I thought, as I watched my list of followings balloon to one thousand. But then I couldn’t add anyone anymore – Twitter had shut down my ability to add followers because my numbers were so out of whack – I had 1000 people I followed, but only 200 people following me. And thankfully, I might add. I had amassed a very random group of people, some of whom were of interest to me but many who were not. Painfully and over weeks, I looked at each person I had recklessly followed and weeded out people (and places, and objects) I had no business following. Not good form. As in so many areas of my life, it was the wrong approach.

Do join the conversation. Standing on the sidelines will only get you cold feet. Like the day I published my first blog post, I was nervous about publishing my first tweet. Everyone else seemed so smug with their @’s and #’s and clever short form, like they’d been tweeting their whole lives. It was like starting french immersion all over again; say what? It all starts making sense eventually.

Don’t expect a revolution overnight. Like anything that is worthwhile, developing your Twitter profile will take some time and energy. Keep things in perspective by setting small goals for yourself – maybe adding ten followers a week.

The day I started high school, I wore a neon pink shirt, only to realize pastels were the new thing. I walked around all day with my cheeks as bright as my shirt. Hopefully, my Twitter mistakes will be more quickly forgotten.


Move Over Bieber, YouTube Sensation Maria Aragon Is Here

March 1, 2011 4 comments

The internet is humming, and it is playing the same tune as people around the world click on a YouTube video posted recently by a 10-year-old in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Maria Aragon has become a sensation since putting a cover of Lady Gaga’s song “Born This Way” on the popular internet site on February 16. As of today her video, which shows her playing the piano in a simple white t-shirt and singing, has had over sixteen million hits.

It’s been a busy week and a half for the young Canadian. When Lady Gaga watched Maria’s video, she tweeted about her amazing talents, and since that moment Maria’s life has been turned upside down.

Less than a week after posting the video, Maria was on the radio interview circuit and appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Lady Gaga surprised Maria during one of her radio interviews by coming on the phone line, offering to sing a duet with her at her upcoming concert in Toronto.

Before performing on Ellen, Maria told the comedian that she chose this particular song because of its message. “Just be yourself, because God made you the way you are, and you are no different than anybody else,” she said. Maria performed her slower, acoustic version of the hit song in front of the studio audience and received a standing ovation.

Maria’s entourage has quickly been assembling social media protocol: a website has been created with the URL www.mariaaragonyoutubestar.com, and a Facebook fan page has been launched.

This is what going viral looks like.

According to her website, she will soon be appearing on Good Morning America, which means a plethora of daytime media appearances will follow, as The View, Regis and Kelly and other morning shows clamber for an interview.

Hopefully like any good Canadian, Maria’s support group can stick handle through the barrage of attention and keep her feet solidly on the ground even though her voice is heading for the stars.

My mama told me when I was young
We’re all born superstars
She rolled my hair, put my lipstick on
In the glass of her boudoir

There’s nothin’ wrong with lovin’ who you are”
She said, “‘Cause He made you perfect, babe”
“So hold your head up, girl and you you’ll go far,
Listen to me when I say”

Lady Gaga, Born This Way

Getting a Handle on Twitter

January 19, 2011 8 comments
Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Twitter confounds me.  Although I’ve never been to a rodeo, I feel like it’s the feisty calf that my cowgirl self can’t lasso.

I have had trouble wrapping my head around this site, and was immediately dismissive of its necessity.  Who cares what Ashton Kutcher is saying about anything?  And pith has never been my strong point, so that 140 character minimum equates to writer’s block for me.

But it’s hung around, and in fact is growing in leaps and bounds, getting harder to ignore.  I had coffee with a Vancouver marketing dynamo, Jennifer Maloney, of Sip Publicity, and she encouraged me to get on Twitter. Her explanation was that Twitter was like one big cocktail party, where you meander around catching snippets of conversation which will occasionally interest you, and some which will not.  Facebook, on the other hand, is more like a barbecue, where you are in the company of those you know personally.

Equating any site on the internet with a cocktail party is music to any SAHM’s ears.  SIGN. ME. UP.

I love the game of cocktail parties, as everyone is ducking and jiving to have an interesting conversation with someone they barely know.   I’ve used the old “I just need to refresh my drink” phrase in efforts to dodge conversations containing the words “projectile vomiting” on more than one occasion.  Conversely I’ve lurked on the outskirts of tight circles discussing shoe sales or juicy tidbits of gossip, straining my ears so hard to hear that I practically fell on top of their cosmopolitans.  Yet my social calendar is devoid of these swanky little numbers.  Could Twitter really fill this crater?

I took a deep breath and created a Twitter handle, although I still had no idea what I should be tweeting about.  The next step was getting a list of followers, because what is the point of tweeting if no one is listening?  I already talk to myself far too much.  Jennifer had recommended looking at lists that interesting people are following.  If you’re interested in yoga, you might follow people who are following Lululemon.  I know, that’s a lot of following for one sentence, but welcome to the Twitter world of tweets.

There are many different people on this social networking site for many different reasons.  Like anything on the internet, watch out for spammers and anyone who tries to tell you how to make quick, easy money, and of course anyone who wants you to take your clothes off.  In fact, it’s really no different from real life; spidey senses should prevail.

As with any worthwhile achievement, the key to Twitter is patience and perseverance.  You are not going gain followers overnight, something that bothered me for a couple of months.   It’s a numbers game, where people generally follow people who have a large number of followers. These people are called influencers, and there is a certain amount of notoriety to be gained from hanging around them.  Exactly in the same way as everyone wants to be associated with the popular kid in school.  We grow, but we never really change.

The Twitter world at first seemed like a strange universe, where people were speaking a language I had never learned, with weird symbols like @, #, RT and DM.  But like skinny jeans, I’m slowly coming around to this fashion fad which seems to be here to stay.

The days of drinking and driving are firmly gone, but drinking and tweeting is encouraged!  Mix yourself a cosmo and join the party.