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Social Media for Youth Leaders

Years ago, my first month on Facebook, I sent a postcard to my husband that said, “Honey, I love you.” It was cute because it posted on his wall. Then I realized I had hit to post it on all my friends’ walls. At that time, I had maybe 80 Facebook friends, and some of them were youth that I knew either through church or youth groups.

My first call was to 1 of them to ask how to fix it. I had to manually go onto each wall and delete it. That was my worst Facebook moment.

Since then, I’ve learned better ways to be a youth leader on social media. There are ways to leverage social media to work well and hopefully lead by good example – or at least not to lead the wrong way by bad example. Tips to follow:

  • 13 and over only. Facebook’s guidelines are for age 13 and up, and I won’t knowingly accept friend requests from younger kids.
  • Answer, don’t ask. I don’t ask young people to be my friend. That would be creepy. But if they ask, then I answer. People my age who ask young people to friend them raise red flags of their own behavior and motives.
  • The less I comment, the more I know. I don’t always comment a lot on young people’s walls because they think adults my age that do that are creepy stalkers.
  • When in doubt, call a parent. I did see something questionable once, called a parent, and started a chain of events that ended in the discovery that an out of state stalker had targeted the youth in question.
  • Set boundaries. If a young person posts things that I believe could be professionally harmful, I tell the person. Some take those comments better than others. I’ve quietly told young people that having posts that they answer the stupid questions of their employer’s customers, leaving risque comments under your statuses, and letting friend’s post things with 4-letter words on their page can have professional repercussions. Three times when I’ve done this, those young people then unfriended me. That’s fine – that’s their prerogative. No hard feelings.  I’ll still state my opinion, just like I would tell anyone I thought who was unintentionally committing professional suicide.
  • Listen and encourage. Life is hard. It’s ok to cheer and encourage at any age.
  • Filter my own outrage. Life is also unfair. But that doesn’t give me the right to use my Facebook profile to vent my frustrations at others to the point I assassinate their character.
  • Don’t private message. I try to limit chats or private messages so that another person is always present in a conversation with a young person.

Keep in mind with all these points I learn as I go and generally learn by mistake.


5 Keys to Winning Head Shots

If you are in business, you need a good head shot, or photograph of yourself that can be used both online and in print. Generally, you will get what you pay for.

If you opt for the shot your best friend took of your standing in your living room, it will look like the shot your best friend took of your standing in your living room. If possible, hire the best photographer you can afford.

Tips to a head shot that works:

  1. Smile. Look friendly.
  2. Intense may be hot for vampires, but those brooding shots will suck the life out of your brand. Look approachable.

  3. Dress professionally.  Select clothes that best represent you and your brand. The Avengers t-shirt you can’t live without might be fun on vacation, but most of us need to choose something different for a head shot.
  4. Go high resolution. If you take your own head shot, use the highest resolution camera you have for the best quality possible. Lower resolution may work on the web, but it fails miserably in print.
  5. Size matters. The teeny tiny shot you post as a Twitter profile picture is not going to work for any print publication. You need good-sized photographs to print well.
  6. Photo rights. Discuss with your photographer beforehand your anticipated uses for the photograph. Many in business do not anticipate that they may need a head shot in jpg format to submit to publications, online and/or in print. Make sure you can legally share the photos and that you have purchased rights to do so.
If someone asks you for a headshot for online or print use, be sure to ask the resolution and image size needed. When you ask about file size, the answer you get will be at least 1 of the following: size of the jpg file (for example 543k or 1 MB); resolution (as in dots/pixels per inch in the photo); or image size (for example 3 inches wide). Clarify which file size is requested and then follow it. (Some printers will require a tiff or psd file instead of a jpg.)
Tech Geek Jpg Info:
When you save a file as a jpg, it is portable but loses some of its pixels. So when you save a file as a jpg for print, choose the highest settings possible to preserve as much of the original image as possible. For online use, you want the smallest size possible.


In real estate, “curb appeal” is essential for homes that sell. Your headshot photo is the photographic equivalent of your personal “curb appeal.” While we may not deliberately seek to sell ourselves via a headshot, a bad headshot can create a horrid first impression that can cost you more sales and business than you will ever know.



Message First, Media Second

Media format will come and go, but the content and quality of your message will either linger or fall flat.

Last week, as our 4-H Tech Club did a Retro Media night, we looked at 8 track tapes, cassette tapes, records, slide projectors, and the really big really floppy disks. All those media formats are defunct.

But the message – or song – of quality artists remain. As a child, I remember hearing Johnny Cash singing “Daddy Sang Bass” on the 8-track tape player in our big Brady station wagon. The 8-tracks are gone, but I can still hear the song in multiple media of our day or watch it on Youtube. The movie we once watched on VHS has now migrated to Blue-Ray or can be watched on Netflix.

This applies indirectly to social media. Though I doubt our messages will linger, the methods used remain the same. And if we build them right, the relationships we cultivate will continue.

Sixteen years ago, as I answered and asked questions in email lists, I developed ways to interact, listen, and respond to people around the world that I still use today. Being polite (most of the time), staying uplifting, and finding ways to make people laugh don’t change, whether you’re using a yahoo email group, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, or whatever replaces those platforms.

Social media is like a relationship enhancer when it’s used well. Sometimes, I meet people in real life and then add or follow them on social media. These give us additional venues in which to learn about each other and cultivate our relationship. On the flip side, I may meet people around the world through social media channels and develop relationships that transcend the tweet or Facebook status, into real life relationships and sometimes business deals.

Like all relationship building and networking done well, social media can translate long term into new business contacts and business. I’ve met a business owner in China via Twitter, established a relationship with him, Skyped at Starbucks in the wee hours of the morning, and then brokered a deal between him and another local company.

We generally get out of social media responses that mirror what we put into it.

  • Bland and boring begets bland and boring.
  • Greedy pander always offering free stuff results in an audience of people out for themselves, who will fight for the free stuff.
  • Community promotion results in stronger communities.
  • Real inspiration and encouragement can bring out the best, most noble parts of other people.

With movies and music, the ones that outlast their media format are ones that reached out and grabbed people, touching them in memorable ways.  They could be funny, dramatic, or downright scary. But they captured our imaginations and touched our hearts.

With social media, the relationships that will last beyond the format are the ones that cultivate relationships, that show a personal touch with which people can relate.


What Will Your Kids Think – Divorce and Social Media

“I feel so sorry for “X,” my son commented a couple of years ago. “Every time she got sick this year, her mom complained about it on Facebook and complained about what a pain it is. “X” must think her mom hates her when she’s sick.”

I immediately had a jaw-dropping moment. For years, I had taught teens to think “What would adults think” of what they post on Facebook.

Turnaround is true too. When teens start Facebook at age 13, if they friend adults, they see what we think. So we must also be mindful of “What would kids think.”

We lead by example. Facebook is no more the place to hang our family’s dirty linens than a clothesline is. Before we hang clothes on the line, we wash them.  Not every stained cloth, and not every family secret needs to be hung on the social media line to air dry before the masses.

This is doubly true when families are broken or torn apart. Growing up in a single parent home and working through a marriage breakup is hard enough on kids when it’s done in private. I’m thankful I got to work through MY parents’ breakup during the 1970’s before the Internet was invented.

Whenever kids I know have to work their way through a breakup, it saddens me. But it doubly breaks my heart when their parents take the breakup to social media and air their grievances in public.

Heartbreak is real. Talk to close friends. Talk to counselors. But please, please, please don’t post it on Facebook for your kids or their friends to see.

Teen years are tough in good circumstances. They are hard enough in bad circumstances. The baggage of a divorce, even one like my parents’ that was desperately needed, hangs with a kid – I know because I live it.

Adults – act like adults and lead by example by choosing not to vent your frustrations in a Facebook status. Your ability to vent online does not give you the right to embarrass your children or hurt them more.

Facebook – Keep the Under 13 Rule

Facebook is considering changing their rules for preteens to have Facebook profiles legitimately. I disagree.

Facebook is no book or place for a preteen. Some parents may let their kids lie about their birthdates and set a bad example about rushing gratification. I know several 9 and 10 year olds who have accounts. Just because some parents make bad parenting decisions is no reason to change the current rule.

Some parents also let their teens host keggers for under agers in their homes. Some share their pot, their meth, and their illicit medications with their teens. Just because some parents make bad parenting decisions is no reason to change the rule for everyone to justify their bad choices.

I am not just writing from the viewpoint of an old grumpy mother. I’m writing with the perspective of bad experiences. The creeps in cyberworld require the judgment of an adult to manage. Teens can manage it with adult supervision but still sometimes find themselves in bad situations.

To allow a 9 or 10 year old to have  a Facebook profile makes as much sense as it would to put them in the center of the town square holding a sign that says, “Hi. I’m 9 years old, and I would like to make new friends. Wanna talk?” Even if a parent is watching, the risks are too great.

With my own children, they got Facebook profiles on their 13th birthdays with the rule that their first 2 friends were Richard and me, and their third was a friend who’s also a prosecutor. When they asked why he had to be their friend too, I told them, “If you have to think twice before posting something a prosecutor might see, then you shouldn’t be posting it.”

As a youth leader and as a mother, I have seen bad experiences on Facebook that are just too hot to handle for under 13 year olds. I’ve seen a 15 year old boy who met an out-of-state predator in a cyber chat room. Their meeting later resulted in their becoming friends on Facebook, and the predator friending other boys in the same area. The predator was caught after I called parents and suggested they check their son’s online activities.

As a mother, I’ve also encountered at least 1 bad experience with my own teens. One of them received unsolicited, unwanted messages from a “friend of a friend” who revealed in what she sent that she was cyberstalking my children. We blocked the person. There was nothing explicit to her message. Nevertheless, her contact with under-age children was creepy at best and inappropriate at worst.

The groups, the pictures, and the viruses with almost-explicit images are too much to risk with an under 13 year old. Facebook is supposedly considering adding a layer of protection for adult supervision. I don’t buy it, and I absolutely, 100% do not recommend it.

Further, I’ve read they are going to let parents’ bank accounts be tied to their kids accounts. So if your 10 year old is playing Farmville and has access to your bank account, just imagine the shock when you open you bank statement and nearly fall over. Johnny and Susie were so excited with Facebook Farmville that they stocked their whole cyber barn with cyber livestock that isn’t real. But the charges to your account are real, and you get to pay the bill.

Then we will see news stories of parents appalled at what has happened.

Keep Facebook’s guidelines to age 13. That’s my bottom line recommendation. If they change it, I still strongly recommend parents not allow their preteens to have Facebook profiles.

In the Wild West, the bar on Main Street was no place for kids. Facebook isn’t a Kidbook either.

Facebook and Fish – If It Smells Bad, Don’t Eat It

Imagine a new kind of fish is being offered on a menu with a grand opening. But as you get closer to the fish, it has an “ick” factor to its smell. “Do I really want to eat that?”

“Chance of a lifetime – everyone says this will be great,” those around you tell you.

But it stinks.

“It will be in short supply – those who buy early will be sure to get some. Everyone else will pay more for it later.”

When I get a whiff of it, the hairs on the back of my neck curl.

So do you go with your gut instinct or follow the crowd? That’s what I was thinking last week before the Facebook IPO.

I had no inside knowledge of over-valuation. But as a professional who helps multiple businesses with their Facebook presence, I had a gut feeling Facebook was desperately trying to boost its profitability. The ads got creepier and more obtrusive. Something didn’t feel right.

Yet, at a lunch meeting, an “expert” was raving about the opportunities of the IPO. I told him, “I’m not buying. It doesn’t smell right.”

Those sitting with him stared at me as if I were an Amish Luddite who couldn’t tell a good thing when she saw it.

I will not say I told you so. But I will say I won’t invest in companies when the CEO shows up for business meetings in a bathrobe. If he can’t be bothered, why should I buy?

I still believe in the public relations/reputation management/community building possibilities of Facebook. It can play a great role in top of mind marketing for businesses and can be a means by which they offer additional value to their customer base.

However, I hope Zuckerberg doesn’t throw the Face out with the Stockbook in his quest to generate profits. If he does, he will wipe the Face off the Book.

It all goes back to lessons learned looking at the meat counter:

  • If it smells bad, don’t buy it. And don’t eat it.
  • If it’s sprinkled with lots of spices, the higher price and fancy gourmet name might just be fancy window dressing to hide the fact that the slice of meat is a little grey around the edges and can’t be sold otherwise on its own merits.

Trust your gut.

Facebook Flashing Ads

This afternoon the flashing Facebook banner ads appeared on my Facebook profiles. It flickered, disappeared, and then returned.

Bottom line gut reaction:

  • They will irritate users and will fail to generate profit for the companies that buy them. People will spend less time on profile pages (personal or business) and more time on the news feed which doesn’t have it. So timely posting and Edgerank will matter for businesses.
  • Short term, it looks like a tactic Zuckerberg is using to make his ads more profitable before his IPO.
  • Long term, it’s just plain stupid to irritate your customer base. This new feature will irritate users. The number of clicks on ads will decrease, making them less appealing for businesses to purchases.

The first thing I will tell my clients for whom I develop social media market strategies is:

  • An unintended consequence of the flashing ads is people will spend less time on actual profile pages.
  • Facebook users will rely more heavily upon their news feed for Facebook posts.
  • The best response businesses can make is to post timely, targeted Facebook statuses that inspire and add value to the lives of their target markets.

This goes back to some basic, common sense horse sense:

  • Good writing, great content, and solid  values are timeless and necessary for marketing.
  • Rushing for the gimmick means you will spend a lifetime chasing the next shiny new toy.


How Twitter Kept Me Safer from Violence Twice in Two Days

Twice in a single week, the fast updates on Twitter have helped keep my family and me safe in unexpected situations. Both were instances where every single moment counted.

In the first, I was driving down the highway when my phone rang and yes- I answered via speakerphone. “Where are you?” a friend asked with “The” voice. I told her I was on 41 South driving back into Evansville. “Get off 41 NOW.” she told me. I was 1/2 mile from anywhere to get off and looked for a way out as she continued,

“A bank robber is fleeing, driving south in the 41 Northbound lanes. He’s going about 100 miles an hour, has a dozen police cars pursuing him, and now they are saying he’s aiming a shot gun to shoot at cars in the lane where you’re driving. He’s probably 4 miles behind you and closing in. He’s shooting at cars, and you’re next in the line of fire.”

A stop light was now in front of me, on red, and I was going to stop behind a petroleum truck, with another 10 cars in line in front of him. I went to the shoulder and passed those cars, turned onto a side road, and breathed a sigh of relief.   After I parked, I called my friend back. The alleged robber had been stopped about 1 1/2 miles from where I was parked. She had learned of the situation via Twitter.

Even so, I’m thankful to my friend and my friends on Twitter who tweeted a clear and present danger.

Then, the next night, as I sat down to enjoy a nice movie at home with my husband, the phone rang and I answered. The same voice again. “Where are you?” she asked. I told her we were at home.

“Lock your doors and don’t go outside. An armed gunman just robbed the Subway by UE, and the university s on lockdown while the police look for the guy.”

In other words it was essentially my own back yard. Luckily, we keep our doors locked.

Then I read on Twitter where they were searching. Too close to our home for comfort.

For once, I was glad my kids were at an overnight event. My daughter called, needing to stop by to pick up something extra. It was hard to tell her not to come home, but I didn’t want to risk a 17 year old female teen driving driving alone late night into a hornet’s nest. After almost an hour, the lockdown was lifted. The suspect is still at large. In reading the tweets, the university’s text alert system for students did work – alerting them moments after Twitter had spread the alarm.

Then I spread the alarm myself on Facebook…several of my friends live near me and are on Facebook, not Twitter.

So, twice in two days, with the help of my friends on Twitter, I learned of improbable, urgent situations where I was able to take action to protect myself and those I love. Twitter works faster in those instances than Facebook…if you know who to follow and which hashtags to use.

The next time someone asks me why I tweet, I’ll probably answer, “To keep up to date on news. And to keep my family safer.”

Addenda: In this case, it wasn’t just Twitter keeping me safer. It was having friends who used it well and our using Twitter as another type of communication, to augment real life conversations.


You Know Your Web Marketer’s a Bozo If…

Putting out-of-town beside your professional business does not automatically deem competence. Marketers and consultants who crown themselves “experts” sometimes sell their clients a yellow brick road that can lead to the outhouse. How do you know if you’re getting good advice or are talking to a bozo?

If you hear the following, run, don’t walk, as fast as you can away from your self-proclaimed expert:

  1. Search is dead. Don’t worry about SEO. We’ll take care of your numbers so you don’t have to think about them.
  2. Break Facebook’s rules and create fake people to administer your Facebook business page.
  3. Blogspot is the best blogging platform around. WordPress is too much trouble.
  4. Don’t promote your local community on your Facebook business page.
  5. If the share buttons for social media on your blog shift my design by an inch, ditch the share buttons. Appearance matters more than functionality.
  6. Don’t go for quality in blog writing. Just use key words.
  7. If we handle your social media, you don’t. Hands off. We do all the work, and you pay the bills.
  8. We will set up your domain name and Facebook business page for you, in our name instead of yours. We own your stuff so you don’t have to.
  9. We will automate your Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook business statuses to share everything at the same time to save time.
  10. We plan your posts a month in advance. Don’t post anything current or timely. It distracts from our long term market strategy.

Unfortunately, I have met businesses who have been told all of the following by their paid professionals. Note – paid does not equal expert. Frankly, paid does not equal competent.

Hiring the wrong web marketer can be one of the most expensive business mistakes you ever make. 

If you have been told any of the above and want to know how they can hurt you, contact me.


4 Ways Suzuki Applies to Family Social Media Training

I was a Suzuki mom. My kids started violin lessons at age 3. We later moved beyond Suzuki, but I applied many of the things I learned as a Suzuki mom to later help my son with speech therapy when he was a preschooler.

Now, as I train parents, youth leaders, and teens on social media, basic tenets of Suzuki training apply to teaching teens to use it well.

  1. Learning begins young. Age 13 is the minimum for social media sites like Facebook. I support that minimum and also believe that’s a good time for parents to introduce their kids to limited social media use where they learn to use it well.  It is easier to friend and guide a 13 year old than it is a 15 or 18 year old. Teach them well while they are more likely to listen. As we moved back driving ages, more teens have opted not to do any drivers ed but to simply get their licenses at age 18. And now studies are showing an increase in traffic fatalities among these 18 year olds because they never learned to drive well or with training. The same applies to social media.
  2. Nurture by love. Kids who feel loved and connected are going to be more likely to reflect that in their social media content. Once I heard a teen refer to another mom, “I feel sorry for her kids when they are sick. She complains on Facebook about it so much they must think she hates them.” What is she teaching them?
  3. Good examples inspire greatness. Parents and youth leaders who model using social media for good lead by example. Teach teens by example to promote their communities and encourage others. Kids learn to talk by listening to their parents. They are still listening – and reading – as teens.
  4. Listen. Suzuki parents listen to their kids play and help them improve, a little at a time, with positive encouragement.  Sometimes I tell parents to see what their kids are doing on social media, and they refuse. Their kids might be asking for help or need some encouragement. Other times, parents listen, and we help their kids avoid driving off a cliff. Many parents have no clue what their kids are posting on Facebook or Twitter.

Savvy social media use will matter for teens when they pursue jobs, college entrance, and scholarships. Social media background checks are and will be the norm.  

My kids know I can access their latest Facebook statuses with 2 clicks on my smartphone. In my parenting via social media classes, I tell the story of how I responded and what happened the day my phone joined the wrong teen’s Facebook profile to my daughter’s contact – and the OTHER girl posted an expletive ridden update about her family.

Families invest time and money helping their teens prep for college entrance exams. They often hire tutors if needed and make sure their kids have well-rounded outside activities.

It is now equally imperative that families work with teens on smart social media use that helps – and doesn’t hurt – their future college and career options.  

Teens who use social media well, especially those who are funny, can set themselves above the pack at scholarship time.

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