How to Extend Your Social Networks with Ease

I'm a social person—I fully admit it. As I've mentioned in my blog posts before: I love social—the connections, the collaboration, the exposure to new ideas. I'm transparent about my social savvy—my email auto-signature includes links to my LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, plus a link to my blog.

When I was coaching colleagues on using social media, I found that many people were unsure about who to connect with on the big three social engagement networks: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, so here are my top tips and tricks for making it easy and effective.

Twitter is Best For: Trends, News, and Solutions

Twitter has the lowest barrier to entry, is the most open social media platform, and has the easiest-to-make connections. I don't follow everyone who follows me, but I do follow those who have educational or thought-provoking content, and I engage with their followers. To find interesting people to follow:
  • Review the "Who to Follow" recommendations Twitter shares on the right side of your Twitter web client and follow the ones that look interesting. Twitter will continue to personalize and add to that list over time.
  • Look for experts in your field.
  • Add people you meet face to face.
  • Follow journalists and bloggers whose writing you admire.
  • Take advantage of the top 100 lists of influencers publications compile and add them to a list.
  • Keep an eye on trending hashtags for relevant Twitter voices.
You don't want to be one of those people who only has 25 followers but is following 5000. Follow slowly and thoughtfully. Your followers will grow as you share relevant content and engage with other Twitter handles.

If you have strong political, religious or controversial views on particular topics you intend to share on Twitter I recommend that you consider two handles: One for your professional life and one for your personal life.

Facebook: Personal Connections,  Storytelling, and Targeted Advertising

Facebook, while ever expanding and morphing, it is still the most personal of the big three social networks. Not registering as yourself violates the TOS (Terms of Service), which filters out many of the spammers and trolls you find on Twitter.

Facebook makes suggestions of people you might know. It warms my heart when my friends find themselves interacting with each other about my posts and friend each other.

Because you have the opportunity to openly share your thoughts, opinions, and life events here with your friends, I recommend being discriminating about who you accept as friends. You can customize the "Who can see my posts" settings, but it's best to err on the side of under sharing.

Facebook's powerful ad platform enables advertisers to target with amazing accuracy, so you'll see ads customized to your interests.

LinkedIn: Powerful Professional Connection Tool

LinkedIn is the largest professional social networking site with 467 million members. When you populate your professional profile, there's an added layer of comfort and identification when connecting with others.

 There are two schools of thought about LinkedIn connections. LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networkers) accept connection requests from all. On the opposite spectrum are those who only connect with people they've met face to face.

I'm right in the middle of those extremes. I've created guidelines for myself that are not set in stone, but help me quickly scroll through and act on the 30+ connection requests I receive each week.
  • If I've met someone face to face at a networking, professional or social event, I always accept those connection requests.
  • I always accept connection requests from One Brick volunteers or TEDxSanJoseCA volunteers/attendees/vendors. Volunteering is a passion of mine, and I love making virtual connections that complement the real world ones.
  • Because I've managed different LinkedIn groups for years, many group members request to connect. I rarely accept those. Group members can request to connect with fellow group members. Before you accept, review both their profile and their contributions to the group. If their only contributions are shameless self promotion, feel free to decline. 
  • Working for a company as large as IBM means that there are droves of IBMers on LinkedIn and I always accept connection requests from them.
  • LinkedIn is optimized for recruiters. If you're open to discussion, accept them.
Ultimately you need to be comfortable with the connections you've made on social networks. If you find someone offensive, delete the connection. If you enjoy their posts, let them know. Virtual or real-life, connecting with people and adding them to your network can expand your world. Give it a try.

Oh the Guilt of a Non-Productive, Lazy Saturday...

Yesterday was a typical 10+ hour work day with the painful exception of a 10-hour-long headache; a rarity for me. I declined a dinner invitation—to one of my favorite restaurants with one of my favorite people that normally I would have happily accepted—because the thought of the noise level at the restaurant was stomach churning.

My son has a sore throat, my daughter left for a spring break trip to Europe congested, and her boyfriend is under the weather too. So I'm not totally surprised to have some symptom from this illness that's running through my house, even though I wouldn't have guessed it would be a temple-pounding headache.

Image courtesy of  EA at
Today the headache is peeking around the edges and flirting—not quite here and not quite gone. This particular Saturday is a rare day of sleeping as late as the beagle who wants her breakfast would allow,  not working out, hanging out in my pjs, and catching up on some nonprofit tasks and emails. But mostly today is about being lazy—casual social media reading/posting for me and for work, reading a book, coloring on my iPhone coloring app, and drinking iced tea.

And, I feel guilty. The kind of playing hooky guilty you used to feel when you cut class in high school. All of the things I could be / should be doing are calling my name: clean me, load me, wash me, fold me, put me away, shop for me, fill me, cook me, write me.... 

It's 12:45 pm and I haven't left the house, haven't gotten dressed, haven't loaded the dishwasher, haven't run errands...haven't, haven't, haven't. All of those shoulds are calling, but I've put my figurative fingers in my ears and I'm humming to drown them out.

Being who I am, I did some google research to try and beat the guilt at its own game. I found some excellent guilt-reducing articles and blog posts: In Defense of Laziness, Reducing Your Guilt About Not Being Productive, and my new favorite article on wikiHow, How to Enjoy a Lazy Day, with yes, steps and photos, so I'm feeling marginally better about my non-productivity.

When do you draw the line? Do you have to be ill to allow yourself to take some time off and do nothing? How about a "Get out of a productive Saturday for free card?
Here's one you can use when you need a guilt-free day off.

I'm using mine today. :-)

Nonprofit Fundraising: Powering Through the End-of-the-Year Push?

In June this year, I accepted the volunteer Chapter Director position for the Silicon Valley chapter of One Brick, a nonprofit that I've been deeply involved in since 2009. It's more work than I anticipated, but it's rewarding to be making a difference.

As an event manager and member of our social media team, I've always been aware of the annual campaign, take advantage of IBM's automatic payroll deduction plan to donate throughout the year, and donate online when the annual campaign kicks off on Giving Tuesday.

As a chapter director, I found myself immersed in the fundraising process: writing and sending fundraising emails to my chapter members, creating social media tiles and a small video, and taking responsibility for meeting the donation goal for my chapter of the organization.

In the midst of this end-of-year flurry of activity, I noticed that my personal email filled with donation requests which made me curious about end-of-the-year charitable giving. Not surprisingly, I turned to Charity Navigator, the "nation's largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities" to satisfy my curiosity. All of those fundraising letters obviously pay off: 31% of all giving occurred in December and 12% of that in the final three days of the year.

Now that I'd answered that question, I found a few more interesting giving facts from Charity Navigator including:
  • 58% of people share information about charities on social networking because they feel it makes an impact.
  • 62.6 million Americans volunteered in 2013 for a total of 7.7 billion hours. That service is worth an estimated value of $173 billion.
  • Volunteers are almost twice as likely to donate to charity than non-volunteers.
  • 69% of Americans donate to charity and 64% of donations are made by women.
  • The average annual household charitable donation is $2,974.
  • Americans donated $358.4 billion in 2014, 5.4% more than in 2013.
Have you made a donation to your favorite nonprofit yet? Did you know that even small amounts —$10 or $20 — make a difference? Don't delay — you only have a few more days to take advantage of the 2015 tax deduction. Happy Giving.

Museum Week: An Engaging International Twitter Campaign

Did you know it's Museum Week? And that there's an organization, website, Twitter ID and Twitter #hashtags all in support of  this first ever internationally coordinated Museum Week? Museums and museum lovers across the globe are sharing their photos, Vines, memes and selfies on Twitter with the hashtag #MuseumWeek from March 23 to March 29, 2015.

This group of leading-edge museums have evolved in how they engage with their newest patrons — the Millennials and Generation Z — who interact differently and more socially than their parents and older siblings, and aren't content to passively stare at exhibits.

7 Days of Hashtags
As an article in the Guardian explains it, "Instead of shouting at rule-breakers with camera phones, more and more museums around the world are starting to embrace the twitter crowd by removing their restrictions on photography and by providing free institutional wireless access so we can snap-and-live-tweet photos of their collections. This was an important decision because everyone knows that a few tweeted photos can provide only the tiniest taste of reality, and for that reason, often serve to lure in more inquisitive people rather than fewer."

I'm smitten with the entire #MuseumWeek program, and eagerly comb through my Twitter feed, thinking "I'll retweet that one and that one....". I follow the @MuseumWeek ID, and check my Twitter feed several times a day for new tweets. The entire program is a feast for the eyes, and the "7 days, 7 themes, 7 hashtags" program is ingenious, eye-catching, and ground-breaking in how they're re-positioning their collections.
  • The organizers have cleverly included  a Twitter space page on the website that includes current statistics, with lots of clickability built in and includes:
  • A representation of tweets and retweets of the eight official hashtags since March 15
  • The top museums as represented by number of tweets and filterable
  • A list of the countries represented by the participating museums (2207 strong)
  • A map of those tweets
  • And of course, the tweets themselves. 
If you're so inclined, there's even a widget builder to customize and embed #MuseumWeek content into your blog or website.

It's a fun and interactive page that's definitely worth checking out.

This Twitter campaign definitely deserves an A+ for creativity.

Musings About High School Career Day and a Career in Social Media

I'm one of those people who can get pretty excited talking about a topic I'm passionate (and knowledgeable) about.  And if you ask me questions? I'm over-the-moon happy when I'm interacting with an engaged audience. The power and excitement of social media happens to be one of those topics. (Volunteering, social good, animals, and books are also on that list. :-))

Social media training is a part of my job that I truly enjoy; I've trained 200+ colleagues and coached several executives in the last year and a half. So for someone like me, being invited to talk about my career at a local high school's Career Day is fun. Really fun. And because social media is a topic that interests many people, including high school students, I'm guaranteed an interested audience.
Screenshot of PPT deck title page
View the deck on SlideShare by clicking on the image

"#Hashtag with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake"
Presenting my material three times in a row on Career Day at Cupertino High School enabled me to tweek  my presentation on the fly for the next audience — including moving the #Hashtag with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake video from the end of the presentation to the middle, since I ran out of time and didn't get to show it for the first session. (It's one of my favorite clips, and I laugh every time I watch it.)

Generation Z, our current high school students, are smart, passionate people and digital natives who've never known a time without either socially sharing their lives, or having them shared for them by their parents. A 2013 Pew study confirms this social media saturation, "Eight in ten online teens now use social media sites."

So I was not surprised that the majority of these digital natives had seen the Ellen DeGeneres 2014 Oscar selfie, but only about half were familiar with the 2013 Superbowl Oreo tweet. And every student in each of those three classes had either participated in an Ice Bucket Challenge or had a good friend or family member who had participated in the challenge.

Generation Z is going to be joining the workforce very soon. Millennials are changing the face of the workforce to meet their needs, and I think we'll see another significant workforce engagement change when we start working with the Gen Zers. I for one, am looking forward to it.

Repost from IBM Social Business Insights Blog: Cool or creepy, part 2: Seven additional social networking apps to consider

As part of a team of IBM Redbook Thought Leaders, I blog for the IBM Social Business Insights blog, and repost those blog posts here on my personal blog. Cool or creepy, part 2: Seven additional social networking apps to consider, is the second part of a series that was originally published on December 23, 2013, and is owned by IBM. Part 1, Five new social networking applications: Cool or creepy? is here.
I recommend checking out the IBM Social Business Insights blog for some compelling and though-provoking content.

Cool or creepy, part 2: Seven additional social networking apps to consider

Brandi Boatner, Digital Experience Manager, IBM @ThinkBluePR
Holly Nielsen, Social Media Leader, IBM @HollyNielsen

This holiday season it’s time to tech the halls with boughs of privacy…or maybe not?

During the holidays, many people share gift ideas, wish lists, New Year’s resolutions they have no intention of keeping and a good amount of laughter with family, friends and loved ones.

Last year we took a look at some popular social networking applications that were designed to connect people by sharing only the information the user wanted to share. With thousands of apps being created every day, and as we close out another tech-obsessed year, which apps will stick around in 2014? Let’s look at some recent apps and ask the same question: Are these cool or creepy?

 1. Gym Shamer

Gym Shamer is an app that lets you set your workout goals and then check in at the gym through Foursquare. If you miss a workout, the app tells your entire social graph that you blew it.

Cool/creepy factor
: This one definitely falls on the creepy side. We’re good enough at the remorse game ourselves for missing a workout, especially if we list “Get in Shape” as one of our New Year’s resolutions. We don’t need all of our friends, family, colleagues and followers piling on the grief.

 2. Butt Analyzer

Butt Analyzer is, yes, you read it correctly, an app that uses your phone's camera to take a photo of a man’s or woman’s derriere and calculate the attractiveness of that booty on a scale of 1 to 10. It’s only available on Android, so we couldn’t test it out (which is probably just as well), and there’s a share button that enables sharing the results with your social network.

 Cool/creepy factor: This app is one of the highest ranking out there on the creepy scale.

3. Spout

Spout is a new way to look at your social content feeds—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Flickr—in a swirling, moving, graphically interesting format where the words flow and stream across the screen. You can set the theme, mode, display time, animation style and word speed.

 Cool/creepy factor: Definitely cool. Spout is a word lover’s dream. It would make an amazing screensaver. Hint: if the word stream makes you dizzy, try different speeds and animation styles to find the one you like best.


The webpage for CARROT for iPhone touts it as “the to-do list with a personality.” You create your to-do list, and CARROT berates you for failing to complete items and rewards you when you finish them. “She” has 400 rewards for good behavior at her disposal, but states, "You don't want to make me upset." Personalized gamification, anyone?

Cool/creepy factor: We’re leaning toward cool for this app, as this reviewer could use some help getting her to-do lists completed. But, getting scolded by her smartphone could also result in immediate app deletion. Not sure what an angry Siri sounds like, but do you want to find out?

 5. Tinder

Talk about a well-defined target audience: no smartphone, no Facebook profile, no Tinder dating. If you read the online reviews (which we did) it would appear that Tinder is taking the millennial dating world by storm. Its claim to fame? It finds out who is nearby and connects you with them if you're mutually interested. A photo of someone in your pre-defined geolocation pops up on your phone, and you swipe left if you’re interested, right if you’re not. Or maybe it was right if you’re interested, left if you’re not. Anyway, if the other person also swipes in the yes direction, a chat box pops up and you can chat. After that, it’s up to you.

Cool/creepy factor
: This app is cool if you live in a large metropolis and have trouble getting out and meeting people. All millennials have active Facebook pages and smartphones, right?

 6. Slydial

This app sounds like just what it does. Slydial is a voice messaging service that connects you directly to someone’s mobile voicemail, bypassing the ringing. How many times have you dreaded dialing a number and praying the other party on the end of the line doesn’t answer and your call goes straight to voicemail? Now, there’s an app for that.

Cool/creepy factor: This app is actually pretty cool. Users click on the slydial icon and instantly connect with the recipient’s voicemail box. Slydial can be used for practical and efficient communications when you’re short on time, when you’d rather not leave a text and, more important, when you want to avoid life’s awkward moments. This app is currently only available in the US.

7. MedXCom

“Take control of your health and well-being—anytime, anywhere!” is the tag line for this app. The MedXCom Patient app is a patient portal that lets you store and manage all of your health profile with confidence and convenience and instantly share important data and updates with your doctors.

Cool/creepy factor: MedXCom is both cool and creepy. It is a great way for people to manage health information and include as many details as they need to monitor personal health like reminders for taking medication, storing images of health insurance cards (most people lose these cards every year) and the ability to instantly notify health professionals in case of an emergency. However, on the creepy side a feature of the app is called “safe bumping" that encourages dating singles to go to the doctor for regular STD checks. And yes - that information can be shared.  We'll stop there, but it's safe to say we think it's TMI and bit too creepy.

It would seem that the term privacy means different things to different people in the digital age with our evolving interconnectedness. However, two key constants remain with the emergence of social networking apps: user discretion and transparency. Perhaps we can make 2014 the year privacy found its way back from the abyss of mobile applications. That’s one resolution we can all stick to…maybe.

Why I Started a Book Club

Reading a book. It's one of the most educational, mind-expanding, self-caring things you can do for yourself. 

Stack of booksDo you remember when Oprah started her book club back in 1996? She had a powerful effect on reading for pleasure and discussion. In 2008, an article in Time magazine stated about her club, "It's the greatest force in publishing today, with the power to raise authors from the dead (Leo Tolstoy) or crucify them on the national stage (James Frey)."

 I've always loved the idea of a book club. What could be better than reading a book, then talking about it with other bibliophiles? Add some wine and a few appetizers, and you have a close-to-perfect evening right there.

My mother's book club has been meeting for well over thirty years, so it's not a surprise that I would want to follow in her footsteps. I tried a few book clubs at local bookstores, and a club online, but neither option quite jelled for me. So, I decided to start one of my own. I included friends that I thought would mix well. The only requirement? Read the book!

This group of funny, smart, caring, insightful and just plain fun women has been meeting for almost 7 1/2 years. We've had a few members drop out for various reasons, and new members have joined us; so that we're at the comfortable number of 12. We meet once a month at different members' homes, and vote on the books we'll be reading next. One of my favorite things about this monthly meeting is how everyone has bonded over time. We often spend the first half of the meeting catching up on everyone's lives. 

I spend a lot of time online: reading articles, writing, publishing, and collaborating and communicating virtually, so getting offline to hold and read a book, then discuss it face to face is a treat.

 I started "officially" tracking our reading list a few years ago on my Facebook page; sharing it with friends looking for reading recommendations.  What better way to share the power and love of reading and connect with others who feel the same way, than with social networking? So I decided to share our list here on my blog, and solicit your favorite books while I was at it. (Readers are very generous about sharing their favorites.)

Wednesday Night Book Club Reading List (so far)

10/06 When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler
11/06 The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
01/07 Sleeping with Schubert by Bonnie Marson
02/07 Dispatches From The Front by Anderson Cooper
03/07 Memory Keepers Daughter by Kim Edwards
04/07 The Tender Bar by J. R. Moehringer
05/07 The Secret byRhonda Byrne
06/07 Water for Elephants bySara Gruen
07/07 Thousand Splendid Suns by Kaaleb Hosseini
08/07 The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
09/07 Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls
10/07 One Good Turn: A Novel by Kate Atkinson
11/07 My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
01/08 Never Let Her Go by Jennifer Tynes
02/08 Away by Amy Bloom
04/08 Nature Girl by Carl Hasson
05/08 Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
06/08 The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman
07/08 The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
08/08 Pigs In Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver
09/08 Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson
10/08 The Road by Cormac McCarthy
11/08 The Vanishing Act Of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrel
01/09 Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
02/09 Not a Genuine Black Man by Brian Copeland
03/09 Red Scarf by Kate Furnivall
04/09 The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall
05/09 A Short History Of Tractors In Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
06/09 I Wish I Had a Red Dress by Pearl Cleage
07/09 Funny In Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas
09/09 The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle
10/09 Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa Lee
01/10 Blessings by Anna Quindlin
02/10 Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan
03/10 A Reliable Wife by Robert Godrick
04/10 Delusions Of A Grandma by Carrie Fisher
05/10 Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
06/10 Middlesex by Jeffery Eugendes
07/10 The Art Of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein
08/10 Magnificent Bastards by Rich Hall
09/10 An Inconvenient Elephant by Judy Reene Singer
10/10 Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penny
11/10 Princess by Jean Sasson
1/11 Moo by Jane Smiley
2/11 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
3/11 Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen
4/11 Ladder of Years: A Novel by Anne Tyler
6/11 The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
7/11 The Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue
8/11 Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel by Tom Franklin
9/11 Just Kids by Patti Smith
10/11 The Paris Wife: A Novel by Paula McLain
12/11 Henry's Sisters by Cathy Lamb
1/12 Ape House: A Novel by Sara Gruen
2/12 The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
3/12 Catching Fire & Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
4/12 Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music by Judy Collins
5/12 The Cosmopolitans by Nadia Kalman
6/12 Ellis Island: A Novel by Kate Kerrigan
7/12 Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain
8/12 A land more kind than home by Wiley Cash
9/12 Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me) by Carol Tavris,Elliot Aronson
10/12 Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas
11/12 Snowdrops by A.D. Miller
12/12 Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity by Katherine Boo
01/13 Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
02/13 Run by Ann Patchett
03/13 The Secret Keeper: A Novel by Kate Morton
04/13  Paris in Love: A Memoir by Eloisa James
05/13 Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
06/13 The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
07/13 Butter: A Novel by Anne Panning
08/13 Crashed (Junior Bender #1) (Junior Bender Mysteries) by Timothy Hallinan
09/13 A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life by James Bowen
10/13 The Red Queen (The Cousin's War) by Philippa Gregory
11/13 Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
12/13 The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel by Rachel Joyce
01/14 Wild by Cheryl Strayed
02/14 Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman's Prison by Piper Kerman
03/14 Beautiful Ruins: A Novel by Jeff Walter

What is your book club reading? What are you reading that you'd recommend to others?  Please share in the comments -- we'd love to know! (Plus I need some recommendations for the next few meetings!)

Image courtesy of Supertrooper /