Nice to know you, Nasty Gal?

Online Retailer Nasty Gal

Like many aspiring an aspiring #GirlBoss, I’ve followed Sophia Amoruso’s story with great interest. From her start “dumpster diving” and selling clothes on eBay to starting Nasty Gal in 2006 to writing a breakout autobiography in 2014 – she’s certainly had a busy decade.

On it’s head, her story represented a more down-to-earth version of “Leaning In,” for those of us not bankrolled by mammoth, global companies. Amoruso worked fast and furiously and built herself a #GirlBoss empire.

Just two years ago, I gave a then-direct report her book , #Girlboss, as a holiday present with an inscription along the lines of, ‘hey, we can do this too!’.

And, though I had no plans to open my own start-up any time soon, it really felt like it was possible. In talking with girlfriends, many felt inspired by Amoruso’s hard work.

So, reading about NastyGirl’s fall from grace, all the way to bankruptcy court, is a mega bummer.

But it’s not like it happened overnight.

What happened to Nasty Gal?

Reading reports from The Los Angeles Times and WSJ, Nasty Gal’s demise actually wasn’t so unique. They raised capital and scaled quickly, spent a lot of money on marketing and, ultimately, couldn’t convert one-time buyers into loyal customers. They lost out to the Zara’s and H&M’s of the world.

Clearly, that’s a big problem. But internal culture also affected the business’ success.

There are reports that Amoruso ultimately spent too much time promoting her own brand and creative efforts.

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Detractors say Sophia Amoruso spent too much time on her own brand, a turnoff to new capital.

There were also articles from as early as summer 2015 from sites like Jezebel that detail the culture of Nasty Gal hitting rock bottom, leading to an exodus of talent.

To be honest, reading some of the accusations, it’s impressive that Nasty Gal hung on for as long as it did. It’s also unfortunate that someone with as much star power as Amoruso couldn’t share some of her shine with those below her, propping her up.

What are the business takeaways from Nasty Gal’s failure?

As a marketer with an eye perpetually turned to my overall budget, it’s clear that testing and learning could have helped Nasty Gal spend smarter. A/B testing and multivariate testing are even easier now with the rise of marketing automation tools and shouldn’t be dismissed lightly.

Additionally, while Nasty Gal had a distinct brand with a clear demographic base, they weren’t able to win loyalty, and it’s unclear why.

I wonder if they took the time to really get into the head of their customer or if that got scrapped in their quick rise to the top. I would think that they’d be able to easily differentiate themselves from the “corporate” vibe of fast-fashion retailers, but it appears not.

The biggest issue, though, may have been the toxic work culture. Yes, Sophia Amoruso saw personal success, but it appears to have come at large expense to Nasty Gal as a business.

Employees who feel unrecognized and taken advantage of are never going do their best work. The best employees will leave (as many did, per Jezebel) and the rest will be unengaged, doing the bare minimum.

After all, as any good #GirlBoss knows, team success > individual success.

How I solved my chronic daily headaches

 

Woman without chronic headaches holds sparkler

For the most part, my blog is purely professional and devoted to social media and digital marketing best practices. This is by design, to provide thought leadership within my industry and ensure I’m pushing myself to keep learning.

However, like all of us, there’s more to me than my work. I love character-based improv comedy, magical realism, everything Hamilton, traveling to exotic lands ranging from Japan to Norway and so much more. I firmly believe that a rich life outside of work leads to smarter and more creative input inside office walls.

Many of you who know me won’t be surprised at the above. After all, what’s social media good for if not bragging about one’s passions? Well, it’s not great for getting real about the less than pleasant aspects of one’s life.

It’s partly why I’ve never written before about my travails with chronic daily headaches — because writing about health issues isn’t fun. Frankly, during the worst months/years of my illness, I didn’t even want to talk about it with friends. While talk therapy can be very helpful for some issues, for me talking about my headaches made them real, something I preferred not to admit.

I  also worried how writing about my condition might affect future employers’ perception of me.  In hindsight, though, I think my recovery only further exemplifies my tenacity.

Ultimately, I’ve started to field more and more questions from fellow headache sufferers and thought detailing my experience in one place would be helpful. And, hey, if I optimize this post for SEO…maybe it could help people I don’t know, too.

Rewind: How I first got headaches…in my 20’s

I never had migraines or headaches growing up. It wasn’t until 2012 that they appeared, after a bout with the Epstein-Barr Virus (which apparently is common with chronic migraines. . . your body thinks it’s still fighting the virus which makes it FREAK OUT).

My headaches first appeared visually, but not with an aura, like many migraine sufferers. Instead, they made their presence known with a slight buzzing in the background of my vision. It’s heard to explain what that looks like exactly, but I can try. Consider the room you’re in. Then, imagine that as you look closely at anything directly, the picture is vibrating ever so slightly.

When my headaches were really bad, the vibrations would ramp up until they were incredibly obvious and the first thing I’d see when I woke up each morning. The vibration/buzzing isn’t painful itself, but a good indicator of my headache level.

Second, I became very, very tired. I’d go to work and then come home and collapse after dinner. Sitting or lying in bed, in the dark, I’d wait for relief that often didn’t come.

But, I still worked hard — probably harder than I’d ever worked before. After all, I pride myself on producing an excellent product. And I didn’t want anyone to know there was anything wrong. Importantly, I didn’t want to admit to myself that there was anything wrong, either. My husband disagreed. And gently (and then forcefully) pushed me to see a doctor.

Chicago doctors to treat Chronic Daily Headaches

I saw a neurologist at the Chicago Dizziness Center and he evaluated me, telling me I had migraines. I was given various medicine (but not for migraines…no meds exist solely for migraines, really) and got a smidge better, but not substantially so. After trying out three different daily headache meds, my doctor’s next idea was to put me back on the first one that I’d previously tried to no effect- to which I firmly said, no thanks.

I then researched new headache doctors in Chicago and found The Diamond Headache Center and,based on Yelp reviews, saw Doctor George Urban. He’s a great doctor and I’d highly recommend him. He told me that there are multiple types of migraines and headaches and I had a variety called Chronic Daily Headaches(CDH). In short, the headaches I had were low-level, almost like a constant hum. Most patients can say with certainty when they first started. On the plus side, they weren’t totally debilitating, but as the name suggests, they were constant.

Think for a sec what that means: they do not end. They don’t last forever in most people. Some ladies see it go away menopause, for instance, but FML.

For awhile, I felt hopeless. And sorry for myself.  I’d remind myself of all the people with serious illnesses, like cancer, and try to feel grateful I wasn’t worse off. Instead, I just felt guilty.

Starting in late high school and into college, my mother would always scold me for being too busy and doing too much. But, I loved seeing friends, going to art exhibits, and exploring my city. Suddenly, I was doing nothing – barely able to concentrate on a tv show after a full day of work. I hadn’t expected one of the side effects of my headaches to be loneliness, but there I was.

Dr. Urban and I experimented with more daily headache meds and not all worked; one made me gain 15 lbs in a month (wee). But, we finally found one that gave me some solace. He also gave me emergency one-off treatments like muscle relaxers.

Amazingly, I felt better than I had in years.  While I worried about being on meds permanently, the meds also gave me my life back.

So what, if I didn’t take it at the exact time each day I felt a bit out of control? So what, if when traveling in Norway I thought I forgot to pack my next month’s prescription bottle and was convinced for an hour we’d have to return home early because I wouldn’t be able to function without my medicine. Believe it or not, it felt like a small price to pay for regular functionality.

Looking back on it now, the amount of meds I put into my system is kinda scary.

Inflammation causes headaches. Diet helps.

Thankfully, I have a happy ending. Through intense research and trial-and-error, I’ve been able to get off my daily headache meds. I’ve been meds-free since January and knock-on-wood, doing great.

But, this was not a miraculous discovery. I put the same dedication that I put towards my work towards my help.

For chronic headaches (not necessarily migraines), the most important thing to understand is what causes you inflammation. Here’s where I ding my doctor, because he told me this: that there was no way to know what causes inflammation aside from allergy season/changes in weather.

FALSE.

Our bodies are affected by environment which includes things like changes in weather pressure, but also the food we eat. This means we have more control than we think. There is a migraine diet…but chronic daily headaches isn’t a typical migraine. I tried the diet and it didn’t work. I also tried going gluten-free, dairy-free, etc. It didn’t help.

I kept researching and discovered that there is actually a good test one can do that looks at our bodies on an individual level to see what causes an individual inflammation. It’s called the LEAP diet and I can’t recommend it more highly. It’s a blood test that works similar to an allergy test, where you’re tested against specific types of foods and chemicals (120 foods! 30 chemicals!). At the end, you have a very good idea of where you stand…but you still need to test yourself.

I did a food elimination diet over 3 months and learned that for me, soy, olive oil and eggs were the biggest offenders. I won’t lie — it was a difficult few months, but the information learned has proven invaluable; I now know that a single M&M can trigger a headache because soy is in EVERYTHING.

Things I do & take to prevent chronic daily headaches:

To be clear, I still have the condition, but it’s barely noticeable most of the time due the changes I’ve made in lifestyle.

In addition to changing my diet, I’ve also found some supplemental items that I consider my chronic daily headache all-stars that supplement my dietary changes:

  1. Regular Preventative Acupuncture: I see Tim Su at Alternative Health Group here in Chicago and, not to mince words, he is a genius. I actually found him initially through Diamond and not only does he understand headaches work, but also how to treat them! He’s not a magician, but he’s incredibly kind and flexible around scheduling. NOTE: Not all acupuncturists are great with headaches. . .so do your research.
  2. Woman’s Balance Chinese HerbsFor many women, the time around our period is the worst for headaches. Taking these helps me SO MUCH I CAN’T EVEN. You need to take 3X3 per day so I go for the 270 pack but if you want to test, you can start with 90. IMPORTANT NOTE: You need to start about a week before your period for it to work.
  3. Magnesium Oil Spray: My headache doctor has been telling me to take magnesium supplements since I first started seeing him. They didn’t work. Then, a friend told me about using a spray since it’s better absorbed into the skin. With intense skipticism, i agree to try it. Whoa. It’s amazing. Highly recommend.
  4. Wellpatch Cooling Head Patches: These are a small fix but can mean the difference between doing work and not. Personally, they make me less nauseous when I have a mid-level headache.

I’ve also tried the Cefaly migraine device and not sure I’d recommend it for CDH. It’s helped during the worst of my headaches but you can really only use it when lying down…and my headaches were already improving when I got it. I’m 50/50 on it, to be honest. A good Cefaly review can be found on the Migraine Pal blog.

If you’re having chronic headaches, I am so sorry. I can’t guarantee that the above works, but I think it’s worth trying.  If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to answer as best I can! If you want to leave your email to chat privately, that works too.

 

 

Fake news is an epidemic on Facebook; It may have swung the election.

 

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Like many in the U.S., I’ve been in a state of shock all week. A stupor is probably more accurate. I think I showered for the first time on Saturday, following Trump’s Tuesday victory.

I’ve been trying to understand how this happened, voraciously reading anything I can find that offers a semblance of a clue while at the same time, continuing to feel more and more queasy. Pushing myself to keep reading and push through the nausea.

There are a lot of important threads to follow: pure racism isn’t the full story. It’s part of it, to be sure, but there are other actors in play that we as a nation need to pay attention to.

I do not say that to diminish the plight of those worried for their citizenship or fearing for their lives right now in the face of increased hate crimes. Your fears are real and I am so sorry. I do, though, think we need to better understand Trump voters and, in turn, 25% of my fellow Americans.

Included in this list of good post-election think pieces:

This line from Ball’s post was especially thought provoking, “Voters were offered a choice between a possibility of catastrophe in Trump and a guarantee of mediocrity in Clinton. Clearly, they picked the high-risk bet that they felt at least gave them some chance to escape the certain economic doom that they feel in their current lives.”

I highly recommend you read the above stories to better understand why so many Americans voted for Trump.

I also want you to start thinking about where you get your news and how much you should trust it — because appears to be a secondary cause for our partisan issues.

The Rise of Fake News on Facebook

There’s another angle for why Trump got elected that hasn’t been talked about as much and it is terrifying: Fake partisan news is spreading like wildfire on Facebook.

The Guardian wrote about it last week in “Facebook’s Failure: Did Fake News and Polarized Politics Get Trump Elected?

So did Business Insider: Obama: Fake News on Facebook Creating a Dust Cloud of Nonsense.”

The articles are worth reading in their entirety, but I can provide the highlights.

For instance, did you know that it can take 13 hours for a fake news story to get taken down? I certainly don’t go back to old articles I’ve read – do you?

According to Pew Research, 44% of Americans get their news on Facebook. That’s nearly half. Are you sensing the danger yet?

Analysis at BuzzFeed found that 38% of posts shared from three large rightwing politics pages on Facebook included “false or misleading information.”

That would likely explain how many conservatives believe that Hillary actually called for Obama’s assassination. Or that she’s led to confirmed kills of 40+ of former associates. It’s pretty ludicrous from my vantage point, but it’s real to those who read it.

Fake News Isn’t A Republican Problem

Lest you think this is a Republican problem, three large leftwing pages did the same 19% of the time. There’s a meme going around with a supposed quote from Donald Trump about why he ran for office that I readily believed before seeing it later questioned:

 

trump

I saw it and without a second thought, assumed it was real. It’s not. Just ask Snopes.

A Facebook friend just posted about Donald Trump raising a LGBT for Trump Rainbow flag high at a rally last week in Colorado. It surely doesn’t diminish his VP’s anti-gay sentiments and legislation, but it’s the tiniest glimmer of hope for Trump. And yet, it wasn’t covered in any major news outlet I’ve read.

Beyond that, stories that are 18-months old are being shared like they were published yesterday; the media needs to date their stories better for clarity and to avoid inducing panic.

Facebook Needs To Do Better to Verify Media Stories

Meanwhile, Facebook (and other social media platforms) need to take more responsibility for the content they deliver. At the end of the day, they are media sites, even if they have nary a journalist on staff.

Perhaps, they can give questionable stories a different color until verified so that people can consume them at their own risk. Perhaps, they go a step further and make media outlets earn the right to be shared on Facebook – they make media (and bloggers) prove their claims first and be shared second.

This issue isn’t going away, even if Zuckerberg is downplaying it. He claims that 99% of media seen on Facebook is accurate, which as a survey group of 1, I can assuredly say is false.

Note that Zuckerberg doesn’t say anything about how Facebook’s billion-dollar algorithm affects partisan politics; We read something tilted in one direction and then are fed further pieces of heightening extremism until that’s all we see.

In addition to staying vigilant truthfully covering our president-elect’s words and actions, we must also put Facebook’s feet to the fire to do better.

Until then, we the reader must take more responsibility across the board. Don’t just believe something because it confirms a viewpoint you already have. Make the story earn your trust.

 

 

 

 

The Best Advice I’ve Received from my Career Mentors

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I’ve been hearing a lot about the importance of mentors of late, especially for women. The implication is that you must have a single person to go to. I would actually disagree. You need multiple allies in your corner to help you navigate the minefields of modern-day business. And, hey, the occasional rah-rah encouragement certainly doesn’t hurt either (Sorry. I’m a millennial. Barely one! But, still. Check my driver’s license if you must).

On Finding Your Mentor

Often, the assumption is that you must go out and find this magical mentor, like a LinkedIn game of go-fish. Sheryl Sandberg referenced this oddity in Lean In, as she’s often asked by total strangers, “will you be my mentor?”

Yikes. That’s sure an awkward question. Mainly, because it should never have to be asked. It’s the grown-up equivalent of the elementary school question of, “Will you be my friend?”

But, see, if you don’t get caught up on needing an officially titled person, you can have multiple mentors. Fun fact: they might not even know they’re mentoring you at the time! But, that’s okay. You just follow the smart cookies and some of their crumbs will undoubtedly rub off on you.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with exceptional, brilliant mentors. Some of them I’m still close with and with others I’ve lost touch. Few were perfect. Some drove me crazy (at times). But, all made my life more interesting.

The Best Relationship Mentor I’d Ever Met

One of my mentors passed away this week, in her early 40’s from cancer—and it breaks my heart. It rips an inch each time another memory surfaces. Her name was Nicola Moore and she was the best relationship manager you could imagine.

I’m brand side now so I feel less guilty saying this, but we admiringly called her the snake charmer. She always knew what the clients wanted before the clients knew themselves. Watching her in action was breathtaking.

Nicola was brilliantly strategic and charismatic. She typed with purpose, arching her wrists to give her fingertips more power. She wrinkled her nose when she didn’t like something she’d written. She had an infectious laugh and positivity that made you wonder what actually wasn’t possible. She made sure you knew when the clients gave you compliments (and passed it along to your boss) and when they were displeased. She gave edits back 10 minutes before client calls and sent 6:00 AM emails (I believe the earliest was 4:18am). She sometimes scared me.

But, she also was encouraging and demanded your very best work. Without her, I wouldn’t be the strong strategist and creative I am today. And, I’m going to miss her.

The Best Lessons I’ve Learned from My Mentors

In honor of Nicola, I wanted to put together some of the best lessons and pieces of advice I’ve learned from my various mentors. Enjoy.

Presentation matters. You can have great ideas, but if it doesn’t look pretty, the content won’t matter. Big ideas are hard enough to convey. Don’t let the client (or your boss) get hung up on unimportant design details. So slap on that logo. It will take an extra minute, but will make your work look more official.

Manage expectations. Others’ perception of you is what makes you sink or swim. It’s what creates your personal brand. Everyone is buried in work, but deadlines are your performance metric. It’s always better to under promise and over deliver.

Know your worth. You won’t be fired for asking. And, if you don’t ask for it (be it a raise, title change, better projects), you’ll never know.

Speak up in meetings. Even if you don’t have a perfect idea yet. This often is women-specific advice, in that us ladies want to have everything buttoned up and flawless before sharing it with the world. I definitely prefer this approach. However, when we sit on our ideas – our colleagues think we don’t have anything to say. Au contraire!

When giving feedback, make sure it’s a difference that makes a difference. We all think our ideas are great. But sometimes it’s not worth sharing them (really). Instead, it just creates more busy work and takes your focus away from changes that brings in true ROI.

It’s PR. Not ER. Whatever your profession is (unless you are a real ER doctor!), there’s always going to be another day. Your sanity matters most. Period.

Have fun at work. One of my mentors once brought a full roasted chicken and a bottle of champagne to a team meeting. She wanted to see how the team would react. It was not an accident that everyone loved being around her, including clients. We only got one life to live, ya’ll.

Ask why. It’s hands-down the most important question you can ask. Plus, it helps you understand what the project is actually about (vs. what you are told it’s about) and cuts down on revisions.

Go all in on one big idea and see what happens. We all experience inertia at times in our career and it can be tough to know if it’s because of your boss, your company culture, you, or anything in between. If you want to see what kind of potential you have in your role, take a risk and go all in on something you believe in. How your company reacts will be telling.

Speak slowly so people will truly listen. The head of my New York PR firm had a very specific way of presenting. She would speak slowly and softly. It made you lean in (before leaning in was a thing) and actively pay attention. You could hear a pin drop when she was presenting. I’d never looked forward to monthly status meetings – but I always looked forward to hers. A better master story-teller, I have yet to find.

Make your bed. You’ll feel better.

Be a human. While we all put on our professional suits of armor before we step into the office, we’re still just small, scared humans on the inside. My apartment was broken into a few years back and one of my mentors called me to say how sorry he was. I got a few emails from others on my team, but that phone call really meant a lot to me. It was a personal connection from one human to another. People have equally (if not more so) important lives outside of work. Recognizing colleagues as unique people as opposed to worker-bots matters.

It’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. When I interviewed with my current boss, this was one of the most exciting sound bites I remember. I was coming from a high-stress environment where mistakes indicated failure and this sounded like a dream. Thus far, it’s been close. And I’ve learned so much more in the process.

Believe in yourself. After all, your mentors do. And they’re pretty incredible.

 

 

Banishing the #GamerGate Bullies & Supporting Women in Tech at SXSW

SXSW Interactive Banner is on display in Austin

Reading the news that SXSW has cancelled its two panels around online harassment and #GamerGate was upsetting, but not altogether surprising. For all the pro-feminism #GamerGate inspired, the online harassment hasn’t stopped. If anything, the bullies seem to be multiplying. At this point it almost seems like an Onion article, “Woman wants to talk about online harassment; Gets harassed online.”

The Current State of Online Bullies

I went to a party recently that was devised to increase women’s network of other interesting women (super neat) and I heard a story that still riles me. One of the women at the party posed with one of the more prominent #Gamergate women in an Instagram post at the recent Grace Hopper conference – and became targeted by online threats herself.

Let’s dissect this: a professional woman poses for a photo with a leader in her field and finds herself the object of obscenities.

Can this really be considered free speech? And, equally important, what type of tech community have we built for ourselves when bullying has become so rampant?

Who won #GamerGate

I forget that #GamerGate is now over a year old – that it first blew up in August 2014. As news stories tend to occur in fits and starts, I wondered what the analysis was of #GamerGate now that enough time had occurred to look at it holistically. According to thorough research, virtually no one-sided with the chauvinist #GamerGate gamers. In fact, their actions led to greater awareness of the less than ideal standards for women in gaming and tech. Score one for the ladies?

Not so fast. Even corporate support isn’t ending this issue.

Companies Take a Stand Against SXSW #GamerGate Threats

Buzzfeed and Vox took a stand today. They told SXSW that they plan to withdraw all their employees from SXSW’s panels unless SXSW reinstated the #GamerGate panels is likely a reflection of the social media uproar and disgust levied at the abusive gamers: Corporations took note. Ideally, more companies will jump in and further support their female employees by pulling out of SXSW panels as well.

And yet…it seems that the #GamerGate supporters still haven’t noticed that they’re on an island alone when it comes to public opinion.

Protecting ideas and the people who have them are so intertwined, it’s hard to imagine protecting one without the other. I’m struck by the cowardice of the #GamerGate movement that they need to resort to violent threats to let their message be heard. I very much hope we don’t let these bullies win.

Perry Jones, the head of Open Gaming Society, who was poised to speak on one of the #GamerGate panels said in response to SXSW’s decision to close down the panels, “Don’t let that anger and unrest plant itself in you – it will only ripen into hatred and lead you to say things you could someday regret.”

I can’t help but wonder if any of the #GamerGate supporters will ever have daughters. Seems like this hatred might very well become something they regret.

The Best of My SXSW Interactive 2015 Experience

 

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This post is 1/4 obligatory to show value (hi, finance team!) and 3/4 because WOW I feel like my brain expanded multiple times over and if I don’t share these learnings – I won’t be able to integrate myself into non-SXSW society.

For those that haven’t gone, there are many ways you can ‘do’ SXSW.

  • Every vendor in your field is there and wants a piece of you – and is willing to host huge parties/concerts to get 15 minutes of your time; there are also multiple off-site suites with free food and product demos (plus, biscuit bars! massages!). This can be super fun and, hey, vendors offer the technology to turn ideas into actionable campaigns. But, meeting after SX can be just as productive as meeting during the conference. Often, 15 minute intro meetings are all you need to know if there’s a need to follow-up.
  • There’s, obviously, the incredible official programming. Experts come from all over the world to share their case studies and insights and you can choose a diverse menu of topics. This year I listened to talks ranging from how to program robots so they understand slang to how to use data driven analytics to inform your content. Oh, and there was one about using hypnosis to see how brainwaves change when a healthy body becomes ill (or thinks its ill).
  • Dear goodness, the networking. I typically find 4-5 talks as “CAN’T MISS’ and then make a handful of contacts that are fantastic – leaders in my field who I know have a direct line of contact to for questions, inspiration, you name it. It’s the networking that is truly invaluable and hard to find anywhere else.

But, since it’d be awkward to share my contacts with you, let me share some of the key insights from my fav talks (including two by Refinery29)

1) Data Driven Newsrooms That Don’t Drive Off Writers w/Refinery29 and NPR

Refinery29 SM Director Lexi Nisita and NPR Editor Wright Bryan led this talk and it was interesting to see how analytics dictated content for each brand. Refinery was 100% numbers. They get 2 emails daily on stats sent to all employees, noting whether traffic was up/down from goal and the expectation is that if it’s down – everyone needs to pitch in. For anyone who thinks blogs aren’t serious businesses – think again. Writers and verticals also get their own reports. A key point, though, was recognizing that each post’s goal isn’t the same. “Gross beauty fixes” is going to get more site traffic and far less shares than “The best tinted moisturizer ever.”

Millennials exercise extreme caution when curating their feed. The key is to have a mix of stories all working towards the holistic picture. CrowdTangle and Chartbeat were shared as useful analytics tools that fed data-driven story-telling.

NPR…is more along the lines of what you think an older pub would do. Weekly analytics and encouraging old school writers to care more about social but…still a ways to go. Interestingly (and happily), analytics are only part of the puzzle for them. They are still all about hard-core news.

2)  Free Speech and Social Media.

Monika Bickert, Head of Global Product Policy for FB, Matthew Zimmerman, Sr Product Counsel for Twitter, and Jeffrey Rosen, CEO of the National Constitution Center BLEW THE HOUSE DOWN. Bickert and Zimmerman are essentially more powerful than the U.S. Government in terms of what and how content from over 100+ nations is shared. As it turns out, Twitter’s policies are the closest to the U.S. Constitution, allowing hate speech that does not directly threaten. Facebook has more stringent policies. However – both noted the importance at looking at a user’s behavior/motives vs. solely their content. Graphic content may be posted to spread awareness of atrocities – or could be shared to celebrate. You can guess which motivation leads to the content staying live. Really fascinating to hear them discuss how they try to bridge cultures/expectations in one platform.

3) Millennial Data from Refinery29

If you can’t tell – I adored the talks by Refinery29. They were smart, stat-focused and very thought-provoking. Check out some of the best nuggets of info below:

  • 70% of millenials want balanced, well-rounded lives. 3/4 are looking for well-balanced life and how to attain it.
  • Saving money for the future is very important. At the bottom of the list? Finding a husband. The shift is about mindful living and owning your body and choices. The millennial woman wants to be as powered and as informed as possible.
  • 8 in 10 want to see beauty image of someone they can relate to.
  • 70% of women want to learn about brands from a trusted source. 85% prefer ads that provide valuable information – and aren’t just trying to sell you.
  • Expectation of consumers is high. Over sharing is over. 91% are thoughtful about what they share.
  • 8 in 10 only share if they are passionate. 20% of women 18-34 have their own blog but Refinery29’s readers are more often taste makers 33% have their own blog.
  • 63% say they will buy something they love even if it’s out of budget but they need to know more. Why is it expensive? What is the craft? Shoppers are aware of ‘timeless investments.’ If cost per wear is good why not invest? 68% of millenials match high-end with low-end gear to show versatility.
  • Sunday night is great for career content.

When Bad Social Media Content Happens to Your Favorite Brand

Call me a marketer naive, but I love believing in a brand’s promise.

I enjoy the voices they create and the consistency across channels ranging from Facebook to TV to in-store. One of my favorite brands is MZ Wallace and while I do not need another purse, I will open every email I ever get sent from them, just to admire and dream. MZ Wallace is SO New York and SO professional working woman. All their collateral conveys that you can be a hot shot boss and look fabulous while doing it.  DING DING – count me in.

I want my brands to be authentic, consistent across platforms, and tell me a story I can believe in. Okay, so according to most research, call me a millennial.

While I’ve managed multiple brands’ social media presences ranging from Vaseline to Cars.com, interacting with brands on social never gets old to me. It’s a fun game and, typically, a delight.

Except when it’s done so disastrously, I question my loyalty to one of my favorite brands:

Benefit Cosmetics, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!

For those of you unfamiliar with Benefit, it’s an upscale cosmetics brand sold in department stores like Nordstrom as well as Sephora and Ulta. It’s also part of the very high-class French luxury goods conglomerate, LVMH, that also owns Marc Jacobs Beauty, Fresh and Parfums Christion Dior, amongst others.

 Check out Benefit’s website homepage below:

Benefit Cosmetics

It’s style is cute and 60’s vintage, and often has sassy feminist dialogue. It’s currently promoting a new  product of theirs called “Puff Off” that they say will tell one’s undereye puffiness to do just that.

The design and brand name is perfect – I’d love to tell my under eye puffiness to do just EXACTLY, especially  on days when I have migraines. Probably I want to tell them to F-off, but Puff Off is surely more polite.

I’m sure Benefit has their own words they use to describe themselves, but if I had to pick, I’d say: Wise,  Sweet, Sassy, Empowering, Cute, and Accessible.

Most importantly, I trust them. They aren’t telling me I’ll look like a celebrity if I suddenly use their product.  But, that I’ll probably look cute. A reasonable goal.

So, I was particularly perplexed when, as I was watching the #brandbowl unfold on Twitter, I saw Benefit  tweeting to…McDonalds’?McDonald’s was definitely playing  a great game on Super Bowl Sunday (disclosure: I used to work at GolinHarris which helped run their program) and their Twitter presence was unstoppable – earning them nods from AdWeek, Twitter and more. But – they’re not a partner brand to Benefit. They just deflate Benefit’s value.

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 2.53.52 PM

Let’s get real: McDonald’s a fast food company that probably wouldn’t be allowed in any of the stores where Benefit is sold. Plus, Benefit’s tweet feels like they’re pandering for attention, to be part of the conversation.

Counter it to their response to the Victoria Secret commercial, which felt much more authentic:

Benefit Victoria Secret

 

I actually wrote Benefit on Twitter, asking why they were tweeting with McDonald’s and their response was, “We’ve got love for everyone! 😉 xo.”

Um, what? No way. See their website image above – they certainly don’t have love for everyone.  But, the SuperBowl is a crazy night for brands with all hands on deck, so I let it go. A one-off, surely. And, then yesterday . . . I saw the below:

Ben2

YIKES. It’s tacky, on the verge of risqué and absolutely not empowering. Basically, it’s saying that if I want to get lucky on Valentine’s day, I need a wax. It’s the polar opposite of their tagline, that “laughter is the best cosmetic.” Not to mention that if you took away the brand name, you’d have absolutely no idea which brand this was coming from. I can maybe see the image working (with different copy), but it should have been with their wax mannequin, that they also frequently employ. In terms of fan’s reactions, on Instagram, it received about 10K fewer likes than their typical posts. It did produce more conversation, which ranged from positive to negative.

Many of their social posts are great, as I’ve researched further. But, it only takes a couple off-brand posts to do damage to a brand’s reputation and trust.

What do you think? Do your favorite brands feel authentic on social? And, do their pages make you love them more? Or, less?

 

The Future of Marketing?

hero 1

I was having a conversation with my husband about content marketing earlier this week and was having trouble nailing the definition. Kudos to B2B strategist Michael Brenner for nailing it (along with Ann Handley)

“We are seeing a shift away from paid promotion, through earned (social) media and into owned media. Branded content hubs. Where the brand becomes the platform for storytelling. But takes the brand out of the story. Makes the customers the hero.”

As more types of paid posts become available on social channels (particularly those touting cheap reach), it can be easy to forget about engagement as main differentiator. It’s especially tricky when we try to squeeze the brand health metric of “Brand Awareness” into the SM analytics. When I worked on Unilever brands’ social business, the question they used to determine if a program or concept had merit was incredibly direct: Why Care. So simple, right? But, so important.

It’s a mantra i’ve kept with me and I encourage you to do the same. Make the customer care. If you can, make them the hero (a concept that’s been around for ages but still doesn’t get enough air time). The line between customer and brand will blur and that’s the real sweet spot.

Friendship in the Information Age

Even though I work in social media, and thrive at my job because of all the information quickly accessible at my fingertips, there are things about this age of information that rub me the wrong way. Sometimes, until they blister.

The whole FOMO concept on social, for instance, where you’re like WHOA all these people are having fun without me even though either 1) I was invited and declined 2) wasn’t invited to begin with, but aren’t exactly sitting at home watching paint dry. According to my father, Mr. Tom Green, this has been in existence before Facebook, just made more evident: “FOMO is a real term? I’ve felt that my whole life but never had it defined before!”. My dad’s the best.

I move forward with my day not thinking too much about it, as I’m sure do you. Weeks go by so quickly, the only time I really have to linger on the subject is on the occasional snowy Sunday afternoon, when I come across a Buzzfeed article with wisdom from Amy Poehler. Wisdom, that  I know I wouldn’t see, EXCEPT for it being the age of information:

Amy Poehler's Sentiment on Goodbyes

Amy Poehler’s Sentiment on Goodbyes

Sigh. Such wise words. I will still mourn, on occasion, the friends who have migrated away, us both victims of  life events and little tremors of time that drew us  further apart until…there was that unescapable chasm. 

But, instead of feeling so sad, a more positive way of looking at the situation is to believe in there being chapters of our lives. I hope that by the time I’m done, I will have more pearl necklaces than the cast of Scandal.