Hey, hey, you, you, get off of my iCloud!

two_glossy_cloudsI’ve been the sole Apple iTunes account holder in our household for some time now. I got the iPod, the iPad and iPhone before my significant other did. When he got an iPod finally maybe somewhere around 2005 (I swear), I would just upload his music until he understood the world of the iTunes library.

He’s now quite proficient in the world of music uploads, music library creation and the general good mix playlist.

But until yesterday, when my beloved acquired an iPhone, we never had to worry about the ubiquitous cloud. The master of the Apple universe where fortunes are made (for Apple) and functional explanation is questionable.

And so it begins:

Him: “What is the username and password to the iTunes account” 

Me: “username/ password of the moment”

Him: “not working”

Me: “Oh yeah, I had to change it yesterday.”

Him: “That’s annoying.”

Me: “Deal. Oh by the way… [insert forwarded email from  iTunes  noting that someone had logged into the account.]”

Him: “Why are you getting those emails?”

Me: “Because that’s the email associated with the account.”

Him: “But it’s not the same email on the iTunes account.”

Me: “Because that email hasn’t been used since Napster ended.”

Him: “Oh. Ok, fine, but why are your photos now being uploaded to my phone? “

And then the “A Ha” moment. The cloud had hit us. With the factory presets of iOS 7 in place, our phones were inextricably bound by Camera Rolls, Photo Streams and images of all the things I sell on eBay.

I gotta get him off of my cloud.

The cloud can prove useful to a marriage, say, now we can share the Starbucks app and earn rewards faster, faster. (Yes, I’m a junkie.) But it can also come at a huge price: I had to change my Uber app password because I didn’t know it when he wanted to log in from his device.

Oh yes, we could have created two separate accounts, but what’s the fun in that?

I’d rather cloud share than go at it alone. All while drinking my reward-earned with hard working dollars free soy chai tea latte. 

 

 

Good pitches: Keep.com and ECHOage

As avid readers of my blog as I’m sure you all are, you know that I don’t post with reckless abandon. It’s more like reckless abandonment. But, when I see something good, REALLY good, I like to share it with whoever’s left here reading my words.

The first is a new site called Keep.com, the brainchild of Scott Kurnit, former CEO of About.com and one of my mentors early in my career – I worked for Scott at About.com way back when. In the all-time “it’s a dang small world, isn’t it?” I got a pitch to my inbox for Keep, and for some odd reason I opened it. I’m glad I did, because while I’ve tried to be good about staying in touch, I can’t possibly keep up with the genius of Mr. Kurnit.

His new site is brilliant – it’s basically a Pinterest where you can actually click to buy items you “keep” in your profile. Plus it has selections curated by some amazing women and men, most notably some high-profile Chicagoans Suzanne Kopulos of Garmental (huge fan) and Corri McFadden of e-Drop Off. Targeting moms here is smart. I do almost all of my shopping online and instead of keeping items I want to buy in the future, I just keep different browser windows open and go back to them when I’m ready. No more. I created a profile today! Well done, Scott! I can’t wait to see where this goes.

The next site I must tell you about is ECHOage. There’s always a lot of debate in my house, every. single. year about having kids bring gifts to the kids’ birthday parties or deeming it a “no gifts please” policy. We are fortunate in my household. My kids want for nothing. And while I still believe in giving gifts, I like that ECHOage gives you the opportunity to donate to charity instead of giving a gift. It’s a great option to have, and I appreciate it. So I’m happy to write about it.

I can’t say what it was exactly about these two pitches that caught my eye – something about luck and familiarity, I guess, but I’m glad I opened my email when I did. Such is the nature of this work, yes?

See a good pitch that caught your eye of late? Share it with me!

Some things I learned from Crain’s Small Business Forum today…

(copied from my company’s blog…)

I love to network, but I don’t love  going to networking events.

I love listening to smart people talk, though, so I’m always excited to go to Crain’s Small Business Week Small Business Forum. They’re efficient (always running on time), easy to register and attend and bring together a really interesting mix of small and medium-sized business experts to talk about trends and best practices.

Today’s topic was Social Media for small businesses, and it was one of the best panels I’ve been to for Crain’s. The panelists, Geoff Alexander of Wow BaoEllen Rogin, Entrepreneur and Public Speaker, Emerson Spartz, CEO & Founder of Spartz Media and Leslie Vickrey, CEO ClearEdge Marketing really gave the audience useful and practical tips to social media. I was live tweeting the event, having so much fun that Cindy from Noteworthy Notes asked me to blog the things I learned, and since I’ve been a bad blogger of late, I obliged. So here goes… my top takeaways… feel free to leave questions in the comments. Maybe the experts will hop on here and help answer!

Twitter:

  • Twitter is a powerful tool for following conversations and for journaling. Don’t tweet about yourself. Love this quote – “Twitter is like a cocktail party. Don’t stand in the corner talking about yourself.”
  • Twitter Counter is a useful tool for comparing your twitter stats to others and project your twitter growth
  • Some good tips for getting attention to your twitter posts: using a call to action “RT if…” prompts folks to want to retweet something. Putting an –> (arrow) before a link draws attention to a link in a unique way.
  • You should tweet important content you want followers to see at different times of the day. If you’re launching a new product or program, be sure to tweet it in the morning, midday and night to reach a variety of audiences.
  • Search keywords in twitter and jump into other conversations.
Facebook:
  • Use Facebook like a billboard. Wow Bao ran a really cool daily campaign that revealed a secret word that a user could then bring into the store and get a free Bao. Cool.
  • You have to do a lot of testing with offers you make on Facebook to see what works. “Content hiding” (i.e. like us to get info) will help get fans. You can increase the number of views on your post by 50% just by putting an image on it. By literally uploading a photo, not just putting one with a link.
  • Don’t post more than once a day on Facebook. (I’ve heard this before.)
  • Be transparent. It’s okay to counter negativity.
Yelp:
  • Everyone’s favorite (ha!) review website is a place where anyone can post a negative review, but Wow Bao says it’s important to be transparent and they are on Yelp and other places even when things get bad.
Other tips:
  • Radian 6Alterian, and Trackur are good systems to use to track conversations about you on the web.
  • You don’t need to reply to all social media posts immediately. It’s okay to wait if you can’t get right to it.
  • Use social media to maintain offline relationships.
  • And… my new favorite – install rapportive onto your Gmail email account to see a user’s social media profile instead of Google ads. Brilliant!
Hope this helped. If you have other questions, post ‘em. I’ll get answers.

Oh, my dear blog. (Don’t worry, there’s a Zooper stroller giveaway here to make up for what happened.)

This time I have a good excuse for my absence: my blog’s been hacked.

So… after time, money and stress (read: no work email for a day, the horror!) my blog is now fixed. At least on the insides. (But that’s what counts, right?)

I’ve learned a lot through this terrible hacking process:

1) Update your blog to the latest software when it’s possible. Basically, I let it go. I think I was on WordPress version 1.0 or something. So, update your blog!

2) Get a good tech friend. Thankfully I have Cynthia and she lead me through a hosting service changeover plus scary emails from someplace called Liquid Web with words like “system restore” and “migration” and “nameservers.” I understood about half of what was sent. Again, thank g-d for Cynthia.

3) Remember to update your email server in the process so you don’t miss a day’s worth of work emails. See second sentence.

4) Laugh. Because, really, what is more funny than some nerd abroad bringing down your my silly little blog.

And so, we move on.

To what else would I do on my blog to celebrate the restoration of the order of Self-Made Mom? Giveaway a really cool stroller. Courtesy of my friends at Totsy.

See this? It’s a Zooper Twist Stroller in Canyon Red! Retails for $199! It looks worlds better than my Maclaren from 2006. Seriously, that thing is nasty. Luckily, if you’re in the market for a new portable stroller, you can score one at a great discount on Totsy’s special Zooper Sale.  Or, you can enter my giveaway! See the fun is back on this blog. To hell with hackers!

If you want to win it, you just need to follow these guidelines…

1) Leave me a comment letting me know which stroller you love the most! (I say black, baby).

2) Post a cool status update somewhere on one of your social networks letting your friends know about the amazing 40% off deal Totsy is having right now on Zoopers and that they could enter to win one here! Just let me know in the comments where your update is. If you’re not a member of Totsy yet – please feel free to use this invitation link.

Winners will be picked via random.org. And hurry, the sale and contest ends on Feb. 27!

Best of luck and happy strolling… I’ll be sure to give you the evil eye while trudging along with my nasty Maclaren.

Disclosure: I am a paid ambassador for Totsy. However, opinions of strollers are all my own.

 

Facing Facebook

Yesterday, I gave a presentation with Hollie Schultz of Baby Gizmo and Cynthia Wheeler, designer extraordinaire of NW Designs It about how to use Facebook to help market your small business to a group of mom-owned businesses through the NPN Moms in Business Group, otherwise known as a group of awesome women.

Presenting to this group is like presenting to friends, and I’m so grateful at how comfortable they always make me. However, it was a productive conversation about the dos and don’ts of Facebook contests, how to design a killer page and some great tips from Hollie who has nearly 20,000 Facebook fans! Yes!

So I thought I should share some of what we discussed with y’all because I thought we captured some interesting and relevant information through the discussion:

  • When posting content on Facebook, be authentic and use your own voice
  • Separate your personal and professional Facebook pages
  • Engage with your readers and fans whenever possible. Give and get feedback.
  • Cross-link to all of your various social media outlets (I know this sounds simple, but easy to forget, I swear!)
  • If you’re going to run a Facebook contest, please follow the rules! They can be found here.
  • Watch your photos on Facebook – a maximum size for a photo is 180 x 540.
  • There are 250 characters in the “About” box, but only 78 show, so make those words pop!
  • There are a ton of apps to launch different pages in Facebook, but if you want to make a page and make it usable for linkage, use “static HTML for Facebook.”
  • Use a “reveal” page to engage potential customers and fans – give exclusives to fans who “like” through the reveal!
    Look at one of Cynthia’s awesome reveal pages… 
  • Again, sounds basic, but interact and respond to users on your Facebook page – make it personal! Try to answer questions where and when you can.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your readers provocative questions and get their honest opinions to share important things

For more information or questions, please feel free to email me. Or, you can find the full presentation here on SlideShare.

One year later

I can’t believe that it has been a year since Caitlin and I formalized our company, 2 Moms Media. From a vision to reality, this year has been chock full of all cliches of owning your own business, ups, downs, screw-ups, successes and everything in between (including a huge grocery store delivery launch last week.)

What started with the opening of a local play space turned into a national consumer product launch at 1500 Target stores nationwide and everything else in between. What I’m saying is, well, it’s been quite a year. It’s been a blast, a challenge and stressful along the way, but I can say I have enjoyed (almost) every minute of it and I couldn’t have done it without amazing support of my readers, my friends, and especially my family. Without the network, 2 Moms Media would just be another idea. So, thank you.

And, to kick off 2012, I’m going to be hosting a twitter party for Totsy on Friday, January 27 to chat about baby essentials. I’ll also be giving away $300 of my earned Totsy credits to one lucky twitter party participant during the chat, so I hope you’ll tune in… again, I can’t do it without you all!

Social Media Stress-Out

A friend of mine today commented how another friend’s blog post about how she’s gone back to work and is super-happy and it’s all working out made her question her own work-life situation. We’ve all talked about the mom work-life balancing act, and that’s not what I want or care to discuss here today.

What occurred to me from that conversation was, yes, there’s always the debate about should I work, stay home, stay home part time and work, work full time and outsource my childcare, yadda yadda, but it occurred to me now more than ever that while the debate persists, social media and its constant updates and posts, and tweets and life journaling exacerbates it. It exacerbates everything. It’s making already stressful situations more stressful.

I’ve suffered from social media stress-out, too. Like the lurking on Facebook to see about the friends who are at an event that passed on. Or reading twitter party stream feeds going on at night that I’m not a part of. Come, on, you’ve been there too. It was bad enough when I didn’t get the coveted bat mitzvah invitations in the mail when I was 13. But now? I’ve come to learn of the hundreds dozens of events and happenings and things going on that I’m just not a part of.

However stressed I’ve been in the present or past, I’ve recently decided (read: last week last 6 months), that I’m not going to let social media get the best of me. I didn’t get invited back then, and I don’t need to be included in all conversations, events, parties, get-togethers [name your activity] now. That I need to tune out the noise and tune into what is good for me. Which includes mandatory social media breaks. I might sound crazy, but it’s been proven that social media can make working-at-home-part-time moms teens depressed. Now, I’m not worried that my overusage of Facebook is going to be that problematic, but yet I’ve got to put some boundaries out there. Hey, she did it too for a bit.

I see those moms online, all the time, with many, many more kids than me and I look at them in awe. I don’t know how they handle the kids, the laundry, the driving all while being witty and friendly and up-to-speed on everything. Me? I’m pretty lucky if I can get the dry cleaning once a week. The efficiency of other moms online stresses me out too.

In order to avoid this 21st century ailment, I basically shut off twitter on the weekends. I use twitter mainly for work anyway, and since I’m trying really really hard to avoid working on the weekends, that makes sense. I’ve also decided to just read my Facebook notifications and messages once a day. Sometimes twice if the carpool line is really long.

More importantly, I’m learning 20+ years after the bat mitzvah stage (finally, right?) to Let. It. Go. Meaning, if someone’s going to go to a cool event but I’ve got another commitment/ am actually hanging with the kiddos/ couldn’t get a sitter then so be it. I can’t, and won’t, be able to do everything. I used to have that in me, but not now. Not with bedtime and carpool, and school stuff and oh, yeah, a husband.

There are are so many good and fun things going on in my life, that it’s okay by me to disconnect and live in the offline. Just as long as my iPhone reconnects when I feel like plugging back in again. Like later tonight tomorrow.

My food bubble

Hello, my name is Sara and I live in a food bubble.

I have access to and can afford pretty much any kind of food my family or I need. And if for some odd reason I cannot find what I need at the myriad of Whole Foods, Costcos, Jewels, Dominicks, Paulina Meat Market, Speedways, Specialty Grocers that surround me, I can typically pick up the phone and just order it.

The only food desert I have to worry about is when my corner Starbucks runs out of cinnamon scones.

I live in a food bubble.

The reason I’m talking about my food bubble is that recently, I was asked by The Center for Food Integrity to sit on a panel of mom bloggers and speak to an audience of agriculture and food manufacturers. Alongside me were my friends Vanessa, Emily and Michelle. We spoke and answered questions about how, as moms, we use technology, how we choose our food and how we track food issues. For a great wrap-up of the event and questions asked/ discussed, please refer to Vanessa and Emily’s respective posts.

Of all the many opportunities I’ve had as a blogger, this experience rates as one of the most interesting. It’s not often that I’m asked as a blogger to talk about my use of technology or what I think current trends are AND about how I feel about food. Because even though I don’t cook often, I do pay attention to what we eat or don’t eat. Swedish fish aside. We all have our vices.

But see, that’s the point. My vice is Swedish Fish. That’s a luxury to pretty much half the world who starve every day. Even in our own country. Did you know that the hunger level in the United States is at its highest in 15 years?

Swedish fish vs. Starving. Food bubble vs. Food desert.

I sort of wanted to crawl in a hole when one of the audience members, a really nice Midwestern farmer had a question just for me. It must have been sometime after I made the point that the Whole Foods “fishmonger” is my go-to resource for what fish is safe to purchase. Oy. (I was told that Seafood Watch, my what-seafood-is-ok-to-eat Bible is “fringe.” More on safe seafood in another post.)

In any case, he asked me point blank what I would think about his lifestyle of food choices. How where he lives only two cars pass by his house a day and one of them is his wife and one is the mailman. I’m not kidding.

I don’t judge others. I know I’m lucky. I live in a food bubble.

After more rousing discussion and myriad offers for Emily and I to visit pork farms (gotta love the visual of the Jewish girls and hogs), many of the audience members came up to us panelists to thank us for our time and opinions. I now have the contact information for a Fish Ph.d. from Greg at the Indiana Farm Bureau who I can ask all my questions about why I can’t eat tuna every damn day. I met a lovely dairy farmer Shelly, who wants to do an kid exchange – she WANTS her kids to see city food life. I think my son would just about pass out at the opportunity to get on a real tractor. I also met Leah Beyer. Just about the coolest woman married to a farmer that I’ve ever met. Ok, I have no one else to compare her too, but I wish we could have snuck away after the panel to walk the broad paths of the McDonald’s Campus where the panel was held and chit chat about working mom B.S. This woman rocks!

I now have a new appreciation for the food manufacturers who are using technology to make food manufacturing more efficient with technology. Food and tech always have a negative connotation, but not when you think about the fact that this technology helps to FEED THE WORLD.

And suddenly, I was out of my food bubble and into reality. Yes, I’m still going to watch what we eat. But I’m not going to be as cynical about it. I may never purchase a box of chicken nuggets again, but I’m also not going to cry if we don’t drink organic milk all the time. I’m just going to be thankful that we have that choice.

While I’m talking about choices, please use your ability to choose the Make Miracles Grow Foundation project the winner of the Edy’s Communities Take Root program. My friend Emily is in charge of the project on the south side to help eradicate just one of the many Chicagoland food deserts. So help her out.

It feels good to get out of that bubble.

Wrap-up report from Mom 2.0

I haven’t been to a blogging conference, or any “conference” for that matter for 2 years, which is  like 17.5 in blog years. Basically, it’s been a long time since I showed my face to anything blog.

But I picked the Mom 2.0 conference as one I wanted to attend for several reasons: 1) it’s smaller than some of the other ones out there, it had a great roster of speakers I could learn from with my new business venture, and well, it was a heck of a good reason to get out of my house to hang with Steph and other amazing friends.

Have I even mentioned that I’ve been hanging with Stephanie all weekend yet? I love that girl so much. She breathes a breath of tremendous positive energy wherever she goes, is such a fabulous person to talk to and be with and all around made my weekend that much more special and fun.

Ok, now that I’ve gushed about her, back to the conference. I’m always skeptical of conferences (who me?) because they tend to be too clique-y or too drunk-y or too loud or too overbearing. Mom 2.0 has a great vibe about it – it is metaphorically like the city of New Orleans itself – warm, breezy, happy… and slow. Mom 2.0 was great, not perfect.

Upfront, my only beef was that the actual sessions I attended weren’t quite beefy enough. It’s my fault that I didn’t attend every session listed on the schedule (uh, beignets with friends sort of got in the way.) But for the sessions I attended I was hoping for a little less girl talk and a little more girl advice. I think we’re moving beyond the point in the blog world where we are just about swapping private jokes and old blog posts – the stories are great, don’t get me wrong – but for me, personally, 5 years into the blog and 4 months into being back to work, I need to get a little more out of my conference ticket. I want to learn from the big gun bloggers about not only what makes them tick, but how they turn the ticking into a business. About how they learned to write or what they think makes for great blog writing. About how to find those out of the box opportunities. And, FWIW, I know that blogging is all laid back and such, but power point slides and presentations and note taking wouldn’t be a bad thing, necessarily…

… moving on… What I really enjoyed most, and what I typically do best is talking to people – all the random and funny ladies (and dads) I got to connect with and listen to. I may not be an extroverted blogger, but I’m an extroverted person and I truly enjoy meeting all the smart and unique kinds of people that a conference like this attracts. I also loved meeting someone like Ilana – a newish blogger who’s amazing and talented and already has like 52 zillion readers and is just looking for some more connections and information – she’s got that new blogger energy that I love but left me some years ago. Which is all good but it just makes me feel a little old and tired.

So I will wrap this up now with the following take it or leave it advice that I am going to remind myself the next time I go to another blog conference (which will probably not be until next year’s Mom 2.0):

1) You get what you put in – just like blogging, I think conferences are what you make of them. If you sit in your room, you’re not going to meet anyone. It’s ok to shake a hand and say hi to a stranger. I did it at least 42 times this weekend. And made a totally new BFF who’s totally opposite of me but we had one of those one-of-a-kind bonding moments that make leaving your family totally worthwhile. I love her!

2) Set your own goals and stick with them. You don’t have to be the most popular, or the most attractive or the best writer or the funniest or the best dressed or the most avant-garde or the [insert superlative here] anything. You just have to be you. If people don’t like it, well then, f’ em.

3) Don’t get too drunk. Just gonna leave it at that.

4) Don’t pack too much. Or else, you will end up like Janice. Which I mean lovingly. Sort-of. Wow that girl talks fast!!

5) Bring comfy shoes and practical ones at that. I almost ruined my gorgeous Stuart Weitzman heels on the cobblestone streets of NoLa.

I think I’ve run out of advice.

See you all next year wherever it may be, I hope!

Wherein I discuss my mom 2.0 sponsorship by Microsoft Windows Phone – yay!

As I mentioned before, I rarely get asked to do stuff through my blog, and when I do, it usually is to review paper clips, or something really exciting like that. But because I’m having a week of awesome (except for the start of today, which was decidedly NOT awesome, therefore I’m not writing about it), I’m writing this post from the terrific-ly interesting city of New Orleans because someone way on high at Microsoft Windows Phone thought I was worth enough of a sponsorship. Which brings me back to seriously awesome.

So, I’m living it up.

Me + Rice Krispie treats = Heaven

I spent the afternoon lunching and wandering around with friends in the awesome French Quarter testing out that fabulous phone o’mine. I’m pretty obsessed with the way it is so easy to upload photos to email. It’s so freaking fast! See? I got this one uploaded of mah friends in under .00233 seconds. Good stuff.

This is before Julie saw the heels she will covet for the whole entire conference.

And so while I’m telling you about the phone, I’ve got to mention the customized home screen, which consists of “tiles” that you can move around and about your phone in the order you want your information to appear. Some people “pin” (that’s what you do to get a tile locked into the home screen of the phone) their husband’s contact information to their home screen. Me?

Is it bad that I “pinned” myself to my own start screen? It’s so I don’t forget who I am. Or something.

The phone has an impressive camera, if you couldn’t tell the one above was by my lowly Blackberry. It does look subpar, doesn’t it? It’s one of the most impressive options of the phone. Also, the video camera pretty much kicks ass too. But I haven’t taken any video yet. That’s for later. I did use the camera to take a photo of my most-awesome room on the “Club Level” (hence, the Rice Krispie treats — there were no regular rooms left!).

Room: almost as good as the Rice Krispie Treats

This won’t be the last you’ll hear about my awesome new Windows Phone, as the kind folks at Microsoft have allowed me to try it for THIRTY DAYS!! Which should give me just enough time to install all those cool apps from the Marketplace, upload my songs to Zune, and of course, take that darned video.

DISCLOSURE: Microsoft Windows Phone offered to cover up to $2000 of my expenses towards Mom 2.0 and I’ve kindly accepted their gracious offer. In exchange, I will be tweeting and writing two posts about my experience with the phone. Thank you #windowsphone!