Figuring Out What To Do When I Grow Up

Last year I heard about a conference called #140 and knew I had to go. Because I had fallen hard for the Twitter. So I hit up a Twitter friend to talk with me and dragged him and my husband to Hutchinson.  There I was struck by the number of stories I heard and the number of hugs I got instead of cards. I felt like I was talking to people just like me. However these people were living their dreams, taking a chance, and doing what they loved. And I wondered why I wasn’t doing the same.

 

I came home determined to find a way to turn my hobby of social media into more than just a blog. And in many ways I did. I took my enthusiasm for connecting people and started Social Media Club Mid-Missouri. Instead of just adding my voice to the local blogging community, I created a space for collaborative blogging about Columbia Missouri. If you read this today you can head more about how I did this at 4:10CST on the #140conf Livestream.

 

So here I am at #140conf again and this year I am thinking about what the next step is. How do I turn what I love into what I do for a living? I am planning to attend Startup Weekend to see what’s like to grow a business from the ground up and hopefully soak up some of the creativity and drive of the attendees. I am looking at local companies to see where I would want to work and figuring out if I could make working full time work for our family.

 

Here is where I ask for your help… what helped you find your path? Was there something that pointed you in right direction? What resources should I be checking out?

 

Ten Reasons I Hate Google Plus

 

Oh Google, I’ve been a fan for a long time. Gmail makes me happy, Picassa makes me sing. But Google Plus just makes me mad. Here’s why:

1. Google Hangouts: Hangouts have validated video as a normal form of communication. Um Google, I am on the ineternet because I don’t like interacting with people in real life. Now you want to me to see and talk to them just like they are across the table from me. Thanks for nothing.

2. Chris Brogan: I met him in person and he seems like a nice guy even if he seemed to think it was odd that I asked him where he lived. What can I say? I suck at small talk, especially over cocktails. And yes, he seems to have a lot of interesting things to say. But Google Plus could be renamed Chris Brogan Plus. This could be remedied by the whole Facebook technique of hiding but there’s not a one click way to do that on Google Plus

3. Design: Wait is this secretly a Microsoft product? Because it seems overly complex (see above complaint). Now Google can get a too treasure hunt like at times. And by that I mean that (see my tips on Gmail hacking here) you often have to spend some time finding out the best ways to use Google products. But overall they seem to work the way people think without being overly designy (I am looking at you Apple.)  But Google plus is clunky and lacks the intuitiveness of their other products. I think the programmers of Google are messing with our minds.

4. Time Suck: much like the rabbit hole Google Plus leads me into endless amounts of clicking. And it’s just one more thing I have to do social media wise. That I can’t manage from a third party app.

5. Spammers: it took them about a week and a half to catch on. And now they won’t stop

6. The Home Icon: It’s ugly. Seriously no one could come up with something besides that sad little house?

7. Being Added to Circles: In theory this is good because who doesn’t like to be popular even if it’s with random eastern european spammers. I’ve even seen several blogs with Google + icons saying how many circles they are in. But in reality being added to circles drives me insane because I can’t see what circles I am in. Um, Google how am I supposed to know what people think of me if I can’t get all obsessive about the names of the circles.

8. Circles: Why we are on the subject, I both loathe and hate circles. Love them because they allow me to talk to a targeted audience. I loathe them because they take away one of the things I love most about social media, the random interactions that happen. Google has un-randomized social media. They are fun thieves.

9. It’s Facebook: Sometimes I feel like I am the child in The Emperor’s New Clothes. Am I the only one who sees that Google Plus is just a cooler version of Facebook. There’s nothing you can do on Google Plus that you can’t do in some form on Facebook (nothing is probably way overstating it, feel free to prove me wrong in the comments.)

10. They Hooked Me: In spite of everything above, I still use Google Plus. Because it’s Google and Social Media. And it’s two of my very favorite things. Damn you Google!

Digital Mail : Love and Sex

It was a very love filled press release week. These two cracked me up the most!

Did you know that August is National Romance Month? Me neither. And don’t tell my husband. But if you haven’t had enough of Valentine’s Day you can celebrate with these Summer Kiss cocktails from VOGA Italian wines (mute your computer before clicking): 1 shot peach Schnapps, fill glass halfway with VOGA Pinot Grigio Sparkling, fill the rest with cranberry Juice (they also suggest adding a few ice cubes but that sounds blasphemous to me. Romance, schomance. I think i will make this on Monday to celebrate the best Summer event: back to school day.

In case you get in the spirit, Wet manufacturers the world’s best-selling line of intimacy products wants you to know that you should get out of the house if you want to get busy. Their poll found that 67% of respondents said they tend to have better sex while on vacation than they do at home. 82% of respondents admitted they would be more likely to have sex outside the bed (in a hot tub, on the beach, etc.) while on vacation and 71% of respondents said they are more likely to experiment in bed while on vacation. These respondents obviously don’t vacation with four year old twins.

Headed to BlogHer With Missouri Wines

Tomorrow I head to BlogHer. Whoa! It seems like I have been preparing for weeks and all of the sudden it is here. This will be my second year at BlogHer. And wow have things changed. Last year I went knowing no one, barely blogging, and with no plan. This year I am headed there with four friends from CoMo, two different blogs, and a carefully executed plan.

And this year I am concentrating on the things that are most important to me. I turned down party invites to spend more time with friends I don’t get to see very often. Instead of attending sessions just to attend them, I am concentrating on the few that are really important to me. I blocked out only one two hour period for the special needs mini conference and let myself do whatever I wanted the rest of the time.

The biggest decision I made this year was to approach a sponsor. I wanted to partner with someone who I felt comfortable promoting and who fit in with the message of my blog and my personality. And I am thrilled that I found the most amazing sponsor that more than does both: Missouri Wines.

Did you know that some of the oldest vines in the country are from Missouri? That’s why the slogan of Missouri Wines is the country’s first wine county. And now I get to share some of the varietals coming from those vines with friends at BlogHer.

It’s not all about the wine though. As a localvore, I am proud to be representing my state. There’s a movement called the other 46 which is about celebrating the wine made in the states that aren’t the wine superpowers (California, Washington, Oregon, and New York.) Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be giving up my Oregon Pinot Noirs, or for that matter my Malbecs, anytime soon.

But I do want to support my local producers. I make an effort to shop local businesses, support the farmer’s market, and buy meat and dairy from local producers. So I should be supporting my local wineries (and breweries too.) I want to spread the message that if you are a localvore you should be localpouring too. Shop local? Sip local!

You can learn more about Missouri Wines on their website, read more about them on the Wine Wednesday series of my local blog, or just come ask me about them at BlogHer! I am happy to talk your ear off and share a glass of wine with you.

Giveaway For Non BlogHer Attendees : Mamarazzi and Plate to Pixel

So it’s finally the week of the BlogHer conference and if you’re not going you’re probably sighing a huge sigh of relief that a week from today it will all be over and your favorite tweeters and bloggers will finally start talking about something else. Even though I am going, I feel your pain. There’s nothing worse than hearing about something you can’t go to constantly. So I would like to give you a piece of BlogHer!

Even though the talk may be all about the parties on twitter, the real meat of the BlogHer conference is the learning opportunities the sessions offer.  I can’t pack you in my bag for my geek bar appointment and the photography roundtable I am attending. But I can give you some of the knowledge through two informative books from Wiley publishing about digital photography.

The first is Mamarazzi, an every mom’s guide to taking better pictures of your kids. It is a must have for any mommy blogger. It will ” show you how to compose shots, handle cameras from basic compacts to advanced dSLRs, take portraits or candids, create prints that impress, and even work with kids! Packed with beautiful examples and written in a down-to-earth style from one mom to another, this book will help mamarazzis everywhere take better photos.”

Image Credit : Wiley Publishing

The second book is Plate to Pixel, a digital food photography and styling guide. This book will “Discover how the food stylist exercises unique techniques to make the food look attractive in the finished product. You’ll get a taste of the visual know-how that is required to translate the perceptions of taste, aroma, and appeal into a stunning, lavish finished photograph.”

Plate to Pixel Digital Food Photography

Image credit : Wiley Publishing

Want a copy? Leave a comment telling me which book you would like before 11:59pm on August 7th. The only requirement is that you not be attending BlogHer. Attending BlogHer and want a copy for yourself? They are both available for $29.95 through the Wiley site. Ebooks are also available. If you would be so kind I would love it if you would like my Facebook page too.

 

Disclosure: I was given these books as a personal gift. This giveaway is not sponsored by Wiley Publishing.  Shipping to send the books to you is courtesy of my spare change piggy bank.

 

 

BlogHer Bootcamp : Top Ten Tips for Roommates

BlogHer Roomate Tips
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BlogHer BootCamp : Top Ten Fashion Tips

On the Sundays leading up to BlogHer 2011, I am posting a series of top ten tips that will make your BlogHer experience a little better (I hope!). Last Sunday I tackled packing so it seems appropriate to follow it with one on fashion. Especially since judging from the tweets, clothing seems to give people some of the biggest anxiety. This list will help you tackle your fears and prepare you to wow the crowds or at least keep you from dissolving into tears as you pack.

 

Top Ten BlogHer Conference Packing Tips

 

1. Be Comfortable: When planning what to wear, think about what you feel most comfortable in and then pack that. No, I am not advising you to pack the sweats and tee you wear around the house. But when picking out what to wear maybe you pack an elevated version. During the day a nice pair of jeans and a fancy tshirt with a nice blazer or sweater work just as well as slacks and a blouse.  Candice over at Fashionably Organized wrote a fantastic post with suggestions on how to step your favorites up a notch.

2.Shop Your Closet: The impulse is to run out and buy new clothes, but shop your closet first. Remember all those clothes you never get a chance to wear. Now’s the time to pull out shirts that are too nice for finger painting and those cool heels and favorite dress moldering in the back of your closet. We all have those items we bought just because, give them a chance to shine.

3. Comfortable Shoes: Just yesterday, I was lusting over some killer flower print stilletos at Marshall’s. They were only $17 and I knew they would look kick ass with about every night time outfit I was planning. But I didn’t get them. Why? Because I knew they would be killing my feet within thirty minutes of wearing them. It bears repeating again and again: your feet are going to hurt from all the walking and dancing. Wear shoes that are comfortable. Tom’s, Easy Spirit, and Keen all get high marks from BlogHer fans for being comfortable but also looking good. And if you didn’t listen to my advice, head over to the expo and stop by the Dr. Scholl’s booth. Their products are awesome for tired, achy feet.

4. Pack Transition Clothing: My friend Claire of Fashion Friday fame advises packing outfits that can transition from day to night with a change of shoes and accessories. One of the most versatile items, in my opinion, is a nice pair of jeans. They work well for day with a blazer or sweater, add heels and flashy accessories for the parties. To keep those transition items fresh hang them in your bathroom during a shower and pack some shout wipes.

5.  Acessorize!: In my normal life, I wear my hair in a ponytail and my only jewelry is a simple wedding band. At BlogHer, I am rocking a peacock feather headband and chained necklaces. Accessories not only dress up your outfit but they give you a chance to get fancy without spending a fortune. And at several of the parties, nothing is outlandish. I wore a BabyPop superhero mask to Sparkecorn last year and fit right in.

6. Prepare for the Paparazzi: So the women of BlogHer aren’t tabloid stars yet, even if we totally should be. But with thousands of bloggers in attendance, there will be more flashes going off than at a movie premiere. Angry Julie suggests double checking to make sure you’re camera ready or at least embaressment proof. Wear a black or nude bra under that black top, consider investing in some Spanx panties, etc.

7. Bring a Cover Up: Thrifty Jinxy advises packing a shawl or other cover up that works with all your outfits. The conference rooms get chilly so plan ahead. I am bringing a lightweight black cardigan that works well with my daytime outfits that I can also throw over my party dresses so I don’t look super boobalicious while walking around the Gaslamp district. Another of my all time favorite cover ups is a dark jean jacket. It looks good with everything (except dark jeans!)

8. Think Portable: You will be on the go all day so pack a few items that will keep you looking and feeling good. CiaoMom recommends throwing some roll up flats like the ones from Kushy Foot in your bag. I plan to carry either the roll up flats I got at last year’s Nikon party or a pair of silver flip flops. I also carry a tiny emergency bag with lipstick, oil blotting sheets, pain medication, Emergen-C, pepto, breath mints, and a tiny tube of mascara.

9. Plan Ahead: Before you buy anything new, pack, or start to panic. Sit down and plan out what you will need. Make a list of needed outfits plus other items like underwear and pjs. This will help you be realistic about what you really need. After I know my needs, I like to make a polyvore board to visualize the outfits I need. Want to see an example? Here’s my TypeA Conference set. Morgan over at The Little Hen House just put up a great day by day set of suggested choices.

10. Be Confident: The biggest piece of advice I can give is be comfortable with who you are. There will be some amazingly dressed people there and there will be some women who wear shorts and tees. Know where you fall on the spectrum and be satisfied with that. Don’t change who you are because you think have to to fit in. And that goes doubly for weight. There’s nothing wrong with trying to lose a little weight before the conference, I did last year so my clothes would be less tight, but don’t drive yourself crazy trying to do it. You look great just the way you are and I can’t wait to meet you not matter what you are wearing!

 

Have a specific fashion question? Want to know what to wear to a party or event? have more advice? Let me know in the comments and I will post about it on Friday along with my Polyvore sets for BlogHer.

How Twitter Changed My Life

Thank you to BING Social Search for sponsoring my post about social media. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

As I pack for the Type A Conference tonight, I have been reflecting on how much my life has changed in two years. In June of 2009, my husband and I had come to the mutual decision that it was time to explore other options than our home in the Twin Cities. I was devastated. I had finally found the group of mom friends I had wanted since I had the girls and quit my job to stay home with them. These women were not only supportive as parenting peers but were also the kind of close friends I didn’t know that it was possible to make in adult hood. I couldn’t imagine my life without them.

Two months later, I couldn’t imagine my life in Columbia, Missouri even though I was already living there. A big city girl my entire life, this college based community was entirely foreign. I had trouble finding other moms I could connect with. And Facebook was making me sad since it was filled with updates from all the friends I had left behind.

So I turned to Twitter. I had an account I had set up the year before and never used. I dusted it off and jumped into the conversation. Everyone had a blog it seemed so while I had a longtime Livejournal, I left it in the dust and started broadcasting my thoughts on a Blogger blog. One day I did a location based search and discovered an active community of local tweeters. Soon they were telling me where to eat, the best neighborhoods to live in, and commiserating on what it was like to be perpetually surrounded by people a good fifteen years younger than me. They introduced me to the concept of “Summer Como” and it how awesome it was when all those young people headed home.

Soon I couldn’t get enough of Twitter. I was chatting with all my new local friend, attending tweetups, becoming a total social media nerd. I started a second personal blog about Columbia and then when I felt like it wasn’t enough, started a group blog to talk more about the un-covered events in the city. There wasn’t a central networking community so I banded together with other social media nerds to start a chapter of Social Media Club. Suddenly I had a career, friends, and a community again.

WordCamp Kansas City Wrap Up : WordPress Thoughts, Tips, and Tricks

Wordcamp Kansas City is winding down and they have packed a lot of learning into the last day and a half. With a couple of exceptions, the sessions were very informative and engaging. Great job guys!! I will be emailing you guys for tips because I really want to bring WordPress camp to Columbia, MO now. You can read all of my live blogs from the sessions I attended here: WordPress Camp Kansas City LiveBlogs.

Here is a list of resources, recaps, and relevant information from camp and for fun, follow the WordPress Camp Kansas City sign on its adventures. Bob King compiled of list of #WCKC Tweeters. Please bookmark this post as it will be updated as blogs, etc are sent to me. Want to be added? Contact me! I would love to add your links!

Session Notes and Slides:

Blogs About WordPress Camp:

Helpful Wesbites:

Recommended WordPress PlugIns

Other Resources:

 

LiveBlog Wordcamp KC : So you have a blog, now what?

Day two of Wordcamp Kansas City it starting off with a session from Syed Balkhi on planning and excuting your blog. Yesterday I was typing furiously during his session on monetizing your blog so I drank extra coke this morning in order to be on my game for this session. So here you go, Sayed’s guide to starting your blog (on WordPress of course!)

Start off with your goals, know what you want to do with your blog. Have a plan for what your content will be. Then imagine your audience… who is going to read that content you are writing. Think about the individuals who will come to your site and what they want to read. How long will you be doing this? What is your exit strategy? Know where your blog will go and how it will end. Visualize the far reaching plan for your blog.

Now that you have that figured out, it’s time to  start. Get a great looking theme and then remember the commandment of  blogging: content is king.  You can have a catchy title, just use a SEO plug in to have a secondary title for the search engines. Remember that imaginary audience? Write for them. Make it pretty and interactive. Add pictures and videos. Keep the length manageable.

Social media, use it , live it, breathe it. Word of mouth marketing is the most effective form of marketing!

Must Have PlugIns

  • Askimet: don’t forget to activate it!
  • Livefyre: The WP Beginner take on Livefyre
  • WordPress SEO by Yoast: Sayed’s favorite SEO plugin. Can be difficult for a beginner
  • Contact Form 7 or Gravity Forms: A must have! Your readers need s way to contact you!
  • w3 Total Cache: Caches the queries on your site so it allows your site to load faster
  • WP-DB Backup: free
  • Vaultpress or Backup Buddy: monthly fee based but recommended
  • Google Analytics: look at when people come to your site so you can update content then,
  • Yet Another Related Post

SEO Tips:

  • Write for the people
  • User friendly links: change your permalinks, custom straucture /%category%/%postname%/
  • Don’t be lazy: work at your SEO
  • link baiting: list post, contest/giveaways, free tools, trending topics, controversy/attacks, be the first (write breaking news)
  • beautiful design: design gets you backlinks and traffic

SEO Checklist

  • XML Sitemap
  • Semantic Web Markups <hl><h2>: most themes have it but double check that yours does
  • Image Tags (alt=””)
  • Rel=nofollow
  • limit external links
  • Increase Internal Linking (related posts)

Twitter:

  • custom background: shows your audience who you are
  • good profile photo: if it’s a brand account, use your logo. If it is you use an actual engaging photo
  • multiple profile: have a personal account that will always stay with you, then create separate account for your brand
  • interesting tweets
  • use hashatgs
  • retweet button
  • Twitter everywhere
  • Don’t whore yourself
  • Schedule your tweets

Facebook

  • create a fanpage
  • get 25 fans to get your custom URL before advertising your fan page : facebook.com/username
  • create a landing page
  • put a like button on your site
  • engage the heck out of it

Other Ways to Engage:

  • Digg/reddit: don’t abuse, don’t submit your own content
  • Blog comments
  • Guest blogs
  • network, network, network

Now what? Revisit your goals? Did you meet them? What are you new goals or is it time to quit (revist your exit strategy.)

Personal & Professional:

  • build two brands
  • leverage them to help each other grow
  • great exit strategy and excellent for new startups

Here are the slides from this excellent presentation!