Tips From The Best Of The Best On Being Safe Online

I recently spent a week-end in St. Augustine, Florida, surrounded with some of the best of the best when it comes to keeping all of us safe online. The community of St. Augustine is blessed to be home to CES (Community Empowerment Series). I wondered if I would come home thinking, ” Should I go offline?” Well, of course not. What it boils down to is being smarter online. When we take the time to educate ourselves, it makes our online experience a whole lot safer.

I am proud to call each of these presenters my friends. These folks are truly the best of the best and they are making a positive difference in the lives of many 24/7.

Stacey Honowitz shared about her passion in keeping kids safe as she addresses stranger danger and sex crimes. Stacey offered great tips for parents on how to address “tough” issues with their kids. These sex crimes can happen on and off line. Stacey Honotwitz  works hard 24/7 to educate families on awareness of a topic that many are afraid to address. Stacey’s books are designed to guide parents as they talk to their kids about sex crimes. Child sexual abuse is the fastest growing crime in the country, which makes child sex crimes a huge national problem.

 

Theresa Payton, author of Privacy In The Age of Big Data.Theresa embraced a nice sized group of people, as they had several questions for her. Theresa is a cyber security expert as she works to keep individuals and businesses safe online. Theresa engaged with folks and answered several questions in regards to being smarter online.

Theresa Payton

 

It’s important to remember to change your passwords on a regular basis. Never share your password with anyone. You would be surprised at how many folks share their passwords on a daily basis. There’s a reason they are called passwords, so make sure you own them, not someone else. Be careful about what you share through social media. If it’s not positive, helpful information ask yourself, “Do I really need to put this out in social media?”

The day moved right along and the topics really flowed together nicely. Dr. Sameer Hinduja, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University, spoke on a popular topic, Cyber-bullying.

Dr. Sameer Hinduja

 

I loved how he shared how kindness works so well online. Social media opens the doorway of anonymity, but everyone needs to realize, once it’s out there online, it’s out there forever. His latest book School Climate 2.0: Preventing Cyberbullying And Sexting One Classroom At A Time is available and one that families and educators should read.

Sarah Burningham launched her new book at CES, GIRL TO GIRL: Honest Talk About Growing Up And Your Changing Body.

Girl to Girl book

Sarah is a positive role model for young girls and moms looking for advice on the tween/teen years. Sarah is the “dear sarah” advice columnist for the ABC Family Network and is a regular contributor to many major media organizations.

Meet Sarah Burningham
Photo Courtesy of Sarah Burningham/CES

 

Mothers and daughters appreciated the information that Sarah Burningham brought to St. Augustine. I told you that this event had the best of the best…. the day just got better all day long!

Dr.  Michele Borba rounded the day out. Her message in regards to bullying is one that everyone should hear. Bully prevention programs are not working and she is on a mission to help communities change their attitudes about bullying. Take a listen!

Some statistics I took away from Dr. Michele Borba’s session.

  • 85% of students witness bullying when adults are not present
  • Bullies want an audience, it is not ok for bystanders to stand and watch
  • Zero tolerance is not working- empathy is not taught

Can you say wow? Then toss in the online activity and we’ve got ourselves into a mess. One big change that’s happening in our culture is the fact that narcissism is up and empathy is down. We all need to work on empathy, as that’s a HUGE contributor to success in everything we do!

Michele Borba is the author of several parenting books. Take a swing over to Michele Borba’s  website to view her books, upcoming events, and learn more from her.

This is just a small glimpse of my day at CES in St. Augustine, Florida. I wish every community in the United States had the opportunity to learn from these amazing people, under one roof, in one day! I am glad I made the trek to Florida to get to know all of these folks a little better. I learned so much and am much more educated on these serious topics thanks to the folks that put CES together and made it happen!

A special shout-out to my friend, Sue Scheff. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to your community. You are making a difference in the lives of thousands of people! Sue knows all about the good and the bad when it comes to being online. Read Sue’s book Google Bomb for insight into the untold story of the internet.

 

Creating “Buzz” In Social Media: May 20th, 2014 (1-4 P.M.)

Creating “Buzz” In Social Media is coming to Mason City on May 20th!

Creating Buzz In Social Media

We are bringing together three of North Iowa’s finest presenters for a one day event. Social Media is changing how we all interact. We have put together fun topics to motivate, inspire, and challenge you in your day to day use of Social Media.

Where: 9 North Federal
Regional Commerce Center
Mason City, Iowa

When: 1-4 P.M.

SPEAKERS:

Andy O'Brien

Andy O’Brien of Coach Action Andy is an expert when it comes to growing your business and working smarter on a day to day basis. Andy will be speaking on how customers, employees, and employers can all get along and grow through social media. We are excited to have him presenting! Andy will excite and motivate you to smile everywhere you go.

 

Randy Martinson

Randy Martinson of Culligan Water of Mason City is an expert when it comes to growing your business through Facebook. Randy will show you how to best use Facebook to gain the traction you need when it comes to using social media on a day to day basis. Randy will show you some ins and outs of Facebook that you may have never heard of. We are excited to have him on board on May 20th! Randy brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to bringing the “buzz” in social media to North Iowa.

cropped-Sara-new-headshot-2012.jpg

Sara Broers of Social Connections, LLC has worked with several large and small companies when it comes to utilizing social media. Sara is going to show you why social media matters. Social media impacts all of us every single day. Sara will show you why it’s important to harness the energy that social media has to offer. From Twitter to Google+, Sara will show you insight as to how all of these social media platforms can work for you.

An opportunity to meet Rachel Smith, author of Home. Rachel will have books available for book signings. If you have always wanted to meet an author and find out what writing a book is all about, this event is for you. Rachel will be available to answer your questions and share about her experience.

Rachel Smith Home

Cost: $30.00 per attendee (Payable at the Door)

Checks/Cash accepted- Checks payable to Social Connections, LLC

Space is limited- RSVP Here!

Parking is limited in the downtown area for three hours or more. We would suggest parking in the Southbridge Mall parking lot. You can walk through the mall and continue North 1 1/2 blocks to the Regional Commerce Center.

We hope to see you on May 20th! It’s an exciting time in North Iowa for social media and businesses.

 

 

Finding The Ideal Marketing Mix For Your Business

 

Finding The Ideal Marketing Mix

 

Marketing today is very complex. Folks still listen to the radio, they still read newspapers, and they are involved in social media. So, what’s a business owner to do when it comes to marketing? Is it possible to be in all of these places?  Each community is different and your audience is as unique as your business is. Through trial and error you will find what works best for you and your business.

Radio

Folks still listen to local radio. Contact someone at your local radio station to see what your potential reach is. If you feel the demographics match with your business, by all means, give it a shot. Connect with someone in your area that may have a business similar to yours, they could give you insight as to how radio has worked for them.

Newspapers

Newspapers are in the news a lot. Many have online access as well as “real” newspapers to purchase. Print media, in general, has really changed the past five years. You may want to consider the demographics of your area. Communities that are home to older folks, do have more people purchasing actual newspapers than areas that have younger populations. Again, it’s worth a try, as newspapers offer another avenue of reaching your customers.

Twitter

Twitter is  a social media platform that allows you to share your experience and interact with others in 140 characters or less. Photos work great on Twitter and offer another tool of engagement. Most importantly, interact and engage with your followers. Social media was never designed to be a selling platform.  This may or may not surprise you, but the fastest growing audience on Twitter is adults age 55-64.

Facebook

Facebook has been in the news a lot lately, as Facebook Business pages have been around a long time. It is true, Facebook is not showing every fan that likes your page, your status updates. You will need to make some effort to be creative and remind all of your customers in person or through an e-mail blast to be sure to visit your Facebook Business page. Paid posts are also proven to work for many business owners.

Patrick Palmer, of The Computer Guy, has had great luck with paid posts through Facebook.

Pat is quoted as saying, “Well, for me, to pay $40 to boost a post to 12,000 people trumps the local media everytime. However, for local products or services, the local newspaper or radio may be a good choice. Find the demographic of the radio station and/or newspapers and compare it to the target market you wish to serve, and the local radio station and/or newspaper should be a good fit.” 

If you are engaging and providing content that is valuable to them, they will find you on Facebook. Most importantly, you need to be there. If you cannot be being an active participant on your Facebook Business page, take it down. Current and potential customers do not want to do business with someone that is lazy and does not appear to care.
Google+ 

Google+ is a big game changer for everyone. When you engage, share, and interact on Google+, it helps your business with SEO and page rank. Currently Google+ is not jumbled up with ads, but who knows? That day may come soon. Google+ is a great place to showcase who you and your business are.

Have you found your ideal marketing mix? Chances are, that once you think you have found it, your business is changing and growing. It’s important to remember that traditional marketing still matters and social media will plan an important role as you move forward with your business. Keep in mind that Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are just three small slices of social media marketing. If you don’t try, you will never what would have worked. Dig in, make things happen, and watch your business grow.

 

I’d love to hear about your experience. How are you reaching your customers and are you changing things up as you see needed?

People Or Gadgets?

It’s no secret that I love social media and I know many of you do too. In today’s world we have a gazillion ways to communicate and social media opens up a whole new way of communicating. I still say that the number one way to communicate is through face to face communication. Wow! What a concept, huh?

I see so many young kids that have no clue how to look at someone when they speak to them that it blows me away. Now I do realize that not every child loves to talk like I do, but they still need to know the basic skill of looking at others when they are speaking to them. Many of today’s youngsters, ages 5- 18 only want to text. Would someone enlighten me as to how these folks will ever get along in the real world?

The argument may be given that the kids of the generation of today will be able to order everything they need online. OK- I get that.  I fear that we may be losing the basics of communication due to all of our gadgets. Life is all about relationships, it’s not about the gadgets. Life to me is full of experiences, meeting new people, and interacting with others. It’s enjoying the company of those around you, not a gadget!

People or Gadgets

 

Most young adults will tell you that some of the fondest memories of their youth was when Mom and Dad took the time to spend time with them. That entails putting a phone to the side and talking as a family. Tossing a football or frisbee around in a yard has merits. And we can’t forget our pets, as there’s something to be said about the pet of the family. Our family pets communicate in ways everyone can appreciate and it usually entails eye contact.

Let’s not lose our basic skill of communicating through face to face interaction. Sitting down with someone and sharing eye contact is truly worth its weight in gold.

Social media has its place. It’s great that we have Skype, Google+ hangouts, Twitter, and Facebook to stay in communication with each other, but we all need to remember life is about people, not gadgets.

So, tell me! Is your life about the people or your gadgets? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Tips For Finding Sponsorship To Attend A Blog Conference

You’ve decided you want to attend a blog conference and realize it may cost you a little more than your budget currently reflects. So, what should you do? Opt to forget about the blog conference or dig your heels in and find a way to go? If you want to grow your blog and/or your business, I’d suggest you dig those heels in! By attending, you will be a step ahead of the game.

Find Companies You Like

Twitter is a great resource for looking for blog conference sponsorship. Find companies you are connected with and see if they would be a good fit for you. If a company offers a product you enjoy and would like to learn more about, by all means, reach out to them through a private message. If you have never interacted with them through Twitter, you need to start interacting with them before you reach out to them. Companies want to know that you are an influencer and are someone that reflects their company values.

Sara speaking at Cedar Point

 

The Pitch

A personal E-mail is in order here as you share your blog stats and your reach. Potential blog conference sponsors want to know why they should sponsor you. Let them know about the conference you want to attend and why you want to attend. Then show them how you will showcase their brand while attending the conference. You may offer to Tweet, share photos on Instagram, update to Facebook, and Pin with a hashtag you have mutually agreed upon. Then, when you come home you can offer to write one or two blog posts about their product, in exchange for blog conference sponsorship. Maybe you rock at video- Offer a couple videos on your YouTube channel featuring their company. Show that you are an influencer and something unique to offer them. Between the two of you, a brain storming session could produce something new and exciting! The big numbers are not always important, it’s the fact that you are present in social media. An example would be: You need to interact on Twitter, not have a stream filled with scheduled tweets and NO interaction!

Most importantly, you need to be positive and be supportive of bloggers and brands. Let’s face it, nobody wants to partner with a Negative Nelly! If your Tweets are a little questionable and you are searching for blog conference sponsorship. I’d suggest that you take a year to clean it up and then pitch a company for sponsorship to attend a blog conference.

If you take the time and spend some money to attend a blog conference, your business will grow! By partnering with a brand that you love, it’s a win/win for everyone. And remember, to do what you say you will do. Blog conference sponsorship is an opportunity to show how you can work with others and opens the doorway for future opportunities.

Have you ever partnered with a company for blog conference sponsorship? Did you find the experience to be fun and exciting? I’d love to hear the brand side of this, specifically how bloggers can help brands while attending blog conferences.

Now, go make it happen-  Attend the blog conference of your dreams and grow your business!

 

I Opened A Twitter Account, Now What?

 

 

This past week, I have crossed paths with several folks that have recently opened a Twitter account and are now asking, “What do I do now?” Here are three tips to help you engage on this fun social media platform. Remember, it’s all about those 140 Characters. Tweets should be short, sweet and to the point.

  •  Find people that have the same interests as you. The easiest way to do this is to use a hashtag (#) and then type in the word that interests you. For instance, if you want to find people that tweet about Iowa, use this in your search- #Iowa. Be sure to put a hashtag in front of the word Iowa in your tweets. This will connect those of you tweeting with the same word. And the hashtags can go as far as your brain will take you! Just think of the million things that people are interested in. It’s all kind of mind boggling and fun at the same time.
  • Add a profile picture of you to your profile. Twitter is a social media platform and it is a place to be social. When you sign up for Twitter you will become an egghead, the generic picture that Twitter uses. One of the easiest way to let people know who you are is to put a current photo up. If you are setting up a business on Twitter, it’s perfectly acceptable to use a clean, cut logo. Many people on Twitter will not follow folks that don’t have a real photo or legitimate logo for a profile picture. If you want to grow your following on Twitter, this is one of the most important things to do.
  • Be sure to complete the Profile section. This is the section that showcases who you are. If you have a website, by all means enter it. This is how people will connect with you. Twitter is an extension of you and your business, make it work for you.

By adding a profile picture or logo for your business you will be one step ahead of others on Twitter. Take the time to find folks that have the same interests as you and complete the profile section. These are three simple things you can do to start a nice following on Twitter.

One other tip, if someone follows you and there profile does not look complete, you do not have to follow them. It’s ok to not follow everyone that follows you. On the other hand, if you are followed by someone you know and would like to get to know better, hit that follow button as fast as you can. Those are the connections you want!

Are we connected on Twitter? I will follow you back!

 

The Great Debate: To Lie Or Not To Lie About Your Child’s Age On Social Media Platforms

Social Media is changing how we all interact on a daily basis. What is mind boggling to me is how many kids I see out and about with smart phones.

Now, I’m not talking about teenagers, I am talking about kids that are 8-12 years old.

Most kids in this age group do not have jobs to pay for the phone and/or assist Mom and Dad in paying the monthly data fee. And the other thing that really bothers me is that these kids are on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and other platforms. These kids are brilliant, and I mean that in a good way!

Our kids are smart and it’s up to us as parents and society to make sure our kids are safe while online. So, my question to all of you is, “How do all of these kids open up accounts on these social media platforms?” I have been told by many that the parents do it for them. I recently posted this question in a Facebook group and two parents responded that they would never lie about their kids’ age to open up a social media account for them. I am assuming I received a low response, as some did not want to admit they had done it. 

Yes, it’s probably poor judgement on the parent’s part. After all, we all make mistakes as parents, as we live and learn. If you are one of these parents that has lied about your child’s age so they can have these social media accounts, I hope you are right alongside them.

Password Information

Make sure you have all passwords to every single one of your child’s social media accounts. Let your child know that you will have access to them 24/7.

Educate Yourself

If you realize you made a mistake by allowing your tween to be involved in social media, you can delete the accounts or educate yourself. You, as a parent, need to know how to use these accounts, as it’s the only way you can help protect your child while online. Here’s a great tip for you, head on over to YouTube and search out the social media platforms your child is on. You must understand them!

Parental Controls For Smart Phones

Check with your cell phone carrier to sign up for parental controls that will allow you access to your child’s cell phone. Most have services that allow you to see their texts, phone calls, and even location monitoring.

Smart phones are changing how we all interact. Make smart decisions when it comes to your kids and smart phones. Smart phones connect people all over the world with the touch of a key. When you give your child a smart phone to use, you are giving them access to the world. Think about that- that’s a LOT of people!

Remember, your kids are watching your every move. When you lie about your child’s age on a social media platform, what message are you sending them? And just because a social media platform says a 13 year old can sign up, that does not mean every 13 year old is mature enough to handle it. Be smart so your family can be safe online.

If you are a parent, at what age have you or will you allow your child to be involved in Social Media? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this hot topic.

 

 

Bloggers Are Professionals And Should Be Treated That Way

If you are a blogger, you know that bloggers are often not taken seriously. Many people think that it’s OK to use the term “Mommy Blogger.” Well, let me educate you. 99.9% of bloggers that I personally know, do not appreciate being called a Mommy Blogger. Women spend a lot of time and money building up a blog, while educating others on topics of their choice. And by the way, there are men, such as Adam Sommer, of Visit Fly Over Country, that have embraced blogging and are very good at it.

For those of us in the blogging industry, we consider ourselves to be professionals and wish to be treated with respect. As a blogger that writes about travel and living in Iowa with my family; I have always despised it when someone labeled me a Mommy Blogger. I learned to roll with the punches, as it seemed trivial. But you know what? It’s really a slap in the face to women that blog and have built some really nice, reputable businesses with their blogs. And yes, that is what happened to me.

Bloggers need to step up their game a little bit when it comes to professionalism. When we present ourselves as professionals, others will be less likely to use the term Mommy Blogger. If you are running around with a baby on your hip while meeting with a brand representative, let’s just say; it’s not doing bloggers a favor. This welcomes the term that I cannot stand. If you happen to be meeting with a brand representative of baby supplies, it would probably fly. But, in all reality, professionalism matters.

Bloggy Conference
Bloggy Conference 2013: Photo By Brad Crooks of www.trippingtheglobe.com

The first thing a blogger needs to do is get out of bed in the morning and get dressed! When you dress the part, your productivity level will rise. For some reason, many folks think that bloggers spend all day hanging out in their pajamas while writing away. Well, for successful bloggers, that is simply not the case. The bloggers that are going places are out networking, meeting people face to face, and working on new strategies to move their blogs forward.

Let me introduce you to two young Moms that blog. Debbie shares her passion for food and fitness at Debbie’s Midwestern Kitchen, while Val of Corn, Beans, Pigs, and Kids focuses on all things related to agriculture. They do a wonderful job of incorporating their families into their blogs and I do know they hear the term “Mommy Blogger” on an occasional basis. We need to change that, as these are two great examples of bloggers that are writing great material and inspiring others! Can we call these bloggers business professionals?

If we all, as bloggers, start treating ourselves as professionals others will see us as professionals. If you are a blogger, what do you call yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, because bloggers are the ones in the trenches and growing businesses with their blogs.

 

 

Yes, You Can Rock Facebook And Be A Good Friend

The past several days have been interesting in regards to Facebook. Several of my personal Facebook Friends have been sharing their annoyances and I thought I would share them with you. The really interesting thing, is the fact that they, themselves, are a big offender of what they are complaining about. So, I thought I would share information on how you can rock Facebook and still have friends.

Do Not Be A Chronic Complainer

Yes, I understand it has been a long, cold Winter and I too have complained. The middle of March is here, let’s move forward and forget about how cold it has been. Sure, I care that you are under the weather, end of statement. That’s where the status update ends. Take care of yourself and get better. This includes taking a break from Facebook. Look back at your last five status updates, were you a chronic complainer? If so, it’s time to re-think how you are using Facebook.

Are You Over Sharing?

Do you like to share a lot of things? Social Media is all about sharing, so you are in a good place. Now look back at your last five status updates, did you share a lot of things in the past hour? If so, it’s time to re-think how you are using Facebook and when you are sharing.

Privacy Is A Good Thing

There are some parts of our lives that are simply not Facebook worthy. It’s OK to not share every single minute of your life online.  Maybe your spouse has recently lost his/her job, and depending on the circumstances it may or may not be Facebook worthy. And if you are heading out to the grocery store, pharmacy, school;  and other places, it’s not necessary to share every single place you arrive throughout the day. Some people enjoy checking in on Four Square and if that’s your thing, but all means, indulge. Just remember, privacy is a good thing.

Facebook is a wonderful place to stay connected and share with other people. I can tell you this, that I no longer follow the pages of several of my friends that are chronic complainers, as I booted their status updates to the curb. I want to be a supportive Facebook friend and I want it to be in a positive environment. That’s the cool thing about Facebook, we can unfollow their page without unfriending them by clicking on the button right next to the friends icon.

So, tell me do you rock Facebook and are you a good friend? I have no doubt that all of you are rocking Facebook and are awesome friends! We all sometimes just need to take a look into if we are using Facebook the way we should be. It’s all about making connections and supporting one another through a status update or two, that’s what I love about Facebook!

 

 

 

Welcome To Social Connections, LLC

I am so excited to be here and cannot wait to share all things Social Media with all of you. Social Media continues to impact each of us on a daily basis and I hope to make things a little easier for all of you.

My journey in Social Media has been a fun one and I know the future will be just as exciting as the past five years have been. I have been blessed with many awesome clients and each day I am introduced to more awesome folks! I am so lucky to be able to say, “I Love My Job!”

2014 looks to be a busy year for me. One of the things I am most proud of as we head into 2014, is the quick growth that our local Social Media Breakfast Club has experienced. It’s an exciting time to be a part of Social Media and see how it can positively impact the lives of many. I am firm believer that it all boils down to education. The more we know, the better off we all are when it comes to Social Media.

So, on that note, I’m excited to be here and look forward to working with many of you in the coming months.