Jan 17

Reflections on the Woman’s March

On Saturday I stood with a crowd of 15,000 or so individuals at the Statehouse in Montpelier.

It was pretty amazing to stand with so many people and to know that there were marches like this all over the country and the world.

I felt a sense of hope. A sense that united together we were showing how many people care and will stand against hateful rhetoric from the man who was elected our president and the individuals in the US Senate and House of Representatives. That we will, when tested, stand up for our sisters and brothers of color, our Muslim friends, those who we don’t know who come from countries far and wide striving for the same freedoms my ancestors from Poland gained when fleeing from oppressive regimes. That we will stand and fight for fundamental access to health care, reproductive rights and free speech. That we will use our white power to protect, support, and defend the social justice issues that are what really make America great.

We stood together on that day as a crowd of majority white people. Many of us privileged in many ways. As women of color, Muslims, Lakota and migrant workers spoke, we cheered and clapped. Migrant Workers at Woman's March in Montpelier, VTWe listened to song from Nicole Nelson. We were stunned and amazed by Muslim Girls Making Change, we listened in rapt attention when Ebony Nyoni challenged us with #blacklivesmatter. We cheered in support when migrant justice workers asked if we would stand with them. We offered our applause for Rep. Kiah Morris. We stood in solidarity with Mary Gerisch as she spoke eloquently for native rights. We cheered loudly as Vermont’s teacher of the year, Rebecca Eun Mi Haslam spoke about the importance of education in a democracy.

There were whites who spoke as well, representing politics, choice, history, LGBTQ, and social justice views — Lt. Gov. Zuckerman, Sue Minter, Meagan Gallager of Planned Parenthood, and former Gov. Madeline Kunin, Linda Quinlan of Rainbow Umbrella and a passionate young woman from high school Greta Hardy-Mittell.

And of course there was Bernie.

I have been thinking a great deal about that day. I have been asking myself important questions such as why are we so proud that this was a peaceful march? As I read my Twitter feed and listened to people of color and native Americans I realized that while we did something amazing that day, because it was majority white in many areas, it was peaceful — not because white people are more peaceful (far from that) but more because law enforcement expects us to be more peaceful and “law abiding” so they showed up in pink hats and smiles, rather than riot gear and snarls.

I questioned myself. Will I REALLY STAND UP when it is time? Or will I retreat into my privilege, into my bubble, into my whiteness and just keep on going through my day because I can. Because I’m white. Because I’m baptized Catholic. Because I “fit in” to the definition of “American” being enforced so blatantly by our new President and his administration and the republican-led Congress.

As I was brought to tears by Muslim Girls Making Change. As I thought passionately about how I would support Kiah Morris. As I nodded my head vigorously in support of #blacklivesmatter. As I stood in witness of the migrant workers specifically asking us if we would protect them if needed….

A question kept slipping around my brain.

Would I? These individuals had the courage to stand in front of us. This huge white crowd. I am in awe of their courage. Their every day courage in the face of ignorance, fear and hatred. And I asked myself…will I REALLY stand with them? Will I stand BETWEEN them and help protect them?

All week I’ve been thinking about this.

What will I do besides march?

So far I’ve written one blog post, this post, emailed Sen. Sanders, Sen. Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch. I’ve posted content on my office window to help students use a new tool “5calls.org“. I’ve reached out to my local reps in Vermont because states will be the front lines. I’ve tweeted a lot. I’ve posted on Facebook.

Is it enough?

Well based on the news today, it looks like we will all get the opportunity to stand up and take action based on what we pledged last Saturday. In just one week the President of the United States and his team have begun to lock down this country and frighten people — and perhaps the worse at this point is what has happened to our friends and neighbors who have green cards who are not allowed back in this country because of their nationality and religion. This is not America.

So now we have our chance.

I for one am committed to writing and calling and getting into #goodtrouble. I’ve asked myself the questions and I know that if I am to look myself in the mirror I will not be silenced nor will I stop standing up for what is fundamentally American — FREEDOM.

Sep 14

EPIC 2015. Welcome to the Future.

I started teaching Internet Marketing in Y2K. Yep, I’ve been teaching this topic since:

  1. Google was a fledgling little company — they filed for incorporation in 1998.
  2. Before Facebook existed — they launched in 2004, and opened up to more than .edu in 2006.
  3. Before Twitter came on the scene — they started gaining popularity with a launch at SxSW in 2007
  4. Prior to YouTube — which had it’s first video uploaded in 2005
  5. Amazon started selling things other than books — which began in 2000 when they opened their kitchen store

I’ve been around long enough to see many things come and go, and to build curriculum that I believe will help my students to leverage the good side of all of this tech.  I’ve also been around this stuff long enough to see the dark side. To watch, and wonder, and worry about where it all taking us.

Like many people I watched Minority Report which came out in 2002 with fascination and thought…there is our future.


But perhaps most prophetic of all was a little film created in 2004 by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson as part of a presentation they gave that year as they considered the future of journalism. They released a second version in 2005.

I began showing this video in my classes as soon as it came out. It sparked a great deal of conversation because it was future looking. Students were often skeptical of the concepts raised and didn’t really see the issues with a network that is built to show just those things that are relevant to someone based on their browsing and reading history.  The history of the early start of social networking sites, Google, Amazon, and RSS feeds is fascinating. And then somewhere in there…they move from what they know…to what they envision.

You can watch EPIC2105 here:

And so here we are. 2014.

We have Facebook which serves up maybe 10% of the content an individual is subscribed to. We have retargeting of advertising. We have Twitter which is rumored to be planning an algorithmic timeline approach based on individual interests. We have Amazon which feeds us up recommendations and content based on what we’ve searched for both in Amazon and on the web. Google results are personalized to location and ads are served up to us based on our browsing history. We have multiple “Buzzfeed” type sites that serve up snippets of information that we share to our friend networks, influencing what they see. News items come through our Facebook feed, or on Twitter. Our newspapers are getting smaller, many of us use the Daily Show and Colbert Report to get our news.

We are tracked, data mined, and put into content buckets. We are segmented. We are wearing technology that monitors our every move, and Apple has provided us with an Apple Watch that will make our days more convenient and will make sure our heart still beats.

So you tell me? Are Minority Report and EPIC 2015 just works of fiction or are they prophetic works that envision our world today?

Judge for yourself.  I already know what I think.

Jan 14

Redefining the “Selfie”

The “Selfie”. We all know what it is.  It looks something like this:

Yep those are all me. From last March through this past December. That lovely lady in the first picture with me is my rescue greyhound, Fiona (aka Dave’s Party. You can watch her races over at Track Info and see why she now lives the luxurious life of an adopted greyhound) who we brought home in December.

Anyway, we are seeing more and more derisive comments about selfies. Even the urban dictionary definition is pretty snarky:

A picture taken of yourself that is planned to be uploaded to Facebook, Myspace or any other sort of social networking website. You can usually see the person’s arm holding out the camera in which case you can clearly tell that this person does not have any friends to take pictures of them so they resort to Myspace to find internet friends and post pictures of themselves, taken by themselves. A selfie is usually accompanied by a kissy face or the individual looking in a direction that is not towards the camera.

There’s even a charity activity going on right now that you can accuse someone of posting a selfie and they have to pay $1 — donated all to a good cause of course: http://selfiepolice.org/ .

The Oxford Dictionary even went so far as to give “Selfie” the esteemed title of “Word of the Year” for 2013. And let’s not forget all of the crazy commentary on this famous selfie:

So leave it to Dove to take this “Selfie” concept in a different direction. Rather than using it as a commentary on a “self absorbed” generation that doesn’t care about anything but image, they’ve called out the self-empowering opportunity that the selfie can provide. In an era of photoshopped imagery, when the so-called beauty or fashion or entertainment industry is telling us every day how we should look and should feel, Dove is saying, hey, let’s see what happens when we encourage young women and their mom’s to take selfie’s as a commentary on their own beauty.

This is part of their continuing branding strategy to be the beauty product solution for “real women”. What is great about what they are doing is they are creating videos that speak to women of all walks of life. Of all ages. It is a painful and sad truth that we all struggle with self-esteem issues.  The marketing team at Dove is capitalizing on that, and in the process creating an interesting dialogue with their #beautyis campaign.  Does it translate into sales for them?  Maybe, maybe not. But it does add another perspective to this idea that social media is just selfish and showing off.

Regardless of the blurred lines of Uniliver/Dove and the many ways in which we could dissect this campaign from an ethical perspecitve, the video and the message is very powerful indeed. I know it struck a chord with me.

Read more about the #beautyis campaign here: http://www.dove.us/Our-Mission/Real-Beauty/default.aspx

Apr 13

The Brave New World of Communication in a Digital Age

Twitter Is Serious Business LOLCatThis week we learned just how serious Twitter is. In the midst of tragedy, horror, anger, pain, and fear we saw just how much this digital communication tool, and a host of other almost “instant” communication channels have changed the way we look for, engage with, and participate in information dissemination and sharing.

I know I don’t need to recap the events, nor provide timelines. Nor will I post pictures here.  There are plenty of those all over the internet at sites including the Boston Globe, and Mashable.

I would like to address something different. Something that has been on my mind as I have been working on my book this year. And that is the impact that real time communication, and the need we humans have to participate, share, and engage to feel part of community is having on two very important areas of our lives:  Journalism and Law enforcement.

First I’d like you to think back.

Think back to 1986 (if you were alive then). I was a sophomore in college. I was in my biology lab when someone ran into our classroom and shouted: The Challenger just exploded! (That’s a link to the live feed from CNN). We had no Twitter. We had no Facebook. I had a computer, but it certainly didn’t talk to anything. We had no cell phones. Challenger_explosionWe all just got up, and headed down to the student union and watched CNN, talked to each other in hushed tones, cried, and took it all in. Over the days that followed the news media were our source for information via newspaper, radio, and TV. As a community at my college, we talked, we shared, we commented. Face to face. We looked to our journalists to provide us with facts and information, which we took in, and for the most part, trusted. Through all of this, investigators controlled the message. Journalists speculated and dug, but information was not easy to come by unless released by NASA. Some video camera footage from individuals was used.

Now to that fateful day in September of 2001. I received news of the plane hitting one of the Twin Towers from a phone call (on my land line)  from my ex. I tried to get online to see what was going on, but CNN wouldn’t load. 9-1122I then went downstairs and put on the TV. I got on the land line to try to reach friends in DC (because by that point one of the planes had hit the Pentagon, and we had close friends who worked there).  I won’t go into much detail here as we all an remember it. But I will say that I got my news from CNN. I listened to NPR. I read several different newspapers.  I went online when able to (CNN had to drastically change their design to cope with the traffic to their site). Again, there was no Facebook. There was no Twitter. We got on the phone, we emailed, we talked in person, we gathered around the TV. We looked to our journalists to provide use with facts and information, which we also started to verify and explore on the internet, but we still, for the most part trusted those journalists.  Through all of this, messaging was controlled by investigators and law enforcement, but we started to see that control slip as theories and other information popped up on the internet weeks afterwards. But control of the information and “leaks” were the word of the day.

Now to Boston. And this week. What did we experience as a nation and a world?

  • Investigators CROWDSOURCING data from all the individuals who took pictures and video, tweeted, blogged, facebooked and added information to Reddit.  Each individual who created content based on their experience added to a pool of data for investigators to comb through: Read recaps from Bloomberg and US News.
  • The loss of respect for news media including the NY Post and CNN (not that they had much more to lose, really, but just take a look at this scathing take down from Jon Stewart if you haven’t already) for their rush to break news that was false.
  • Law Enforcement having to use social media to keep people informed, refute wrongful media reports, and try to manage the chaos of a “lock down” situation throughout the streets of Boston. Just look at the Twitter feed from the Boston Police Department.  And some of these notable tweets:



  • Birth of the new journalist. If you didn’t pay attention or know @taylordobbs before this, you should. A journalism student, a Vermonter in Boston. He started covering the MIT shooting via Twitter. Factual. Real Time. Excellent coverage. Main stream media trying to figure out the new way to report should take lessons from this man. Here’s a recap from the Burlington Free Press.
  • Individuals participating all over the social sphere. Sharing, supporting, commenting, getting in the way, compromising safety, creating fake accounts — in other words human beings being human beings. It’s a brave new world and when the police first ask for information from everyone to get as much data as possible,  but then during a chase and hunt, expect people to stop participiating, it’s just not going to work.  When you broadcast via a scanner, people are going to then turn around and share that information — they aren’t going to just sit there and listen.  (Honestly, it is beyond me WHY police scanners are now broadcast via the internet. There is such a thing as too much information!)

So what does this leave us with?  Well in my opinion as an educator there are a few things we now need to do, and I’m not convinced these things are happening.

  • Law Enforcement officials need social media and digitial communication training. Not just on how to utilize it to gather data, but how to manage it on a day to day basis as well as during a crisis.
  • Journalists need to take a hard look at their profession. Hopefully J-schools are educating their students on how to report in a crisis using these tools. All current journalists need to go back to school to relearn their craft.
  • K-12 education has to change curriculum in order to accomodate an “always on” practice — etiquitte, privacy, personal responsibility — all key in the digital age.

Human nature is not going to change. We share, come together,  prank,  cry, yell.  But now we do it in multiple channels, multiple ways and those young people coming after the so-called millenialls (those 18 and younger) see no difference between face to face communication and digital communication. If you think managing all of this now is hard. Just wait for it.

The events of this week were just a look at what is to come. What comes next is up to all of us and what we have learned from experiencing all that we have experienced this week.


Nov 12

Your Experiences + My Knowledge = Awesome Guidebooks

On the Internet no one knows you are a cat

Being a parent in the digital age is just as difficult as being a child growing up in the digital age.  It’s true. None of this communication technology comes with a manual really. Every day there’s a new tool, a new innovation, a new way to communicate and reach others. And somehow as parents, we are supposed to know how to guide our children through it…

Then of course there are those who believe because our children were born in the digital age they somehow have an internal “knowing”  that automagically allows them to fully understand all the communication technologies, know how to fix them, and how to use them accurately, so THEY should be showing their parents how to use them.


There are a host of guidebooks out there on how to keep your children safe from the “internet” and the “evils of Facebook”. There are experts who tell parents what to do, what rules to set, and how to be “age appropriate”. There is software that helps a parent monitor their children online, block content, and send text alerts.

And yet…

Mistakes are made every day. People get fired every day. Children post inappropriate content every day. Sexting, bullying, addiction, oh my….

With all the advice and guidebooks and warnings out there you’d think we would have adjusted by now. You’d think we would have this digital content thing all figured out.  That Emily Post would have written the book.  That the schools would have it all integrated into their curriculum.

Well it’s not happening.  Digital literacy, it turns out, is not easy to teach and certainly not easy to learn.

Why? Let’s see….

  1. No one can agree on the definition of “Digital Literacy”. Does it mean software literacy (like knowing how to use Excel)? Does it mean knowing how to program? Does it mean security and privacy? What about content creation? Or mobile? Is it about policies? Rules? Regulations? Is it all of these?  (here’s some interesting comparison resources: Microsoft, Wikipedia, National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the US Government.)
  2. It changes. EVERY DAY — seriously. New hardware, software, infrastructure, tools….every single day there is some new thing to learn, to try, to apply.  Who can keep up? Did you ever read about Moore’s Law? Yes, it’s about chips and yet every innovation in computing processing speed means our capacity for digital technologies and innovation increases. Check out this great article from CNET to get some tech perspective and increase YOUR digital literacy.
  3. We are all figuring it out as we go.  Some K-12 schools teach it, some don’t. Some colleges teach it, some don’t. Some people like to learn it…most don’t. Experts are narrowly focused in specific areas and when ever someone writes something about it, refer to item number 2 above.
  4. We are all busy making assumptions. How many of you have heard the term “digital native” and the idea that the “millennial” generation “get’s” technology which of course means that anyone born before 1983 doesn’t understand technology. Naturally because I was born in 1967 I clearly do not understand technology and thankfully made a child in 1996 who helps me navigate my every day life because she was born into all of this (just in case you missed it, that was sarcasm).  Take a minute to read this Population Reference Bureau report from 2009 to get a full sense of generations and the concept of “cohorts”. Once you look at it you will begin to understand why making assumptions about someone’s age and their technology use/comfort level is … well … to put it politely just stupid.  But, we do it all the time. Employers are hiring “young people” who can manage their communication technology because “they just get it” while I watch many of my students self select into majors where there isn’t “technology”. I myself wrote my dissertation topic back in 2007 about this very thing, and in the time that has passed, little has changed when it comes to people and their behavior around technology. Age does not determine anything about it. Period.

As you can see, it’s a complex challenge and there is no simple answer.  However, my goal is to respond to this challenge. With your help.

I’m writing two guidebooks.  One for parents and one for tweens/teens. Using my experiences and knowledge as a Mom and as a professor of digital marketing, coupled with a long history as a communication professional with degrees in communication, public relations, internet strategy management, and organizational behavior, I plan to write guidebooks that will get at the heart of these challenges. Avoiding tool-specific “how-to’s” and focusing more on ways in which to cope with specific situations, I hope to create useful guides that will help families and individuals become comfortable with navigating these ever-changing waters.

The key to all of this are the experiences of individuals just like you. Parents who are on the front lines every day. Young professionals who have survived high school and have successfully launched their professional lives whether that included college or not. Your experiences and advice will help make the vision of these guidebooks a reality.

Today I kick off two surveys:

  1. For young professionals 18 – 26 years old who don’t have children: What advice would you give to tweens/teens to manage their “digital life”? What would you say to parents? http://bit.ly/eybook201218-24
  2. For parents of children any ages: What are you and your child(ren)s experiences with digital communication tools, social networks, online games, mobile communication technologies? http://bit.ly/eybook2012parent

Please take a few minutes to fill out the appropriate survey. Share them with your friends.  Pass them around.  I’ll be collecting responses through December 2, 2012 and will be using them to add depth and context to the two guidebooks I’ve been working on during my sabbatical.

Starting next week I’ll begin blogging my book outlines, interesting facts, experiences and stories as I pull together the content to create the manuscripts.

The manuscripts will be turned over to Champlain College students in the Publishing in the 21st Century class in the spring semester for them to edit, publish, and market.  (I’ll be blogging about that process as well).

So will you join with me and help me write some guidebooks that provide context, advice, and support for families and individuals as we all work together to figure out how to successfully navigate our digital world?  I hope you will — I am very much looking forward to reading about your experiences!

Thank you.

Oct 12

The Rise of the Social Media Mob: Social Media Gives New Life to an Ugly Practice

It’s been an interesting week in social media. A week that’s got me thinking a great deal about the ways in which we communicate in a digital age. So many like to say things have changed. That digital tools have changed the way we act, communicate, converse, share.  And yet, every day there is evidence that this is a lie.

Yes, I said it.

Digital tools have NOT changed the way people behave.  They’ve just given us more ways in which to communicate.  Tools like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Path — all let us share our feelings faster and farther — but they have NOT fundamentally changed how we, as humans, behave.  Really.  Humans are inherently social. (Yes even introverts are social.) We like to gather with our friends, we like to share our experiences, we rally to our friends to help them in times of need, we group together to fight a common foe, we unfriend each other, then become friends again later on. We find common cause, we get righteous together, we get mad together  Social media just lets us do all of that faster with a bigger reach —  but face it, if we weren’t already craving social connection as part of our DNA, these tools wouldn’t work.

So now to the point of all of this. The simple fact is that just because  humans crave coming together to right wrongs, to protect the innocent, to see justice done, at what point does the righteous turn ugly? at what point does the protection of the innocent create even more victims? at what point is justice not actually being served, and we enter into the scary world of vigilantes, mob mentality, and retaliation so memorialized in films like Death Wish?

Stick with me here.

Remember my main points:

  1. Social media has NOT changed human behavior
  2. Social media has created a faster way to reach more people

This week is a case in point.

Two things happened which on the surface are black and white. Clear right and wrong. Easy to judge. Easy to rally to both causes. Easy to like. To share. To retweet. To hashtag. To do good while causing the “bad guy” (which coincidentally in both of these examples the “bad guys” really are guys) to scurry for cover.

One happened to a news woman in Wisconsin. One happened to a group of women right here in Burlington, VT. The stories are both inspiring in how the women rose up against adversity, found their voices and stood up for themselves. As a woman myself and one who has, in her lifetime, felt and dealt with situations similar to both of these, I cannot say enough how proud I am of them and their strength to face the people who would tear them down and make them “less than”.

I”m sure you’ve all heard the story by now. Jennifer Livingston, a news anchor in Wisconsin on WKBT News received an email from a sometimes viewer basically telling her that she was a poor role model for young girls because she was obese and had let herself go.  Jennifer’s husband posted the text of the letter on the stations FB page, and then she responded publicly on air. Here’s an article from the HuffPo to give you the details.  Her response was strong, passionate, and highlighted why she is a PERFECT role model for young girls everywhere.

Just a few days ago, a new hashtag in Burlington was born. #btvhickscam. The cliff notes version revolves around a man (aka Stephen Churchill, aka @thevermonthick, aka co-founder of 30inThirty.com, aka Kurt Wright’s Communication Director), how he exploited women in the community both professionally AND personally, alleged misuse of funds, and overall douchbaggery. One woman in particular, a former student of mine, reached her breaking point and took to Twitter to air her frustration and to “out” this person so others would not suffer the same way she had.

Right on ladies. Go. Get. ‘Em.

So there we have it. A wrong done. Women stood up for themselves. And of course people rallied to their causes.

And, this my friends is when it starts to become something we should all take a pause and think about.

Let’s start with the person who sent the letter to Ms. Livingston.  So he had a point of view. Whether you agree with it is not the point. He said what he had to say.  He did not, however say what he had to say in a public forum did he? He sent an email. I’m going to assume he didn’t intentionally think this would go viral. But as soon as it was posted on social media…it was out. He was “outed”. This article over at Jezebel is an interesting example of how people have rallied to Jennifer’s cause. As is this one.  Read the comments.  Here’s a few choice ones:

Anyone want to take bets on what he calls his dick? The Mighty Conquerer? Lance Dickstrong?

I will send 5 internet dollars to the person who walks up to this tremendous, teetering, wobbling jello casserole of asshattedness, and flatly informs him that his body is wrong. The way that it is, is wrong. His body is wrong, and it is a terrible choice that he is making for it to be the way that it is, and also, what will the children think.

Over here in #btvhickscam land, there was a similar flurry on Twitter. First of all, in this particular case, this guy is what I will call an “operator”. It really was just a matter of time for all of this to come out. Vermont is small and many of the women he exploited actually know one another.

Notes are compared, conversations are had, and bang. Done. It just takes one person to let the cat out of the bag as it were.

It’s 10pm. Do you know where your children are? Probably on a date & working free for #BTVHickScam

this is embarrassing but @TheVermontHick also slept with me. Also: I have a penis. Also: I have the herp. #BTVHickScam

So here we have it.

In the conversations on both of these you have people rallying to defend, but you also have a lot of anger and frustration that comes out in not such a good way.  Some of the comments actually start asking the right questions and is what this post is all about. From the Jezebel article about the news anchor:

So, let me get this straight: Calling someone out for being fat is wrong, because we shouldn’t judge people and make assumptions about them based on how they look because people who do that are jerk faces, right? Got it.  So what, then, is this thread about? I am so confused here..

From our #btvhickscam:

I agree with the sentiment (have known this for a LONG time), but is there a solution-based discussion we can have here? #btvhickscam

We remember it as kids (or at least I do) — do two wrongs make a right? Is it ok to attack others just because your cause may be just? At what point is the line crossed from “outing” something/someone who is hurting others, to creating a feeding frenzy and group think that is just as dangerous?

I ask the question because social media does make it super easy to share our first thought. Our first reaction. We don’t need “courage in a bottle” to shore ourselves up before we storm the jail (a little cowboy/western reference there for y’all — I do hail from New Mexico in my past!).  We also have a bit of an echo chamber that makes it easy to feel that there are more people rallying to our cause than actually might be.

Human nature. It hasn’t changed. People get fired up. The question is, when it comes to social media, how do you temper that fire so you can make constructive change instead of becoming destructive. The mob mentality is even more insidious online. So as you all read these stories and consider posting your reactions, take a minute, breath and consider what are you contributing to the conversation.

For our guy in Wisconsin, as a woman who has been moo’d at and who has struggled her whole life with weight, I’d say, “Ken, it’s clear you are a fit, healthy guy who cares about the community. I don’t know you, and you don’t know me.  I don’t know your history, your story, your baggage.  You don’t know mine. You are entitled to your opinion.  Now take a minute and think…really think…about how your words made this woman feel.  Is that what you wanted? You thought you would help her “get healthy” by telling her she’s a poor role model? That guilt would do it? As you think about that, perhaps you could consider a different approach — how about a health challenge for the news room to support activity — a wellness initiative? We are doing that at Champlain College where I work and it’s pretty amazing to watch each person start where they are and improve their strength and health one step at a time. It’s empowering.  Behavior change in anything requires small, measurable actions. Little steps that build and build to the change. Guilt doesn’t work. Hurting someone doesn’t work. Build them up. Don’t take them down.

And to Stephen or Winston or Tim (whoever you are today) right here in VT. As a professional woman who sees former students who have been hurt by you, and small businesses who have been duped by you, I am hopeful that the light that has been shed on your activities will shine bright enough to put an end to your shenanigans. I encourage all the freelance professionals who had dealings with you to contact the BPD, because in the end the more complaints that come in the harder it will be for you to conduct business in our small, very connected state.  I encourage the women who you have hurt to connect with each other, share your stories and be strong. Ladies, I also suggest taking your stories OFF of social media and getting back to basics, meeting in person and helping each other move on. There is, unfortunately a tipping point with this sort of thing, that can quickly bleed into the rest of your life, and this man has done enough damage.

There is so much I love about social media and the ability to connect easily with people I know and care about. However, the dark side of all of this is the dark side in all of us. Quick rushes to judgement, righteous indignation, anger, frustration. It’s a small step to go from support and defense to a social media mob feeding frenzy that has no good outcome.  So stand up for those who need it. Come to the defense and support of those you feel have been wronged. But just remember that social media can make it bigger, faster, meaner, and more serious than you intended. As with most things, we all need to temper ourselves and think carefully about how we use social media when our emotions are high because in the end when you support someone you want to help make a difference and see a positive outcome, not cause even more hurt.

Aug 12

Navigating Today’s Digital Landscape: A Presentation to UVM CALS

Today I had the opportunity to speak to colleagues at the UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences during their kick off retreat for the new academic year. What a privilege to be asked to go into another University and speak to individuals who are doing a wide range of amazing work in their disciplines. I truly enjoyed the experience and realized in the time I had to share with these faculty at a research institution that we all share many of the same concerns about engaging and working meaningfully with our students.

My topic was about navigation. Most specifically about getting grounded in the reality of digital communication technologies and how they are having an impact on higher education and the work we do on a daily basis as professors.

I utilized data from the Pew Internet and America Life Project (a go to resource), Socialnomics by Erik Qualman, and the most recent Horizon Report from Educause (pdf) to deliver a presentation and discussion about the myths of “digital natives” and what are some of the big things we as faculty need to be considering when we are in the classroom.  Perhaps the most important one for me is the finding that Digital Literacy, regardless of discipline, has become one of the most important aspects of the work we do.

If you’d like to see the presentation I gave, here it is in Prezi form.

Many thanks to the Dean of CALS, Thomas Vogelmann and the faculty and staff who attended the presentation today. I truly enjoyed having the opportunity to interact with colleagues up the hill.

Aug 12

Youth vs. Experience in Social Media: The Ugly Truth


Back in July there was a little bit of a social media shit storm that was created by a post written by Cathryn Sloane over at NextGen Journal (an online magazine dedicated to the “voices of the next generation – our generation”) that called out quite strongly that social media managers should be under 25 and that anyone older than that can’t possibly do it right because, ahem, we haven’t grown up with it.  As many of you can imagine, it did start a great deal of conversation.

Kat French over at Social Media Explorer weighed in as did Mack Collier of Blogchat, and countless others did as well.

I figured there is no reason to put my hat in the ring. Better people than I have responded in interesting ways.  But then, yesterday, a former student of mine tagged me in a Facebook post and she wrote, “Thanks for making it even harder for us to find jobs…? what.”  She was referencing this article from INC entitled “11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media” by Hollis Thomases. Coincidentally, Danny Brown had just that day also shared a link to a rebuttle by Daniel Agee to that INC article which actually focused on a more important aspect here: It’s not about age, it’s about stupidity.

But back to my former student…

She specifically tagged me which meant…well I needed to respond.

The comments from that one post that Jackie made were very interesting and included many Champlain College students who were justifiably unhappy with that article as they are all … well 23ish.

Here’s their reactions:

“That article is insulting.”

“i agree. it was a headline on linkedin this am… awesome, right?”

“Yeah, that’s a wonderful place to post this. We’re not eager to settle down and become adults? Maybe if we were able to make enough money to afford weddings, houses, and children we would settle down.”

“idiots. the type of 23 year old she describes, nobody should hire anyway. the “not to generalize” preface doesn’t make her sound any smarter. she sounds like a crabby biatch that just got beat out of a social media management job by a 23 yr old that is prettier than her.”

“haha the comments say it all!”

“It’s actually kind of funny because they’re making sweeping generalizations about an entire class of people. That’s like me saying, “Those who can’t succeed in business, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach gym.” Those statements sound reasonable because they’re basically a truism, but they’re far from true for the populous as a whole. I love it when potential clients show me these articles and I show them all the work I’ve done prior… they usually don’t question me after that 🙂 As the saying goes, “Don’t tell me, show me”


“eff that noise. my fav “8. Humor is tricky business. People like to be entertained, on social media as well as elsewhere. Will a young hire understand the boundaries of humor and entertainment appropriate to your target audience, or could your audience wind up being offended?”

” lol and also i always let my friends tweet for me, because, you know, that’s how jobs work.”

“It’s like saying don’t hire anyone over age ____ because they don’t understand computers.”

“this is funny”

” Wtf.”

I have my own point of view on all of this as a College Professor who has been teaching 18-22 year olds for over 10 years.  And I’ve been teaching these young people digital marketing BEFORE there was social media, and I’ve been teaching them social media since there’s been social media.  I sit smack dab in the middle of it all as a 40 something teaching 20 somethings how to incorporate these tools into their marketing repetoir so they are ready for a work world that needs them.

So what’s the reality here?  All of this bru ha ha is about setting up an us vs. them mentality. Youth vs. Age. Experience vs. Inexperience. Why is this going on? The ugly truth of the matter is fear.

Fear of change. Fear of loss of control. Fear of life long learning. Fear that the young person is going to take my job. Fear that the old person is going to take my job. Fear that inexperience will cost me a client. Fear that too much experience will cost too much or is stale.  Let’s look at it this way:

  • The NextGen piece was written by a young woman who was lashing out at a workplace culture that wants her skill, but doesn’t want to pay her for that because she lacks experience.
  • The INC piece was written by a professional woman who was lashing out at the workplace culture that needs her skill, but doesn’t want to pay her for that because she has too much experience.
  • The Punk piece was written by a young man who is lashing out at the silliness of pegging this all on age.

There is a terrible misconception that business people have that doing social is easy.  It’s “just Facebook”.  They relegate it to interns (believe me…I know) until there is a crisis.  The individuals in charge realize just how difficult it is to change a workplace culture and get people to accept things that are different so it’s just easier to hire young, lay off old, and start fresh…if the powers that be (The PTB) can allow the shift.

So what needs to happen here?  And this is where I get to the point for each of the populations mired in this epic battle.

Business owners and managers:

  1. Take Daniel’s advice and don’t hire a #%&*! idiot.
  2. Actually take a look at your marketing in a holistic fashion, budget for social (cause folks this is NOT going away) accordingly. We are talking a 24/7 365 job that requires constant attention, content, measurement, and training. This is not peanuts work and it is far from easy. Come up with a salary that acknowledges that fact.
  3. Craft a job description that is realistic. You want a social media manager, stop asking for a PHP coder and a graphic designer.  That’s like asking for the security guard to do your accounting. Get clear and focused and move beyond the thinking that this is add on work.
  4. Look for an individual who has a good mix of experience that includes CLASSES (where else are they going to learn?), special projects, internships, employment.  Remember you are looking for cultural fit as well as experience that addresses your needs. Don’t assume that because of their age they can do this better or worse. Let’s face it…we all grew up with electricity.  How many of us can rewire a circuit?
  5. Google them. Seriously.  If they can’t brand themselves with social they certainly can’t brand you.  Not sure what I’m talking about? Take a minute and search for Brittany Leaning in Google or Nichole Magoon. I bet you’d hire either of them for anything social wouldn’t you? Doesn’t matter what their age is.

 College Students/Recent Grads aka 20 somethings

  1. Don’t do this work unless you love this work. Social is hard. It takes constant energy and passion, and a deep interest in always learning. Always being connected. How do you know you love this work? It is a thrill when you get a RT, when you see likes, shares, and comments light up your Facebook Insights, when you open up Google Analytics for the first time and see that traffic spike to the landing page that was drive 100% because of social media.
  2. Pick a college that actually teaches this stuff. Teaching that is hands on, current, and super relevant. Naturally I’m biased here.  Pick my program at Champlain College: Marketing with a specialization in Digital Marketing (or one like it…if you can find one). Notice we don’t teach a “social media class” for three credits. That’s because our marketing students start learning social media integrated in their first marketing class. Just ask them. They’ll tell you. They read books like Me 2.0, and CrushIt, and Engage. They build their personal brand starting in the first semester and end with a bang with this assignment in their senior Capstone class.
  3. Look for professors who know their stuff — research is awesome but in the world of digital marketing, marketing experience is key. How are your professors engaged on social media? Do they use Twitter? Are they on Facebook? Can they talk to you about Pinterest?  On your college tour, if they can’t do that, then that is NOT where you want to be.
  4. Do multiple internships with companies who need social media help or are experts in social media.  Here in Burlington, VT we have students who intern with People Making Good and Brandthropology and Union Street Media and Vermont Teddy Bear. They take what they learn in the classroom and then add to it with these amazing organizations. Target your internships to build your skills and learn something new every day.
  5. Build your personal brand while you are in college. Seriously. See that link to Brittany’s and Nichole’s content. Do that. Own it. Prove yourself. This isn’t just me saying it either. Read this from Michel Brenner over at Forbes if you don’t believe me.
  6. As graduates don’t be afraid to take on another internship or work part time to build your experience.
  7. Connect with local organizations such as Chambers of Commerce and The Burlington Vermont Young Professionals (find an equivalent where you live). Network, connect, meet up, chat. Stay active on your social channels.
  8. Blog. Blog. Blog.
  9. Stay current. Read everything you can, sign up for Google Certifications and utilize sites like Hubspot Inbound Marketing University

 Current Employees with Experience (not 20 somethings)

  1. Face it, staying current is hard when you have a ton of other responsibilities and reading a Marketing book, or playing with a new tool often seems pointless within the daily grind. It’s not easy, but if you want to stay in this business there is no other mode but continuous learning…WHILE you get your regular work done.  Your employer is not going to pay you to read Mashable, write your blog, and sign up for Klout.  You should just be doing that anyway.
  2. Get rid of the pay me for it or I’m not doing it mentality.  Do it. Not for your company, but for you.
  3. Go back and read Steps 1, 5, 7, 8, and 9 for the 20 somethings. Do them no matter what your age.
  4. Yep, brand yourself. There is NO tool that you shouldn’t be exploring.  Your goal is to be the go-to person in your organization and to help build a team of go-to people who are valuable assets to the brand.
  5. Set your sights on what is next. The days of the long term employment are long gone. Always build your skills not just for today’s job but for tomorrow’s opportunity (um…this works for you 20 somethings too!).
  6. Lose your fear. Remember to be curious. Remember to have fun.

And now a special note to INC and the writer of the article.  Hollis Thomases wrote, “No class can replace on-the-job training.  Social media for business is really so many things wrapped into one: marketing, customer service, public relations, crisis management, branding. How deep is the experience of a young person in delivering any of these things?” Take a look at what we are doing at Champlain and tell me that the skill sets of these students coming out aren’t exactly what they need to get them ready to do the job faster and better than many. A well conceived degree that is current and relevant, coupled with hands on projects (our students start working with businesses in their first year) and first rate internships absolutely gets these students ready to do more and accomplish more than college students without the same curriculum. Just ask some of those businesses I’ve listed above, or ask some of our grads like Nichole or Brittany or others (just look at the #campchamp hashtag on Twitter).

So folks let’s stop making this an us vs. them. It’s not. Let’s focus on what is really important. Doing excellent work, loving what you do and always…always learning.