Sep 14

Teaching Twitter at #WEOC14

I will be presenting tomorrow at Senator Patrick Leahy’s 18th Annual Women’s Economic Opportunity Conference. My topic is Twitter. I’ll be kicking off the afternoon with a beginners workshop and then ending the day with an advanced workshop.

The challenge, of course, is that there is only one hour for each workshop. However, I think I’ve captured the basics in my presentation decks.

GETTING STARTED WITH TWITTER (1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.)

Learn the basics of Twitter from crafting a strong bio, to navigating the interface, and constructing meaningful content. We’ll debunk myths about followers, learn how to manage the settings and get you ready to start Tweeting like a pro! This workshop is for those who are getting ready to kick off a Twitter profile. Either you’ve never used Twitter before, or you have just started and are not sure what to do next.

I love teaching a “getting started” workshop on this tool. I’ve been Tweeting since 2007 — I can’t believe it’s been over seven years that I’ve been working with this tool.


I get a lot out of introducing people to just how powerful and interesting this tool is.  In this workshop I’ll cover the basics. From what Twitter really is to understanding the interface and how to write your first Tweet. My goal by the end of the hour is to get people interested enough that they will jump in and give it a go!  View my presentation.

TAKING TWITTER TO THE NEXT LEVEL (2:15 p.m – 3:15 p.m.)

Move beyond the basics of Twitter and learn how to curate and leverage favorites and lists. Participate in Tweetchats to promote your brand and build connections. Manage multiple accounts with third party software, and track clickthrough rates. We’ll also cover basic Twitter analytics to measure success. This workshop is for those who have been using Twitter but want to take it further. Ideal for small businesses and individuals alike.

In this more advanced course, we’ll be covering some great features of Twitter. I’ve highlighted ways in which I use Tweetchats, will be talking about some tools that I’ve used to manage Twitter, and the new release of Twitter Analytics — which I’m really having fun exploring. twitterstatsnew


Here’s the presentation for this session.

This is my first year at the Women’s Economic Opportunity Conference and I’m looking forward to talking with the attendees about something that I enjoy so much.

Oh, and this is also a perfect opportunity for me to plug an upcoming version of the Twitter for Dummies series featuring former Champlain College student Brittany Leaning as one of the authors!


Sep 14

Providing Economic Opportunity for Women in Vermont

18th Annual Women's Opportunity Conference I love living in Vermont. Not only is it a beautiful state, we have amazing conferences and opportunities for individuals to learn and grow.  One such opportunity is looming on the horizon and I’m privileged to be one of the workshop presenters.

The 18th Annual Women’s Economic Opportunity Conference kicks off on Saturday, September 20th at Vermont Technical College in Randolph, VT.  This conference, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy is designed to provide women in the state with a way to brush up on their skills, get support for entrepreneurial projects, and help them take their small businesses to the next level.

And it’s FREE.

And there is childcare!

Yes, at a time when conferences are available to people all over the country for big fees — often unattainable by many hard-working Vermonters — Sen. Leahy brings together individuals from all over the state who donate their time to help other Vermonters.  Then, he and his staff make the conference free for anyone and take down one of the biggest barriers for women by providing child care at the site.


Donna Carpenter, President, Burton SnowboardsTake a look at some of the amazing individuals who will be presenting on topics that include Leadership, Financial Management, Entrepreneurship, Social Media and Marketing, and even Cyber Security (for a full list, take a look at the speaker’s bios):

  • Donna Carpenter: President of Burton Snowboards will provide the Keynote
  • Chris Herriman: Economic Development Specialist at SBA
  • Susan Palmer: Leadership Consultant
  • Heidi Krantz: Agricultural Business Advisor for VTSBDC
  • Carmen Tall: Teacher with Mercy Connections
  • Sara Munro: Director of Communication and Strategy at Vermont Design Works
  • Barbara Dozetos: Owner of Above the Fold Marketing
  • Kelly Walsh: Director of Girls’ Programs at Vermont Works for Women

There are many more individuals who are coming together to provide coaching, tips, and information to conference attendees.

I’m looking forward to presenting two workshops on Twitter — two out of the 30+ workshops that are being offered on this day (here’s a list of all the workshop offerings).

Getting Started with Twitter

Learn the basics of Twitter from crafting a strong bio, to navigating the interface, and constructing meaningful content. We’ll debunk myths about followers, learn how to manage the Twitter_logo_bluesettings and get you ready to start Tweeting like a pro! This workshop is for those who are getting ready to kick off a Twitter profile. Either you’ve never used Twitter before, or you have just started and are not sure what to do next.

Taking Twitter to the Next Level

Move beyond the basics of Twitter and learn how to curate and leverage favorites and lists. Participate in Tweetchats to promote your brand and build connections. Manage multiple accounts with third party software, and track clickthrough rates. We’ll also cover basic Twitter analytics to measure success. This workshop is for those who have been using Twitter but want to take it further. Ideal for small businesses and individuals alike.

This conference has been going on for many years, and it is uplifting and pretty cool overall that year after year Vermonters come together to offer up a wide range of workshops and coaching options for one another. The more we can do to encourage and empower women businesses owners, entrepreneurs, and employees in the state, the better off for all of us.

I hope I get a chance to see you on the 20th. Please come up, introduce yourself and say hi!

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.

Sep 12

Repping for the State of VT at @thisisvt

This is VermontToday begins my week at the helm of @thisisvt, what some are calling a social media experiment, modeled after Sweden: the State of Vermont Travel and Tourism Department created a twitter account that they hand over to Vermont citizens each week.

I’m week 7.

Before me has gone:

And now it’s my turn.  A college professor.  I’ve made Vermont my home since 1997. In that time I’ve been the Director of Communication at the State Chamber of Commerce, the Director of Regional Communication at the American Cancer Society, Director of Marketing at Bluehouse Group and then in 2000 I started my new life as a college professor.  I teach digital marketing and a host of other classes at Champlain College, a small, private institution located in the hill section of Burlington, VT. I’ve lived in both Chittenden County and Washington County, and worked in Burlington and Montepelier (and yes, we truly do NOT have a McDonalds in our state capital).  I currently live in South Burlington with my daughter and my two cats.

This week I hope to bring those of you who choose to follow @thisisvt a glimpse of Vermont that includes our colleges (we have a great deal of awesome opportunities for higher education), our businesses (wait, what, there’s more than farms and cows here?) our chambers of commerce (great sources of information) and of course our vistas, landscapes, food, fun, and the quirky that is this most awesome state that I now call home.

I do hope you’ll join me and enjoy this week as I introduce you to my Vermont.