140+: In the Moment


Leave no customer behind (via Thinking out loud ~ Pensando en voz alta)

Posted in Uncategorized by Fran Simon, M.Ed. on June 1, 2010

A great post supporting best practice in customer service and highlighting my piece on Facebook’s failure to provide customer service by Cynthia Goldbarg.

Leave no customer behind Facebook has over 400 million users. Four. Hundred. Million. Who cares if a few thousand are upset? Right? WRONG! Every customer must count. The number 1, the number 359, and the number 295,134,876. In fact; if there is one thing that will give you the competitive advantage, it is the quality of your relationships with your customers. I'm big, you're small… why should I care about you? Corporations, non profits, school systems… everyone can have … Read More

via Thinking out loud ~ Pensando en voz alta

Facebook Fail: Nonexistent Customer Service

Facebook Fails at customer service imagePoor Facebook. The company has its hands full. With relentless Congressional pressure to stop abusing our trust and peddling our privacy, the “leadership” at Facebook probably doesn’t have time to think about providing customer service to paying customers. The Facebook kids are so busy planning to build a totally social universe where it is at the center, they can’t be bothered to provide even passable customer service to those of us who pay for ads. As a matter of fact, Facebook expects us (the peeps with the money to spend on advertising) to adapt the their vision of customer service, which is totally online and delivered with an attitude.  The message I’ve gotten any time I’ve tried to get customer service from Facebook is: “we may get to your problem when we can, and if you are worthy, otherwise, read our rules and responsibilities. You are on your own.”

I could fill you in on my tales of woe trying to rectify an overcharge with Facebook, but I won’t bore you with the details. Just rest assured that this social media consultant wants to pay for what she purchased, not overcharges, and she followed every step of the process as outlined by Facebook…MORE THAN 30 TIMES, and still can’t get resolution. Big, bad, bully FB disabled my account, and basically the company is now completely ignoring my requests to restore my access. I wonder if it is coincidence that I have Tweeted and posted on LinkedIn about Facebook arrogance and inconsistent product development prior to ever requesting customer service. Or maybe my account has not been restored because I had the audacity to try to get someone at Facebook’s attention in the light of day on Twitter.

Oddly, it never occurred to me that the account might have been deactivated because I have made negative comments until I read “Facebook we have a problem,” by Robert Scoble, a blog post that highlights the trials and tribulations vocal users have experienced with Facebook.  It’s fascinating to read the comments by readers who have been abused by Facebook, but the most compelling reading of all are the responses from Facebook leadership, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself. The arrogance and lack of interest in basic tenants of customer service seep through in every syllable of the responses.  Even though Scoble maintains a close relationship with the “in” posse at Facebook, in a follow-up post he agrees that  the kids at Facebook have a lot to learn about business, trust, customer service, and long-range strategy planning. Check it out at “Our trust relationship with Facebook: complicated.”

But, I digress. The real issue is Facebook’s hypocrisy about playing by the rules of engagement in social media, the arrogance they display with their insistence that customer service can only be offered through email and online forms, and the lessons they will eventually be forced to learn about customer service. Right now, Facebook is on top, and somehow paying customers are suffering through the customer service void because Facebook offers very effective targeted advertising, and everybody who has something to sell wants the service. But there’s going to be a bottom. There will come a time when the people with the money choose to spend it elsewhere where they have at least minimal customer service.

So the big question is how long can Facebook continue to ignore paying customers, fail to provide customer service, and use the service like a playground on which the company defies all the rules (from development to privacy to customer service) and bullies everyone who wants to play?

Conducting Webinars to Engage: The Good, The Bad, and The UGLY!

good webinars, bad webinars, and just plain ugly webinarsYou’ve probably attended a webinar or two along the way in your career. If you’ve had good experiences, you may have thought: “I can do that!” You’re right, you can! Webinars are great for business of all kinds, but there are some important things to consider before you jump in.

Over the past 10 years or so, webinars have grown increasingly popular and increasingly effective for marketing and training because they work. You can find thousands of articles and webinars about how great webinars are for lead generation. Many of the webinar software vendors offer webinars about various related marketing topics to generate leads for their companies, and include pitches for their software. But, they might not give you the nitty-gritty behind the scenes reality show version of the story. That’s where I come in.

In as much as I am an evangelist for webinars, I’m also a realist. I have presented and produced webinars for the past 10 years. I attend at least one and sometimes up to three webinars per week. However, as a producer and as a consumer, I have to be realistic: There’s good, bad, and ugly news about webinars that you should know before you build them into your marketing plan.

The GOOD

Webinars generate leads, begin a cycle of engagement, and can help you nurture relationships. Presenting on the Internet is a great way to introduce people to your organization, your products, and to your expertise. Webinars are also great for:woman celebrating a great webinar

  • demonstrating products
  • technology orientations
  • professional development
  • building your brand by demonstrating your thought leadership

Online presentations are like a virtual handshake in the beginning of what will hopefully become a deepening authentic relationship with those who attend. Depending on the content you present, they can help you nurture leads into sales, advocates into donors, and constituents into conducting. And, obviously, the convenience and cost effectiveness of attending or presenting a presentation in your jammies or at your desk is hard to beat.

Great. We’ve established that conducing webinars are a strategy worth exploring. So, what’s not-so-great about webinars?

The (Potentially) BAD

Well, there’s nothing inherently bad with webinars, but there are some potential problems that might not make them the ideal tactic to use without some planning, practice and preparation.

Producing and delivering online presentations can be time-consuming because:Thumbs down: webinar problems image

  • You absolutely MUST HAVE great content that is relevant, meaningful, exciting, and delivered exceedingly well. Developing content that will attract the right kind of audience can be time-consuming.
  • Typically, it takes time to build up a critical mass of people who want to consume your webinar content and are willing to invest their time in your webinars. Having just one will not have as much impact as having a series or multiple series. Be prepared to generate a lot of content.
  • You must research the webinar software vendors and pick the one that strikes a balance between the technology you need and your budget.
  • While you are getting started, researching best practice in webinar production, and practicing your presentation (A LOT) are paramount.
  • You will have to make sure the graphics are compelling and exciting and are not cluttered with a lot of text.
  • The key to success is filling the seats! You will need to spend time marketing and promoting the webinars.
  • You will have to be prepared to follow up with webinar attendees with meaningful practices.
  • Initially, you will need someone to help you practice, prepare and monitor the session while it is live. (When you become more experienced, you may not need the help, but you will initially.

Well, so far, the bad isn’t bad. It’s all just a matter of preparation, right? You’d think so…

The UGLY  

Even with the best software, great content, lots of practice, preparation, and promotion, things go wrong. There are many variables to being successful with webinars, only a few of which are addressed here. Even though I have a lot of experience producing and presenting webinars, I’ve had a bad experience or two. It happens. Once you’ve made a poor impression on attendees, it’s hard to recover. You might not get a second chance.

I’ve only scratched the surface of the pros and cons of delivering webinars. For more detailed information about webinar software vendors, best practice in webinar production, and presentation tips, you might want to:

Join me for a presentation on

11/9/2012 from 8:00 AM – 9:30 AM

NAEYC Annual Conference & Expo, 2012

in Atlanta, Georgia

Georgia World Congress Center, Room B308

Despite the drawbacks, I strongly encourage the use of webinars for many businesses. As a matter of fact, I offer webinar production services that are designed to help the uninitiated get started, and for the business that don’t want to be troubled with the technical details. If you would like to chat about webinars, give me a call or drop me a line. I’m here to help.

Cross-pollinating with Hashtags on Twitter

Cross-pollinating on Twitter?  What is she talking about now?

I’ve blogged about the joys of Twitter as a tool in non-profit organizations (specifically early childhood education) and mentioned hashtags before, but today, let’s go a little deeper to see how hastags can help unrelated twitterers (or Tweeps) connect through common interests. The Twitter Fan Wiki explains that “Hashtags were developed as a means to create “groupings” on Twitter, without having to change the basic service.”

First, the basics:

What is a hashtag?
Hashtags refer to the practice of placing the “#” symbol prior to a “tag” (or topic category) to indicate that a tweet will be of interest to anyone who is interested in the topic.

Here’s a sample tweet to help illustrate hashtags:

What you see is a tweet with information that would be interesting to anyone who is following the topic #ece (or early childhood education),  #teachers, #education, or #educationcareers.

Hashtags are very helpful because you can easily find information about topics that interest you without wading through lots of tweets that are not interesting to you.

How do you use hashtags?

If you are not already “following” topics, you can easily do so by using the search function on Twitter or your twitter client by entering the search term you want to follow. If a tweet about information that interests you is posted, but you are not online at the time to see it, you can see it whenever you search.  For example, I am interested in #leadership, #nonprofit issues, #fundraising, #socmed (social media), #marketing, early childhood education (#ece, #earlychildhood, #NAEYC, #PreK), #parenting, women’s issues (#women), progressive issues (#p2), and #advocacy, among other topics. So I keep my twitter client (Seesmic) set to search for those hashtags. Whenever I start up Seesmic, I can quickly scan to see what’s been posted.

You will rarely find a tweet from me in which there is not a hastag. I just believe tweeting without hashtags is like shouting into the wind. The only way someone is going to see it is if they happen to be online, or if the organic tweet includes a commonly searched term.

Now onto the cross-pollinating concept:
I use hastags very strategically to allow people who are interested in one topic discover other related topics and communities. For example, I often read information related to leadership from which  managers or people who follow #management might benefit, so I add #leadership #management. I also see tweets with #ece that parents might like, so I retweet with the #parenting and #parents hashtags.  Also, I really want to make sure the ECE community becomes aware of social media and technology resources, so I not only add #ece to my social media tweets, but I also created the hastag #ecetech. (How did I do that? I just started using it in my technology related tweets along with ece, and people started picking it up, and now we have a little group. COOL!)

Hashtags are great for live tweeting or creating chats at specific times. For example, there were a lot of tweets from the NAEYC conference with the #NAEYC_AC hashtag. It was great to stay on top of what was going on.

Hashtags can help you participate in Twitter chats. Let’s say you want to have a conversation about a specific book. You would just post a tweet like:

Hey, Tweeps: #booktitlechat at 8 PM Tuesday, 4/13. #topic #topic #topic

  • #booktitle = the title of the book
  • chat indicates that there is going to be a live Twitter chat
  • #topic= a related group or topic that people might find interesting.

Of course, to make the chat really work, you have to give people a lot of notice and tweet about it a lot…right up until the time you are ready to start. Notice that the various #topic hashtags help cross-pollinate, and  bring various groups of previously unrelated people together. As the chat gets underway, the various Twitterers can find more people with whom they might like to connect, and then follow them.

Does cross-pollination on Twitter make sense now? Add a comment if you have other ideas or if you think I am just plain nuts!

The Top 3 Dirty Little Secrets of Social Media Marketing

Money on social media hype image

You’ve heard it all from passionate presenters and evangelical bloggers…There’s tons of hype about the power of social media.

Let’s get real. Social media  offers a lot of potential for marketing. Companies and nonprofit organizations are experiencing success using social media for marketing, outreach, advocacy and fundraising. Lots of us internet marketers think it’s the best way to engage with and establish relationships with customers and constituents, and perhaps (if we have done a good job) get them to transact with us. BUT…In the heat of the moment when social media passion has taken over, there are (at least) three secrets social media marketing evangelists might fail to mention:

1) Social media marketing is just not right for every business. Face it: If you are marketing niche products or services into a very traditional sector, it just might not make sense.  Using any marketing medium effectively requires putting the message where the target audience is, and where they want to engage with you.

Are farmers really going to make Facebook their first stop for information when they need to buy a tractor? Are they going spend a lot of time engaging in an exchange of ideas information about equipment on social networking sites? (Hold on there, farmers! I know you use social media. Stick with me for a minute!)  I’m just saying social media should not be the primary tool in the marketing mix for some businesses. The fact is, there are better ways to market some products and services. To be effective with any marketing strategy you have to  pick the right mix.   Social media marketing is a powerful tool, but true geeks like me must be strong enough to admit when social doesn’t make sense.

Don’t buy the hype if the person offering the advice  is not thinking specifically about your products or services and your core market.

2) You simply cannot push your message. I know this is not really a secret. Seth Godin, Chris Brogan and Guy Kawasaki and lots of other smart social media marketers constantly tell us social networking is about all the things we learned in Kindergarten about making friends.  But if you follow social media it seems like a lot of marketers are treating the medium like advertising, alienating their audiences, and making it obvious that their brands are not really customer-centric.

Social networkers expect two-way or many-to-many conversation and real engagement. That means you must share interesting conversation, establish value, and give your audience a chance to chat. You have listen to them and you must respond, just as you might if you were in their living rooms at a party. Because, indeed, this is SOCIAL (as in the companionship of others) media.

Would you invite people to a dinner party and start pitching the minute they arrived? Even if it was a business-related event, you would have to at least engage in a conversation or two. And if you feigned interest, the other guests would consider you a phony. HELLO! Social networking is where your company will be tagged as relevant and interesting or doomed to be like a narcissistic outcast because the content is just pitch after pitch. Boring. Useless. Irrelevant. Crass. Just like a bad party host.

3) Social networking is not easy and immediate. I’m sure you’ve seen the books and blogs that Get more followers imagepromise dramatic and immediate results from social media in just a few minutes per day.  Those plans use technology and tactics that can automatically build an audience, but the technology cannot deliver the right audience or build meaningful relationships with them. Onceyou’ve found your core audience, engagement with those people must authentic– a real person must respond authentically.  It takes a lot of time and patience to build followers, friends, and fans.  It requires authentic interest in your audience and commitment to sharing.

If you do not have at least 10 hours a week (that’s a .25 FTE)  to spend on social media and no money to hire someone, you probably should not plan to use social media as a primary tool in your marketing strategy. You can set up a presence on a social media site with less of time investment, but you can’t expect significant results.  And, even with someone devoted to social media for a quarter of their time, you should expect it to take at least 6 months to build up meaningful results. And, ROI? Bonus Dirty Little Secret: It’s not your mother’s ROI any more! ROI in social media is gauged differently now… But that’s a post for another day. Stay tuned!

So, what? I know it seems like I am a social media Scrooge, but I’m one of the social media-crazy evangelists who sometimes gets so carried away that I forget to offer these important footnotes.  But I do think it is important to know how and when to use the tools that fit the job.  You deserve pragmatic advice.

So, what do you think? Am all wrong? Leave a comment and tell me why!

Social Media Resources for Newbies- There’s nothing to fear! (I promise!)

Are you little intimidated by all the weird terms and concepts you’ve heard so much about? Don’t worry, social media is in its infancy, and we are all learning… some of us have a bit more experience, but we were all newbies once. Relax! Here is a smattering of great resources that will help you understand the basics.

The FIRST STOP:

(Do not pass GO… Start here!) CommonCraft Videos
The absolute easiest, most user-friendly, and basic source of information might just be found at CommonCraft. The folks at CommonCraft develop and deliver outstanding videos intended to make the most complex concepts simple and interesting. They sell their …In Plain English series of videos to trainers and large corporations, but they make them available for non-commercial use on owner Lee Lefever’s CommonCraft channel on YouTube. (Wait, I might be losing you with channels on YouTube. We’ll get there, but for now, just click on the links!)

Here are a few of my favorite ComonCraft Videos!
Social Networking in Plain English
Blogs in Plain English
Twitter in Plain English
RSS in Plain English (If you want to keep up with lots of blogs, you MUST see this video!)

There are many more on the CommonCraft channel on YouTube

A quick Glossary, courtesy of Socialbrite

api app astroturfing blog campaign cause marketing civic media cloud computing copyleft Creative Commons crowdsourcing CSR Digg digital inclusion digital story double bottom line Drupal ebooks embedding Facebook fair use feed flash mob Flickr geotagging GPL GPS hashtag hosting Internet newsroom lifecasting lifestreaming mashup metadata microblogging moblog MySpace net neutrality news reader NGO nptech open media open platform open source open video OpenID paid search marketing permalink personal media platform podcast podsafe public domain public media remix RSS RT screencast search engine marketing SEO smart phone SMS social bookmarking social capital social enterprise social entrepreneurship social media social media optimization social networking social news social return on investment social tools splogs streaming media sustainability tag cloud tags technology steward terms of service triple bottom line troll tweet tweetup Twitter Twitterverse UGC unconference videoblog virtual world Web 2.0 web analytics Web conferencing webcasting webinar wi-fi widget wiki Wikipedia word-of-mouth marketing WordPress YouTube

Best overall resources

Mashable’s Social Media Guide
The overarching guide to social media that is updated several times a day:
Mashable’s Social Media Guide

Hubspot’s Internet Marketing Blog
Hubspot sells Internet Marketing software, so they want you to visit their blog, but in general, the information offered in this blog is very good! Highly recommended!

HubSpot’s Inbound Internet Marketing Blog

Articles and Webinars

From Joanne Fritz’ excellent Non-Profit Guide on About.com (a great resource for all things nonprofit, not just Social Media): 12 Tips for Nonprofits on Getting Started with Social Media

You’ll find a lot of Social Media articles in the Social Networking section of Network for Good’s Learning Center, Fundraising123

NTEN Artcles – Articles from the Nonprofit Technology Network
NTEN Webinars–  Affordable webinars from NTEN

Blogs

This is a hodgepodge of blogs that focus on  Social Media and its application for marketing and fundraising. Some are  written for nonprofit organizations, but offer excellent reading for small businesses as well.

John Haydon’ Blog
Heather Mansfield’s Blog
Kivi Leroux Miller’s Nonprofit Marketing Guide
Allison Fine’s Blog
Beth Kanter’s Blog

NTEN’s Blog

Wild Apricot Blog

Organizations that offer articles and training on Social Media for Nonprofit Organizations (but offer great resource even if your business is not nonprofit)

NTEN
Idealware

Association of Nonprofit Professionals

Books, CDs, DVDs


The Nonprofit Marketing Guide: High-Impact, Low-Cost Ways to Build Support for Your Good Cause
by Kivi Leroux Miller

I’m On Linkedin– Now What? by Jason Alba

Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking, Revised Edition by Andy Sernovitz

Guides and Whitepapers

Beyond the Hype: A Social Media Guide for Nonprofits and Advocates
from Texans Care For Children

Reference
If you are ever stuck, you can look up words, terms or phrases through Google:
Enter keyword: define: (the word  or “phrase” you want to look find)

For more specific information, fast, I recommend Webopedia.

And, of course, the ever popular Wikipedia is helpful, but can be overwhelming.

Hey, Smartipants: Add your recommended resources here!
There is an overwhelming amount of information about social media! This is hardly a complete list! I’d love to add your favorites to this entry, so leave a comment to make this resource richer! (Yes, I know, a wiki would work better, but that’s a subject for another day!)

ECE Advocacy- Blown Away by 3-D Vision: Three Lessons from PAES, 2010

“Blown away.” That’s a pretty intense declaration. But, in fact, when it comes to my perceptions of the advocacy landscape for early childhood, I feel as though I have just put on high-def, 3-D glasses.  I can see more clearly than ever. After my experience as a participant at the Partnership for Economic Success National Economic Forum on Early Childhood Investment, I feel as though for the past 25+ years in the field I have been  been working with a unidimensional picture.  Many of the misconceptions I had about business support for early learning initiatives have evaporated. I’m invigorated by what I’ve learned.

The Forum was replete with complex information, facts, and data presented by some of the most influential business leaders, politicians, and early learning experts in the country. The primary goal of the Forum is to offer the early learning sector the tools and information we need to develop coalitions “of business leaders advocating for increased investments in early childhood.” The sessions provided participants with the stories they need to tell, the data they need to show, and the tactics they need to use to build a movement and collation with the support of local and national businesses.

Of course, at the very foundation of the event was the fundamental message we all know and espouse:  The first five years of life are the most crucial years for child development. What happens during these years impacts cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development like no other time in a child’s life. We know this. We live it. We tell the story day after day. But, the Forum shed new light (at least for me) on more compelling ways to tell the story so business leaders will join our movement and become our programmatic partners.

Because I spend most of my time thinking about engagement and communication, I see this as a communication issue. Have we been effectively spinning our stories? Are we bringing the right messages and the right people to the table with us? How can we impart our sense of urgency to legislators and to the public?

Three big takeaways from PAES:

1) There’s significant support in the business community for early learning. This was a huge surprise to me. Business leaders see early learning as a workforce issue. They know the work we do is paramount to developing good workers 15 to 20 years forward. They consider investments in early childhood “front-loading” costs because the investment results in higher returns down the line. Smart business leaders know that paying for high-quality early learning programs results in more well-rounded, prepared workers. They also embrace the research that high-quality programs result in lower rates of incarceration, which saves money “downline.”

There’s nothing to fear from approaching businesses for public and legislative support or programmatic partnerships. The business leaders who presented at PAES were aware of the urgency for support for early learning.   Using the powerful detailed and comprehensive communication tools provided by the Partnership, advocates can and should start building support now. In their toolkit, the partnership has put together everything except the moxie you need to start talking with business leaders in your community. You supply the moxie.

2) Strengthen your advocacy position by keeping business leaders by your side. We all know our congressional leaders have heard our stories and our appeals for legislation before. We’re very good at crafting stories about the impact our programs have on the lives of families and children, and we know enough to bring parents and/or children with us to provide personal testimonials about the impact our programs have on their lives.  But, congressional leaders must put the budget and the economy at the forefront of every appeal for legislation and funding. If we have any hope of breaking through to connect with legislators, we have to use the “3-D version” of the story and bring reinforcements with us.  Armed with great tools like those provided by the Partnership, and a business representative from your community, you can offer a more crystallized and well-rounded story that speaks volumes.

3) We must put aside our differences to come together with a common voice and look for incremental “wins.” Differences? In the early care and learning community? Really? Yes. We’ve heard them all play out when it comes to funding at the local AND national level. We debate: Quality vs. Care for All, Pre-K vs. Child Care vs. Head Start (and on and on.) The patchwork of programs and state implementation has created a natural breeding ground for controversy. It’s natural that we all argue as we clamor for the hard-to-come-by dollars and legislation.  It’s time to set those differences aside, and come together with a common voice to show the economic value and impact of high-quality early childhood programs.

There is a narrow window of time in the US right now. The national spotlight is starting to shine on our sector. We need to speak with one voice on a local, state, and national level and set our sights on smaller, more incremental expectations.

Things to do right now:

Leave a comment for me! Let me know what you think, especially if you attended the conference.

Oh, and by the way, subscribe to the RSS feed or to get updates to this blog by email. (Link on the right>)

Social Media? Give it to the Intern! (NOT!)

Today, just for fun, I searched the job listings in online for “social media.” 9 out of 10 of the results were for Interns. I was pretty surprised, and a little bit ticked off.  Do managers think social media is something to relegate to Interns?

WAIT: I am pro-Intern!  As a matter of fact, I routinely hire Interns and have found incredibly talented, insightful, and productive young people who are capable of producing amazing work . But…

There’s a common misconception that just because young people are often use social media to connect with their peers and organize their social lives, they are perfectly suited to take on social media for companies. That’s like asking a 16-year-old licensed driver to drive an 18 wheel tractor-trailer on a highway at rush hour.

The skills needed to devise a well constructed social media plan and execute it every day are more complex than just putting out a few tweets and posts on Facebook. It is true that some Interns do understand how to use social media tools with great depth, but they probably are not:

  • subject matter experts on your organization’s mission, products, and services;
  • aware of the competitive landscape in your field;
  • familiar with the buzzwords and language that are specific to your field;
  • capable of writing well-constructed posts that will cause readers to take action;
  • marketing experts  with understanding of engagement;
  • able to craft the goals for your social media plan and implement them without supervision.

These are critical skills needed for any social media program. You should seek those skills in the professionals you hire to manage your social media.

Don’t get me wrong, Interns are often very talented and are capable of executing the day-to-day basic tactics. But you should not expect to turn over the keys to social media to Interns without careful direction and supervision by a professional with more in-depth understanding of marketing basics and your products and services.

So, rock on, Interns! Direction is the key!

UPDATE: For more information about how to select the right candidate for your organization’s social media program, read:Is the Right Person Doing Your Nonprofit’s Social Media?” on the Wild Apricot Blog

Social Media Newbie Notes: What Does the Internet Reveal About You?

Have you ever “Googled” yourself? Don’t lie, and don’t be embarrassed! Of course you have! Searching for yourself on the internet is not (necessarily) conceited. As a matter of fact, these days it is almost critical that you search for your name online. It is important to follow your digital footprint, and even more important to claim it.  Searching for and claiming your online identity is called Online Identity Management (OIM) or Personal Reputation Management.

In general, it is a good practice to become aware of information about you (or someone else with your name) that is floating around the Internet. You may be surprised to find very obscure information that has been made available about you online. In some cases, you might need to correct inaccuracies (if you can), or be prepared to defend your reputation.

If you don’t find yourself online, you should set up at least one online presence, if for nothing else but to claim your identity. There are hundreds of tools you can use to establish and protect your identity, including these listed by Mashable and CNet. If you decide to take action to protect your identity, be sure to link to them from credible and reliable sources.

Today, my husband asked me why I include my maiden name along with my married name on public documents and online. It had never occurred to him that in the 21st century, because our information is so readily available, middle names and maiden names help people distinguish themselves from others with the same name. Because my name is not very unique. I can easily find hundreds of references to Fran Simon who are clearly not me, and that is only on the first two pages of Google results. That’s why I often use my full name, including my maiden name (Fran Sokol Simon), or my complete initials (FSSimon) online. Think about that when you set up your online presences.

It’s a good idea to monitor your identity as well. Set up a Google Alert to search for your name.  Whenever your name comes up in Google, the system will deliver the results to you by email, so you know what people are saying about you. Here are some examples of Google Alerts I set up about myself:

Google Alert for FSSimon

The following links will provide you with more information about OIM:

Secure A Powerful Online Presence By Claiming Your Online Identity

Claim Your Identity Through Google Profiles

Work Smart: Claiming Your Name on the Web

Off the Beaten Path (in oh, so many ways): Gr8 Pizza at Corner Slice, Bethesda

Posted in Food in DC,pizza by Fran Simon, M.Ed. on February 27, 2010

If you know me virtually, you know I am obsessed with social media, early childhood education, marketing, and all kinds of other business issues. But, if you know me in person, you also know I am crazy about food. Today, I just have to talk about the pizza at The Corner Slice in Bethesda, MD.

I literally crave the veggie pizza at The Corner Slice. I used to work near the tiny shop, which is located at the corner of Norfolk and St. Elmo.  Once a week, I would pop into the New York-like pizzeria for a slice, and a little New York-like customer service.  There were times when friends wanted to meet me for lunch in Bethesda, and I would always suggest The Corner Slice. Inevitably,  they would look at me like I was crazy, and ask, “Don’t you want to go someplace….uhhh, nicer?”  Now, those friends are converts, and I have to go out of my way to get to The Corner Slice.  Today I did just that.

First, about the customer service: Well, every woman who comes in is addressed as “Miss,” even by the blue-eyed hunky owner. That’s nice and all, but the hunk can be a little gruff, and less than engaging. Today, I said “Four dollars for a slice?” with a little smile.  He said unapologetically, “Yeah. You want that to go?”  You know, I think it’s all OK. The $4 price, the Pac Man game in the corner, the metal stools, and the perfunctory customer service, all add up to make you feel like you are in Long Island or Brooklyn. That’s just fine because the pizza stacks up to New York quality standards. And then some.

Now the pizza:  This is not gourmet pizza (but I like that, too.) This is street food at its best. The Corner Slice offers the best crust in DC. It’s thin and crunchy NY-style crust complemented with a deliciously thin layer of perfectly seasoned sauce, just the right amount of cheese, and crunchy veggies, including fresh tomatoes on the top. It is never greasy. The veggie is more than worth $4.

I have consumed my slide. It’s a distant memory. Now, I have to go back to dreaming about the next time I will be in Bethesda.

If you think I am crazy, and there is no NY style pizza worth writing about in DC, check out these reviews and this review from Washingtonian!

Twitter for ECE: Let me count the ways!

Anyone who knows me is aware that I can get as worked up when I talk about computers and the Internet as I do when I talk about developmentally appropriate practice. As I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I discovered that child care administration and technology literacy go hand in hand early in my career. And, so far, it’s a combination that continues to fascinate me and shape my career. I don’t think I would have ever been able to do my job as an administrator without technology. (Although, I tip my hat to those who have come before me and conquered without computers!) I also don’t think I would have learned as much as I have about technology if it were not for the need for me to do great work in ECE.

My most recent fascination is with web 2.0, and specifically with the use of social media for social networking and how it can power collaboration and communication in the early learning community. I’ve been on LinkedIn and Facebook for many years, but in 2009, I joined Twitter, where I began my odyssey to discover if social media would really pay off with connections in ECE.  But first, I had to watch (or lurk) to learn how to Tweet without making a fool out of myself and find people who posted about and shared my interest in ECE.

Let’s count the ways I love Twitter: #1: It’s a lot more than what you’re doing right now!

Soon I learned the first of many amazing facts about Twitter: Despite the common misconception that you are supposed to post what you are doing, that’s not what effective Tweeting is about. The best tweeters post brief statements that include a link to an online article, event announcement, news, or other online resource along with tags that help readers determine if the link will be of interest to them. People can exchange information with other tweeters publicly or through a Direct Message that is private, as well.

Let’s count the ways I love Twitter: #2: Hashtags help sort tweets!

My second very important discovery was about about hastags, which are like keyword labels that allow people with common interests to find the information in which they are most interested. To use hashtags, “Tweeters” just add # plus the a commonly used keyword to describe the topic and then people who share that interest search for topics with that hashtag.

To illustrate hashtags and “Twiterish” here’s an example of Tweet posted by NAEYC (@naeyc):

The anatomy of a tweet

The anatomy of a tweet

Let’s count the ways I love Twitter: #3: An Army of ECE colleagues!

Armed with this cool new information, I decided to try posting information with the hashtag #ece, not knowing whether anyone else had ever used that tag or not. Soon, I discovered many of my colleagues posting using #ece, and a wealth of new colleagues I had never met before. Even though we all were using the same hashtag, I learned more about different topics than I had ever learned before because, of course, there are many concepts related to early childhood. For example, my tweets are about public policy that impacts early learning, parenting and parent engagement, research, assessment, and program administration. My esteemed colleague, Cate Heroman, (@cateheroman)author of The Creative Curriculum and other great resources from Teaching Strategies (@TeachStrategies ) posts about curriculum, assessment, child development, curriculum studies, and other tweets that are teacher-centric.  Karen Nemeth, (@KarenNemethEdM) the author of Many Languages, One Classroom tweets about ELL, DLL, child development, program management, and language development. There are hundreds of other ECE Tweeters out there, many of whom offer great insight on best practice in the classroom as well as program administration.

Let’s count the ways I love Twitter: #4: “Cross-Interest pollination!”

I also follow and tweet other hashtags like #parenting, leadership, #management, #nonprofit, #fundraising, #HR, #OD (organizational development) and more. This is where it becomes interesting! I think of it like cross-pollination, because the ECE people who follow me learn more about topics in related fields and I learn more about topics I would otherwise never explore. Best of all, I feel as though I am educating people in other fields about early childhood and learning from their expertise.

Let’s count the ways I love Twitter: #5: Twitter brings our community together!

I could talk about Twitter all day (and sometimes, I do!) The point of this post is that my experiment with Twitter proved to me that there is value in social media for early childhood education. Our community has come together through Twitter. It’s like going to a conference to network every day. It is energizing, enlightening, and exciting. The potential is amazing.

Now, let’s count together:

What are your experiences on Twitter? Tell me how you exploit the potential and use it to benefit your program?

Resource:

Are ECE programs businesses?

When you think about your early childhood program, do you see it as a business? Do you think about yourself as a business administrator? I know that when I was in the field, I did not. I ran a program! I thought my program was a nonprofit organization, not a business. It was something else, above or in between. Huh?

Let’s break this down… Every day, just like you, I did the same things every business administrator does, like:

  • managing the facility and equipment (quality assurance)
  • ensuring 100% enrollment (sales)
  • communicating with my customers (families)
  • managing the budget (financial management)
  • making presentations for prospective families (marketing) and staff (training)
  • paying payroll and accounts payable
  • supervising staff (quality assurance)
  • hiring (HR)
  • developing the program (product development)
  • managing benefits (personnel), and…
  • all of the tasks any business administrator needs to complete.

I guess that means ECE programs are businesses! (I better check Wikipedia for a definition, just to be sure….) Some are self-contained and managed internally, and some are managed by larger organizations like schools, agencies, or corporations. But nonetheless, we are in the business of providing developmentally appropriate programs for children. Enough said?

What are the implications? Tell me what you think!

Nurturing Donors Online is NOT Magic

Have you ever been disappointed with the results you are getting with your online fundraising program because you thought it was going to be so easy? As you began the process, you might have thought you’d put a donation button on your web site, and suddenly the donations would start flowing. That is a common misconception, and it’s one that often sabotages online fundraising. Getting donations online requires some effort, some  creativity, and a few key tools.  Of course, you must have online donation software that actually processes the transaction, but that’s only a fraction of the story. You have to set all of the action into play! You have to ask for donations, remind supporters about your great work, and then ask again. Online fundaising should one tactic in your overall fund development toolkit, and should be combined with other strategies. But, if you are asking for donations through postal mail and events, you may miss opportunities to engage donors on the spot, in the moment that they are considering your well crafted appeal. The immediacy of the connection between an email that links to your donation button offers opportunities to capitalize on the natural need for immediate gratification. There’s a natural cycle involved in engaging donors online. It looks like this:

The Online Fundraising Cycle

The Online Fundraising Cycle

What are the two most basic tools you need to make the online fundraising cycle go around?

  1. You’ve got a great website (check?) (Think carefully about what “great” means!)
  2. You are using well designed, high-impact, regularly delivered email newsletters and email blasts to keep your supporters, donors, and constituents informed (check?)(No? Download The Nonprofit Email Marketing Guide from Network for Good.

If you are missing either of these elements in your online fundraising toolkit, it’s time to get to work! Here’s what you can do to improve your organization’s chances of becoming an online fundraising superhero: Your Website and your DonateNow pages When was the last time you took a look at your site as if it was the first time you visited? Sit down at the computer and pretend you have never been there before.  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the site provide information that is compelling, complete, and tells the story of your organization’s work?
  • Does it include a form for visitors to complete if they want to learn more about your organization or subscribe to regular email communication from your organization?
  • Do you ask visitors if they would like to receive an email newsletter?
  • Do you know how to capture those addresses and use them to contact potential supporters?

Take a look at the sites of other similar organizations. How does your site look compared to the “competition?”

  • Is  your site as attractive and does it look as professional as the other sites in your field?
  • Are you proud of your site?
  • Would you be proud of your site if a potential grantmaker visited?

Ask a friend to take a tour while you watch. See how that friend gets around and be prepared to ask questions.

  • Is it easy to find your donation links?
  • Do your DonateNow pages tell your story?
  • Can your friend easily describe your work and tell you why your cause is important and worthy?

How did your site stack up? If it did not meet your expectations, don’t worry! Maintaining a website is an ongoing process.  You should expect to care for your site regularly, and do a significant facelift every 2-5 years.  It doesn’t have to be expensive to make sure you are hitting the most important elements. If you need help, take a look at these resources: Web Sites 101 on Fundraising 123 by Network for Good 10-Point Basic Website Checklist for Nonprofits Is Your Website a Tool for Doing? Your Email Newsletters and Email Announcements If you are not using email to communicate with potential and current donors and supporters, it’s time to think about subscribing to a professional email provider. If you already are using a system, consider the following tips to optimize your results:

  • Make sure to place the email newsletter sign-up form in a very visible place on every page of your website.
  • Be sure to ask for donations and link to your donation page in every issue or announcement.
  • Refresh your email list every time you send an announcement or newsletter with the new addresses that have been entered since the last time.
  • Plan an editorial schedule with topics that your donors and supporters are likely to want to know.
  • Be flexible with your editorial schedule. If an emergency or natural disaster occurs, you will want to include information that is interesting and relevant.
  • Write compelling stories about the impact your organization has had. Make them as personal as possible. Think like a donor….they want to know that their donations have had an impact and made a difference for the cause.

There are literally thousands of e-mail marketing systems. Here is a list of a few of them:

MailChimp

VerticalResponse

ConstantContact

EmailNow (Nonprofit Organizations only)

iContact

A Contradiction in Terms: Why This Child Care Advocate Posts Negative Stories About Child Care

The other day, I posted one of my usual missives about the horrible condition of child care in America on my Facebook page. It was just another day in my life in which I try to get people to wake up and smell the coffee about how far we (advocates, parents, child care providers, policy makers, the media, and everyone else) have to go to improve child care. Soon thereafter, and one of my childhood friends who doesn’t really know what I do for a living responded to the post by saying “It’s terrible! And those parents keep on working and sending their children.” I was horrified and quickly deleted the post.

That post made me wake up and smell the coffee about the implications of the messages I send out! I looked back at my Facebook and Twitter posts, and I realized that I’m not completing the thought! People who don’t know me think I am “anti-child care!” Whhhoooa! I know child care, and when done well, it provides children and parents with many positive outcomes. As a matter of fact, high-quality child care includes developmentally appropriate learning opportunities that make the most of the critical early learning years when brain development is most rapid. As a working mother and a child care professional, I know it is simply a necessary fact of life for most people in our nation. Clearly, I support parents and their need to work.

It’s true that based on the reports produced by  my employer, the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, I have come to believe that by and large, child care in America is in a deplorable state due to lack of standards, regulations, oversight, and adequate training. I also know, based on my experience as a parent of a child who has been in child care, as a child care center administrator in a multi-site organization dedicated to high-quality early learning experiences,  and as a curriculum and assessment developer, there are examples of wonderful, well-operated programs throughout the country. Because I do know what high-quality child care looks like from the inside, and as someone with experience at the national level, I am passionate that all children and families have the highest quality care.

Why would someone who works on behalf of child care promote negative stories? It seems counter intuitive that advocates would not want to promote the stories of great examples of child care that works. Here’s why I post about negative stories:

• While there are good examples of family child care and child care programs, they are few and far between. A 2006 study by The National Institute of Child Health and Development rated only 10% of programs throughout the nation as “good.” It’s hard to build interest in change when the results are so small.
• NACCRRA’s studies reveal that parents believe the government is doing its part to protect children in child care, when, in fact, there is an alarming lack of standardization and regulation of child care throughout the country.
• There is a general lack of awareness about child care, and as an advocate and the head of Child Care Aware Parent Network, I need to do my part to raise awareness and educate the public.
• The media, policy-makers, and the general public don’t pay attention to the “feel-good” stories.
• The stories of the tragic results of poor child care provide clear illustrations of what needs to be done to improve quality throughout the nation.

I’ve learned that it is important for me to “complete” the thought when I post, so people who read the posts understand that I am not implying that parents should avoid child care, and most importantly, I do not want to make anyone feel guilty about using it. I also don’t want to perpetuate the chasm that exists between working parents and those who have the luxury of a myriad of choices. As a matter of fact, I am posting in order to encourage people to join me, NACCRRA , and our new Child Care Aware Parent Network to advocate for Federal legislation for better regulation, funding, and oversight of child care through states and the local agencies that are tasked with child care licensing. Learn more about our Policy Agenda , and join us to educate the public and advocate for the world-class child care because 11 million children in child care in America are counting on us.

Women Leaders: What have you done to help other women lately?

Let me state for the record that I am not an important executive with a corner office and expense account. I’m fairly accomplished and proud of what I do, but I have perspective: I’m doing important work, but in general I have spent my career executing other women’s visions. I’ve executed my own successful programs and products that have become cogs in the grand wheel, and I am proud of my achievements. Still, I’m clear that, even at my age, I still have unrealized dreams of becoming “UberExec” in charge of my own vision. Even though I still have a lot of work to do before I realize my goals, I have one source of deep satisfaction, and that is that throughout my career, I have made it my mission to collaborate and help other women, and to “pay it forward” by helping younger women realize their potential. The best part is that this source of satisfaction is portable. I take it with me wherever I go.

One of the things that excites me about my work is knowing that I have the distinct honor of working with other women with incredible potential, unending passion and enthusiasm, drive, emotional intelligence, and IQs to match. Counterpoint: One of the frustrations I have experienced along the way in my career is how infrequently I see other experienced women extend a hand to those who need support, are less experienced, less confident or less aware of their ability. It’s not that exactly survival of the fittest woman in my field, but then again, I don’t see other women even thinking about how they can help each other grow.

Every job I have had over the past 25 years has been in either female-dominated or women-owned/led organizations. Surprisingly, none of  these dynamic, successful organizations has built mentoring or leadership development programs for the female employees. As a matter of fact, the entire field (early education and care) has very few leadership programs for middle and upper management.

So what have you done to help a sister out lately? What are you doing to ensure the trail you have blazed is filled with others who can follow behind you? Whatever field you have chosen, do you think it should continue to be enriched by the next generation of women? Is it your responsibility to look around, find potential, and bring someone else along with you? What small steps can you take to make it happen?

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