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Halloween and Social Media

31 October

Why are demons and ghosts always hanging out? Because demons are a ghoul’s best friend. 

Ghastly puns aside, Halloween might be the best holiday out there. Back in 2009, Americans spent nearly 6 billion dollars on Halloween related activities (costumes, candy, parties), and that number has since increased..  Plus, there’s almost no better holiday for social media sharing than Halloween. Here’s a few reasons why:

It’s not really offensive/religious.

Yes, there are some religious groups that don’t celebrate Halloween, but unlike the Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza debacle, people don’t get super offended by this holiday. There is not too much in the way of offensiveness that comes of little kids (and adults with kid enthusiasm) dressing up and having fun.  Plus, it’s not a real family or couple-y holiday, it can be enjoyed by everyone from your 5 year old cousin to your 50 year old uncle who lives in your grandmother’s basement. No one has to cook anything and no one has to get stuck next to that Debbie Downer of a relative. It really just boils down to the basics: eat, drink, and be scary.

It’s an excuse for women to dress a little scantily. 

Alright, let’s not beat around the bush here. Our society secretly (and in sometimes not so secretly) likes scantily clad women. And on this one day of the year, every woman can dress a little trashier than she normally would in the name of a costume.

Mean_Girls

Also dudes can dress like women without anyone batting an eye. I can’t think of better fodder on Instagram. #halloweenrules.

People are expecting, and executing, pranks.

Raise your hand if you’ve seen a pranky Youtube video? When do you think most of those get produced? Likely when there is a higher tolerance for weird things happening than normal (there’s a reason why we say “Trick or treat,” after all).

People have devised shenanigans that go beyond t.p.-ing their teacher’s house. This is a great example of a stunt that went viral last year:

These videos are great material for sharing on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever. If you’re scheming a clever prank of your own, just keep safety in mind.

There are lots of parties.

Nothing says ‘social media’ like throwing a party. Halloween parties are fun for kiddos and adults alike, and offer a chance for creativity to run rampant with games, costumes, decorations, and food/beverage selections. The hype begins with the invites and builds until the actual event. Everyone has a chance to share costume ideas, or keep it top secret until the party and blow everyone else’s mind. I have been invited to three Halloween parties on Facebook… definitely more than the amount of Fourth of July barbecues or New Year’s Eve parties I was invited to this past year.

If you’re planning on throwing a graveyard smash of your own, social media can be a great planning resource, and a way to get the word out to people. There are so many fun games, like Dizzy Mummy, so there’s no reason to make anyone bob for apples.

Costume ideas all over the place.

If you are game to make your own costume, Pinterest and blogs can show you everything from how to execute realistic fairy wings to 100 costume ideas that cost $5 or less. The DIY zombie makeup tutorials are also gruesome, in the best possible way.  For those who leave their costume creation until the last possible minute, there are plenty of 5 minute costume ideas. So, if you’re uninspired or a procrastinator, get on Pinterest, and you’re guaranteed to have a costume plan in no time. Which gives you more time for gathering candy, in the true spirit of the holiday.

Whether you decide to go solo, as a couple, or in a group, social networks can help generate some ideas. And then, there’s the added fun of sharing the finished product on Facebook or Instagram. One piece of advice (that I learned so you don’t have to): if you have to explain your costume, it probably isn’t very good.

 

We hope everyone has a fun and safe Halloween!

And we hope everyone gets better treats than Charlie Brown.

And we hope everyone gets better treats than Charlie Brown.

 

 

Tech Thursday: How to Fundraise Online

30 October

If you have a project or product that you’d like to get some additional funding for, the internet could be a great place to get started. One popular platform for fundraising online is GoFundMe, which you can use to pitch ideas and get donations from people online (that’s a huge audience!)- even for something as silly as potato salad.

As you might imagine, there are a lot of people trying to raise money out there. How can you increase your chances of being heard (and more importantly, getting people to donate)? First and foremost: is your idea compelling? Will people be interested enough to think, “Yes, that IS a great idea! Take my money!” Next, you want to make it personal. Don’t just throw a Powerpoint presentation online, put a face on the project! This not only shows dedication to your campaign, but assures people that they aren’t just giving their money to some sketchy, random dude in a basement.

Last, but not least, remember that you are FUNdraising. Okay, so that was corny…but showing people that you are fun and grateful for their contributions will go a long way.

About My Advice Column

28 October
Pictoral proof I am a published advice columnist. I am as shocked as you are.

Pictorial proof I am a published advice columnist. I am as shocked as you are.

I have been reading advice columns for years. Miss Information on Nerve, Dear Prudie on Slate, Dan Savage on SavageLove, Dear Abby (when that existed) in the paper.

I will listen to advice on just about anything actually. Podcasts about how to pick up women, how to manage money, even how to do a perfect lunge. Something about advice, even advice I’d never use, is inherently interesting to me.

The biggest reason I’ve come to discover? I have a personal rule where I try not to gossip (sometimes I’m not successful but generally I try to talk about things and not other people unless they are immediately in front of me). But reading advice columns gives me that voyeristic thrill of knowing someone else’s business in a way I won’t allow myself to in my normal life.

I’ve got a few questions since writing this advice column so I thought I’d answer them here:

How did you get this gig?
So when I had to submit a bio for a regional conference I was presenting at, I thought I’d have fun and end it with. “Nicole’s secret desire is to have an advice column or do stand up comedy, whichever she decides would be funnier.” And within two weeks, I was sitting with the editor of my local paper as he proposed me writing an advice column. Not sure how much of a coincidence that is but there you go. In other words: might as well put out there what you want, you may get it!

But you aren’t even qualified.
Yes, I know. I find this hilarious on several levels. First of all, I’m not particularly experienced in life. I don’t have kids. I just got married about five seconds ago and before that, never really planned on getting married. I’ve never bought a house, I’ve been self employed longer than I was ever in the ‘real’ working world, I am not even from this town originally. In other words, not exactly a typical local person you may look for to write a local advice column in a local paper.

But Earl (the editor and a friend of mine) assured me that they liked my blog and as someone active in the community, people would know who I was. Plus I am known for my straight forward nature, which some people find endearing and other people feel very intimidated by. Anyway, we struck up a six month agreement to try it out.

Do you get paid?
Yes, they pay me $30 a week. I know, clearly I am in this for the cash. But since I own the rights to the content (and they are just getting to publish it first), a low rate seemed fair enough. Plus it’s fun!

How can I read your column?
You can read my column if you subscribe to one of the local papers in this area (either the MDIslander or the Ellsworth American). I’m ‘premium’ content. Another hilarious idea.

Oddly enough though, a recent house guest told me he found my column online so I guess it’s published here: http://www.mdislander.com/living/columnists/ask-nicole

Have you learned anything writing this column?
I’ve learned a few things.

Like how to be brief. Unlike this blog (where I tend to ramble, I admit), I have 300 words to show both the question and my answer… and often this even gets edited down. It took me about four weeks to get my writing cut down to this smaller format. Now I can write something and have a good idea what 300 words looks like.  The first few weeks was writing like 800 words then fiercely cutting.

I also found I am sensitive to being edited. My first column had a few jokes in it which, I’m sure for length, got edited out. But when I saw it in the paper, it felt like a part was missing. My initial (and very mature) reaction was to be pissed off. But I realize this is dumb. This column has been a good exercise for me in being comfortable being edited. Just like putting my writing out there, I have to put being edited out there to be more comfortable with it. This editing is a small step towards being comfortable, say, with someone editing a book I’ve written.

I have also learned who reads the paper. I’ve had far flung friends email me or people stop me in the grocery store. My mother-in-law reads it, people in my Rotary club who would never read my blog read it. I kind of like that what I say isn’t necessarily super public, it’s much different than the blogging/social media world I’ve lived in where everyone knows what I am up to.

I had stopped reading the paper after I stopped working there (mainly because I spent a lot of time editing which meant I had to read lots of articles about people arguing against funding the local library or vandalizing peoples’ mailboxes. Reading that kind of content all the time can destroy your faith in humanity if you aren’t careful!) But I think I may go back. Seems like it attracts a nice community.

What’s the weirdest question someone has asked you?
Sometimes I just hear questions and think, how did you let yourself even get in this situation?!? The one that comes to mind is the guy who bought Viagra from an acquaintance and was wondering if he should take it. I mean, I’m as cheap as the next person but drugs from someone you don’t know? Common sense, people. But most questions are situations we can relate to: wanting to make more time for an important relationship or telling someone something that’s hard to say.

It’s easy for me to say the right thing. I don’t know these people and I am emotionally distant from the situation. But like everyone, I sometimes struggle to do the right thing. And isn’t that what advice columns do? Remind us to do the right thing, which we already know in our hearts but just need someone else’s explanation to justify it?

Is it weird giving people advice?
I mean I give people advice all day. (Ask Derrick, I can be accidentally bossy because I am used to telling people what they should do, myself included, all day long.) It isn’t weird for me. But at the end of the day, we are responsible for our own actions and behavior. People can take my advice or not. Though I am waiting for that moment where someone walks up to me in a public place and slaps me… or at least chews me out for something I’ve said. Good news? I have a pretty thick skin.

I want to give advice, how can I start?
Start reading advice and writing advice. Starting a blog (or Facebook page, Tumblr account, etc.) has gotten easy. I have been writing this blog for SIX YEARS and it is just starting to catch on so if you are one of those instant gratification types, I suggest another calling. But put your writing out there where people can see it. Tell everyone you want to do this. Apply for blogging jobs in this field. Comment on other advice columns. Once you find your voice, you can either create your own platform from scratch or find someone who has a platform who believes in you. You can actually do both! Just be yourself, be content with you and four friends reading what you write, and keep practicing writing. You never know because, let’s face it, if I can write an advice column, anyone can.

Out of the Rut: Getting Started

24 October
OuttatheRut

The Lorax is my mascot for this project. And probably for my life.



Something’s Gotta Give.

I’m an insomniac. As frustrating as it is to want something (like sleep), and not get it, over the years I’ve learned how to cope with it. Sure, I spent a fair amount of time stomping my feet tantrum-style, crying “This isn’t fair!” But, demanding that I deserve sleep or complaining about sleep deprivation isn’t going to get me anywhere. I tried. That energy is better spent on taking action (relaxation pre-trying to sleep, no caffeine in the afternoon, etc.).

In the past month or so, I’ve become more aware of how often I say  “I wish I was better at…” or “Someday, I’d like to be able to…” Suddenly, the coping process for my sleeping problem felt like it had a deeper purpose. Instead of trying to force these changes via wishing (preferably upon a shooting star), I could dig my heels in and actively make some changes.

Most of the time, I keep these goals internal, but hey, maybe there are other people out there who’d like to make some changes, too, or have some helpful tips. So, I’m going to share a bit about this process via blog in the hopes that a) I learn some new things about goal setting and technology and b) that other people get inspired, too.

Goal Setting (& Organizing)

This first step was the easy part: I more or less took the “I wishes” and turned them into specific goals. For instance, “I wish I was better at cooking” translates into “Try 1 new recipe a week.” “I wish I knew more about public relations” translates into “Listen to one relevant podcast a week and read something PR related for 20 minutes, 2 nights a week.”

To get these going, I started a spreadsheet. This divided up my goals into sections that made sense (fitness, finance, education/professional development, human-hood). I even had a category for “Action Steps,” and felt amazing already just by having proactive thoughts. My brain got lazy, and considered just stopping at the spreadsheet, because “Hey, this looks good. Probably close enough, right?”

Wrong. The next step was to find an app, which (ideally) will help keep me stay on track, and keep my goals somewhere other than my sneaky brain.

App Selection

My criteria: free, low maintenance (it sends me reminders but isn’t overly obnoxious), focused on details (as opposed to the big picture).

ISO: App that is practically perfect in every way.

ISO: App that is practically perfect in every way.

This point in the process hung me up the most, in part because I’m a commitaphobe, and my winning app choice had to be strong enough to see me through some challenges. I have a hard enough time taking advice from real people, so a robot has it’s work cut out for it. (Note: the list of apps below is by no means an exhaustive list of the candidates, just a snapshot of the serious contenders).

Everest

What I liked:  Everest is a “personal journey” app, meant for sharing a picture and then sharing the experience behind it with a larger community. Sounds cool, and I generally enjoy the idea of getting motivated/inspired by others, and I loved the idea of a visual element.
Reason I didn’t choose it: This is more of a “big picture” app, and I already tend to think about the big picture. The app I have in mind needs to strengthen my attention to detail.

Lifetick

What I liked: Before getting into your goals, this app determines your core values, or what makes you “tick.” Each goal you set must be “S.M.A.R.T.” : Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Specific. It seemed like it integrated Big Picture/Small Detail thinking well, which was a huge bonus.
Reason I didn’t choose it: There’s a two week free trial period, but after that, it costs money. Next.

Lift

The Winner!

The Winner!

What I liked: The name hooked me, and the reviews (online and in the app store) were stellar. It focuses mainly on changing the little things. One of my biggest obstacles is attention to detail, and Lift is all about making small, bit-sized changes. It also gives you the opportunity to connect with other people and offer encouragement. After all, it’s just as fun to encourage others as it is to be encouraged. And, there are fun quotes (see below) that pop up, and I love that sort of “warm and fuzzy” stuff.

 

Next Steps

So, as of today, I have some goals going in Lift. It will be interesting to see whether or not having an app to assist will be helpful (or annoying), and what kind of progress there will be along the way. Stay tuned!

 

IMG_1527 (1)

Lift: the start of a beautiful friendship.

 

 

Tech Thursday: When Should You Pay for Online Advertising?

23 October

One of the cool parts of marketing online is that, for the most part, it’s free. But sometimes, it does pay to pay for some online advertising. What are the options? Why should you spend money to promote your business on Facebook? We have some answers!

This video is all about how to strategically spend your advertising money online, whether it’s by using Pay Per Click advertising on a site like Google, or through targeted ads on social networks. Remember, the key isn’t to spend the least amount of money- it’s to spend your money in a way that will get the most returns to your business.

And, hopefully after watching this edition of Tech Thursday, you too, will make it rain.

What I’ve Learned Having 20 Strangers Sleep In My House

21 October

airbnb-logoOne of Derrick and my personal goals in life is to get our house paid off early. So after we got married and had cleared out boxes of plates, silverware, and mason jars for the event out of the spare bedroom, it seemed natural to think about using otherwise ignored space to generate some income.

So the day after we got married, we had our first AirBnB guests. (We warned them that the rest of the house looked like a bomb went off but our first guests, who happened to be German, were very gracious.) We’ve had about 20 people come through our house in the last month, hailing from places as exotic as Switzerland to more expected like New Jersey. Some stayed as short as one night and one as long as three days.

Our first reaction when we tell people we do this is that they think it’s weird. But hear me out, it’s actually kind of interesting.

You have a roommate… when you feel like it.
So I have a friend visiting this weekend so I blocked off Friday and Saturday night so AirBanB people couldn’t book the room. Unlike having a full on regular roommate, you just have a roommate when it’s convenient.

You set your price/expectation.
Between the photos, the profile, and your price point, you set the expectation for the experience.

I have taken a stunningly bad photo of the room, mainly so when people see it in real life, they are pleasantly surprised that it doesn’t look like the kind of room they will be murdered in.

And we priced ourselves cheaper than we thought we could get for a few reasons 1) Attract laid back and younger travelers (a relatively affordable option), 2) The room isn’t finished off yet so we didn’t think it was fair to charge full market value, and 3) We wanted to get some people to stay in the space and leave some initial reviews.

When we put in flooring and add a few extras to make it nice, we may up the price and get professional photos but until then, we are marketing ourselves in this way on purpose.

We have met some really interesting people.
The guys from Boston reminded me of my college friends while the couple from Bejing showed us how to properly do a Kung Fu tea service (no joke). We have met people who are thrilled to be in our town and it’s really rubbed off on making us enthusiastic in the same way. Some people who stay over want to talk a lot and we get to know them well and some just want a place to sleep and, as I say in the listing, we are fine either way. Everyone we’ve met has been really nice and grateful. I’ve even met someone who teaches website design and we plan on keeping in touch about work stuff. Networking without leaving my house, who would have thought?

It’s kind of inconvenient so be prepared.
Ever had to go to the bathroom while someone takes a really long shower? Yeah when four people share one bathroom, it is bound to happen. Also between Derrick and I, we’ve really had to coordinate changing bed sheets, cleaning the bathroom, welcoming guests etc. which has sometimes meant we didn’t or couldn’t do something. Adjustable shelves in the party closet? Cleaning out the pantry? On hold projects when you are sharing your space and not wanting to make a mess or a bunch of noise.

I bet now you’re curious. Want to see our listing? Click here: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4120600 And if you have any questions, let us know. We are AirBnB fans, on the host and guest end.