How To For Beginners: Curate Twitter to Help You Stay Woke

ICYMI (in case you missed it), Twitter is the new water cooler: the best place to learn things you might otherwise miss in the chaos that is 2017. So for those of you new to this kind of media, here’s a quick primer to help you get started and curate a twitter feed that you’ll find interesting.

1. Get a Twitter account. I recommend grabbing a handle (name) that won’t embarrass if Stephen Colbert happens to read your tweet on his show. I like the mobile apps (iPhone, Android) but you can also consumer tweets on the web.

2. Complete your profile. Say as much or as little as you want about yourself. This is VERY public so use your discretion. Add a photo – it doesn’t have to be of you – because that, and your profile, helps folks know you are not a bot.

3. Start following people. And this is really the crux of this post. How you curate who you follow is how you’ll get the best information possible. There’s a ton of garbage, opinion and untrue stuff (I refuse to call it fake news – there’s just no such thing) on Twitter. You have to use your brain to evaluate it. But if you start with this list and approach, it will be a tiny bit easier. Here’s goes (and please comment below with your finds – let’s build a great list!).

About Hashtags.

This is the secret sauce of Twitter. When something is trending (see Explore page on the mobile app and Moments on web, you’ll see a hash for it. If you click that, you’ll see all the tweets about that topic that have used the hash. Know at that point, you will see raw tweets with emotion, flawed information, true information and everything in between. It’s good content but it’s super fresh so thoughtfulness isn’t necessarily the priority. Sharing is. Use hashtags if you’re live, in it or have an opinion on it.

Who to follow to get started.

@RealDonaldTrump – yes, follow him. God forbid he gets some real followers, not just bots.

@BarackObama – 44, he’ll be back.

@SenWarren – she’s often where the action is and is ruthless about fact checking.

@BreitbartNews – All Right, all the time.

@theHill  – skews conservative but good source of news.

@NYTimes – yeah, they are still in business. AND considered to be fair and balanced by those who evaluate the media (because that still matters).

@20committee – John Schindler, security columnist.

@W.JefferyBrown – journalist who oversees journalism.

@CNNPolitics – tweets factoids about politics.

@DailyCaller – conservative reporting that’s on the far right offering sensational click bait.

@SenJohnMcain – because someone has to speak up to stop American sanctioned torture.

@BBCHamedani – BBC reporter currently being detained by Homeland Security. I’m not kidding.

@WashingtonPost – because they get scoop.

@Voxdotcom – highly regarded as truly fair and balanced.

@JakeTapper – because he’s naming things and not putting up with #altfacts.

@CaseyNewton – if you are a Silicon Valley follower; offers political POV as well.

@RMac18 – reporter at Forbes, boasts 99% real news!

@KeithOlberman – because there should be some fun on your twitter feed (nuff said).

@FoxNews – offering a point of view.

@Moorehn – seasoned reporter who provides insights into the “why” of things.

@DavidMDrucker – senior correspondent on Capitol Hill.

@SeanSpicer – because, well, just because.

@RyanLizza – professor, writer, thinker.

@wikileaks – so you can see first hand how the game of leaking works.

@PaulKrugman – Nobel Laureate, author, thinker.

@JournalismAssoc – judge for yourself if journalists are truthful or not.

@Reuters – there’s a world out there beyond us, we need to know all things.

@JeremyCorbyn – from the UK, the current Labour Party leader.

@IamJohnOliver – because perspective and humor matter.

@StephenAtHome – Colbert with a touch of humor.

Okay, that’s a start. Hopefully folks will add more to the comments section – from various points of view. The point here isn’t about where you stand, it’s about sharing information, finding sources to check and double check what’s true and standing up for what you believe in.

You’ll notice when you follow someone, you’ll be served other people to follow as an option (this is especially true on the mobile app). Slow down and look those over and see if they interest you. It’s super easy to follow and unfollow.

ALSO, one last important tip: drill down. Don’t accept the tweet at face value, If it’s a retweet, drill down to the source. In all cases, check the link (another reason mobile is better because less chance of getting a virus). Your goal is to get to the source and then evaluate if it for truth.

Post more good stuff below. #helpAmericansthinkagain

Oh Yeah – You’re Looking at a Retirement Savings Expert Right Here

In the spring of 2012, I joined a rag tag group of people at Financial Engines to kick off their social media efforts.

Because it’s heavily regulated – finance and investing – tackling social media was very different from my other clients. Everything we did had to be approved by compliance. Everything – including tweets and retweets. If someone liked out tweet or replied back to us, we couldn’t respond because that would need to go through compliance. It was a tall order, but with baby steps, we managed to launch Twitter, LinkedIn and a blog.

Fast forward three years, and I’m still writing for the Financial Engines blog and helping with their social media. We’ve come a long way baby – we managed to add Facebook in January and we’ve even done Facebook tests to see if we could increase awareness of Financial Engines among their potential customers (the answer is yes we can!).

We still can’t engage but we’ve managed to create some momentum.

One of the most exciting things that’s happened is the Wall Street Journal picked up one of our surveys and reported on the results. Our survey asked people how they felt when they heard the word “retirement.”

The results were kind of disturbing – but not surprising. It turns out retirement doesn’t have a positive connotation. Mostly it makes people feel old. Good information if your marketing a product focused on retirement. Maybe using that word isn’t the best idea. This study not only helped us internally, but the WSJ thought it was important to report on because it might be one more reason folks hesitate when it comes to saving for retirement.

I’ve written more than 175 blogs about retirement and consumer finance. The style is easy-to-read and hopefully informative. If you’d like to learn more about money and retirement savings, drop by and start reading. And while you can’t comment there, you can certainly comment here. I’d love to hear from you.

Turning Infographics into Real Time Dynamic Marketing Tools is a Win for Business

As a content provider – I think I must spend at least thirty percent of my life creating content for clients – I have become pretty good at using content as a digital marketing tool. There are so many ways to tell stories these days and it doesn’t have to be only via prose.

In fact, when my client at iPass wanted to convey how fast wi-fi is growing around the world, we knew we wanted to do it in a dynamic, exciting way. I believe the actual idea came from Kewal Varia – one of the best PR people I have ever worked with – who imagines this active infographic changing with time (and data).

I was responsible for taking the idea and turning it into something tangible. I called on the talented folks at WebEnertia (full disclosure, I’ve often teamed with them on web projects focusing on the front end content architecture). They immediately had ideas about how to bring the project to life.

The result: The Global Wi-Fi Growth Map showcasing how wi-fi is changing around the world in the next few years.

The map proved to be an incredibly valuable PR tool giving us an opportunity for many meetings to discuss the growth of wi-fi (which is tied to the value prop for iPass) and the design and implementation won a Gold Addy Award for WebEnertia.

The moral is: push your data and don’t be afraid to visualize your story for visitors. It doesn’t always have to be told with words. This map is likely to be a useful tool for iPass for the next few years.

Financial Engines Delivers a Social Security Planner Everyone Can Use

I’ve been working with Financial Engines for a couple years now and one of the bigger projects has been their Social Security Planner. Typically their products are only available to employees whose employer buys the Financial Engines services. But today they launched a product that’s available to anyone at no charge!

All you have to do is visit their website and click into the Planner (about halfway down).

You don’t have to be retirement age – you can use it to forecast what you might get – and you can also send this to your parents or adults you care about who are closer to retirement age than you are.

The real intent is to help you figure out how much income you will have in retirement. For most people, delaying Social Security is the smartest thing to do financially. That’s because you’ll actually get more from Social Security in the long run. There are even more opportunities for people who are married.

I never thought I would know so much about Social Security and retirement but I do! I’ve been blogging about it for awhile now (for Financial Engines) and there’s a lot you need to know if you are in the planning stages.

Be sure to check out the Financial Engines website and when you see the videos get excited because I did those (with SwitchVideo in Toronto)!

Hoover Institution Debuts New Website and It’s Very Cool

It’s been a year since I’ve blogged which is a bad testament to a good year! It’s been busy with lots of great projects that I have neglected to share and so it’s time to catch-up. The first one is a biggie for the Hoover Institution!

The Hoover Institution hired WebEnertia to re-do their website. As part of their team (I have worked with them for awhile now – great group), I was responsible for the overall web strategy.

It was a thrilling challenge: we needed to incorporate so much content with established brands and ideally give everyone a voice while making the user experience intuitive for whomever might drop in.

I think the result is amazing. 
[This is the main site and here’s the second project: Library and Archives.]

I can only take credit for a small part. The Hoover Institution Team was so flexible and savvy and the WebEnertia team was able to take a bunch of ideas and turn them into a rich, dynamic website.

If you’d like to know more about the project, please let me know. Otherwise, go explore the site.

Regardless of your politics, it’s a thing of beauty!

Funkafied Technology Or How the User Experience Dictates Function

I realized the other day, I have no idea where our iPad is.

It’s first generation (damned early adopters) and when we got it, we could barely put it down. It was always on the coffee table ready for game playing, email checking or Googling some weird fact or question we had about something we saw on television.

And then it quietly kind of disappeared. At least that’s what I thought. 

The truth is, it became my daughter’s television. Sure, there’s a rule in our house: no TVs in bedrooms. We have one television in the living room we still watch together (thank goodness since she’s almost 14 and I figured I would have lost this battle long ago). But the iPad snuck in and grabbed the role of bedroom TV because she could stream Netflix – and approved programming without advertising – and I didn’t have a fit. In fact, she would clean her room if she could watch the iPad.
The fact that I didn’t miss it made me think about all the devices we have adopted lately and how the individual user experience of each is really dictating the functionality of each item. Here’s a quick run down.

The aforementioned iPad. 
Now a streaming TV that lives plugged into a speaker stand in the kid’s room. It doesn’t really do anything except stream video. Why not other things? Let’s face it, games are klunky on the iPad. It’s kind of big to hold and a little heavy and other than read a book on it (which I still kind of like but I started getting library books instead because, well, they are free), there’s not a lot to do on an iPad that you can’t do on an iPhone.

The iPhone. 
It’s probably our go to device for both me and the kid. I play games on it, check email (must look present), my calendar, weather and text. But I hate texting. My most hated application of all time. Sure I do it, but I don’t like it. The teen, on the other hand, texts almost exclusively. I pointed out to her that a phone call would take one tenth the time of these persistent, evening-long texting sessions. She said she agreed, but calling was “too hard.” I can’t get her to use it for her calendar – I guess her life just hasn’t gotten complicated enough – and she bites my head off for sending email. But every night I send her a text that say, “go to bed.” Ahh technology.

The Kindle.
I’m not sure I know where that is either. It was super awesome at first. My daughter loved it. She could carry three books to school on one device. But when the novelty wore off and she realized she had to “shop” for books to read (early on she had recommendations), she lost interest. Shopping online was too hard. It was easier to go to the library (see don’t read on iPad above). Funny how something so old school is such an easier user experience; there’s nothing better than picking up a book and reading the flap to see if it’s interesting. Now if they could just carry around instant star ratings so I know if you thought it was a good read.

The Chromebook. 
This almost immediately replaced our MacBook Air for one simple reason: the glass on our first MacBook cracked for no apparent reason and when I bought a replacement, neither of us ever wanted to touch it for fear of breaking another expensive machine. Enter the Chromebook. At $249 this thing sizzles (can you tell, I am using it right now!). We have desktop computers for actual computing; but for writing, surfing, checking email and Facebook, the Chromebook is proving to be our go to device. In fact, we occasionally fight over it. The biggest constraint is access to wi-fi but after that, it’s so easy to use. I honestly hesitated to buy one and now I am considering a second. 

For us, the user experience absolutely dictates the functionality of our devices. I’d love to hear if you have had similar experiences. What’s your iPad doing? Let me know!

Listen2Youth Brings Silicon Valley Social Media Tips to CALPA

I am a huge fan of California’s state parks.
It’s like our parks are part of my DNA. My mom worked at Henry Cowell, I served on our local Friends of the Santa Cruz State Parks board.
More importantly, as a resident of Santa Cruz County, I have been spoiled by the accessibility of our state parks. Natural Bridges is probably my favorite because I love those Monarch butterflies. I am frequent visitor at Henry Cowell  – we love splashing in the river during the summer and hunting for Banana Slugs in the winter. And Big Basin is one of our favorites places to camp. [Want to find a park near you? Oh yeah, there’s an app for that!]
All of this is within 30 minutes of my home.
So when Juliann Klein, a local designer and dedicated Mountain Parks volunteer suggested I participate in this year’s CALPA Conference to speak about social media, I jumped at the chance. I spend my days working with Silicon Valley companies like Cisco, Animoto and Financial Engines, writing content and helping them with their social media. I spend a lot of my “extra time” doing work for non-profits including the Santa Cruz Human Race.
I can’t wait to share my experience with you – the amazing volunteers who are working hard to preserve our state parks through fundraising and other brilliant strategies to “monetize the user experience.”
For CALPA Conference participants, I put together a Pinterest board with tips our panel will be discussing at the event. Joining me on the panel are: Debbie Petruzzelli, Public Relations Manager, Balboa Park Marketing, San Diego, Rich Cherry, former Director, Balboa Park Online Collaborative, San Diego and Alexis Stoxen, Communications Specialist, California State Parks Foundation.
There are also two special offers for CALPA participants:
Animoto is a online video tools that also has a iPhone app. It’s a great way to create short, compelling videos about parks, plants, animals, special events and much more that you can share on social media.
They have a special program for nonprofit organizations that offers an upgrade to their premium product when you complete an application. Learn more here.
Cisco WebExoffers online meetings which allow people to connect regardless of where they are. They too have a free mobile app for most Smartphones.
They are offering a free subscription to their beta product to conference attendees. It’s a great way to connect with volunteers who can’t always get together in the same place at the same time. It’s also a terrific tool for recording mini-events and sharing them via social media. Learn more here.
Thank you to all the folks who work so hard for our parks. My family and I are direct beneficiaries of your hard work.
CALPA Members kicking off this week’s conference in San Diego.

Get Technology Off My Back: Teenage POV on the Need for Tech Integration

Tyler Headley is a sophomore attending high school in the Pacific Northwest. He writes for us about tech, the user experience and social media – and his ideas about making changes that match the lifestyle of today’s youth. If you have questions for Ty, please leave a comment below.
When you walk into a high school, you may first think that you’ve walked into a retirement facility. Why? All the kids are hunched over, trying to evenly spread the heavy weight of their backpacks over their backs.
When people think of individuals who have a lot of equipment, they often think of soldiers. Soldiers have to carry a ton of equipment ranging from their guns, to their boots and trademark sunglasses, to their backpacks.
What if I told you that the average high school student has to carry even more tools?
While this may be a bit of an exaggeration, it’s not that far from the truth. On an average day, my school backpack exceeds 26 pounds! The two biggest culprits are the computer and the textbooks, both of which are necessary for school. My backpack is also home to my bulky calculator and cell phone – all four of which are necessities for modern life at a high school.
It may come as a shock to some, but the school library is almost never used (at least for research).
Since the invention of the personal computer, aka the laptop (yes, the thing you are probably using to read this article), libraries everywhere have been hit pretty hard. Now all the information a student might want is located right at their fingertips, eliminating the need to even look up the author’s name to find the book they need.
The computer has also morphed into the center of more than one kid’s life. Why shouldn’t it? One study found that teens spend almost four hours on their computer per day because it is now essential for schoolwork. Computers have revolutionized the way we do schoolwork (I search for my homework, take timed tests online, set up meetings with teachers through email, etc.).
Because we use them so much we are often marketed to on our computers through spam or online ads. If you’re going to market to a teen, please don’t do it through spam. All students hate receiving spam emails and schools usually put incredibly good spam filters on their email servers.
High school. The land of the young hunchback.
The main source of the backbreaking weight is our textbooks. They are behemoth monsters with more than three hundred pages and thick covers. When you say textbook, I think pain. Most textbooks cost an outrageous amount of money, making them not only heavy and inefficient, but also expensive.
With modern technology, I would have expected the textbook to become obsolete by now, but amazingly they haven’t. Many people point to the iPad as the future of the textbook, but with the hefty price and the fact that not all textbooks are available online, the iPad isn’t the future…yet.
The third source of pain for the student is the calculator.
By high school, the calculator of choice (a big hunk of a TI-84) is not only large and hard to use, but it’s also very expensive. With a price tag hovering around $100, perhaps someone will (please) come up with an alternative sometime soon. Some people ask, why can’t you just use your computer? Well, you need to have the entire advanced feature set of a calculator (graphing, advanced functions, sometimes even finding ‘x’ through a matrix), and since time is of the essence on a test, it is much quicker when you have the designated buttons of a calculator rather than having to type the equation from your computer.
It’s not just dial tone, its personal!
These three tools—computer, textbook, and calculator—all cause varying degrees of physical and fiscal pain for students. But what about the phone? Almost every student I know has a phone because it’s great for keeping in touch with friends, checking the latest Facebook post, and calling your parents when you need them to pick you up.
However, phones aren’t used for school work. This is because you can’t type up papers on your phone – it doesn’t have a keyboard, and they’re too small to use for reading books. Can we use them for calculators? No, because either the phone’s calculator isn’t powerful enough or it doesn’t have the features we need (such as the graphing part of the graphing calculators we need for school).
Perhaps there is a way to combine the computer, textbooks, and calculator, but so far nothing does what I need.
The iPad comes close, but doesn’t quite hit the mark – it’s too expensive, doesn’t offer everything a student needs, and is actually a little too large. All of these tools are necessities for students and they all cost a fair amount of money, though are used frequently (and sometimes too much) by students. Students are large spenders, and these tools listed above are the best way to market. So when you visit the jungle of the hunchback (by which I mean a high school), keep in mind that there is no way for them to lose the weight, at least for now.
For the sake of my back, I hope someone can merge these vital resources soon.

My Debut on KSCO Radio! It was Thrilling!

MZ at the helm, making talk radio happen!

When KGO decided to crush it’s listeners by firing their talent and moving from talk to all news, I was devastated. Until the change, I didn’t realize how much the rhythms and sounds of the station were my queues for daily living. News on the hour helped me stay focused. Gil Gross’ dulcet tones helped me write in the afternoon. Len Tillem meant Katie would soon be home from school.

And then it was gone: in an instant.

In the noise that ensued, a local station, KSCO here in Santa Cruz, made a move to grab listeners because it offers something we care about: talk. Listeners can call in and actually discuss issues with the radio hosts. Wonderful.

I noticed KSCO didn’t appear to have a social media strategy and since that’s what I do, I sent an email to Michael Zwerling (MZ to his fans), the station owner. I honestly didn’t expect to get a response – the man was so busy with all chaos created by KGO. He was courting new talk show hosts, boosting his online streaming to extend his reach; he was busy. When he called me, I was surprised! We started a conversation that has been going on for a couple weeks now.

So yesterday, Michael invited me down to the station for a tour. I arrived at 11:58 and had no idea he was going on the air in two minutes. He ushered me and a nice guy named Glen into the studio. Glen had planned to be there and had no idea what I was doing there. I assured him I was only there for a tour. MZ had me sit down in a chair – in front of a microphone – and had me put on the headphones. And away we went!

I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to talk. But I was invited into the conversation which was interesting, rangy and provocative. Since the subject was media and content, I actually had something to say and spoke to those topics. Glen was working hard to get the audience engaged and we ended up talking about sex, Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh – did I mention it was a rangy discussion?

I have to admit, I had a blast. I can cross that off my bucket list. It was fun! I loved hearing the callers from the “host” side of things and listening was a very different experience. KSCO’s audience is very passionate and I can tell they love their station as much as we KGO fans loved ours.

I still need to nail MZ down on that social media strategy, but in the meantime, I am grateful for the very unique experience. What a great time I had talking, listening and participating in such an interesting form of communication. Wow!

New Client: Animoto Helps Us Promote Our Business

We are thrilled to welcome a new client: Animoto! If you haven’t played with Animoto yet, we invite you to give it a try! We did this little capabilites video for Listen2Youth with the Animoto Plus product (which is rather affordable and  my daughter Katie already has her eye on it to make her next video!).

While it took us a little while to determine the content, making our capabilities video was easy and fun. We recommend it to any business who’d like to “show” instead of “tell” what you do!