It’s official - Instagram is planning to launch ads. They’re testing the waters and will be starting out with photo/video content from brands that already have a big presence on the platform. Definitely something to continue keeping a close eye on as this platform’s user base continues to grow (approx. 150 million users to date)
This BuzzFeed article got passed around in our office, to any and all romantics, as my male co-worker put it. The story in a nutshell is that a man proposed to his girlfriend and then was able to have the whole wedding planned for that very same day because of the guidance of his girlfriends’ Pinterest boards.
I can’t help it, but my first reaction to the story was definitely not - “wow, this is so romantic, he was so thoughtful to plan everything around her every dream.” (That’s really not what a wedding’s about). Neither was my first reaction “wow, look at the power of social media” (and I work in social media - this is why the article was passed along in the office in the first place!). And lastly, my reaction was also not, “wow, did this girl really plan every aspect of her wedding when she was single, so much so that her boyfriend didn’t even have to consult with her to plan it?”
Nope, none of these things were the first things that came into my mind when I read this story.
Instead, my first reaction was “wow, isn’t that a little bit impulsive? They got married that very same day?”
Yup, that’s me. There’s definitely no surprise wedding happening for this girl right here. (Of course, this is coming from a girl who hates surprise parties - ask anyone who knew me in 5th grade).
Twitter announced that it’s going public this past Thursday afternoon via - you guessed it - a tweet. A lot of the coverage has been focused on the fact that Twitter filed confidentially (so no financial data is available, apparently a loophole provided to “emerging growth companies”), giving itself more control and avoiding what Facebook encountered (basically microscopic scrutiny and dissection of every word of its filing).
But what does this news mean for us marketers? In my mind, it symbolizes more than ever that social media is capable of making revenue, that it’s not just a communications platform. Twitter is now the last of the big four social players to go public - (YouTube is owned by Google and LinkedIn and Facebook have already gone public). That’s huge. And I think it’s exciting to see the social media space get more sophisticated and mature. Agree? Disagree?
Twitter’s biggest challenge is going to be proving that its business model - mostly coming from sponsored tweets - can work and be sustainable. My guess is that this will be a bit more difficult to explain vs. Facebook’s business model (which makes more sense - plus, people are more familiar with the platform overall), but it should certainly be interesting to watch!
“I’ve never met a woman who is not strong, but sometimes they don’t let it out. Then there’s a tragedy, and then all of a sudden that strength comes. My message is let the strength come out before the tragedy.”—Diane von Furstenberg, NYT magazine interview (6/30/2013 issue)
“Civic life in Britain is predicated on the idea that everyone just about conceals his loathing of everyone else. To open your mouth is to risk offending someone…In America the right to free speech is exercised freely and cordially. The basic assumption is that nothing you say will offend anyone else.”—The differences between Brits and Americans from NY Times article “Letter from London” (oldie but goodie that a friend just shared on Facebook)
The process of branding itself is essentially about the expression and manipulation of daydreams. It owes as much to romanticism as to business school.
In this way, successful branding can be radically unexpected. The most anti-establishment renegades can be the best anticipators of market trends. The people who do this tend to embrace commerce even while they have a moral problem with it — former hippies in the Bay Area, luxury artistes in Italy and France or communitarian semi-socialists in Scandinavia. These people sell things while imbuing them with more attractive spiritual associations.
”— David Brooks, from NY Times column The Romantic Advantage. Very true and well said - this clash between commerce and meaning/depth is a constant pull in good marketing.
I was asked last week to contribute to our company’s all-things-digital weekly newsletter, so naturally wrote about the Yahoo/Tumblr deal. Wanted to share here as well…
News of Yahoo’s acquisition of Tumblr is without a doubt the biggest tech news of late, with everyone from media, experts and consumers hypothesizing what this deal might mean for all parties involved. As I read the news, I wonder – why have we all been so fascinated by this acquisition? Beyond the fact that a deal of this caliber doesn’t happen every day within this space (Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram was April 2012), what is it about the Yahoo-Tumblr deal that intrigues us so much?
For one, I think many are just honestly curious to see if this is yet another item to add to Yahoo’s poor track record (Yahoo famously bought the promising and innovative Flickr in 2005 and apparently neglected and mismanaged it so badly that it completely lost traction in comparison to competitors like Instagram). I also think we’re wondering if Yahoo acted too soon (Tumblr has barely proved that it can monetize itself)?
Additionally, I think we’re all a little intrigued by Ms. Marissa Mayer, wondering if this ex-Googler who has made such headlines is going to turn the company around (though I’m not sure, I can say I’m impressed that she boldly vowed that they “won’t screw it up,” openly acknowledging Yahoo’s past failures).
Last but certainly not least – the question that’s most intriguing to me about this deal is a branding question. Can a hip, trendy site like Tumblr –which is known for its memes and for its largely millennial/Gen Y audience– maintain its brand and cool factor after being bought out by a 18-year-old tech company (quite old in tech years)? We’ll have to wait and see.
“It appears that unhappy individuals have bought into the sardonic maxim attributed to Gore Vidal: ‘For true happiness, it is not enough to to be successful oneself…one’s friends must fail.’ This is probably why a great number of people know the German word schadenfreude (describing happiness at another’s misfortune) and almost nobody knows the Yiddish shep naches (happiness at another’s success).”—One theory that Dr. Lyubomirsky explains in her latest study about happiness. Quoted from this interesting NY Times article.
Remembering the Holocaust: Holocaust Remembrance Day 2013
In my senior year of high school, I was fortunate enough to be chosen as a finalist for an essay contest about Holocaust remembrance. I submitted this essay and won a trip to Washington DC, where I would spend one week getting to know six amazing Holocaust survivors, seven incredibly intelligent educators, and nine amazingly cool students.
Below is the article I wrote after returning from the trip, which I am re-posting in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day. It’s essentially my attempt to capture the extraordinary experience in words and more importantly share the stories of these Holocaust survivors with the rest of the world. I feel so privileged to have met these amazing people - their resilience continues to amaze and inspire me.
The numbers. There they were, imprinted coldly into his arm. Momentarily frozen, I stare at them in shock, almost as if finding out about them for the first time. Surely I had observed these horrid tattoos—one of the innumerable Nazi tactics of dehumanizing the Jew—before this moment, but now seeing them imprinted on the arm of a friend, I felt my stomach turn, my eyes water, and my heart drop.
I look up from the tattoo at a face filled with gentle kindness, wisdom, and spirit for life—someone with whom, not much earlier, I’d been snapping and singing Frank Sinatra’s “Night and Day.” Somehow he maintains that glowing countenance despite the history behind those numbers.
My friend, Henry Greenbaum, is one of six Holocaust survivors I met this summer after winning a national essay contest sponsored by the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation. Ten students and seven educators traveled to Washington DC to connect with the Holocaust through hearing about the experiences of these survivors.
In agreeing to participate in this mission, Henry must relive his painful past—his “resettlement” from home to ghetto, to slave labor camp, to Auschwitz, to the Flossenburg concentration camp, and to a four-month death march.
Yet he’s willing to do so to ensure that his story will never be forgotten, never be doubted, and never reoccur. His personal risk is overridden by the hope that the young audience in front of him will carry on his story to create a safer world.
As he tells his story to the group of teachers and students, Henry remains composed—even through the nauseating details of physical torture in the labor camp. He recalls working in a factory with his bedmate, when one of them dropped something accidentally, causing a domino effect of fallen objects.
The Nazi guards called it sabotage and sent Henry and his bedmate to separate rooms, stripped them naked, and beat them profusely. During his own whipping, he could hear his bedmate’s screams from a room across the hall.
“If your cries got louder,” Henry remembers, “the whipping continued for longer.” The guards made them both walk around with their shirts off the rest of the day to display their wounds and make known to all those in the camp what happened when one disobeys.
Henry’s determined tone continues throughout his speech, until he begins to talk about his sister, who was sent to the same labor camp as he. Henry remembers visiting her in the hospital room when she contracted typhus. She had requested some cloths to ease her bed sores and with great difficulty Henry managed to smuggle some in. Henry’s voice cracks. “I came in the next day and the doctor told me she was dead.”
Henry pauses to compose himself and I stop my note-taking, realizing that more painful and damaging to the survivors than the most brutal torture was being torn from their families. Yet Henry, who lost his closest loved ones, not only continues to live, but does so with strength, joy, and vigor. I still don’t understand how.
One after another, each survivor demonstrates this strength of spirit. During the group’s first dinner together, when we’re uneasily beginning to get to know one another, a survivor addresses the students. He asks us if we want to hear a joke, “A guy is in a restaurant and sees his waiter coming over with the hamburger he ordered, sticking his thumb right on top of it, so he exclaims, ‘Hey, why would you put your finger on my food like that?!’ The waiter answers, ‘I just didn’t want it to fall on the floor again.’” We laugh and the ice is broken.
This storyteller, we learn, escaped the Nazis seven times throughout the war. He crossed the Sauer River, crawled through a hole in barbed wire, outran policemen, and ultimately leaped transport No. 42*, a freight train heading to Auschwitz—all experiences documented in his book, Leap Into Darkness. Leo Bretholz, 84, lived with the most overpowering fear during the Holocaust, yet exudes a teenage boy’s zest for life.
* Leo showing us his name on the list of people who were assigned to transport No. 42, a freight train heading to Auschwitz
Leo was 17 when his mother told him he had to flee his home alone to save his life. He describes how wrenching it was to agree, even as he realized his mother’s fears for their safety in Austria were legitimate. He stares directly at us and says, “Imagine yourself by my side, what would you have done? Identify, identify.” I think to myself, I am 17 now. Would I have fled?
His flight turned into seven years on the run. “We could never plan for tomorrow,” Leo says, stopping to look at us. “You know you’ll wake up tomorrow.” And it was true. That morning I had woken up in a comfortable, queen-sized D.C. hotel-room bed. I opened up my prayer book and began the morning service, without having to hide, run, or fear.
Afterwards I approach him and say, “I don’t think I could have done it.” He tells me that one emotion motivated him all along: fear. “Fear could either paralyze you or propel you to do the impossible, the unimaginable.”
While I consider this, he jokes about how lucky he is to talk to a beauty like me. I let out a long, sarcastic, “Riggghhhhtt,” but can’t help smiling. He’s done it again—putting the people around him at ease, making a difficult situation comfortable.
Many of the survivors share this gift of providing endless solace and at times, comic relief as well. When it’s his turn to speak to our group, Peter Feigl stands behind the podium wearing a very tidy and formal light grey suit. After a second he steps in front of the lectern declaring, “Now, that you’ve seen that I own a jacket, I’m going to take it off,” and comically rips off the uncomfortable jacket.
Public speaking isn’t new to Peter, who worked as a Washington, D.C. tour guide as well as for the government under President Johnson. Soon after hearing Peter’s vast résumé, I learn firsthand that sitting next to him is like interacting with a human encyclopedia. On our bus ride back to the hotel from an afternoon in Georgetown, Peter gives me my own personal D.C. tour, “no charge,” he jokes. But underneath all the light-heartedness and striking intelligence was an anguished past.
Fearing the growing prejudice against Jews in their hometown of Berlin, Peter’s parents baptized their child in 1937. Peter became an altar boy and considered himself a Christian. He even remembered with a chuckle being nine years old and seeing the Hitler Youth marching in their magnificent outfits, and eagerly wanting to join, but his parents gently explaining, “No, Peter, this is not for you.”
His parents sent him to live in a Quaker-managed children’s home under his Christian façade. Not knowing his parents’ fate, Peter concentrated on keeping a diary, “so my parents would know I was being a good boy.” Later, he learned they were gassed in Auschwitz. He lets out an injured smile, pauses, and tells us the diary for his parents can be found in the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.
Peter repeatedly notes, “I was fortunate enough to be the beneficiary of good people who did good deeds.” He remembers the day the lady of the Quaker house quickly put him to bed, urging him to pretend he was sick. Soon after, French police came to inspect the home and were told that Peter was bed-ridden with a bad fever—just a few words that saved his life. A half-hour earlier, the lady of the house had received an anonymous phone call, warning her that the French police were coming and that she should make sure that Peter was ill.
Peter pauses here for emphasis, “That caller took a risk,” he says. “Not only was it a risk of losing his job, but under Vichy law—which was even stricter than German law—any person helping harbor a Jew would be executed.” We all sit back in our seats, chilled. Would I have taken that risk?
That same question rang through my mind after watching the film “Nicholas Winton: The Power of Good,” about the operation of the Kindertransport, which brought 669 Jewish children from Czechoslovakia to safe haven in Britain and earned Winston the title “The British Schindler.” When questioned what made him do it, Winston simply replied, “How could I have not?”
Later we reflect on that statement. One student voices the hope that one day he might reach the level where goodness was as casual and as obvious as Winston made it seem. We ask each other if we would have taken the initiative if we lived during that time. We’re not sure. But I know that at that moment, we were all certain that we would taken the initiative now, living in the 21st century, and not sit idly in the face of prejudice and injustice.
Once the Winston film is shut off and the lights turn back on, I gaze from the fading TV screen to the woman standing before us, Alice Masters. She is delicate-looking, beautifully timid, almost hiding behind her documents and artifacts. I spoke with her the next day and learned that it was one of her first public speeches. She gently asked me if I was able to hear her when she gave her speech and I assured her that I heard every word.
In her soft voice she tells us how at 14 she and her two younger sisters were sent on one of the last Kindertransports. She describes the anguish of being torn from her parents—confused as to why and never imagining it would be the last time she would see her mother. Then she holds up the dresses her mother had sewn for her before she boarded the train. The innocent-looking dresses create such a powerful image that I feel like I am touching the past. At that moment, the Holocaust transformed from an abstract history conveyed in lectures and books into a tangible reality.
Another survivor, Halina Silber, had to endure the heartbreak of leaving her family—first when departing from her mother and father in Krakow, Poland and then when leaving her brother when being sent to the Schindler factory. Yes, the Schindler factory. Halina was one of the thousands saved by Oscar Schindler, whose story Steven Spielberg depicted on film in “Schindler’s List.”
Halina always wears a pearly smile on her face, presenting herself with the utmost grace, and walked hand-in-hand with her husband David (also a Holocaust survivor) so adorably that we voted them “cutest couple” and prayed that we would someday display even half of their cuteness at their age.
When it is her turn to speak, Halina describes her first moments at the factory—the unbearable heat, exhausting labor, and longing for her brother. Then her face lights up as she recalls her first encounter with Schindler. As he approached her and a few other new workers, Halina felt nervous, worried that perhaps she’d done something wrong. Then Schindler asked her if she’d rather clean the offices in the factory than endure the backbreaking work on the assembly line. Halina was stunned, so unusual was it to be treated kindly by a German.
While cleaning the outside of the factory’s windows, she realized it might be possible to escape. Yet she wondered how she would survive once out, admitting she felt much “safer” and “secure” with Schindler. “He gave us back our dignity,” she says with conviction. Then the Nazis ordered Halina sent to Auschwitz, where she “smelled burning flesh,” saw inmates—“walking skeletons waiting to be liberated by death,” and weighed her options. “There was no room for hope of miracles; it was all a question of when would be my turn to die,” she says.
But miraculously Schindler interfered and compiled his famous list. Halina glows as she says, “Our names were read, we were no longer just numbers.” Soon after, they arrived back at the factory and were given yarn to make sweaters for themselves, to keep warm during that chilly winter.
Halina ends her speech by stating, “Schindler was only one man, yet he made such a difference.” It is evident how much Halina and the other survivors have taken this message to heart. All the survivors are determined to make a difference. They write books, contribute their artifacts and volunteer at Holocaust museums, and travel to every kind of venue to tell their story.
Henry made us realize that most painful of all was losing a loved one. Peter declared, “Bullying is how it starts. If you witness it, don’t just stand there because if you do, you might be the next target.” Leo kept repeating, “Silence means consent, silence means consent…if you let him walk away, he’ll think he’s right!” Alice’s story made us question ourselves and ask whether we would have taken action. And Halina made us realize the tremendous impact of one person’s actions.
Each has his or her individual story with personalized messages and lessons, each evoking a different emotion in the audience. Yet all of the survivors share the desire that the world know their story. They sacrifice their time and mental health to make that a reality, so that the Holocaust never happens again. Their passion and drive to educate and inspire could not help but rub off on me and every other person touched by this special trip to Washington.
At our last meal together, the survivors collectively state that they are hopeful for the future if it is in our hands. We all look at one another and swallow. Could we seize this responsibility? Could we be the ambassadors of these stories and spread the truth in our lifetime? As daunting as it sounds, we all quietly nod and stand up to give our friends a hug—a squeeze of assurance, a pledge to always remember and never stay silent.
I was recently interviewed by the folks at Muck Rack (an online destination for media and experts to connect) about my current role at Fleishman-Hillard. We talk about the intersections between media relations and social media, and more. Click on the above headline to read.
Have been singing this song all morning. Beautiful vocals and the kind of melody that just sticks in your head. And best of all, ironically unromantic lyrics in what instinctively sounds like a love song (I can only guarantee that I’ll love you till St. Patrick’s Day? Really?)
“People don’t go out on New Year’s Eve in anticipation of a great new year. They go out to erase 300-some-odd days of demons and to squeeze in a few more before the ball drops and forces reassessment. It’s a night in which everyone gets a free pass for misbehavior, because the next morning, society insists that you’re born anew.”—
You know when you re-discover a song you haven’t heard in a couple of years and then all of a sudden can’t stop listening to it? Yup, that the case here. I think I’ve listened to this track twenty times this week. Usher’s vocals are silky smooth and the song is just super catchy.
Wherever you venture in life, whatever you find yourself pursuing, be an agent of change. Change your friends around you. Change the community you’re a part of. Change the country you live in. Change the world. Change the way someone views the world, her religion, food security, his neighbors, architecture, good music, HIV, or her own heart. Change yourself. Be a living, breathing example and agent of change. Spend the extra fifteen minutes getting to know someone’s story (or telling your own), even if it means you do less “work.” Live out the ethic of inefficiency where relationships and time with people are valued over accomplishing tangible tasks.
Now, the only question left is how. How will you spark change in the world?
”—Alexandra Ernst (wise advice from random stranger via The Listserve, which I just recently joined and am loving)
Social Media Measurement - Simple, Smart Definitions
Working in the social media space, I’m always seeking insights into how other social media professionals are defining and delineating different social media metrics. I came across some pretty stellar definitions - simple and smart - and wanted to share them here. (Via Angela Jeffrey, at Ragan.com)
Social Media Engagement:
Low engagement: likes and follows
Medium engagement: blog/video comments and retweets
High engagement: Facebook shares and original content/video posts
Sentiment on Social Media:
Opinions: “It’s a good product.”
Recommendations: “Try it or avoid it.”
Feeling/emotions: “That product makes me happy.”
Intended action: “I’m going to buy that product tomorrow.”
“Some of my favorite experiences of art are when I am there but my attention has wandered. I think stimulation is overrated, and persistent stimulation is exhausting. You sometimes have to be banal, tedious; make the rhythm go soft and slow, give the mind a rest. I’d rather that people could be both entertained and given rest while reading my book than for someone to have to put the book down to take a rest. You can’t just be lighting firecrackers all the time”—Sheila Heti, the author of “How Should a Person Be?: A Novel from Life,” explains what she means when she says “people should be a little bored” in an interview with The New York Times.
“It’s a growing, yet unspoken problem in many relationships these days: We’ve become communicatively incompatible. There are too many ways to converse, each of us has a favored method (mine is email), and no one wants to compromise…This expectation of constant connectivity is making some of us crazy with insecurity. Did your email to a friend or relative fail to elicit an immediate response? Clearly, he or she is angry. Or totally sick of you. Or dead in a ditch…And so we panic and behave badly. We send rapid-fire, increasingly anxious texts. We demand to know why we are being ignored. We spam the people we love most—leaving multiple messages across many different media within minutes.”—Series of awesome (and very true) quotes from Elizabeth Bernstein’s column about the challenges of modern day friendships and relationships in the age of email, text, phone, Skype, Twitter, Facebook (and the list goes on and on…)
“I, too, love Seinfeld, but is there not a problem when the show is cited as a referent for one’s Jewish identity? For many of us, being Jewish has become, above all things, funny. All that’s left in the void of fluency and profundity is laughter…Despite having been raised in an intellectual and self-consciously Jewish home, I knew almost nothing about what was supposedly my own belief system. And worse, I felt satisfied with how little I knew. Sometimes I thought of my stance as… an achievement, but there’s no achievement in passive forfeiture.”—Excerpt from an awesome article in The New York Times about Passover written by Jonathan Safran Foer.