Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Out with the old, in with the new.

There are only a few days left in 2010, which means it's time for the infamous "New Year's Resolution." While spending time with my family over Christmas, we went around the dinner table and each said what our resolutions were. Most were typical: to be a calmer, nicer, more patient person; to work out more/lose weight, etc. (Mine, in case you're wondering? I'm keeping it simple this year and have set a very concrete goal: I will continue going to yoga at least once a week. That covers the calmer/nicer/more patient category, and also covers "work out more." Two birds, one stone.)

My sister, however, declared that she was going to make an effort to call us all on a more regular basis. This brought out catcalls, hoots of laughter, and lots of snorting from everyone around the table. Why? My sister is notoriously awful at keeping in touch. It often takes multiple phone calls before she'll bother calling anyone back, unless there is a Crisis of Mass Proportion at stake. My mom will sometimes call me and lament that she fears that my sister has fallen into a ditch somewhere, and why oh why does she insist on living in NYC where there is (supposedly) harm lurking around every corner? K is definitely better with email and texting, but even there, she is almost never the one to initiate a conversation. She has no real excuse for her lack of communication, either, besides, "I'm just REALLY busy." (I have little sympathy for this excuse, as we're ALL busy.)

Still, as we were driving home this week, I felt a bit badly for laughing snorting (yep, I was one of the snorters) during our dinner conversation: why shouldn't keeping in touch be one of K's resolutions for 2011? It's a new year: a time to phase out bad habits and phase in new, more positive ones. But then I recalled my other sister's pledge: she doesn't like making resolutions at all, she said, because she always feels like she's setting herself up to fail, and she'd prefer to simply make a lifestyle change on her own schedule. Interesting viewpoint, and I can't say I disagree: I've already been going to yoga on a regular basis for several months, yet am making that my resolution for next year. Making a resolution (or not) doesn't have to be limited to the start of a new year: people make life-changing decisions every day. Some of them stick, and some don't. Some morph into major changes that we could never have seen coming. And some decisions are made for us, whether we like it or not.

I'm welcoming 2011 and all of its wonderful, maddening uncertainty with open arms, and will continue to practice yoga at least once weekly to help me sail through the year with flying colors. Calmer, nicer, more patient person, I look forward to getting to know you better. And K, I look forward to your phone calls. :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas magic.

Everyone always says, "Christmas is so much more fun when you have kids." And you know what? They're totally right. Last year, C was a little too young to really understand the holidays. This year, though, she is a chatty and inquisitive two year old, and she is amazed by all things Christmas: lights, carols, Christmas trees, Santa...and his elves. She is particularly enchanted by one very special elf: Perry.

Perry the Elf, you ask? Yes. He is staying at our house, and magically moves to a new location overnight: a bookshelf, the window sill - and this morning, in a potted plant. This mysterious little elf means that the moment C wakes up in the morning, she runs into our room, and yells, "Mommy! Where is Perry?" She hands me my glasses and slippers (my own tiny blond butler! who knew?) and together we make our way downstairs to see where Perry has landed for the day. Though he doesn't move, and won't talk to C, he mysteriously knows whether she's been "good" or "bad," and he reports back to Santa every night. If C starts whining about something, as two year olds are apt to do, we gently remind her that Perry is listening, and maybe she should use her words like a big girl instead.

The two women who created The Elf on the Shelf (a mom and daughter team, as it happens) are geniuses.

Anyway, I have to say that I'm looking forward to this Christmas more than any that I can recollect. C's recent birthday reminded me just how quickly she's growing up, and seeing her little face light up as she explores the joys of the season (magic elves and all) is quite possibly the best gift a mom could ask for.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My world is a fishbowl...Part Two.

Monday night, I was making a second batch of cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday. (Though I was using a mix, I’d ruined the first batch by using old oil, if you can believe that. Shows you how often I actually bake.) As I threw them in the oven, I posted to Facebook that Betty Crocker and I were at war in the kitchen, and started chatting with some friends online about my kitchen debacle.

All of a sudden, I saw an ad on the right hand side of my Facebook profile page for a new TLC reality show, called (wait for it…) The Next Great Baker. Being the non-domestic goddess that I am, I found that extremely funny. So I posted something to my Twitter account, and within moments, received notification that @TLC was following me.

So what does this all mean?

1. I am in no way qualified to participate in a reality show on baking. (Just had to throw that out there.) Ahem.

More importantly:

2. When you talk online, people listen. Monitoring has become so sophisticated that it’s become easy to participate in conversations about you, your company, or your brand in real time, whether you’re using a free tool like Google Alerts or a paid tool like Radian6. If you’re not listening or participating, you’re missing out on a chance to engage with your customers. Interestingly, I tweeted TLC thanking them for their follow, and jokingly pointed out that I probably wasn’t going to be a good contestant. They never responded. That could have been a Twitter API/client issue, or could be that they weren't REALLY listening.

3. Ad targeting has become personal – as in "specifically for me." Here’s another example of extremely targeted online marketing: over the past few months, I saw several different ads on Facebook from a marketing/social media consultant, who works in the multifamily industry. A similar ad was also displayed on a few of my friends’ Facebook profiles – and these friends happen to be marketing directors/VPs in the same space. I also see ads for things relating to moms with young kids, and marketing/social media, since these are things I talk about on a frequent basis. Granted, not everything is targeted perfectly: pink Uggs are not my speed, though I saw an ad for those, too. But most of the time, I’ve found that Facebook's ads are pretty relevant. (Yep, as much as I hate to admit it, anti-wrinkle cream is something that I purchase on a regular basis.)

Though this all is a bit Big Brother, when you think about how useful this technology is, it’s really exciting. As an example, if I start venting online about how I'm unhappy with a certain product or service, the company monitoring their online mentions has the opportunity to step in and help make things right. Or, even better, I can reach out to that company directly: many large companies, such as Home Depot and JetBlue, have online customer service teams active on Twitter and/or Facebook, but so do smaller companies, like and Totsy. I win because as a consumer, I'm seeing resolution to an issue, but companies win, too: they're getting honest, unsolicited feedback. It's the companies who actually DO something with that feedback that really shine.

So yes, maybe we all feel like we live in a fishbowl these days. But in some really nice ways, that makes the world feel a little smaller, and a lot friendlier, don't you think?