TechWomen 2015 Kickoff – Global Mentoring

Mentoring for me is often more what I learn not necessarily what I teach others. I know I’ve been fortunate to make an impact on others, but as I start my third year as a mentor for TechWomen, I’m again stunned at the women who leave their homes in the Middle East, Africa, and now Central Asia, to spend 6 weeks with us here in the Bay Area. In the program, we call these women “Emerging Leaders” but each one is already a leader in some aspect.

In our formal kickoff of the 2015-2016 TechWomen program, I had a chance to meet many of the 98 women who have traveled here to work and learn with us. In true Silicon Valley style, they had to band together and present a “pitch” on their home country to a crowd of what was easily 200 people. No pressure there, right? Can you imagine traveling to a new country, possibly not having the local language as a primary language for you, then being asked to present in 3 minutes on your country?

I have to say – it’s intimidating. And the Emerging Leaders knocked it out of the park!

Amongst my favorite presentations: Palestine. I was impressed by the candor, the humor, and the grace these women showed. Expecting many Americans may have a negative view of their country, they acknowledged it and then showed us a positive view of their home – a home of which they are very proud.

They women from Kyrgyzstan were stunning – the traditional dress, the dancing and the stunning presentation on their country. Seeing the women from Central Asia has opened a whole new part of our world to me – a part I admit I knew little about. I’m excited to learn more from these women during this month and to perhaps see their homeland next year.

When the Tunsian Emerging Leaders presented, I had a hard time not tearing up. My delegation was in Tunisia during the attack on the Bardo Museum and it was heart-wrenching to see their country suffer under terrorism. As a country, they have such an amazing, rich, diverse culture and such a warm welcoming approach to the world. I hope these women, while in the US, will help other Americans understand what we see in the news is not all that there is to a country.

And Rwanda… my first delegation trip. Rwanda is just magical – there is no better way to put it. Seeing the Emerging Leader share their country and places I knew, was deeply moving.

This time of year makes me remember the women I’ve been so close to through the program: local women that have become wonderful friends, and women across the globe who have inspired me and have given me a chance to step outside of what I know and become more. Thank you all.

You can follow the conversation and all the excitement: #techwomen15

Red Team, Green Team: Tribalism and Social Media


© N.l | - Single Man Fighting Against A Group Photo

Recently I was hanging at a family reunion having a fairly civil conversation about politics – I knew I was treading in dangerous water, but hey, it was going okay … until this statement was made:

“I can’t wait for Obama to get out. He’s a crook and a Muslim”. 

Wait – WHAT?

In less than a heartbeat, I shot back:

“No. I will not have this conversation”.

And I walked away. I was not about to “feed the trolls” on that one.

What was the issue here? First, I’m not addressing the truth or untruth of that statement here in this blog. My issue was with idea that being Muslim = bad horrible person. This was something I was not willing to condone or support.  I know many Muslims. I know many Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Atheists, and a few Buddhists. By virtue of their religion, not one of them is inherently bad or good. It was anathema to me that the word “Muslim” was being used as a label that indicated the person was bad. The recent news about a student in Texas being arrested for bringing his science project, a clock, to school, makes this topic hit home even more.

As I walked away from that discussion, I sat down next to my uncle and we begin talking about tribalism – or as I call it: red team vs green team. It is the idea that it is alway me versus you. My tribe versus your tribe. My red team versus your green team. When we first crawled out of the caves, this practice probably made sense biologically: we were competing for resources and we identified with those around us and formed a team – or a tribe. Throughout history, a common enemy (whether real or imagined) has been able unite people into a team. Now our media highlights our ability to fracture as a society and turn on each other. Red team versus the green team.

As I sat there thinking about this, I realized social media disrupts traditional tribalism – but doesn’t necessarily remove it. I look at my friends on Twitter and while I could say they are my team, my tribe – they are an interesting mix of people from all over the world. I have friends in Rwanda and Tunisia and Australia. I have folks in Indiana, Florida, NYC, California and everywhere in between. Most of them I have never met in person; geographical and cultural restraints are lifted from our ability to know each other and interact. Now my “team” is much more diverse and far more interesting. As I look at this change I feel hope – hope that expanding our horizons, going past the known and into the unknown of the digital world will break down old tribalism themes and bring us to a new tribe: Humankind. I grew up devoted to Star Trek re-runs and the movies. I was always keenly aware that Earth was united as one of many planets in the Federation. Let’s not wait on the discovery of the warp drive for that to happen – let’s do it now –  together.


The Technology Job: Social Media Marketing


Recently I was presenting on the results of a social media marketing campaign. I discussed metrics around engagement, audience growth, unique visitors and more. I highlighted specific technical aspects of social media sites that either work in our favor, or more often that not, do not work in the favor of marketeers. I discussed the Facebook algorithm and shared “workarounds” found to make the technology do more of what we needed it to do. Finally I shared the technical limitations of having non-mobile friendly content in any social media campaign and what metrics we’ve seen that back up the analysis I was providing.

Does that resonate with your idea of social media marketing? For many people, even some in various disciplines of marketing, what I described doesn’t match up with how they see social media marketing.

“Can’t you just tweet it out?”

Social media is about being authentic, fun, and creative. It’s about accepting the challenge of capturing the attention of an audience in 140 characters or less with a small image on a small screen. Yet by the very nature of it being digital, there is a technical component to it. I can edit HTML so blogs format properly and I have been known to muck around in Javascript to make something work onscreen. I study the (known) algorithms of different social media sites to see how I can make the most of the content I post. I spend about 3-5 days a month running metrics and analyzing those metrics to get a clearer picture of what has improved (or not).

Social media marketing (SMM) is not the most technical job available – but in a digital world every person in SMM needs to have some technical skills, the ability to problem solve and test theories, and not only generate the numbers around the results but provide the analysis behind them.

For me: it’s my dream job. As a former engineer and CCIE I love digging in and solving problems. Troubleshooting comes second nature to me. I also love to be creative and taking risks on social content – like creating the “What is your SDN Spirit Animal” quiz. I enjoy writing blogs and writing social copy, creating images and building nice layouts. Some days the creative side falls away in favor of the technical side, but I still find time to make it a blend of both. Many social media professionals miss the chance to learn the technical and analytical side of social media and I believe it limits their ability to bring depth to the work they do. If you are a creative, take the time to dig a bit deeper on the technical aspects – it can make your creative work even more effective and allow you to get the most out of the work you do.






Dear Google+ – It’s You, Not Me

Dear G+

Recently one of my favorite social media marketing folks, Marji J Sherman, posted a blog about growing up and social media. As I read the blog, one of the points was “Have your First Breakup” – and I started thinking about what social media channels I’ve had to break-up with just this year.

The engineer in me loves to try new apps, new tools, and new social media platforms. I have an Ello account, though I admit I haven’t logged in for awhile. I didn’t expect to love Snapchat – but I do. Sadly, not many of my friends or family are in the Snapchat demographic so some days it’s lonely there. I do admire geeohsnap and her ability to constantly have updated stories. If you are on Snapchat and don’t follow her, go fix that right now.

But what social media platform have I left lately? Google+. When Google Photos was announced in May 2015, you could almost hear the funeral dirge for G+. It’s a platform I’ve always been frustrated with – the navigation felt cumbersome and I deeply resented the requirement to sign up for it to use other Google apps. Getting a custom URL has been slow going for pages (and sometimes for your personal G+) and I just never “got it”. The only reason I even posted to it was due to the common knowledge early on that you had to post to it about every 3 days to keep your SEO flowing. (Which I also resented – I’m can be a rebel at times and I like to at least think I have a choice in things).

So, it is with no regrets and no looking back that I have finally broken things off with Google+. Sorry G+ – but it was really you and not me.

What social media platforms have you broken up with lately? Chime in below or tweet me @tinashakour.



Busy Busy Busy

Too many things

I just had a great text chat with a dear friend. It seems like it has been ages since we talked – we are both bogged down in too much “busy”. Not even our own busy – but also all the stuff that comes at us because of someone else’s busy.

Here is an example: how many of you wake up Monday to a veritable onslaught of email in your work inbox from people who were working over the weekend trying to catch up? You start your Monday under the gun and overloaded and overly busy because others have spread their busyness like the plague that it is.

Or this: you volunteer for a project only to have the rest of the team become too busy and they leave you to pick up the balls they dropped due to their higher priority busyness.

I can go on with the examples but I’m betting every reader knows exactly what I mean.

When was the last time you did something for you?

When was the last time you rejected someone’s busy?

To keep some semblance of balance in my life, I strive to make both happen. Having two dogs, I can’t really escape exercising. And it can be said I’m not exercising for me, I’m making sure the dogs get their walk. The truth is it probably benefits me just as much as them. I can’t hold two leashes and check my phone. So when we walk, I have to be in the moment and be okay with that.

I also have gotten very tactical about rejecting others’ busy. If you push back on firedrills at work, at school, in clubs – whatever it may be – you often find out the urgency isn’t real. Sometimes it is and believe me, I can make things happen when it is a real need. But if you are trying to force an issue with me so you can say you are “working all the angles” – I’m not willing to allow your busy-plague infect me too. (Critical reading: #BeTheKitten – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck  is a great read on how to find balance.)

And then there is the gut check – as a leader and a peer, as a team member in groups: am I allowing people the space to do something for them or am I spreading my own busy-plague germs?

How are you avoiding the “busy” of every day – or are you?

Tunisia – Hope and Faith

Today I received a the strange text – “glad you escaped all that horror over there”.

I was in Tunisia last week, in Tunis, when gunmen attacked, killed, and took hostage a large group of tourists at the Bardo museum. But here is the truth: I wasn’t scared. It wasn’t horrifying. It was stressful and it was sad. It was shocking and confusing. But I never felt threatened, or in even in danger.

Beach in Tunis

Beach in Tunis

Here is my experience, as it happened.

As a part of the TechWomen delegation trip, I traveled to Tunisia. This trip was hard for me to make, there were so many personal and professional balls in the air that I arrived in the country exhausted beyond the exhaustion of jet-lag. Saturday a small group of us visited Sidi Bou Said, a popular tourist town that overlooks a beautiful harbor. Sunday, as a full delegation group, we traveled by tour bus to all the “must-see” sites of Tunis. I was surprised to see the North African American Cemetery and deeply touched that Tunisia has dedicated such a big, beautiful, space to American service men and women who fought in North Africa during World War II. The cemetery was actually closed on that day, but they opened it up for us and gave us the background of the war there in Northern Africa.

North Africa American Cemetery

North Africa American Cemetery

Mosaic Map of WWII in Tunisia

Mosaic Map of WWII in Tunisia

It was a full day – we visited two sites in Carthage and had lunch. Then we visited the Bardo Museum. By this time, I was flagging hard and I regret I wasn’t fully able to appreciate the museum. It was near closing time and there were not many visitors. We had a chance to learn about the process of mosaic creation – it takes an incredible amount of time and skill –  and learned about the history of the building. It was once a palace for an Ottoman Prince and as such, there was indeed an area dedicated to the harem. We heard the story about the secret tunnels. We posed for a photo in front of a huge mosaic – the very same mosaic that would be seen all over Twitter on Wednesday. Then we headed to the Medina for a very quick tour.

Photography Passes for the Bardo and Catharge.

Photography Passes for the Bardo and Catharge.

Monday and Tuesday were our first official meetings. Wednesday was a day I was really excited about  – we were visiting high school girls who were full of energy and thrilled to talk about their experiences in the US and their goals in technology. Sadly, my energy didn’t match theirs – I was not feeling well and had our tour guide help me get a cab back to the hotel. A bit later, I was IM-ing with another mentor who had come back early and we saw a post on Facebook “Are you ladies alright?”.

A quick search revealed what was happening – hostages taken at the Bardo, 8 people dead. The police were responding and had the area surrounded.

What did I feel in that moment? Shock. Surprise. Concern for the other mentors who were still out and about – though I knew they were in the opposite direction of the museum. It was still very early in my home timezone, but I sent my husband an instant message telling him I was OK. I quickly packed, just in case. Joining another mentor in her hotel room, we watched the Twitter feed and waited to hear from the rest of the delegation team as they made their way back to the hotel.

We didn’t expect the news to hit the mainstream American news – let’s face it, our media tends to focus more on Justin Bieber’s DUI than it does on global news. I made the decision to not post anything to Facebook or Twitter to avoid sending my family and friends into a panic. Then, in less than an hour, the news had hit the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. I felt sick to my stomach when my friend told me this – my immediate concern was people thinking I was near the attack or somehow there when it happened. It was about 7am PDT and the west coast was waking up, I had to post something so everyone knew I was okay and I did, keeping it very short and brief. I was humbled, deeply touched, and often overwhelmed with the flow of notes, messages, and responses I received. I am deeply grateful to all those who were positive and upbeat.

Once the full delegation was together in the hotel lobby, the waiting began. At that time, the hostages were still being held and we were advised to not leave the hotel. Several of the Tunisian TechWomen were with us and we broke into groups – some playing cards, some online watching the news reports, and some ordering wine and cheese and talking amongst ourselves. And so we waited… then the good news came in: the hostages had been freed. It was followed with more sad news as the reported deaths rose to 18.

Shortly after, we were briefed by the State Department – the official TechWomen program was cancelled for the rest of the week. The Embassy was not evacuating, and it was our decision if we stayed in country or went – but the advice was to avoid tourist locations and to not travel in groups. It was a sad moment when we all realized it was over – the reason we had all traveled to Tunisia was cut short by senseless violence.

And so I booked a flight out for the next day – my family wanted me home. And without the structure of the program, coupled with the advice to avoid tourist locations, I came home.

Those last 24 hours were heartbreaking. The Tunisian women were clearly deeply saddened that this happened in their country while we were visiting. The founder of Tunisia Digital Day lost half of her guest speakers for the inaugural TDD event. The hotel staff who had become known faces and friends during the week showed concern. Our tour guide and bus driver became our bodyguards and made sure we got to the airport safely – all the while knowing the tourism industry just took a huge hit for Tunisia. Each cruise ship that docks in Tunisia bring $500,000 into the local economy – funds needed to provide jobs and help the fledgling democracy reach success.

And there lies the viciousness behind the attack and the real reason I cried myself to sleep in Dubai as I made my long journey home: all those people who touched my life would be impacted by the attack. Of the over 20 people who died that day, all but 2 were tourists. In response, cruise ships immediately canceled their routes to Tunisia. And this is where I say I have Hope for Tunisia: the people are smart, energetic, worldly, and kind. They are proud, as they should be, of their young democracy and that they built it themselves. And I have Faith in the world to do the right thing, to trust in the young democracy and the people and visit them. See for yourself what Tunisia really is and can be.



3 Tips for Driving Better Engagement with Your Facebook Audience

I’m excited to re-boot my blogging for Cisco with the following post:

3 Tips for Driving Better Engagement with Your Facebook Audience

n recent years, organic reach on Facebook has seen a strong decline. Reach is defined as the number of people who have seen your post. On your personal Facebook, you aren’t going to see this number, but for anyone running a Facebook page – this is an important number.

The challenge for social media marketing started a few years ago when Facebook began suppressing the reach of posts from Pages. Organic reach started to decline as early as 3 years ago. In 2012 = between 15-20% of people who had “liked” your Page saw organic posts. In 2013 that number dropped to ~10% and by 2014 it dropped to 1-3%.

This left many social media marketing teams with no choice but to “pay to play”. Facebook started to offer a “Boost Post” option at the same time it started to suppress organic reach. Boosting a post raises the percentage of people who have liked your page who get to see your post in their News Feed.

But do you really have to pay to play? READ MORE HERE

TechWomen – Tunisia 2015


I’m so very behind on my blogging but I have exciting news! This year the TechWomen delegation trips are headed to South Africa and Tunisia. I had to pick only one, much to my regret, and decided to join the group to visit Tunisia in March 2015.

We don’t have a lot of details yet, but I’m excited to see this part of the world and catch up with Emerging Leaders from the area. Last year the trip to Rwanda was one of the most amazing things I did. Visiting the girls’ schools and attending career fairs, learning more about the culture and their history, seeing aspiring women tech entrepreneurs pitch their innovations – it was all so much to experience and changed my view of the world. To say the least, I have high expectations for the Tunisia trip!

Stay tuned!

Facebook – Internal or External Marketing?

© Frui | - Pet Profile On Facebook Photo

I’d like to outline a theory. Hang with me for a second …

For several years social media marketing on Facebook has gotten more and more challenging. As a social network that was first used by people to connect with friends and family, it grew fast – and marketeers (like me!) wanted to reach those millions of accounts.

So we created Facebook pages and if you “liked” our page, you were electing to opt-in to our posts and see them in your news feed. This was way better than email for those of us tired of 1% click-through rates on email blasts – Facebook was a friendly, happy group of people. You liked my page – you must be dying for me to share everything with you.

Then Facebook started suppressing all that wonderful content* posted on pages in news feeds. Even if you opted in, you wouldn’t see it unless one of two things happened: 1) The post organically was getting many comments, likes, and shares – also known as “engagement” or 2) the page owner paid to make sure the post showed up in your news feed.

As a consultant, I started to turn away from Facebook as a marketing vehicle about 18 months ago – with the exception of marketing for non-profits. You can check out a post here on how we blew away our fundraising goals with just social media marketing this year for Shiba Prom. However, I had noticed in my own news feed I wasn’t seeing pages of my friends’ businesses – pages I had gone and liked. As I looked at metrics for my own business pages, it was back down to that same 1% number you see on emails – this time as an engagement number. My advice to clients evolved: make sure you have a Facebook page so you can hold the URL and no one can hijack it. Post to it when you can, but don’t expect it to drive results for you.

Then I noticed something interesting: in a group conversation one day several us commented on how we were seeing an ad campaign in our news feed but the ad didn’t seem to be driving revenue. We all had something in common: we had liked the page and had many friends who worked at the company. It’s not uncommon for someone to like posts from their employer. Press release the stock went up? Heck yeah – let’s like that! New product launched that you killed yourself over for a year! Yup – liking that one too! Which then means your friends have a higher chance of seeing that post in their news feed.

And who is in your Facebook friend list? Family, long time friends…and co-workers? By liking a post are you helping to propagate it to other employees of the same company?

It’s a theory. Check out your Facebook audience in the Insights. Tell me what you see. I like to measure how many of the people who have liked and opted-in are actually engaging with the posts. On a slow week, I see about 10% of the audience engaging with Shiba Prom. On an active week, it’s closer to 50-60%.

So who is checking your Facebook page? Internal or external audiences?

* That was sarcasm. Content is king and if you post junk no one will engage with your social media even if you pay to have it front and center. But that is a topic for another day!

Followers vs Engagement – Measuring Social Media

Social Media

Today on Twitter an interesting question was asked: would you prefer to have 100,000 followers or 100,000 conversations (engagement) on social media?

How would you answer this?

Early in the world of social media folks were rushing to get “likes” and followers. To be successful in social media, you could show metrics that had little relevance to the bottom line and be a hero. One million Facebook likes? Whoo! Let’s party!

Then social media got a bit more sophisticated and started to be taken more seriously by the executives. Combine that with changes in organic reach by Facebook and other social sites, many marketeers had to realize they were now going to have to pay to reach all those likes – because of while they had thousands of fans and followers, their content was not engaging.

A few months ago I posted a blog about content – about the benefit of using your marketing to surprise and delight your audience. I’ve been a vocal advocate that marketing (any form) should be useful for the audience receiving it, should be encouraging a two-way conversation, and not just be a megaphone to shout “BUY NOW!” to people.

For me this becomes even more critical in social media. For many companies, tying social media directly to sales will require investments in marketing automation systems, tagging, a landing page strategy, and so on. But so many of us can parse enough information from Google Analytics to get a fair bead on which social conversations are driving people to websites or to take a specific action.  Bottom line for me: social media that is engaging, with good content, and human interaction produces results. To answer the question at the beginning: I would choose to have 100,000 conversations any day.

What is your social media story? Do you have a success (or a failure) you want to share? Chime in below or tweet me @tinashakour.