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 | Dreamstime.com - 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. 


Cupcakes and People – the Work from Home Debate

cupcakeAre you distracted?

Recently I was listening to NPR during the drive along highway 101 and I hear the ridiculous comment from an “expert” that the reason so many employers do not favor flexible work schedules and work from home is because at home, an employee can be distracted by things such as laundry and walking the dog.


According to this expert, laundry is the most fascinating thing in the world and if I work from home I must feel compelled to clean clothes, fold them, and put them away. I wonder if this applies to men also? As for walking the dog – please – my dogs sleep all day. I know because I spy on them with a Dropcam.

A few days later I saw a tweet about distractions for workers at home and I had to comment. At that moment I was getting antsy in my seat in an office because I knew there were cupcakes in the kitchen and my cube neighbor was in and I had a list of things I wanted to bug him about. These things are far more distracting than laundry,  let me tell you.

And speaking of my cube-mate. Pity him. I am constantly popping my head over the wall to ask a “quick question”. So I am pretty darn sure I’m one of his distractions in the office.

I believe the benefits of trusting your employees to be grown-ups and work hard for you cannot be understated. There are numerous reports, like this one from Forbes, that will back up that belief. Yet we still hear these comments about laundry being a distraction. I love going to the office because I can “stalk” people and get answers quickly – but I am also easily distracted by everything around me. I know myself well enough and know I need office days and I need “focus” days someplace where I can control the environment.

What is your personal work style? Does your company give you the flexibility you need to be a truly productive and awesome employee? Share your thoughts below or tweet me @tinashakour. 


3 Reasons to (Re-)Love Email Marketing


If you had asked me a couple years ago how I felt about email marketing you would have gotten a tirade of frustration and angst. Many companies use email as the “easy” way to reach contacts. Customers and leads get bludgeoned with every message that needs to go out – often with a redundant “three-touch” model to make sure they are really, really annnoyed with you and either unsubcribe or hit the spam button (or both).

But then I had a chance to be creative with email. I went into a company that needed some serious uplift on their demand generation. They had loyal customers and they only sent transactional emails regarding payments and account status. I created a surprise reward system that was automated and then let run. If a customer reached a certain level of activity on their account, they were rewarded with free running time on the systems. Poof! Like magic, we saw a pretty solid outpouring of love. Some people even took pictures of the email and tweeted them out. We also saw an increase in activity time for those accounts. Hooray!

Since then I’ve had other chances to fly far and wide with email marketing and I have re-discovered that it is a tool I love, when used properly. Like any tool, it is never a once size fits all. But here are a few of the things I adore:

  1. Email is so very measurable
    Even with free tools like Mailchimp (my fave), metrics are easy to obtain. Open rates and click through rates are easily measured, along with specificly what link was clicked. If you have an end to end marketing automation system, you will be able to see exactly what generates customer activity. And I have to admit, it’s kinda fun to see just how high you can get those metrics to go.
  2. Done right, the end receiver is happy
    Whenever I get an email that is an informative newsletter from a company I’ve opted in with, I’m happy. Or maybe it is a surprise email that says “come back and shop with us – here is 30% off” – oh… I like those very much! Nurturing and informative emails keep people signed up. They may not open every email, but you are staying on their radar (and in their inbox).
  3. Done right, email generates results
    A picture is worth a thousand words – so here is a graphic showing the results for a non-profit fundingraising campaign I created. Those click-throughs went to the “donate now” button and we blew out our donation goals this year!

email success

What do appreciate most about email marketing? Please comment below or tweet me @tinashakour.




Surprises (for me) from the Internet of Things

Back in May we filmed this TechWiseTV episode on the Internet of Things – I had a blast with the guests and was surprised how interesting things like factory automation and public utilities could really be. For example, I really think of power companies as way behind the times (and many may be) the technology available to them addresses the newer reality of people adding solar panels and renewable energy to the grid.

Also, the router sitting in the tank of water was pretty cool to watch.

Water Router

Ad Agency Threatens A Puppy as a Joke: Not Cool

Need Caffeine

I hadn’t even finished my caffeine intake of the morning out of my delightful new Shiba Inu mug when I saw this on Linkedin:

If You Skip This Ad, One Agency Says It Will Electrocute A Puppy


Of course, I know before I click on the article there is no way someone really intends to electrocute a puppy. I have not gotten thay cynical about the internet. But the whole idea does violate my constant theory that marketing should surprise and delight. Making your audience feel awful is not clever; it is not funny – it is a way to get people to rally against your brand. Of course we all say “there is no bad news, just how you handle it” but that doesn’t always apply in a digital marketing age.  The attempt at the end to “save” the ad, by claiming they will donate to the SPCA, doesn’t work. That smirky grin isn’t convincing me at all.

To prove my point, for each page view this blog gets between now and 8:00am PDT, I will donate $.50 (the cost of the ad for that agency) to each two of my favorite animal santuaries and rescue groups: Animal Guardian Network and NW Shibas4Life.

Surprise and Delight. Not guilt and fear.




Be Kind, Be Human


I was heartbroken this weekend when one of the dog rescue groups I work with through Shiba Prom posted that they were suspending operations for a few months. The post explained that the volunteers for the non-profit rescue group were getting badly beaten up on social media and in email, making it hard for the group to retain their volunteers. They needed some time off.

The very same weekend someone very close to me spent spent hours combating internal libel and assaults within a not-for-profit fraternal organization. Monday I received a note from an individual telling me about being verbally abused while attempting to save a dog from a kill shelter.

It isn’t just the non-profit world. I see it in sports, in politics, in media. It is in the way a woman snaps at the checkout person at the grocery and in the way a man angrily honks his car horn when a person hesitates too long at a stop sign. It is in the way we see kids bullying each other and showing no remorse when it results in death. In her Ted talk, comedian Maysoon Zayid, who has cerebral palsy, notes that if she was growing up today her palsy might have been more of an issue due to the excessive meanness on social media.

Today I spent lunch with a good friend and our conversation turned to how, on the weekend of “America’s birthday”, we both were shocked at the inundation of negativity and hate in our circles and world. We observed how American culture seems so hate filled and so very “us versus them” to a point of being extreme.

There is an old Internet saying: Don’t feed the trolls. It is a truism that was pertinent in the dawn of the bulletin boards and message forums and feels even more needed now – and not just in Internet culture. Don’t give in to the rage, don’t give in to hate. Do Not Feed the Trolls. When you lash out in anger, when you spew hate at another, you may feel better for a few seconds but the backlash on your own emotions will be deep. There are studies that prove when a person smiles, their mood improves – and it is contagious to those around you. Likewise, when you give in to hate, when you spew venom into the world – not only does it hurt you, but it spreads more hate and rage into the your world.

So for all of us, post a positive comment on Facebook. Retweet some positive messages. Add an appreciative comment on a blog. And smile at the checkout person.

Be Kind, Be Human

PS – I do try to live by this but if you catch me on a grouchy day – please be kind. It may help me! :)
PPS – About an hour after writing this, I saw this awesome article come through on Twitter: How your Happiness makes your friends happy too.