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. 

Wanna Hear Something Silly but Totally Amazing?

Having Fun Raises funds

Having Fun Raises Funds

How was your weekend? Mine was pretty great – I helped run the social media, PR and events for an online virtual dance party for dogs.

Yes, you read that correctly. Shiba Prom is a non-profit organization that runs an online fundraiser to benefit dog and Shiba Inu rescue groups across the United States. This is our major fundraiser of the year and we have a Prom King and Queen, gift baskets, online DJs, a “barktender” and more.

This year we raised over $42,000 for the non-profit dog rescue groups.

I’m thrilled to be a member of the Shiba Prom board and to help create new ways for the rescue groups to raise funs. Our motto is “Having Fun Raising Funds” and it was really a blast to be part of the team this year.

You can find more info about Shiba Prom at and on Facebook at


Three Reasons the Internet of Things Helps the Wine Industry

Wine Industry and the Internet of Things

Wine Industry and the Internet of Things


Years ago when I was a Cisco SE (pre-sales engineer – I was the technical half of the sales team and designed networks) my territory included Napa, Marin and Sonoma. Sounds like a sweet gig, but it was hard to get people to take the wine industry seriously. The main thought was “they are farmers – why do they need technology?”

Years later I’m at Cisco Live recording for TechWiseTV and I see this amazing setup: The Internet of Things and a whole interactive demo on wine making. I had to make sure we captured this one on camera! As I interviewed Harold (who had about 5 minutes notice that cameras were going to be on him) I learned that this isn’t just about wine making, but significant to agriculture too.

1) Wineries need technology, just like a chemist does.

Wine making, in many ways, is chemistry and science. Grapes are picked off the vine and immediately they begin to change. Fermentation has to be precise, barreling or storing in stainless steel tanks are chemical reactions and choices that fully shape the finished product. Being able to track the crop as it comes off the vines and gets to processing is critical.

2) Wireless networks are critical.

When I worked in wine country, we spent a lot of time  talking about the wine business and the technology they used – and that often they are in historic buildings, use long deep caves that get no cellular signal, and so forth. Early on, wireless networks were huge to wineries  - you couldn’t very well run ethernet cables all the way out through the wine caves, now could you? (Well, not easily or cheaply). Wireless was a game changer for large wineries (and even some smaller ones).

3) Smart growing is important – especially in a drought season.

Sensors in the ground can measure the water level of the soil and trigger watering for the vines – and only the vines that need it, versus a scatter shot of watering everything. With the California drought, this is a significant piece of very usable technology for any crop grower. Another significant technology for the wine industry specifically:  barrel sensors allow the wine maker to leave the barrel alone – not opening it and exposing it to contaminants while still monitoring the conditions inside the barrel.

It was a great opportunity to see how an industry I love is getting to shine with technology! And the free wine samples were pretty nice too. :)

How Facebook is Missing a Marketing Opportunity

facebook fan page

Profile Picture from a FAN page for a Shiba Inu

Recently, a string of incidents on Facebook brought a shining spotlight on to the differences between personal accounts and fan pages. Sadly, as I help people wade through these, it reinforces that Facebook is really missing a chance to do well by their users and create marketing opportunities.

A little background: when you sign up for an account on FB, you agree that you are over the age of 13, you will not use an alias or a false name, and you will not the account for commercial purposes. And so enters the pet people – people who want to not have a personal online presence so they build an account under the pet’s name and don’t read the terms of service (ToS). If you use Twitter, it’s may even be logical to you that it’s OK to do this on FB. On Twitter I follow the Bay Bridge, the SF fog, a few robots, a shark, and the Mars Rover – all clearly not people but things. In addition, if you are new to Facebook, setting up a fan page is not intuitive. So people make “personal” accounts called Sir Fluffy Meowalot and  build up a network of friends – other people with pets who interact and schedule meet-ups and promote events and buy goods…oh wait, yes, people with pets spend a ton of money. They are a perfect target for ads on Facebook if the targeting system allowed it. Which it doesn’t because all of these accounts violate the terms of service.

And that brings me to the disconnect. Yes, these folks have violated the ToS. However, they have then had their accounts deleted, been notified they must convert to a fan page, and their history is gone.

From the Facebook perspective, a page is meant to be a fan page, or a page geared for businesses. The Page design seems to have been developed with the idea that the person, entity or business represented on the page does not care about their privacy and does not want to interact with their audience. For example, a page can not start a private message to someone who has liked their page. Communication has to start with the fan first sending a PM. In addition, a page cannot comment on anything in a personal account, even if that personal account has liked their page. Furthermore, blocking trolls on a page is much harder than blocking a person on a personal account. In fact, blocking someone on a page means they cannot post, but they can still lurk and see your content.

Here is an example of how some of this could play out. Let’s say I’m a famous singer with a name like “Justin”. I have a fan page. Peggy Smith has liked my page and she sent me this great snail mail letter with a song she had written and she hopes I can sing it someday. It’s really a great song and I want to send her a private message via Facebook saying “I have a concert tomorrow night and I’m totally singing your song”. But I can’t do that. Furthermore, I can’t go to her personal profile and post on her timeline. I can’t even post on my timeline and tag her as the awesome person who wrote this song.

The wrench in all the gear works here is privacy. I understand FB doesn’t want a brand with a page to be able to spam you with private message and dump garbage on your timeline – Facebook wants the brand to pay for that privilege – but Facebook is missing a golden opportunity to have an account somewhere in the middle between a personal account and a fan page. One of the biggest mantras I have for my clients is that marketing needs to be human and needs to be a two-way conversation. So realize how a Facebook page essentially violates what modern marketeers are trying to accomplish. A page can essentially only “talk” to another page – ruining the whole idea of human authenticity in marketing.

One final note on my reasoning here: pages do not get ads presented to them but personal accounts do. Back to my comment above about pet people spend tons of money. However, by forcing them to convert to a page, Facebook is missing a great marketing opportunity. Creating a type of account that is somewhere in between a personal account and a page would keep the faith with their users and allow Facebook to sell better targeted ads.

What are your thoughts on this? Should Facebook have a new type of account, are Pages useful to you? What have you seen?

Disclosure: I have a fan page for my Shiba Inus and have always ran it that way – but I knew about pages because I’m in marketing and I knew about the ToS. Not everyone has that insight. 

Thoughts on Form Fills vs Value

Fill out the form

Last year I wrote a blog about ads in search results and was surprised by how many people said they ignore  the paid results and the ads. A recent article talked about how we are trained to never get up our information in a digital format because marketeers then hound us: email, phone calls, using cookie based tracking to offer more in-page ads and pop-up ads, and even resorting to direct mail.

Yet, we do give up our information – willingly – when it is content we really want. Think about it – Whatsapp or GroupMe wants your cell phone number and you willingly give it up for a free service –  even when you know it can be used to market to you and track you. I work with a non-profit that likes to text me monthly messages about their program. I gave up my mobile number on the promise it was once a month. It has been, and each time it’s content I like and it is content I might have missed if I hadn’t seen it in a text. I willingly fill out a registration form to download great ebooks from groups I know provide solid content, and events I love to attend to get the info they request. Granted, my phone number is often 415-555-1212 (because I cannot remember Jenny’s number anymore) but that’s OK. As a person who has requested forms to be filled out for marketing and sales, I get that sometimes you will get bogus info. No hard feelings. There are some communication channels that folks do not want contacted on.

I was recently on a shopping website and there was a pop-up ad: join our mailing list and save 10% off today. Sure, OK – I’ll unsubscribe later if you spam me. Twitter small business sends me a ton of email, but so far I’ve been good with it because it is interesting content about half the time. And sometimes it is an ad credit which I really like! So I’m happy to have your content sent to my contact info – when it has value. But  I recently visited a technical site to watch a  video and the marketing form fills required just to watch the video drove me crazy. Address, Phone, Country, How many people in the company, What is your projected timeline to buy a new solution… and so on. An IT person visiting a site to learn about a new technology will not fill out that content. A CIO might, but the video wasn’t targeted at a CIO. I gave up in frustration and flipped over to YouTube to find “free” videos on the same topic.

I believe  the form fill  can no longer be a cookie cutter approach – it just won’t work with your customers. People will give you their information but you have to provide value and not ask them to fill in every field that your instance of needs populated. I’ve said this many times: know your audience. What information do they have, what information are they willing to give up,  and what do you really, really need to contact them again in the future?

How do you get people to share their information with you – willingly? Reply below or tweet me @tinashakour. 

Four ways to avoid being un-followed on Twitter

What really bugs you about Twitter? Or rather, what really bugs you about the folks who use Twitter and how they use it?

Last Friday this tweet asked the question – and a few of us went off on a bit of a rant. It was funny and to the point, since it was on Twitter after all.


Here are some of my favorites:

    1.  No eggs please.
      Really – just take a selfie, grab a photo from Facebook, or have your friend take a quick photo. But if your Twitter profile picture is an egg you are immediately lacking credibility. And while you are selecting that profile picture please remember it is your account. If I follow you, I want to see you. Not your dog, your kids, the view from your rooftop deck. Just you.
      No eggs please 
    2.  Auto-response Direct Messages.
      “Thank you for following me! You can see my blog at” In all cases if I think you are interesting and I decide to follow you and then get an auto-response direct message, I will immediately unfollow you. The value in social media is the social aspect of it. Be human. And auto-response violates this wholly and completely. This does not mean you cannot use tools like Buffer to stagger out content when you have lots of stuff to share… in fact, please see item 3.
      tweet 2 
    3. Re-Tweeting gone wild.
      There are a lot of things I’m passionate about. Technology, archaeology, the drought in California, equality for humans, Rwanda, wine, France….the list goes on. However much I want to share cool stuff with my followers, I know better than to re-tweet the 100 things that caught my attention this morning all at once. I use Buffer to space out things so I’m not that person who clogs up your Twitter feed with my retweets. Please do not go wild on your re-tweeting and spam it all out at once.
    4. While we are talking about re-tweets … be human
      Back to that human thing again. When you share something, try to add your perspective. If I’m following you it’s because I care about what you think and your opinions. I admit I’m guilty of not always doing this because of limited space, but I earnestly try.

What is the one thing that causes you to unfollow someone on Twitter?

PS – If you are not following Marji and Jen on Twitter – you should be! 

Marketing in a Digital Age: Surprise and Delight

Recently, Starbucks started Tweet-A-Coffee. You can link your Starbucks account to your Twitter and send someone a coffee.



OMG – I love this on so, so many levels. First, you have to have a Starbucks loyalty account where you give them your name, email and can provide them your zip code if you want info about local offers. Then, you have to link your Twitter account so they can follow you now on Twitter or send you promoted tweets or offers. Then you send a coffee to a friend – who gets a $5 gift card. You get to be nice to someone and spread the Starbucks marketing mojo – because chances are very good your friend will sign up for the same program. And they used a short, snappy video to promote it and show you exactly how to do it.

It’s genius. Pure genius.'s a surprise

Shhh…it’s a surprise


Using the art of Surprise and Delight with your customers is a huge focus of my marketing with clients. Starbucks has done a great job of giving their customers a chance to surprise and delight their friends – who are all potential Starbucks customers. But you don’t have to develop a big campaign – even little things can be done by a brand that have huge payoff.

About a year ago, I set up an email retention campaign for a client. The goal was to get the users of the system more involved and using up the credits in their account. We created a threshold – if they passed that threshold, they would get their account “topped off” with  free credits. We didn’t advertise this, it was all automated through the system. Then an email was triggered to let them know they had received bonus credits. The reaction was huge – people took photos of the email and tweeted them out, they emailed us thanking us, they publicly mentioned what we had done in forums and groups. We saw an uptick in usage and people trying to get across the threshold to get the bonus credits.

In another scenario, Morton’s Steakhouse knocked the ball out of the park when Peter Shankman tweeted about a plane flight and how he wished Morton’s could meet him at the airport with a porterhouse steak. And Morton’s did. They hit social media gold that day!

This past year, Mod Cloth ran the #merrymodcloth campaign for the holidays. They randomly selected customers who had tweeted their wishlish with the #merrymodcloth hashtag and provided them the very gift they wanted.

All of these examples show how you can surprise and delight customers – who will then tell all their friends and followers what you have just done. In the traditional sense of marketing, you are not getting the “hot leads”  Starbucks did with the Tweet-a-Coffee, but you are getting attention and followers. Statistics show 92% of Twitter users trust their friends opinion of brands on Twitter. In another recent study, 60% of Twitter users say they have bought something from a small business because of Twitter and 43% plan to buy regularly.

What are you waiting for? Go out and surprise and delight your customers – see what happens!

Do you have a great surprise and delight story experience with a brand? Share it below or tweet me @tinashakour.



Girls in STEM: Visiting Hoover Middle School in SF

Snap Circuits

Snap Circuits project


I was thrilled to join SF.girls last week at Herbert Hoover Middle School to talk to about 100 girls on what it means to be a woman with a STEM background. On average, girls are equal or better, than boys at math and science until about the age of 12. Research shows that interest then begins to decline. As I prepared for the panel, I remembered very clearly that moment in sixth grade when I realized being smart and “geeky” wasn’t cool.

Today, I am proudly a “geek-girl” – but I wasn’t always proud of it nor did I willing admit to liking science. As I was driving that day, I was re-living the memory of a fourth grade project: we had a paper airplane contest. You had to design and create a paper airplane that would fly the farthest. I was excited to try it, kept my design simple, and I won! I was so proud of winning because I beat the boys – no one saw that coming, believe me. Expectations then were pretty low for girls in my school when it came to anything in science and math.  Then, a couple years later in sixth grade we had a project to be build model rockets.  I was so excited  – I mean, we were going to actually take the rockets out to the field, light them, and see which rocket went the farthest. Not only was I competitive and I wanted to win, but HOW AWESOME WAS THIS? A ROCKET! It was like something out of Star Wars.

Then I realized something – the cool girls were not building rockets. They didn’t care about the rockets. They were busy talking about clothes and boys and makeup. All things I liked but – the chance to build a rocket! Wow! However, I also realized nerd girls who liked science did not get to hold a boy’s hand during the lunch movie. Nerd girls were the subject of jokes and laughter and bullying. I  really wanted to hang with the cool girls and did not want to be made fun of and so …. I remember taking that step back – toning down my enthusiasm for the rocket project. To this day I can’t remember if I truly finished the rocket – I must have finished it to pass the class. But I don’t know if it flew or if it even placed in the contest at all.

The event at Hoover Middle School had extra meaning to me then – the chance to be that voice I wish I’d heard in sixth grade. The voice of someone saying that science and math are not boring and “uncool”. That by being smart, I would go far in life and make my dreams happen. One of the women on the panel, Frieda, gave an analogy I loved: she asked the girls if they liked to solve puzzles and mysteries. Most of the girls raised their hands for yes – and Freida explained STEM is a way to solve puzzles and mysteries. We have the tools, the tech, and the training to figure things out and solve problems. I could see that sinking in with some of the girls and I loved how Frieda had found a message that worked and reached them.


We had two sessions that day, each with about 50 girls. Principal Sinkler and 7th grade councilor Renee were amazing. They were fantastic with the students and did a stellar job selecting girls to participate in the sessions. I was impressed by how respectful the audience was and how they weren’t having side-chatter and easily distracted. I saw girls actively engaged and interested in what we were talking about. When we had break-out sessions to put together the Snap Circuit kits,  seeing some of the girls eager to play with the electronics toy – without criticism or fear – was awesome.

So what was the toughest question I was asked all day? “How much money do you make?” I assured the girls that I do better in life because of science and tech than I would have without it. And the hit of the day, other than the Snap Circuits, was panelist Emily’s “ColorMeTimbers” project. It’s a project she made for herself where people passing by could text a color to a tree with holiday lights and the tree would change the light color. The girls were excited…..okay, I admit I was giddy about it too….. and we are all working to find a way to make it part of their STEM class this fall.

You go Geek Girls!

geek girls rule

Geek Girls Rule

I want to share the info about the amazing women on the panel with me that day! You should check out their companies, their work and their twitter. Each woman is much more than she seems on the surface and all have great stories to tell about how they got to where they are today.

Isabel Cortes, Web Developer at Appallicious. @bebelcortes
Frieda K. Edgette, Founder of Courage to Run. @FKEdgette
Jeannice Fairrer Samani, CEO and Founder, Fairrer Samani Group. @jeannice
Sinead Norenius, Founder of iFabbo. @selftanqueen
Emily Wright, Interaction Designer at Twilio. @emilyville
City Supervisor Katy Tang, District 4

And the woman who made it all happen: Kia Kolderup-Lane @Kiamig

Lessons Learned on Camera: The Teleprompter

On set at TWTV

On set at TWTV

I recently started back on camera for the Cisco technical show, TechWiseTV. The guys on the show, Robb Boyd and Jimmy Ray Purser, are truly a hoot to work with – I know Producer Steve has many clips of me being unable to stop laughing. They set me up between those two for taping show promos and the closing segments and it is hard to keep a straight face!

But what I really want to talk about is my nemesis: the teleprompter. One of our new videos will be coming out shortly and I’ll be sure to share it but I have to warn you: I am horrible at reading a teleprompter. Just awful. It’s a funny myth that teleprompters are why news anchors are so great at their job and I’m here to tell you the truth is vastly different. You will see it in these early videos from me – I have a slight glassly look to my eyes and I’m way, way too serious. I’m trying like heck to read the prompter with emotion and energy – which just makes me try harder and be more serious…you get the point. Add to it I have a weird eye thing called nystagmus which makes it hard for me to focus on anything for more than a few seconds.

And usually I’m trying not to laugh because Robb or Jimmy Ray just said something nutty as the countdown to rolling camera begins. But I’m sure that is in an out-take somewhere….

Here’s a great “video confessional” we did on the show a few years ago on just what we all thought of teleprompters (and other keys to video success). Enjoy!




Facebook – Know Your Audience

FacebookI was a huge supporter of Facebook back in the early days. I even encouraged my privacy freak husband to join. I loved it! I could see photos of friends and family that lived thousands of miles from me. I could do a one-to-many update and not worry about having the wrong email address. It was fantastic and I was able to re-connect with family and friends I hadn’t seen in years due to geographical distance. Facebook was a great new vehicle for integrated marketing tactics and building demand generation pipeline. When I helped a brand cross 200, 000 “likes” – that was a moment of high-fiving all around!

Then, Facebook went public. But even before that, when they started talking about going public, there was a sudden change in engagement for Facebook pages. Around February 2012, right before Facebook starting selling paid ads broadly and giving you the “option” to boost a post, marketeers starting seeing a drop in organic reach. Posts were not getting as many likes or comments as before – it was a sudden and very drastic drop.

Let me discuss liking a page for a second. This means you have willingly, and knowingly, opted-in to see updates from that brand or business. You have raised your hand and said “tell me more”. And Facebook suppresses that. As a marketeer, this feels like a total violation. As a consumer, it also frustrates me. I don’t like many pages because doing so is opt-ing in (and public if you don’t know how to switch it off)  so when I do opt-in and like a page, I really, really want to hear from them! I like the pages of many non-profits and a few profitable brands. I miss many of the posts. In fact, I miss a lot of posts.Late last year, Facebook finally admitted to suppressing posts in the interest of “quality”. In other words, you must pay to play. Organic posts that get a lot of likes and comments will still make their way into a News Feed – but it’s classic chicken and egg problem: how do you get likes and comments when no one sees your post?

My advice to clients these days is to at least secure your Facebook page and URL, even if you are not sure you will use it. You don’t want your name or brand squatted on by someone else – or worse, someone who will use it to spoof your brand and give you a PR mess. However, how much you post or pay for advertising is going to depend on your audience. Where do your customers hang out online? Where does your competition have their biggest followings?  The infographic below gives you great context for social media sites and who uses each site.

Social Media Stats 2013

Social Media Stats 2013

Here are some specific examples.  Non-profits typically do well on Facebook. I work with dog rescue organizations and their target demographic matches the demographic of Facebook – the same audience is not generally on Twitter. The organic posts from the rescue groups do very well because dogs touch our emotions and we act on them. By contrast, if you are selling a tool to help developers code faster, Facebook is not where you will find your audience (try Twitter and Google +).

What has been your experience with Facebook’s advertising and  has it worked (or not worked) for you? Share below or tweet me @tinashakour.