Blogging for health?

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Today this was on my Facebook newsfeed (see below.)  Brilliant!  As a child I kept a “diary” and now as an adult I LOVE to sit and write.  With 3 kids, I don’t always have a chance…and did I mention these children are girls?  Girls who love the pretty books (journals) I buy myself.  They are filled with wonderful drawings, stickers, and musings about One Direction members (and I think 5 Seconds to Summer boys).  So when I have a chance, I blog (sort of a gross word…) It’s wonderful to know that writing my thoughts will help my health!  Heaven knows the health could use help.  Tomorrow I will know about my Iron levels (yay).  Tammy Garvin is helping me A. Bunch. with my “Acid Reflux” journey and I will see her today. Josh was a little snippy this morning when I told him about seeing a chiropractor, but I pulled him out of it and he thanked me for acknowledging that I was doing a lot of work on me because I’m with me more than anyone.  How I was diagnosed with Celiac and MS feels unfair, but it could be worse.  I can’t believe how I went from a seemingly strong child in the best of health, to an unwell midlife adult.  When did my stomach become so sensitive?  I’m fascinated by writing helping your health, what about stress affecting your health?  I definitely hold my feelings in.  And I have as a survival thing since I got married.  This is another whole subject for a different day.  I will end this wildly unorganized free flow of thought with YAY WRITING and sign off…

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Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love to Write

Rachel Grate’s avatar image By Rachel Grate September 15, 2014
The benefits of writing go far beyond building up your vocabulary.

No matter the quality of your prose, the act of writing itself leads to strong physical and mental health benefits, like long-term improvements in mood, stress levels and depressive symptoms. In a 2005 study on the emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing, researchers found that just 15 to 20 minutes of writing three to five times over the course of the four-month study was enough to make a difference.

By writing about traumatic, stressful or emotional events, participants were significantly more likely to have fewer illnesses and be less affected by trauma. Participants ultimately spent less time in the hospital, enjoyed lower blood pressure and had better liver functionality than their counterparts.

It turns out writing can make physical wounds heal faster as well. In 2013, New Zealand researchers monitored the recovery of wounds from medically necessary biopsies on 49 healthy adults. The adults wrote about their thoughts and feelings for just 20 minutes, three days in a row, two weeks before the biopsy. Eleven days later, 76% of the group that wrote had fully healed. Fifty-eight percent of the control group had not recovered. The study concluded that writing about distressing events helped participants make sense of the events and reduce distress.

Even those who suffer from specific diseases can improve their health through writing. Studies have shown that people with asthma who write have fewer attacks than those who don’t; AIDS patients who write have higher T-cell counts. Cancer patients who write have more optimistic perspectives and improved quality of life.

So what is it about writing that makes it so great for you?

James W. Pennebaker has been conducting research on writing to heal for years at the University of Texas at Austin. “When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experience improved health,” Pennebaker writes. “They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function.”

Why? Pennebaker believes this act of expressive writing allows people to take a step back and evaluate their lives. Instead of obsessing unhealthily over an event, they can focus on moving forward. By doing so, stress levels go down and health correspondingly goes up.

You don’t have to be a serious novelist or constantly reflecting on your life’s most traumatic moments to get these great benefits. Even blogging or journaling is enough to see results. One study found that blogging might trigger dopamine release, similar to the effect from running or listening to music.

From long-term health improvements to short-term benefits like sleeping better, it’s official: Writers are doing something right.

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Uh Oh, It’s Going to be Easier for Me to Shop…

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I’ve avoided talking about Facebook long enough.  “Facebook” is probably the first word that pops into most people’s minds when the topic of social media is brought up.  The platform has 950 million members worldwide, and the latest buzz is that Facebook’s future is, among other things, e-commerce.  Getting recommendations from friends and shopping from one platform…watch your wallets shop-a-holics!

Facebook already has Sponsored Stories, those (annoying?) ads that pitch products by telling you how much your friends “like” them.  Keep in mind that Facebook has the aforementioned 950 million members, where Amazon has 160 million and Ebay has 100 million.  With such a large audience, “Facebook presents a tempting channel for retailers.”  Facebook can become more than a forum for friends to recommend products.  A recent report from eConsultancy said “90% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know” and Internet Retailer “recently announced that 67% of consumers spend more time online after getting advice from their online community of friends.”  Good news for Facebook (and it’s e-commerce initiative) who has just launched Subscription which “allows users to add a credit card to their account and pay for transactions  in their local currency – similar to services available from Apple and Amazon.  This offers a real opportunity for Facebook to “drive significant revenue from facilitating payments on the web and mobile”

Venda has jumped in.  Based in the U.K., Venda was founded in 2001 as a cloud based commerce pioneer.  On their website they state that their “social solutions integrate new convergent commerce best practices, leading partnership and innovative social and mobile technologies that have helped our customers achieve exceptional sales growth with socially driven special offers and promotions.”   Venda further explains that “the average Facebook user has 130 friends – if one person ‘likes” your brand and shares your product you are now introduced to 130 new potential consumers who each have their own 130 friends.  The returns become exponential.”  Venda’s customers include international companies including Tesco, Superdrug, JVC, Urban Outfitters, Conde Nast, Jimmy Choo, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art and they are now increasingly working through Facebook. Venda sets up a “fully commerce enabled storefront on Facebook” and essentially manages every social aspect of the brand.

One thing that Facebook has always done right is integrating itself into the web, and e-commerce seems to be the next step for the company.  Regardless, Silicon Valley investors are “putting their money into e-commerce start-ups that are producing shopping apps for Facebook.”

Resources:

Grandoni, Dino.  July 27, 2012.  What Facebook’s Future Holds, According to It’s Execs’ Hints.  Retrieved November 11, 2012.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/27/facebooks-future_n_1710351.html

Munford, Monty.  August 28,2012.   Facebook faces up to a future of e-commerce.  Retrieved November 9, 2012. http://telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook-faces-up-to-a-future-of-e-commerce.html

www.venda.com

The Risks of “Liking” Urban Decay

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Urban Decay is a cosmetic company founded in 1996.  They started in response to the need for colors other than beige, pink, and red in the “prestige” (not drug store brand) cosmetics market.  Many women, as it turns out, had alternative makeup taste.  But this was the 90’s – remember grunge? – and this company had (has) names for it’s products like Roach, Smog, Rust, Oil Slick, you get the idea.  Now in 2012, the company is still going strong selling cosmetics through it’s website, www.urbandecay.com and in Sephora, Ulta, and most recently, Macy’s.

Urban Decay had no choice but to join in when it came to social media.  They are mentioned in fashion themed blogs constantly.  On their website, they have a special sign-in for professional makeup artists.  The annual September release of the “Book of Shadows” is a much anticipated event in the blogosphere.  This year, the “book” includes QR codes that consumers can scan with their smartphones to get step-by-step tutorials on how to create eye look.  There are also MANY YouTube tutorials on a number of Urban Decay product uses.   The Facebook page recently had a Halloween challenge; customers were asked to upload pictures of their usage of Urban Decay makeup products as part of their costume, and there were several “behind-the-scenes” pictures of the Urban Decay employees and their Halloween creations.

Since their launch, Urban Decay has been vegan and cruelty free company…and here’s where there could have been trouble if they didn’t listen to “the groundswell.”   On June 6, 2012 Urban Decay informed its customers, through its website and social media, of the decision to sell in China, a country that requires animal testing for cosmetics.  In the announcement on Facebook,  they acknowledged that “because of China’s policies, (Urban Decay’s decision to sell in China) has upset some of our loyal fans who are also animal rights activists…we are listening to all of your feedback and will try to address every single one of you.”  There were 1334 angry replies.  On July 6, 2012 Urban Decay announced their decision not to market in China.  Humane Society International and The Humane Society of the United States even weighed in.  “Urban Decay has made the right choice, having listened to the overwhelming outcry from its customers and taken the high road to fight animal testing by refusing to market in China.” (1)

Imagine everything to be learned from this.  First and foremost, listening to social media was well worth it, and the company proved that sales were not more important than the integrity of Urban Decay.  Secondly, animal rights activists learned all about this company and I’m sure apppreciate their integrity and commitment to the cruelty free protocol.

Resources
https://www.facebook.com/urbandecaycosmetics/posts/252445838188526

Did I mention I love Instagram?

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I have expressed my feelings before about Instagram – I LOVE IT!  For social, social media it is fun to see pictures of friends, their houses, their kids, their vacations…etc.  Users can easily and quickly “paint a picture” with a mobile device.  Businesses can use Instagram in the very same way.  For branding purposes, Instagram provides followers with a glimpse of the business’ inner workings, offering behind-the-scenes, exclusive photos that humanize the brand.

Free People, owned by Urban Outfitters, is a company that has been recognized because it really seems to grasp how to use Instagram for marketing.  Currently, Free People has 363,613 followers.  In July 2012, the company began a campaign which involved attaching hashtag cards to its jeans.  On the cards, in addition to the hashtag, were instructions encouraging customers to take a picture of themselves in their new fabulous Free People jeans, and post the photo tagging  it with the specific hashtag.  “The result:  photos of the (product) circulated not only on Free People’s feed, but their followers, too.  From there, Free People handpicked pictures to publish on its website, turning its customers into models and engaging with its community in a fun, impactful way.”(1)

Free People has done this with other products, as well.  In May 2012, they ran a similar contest , encouraging customers to take pictures of themseves in the Spring collection.

Shopping on a website, especially for jeans, can be a very difficult undertaking.  Having photos of actual customers of all shapes and sizes wearing the products, may help shoppers get a better idea of how an item will fit.  “Lots of e-commerce customers end up not buying a product because they’re not sure how the product is going to fit after they make the purchase, Jose de Cabo, cofounder of Olapic, told Mashable.  It also shows they have a super hip, engaged customer base.  Social photo crowdsourcing start-up, Olapic, is helping on the back end, curating the customers’ photos from Instagram and Twitter and incorporating them onto the retailer’s product pages”(2)

Levi’s ran a very similar  campaign on Instagram.  Targeted at both males and females,”the ‘I am Levi’s’ Instagram global casting campaign asks people to submit photos of themselves using the Instagram app on their iPhones with the tag #IAMLEVIS.  Levi’s will be regularly reviewing the submissions to see if their next star is in the mix.  According to GQ.com, there is no end date to the campaign and it’s really not a photo contest – Levi’s justs wants to use crowdsourcing to find its next campaign model.”(3)

(1)  The Daily Muse. (October 24, 2012) 5 Brands Thet Understand Marketing on Instagram [blog post] Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2012/10/24/brands-marketing-instagram/

(2)  Ouimet, Maeghan. (July 25, 2012) Instagram: Killer App for Retailers? [blog post] Retrieved from http://www.inc.com/maeghan-ouimet/instagram-helps-ecommerce-sales.html

(3)  Vong, Katherine (January 7, 2012) ‘I am Levi’s’ Instagram Campaign Searches for Next Star. [blog post] Retrieved from http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/I-am-levi-s-instagram

Figure Skating – Social Media Marketing is N’ice.

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During the 2006-2007 skating season, I was helping to run the Learn to Skate program at the skating club I was associated with.  A mom aproached me to ask if the Club was on Facebook.  (What?)  Facebook had just become open to anyone over the age of 13, not just college students.  Luckily, there were some pretty “connected” teenaged skaters in our Club who shed some light on this “new” platform.  The volunteers (moms) who ran the Learn to Skate program were introduced to the power of Facebook – and what joining could do for our Club.

The sport of figure skating is governed in the United States by the United States Figure Skating Association – now known as US Figure Skating (USFS.)  It was formed to govern the sport and promote its growth.  Figure skating is part of a larger ice skating industry, but for simplicity sake I am going to focus on figure skating.  Since 2007, US Figure Skating has connected with its members through the website, www.usfsa.org.  According to the USFS, the site experiences 10,000 hits daily, and at the peak of competition season this number rises to 25,000.  During the National Ladies Free Skate event in 2008, the site recorded more than 83,000 visits.  USFS also has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, an RSS Feed, and it provides Text Alerts.  Figure Skating information can also be found on (USFS owned) www.Icenetwork.com which delivers “exclusive live and on-demand coverage” of national and international competitions while offering fans (subscribers) “the opportunity to stay updated with news and information from the world of ice skating year round.”  Icenetwork also hosts a forum called INcrowd and has a presence on Twitter and Facebook.

Because it is a visual, performance sport, figure skating lends itself beautifully to tools such as YouTube and Flickr.  A consumer can choose any aspect of figure skating from how to perform a jump to how to properly tie skates (www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOtNQIYGNmw) , and find a YouTube video to demonstrate it.  Videos of professional and amateur skaters are also posted on YouTube.  I found a video of Dr. Tenley Albright from the 1953 National Championships on YouTube! (www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjYF8ThHkuA)

 The choice of Twitter as a social marketing tool makes perfect sense when you look at the demographics of figure skating fans.  Among others, 68% of figure skating fans have college degrees and the median household income is $90,000.  According to Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, the average household income of Twitter readers is $87,900, and 51% have a college degree.(1)

The USFS encourages the individual figure skating clubs to become involved with social media.(2)  Individual figure skating clubs are non profit entities run by a volunteer Board of Governors and most clubs have websites.  Currently, the level of social media usage differs from club to club depending on the size of the club, whether there is a savvy parent (or staff member taking a social media marketing course) who is willing to step into the role of “administrator”, and whether the Board is open to complimenting their website with social media.  According to its website, the (large) Skating Club of Boston (www.scboston.com)  can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Flickr, and Google+ whereas a smaller club, such as the one I teach for, simply has a website…for now…

(1) Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff.  Groundswell.  Forrester Research, Inc.  Boston:  Harvard Business Review Press, 2011

(2) Joanne Vassallo Jamrosz,  “Figure Skating Clubs Getting Social.”  US Figure Skating website.  Retrieved October 16, 2012. <www.usfsa.org>

A “Pink Hat” Perspective

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Since the Red Sox and Bruins are not playing I instead offer my current four favorite social media tools.  I have become a fan of these because I am very visual, I love “easy”. and I do not have a ton of extra time.

The first two are visual, Instagram and Screenr.  Instagram gives people a way to connect around images.  Businesses use it as a “softer marketing” tool capturing the essence of brands and the companies – rather than blatantly advertising.  Companies will mix pictures of products with other “behind-the-scenes” photos which “personalize” the business.  Vineyard Vines is a great example:

Screenr falls under both my “visual” and “easy” categories.  A screencasting tool, Screenr is used for e-learning, webinars, and visual demonstrations of products.  Consumers find it much easier to watch a 5 minute demonstration (the Screenr limit) than read a manual, and support is easily targeted to whatever the “problem” is.  Companies use Screenr to be in front of the customer when it is not possible for a salesperson to be.  Examples can be found on the Screenr blog at www.screenr.com.

To the “easy” category…HubSpot.  My only pick which is not a free service, but rather a Software Suite.  Designed for small to medium sized businesses to provide sales leads and generate traffic, HubSpot has used “Inbound Marketing” successfully for itself and now shares this model with its customers.  “Inbound Marketing” was founded on the basis that traditional advertising has become less effective.(1)  One infographic showed that 86 percent of viewers skip commercials and 44 percent of recipients never open direct mail.(2)  In contrast, companies that blog have  50 percent more website visitors than those that don’t(3) and ” inbound marketing” leads cost 60 percent less on average.(3)(1)  HubSpot offers “all-in-one” services, but the great part (in my humble opinion) is they provide an easy (there’s that word again) way to design a website and then monitor who visits it, turning visitors into customers.  A 30 second analysis of a businesses current marketing can be performed at http://marketing.grader.com and HubSpot has LOTS of answers (Ebooks, webinars, whitepapers, etc…) for effectively marketing a business through social media.

The last tool in my 4 favs is Postling.  Again designed for small to medium sized businesses, Postling allows companies to manage all social media messages simultaneously from a single, one page “dashboard.”  A business can also schedule posts and Postling instantly updates comments made about the company’s brands.  Postling also has a very cool feature which sends alerts to the email inbox of the user, the user can then email a response, and the response is posted to all of the social media platforms the company uses.  This gives small businesses time to do what they went into business to do – spend time with customers.   Please see www.deniseoberry.com/postling-review-social-media-management-for-small-businesses.

(1) Basu, Dev (June 29, 2011). “Inbound marketing:  The customer finds you”.  The Globe and Mail.
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/small-business/start/business-planning/inbound-marketing-the-customer-finds-you/article2079880/. Retrieved February 27,2012

(2) Nakano, Chelsi (October 31, 2011).  “INFOGRAPHIC The Decline of Outbound Marketing”. CMS Wire.  http://www.cmswire.com/cms/customer-experience/infographic-the-decline-of-outbound-marketing-013308.php. Retrieved February 27, 2012

(3) Leary, Brent (January 27, 2012).  “Jeanne Hopkins of HubSpot:  All Leads Are Not Created Equal”.  Small Business Trends.  http://smallbiztrends.com/2012/01/jeanne-hopkins-hubspot-interview.html.  Retrieved February, 29, 2012.

Resources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inbound_marketing

www.screenr.com

www.hubspot.com