It’s just stuff

He’s fascinated by the Tiny House movement.

He wants to live simply.

He wonders if I can. He wonders if I can live in a smaller space — smaller than a three-bedroom home in suburbia — and with less stuff.

I chuckle.

My first one-bedroom apartment in Calgary was a tiny little dungeon off Edmonton Trail in Crescent Heights. The bedroom was just big enough to fit my queen-sized bed (no boxspring, mind you; we couldn’t squeeze it down the stairwell) and six-drawer horizontal dresser.

It had no closet space, just a couple of those Rubbermaid shelf racks screwed into the wall.

wire closet shelf

It was exactly what I could afford on the salary of a lowly sports reporter for Sun Media.

The collecting begins

I started accumulating “stuff” some time around 2009, when I moved into my first two-bedroom apartment. Until then, I had been living like a college kid — although I’m pretty sure I’d long since given up my milk crates used as a bookshelves.

I moved up in the world.

The spare bedroom was the “shoe room.” I graduated to a real couch, instead of a futon; a side chair I never sit in; a flat-screen TV, instead of the 36-inch behemoth a friend gave me; and hundreds of dollars spent in IKEA shelving, kitchen gadgets and knick-knacks.

Moving to an upstairs three-bedroom suite made it worse. While I enjoyed the space, I had to fill it.

With stuff. Just stuff. Shoes. Clothes. Appliances. Whatever.

I somehow became obsessed with candles and candleholders at one point.

Then I decided to leave Calgary. It’s one thing to move all your stuff from apartment to apartment, schlepping it around Calgary in plastic bins.

But it’s another thing entirely to squeeze it all into one U-Haul trailer at one time and get it to another city in another province.

Thus my downsizing began. I made multiple trips to the Salvation Army with garbage bags of clothes, following the rule of “if you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it.” I piled stuff — kitchen gadgets, camping gear, tools, candleholders, whatever — to discard in a pile on the floor of one bedroom.

None of it was taken to Kamloops.

Fast forward almost two years. Settling in Kelowna meant needing new stuff. A floor lamp to light up the living room, some shelving to hold spices in the kitchen, a bathroom rack to hold my flatiron, blow dryer and hair brushes.

Downsizing begins anew

Behold a different challenge.

I’ll be moving to a new city in a new statecountry (holy shit!) — hopefully sooner than later. More than that, I’m combining my stuff with someone else.

Doubling assets.

We have no need for two microwaves, two coffee machines, two shop vacs, two steam mops, two … you get the picture.

So it’s time to make decisions. He says don’t give up anything you have an emotional attachment to.

These days, that amounts to a couple of knickknacks, my external drives storing my digital images, my camera and my dog. Somehow, I think he expects me to keep more than that, though.

I wandered through my Kelowna apartment last Friday, mentally tagging everything with “keep” and “toss.”

I stood in front of my collection of shoes — my beautiful shoes — and wondered if I’ll ever again have occasion (think “corporate job”) or place to wear them.

I stared at my closet and thought “do I still need those skirts and cocktail dresses.”

I piled four more garbage bags of clothes, shoes and purses onto the spare bedroom floor. I filled three boxes with toys Shep has never played with, kitchen gadgets I don’t use, and books I have read or will never read.

a pile of stuff

They’re all destined for the SPCA, goodwill or wherever.

The next step

Living simply, to me, isn’t just about getting rid of stuff. It’s about getting rid of a lot of complications in life, including the trappings of corporate lifestyle, invitations to boutique openings and restaurant events, and dressing to impress.

That’s a life I aimed for and — to a point — achieved in Calgary.

But all that is a lifetime away, a string of unsatisfying jobs and cities fading in the distance. My happiness lies in breathing deeply, savouring delicious food, drinking good beer and wine, seeing things and doing stuff — not in collecting shoes, meeting important people and chasing a six-figure salary.

Because that’s all just stuff.

An immunity idol to get off the island

Today, I met a doctor with a wry sense of humour.

When it comes time to head to Vancouver and have the medical for my K-1 visa application, I have to prove I’m immune to a lengthy list of communicable diseases, including chicken pox, mumps, measles and rubella.

Survivor immunityA Canadian girl in the 1970s remembers well her trips to the school nurse to get stuck up like a pin cushion, the boys not needing any rubella shots.

And chicken pox? Yeah, that scar on my right temple is from picking a chicken pox scab. (The one between my eyebrows is from bouncing on my parents’ bed and landing forehead-first on the corner of their dresser. It was a sometimes rough childhood … all my own fault, sometimes Kevin’s.)

But those records are long since gone. Maybe not gone but locked in a room somewhere and covered by layers and layers of dust.

A day on the phone

The quest for my immunity idol … er, records … started last week, a quick email fired off to the Guysborough-Antigonish health authority. A return note said I’d have to call the hospital to see if my records were there.

A friendly gal took my name and birth date, put me on hold and went in search of some boxes. She returned shortly after and said “nope, nothing here.”

You might, however, try the university if you went to St. FX, your parents or your family doctor.

Mom keeps everything and if those records were sent to her, she’d have them somewhere.

No dice.

How about the family doctor? Hmmm, Dr. Sers has been dead for years but oh wait, there was that awfully nice doctor who gave me free birth control pills. (That also started the chain of events that led to the only time my mother slapped me across the face. Note to kids everywhere: Never ever tell your mother to mind her own fucking business, especially when you live in her house rent-free. Trust me, this is good advice.)

Nope, no records there either. That wasn’t really surprising. I haven’t lived in Antigonish in more than 20 years. Who keeps a file that long?

Off to the medical clinic

Sigh. This is going to mean one thing: a blood test.

blood testTranslation: at least one needle is going into my porcelain skin. And by porcelain, I mean scarred, moley and freckled, along with burned and aged by too many hours in the sun.

I sat for an hour finishing a John Grisham novel, glancing up every once in a while to check out the limping and the ill, hoping no one breathes in my general direction.

I read from my phone the list of shots I need to get tested for and the letter I will need as proof of immunity.

The doctor looked at my quizzically and said, “You need all that for your visa?”

Yep.

“Do they even realize most Americans don’t have those immunizations? It’s not like most of them have actual health care of anything.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle. Most of all, because he may be correct.

But these are the hoops though which I must jump.

After he stabbed me with a tetanus booster, I spent another hour waiting at the medical lab, springing free after a tech filled four vials with my blood. She said it was only four teaspoons worth but I still felt light-headed.

Probably because I’m a pansy when it comes to needles.

All the same, I plan on winning this game. It will be another two weeks before I have my immunity idol in my hands.

And then I wait, wait and wait to play some more games and win the final vote at Survivor Council.

spokane engagement

A new journey

I knew 2014 was going to be a big year.

By now, many of you know My American popped the question.

spokane engagement

And thus, a new journey begins. Today, we received our NOA-1, a Notice of Action that our K-1 visa application is now under adjudication at the California Service Center.

That’s right.

The girl with the tattoo of a Maple Leaf and old pipe-blade hockey skates is getting ready to pack up her stuff and make a run for the border. I joke about cheap beer and wine but many of you know how difficult it’s going to be to leave Canada and become an American.

We have to jump through many hoops along the way and I plan on chronicling each milestone for you here.

I’m hoping that everything will go tickety-boo and, by Christmas, I’ll be married to one of the two loves of my life.

Of course, you all know who the No. 1 heartthrob is …

maremma sheepdog

How could you not love that face?

One step toward a giant leap

We have a (potentially) long process ahead of us yet. We await any Requests for Evidence and then the NOA-2, which will allow me to collect the information I require and schedule my medical and interview in Vancouver.

That’s right … a medical.

But not before I gather:

  • My long-form birth certificate
  • A blood test indicating immunization for various diseases (my records are long since lost in the Nova Scotia system)
  • A criminal record check
  • A letter of compliance from Ford indicating the Great Escape can enter the country under safety and emission standards.

You won’t be shocked to hear each one of these steps will likely cost a chunk of change.

But you shouldn’t be shocked to hear I’ve found a website that is helping me each step of the way. VisaJourney.com is a valuable resource to anyone jumping into the U.S. immigration process, whether you’re a fiancee, a wife or a worker.

And in the meantime, I have a few other things to take care of.

Reading

I bought a bunch of books. Fiction books.

I also have a bunch of books on the shelf I’ve never read … John Grisham, John Irving, Carl Hiaasen, Jennifer Weiner, Emily Giffin and others.

They’re getting read. I’ve pledged to read at least 100 pages every day.

It forces me to step away from my computer and give my eyes a backscreen break.

And since I have a huge backyard all to myself in this weather:

Learning

I am a voracious and quick reader, so 100 pages of fiction a day is a snap.

That leaves plenty of time to empty out my RSS feed, my Pocket bookmarks and my Google Play Newstand saves.

Good grief, that’s overwhelming. But those of you in the know — the content marketing realm, that is — know it’s an ever-changing industry and we have to keep pace with the jukes.

It can get tiring and frustrating and we all wish sometimes the social media world would just slow down a little bit and let us all catch up, right?

Getting fit

A few months ago, I probably whined on Twitter about not having enough time in the day.

That’s over. I got laid off from my job as a career advice expert, so now I’m home. All day. With just a couple of small contracts to handle and supplement my Employment Insurance paycheque.

I need to fill my days or I’m going to get monumentally bored. Going? OK, it may already have happened a time or two and it’s only been a few weeks.

So I’m:

  • Running: Sometimes five miles a day, sometimes eight, maybe 10, depends on how blistering hot it is in the Okanagan.
  • Cycling: I have to be careful. I live in an area with A LOT of hills. If I bike too hard, I can’t run and right now running is my passion.
  • TRX: Suspension training is my strength outlet. I can’t really afford a gym pass so this is how I’m pounding my muscles with resistance training. It’s all bodyweight work, although I have a kettlebell, a few dumbbells (two 35-lb and two 10-lb) and a 20-lb medicine ball.
  • Yoga: It isn’t so much about getting fit as it is about calming my mind. And if you know me well, you know that’s no easy task.

Ahem, pounds. You can see I’m already adjusting to life as an American.

Working

I’m holding onto a couple of small contracts.

However, if you know anyone looking for one-off website or communications writing contracts, send them my way.

Planning

I’m not sure how life will transform when … er, if (hello, very kind U.S. visa adjudicators, I love you!) … my K-1 visa application is approved.

Once I get approved, I can cross the border with all my stuff. We have 90 days to get married and then I can apply for an Adjustment of Status, at which time I can apply for dispensation to get a job. Yeah, I can’t work until the government lets me.

It’s frustrating because as Independent Career Girl I want to take care of myself and contribute to the household (and the Washington State tax system!).

But follow the rules I must.

Don’t you dare for a minute, however, think I don’t have plans. This website, with matching DotCom URL, will be relaunched at some point so I can share my journey as Independent Career Girl turned Housewife.

I might be talking about DIY stuff, lifehacking, cooking and gardening. Yeah, gardening … if my mother reads that, she’ll keel over from a heart attack. Believe this, I already have the sections of the backyard reserved for my tomatoes, herbs and what-not.

And then there’s Phase 2 and Phase 3 of my plan, which I’m not quite ready to talk about.

So get ready to see a lot of changes around here.

I’m ready for them. Are you?

1 second everyday

New favourite app: One second of awesome every day

1 second everyday

A couple of months ago, I attended a networking event in Kelowna and the group was discussing the impact of design on everyday life.

But one young designer took it to another level.

He steered the conversation into the difference between letting our technology guide our lives or making a very conscious choice to design our lives every day.

I was struck by the profundity of his statement.

Life can become a routine.

Wake up.

Commute to work.

The job responsibilities.

Lunch.

More of the same.

The commute home.

Make dinner, walk the dog, let the mind sink into goo while watching awful TV.

Go to sleep.

And that’s when life starts to suck. We find little enjoyment in the mundane.

What if we made a conscious decision to make something about each day awesome?

What if we made sure we had one moment — or even one second — an event worth taking a picture or video of, writing about, remembering?

That’s the genius behind Cesar Kuriyama’s 1 Second Everyday app. The app, which is iOs ready, too,  requires users to take one second of video every day, upload it to the app to create a snippet and eventually stitches all your seconds together.

Check it out:

On the app’s website, Kuriyama reveals that creating the app started as a fun way to chronicle a year off from work.

But then it turned into something else.

“It allows me to easily reflect on my life and to look back at my decisions,” he wrote in 2011. “I start re-evaluating how I approached each day.

“After only a few weeks of compiling clips, I’m able to look at the video and identify instances when several days go by without anything remotely interesting or outside my typical routine occurring. It starts encouraging me to wake up & seize the day.”

Shoot. That’s been my goal for a long time.

So, when My American mentioned the app and thought it would be something I’d enjoy, I did the requisite research … especially since it’s a pay-to-use app after a 30-day trial.

First, I had to fall in love with the idea.

That didn’t take any time at all.

Then, I had to figure out how I’d get set back by the 99 cents the app costs.

Huh …

I uploaded my first snippet on Aoril 18. It was an important day. We were having dinner in Post Falls, Idaho, with two my favourite people.

I didn’t hold the camera in landscape and a lot of it is blurry.

But it’s still one awesome second.

And if you know me well enough, you might expect many of my seconds in the last 13 snippets feature a certain idiot hairbag.

You’d be right. Shep is the biggest and brightest part of most of my days.

And as his days on this earth wind down, I don’t mind dedicating most of my seconds to clips of his life.

I could, I suppose, set up more than one timeline and have just one timeline for Shep and another for everything else. But no matter how I design a second of awesome in every day, chances are, he’s there.

The weeks ahead

The app has forced me to start designing my day.

On the odd occasion thus far, I have found an awesome second in the mundane … a glass of wine in front of the TV, tuned into the NHL playoffs … a night relaxing with a good book and a …

A glass of wine. I … uh … look, I live in the Okanagan. There’s some good wine here.

I have clips of My American with Shep (my favourite one yet), spring blossoms, sunrise over Okanagan Lake while out for a 6 a.m. run, Shep looking out over the Columbia River in Coulee, Wash., and Shep and I in the truck for a road trip (my second favourite).

1 second everyday

At the end of one year, I will have six minutes of seconds stitched together. If I keep this up for 10 years, that’s an entire hour of awesome one-second snippets, turned into a movie of my life.

Don’t forget

My app is set to remind me around noon that I have to get my 1SE done. It isn’t a stressful notification, not like an email notification when I sometimes think “oh good grief, what fresh hell is this?”

The reminder notification was an important feature to the app, according to Kuriyama.

He forgot to record a second.

“It torments me,” he writes, “but I learn a valuable lesson: when you’re not doing anything interesting, it doesn’t occur to you to capture the moment.”

As a photographer, I love capturing moments. In the long-term, my photography will let me have terrific memories of places Shep and I have been, wonders we’ve seen and moments we’ve had together.

And so will 1SE.

But in the short term, it’s a wonderful reminder to not just find the awesome in every day.

It’s also a reminder to make the awesome in every day.

Are you being awesome today? Or are you letting the routine take over?

Introducing McFacebook … have you been served?

I noticed a tiny little change on my Facebook brand pages today.

Something so small, some page managers might not have noticed it.

Instead of telling us how many people our posts have “reached,” Facebook is now telling us how many people the post has served.

I immediately had hunger pangs.

A craving even … although I wasn’t sure which meal would sate my desires.

Then my friend Laurie nailed it.

Facebook changes

 

McFacebook!

By the time I got home, however, Facebook changed it back to boring old “225 people saw this post.” See?

Facebook changes

To prove that I’m not making this up, I wasn’t the only one who saw it:

Whether Facebook was just screwing around with us to see if anyone would notice, I don’t know.

You know how they’re always screwing with small businesses and their post reachtinkering with brand pages.

Or maybe Facebook is planning a major takeover of McDonald’s and merging the two businesses.

Or maybe Mark Zuckerberg was just having a hankering for a Big Mac.

Facebook changes

 

If you’re a Facebook page manager, let me know if you saw the change and what you thought of it. Did you go off on the hunt for a Big Mac or a McChicken?

Or did you just shake your head and brace yourself for the inevitable?

The inevitable change that keeps us dancing like puppets on Zuckerberg’s marionette strings.

Blowing off the cobwebs

<tap tap tap>

Is this thing on? Can anyone hear me? Have I completely lost the legions of people who kept coming back here for more?

You know what I hate? Checking in on someone’s blog and seeing sporadic posts—one every three or four months— apologizing for being absent, for not writing, for not having anything to say.

Now look at my post history. I wrote something last July and then again in November when Shep got sick. It isn’t any better on my adventure blog, Our Great Escape.
 

 
 
And then a few weeks ago, my sweet friend Tanya rattled my chains.

So here’s what I’m not going to do. I’m not going to apologize for being absent, for not writing, for not having anything to say.

I’m just going to try harder to write.

In the last little while, I’ve learned about content marketing, about social media for real life (that means for you), and about life in general.

The boss even sent me to the Social Media Strategies Summit in Vegas a few weeks ago … Vegaswhoopwhoop!

Otherwise, here’s what’s been happening:

  • Shep has made a full rebound
  • He’s even been transitioned to a raw diet
  • He remains an Instagram star
  • Since I live in the Okanagan, my wine intake has increased exponentially
  • I’ve also discovered craft beer … uh oh
  • My American and I are still going strong
  • Omak, Wash., is a great place for romantic getaways … yes, it is
  • I’m writing sports again, freelancing Kelowna Rockets games for the Daily Courier
  • It’s fun as hell
  • I’ve stopped buying shoes … sssshhhh, I know
  • I’m adjusting how I approach my freelance business, so I’ve taken down my services page for a bit
  • I’ve learned enough about SEO in the last five months to know I’m really blowing it on my own website, but I don’t do this to win search engine results
  • I lose at least one follower every Monday night, possibly because I hate-tweet The Bachelor, but my favourite chick-lit author Jennifer Weiner does, too, so whatever
  • As I write this, Zach Parise scores Minnesota’s third goal, so I may start to hate-tweet the Flames for the rest of the night; scratch that, the rest of the decade

OK, that’s all the news I can think of.

Any questions? Ask me anything.

Drawing comfort from social media

Seven nights ago, I was on my hands and knees, sobbing into the cold linoleum floor of Fairfield Animal Hospital in Kelowna.

My best friend for almost 10 years was facing death without surgery.

Even surgery might kill him. He’s almost 12 and there was no knowing what anesthesia or surgery could do to my old man.

social media

Shep’s stomach twisted in his otherwise healthy body. He was dry heaving and gasping for air, last Saturday evening. We herded him into the truck, got him to the hospital and waited for the terrible news.

I collapsed. My American was here with me and, with a cool head about him, handled the more difficult aspects of the night … not the least of which was holding me up.

When we got home, I posted a short status update, pleading for my friends’ thoughts, strengths and crossed fingers … knowing full well this was but one small moment, no matter how tragic to me, in the world’s events that night.

What followed brings me back to tears even today. My American and I sat on the couch holding each other, while I read each one of the 59 comments and water poured out of my eyes.

Each comment filled with shock, love and well wishes for our boy.

Shep, some of you may not know, is a popular dog in cyberspace. Since the day I joined Facebook in 2007 and Twitter in 2009, I’ve been posting regular pictures of him and his adventures.

Hiking in the Rockies.

Chilling in the Atlantic Ocean.

Running through grassy fields near ghost towns in Washington State.

Camping in Idaho.

Many of you know we even have a website, Our Great Escape, dedicated to our travels.

He matters to people, some of whom have never met him. They love him and his infectious smile, the kind that communicates his gentle, patient and protective nature through a two-dimensional computer screen.

dog stomach torsion

With every update I posted on his progress, we got more likes — more likes than I’ve seen before on my pages — along with cheers and more love.

Shep is a trooper! Sending my love and thoughts to all of you. Give Shep a big hug for me. ~ Cassie

So happy to hear he’s doing well..!! ~ Kait

Poor sheppy boy. We will continue our prayers! ~ Kelly

dog gastric torsion surgery

And when I announced he was discharged from the hospital and coming home:

Oh I’m so glad for you Angela!!!!!!! You must be elated with happiness!!! ~ Lauren

Someone is getting that familiar smile back in his eyes….. Or he is really stoned:). Either way, glad he is feeling better! ~ Krista

So glad he is doing so well. ~ Tracey

With every click of a ‘like’ button on Facebook and Instagram, with every comment scattered about our social media platforms, we felt your love.

It gave me incredible comfort to know you took the time to think of me, Shep and Our American. It struck me that you cared so much about our bubba and how much he means to us.

Dogs are family and Shep gives his love to anyone who will take the time to find that scratch spot behind his ears.

I wasn’t ready to lose him. I wasn’t ready to miss his goofy smile in the rearview mirror of my truck.

I wasn’t ready to go on adventures without my co-pilot.

And I know you weren’t ready for that to happen either.

Shep gets his staples out Friday and we’re hoping he’s well enough for an adventure soon. Stay tuned on Our Great Escape. I’m hoping for a snowy one, believe it or not.

In the meantime, from the bottom of our hearts — all three of them — we thank you for being there for us when we needed your thoughts and strength.

gastric torsion surgery dog

Also, if you are a mom or dad to a larger, barrel-chested dog, please read up on gastric torsion and know the warning signs. The quicker you get your best friend to the hospital, the more chance he has of survival.

Calgary flood 2013

Twitter: is it still optional in communications?

You seem to like Twitter a lot. Should it be part of our communications strategy?

It was a question posed to me during a recent job interview. Many of my friends should be surprised to hear I responded ‘not really.’

The company for which I was interviewing is based in a smaller city, one where social media — at least Twitter — hasn’t really taken off as a business communication tool.

Sure, I said, the competition is using it and that means we should be listening and posting when necessary. Twitter should be a bit player in the overall strategy, I said, but our key communications tools should be traditional media.

It made sense at the time.

I know Twitter can be somewhat intimidating to the uninitiated, a foolish waste of time to others.

I was introduced to it in 2008, taught by the great Joe Thornley, CEO of Thornley Fallis in Toronto, on how to use it for media relations, community relations and business promotion.

I started the Bow Valley College account but our reach — and our students’ access to technology — was limited at the time. Calgary was still in its early stages for using social media for public, community and media relations.

Since then, three major events have occurred to underscore for me Twitter’s use as a communications channel.

1. YYC4Haiti: Camilla Di Giuseppe, Alex Ruiz and I led a group of volunteers to organize a charity event following the devastating Haiti earthquakes. We used only Twitter, Facebook and a website to spread the word. We brought 1,500 people into Flames Central for a night of fun and entertainment and raised $70,000 for the Canadian Red Cross earthquake relief fund.

2. Calgary Civic Election 2010: Naheed Nenshi brought thousands of voters to Twitter by engaging with them, posting regular updates and responding to questions. He mobilized the youth vote in Calgary and stormed to victory in the mayoral race. He has become regarded as one of the most engaged politicians in Canada.

3. #YYCFlood: Calgary is still recovering from the swell of the Bow River just two weeks. The state of emergency was only lifted this morning, while communities within the city and surrounding areas have been devastated. Possessions and memories are lost, many homes destroyed. Mayor Nenshi and the City of Calgary were tireless in their efforts to keep everyone updated every single step of the way.

Centre Street bridge in Calgary

The Calgary Police account reached its daily limit (1,000) in quick order and its mastermind, Jeremy Shaw, was forced to use his personal account, while many beseeched the Twitter gods to verify the account and remove its tweet limitations. The limitation demonstrates one of Twitter’s few drawback during a crisis situation, but its usefulness cannot be downplayed.

“Twitter has become really important for crisis communications,” Simon Fraser University communication professor Peter Chow-White told the Vancouver Sun.

Journalists — with special kudos to my friends Dave Dormer of the Calgary Sun, Darren Krause of Metro Calgary and CTV’s Di Giuseppe — worked around the clock to bring people news updates and pictures of the devastation.

The #YYCFlood hashtag was flooded — ugh, no pun intended — with more from the regular Joes … people who were evacuated from their homes, many who were already organizing volunteer cleanup efforts, and others — like me — who could only watch helplessly as the city they love was pummeled by Mother Nature.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi talks to a crowd

Beyond the news media that did a tremendous job covering the event, no matter what publishing form, Twitter was a vital communication tool.

And I’d like to change my answer to the interview question.

It now should go something like this:

“Yes. We absolutely should have Twitter as an integral cog to our communications strategy. It is important to build our following, listen to our audience’s concerns and earn their trust as a respected leader in our industry. Beyond the need to keep our interested and engaged community members updated on a regular basis, Twitter becomes an incredible tool for communication in times of disaster or crisis. Our followers will need someone to look to for important information and advice on what steps to take, and we should be that voice.”

(All photos courtesy of Camilla Di Giuseppe.)

beer cans

Getting the cold shoulder on Twitter

Imagine for a moment that you’re looking for a specific item.

You approach the salesperson in your favourite store or boutique and ask, “Do you have any navy pencil skirts?”

The salesperson responds: “All of our skirts are on the second floor. Just go up those stairs.”

That doesn’t feel very helpful, does it? You were probably hoping she might lead you to the correct spot and even say “Can I help you find something in your size?”

The helpful reaction isn’t just what I might expect while out shopping. It’s a reaction I have gotten, which made me happy to spend hard-earned money in that store.

If I was given the less-than-helpful reaction, I’d probably turn on my (fabulous) heel and leave the store.

And so it was this morning that I was a tad disappointed in the reaction I received from one of my favourite breweries this morning on Twitter.

I’m hooked on the Summer Shandy by Leinenkugel’s, a small brewery out of Chippewa Falls, Wisc. We had our first shandy last summer on our cross-country trip to Nova Scotia. We found it delicious and refreshing.

I’d heard Molson is releasing a shandy under the Rickard’s line and I thought it might be cool if (my favourite Alberta) brewery is planning a shandy release.

So I asked the brewery’s Twitter account last night: What are the chances <brewery name> has or is working on a shandy for the summer?

I got my response this morning: You can check out our brewing schedule to see what we’re up to this summer.

And the person behind the account added the website address. Not the URL to a specific page, mind you. Just the main landing page.

Since I hadn’t had enough coffee, I responded with my trademark snark: Thanks for being informative and engaging!

I’m not sure they got the intent and then let me know specifically that the brewery is working on a fruit ale.

Now, I’m all about using social media to drive traffic to a website (for 99% of you, that’s how you got here). But if you aren’t going to address a customer’s needs with direct, friendly responses, you stand to lose that customer.

The inaugural J.D. Power and Associates Social Media Benchmark Study revealed:

  • 87 per cent of respondents to a survey say their online social interaction with the company “positively impacted” the likelihood they’ll purchase from that brand
  • Consumers 18 to 29 years old are more likely to use a brand’s social media site for servicing interactions (43%) than for marketing (23%), showing the importance of incorporating social media as an emerging customer service channel

So, yes, it’s important for brands to be on Twitter and interacting with customers, both existing and potential.

But it’s even more vital for the person handling that person’s Twitter account to be responsive, engaging and informational.

Consider my Facebook friends’ reactions:

That’s not customer service; it’s condescending and kind of rude and tells the person that their complaint is being “addressed” by a robot. ~ L.V.

I don’t “tweet” but in the costumer service industry, I would call that the easy way out! So NO! ~ K.E.

And from a Twitter friend:

Had the brewery account said “no, but we have a fruit ale on schedule; check it out!” and then sent me to a specific landing page, my knickers might not have gotten into a knot and this post never would have happened.

In the meantime, I’ll crack the lid on a couple of those Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy cans that I brought back from the states this week.

<kisssshhhhhh>

 

A Walk on the River 041

My photos are … well … mine

It was a rather innocuous moment.

I was on Skype with My American and, in a flash of crazy, we started a Google search for Maremma sheepdogs.

Which ones look like Shep? Aw, wookadawiddle puppies of fluff!

A Walk on the River 046

Hey, wait a second … that one does look like Shep. A lot like Shep. Um, because it is Shep.

It must be one of my links, I thought, and clicked through. Nope. It was the Pinterest board for an American security company. And so I clicked through to the link they had attached to the Pin.

To my shock, I saw a cluster of three pictures of my boy, another on the landing page for a feature about flock guardian dogs.

The only place I can remember posting those pictures is Flickr. I don’t remember a message requesting use of the photos and there was no credit to my Flickr account on the website.

I was sure, I thought, I had my Flickr account set to All Rights Reserved. I checked.

Flickr SS

I fired off an email as polite as I could muster.

I figured this small-time Canadian entrepreneur wouldn’t hear back from some big-time American company. First thing this morning, thought, I got an email. I was further surprised when the person on the other end not only apologized profusely but took responsibility for what we both thought was an error.

After a couple of back-and-forth emails, she sent me a series of links that show the pictures in question as “Some Rights Reserved” in the Creative Commons, which means all the security company has to do is give me a credit and they can use the pictures.

I thought there must be some kind of error but then I realized something. Go back up to the screenshot and see the words in pink letters.

Defaults for new uploads

I can only assume that in my naivete when I started my Flickr account four years ago, I had the settings at Some Rights Reserved. And Flickr apparently has a little loophole that doesn’t change the settings on already-uploaded photos when you change your mind.

So I only had All Rights Reserved on some of my uploads.

My only recourse, I thought, was to delete the whole shebang. And that’s what I did, uploading this message to my friends and followers who had favourited some of my photos:

Untitled

Many of us upload our photos for free to share, thinking we might bring a little smile to anyone who happened upon them or maybe even hoping for a little reassurance that, hey, we can take a decent picture.

And whether we set our accounts to All Rights Reserved or Some Rights Reserved, it”s no protection. It’s only a Stop sign at a four-way intersection and we all know how many people roll right through.

I still haven’t figured out whether I should try selling any of my shots. Some friends tell me I should.

But in the event I do, I don’t want any free copies floating around there.

You’ll notice watermarks on the photos I think are pretty good. And you’ll see a new policies page going up on OurGreatEscape.ca. It’s just my way of protecting myself as best as I can.

If you have any suggestions or advice, please feel free to leave them in the comments.