LPT

Laura Pevehouse Thomas

January 11, 2014
by Laura Thomas, ABC
0 comments

New Year, New Job

Yesterday, I was able to officially announce a new role for myself as Dell’s Chief Blogger on Direct2Dell.

Go ahead and laugh that someone whose personal blog has languished here over the past few months has been given the challenge of managing content for “the world’s largest startup.” I know it makes me smile. :-)

I’m no stranger to Direct2Dell, though. My first official post there was back in 2007 when I was managing a redesign of the Dell.com home page; but, I also played a behind-the-scenes role within the team that originally launched Dell’s first blog. (Bonus points if you can recall the original name under which we launched!)

As I prepared to now step into the lead, I started a personal exercise of writing out where I thought the blog should be going. This became what I started calling my manifesto for Direct2Dell. That in turn became a presentation for the hundreds of Dell employees that contribute content to the blog. And now it has become a statement for our readers, so they can hold us accountable to follow-through.

 

But, what exactly does it mean for this little blog?

While a new year often brings out a myriad of predictions for the future, I’m not physic enough to answer that yet.

I can see it potentially going one of two ways. Either I’m so worn out from editing all of the submissions that Direct2Dell receives from Dell employees, while also writing my own contributions, that I will be even less inclined to carve out the time for my personal writing. Or, I’ll be so inspired and “in the groove” of blogging that this site will see an uptick in content.

That uptick could mean more “The Rest of the Story” style posts with behind the scenes views of what happens on Direct2Dell. Or, it could mean this blog takes on an even more personal direction than it has before. Or you could just get a bunch of funny cat pictures. I can’t predict that either.

I will go out on a limb, though, to say that I don’t think the blog is dead. That’s a topic that several others have recently opined on:

No, like Om Malik, I believe that “we’ll just do it at a different scale, at a different tempo and with a different lens.”

And I’m really looking forward to doing it on a different scale myself. As I’ve joked with several friends, I’m finally going to put my News/Editorial Journalism degree to work! Now let’s hope I can remember what I was taught…

October 11, 2013
by Laura Thomas, ABC
1 Comment

Invest in Girls for Long-term ROI

PDF - The Girl Declaration - #GirlDeclarationToday is International Day of the Girl Child and I’m working from home with a sick girl of my own. Luckily, she’s only dealing with seasonal allergies, not recovering from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). And she’ll only miss one day of school, rather than being taken completely out of school at her ripe old age of eleven to be a child bride.

Sound extreme? It’s not in many places around the world.

Globally, it is estimated that between 100 and 140 million girls and women have experienced some form of FGM, and that every year about three million girls, most younger than 12, are at risk of undergoing this dangerous procedure.

A CNN story today reports that in Pakistan, almost one-fourth of the country’s girls find themselves in unions or marriages by age 18. And, India has more child brides than any other country in the world, with 47 percent of all of the country’s more than 600 million girls married before their 18th birthday.

So what? So, moving beyond the emotional element of such statistics, think of the economic impact.

In India, adolescent pregnancy results in nearly $10 billion in lost potential income, according to statistics from The Girl Effect. In Uganda, 85 percent of girls leave school early, resulting in $10 billion in lost potential earnings. By delaying child marriage and early birth for one million girls, Bangladesh could potentially add $69 billion to the national income over these girls’ lifetimes.

Yet, girls were left out when the UN was drafting their Millennium Development Goals that are meant to form a blueprint to meet the needs of the world’s poorest. So today, girls from Egypt, Burkina Faso and Nepal presented the Girl Declaration to the UN.

YouTube Preview Image

If I’d been at my office today, I’m proud to say I would have seen a screening of the film “Girl Rising” compliments of Dell’s support. To help “Pay it Forward” they are encouraging employees to contribute to girl-related causes during the month of October. By leveraging the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network of 10,000 women around the world, and employees like me, Dell hopes to track support for 1 million females by the end of 2015.

What can you do? Even though this day is almost over, you can keep the momentum going. You can sign in support of the Girl Declaration. You can host your own screening of “Girl Rising.” Or, here are 11 other ideas for action.

Improving girls’ health and education helps us all because they will play a crucial role in solving the world’s problems.

Do something.

October 4, 2013
by Laura Thomas, ABC
0 comments

Social Media Jobs: Now You See Them, Now You Don’t, Now You Do

On October 1, an article by HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes on Fortune’s website proclaimed “The social media manager is dead. Long live social media.

Just two days later, PR News’ blog was sharing an infographic about “The Rise of the Social Profession.”

Infographic: The Rise of the Social Profession

So which is it? Are social media jobs increasing or decreasing?

As with any set of numbers and statistics, it’s all in how you look at it.

With the infographic, data was collected from LinkedIn over several years. Based on that, social media positions have increased on the network by 1,357 percent since 2010.

Holmes’ piece referenced a Quartz story from September 12, which notes job postings that mention social media in their description on the site Indeed gained 89 percent since 2012. While that’s not as much growth and a shorter span of time, both the Indeed data and the LinkedIn data seem to agree that job postings mentioning social media are growing.

So why did Holmes’ proclaim the social media manager dead? Because while social media continues to grow as a desired skill in job postings, it’s not only for postings that have social media in their title. Shel Holtz noted on his Facebook page that several articles have been written over the last couple of months about the decline in social media manager job postings, but that organizations still need someone to coordinate things like tools and governance. This led to a lot of great discussion amongst several “heavy hitters” in the social arena.

I’ve been inclined myself to lean in the same direction as Shel. While I think integration of social media into many different jobs at different levels of an organization is ideal, I’ve also felt that there needed to be some strong leadership – especially in a very large and disperse organization. If everyone is in charge, then no one is in charge.

But, maybe I’m looking at this too hierarchically. Have my many years within the corporate world where, despite goals of meritocracy, titles still carry weight, led me to confuse leadership with organization? Are leaderless teams chaos or true democracy? Does a social media leader within an organization need the title of social media manager to lead?

Some of this line of thinking was spurred by an article in Harvard Business Review titled “When No One’s in Charge,” and the comments on it such as this:

“BUT, of course, leaderless does not mean there is no leadership… rather it means that leadership is distributed or devolved …decades ago i convinced my prime minister to run a leaderless cabinet office… it was a theoretical master-piece for a full 6 months..everyone love it…it worked a treat, well almost…it was fine internally but it was a disaster externally… all the departments around it, which depended on it for direction and control, were hierarchical bureaucracies and they could not work with a free-wheeling policy unit at the core of the government…it was disbanded before it celebrated its first birthday…as with many great ideas it is ‘the unintended consequences’ that accompany their implementation that restricts their success….leaderless entities will become more common in our digital global economy but they will have to be a good fit with their purpose and their environs if they are to survive….”

One line of thinking is that social media is a tool that everyone will use and it will become as ubiquitous as email. I said myself upon my last job change: “Social media won’t be my job title, but it will certainly remain a part of the way I do my job. And that’s exactly the way I think it should be.”

But… even if it is as basic a tool as email or the telephone, within an organization there still remain today departments with people who are responsible for making sure that email and telephones work. Sure every manager must play a role in hiring, managing and sometimes firing employees, but most do so with the guidance of a Human Resources professional.

So while the title of social media manager may be dwindling, and true leaders in social media don’t necessarily have to carry such a title to lead, someone still needs to be tasked with managing the infrastructure.

I wonder what their title will be?

October 3, 2013
by Laura Thomas, ABC
1 Comment

Exploring God Through Old Media, Social Media and Content Marketing

Questions about the impact of social media on religion are as old as social media — although certainly not as old as religion.

Many other bloggers and journalists have opined on the topic, books have been written about it, and a Google Scholar search turns up more than a million results.

There are the major players like the Pope who’s “Selfie Blows Up Twitter,” the grassroots themes of sunrises and sunsets inspiring digital adoration of God as artist, and even the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently announced that missionaries will do less door-to-door proselytizing, and instead, use the Internet to recruit new church members.a billboard in Austin, TX, with #ExploreGod on it

But much closer to my home, I’ve been watching with great interest as billboards began popping up all over Austin with simply “#ExploreGod” on them. I only wondered a short time what it was all about before I heard at my church that we were joining more than 300 other churches in Central Texas, from at least 12 different denominations, in a four-month campaign to invite people to investigate questions about God in a non-threatening way.

It was evident that social media was part of this campaign when billboards sporting hashtags popped up, but ExploreGod pulled off a truly integrated marketing campaign with their website, out of home advertising, online video, DVDs, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, livestreaming broadcasts of Q&A forums, daily messages that could be delivered to your inbox or cell phone, and… of course, the powerful word of mouth from the pulpit with a sermon series on seven common questions about God and faith. Talk about your content creation!

My own weekly Bible study group made up of members from two different non-denominational Christian churches, and one mostly agnostic skeptic that likes to play devil’s advocate, has been using the DVDs and study guide.  Last week’s question of “Is Christianity Too Narrow?” was one of my favorites so far.

YouTube Preview Image

The well-produced videos have sparked good conversation, although our agnostic hasn’t really changed his stance. But, I don’t think the goal was really conversion, so much as encouraging conversation.

Too many people proclaiming their Christianity today are doing a lot of talking about what they think God wants people to do and believe, but they’re doing little listening and showing little grace, and this creates an environment where other Christians fear conversation about their beliefs will alienate or offend. So ExploreGod says, “If our work here can start a good conversation and give you something valuable to think about in your own life, then we’ve done what we’ve set out to do.”

For that I applaud them. And as a communicator, I admire them for their ability to create such expansive content, leveraging just about every modern marketing tool plus the old reliable ones, and to bring together hundreds of different congregations in support of it.

Surprisingly, the church with the Instagraming Pontiff was not one of them.

September 23, 2013
by Laura Thomas, ABC
0 comments

Be a Reading Rebel during Banned Books Week

If you’ve read my blog for very long you know every year I write about Banned Books Week. (And I owe you a big THANK YOU for sticking around here with me all these years!)

Why write about this annual event that celebrates the freedom we have to read in the United States? Because I feel strongly that reading is essential to learning and learning is essential to improving so many of the things that ail our world.

It certainly can’t cure everything. And reading some things could actually perpetuate wrong ideas.

The key here I think is reading outside of your comfort zone. Something I worry about as more and more of the content we read online becomes filtered to show us only things related to other things we’ve shown interest in before. Something Eli Pariser termed living in “filter bubbles” in his TED talk.

Facebook doesn’t mean to make us narrow-minded, they just want to offer us a product that we’ll like and continue to consume. But I think we expect more from our public and school libraries, and in their world even today there remain attempts by well-meaning individuals to filter the content we can read.

Just look to recent headlines for proof, as a county board of education in North Carolina recently voted to ban the 1952 book Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison because a parent felt it was “too much for teenagers.”

Apparently, they can’t handle the topics it addresses which according to Wikipedia are “the social and intellectual issues facing African-Americans early in the twentieth century, including black nationalism, the relationship between black identity and Marxism, and the reformist racial policies of Booker T. Washington, as well as issues of individuality and personal identity.”

I must admit I was not familiar with this novel that spent 16 weeks on the bestseller list and won the National Book Award for fiction before I was born. But, thanks to the freedom I have to read (and the ease of “1-Click” downloads from Amazon to my Kindle), I’m about to fix that.

Just getting started with the author’s introduction to the 30th anniversary edition yesterday, I’ve already begun to highlight sections that made me pause and think:

I’m looking forward to being a reading rebel and highlighting more interesting points of view that can expand my own.

Why don’t you join me this week in reading something someone has protested? To help you get started, the American Library Association has compiled a list of the most-challenged titles of 2012.

The Captain Underpants series was #1 last year!

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UPDATE 9/26/13: (Reuters) – A North Carolina school board lifted on Wednesday its ban of Ralph Ellison’s classic novel “Invisible Man” from school libraries after being ridiculed by residents and undercut by a giveaway of the book at a local bookstore.

Let’s hear it for the prevailing of good sense!

 

June 21, 2013
by Laura Thomas, ABC
0 comments

Write Hard. Share Soft.

Writing has been on my mind a lot lately, even though you haven’t seen much of it here this month.Lapel pin that reads "Write Hard. Die Free"

Two posts on writing crossed my radar this week that I wanted to share – the first of which is actually about how much you should share on the Internet.

Since this is a personal blog in the sense that I’m not trying to generate any business through it, my topics can sometimes be of a personal nature. Alongside a lot of posts about social media, I’ve blogged about vacation trips and parenting, issues facing women and girls, books I’ve read and talks I’ve attended.

But, there have been times when big things were going on in my personal life that I didn’t share here. Sometimes because I’m thinking about how they might reflect on me personally and professionally, but often because I’m thinking about the impact on other people involved and what their comfort level is with me sharing.

Sarah Kathleen Peck shared her personal rules for this on her blog this week when she asked “How much should you share with the internet, anyways?

Peck says she only shares about a quarter of the things she’s written, if not much less, but she still writes to process things that will remain private. “Share everything with yourself. Put your words down, write your heart out, and keep that journal flush with ideas,” she suggests. Perhaps it’s something I should consider doing in an old-fashioned paper journal.

If I get to the point where I’m typing it out long-form, I’m probably going to post it, so for me there’s a lot left unwritten. Unlike the many emails I’ve typed saying what I really wanted to say in response to someone, but deleted before hitting send. <wink> And, I have often censored myself on Twitter. Learned that lesson early.

The platform of Twitter was a big part of the next essay that caught my eye – “The Ongoing Story: Twitter and Writing” where Thomas Beller ponders how great literary figures might view Twitter and how much we currently think in public.

He also hits on reason I might like Twitter so much: “…because it is a medium of words and also of form. Its built-in limitation corresponds to the sense of rhythm and proportion that writers apply to each line.” He also notes that it brings a sense of performance to writing, because it’s being done live.

I’m not sure I’ve written much about it here, but a somewhat dormant passion of mine is dancing. When asked in a creative writing class once to write about my favorite place, the dance studio with its well-worn wooden floors and walls of mirrors was the place I selected. But, the stretching, the learning, the practicing done there is all about taking it to the stage. As much satisfaction as I get just from the act of dancing, there’s something to be said for the validation of hard work through the applause of an audience.

But writing and tweeting are different from dancing because they involve words rather than movement. Beller ponders if putting an idea into a tweet makes it public and whether that fact diminishes the chances it will grow into something “sturdy and lasting.”

I’ve often thrown out tweets with the hope I might get some nibbles of interest in the topic, so I could then use the resulting conversation in a blog post. But, more often than not, they simply drift along the twitterstream like one of many fall leaves in a creek. Lost in the multitude and not eliciting any response.

Are they unseen or is the topic just not intriguing to others? Beller asks in his piece, whether writing that is never seen by anyone other than its author even exists?  I think I know what Peck’s answer would be.

I started this blog as just a writing practice exercise and I try to remind myself that is all it is, rather than worrying about Google Analytics or how many comments, shares or likes each posts receives. But, I’d be lying to say I don’t get a little joy whenever someone does say they like what I put down here.

My thanks to both Peck and Beller for their thought-provoking pieces this week. May they start their weekend on a high note knowing that someone out there was listening.

Image via Creative Commons by Mel Green

May 21, 2013
by Laura Thomas, ABC
0 comments

Good News from Pew Research on Teen Social Media Use

No time to give this a proper read and digest, but since my last post was about keeping our kids safe online, I wanted to quickly pass along some optimistic survey results released today.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project announced the findings of their “Teens, Social Media, and Privacy research.” It notes that while teens are sharing more information about themselves on social media sites than they did in the past, they take an array of steps to restrict and prune their profiles.

A few good news items include:

  • 19% post content they later regret sharing (could be much worse)
  • 20% share their cell phone number (I thought it would be higher)
  • 16% automatically include location in their posts (good to know they’re aware)
  • 61% have decided not to post something because it might reflect badly on them in the future

According to Pew, the typical (median) teen Facebook user has 300 friends. The larger a teen’s network, the more likely they are to have a wider variety of friends and share more personal information. This image shows how those with 1-150 friends share, but you can click on it to be taken to the interactive version and compare the difference with larger friend networks.

Teens on Facebook: What They Share with Friends - Chart by Pew Research

They’ve also got a site to let you build an interactive profile to explore what teens post and prune on their own profiles.

One of the things that caught my eye there was the finding that teens whose parents have higher levels of education and income are more likely than teens whose parents have lower levels of education and income to share videos of themselves on social media – a finding Pew thought may be influenced by the tech assets of the family.

An Associated Press writer‘s attention was caught by how the results showed teens moving increasingly to Twitter to avoid their parents and the ‘‘oversharing’’ that they see on Facebook. And, Huffington Post declared “The Facebook generation is fed up with Facebook.”

But, Pew researcher Mary Madden told USAToday  that in focus groups, conducted by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, “we repeatedly heard kids saying that they knew their parents were watching.” As a parent, I’m glad to hear that. To me it is encouraging to know that more parents are getting involved and watching what they’re kids are doing. It’s not about being Big Brother, but about being a parent.

May 11, 2013
by Laura Thomas, ABC
2 Comments

Helping Your Kids Be Smart Online

“Have you used Snapchat before?”

“Just once when we were sending a photo from [friend]’s phone. You know what Snapchat is?!?”

That last sentence was said a bit incredulously by my daughter and that filled me with both pride (yeah, I’m a cool mom who knows this stuff) and worry (after all our previous conversations about online safety she still thinks she knows things I don’t).

What had prompted this conversation was the fact that she was looking over my shoulder when I tweeted a link to a story about how someone has figured out how to recover Snapchat photos.

“On May 8, researchers at Decipher Forensics, a company in Orem, Utah, announced that they have figured out how to retrieve the supposedly self-destructing photos from the popular now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t photo-sharing app Snapchat. And will do so for a fee,” Businessweek reported.

Yes, I knew about Snapchat, but I had hoped that she didn’t. I try hard to keep up with new technology and not be quite as clueless as the parents in this video:

The company that makes that monitoring software also has an ebook titled “15 Digital Safety Rules Every Household Should Follow” that could be helpful for parents who, like myself, believe that talking early and often about online safety is more powerful than a big brother app.

I may hesitate on the “don’t friend anyone you don’t know in real life” rule, because if I’d followed it myself I’d have missed out on meeting some pretty cool people. But, there are some good nuggets of advice like:

  • They should not put anything up that they wouldn’t say to someone in person or would be embarrassed to have their school principal read,
  • They need to be aware that the possibility exists that the person on the other end of the profile isn’t really what he or she claims,
  • If you wouldn’t show the photo to Nana, don’t send it in a text, private chat or post it to social media, and
  • Never post, put in an online profile, or share with someone you don’t know in real life the following things: full name, address, telephone number, parents’ work address/telephone number, school name and location, or names of siblings.

On that last one, let me take a sidebar and speak to parents directly. You need to remember these tips when you post yourself. When you comment on your friends’ Facebook posts with things like “Johnny looks so handsome” or “Way to go [enter name of kid’s school] chess club” you are doing what you don’t want your own kids to do. Your friend might not have given out their child’s name or school, but you just shared it for them.

So, how did I leave off the conversation with my girl? With yet another admonition to never, ever, ever take photos of herself or let someone else take photos of her without all her clothes. If I say it enough, I’ll believe it will never happen…

May 6, 2013
by Laura Thomas, ABC
0 comments

Ten Years In to LinkedIn. From Basic Resume to Visual Portfolio

LinkedIn just celebrated its 10th birthday and while co-founder Reid Hoffman chose to thank employees today for all they’ve done, last week CEO Jeff Weiner was talking about how he really wants the rest of us to stop thinking of it as just a digital resume.

I have to admit, that’s exactly what I thought of it as when I joined back in 2006. (To find out when you joined, just go to the Settings and it’s listed there under your name.) I initially resisted the invitations from colleagues to join in the same way today I resist all the My Calendar invites Facebook friends send.

It didn’t seem necessary since I wasn’t looking for a job at the time. (My Calendar really is unnecessary because Facebook will tell you when it’s my birthday if I want you to know it.) But, the invites kept coming and it began to make some sense to start creating an online network of professional associates.

Seven years later, I’ve got 500+ connections in that network and LinkedIn itself has over 225 million members, more than 3,700 employees and nearly $325 million in revenue according to The Next Web.

And LinkedIn has pretty consistently added new elements to their service over that time which have definitely taken it further than a basic online resume. There’s a visual timeline if you’d like to review their history.

Recently, they began rolling out “the ability to showcase your unique professional story using rich, visual content on your LinkedIn profile” to members in English speaking countries. Last year, I wrote about leveraging Pinterest to create something similar.

I haven’t had time yet to try adding the same visual elements to my LinkedIn profile, but here are some examples of how it could work:

Have you tried it yet? Any tips and tricks to share?

 

 

April 29, 2013
by Laura Thomas, ABC
2 Comments

Thank You Authors

A wooden chair sits atop a stack of booksJust got an unexpected free hour & a half to myself and I haven’t had time to write here in a while; so now, what to write about?

I’m too far out in the back yard for my wireless connection to pull up all those myriad articles I’ve been saving to Evernote for just this moment of inspirational need.

So, I’ll go with something off the usual topic of social media. Nothing about the latest platform or new updates to the old ones. No content marketing, just commentary on content – the content of books to be precise.

You see this past week I had the chance to fly to San Francisco for a work event. (The results of which you can read here and here.) Even though many flights now come equipped with wi-fi and plenty of opportunity to keep working through the business day, when I fly I prefer to pretend I’m completely disconnected and use that time to read.

Occasionally, I’ll read something that might be career related, but most often I enjoy the opportunity to escape into a bit of fiction. This time, I’d forgotten my Kindle, so I went really old school. I picked up a paperback copy of “The Kite Runner” in the airport bookstore. I think everyone else probably read it 10 years ago, so you don’t really need my review, but I will say that it left a deep impression.

I’ve found myself referencing it several times since I’ve been back home. I’ve censored it a bit, especially when talking with my daughter, but I didn’t spare all the details of the tough times depicted in it. I’d like her to also benefit from the insight it gave to life in a country very different from ours.

But, I know my description of it to her will never take her there as vividly as reading the book would. And that is the amazing power of a well-written story. I admire those who can write such realistic pictures into my mind and bring out so much emotion through written words. (I was at a very sad point of the story when my plane was landing in SFO and I’m sure those around me wondered why I was so verklempt.)

I use the same basic words to communicate here, but my copy is more informational, less inspirational. Next week at the dinner table, no one is likely going to say “Oh, that reminds me of this blog post Laura Thomas wrote.” And I don’t say that to be self-depreciating. I just know that this short-form expository style of writing doesn’t have the same lasting impact long-form stories do.

I’m so happy that my daughter enjoys reading. I’ve learned so much from reading – and not just textbook type stuff. I know I’ve learned just as much, if not maybe even more, from fiction. Judy Blume taught me more about adolescence than my parents ever did. That high school phase of historical romance novels did include the historical element. Anne Rice’s vampires traveled through time and across continents that I’ve never stepped foot on, but I feel like I have.

And, this last book gave me new insight into a country I’ve heard about for years on the evening news. I now know a different side of Afghanistan. I learned more about the history and customs that shaped its people, and more importantly, I have a better understanding of them as fellow human beings trying to grow up and raise families of their own.

Sure it was fiction, but all good fiction has a basis in reality.

So, I guess this post is just a great big wet kiss to all the authors out there who work so hard to bring characters and locations to life for us. I know writing isn’t easy. It’s hard enough just to do the little bit I do here simply for the sake of exercising.

Thanks to a good book, I not only went to California last week, I also went to Afghanistan and made a side trip to Pakistan. Without great authors, I wouldn’t have been to nearly as many places as I’ve traveled through words and I do indeed thank them all for that.

Image via Creative Commons by cogdogblog.