45 Things I’ve Learned in My 45 Years on Earth

The other night, I was flying back from the west coast and found myself on a flight without wifi and in a rare situation where I was fairly caught up on e-mail/work. Instead of sleeping or reading my latest issue of Rolling Stone, I got thinking about how lucky I was 45 years into my life and all of the things that I had learned along the way. I was skeptical at first that I could come up with 45 lessons (to match my age) but low and behold once I started writing they managed to flow.

ocean

Many of you that know me have already seen this on Facebook (apparently it struck a nerve as I received over 200 likes and north of 85 comments as of the writing of this post). But given the ephemeral nature of Facebook and the fact that I would like to be able to hold onto these little “Stroutisms” as someone called them, I am pasting them over here on my now-seldom-used blog for safe keeping.

I amy also add to these over time in the comments. Feel free to do the same if you are so inclined:

Sitting on a plane with no wifi and thinking about some of the things I’ve learned over the course of my 45 years on this planet. Here are 45 things in no particular order:

  1. Raising children is the hardest job you will ever have.
  2. Raising children is the most rewarding job you will ever have.
  3. Being in love is an amazing feeling.
  4. Being in love with the same woman for 20 years is an even more amazing feeling.
  5. One of the keys to keeping a marriage alive is good communication.
  6. Another key to keeping a marriage alive is being willing to meet your spouse halfway. On everything.
  7. Dusk is my favorite time of the day.
  8. The ocean is one of the most remarkable things on this planet. If you live near it, never take it for granted.
  9. Everything in moderation… including moderation.
  10. I was incredibly lucky to grow up with two wonderful parents and four equally wonderful grandparents.
  11. No matter how many times I fly on a plane, I am amazed that something that big/heavy can fly.
  12. Nothing quite as good as tomatoes fresh out of the garden.
  13. Anything that is good in life is worth working for.
  14. If you don’t love your job, quit. Seriously.
  15. I have been lucky to always work at places where I have enjoyed and respected my colleagues.
  16. A good night sleep is underrated.
  17. Never stop learning.
  18. Never stop listening to new music. Ask your friends, kids, neighbors and colleagues for recommendations.
  19. I am still pissed that Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley died too early.
  20. Few things beat sitting on the patio/porch/deck in the morning with a cup of coffee.
  21. Okay, sitting on the patio/porch/deck in the early evening with a cool drink might beat a cup of coffee in the morning.
  22. There is something magical about a bonfire or a fire in the fireplace for that matter.
  23. Bacon should be its own food group. True story, I didn’t eat bacon for 20 years. I am now making up for lost time.
  24. It’s important to provide guidelines and discipline and firm boundaries for your children.
  25. It’s equally important to transgress guidelines and boundaries with your kids once in a while.
  26. If you have something to do, get it done first. Procrastinating just makes the time in between the present and what you have to do miserable.
  27. Writing a book is hard.
  28. Writing a blog consistently is hard.
  29. Running 3-4 times a week is hard.
  30. Writing a book is one of the most amazing things you will ever do.
  31. Writing a blog consistently is cathartic.
  32. Running 3-4 times a week feels good. And is good for you.
  33. Don’t ever take yourself too seriously.
  34. Compliment at least one person every day.
  35. Seeing a baseball game at Fenway Park at least once in a lifetime should be everyone’s bucket list.
  36. Having a soul mate makes life immeasurably easier.
  37. Tell your children you love them at least once a day – even when you are mad at them. Same with your significant other.
  38. There is a reason God gave us two ears and one mouth. I am still working on listening more and talking less.
  39. Given a choice, I will choose plain cheese pizza over those with toppings.
  40. There are few things tastier than vanilla ice cream topped with hot fudge.
  41. People are inherently good.
  42. There are no such things as absolutes in politics but rather shades of gray.
  43. Be comfortable in your own skin.
  44. The older I get, the less I realize I know.
  45. I love being 45.

 

My Wife the Community Manager

It’s funny how things turn out sometimes. As someone that has worked in the digital/mobile/social space for the last 20 years, I’ve always spent my fair share of time exploring what’s new on the Internet. Testing out new technologies. Embracing new mobile apps and even writing a book on the phenomena that is location-based marketing. The same could not be said about my wife, Melanie Strout, up until six years ago.

No, this post isn’t about how as a wife and mom that she is the “community manager” of our family (although she certainly is that and a good one to boot). She is in fact a real life community manager. She’s worked with big brands and small brands. She’s done community management, forum and Facebook moderation and even some social media marketing. Five years ago, however, I can remember a conversation we had about blogging. Let’s just say that she wasn’t the biggest fan at the time. But all that has changed.melanie

Rather than put it in my words, I’ve decided to interview her. Below you will find five questions about how she got started, what she’s learned along the way and what wisdom she might impart to others that are considering the same line of work.

  1. [Aaron] How did you get started with social media?
    [Melanie] About six years ago, I took the plunge and jumped on Facebook. At first it made me a little nervous putting myself out there for the world to see. But over time, reconnecting with old friends from high school and college made me realize that the value of Facebook far outweighed any of the downside of living my life more publicly.
  2. [Aaron] Tell us about your first job as a moderator.
    [Melanie] It’s funny, I had been out of the work force for about 11 years raising our three kids. But once they were all in school, it felt like it might be time to find a part time job to earn a little mad money for the family. My last job before having children was running an incoming call center for a customer service department so I felt comfortable dealing with customer questions, comments and complaints. It just happened to be over the phone versus online. It was a little bit of a stretch but between my comfort level with social channels and past experience with customer service, I took a shot and applied online for a job with Canadian moderation company called ICUC. Imagine how surprised I was the day I got a call back from ICUC six weeks later to do a short-term moderation project. It wasn’t particularly exciting — just approving or rejecting pictures of Toyota’s NASCAR that had been customized by fans and uploaded to NASCAR’s site. But, that job lead to other moderation jobs for ICUC’s client brand pages. I learned a ton in a short period of time.
  3. [Aaron] How did you parlay your content moderation job into a community manager role?
    [Melanie] After ICUC, a friend named Sylvia Marino saw that I was looking for my next gig and she connected with me a company she was working with called GenConnect. They were a content company that was looking to grow their social presences. That was a real roll up your sleeves kind of opportunity with just the three of us creating content, marketing the site and managing their social presences. Not long after the GenConnect job started, Sylvia also connected me with Edmunds.com. That led to a forum moderation job that helped me hone my skills.
  4. [Aaron] What was one of your most challenging moments as a moderator/community manager?
    [Melanie] Hmmm, there have been a few of those. I remember when I was managing Halls Cough Drop’s Facebook page and someone lashed out at the brand. For one, it’s always hard not to take those comments personally as an ambassador for the brand. You also are hyper-focused on making sure you are making good recommendations to your brand partners and stay in constant communication with the team (including legal).
  5. [Aaron] Your last job was as the community manager for California Restaurant Month. Tell us a little about that.
    [Melanie] That was a fun project working with Jay Baer and Lisa Loeffler. We had to create a brand new Facebook page along with several other new social channels. Fortunately, fine dining is a passion area for many folks so driving interest and engagement wasn’t as hard as it was with some of my past opportunities. One of the highlights of the job was leading/moderating Facebook chats with several celebrity chefs like Cindy Pawlson, Roy Choi and Tanya Holland. Not only was it fun to get to know those chefs but the conversations they created on Dine in CA’s Facebook page drove tons of comments, likes and shares which is always a good thing.

As luck would have it, my wife, Melanie, is currently looking for her next community manager job. Ideally, it’s a 20-30 hour/work-from-home opportunity. She is open to both short-term and long-term project work. You can find out more about Melanie on LinkedIn here.

Think(ing) Like Zuck: 5 Facebook Marketing Tips

Originally posted on WCG’s blog on 1/15/2013.

When I agreed to review Ekaterina Walter’s new book, Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg, I immediately tried to think of a way to make the book review special. After all, Ekaterina is not only a friend (and client) but more importantly, she’s a very smart woman who has achieved quite a bit at a young age. In addition to being a regular contributor to Mashable, Fast Company, and Huffington Post, she has also been featured in Forbes. If that wasn’t enough, she also sits on the Board of Directors for the prestigious Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).
The problem is that unless one regularly writes book reviews, they can be a little boring and probably not as informative as one would like. And while I’ve done a few in my day including Josh Bernoff’s book Empowered for AdAge, Clay Shirky’s, Cognitive Surplus and most recently, Chade-Meng Tan of Google’s, Search Inside Yourself, I still don’t have the swing of it. Fortunately for me (and you) Ekaterina not only learned some important business lessons from Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerburg over the last several years, she also knows how to share a few herself.
To that end, before get into a quick synopsis of Ekaterina’s book I am going to give you five of her best Facebook marketing tips. Note that these aren’t just tips that she picked up while managing her own personal page. In fact, these are tips that she’s learned from helping to manage Intel’s Facebook page which happens to have north of 16 million fans as of this writing. Here goes:
  1. Humanize your voice.
    Though you need to be mindful of the consistency of your brand voice, it doesn’t mean that it has to sound “corporate”. This is the community of people, not a platform for broadcasting the PR messages, so address your fans as they were your friends. Remember, the biggest ROI of Facebook is in humanizing your brand. So humanize your voice as well.
  2. Adjust your content strategy as you go.
    Besides being a part of the community and hoping to get discounts on your products, information is one of the most important reasons why your customers become your fans on Facebook. So add stickiness to your page through great content. Use 80/20 rule: 80% of status updates should provide value to the fan and 20% can be around your products or services.
  3. Keep your status updates short.
    Even though Facebook increased the maximum number of characters for the original post from 420 to 63,206, you shouldn’t by any means try to use all of them. A study by Buddy Media showed that posts 80 characters or less in length receive 27% higher engagement rates. Besides, if you ever want to use Sponsored Story products, only the first 90 characters of your status update will be visible in the ad.
  4. Post frequency and timing.
    Every brand is different, but normally posting once a day 5-7 times a week works rather well. By posting too much you risk alienating your fans, but not posting enough, you lose your reach. The study by comScore and Facebook found that each incremental day of publishing increases the reach among fans by approximately 2.5%. So my recommendation is to post 7 days a week.
  5. Moderation guidelines.
    Ensure that your Facebook community has clear House Rules or moderation guidelines. You should specify how you will manage your community, what to expect and which posts you will absolutely not tolerate (abusive, insulting, illegal, etc). Always be prepared in case you’ll have to refer your rowdy fans back to your guidelines. Also, specify what your response timing is, so your customers are not upset if you not able to address inquiries immediately.

Now that we have Ekaterina’s five tips, let’s move onto a quick synopsis of the book.

What I like about the book is that Ekaterina starts off with a few examples of how Facebook is changing our society by connecting us in ways like never before. She follows that up with a few pages of mind blowing statistics (hint: Facebook would be the third largest country on earth). But that’s just the appetizer. It’s the main course — her five secrets — that really start the creative juices flowing.

With too many authors, there is a tendency to get wrapped around the axle with too much detail. Not in Ekaterina’s case. In fact, arguably the best thing about “Think Like Zuck” is the simplicity of the construct she uses to convey the CEO savant’s five life lessons: the 5 Ps.

The 5 Ps described in the book are:

  • Passion — Keep your energy and commitment fully charged at all times by pursuing something you believe in.
  • Purpose — Don’t just create a great product, drive a meaningful movement.
  • People — Build powerful teams that can execute your vision.
  • Product — Create a product that is innovative, that breaks all the rules, that changes everything.
  • Partnerships — Build powerful partnerships with people who fuel imagination and energize execution.

In addition to her five secrets (the 5 Ps), the other thing that caught my eye were the use of pithy but powerful quotes throughout the book. I’m not sure if this was intentional but these quotes (a few of my favorites are cited below) are similar to the “keep your status updates short” mantra in the five tips above:

  • Transparency and empowerment breed dedication, loyalty and trust. Trust is the unleashed imagination and unlimited innovation (p. 101)
  • A company’s success is serious business. But introducing a little fun into the workplace makes for a happy and highly motivated employee base (p. 110)
  • Make innovation personal! Involve your employees and give them freedom to create (p. 151)

The thing that I appreciated the most about the book? It was only 184 pages (minus the notes/appendix). To be honest, that’s about all the attention span anyone has these days for a business book. And considering the fact that Ekaterina was able to sum up the five things that make Mark Zuckerberg a great (even if improbable) leader in such an efficient fashion, I can feel good telling you that you should buy a copy, even if you aren’t destined to be the next CEO of the largest and most successful social network in the world.