The Influencer Epidemic

My passion for social media is evident in many aspects of my life, but I still think the full potential of social media has yet to be tapped. Events like Twestival, meetups and u30pro are amazing examples of what social media can and has done, but I still think there’s more to come. With a federal election looming, I’m anxious to see how the candidates take to Web 2.0.
That being said, I think we are running into a huge problem with how we evaluate quality in the social media stream. I’m calling this the influencer epidemic.
I recently did an podcast with some awesome students from Centennial College’s Corporate Communications and Public Relations program. As an alumni of the program, I love going back to help current students with their assignments and networking. When I was approached to answer some questions about my experience as a new grad and social media, I jumped at the opportunity.
We started with some questions about social media and how it functions in my day to day life. Things were going great until we moved onto the topic of creating a personal brand in the online space and the importance of being “influential”. I was really shocked to see the stress on their faces when it came to creating a personal brand and being “influential” in the online space.
These poor PR students had been told that “being influential online” was the most important thing to securing a job. These poor stressed students sat there fearful of how they would create an online brand and be influential in the mere months before they graduate. How would they ever find jobs without it?
I’m here to argue that influence is arbitrary. The people who are influential to me are not the people others find influential, and while there are influencers in each respective professional community, there will always be someone who doesn’t think that person’s online musings merit their influence.
The bigger question is, how are we measuring influence? While there are some out there producing quality content and sharing information, there are others out there simply practicing online narcissism and using social media as a platform for their own self centered desires.
We need to rethink how we evaluate influencers. Having 2000 followers and tweeting about your lunch with your awesome friends and your awesome parties does not equal influence. Are you sharing information? Are you contributing to your professional community? Are you helping students? Has social media become a popularity contest in which those with the most followers wins?
The first step in defining who’s influential is defining what’s influential for you. The beauty of Web 2.0 is that it’s customizable. Your Google Reader is your own and your Delicious account is tailored for what you want. Don’t allow others to dictate “who’s important”.
Mastering social media tools for use in your own professional life is more important than sharing your party twitpics and having people marvel at the sparkle of your outfit. Maybe one day I’ll interview for a job where they will care about my Klout score. Until then, focus on the work you are doing and the relationships you are forging. Produce quality work first, and you’ll become influential in a way far more measurable than Klout.

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Truth Time.

I haven’t stopped working. Not in the least.

While last Wednesday was supposed to be my last day of work. A nice, relaxing three day work week to round out my time at Starbucks.

Then the internet took over. This is truly the fault of social media.

In a total work-a-holic moment I thought I would “pass by” the “Take My Starbucks Shift, Please!” Facebook group, where baristas go to get a shift covered….I was only going to look….I was sad about quitting my job and thought I would take a trip down memory lane.

Alright fine, I wanted more work.

Lo and behold, I found it. My three day week turned into a six day week. That was supposed to be the end. Saturday was supposed to be it. I was supposed to end my time as a barista on Saturday, retire the green apron and have brunch with Renata on Sunday.

Well yesterday I went to work, today I went to work and I’m headed off to work tomorrow. Then I’m done….actually….for real. I’m headed to Montreal on Friday and I made plans on Thursday so I won’t be tempted to take an extra shift.

I think I’m afraid of going on vacation. I even emailed my new job to ask if I could start early as a volunteer! I’m so desperate to work that I’ll work for free….

Tomorrow is officially the last day…..Monday should be interesting. I have a weekend in Montreal to distract me from my impeding vacation.

I think I’m the only person out there who fears vacation.

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Work-a-holic FAIL

My first test as a work-a-holic was a failure before it even started. I didn’t even make it to my first free of everything, big chance to relax day.

While waiting for a friend at work today, I got asked to pick up a shift (albeit a short 4.5 hour shift) tomorrow to cover for someone sick. At first request I stayed strong and said NO, I had plans, I wanted to go to Toronto Island and just enjoy a book in the sun and I didn’t need to work 6 days that week. My boss was fine with it and proceeded to call someone else. As she was dialing the phone I started thinking about my trip to Montreal, the red pair of boat shoes I’ve been eyeing and of course my credit card bill and felt IMMEDIATE regret. I began thinking that 4.5 hours really wasn’t a long time, that I really want those shoes, and that I should have taken the shift.

Well lo and behold, I got a second chance as the person my boss called couldn’t work. She had barely hung up the phone before the words “I’ll take the shift” flew out of my mouth.

Epic work-a-holic fail.

While I rationalize that I get off at 1pm tomorrow and will have most of the day to do whatever I want and that I’m taking extra time off in 2 weeks to have my wisdom teeth taken out so the extra money will be nice and I started thinking of outfits that will go with my new red boat shoes.

Then I started thinking of things that won’t be happening tomorrow. Sleeping in until 8am, morning coffee reading the paper, not having to deal with bitchy customers who think I’m an idiot because I make coffee….FML.

So the first attempt at not being a work-a-holic was fail. Here’s hoping Friday (my next full day off) is more successful.

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Confessions of a Work-a-holic

Tomorrow is the last day of classes at Centennial.

I’m feeling pretty happy, relaxed and relieved that myself and friends made it through relatively unscathed, learned a lot and had a lot of fun along the way. I don’t start my internship with Edelman Public Relations until September, so I’m not nervous about that yet, just more excited to get started. So as of tomorrow I am on sabbatical until September 7th. I’ll continue to work at Starbucks until August 19th and then I will officially become an unemployed bum for a few weeks before hitting the real world.

The last bit is what makes me nervous. The work-a-holic is taking time off. I have NO idea what the hell I’m going to do with myself.

I’ve never had just one job. I’ve always had either a second job, or mostly university or college to keep me insanely busy. With just one job and what feels like loads of free time coming my way after tomorrow I have absolutely no clue what I’m going to do with myself. If I’m not running around busy, what is there to do?

I’ve come up with a short list that will only last me a week at most

-remove ye olde wisdom teeth (NOT FUN)

-visit Centre Island

-get out my professional camera and dust off my photography skills taking pictures of some of my favorite spots around Toronto

-catch up on my ‘leisure reading’

That should take me until I get my wisdom teeth taken out, then three days of sedation and good drugs and then another month of nothing but a mere 30 hours at Starbucks to keep me going. Fast forward to August 19th and I will be officially unemployed for only the second time since I was 14. Now the end of August brings great things like a trip to Montreal to see a good friend and my little sister visiting but those are weekends.

How does one fill their days when they aren’t going to work and school? How do you fill your days when all you are doing is going to work. Let’s be honest here, the espresso machine at Starbucks isn’t exactly ‘cerebral employment’

While being a confessed work-a-holic may sound great as it means I’m generally always getting stuff done, it has a few major downers:

1. I can’t relax….ever. I look forward to the sedation that my wisdom teeth will bring because I never relax. I can’t sit still and I always feel like I should be doing something. I email people at the salon, I fold laundry when and file papers when I’m watching t.v and I usually spend what little extra time I have trying to keep my tiny and easily cluttered apartment clean.

2. I can’t relate to relaxed people. I don’t judge them, I just don’t get them. I have friends who can watch t.v or just zone out in a park all day…how????? I wish I knew the secret but the sad thing is at the end of the day if you can’t relate to my totally unreasonable (and yes I admit it’s somewhat unreasonable pace) I feel a disconnect.

3. I’m tired A LOT….yet I dream about work, school work and in the last two weeks can’t seem to fall asleep before 2 a.m.

Let’s not misunderstand though, I love my life. I love my city, my friends and couldn’t be more stoked to start my new job in September. I think this time off will teach me to unwind….but I feel like teaching me to unwind is going to be about as easy as taking an addict off of the smack cold turkey.

So, tomorrow kicks off the month long relaxation trials.

Here’s to my survival.

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Moving forward and looking back: a reflection on social media

So while I’ve been a blogger for quite some time, this blog was born out of academic necessity. It was a course requirement that I fully plan on maintaining as I have a big love for blogging, bloggers and all things ‘net’. Part of our assignment is to look at it and figure out what it “all means”

We can say social media is great and for my specific Online PR course, the usefullness of social media has been instilled in us and as an avid and longtime user, I couldn’t be happier.

But really, what does it all mean??

Social media has changed everything, it’s almost cliche to say, but is it easy to say but not so easy to execute. I recently worked with a client to develop a social media plan for his salon. He knew he wanted to use social media but didn’t know how. He thought setting up a Twitter account and some Facebook would be easy. Three weeks and one solitary tweet (written by me!) later, with no update to the Facebook page in sight, my client admitted it was easier said than done and hired someone to do the work. Is it a good investment? Absolutely. But it’s just that, an investment. Social media isn’t your average day of searching videos of dancing cats on YouTube, it’s a genuine effort that has to be taken to reach a broader market and touch more lives with your ideas, product or writing. But it takes work and maintenance.

But as in most situations, the hard work pays dividends.

Courtesy of my friend John Slighte’s blog facade blog, I discovered a great video on how social media is changing the face of tourism in Canada. I’m beyond excited for YouTube’s Day in a Life project and I’m considering submitting a video of my own. Social media is more than just business or pleasure, in a way it brings business and pleasure together, allowing people to absorb content from wherever they feel comfortable from whatever medium they choose (I will continue to envy those who use their iPad for this).

So even though I think I can say I saw the value before, I’m a much better user (and abuser) now. It just takes a little effort and the desire to expand. But hey, if someone wants to give me an iPad to maximize my tweeting, I’d be open to that.

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PR for Baristas

As many of my readers know, I’m a Starbucks barista. For about 25 hours a week I don the green apron and my best smile and serve coffee to the under-caffeinated masses. It almost goes without saying that I also take a lot of flack for being a minion of the “big evil coffee corporation”

I’ve been thinking about doing a blog post like this for a while, and I think it’s time to set the record straight for my beloved ‘bux.

First off, unless you work at a Starbucks, you have no idea the abuse baristas take on a daily basis. In a typical 8 hour shift, I can be yelled at, ignored, name called or be asked to interpret one of any thousand languages. I also work in one of Toronto’s busiest stores and some days my shift feels like a marathon.

There are a few things I feel need saying:

1. Yes our sizes are DIFFERENT. We get it, instead of small, medium and large we have short, tall, grande and venti. No one seems to get it so let me explain. When Starbucks first opened in 1984 there were two sizes, short and tall. As the company expanded, more stores opened and the demand for more sizes increased they had to respond. Thus came the birth of grande and venti. Grande means large, obviously, and venti means 20 in Italian, which is the size of the venti cup (20 ounces). We advertise the sizes all over the store, they are all over the menu boards, there are display cups and if you ask, we will gladly hold up cups for you Vanna White style so you can decide. Please do not give us shit about the names of the sizes. If any of us in the aprons had any say in what goes on at that level of the company, we wouldn’t be wearing the green apron. Just look at the demo, and play along please.

2. “Fair Trade”: Those words make my skin crawl. I think fair trade coffee is a great thing, but did you know it’s not all about fair trade. For something to be certified as fair trade you actually need to buy into the label. The whole idea of making something “fair trade certified” is a for profit agency. Starbucks does its absolute best to ensure it’s paying the highest price for it’s coffee, building schools and hospitals in places where our beans come from and participating in campaigns like (Starbucks) RED to give back to AIDS research in Africa. We are sorry not every coffee is labelled fair trade, but is this really something to yell at your barista about?

3. Our price: trust me, we understand we are more expensive than your average cup of Tim’s. But, if we are comparing coffee to coffee (leave the specialty drinks out for a second) there isn’t that much of a price difference. A large coffee at Tim’s (which is 14 ounces) is $1.38 CDN. A Grande coffee at Starbucks is $2.05 CDN. So a large coffee is 2 ounces larger and has a 67 cent difference in price. Is that worth yelling at your barista for? If you don’t like the price, no one is forcing you to be there. If you want a higher quality coffee (which you will get at Starbucks) isn’t it worth 67 cents for a better cup of coffee that does more for farmers and the people serving it to you?

4. The people: People seem more and more concerned today about employee rights and I think that’s a great thing. The documentary WAL-MART: The high cost of low prices did a lot to expose the conditions that some lower-level employees deal with when working for bigger corporations. As someone who works for a big corporation I can truly say that I am extremely well taken care of. I have health, dental and vision coverage, stock options, tuition reimbursement, vacation pay and exposure to other resources such as a psychologist if I have something going on in my life that makes it difficult to balance work and life. If you are going to buy coffee (or any other product for that matter) wouldn’t you want to pay a little extra for that cup and know that the people serving it to you are being taken care of?

After a rough few weeks of customer abuse I felt the need to put this out there. We understand that mornings are rough, and that coffee is necessary. We understand that our sizes are different and that our coffee is a little stronger. All we ask is that you are nice to us when you come in. We will do our best to guide you through that rough morning and get you that cup of coffee to get your day going, but please don’t use your cell phone to have a fight with your boyfriend in line.

If you want to know more about the day-to-day life of Starbucks, check out their blog!

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The uninformed vs. Google

I am directionally challenged.

My father can drive somewhere once and never forget how to get there. When I was 16 we took a family road trip to Vancouver, BC and he never once pulled out a map. I’ve lived in Toronto for almost a year and I’m still trying to figure out this north-south crap. My directional challenges also stem from the fact that no matter what city I’ve lived in, I’m a public transit user, so the only way I know for a lot of places is the bus route. Well in Ottawa where I used to live, the busses have their own roads and in Toronto you can’t quite drive the subway route.

Needless to say I use Google Maps A LOT. That and Mapquest are my lifesavers. They tell me how to get somewhere, how long it will take me, and with my trust print-outs I can navigate the tumultuous cul-de-sacs of the suburban jungle with ease.

So when I read that a woman was suing Google because of an accident she had while using Google maps, I almost took it as a personal attack.

Lauren Rosenberg, a Los Angeles woman is suing Google because it’s directions told her to walk down a rural country road with no sidewalks or pedestrian lane. Not surprisingly, she was struck by a car. She is suing Google for her $100,000 in medical expenses and she’s also attempting to cash in on the guy who hit her by suing him for punitive damages.

Has the legal system become so flawed that we can now sue people for our own uninformed decisions? It actually blows my mind that Lauren Rosenberg thinks she can legitimately sue Google. The woman wandered blindly down a dirt road, and it’s Google’s fault? Every time something bad happens and people don’t want to be responsible for their actions they can call a lawyer and milk the cash cow?

I hope the judge laughs, throws this out of court and sentences Lauren Rosenberg to a geography class so she can learn how to use a map.

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