To the voters of Alabama, December, 2018


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This is a social media blog, but I don’t have another platform venue to post this essay. But all across social media, women are sharing their #MeToo stories. Well, what happened to me never happened in the five decades that spanned my work experiences. I am lucky in that regard.

My version of #MeToo happened when I was 12.

An open letter to the voters of Alabama, December 5, 2017

Women don’t make this shit up. In 1968 something creepy and inappropriate happened to me. It was wrong. And it was hushed up.

For several years in the mid to late sixties, my family owned a summer cottage in Brigantine, New Jersey. The streets were lined with modest two and three bedroom one-story cottages with Jalousie windows and screen doors adorned with fancy aluminum scrolling. These little, one-season domiciles, many framed in blue and pink hydrangeas, were occupied by housewives and their children on loan to this tiny Jersey oasis while their husbands worked back home in Wilmington and Philadelphia. The men would come down to their families on the weekends.

Those sixties summers were idyllic and carefree. Within a two street, two block range, a half-dozen of the wives connected and formed a network, filling those summer days with sun worshipping, adult beverages, laughter, and gossip. On nice beach days, my mother’s cadre formed a large semi-circle with their woven-webbed loungers facing the Atlantic Ocean. They were a mixture of cultures and religions. Irish and Italian Catholics, and Jewish. They got along famously. They sipped drinks, swatted green-head flies, and talked about their lives against the soundtrack of AM transistor radios and my squealing, vernal playmates.

It was an era generally free of caution.  We skipped the sunscreen, but we did wait a half an hour after eating before it was safe for our toes to touch the tide once more. If we weren’t at the beach, after breakfast, off I’d go to explore, bounded only by a promise to return in time for dinner. I fondly remember several summers, discovering how to dig for clams, burning punks, wearing candy necklaces or smoking candy cigarettes. I listened to Herman’s Hermits “Mrs. Brown You Got a Lovely Daughter” or songs like “Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream, which my older brother played non-stop.

Four or five regular playmates of mine kept occupied each summer. Carl S., lived on the same street, one block closer to the beach. Carl was from Philly and Jewish, as was Howard F., who was a year older and lived the next street over. Directly across the street was Eileen W., who like me was Catholic. Her mother was from Ireland and she talked funny. My mother called it a ‘brogue.’

In the summer of ’68, Howard introduced the gang to a new friend, Joey, whose family was Italian, and they lived next door to Howard’s cottage in Brigantine. Our friendships had no rules. We would call upon each other at random to play or explore our little part of the Jersey shore. I discovered Star Trek in summer reruns and we were all fans. We practiced the Vulcan greeting “Live Long and Prosper” with our hands. The summer of 1968 I was twelve and a half years old.

It was a Saturday that summer when it happened. My dad was down for the weekend. When I left the house with the screen door banging behind me he was sitting in a red leather chair watching a Phillies game.

I decided that day to go one street over and see what Joey was up to. I remember him as younger than the rest of us, a little shorter, gentle and nice. Their permanent home was Philadelphia. I don’t remember their Italian last name, but I do recall it began with a “C.” Their cottage was white with black shutters. I tapped on Joey’s  front door and Joey’s mom answered. I asked if Joey could come out to play. I was told to come in and wait. Joey had stepped out but was expected back soon. In that era, we left the house without giving our parents any agenda. It was a quiet and safe environment. We often spent the entire day outdoors.

Joey’s mom was in the kitchen in the back of the cottage. Joey’s father, like my dad, was down for the weekend and watching the same Phillies game.

Did I want to help with the arrangements? Mrs. C. asked. Joey’s dad suggested I join him in watching the game, That felt more familiar to me than flower arranging so I agreed. My dad and I watched games together all the time. I was a fan! Thanks to my older brother and my dad, I knew all the players’ names, their numbers and the positions they played. So Mrs. C. resumed her flower arranging in the kitchen without me. These were the days before “open concept” floor plans, so she literally disappeared from view.

Their sofa was under the large picture window that faced the street and their TV was off to the right. He coaxed me to sit closer and soon I was right next to Mr. C., I had been raised to be respectful of adults. He was very Italian looking as I recall with thick, salt and pepper hair. He may have been in his 40s, but maybe late 30s. He was wearing a white T-shirt and tan pants.

While we were watching the game, he suddenly took my right hand and placed it on the inside of his upper thigh. He kept his hand on top of mine. He dressed left. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but I do now. I felt a spongy texture along the inside of his leg as he took control of my hand, squeezing it repeatedly, all over that area of his upper left thigh.

I had no — zero — knowledge of male anatomy, but I instinctively felt something was wrong. Boys had “pee pees” but that was all I knew. This was decades before all the “private area” talk that came later in the 80s when I raised my daughter and had those conversations. Joey’s father asked me if I had done this before. Surely I had, he said. I shook my head no. No? I asked myself what he meant by that? With my dad? With myself? I was puzzled and I am certain it showed. Not ever? He persisted. He wanted a confession out of me. He kept squeezing my hand onto his body.

My gut instincts were confirmed when Mrs. C. returned to proudly show off her progress with the arrangement. Mr. C. had quickly darted my hand off his body and resumed his baseball-watching slouch. As soon as she left, he quickly grabbed my hand under his and resumed the behavior, talking to me and trying to get me to admit I had done something like this before. Several minutes passed.

A knock at the door broke the pattern. Howard, my other playmate stopped by to see if Joey was home. He acknowledged me – and I remember then – at that specific time — that he gave me a funny, warning look, but he did not hang around for very long or directly try and bail me out of my predicament, and I did not take the opportunity to leave right then and there. Seconds after Howard left my anxiety returned as Mr. C. for the third time, resumed his mission.

I remember thinking to myself, something is seriously wrong here, though I didn’t know exactly what or why. But I felt increasing danger. How do I get out of this gracefully? I felt the need to work out an exit. I may have been there 10 or 15 minutes in all. Possibly longer. But when Mrs. C. returned to the living room with her final horticulture artistic reveal, I did not hesitate. I had my natural exit. I distinctly recall feeling it was best to leave without raising any alarm. I felt the need to trick Mr. C. into thinking everything was fine. I remember working through the strategy. That memory remains very strong. Some kind of self-preservation kicked in. I felt I needed to set him at ease before I left. I didn’t want him coming after me.

Looking directly at him, I deliberately smiled at him and said, “Well I have to go now. I will see you tomorrow, okay?” He returned the smile and seemed relieved and said “Okay” and I left that house.

Aware he might be watching me out of the picture window, I purposely skipped, la la la, carefree, down the sidewalk to the end of the block. When I turned the corner, safely out of his view, I broke out into tears and ran. I ran faster than I ever ran in my life, and the tears accelerated along with each stride.

My dad was still in his red chair watching the Phillies and I jumped on his lap and sobbed out the whole sordid story. He must have been in utter shock. He called my mom and told me to tell her what happened.

Mom took me into their bedroom, calmed me down as I sat on the edge of the bed next to her. Mom asked me to take her through, step-by-step, what transpired only minutes before, and I reenacted the scene with Mom playing the part of Mr. C.

Details are cloudy after that but I have a few distinct memories. Minutes after telling my parents, a bunch of women — the beach moms —collected outside our house and were talking and pacing.  I can’t remember where my dad went. Someone was likely trying to prevent a murder.

A few ladies paid close attention to me at the beach the next time we all gathered there. Asked how I was, that sort of thing, but they saw I was fine, and I was for the most part, so the incident was never brought up to me again by anyone.

Weeks later I remember feeling terror at being left alone when my parents were two houses away at a party, within my view, I was a responsible young lady and had just begun to babysit that summer, but now I did not want to be alone. I remember kneeling on the sofa, looking out of the living room window, bellowing screams from my lungs until someone heard me.  They came and got me and I joined the adults. That is my first memory indicating that something was different. A feeling of being vulnerable. I never walked down Joey’s street again and would beg my parents not to drive down that street. I never wanted to see that house. I never played with Joey again — never had the opportunity to — and the other moms found excuses not to include her in their activities.

No one ever did anything. Not that I am aware of. I was never asked to recount the incident other than that one time for my mother. It was not an incident. It was a crime. The crime was not reported. I don’t know what was said or what rationale was applied to keep my father, a fearless 6’2” 200 lb. WWII veteran from sending that pervert to the hospital, but evidently calmer, quieter voices prevailed. Mrs. C. probably never knew why she was suddenly out of the group loop.

Keep things quiet. That was the way.

The summer cottage in Brigantine was sold the next year.

A year or so later, we were invited to Howard’s Bar Mitzvah in Philadelphia. All of the Brigantine crowd were there. If my parents had known that “he” would be there, we would not have gone, or they would have gone without me. But, Mr. & Mrs. C. were invited and present. After all, they were that family’s summer neighbors. Not inviting them would have caused friction. Keep up appearances.

I remember seeing him at the after party. I did not speak to him. He looked at me and I at him while I simultaneously clung to my father and dad protectively wrapped his arms around me. My father and Mr. C. were face to face among polite company. I don’t know what looks were exchanged between them, but empowered by my father’s presence and protection I stared that sicko down and my eyes told him that my father knew all about what he did and I was the one that told him.

That was the way things were handled then. No scenes were made, no charges filed. No record of what Mr. C. did to me that summer exists. What a sick person to do that to a child with his wife in the next room! What would he have done to me if his wife had not been home when I knocked on that door? How many other children did he victimize? I suspect from what I have read about this particular perversion, it is a compulsive sickness, so I am sure there were others.

I am certain he is long since dead. But if he were alive, and if he had become famous, a politician perhaps, a person asking to hold a position of trust, integrity, and leadership, a person who established his identity around morality and faith, would anyone believe me and my story?

Whatever political party Mr. C. may have belonged to, and my party affiliation today has nothing to do with the reality of my experience and the memory I have carried since. It could have been a lot worse for me. I was lucky it only got so far. The experience taught me to be careful.

I never felt scarred from the event, but it did affect me nonetheless, perhaps in ways never clearly defined or manifested. The memory only surfaces when I hear or read about pedophilia. Some details, like his last name I have tried hard to recall. I don’t remember what I was wearing, but I remember his tan pants and white shirt. The worst moments of the visit are seared into my memory and I can bring them back as if it happened yesterday. When these news stories broke, relayed by women who were once little girls and adolescents — memories regurgitated as accusations against a candidate for the U.S. Senate, representing Alabama, I immediately believed them. I recognized their anger and indignation. I recognized their right to speak their truth.

Women don’t make this kind of stuff up. Not for financial gain, for 15 minutes of fame or as a pawn in a political game of chess, but for the purpose of justice. Whatever or whomever the catalyst — Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore — we all have a right to react differently. Many feel empowered to rip off the nasty, crusty non-healing scab of an experience and expose it to fresh air. We own the awful memory — we own when, or if, we choose to reveal it. The spectrum of sexual harassment between adults is complicated. But pedophilia is a special kind of reprehensible, sicko creepiness. Believe me when I say, those of us who are unfortunate to have encountered a child predator wish we had another, happier story to tell.



Facebook’s Fake News Problem


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Facebook has a serious fake news problem! 

Creators of fake news are screwing with your head and making thousands of dollars a minute doing so. Our predispositions to particular ideologies fuel the fake news furor.

Learn to recognize the signs. Fake news sites share several characteristics:

1. Clickbait headlines warn you of something scary. See photo example.

2. It usually involves food, medicine or an elected official.

3. Warns you not trust authorities. These nefarious authorities figures are hiding things they don’t want you to see.

4. Ironically the website often name drops scientific studies, or may say “research says” to add credibility.

5. Often their claim cherry picks portions of a real event or study in order to appear credible.

6. Opening the article reveals advertisement overload, typically with scary clickbait warnings. *THIS IS A BIG TIP OFF TO BEWARE!

7. Masquerades as a health advocate by touting only natural, organic or holistic remedies. Anything else is evil. This is not a legitimate organic vs traditional discussion, which is fine to have. Their “all natural” claims are distinguished by their lack of peer-reviewed research to back up their the claims.

8. Resides on the Internet with a url or website name you never heard of before. Usually a jumble of letters, or something that sounds official.

9. Anything coming from another country is suspect. This appeals to Xenophobics.

10. Often imitates a local network news source.

11. The warning claims to be Snopes verified. It is not.

While legitimate reasons may exist to be skeptical of mainstream media, government, Big Pharma and medicine, understand these particular websites ARE NOT trying to help you nor provide you alternatives that have been tested, nor steer you toward health or toward any kind truth. They want your finger to click. They want to make money from advertising.

Fake new sample

A scare tactic that is completely false. It was posted on a legitimate garden group which quickly took this post down.

Putting a slice of a red Bermuda onion under your armpit will not cure Diabetes. Coconut Oil is not 60 times more effective than chemotherapy. Watermelons with cracks or fissures inside the fruit is a natural condition that is not a result of unscrupulous, chemical-loving farmers from China — but rather, larger fissures, known as “Hollow Heart” is a result of an incomplete pollination process. Maybe not pretty, but not at all dangerous to eat. Using Vinegar and Epsom salts as an alternative to Roundup may defoliate your weeds, but it will also contaminate your soil and harm other plants. If you want 100% organic weed control, pull them up by hand.

An anti-vaccine article is loaded with ads like this one taking the viewer to yet another advertisement

Classic clickbait. It is all about the ad. Look at the disclaimer! If you got this far, you’ve already helped this fake news site earn money!

Whatever your political affiliation is, Snopes does a overwhelmingly reliable job and can be trusted. If you don’t want to trust them why go ahead and charge your smart phone in the microwave! Good luck with that.

Due your due diligence. Google the keywords in the article. See what Snopes has to say, or, If you have your panties in a wad over Snopes, use Hoax-Slayer, or That’s Nonsense.
Don’t share these articles. You’re exposing your gullibility. You are helping these liars make money. Report them as fake news on Facebook.

This article is not meant to throw slight on those who believe in organic foods, or who are seeking different schools of thought. Schools of thought will have an academic component. The operative word here is “school.” Look for peer-reviewed articles and sources and evidence-based research, clinical trials, blind studies and links to published results that back up any claims.

Shadow Syllabus

Oh! This is brilliant. And wise!

Sonya Huber

  1. IMG_3738I’ll tell you exactly how to get an A, but you’ll have a hard time hearing me.
  2. I could hardly hear my own professors when I was in college over the din and roar of my own fear.
  3. Those who aim for A’s don’t get as many A’s as those who abandon the quest for A’s and seek knowledge or at least curiosity.
  4. I had bookmarked a citation for that fact, and now I can’t find it anywhere.
  5. The only way to seek knowledge is to open your hands and let your opinions drop, but that requires even more fear.
  6. The goals and outcomes I am required to put on my syllabus make me depressed; they are the illusion of controlling what cannot be controlled.
  7. I end up changing everything halfway through the semester anyway because the plan on paper is never what the living class ends up being about.

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Extension pros: Are you on Twitter?


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What is the best social media platform for a Cooperative Extension agent or specialist to use?

With a full menu of social media platforms to choose from, it’s a dizzying process deciding which platform packs the most punch for the Extension educator. For the input of time required weighed against the impact of the message, Twitter rises to the top as a valuable tool.

Twitter is perfect for the Extension professional who desires to reach constituents, peers, as well as introduce Extension to new audiences. We’re supposed to be using “All Reasonable Efforts” aren’t we?  Twitter is more than reasonable. It’s mobile friendly, quick and concise. Most of the time, you’re sharing a brief moment, an impression, or a helpful fact. Most importantly, you are putting a face the public can associate with the Cooperative Extension Service and its mission to Extend Knowledge and Change Lives through research-based outreach.

Who’s on Twitter?

1. Reporters, print and broadcast media are strong users of Twitter.

2. Legislators, policy and decision makers, at all levels, are heavily invested in Twitter.

3. Industry, trade, researchers, land grant universities, non-profits, funders and grantors all have a strong presence on Twitter.

4. Bloggers and other influencers, particularly parent-bloggers have long favored the blue bird.

Nationally, Cooperative Extension offices are well-positioned on Twitter. Individual educators, agents, and specialists are needed to put a face on these efforts and add personal perspective to the conversation.

What should Extension professionals tweet about?

1. Day-in-the-life activities. What is routine to you may be utterly fascinating to someone else. Demonstrate and illustrate your outreach and research.

2. Use photos (landscape orientation works best) Short videos up to 2 minutes, 20 seconds. Insects, diseases, fungi, beautiful pastoral scenes are all worthy topics to share..

screenhot of extension researcher use of Twitter

Early on, our plant pathologist used humor and graphics to communicate what he does on a daily basis. Since this shot a year ago, his influence and following among peers and constituents have grown considerably.

3. Comment on other Extension topics/tweets. This is called quoting a tweet. You preface the share with a short lead-in or take away why you are sharing. Engagement in social media (all platforms, not just Twitter) is key to building a following and developing your brand.

4.Without commentary, you can quickly share content using the retweet arrows. See an article or photo you like? Share it instantly with your followers with one tap.

5. Original content. A photo, video, a link to your blog or fact sheet. Promote an upcoming field day, workshop or event


With apps like Word Swag or Adobe Spark, it’s easy to add text overlay to an image to advertise an event. Photo use like this saves on the 140 character limit and visually pops in someone’s feed.

6. Respond to other people’s content. Compliment a useful article or photo.

7. Say thank you. Thank people for their support, their expertise, or for following you.

8. Extension professionals can also participate in larger organized chats or tweet-ups, usually regularly-scheduled hour-long conversations that span national or global discussions around a specific interest. For example, search for #GardenChat, #AgChat, #FoodChat, #EdTechLN (Extension technology) #SoilChat and many, many others.

Getting started:

1. Upload a good headshot and header image.

2. Fill out a profile. Say who you are, where you work. You can share one link in your profile, usually your work website.

3. Understand how hashtags work. Use two or three at a maximum. Hashtags are keywords used for searching and curating. Search for #soybeans, #4H, #FoodSafety #fusarium, #dairy and you can follow people and contribute content germane to your specialty or interest.

4. Learn the hashtags that are popular in your location, or that are used at your land grant institution. Social media managers continually curate these hashtags and discover you because you use the same hashtag!

5. Want to tap someone on the shoulder (virtually) to get their attention? Tag them by using their handle @twittername.

6. Don’t be afraid to repeat important information, though it’s good to not do that consecutively. An important workshop coming up? Tweet it on Monday morning, Wednesday afternoon, and again on Friday night. In between, you should have other content or engagement with others.

7. Build slowly. Find someone you respect, perhaps in your field, and follow a few of the people they are following. Follow your local media and representatives.

8. Check a profile before following someone back. Generally, I take a look at their how they describe themselves, and review the kind of content they are tweeting. If it is repetitive, or if they only tweet for one site, I ignore them. Look for real people who tweet about the topics you are interested in.

9. Don’t be a wonk. Your Twitter content should be meaningful, of course, but there’s nothing wrong with revealing your sense of humor or something that shows potential followers you are an authentic human being.

10. If setting up a professional profile, avoid politics, religion or any topic that could be construed as controversial. If you feel compelled to express yourself on such topics, I recommend setting up another account for such purposes. Read more about professional vs personal branding here.

Start at a pace you are comfortable with. Talk to your institution’s communication team on any branding requirements or practices specific to your college or university. They will be happy to give you suggestions and best practices.

See you on Twitter @mwalfred I’ll be looking for you!

Public reviews and brand reputation


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Your online presence, and what people say about you online, can make or break your brand!

One can’t blame Aristotle for advising a low profile in order to avoid criticism. The Ancient Greek philosopher, renown for his wisdom, could not have envisioned the Internet and the importance of branding, online reviews and customer service have on one’s personal or business reputation.

Today, an angry customer or a handful of disenchanted patrons can wreak havoc on your business with a few taps on a keyboard. According to Pew Research Center, 82% of American consumers will at sometime consult an online review, and 42% regularly do so before buying a product or contracting a service. Moreover, other research data suggests that of the online reviews read or consulted, close to 90% believe what they read.

A snapshot of Pew Research Center's research on social media behavior

A snapshot of Pew Research Center’s research on social media behavior

Any business, with or without an online presence, needs to pay attention. Doing nothing may result in declining sales and cause irreparable harm to a business’s reputation. Some businesses are so concerned with bad reviews, they include a charge to the customer for writing a bad notice, as one British hotelier infamously did. A Yelp reviewer, for example, claims to have been sued by a business over her public review. The paranoid notion, put in place by some buisinesses  to censor and control reviews via a monetary penalty is not a well-thought-out policy. Such practices  can  result in disastrous, notorious, not to mention viral results against the business brand.

As a consumer, I look at reviews and consider the totality of all the opinions. I’ve also resorted to social media when I have experienced genuine issues, such as the time one national hotel chain charged me for removing pillows I did not take. After several attempts to resolve the issue via phone calls, I went online to achieve resolution. Read that story here. More recently, I spent months trying to reverse an auto payment for a subscription made from my Paypal account to a national newspaper. Frustrated beyond belief, I turned to Twitter, I tweeted to the paper and within 12 hours, the refund was issued! I also tweeted a thank you when it was resolved.

The simple fact is your business will never please everyone. There is always going to be that one client who wants to kick up a fuss, find fault, try to wrangle a refund or a discount. There are no absolutes. Things happen, pieces break off, crack. A server or service clerk might experience a bad day, etc.  Nevertheless, a squeaky wheel however, can do damage.  If the situation ever gets out of hand and you need to do damage control, there are reputation management services that can help.

Here are some suggestions to managing your brands reputation:

  1.  Create a Google Alert for the name of your business or organization.  For a fictional landscape company, “Acme Landscaping” create an alert for the term, “Acme Landscaping Delaware” and add a location “Acme Landscaping Lewes, Delaware” might be another alert. Anytime the terms in quotes gets a mention online, such as a Yelp review, the owner or manager would receive a notification in their email. Google Alerts is almost as good as having a paid social media manager on board.
  2. Hire a social media manager. Full or part-time, if you can afford to do so – work witha work-at-home employee who can keep tabs on Google Alerts, online reviews and comments. In 2015, one of the nation’s largest retailers, Target, fell asleep at the social media wheel. During a controversy about combining boys and girls toys into one gender-neutral toy section, customers misunderstood the announcement and the reaction was politicized.Confused customers registered their concern on social media, primarily on Target’s Facebook page. Some clever (and I must admit hilariously feisty person) created a new Facebook profile called “Target Customer Service”  and another  “Ask for Help” and evidently snitched the red and white circle logo and uploaded it as a profile picture, and went about replying to each and every customer comment in an irreverent manner (see an example below). This person went on and on — for days!  To summarize in, the fake customer service rep told Target customers (in various iterations) to take a hike! The Internet had a field day enjoying his antics. The troll’s response did not have the verified blue check mark, but customers didn’t notice that small detail and voiced outrage at the customer response they received. The authentic Target’s customer phone lines started ringing off the hook, thus alerting them to the problem, which reached viral status.

    A fake Target troll caused the retailer havoc in 2015. Image:

    Target troll dolls

    Target’s response to the situation was spot on with a dose of good, self-effacing humor. Crisis averted! Source:

  3. Was there anything wrong?  Ask your customers straight away how they feel about their experience with you. Head the complaints off at the pass by asking your customer – in person – at the point of service. Don’t just take their money and send them off. Sincerely convey that their opinion matters and do it sooner than later. Passively asking them to fill out a response card on the night stand, or by asking for feedback with an online survey is not as effective. Those are fine to do, but its best to make a connection at check out — as they hand you their money — and short circuit a percolating issue. Demonstrate with concrete behavior that you really care. As a result, they won’t stew over an issue on the ride home and blast you publically with pent-up anger.
  4. Celebrate positive remarks and reviews. Send a thank you. Share it on social media. Consider a feature area in your brick and mortar business where you print out and display positive feedback. Have a testimonial page on your website.
  5. Do not ignore an online review or comment. Monitor the locations where these disgruntled feelings are often expressed. Facebook, Yelp, Google Reviews, Trip Advisor, etc. As soon as you learn about the complaint, respond immediately and personalize the response.  Customer: “Your spaghetti was lousy! I will never eat here again!” You: “Dear [customer name], We are so sorry you had that experience! We have served this dish for many years and have enjoyed great reviews! Please contact us (or name) at email address or phone number so we can get more details from you.”
  6. Take the conversation offline. In the above example, the best response is to offer a direct way to communicate with the customer and resolve the issue the to the best of your ability. If the issue is resolved to the customer’s satisfaction, ASK, don’t INSIST,  they follow up their comment or edit their original review accordingly. Don’t ask them to delete the comment. It’s been seen. The public will think you took it down. People will be watching how you respond. Be a class act.
  7. Do not delete comments, exceptions are expletive language or non-sequitur comments about politics, religion or get-rich-at-home schemes that are not germane to your business.
  8. Create a “what-if” script for every imaginable scenario. Use it as a guideline and train your employees who deal with the public on how issues ought to be addressed. The script provides a guide from which you customize and personalize a response. Don’t write the same response verbatim and repeat it over and over. You want to deliver an authentic, not canned response, and if possible, a personalized one.
  9. Create a social media policy for staff. Make certain your employee’s code of conduct is crystal clear regarding your brand and how the brand is managed on social media. Have a lawyer review. What can employees say about your brand or business on their own social media accounts? If you have a website, post your mission statement and your business philosophy. Assure that your employees understand this mission and employee ambassadors interact with  the public in the voice and tone you have established for your organization. We’ve all seen the horrible receipts shared by customers, created by vendors or waitstaff, and conversely,  customers who write awful comments instead of a tip amount. You can’t control what a customer will say, but you can control that your staff understands acceptable or unacceptable behavior.  Review and train, learn from mistakes, discuss them, and train some more. Seriously consider a crisis plan for your organization or business.
  10. Own and control social media access. Open social media accounts with an email you control. Assure that there are multiple administrators in case an employee leaves for any reason.  Control multiple platforms with a management software such as Hootsuite or TweetDeck, which allow employees to post and monitor without knowing the account password. Speak with a consistent voice. First person? Serious, funny, quirky, off-centered? It’s essential to establish the tone and train the staff who represent your brand.
  11. Admit the mistake. Commit to improvement. A humble, “Oops, we goofed!” or “Looks like we dropped the ball on that one!” is an authentic and honest response that people will respect. Don’t advertise publicly what you did to make it good. If you decided not to charge, or gave a substantial discount, you might attract imitators. Encourage that customer to publicly voice the resolution. In most cases, a sincere apology and a dose of self-effacing humor go a long way to restoring customer faith and respect.
  12. Respond in kind. Someone posts a hidden video at your place of business? Respond with a short video showing your side of the discussion and your values. Use the same headline the detractor used, so when it is searched online, your video will appear alongside it. For example, if someone posts a picture of an employee being cruel to an animal, and that video is going viral, immediately get the owner or a spokesperson up on a video, responding with a heartfelt apology. State the action you took, and the measures you are putting in place to prevent it from happening again.  If the content or practice was terrible, acknowledge it. Say you agree and it is unacceptable. Show positive images of your business practices and reiterate  your values as an individual and as a company.

Business owners, management, customer service reps, consumers  are all human and make mistakes. Sometimes the mark is missed. From either side of the transaction, consider the person we are talking to, chatting with online, or interacting with on social media, They might be dealing with a personal crisis, struggle or heartache. Equipment can break down, letters and numbers are misread, weather complicates delivery, a lapse in quality or judgment can occur. Sometimes we hire the wrong person. Sometimes it is in our control, other times outside of our ability to reign in and correct. Most reasonable people know this, but still, we rush and react, often not realizing the consequences.

Technology and social media enables us to rapidly spread frustration. Brands, and the livelihoods attached to them are at stake. Brand managers must accept this reality and adapt accordingly. Retain a watchful, vigilant eye at the intersection of customer service and social media where an authentic, trusted brand can thrive or falter.

You and your brand will most certainly be judged by how well you respond and react in this ever-evolving social media landscape.

My “do not follow” list for Twitter


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Twitter followersHere’s a checklist for deciding whether to follow someone or not. I will ignore an account if they have:

  • No profile photo
  • No header image
  • No profile statement
  • No location
  • A profile that mentions increasing Twitter followers or buying Twitter followers

Content that retweets or posts content from one site only, e.g., azviral, onviral, or other click-bait site

  • No original content
  • Weird fonts, almost Cyrillic quality to the font. These always seem to get suspended by Twitter
  • Don’t engage (have conversations) with their followers
  • A hard sell message – no story telling ability
  • Sexual or explicit content

This screenshot of an account, (name and handle erased) made several mistakes: No picture, no profile, no location. Big tip off, they only tweet from  Many “bot” accounts now create profiles, pictures, etc., but only push out content to promote a website. Look at what the account is doing on Twitter before you follow them.They aren’t interested in engagement.

Screenshot of a suspect Twitter account

This account follows me. I didn’t follow back!

I don't follow accounts with content like this!

I don’t follow accounts with content like this!

Other things to consider:

  • Followers/Following ratio. Not a hard and fast rule. Examine their content. Celebrities and national brands & services rarely follow back. New accounts on Twitter will typically follow more people than they have following. It is a newbie mistake, but not a deal breaker. Everyone has to start someplace. Again, look at their content and if there is a mix of original, RT, shared content, etc., give them a shot.
  • Be wary of people who only follow you so you follow back. Once you do, they unfollow you. I use an app called “Find Unfollow” and it will let you know who has unfollowed you.

    Find Unfollow App

    Find Unfollow has a free and a $.99 version

  • Find followers on organized Twitter chats – on topics that mean something to you. You will find like-minded people who share a passion. There are Twitter chats on practically every topic. My favorites are #GardenChat (Monday nights) and #AgChat (Tuesday nights).

While I am not a big player on Twitter, I’ve been on the platform two and a half years and have slowly, steadily built an authentic following. I am fine with my progress. I don’t sell a product or service for profit or personal monetary gain. If I tweeted about one niche area or subject, my growth would have been faster. My profile provides a strong clue on what to expect (agriculture, art, social media), and while diverse, it is an honest account of why I use the platform. My Klout score, if that matters, hovers around a respectable 63-65, and that is, in part, a reflection of being authentic and having an influencing value. My following/followers ratio is pretty even.

As a real person, I look to follow living humans or businesses who employ humans to use Twitter in real time and know how to engage on social media. Collecting followers and tweeting empty content will not increase your influencer rate or Klout score. It will grow followers, but will not grow your personal or professional brand. Furthermore, following real people has lead to personal meetings, new networks, and friendships. There’s no Twitter stat for that!

Social Media Resolutions for 2017


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Dear Social Media, I promise…

The video below is making the rounds on Facebook.With good reason, it’s great!  As a baby boomer required to embrace social media for my job, and does so with a vengeance, crossing well over into personal use, I share this video, which serves as the inspiration for my social media resolutions for 2017. The only point I would add, is it is not just the “Millennial Generation” who abuse or over rely on social media, and while I don’t disagree with Simon Sinek’s assessment of instant gratification in younger generations,  I am not a millennial basher. I know many millennials who do know how to balance their social media use and understand the value in mid-century work ethic and culture. My own 33-year old daughter is raising my grandson with minimal exposure and reliance upon device screens. She doesn’t document her entire life through a device. The art of conversation (and it is an art) is valued and cultivated.

Here is my Top 8 Resolutions for Social Media behavior

1. Keep my phone off while dining. Home or restaurant, when your phone is out, you’re telling your companion(s) they are not that important. Otherwise you are sending a message that just in case something more exciting comes across the screen, you will be ready to disconnect from those at the table. Not a good impression to convey.

2. Reduce the food photos. Unless using it for a Trip Advisor, Yelp, or Google reviews, no one needs, or really cares to see a picture of my salad.

3. Rediscover small talk! No phones at business meetings unless it is a social media business meeting. The art of idle chit chat and curiosity about other people is a relationship building skillset. One of the most poignant passages of this video is at the 12:00 mark. If I can encourage you to listen to that one passage, fast forward if you have to, but listen to that segment. Sage advice!

4. Stop recording every single event, especially concerts. Louis C.K has a great bit on this. We don’t watch meaningful events anymore with our eyes. We’re doing it everywhere — at our children or grandchildren’s recitals, sporting events, and concerts to name a few. We hold up a device and watch the event through the device. We want to prove and post we were someplace special. I am guilty of this. Absorb and appreciate the event naturally. Record it with your eyes, ears and brain. Create a normal memory of your experience. And while on this topic…

5. Enjoy a wedding the old fashioned way. Unless they specifically ask, stop taking cell phone shots of brides walking down the aisle. Let the pros do the job and the bride and groom share the photos they want. I’ve seen so many professional videos and photos ruined because everyone in the background has their smart phones out to document the moment. It looks ridiculous too! View article that went with this photo:

5. When I do use social media, I’ll endeavor to spend 50 percent of my time making someone else look good, engage with others, share their content, not mine and try promote positive content as standard practice.

6. Do my due diligence and check sensational “facts” before sharing pseudo-science or fake news not marked as satire.

7. Share nothing unless it’s read first.

8. Next? Not! Social media is all about sharing, but I won’t work that hard to share your trendy, terrific Top 10 list. If you make me hunt and peck for the randomly moving “NEXT” button for every item on that list, meanwhile enduring the 30 or 40 flashing, income-generating, click-bait headlines surrounding your profound list and force me to tolerate the “OMG you wont believe what this celebrity looks like now” baity nonsense, then your content is not moving forward. Not with me. If I can’t scroll the list, or glide back and forward with an arrow embedded in the slide show, your content dies with me. Done. Fin!

Happy New Year!

My iPhone headphone jack lament


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“Aw, stop your whining already!”

“Wireless is the future!”

“Buy an Android”

I hear you. My first smart phone was an Android. I am not an Android basher, but I had reasons to make the switch to Apple years ago upon the release of the iPhone 5. It integrated better with one of my desktop lcomputers, which was an iMac.

When work provided a iPad, continuing to stick with Apple and upgrade to iPhones 6, and later the 6s+ was a no-brainer, and with photography and social media a large part of my personal and professional life, I was extremely happy with my choice. My updates were based on memory and physical size increases.  When the iPhone 7 promised a much improved camera, I eagerly awaited the opportunity to upgrade. That is, until I saw the iPhone 7 was not equipped with a headphone jack.

Removing the headphone jack, Apple tells us, is courageous innovation, a nod to the desire to cut cords, make the iPhone a few millimeters thinner, and move the device forward in the direction of a waterproof model.  I along with legions of iPhone enthusiasts, are not happy and did not purchase the shiny new iPhone 7.

Would you look at that adorable, useful headphone jack!

Here’s why:

  • The iPhone 6 was thin enough.
  • I love my current (and expensive) headphones.
  • Dongles and adapters are expensive. Third party dongles and cords are a complete waste of money. I have been burned so many times by off-brand gizmos and gadgets. If you must by an adapter, it needs to come from (the more expensive) Apple.
  • Dongles are easy to lose. For me, very easy.
  • I travel a lot. I like to charge my phone while I listen to music on my headphones.
  • Wireless puts an extra drain on a battery that is already challenged for longevity.
  • I live stream a good deal, which drastically drains battery life. I often plug in a portable battery via lightning port. Battery power declines rapidly as it is. I often disable wireless and Bluetooth to preserve power.
  • I use an auxillary microphone to reduce wind shear noise. This plugs into the iPhone jack. This nifty iphone mic add-on overrides Apple’s built in microphone. With it, I can record high quality videos and live stream without that awful blustering wind noise. It’s been a lifesaver. I can’t use this on the current iPhone 7.

This headphone jack plug-in device has been a godsend for videotaping and live streaming outside! I don’t want to give it up!

I am all for innovation. I know the future means changes. When I whine online, commentators tell me to shut up and accept the inevitable. I dream of the days when my screen won’t scratch, when my battery will last a day, and god forbid if my phone slid out of my pocket and splashed into my backyard pond, I could retrieve a functioning device. True innovation means Apple engineers could do this with a headphone jack.

Apple gives us choices of color and memory options. For those of us who’ve invested in headphone jack-dependent equipment, give us the choice of keeping this beloved and useful feature. My wish for 2017 – the  iPhone 8-hj.

Record great interviews with your smart phone


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Essentials for interviewing people on smartphone video

I’ve heard it said that the best camera to have is the one on you, and it’s true. While I love my Nikon D7100 DSLR, I rarely have it with me 24/7. My smartphone however, is attached to my hip.

The same holds true for videotaping. My go-to video camera for planned recordings, interviews, and work assignments is a Canon Vixia HF G30, but for light travel and those spontaneous opportunities, I am left with my smartphone, an iPhone 6sPlus, to do the job.

Smartphones shoot terrific video. Both my iPhone and Canon shoot 1080 HD. Where the pavement hits the road often is expressed in sound quality. One of the worst ingredients for video is wind shear.

Example. Recently, I was researching Hawaii agriculture and came across this video of a doctor talking about Hawaii’s local farmers market. The scenery is breathtaking. The video quality captured it all. The script and topic were interesting and informative.The videographer blocked the scene and subject well, using the rule of thirds.

But slide to the 1:00-minute mark and listen.

What you are hearing is a mild version of wind shear. I’ve heard a lot worse. This is a soundtrack you do not want on your video. Even without the wind shear, the narration is a bit tinny. With a small investment, you can produce terrific sound and eliminate the annoying wind shear.

Essential equipment for smartphone recording:

For support: Any lightweight tripod or monopod (or stabilizer grip if someone is else is recording the subject) plus…

Smartphone spring loaded tripod mount ($5 to $15)  needed to secure the cell phone to the tripod or monopod. I have several. Here is one option.


Option 1:


Image: Amazon

Ampridge Mighty Mic Bluetooth iPhone Microphone $79 (Yes, iPhone only) and works in conjunction with…

Movie Pro app $5.99. Works with Ampridge Blue Tooth. All video recording is done via Movie Pro and not iPhone’s native video recorder.

Ampridge’s Bluetooth microphone is small and slender and easily clips on a shirt or lapel. A full charge lasts 5 hours. Turn the mic on and select the Ampridge as your BT option. Open up the app and start recording. The app will tell you it is recording via BT.

The sound is crystal clear. Here you can hear our Extension agent Kathleen Splane wearing the microphone while being interviewed by the News Journal’s James Fisher (video follows immediately after a sponsored ad).

Option 2:


Image: Amazon

Rode video mic. $59. Comes with wind screen (aka dead cat).

This microphone plugs into the headphone jack of your smart phone. Sorry iPhone 7 users! It overrides Apple’s internal native (and wider range) microphone, which normally does a great job, and switches to this more directional microphone that points to the person talking. No worries with batteries or charging with this version, this mic is powered from the phone, however, Rode does provide even more advanced models which require a power supply. The microphone comes with the furry cover known in the industry as a “dead cat” and is superior to foam windscreens.  The Rode microphone is ideal for outside recording where the wind is an unavoidable ingredient.  Amazon will suggest an additional windscreen, but it is not necessary, as the $59 price includes everything you need. Can be kept in a glove compartment or purse or gear pack, snap it into your phone and record.

This microphone set up is ideal for live streaming with Facebook or Periscope!

Interviewing/Recording Techniques:

  1. Have your subject introduce themselves, their title, and spell out their name.  I typically don’t include introductions or self-introductions such as, “Hi, I am Jane Smith, Extension Agent …” but get that information and put it in a title caption, you or your editor will appreciate having that information. Everyone has different preferences – just be consistent with what you do.
  2. When I ask questions, I typically cut my voice out in post production. Therefore it’s important to ask your subject to work in the question with their answer so the context is clear and their response makes sense to the audience.
  3. Tell your subject to pause five seconds before answering so you have some buffer or fade-in time to lead into their appearance. Many people are nervous when being filmed and they may make nervous gestures or facial expressions when they are done, such as sighing with relief, asking if they were okay, grimacing or rolling their eyes. They don’t realize they are doing it. But it is a reality that will make your editing job much more difficult. Before you record, tell them upfront this is something most people do and ask them once they are finished speaking to continue to look into the camera with a passive expression or slight smile for at least 3 -4 seconds. This allows you to have a gentle fade-out in post editing.  A calm fade out prevents the sharp, clipped ending amateurs get because their subject was nervous and uttered something or made a funny face.
  4. Be prepared for several takes. Pauses in between paragraphs are natural editing spots and allow you to take the best sections of the script and splice them together. Ask your subject to pause slightly between paragraphs or subject changes. If pauses are too long, you can always trim.
  5. Avoid stripes, particularly pin-stripes or candy-striped in shirts and ties. Watch television interviews and see what happens to blue and white striped shirts! Solid colors work best.
  6. Pay attention to branding. Do you want it, does it matter? Avoid branded apparel unless it is part of the job. Extension professionals should wear their institution’s branded material.
  7. Stage, or be mindful of your background. What message are you trying to convey? We all remember the video of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin being interviewed in Alaska, being filmed on a turkey farm while a turkey was being inserted into a grinder in the background. Tidy up where you can.
  8. Frame the subject by using the rule of thirds. My preference is to have the subject slightly to the left or right, but rarely dead center.
  9. Block the shot. Wide, meaning most of the body of the subject is filmed. Medium is waist or belt buckle and above, and tight is shoulders and head.  Give your subject a heads up how you will be filming them. They may wish to adjust their personal appearance accordingly.
  10. Avoid noon or overhead light. Pay attention to where the sun is. You don’t want your subject squinting.
  11. Work with an assistant if at all possible. This person can hold up cue cards, hold a white reflector off to the side to soften harsh shadows. A white poster board that children use for school products works well if you don’t have a reflector. Assistant stands right out of camera view.
  12. Bring a towel or roll of paper towels for hot days, to wipe brow, sweat on lips, shine, etc.
  13. Bring a bottle of water for each subject being interviewed.
  14. Ask subject to bring their script or talking points (bullet points) in large enough font to be readable 20 ft away. Hold script (cues) as close to the camera lens as possible. An easel or flip chart is helpful.

In the summer of 2015, my Extension Scholar (intern) provided a tutorial to share and encourage our Extension staff to create video content. There are great suggestions that you can incorporate into your video project. Note the placement of an easel and cue/flip charts to help the person being filmed to stay on track.

To the Facebook gullible

Dear Facebook user,

Please stop being so gullible. Please check what you read on social media before sharing on social media. In fact, please read beyond the headline before sharing.

According to Pew Internet Research, 62 percent of American adults get their news from their social media news feeds. It looks like 62 percent of them believe everything they see. Note I did not say read. In a rush to post the OMG headline to family and friends, we expose our vulnerability. We don’t look informed. We expose our laziness through our lack of exercising due diligence.

Here are some for instances:

  1.  Obama didn’t ban the Pledge of Allegiance from U.S.public schools or anywhere else for that matter.
  2. You can’t find out who searched for you on Facebook. Facebook is not and will never be LinkedIn.
  3. You never have to share and cite a bogus legal statute so that your content on Facebook remains private.
  4. Facebook will never charge you for signing up or using their platform.
  5. George Carlin probably didn’t say it. It’s doubtful that Albert Einstein,  John Lennon or Robin Williams said it either.
  6. If you are asked to type in something and watch what happens, nothing does. Ever. Comments don’t work that way except to collect and expose the names of gullible people.
  7. The Onion and many other websites are satire.
  8. Honeybees are not on the extinct list.
  9. Snopes does a good job with debunking rumors. Unless they debunk a rumor about a politician you dislike. Then Snopes can’t be trusted. So by all means, charge your phone in the microwave and clean your DSLR lenses in soapy water. Snopes says these are false, but what does Snopes know? They debunked that whole Obama bans the Pledge of Allegiance rumor thingy.
  10. Still hate Snopes? Fine. Google it. Google everything.
  11. People believe their peers over science. This is disturbing.
  12. is not ABC News.
  13. If a celebrity death appears on Facebook,verify before sharing. Morgan Freeman and Willie Nelson have died many times on Facebook.
  14. Unless the page has a blue check indicating a verified page, no one is giving away Range Rovers, RVs, Disney goodie boxes or vacations getaways. There are some legitimate contests on Facebook, but this rule generally applies: No blue checkie no truthie.
  15. Most of the games and giggle tests on Facebook, such as “Find out the initials of your Guardian Angel” ( a new one I’ve seen), are examples of fun to share ditties that require an app, and which lets the developers of that app see all your personal and private data. Be very careful what apps you download from Facebook.
  16. Many weather-related photos are Photoshopped, particularly tornadoes.

If “OMG” or “You won’t believe…” appears in the headline, it is a BIG clue what follows is total B.S.

Cultivating one’s personal brand now includes what a person posts and shares on social media. Your brand is directly linked to your content delivered under your name or handle. Respectability, trust and integrity come with posting materials and content that is verified and vetted. Take everything you read with a grain of salt. Look before you leap on social media and take a few seconds of due diligence before hitting that share button.



Doing our “due diligence” on social media


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Below are two terrific articles by Michael Thomas who writes for Expose the Truth.  He explains the phenomenon of pseudoscience and how social media, now a mainstream media platform, facilitates commenting and sharing articles and so-called truths by sharing without reading. Viral without values.

I’ve seen this happen personally. I see it when a blog post I share on Twitter is shared numerous times, but my WordPress stats remain silent. How often do we share things we don’t read, or comment on articles on Facebook after only reading a suggestive headline or teaser photo?

Comment reading is one of my favorite pastimes and many comments, particularly on Facebook, YouTube, and news sites are very illuminating and downright hysterical. Let’s just say, if comments were an indication of our intelligence and ability to read and comprehend, then we are in a lot of trouble.  I fear we have become reactors and not readers. We run the risk of accepting truths before doing some basic fact checking.

Anyway, if you are in the mood to read, I highly recommend these two Michael Thomas articles:

Bad Sources Spread Pseudoscience 

11 Things Learned Working In Social Media

 You can’t love the truth but hate the facts! ~Unknown

Do you know PowerPoint?


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Getting endorsements on LinkedIn

Like many individuals, I have a profile on LinkedIn, the professional social media platform, bereft of grumpy cats and laughing babies. LinkedIn’s tone is professional and serious, valued for purposeful exchanges of ideas, networking and effective channels for employment recruitment.

Those with an account know, we are often prompted to endorse the skills of our connections. In addition to a text-based description of who we are and what we do, a separate section is available where the account holder can enumerate skill-set keywords. Here, “strategic planning,” “technical proofreading,” and other specific, impressive expertise and experience can be chronicled in one’s profile. It is these keywords we enter which trigger the endorsement requests our connections receive.


I appreciate the endorsements I receive and I often return the favor.  But recently, I’ve been prompted to endorse a colleague with masters and Ph.D degrees for skills such as “PowerPoint,” “Excel,” or “Microsoft Office.” Really. It feels mundane and weird. Doesn’t everyone know how to use these programs?

Maybe not, but unless you are an entry-level Administrative Assistant, or have a certification from Microsoft, these skill sets ought not to need verification from our colleagues and distract from the focus on our professional profiles. It should be enough to list competencies in the summary or job description sections. It is unnecessary to reaffirm and request someone to stand up and applaud us, in a virtual way, for our ability to mail merge or hide a slide on a presentation.

Take the ambiguous term “research.” Do I know about that? Well, I’ve researched art history, and I know how to write a research paper, but am I sitting in a lab, with scientific controls conducting grant-funded research? No! Do I want LinkedIn to ask my colleagues if I know “research?” The whole endorse me please thing is becoming cringe-worthy if you ask me. Yes, I know there is a strategic advantage to endorsements, but it should be very specific and relative to one’s current profession. For those in the job market, personal recommendations are far more valuable.

I’m taking a closer look at all those tempting keyword boxes and plan to X out most of them. Everything I need to say has already been said in more descriptive sections. “Does Michele know Word?” Do you really care that I do? I betting it makes no difference at all.

Social media aids a family history detective


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Thanks to social media tools, I am the proud owner of two works of art painted by my aunt in the mid-century. What’s the big deal about that?

Well, I live in Delaware. My aunt was a teaching nun who lived and taught and painted, and sometimes exhibited, between 1950 and 1980, in Iowa, Chicago and later in her career, in the San Francisco Bay area. My access to her while she lived was loving, but limited, and after her death in 1980, our worlds remained geographically distant, seemingly for an eternity.

I began to learn more about her as a part of a family geneaology project. I wanted to research her life as an artist.

To complicate my search, as a nun, most of her work is owned by her convent and or the college in which she came of age as an artist-student and then later as an artist-professor.  But in dialogue with them, I learned she exhibited many of her modern art paintings and sold many to private individuals. Her convent generously shared photographs of their inventory and gave me a few leads and archived documents that might help me to track down what I estimate to be at least 50 other works out there.  My goal was to catalog them in a virtual gallery –  in a website I created in 2010, called simply enough,

From the photos sent to me, I began to analyze some the paintings from the shared photographs and gathered as much detail as I could about her life, her artistic methodology and inspiration and imagined what the missing paintings and sketches, now hanging in private homes or galleries, might look like. My hope was to photograph them all and feature them on my WordPress website.

I began to share my blog posts on social media. I posted my links to art galleries on Facebook and Twitter. I posted to alumni who listed the schools she attended or taught. I also posted on Twitter using hashtags like #art #modernart #Iowa #Chicago #SanFrancisco and on and on. If a social media site had “art” in the name, I followed them! My website was visited. People retweeted. Individuals started going up to their Picasso-like and Matisse-inspired paintings to see if the signatures were by my aunt. I got some hits!

One strange turn of events was particularly fruitful and it’s an amazing Twitter success story, inexplicably involving Justin Bieber and Groupon! It earned me a new painting of my aunt’s that I can call my own, and a new friendship!

Thanks to Twitter this went from eBay to myhome!

Thanks to Twitter this painting by my aunt went from eBay to my dining room!

Emboldened by this success, I created a Facebook page and a Twitter account featuring my aunt and my quest. I must confess that other obligations sidetracked me and I haven’t kept up with either, but for a year after their conception, both presences on social media brought me significant leads.

People visited the website (about 10,000 hits to date) and I get contacted periodically by those who have been made aware of my mission and are kind enough to share a photo they have.

It was never my goal to own her work, though I had always desired one. A woman who visited an auction house in Chicago spotted an abstract oil for sale and before buying it, researched the artist’s signature on Google. She came across my keyword-laden WordPress site and contacted me and said she thought this might be by my aunt. She gave me the gallery/auction website and let me have first dibs in buying it. So kind!

The gallery owner too, was taken by my personal story, and the emotion I conveyed in my essays compelled her to offer it to me at a substantially lower price than what she was asking. The painting, it turns out, was done before my aunt took her final vows and “nun name” of Sister Mary James Ann. The painting was part of a large estate sale in Chicago, my mother and my aunt’s hometown. It was signed “Sister Seraphia” her given name and I presume how she was known as a novitiate until she completed her vows. And here I am with it:

My aunt and I reuinted thanks to modern communication technology

My aunt and I reuinted thanks to modern communication technology

Without social media and the array of tools available to me, I would never have had this unique and intimate connection to my aunt. I can see her brush strokes. I feel her near me when I look at them. Social media allowed me to stretch across the continent and make these contacts in a broad way. I am still hearing from people thanks to the technological transport of my inquiries. Had it been 1990 or even 2000, there’d be no story to share. No reunion to a unique part of my past and a special family connection. Social media has enormous power. My hopes and desires trekked across Twitter and fanned out across Facebook. I received in kind, a personal, emotional experience, exemplified in the kindness and curiosity of others! Social media has been criticized as being distant and impersonal. I found it to be the exact opposite – a bridge to real human beings across great distances where common interests unite and generous spirits share.

Takeaways from Delaware’s Social Media Conference


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Follow all the events with #dtccsmc2016

Yesterday I attended my first Delaware Social Media Conference, now in its fourth year and hosted by Delaware Tech Community College in Georgetown. I missed the first three, but I plan not to miss any more! Congratulations to everyone who planned, spoke and presented at this terrific day of professional development and networking!

 Great information! Here’s some of the take-aways from the conference:

  • Make your employees central to your content, both as subjects and as inspiration for ideas (Scott Kammerer, SoDelConcepts, panel).
  • Keep your ear attuned to customer’s everyday questions as a source for content. My favorite question of the day came from someone who had a propane business and wondered how to promote on social media. Conceding it was not a glamorous topic,  it can be presented in an interesting way! How are propane tanks made? Why does propane gas smell?  Do people decorate their tanks with art? Show it. Have fun with the story.
  • Customers and employees can be wonderful Brand Ambassadors. Cultivate, then curate their enthusiasm, ideas and passion!
  • Leverage Google’s suite of programs (Google+, Gmail, Google Places) to increase your SEO for your website. Google+ might not be the “hot” social media program, but if you are promoting website content on Facebook, copy and post it also to Google+. Add a website link to your Gmail signature. Register your business (free) with Google Places (
  • Treat each platform you use DIFFERENTLY. Automatic posts (the exact same content & wording duplicated across multiple platforms) is not cool.
  • Strong visual content on websites is the trend, but for Google SEO, text is king. The more text the better. Readable. Every page should have 750 words (source: and Google loves bulleted content. (Lesson learned). I got so much out of the Google/SEO session I am filled to the brim!
  • Every 350 words or so should have an image (Ken Grant).
  • Facebook business pages are pay to play. Getting the organic reach we used to is long gone.
  • Lay off the hard sell. You want more followers, sales, attention? Then use social media to have conversations. Share other people’s content. Be a part of your on-the-ground community as well as the virtual one.
  • Be authentic, real, natural. Not canned. Not automatic. Not a robo-poster.
  • Careful with scheduled posts. Not cool to pitch a product or service when a national or global tragedy is unfolding. Evaluate all scheduled posts during breaking news and be prepared to remove them. (Mariah Calagione, DogfishHead beer).
  • The social media landscape changes and evolves continually. Don’t get stuck in a rut. Be ready to adapt, change, and keep your ear tuned in to new trends. Asia is ahead of us on trends. Pay attention (Ken Grant). That’s why I’ll attend this conference every year!

The conference included a terrific panel discussion featuring local businesses and entrepreneurs sharing their social media experiences

Save the date for 2017! Thursday,  February 16 at Delaware Tech Owens Campus in Georgetown

It’s not just the duck face, darlin’


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Image source: Flickr user Veronica Belmont, Creative Commons


I recently came across a 2013 Huffington Post article written by social media and brand strategist Kim Garst. Garst recently re-shared her article, Social Media: A Serious Threat to Your Child’s Professional Future in her Twitter feed. It’s worth repeating Kim, thanks!

I’ve written about my own journey to develop my personal/professional brand. Getting on board to brand myself on social media wasn’t difficult. Several decades of life experiences and a healthy dose of common sense along with some expert social media training, I found that shaping my “brand” such as it is, wasn’t a terribly hard task.

For teenagers, it’s more challenging. I was lucky. I grew up in the late 60s and early 70s. When I came of age, I experimented, tested, pushed limits and boundaries, a time that is happily (for me) scantily documented in a few, color-faded family photos (without the aid of an Instagram filter) depicting a girl in some very questionable platform shoes and boldly-printed polyester bell-bottom pants.  My thoughts and opinions at the time do not accompany these few retro images staring back at me.

As a teenager, I formed and abandoned opinions impulsively. I communicated unsophisticatedly, passing folded paper notes to a classmate. My tears and giggles confessed to my best friend during sleepovers, are mine and mine alone, some filed away in my memory, some occasionally recalled, but most are long forgotten.

These experiences, rites of passage, successes, and mistakes, played a role in who I am today, but they have not followed me lock, stock and barrel into the present. I can’t tell you how happy I am about this.

Social media is changing all of that. Today, as in the past, adolescents, teenagers, and young adults continue to express themselves and experiment. But now, they do so with the eyes of the world upon every move they make. They will not know the privilege of anonymity and privacy that I enjoy then and now. It is a different world for emerging generations. Today, even content posted to a trusted friend, with privacy assumed, can instantly and easily be shared, sometimes with devastating results.  And once it’s there, it’s there forever. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas is a canard — a dangerous fantasy!

Forever! Translation: It doesn’t go away.

Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Vine and whatever else comes down the social media pike, young people are sharing their lives  — seemingly every aspect of their lives — on social media.

Annoying duck faces and narcissistic bathroom poses only scratch the surface of the problem. It’s the F-bombs, the political opinions, the fury, the angst, the political incorrectness, insults, barbs and expressions of sexuality, that are aggregated and curated, and paint a portrait of real people with names and lives — portraits which cannot be unseen. It is the judgment pieces (or lack thereof) which linger, ready to haunt youth as they begin to apply for internships, jobs, scholarships and other opportunities.

We silly adults. We worry too much. Youth are both blessed and cursed with a confidence of immortality and invulnerability. Admirably, the bravery helps them try new things and take risks. But they are not immune to risk’s high toll, just ask any insurance agent.

I’ve embraced social media. I get it. These platforms are here to stay and everyone is using them. I want teens to use it smarter.

The fact is, some day, these rising adults will grow older and look back at their virtual profile and say, “Oh god, I can’t believe I … [fill in the blanks].”  Fortunately for me, my cringe-worthy moments are tucked away in a few yearbook and family photos. This generation’s words, images, and six-second videos are not. They are chronicled and splattered all over the Internet, easily called up, in seconds, by a future relationship, scholarship grantor, college application panel, business associate or future employer. Teens will be defined by others based on their searchable profile —their online brand. But will it be the brand they want?

Teens are going to do dumb stuff. Teens can do dumb stuff smarter.

Here are some suggestions for teens and parents to consider as they come of age in our social media environment. Kids will be kids. Bottom line: experiment and make mistakes under a moniker or handle that does not expose your real name.

  1. Your name and image are a brand. Treat it as such. Protect it. Manage it. At 13 (the earliest age at which most social media platforms legally allow a person to participate) you are beginning the journey to write a book about who you are. It is a book you must assume EVERYONE can read. Personal information and experienced shared under your real name should be inoffensive, truthful and not controversial.
  2. Use a pseudonym for the silly and controversial stuff. If I wanted to talk politics, pop-culture, or my private life, I wouldn’t do it under my personal or professional brand. I’d have another account to express those opinions and share those details. Talk about your private love life with a secondary account. Use choice language here. Be outrageous here. Work out your growing pains with some level of anonymity. Your future boss might hold completely opposite political beliefs. Do you really want to go there and call his or her hero a jerk, or something far worse?
  3. Multiple accounts for multiple purposes. Accounts using your real name should contain content that your parents, grandparents, teachers and future influencers to whom you might apply (higher ed, jobs) could look to and say, “My, what a fine young person this is! How thoughtful!”  It’s not being phony, it’s being smart.
  4. You have no right to privacy. Sorry, you don’t. You put something out there, it is up for grabs. Once posted, your content is at the mercy of your social media relationships. If you are a “friend collector” rest assured that the majority of the 500, 1,000 or 5,000 people who like or follow you are not true friends.
  5. Use consistent images under your own name. We’re going for wholesome here. Do you look employable or do you look like you are going to seduce someone’s spouse? Geesh, if you have to post suggestive poses, hand gestures, do it on another account.
  6. Bury the bad. Is there content on the web you wish wasn’t there? Bury it. Most people search the first few pages of a search engine. As you add new content, the old content becomes harder to find.
  7. Google yourself. Put your name in quotes, followed by your state, school or another identifier. What comes up under the web, image or video results?
  8. Start a blog. A blog is your personal/professional platform and a superb way to shape a lasting profile and brand. Write about school subjects, causes you believe in, community service you have provided, trips you have taken and other positive experiences. Use your real name. Post frequently. Blog posts often float to the top of search engines. I know one young man who got nabbed by the police for under-aged drinking and a little bit of high-school mischief that led to an arrest record, mug-shot, and a permanent record on the Internet. He grew out of all that nonsense and has shaped himself into a fine young man, but sure enough, a father of a girl this nice man was texting and hoping to date got Googled. Guess what popped up? Yep, the mug shot. The relationships never got off the ground. A blog and saturation of positive content associated with his name might be his answer to No.7.
  9. Create a LinkedIn profile. Okay, you might not have a work history yet, but you can share topics about the career you do want. You can demonstrate your thoughtfulness and curating ability. You can post original blog content and network with future employers, schools, and other influencers.
  10. Don’t avoid social media. It’s here, it’s real and it is a social networking tool that businesses, especially, pay attention to. A social media presence is an indicator of how well you network, and a useful mechanism for doing business.

Truth, honesty, and authenticity is always the ideal on social media, but to use a sports analogy, you are the star athlete AND the agent that represents the athlete and the PR machine all in one. Every post may become the next line in your autobiography. The minute you enter the online world, at age 10, 13 or 22 or 32, be mindful about positioning who you are and take an active role in shaping how others will see your persona and form an opinion about your reputation, today in years to come. Control is all at your social media fingertips.

Crafting your online identity is a must for developing a positive online brand. In the social media era, it is a process that needs to begin on the first day we open our first social media account.

Red/white graphic: walfred

12 tips to grow your Twitter influence


imageNew to Twitter? Created an account a while ago, but don’t know where to begin?

Here are 12 easy steps to build your Twitter following.

  1. Get a profile and header photo. The egg won’t do. A gray header shows potential followers you don’t care.
  2. Fill out the profile. Be authentic. Be witty. But put something truthful down. Before following you back, people will check you out and your profile plays a role in whether or not they follow you. Your profile should provide a hint of the topics you tweet about.
  3. Don’t follow a lot of accounts at first, hoping they will follow back. Following 300 accounts, but having only 10 followers doesn’t look good. Keep the ratio as close as possible. Unfollow some people if it’s lopsided, try them again later.
  4. Engage with people or accounts that you hope to connect with. Comment on their photos, ask a thoughtful question. Be authentic with your compliments.
  5. Use hashtags. No one will find you if you don’t.
  6. Post pictures through Twitter. Don’t use a third party scheduler otherwise there’s a link instead of a photo.
  7. Participate in organized chats or Twitter town halls. These use a particular hashtag and lead discussions on a unique theme or topic. What are you passionate about? Chances are there is a hashtag for it and regularly scheduled meet ups that you can join.
  8. Other people’s content: comment, share and retweet it. Set a goal for 40 to 50% of your content so that it features other people’s content or external links to articles or videos on the topic of interest.
  9. Repeat important information, breaking news, and date-sensitive information several times a week, at different times. Stagger it between other content.
  10. Lose the hard sell. People pay attention to you when you are thoughtful, authentic and relative.
  11. Unrestrict your tweets.Protected tweets can’t be retweeted. Protected tweets defeat the purpose of Twitter in the first place.
  12. Do not auto-post or auto-connect your Facebook account to Twitter. Read more about auto-connect here.

Avoid following accounts that only want to sell you something, or promise more followers for a fee. Be patient, the followers will come, especially if the audience feels a real person is behind the Twitter account.

12 Tips logo via

Stop auto-posting on social media!


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Most of us are busy people. Time management is an issue. And here you are with this great photo and accompanying news to go with it. A big event! Something on sale! Good news! Let’s get it out wide across social media. Good idea! Hey! Why not simply type it once and send forth to all your social media platforms? Why not?

Because it’s lazy and unprofessional, that’s why! Not all audiences on social media are the same. They’re quite different in fact. You have just advertised that you aren’t aware of social media best practices.

no-auto-postI know a guy, I’ll call him Joe, and Joe has a really cool produce stand. I follow Joe on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I also read his blog.

Sweet corn has just come in and Joe posts a picture of gorgeous ears of sweetcorn on Instagram. His accompanying text reads: “Sweet corn is here. Friday only one dozen for $2. #corn #Delagram.” Good job, Joe!

But then I see the same exact post on Facebook. I see the exact post on Twitter also. His beautiful picture does not show up on Twitter’s preview.  Only the link, clouded with #Delagram which isn’t  a hashtag used anywhere else but Instagram.  In Delaware the Twitter practice is to use #NetDE.

So, is there any reason at all to follow Joe on all three platforms? No. I don’t need to see the exact thing three times, I got the message the first time, thank you very much. So I unfollow him on two platforms. Bye Bye Joe!

Twitter is unique unto itself. This is the platform to connect with similar fruit & veggie stands, let local reporters know summer has arrived, moms planning their dinner menu etc.  Use Twitter to inform your local audience by using the right hashtags and targeting specific people or accounts by tagging their handle.  If you want your photo to show up on Twitter, and you do, because people are thumbing and whizzing through their news feed, a link to your photo won’t stop them in their tracks, but a gorgeous picture of your corn might. Post a different image (than Instagram’s), a landscape-oriented photo of your yummy corn, and Joe, while your at it, give us a link to directions to your business.

Facebook is everyone. Grandparents, parents, boomers and millennials. Facebook doesn’t rely on hashtags. Seeing your sweet corn photo and super price relies on other people liking, commenting and sharing your post. If they’ve already seen it on Instagram and Twitter, they’re going to pass it right by on Facebook. Facebook requires a personal touch. On Facebook, along with his photo, Joe should be asking,”Are you serving corn on the cob this weekend? Have you tried ours? Share your favorite way to prepare corn on the cob!” etc.

Instagram is primarily a younger and more diverse demographic. Post the corn photo and after your message, follow it with hashtags, because hashtags are how people find you, if they don’t follow you already. People search for nouns, like colors, and follow them. It’s how it’s done. So that original beautiful ear of corn, a dozen for $2, add in: #Delagram #igdelaware #vegetables #corn #cornonthecob #yellow #summer #food #local #farm #sweet #townnameDE #kernals #maise, etc. If your produce is organic, throw that hashtag in also. #organic #fresh.

Once in a while, like once a month, you can auto-post from Instagram to Twitter or Facebook, strategically, in order to let your followers on those platforms know you have an Instagram account – an account where VOILA! there is unique content and your audience is surprised! But use auto-sharing or auto connecting strategically and sparingly!

If your potential customers and followers see you have identical content on Twitter as you do Instagram and Facebook, they have no reason at all to follow you on the other platforms. A cookie-cutter marketing strategy simply won’t cut it.

Even WordPress has a feature that will let users auto publish to LinkedIn, Redit, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, and Tumbler. It would be so easy to line those all up. Create once, publish everywhere. I don’t do it. WordPress’s feature, using Twitter as an example, doesn’t insert hashtags, which is the principal way new audience members find you. It’s not a time saver. It is a complete waste of time.

To social media pros, auto-posting is the biggest shout out that let’s everyone know you don’t know what you are doing. “Look at me, I’m a social media marketing amateur!”

They’re looking alright. Once. And they’re bored to death. Stop it! Stop it now!





Facebook resolutions for 2016


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Despite what anyone says to the contrary, Facebook remains “the” social media platform and is used widely among all age groups as a primary tool to communicate with family and friends and for receiving news.

If it is on Facebook it must be true! False! Because of Facebook’s enduring and growing popularity, it is rife for rumors and scams. As we look to the new year, consider making these resolutions and take a big step to stop looking like an idiot.

  1. Google, Bing or otherwise search any celebrity quote before sharing. Chances are George Carlin, Pope Francis, Robin Williams, Albert Einstein or other influential/admirable/famous person never said that profound quote you are reading.
  2. Cease “liking” or “sharing” if you agree to whatever statement/post/image is guilting you to prove you have a conscience and moral compass. Pass these by. Liking these prompts, sharing the content or typing “Amen” does nothing for the cause. We all hate cancer and sick children, okay? The purveyors of these posts are mining likes and boosting their page insights. Why? The page that hosts the “viral” post can be renamed and sold with built-in metrics to make it look more attractive or influential.
  3. Typing something in the comments never changes the picture. Nothing amazing will happen!! Ever. Stop it, just stop it.
  4. What Disney princess are you? Okay, these are good for a giggle. I admit to succumbing to curiosity
    and finally learning what decade I should return to, or what my favorite Beatle song says about me. There’s room for a little silliness in our lives. But, beware of quizzes that require an app to connect to your profile. Most of these apps are data miners. In your privacy settings, take a look at the apps you’ve authorized and delete, delete, delete those you don’t recognize.


  5.  Famous people and large companies rarely, if ever, give anything away. Go to the official page, you know, the one with a blue check mark. Any official sweepstakes or contests will get a mention. Better yet, confirm on their official website. Betcha you don’t see anything about free money, cars, or trips. Local businesses do have promotions. Is it reasonable or too good to be true? A gift basket maybe, a Lamborgini, not likely.  See #2.   img_3693
  6. Death. Poor Morgan Freeman and Willy Nelson! They’ve died countless times on Facebook. Facebook pranksters are counting on our “OMG” reaction and desire to broadcast BREAKING NEWS. Evidence on Facebook demonstrates that we will share before verifying. If the bulletin is not originating from an official news site (with a blue check mark) search it before sharing.
  7. Ignore “OMG,” “Must See” prompts, especially when it requires you to download an app to view a video. You are downloading MALWARE and you will start sending all your friends ridiculous posts and emails that they will open and download because they come from a trusted, but stupid, friend.
  8. As seen on TV. Verified by a local police station. Snopes says so. Saying so doesn’t make it so. This happened to my friend…(um, no it didn’t). In fact, these proclamations of veracity are often a signal the news is bogus. So, as with all Facebook scams and hoaxes, the rule of thumb for practically everything you see on Facebook is…
  9. Search before sharing. Pretty much everything! Copy the headline and paste into your favorite search engine. A few seconds will save you from looking like a buffoon in front of your friends and family.

I’ve been caught a few notable and embarrassing times and vow to never let it happen again! Not to worry, you can still have fun on Facebook. Most laughing baby and funny cat videos are safe and full of guilt-free giggles. Quizzes on Buzz Feed might be utter nonsense, but so far, they’re harmless fun.

Master Gardeners ask: What is the best social media platform to use?



The assignment, and yes, I chose to accept it, is to advise Master Gardener experts, volunteer employees who work for county and state Cooperative Extension offices and their supporting land grant universities, what the scope of social media choices are, and which one is best to use for their volunteer efforts.

The question is a loaded one. No two people’s skill sets are alike, and we must consider whether the Master Gardener is using his or her personal account, or wants to post from or create, a social media account that is branded as Cooperative Extension or the land grand institution. In those two latter cases, the answer has a great many variables, conditions, restrictions, etc.

So let’s back up first and look at the choices of social media in front of us. New platforms come and go and the latest craze to appear on devices might not have staying power. So let’s look at the big six, shown here with 2014 statistics:

There are others of course. Many others. To this list of formats or platforms I would consider, as useful to Master Gardeners, to be Vine (mini six-second videos taken from smart phones) and YouTube. Earlier this year I presented a webinar to the MidAtlantic Women in Ag partnership entitled, “What Social Media Platform is right for you?” It is free to view!

Thinking of myself, an avid (but not yet Master) gardener, my ranking of garden-friendly, garden-showcasing platforms are:

  1. Instagram. Square photos. Free. Easy to use. Perfect for flora and fauna. No character limit. Hashtag driven. Oh geesh, hashtags? What’s a hashtag?
  2. Pinterest. Photo driven – platform for sharing ideas. Friendly to gardens, flowers, ideas (bees and bird houses) food recipes, etc. Do not use hashtags.
  3. Twitter. Close tie for second spot. Short on words. Great for sharing links, photos, Vine and YouTube videos. Hashtag use a must. Terrific garden chats where gardeners all over the world talk gardens. Follow #gardenchat anytime, but the real conversation is every Monday, from 9-10 p.m. EST. Simply search the hashtag in the search bar, click “All Tweets” and follow along or join in. It’s the fastest hour on Twitter!
  4. Facebook. Two main types of accounts. A personal account with (friends), and a business page with (fans). You must have a personal account in order to manage or edit or contribute to a page, but the connection stops there. They are different and otherwise separate. See “permission” section below about working on Facebook pages. If you have no desire to unveil your life on Facebook, that’s okay, you don’t have to. Create an account. Put up a picture of a sunflower as your profile photo, forget about adding friends, don’t fill in where you work or went to school, and jump straight to the page you’ve been given permission to edit or manage. You do not have to have an vibrant personal Facebook account to manage a business or organization page!! A personal account, however, is the gateway to page administration and editing.
  5. Vine and YouTube. Think of Vine as a moving photo. You only have six seconds! But on Vine, flowers bend in the wind, insects flutter on and off, and its a great tool for those in your audience that have short attention spans. Vine is owned by Twitter. You can share a Vine video on Twitter seamlessly, but you don’t have to. YouTube? You know what that is. Get your video on and walk around the garden and talk about it. Upload it and share it out on any of the six platforms pictured.’s an example of a Vine I did with a Master Gardener doing the narration!
  6. Google+. Lots of talk about Google+ and where it is going. If you are a serious photographer, take lots of good macro garden shots, Google + is a nice platform for showing off content. Hashtags are optional, but helpful.
  7.  LinkedIn. Not so much for the purposes of this question.

Permissions and curating earned and shared media.

Now we get to the nitty gritty. I will use myself as an example. While I am not a Master Gardener (yet) I do work for an ag experimental station, which includes a county Cooperative Extension office, and on our grounds is a beautiful Master Gardener demonstration (teaching) garden. I am also a volunteer 4-H Leader so I know all about the volunteer aspects of working with Extension. In our institution, the University of Delaware, volunteers are valued experts and we consider them as (unpaid) employees. The employee analogy is important. It means that while volunteering under the banner or brand of our institution, volunteers must adhere to certain guidelines set forth by our land grant institution and by Cooperative Extension. Every institution will vary. Master Gardeners get this. While you may have a recipe for success that you might use at home, you know when talking with the public as an Extension Master Gardener, that you must share only research-based information. You may prefer one brand of fertilizer at home, but you know you can’t endorse one product over another when acting as a Master Gardener with the public. What you do on your own is different. Volunteering at Extension is still work, and when volunteering, Master Gardeners and 4-H Leaders represent our respective universities and Extension programming, and we do so with certain responsibilities attached to that commitment of time. So, when in Rome…

If you are eager to explore social media on behalf of Extension, you should have a conversation with the lead Extension agent of your program, the county or state director, and perhaps someone in the institution’s media or communication teamPlease, do not assume it is okay to create a social media account that represents your volunteer activities on behalf of Extension or institution without checking with officials of that organization first! Don’t go rogue! Having an account in your own name is one thing. Representing a college or university is quite another. Every institution will have its own guidelines and branding or outreach criteria at one level or another. It is wonderful you are chocked-full of ideas, but have the conversation first before proceeding.

In my case, and in our small state, my land grant institution carefully manages its brand and message. It should! In the past, a county here, and a county there, created social media accounts as an affiliate of our university. If accounts are permitted to sprout up without training or management, you can easily see how “messaging” and “consistency” can get diluted. In the past, each social media presence used its own administrator or manager and therefore, projected its own unique voice—and that is not necessarily a good thing when we seek to deliver consistent and trusted messaging.

Every state does it differently. Due to Delaware’s smaller size, we consolidated many accounts that were floating around. For example, our three county 4-H Facebook pages present now as a single 4-H Facebook page. Some Master Gardener pages had sprouted up too, and a decision was made by the social media team to fold all of those under one Cooperative Extension account on Facebook, and the same strategy was employed on Twitter.  So in short, our single Extension accounts on Facebook and Twitter cover all major program areas: lawn & garden, agriculture and family consumer science. To a lesser extent we mention 4-H, because they have their own brand (the 4-H Emblem/clover) and therefore they maintain their own social media accounts. To unify and present as one, however, Extension and 4-H continually share each others content back and forth. Right now our official Extension accounts utilize Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.  We’re small. For us, this works!

If you skip over to Pennsylvania, they will approach social media entirely different. On Twitter they manage multiple accounts:  livestock, dairy, IPM or Master Gardener accounts. Last time I looked, Maine 4-H did not have a Twitter account, it all was handled by one primary Extension account. Some states have several Master Gardener accounts, by county. There are logistical and strategic reasons for all the various ways Cooperative Extension uses social media. No way is right or wrong. Each social media approach needs to fit the institution, the strategic plan, the overall marketing plan, the demographic and targeted audience, and take into account the pool of human talent that makes these accounts all run smoothly.

When I discovered Vine, a platform for recording and continuous looping of six-second video footage, I saw many possibilities for Extension, and in particular with the Master Gardener program. But I knew, at that moment, adding another social media account with our university brand was not in the immediate future. So, I created my own Vine account. I record all sorts of things: my cats, my trips, and my garden. If I record something work-related, such as Monarch butterflies feasting and fluttering in the demo garden, I will share that content out under my personal name, but I might also tag it with UD tags (hashtags), or since I can connect my Vine to Twitter, I might add in and directly tag (using the @ handle) @UDExtension (Delaware Cooperative Extension) in my description. Then I send it out. It is my Vine, under my name.


So what does that do? The social media manager of Extension Twitter account I tagged gets notified that someone mentioned them. In this case, it is my six-second Monarch masterpiece! If the Extension account manager likes the content, he or she may decide to share my Vine video out to their wider audience. It is completely up to that trained and expert social media pro to use his or her judgment on behalf of the institution. For UDExtension on Twitter, the Vine that “mwalfred” shared is considered “earned” media. They didn’t pay to have it taken, didn’t ask for it to be taken. But it could still be considered useful.

Businesses do this all the time, taking advantage of their customer’s good will and social media skills. They curate the “buzz” that is on the social media stage. In my referenced example, I took the video on my own. Me, and only me, decided to share and tag my institution. The tagged recipient, in turn, decides if they want to do something with this video gift. They “curate” the content. They decide to collect it, comment on it, and share it back out. Or not. They can choose to ignore it. It is all optional. If I add my university’s hashtag in the description, they too may wish to curate and share it.

In this way, any institution or business can benefit from all the great content coming and going on new and old platforms, and by following handles and hashtags, are able to sift through what they like out of the social media stream and ignore the rest. Private individuals can experiment with new platforms and diverse contact with little or no risk. Nobody breaks any rules. You get to show your adventurous and creative nature and possibly gain some feedback and attention as a result.

So what is a Master Gardener volunteer to do? You want to help. Social media is a tool that intrigues you. What’s the next step?

  • Study your institution. Where are the accounts and how are they using it? What platforms seem to be working? What is their voice and tone? Formal? Casual? How is humor used? Look at the patterns of links-photos-videos-infographics-and engagement. If it looks successful, stick with the winning formula.
  • Pick a platform you would be comfortable with and learn it. Watch how successful accounts post, use hashtags, etc. Don’t try to take on too much right away.
  • Speak to your lead Extension agent, or person with authority about your role with the social media accounts. This is a must!
  • Ask to find out if there is a strategic plan for social media communications. I bet there is!
  • Get the training. Get permission!
  • Understand how trends and strategies work. You’ve likely heard of “Throwback Thursday” or “Wordless Wednesdays?” These are trends and themes that have rendered good results in social media. How does your organization utilize those themes?
  • Learn to use a mobile device. Learn the functions of a smart phone camera and that built-in video recorder! Most smart phones are amazing photographic tools! I have a big fancy Nikon, but I increasingly turn to my smart phone as a convenient and more than competent go-to-camera! Social media accounts can be managed with a browser in a PC, Mac or laptop, but a smart phone makes it much easier!
  • Download the apps (applications) of the social media platforms you will be personally using or authorized to use for your institution.nine twitterI am an admin of several accounts on Twitter. I volunteer for other organizations and tweet on their behalf all the time. An application on a mobile device allows me to seamlessly toggle back and forth among the nine accounts for which  I have access  (see screenshot).
  • Ask your Extension office if there is a hashtag they are curating. Use that in your personal posts.
  • Review social media webinars that were recorded by myself and associates here at UD Extension as part of a partnership with MidAtlantic Women in Ag. Free hour-long webinars and how to’s on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc., are available for your viewing pleasure. We have two years worth of archives for you to look and examine! MidAtlantic Women in Ag Wednesday Webinars
  • Story tell with photographs. Good photos! Sometimes simplicity is more powerful. If you are not a writer, Instagram might be more up your alley than Facebook. But research tells us that all major platforms do very well with a compelling photo or short video as the main content. What was the most exciting thing to happen in your volunteer day? Capture it if you can and share it through an image.
  • Finally, share content. If your Extension office posts something on the Facebook page, the most effective action you can take is to share that post on your timeline, with your friends, or retweet a Twitter post to your followers. “Liking,” “hearting,” or “favoriting” Extension content is always appreciated. But the big bonanza comes when you share the content out. That gives Extension and Extension programming and volunteers maximum and exponential exposure. If you really want to help the team, share, share, share!

Learning to be an effective communicator on social media can be intimidating. New platforms are introduced at a record pace. Don’t be thwarted by someone telling you, “this platform is out, and this one is in” or “nobody is using that anymore!” The social media platforms listed in this post, may not always be in high fashion with a particular demographic, but they have long since stood the test of time and have millions, if not billions of participants. That makes social media platforms a powerful and an effective outreach tool to share with others about what Master Gardeners do for Cooperative Extension and how they serve their communities in valuable ways!

Troll-free Periscope broadcasts thanks to


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Thanks to!


Troll. Image via Creative Commons Flickr User Jeff and Neda Fields

Bye-bye! Delete!

If you use live-streaming, live-broadcasting platforms like Meerkat or Periscope (which is my personal choice – and what I will refer to henceforth) you know all about attention-seeking trolls. They appear unannounced – delighted with their own power to disrupt or offend and throw a broadcaster a little (or a lot) off guard. Troll comments can ruin a broadcast with their impromptu, and often off-color, or downright inappropriate, utterances.

Watching people tune into your broadcast is a lot of fun! Reading and receiving comments is part of the appeal of live smart phone broadcasts. Social media is all about being social, and feedback from your viewers is an exciting part of the engagement process.

What if your broadcast was terrific? What if you want to keep a permanent archive of selected broadcasts?  Or create your very own Scopes on Demand?  Perhaps you have shared something rather informative or entertaining and want to hold on to it – email it out, embed in your website or share out on social media.  I’ve discovered that is a great way to keep and share (optional) your archive permanently! It is free and easy to use and connect your Meerkat or Periscope broadcasts.

So, I created the free account, and now, by default, all my scopes, inferior as some of them are, go straight to for safekeeping and for further scrutiny and review. Maybe I will keep some, delete others, or disect the video for a 6-second Vine, a 15-second Instagram, b-roll footage, or who knows what. With I now have options!

One of my earlier scopes, about useful tools and tips to make your scoping experience easier, was going great, until 5 minutes in, when a troll visitor made inappropriate comments. I had my phone on a tripod, filming myself holding up gadgets and such, and did not see, and therefore did not block, the comments that came in from this nasty piece of work. There seems to be one in every crowd. I won’t elaborate, but it was disgusting. What a creep!

So for the 65 people or so who tuned in, they saw the comments live. In my oblivion, I thought I had recorded a winner. Alas, I had to I trash the educational scope and removed it from my Periscope archive – all because of that one nasty bit of chatter. Even if I had monitored the comments live, which is more typical, the comments would have appeared in Periscope’s archive for at least a second or two until I blocked the nasty bloke!

I connect my scopes to Twitter and to Katch automatically

I connect my scopes to Twitter and to Katch automatically

Since I had recently connected my Periscope account (already connected to Twitter) to, I checked to see if I had any options on that platform to salvage my broadcast.

On the Periscope archive, the comments normally float up over the scene you are are recording. In the first incarnation of, comments appeared off to the side as they did with my troll-tarnished scope. It’s a nice touch that the first version of offset the comments for a clean view of the recording, yet visible in order to understand the context of broadcaster’s narrative as they respond to incoming feedback and questions.  However, the comments, good, bad and vulgar, were still present.

I wrote to the people at and inquired if they could add a feature that would allow users to line-item remove undesired expletives. I explained what happened in my educational scope, and how it was ruined by a single troll. quickly wrote back and shared it was something they were working on.  Not too long after, as the French might say, “Voila!”


Yes! Line-item delete capability! Bye-bye trolls! improvement Version 2 showed comments off to the side, with a nice “X” by each commenting viewer account name. Simply delete the offending troll, and your broadcast is now suitable for the web! improvement Version 3 completely separates the comments from the broadcast with tabs. See above. When a scoper (is that a word now? I think so!) downloads the video broadcast, the comments will not follow along with the recording. This eliminates all worries about trolls, but it does take away the interactions and engagements and therefore what is said by the broadcaster might not make sense in a later replay without the comments there to provide context.

With this second update, leaves the comments for viewers on a broadcaster’s archive page to read. As a account holder, broadcasters can choose to make their broadcasts public or private and have their portfolio at their disposal. Best of all, when a broadcaster receives an inappropriate or offensive comment, they can now line-item delete! That is a HUGE improvement!

While on live Periscope, I have options. I can block the offending troll, but seconds of the troll’s comment will appear before I deny the troll any further due. I can also choose to restrict comments to only those I follow. I’ve tried this safeguard technique after the first  zinger, but it left me with limited engagement and feedback. To my way of thinking, it defeats the purpose of Periscope. If I want to do straight videos, I have YouTube for that. Periscope is and should remain edgy, informal, spontaneous and unique!

Most broadcasters, whether using Meerkat or Periscope, know what the deal is with live-streaming broadcasts. There are risks involved. You are inviting the rest of the world to your momentary slice of the universe. Periscope (and Meerkat) is a spontaneous and live platform and that is exactly what I love about it. Scopes are in the moment. They are unpolished, somewhat flawed, and yet terribly authentic. These broadcasts, be they pro or amateur, convey real stories!

I can handle childish comments and overt self-promoters very well. When I am scoping personal content, like watching airplanes take off at an airport, or touring my garden, I am far more tolerant of trolls. I am not that easily offended. I am a grown up girl, I can handle it! And I can give as good as I get!

But, and it’s a big “but,” if I am using Periscope for work — to showcase impressive 4-H youth, or shine the spotlight on the good work of Cooperative Extension, or hope to offer content that I feel might be helpful in an educational or professional capacity, then I want a broadcast that is both respected and respectful.

Thanks to, I now have full control of my content!

Troll. Image via Creative Commons Flickr User Jeff and Neda Fields