We need to make social media human again

by Blagica Bottigliero


Last Friday, I had the pleasure of speaking to a wonderful group of people on the grounds of St. Catherine University, care of Social Media Breakfast Minneapolis. The topic? Making social media human again. Now, more than ever, I think we are losing the core of what social was meant to be.

The other day, I was reading stats from large brands touting often consumers talk to them via social media platforms. Whether it’s an Instagram account or a Twitter feed, consumers are taking the time to write a message to their favorite brands. You know what most of those same brands companies aren’t disclosing? How often they are actually talking back to those consumers.

I’m not talking about a targeted Facebook ad buy that knows how old I am and where I live.

I’m not talking about a promoted Twitter ad buy that pops up on the word ‘pants’ when I am tweeting about my latest shopping excursion.

I’m not talking about the large marketing campaign that is meant to drive me into a store to do something after a celebrity talks about it.

I’m not talking about a retargeting ad that follows me around the web (and Facebook) to remind me that I didn’t buy those high heels.

I’m talking about real people. A person behind a machine.  A person at the brand (or their agency) who reads my messages and/or the content I create and responds back to me. Is that a lot to ask? Of course it is.  However, if I hear one more marketer ask me, ‘But we need to scale social’, more angels lose their wings.

Scale for whom? For what? Oh yes, scaling for the quarterly revenue that needs to happen.

Scale for showing profitability with your department.

Scale for more sales to ensure stockholders are happy.

Scale to get picked up/written about by a large trade publication.

Where is the consumer? Me? Where am I? How about me?

Brands spend months, practically half a year in most cases, planning for large campaigns. The amount of money and time spent with brainstorms, PowerPoint presentations, meetings, testing, surveys, TV commercials, print campaigns, etc.is tremendous.  All of this is necessary of course, but what I notice is missing: people power to talk to the consumer. 

Think about it.  Digitally engaged campaigns ask you/us to do something. Go to a website. Use a hashtag. Visit Facebook. Fine, but what about the brand? How do these brands not invest in enough human capital to try and respond to every single (yes, I said ‘every single’) tweet or Instagram message that comes through?

One of those answers? Fear. The fear behind what a consumer says, how a social team responds back and what may cause a potential Twitter ping-pong game is valid. So I challenge this fear with this response: So what? Stick with me here.

First, not every ultra negative tweet or post needs a response. We all know that. But I’ve seen enough ‘Level 1’ negative tweets left unanswered in my day.  Many of those tweets could have received a ‘We are sorry’ or ‘Call us here for follow up’ or ‘Thanks for letting us know’. Yes, sure the person on the other end of the message may want that Twitter War. This is when a brand can simply reply back to the consumer with something like ‘Thanks for reaching out and telling us about X. We’ll do our best to fix it.’ Or ‘Please send us a DM and we can chat.’

There simply aren’t enough people staffed at the company, their agency or their customer support teams to respond to consumers. This makes me incredibly sad.

When did we lose the human touch? When did we lose the patience? When did we forget that every person is an influencer? How did we forget that it only takes one upset person to create a local then national news segment about a product or service?

Here we are, a sea of practitioners talking about ‘going where the eyeballs are’ or touting social media stats and how long people are spending on Pinterest and Instagram.  We are in THEIR space.  We are trying to get consumers to change their habits and talk to us. Then when they do, we turn a blind eye? Or we categorize the banner click as social media engagement?

I had many talks with many of you this summer. We all agree. We all know that online media buys and programmatic methods are needed and important – but those don’t build true relationships with everyday people.

 


The Moto 360 and Moto X Reviews That Journalists Missed

by Blagica Bottigliero


I’ve been using my Moto 360 watch and second generation MotoX for about two weeks. Yes, I paid for these devices outright.  A few of you asked if my old Motorola connections ‘hooked me up’. That would be a ‘no’. I also bought the phone outright,  no contract.

I needed each device for various reasons 1.) My 1st generation MotoX smashed after my foolish attempt at getting a bad photo and 2) I needed a regular, everyday watch.  Before each device came out, I read almost every review, blog post and video about what the top tech folks thought of the design, battery life, usability, etc.  The texting and email features were mentioned, along with the directions.

But how could a regular person use this in everyday life?   Read on.

In addition to being a tech lover, I’m a mom and a wife. I also have a great job that enables me to work remote from wherever I want. Yes, it’s pretty fabulous. My life is also busy, full of notifications, schedules and to-do lists. Here are some use cases that my Pitcher/Batter combination of the MotoX + Moto 360 have made my life even more efficient.

Less typing

When I’m in the kitchen prepping dinner or don’t have time to fiddle with typing, I can speak into my watch and the action that I need is brought up on my phone. The other day, I was in the middle of a massive kitchen clean up. I needed some energy, turned to my watch and said, ‘Play Janet Jackson on YouTube’. The watch brought up a search result, which then gave me the option to open on my phone. I DID need to click the ‘open on phone’ prompt. After that, the MotoX found a random Janet song and began to play.

Yes, this can be done with asking ‘Ok, Google’ in the MotoX or Motorola command, but being at the sink and talking down to my watch was more effective.

Less time glancing at my phone

Supposedly, the Bluetooth distance is 150 ft. I don’t know if this is completely accurate, BUT, the Moto 360 gives me the ability to be out with the kids at a park or grocery store and not have the need to look down at my phone every five seconds. If an email or text notification hits, I can glance at my watch to see if there is something important I need to address. If it’s code red, I can reach for my phone and take care of business. If not, I go on with my business without needing to take out a larger phone that my accident prone self is bound to drop (I know, I know, get a cover. I don’t like covers).

Moto Actions

Motorola continues to make this better. I can talk to my Moto X in the morning to get my schedule and program it to know when I’m home or in a meeting. The device knows when to be quiet on demand. The exterior sensors of the X are also built in such a way where my mere presence walking UP to the device tells me if I have an email or Facebook message – without needing to push a button.

Phone rings when I’m in the middle of something and I don’t want to answer it? I simply move my hand over the whole phone and it stops the action.

Quick pics

The 2nd generation X has the same feature of activating the camera with two shakes of the wrist. I have two kids under five and they are hysterical. At any second, I can put my hand on the phone, do two, quick Bruce Lee wrist twists and bam, picture mode.

Motorola even designed the phone in such a way where I can hold my kid, say ‘take a selfie’, and the front camera activates, snapping a picture. No clicking needed. Done.

 Less of a need to carry the phone around the house

I know plenty of women/moms who stuff their phone in their bra, pants pocket or my latest obsession, ScotteVest cardigans.  But again, I need my hands. I also have a tendency to see my phone about to fall in the toilet or slip from my shallow pants pockets.  These days, I can leave my phone in one part of the house and get my notifications via watch. Michael and I communicate ALL day with texts. Grocery lists, kid needs, dinner ideas, date night polls, etc. I simply reply quickly into my watch done.

Which reminds me, Motorola, you need to work on that text reply timing. Maybe this is Android Watch thing, but I find myself talking faster than Speedy Gonzales to get my messages across.

Cooking

Remember, we are in early generation mode here. Apps for Android Wear are nowhere NEAR where they should be, but I’ll take what I can get. My recent obsession is Allthecooks. I can bring up a recipe on my phone and then toggle it to my watch. Gone are oil splashes on the tablet. I can look at the steps on my watch and swipe from step to step.

Speaking of swiping, imagine Tindr on your watch, nifty eh?

Reminders

Journalists DID highlight this feature and I can't speak enough about it. From calling a client to writing a report to exfoliating my face. I use the reminder features all day long. Bonus? Walking around town like Inspector Gadget is pretty rad.

Replacement for Fitbit

No, the Moto 360 is NOT a replacement for the Fitbit, but I get my steps AND I get my heart rate. Good enough for me. I was never into the whole physical-activity-competition with-my-friends thing.

Other notes

  • don't get notifications for every app because this WILL decrease your battery
  • have fun with the various Moto 360 watch faces
  • cupping your palm over the watch face will the light go away
  • the design is gorgeous and the face is flush against my wrist, a nice touch

We are in the early stages of wearables, but we aren’t in the early stages of women who happen to be quite tech-oriented. We are the same women who are mothers and use gadgets for the sake of geekdom+multi taking efficiency. You can catch more tech chat via Ladies Talk Tech, Sundays at 8 pm CST. 


How biking 18 miles a week is making me happy

by Blagica Bottigliero


Bikes in Chicago surrounded me. The majority of those bikes have been of the Diivy variety. I’d look at cyclists and think, ‘How nice, they are riding their bike to work.’ But then I’d think about the type of gear they must haul along and the potential sweat beads they fought…not to mention carrying a lock, darting away from traffic. Needless to say, I talked myself out of riding around town.

Then I moved to a neighborhood in Minneapolis where biking was the norm. Since living here, I’d see people of all ages zipping around, grinding up the hills and pulling kids on trailers. After selling the second car we didn’t need and taking up co-working space for a few days a week, I decided to take the biking plunge. I committed myself to cycling to and from work three days a week. I live a three-mile semi-straight shot from the office. This should be cake, right?

At first, things didn’t go too great.  I was used to packing up a work bag, lunch, etc., but adding a layer of a helmet, lock, bike friendly shoes and ensuring my right pant leg was away from the chain took some extra planning. The mornings have been brisk and I needed a smarter jacket solution.  I picked up a Land’s End fleece sweater.  So far, so good.

On a few days, the morning cold pierced through my hands. I was cursing the 15 minutes to the office. I was freezing.  Though my body warmed up, my hands turned into ice on the hill descents.

Let’s talk about those hills. Oh you damn hills. This town is set up in such a way where my ride is up and down gradual hills. The first week, laptop and gear strewn on my back, I was kicking myself for going on this biking odyssey. But then I saw a gaggle of middle schoolers chugging up a nearby hill to school and I began to get competitive with myself.  Now? I’m addicted to the little workout I get chugging up the hills, not changing gear, but digging deep with every mini climb.

I mentioned the sweat factor up top.  There is a shower where I work, but so far, I haven’t needed it. A little refresh in the bathroom and I’m good to go. If was in a corporate setting, I’d most likely bike to work in sweats, shower and then get ready for the day.

Even after the extra packing, planning and educating myself on tire PSIs, I’m a cycling convert. You see the world differently on a bike.  Stopping at a bike with fellow commuters is a terrific feeling. The cars and cyclists co-exist here in a way that isn’t ‘Us’ vs. ‘Them’. If this relationship does exist, I don’t feel it or hear about it.  When I get home to the family, I am energized and love the idea of taking full control of my commute. I got myself there. My own body and spirit. No car, no bus, no train, just me.

In an earlier life, my daughter used to ask, ‘Hi Mom. How was work today?’

Now she asks, ‘Hi Mom. Did you have a good ride to work? What did you see outside?’

The focus is on something else besides ‘what I do’. At dinner, we review our day together, its highs and lows, but I no longer bring up the ‘long day’ or ‘difficult day’ or ‘tiring day’. I still have those, but the topic doesn’t dominate.  Instead, we chat about the coffee shop I saw or the kids playing in the park.

I’m by no means an expert or biking pro, but I like being a new member of the club.

I’ll be reviewing this setup once the Minnesota snow comes. Perhaps then, I’ll take up snowshoeing?

 

  

 

 


The New Gig with The Company of Mods

by Blagica Bottigliero


A little background

After Target, the first question everyone asked me was, ‘What will you do next?’

I knew I would spend some solid time talking to companies, taking meetings, listening to trusted mentors and making sure my next move completely fit what I believed in.  I did all of those things (and turned down a few fabulous job offers). But I also made an effort to not focus so much on the next career move. Instead, I spent time with my family and wrote. I wrote and wrote and wrote. It was heavenly.

I mentioned beliefs a few beats ago.  Beliefs are important to me. When it comes to the web, I believe that we are globally connected, using the Internet to accomplish an infinite amount of things. I always felt drawn to companies who solve real problems of people, making the web simpler and easier to use. At the same time, I wanted to be at a place that embraced my full span of digital marketing know-how: from website builds, to online marketing to social media to digital PR/communications. I didn’t want to be put in any one digital lane – because that’s not how the web works. 

I also assessed my time.  When I was running Zlato, I worked out of my home office, in addition to some co-working space in Chicago. I first set up shop at 1871 and then moved over to TechNexus. I was able to get more done in six hours than I would normally get done in two or three days in a corporate setting.  Imagine what I could get done in a full week?

Mind. Blown.

Taking action

After a course of industry conversations with a smart-as-a-whip industry friend who will now be my colleague (I love how the universe works!), I decided to join Metaverse Mod Squad as their Vice President of Digital Media, effective next Tuesday. I’ll be splitting my time between building out our clients’ social media and digital marketing programs and sharing the love of what Metaverse does.

Meta-who?

I know. You are shaking your head and asking yourself, ‘Wait. What? What do they do? Never heard of them.’ You may have not have heard of Metaverse Mod Squad, but there is a good chance that the website, forum or message board you visited was connected to the company in some way.

For seven years, Metaverse Mod Squad has had global teams in place moderating online forums, message boards and creating digital programs for startups, multi national companies and agencies of all sizes. Multiple languages, cultures and people driving towards the same goal.  From NBC to the Department of State, the team's client roster is wide and varied.

 They are doing important work at an important time in the web’s history.

But where are you going to live?

This has been quite the popular question.  It was assumed by many that we would turn  right around and move back to Chicago. That’s not how I operate.

The Bottiglieros will be in Minneapolis for some time and yes, I will be working remotely. Metaverse Mod Squad mastered the art of having remote teams around the world – while accomplishing big things. And yes, I believe this is the future of work. So does Jason Fried (you should read 'Remote'). 

In terms of office space? Happy to report that I’ll be camping out a few days of the week at CoCo, the Twin Cities’ co-working/incubator space that is part of the Google Entrepreneur Tech Hub network.  I’ve missed the startup culture of Chicago and am looking forward to getting to know the up and coming ideas in the Twin Cities!

There you have it, friends. Savored every bit of summer, wrote chapters to a passion project, found a job in an ever growing industry, working from my home office and exploring the Twin Cities startup community.

Win win in the Blagica Book.


Hidden Pocket Fun with the SCOTTeVEST Lucille Cardigan

by Blagica Bottigliero


I've been on a productivity kick lately. From the way I work, check email, clean my house, spend time with the family and most recently, my closet, it's been night and day. The latest obsession? This SCOTTeVEST cardigan.

First, let's back up to my 20s. I was an avid traveler and had a particular dark denim jean jacket that I wore to the bone.  I loved it. It also had a slew of hidden pockets. I remember trucking up the Swiss Alps, layered up,  with the jean jacket being the final layer. Hands free, I had easy access to my camera, keys and other travel needs. 

As the years went on, I've used every iteration of purse, sack and bag you can imagine.  A mom with two kiddos, I even attempted the use of the traditional diaper bag. Let's face it, we are always going to need bags. But for those moments where I need to run  a quick errand, grab coffee or take the kids for a walk, I don't want to carry anything.  This resulted in my jean pockets full of stuff or my drawstring pants falling down because I had its pockets full of things. 

That's when I remembered listening to an old podcast about vests that techies wear when they go to conferences. After some Googling, I found SCOTTeVEST. A few clicks to the women's section and I found my cardigan. Yes, at a hefty price for a cardigan ($80), you may think it's too much, but let me finish.

The Lucille comes in two colors (there is a shorter version with more colors).  There are two 'warming' pockets that are pretty deep. Within each pocket, there are smaller zippered pockets. This is the magic. I store my phone, some cash and keys in those pockets. Around the collar of the cardigan, the Lucille comes with a built in shawl of sorts, it gives an extra punch to the sweater. The shawl also doubles as a quick protector from the rain. 

Lucille Cardigan


SCOTTeVEST started out as a company creating solutions for travelers, creating hidden pocket products from vests to sweaters to trenchcoats.  The mind of traveler is included in the styling of the Lucille because I can roll it up in my luggage or backpack without issue. It makes a great replacement for the airplane blanket and has come in handy in air conditioned stores and coffee shops. 

Cute cover up, check.

A place to put some gear when I'm out and about, check.

Easy to fold up for meetings, trips or around the house, check. 


The summer of smelling roses and taking an information diet

by Blagica Bottigliero


If someone stopped me a year ago to say that I would lose my mother in law, close shop on my successful business, move the entire family to Minneapolis to work for a big retailer, then change gears for a few months to regroup, I would have slapped you silly.

But that’s exactly what happened.

I spent the last few months truly breathing, decompressing and worrying only about only the present day.  I decided that the smallest, stupidest things were taking unnecessary space in my mind. I knew that I needed to shift my thinking to the topics which truly mattered – both personally and professionally. 

I drove around Minneapolis to run errands only when necessary – I preferred to walk with the kids or to ride my bike. I became obsessed with my FitBit and getting serious about my health and physical strength. Moving here changed the way we see being out and about. Maybe it’s because of the townhouse configuration of our old place in Chicago. Maybe it was the congestion of getting to a popular beach or walking path. I do know it’s because we are surrounded by images of people, numerous ages and walks of life, running, biking, walking, paddle boarding or kayaking. Minneapolis is consistently named one of the fittest cities in the U.S. Now I know why.

I changed the way I consumed information. I stopped endlessly checking my Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds. I continued to like items here and there, but I considerably dropped my liking activity. I didn’t get so caught up and heated on issues and topics that didn’t relate to me. I didn’t obsess about someone’s vacation pictures and wonder why I wasn’t on vacation. I didn’t obsess over someone’s recent glamour shot, notice their drop in weight and wonder how quickly I could match their frame. I didn’t go down the Facebook Click Hole and look up distant friends and wonder who they married, where they live and what they are up to.

It just didn’t matter.

When it comes to email consumption, I recently incorporated a change  - batch email checking. Today, I only check email in the early morning and late afternoon. My auto responder has my contact information for any immediate things that require my response.  I can see my texts right away and I use Google Voice for my voicemails. This minor change freed up so much wasted time with looking down at my phone. Speaking of phone…

I am maximizing my Google voice commands. Everything from driving directions, walking directions, sending texts to my husband, language translations, checking on flights  and weather reports for the kids’ daily outfits, ‘Ok Google Now’ is a common phrase in our house.  An additional perk? Google Now knows when I’m driving or riding my bike. The sensor is the Moto X picks up motion and gives me the option to have my texts read to me via phone. I can then send texts back to the sender and never look at my phone.

I thoroughly enjoyed a glass of wine at lunch. Not everyday, but at least two days a week, I incorporated a European way of dining and enjoyed some red or bubbly over lunch. No regrets. I didn't judge myself or put myself in the Mama Needs a Glass of Wine category. 

I ate really well.  Thanks to our CSA, our full share box is ENORMOUS.  Michael and I have been doing the best we can with new recipes and ideas to use up the copious amounts of Swiss chard, kale, corn, basil, pea shoots, onions, beets, zucchinis, etc. We've eating dinner as a family every single night. And took our time. 

I talked to people. Not just Gchat or Facebook chat but REAL conversations.  I caught up with old friends and had some long conversations with industry pals.  I interviewed friends who were writers, agency execs, brand side citizens and everything in between. I wanted to know the work they questioned and the work they enjoyed. What holes existed?  Where could I best take my digital background and merge it with social technologies.  This research paid off. I start my new gig on 9/2. More details on that soon.

I read actual books. I zipped through ‘Four Hour Work Week’ and ‘Remote’. I’m still working my way through Mrs. Clinton’s latest.

Most importantly, I spent solid time with my family. When it comes to my kids, I found the days most fun when they would get in the bathtub and massive dirt rings were left behind. Every night, I meticulously packed up their ‘swimming bag’ (which is really a fabric shopping back from Stanley’s) with bathing suits, towels and all equipment necessary for visiting one of Minneapolis’ lake beaches.

Our smallest is slowly making words, but still having a tough time communicating. I had more time to sit on the floor with him, roll around, point out objects and repeat their corresponding words. The cuddly little boy I saw reach up and kiss me hello after I drove home from the corporate gig was sharing his little, cheesy Kiss Me grin at a moments’ notice. I indulged in post nap milk drinking cuddles and breathed through those moments of public tantrums.

Our little girl isn’t so little anymore. This was the summer when she felt comfortable riding a bike with training wheels and could finally steer her scooter around corners. It was the summer she decided that her nails should be painted like mine. It was also the summer that nightgowns were more appropriate than regular jammies.

As far as my husband, we reconnected. We were always connected – heck all four of us moved here in March. If you know Michael, you know that he’s quiet. Add the element of his mother passing away, moving to a completely new town and getting the kids adjusted to a new city – it’s a mountain to take on. Michael took it all in and quietly found his way in Minneapolis, toting the kids to every grocery store, bakery and park in sight. Once I was spending more time at home, I made sure Michael got time to himself and supported his mini getaways to see his boys. We’re all happier as a result.

I am thankful for these last few months. It’s changed the way I see work, family and life. I’ve chosen to put my professional time into an area that is growing, needed and speaks to what I believe in. I have confirmation that the way my husband I see the importance of culture and travel WITH kids isn’t as abnormal than we think. Downsizing back to one car and putting effort into creating experiences for our family are of the utmost importance to us.

We are taught to work and work and work and then retire. I know now that it is possible to create a professional situation where you can take mini vacations here and there. Whether you are an entrepreneur or an all-in corporate citizen, I’ve gotten first hand stories from both types of workers who’ve managed to find their happy places.

The best way I can sum up this summer is from my daughter. When asked what she thought of our summer, Lily coyly replies, ‘It is the summer of us.’

Indeed it is, Lily.  


Upcoming Chicago Mayoral Election: Digital and Social Campaign Tips

by Blagica Bottigliero


Like many, I’ll be keeping a close eye on whether or not Rahm Emanuel will keep his post as Mayor of Chicago. With so many candidates who may run, the primaries are going to be full of mud slinging, huffing, puffing, door knocking, fundraising and all other antics that go into Chicago’s unique election season.

Chicago is a big city. Huge. How huge? About 2.7 million. That’s big. So how does one use digital and social tools to reach 2.7 million people on an election year?

Here are some thought starters...

The Website

Goal #1 for the majority of candidates I’ve seen running for Alderman or Any Other Office is to raise money. 

->Visit to the homepage, BOOM!

->Click here to donate NOW!

Let’s back up. How about more details about why you are running, what makes you different and why Citizen X should give a damn.  Adding some fundraising links is still possible, but this is your chance to really spell out your platform.

Speaking of platform, let’s talk about Citizen X contacting you.  For the love that is all digital, please do not put a ‘contact me’ button on your site, expect to collect email addresses and NOT staff up enough to actually get back to people. Bring on interns. Bring on retired seniors. Bring on whomever you need to get the email, digest it, craft a response (even if it’s a THANKS or Let Us Get Back To You) and email the person who wrote the email in the first place.

Just like customer service expectations in the world of social, this is more paramount when it comes to a person taking the time to speak up, volunteer or advocate for an actual person.

Social Platforms

Twitter

If you don’t have a Twitter handle, get one now. If you do have a Twitter handle, are you actually responding to people or are you having someone post one-way messages about how many handshakes you delivered today or what ground broke at the new condo development? Exactly.

Just like the suggested cadence of responding to emails, voters each have their own way of reaching out to you.  This isn’t up to you.  The key is to staff up in a way that can respond to as many folks as possible, hustling into the wee hours of the night to ensure that every voter, every undecided person feels like they are part of your virtual campaign staff.

It wouldn’t hurt to have a standing weekly Twitter chat (everyday at a certain time would be even better).  Your followers (hint: reporters would be all over this) would have the chance to ask you one on one questions and see how you respond.  I’m not saying you should go as far as conducting a reddit AMA (it worked for President Obama). Be honest, be yourself. Don’t be canned.

Use Twitter to live tweet your town halls and neighborhood visits.

Facebook

Ok, set up a Facebook page.  Definitely use this medium to post updates like events, status of the campaign, things you need, etc. Don’t use Facebook as your website. Your website is your website. Your website is where you can receive campaign donations and collect email addresses/other information for voters.

Your website is the main event, Facebook is a traffic driver.

Speaking of traffic driver, you are raising a slew of campaign cash, so why not put some of that to good use and put together some custom audience buys on Facebook? This is where you’ll be able to target voters by zip code, gender, etc. 

Before you go out and unload thousands of dollars on messages, please think about what you are going to say. Instead of saying ‘Vote for Me Because the Other Person is Horrible’ how about putting together a series of ads that will appear to the same groups of people over time? These ads can layer in a story of what you are doing, who you are and why this person should cast a vote for you.

I know time is of the essence with the election, but you can’t shout at people to vote for you.  Connect with them.

Instagram

One of the best ways to connect with anyone in today’s short and sweet visual world is Instagram. Take pictures of the campaign trails. Yes, upload a few pictures of you kissing babies, but also include pictures of your volunteers, the staff, the late nights, knocking on doors, voters, neighborhoods, etc. In other words, show Chicago. Show how you really know Chicago. 

Video

I don’t care if it’s YouTube (instant Google SEO happy place) or Vimeo, use video.  Take videos of voters. Ask them what they are going through. See what they want. Post messages from supporters. Post their stories. 

Big Data

This can be its own blog post, but again, this writing represents a snippet of ideas. Do you know how much access you have to datasets? From census information to cars being towed, your campaign staff can sure use a heckuva lot of information to better inform your voters on a slew of things. Some ideas:

-See which lobbyists gave the most money to the city

-Understand what areas of the city are home to the most teachers and single people

-Track crime in real time

At the end of the day, we are all aware of the same rhetoric. It’s old. We can all see through it.  Instead, use the tools that are right in front of you and connect with the voter. 


The danger of siloing social media away from digital

by Blagica Bottigliero


It's almost impossible to look at social media as its own world. So many factors play a role in how people interact with a social platform. From the ad buy to the way a Google search landed on a corporate blog, it's all intertwined. 

Yet we appear to keep social in its own corner. The online media buying folks do their thing. The advertising people do their thing. The PR people do their thing. Yet the social person/team is expected to stay in their corner and focus on posting things to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, without much input into anything else. The few times the social person is asked for input and integration, it's at a minimum. 

It simply doesn't make any sense. It's not good for the consumer. It's not good for the company.

Which is why we will all finally see an end to the pure play department of social media.

The bar is finally going to be raised. The people who know the best things to post on Facebook and why will be expected to wrap their heads around a digital ad buy and what it means to weave in programmatic ad buys. People who know very little, if at all, about digital marketing are trying to quickly ramp up their knowledge. 

It will be an interesting next few years. 


Conversations with an agency content guy: ghost writers, owned platforms and clickbait

by Blagica Bottigliero


As I continue my summer of discovery, digital research and 'what's next', I chatted up Scott Smith. I offer anonymity to people I meet with, but Scott was a-ok with the transparency. So what did we talk about? Interestingly enough, the same hot topics I continue to discuss with digital/social professionals. It's almost as if the industry is maturing, yet people on the brand side are yet to catch up.

Here is an excerpt....

Let's get the elephant in the room out in the open. Clickbait. What say you?

Clickbait - or empty metrics - are definitely driving whether content is thought of as successful or not. Even as Facebook is saying you need to pay for reach and engagement, we still see clients who are obsessed with those metrics. It's time to stop measuring your brand's content by the same measures companies use to prove their value to investors. We should be measuring our content's success by how well it supports our brand's own internal business objectives like awareness or consideration. Or how well it creates an image of the brand in the consumer's mind. Those things take time and function in multiple channels simultaneously and shouldn't be abandoned just because you didn't get that many likes or retweets one month. "

There is a growing trend for ghost writing. Do you think it's here to stay?

And yes, some are reaching out to ghost writers but I see that more in brands that are doing B2B content marketing through trade publications and robust site content. They can afford it, obviously, so they do it.

All this talk about shared/earned/owned. Is anyone really doing anything on their OWN?

I'd really like to see brands think more about their owned platforms and how they can drive earned media. You have a whole publishing platform! Use it! Fund an interesting study about a category close to your customer's heart. Jump on the social detox trend and create a quantified self app that helps consumers track their reading habits or how much time they spend offline with friends. That's the kind of thing that gets non-trade news media to cover you and the sort of story that gets people sharing your content, not a cute picture of a dog with your product shoved into it.

Any brand doing interesting things worth taking a look at?

The brands that are really doing interesting things are the ones that are thinking like tech companies and creating products that innovate their core products (like Topps is doing with digital baseball cards) or create new revenue streams (like MLB is doing with creating a whole new company that serves online video). 


The Hill

by Blagica Bottigliero


We've started a new type of routine in our house. Around the lunch hour, I take my red bike and cycle the short distance over to a local cafe. It's a short ride, maybe five minutes. But it's one of the new things I look forward to everyday. And it's all because of a hill.

Do you remember being a kid? Riding your bike all over town, your friend's house and that new dirt mound at the construction site? I do. Pretty vividly. I had a red banana seat bike and took that thing all over my little neighborhood. If I felt adventurous and didn't think my parents would find out, I would take my bike over to the dirt trail that branched out to the main road. There was a sidewalk that was the perimeter to our neighborhood. I would pedal and pedal as fast as I could.  I had to be home at a certain time, but I was also full of adrenalin being in a part of town where I usually go with my mom or dad during ice cream runs. 

Which brings me back to the hill near my house. I live in a neighborhood full of hills - it's wild. There is one particular street that I can zip down, make a quick left and boom, I'm at the cafe. I get the same anticipation rounding the corner to get that hill as I did when I found that dirt road. 

My feet kick into a fast bit of rotation to keep some momentum, the street dips and I cruise.  Red backpack behind me, pants rolled up, I turn into that 10 year old girl again.  The street has a few speed bumps.  No matter what I'm wearing or who's outside planting their flowers, I edge up on my seat like a BMX rider and hop those bumps like a pro. With seconds, I hang a left, roll up to the cafe, lock my bike and go on about my to-dos.

Now and then, I wonder if someone on that street sees me practicing my daily ritual. It would be fun if there was a little kid glancing at this older person zooming down the hill. Maybe that little kid would laugh and point, showing their mom or dad the crazy lady who flies down the hill with her legs out to her sides. Maybe the mom or dad will get reminded that zooming down hills on a bike is fun. I hope so.

Go find yourself a hill. 


Why I won’t click on another Taboola or Outbrain link again

by Blagica Bottigliero


Updates below

A time not so long ago, I bought online advertising. A lot of it.  I also loaded those ads in an ad server, created tags and worked with publishing partners to ensure the ads ran properly.  Many of you who worked with me remember that our team wanted those ads to run alongside sites and content that made sense to the web surfer. There were battles with getting the names of all the sites our ads would live on. Daily battles of making sure our travel ads weren’t running on some porn site or site that had no context for the consumer.

I miss those days. The days of context and content lining up in the right way.

Which brings me to content. We are at a point where media sites and everyday brands what YOU to see that content. There are numerous reasons why traffic to a piece of content is key. Let’s break down a few:

1.     Increase in traffic to a media site means higher CPMs can be demanded for advertising

2.     Increase in traffic to a brand’s content hub means validation that the content is read by many people and they can’t wait for more

3.     Increase in traffic to any web property can assist with SEO rankings

4.     Increase of eyeballs to a website could mean more social sharing of said website which can increase both SEO and social engagement

In today’s new world of context and content don’t always need to match up, we have content amplifiers like Taboola and Outbrain. I’m almost certain you’ve seen these two forms of advertising.

You’ll be on a popular site like The Guardian or a local news site. You’ll be sipping your coffee reading about a serious issue and read the final sentence. As you take in what you just read and ponder a thought, you are presented with more content ‘similar’ to what you just reviewed. Underneath this ‘similar’ content, you are presented with click bait galore.

These articles, which may include anything from a top 10 celeb list to the reason why Kate Upton hates her breasts, are typically paid pieces of content brought to you by Taboola or Outbrain. The brands/media sites that wrote this content pay T & O a fee to drive traffic from the web back to the content.  In theory, the idea could make sense. The reality is, the Click Bait Rabbit Hole many of us fall into is a result of these links.

Has it come down to this?  Brands and media companies think that pushing out more and more content is a great thing, yet the content itself isn’t enough to drive traffic to the site. Instead of spending more time driving organic growth with communities who may ‘care’ about the content, it seems that we are left with random ad buys to Taboola  and Outbrain.

I think what T & O have done is simply genius. They are answering a market need and seem to be successful at it. As for us, the reader, no one is forcing us to click a link.  But it does make me wonder how the approval process of certain links is followed? If I was the digital person behind a reputable news site, do I have a say on whether or not that Kate Upton breast article appears? If I do, why aren’t I policing this more? Laziness?

Then there are the reports/analytics.  Companies that are creating content and use Taboola or Outbrain for traffic are getting traffic, but what kind of traffic? Is this repeat traffic? Is this the kind of traffic that really matters long term? When our team launched the former Motorola blog, we relied on the content of the site to bring the right audience to it.  We paid attention to search behaviors to write about the things the core audience, at the time, cared about.  We didn’t approach the blog simply from a pop culture standpoint. We wrote about things that were a blend of what the company was working on, but also what the user base was interested in.

Ideally, those Outbrain and Taboola advertisers can push back and review what types of sites are displaying their ads.  How great would it be if the content of each article lined up to a website that made sense? But that would take time and pushing back. In a world where it seems publishing links and driving traffic is first and foremost, I don’t see much push back happening.

And you, the reader. The person who may complain about reading the oddest things during the work day or wondering why the Taboola and Outbrain ads appear. You can ignore the ads or install an ad blocker if you wish.

As for me, I decided to refocus the way I spend my time online. Even if it was 45 minutes or so a day, I was getting lost down the Click Bait Rabbit Hole more than I wanted. I recovered five more hours or so a week to read things I really cared about.

Kate Upton, I hope you feel better about your breasts. I'm sure the world will know soon via an upcoming Taboola or Outbrain link. 

Update #1: Outbrain's CEO reached out to me via Twitter with some follow up comments:

  • Link to Outbrain's guidelines (looks like these guidelines were just updated, per a lawsuit against Outbrain
  • When I asked about content quality: "Not saying our links are always perfect- far from it! But we certainly try to make them valuable, and more importantly- trustworthy"
  • When I asked about connecting to the consumer and if that matters: "That's really up to each marketer. But whether it's traffic or a relationship, it all starts with getting a click."

Update #2: Scott Smith reminded me of a key piece of the Taboola & Outbrain ops model: publishers make money when they post links on their sites. 

"The thing is, T&O could be useful if publishers exercised controls over the kind of content they serve through it and what kind of promo boxes show up. You could make it specific to your other site content and block the crap but most publishers want the revenue more than the brand value, which is bad long-term thinking."

 


Conversations with a writer: 'Everybody wants to be clever…everyone wants that Oreo moment'

by Blagica Bottigliero


I'm on this mini search as it relates to the web, digital marketing and social media. I've been around for a long time - 16 years. It seems that things are getting more automated and more back slaps are given for the ability to dissect a link and knowing that Person X clicked on something 10 times. Yet we've seemed to lose the innate part of social media and the digital web - having the patience and the skill to really know who Person X is and what makes them tick. 

So I'm having conversations with people. Alot of them. Writers, designers, strategists, non digital people, content producers, executives, you name it. I'll be documenting a series of our chats on this blog. I will also be withholding their names, out of respect for their livelihoods. 

The first of these Conversations happened today with an old friend, solid writer, digital analytics expert music lover.  Here are some excerpts from the talk.

"There used to be a time when being a community manager was about getting to know people…today it’s just doing an ad buy. It’s not about listening to the audience anymore. It used to be a hybrid situation – a cross section between Marketing, PR and overall communications."

"Twitter takes time to build, get to know people, build a relationship. Today it's assumed that a Twitter ad buy can do that - it can't.You still need to time to cultivate a following."

"Big brands want some of the massive followings regular everyday people have. They have those followings because they took the time. They are also CREDIBLE. Brands try to just bought that type of following/traffic."

What say you reader, would you agree?

 


How Andrea Bocelli and a record store defined my early 20s

by Blagica Bottigliero


It’s funny how a song can open up a treasure trove of memories. I was with my family eating some surprisingly tasty Neaopolitan pizza.  Andrea Bocelli’s ‘Con te Partiro’ starting chiming on the speakers.  I started to smile for two reasons:

#1 My daughter loves that song and, thanks to YouTube, has seem Bocelli sing it opposite various divas like Celine.

#2  That song defined how I spent most of my 20 something years in Chicago

I did a lot of solo traveling over the years. The way I saw it, if my friends couldn’t go with me at the time and/or if I didn’t have a boyfriend or hubby to tagalong, why should I stop myself from experiencing a new place? I’ve had the good fortune to visit Miami, Hawaii, Vancouver, Switzerland, France, California and New York on my own. It was the trip to Vancouver that defined my weekends back in Chicago.

It was either 1999 or 2000. I decided to hit up our northern neighbor, Canada. (Being from Detroit, I was a Windsor expert. Get me in a good mood for my Canadian accent and my Hockey Night In Canada Don Cherry impression. It’s epic.)

Toronto was up there on my list of places I’ve seen, but I really wanted to go to a ‘faraway’ place. Vancouver seemed like a good mix of mountains, city and culture. Done.

Between the restaurants, hikes, walks, journal writing and overall culture observations, I found myself at Virgin Records. You remember Virgin Records, don’t you?  Massive store. Wicked collection of media, live DJ and perhaps an in-house café. I strolled through the wall of listening stations and came across Andrea Bocelli’s CD. Oh, why not. I gave it a listen.

I stood there, donning my brand new leather jacket of sexy thanks to the then strong exchange rate of the US dollar. Backback behind me, map in my pocket and the overly used Virgin headset over my ears. ‘Con te Partiro’ came on, I closed my eyes and I floated away.

I ended up in the spot for 90 minutes. I listened to the entire CD with my eyes closed and my head tilted up against the wall. I didn’t realize I was crying for half of the CD. I don’t even know why I was crying.  I just was. For the duration of those 90 minutes, no one told me to get away from the listening station. No one told me my time was up. No one nudged me. No one swiped something from my backpack. Thank you, Canada.

So how in the world does this relate to Chicago?

Before the Internet became too huge with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Tinder, many of us spent time doing ‘analog things’. Saturdays and Sundays were my most special times in Chicago.  I loved hopping on the #151 bus and zipping down Lake Michigan and hopping out at Ohio. From there, my frugal butt would settle in for a few hours of fun at Virgin Records.  I’d go from station to station, listening to top hits, along with my favorite world music artists. I discovered so many new types of music – it’s an experiment that I’m yet to duplicate in today’s instant world of Spotify, Pandora, iTunes or Google Music. Just not the same.

In between listening stations, I’d slide over to the DJ Booth to see what DJ Madrid was mixing up. I would decide which CDs I wanted, if any, then roll upstairs to grab a bite at the café.  At the café, I’d catch up on my reading, note taking, call my mom and relax over a cup of Italian coffee in a ceramic mug. By the time I was done, it was time to either meet friends, get ready for dinner and make the trek home for a cozy night in.

If I had more time, I would walk up Michigan Avenue and hit the Border’s. I would climb up to the top floor and sit at my favorite corner table, overlooking the rest of the Mag Mile. Some magazine browsing and journal writing later, it was the perfect bookend to my day. I would check my phone for potential texts from friends on where to meet up or who was dating who, but that was it. No smartphone just yet. 

$1.50 later, I was back on the bus heading home.

I consider these memories a glimmer of ‘Old Chicago’ as I remember it.

All of this was possible because of the experience I had in one city in one record store. Every time I hear ‘Con te Partiro’, a big smile comes across my face.  I fell in love with that song as a single gal trying to figure out life. Here I am with a four-year-old mini me who loves Bocelli as much as I do.

Some place in Italy, Andrea Bocelli is having a glass of Prosecco and will never know the impact he’s had on me because of one song.

I feel bad for the majority of today’s Gen Y. There are less reasons to lazily spend their days dreaming, writing and getting lost in a new percussionist from Africa.  There are limited amounts of selfies one can take in a day.

It’s a part time job, don't ya know?


Dating App for Women Gets Marketing Push By a Woman...and She Gets Railroaded

by Blagica Bottigliero


Why the story of Whitney Wolfe's lawsuit against Tinder is important for any female startup founder.

I just read the entire complaint against Match.com's Tinder app. Line by line, I read through the way in which Tinder started out as a Hatch Labs incubator and grew into a concept formalized and pushed by Wolfe. Ms. Wolfe, according to the lawsuit, was the one who pushed for a pivot and to take the initial idea and craft it into Tinder. Ms. Wolfe also named the app.  She also saw the potential to market the app to women, a key missing piece of most dating apps. 

Wolfe put some midnight oil into a marketing plan and presented all of those ideas to the other people on the team, all men.  They dug the concepts and Wolfe was off to a few college sororities to get the app some exposure.  That's right. She hopped on a plane and did some IRL meetings with people who could benefit from the app.  College after college, things were working. People were signing up. Success. 

I'm not going to go into the nitty gritty details on the complaint, but a few things were a reminder as to how easy it can be to be in an incubator environment where 'everyone is in it together' to national press coming around and things getting more serious.  Aside from the misogynist and racist comments passed through texts, here are the other watch outs, based on the complaint:

  • Mateen was first a contractor for a few months, then became the CMO. Wolfe had to report to him even though she was the force behind the growth and marketing of the app
  • The developer of the app, Munoz, gave 100% credit to Wolfe for growing the app
  • When more national press was coming, Wolfe wasn't included.  Asking why this was the case, her male team responded with 'you're a girl'. Wolfe's age of 24 made her seem to young and having her listed as co-founder would mean too many cooks in the kitchen. Er, how old was Zuck when he started Facebook? 
  • Wolfe's co-founder title was officially stripped at someone point and the excuse Mateen supposedly used was that Facebook and Snapchat had male founders. Including Wolfe in the current co-founder mix would make things appear like an accident.

During this entire time, Ms. Wolfe was getting disgusting comments and threats from Mateen, someone she once dated after Mateen pursed her for some time. Rad, the CEO, didn't seem to want to do much.  The complaint ends with a story of Wolfe and Match.com's CEO having a coffee. Wolfe went on to detail all of the horrible things she endured and the CEO appeared to do nothing. His ending comment to her was 'I can still sleep at night.'

Why is this so important for female founders? Because the vast majority of you are thinking about ideas that can apply to women and/or the vast majority of you may be on male dominated teams. The story of Tinder proves that some ingenuity and insight from a woman can make or break an app.  Wolfe hustled. She got on planes, both here and internationally, to demo the app to real users in real life. 

This story also displays the sad state of startup life as we know it today.  As much as incubators, cities, organizations and conferences try to be overt about supporting women, those support groups aren't living in between the text messages that are sent in the middle of the night. Those organizations and support groups aren't right next to a woman when she's getting berated in public at a company party. 

How strange it was for me to read that Rad, the CEO, is dating the daughter of a well known tech exec. How strange it was for me to see the supposed breakdown of a friendship between Wolfe and this woman. How could this daughter of a well known, powerful tech powerhouse not know what risks could be involved with treating women in tech this way? I saw the exhibits documenting the texts between Wolfe and Rad's girlfriend. Yet, silence.

Ladies, keep creating your ideas and pushing for change, however, there is one more elephant in the room worth taking about - cattiness. In order for you/us to feel comfortable sharing future wrongs similar to what Wolfe experienced, there needs to be a culture and camaraderie among female founders, tech types and those who touch the world. I would also call on the more seasoned women in the room who are either VCs, angels, founders or influential women in business to serve as a sounding board.

As for me, I'm here and available for Skype chats, Hangouts or phone calls. I'll offer up my time to let anyone blow off some steam about the frustrating experiences or scary startup situations.

Lastly, keep creating your lifestyle/warm and fuzzy ideas. We know they work. We know they can make money. Most of the people who may fund your idea just don't get it - yet.

 


If the data is there, why don't companies listen to it?

by Blagica Bottigliero


Studies show that consumers are more inclined to be loyal to a brand if messages are more about customer service, relationship building and storytelling. This is usually the case with Twitter activity. Responding to consumer messages and relating to their interests, versus pushing another product link wins every time.

The reality is, companies are big and have tremendous layers. And the long game isn't always first and foremost around a quarterly plan. 

Until that junior/mid level manager on the brand side and/or up and coming agency strategist has the freedom and comfort level to be heard, things won't change. Data and insights are typically found by the people who are closest to the information everyday. And then those numbers are broken down and scrubbed for a higher level look.

This process may take weeks or months to pull together, analyze, scrub, insert in a presentation and handed off to someone else. Even then, a decision may not be made.

In the meantime, consumers continue to get a slew of promotional content pushed at them via multiple brands on a given day. It's not surprising to me that the general sentiment of the consumer is to be turned off by 'most' brands via social media.  A few brands are getting it right and focusing on the storytelling and relationship building with the consumer. It doesn't change the fact that consumers 'think' that the majority of messages are one sided.

Long game. This is about the long game. Either companies need to let decisions be made by those who see the data daily and/or companies need to change the way they enable non digital colleagues to dictate what is best for the social consumer.

 


My mom once tied my leg to a table. I turned out fine.

by Blagica Bottigliero


I've been spending more time with the kids. Over the weekend, I was a solo parent as the hubby went down to Chicago for some work and play. I found myself incorporating some 'old school' methods of watching the kids, namely around my household chores. 

Which brings me back to a story my mom once told me.

My sister was out playing with the neighbors and their kids. Mom was watching me in our little ranch house in Warren, MI.  The laundry was running in the basement. Mom had to change out the load and I was highly engrossed in whatever toy I was playing. She thought for a second and weighed her options:

#1. She could pick me up out of my happy play place, whisk me downstairs to put the clothes in the dryer and see me go ape crazy for 45 minutes

#2. She could take a belt, loosely tie my leg to the table, run downstairs to change out the clothes and then come right back up

Mom opted for #2. She said that she was up and down in 4 minutes. I was still working on understanding the make up of the doll's fingers. She didn't think twice about it. 

Going back to my time with the kids this weekend. I was driving myself crazy with the heightened need to take my kids with me in every crevice of the house, especially the 17 month old. I had the gate locked upstairs and still brought the little one in the bathroom with me. Why? Because I had this vision that he may decide to climb his crib or somehow break a jigsaw piece and swallow it. 

Am I promoting the mothers and fathers and caregivers of America to leave children alone? 

Nope.

I am saying that there were things our parents did back in the day that would be considered neglect or child abuse today. I've realized that my imagination sometimes extends out to real life. I have fears and 'watch outs' for the kids that could using some easing back. I know these fears are a combination of me + the world of helmets and knee guards.

I lived in skin knees, bruises and cuts. My daughter gets a little scrape and demands us to go to the closet and get her a Doc McStuffins Band-Aid. Everything is a major boo boo. A little hangnail or blood from an over scratched mosquito bite means she is very sick and needs to go to a doctor. Or, better yet, I receive the 'Mama, I should've put on a Cars helmet + knee pads like in that commercial.'

Right. 

 

 

 

 


For two and a half years, my name wasn't Blagica. It was Barb.

by Blagica Bottigliero


You read that right, Jack. 

Before the days of the social web and today's version of online bullying, we had the typical setup for a pre-teen: face to face communication with other pre-teens. Back then, we all had our versions of labels.  In many circumstances, we never had the choice to pick the label - it just appeared some place between your locker and the bathroom. 

For me, it was gym class. The day I became Barb.

My family moved to a new neighborhood when I was 13. I was to start a new year at a new school, 8th grade. In my eyes, we were far far away from the little street I loved in Warren, MI. We went from 10 mile to 21 mile - a whole 11 miles! To me, that was another planet. A planet set in the middle of farm country. Fast forward to today and my dad calls it suburban mecca. Strip malls and outdoor shopping galore, car dealerships, more restaurant chains to shake a stick at and even a new community center with an indoor pool! Oh and let's not forget about the insane amount of choices as it relates to getting fruit, veggies and any other ethnic food. Having lived in Chicago for 16 years, I challenge any Chicagoan and Little Italy-ish area goer to visit Vince & Joe's, Randazzo or Nino Salvaggio.

So there I was, new school, the first day.  I vividly remember sitting on the gym floor and the dreaded routine of roll call was looming. I hated roll call.

I  waited for the typical song to begin:  

"Jane, Amy, Katie, Michelle, Lisa, Laura, Bah, Buh, what IS that name"?

"Blah-gee-tsa"

"Say that again?"

"Blah-gee-tsa"

Snickers began and the teacher's face curled up. Memories of what life was like back in my old school flashed in a blur. I spent my 7th grade year in utter hell. Leaving the safety net of my K-6 elementary school friends was horrible. Blending with the surrounding schools made for a year of constant fear, getting bullied on the bus and not wanting to leave my house. 

As I got caught up in my 7th grade brain, someone in the gym suggested:

"Let's call her Barb."

Then someone else piped up:

"That's easier. I like Barb."

I froze and didn't want to say no. I didn't want to start my new school year and build a rep for being that girl with the difficult name to say. So I agreed. I was Barb.

For the next few years, most people called me Barb. I made new friends and settled into our new neighborhood. I began this crazy obsession with dancing to music videos at home, then mimicking those moves at school dances. I wanted to dub myself Barb the Dancer. Anything to keep attention away from my real name. 

By the time sophomore year came around,   I had grown close with alot of people. The same people I'm going to see at my 20 year high school reunion in a few weeks. I don't know the exact day I decided to go back to my actual name, but I do remember a few friends asking me why I didn't just use my real name. No one asked me that before, well aside from my relatives. This feeling of complete acceptance washed over me. 

Looking back to that day at the gym, I know now that whomever suggested the name Barb wasn't doing it to be spiteful. They just didn't have too much exposure to someone who had a unique name. Today, we have names like Schwarzenegger, Obama, Oprah, Lupita and Apple. Do you know how excited I was to watch Oprah as a kid? I kept telling myself that if her name can get a TV show, then who KNOWS what my name can bring. 

I don't know what life would have been like if Facebook and cyber bullying existed. I had some dark moments hating life and not wanting to leave the house. Why do you think I read so many books and memorized the Presidents, dad? :) I was lucky to have parents who paid attention to how I was feeling and shared their stories of immigrant life in the U.S. to keep my head held high. Eventually, I had a solid group of friends who didn't care what my first name was. 

Now and then, I think about Barb and wonder how she's doing. Though I wasn't too keen on her name, I was thankful for the motivation she gave to push me to try new things and find a lifelong  passion for music and dancing.

I guess you can say this story is a core reason for why Michael and I decided to name Lily, Liljana and Niko, Nikola.  We tell Lily that this is her short name. Liljana is her long/real name. She knows who she is and has that second name to give someone on the first day of school.

Because we all deserve the chance to create our own labels and our own names. 

 

 


With all this buzz about content marketing, why are we forgetting about context?

by Blagica Bottigliero


I was running errands yesterday. In the car, seat belt on, drive to one place, finish the errand and then on to the next place.  In and out of the store, pick up the things I need, browse a few aisles, wait in line, pay, etc. One thing was consistent throughout the entire course of the trip - I was checking my phone at different intervals. 

  • At one point, Michael texted me to get XYZ items that weren't on the list.
  • As I was waiting for my cup of coffee, I decided to flow through my friends' Instagram feeds.
  • Someone tweeted me after I parked the car, so I checked it and looked up the name of the business they mentioned in the DM (they were following up on a request I had for a nearby place of biz).
  • Within every store experience, I was checking my phone for deals. I was also scanning bar codes and price checking.
  • In one store, I decided to take a picture of the outfit idea. Something for my evening Pinterest scanning.
  • Finally, I quickly skimmed my Facebook feed as I was waiting to get checked out by one of the stores.
  • When I unpacked everything at home, I plopped on the couch, put my feet up and used my Moto X's remote to change the channel on my Google TV. 

Every example above was about context. I was using different platforms for different needs at different times. Let's take some of the instances above and add a 'What If' element:

  • What if the outfit I snapped had some kind of sensor or device that would know I took a picture. What if that display encouraged me to take a picture of the ensemble? Could it have been possible for that brand to reach out to me later that night and send me a special deal and/or reminder on what I snapped?
  • I was in the checkout lane of a store and hopped on Facebook real quick. I was killing time and checking in on those friends I know the Facebook algorithm throws at me. Could a brand have sent me a targeted message knowing that I'm in my late 30s, it was evening time, Central time, I had two kids and had a few minutes to spare for an update? If so, how refreshing it would have been for that brand to show me an ad that went something like this: 'Hi. Enjoy your mini break/solo time. We like to enjoy by doing X.' Even better, if a brand just acknowledged that I was out and about versus trying to tell me to do something or buy something, bonus. Because I would leave that store with not only my goods, but a reminder of who Brand XYZ is and what they stand for.
  • What if Twitter knew that I was searching for that place of business as a direct result of the DM I viewed (with my permission, of course). Would they then be able to send that data to their advertisers to hit me up with more targeted content later?

Perhaps.

The theme here is context. We go to different online platforms for different purposes. I haven't used Tumblr in a while, but it seems to be the holy place for animated gifs. My Instagram feeds are full of gorgeous food platters. It's only a matter of time where Instagram/Facebook team up with some recipe site and enable direct linking and Instacart shopping. 

I'm all for lovely, gorgeous content. But we need to remember that what goes through a person's mind, especially the multi-tasking wizardry of a woman, is what drives platform use. The sooner we respect this intimate detail of a consumer's life, the better we'll all be.

And you can stop putting that same gif on 10 social media platforms. 

 


My mother in law was given four months to live - she died in two.

by Blagica Bottigliero


Her death taught our family lessons for years to come. 

It was around Christmastime of last year.  Michael came home from the hospital and his face was grim. If you know my husband, you know he's a quiet man. I knew something was terribly wrong. The routine hospital check ups his mom had for her cancer and post double mastectomy procedure wasn't so routine that night.

Ann was given four months to live, max.  My mother in law didn't want to hear her fate. The doctor, Michael and his brother left the hospital room and spoke in the hallway. Ann knew she was sick, but she didn't want to know the truth. 

The following months were a blur.  Imagine for a second, you are in your early 60s.  You check into the hospital for a check up to discover that things are so grim that you can't return home - ever.  We had to keep Ann in the hospital while finding hospice care in the area.  She couldn't go home, take things she needed or even say goodbye to her memories.  Michael found a reputable hospice facility and the boys checked her in.  This never felt right with us. 

Lily's birthday party was the weekend of December 17. Ann was able to attend, but barely had the energy to walk.  I know she wanted to see Lily hopping and skipping around the playroom. My mother in law was Lily's best friend. They sang songs, told old jokes from the 60s and talked about animals.  It was a bond that is only reserved for grandmothers.  We are grateful for that day.

Ann spent a short amount of time in hospice. We decided it was best that she was surrounded by family. My brother in law stepped up and took my mother in law in.  He made room in his apartment and took care of Ann 24x7.  Nurses visited and did their jobs, but it was my brother in law who made sure Ann had everything she needed. I can't see too many bachelors doing this. 

Our collective family priority was Ann. Michael took the kids to visit as much as he could. Lily would sit on Ann's bed, watch TV and eat hot dogs. Ann had the chance to spend more time with Niko and see his baby progress. Throughout this time, I was cranking on the business. From where I saw things, I wanted to make sure Michael and the kids saw Ann as much as they could. My job was to keep the business running and keep the household in tact. It soon became clear that we were running out of time. I needed to say goodbye.

It was a Saturday morning, February 1.  Ann had a rough night and was unresponsive. Michael came home after staying up with his brother by Ann's side. She was breathing slower.  They didn't know if she'd make it through the night.  I called a friend to see if she could watch the kids for us.  Without missing a beat, my friend said yes.  As we gathered our jackets for the car, Michael's brother called. Ann passed away 30 minutes earlier. Less than two months passed since the doctor gave us his prediction for Ann's life. We weren't prepared for how soon this day would arrive - but it did.

After dropping off the kids, we made it to my brother in law's. A priest was waiting for us and delivered Ann her last rites.  My body left me that day.  I couldn't believe that I didn't visit Ann earlier. I couldn't believe that she was gone so incredibly fast. I held on to Michael and didn't remember most of what happened that weekend. 

I do remember the Illinois Cremation Society finally arriving to the apartment. Ann's request was to be cremated. It takes about 10 days in the state of Illinois for the appropriate papers and approvals to go through for someone to be cremated. How terribly final it was to see two men arrive with a stretcher. I couldn't bear to look in the bedroom to see my fantastic mother in law lifted out of her bed and zipped in a bag.  I heard the sound of that zipper and just about lost it. I didn't want Michael to see me crumble. I needed to be strong for him that day. 

Losing Ann was a wake up call for our family.  Never again would my work get in the way of any family obligation - even though I thought the 'work' was important for the family at the time. Michael and I don't argue as much as we used to - especially for the small things.  We've spent more time putting effort into doing simple things like going to malt shops, playing with dirt and letting our kids explore the world. I began exercising more and being OK with taking more time for my well being. The outside factors like jobs, personalities and environments that we can't control no longer tick us off. 

I haven't written for a while because I wasn't ready to share again. I wasn't ready to process what I was feeling about life in general. I didn't think it was OK to talk about these things. With Michael's blessing, I did. And so it goes with the future of this blog. I'll be sharing a wide variety of thoughts on life in general, whether it's about the digital world or why Ted Cruz scares the heck out of me. 

We miss you, Ann. Thank you for helping us remember what is always first and foremost in life. 


Moving forward in the Twin Cities

by Blagica Bottigliero


One thing I learned about life is to take leaps, embrace change and try new things.

A few months ago, we all moved to Minneapolis.  I took on a job with Target. It recently became clear that the gig wasn’t a fit for Target and me. I decided to move on.

So what’s next? I’m not sure. Are we moving out of Minneapolis? Not any time too soon. The Bottigliero clan enjoys discovering new places and sinking our teeth into new experiences. We can’t get enough of the lakes, cycling paths, new restaurants, rivers and people of the Twin Cities.  And the Dairy Queens. There are Dairy Queens all over the place.

What I do know about the next few months is that I’ll be writing more. I stopped for a long time for reasons that will be covered in a future post. 

For now, we’ll be here.  We don’t know how long ‘now’ is going to be.  Book those plane tickets, gas up your car and know that you have friends to visit the next time you are in Minneapolis.  We’ve got a backyard BBQ setup waiting for you and an assortment of wine that continued to grow after our Chicago move.