ask me anything, answer me anything – the formspring.me dilemma

I’ve made a minor addition to my blog. On the right, right under the search box, you’ll find a formspring.me widget. If you’re not familiar with it, formspring is an application that allows users to send, receive and respond to questions. The default header on the question box is “Ask me anything.” and questions may be authored or asked anonymously (account holders do have the option to disallow anonymous questions).

I signed up for formspring.me approximately 5 months ago. In that time I have received nearly 40 questions. I have answered 10, and each time I scan my inbox, I am faced with the dilemma: Do I want to commit to answering every question that is asked of me? Why wouldn’t I want to answer every question, you ask? Well, take a look at 10 questions sitting quietly in my inbox, waiting for me to answer them.

The questions are overwhelmingly personal. In fact, the only ones I would not consider personal are ten favorite records, five minutes of fame, and consider yourself friendly. The having children question, though highly personal, is one that I’m happy to answer. But many of the others are just, well… odd. They are not they type of questions I was expecting, and some leave me slightly uncomfortable. For example:

Is it weird that you missed me? Maybe not if I no-showed on an event you were expecting me to attend, or if  we’re friends but haven’t spoken in awhile. But maybe so if it was a romantic notion, since I haven’t been connected to anyone in that manner for quite some time. Is the question weird? Ummm…kinda. Is the question inappropriate? That depends not only on who is asking (which I don’t know), but also on my intentions for using formspring.

I am a compulsive joiner, often signing up for online applications purely to see what all the fuss is about. I also tend to be very open in both online and offline conversations, frequently talking about subjects and happenings that are not related to my professional career. Thus, in the absence of a stated purpose for using formspring, it would be safe to assume that the purpose is not (or not limited to) professional application (assuming, of course, we ignore for just a minute that part of my job as a social media strategist is to know about things like formspring).

Which questions are appropriate, and which are just plain questionable?

I have no doubt that the more questionable questions are enabled by anonymity, because with anonymity comes freedom. An asker may pose whatever question they choose without fear that they or their intentions will be revealed. They may ask questions that are highly personal not only to me, but also to themselves. I, however, can not answer anonymously, which means I must determine if I want to respond to every question I am asked and how open I want to be in my responses.

Consider that some answers open the door to further questions. The two crush question you see in photo above were submitted only after I answered Who is your secret crush? Consider also that anonymous questions may prompt guarded responses. To a known asker, I might have answered the good looking question with flirtatious banter or sarcastic humor if I knew either to be relevant to my relationship with that individual, but to an anonymous asker, I will likely answer with a relatively unrevealing statement on confidence in one’s appearance answered with a quip about beauty versus brains.

My question(s) to you, particularly to other formspring.me users:

  1. What is your purpose for using formspring.me?
  2. How will you approach questions that don’t align with that purpose (too personal, off-topic, etc.)?
  3. How do you approach questions asked anonymously?
  4. Would you commit to answering every question that was asked of you?




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it’s my anniversary! celebrating 1 year with Terralever.

DailyBooth - Sportin' team colors with Brooke! January 29, 2010

Today I celebrate an anniversary. Today marks one year with Terralever as social media strategist. I was their first hire dedicated exclusively to social. I am categorized as a resource, and as is the practice of many interactive agencies, I was hired in a contract capacity while we felt each other out. Terralever assessed if I had the required knowledge and execution skills for social media strategy, as well as if I could share their business philosophy regarding return-driven marketing. I assessed whether the project work and client mix appealed to my ambitions, as well as if Terralever could share my philosophy regarding meaningful connections over metrics. And we both questioned how well we would play together.

Those first months weren’t easy. I was coming off of a year of un- and under-employment and was emotionally drained. Terralever was in the throes of organizational and cultural change and was confronting the all the inherent challenges of talent turnover, process development and service repositioning. The company also suffered a great loss with the passing of a colleague and friend. At the micro level, there were some marked conflicts between the tasks I was charged with completing my somewhat utopian view of social media.

No, those first months weren’t easy, but the decision to go full-time was. I had found a home where my skills and voice were respected. I found that company executives and strategy masterminds, Chris Johnson and Scott McAndrew (shout out to my homies…love them!) and I share many ideas about the core value of social media in business. Since then, I have worked with sales and account services to better align how social is positioned in the sales process with how it is executed during project delivery. I have taught coworkers and clients more about the field. And I have also learned from them, particularly with regards to development and highly niched applications (because I am by no means an expert in it all).

Ask me where I see myself in 6-12 months, and I won’t have an answer for you. I don’t think that far in advance. I’m focused on today, tomorrow, next month. I’m focused on right now, and right now I work with a kick-ass team of rock star talent turning out exceptional work for clients that make me want to do the happy dance on the regular. I am Terralever’s voice for social. Hear me roar.




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SxSW in three & a half inch heels

Talk to anyone who has been to South by Southwest (SxSW), and they’re sure to have plenty of tips for you. Bring a lot of business cards. Don’t hang out with anyone you know. Carry an extra phone battery, battery extender, or battery charger with you. If you’re carting around your laptop, bring an extension cord, or better yet a power strip (you’ll be  everyone’s new best friend, I promise). And specifically for the ladies, leave the heels at home.

photo credit: doug88888

These are all excellent tips. All except the very last one…

That’s right ladies, I’m recommending you bring your heels. Bring them. Wear them. Rock them proud.

Everyone tells you to wear sneakers because you’ll be doing a lot of walking. Miles and miles and miles of walking. And everyone is right. It’s incredibly important to wear comfortable shoes when you’re doing that much walking. But the advice about wearing sneakers is based on the assumption that heels aren’t comfortable. This advice is also, most likely, coming from men. Most men love a women in a pair of sexy heels, so they can’t possibly be telling you to leave your heels at home cause they don’t want you to look sexy. They’re telling you because they want to save you the pain of walking in heels.

Last year was my first year at SxSW. Despite my strong preference for heels, I took heed of the sneaker advice and packed whatever shoes had the flatest soles. I packed comfy sneakers, comfy boots, and a pair of comfy ballet flats I bought just for the occasion. I also back one pair of high heel boots in hopes that maybe, just maybe, I’d get to wear them. I wore my comfy sneakers. I wore my comfy boots. I wore my comfy ballet flats. My feet hurt every single day. On the last night, after conferencing all day in sneakers, I went back to the hotel and put on my high heel boots before heading for the parties. I walked miles that night, and my feet were never happier.

The men telling you and me to leave our heels at home don’t wear heels, and they don’t realize that for a woman who rocks heels on a daily basis, wearing sneakers isn’t necessarily any more comfortable than wearing heels. So my advice is to bring your most comfortable flat shoes and your most comfortable heels. Rock them each on different days or at different times of the day. Doing so will change the balance and pressure points on your feet, preventing you from repetitively abusing the same sore spots.

At the end of each night, when you finally stumble into your hotel room, you’re feet will hurt. Just as do the feet of every guy that told you to wear sneakers. Your feet (and their feet) don’t hurt because your shoes weren’t comfortable. Your feet hurt because you’ve been walking miles and miles and miles.

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more writing on social media

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted here, and it’s been an even hotter minute since I written anything specifically for post on this blog. The lack of new writing here does not mean that I haven’t been writing. Most of my recent work can be found on the Terralever blog, where my focus is social media. I have two newish pieces that you may find interesting.

  1. Is Facebook helping or hurting your hiring efforts? – Most existing conversations about social media and job hunting address the topic as it impacts job seekers. These conversations either serve as warnings (photos of keg stands will kill your chances of getting hired) or as advice (blogs and microblogs can help you demonstrate your skills and network with the right people). I take a different approach, and instead address how social media impacts a company’s ability to recruit smart new talent.
  2. Mashable Fans: Pawns in the impressions game – A few weeks ago, Mashable changed their Facebook posting style from simple headlines to phrasing updates as questions</a>. I criticized The Social Media Guide for trying to stimulate fan interaction and conversations, while being noticeably absent from those same conversations. Mashable promptly responded, and you can see their remarks in the comments of the original blog. The company has also continued to experiment with their posting strategy and style, making some positive changes, which I summarize in a follow up post.

Back to this blog, Ms. Herr when online is intended to be the accumulation of all facets of my life, including ruminations on any topic from the personal to the pass times to the professional. More on any and all of those things are in the works.




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6 & 1/2 simple tips to extend your social presence in 2010

Originally posted to the Terralever blog on January 5, 2010:

A new year is synonymous with starts, either on new goals or on older ones that we’d like to take another crack at. Each goal represents a desire to be better than we were last year. A new year is also synonymous with new lists created to make that path toward success a little bit easier.

Whether you just got started in social media or have been playing in the space for years, there are several ways that you can add a little spice, extend your reach, and increase your impact.

1. Grab your name on every social site you can.

You can lay a foundation for continued social engagement by protecting ownership of your brand name, be it your company name or your own name. Sites that allow users to select a unique handle do so on a first come, first served basis, and while some offer restorative action where copyright or trademark infringement is involved, there’s no guarantee that you’ll recover your name in a timely fashion if some other Dick or Jane beat you to the punch bowl. KnowEm and namechk allow you to see where your username has been claimed. Neither tool contains a comprehensive list of all social sites, but they contain most of the major ones and are a great place to start. Signing up for one account is relatively quick; signing up for a dozen can take considerably more time. If you don’t have the time, KnowEm offers to do them all for you for a fee.

2. Pick one new platform to experiment with.

If you’re already participating in the social media space, you probably have an account on both Facebook and Twitter. These are among the most popular social sites, and every Jane has a profile, but Facebook and Twitter are only the tip of the iceberg. Try adding something new to your mix. You might try category platform, like LinkedIn. As the leading social business networking site, LinkedIn’s groups and answers features could be prime space to further a reputation for knowledge leadership. Or try something more niche that Dick hasn’t discovered yet, like 12seconds. Launched in 2008, the 12seconds micro-video platform is increasingly a space of expression and experimentation by creative individuals and companies.

3. Encourage social inside the company.

If you condemn participation in social networks as a distraction from the work at hand, you undervalue the contribution your employees can be making toward your business’ social efforts on the same networks. Social media is a word of mouth tool, and that word can start to spread from within your office. Embrace social as a way of doing business and allow employees to engage social media to connect with friends and each other, you’ll find in between posting pictures of their weekend hike or scheduling a lunch date with Dick, you’ll get featured. They will comment on how much they love the people they work with, retweet that job posting, and take notice when a Jane, a recent connection they may have yet to met in person, mentions she needs to launch an ecommerce site, which just so happens to be something your company rocks at.

4. Take your online social activities offline.

Your online social presence should augment and enhance in-person interactions. Give people a chance to deepen their relationship with you by interacting with you socially even while offline. Invite Jane and others to join you for happy hour or coffee at a locally-owned business. Open up your office space to Dick’s Historical Autobiography Book Club for their monthly gathering, attend the meetup and get to know the club members and what fascinates them.

5. Find at least one way to engage that has absolutely nothing to do with your core business.

All work and no play makes Dick a dull boy. All work and no play makes your company just another dull company. Nerf wars may spring up in the office during the day when you need a break, but if nobody knows, you’re missing an opportunity to showcase a bit of your personality. Why not make the last Friday of each month a themed dress-up (or dress-down) day, post the best photos on Facebook and invite friends and fans to write the captions? Or why not take the engagement offline (tip 4) and organize a weekly meetup at your local dog-park for people who have dogs, as well as those who want dogs?

6. Share media and content that inspires your thinking.

The products and/or services you offer are your output, but what are the inputs that shape how you design and deliver these things? Books, blog posts, TED talks, even outside hobbies – the things you read, see and do have the power to influence how you do business. Share the very best of these via your social profiles. At the very least, you’ll give friends, fans and followers greater insight into the philosophies and values that guide you. At best, you’ll develop deeper relationships with customers, prospects and peers as you engage in idea-driven conversations. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll inspire both Dick and Jane along the way.

½. Be helpful.

We aren’t the first to say this, and we won’t be the last, but some tips are just so important that they are worth repeating… Be helpful. If Dick has a question and you know the answer, or can point him in the direction of a useful resource, do it. If it’s not about your company, product, service or industry, still do it. Never pass up an opportunity to demonstrate to your customers, friends and fans that meeting their needs is important to you.

Let these tips be a starting point to get you headed to more social 2010. As you put each of them in play, please share your ideas, questions and successes. Share your failures too, and the lessons that result, so that we can learn from each other and help each other make this year a rockin’ year.

*If you’d like to leave a comment, please feel free to do so here and/or on the original post on the Terralever blog.




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now holding open community office hours

Ms. Herr offers open community office hoursLong, long ago in a land far, far away… Or rather longer ago than I want to admit to <sound effect: cough cough>April</cough> in pretty much the geographic location I am today, I had the idea of holding open community office hours. At the time, I was unemployed underemployed and yet somehow extremely busy. My weeks were marked by coffee and lunch dates with people who had heard from someone who had heard from someone that I was the person to talk to about whatever it was that they needed help with. My dates would pick my brain, asking questions about social media, community events or business startup ideas.

I could have ranted about how these meetups were essentially free consulting sessions, how they didn’t yield either contract work or employment offers, or how my dates would then run off to implement things we talked about while I still had to scrape together money to pay my gas bill if I wanted to keep taking hot showers. But for the most part, I was enjoying myself for four key reasons:

  1. I love social media.
  2. I love the local Phoenix social-web-tech community I’ve become immersed in.
  3. I love meeting and talking to new people, many of whom seem to find me though this very same social-web-tech community.
  4. And I love coffee.

From something that was naturally occurring, and something that I was enjoying, came the idea to give in and hold open community office hours. Akin to a college professor’s office hours, these are times when people could join me at a local coffee shop or eatery to talk about anything that interests them, whether it be social media, current events or name ideas for the family’s new goldfish.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Every week, I’ll choose 1-2 days to hold office hours, typically in the mornings before the workday kicks off.
  2. I’ll publish the dates, times, and location of these office hours on this public Google calendar.
  3. If you plan to join me, you’ll drop me an email at heather lynne herr at gmail dot com with “office hours” somewhere in the subject line. (I guarantee there will be mornings when that email verification that someone is expecting me will be the only thing that ensures I don’t sleep in an extra hour.)
  4. We’ll meet, chat, and enjoy some good coffee and/or noms.

One very important do not:

  1. Do not come with the intention of talking about anything that you want a NDA, written or verbal, to discuss. I am by default a very open person and I don’t want the pressure of keeping your secrets.

I’m kicking things off this Friday, November 20th at Liberty Market. If you want to join me, holla!

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social media connections are human connections

Terralever celebrating the Spirit of Enterprise Award, October 2009

Terralever celebrating the Spirit of Enterprise Award, October 2009

I spend my 9-to-5s with the great team of people that make up Terralever, an interactive marketing agency based out of Tempe, Arizona. Recently, the passing of one of our founding and managing partners quickly and dramatically altered life as we knew it. After a week passed and after the funerary services, as we returned to our daily tasks and project deliverables, I kept thinking about the company’s blog. How could we, how should we, go from our last post that announced Andy’s death to a new one covering user interface design or email marketing? What was that post in between, the one in which we, in front of the world, transition from loss to business as usual, knowing there really would be nothing usual about it?

I am touched that Terralever allowed me to author that post. And I am thankful for Courtney Crane, Marketing Manager for Terralever, and great friend to Andy, for helping me find the right words.

Originally posted to the Terralever blog on October 13, 2009:

Social Media Connections are Human Connections

As many of you know, Terralever recently suffered a great loss with the passing of Andy Richter, managing partner, colleague, friend, and mentor. We have mourned and we have laughed as we continue to remember great times spent with a man whose passion for living was infectious.

Shortly before we learned of Andy’s passing, I discovered that my friend and his wife were expecting a baby via a biweekly web comic. Life cycled within mere hours. As the day continued, and news of Andy’s passing spread, the outpouring of support, expressed through Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and personal emails, was overwhelming. The loss was not just our own, Andy’s family or those closest to him, but one felt throughout Phoenix and the greater entrepreneurial and internet marketing communities. Each post brought home with new meaning that which I already believed, that social media, however digital it may be, is still human.

Sons and daughters are born, cancerous diseases are fought, promotions are celebrated, wedding vows are exchanged, and losses are mourned. Life is shared as it happens.

News channels will continue to publish the latest headlines, brands to focus on building communities of impassioned evangelists, and retailers to announce their hot new sale. Indeed, our role as an interactive marketing agency is to help our clients navigate opportunities to best leverage their online activities. It is my hope that as we do so, we always remember that social media is where humans connect with one another in meaningful ways.

We cherish the knowledge, guidance and passion that Andy brought to us each day. We are thankful for the gracious support of the community since his passing. Both are inspiration for us as we move forward together.

*If you’d like to leave a comment, please feel free to do so here and/or on the original post on the Terralever blog.

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slackerific

image credit: slworking2 on Flickr

photo credit: slworking2

You know those posts where bloggers apologize for neglecting their blog, or only blogging sporadically, over a long period of time and subsequently promise to deliver more good content in the very near future? I’ve never understood these posts. It’s like having a meeting to talk about what hasn’t been done, thereby creating the need to have another meeting at some indefinite point in the future when something has actually been done. It’s a waste of time on something that has no point.

Yet bloggers still write, and publish, these “sorry I’ll be better” posts. And this is mine.

Thanks for reading. 😉




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PodCamp AZ: it’s a blog blast ya’ll!

PodCamp AZ

is in 7 weeks!

Be. There.

That’s all I got.

kthxbye!




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have a say in what others say about you

Originally posted to the Terralever blog on September 3, 2009 as:

Businesses Using Social Media to Stay on Top of their Brands

It’s all around us and it’s here to stay. Businesses and brands on our favorite social media platforms hoping to be friended, followed and fanned by existing and potential customers who will then go and share branded content with their own friends, followers and fans. Social media networks make this sharing easy. Comment, like, retweet, favorite, or star something, and others will see it. It’s that word of mouse marketing.

The good news for businesses and brands is that over half of participants in social media networks are currently connected with a brand and 46% have spoken positively about a brand.

The question for companies, then, is how are you influencing these mentions? Are they unsolicited references to your product or service? Or are they the effect of others sharing the content you’ve published online? Consider the most mentioned brands on Twitter are Starbucks, Google, BBC, Apple and AIG. All are big name brands, but only the first three have a Twitter presence. Apple and AIG do not, and in the case of AIG, mentions were more often criticisms of company operations as they came to light during the financial crises than any sort of messaging initiated by or on behalf of the company.

On July 22nd, social media channels were abuzz with the announcement that Amazon bought Zappos. News of the announcement was quickly followed by links to a letter from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh to employees explaining foreseeable affects of acquisition, and to a video of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos talking about both companies and his views on entrepreneurship. Amazon and Zappos are both incredibly active in social media; Amazon is the sixth most mentioned brand on Twitter. That engagement from both companies helped shape conversation about the acquisition. The video received over 35,000 views from site embeds occurring on that same day. The letter inspired hundreds of blogs and reblogs, and thousands of tweets.

When the information you’ve created is what’s being shared, then you have more opportunity to have your voice reflected the stories others tell about you.

*If you’d like to leave a comment, please feel free to do so here and/or on the original post on the Terralever blog.

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