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Tips For Moms on Using Facebook Groups

Tips For Moms: How To Use Facebook GroupsHow people communicate has changed significantly thanks to social media networks, especially Facebook which covers family, friends, business networks and more. I have written before about Tips for Parents: Facebook Privacy Settings for Teens but this time I wanted to cover Facebook Groups. It is important that parents understand online security and privacy settings in social networks, then help educate their kids and set up regular communication to help guide them when needed. In addition, moms can use Facebook Groups in several ways to assist in their own communication. I even showed my teen (and did it for myself) how to create a Facebook “close friends” list to see more of their updates on his timeline.



Lately it seems that every conference I attend, social media groups I am involved with and “In Real life” groups I join use Facebook Groups as communication central. I even have a Facebook Group for a business group I joined in college (made up of business majors from my alma mater). They use a Facebook Group to keep in touch and coordinate events. I recently attended their annual reunion and it was magical to sit with them in real life and catch up on information beyond their frequent online updates.


Coincidentally, I was able to join this local reunion because I was in town speaking at a social media conference which used Facebook groups to organize attendee communication.


As a mom, Facebook groups are a powerful tool to help organize school, meetup, sports and even fitness group meetups. I just joined a Facebook fitness group with other moms to help inspire us to exercise. My experience as a Facebook Admin for many groups helped me gain information that I have shared with other moms to help them set up their groups. For example, the Facebook Group Admin Help section has basic information on privacy and settings.


The most important decision for setting up a Facebook Group is whether your group will be open (anyone can join or be added or invited by a member), private (anyone can join, but they have to be added or invited by a member) or closed (anyone can ask to join or be added or invited by a member). I view Facebook Groups as set up for group communication. Some of my friends have businesses and they want to communicate with customers. I suggested Facebook “Pages” to them as a great tool for customer and community interaction. My next post will cover setting up Facebook Pages.


One of Facebook Group’s features is the ability to store files (including DropBox files). For social media conferences, we create group files that contain everyone’s website URL and social media profiles so we can follow and connect with each other online. You can also load photo’s and video to Facebook Groups. I recently just started using this tool called Canva to create not only Facebook graphics but also Facebook banners for Groups and Pages.


I also stress the importance of establishing Facebook Group community guidelines with admins such as banning people who say inappropriate things. Communication can flourish in a Facebook Group that is focused on a theme (i.e. fitness, networking group, conference, mother’s group) and, in the same light, shut down if members don’t speak to each other in a respectful way, keeping inappropriate topics and language off the group’s timeline.


Managing any group of people can be challenging, especially one that is online. But with the right guidelines and members, it can be a vital source of connection and information exchange.


Facebook did some research related to moms and Facebook Groups and shared it to press. The information below is from that Facebook press release.


Facebook Press Release: Insight from Moms Group



  • Check the Group daily, as often as News Feed
  • Access via both mobile and web; also utilize email notifications to see new items in email and flag for follow-up


Why they use Groups

Top Reasons:

  • A robust resource – Group members are from all over the US and the world, so you feel that you can ask a question and get a variety of responses and perspectives.
  • They can relate – Moms can ask any question to see if someone else has gone through the same thing, what the outcome was, any first-hand advice.  Your friends or family may not have children, or children at the same age, whereas in the Group, you can connect with other moms in the same situation that you’re in.
  • It’s separate – The Group is separate from other friends/family/co-workers on Facebook so you feel comfortable posting in a secure, like-minded forum.
  • It’s fast – “It’s so easy to post a question and get several responses within minutes”


How they connect w/ other moms


Moms use Facebook Groups mostly to connect with other moms outside of their friends/people they already know, in some cases developing deeper connections –

  • “I have friended many of the women in this group, even though I have never met them. I started to recognize certain names and stories. I felt like I knew these women personally. So I would reach out and say hi and then our friendships began.”
  • “There are a few groups that have been spun off from this group. In some ways, there are moms that I see in multiple groups and stay in contact with them more than I see my husband’s posts!”
  • Some noted that the Facebook Group is even more supportive than local meet-ups in-person.
  • “I use a local meet-up group as another source of information and way to meet people, but this group is by far more supportive. Interestingly, my local group has since moved onto Facebook.”



Facebook Groups is an easy way to connect and share things with family or specific sets of people like teammates, coworkers, or anyone with a shared interest. Over 500 million people use Groups each month and hundreds of thousands of Groups are created each day with the goal of connecting with others on common ground.


Below are some tips from Facebook on how to create a Group as well as how to continue to maintain a successful and active Group:


How To Create a Group:

  • On web: From your homepage, go to the Groups section on your sidebar and click on Add Group. Click Create New Group, from there a window will appear where you’ll be able to add a group name, add members and select the privacy setting for your group. Click the Create button when you’re finished.
  • On iPhone: Tap More, then under Groups, tap Create Group and enter Group name, description, privacy setting, and an icon.  Tap Create in the top-right corner to confirm.
  • On Android:  In the menu, scroll down to Groups, tap Add Group, enter the group’s name and select the privacy setting.  Tap Continue to confirm.


How to Join a Group:

Go to the group you want to be part of and then click Join Group in the top-right corner. You can also join any Open group that you see on the About page of someone’s Timeline by clicking Join.

  • You may have to wait for a group admin to approve your request. In some groups, you can also be added by a friend who’s already a member.
  • Customize Your Groups Privacy Setting: You can select one of three privacy options for each group you create: Open, Closed or Private.
  • Open: Anyone can join or be added or invited by a member
  • Closed: Anyone can ask to join or be added or invited by a member
  • Private: Anyone can join, but they have to be added or invited by a member.


Tips for Creating and Maintaining a Successful Group:

  •  Post Early & Often: Groups are more successful when the Group founders visit the Group early in its existence and post more often – get your Group started with posting on topics that encourage members to engage, share from the get-go and Like posts from other members.
  • Spread The Word: Groups thrive when more than just the original Group founders invite people to join – add additional people as administrators for the Group and encourage other Group members to invite their friends or networks. For Open groups, add tags like life, sports, food, and more so that other people can find your Group and join.
  • Make it Visual: Facebook found that flourishing Groups include logos, pictures, descriptions, or other visuals.  Consider adding a link or visual to every post on the Group page. You can also add files to your Group – here’s more info on sharing stuff from your Dropbox with your Facebook Group.
  1. On your group’s page, start a new post and click Add File. You’ll see a “From Your Dropbox” section next to Facebook’s regular file uploader.
  2. Click Choose File. If you haven’t already, sign in or create a Dropbox account. If this is your first time, you’ll also be asked for permission to link your Dropbox account to Facebook.
  3. Select the file from your Dropbox, and a link to the file will be added to your post. You can also include a message with your post.

You can curate your News Feed for content posted to your Groups.  If you’d like to modify what you see from your Groups in your News Feed, click on the drop-down in the upper right hand corner of a post on News Feed, and select one of the following options:

  • I don’t want to see this
  • Unfollow your Friend
  • Unfollow the Group


You can also control the Notifications you receive from your Groups.  On the Groups page, click on “Notifications” in the upper right hand corner and select one of the following options:

  •  All Posts
  • Friends’ Posts
  • Off



How do you use Facebook Groups?



Disclosure: This is a press post.




Back To School Organization Tips – Family Online Calender

Back-To-School-OrganizationAs kids head back to school many families start the process of organizing their schedules and lives.  I will be covering the tools, apps, tech and processes that I have found helpful for back to school organization over the next few weeks , and hope to hear from my readers what works for them. Because organizing for the new school year can be overwhelming, I suggest starting with setting up the school year and after school activity schedule.  While there are many paper based organization systems, my family prefers to use online calenders.  Here are the steps we took to set up our family schedule online:


STEP 1: Pick an online calender.


There are individual sites such as that have web and apps to capture family schedules, but there are also online calenders such as Microsoft Outlook, Apple iCal, Yahoo and Google Calenders. To help choose, look at the email accounts and operating systems that most family member’s use. At the same time consider that because online calenders can be accessed over the internet, they do work across operating systems and devices as long as you have either WiFi or a data plan for phones.


STEP 2: Gather School, Sports and After school Activity dates:


Gathering a list of school, sports and after school activity dates make seem time consuming, but it is worthwhile investment. Setting up an online calender in the beginning of the year (and updated seasonally) will help organize the family schedule and family life in general. Some schools and sports leagues have online calenders you can load to directly to personal online calenders (look for the “+” calender or “add calender” option).  If you only have paper printouts our online lists, I suggest putting those in a folder then pick a time that I call “input day” where I just input everything into the calender. It may seem like a big task, but it actually does not take as long as it would seem it I just start it at the beginning of each school year then just update as needed.



STEP 3:  Input school, sports and after school dates into the online calender.


Next pick a time (or a few times) to input the school year calender dates into the online calender. Check out the features of the online calender system so you know in advance the ones you want to use. For example, I use special features like “repeat” for the timing of each school day (8:15am-3pm) so it just repeats each weekday for a whole semester at at time. Then I delete or change the timing for vacations. I “invite” family members to events so they get it on their online calenders (such as school concerts).



But my favorite feature is the option to color code different calenders to represent different kids in my family of three boys. I then “invite” my kids via their email address to access their calender so they can not only see their schedule but also learn the process of managing their schedule. The goal is as they get older they will become independent by setting up their own online calenders. Color coding has also taken care of any “you did not tell me about that appointment” complaints because I can always say “it was on your schedule – so please check it”.  My teen has a smartphone with access to a data plan so I have higher expectations for him to regularly check his schedule versus my twins who have talk and text phones with no internet access.  I also try to print out my kids “color coded” online schedules and have them up in the kitchen as a reminder.


How do you set up your family school year schedule?




Black Friday Roundup: Tips and Tricks!

Today is BlackFriday and many people are probably not reading posts but working like crazy to check off their shopping lists. I wanted to provide a roundup to save time of some of my favorite BlackFriday posts. Please share your tips!!


1. SHOP SMART – USE PRICE TRACKERS & AVOID SCAMS: Save money by understanding the true pricing across stores by using a price tracker. Also, take time to learn about the scams.  Here are some recommendations from Techlicious:  Price Trackers that Can Save You a Fortune  and 3 Holiday Online Shopping Scams To Watch Out.



2. MAKE A HOLIDAY SHOPPING PLAN: I shared my Holiday and social time shopping tips to recommend taking time to make a shopping plan but also a plan for spending time with family and friends. For example, instead of just shopping for gifts at stores, check out gifts for your loved ones or yourself that invest in your health or provide fun throughout the year: Health Club or Sports Club Memberships (like in San Franciso area memberships to YMCA or JCC’s, Western Athletic Clubs, Indoor Rock Climbing or more), Memberships at Art or Family museums (such as Exploratorium), Season tickets for your favorite local professional, minor league, college or sports teams (like the SF Giants or Stanford Sports – GoStanford in my area!).


Also look for opportunities to invest in education for yourself, kids or the whole family (cooking classes?) by purchasing online or local classes/instruction. I purchased indoor rock climbing lessons for our family as a holiday gift and will be purchasing tickets for the SF Giants and Stanford Sports.  We also want to learn how to program ( i.e Code Academy, Tynker, Girls Who Code and TED 10 places to learn to code) and to speak Spanish, so we are looking for education classes in those areas to invest in. Use the holidays to invest in a success plan for yourself and your loved ones!




3. SHOPPING ONLINE IS A GREAT OPTION:  Develop a shopping plan that is less stressful by doing some shopping online! First make a list of your favorite stores and check online. Then check the holiday gift guides online such as for Cool Mom Tech, Cool Mom Picks, Techlicious, Mom Trends, The Shopping Mama and more. When shopping online, check the coupon sites for coupon codes (such as and I found a 30% off code for pants for my teen from RetailMeNot!


4. Mind Your Budget, Walk away if needed:



What are your favorite Black Friday Shopping Tips?


Tips For Planning Your Holiday Social And Shopping Time

In my book “My Parent Plan” I discuss that making a plan before doing an activity will help gather your thoughts, consider options and make a strategy for best use of your time. Of course, holiday social and shopping time are one of the top activities that benefit from a plan. Here are some of my tips:


1. Time for Charity: Holiday time can be hard for everyone, but especially those in need. We decided early on to get our kids involved in volunteering with charities during the holidays. Whether it be collecting food for a food bank, cooking food for shelters or assisting with charity drives, there are many options to give to charity. We are excited this year to buy the food donation bags at our local grocery store for Thanksgiving and cook along with my fellow local community members for a homeless shelter on Christmas.

2. Time to Pay It Forward: Along with giving to charity, the holidays (and all year round) is a great time to pay it forward by helping family, friends and others that need assistance.  I decided this holiday would be a good time to help some of my friends that are returning back to work learn computer skills.  A few of my friends specifically asked me to teach them to use Microsoft Office because it is listed as a skill needed for the job they are interviewing for.


3. Time To Show Teachers and Family Service Providers Your Thanks: Holiday time is the time I like show the people that contribute to making my families life more special – special as well. Gift cards seem to be the most popular gift, but I suggest putting the receipt with the card in the envelope just in case the card has an error. I bought a gift card for a teacher one year and she returned it to me (thanking me and apologizing) because it did not work. I had to take it back to the store and to re-issue the card because I had the receipt. I felt bad, so now I make sure to get individual receipts for each gift card and include it in the gift. Another option is sending online gift cards.


4. Make A Social Plan: Holiday time is the best time to turn off spending time on your online networks and turn on spending time in real life social events. When you are with family and friends, try to do activities where everyone can join in. There are also many other options for holiday social events. One example is finding other people with similar hobbies. Our family is taking up indoor rock climbing and ice skating over the holidays and finding other families to come with us. There are local email groups and general sites like that provide groups and activities for every type of interest.


5. Make A Purchase Plan: In my book “My Parent Plan” I have a chapter on creating a Purchase Plan to identify the purchases you need to make over the year to figure out the best timing and family budget.  For example, because we identified that an electronic drum set was on our family purchase plan for this year and realized it was expensive,  we decided to give it to our boys to share as a holiday present. Our boys had to wait awhile to get it – but it is something they will really value at holiday time as a gift! Or my husband made a request months ago to have a work area in the garage to do building projects with our kids. So I looked at converting our broken down utility cart in the garage into a workspace by purchasing a garage system from an organizational store. That space will not only be a special present, but give year around joy.  A post on Square mentioned gifts for the Junior Chef, which is a great idea because gifts that also support kids spending time cooking with family members is something kids will never get tired of.




Setting a family budget may also help balance the need to over-shop with what is really in the budget. Family and friends always appreciate a gift, but not if it is at the expense of a friend overspending past their budget. There are also ways to offer your time that in the end is most valuable thing, such as “drop your kids off at our house for movie night”  or a “one hour how to play guitar” teaching certificate. Or instead of impulse buying items just to check off the list, research budget friendly alternatives instead.


6. Make A Shopping Plan: No matter what your holiday plans are, most people need to do some sort of shopping.  If you don’t want to shop during the Black Friday weekend then don’t feel the pressure to do it. Shopping with the crowds can be stressful and you may not get the best deals. A post on CBS gave the following reasons not to shop on Black Friday (which I agree): ” Door-busters are mainly second-tier products , you can find some of the same deals online, you’re more likely to overspend, layaway may not be available and return policies may be stricter.”   But if you do enjoy shopping over Black Friday weekend, join in the fun but try to still create a shopping plan to check as much off your list as possible. And make sure to wear comfortable shoes..


If you, like many this Thanksgiving weekend, are to busy to shop – don’t worry because next Monday is CyberMonday – the day that online deals are posted for cyber shoppers. Mashable posted about tips to shop discreetly at work for Cyber Monday. But really shopping at night during your free time will be just as effective – and not have the danger of losing a job that is needed to pay for the things you are buying!  Deals are even online now so you can start by visiting your favorite online sites and general deals sites to look for their Cyber Monday (or Cyber week!) sections.


7. Make A Technology Shopping Plan: If technology is on your holiday shopping list, it is important to make a technology shopping plan. Because there are so many types of technology, the first step in holiday technology gift giving should be to understand the workflow of the people you are giving the gifts to. What technology do they already have? How old is their technology? What types of things do they want to start doing (such as getting in shape, getting into photography, listening to more music, making videos). When do they use technology, is it on the go or mostly at home? What’s not working for the technology they are using now?


Then once you understand their interests and workflow, the next step is to understand what technology the recipient of your holiday gift already has.  Do they need more features and functionality? Would they benefit from an upgrade or a new device? Are there new accessories for the devices?  Are their new colors or styles out for accessories they already have? Do they have specific activities that could benefit from a specific accessory (such as a waterproof sports earphones good for jogging)? Are there ways to personalize technology accessories to give it a personal touch (like a smartphone case that has a family picture or kid’s art)? Can a new device take the place of multiple old devices? For example, can an updated tablet, computer or smartphone offer more productivity and entertainment options then the multiple devices they currently use?


Best yet, for families it can be a great time to “pool” gifts to invest in technology that can benefit everyone. For example, replace an older TV with a new internet enabled TV to allow entertainment streaming. Replace an older family computer with a new computer that has a big enough screen to also watch movies online. Is there a specific teen in the family that may benefit from a smartphone to help manage their “own” schedule with an online calendar and using dictation apps to help write their papers? Then that would also help their “parents” by enabling their teen to be more independent. We did this with our teen by  updating his phone from a regular phone to a smartphone (with a data plan) so he could use productivity apps for school and an online calendar to help manage his schedule. We had to make sure he followed appropriate smartphone online safety etiquette and family technology rules, but after we set that up it was a huge benefit not only to our son but also our family schedule.


8. Make A Plan to Live In The Moment:  Most of all, take time during the holiday to live in the moment, take a walk, connect with your loved ones or meet new people. Kimberley Clayton Blaine has a great quote on the Simple Reminder’s website that I remind myself of on a regular basis -especially now with one relative that just passed away from Ovarian Cancer and another that is still fighting bravely.  When I feel frustrated or get wrapped up in things that are not important in the “long term”, I remind myself that when waking up each morning it is a gift. I remind myself to treasure the moments with family and friends. I remind myself:



9. Make A Plan To Exercise: On the prior note of keeping perspective in life, I try every day to do some sort of exercise – even if that “exercise” is taking a quick walk, doing situps and pushups on the floor for 10 minutes, stretching or jogging. Even better are those special days when the stars align and I have time to take a hike with family or friends, go  to a group class or working out at my gym. Days when I am with family, I try to find activities that the whole family will enjoy that is also exercise.  But the reality of the holidays is that time is tight, so just fitting in some sort of exercise when I can is my mantra. Even if it means parking really far from the store to fit in a power walk in the parking lot!


10. Make A Plan To Just Breath:  If you do every feel stressed, remember to just breath..
 Launches Video Seminars With Sunset Magazine

After years of school it was not until college that I realized I was a visual learner. Now as a mom with three kids, I found out that my kids are also visual learners. I have also come to the conclusion that many people are also visual learners. Just ask someone how they learned to make their favorite meal. For me it was watching my Grandmom make chicken soup which now I make the same way.  Or watching my Pilates teacher demonstrate what using “core” stomach muscles really means (i.e. – not the cheater’s sit ups I have been doing for years using my back instead of my stomach).



That is why I have been so excited to see all the new learning options online using visual platforms such as video. is one of those exciting websites with video lessons that inspires their online community to learn, teach and share a wide range of topics. They also believe that learning should happen beyond the classroom: “At Curious we believe in lifelong learning. Learning for its own sake. Learning that happens beyond classrooms, and not only in academic subjects (unless you count beer brewing, pipe soldering, and organic gardening as academic). Learning as a necessity of living “.


The new announcement out today is just in time for the holidays, especially those “Turkey cooking challenged but have lots of family coming over” like myself. Curious is collaborating with Sunset Magazine to create Sunset Seminars: “Sunset Seminars” will initially contain lessons in three courses: Sunset’s Perfect Holiday Meal, Sunset’s Essentials of Wine, and Sunset’s Guide to Container Gardening.  See the press release below. Looks like there will be Turkey (and lots of other holiday) cooking and entertaining video lessons in my near future!


What are you Curious to learn?





Sunset and Share Food, Wine and Garden Inspiration through Interactive and Entertaining Video-based Lessons


Menlo Park, CA, November 21 –, Inc., the marketplace for lifelong learning, today announced the launch of  “Sunset Seminars” on Created in collaboration with Sunset magazine, the premier guide to living in the West, “Sunset Seminars” will initially contain lessons in three courses: Sunset’s Perfect Holiday Meal, Sunset’s Essentials of Wine, and Sunset’s Guide to Container Gardening. Available now, Sunset Seminars can be accessed by going to


Each course, which is taught by one of Sunset’s expert editors, consists of 6-8 video-based lessons. In time for the holidays, Sunset’s Perfect Holiday Meal features Sunset food editor Margo True sharing invaluable insights on everything from a 1966 recipe for Thanksgiving stuffing that’s withstood the test of time, to how to prepare the perfect bird on the grill. In Sunset’s Essentials of Wine, a comprehensive primer on wine appreciation, wine editor Sara Schneider takes wine lovers on a journey of “Old World” and “New World” red, white and sparkling wines, plus takes a trip to the supermarket wine aisle. In Sunset’s Guide to Container Gardening, garden guru Johanna Silver teaches everything needed to cultivate a vibrant container garden from choosing the right containers and, selecting the best plants to maintaining a beautiful garden.


As with all lessons on the Curious platform, Sunset Seminar learners will have the means to ask their instructors questions and receive input on their own creations, providing a rare and intimate level of access to some of the world’s leading food, wine, and home and garden experts.


Sunset Seminars represent Curious’ first co-branded lesson collection giving Sunset a new platform through which to share their expert editorial content, while also infusing Curious with more lessons from the world’s best teachers. Curious already allows learners to browse over 3,000 lessons by theme through other collections, including such favorites as Languages, Art & Photo, Tasty Treats, Green Thumb and Learn to Code. Adding quality co-branded content is the next logical step.


“Sunset’s readers don’t want to just read our content. They want to live it,” said Peggy Northrop, Sunset Editor-in-Chief. “This collaboration with allows us to give our fans–plus millions of passionate consumers who are actively seeking quality DIY instruction on the Web–what they want: new ways to access and learn from Sunset’s trusted experts anytime, anywhere.”


“Sunset is an iconic brand, known for covering the West’s best flavors, destinations, design trends, and innovations. Sunset’s content and amazing editors are ideally suited for the Curious flavor of video-based lessons,” said Justin Kitch, founder and CEO of “But even more importantly, the Sunset team shares our vision and passion at Curious for helping people achieve, grow, and learn.”


How it works:


Beginning today, anyone can go to to access Sunset Seminars. The Sunset Seminars will initially feature 19 lessons on food, wine, and gardening. Designed specifically for learners, all lessons on Curious are comprised of interactive videos broken into “bite-size” conceptual sections. They also include exercises and additional resources, such as recipes, product and book recommendations, and a special Sunset magazine subscription offer. The Sunset Seminars can be accessed 24×7 via computer or iPad so that people can tap into Sunset’s expertise anytime.
To access Sunset Seminars at go to, or view other lesson collections at


About Sunset
Sunset ( is the leading lifestyle brand in the West. Through magazines and books, events and experiences, and digital and social media, Sunset covers the West’s best flavors, destinations, design trends, and innovations. Sunset engages and inspires an audience of over five million educated, active and affluent consumers every month through its five regional print editions—Pacific Northwest, Northern California, Southern California, Southwest and Mountain—as well as via all tablet devices and its website. In addition to its print and digital publication, Sunset showcases the region’s unique lifestyle and noteworthy destinations through its flagship events, established home programs, licensing partners, books and International Wine Competition. Sunset is part of the Time Inc. Lifestyle Group.


About Curious

Founded in 2012,, Inc. offers an innovative and engaging marketplace that connects lifelong learners with exceptional teachers around the world. Curious is home to short-format video-based interactive lessons that help anyone learn about anything on their own time. It also provides a range of free, easy-to-use tools for teachers that enable them to market, share, and monetize their lessons to millions of learners. Curious is a private company funded by Redpoint Ventures, Bill Campbell, Jesse Rogers and Justin Kitch based in Menlo Park, CA. For more information visit


Disclosure: This is a press release.




BlogHerPro 13: Brand and Bloggers Keynote Discussion



Last week, I posted details (and a discount) for #BlogHerPro ’13 Conference For Professionally-Minded Bloggers.  This week, I would like to highlight a subject covered at the October 23 discussion, where I will be one of the speakers. The topic is, “Monetization: Brands & Bloggers Keynote Discussion” with some fantastic fellow social media professionals including Ana Picazo of Finding BonggaMom, Jim Lin from Ketchum PR and Busy Dad Blog, and Sarah Penna from Big Frame.


When the panelists held our first organizing conference call a few weeks ago to prepare for the conference, the conversation was enthusiastic and covered much ground. We could have talked the whole day about making money from our brands. Here are some of the key concepts I will be covering. Please comment with any thoughts you have on Monetization: Brands & Bloggers!


Because I am a believer in plans (per my book “My Parent Plan”), I decided to give my Brands and Blogger tips in the form of a 5 year plan based on my 6 years of blogging, looking over what made money and what could have been done better to monetize. I started blogging from a passion for technology but waited years to assemble a business plan to make money.


I believe that anyone considering professional blogging or social media entrepreneurship should create their business plan from the beginning to help them create a monetization structure that supports their business. In social media, there needs to be a balance between creating a community and creating a business. Many parts of creating an online community do not involve monetization, requiring engagement, listening, giving information and sharing perspective. As Guy Kawasaki expressed in his book, Enchantment , you need to “enchant” your customers to have a success business.


The key for anyone setting up a social media business is to engage the target community while also building a business, all the way being very clear what social posts are “editorial” and which are “advertorial”.  These rules are important for both FTC disclosure compliance rules as well as keeping an authentic relationship with your audience. Another key part of a business plan includes creating a monetization structure to get paid for “work” (which means not working for FREE). As many social media professionals have learned, that balance can be a challenge.


Every business person needs to feel empowered to get paid a relevant wage for their work.  “Relevant” means that the wage should be reasonable when compared to what is being paid in the market for that service, taking into consideration factors such as audience, influence and engagement.  At the same time, there is no magic formula to determine pay in social media so just analyzing numbers or statistics may not show the true influence of that engagement.


I chose early on to focus my blogging content on technology because I realized that women are the power consumers of technology and want to participate in that conversation (editorial and advertorial).  As Jennifer Elias wrote in her SV 411 article about BlogHer Pro13:


Listed below are TechMama’s recommendations on a 5 year Business  Plan for Professional Bloggers/Social Media Entrepreneurs:



By Year 1:  Develop your PLAN (incl. working w/brands):

  1. Define business goals, online brand, niche, target audience, social media platforms and tools, media kit, brands to build relationships  with (press &/or paid),  when/if you need to hire help and how you will enchant your customers online.
  2. Define monetization strategy (what are your service & rates) Ask yourself:          

If you are your own “start-up”, then how will you get funding?


Are you making a living from social media or another job(s)?  


  • CREATE CAREER PLAN:  Types of jobs, work skills & what you need to earn. Define what is “paid” work and what is professional brand building.
  • DEFINE COMMUNITIES FOR OUTREACH (community = engagement)
  • MANAGE RELEVANT LEGAL ISSUES : Learn about (or hire lawyer ) FTC/Disclosure  & contracts (esp.  service, exclusivity, name/likeness)
  • ANALYZE  MARKET TRENDS:  implement tools to keep AHEAD!



Year 2-5:  Focus, Assess and Revise Plan (no pain, no gain)!


  • FOCUS: Refine “business” to focus on specific services (paid) and brands (i.e campaigns, spokesperson). But always put your AUDIENCE first. Keep “press” relationship with brands for editorial content.
  • ASSESS & REVISE:  Assess ROI of your business. Do you need to make changes to your business strategy to reach your business (and financial) goals? IF so – create new business opportunities or pursue another job .


PRIORITY CHECK : Always make sure your personal life (family) and medical/financial health are a priority!


Along with creating a business plan, social media entrepreneurs should also spend time to understand the different types of relationships they can have with brands. Here are the ways I define my relationships with brands:


EDITORIAL: First and foremost I value the press/editorial relationships I have with brands because it allows me to obtain information that I can then share over my social media channels to my audience.  If community = engagement, then engagement = editorial sharing. I find that my audience wants to hear my editorial perspective on the topics I cover and share their perspectives with me. I feel that type of conversation is the most important to have in social media. It is also good to look at working with brands for editorial purposes as also building a (mutually respectful) professional relationship. Although this type of relationship with brands does not involve any sponsorship, it may at a future time (with proper disclosure).


ADVERTORIAL (SPONSORED): This type of relationship with brands that involves either sponsored posts, advertising, ambassador, spokesperson or other paid projects. Before working with brands in this manner I always suggest to have a media kit to provide clear information on what services you offer and what rates you charge. To understand what are the relevant rates to charge, it is helpful to have an understanding of are market rates for specific services or if  you have special factors for charging a premium. I feel it is important to feel empowered to get paid for work and look at your ROI (return on investment) for the amount of time you spend on a project versus what you are being paid. In the 5 year plan “focus” phase, this is especially the time to review ROI and say “no” for projects that don’t meet your criteria.  I also feel it is important to always keep an authentic voice when working on advertorial posts.


This is also a phase where understanding contracts (or as I said hiring a lawyer to help) is very important. For example, I focus close attention on sections in my contracts such as exclusivity, services, name/likeness, compensation and ownership. But each contract is different and I learn new things every time. Luckily I had a great lawyer help me understand contracts for the first few years (and still use them on occasion).  The FTC Disclosure rules are also something very important to comply with for all advertorial posts.



Another type of relationship with brands is what I call “personal brand building”. For those starting out, it may be mutually beneficial to work with brands (non sponsored) in your niche to build up experience and meet new communities.


As I mentioned before, it is always important in any phase of your business to share an authentic voice with your audience and give “goodwill” back to social media communities you participate in.


Please share your tips for interacting with brands and what type of business plan you found helpful for your social media business.


Disclosure: This is a sponsored series. My words are my own.


GoDaddy launched a new brand strategy last month that revolves around small businesses. ‘It’s go time’ is a comprehensive company-wide messaging transformation supported by a refined GoDaddy user-experience and reinvigorated products sharply focused on helping small business owners.  Check out this article by The New York Times.





5 Tips To Unplug From Stress

It’s ironic that I am writing a post about unplugging while on a week-long vacation at the beach,  a place best appreciated without electricity or social network. Beach vacations are the perfect opportunity to disconnect from the wired world and focus on family, nature, relaxation and tans….. and then writing about being unplugged.

For me, disconnecting from the electronic world requires finding a balance that works in different situations. While on a family vacation, I make a plan that allows each person a small amount of screen time between family meals, biking and enjoying the outdoors. Writing blog posts is one of the ways I relax, redefining the term “unplugged” to really mean disconnecting from life’s daily pace and distractions while connecting to relaxing activity. I believe the key to unplugging – is unplugging from stress.


Here are my tips to unplug from stress:



1. Develop a digital wellness strategy. Leticia of TechSavvyMama interviewed 7 tech power users (including myself) on their digital wellness strategies. CLICK over to read what they are : Secrets to Unplugging?  7 Tech Power Users Share Digital Wellness Strategies



The tip I shared on that post was to make a plan to unplug from work (for me that includes shutting down my computer) and spend time each day talking to each member of my family. I found that many regular work/school days get so busy that my family mainly talks about logistics. Setting a goal to talk to each member of my family each day helps me connect on a deeper level and discover what they are thinking, what they are happy about and what challenged them that day. This active listening can take place while sitting next to them at bedtime or over the phone/video chat if I am on a business trip. There are certainly days when I can’t meet my goal, but having that plan reminds me to shut off technology daily and turn on real life conversation (which relieves my daily stress!).


2. Meditate:

Unplugging from technology does not equal unplugging from stress. Turning off technology is the first step, but it does not stop all the thoughts in head around managing the family’s busy schedule. I have therefore learned my own form of meditation to unplug and de-stress myself. As Deepak Chopra, MD said in his LinkedIn Today post titled 5 Ways Meditation Can Make You Happier and More Successful at Work: “In meditation, your body releases stress and reverses the effects of the flight-or-fight response – that ancient instinct we all have to either run from perceived danger or take it on in battle“.


My own type of meditation involves taking a few minutes to close my eyes, breathe deeply a few times, and take a walk while playing my favorite songs. I might even do some meditation poses before bed. Sometimes, after unplugging from technology and before spending time with family, I find I need to meditate after unplugging from technology in order to be mentally present. As Dot Complicated wrote in their blog post titled Who Said You’re Too Busy To Meditate?: “But really, meditation is about becoming truly present to whatever we are experiencing“.


I have begun to teach my three sons the concepts of meditation to help them manage the stress of homework, sports competition and conflicts with friends. I was inspired by talking with Kimberley Clayton Blaine who explained that meditation helps kids feel more in control. One of my twin 10 year old sons enjoys sitting next to me on the floor with our feet resting on the bed. Then we close our eyes, take a deep breath and think about our favorite place and activity, like taking a walk on the beach. I tell my son to think about how the wind feels on his face, the sound of the ocean, the feeling of the sand as he is walking on the beach. It seems to work and he now can use this technique to meditate on his own, giving him that sense of control to regulate his stress! This is an important skill for him to learn, and will become even more important as he heads into adulthood.


Best yet, The Atlantic shared information about a study that showed meditation improves memory and attention.  So if I remember to meditate, it will help my memory….. or something like that.

3. Unplug for one day:  I chose to try to unplug from stress each day, but many people are so busy it may be easier to pick one day (now and then) to unplug. Holidays are a great time to disconnect from stress and connect with family and friends. Dot Complicated suggest unplugging from tech on Valentines Day including setting up rules such as “No phones in the bedroom“. I would add to that with another rule: “no stress in the bedroom”. If you have piles of work in the same room where you sleep, either find a cabinet to put it all out of sight or take it out of the bedroom for your special “unplug” day.


4. Unplug for 25 days:  Fast Company writer Baratunde Thurston “reached rock bottom…was burned out. Fried. Done” so he decided to do a digital detox for 25 days (5 p.m. on Friday, December 14, 2012, through Monday, January 7, 2013.) Along with prohibiting tech, Thurston also tabled business affairs and moving his existence offline. The step that made me shiver with digital fear was when Thurston wrote “Second, for 25 days I would avoid all social media, including the original online social network: email“. Email? Really? I have not yet been able to completely unplug from email – even during my vacation. The only time I disconnected from email for even a small period was when I was on a blogger embark tour of the USS Nimitz and the Navy took away my phone for 2 days. Maybe I need to hire them for an “unplug intervention”!


Microsoft Researcher Danah Boyd wrote about email holiday in his article titled “How to Take an Email Sabbatical”. Thurston’s 25 days of unplugging helped him step back and understand things about himself including his obsession with information and sharing too much online.



That difficult, introspective process of taking a step back and evaluating your relationship with technology and daily stress is valuable. Whether it is an hour per day, on holidays, during vacations or for 25 days, understanding tech-related stress can help you plan to manage and reduce life’s daily stresses.

Reducing my stress while on vacation requires setting aside a specific time of day to check email and manage personal screen time. First thing in morning and after the kids go to sleep at night works well, allowing me to be present and enjoy my family during vacation while also taking care of important work emails and writing blog posts as relaxation therapy. Maybe in the future I can try to totally unplug like Baratunde Thurston. That is, if it does not cause me too much stress just thinking about it…


5. Identify fun activities: Dr. Mommy’s post about four fun activities for adults that fight stress included one activity we do regularly as a family : cooking challenges! That is an activity that everyone can join in and the results are something that everyone can enjoy.


How do you unplug from stress?




Managing Family Projects with Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium


With a background in project management I can say with experience that managing a family is the most challenging project I have ever taken on. Like me, other working parents I know don’t have the time to sit at a home office desk and calmly get things done. Kids are constantly on the move and have obligations both near and far. To be fully productive as a mom, I need to sneak in work time while my kids are at school, attending after school events or with a sitter. Every small pocket of time during the day is valuable. Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium and Outlook are the key tools I use to manage my family project plan, giving me the flexibility to be productive no matter where I am. I use but since Outlook is included in Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium, it is a seamless and unified solution!

Check out the video that shows how I use the back seat of my minivan as one of my key productive spaces:

Where is your favorite place outside of the house to work on family tasks?



Other tips to have the perfect mobile office:


  • SkyDrive and WiFi: Because I store my documents on SkyDrive, I know that I can access them wherever I am working, minivan included. To make sure I have WiFi on the go, I have a mobile broadband device with a month to month mobile WiFi plan. SkyDrive always maintains the latest version of my documents in the cloud, so I don’t need to worry about version control.


  • SkyDrive Organization: I organize my documents with folders on SkyDrive. One of my folders is for homework including my kids’ math Excel spreadsheets, book report Word documents and history project PowerPoint presentations. Other folders have our family photos. The household management folder includes OneNote shopping lists, Word chore charts and household Excel spreadsheets to keep track of everything from home inventory to birthday party lists. In my writing folder I manage the Word files for my tech articles. Storing tech articles in Word using Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium and SkyDrive allows me to edit at home or on the go, and easily share a link to the document with my editors for document review. My public SkyDrive folder has pictures for my travel blogs that I share with my editor and in my blog posts.



  • Set up a digital family calendar system: Our family uses Outlook to help keep track of our events. I individually color code activities on our Outlook calendar for each of our children (and for us – their parents. My color is purple!). I not only include appointments and events on the calendar, I also include reminders. One great example is summer camp signups. Some popular camps fill up within 2 hours of when online sign ups begin. To stay on top of this crazy schedule, I add “sign up for summer camp” as a calendar item, timed for 30 minutes before online signups start (so I can get ready). Using Windows 8 and Office 365 Home Premium means that I will have all the current documents needed for the signup with me wherever I might be. I even put a reminder in to schedule time with friends, vacations and sneak in a date night with my husband. When I want to make sure family members have the dates on their calendar, I set up the event and invite them to it. Outlook also allows me to keep up with my friends by displaying their social updates next to their email. Emails can be organized by categories or in folders with specific rules.



  • Set up a mobile device cabinet or space: To make sure all the chargers and accessories stay organized and untangled, ready for their next adventure, each one has its own storage bag. For laptops and tablets, I buy a case that has enough room to put the chargers and accessories. I also put each charger and tech accessory in its own labeled storage bags. A Ziploc bag or pencil case will do but there is also a wide selection of storage bags available at office supply or storage stores. Yes, it may sound excessive, but it is a huge time saver and helps me keep things organized. Even when charging the device, the case is always close by. This simple process has greatly reduced time spent looking for lost accessories both at home and on the road.



How do you keep your digital files organized?




Creating Chore Lists Using Office 365 Home Premium


Our busy family of five keeps organized as long as our schedule is managed and under control. A messy schedule results in a messy family life. I use technology to create a workflow and make sure everyone understands their responsibilities. Listed below are some of my tips on how to use technology to create a family workflow. To see my family using our family chore tech in action, check out this video:





1. Create a digital chore list: Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel from Office 365 Home Premium are two of my favorite tech tools for keeping the family on the straight and narrow. Staying on top of things is much easier when the family is organized and everyone knows their responsibilities. Using the Office 365 Home Premium child’s chore chart template, I can individually color everyone’s duties.



Office 365 Chore list Template



We put homework on the chore list because it was a central way to keep track of daily duties. They can then either use the mouse or the stylus on our touch screen Windows 8 devices to check chores off when complete so my husband and I know what has been completed and who needs a reminder. Because I store the chore list on SkyDrive, we can access it on any device (no need to print a chore list anymore – that always seems to get lost!). I use the Excel To-do lists to help me manage family projects.



Microsoft Excel Office 365 Home Premium To do list



There are so many great Office 365 Home Premium templates to choose from, I am always finding new ones to use to help organize my family life. I also store my Excel To-do lists on SkyDrive so I can access them across my devices, and update them wherever I am!



2. Tie completing chores to screen time or other activities: Some kids get their allowance for completing chores, but in our house we decided instead to use incentives. Our kids value screen time and other special activities, so we set up a system that allows them to earn time with electronics by doing chores. One of my kids enjoys Minecraft, so he knows to do his daily chore first and then check it off on the To-do list before he can play his game. My other young son likes to go to the Radio Shack hobby section and buy electrical supplies for experiments. He earns money to buy his supplies only after checking off his chores on the list.



Incentives for Chores



My teen, on the other hand, likes to choose his screen time depending on how he feels that day and how much homework he may have – so he knows to check off his chores before he socializes online or plays games on the family PC.



3. Add music to liven up the chores: Doing chores seemed to be a strain for my kids… until we suggested they listen to music while doing their work. All three kids lightened up and started dancing to the music while working. My teen can rock out to his favorite group, Green Day, while cleaning the dishes and one of my hip hop obsessed twin 10 year-old boys can listen to hip hop while he “hops” around mopping the floor after dinner. My other twin son prefers to vacuum, so he decided to listen to music on his MP3 player using earphones. We use a few different platforms to manage our family’s music from our Windows 8 PC. My favorite Windows 8 music apps are:

  • Slacker Radio: While I prefer my kids listen to the Slacker Radio Classical Music light station, they prefer classic “rock” instead. We all enjoy listening to the Slacker Radio festival channel. So even though we can’t go to festival like SXSW Music, that does not mean we can’t feel like we’re right there just by listening to the music on our PC!
  • iHeart Radio: If we feel like listening to the radio, we use the iHeart Radio app to listen to our favorite local stations.
  • Xbox Music: We enjoy Xbox music to stream songs on our Windows devices.
  • Shazam – We installed the Shazam app on our Windows devices to help identify the names of songs we don’t recognize.



How do you manage your family chore list and what incentives do you use?




Guest Post: Emotional Intelligence – The Difference That Makes the Difference

**I have doing research on educational environments for my own kids and found out about Six Their about page explained “Through 15 years of global experience and extensive research, we’ve found that the scientifically-based skills of emotional intelligence (EQ) are essential for change.  These skills are learnable, and predict stronger effectiveness, influence, decision making, health, relationships, and quality of life.” Especially in the age of technology as a key form of communication, I believe that emotional intelligence is an important skill. Better yet, I would like to see that incorporated into more classroom environments. is  working for the “development of emotional intelligence, a powerful toolset to support people to create positive change — everywhere, all the time.” Joshua Freedman is part of their Global Office Team. I asked him to write a guest post about an exciting upcoming event this June: NexusEQ Conference.



Guest blog by Joshua Freedman



In June, change makers from 12 countries will meet on the campus of Harvard University for a remarkable conference about using emotional intelligence to spark positive change.  It’s the 7th NexusEQ Conference; “nexus” means intersection, and the program is about the intersection of science and practice – head, heart, and hands.



Conference participants are leaders, educators, consultants, coaches, and individuals who see that emotional intelligence is the “difference that makes the difference.” The program features 80 experts including top neuroscientists and emotions researchers, business leaders, education advocates, and authors all sharing success stories of emotional intelligence creating positive change.



 Why it Matters



Emotions are part of all our human interactions – think of the last team meeting that went awry… or a great plussing session where ideas were flying?  How about a recent “discussion” about you kid finishing homework before Minecraft?



Neuroscience now shows that emotions are embedded in ALL our thinking – even something as “pure geek” as debugging code will be influenced by emotion:  “Are you in the mood?”



Research on emotional intelligence (see below for the “101” definition) shows that feeling smarts create a host of benefits, such as:



  • Greater profitability.  For example, an emotional intelligence project at a Sheraton increased market share by 24%.
  • Better people leaders.  In a recent study, 78% of the variation in employee engagement was predicted by the level of the manager’s EQ (a score of emotional intelligence).
  • More collaboration.  Numerous studies have shown that the leaders mood affects how team members work together.
  • Increased sales.  In one study, EQ-trained salespeople earned
  • Career success.  Several studies have shown that people with higher emotional intelligence are more promotable and reach higher positions.
  • Better grades, less drugs.  And for those of us with kids, dozens of studies show that these skills increase achievement AND wellbeing.



Emotional Intelligence 101


The first scientific definition of “emotional intelligence” was published by Peter Salovey and Jack Mayer in 1990, where they proposed a simple, surprising idea:  Instead of considering emotion as blocking clear thinking, is it possible that, when properly developed, emotions can actually assist thinking?


We’ve all experienced how emotion gets in the way, but what if that’s simply a lack of skill?  It turns out that emotions are data, and we can develop the intelligence to use that data effectively – or not.  Emotions are present in ALL of us, and they affect us even when we pretend otherwise.  So as leaders, teachers, parents, and people, rather than letting emotions “just happen,” it’s in our best interest to learn to use them in a way that’s smart.



Salovey, who is now the incoming President of Yale University, will provide the opening to the NexusEQ Conference where he’ll share the evolution of this science over the last two decades.


Time for Change



The theme of the conference, “Spark Positive Change,” refers to growing urgency to create change in many sectors of society.  It’s a sad paradox that the conference is in Boston after recent events there.  Around the world, we’re facing intractable challenges in society, between peoples – not to mention economic meltdowns and environmental disasters.  We must, absolutely must, get better at creating change.



The conference is organized by a not-for-profit called Six Seconds – which is a world-wide organization researching, advocating for, and teaching emotional intelligence.  The network is led by offices in 10 countries, and last year we supported 60,000 people to practice the skills of emotional intelligence.



Our experience and research with emotional intelligence over the last 15 years is that it’s the missing link.  We have tons of smart, skilled people in the world.  Change isn’t derailed due to a lack of technical knowledge.  The challenge is people.  Connecting.  Collaborating.  Getting on the same page.  And that’s all about emotion.



Conference Delegations are forming in 12 countries so far.  Following the conference, the delegations are charged with a small task:  Teach 10,000 people the key skills and concepts from this conference.  Put it into action.



Next year, in March 2014, we’ll hold our third virtual emotional intelligence conference, and we’ll get to see the successes from delegations around the world.  Then in June 2014, we’ll go to the next step with 1000 meetings around the globe to fuel this movement for emotional intelligence.



Our vision is that 1 billion people PRACTICE the skills of emotional intelligence.  Whether you join us at the Harvard Medical School Conference Center or in one of the virtual programs, we hope you’ll be part of it.



DISCOUNT:  Early registration is available through May 11.  Here is a link to the registration page:   Above the big green “Order Now” button, click “Enter Promotional Code” and type in: EQNEWS



About the Author

Joshua Freedman is a change leader teaching the skills of emotional intelligence around the globe.  He is the Chief Operating Officer of Six Seconds, The Emotional Intelligence Network, and the Chair of the NexusEQ Conference.  His books include INSIDE CHANGE and At the Heart of Leadership, and he is coauthor of seven validated psychometric assessments measuring team and organizational climate, leadership, and emotional intelligence.