The problem with Fakebook and filters

Many of you who know me personally know that once a month I mentor a 13 year old girl called El.  It’s part of the Girls Out Loud Big Sister Programme which targets the girls who sit in the middle of the cohort who simply cruise along. These girls are in danger of becoming invisible purely because they are neither seriously disruptive, nor super academically gifted. They struggle to find their place and often get lost in the noise, either hiding in the corner or looking for validation in all the wrong places.

In the short time I’ve being involved in this wonderful cause I’ve been struck by the impact social media has on these young girls. The insane amounts of pressure they face day in, day out via their online interactions has blown my mind (and I consider myself not to be terribly naïve in this particular area).

Young people (let’s not pretend it’s all about the girls) are exposed to so many things which increase their anxiety around appearance and cause them to focus on their body image.  Society’s obsession with celebrity culture creates an unhealthy image of what we should all aspire to, with many of us forgetting just how much airbrushing goes in to the perfect image.

However, that is nothing new and sadly, isn’t going away any time soon.  What does seem to be on the increase though is the proliferation of social media channels focussing on nothing but image.  The likes of Snapchat and Instagram promote unrealistic messages of how people, especially young girls, “should” look.  If you don’t conform to the “correct” standards you can easily become ostracised.

It’s easy to sit here in the cold light of day and query why anyone would care how many “likes” their latest photo has received, but when social interactions are based on negative or positive comments and ratings, friendships become nothing more than competitions. It is an unhealthy way to live – but to remove yourself from the situation ensures you become an outsider and are excluded in the real world as well.

The problem is in a world where social media dominates, we have fallen in to the trap of sharing almost everything.  Let’s face it, a night out didn’t happen unless there are countless photos all over your chosen platform.  There’s little point in arguing such a good night would captivate your attention so much you’d be able to avoid the lure of the selfie in the first place.

The problem is filters existed long before Instagram came along. When you are in control of what you share it makes sense that you only share the best. It’s human nature and there’s nothing wrong with that. Or is there?

When you post photos of you working in your perfectly manicured garden along with a status describing your perfect life and how you have it all #LuckyGirl #LivingTheDream #Freedom – doesn’t it make it a little harder to yell for help when it goes a little wrong?

Does the inherent undertone of “I have it all, come be like me” not set you apart and put you on a precarious pedestal?  I worry so much that as a society we are all playing the Fakebook game a little too well, and I fear what impact this is having on our mental health.

If, we the sage adults are able to fall in to this trap of pretend perfection, what hope is there for our young teens?

 

 

 

Tragedy is not a marketing opportunity

This is a blog post I never thought I’d write, but unfortunately tragic events are becoming an increasing part of our everyday lives.  In the last few weeks we have had the MEN bombing, London Bridge attacks and just yesterday the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

I know there are far more incidents worthy of comment occurring throughout the world, so please forgive me for focussing solely on those closer to home.

When breaking news occurs, and starts to dominate social media what should you, as a business and brand do?  How do you react to it, and indeed should you make a comment at all?  The reality is no social media platform comes with an etiquette guide to troubling events, and whilst we may all suggest relying on common sense, in the heat of the moment such an apparently common attribute is often lacking.

Here’s the first things you should consider to avoid getting it wrong.

Ask yourself why

In the wake of a tragedy, celebrity death, terrorist attack or natural disaster you may feel compelled to say something.  That’s undoubtedly human nature in this constantly signed-in culture we live in, but stop for a second and ask yourself why you want to comment.

Just because everyone else is saying something doesn’t mean you have to. Sometimes it’s perfectly acceptable to say nothing – you certainly shouldn’t say something just because you want to jump on the band wagon.

Equally, if you do want to say something consider whether it has to be via your company.  Is the current event or situation linked in any way to your industry?  If not there is every chance any comment you make or any links to the trending hashtag will be seen as a cheap marketing ploy. If that is the case then trust me, any clicks and interactions you get off the back of it will not be worth the negative responses you will foster in the vast majority of people.

If your industry or business is connected in some way to what’s happened then people will undoubtedly expect you to comment.  Failing to do so can be seen as being as unnatural as those who try to force the issue.  Don’t feel you can’t say anything, just make sure you put some thought in to it before you press send.

Get the message right

I confess I was appalled this morning by a post I saw on a local businesses Facebook page.  Late last night (less than 24 hours after the Grenfell Tower fire started) a letting agent posted a photo of himself when he had a brief stint as a fireman over four years ago.

Knowing the gentleman concerned I have little doubt the tone was meant to be one of solidarity and genuine compassion for those involved. However, the use of two photographs featuring himself ensured the post was solely about him. The associated content was just as equally focussed on him, with a statement that he had previously lobbied the local fire service and council for the installation of fire alarms to be made a legal requirement in private rentals (before this became ratified by government).

I was left feeling he was looking for external validation and applause – all on the back of a tragedy in which countless people have lost their homes, possessions and in all too many cases, their lives. This is no doubt not the case, but the shoddy way the posting was handled meant I know I am not the only one who was left querying the motivations.

This business had genuine reasons to be commenting on this tragedy – I do not dispute that for one second. It is simply the way it’s been done that was entirely wrong. No real message was passed on, there was no benefit to the wider public, it was instead “look at me, I’m wonderful”.

A far better response would have been to remind people (a few days later) that if you live in a rental property it might be your landlords responsibility to ensure there are suitable alarms and detectors in the property, but that it remains your duty to check they are working at regular intervals.

The above message could actually save lives.

The original one cannot.

Err on the side of caution

If you are not sure if what you are posting is relevant to your business, audience or industry, but you still want to say something, it is often wise to err on the side of caution and simply post on your personal accounts instead.

Let the message come from you, not your brand; at least then either way you cannot be accused of seeking validation or promotion.  Get it wrong and people are unlikely to forget quickly.

 

 

 

 

 

Look for the helpers

Everything’s a little bit quiet today.  The sun, which started brightly, has even muted itself behind the gathering clouds and the usually cheerful birds are tweeting in whispers.  Driving home from this morning’s subdued networking meeting I was struck by the regular silences on the radio.  Presenters, infamous for their humour and constant banter, today stuck for words. Listeners, phoning in to say their piece, struggled to speak round the pain in their hearts.

Today is a sad day for Manchester.

For us all.

Manchester is my adopted city, and I love it.  More importantly, I love its people, for they are the most amazing I have ever had the pleasure to meet.  So many of those I have come to know and love since moving here were caught up in the events of last night.

Scrolling through my news feed this morning there are numerous posts of people announcing they are safe – not from an attention seeking “it could have been me” perspective (as many are suggesting) but from a genuine it could have been them, because they were there. It could actually have been them, or their children, or their loved ones.

This shit is real.  It always has been, but right now it’s on our doorstep.

While my heart goes out to everyone today, my mind turns to my babies, especially my little girls.  They sit and watch the news with us.  They invariably hover around my shoulder as I scroll through Facebook.  They see things, they sense things; they cannot be protected from this.

And nor should they.  They need to know that the world is not always a beautiful and safe place, but equally, they need to know that there are beautiful people in it.

How then do you balance all that?  How do you inform any child of the realities of terrorism, without inadvertently letting the terrorists “win”?

I am proud of the fact that in the 8 years I’ve been doing this parenting gig, I’ve never told another parent how to do their job.  I’m not about to start now; I merely express the opinion that trying to hide this from your child, especially if you are raising a proud Mancunian, is not a good idea.

You cannot hide this, it’s everywhere.  If you don’t explain this to them, if you don’t tackle it head on, they will fill in the blanks, and God only knows what they will come up with.  The reality is terrifying, it’s heart breaking, it’s shocking but their imaginations are vivid and for them, the blanks may be so much more frightening.

For us, we have sat and talked. We have reminded our girls that they can ask questions, at any time, about anything.  If they tell us they’re scared, we won’t tell them not to be. Hell, I’m scared, I refuse to lie to them and make them think it’s all OK.  It isn’t.  Not whilst maniacs are running around in the world willing to kill themselves, and innocents, for the sole purpose of creating fear.

I cannot dismiss their fear, because they need to know it’s OK, that it’s a valid response.  They need to know when they’re scared, they can talk to us and not feel that they are being dismissed. Equally, they need to know that the world does not fall neatly in to goodies and baddies.  That baddies aren’t lurking on every corner, so that everything becomes a potentially terrible ordeal.

Yes, like Mrs Rogers, I am going to look for the helpers.  I shall point them out and I shall sing their praises.  I will tell my children about the people who drove others home, who opened their doors to strangers, who donated blood.  But I shall not pretend that evil doesn’t exist or it can’t touch our perfect little lives.

Because last night evil arrived on our doorstep, in our community. It struck in the heart of the venue I was at only the other week, where I have laughed with my precious babies. It is here, in the middle of everything we hold dear, there are armed police in our shopping centre this morning, there is fear everywhere; but no, it won’t win.

We will not stop. We will keep moving forward and we will continue to support those who need our love and compassion. And our children need to see that pain so they can really understand the goodness that comes out of it, from the people who really deserve our attention.

13437305_1711771159090214_114104789_n

 

 

Are you surviving or thriving?

As you may be aware this week is Mental Health Awareness Week (8th-14th May 2017).  Like many I have had my own problems with mental health; however, I count myself as one of the lucky ones.  I suffered from the “baby blues” after the birth of our first child.  It was *only* for 8 weeks (though it felt significantly longer, I can assure you), so as such was not classed as being Post Natal Depression.

Regardless of what “it” was, it was Hell. I class myself as lucky because one morning I woke up and for whatever reason, felt better.  “It” stopped.  I was back, and ready to begin this amazing journey as a mother.  Thankfully it’s something I have never experienced again.

But it terrified me.  At the time, it was just scary – I wasn’t in control, I felt like a stranger in my own life.  However, that was the least of the problems. The biggest issue was I felt I had no one to talk to. My Midwife was great, but she was busy.  I was a new Mum and anyone I hinted to that I felt a bit wobbly, put everything down to my inexperience and lack of confidence.

I say all this, but the reality is this post isn’t about me.  It’s about you.  I only tell you my own experience in Cliffs Notes form to remind you that the vast majority of us have something lurking in the background, and if we don’t, we sure as heck have the potential to.

You see, we all have mental health.  Many might say they have “good” mental health, but let’s get one thing straight here, good mental health does not simply meant the absence of a mental health problem.

Good mental health is really all about having the ability to think, feel and act in ways that allow us to live a full and enjoyable life.  It’s the ability to cope when challenges are thrown our way, to pick up the pieces when it all goes wrong, and keep on moving on with a genuine smile on our face (even if occasionally it is replaced with tears and screams of rage).

Here are some interesting statistics for you taken from the Mental Health Foundation:

  • Mixed anxiety & depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain, with 7.8% of people meeting criteria for diagnosis.
  • 4-10% of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime.
  • Common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are distributed according to a gradient of economic disadvantage across society. The poorer and more disadvantaged are disproportionately affected by common mental health problems and their adverse consequences.
  • Mixed anxiety and depression has been estimated to cause one fifth of days lost from work in Britain.
  • One adult in six had a common mental disorder.

I know we’re all busy, and could argue we have “better things to do”, but why not take a moment to find out a bit more about your own mental health?  There’s a short survey available here that will help you understand where you’re at.  There’s also signposting if you need any support with anything.

Trust me, you don’t have anything better to do right now.  Go on, look after yourself.

Your message is not important to us

Despite the impression I like to give, I am only human, and that means even I the-ever-writing-Lu can find it hard at times to come up with content.  Thankfully this week I’ve been given a bit of a hand by some really bad customer service experiences on social media.

One of the most popular services we provide at Time Saving Heroes is social media management.  Whilst we offer a whole host of services in this area, for the most part people just want regular content posting out via their networks.  However, I always try to remind people that it’s not about what they sell or do, but how they engage and build relationships with their audience/customers.

Some people get that, some just don’t.

Never is this more pronounced than when you look at how people manage their business pages Facebook Messenger.  On countless occasions I have stumbled across a page, found the content interesting, liked it, commented and proceeded to follow.  In time I have found myself actually needing to find out something – so I hit the trusty “Send Message” button and wait.

Sometimes I have to wait a few hours – which even the most impatient of individuals can probably live with.

Most times, I have to wait a week, or longer.

In some instances no reply comes at all.

For those of you who have Facebook business pages can I just ask – why are you taking the time to set up a page, fill it with content and to add all your contact details only to ignore your potential customers when they bother to reach out to you?

What the Hell is the point?!

Not only are you potentially missing out on a sale in the here and now, but actually you are leaving a really bad taste in someone’s mouth.  Having managed numerous business pages over the last few years I totally get how annoying “the public” can be.  The seemingly endless barrage of questions that are time consuming to respond to – and they don’t end up buying anyway.  Yes, I get it, but sorry buttercup, that’s what you’re there for.  It’s called customer service.

It’s like having a phone, and never bothering to answer the bloody thing!

If you really don’t want people to get in touch with you via direct messaging, don’t offer it as a method of communication.  And if you are going to offer it, make sure you manage it properly.

If you don’t have the time, then you need Time Saving Heroes.

What three years in business has taught me

Today is an important one for me, personally and professionally.  Three years ago Time Saving Heroes officially came in to being, after rattling around in my head for a few months.  Admittedly nothing changed, really; I was still doing exactly the same work, in the same place and with the same clients – I was just doing it under an official name.

Although it was a Sunday, I remember sitting at our kitchen table, finalising my five year plan.  As I look back I’m amazed how far I’ve come, and what lessons I’ve learnt along the way.

# 1 – Failure is an opportunity

I’d be lying if I said everything had gone to plan over the last three years, and I hadn’t put a foot wrong.  Actually, if we’re going to be completely honest about this, I’ve made some monumental cock ups along the way.

The good thing though about wandering off the path is that it doesn’t necessarily mean you are lost.  Such events can provide you with an enormous opportunity to learn – what to do, and most certainly what not to do.

The end of 2015 was challenging, for many reasons, but I have to admit everything I went through in those last few months have made me far more sure-footed as I move forward.  It was hard at the time, but looking back, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

# 2 – Don’t listen to every piece of advice

When I started TSH I hadn’t done any networking, so when I got thrown in to this world of other businesses, expos and 121’s I felt like a scared little newbie.  To be fair, I was.  Looking around the room at my peers I was in awe of their knowledge and experience, and was convinced they all had their shit together and were so much better than me.

As a result I listened, and took every bit of advice that was offered in those first few months.  I mean, they knew what they were talking about.  They had it all sussed, and I’d be an idiot not to listen to their pearls of wisdom.

James Altucher once said “Anyone who gives actual advice is a fraud. We’re all just trying to understand the planet from our own tiny perspectives” and it’s so true.  Now while I listen to what people say and suggest, I don’t follow it blindly. I accept it for what it is – just their opinion and viewpoint.  They might be right, but it doesn’t mean what they are saying is right for me.

After three years I have learnt to make that all important distinction, and to trust my gut when it comes to my business.

# 3 – Forget the “rules”

Many people work a certain way because that’s the way they’ve always worked.  That’s fine for them, but I don’t want to live that way.  I started this business in my kitchen, and three years later, here I sit again, surrounded by my dogs and listening to the sound of my children laughing.

I tried the serviced office, I tried the rented space, and yet I came back home.  I was advised, by many, that it would be more professional to have a dedicated work space; that I’d be taken more seriously, that I’d earn more money, if I stepped away from the kitchen table.  Bollocks.

The reality is my professionalism comes from me, not my location.  I am no better writing in an office than I am sitting on my bed.  The words are the same, it’s only the environment that’s different, and as I don’t write with clients present, what does it matter where I do it?  Even when I had an office I would meet clients at their place of work, or in a coffee shop.  I still do that now.  Nothing has changed. Except I am now £600pm better off.

Equally, three months ago I embraced a new approach to my emails.  I have an auto-responder that lets people know I check my emails three times a day, and will respond as soon as possible at those specified times.  If you need me before that, phone me.

Some people have taken the utter piss out of me, and that’s fine.  However, I am now not tied to my inbox, people’s expectations are managed and I am generally far more efficient.  Laugh all you like, but my inbox, my rules.

# 4 – My dreams are mine

I learnt the hard way that when you tell anyone and everyone your dreams, they get battered and bashed up along the way.  People will always have an opinion, and whilst some people will be on hand to offer support and guidance, share their stories or just lend a sympathetic ear, other people will not.

I’ve had people tell me I can’t, that it won’t work or that it will cost too much – all comments that are so negative they make you want to just say “OK, I won’t bother”.  I’ve also had people take my ideas, my dreams, my plans and ambitions and steal them; screwing me over in the process.

The truth is you don’t have to share your dreams with anyone.  Now I work quietly towards mine, and when I get there, I will shout about my arrival from the roof tops.  My nearest and dearest know where I’m heading, and enjoy the journey with me; no one else needs to.

# 5 – It’s better to do something rather than nothing

It’s far too easy to overthink things when you run your own business.  Should you share that post?  Should you write that blog?  How will people react to the use of the word “bollocks”? How much should you quote for that job, what can the client afford?  The problem with thinking is that it has this nasty tendency to get in the bloody way of doing.

You can waste hours, days or even months pushing thoughts around whilst you try to find the perfect path, by which time you have lost out.  The reality is that until you do something you’re not going to know 100% whether it’s the right thing or not.

My advice? Trust your gut, move and hope for the best.

But, that’s just my view, from my own tiny perspective.

#Legsit: Are we making a stiletto out of a kitten heel?

No one could have missed the Twitterverse reacting to the Daily Fail’s recent headline coverage of Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon’s Brexit meeting.

Rather than running an intelligent piece discussing the conflicts and tensions underlying it and current events, Sarah Vine opted to provide a “light-hearted verdict on the big showdown”.

The account was so “light-hearted” that she went on to say “what stands out here are the legs – and the vast expanse on show. There is no doubt that both women consider their pins to be the finest weapon in their physical arsenal. Consequently, both have been unsheathed.”

Vine even referred to Sturgeon’s legs as “altogether more flirty, tantalisingly crossed” and “a direct attempt at seduction.” At which point I confess I up-sicked a bit and had to lie down in a darkened room for 10 minutes.

There is absolutely no doubt that this headline, and the entire article for that matter, is utter tosh.  Forget triggering Article 50, it suddenly feels more like 1950; however, there is a Pavlovian response when it comes to the Fail and this popular bandwagon.

Forgive me if I am missing the point, but I honestly couldn’t give a monkey’s.  I’ve written about everyday sexism on multiple occasions, and yes, this is a prime example – but what do you expect from a paper of this quality?

They have deliberately taken the view that it’s important to offer a dumbed-down version of events for their readership. So, they have looked at their target audience, ascertained the political context of the meeting was too “adult” for them, and have had to turn it in to a piece about legs and apparently Sturgeon the Seductress.

No, sorry, feeling sick again now.

I get the disgust, I get the “not in our name” and I get the condemnation; however, it’s just adding fuel to the fire and giving them more air time than they actually deserve. Can you imagine how much they can add to their online advertising rates now you’ve all taken the time to click on their original story? A story you would never have read in a million years if it hadn’t courted controversy.

IPSO aren’t going to be investigating the complaints received as they have not been made by either of the individuals concerned, who are at the heart of this so-called “discrimination”.  Which makes me think we’d all do a lot better if we were a little more May and Sturgeon in this matter.

While they both might be appalled that their meeting has been reduced to a commentary on their pins, they both accept it is what it is.  The Fail has run equally stupid front pages in the past – I for one will never get the image of David Cameron in his swimming shorts out of my mind.

However, there is often less indignation when it is a man on the brunt of it – when their political story has been boiled down to an image of their flabby middle-aged paunch jiggling about in the waves.  It’s no less derogatory, and no less pointless. But it is apparently less jarring.

Don’t get me wrong, I despise the fact that papers can take an important issue and turn it in to something completely trivial.  I hate the way photos of anyone are taken and people feel it’s their right to pick the model apart, commenting on physical attributes rather than anything that has any real meaning. But I hate it more when people get their panties in a bunch because it’s a woman on the receiving end.

Say what you like about the Fail, as least they’re consistently shit.  They’re an equal opportunity offender in that sense.