Let’s call it a Twitter comeback

In less than two weeks, the new President of the United States brought back a social media outlet that was getting stagnant: Twitter.

I was one of the earlier users of the social media tool. I’ve documented how I’ve used it many times here on this website and in others places including AARP’s blog and YouTube channel. I’ve always seen why the tool is useful for communications. But through the years, I have watched as Twitter did not protect people whose careers and lives were threatened and at times destroyed with the help of anonymous, angry people. I watched many influential women and men stepping back a bit from using the tool because of intense attacks or threat of attacks.

But enter President Donald J. Trump. He has joined a list of public figures who have decided to use social media as the major platform to distribute information and opinion. Twitter reports there are 313 million monthly users. 79 percent of those users live outside the United States. About 38 percent of those users visit Twitter daily. With the current political climate, the number may be higher.

I watched a lot of new people join Twitter recently along with a lot of people who joined but never really used it. My Facebook stream was full of people asking for help as new users. That’s why I decided I wanted to share my years of Twitter use and Twitter trainings to more people. Tonight, I held my first of what may become many Facebook Live lessons. I figured Facebook Live would reach people who are much more comfortable in that space versus the less friendly-feeling world of Twitter.

I broadcast a Twitter training live on the Born Just Right Facebook page since it’s easier to broadcast live from a computer on a brand page versus a personal page.

Using a simple streaming tool, I shared a presentation from my Google Drive and toured Twitter live. It wasn’t perfect but I’m excited to get live lessons rolling. I hope to offer regular tips and tricks. I also hope I’ll hear from more new users with questions that help me tailor future lessons.

13 years in the digital world

2015 marks 13 years of my foray into the digital world. Sure, I took an HTML course in college. But I really jumped feet first into this world 13 years ago thanks to the impending arrival of my son. My in-laws gave my husband and I our first digital camera so I could document their grandchild. I decided I would launch a Geocities website to tell our child’s story for the grandparents. It was especially important to me because my brother was just starting a three-year stint in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. I didn’t want him to miss a thing about his first nephew.

Fast forward 13 years later, this digital world has grow beyond sharing online to a small collection of family members. I tell my stories about how I use the web to people across the country. I get to teach, encourage digital literacy across the generations and I get to raise two awesome kids who respect how connected we all are with people around the world.

It’s a bit mind bending when I just sit here and think about the last 13 years. Raising a digital kid is something I’m figuring out as I go. I manage my son’s access to apps and our family uses Life360 to stay in touch with each other. “The boy” (as we fondly call him) loves to play games on any platform he can get ahold of them. He is a natural when it comes to technology, but he’s worried about failing. I’m working on helping him get more comfortable trying new tech and figuring out how failing is often the best way to learn. Once he gets past that hump, I see him rocking some awesome visions of 3D printed tools, podcasting his very opinionated views of books and movies and launching who-knows-what in the future. His brain and creativity is bound to go far. I’m honored to be his mom and I’m so glad he’s the reason I really launched myself into a digital world. The boy is guiding me as I guide him. It’s pretty awesome.

So, as of today, I am the parent of a teenager. It’s going to take me a while to get used to that concept. I guess the boy will need to help me ride that new experience as well. (Happy birthday!)teenager-parenting-digital-age

The TEDx talk that made my daughter cry

More than two years ago, I knew making a career change could give me a chance to make a new kind of impact. I spent years sending amazing journalists out into the “real world.” But I knew I could do more. I knew taking on the role of social media trainer at AARP could give me a platform to help all generations use the social web.

I have a big reason behind that. Her name is Jone Reeves and she was my mother-in-law. She taught me a lot about how some people can use the social web for the greater good for life and your family. I had a really cool opportunity to speak about Jone and my family during the TEDx Poynter Institute event in August 2014. I had a chance to merge my job with my life and tell a story that means a lot to me. I have a pretty deep emotional connection to the story. That may be the reason why I haven’t written about the talk until now. But I’ve started sharing it and I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback. But when my nine-year-old daughter watched, her reaction proved I should share it even wider. She walked up to me and declared, “I was so happy and sad at the same time. You made me cry.” Here’s what she’s talking about:


My talk is basically an extension of a post I wrote here a year ago about ways to have your family talk about technology. I believe talking about setting up boundaries and expectations with your family is important. It’s also important to discuss healthy ways to react to social media content as a family.

Working at AARP gives me a view of all kinds of life experiences along with services, opportunities and data on the ever-changing face of aging. It’s exciting to see generations of people learning to use the Internet together. I hope I continue to have these kind of opportunities to reach out, share perspective so more families can have positive experiences online together. It takes communication. It takes patiences. Most of all, it takes thoughtfulness to find ways to express a family-wide expectation on how the social web is used together. I may be a bit idealistic, but I’ve seen it work. Without a family connected online, I wouldn’t have the digital footprint of my mother-in-law. It’s something we will always cherish.

You are a brand.
Own it.

[This is an extended version of a piece I wrote on LinkedIn]
I harnessed the power social media and personal branding long before it was a term. I organically grew up as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and so many other networks were very young. It is natural for me to reach out, connect, and talk to my peers and to people I feel can offer me more insight in my career.

I’ve had many years to look back and hone the skills that came to me naturally. These days, my job is to teach those lessons to help an entire membership-based organization grow to be better connected and successful.

I also have opportunities like this week when I get to speak to Stony Brook University’s Women’s Leadership Symposium about the power of a personal brand. I plan to share a peek into how I’ve taken my career into new directions thanks to social media branding. I hope my insight to professors, students and other professionals will help each woman walk away looking forward to owning her personal brand.

First, I think it’s important to note that you can own your personal brand without sharing your personal address. You can do a few things that make it easy for people to contact you without releasing your official phone number or address.

Use Google Voice so you can share a phone number without feeling that you’re giving away too much information. It’s a great tool. If you purchase your own URL spend a little extra to keep your account information private. If you hope to use a lot of snail mail in combination with your online life, it can’t hurt to consider purchasing a post office box or a mailbox at a shipping store.

Second, think about how you want to be portrayed online. What type of skills and experiences do you want to be known for? Then, it’s time to get to business.

Search your name on all browsers
When I say “all” browsers, I really mean focus in on Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Make sure you aren’t signed into those services. That will give you a better picture of what other people see when they look up your name. Searching for your name online helps you get a look at your personal brand. It shows the digital footprint that already exists with your name. Often this footprint can exist without you even trying. Just participating in public events or having articles written about you can build up a digital footprint. Why not own it yourself? You can, but it means you need to create additional content on the Internet.

Do you have a name everyone seems to have?
That’s okay. Search your name and where you go to school or the name of your current workplace. You can also search your name and a generic term for the industry you work.

Do you like what you see?
Awesome. Then keep up the good work you’re already doing. But if you want to see more of you in search, there are ways to build out your online presence with the help of social media and blogging tools.

Create a personal website and social media accounts
If you want to build your name online, you need to own your name. I decided a long time ago I wanted to be known with a combination of my maiden and married names (I legally changed my maiden name into my middle name). I became “Jen Lee Reeves” each time I joined a social network. I also made sure I used the same profile picture with every account. That makes it easier for a person searching for you to know your accounts are connected.

personal-branding-diagramFor example, I’m writing this post on this blog, but a similar post is on LinkedIn. If you establish yourself on a blog tool like BloggerWordPress or Tumblr, you have a free tool to own your work and your presence. Only telling your thoughts and ideas on social media means those products own your work. I strongly believe in offering your insight on your own website and distributing your thoughts across social media platforms. I’ve included a graphic that explains what I mean.

Another example was a time I held a really great conversation on Facebook with a special needs community I lead. I took that conversation and broke it down on my blog, Born Just Right, so I could give more context and continue to own the conversation instead of Facebook.

Everything either starts or ends on your personal site.

Join social media sites and link to your personal website
Search engines pay more attention to your personal website when more sites link back to it. If you have never joined any social media accounts before and you want to focus on your professional status, I would join in this order:
1. LinkedIn
2. Twitter
3. Facebook
4. Google+
5. Pinterest
6. Instagram

All social networks have the potential to be a tool to help you gain more insight for your career. LinkedIn is the most obvious. It’s focused on making connections with people with whom you have a professional relationship. I have a personal rule where I do not connect with someone on LinkedIn without having some kind of professional contact. I also do not connect unless I know I’m able to give a reference about that person if a potential employer asks me questions. The only time I violate that rule is if someone connects to me who can offer me an opportunity to help others find employment or I have an extra employment opportunity.

Twitter is the most public space to make connections. For me, it’s been the most important space to reach out beyond my existing circles of influence. It’s also a great space to just read what others have to say. According to Twitter, 60 percent of users ONLY read content and do not post or interact with other users. You can be that person, but you won’t be using it to its fullest potential.

Facebook has the ability to connect with just your friends and family but you can also offer public posts that anyone can read. You can also make your personal profile public. I consider this an additional space to share my personal resume. I only share professional information publicly. The majority of the music festivals and kid events are shared to friends only. The professional stuff is shared for all.

I feel the same way with Google+. Your profile is a great public space to help more people see you. Also, sharing your personal website links on Google+ is bound to get it into Google’s search engines a little faster than any other social network.

Pinterest is a huge link driver. If you use good visuals with your post, it can catch someone’s eye and lead them to your personal website. You might be surprised to see the kind of traffic Pinterest can bring.

Instagram is also a professional opportunity. You can share a personal link and share a mix of personal and professional. I can’t tell you how many conferences I’ve attended this year and the first thing someone says is they love my Instagram feed. Images are more memorable and taking the time to share those moments can go a long way.

Don’t jump into every social media space at once
Building your personal brand is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. Take your time and think seriously about which social networks can help you reach your goals.

My goal? These days it’s to help spread the word on how to be a good steward in the web word. That means being true to yourself when you “talk” online. Be a good person and treat every post you share as if you were putting a bumper sticker on a car or a sign in the lawn in front of where you live.

To make sure everything goes well, an important item you should also think of as you join each account is your security. A professional person inside social media does everything he or she can do to avoid getting accounts hacked. Use two-step login security features. Connect your cell phone and take the extra step to confirm that you are really logging into a service. It’s worth the protection.

Make sure you keep track of your social social media presence
There are some tools that help you keep up with all of the tools you use to manage your personal brand… Especially if you plan to not only use social media to listen but to also share content and interact with others. For tracking Twitter conversations and post, I love Tweetdeck. It’s eye candy to track topics and conversations. But if you want to follow multiple social accounts at the same time, it may be worth spending $10 a month using Hootsuite. Another way to save time is using Buffer, which will share social posts during what the company considers optimal times to publish posts to your followers. But if you use scheduling tools, be aware that you’ll see social media users interacting with you and if you sent a post encouraging engagement, you should be ready to participate.

Social media posts can be treated like email. You should reply but you don’t have to reply immediately. But if you are sharing posts during live events or ask questions, you should be ready to reply relatively quickly.

Make sure you share all of your social spaces
I always share my social media spaces on my websites and on all of my social sites (you can share all of your links on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+) but I also absolutely love about.me. The site offers a free spot to claim your name and share every single social site where you can be found. Check out the simple one page website I’ve used for a long time.

Personal branding is obviously my passion. It’s made my entire career possible since 2005. You have the chance to use any and all of these tips to create a digital footprint that you can proudly show off to anyone searching your name. Good luck and have fun!

Plan before you post that vacation picture

Oceans, yummy food, the family having fun… They’re all moments you want to share when you’re on vacation. But before you head out on your big family trip for the summer, you might want to think about who is reading your social media posts about your epic trip. There are steps you can take in person and online to make sure your sharing doesn’t put you, your home or belongings at risk.

Neighborhood Talk
The first thing I’d recommend is making sure you have someone stopping by your house to make sure it is safe while you’re away. A house sitter is a great way to know for sure your home is getting the love and attention it deserves.

With or without a house sitter, you also want to to visit the neighbors you know well and let them know when you will be out of town and what your house sitter’s car looks like. Ask them to keep an eye on anything that may look strange.

There are also a few more traditional things you will want to do:
     *Cancel your mail service
     *Contact your local police department to let them know you’re out of town. (Some police departments
         have online forms to help alert them about your vacation plans.)
     *Arrange for grass mowing, leaf raking, or snow shoveling.
     *Make sure all of your doors and windows are locked, including garage doors.
     *Don’t leave keys hidden outside.
     *Put lights on timers. (You can also put the TV on a timer.)

Social Settings
If you want to share stories about your trip on social media, you will want to assess your sharing settings. Do you trust all of the people you connect with on Facebook? If not, it’s time to create friend lists. You can see how to create lists in this step-by-step guide I created for anyone who has already joined Facebook. Make sure when you share information on Facebook, you are comfortable with who can see it.

Other social sites are more public and have fewer privacy settings. If you have public accounts on Twitter, Vine and Instagram, do not forget that anyone can search your accounts and see your mentions of vacation online. I used to post a lot of vacation photos on Instagram but now it’s easy to visit my Instagram page from a web browser. That means you do not have to be an Instagram user to see my posts. I’m not saying you shouldn’t post about your vacation on public social media sites, but if you didn’t take precautions at your home *before* you left town, you should be more wary about posting your travel information.

One of my favorite social media travel options is creating an account on Tumblr that doesn’t tie to my name to post photos, videos and quotes from your vacation without tying it back to the social media sites you normally share. I have used Tumblr to capture our yearly vacation for the last three years and it’s turned into a really cool family photo album. It also gets my need to share photos and stories about our trip online without broadcasting our travel on larger social networks.

I tend to take a lot of photos and do not have time to organize them after the trip. I give myself time during my vacation to upload most of my photos to a Flickr account. My privacy settings allow only a small collection of friends and family to see my photos.

With a little bit of preparation before your trip, capturing the cool moments on social media is possible and can be a lot of fun.

If you have extra question or thoughts about travel, join me and Samantha Brown in a Facebook chat at 2pm ET on June 18th.

Protect Yourself from a Massive Security Threat

Change your passwords as soon as possible.In the past week, a massive security flaw was revealed across the Internet. It may have affected some of the websites you use the most. That includes Yahoo, Dropbox and Facebook. As a precaution, first thing you should do is change your passwords for any website that stores your credit card information or other private information. It’s an important way to protect yourself from the Internet bug named Heartbleed.

The technology website CNET says Heartbleed is extremely serious. Not only do websites need to make improvements to fix the security flaw, individual users need to change their passwords to make sure they have protected themselves from losing personal information. The website Netcraft reviewed almost a billion website servers and found as many as two-thirds of all websites may be affected. The bug may have been traveling around the Internet for quite a while but it was recently discovered by a website security company, Codenomicon.

The group built a website specifically focused on the Heartbleed bug and explains what has happened a little bit further:

“The Heartbleed bug allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software. This compromises the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of the users and the actual content. This allows attackers to eavesdrop communications, steal data directly from the services and users and to impersonate services and users.”

You don’t have to know what every word in that paragraph means to know there’s big trouble. The best way to protect yourself is to dig back into all of the websites where you spend money and have typed in any type of credit or debit card information, and change your password. If you don’t want to take a lot of time figuring out how to change the password for each website, just click on “Forgot Password” near a website’s login area and follow the steps.

Mashable created a solid list of some of the biggest websites with and without security flaws that’s worth checking. Also, if you are curious, this website lets you test if the security flaw is fixed or not for individual links. It may be worth checking, but it’s also worth changing your password no matter what.

Twitter Hack Tips

If you use Twitter, you’ve probably seen messages and tweets that don’t seem right. They include links with generic encouragements or shocking statements that make you want to click on the link. Recently, I’ve seen more and more people across Twitter with these type of messages. The most recent type of hacked accounts auto-send tweets to the people they follow. The messages look like this. (Take note: anytime I see a suspicious tweet, I let the person know so they can fix it as soon as possible.)

If you see any tweet or direct message that looks like this, do not click on the link. If you see a colleague or a friend with a similar tweet, it can’t hurt to give them the heads up that their account may be hacked.

If you think your account was hacked, go to Twitter.com on a browser (you can do something similar on your Twitter app if you only have a phone with you):

1. Log out of Twitter
2. Click “sign in”
3. Click “forgot password”
4. Type in the email affiliated with your Twitter account
5. Follow the steps in your email to create a new password
6. You should be back to normal.

If you were hacked and you sent out public tweets with bad links, it can’t hurt to acknowledge your account was hacked, apologize and feel free to delete any tweets that include hacked messages. That will help prevent others from clicking on the links.

You can also add an additional layer of protection to your Twitter account if you’re willing to connect it to a phone. Here’s how:

1. Go into your Settings on Twitter.com
2. Click on the “Security and Privacy” link on the left-hand side
3. You can choose two options to protect yourself from someone else logging into your account:
   a. Send login verification requests to your cellphone
   b. Send login verification requests to your Twitter phone app
4. This will help verify you are the real account owner looking to change a password on your account. All of these steps will help better protect your use of Twitter and prevent any of your followers from possibly clicking on a hacked link.

All of these steps will help better protect your use of Twitter and prevent any of your followers from possibly clicking on a hacked link.

The kitchen table talk

Have you had “the talk” with your family?

No, not that one.

I’m talking about the talk about how you handle the social web with your family. Have you ever taken time to talk about what is appropriate sharing and posting as a family? I consider this the new important family talk. To me, I envision it happening around the kitchen table.

February 11, 2014 was Safer Internet Day and I truly believe the core of safety online starts with your family. An open discussion about what is shared across the generations will help prevent anger, disappointment and confusion. It can also help set up expectations about how each person hands activity only.

If you have a chance, I’d recommend these topics:

• Sharing, tagging and mentioning family members online: One person’s comfort zone of sharing may be totally different from another person’s comfort zone. You should bring the teenagers, parents and grandparents into the same room and talk about what is right for everyone.

• If you think someone you know is sharing inappropriate links by email or on social media, that person’s accounts may be hacked. Let your friend or family member know your concerns. If that person takes the time to change his or her password, that might be just enough to keep that infected link from going to another person.

• Take the time to search yourself and your kids on search engines and social media. It’s good to see what information comes up about you and your loved ones.

• The best and most important tip of all is to always remember the way you conduct yourself online should be exactly how you would conduct yourself in public. Make sure you share that belief with the rest of your family and make sure you can be an example for others. We are all able to help teach friends and family better ways to use the social Internet.

During Safer Internet Day, I joined in on a pretty fast-paced Twitter chat about the state of Internet safety. I created a Twitter list full of resources and people who really care about Internet safety. Check out some of the pretty helpful information from the chat and a good number of excellent resources on Internet safety.

The chat included many other people who are trying to bring more digital literacy in to the social web. I’m excited to continue working hard and training so many people to communicate with customers better.


Using Scavenger Hunts to Learn

I recently led a two day bootcamp on social media basics for communications leaders from a number of AARP state offices. I love getting the chance to help build onto the foundations of communication skills and hone the skills behind. My biggest challenge with all-day training is finding opportunities to get up and move. I think I found the best formula yet: A social media treasure hunt.

Near the end of my career as a journalism professor, I watched a team of former Missouri School of Journalism doctoral alumni team up to challenge their journalism students with a week-long social media scavenger hunt. Students were challenged to find all kinds of interesting things across campus. The class with the most findings would win.

I decided to tweak that idea and fit it into an hour or so in the middle of my first day of training. Here’s how I did it:

At the beginning of the day, I and a couple of other co-trainers met with each attendee to make sure they had installed, signed in and connected multiple iPhone applications to social media sites. iPhones are a standard tool used by most AARP communications professionals and I wanted to make sure we were all using the same tools together. I recommended a long list, but I focused in on:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • Instagram
  • Magisto
  • Vine
  • Foursquare

Once we had everything set up, I and additional trainers in the room talked on the basics of personal and professional use of Twitter and Facebook. We were also fortunate to also have a chance for Facebook representatives to share some of their insight with the attendees through a webinar/conference call. With a good lunch and open conversation about different ways to use two of the most used social media tools, I set the group up for the scavenger hunt challenge. I handed out a two-page sheet with a list of tools I wanted them to use and a list of point-based challenges. They had one hour to complete the challenge.

I offered participants the chance to win prizes for the most points. I also offered a “Wild Card” option where a person could earn an extra 10 points for doing something different and possibly outside the app list I shared. The result can be found on many different social media platforms by just searching #AARPhunt. I especially enjoy seeing the #AARPhunt Twitter stream because people who didn’t attend jumped in, engaged with attendees and even offered additional challenges or tried out technology on their own that was mentioned during the hunt. You can see a full collection of the hunt on this Storify collection.

In the end, I think adding a scavenger hunt to the bootcamp made it a real hands-on experience. Instead of opening each app and walking the room through how to use it, we just used it. Jumping in and trying new tools are one of the fastest ways to understand how they work.

Sharing My Brain with AARP

For almost a year, I’ve had the chance to learn and grow in a new job at AARP. It’s been an vast change and at the same time it hasn’t been too different from my old job as a journalism professor and newsroom manager. I continue to teach and learn and find ways to deliver my knowledge to others. For almost a full 12 months, I have developed training for the organization while learning how it works to offer so much support for people who are 50+. In reality, I feel my job reaches all age groups. I have the chance to teach older generations that have a lot of influence on all other generations. I have the potential to help influence the most influential generation in our country!

One of my most public accomplishments happened a couple of weeks ago in time for my second AARP Life@50+ conference. I took a piece of my brain and turned it into a website full of social media training tips. It’s just the beginning. I have tips that span from Facebook and Twitter to blogging and photo/video tools. I’m excited to continue to add my tips and tricks for more to use.

I hope to take the training site and use it as a resource as I focus on helping expand a national conversation on why digital literacy can bridge across all generations. Digital literacy is understanding how to conduct yourself on in a digital community. It’s very similar to how know how to conduct ourselves in the real world. Digital literacy is knowledge everyone deserves. The trick is finding ways to bridge assumed and actual existing gaps. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had someone assume people 50+ are not using computers, smart phones or social media. That is so untrue! That assumption alone hurts opportunities to teach and learn about digital literacy. Traditionally, younger generations look up to the older generations. If there’s any decay in that assumption, I feel education about digital literacy can help.

I look forward to sharing more thoughts and discoveries about this topic often along with my adventures in speaking, teaching and learning with AARP.