This week was my parent’s 54th anniversary. Normally for anniversaries we tend to get together for dinner or if it’s a special one, throw a big party. But this year I wanted to do something different. During spring break I took my own little family of five away to Palm Springs and on our way home I was struck by the thought that my oldest daughter would soon be starting grade 12 and we really wouldn’t have too many years left as things were now. Our family would change, some of the kids would be off at college, some may get married and bring their new spouses, etc. And though all that change will be welcome and exciting, our trips will never be quite the same as when there was just the five of us. That got me wondering. One night a week or two later my wife and I were out for dinner and we got on the subject and she too had been thinking of this. She however was thinking about her own family and how much fun it would be for her parents if they were to get together with just her siblings for an evening to reminisce and be together apart from spouses and grandchildren. I thought it was a great idea and decided I’d like to do that very thing with my own family but stretch it out for a couple days. So when I got home I started reaching out to each of my four brothers and sisters and was delighted when they responded favorably to the idea.

So over the next few months the planning began. The goal of the excursion would be to take mom and dad on a trip down memory lane to pack as many memories as we could into two days. We wanted to surprise my parents so I told them that my wife and I would be taking them away for their anniversary. They took the bait and we were good to go.

Ted and Maureen's anniversary celebration

The big day arrived and the surprise went off without a hitch. We’d designed some t-shirts for us all to wear, so when mom and dad walked out their front door, here were their five kids all in a line wearing “The Original Hilton7″ t-shirts with each of our childhood nicknames and numerical birth order on the back. My parents were as happy as I imagined. They were so surprised and had no idea that we were all coming. I’m pretty sure my mom shed a tear or two under her pink sunglasses. When we all piled in the SUV and started down the road she said she never imagined that something like this could happen. When I told them we’d be heading to our childhood neighborhood first, mom responded excitedly, “Wow, Steveston! That’s best of all!” and then my nautically addicted dad followed up with “Will we be catching a boat?”.

It was only ten minutes into the drive that mom and dad had their first scrap. I told them about seeing one of their neighbors coming into their garden a few days earlier and dad said it was impossible. Mom didn’t agree. Dad than put her in her place and it got all quiet for a few minutes. Just like old times!

Our first stop was at our old home at the south end of #2 road in Richmond. We’d lived there in the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s and had many memories there together. We’d called the new owners and requested that we come to visit and take some pics. They were happy to oblige and called in their parents who’d bought the house from us so that we could reconnect. Just being on site brought back so many memories that got us all sharing stories. Like the time my brother Tim came home and found a blackened gas can lying on the tennis court with the charred remains of my Big Jim & GI Joe collection. I’d tried to blow up all my childhood dolls at once but it didn’t work like I’d wanted and ended up pouring the gas directly on the fire. Not a super wise plan, as the fire came shooting up the stream of gas and into the can and blew up. I ended up losing my eyelashes, brows and bangs, which was a tough one to explain to my mother.

Funny thing was how small everything was for us now. My brother Steve remembered cutting the grass, which seemed to take eons, but the yard looked so little now. Our back fence (that was erected to protect us from the thieving son of our neighbors) used to seem so high but was actually quite short now.

After we finished reminiscing at our house we headed up to the dyke by London Landing where we spent a lot of time playing as kids. We’d packed a KFC bucket of chicken lunch that was a favorite treat and sat together looking out over the Fraser river and Shady Island.

After lunch we had a photo shoot with local photographer Jeremy Lim and then headed down #2 road to the Gospel Hall that we grew up in to finish things off. My mom and sisters all put their hats on for the photos there in remembrance of the interesting rules we had to abide by while attending there. Our old friend Bernie Murphy met us there and gave us a tour and showed us all the renovations that had happened since we’d left. The best part was finding the row of photos of all the Sunday school classes that we were a part of as this brought back a swarm of memories.

From there we headed out to Steveston High. This was the high school that all five of us kids graduated from. Sadly the school is on its last legs and is about to be torn down, but we were happy to be able to experience it there together one last time.

Following that experience, we drove back to the village of Steveston and spent some time walking through the shops and docks. So much had changed there since we were kids. It used to be a long row on boat sheds, canneries, nets and fishing docks, where now they’ve completely cleaned up the area creating a little heritage tourist village that’s so pretty and quaint.

Everywhere we went people were starring at our bright shirts. But we didn’t care, everyone was proud to wear them. We all wore them for two days straight. My sister Sue suggested that we do them ‘Accurpress Green’ to commemorate my dad’s machinery manufacturing company’s primary color.

We finished our Steveston tour with dinner at Caesars Pizza. This was our favorite restaurant to visit when we were kids and we hadn’t been there in over 30 years together. It was just as good as we remembered and we left stuffed! Over supper we slipped out a box of promise cards that was almost a daily experience for us at dinnertime. Each of us read a Bible verse and we’d have to guess where it was found. As usual dad got nearly everyone right. I had my Bible Gateway open on my iPhone under the table but unfortunately couldn’t type fast enough to be able to get them in time. After we finished that Dad gave us a one-hour diatribe of his life from birth. Funny to think but I learned a lot of things I never knew about my dad. I always had remembered him as being such a successful business man but didn’t know how much he’d struggled to make ends meet in his first couple of businesses. Didn’t make me feel so bad about my first couple kicks at the can.

After super we left the little island of Richmond and headed off to the city. Before I was born (I was the youngest) our family lived in Burnaby but my dad grew up in Vancouver and my mom did her nursing at St Paul’s. We also spent quite a bit of time in Vancouver even when we lived in Richmond so there were many memories for our family in the city. My mom said that when she first moved to Vancouver from Trail back in 1954 that she could only remember three tall buildings in the city, the BC Hydro building, the Marine Building and Hotel Vancouver. So we opted to book in at the Hotel Vancouver. Though it’s a Fairmont now, it used to be a ‘Hilton’ and we all prefer to remember it that way.

After we checked in and put our stuff in our rooms we trucked on down to Stanley Park to take in the show “Anything Goes” at the Theatre Under the Stars. My mom & dad seemed excited about this, as this was something we’d do often when we were little. This was my sister Sue’s idea as she used to love the picnics we did together in the park before we attended the outdoor shows. We booked a number of months in advance so we were able to get front row seats. We visited a specialty candy shop before the trip so we could pick up all our favorite childhood treats. For some reason though Dutch licorice and soup candies seemed to taste a lot better back then. Again we ate way too much. My calorie counter was off the charts for the day, but I was fine with it. As how often do you get to do something like this?

After that we returned to the hotel to turn in. We got adjoining rooms so it was actually quite fun for the five kids during our stay at the hotel. It was kind of neat to reconnect in this way as it had been decades since we’d spent time together like this. Steve and Tim were still raring to go when we got back so they headed down for nightcaps, but the rest of us needed our beauty sleep so we crashed early.

The next morning we did brunch buffet together and then were going to go swimming (which was a family favorite event on holidays away together) but no one was feeling super inclined that way so we decided to hang out in the lobby to play some games and chat more about old times.

After we checked out and said good by to the Hotel Vancouver we had one last spot to visit, The Vancouver Planetarium. This was another family favorite as kids. Not much has changed there in 30 years so it was truly a blast from the past experience.

That night my sister in law Chantal threw a big anniversary party back at her home in Surrey. All the spouses, grand children and great grandchildren were invited. It was quite a event with over 40 people in attendance. The Original Hilton7 showed too (except my brother Steve who had to fly back to South Dakota that afternoon) but we all agreed though our stint had been fun, we’d wear our shirts one last time and then put this experience back in the time capsules of our memory.


Recently I had the opportunity to attend The Art of Marketing conference in Vancouver and having never been at one before I wasn’t sure what to expect. Thankfully it was well worth the price of admission as I was so inspired by the calibre of the presentations. It was an all-star line up of marketing presenters that started with Mitch Joel, Bill Taylor, Avinash Kaushik, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Guy Kawasaki. Everything was tied together by a superb job of MCing by Ron Tite. Here are some of the highlight tweets:

Keynote #1: Mitch Joel

  • @SmallBusinessBC: Percentage of people clicking on banner ads since 2007 dropped 50% since 2007 @mitchjoel #taom
  • @sammacmillan:Letting a newbie run your social media is like letting @mitchjoel be your electrician because he turns on lights a lot. #taom
  • @jillianwalker: There are more grandparents on Facebook than high school students. – @mitchjoel #FamilyStalking #TAOM
  • @TLCHOME: We know 75-80% of online shoppers read online reviews & negative review converts to a sale more than positive reviews. @mitchjoel #taom
  • @tnjohan: Brands are being brought into #SM kicking & screaming, it’s the consumer leading the charge – @mitchjoel #TAOM
  • @jillianwalker: Who is better to talk about your brand? Not you. Not your marketing team. The consumer… which could be a hot blonde. @mitchjoel #TAOM
  • @jason_baker: The average consumer spends 17 hours a month watching YoutTube videos. @mitchjoel #taom
  • @sammacmillan: 80% of consumers first brand interaction is with a search result. Staggering! @mitchjoel #taom
  • @RealWisam: Digital Media has become the biggest lead generation tool the world has ever seen – @mitchjoel #TAOM
  • @sammacmillan: #taom wisest words of the day – social media is not about conversation, it’s about making it sharable and findable. @mitchjoel

  • Keynote #2: Bill Taylor

  • @roanneweyermars: Every company has interesting people. To be successful we must keep our interesting people interested. #taom
  • @glennhilton: How can you make every encounter with your clients & really everything you do as a business… more memorable? ~@practicallyrad #taom
  • @LiamLahey: One of your jobs…is to stay interested; customers sense this immediately. Success is about so much more today than price ~Bill Taylor #taom
  • @jason_baker: Don’t think of customer service as a customer service expense, think of it as a marketing experience. @practicallyrad #taom
  • @LiamLahey: The most creative leaders say to themselves ‘let’s learn from great innovators in other industries’ ~Bill Taylor #taom
  • @Ian_Cruickshank: Don’t problem solve – Solution find. There is likely someone who has already found the solution – ask – engage and reward #taom
  • @sonsryan: You need to conduct yourself as a smart person that other smart people want to work with. ~Bill Taylor #taom
  • @cadijordan: You can’t let what you know limit what you can imagine! – @practicallyrad #Taom
  • @lmchew: Love this: “Humbition” ambition tempered by genuine humility. Be the kind of smart person people want to work with. @practicallyrad #taom
  • @self_edu: Am I learning as fast as the world is changing? Great question and talk by Fast Company founder Bill Taylor at #TAOM
  • Keynote #3: Avinash Kaushik

  • @TLCHOME: Don’t try to improve your biz by 1000%- improve 1000 things in your biz by 1% -@avinash #taom
  • @joelinex: Businesses die because their marketers are measuring page views or clicks. ~@avinash #TAOM
  • @leah_poulton: Bounce rate = “i came, I puked, I left.” On the list of super lame analytics from @avinash. #taom #analytics
  • @joelinex: If I could take a single measurement to an island & make love to it, it would be Task Completion Rate. Stop sucking ppl.” @avinash #TAOM
  • @OnlineStrategy: #TAOM Awesome metrics: visitor loyalty, recency, depth of engagement, conversion, task completion rate…YES! YES! YES! From @avinash
  • @LiamLahey: I measure on Twitter amplification (measures RTs)…it’s not that you tweet, what matters is does it cause a ripple? ~@avinash #taom
  • @DennisPang: Number of people who proactively list you is the Twitter metric to monitor, not the number of followers.@avinash #taom
  • @LiamLahey: It’s amazing how poorly people measure YouTube…true measure of success is likes & dislikes” @avinash #taom
  • @sammacmillan: Everytime you use Flash on your website, a puppy dies #Taom @avinash
  • @maurar: Most websites are designed by HPPOs – highest paid persons opinions. #TAOM @Avinash
  • @lmchew: Re websites: “If you want me to give you money, make it frigging easy!!” @avinash #truth #taom

  • Keynote #4: Gary Vaynerchuk

  • @mitchjoel: well, @garyvee that’s one way to make an intro. Lol. Thunder! #TAOM
  • @jeremylim: Whats the ROI of your mother? ~@garyvee #taom
  • @LiamLahey: Search.Twitter.com is the greatest listening tool of our time. ~@garyvee #taom
  • @YaletownSanam: The one person at #TAOM who doesn’t have a cell phone http://yfrog.com/h84z7pdj
  • @maurar: Napster disrupted the music industry. What’s next? We are all underestimating the power of Social Media/the Internet. @garyvee #TAOM
  • @604Meghan: Stop spending money on dumb sh*t, and start spending it on talking to human beings who’re passionate about your brand. ~@garyvee #TAOM
  • @604Meghan: Content is king. But Marketing’s the queen. And that b*tch runs the household, says @garyvee #TAOM
  • @jason_baker: People aren’t looking at billboards, they’re even looking at the f**kin road… They’re too busy texting while driving. ~@garyvee #taom
  • @604Meghan: Traditional media isn’t broken. It’s mis-priced for 2012. That’s all. It still works. It’s just far overpriced now. @garyvee #TAOM
  • @mijaypavon: Battle changes from acquisition to retention. It’s not about getting everyone, but keeping everyone you get. ~@GaryVee #taom
  • @CameronHerold Hey companies on social media. Stop acting like a 19 year old boy (trying to close on the first move). Get to know us first. @garyvee #TAOM
  • @LiamLahey: Shock & awe your customers w/ what matters to them, not you. ~@garyvee #taom
  • @PaulaCusati Change the relationship with customers by emotionally connecting with them. Understand their context to connect. @garyvee #taom
  • @glennhilton: Next time you hear some guy say “But they stole my idea”, punch them in the head! Ideas are BS. Execution is the game. ~@GaryVee #taom
  • @maurar: @garyvee is a rock star, running thru the crowd doing Q&A and hugging it out. I want a hug. #TAOM yfrog.com/edgvbzj
  • @andreabaxter: Number of swearwords in @garyvee’s speech at #TAOM? Infinite.

  • Keynote #5: Guy Kawasaki

  • @SmallBusinessBC When crafting a message tell a story, don’t use industry acronyms, add a human touch @GuyKawasaki #taom
  • @SaraClark_: Nobodies are the new somebodies. ~Guy Kawasaki #taom
  • @Moldster: Now that I have @guykawasaki’s approval I can watch Never Say Never to “learn about marketing” #taom #bieberfever
  • @SmallBusinessBC: Key to a great presentation = 10 slides, 20 minutes and 30 point size font @GuyKawasaki #taom
  • @TLCHOME: Engage: fast/many/often – @GuyKawasaki #taom
  • So those are them. It was a fun day and the presenters all did a fabulous job and thanks everyone for contributing great tweets!

    For those of you who attended, if you felt there was any that were missed, feel free to jump in and add your suggestions to the comments so we can have a full thread of all the best of TAOM in one place. Links to conference notes are welcome too.


    Contrary to some early nay-sayers, Twitter has proved itself to be more than a flash-in-the-pan trend. As more and more people are realizing, Twitter can be enormously useful and enriching. And as it continues to mature, the strategies for using it to its maximum potential are becoming stronger and more defined. I can tell you from experience that it’s paid significant dividends both personally and professionally for me. But this didn’t come without effort on my part – I’ve spent countless hours researching, testing and finding the most successful ways to benefit from it. In order to save you some blood, sweat and tears (or a good chunk of your free time), I’ve compiled a list of what I’ve discovered are the some of the best ways to grow your following and influence on Twitter.

    But first, a couple of disclaimers. You don’t have to have a large following to be successful on Twitter. You could actually have a quite a small following but still experience great benefit if you properly target your users and engage them in meaningful ways.


    Another disclaimer: this isn’t about rigging the system or using underhand tricks to magically have 20,000 new followers in a week – or about constantly going on about how you need ‘x’ amount of followers to reach your next goal. Most normal people don’t do this kind of thing offline, so why do it online?

    Twitter shouldn’t be about numbers – it’s about the people behind those numbers. So a word to the wise: don’t try to garner new followers unless you’re up for the challenge of treating them like the people they are. This means interacting with them, getting to know them and writing your tweets with them in mind.

    It takes time to built up a solid following and use Twitter as the unparalleled networking tool it is. Believe me, it takes A LOT of time. But if you’re willing to put the effort into it, it won’t be long before you’re reaping the rewards. Here’s just a few to consider:

    • gain respect, credibility & recognition
    • share your talents and get discovered
    • strengthen your personal and professional brand
    • find jobs or solid hires
    • uncover great leads for new clients
    • develop strategic partnerships
    • gain support for your cause
    • make new friends with common interests

    There are many reasons why you may want to grow your following. Now let’s talk about how…

    1. Follow People

      @followmenow (Followmenow on Twitter)

      The Law of Reciprocity is one of those universal truths that make the world go around. Bluntly put: you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. If you want to be followed, start following. Most people will follow you back, especially if they’re trying to retain you, the follower. There are a number of ways to find people to follow:

      • From the public timeline (but you’ll have to sift through an inordinate amount of noise to find relevant content).
      • From someone else’s followers page .
      • From recommendations from friends through practices such as #FollowFriday or by adding people you come across in others’ retweets.
      • Using Twitter search to find people conversing on subjects of interest to you.
      • Using 3rd party applications such as PeopleBrowsr to find new people to follow and join interest groups.
      • Using an auto-follow program* such as Twollo. Apps like this search the Twitter timeline for you and follow individuals who tweet any of the specific keywords or phrases you choose.
      • Using Twitter lists can be quite useful especially because you don’t have to follow people right away. Instead, you can follow a list of interest and choose to only follow individuals you find a connection with. Listorious is a good place to visit to find a directory of the top lists on Twitter. If you find a Twitter list you like, you can use an app like TweepML to follow the entire list with a single click.

      To increase your chances of getting a followback, RT a person’s tweets or engage with him or her before clicking the “follow” button. This shows you’ve noticed the person and take interest in what he or she are tweeting about and aren’t just following people en masse.

      * NOTE: You need to know that if you start following large numbers of people at a single time or auto-follow programs that you’ll definitely be taking your chances. Aggressive followers can have their accounts suspended if they’re using any kind of auto-follow or unfollow tools (unless it’s auto-following someone who followed you first), so be sure to read up on Twitter’s TOS. Additionally auto-following is considered a black hat tactic in the Twitter community at large and is frowned upon. Many of those who employ such tactics are considered fake followers who have no interest in ever reading the tweets of the mass majority of those they follow.

      2. Present Yourself Well


        First impressions are everything. When we’re designing websites for our clients at ImageX Media, we let them know the average internet searcher spends 5-7 seconds on a website and the most clicked button is the back button on the browser. If a site isn’t giving you the right signals, is slow loading, visually unappealing or confusing, you’re out of there and on to the next link, right? The same concept applies to your Twitter profile. If someone is considering whether or not to follow you, they’re only going to give you – via your profile - a few seconds to prove that you’re someone legit and follow-worthy.

        Unfortunately, one of the things that increases the scrutiny of users is the huge amount of automated and spam accounts that are now on the Twittersphere.  As of August 2009,  24% of tweets sent on Twitter are from bots. So one of the most important things you have to prove is that you are a real person.

        Consider what kind of message your profile is sending to those deciding whether or not to follow you. Does your account look like it could be a spammer or bot? Or does it immediately give a genuine and positive impression? Let’s have a quick look at Exhibit A – what NOT to do – and go through your profile section by section, asking the same questions potential followers will be asking when they visit your profile.


        1. Background – Is it a standard Twitter template or a custom background? Though it may be fast and easy to use one of the Twitter templates, going the extra mile to add a custom Twitter background helps you to stand out, defines your niche and makes it less likely you’ll be mistaken for a bot.

        2. Avatar – Is your image professional looking (but NOT a stock photo)? Does the image enlarge when you click on it? If it stays an avatar size, that indicates it may have been grabbed from somewhere else on the internet which is a common tactic of fake accounts. If you’re serious about building your personal brand, consider having your avatar photo taken professionally.

        3. Follower ratio – Your follower ratio can raise a number of questions in the minds of those looking to follow you. Do you follow significantly more than follow you? If so, why are people not following you back? Do you follow everyone who follows you, or only a fraction of them? If it’s the latter, you could risk being perceived as being too good for everyone else. Is your follower ratio slightly more than your following? Maybe you are following large amounts of people and then mass unfollowing those who don’t reciprocate. There are a number of ways to read into the follower ratio, and none of them can lead to bulletproof conclusions – but they will definitely lead to strong impressions of how you view yourself and others on Twitter.

        4. Listing – The number of lists you’re on can give another impression. If you’re not listed then someone might get the impression that your tweets aren’t valued by others. Be sure to have some of your own lists too, as this will help others see your interests when deciding whether or not to follow you.

        5. Link - Linking to a credible outside website is one of the strongest ways to prove you’re not a bot and also give potential followers a chance to get to know you more in-depth. You can link to your personal or corporate blog, your website, your LinkedIn profile, or any other legitimate site that proves you are who you say you are. On my profile, I link to a Twitter landing page I created especially for new followers or those checking me out. From this page visitors can link to my blog and my company website. There’s not a whole lotta space  in your Twitter bio to give people an accurate picture of who you and and what you have to offer, so linking to another site can go a long way in proving your authenticity and building trust.

        6. Bio – The bio is one of the first places most people will look when visiting your profile, and you’ve got to make those 160 characters count. Your bio should sound professional and yet approachable and include your interests – and, equally important, the interests of those you are trying to attract. If your bio sounds desperate, arrogant, uninterested – or if there isn’t one at all – this flags you, at the very least, as someone they won’t want showing up in their timeline.

        7. Favourites – How many tweets have you favourited? What kinds of tweets? Most likely bot accounts won’t have any favourites, so if you want to give the impression that you’re a human, use this Twitter feature and make sure some favourites show up on your profile.

        8. Tweet Count - How many tweets have you put out? Are you an active Twitter user or just trying to get a follow back in order to push your wares? Some bots and spammers can put out a lot of tweets, but many of them just have enough to fill a page. If this is the case, it’s an immediate red flag that they’re not using Twitter to interact with others, but obviously have other intentions.

        9. Mini avatars – Visitors will also look at the mini avatars of the last 36 people you’ve followed to see if there are any patterns (ie. you just followed one of their lists, the avatars look like spam accounts, etc). Bots tend to follow bots, so just because they have some followers doesn’t necessarily mean they’re legit.

        10. Tweets – Do you tweet original stuff? All RTs? All Quotes? Are there any signs that you engage with others? Personally, if I don’t see any @replies in the timeline, I’m going to assume the account is just all about pushing out their message and most likely won’t follow the account. If you want to make a good first impression then make sure you’re tweeting quality stuff. Take a hard look at your own account. Review your last 25-30 tweets… Would you follow you?

        11. Location - Where are you tweeting from? If every tweet on a profile is coming from the API it looks suspiciously like bot activity. Real people tweet from various locations and using different apps (ie. from web, from Tweetdeck, from Tweetie, etc), and this should show up on your profile.

        Granted, very few people will ever take the time to scrutinize you at all of these levels and to this depth. However, if you’re serious about making Twitter work for you, you need to put serious thought and effort into making sure you have a good first impression – and that means considering every aspect of your profile to make sure it represents you as accurately and positively as possible.

        3. Tweet Quality Content


          This is huge. One of the main reasons people use Twitter is to learn. If you can provide content that others are interested in, you’ll definitely get followed. However, if you pump out loads of fluff or drivel, people will start ignoring your tweets and you’ll be marginalized to the back of their accounts or just unfollowed. The key thing you want to do is to train people’s eyes to see your stuff so that when they get something from you, they’re anticipating it will be good because of their past experience with you. To do this you need to find good content that is of interest to your target audience but isn’t already tweeted to death. Because of the vast sea of good content now available on Twitter, ‘Top 40 tweeting’ can get tired fast. When you find excellent content about which few are tweeting, then you’re on to something. To do this you need spend a lot of time reading online, keeping up with sites on your RSS feeder, and following people who write or share good content regularly. Some of the most popular sites on which to find decent content are Favstar.fmTweetmemeRetweetfeedListoriousPopurlsAlltop, and Posterous.

          4. Create Original Content


            Retweeting others’ content is important, but it doesn’t really show your opinion. Ever read one of those “Where’s Waldo?” books? No one wants to be a Waldo, lost in a mass of people who look just like you. You need to be tweeting relevant AND original content if you want to stand out. People who want to get to know you are interested in what you think. Good original content will gain respect much faster than just sourcing what others have done. This is even more true if you create original content elsewhere (ie. on your personal or corporate blog, on blogging platforms such as Posterous, Tumblr,  or video platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, etc). Sometimes this can seem a bit daunting when you stop and think about how much good content is already out there. What new innovative, creative or revolutionary ideas could you share that others haven’t already? But before you throw in the towel, you need to know that you don’t always have to come up with something brand new. There are a lot of  ways you can present content and add your own twist to it. The more you hone your writing skills and improve your content the more attention you’ll attract.

            5. Be Consistent


              If you’re inconsistent in your tweeting habits it will affect the amount of exposure you will get. Personally, I’ve noticed that when I take a break from my consistent tweeting schedule my new follower numbers drop significantly. When I start again it takes awhile before I see the same amount of retweets I was getting before I stopped. Retweets are key for getting more followers, and the number of retweets often depends on when you can get the most eyes on your tweets. If you tend to tweet at the same times each day you’ll provide consistency for your followers – they’ll be watching for you. Ideally you’ll want to try and tweet at optimal times, keeping in mind the timezones your target audience is located in.

              6. Engage and Respond


                Do your best to respond to all @replies and personal DMs. If someone reaches out to you and you don’t respond, it shows you’re not interested in that person. If you keep it up, you’ll most likely get unfollowed, negative vibes and a reputation. Interact with others in conversations and connect with your followers wherever you can. Not only will this strengthen your relationships with your existing followers, it will make them more likely to recommend you to others.

                7. Add Yourself to Directories


                  There are many directories available that you can add yourself to as a way to get more exposure. Ideally, you’ll want to tag yourself under specific categories so you can be easily be found by those with similar interests. Some of the top ones are We FollowTwellowJust Tweet It, and Twibes. Other good places to join are specific LinkedIn groups related to Twitter, social media or niche areas of focus, niche communities (such as the League of Kickass Business People) and Tweetup sites (ie. VancouverTweetup.com). The important thing to remember with these communities is to not just add yourself to the groups, but to actually interact on those sites and get to know the people there.

                  8. Recommend and Retweet


                    Recommending others using the #FollowFriday or #FF hashtags or through @MrTweet can also be helpful in gaining followers. It’s the Rule of Reciprocity again. A lot of people will follow people their friends recommend. But remember, recommendations are only helpful to people if they actually mean something - long lists of recommendations can easily be construed as insincere and self-serving. Additionally they can create A LOT of noise on Twitter which can work against you. A better way to recommend is to share just one or two people at a time and give reasons why people should consider following them.

                    9. Promote Your Twitter Account Elsewhere


                      Many people will discover you through your interactions on Twitter but many more will find you elsewhere. Here are a few of the ways you can promote your twitter account:

                      * On your email signature (share tools)

                      * On your website/blog

                      * On other social networking sites

                      * On your comments on other blogs

                      * On online bios

                      * On your business cards

                      * On your car (maybe not a good idea if you have a habit of cutting people off)

                      Obviously there are many more possibilities, and you’ll know you’re a true Twitter addict if you start wearing clothing, nametags or get a custom license plate to sport your Twitter handle.

                      10. Use #Hashtags


                        Using #hashtags can help attract new followers based on the subject matter of your tweets – they label your tweets and make them searchable, enabling non-followers to find you.  Not everyone is fond of #hashtags, as some people tend to overuse them. Others find them a bit confusing or overwhelming when first encountered. There’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to determining the appropriate terms to use. On top of that, it can be a challenge to remember to consistently add them to your tweets. However, for those who make it a habit, #hashtags are definitely useful for connecting with people of like mind. Here’s a comprehensive guide of how to best use hashtags on Twitter.

                        11. Get listed


                          Twitter lists are a fairly new phenomenon and list strategies are still in infant phases of development. However, it’s quite clear thus far that being added to others’ Twitter lists is a great way to increase your exposure, because people who don’t follow you will see your tweets as they observe your followers’ lists. What’s also clear is that it’s not something you can directly control – it comes back to the issue of value. To get added to Twitter lists you really need to provide value, and what’s valuable to one person may not be valuable to another. That’s why you need to know your niche, be an expert in your field and try to relate to as many people as possible.

                          12. Take Your Online Offline


                            Twitter is an awesome tool for learning, observing and interacting, but it’s a painstakingly slow process if you’re hoping to develop some depth to your relationships through 140-character information blips. One way to speed up the timeline is to pick up the phone and call someone or arrange to get together for a lunch or coffee. As great as technology is, there’s nothing that compares to the level of interaction that can be experienced over over a burger or beer. Taking the initiative in this regard is huge for building trust and showing people that they matter to you. Attending meetups & tweetups and conferences are also great ways to get to know the people with whom you’re connecting. Using tools such as Foursquare in conjunction with Twitter to connect you with your friends offline can also help take your relationships to new levels. The deeper your relationships, the stronger the trust will be with your friends and your interactions and out coming recommendations will show it.

                            13. Be Humorous


                              Maybe you’re not George Carlin, but if you have a sense of humour, let it out! Being funny makes you more likeable, relatable and approachable, which makes it more likely that people will want to follow you. If it’s not your leading grace then retweet some humourous (but tasteful) tweets at times. Keep in mind the purposes of your account and ensure whatever you’re doing with humour is increasing your standing with your target audience and not detracting. Some forms of humor, such as sarcasm, aren’t for everyone and can lose you more followers than you gain if you’re not careful. Personally, I created a separate account dedicated to sarcastic amusement as I wanted a place to let loose without confusing my followers who aren’t accustomed or attracted to that form of humor.

                              14. Be Helpful


                                Helping others can go a long way in terms of gaining respect, building trust and earning your stripes. What do you have that others are looking for? What have you learned recently that you could share? What tools, apps, tricks or secrets have you discovered that you could give to others? What questions are people asking that you could answer? What challenges or problems are people facing that you could help with? As you see needs that you can meet, act on them. It takes time to be helpful, but people definitely remember it. One practical way you can help people is to use a 3rd party Twitter client like Tweetdeck to filter your timelines for tweets that contain a question mark so that way you’ll only see tweets of questions you can answer.

                                15. Be Kind and Appreciative


                                  Being kind goes a long way. People take notice when you consistently do the little things to show others you appreciate them. Try to encourage others and look for opportunities to catch people doing something good and acknowledge them for it. Take the time to thank people when they do something that’s helpful to you. You may want to say a public thank you for a #FollowFriday recommendation or a retweet. Some prefer not to create additional noise and choose to send a private DM. At times it can be difficult to keep track of all the people you’d like to appreciate. One way you can remember these people and provide value at the same time is to create and add them to your own #FollowFriday or Top-Retweeters list so you can observe their tweets and return the favour.

                                  16. Be Humble and Authentic


                                    Sometimes you might be wrong, sometimes you might screw up. Own up to it. Be transparent. If someone’s criticizing you, don’t get too defensive. Try and hear things from his or her perspective before reacting, even if it seems out of line. Maybe there’s some truth in what he or she is saying that you can glean and grow from. Being humble can disarm people who may be envious of you, were turned off by you, or just haven’t taken the time to get to know you. None of us are perfect, but most of us are fairly adverse to pretense. You may have everything together, but if you’re full of yourself people probably won’t be following you for long and certainly won’t be recommending you.


                                      If you put all – or even a few – of these suggestions into practice, you should have no problem in growing your following and getting closer to your goals on Twitter. It all comes down to being proactive and involved, and trying to make the Twittersphere the best place it can be by putting out quality content and positive vibes. If you do this consistently, you should see some great results. I’ve tried to put all of these tips into practice and it’s been worth all the effort for the amazing people I’ve had a chance to get to know and the many other benefits I’ve received. Now it’s your turn to share from your experience – what have you found successful in your efforts to make Twitter work for you?


                                      tim-hortonsI’ve been going to Tim Hortons for my coffee for years now. I like their coffee (it’s a bit insipid but at least it’s not burnt & bitter like the other spot that sells a cup of coffee for the same price as a small meal). Overall I’ve been quite impressed with my experiences at Timmy’s. For convenience sake, I tend to frequent the ones with drive-thrus and I have to say I’ve been amazed on how fast their service has been. Rarely has there been a time that they haven’t had everything ready for me as soon as I arrive at the window. However despite my glowingly positive experiences at Tim Hortons I wouldn’t be entirely honest if I didn’t admit to one small thing that been grating away at me in regards to their service. And that’s every time I go through the drive-thru to get my coffee, they never put a sleeve on the cup for me. Never. Just to prove my point I decided to shoot a quick video so you could see it for yourself:

                                      Now obviously there’s probably more important things in life to bring to light than the fact that Tim Horton’s doesn’t offer their customers a sleeve on their coffee cups. I’m pretty sure it won’t be the central theme of Michael Moore’s next docu-drama. If you’re a regular customer to Tim’s, doesn’t it just take you a second to ask for one when you’re placing your order and they’ll happily put one on for you? So really, what’s the big deal?

                                      To be honest it’s not a big deal, it’s really just a ‘little’ thing. If you stop and think about it, you realize that somewhere along the line, the top brass at Tim Hortons figured they’d get a little more profit if they train their employees to follow this practice. And we all know that business is all about making money and can’t be fretting about every little thing that clients find grating, right? … Wrong.

                                      Unfortunately businesses who allow themselves to start to think this way will soon find that the little things start adding up in customer’s minds. The seed of malcontent has already been planted and the more it’s fed, the more antsy the customer becomes. And when a competitor comes along who actually addresses those little issues, the customer is far more susceptible to switching loyalties.

                                      Little things do add up. Ideally businesses want to be carefully tapped into their customers and be aware of the common friction points so they can weigh up how significant those derogatory experiences really are for their cliental. And then they need to ask themselves what it may cost them if they don’t make appropriate changes? Are the choices they’ve made to save money leaving a bad taste in their customers mouths? Does it leave them appearing cheap, cold and uncaring?

                                      There is another way they could look at it too. Rather than just focusing on the things that could potentially lose them business, they may want to start to focus on doing things that would give their clients an exemplary experience. To consider the little things that show their clients that they have them in mind and want to be sure they know how much they appreciate the fact they chose to do business with them. Little things like, if they know that hot beverages can be uncomfortable to hold in a thinly lined paper cup, then how much more work would it be to say, “Would you like a sleeve on your cup?”.  Just to go the extra mile and show their customers they care?

                                      So what’s your opinion? Are the little things in business really not a big deal? How many people should complain before a business decides to changes their practices?  At what level should they decide to sacrifice a dollar in order to leave a positive impression on your loyal clients?

                                      Photo by mareina


                                      During college I had a guy on our hall who used to come visit me and my roommate on a semi regular basis in the evenings when we working on our papers. At first I welcomed his visits as he seemed like a great guy who was wanting to get to know us better, but I soon realized that his intentions actually weren’t so noble. Each time he came in he’d flop down on the chair and start chatting it up with us which was great, but without fail, within four to five minutes he’d pop out the question… “So do you guys happen to have any food?”. Funny he should ask this, because his visits always seem to come just after one of us had stocked up on some fresh baking or goodies that had been sent from home (and word would get around quite quickly whenever good food arrived). Being that we were nice guys we’d always share, and sure enough, once he’d finished off the home baked brownie or chocolate chip cookie he’d chat for another minute or two and then off he’d go. One day we decided we’d had enough, so the next time he came by, we both jumped out our seats to welcome him and before he could sit down, we whipped open the cupboard to grab a care package of goodies we’d prepared. We told him that we didn’t want him to waste his time with unnecessary chatter with us as we knew he was a busy guy who was just a bit malnourished. I’ll never forget the look on his face. He was stung to the core and slowly backed out of the room with his hands full of our food, while we continually reassured him that it was ok to skip the chitchat in the future and just come and pillage whenever he had the slightest pang of hunger. Well he never did, and actually never came back to visit either.

                                      Unfortunately the more I get involved in social media the more I encounter that same feeling that I’d get back in college. This person wants something and though they may not be as obvious as my hungry buddy, once they get what they want, they move on. Whether it’s getting a mention from you on a #FollowFriday, having you retweet their blog post, getting you to add them to one of your Twitter lists, using you to get in with someone you’re in conversation with, or many other similar things. In most cases you want to err on the side that people have good intentions and that their attempts to get to know you are genuine, but reality is that there are some that will use you. The key thing to remember is you can’t really change how people deal with you, but you can change how you deal with others. You can take the higher road. If you reach out to someone, be genuine and follow through, don’t just take what you can get and then drop them. It will leave a bad taste in their mouth about you and will eventually catch up with you.

                                      That being said, we all realize that we can’t personally get to know thousands of people. So how have you been able to balance authentically getting to know others, fulfilling you’re needs and still having a life?



                                      Hi, I’m Glenn. I’m a Mac-using, social media-loving, open source enthusiast who owns a web design, development and consulting company called ImageX Media. I’m all about the good things in life – you know, life-changing things like cracking open a tall can of Arizona iced tea or landing my preferred Facebook URL. In all honesty, I’m easy to please – I value authenticity, kindness, and a good sense of humour. Is that so much to ask? Oh, and I’m passionate about making our world a better place, so if you are too, chances are we’ll get along just fine.

                                      One of my reasons for being on Twitter is to help others navigate the dizzying world of social media by sharing information that has helped me survive – and thrive – in the Twittersphere and beyond. To me, Twitter is a new kind of community – a group of people doing life together, sharing stories and things they’ve learned at different steps of the journey. In the end, social media is no different than “real life” – it’s all about building relationships. And, like all relationships, some things work and some things don’t. Hopefully I can help you figure out which is which.

                                      twitter-birdIf you’re brand new to Twitter – welcome aboard! Here’s a post chalk full of the best resources I’ve come across on Twitter that should give you pretty much everything you need to get up and going. Additionally if you’re interested in growing your following, you’ll want to check out this one.

                                      twitter-bird-unfollowedTo find out more about my personal approach to Twitter and its eerie similarities to dating, including thoughts on who to stalk … er, follow, what to say, and when to break up, read this post.

                                      imagexmediaA lot of my tweets are about technology, which is, of course, my job and also the world in which I am blissfully immersed. If you’d like to know more about ImageX, see our award winning portfolio, or learn about Drupal, check out our site.

                                      And if you’ve made it this far, congratulations – you have a much better attention span than I do. Thanks for giving me two minutes of your life – and I look forward to getting to know you in the Twittersphere.


                                      Twitter is a hot topic these days – whether you’re into Wired Magazine, ET, CNN, or Oprah. Almost every day someone asks me what Twitter is or why I use it. After I give them my spiel, some choose to take a pass – but others decide to take the plunge. Unfortunately not all who do, make it. According to Pete Cashmore of Mashable, 60% of new Twitter users quit within the first month of joining. There are a lot of theories about why this is happening; here are three of mine:

                                      1. Ignorance – It seems that there are as many misconceptions about Twitter as there are new users each month. Most people I’ve talked to just don’t get it. Entering the Twitterverse can seem as daunting as moving to a strange new culture – it takes time to learn the language and figure out the lay of the land, and many just haven’t been able to connect the dots to see how diving into it all will actually benefit them.

                                      2. Fear – Who isn’t afraid of putting themselves out there for the world to see and judge? And who doesn’t at times wonder, “Why would anyone care about what I have to say?” You might think you don’t have much to offer, or aren’t a great writer, or don’t have a platform to make you “follow worthy.” To some, joining Twitter is akin to going back to high school – their fear is that they will be ignored and invisible while all the ‘cool kids’ dominate the social scene. Who wouldn’t be afraid of that?

                                      3. Time – Ask anyone how they are and chances are they will answer, “Busy.” Spare time is in short supply these days, and many people struggle to keep up with their “real life” friends and family – never mind the potentially hundreds, if not thousands more they could encounter via Twitter and other social networking sites. For Twitter to really work for you, it takes time – and that’s something most people just don’t have.

                                      I’m sure there are other reasons people don’t join Twitter or don’t have a successful experience with it. And for some people these concerns are completely legit. I can’t guarantee it will work for you as well as it has worked for me – but I do think with the right information and combination of factors, it can work, and can work very well.

                                      There’s a whack-load of information online on how to get started on Twitter and how to use it successfully. I’m not going to regurgitate what’s already been put out there, but I do know that the vast amount of info can be overwhelming – so here’s a short list of some of the most helpful content that I’ve come across regarding how to get started – and stay happy – with Twitter.

                                      Getting Started: The Ultimate Guide for Everything Twitter
                                      This is an awesome guide put out by Walter Apai from the Webdesigner Depot. It covers all the Twitter basics, including how to set up your account properly, how to get more followers, recommendations for followers, Twitter etiquette, a Twitter glossary, Twitter tools, Twitter resources sites, how to create a custom Twitter background, and how to set up Twitter on your mobile device, website or blog.

                                      Setting Your Strategy: Twitter and the Law of Reciprocity
                                      Kristi Colvin wrote this article for the Blog of Mr. Tweet, and it’s by far the best article I’ve read on Twitter. When I first got started on Twitter I had no clue how to do it, and I’m sure I grated some with my “what I’m doing now” tweets. When I read this article it really resonated with me and the light bulb came on. This approach may not be for everyone in all situations, but it’s sure been helpful for me.

                                      Practices to Avoid: 11 Ways to Lose Friends and Followers Online
                                      Brett Borders writes some great stuff in his blog, but this post is one of my favourites. It’s easy to type a tweet and hit send, but doing so without thought about what you’re putting out there can be counterproductive to your goals. This post contains some invaluable insight on what not to do. I’ve heard it said that humour can be boiled down to one of three things: truth, surprise, and exaggeration. If you’ve been on Twitter at all I’m sure you’ll find some humour in this article because it’s so true.

                                      Building Your Identity: How to Build Your Personal Brand on Twitter
                                      This is a helpful article from Mashable written by Dan Schawbel. This is particularly helpful for those who have business or organizational goals on Twitter. An important part of your brand is your username or handle – if you need to change yours to make it work better for you, check out this article to find out how.

                                      For me, Twitter is an amazing thing. I love that it’s given me the chance to learn from so many different people in many walks of life and to make some great new friends. It’s also allowed me to find some solid people to partner with in business and has helped our company land new contracts and find new team members. Like I said earlier, it doesn’t all happen in a day – for the first while it felt like I was listening to crickets while waiting to get some tweets coming my way (other than the occasional annoying auto-reply direct message). But if you’re willing to follow the basic common sense guidelines and tips outlined in the articles above, give it some time, be who you are and add value to the lives of others, I’m sure it will be as beneficial for you as it has been for me.

                                      Interact: What’s your story?
                                      It would be great to hear about other’s experiences on Twitter too… What resources or people have you found to be helpful? What challenges have you faced and how are you seeking to overcome them? Has it been worth the time investment thus far?


                                      Since joining Twitter I’ve found that few people approach it the same way. It’s a bit like dating: Some people spill their guts on the first date; others wait until things are more serious before showing all their cards. Some dates natter on incessantly and contact you every 10 minutes, and others you only hear from every 3 months (when they’re hoping you have Coldplay tickets). And this is all cool – you have to do what works for you. However, for things to go anywhere, it’s important that people communicate on the same wavelength and seek to understand each other to ensure there’s a good fit. If not, there can be some serious misunderstandings and potentially a lot of wasted time. One of the challenges of trying to communicate on social media tools like Twitter is that it’s tough to grasp the broader context of the person you’re coming into contact with when you only have the 160-character bio and a few tweets to go off of. So to keep things clear and to let people know where I’m coming from, I like to lay it all out at the beginning – just so you know what you can expect. If you’re new to Twitter and aren’t sure what to post or who to follow, or have gotten discouraged at all the noise, here are a few guidelines that I’ve found useful for making Twitter work for me.

                                      alkema11. Making Introductions: Follow - Presently there are over 10 million people on Twitter, and that number is growing everyday. How can you decide whose updates to follow? As a general rule, I follow everyone who follows me. I used to hate trying new foods as a kid, and my mom would always say “How will you know if you like it unless you try it?” While I definitely wouldn’t recommend applying this philosophy to all situations in life, I do think that in the Twitterverse the principle holds true. It is virtually impossible for me to tell if there will be a good connection with someone unless I take the time to get to know them – and that means following them. If I don’t even try, chances are I could miss out on some great interaction, a new friendship, or a good business opportunity. Of course, even my mom couldn’t talk me into trying liver and onions … so if an account looks spammy, fake or something I couldn’t show my wife, chances are I’ll take a pass.

                                      ev32. Breaking Up: Unfollowing - There’s no rule saying that you need to keep following someone once you’ve started – especially if you find their updates annoying, degrading or just plain uninteresting. I like to cut people some slack, but chances are if I start following you and you don’t follow me back, I’ll probably un-follow you. It’s nothing personal – I’m just not a big fan of one-sided relationships. Remember the kid in high school you wanted to shake and say “She’s just not that into you!”? I don’t want to be that kid. Besides, I don’t think you can really get to know someone unless you can communicate personally with them, and on Twitter that means being able to Direct Message (DM) – and Twitter only allows you to send direct messages to the people who are following you. So if it looks like it will be a one-sided relationship, it won’t last long on my end. Other things that turn me off? Tweeple who strongly push their agenda on others, create excessive noise (see point #4 below!) or are just plain mean.

                                      3. Moving to First Base: Interacting- So when do you become BFFs with your new followers or followees? Personally, I’m not one to jump into something – I like to wait until a natural connection point before I interact with a new contact. Sometimes it’s right away – when we start following each other. Other times, I like to sit back, sip a cold drink, and watch. If something comes up that I’m interested in, chances are I’ll reply or DM, and it could be the start of a beautiful friendship. Because of the nature of social media, it takes time to build relationships – to observe character and values and see how people treat others – but I think it’s time well-spent. Now obviously it’s not possible to get to know everyone that you’re following. Having close relations with 10,000 people is verging on ridiculous. Personally I can only manage about 500 best friends ¡ – By the way that was sarcastic… I tend to be that way periodically. To provide assistance in recognizing facetious or cheeky remarks, I often add the sarcasm mark “¡” or a wink.

                                      4. Too Much Information?: What to Tweet About – When I first joined Twitter, I have to admit I was overwhelmed with the vast amount of info coming at me, and I wondered, “What can I possibly contribute to this?” The tweet field on my Twitter homepage asked the question “What are you doing?”… and yet I knew that most of the time the honest answer to that question would bore people to tears! Amidst all the noise, what I quickly grew to appreciate were the people who were continually adding value by sharing great articles they were reading, technology they were using, tips and tricks, life lessons, humour, stories about helping people, and – most of all –  just being authentic and real. These are the things I like to tweet about. The temptation – or downfall – of Twitter is that it can become a platform for narcissism – the “all about me” syndrome. But Twitter can be about more than the sesame seed bagel with sundried tomato cream cheese that you had for breakfast – it can be about what you can offer to help others. There’s a lot of noise pollution out there, and I try to do my part to reduce it. For example, one thing that increases the noise on Twitter is replies that are only targeted for the recipient. This form of tweeting makes Twitter more like an IM tool or a Facebook wall. To reduce this type of noise, I personally tend to DM more so that I can keep my tweets focused on adding value to a broader audience.

                                      5. The Ultweerior Motives:  Why I Tweet -  Everyone has their own reasons for being on Twitter. Full disclosure alert! – the primary reason I take the time that I do to participate in social media is because it’s been very beneficial to my business. In my experience, people like to do business with those they have a connection with and who understand them – I know I certainly do. I’ve met some amazing people through social media – not only new clients, but also new employees who’ve come to join our team or individuals or companies with whom we’ve built strategic partnerships. Additionally, I enjoy meeting new people who I know I may never have any business connection with, but who may share similar interests in social networking, creativity, technology, values, humour, music, and making our world a better place. There’s so much we can learn and share with each other as we journey through life together, and tools like Twitter gives us opportunities to do so like never before.

                                      Like any worthwhile relationship, Twitter takes time. You need to be involved, contribute and listen on a regular basis. But my experiences with Twitter have shown me over and over again it’s well-worth the investment – and if the relationship is handled right, everyone can live happily ever after.


                                      Envisioning a Brighter Tomorrow

                                      I once heard a guest lecturer back in College who said something that’s never left me. He said people are only interested in you if you can do one of 3 things for them:

                                      1. Make them look better

                                      2. Make them feel better

                                      3. Give them some kind of advantage

                                      I think about that statement all the time, as I’ve found it to be true to what I’ve seen in my own base tendencies and in my experiences with others. However, even though I believe it is generally the way we humans interact with each other, I really wish it wasn’t the case. I’ve always wanted our world to be a better place, a place in which  people would truly care about each other. I wish we would take the time to see others not as commodities to consume, annoyances to be rid of, or not even worth acknowledging, but instead that we would truly see the value in each person around us. I’m not sure if this really comes naturally to us. When I think back to grade school days, I remember how downright nasty kids could be and – regretfully – how mean I was at times. And as I’ve had to raise my own kids, I’ve seen how much I need to continually remind them to think beyond themselves and be kind to others. I think as we grow older many of us learn to harness some of that raw selfishness – we realize it’s in our best interest to be friendly, courteous or nice because it often helps us in the end. Who wants to buy something from you if you don’t seem to care about what they really need or don’t deal with them in a friendly manner? The difficulty I find is consistently showing that same type of attention to people we don’t have a connection with or can’t help us. Ask yourself: do you really care about others who aren’t benefiting you back in some way? Sadly, I’m not sure if enough of us do – and I include myself here. Often I find I need reminders of how important it is to care about others with no strings attached, as it’s easy to get off track and start getting self-absorbed. Thankfully, though, life seems to have a way to jolt us back into the reality of what we should be doing.

                                      On Friday night I was heading back to my hotel from the #Drupalcon closing party in downtown DC, and my mind was full of thoughts about everyone I’d met and all the implications for my business. As I was walking, I happened to pass a doorway in which  a homeless person was covered up in a heap of blankets. The sight of him lying there all alone in that degrading spot made me pause for a moment. Should I see if he needed anything or maybe go and buy him a hot meal? I told myself that I probably shouldn’t disturb him and then quickly headed on my way, clutching my laptop briefcase. I reasoned that I was in a somewhat seedy area of town at almost midnight and that I should keep moving, but I have to admit that I later regretted not stopping to offer some help or encouragement. I know I can’t possibly help everyone, but for some reason I’d felt compelled to help that one person – and I didn’t. I thought about it again yesterday during my flight back home. I thought back to the time a few years ago when I would regularly go down to visit the homeless in our community just to try and bring them some encouragement. I’d go every Wednesday night (sometimes with friends and sometimes on my own) and bring 3 dozen donuts and 36 coffees & hot chocolates from Tim Hortons to give out. A lot of people would just grab them and high tail it out of there, as they probably figured I must have some sort of agenda. But I didn’t. I just wanted to get to know them and listen to them and hear their stories and try and be a bit of a bright spot in their week. I got to know quite a few people over that year and a half, and heard many interesting stories. Some of the people I met were quite sad, and it made me see how when life goes bad, it’s really easy to get off track and fall into some negative patterns of thinking – and lose hope. My friend Phil Cann used to say that it was like someone would shut off the light behind their eyes. For me, I wanted to go down and help bring it back. But eventually I stopped going. It was a big time commitment and buying all the drinks and donuts added up too. Most of all, I realized that what I was doing was just a drop in the bucket compared to the cost that would really be required of me to truly help them through their challenges – and I wasn’t sure I could give that at that time in my life. So I stopped going. But on Friday night, when I saw that homeless person in the doorway, I realized that I missed doing it. I also realized  that if I was honest, those people did as much for me as I was trying to do for them. They stripped away all my pretension and made me see that I’m no better than any one of them. My story is just different. I realize that had I experienced the same thing they had, maybe I’d be on the street too. Really, can any of us say that we’re impenetrable – that if we had to deal with everything these people have dealt with, we would never lose hope? In truth, our emotionally insecure and fragile lives are really only a couple of steps away from being in the same place.

                                      Though I do miss going down to spend time with the friends I made in the inner city, I’ve come to realize that you don’t have to go down and give out food to homeless people in order to do your part to make this world a better place. There are people all around us who have needs that we can meet – and not because we’ll get something for it, but because I believe that’s what life is all about. It’s about giving back. Some people may live their lives to take as much as they can, but I believe life’s real purpose is in giving back. We’re all a part of a community that’s way bigger than ourselves and it’s our duty and our privilege to share what we have with others, even if we will never gain from it. This can happen in the smallest of ways, by doing things for others that show they matter and that we expect nothing in return. Each day, when we drop our feet over the side of the bed, we need to reach out and put on those rose-coloured shades that will enable us to see what makes each person incredible, unique and beautiful. This week, as I walked through the streets of DC and through the halls of the convention center during Drupalcon, I got to spend time with lots of great people, each of whom are important and matter – not because of what they’ve done, who they know, or how popular, famous or skilled they are. These people are amazing because they are themselves, and NO one in all the world is like them. Take Abraham, for example, the taxi driver who drove me to the Dulles airport yesterday. Though I was feeling tired and considered asking for a “silent ride,”  I decided to chat anyway and was rewarded by the extra time he took to show me some of sites in the DC while sharing his passion about the city he loves and has lived in for the last 18 years. Another example is Ryan from North Carolina, who’s no Drupal rockstar, but rather a novice programmer covered in tattoos with a mop of a haircut and handful of friends on Twitter. But he says everything with a big smile that lights up the room, and I’m glad I had the chance to meet him. Ryan might never be a future hire but I hope in the time we got to spend together this week that he was encouraged and felt like he mattered just as much as anyone else I met at the conference.

                                      I probably could share an equal amount (if not more) of experiences where I have not been very caring or kind. Here’s a good example: leaving a conversation with someone you’re talking to in order to pursue a discussion with another person who might be more advantageous to dialogue with. This is fresh in my mind as this happens ALL the time at conventions like the one I was at this week. You’re talking to someone and you can tell that they actually don’t really want to talk to you as they’re eyeing the person behind you and, sure enough, as soon as they have the chance they’re gone. It definitely doesn’t leave you feeling very important. I actually did that myself this week and regret it- but so goes the daily internal battle. Obviously, there’s the reality that you can’t give equal time to everyone, as you’ll never make it in your business if you aren’t wise regarding where you invest your time. And you can’t meet the needs of all the people around you ,as you’d be perpetually overwhelmed. But if we all do our part to be kinder, more caring and help where we can, even if there’s no benefit to us, then I believe that we will begin to make our world a much better place for a brighter tomorrow.


                                      Yesterday I was at the Northern Voice blogging conference and sat in on a social media panel discussion entitled Who are you? Defining yourself in the online world. During the interaction, the question was asked if the panelists felt that choosing the handle you use on social networks (like Facebook and Twitter) is important or not. All of them agreed that it’s a very important decision and a couple of them (Jenn Lowther from 6S Marketing and Linda Bustos from ElasticPath) said that if they could do it over again, they wished they’d used their actual names as they felt that it would have been a wiser move in the long term for their personal branding. Unfortunately, they had come to the conclusion that making this change was not possible now on networks such as Twitter, as they both had too many followers and were concerned about losing connection with their followers should they change their username/handle (ie. @jennmae, @roxyyo).

                                      In Twitter if you change your handle, all links that relate to your old handle will be broken (and there could be thousands of them if you’d been on the network for awhile). If someone actually clicked on a link or tried to direct message or @reply to your old handle, they’d see a message like this:


                                      Also all your followers would need to be notified of the change, which could be a magnanimous task considering that you’d probably have to message each person individually. I resonated with this sentiment as when I look back now, I really feel like I made a branding mistake with my handle. Every time you post something hundreds of people’s eyes are scanning past your name and with that repeat attention, if you have something valuable to say and give, you will reap positive benefits and having those connected to your name can be very beneficial for you.

                                      When I joined Twitter 3 weeks ago I really didn’t understand that. I thought Twitter was pretty much a narcissistic bunch of people who had a bit too much time on their hands who were compelled to share all the intimate details of their lives with the world. I’d seen status updates on Facebook over the last couple of years and have to admit they definitely added noise to the dashboard… “hmm, should I go with the sundried tomato or red pepper cream cheese on my sesame seed bagel?” What the… ? Besides superstar celebs, does anyone really care what us ‘lowly’ people are doing right now?

                                      My thinking however started to change, when I received an email newsletter from my friend Mhairi Petrovic from Out-Smarts Marketing and she’d mentioned that her second largest stream of  business had come from Twitter, so I was a bit confused as how you could gain business from people doing glorified Facebook status updates, but hey there was a recession at hand so it definitely caught my attention. The next day I was reading a post by one of my favorite bloggers Eric Karjaluoto from ideas on ideas who’d expressed his opinion on why he thinks Twitter is going to die and somehow his insights on his experiences on Twitter got my curiosity up enough to make me decide to take the plunge and find out what all the buzz was about.

                                      I really didn’t put much thought into my handle when I started. My former Hotmail address was canucksfan82 so I figured that was an option. It had a lot of personal sentiment because of my love of the Canucks and because 1982 was the year when I became a diehard fan when they went all the way to the Stanley Cup finals so I went with it. However in a very short time I’ve come to regret that decision. I’ve come to realize that there’s a lot more to Twitter than just blurting out your whereabouts. It’s actually a tremendous tool for helping you expand both your personal and corporate brand. I will be writing more on this in future posts, however for now let’s stick to the handle and how I’ve made the switch.

                                      Steps to Changing Your Twitter Username:

                                      1. Pick a new handle that will work best for the brand that you want to create. Check out Hubspots’s Twitter Handles Dos and Don’ts and Strategy for Creating a Twitter Handle for input on this.

                                      2. Log into your Twitter account and click on “Settings”.

                                      3. Enter your new handle into the “username” field and then wait for Twitter to check for the availability of that username. If it’s not available then you may need to try your second or third choice.

                                      4. As soon as you find your choice available, then enter your “Password” (in the grey box that should have appeared below) and then click on “Save”.

                                      5. Immediately “Sign Out” of Twitter and then sign up for a new Twitter account by clicking on the “Get Started – Join” button.

                                      6. During the setup of your new account make sure to use the OLD handle that you were using in your main account.

                                      Once that’s done you’ll now have 2 accounts. Your main account will have your new handle (ie. @glennhilton) and will have retained all your followers. Your new account will have your old handle (ie @canuckfan82) and you can use that account if you want for a secondary purpose or to retain it to catch any direct messages or @replies that your followers or others may respond to. You can then get back to them from your main account and give a notification of the change. I also suggest making a clear statement in the bio of your new account, that your main account has moved. This is especially helpful for new people who may come across your account and want to follow you as it will send them on to your new account saving you both time in you not having to get back to them to notify them personally, and them having to later waste time in changing the account they want to follow. I actually added a note in all caps in the bio of my new account that says in “I’VE MOVED MY MAIN TWITTER ACCOUNT TO @glennhilton” to try and make things pretty clear for newbies.

                                      Does any of this sound confusing? It actually shouldn’t be as it’s a pretty simple change. And it’s fairly easy to manage after you make the switch too. There’s a number of apps you can use to track multiple accounts. I actually use Hootsuite (an online Twitter app) and  Tweetie (which is the best Twitter app I’ve found for the iPhone) to track personal and business accounts in one place.

                                      And as you’ve probably figured out, I decided to keep my @canuckfan82 as a place to talk hockey with my hockey loving friends. The benefits of this is that I don’t have to create hockey noise for your other followers who may not be interested in hearing about the latest trade rumor or predictions on tonight’s game. A week ago I actually had one follower do a public @reply to say “Oh shut up about Canucks!”. Now to be honest the individual was actually one of my old college buddies and he was probably hamming it up a bit for fun but it did get me thinking as really there are so many spheres of interest on Twitter that if you get talking on one channel too much you can definitely create clutter on other channels. So it might be something you’ll want to consider.

                                      UPDATE: New to Twitter? Need help getting started or tips on how to increase it’s effectiveness for you? Check out this post.