Summer Staycation

Mt. Saint Mary's College
The view from the top!

Even if you aren’t able to take a nice vacation this summer you can still indulge in the approrpriately titled “staycation” at home. The beauty of a staycation isn’t only the money you’ll (hopefully) save by not splurging on a vacation, but the fact you can stumble upon some activities that you probably are overlooking in your own backyard. Sometimes a staycation includes some figurative travel outside of your comfort zone. I definitely ventured past the borders of my comfort zone this past weekend when I embarked on a mountain hike that was off the beaten path. There were multiple times I wanted to turn back, including but not limited to the moments when:

  • The security guard warned us about rattlesnakes being very common in this area.
  • I heard movement in a bush.
  • We could hardly keep our footing climbing up the steep hill.
The whole time I kept thinking “I could just book a flight to Hawaii,” instead of being covered in dirt on a mountain. However, for someone like myself who is always thinking about a million things at once sitting on the beach in Hawaii would not have been very relaxing for me. My toes might be covered in sand but my thoughts about work and life would have never left LA. While climbing the mountain there was absolutely no way I could not think about what I was doing, and because of that it was the perfect vacation.  It also has made me a little more open to doing some more LA hikes in the future.  So I encourage you all to venture past your comfort zone this summer for your staycation. You never know what adventure awaits! 🙂
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All of these things considered, getting to the top of the mountain was definitely worth it.  All-in-all I was glad I made to the top.

The A-List and Other Tools of the Twitter Elite

  1. List building is great Twitter tool because you don’t have to actually follow someone to keep an eye on what they are tweeting. You can add them to a list so that you are able to put them into a feed to watch in programs such as TweetDeck. You can have your “A-List” companies you want to work with if you are a brand and you can engage with them on a regular basis so that you are able to attract their attention. Other lists could be industry-related influencers or news outlets that let you keep up on the changes in your field.

    Some of my very basic lists on my personal profile. Helps me to keep organized!
  2. I could talk all day on Twitter Chats and how they are the greatest thing out there. They let you engage with people who you share are common interest but would likely never interact with otherwise. How do they work? Basically at a specific hour once a week or once a month everyone follows a specific hashtag for that time and tweets answers to structured questions, asks questions, or simply just answers other people’s questions. Twitter Chats help you troubleshoot problems or find better ways around doing things. I’ve made plenty of twitter-friends in my industry through them and despite never having actually met theM, they are great to keep in touch with, especially since they are typically working in the same field as me. They have twitter chats for nearly every topic and if by chance you see one they don’t have out there, by all means start it yourself!

    Style Chat and Ask Forbes
    Two of my favorite chats-#stylechat & #askforbes
  3.  Sprout Social, if you aren’t on it you should get on it, especially if you are a brand. It gives you detailed reports, lets you do comprehensive brand monitoring, and the coolest feature-it lets you search conversations, twitter bios, or random tweets by location. The ability to search by location is very helpful and slightly creepy but it can do wonders for a brand looking to localize their messaging.

    sproutsocial
    Example of some Sprout Social Reporting Metrics.

Meals by Jackie: Roasted Chicken & Root Veggie Salad

Roasted Chicken

“It’s easy to impress me. I don’t need a fancy party to be happy. Just good friends, good food, and good laughs. I’m happy. I’m satisfied. I’m content.” 
 -Maria Sharapova

My roommate is a very talented cook, and baker by profession so I figured was worth creating a section of my blog to highlight some of her meals. This is a lifestyle blog and my lifestyle is not complete without my nightly dinners with friends prepared by my very gifted best friend, Jackie.

I personally am an aspiring cook, “aspiring” being they key word. However, to be honest most of the time I just sit in awe of Jackie. Her ability to take what ingredients she has and create a fantastic dish is a true talent. I, on the other hand, get upset if I go to a restaurant and they don’t have my go-to menu item: the cheeseburger. She’s helped me expand my food palate, which is remarkable considering the list of foods I don’t want to eat or even try is longer than the list of what I will. We haven’t even shared an apartment yet for a year and I’m already eating three times more vegetables than I have my entire life.

So, how do we manage to have these fantastic meals every night? Jackie, our neighbor,and I have an arrangement that works well for us at this point in our lives. We all split grocery costs, Jackie makes the meal and our neighbor cleans up. Every single night we sit down and have a” family” dinner. It’s fun to pull together all the ingredients we have in our apartment and our neighbor’s and create these amazing meals. We also welcome friends to our nightly dinner, on one condition-they bring a bottle of wine to contribute. The wine is a dinner staple and it’s also a great deal because I know nothing about wine, besides that I only like white wine so I’m trying new ones each night. At this meal, pictured here I tried Acronym wine which I’ll admit at first taste seemed to bitter for me but after another sip I realized it was more of a fruity flavor which wasn’t bad at all. I’d definitely buy it again because it is incredibly affordable for one, and tasty! This whole arrangement has been nothing but fun so far and I find myself excited to go home each day to share food, wine, and laughter with all of our friends.

Roasted Chicken
Roasted chicken with beet greens, rainbow chard, and leeks.

plateofchicken

Root Veggie Salad
Root Veggie Salad: Gold and red beets, purple potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, arugula, mixed baby greens, green onions, pomegranate seeds, with an Oroblanco and black garlic vinegarette.

Cable’s Swan Song

One very clear trend I have seen, among my peers, who are just now renting their first apartments is that everyone is opting out of getting cable. When did cable die? I grew up on cable, and it wasn’t always about television shows, it was about the news and interviews with influential world figures. Then I got busy with school, completing college applications, and not getting home until 11 pm each night. I stopped watching television because television stopped fitting into my schedule.

Then I went to college and for four years and I was constantly busy, and the only television shows I had time to watch were the ones that were recorded on the television in my sorority house. I did not follow shows on a regular basis, I would watch one or two episodes every now and then when someone else was playing a recording.

Upon graduation, is it any wonder then that I opted out of paying for cable? For arguably the previous eight years of my life television had been utilized less and less. My situation is not universal, there are some who have had a completely opposite experience, for example one girl in my sorority kept a spreadsheet of her favorite shows and the times they aired so she could follow each one of them. However, she was the only friend I had who was so devoted to following her shows.

At dinner with friends post-graduation, the topic of television and shows always comes up and the conversation always comes back to what channel or subscription service we watch everything on. Most of my friends have chosen to stick with Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Instant over traditional cable. When we have a discussion of world events we are citing articles online, not our nightly news as our sources.

There has become a separation of fiction and nonfiction. During the day, we are reading articles on the web. We are getting to those articles from our social media networks most of the time, twitter. At night, when we are home and trying to relax we are following the latest television drama on Netflix. It’s comforting in most respects to view genres and be able to select whether we want to laugh, cry, or be terrified for the next 90 minutes of our life. That’s something you don’t always get to pick during the day, in the news. It’s about control and now we are able to control the content we watch, down to the speed at which we watch it.

It was no surprise then when earlier this week I learned of the Supreme Court agreeing to hear the Aereo case. There has been a lot of speculation on the part of journalists and myself as to what this could mean for cable networks. Is this case cable’s swan song?

While I’ll have to wait some time before getting my answer to that question, I leave you with this infographic (via Business Management Degree) which portrays an interesting battle.  If all of the twenty-somethings and I start switching over will the battle come between subscription services like Amazon and Netflix?
AmazonVSnetflix-1

Keys to Client Relationships

Communicate 

Be available to them and keep them in the loop. Always making the client aware of your actions is good because it lets them see the work you are doing as well as helps you make sure you are doing what they expect. Generally, as time goes on some clients may want less communication, which is normal and understandable. On that same note, there is one thing be cautious about, and that is devaluing their time by sending emails  that too long, or pointless. The general rule that I abide by is that if it takes writing a long email, it’s probably worth meeting in person. Also try to respond to their emails promptly, I’ve found they will treat you with the same respect and respond quickly to yours as well.

Anticipate Their Questions 

Anticipating what your client will need next is extremely important because it can be what sets you apart from not only other companies but in your industry looking seduce a lucrative client, but everyone they deal with on a daily basis. So, the next question is how do you go about this? Next time you give them suggestions for a project go a few steps further and think through all questions they might have.

Going into a business meeting an agenda and expanding on that agenda certainly means extra work but it shows you really through things through. It will make you stand out; so go ahead and shine.

Treat them like people not clients

Learn their subjective biases. It isn’t sucking up, it’s learning how to present your information to them in a way they will best understand. If your client isn’t good with certain programs, find what they are familiar with and adapt to them. Clients want someone they can trust, and treating them like a person will help establish that trust. It is easy to get caught up in formalities, but don’t forget to be a friend.

SEO Basics

I thought I would go ahead and share some basic tips them here to give people some background on SEO principles as well as some places to go to get your SEO questions answered.

1.Title Tags

The title tags on a site should be optimized to have  keywords in them so they have a better chance at ranking for them. This is a relatively high-priority item since it is arguably the second most important thing related to SEO on a site. Why are they so important? Title tags show up in browsers, search engine results, and even other websites.  An example would be if you have a site that sells shoes, instead of having the title tag just be the name of the item like “black pumps” try editing it to this phrase that a user might search for such as “stylish black pumps.”

Determining the keywords should be simple, right? If you know your brand, of you course you know what people should be searching for to find it. Not exactly…think about it this way, people often search for phrases as opposed to just words. Just think about Siri, how many times have you asked Siri to look something up? If you ask Siri for the best place to buy leggings in Chicago…it’s going to search for just that (unless of course, Siri interprets it as” the best place to buy Legos in Chicago”).  With the Hummingbird update recently Google has certainly updated in understanding what these semantic searches, searching for the phrase as opposed to the string of words appearing in any order on a page.

Beyond the phrasing, if the keyword you pick happens to be common, for example, leggings, there are probably a great deal of people searching for it. This makes leggings a highly competitive keyword. If your site and 15,000 other sites are all competing to rank for the same keyword it is going to make it harder to become visible. However, there are plenty of related keywords or phrases you can add into your title tags that will ultimately benefit your ability to show up in search results.

title_tagexample

2. URL Structure 

While we’re talking about title tags it makes sense to touch on URL structure. The URL should also include keywords. Ever paste one of those links that looks a mess of a foreign language? (Example: http://www.shopforclotheshere.com/urban/catalog/category.jsp?id=BRANDS&brand=adidas).  Everything after the question mark is not search engine friendly to Google crawlers. By adding keywords they would allow Google crawlers to pick them up and help them rank. You’re basically wasting space in your URL if you have that, why not 1) make it look a hell of a lot better and 2) add some relevant keywords for your brand.

URLStructure

3. Google +

I’m a big proponent of Google + because it really does matter, establishing Google Authorship for yourself is really important because it gives you legitimacy on the web, for more of an explanation, read my blog post on it here.

4. Blog Away

Text is really important because that is what Google crawls so keeping an updated blog that is relevant to what your site is about is really important.  If you’re not the blogging type offer guest posting on your site, whatever it takes to create new and relevant content on your site. Don’t steal content from other sites, create your own to make your site more legitimate and beneficial to the readers. Google basically just needs to know that you are offering value to those on your sites, then they will help you show up in search results. Think about creating a spreadsheet that keeps track of which pages and which relevant keywords relate to those pages on your site, it will help a bunch.

These are some quick tips, these are  far from in-depth but totally worth implementing on your site! To ask some SEO questions try participating in the weekly twitter chat on Thursdays at 11am PST for SEO appropriately called #seochat.

The Art of the Twitter Chat

By now, you know what twitter is, in fact you suspect your parents know what it is and are on it as well. Some people will tweet their every thought, I know back when I first heard about twitter I perceived it as the place to go for people who constantly updated their Facebook status. However, I soon learned that twitter, like any social network is never really just about “you.”

Constantly expanding your network and providing value to your followers is key. One way you can provide value is tweeting links to articles or news. Sure you can include your own thoughts on the piece but in essence you are giving your followers something to read.  It’s important your followers also share similar interests with you, for me, one of my interests is fashion. While most of my friends from college (the main people I actually know and follow on twitter) aren’t constantly reading fashion blogs, I use twitter chats to find those that are and gain them as followers.

Twitter chats are an easy and fun way to go engage with others who share your interests. These chats are often hosted by one user who helps facilitate topics that will discussed. However, anyone using a particular hashtag can ask a question to fellow fashionistas or event to a specific person. One that I often participate in is #stylechat which happens every Wednesday from 12-1 pm (Pacific Standard Time).The chat happens really quickly and I try to answer as many questions as I can and also ask a few myself.

There are chats for almost everything, it just takes a little work to figure out when they are happening. And if there isn’t one for something you are interested in, make one yourself and reach out to fellow twitter influencers to help get the word out about the chat. Follow people, engage with them, and before before you know it, you’ll have a dedicated twitter community.

Give it a try yourself!