Thursday, December 31, 2009

Double Celebration

Ringing in 2010 with my soulmate, John. We've been married sixteen years tonight!

Posted via email from zenaweist's posterous

Saturday, December 26, 2009

2009 Social Media Themes

Kurt Kloeblen (@kcklo63)of Kansas City's KCTV5 asked me if I would discuss Social Media developments for a Top Five of 2009 recap article. A huge thank you to Kurt for asking for my thoughts! When I sat down to my keyboard and contemplated, social web themes came to mind more than actual developments.

You can read the whole KCTV5's Top 5 Of 2009 including Jeff Smith's (@jeffisageek) expert thoughts on the 2009 top gadgets and tech advances.

Here's the social media portion including my thoughts:

Although social media became known by quite a few people in 2009, Zena Weist has been living it far longer than just this year. As a social media strategist, Weist has worked with Sprint, Hallmark and Embarq to implement their social media strategies and many of those have come to the forefront in 2009, the year social media hit the mainstream. Weist regularly blogs and speaks about social media in Kansas City and throughout the country.

Weist's Top 5 Social Media Trends of 2009:

1. Social Goes Mainstream
When your grandma is friending you on Facebook and your boss is on Twitter along with most celebs, you know social media has hit a majority of American households. eMarketer estimated in May that by the end of 2009, 96.6 million US Internet users will be reading blogs. According to a Pew Study, 46 percent of adult Web users are on social networking sites. Of those users, 73 percent have a Facebook account, while 48 percent are on MySpace, 14 percent on LinkedIn and just 6 percent on Twitter. So are we really using the social Web? These stats from Palo Alto Networks show we are:

- Twitter session usage grew more than 250 percent since April 2009.

- Facebook usage increased by 192 percent, surpassing Yahoo! IM and AIM.

- SharePoint collaboration increased bandwidth usage 17-fold since April.

- Blogs and Wiki posting increased by a factor of 39, with bandwidth increasing by 48.

2. Community Sourcing Evolves From Crowd Sourcing
Instead of asking a group of strangers for input, individuals rely more and more on their social Web circle for help. Social media is helping us move away from the notion of crowd sourcing and step up to community sourcing. If you invest your time and energy in your online community, your community will lift you up.

- When Chris Brogan and Julien Smith launched their book, "Trust Agents," they focused on social media word-of-mouth. Their book made the INC magazine's best of, New York Times best of, 's best of, and 800CEORead's best of book lists.
- The #BeatCancer campaign - Over a 24-hour period at Blog World Expo '09, MillerCoors, eBay/PayPal and Genesis Today sponsored a campaign via Twitter that raised over $70,000 for four nonprofit cancer groups.
- Shellie Ross, whose Twitter handle is @military_mom, asked her community to pray for her son after a drowning accident via Twitter. Her tribe not only prayed for her, but also came to her defense when a few Twitterers questioned Shellie's motives for tweeting about her son's death.

3. The Year Companies Stepped Down From The Podium
In 2009, organizations took notice of the successes companies (Zappos, Best Buy, AMC, Sprint, Sharpie, Ford, Dell, etc.) that have been listening online are experiencing. More and more businesses are using social media monitoring tools, as local firms Spiral16 or Infegy offer, to listen to their customers, prospects and competitors online. These companies are analyzing the discussions occurring online about their products and services, then they are finding appropriate ways to join in the conversation to amplify positive brand word-of-mouth. They are walking away from the 100-yard-dash-style pitch monologues and sitting down in front of their laptops for the more marathon-style dialogues.

4. Traditional + Online + Social = Integrated Media
In marketing, the shift from afterthought add-on for social media to a medium that can belly up to the bar with TV, radio, print, outdoor and online display is beginning. Examples:
- H1N1 Awareness: All traditional media, display ads, search engine marketing, several social apps
- Budlight "Check Your Dudeness" campaign: TV, print, display ads, search engine marketing, Facebook application
- Dunkin' Donuts': "Create Dunkin's Next Donut" campaign: Print, display ads, search engine marketing, Facebook and mobile applications

5. Gaming Google for Gold
All content providers want Google Juice (better search engine result page rankings) and some are looking for the easy way out via content farms. In 2009, the divide between free content providers like wikiHow and ad-driven content providers like broadened. Free content providers rely solely on experts passion and depth of topic to answer questions. Ad-driven content providers pay writers to research topics and provide information on it. To me, it's the Big Box Content vs Soloprenuer Content challenge. In 2010, I think we'll see search engine algorithms become more savvy in discerning between the quality of content and the quantity of content.

These themes only touched the surface. What do you think the social media trends were in 2009? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Book Giveaway

I'm giving away a book or 2 - Monica Holloway's memoir about her family's autism story: Cowboy & Wills: #autism. Just leave a comment and you're in the random drawing.

Posted via web from zenaweist's posterous

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cowboy and Wills Giveaway

For my friends who know someone with autism, you will love critically acclaimed author, Monica Holloway's, heartwarming chronicle, Cowboy & Wills, of her journey with her family through Wills' autism diagnosis and then the friend that helped pull Wills out of that autism darkness we all know and despise.

If you are a parent of a child with autism, this book needs to be on your must read list. Monica's conversational-style immediately draws you in and because you've been there and are still there in the everyday moments she shares of Wills - it's hopeful, humorous, insightful and validating and at least for me the book has been therapeutic. I'm half way through the book and I prefer it to my evening TiVo (ask my husband that is saying something right there.)

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Cowboy & Wills from Marni Wandner. She is partnering with Monica on social outreach. Marni has also given me a copy to giveaway to one of my readers. This will be your favorite Christmas gift, I promise!

Here's my giveaway idea. What a copy of Cowboy & Wills for yourself? Leave me a comment on this post before Tuesday, 12/22 at midnight. I'll randomly pick two folks next Tuesday morning to receive books. One of you will get the brand new one that Marni sent me for this giveaway. The another will get a slightly used book that I'll just be finishing up. It will have a few tear spots and maybe a note here and there but overall it will be in great shape.

My ask for the winners is that you include your name in the inside front cover of your book and continue to pass your Cowboy & Wills copy on to your friends and family. Yep, it's that good and it keeps the giveaway going. Let's see how many names we can fill in both books!

Happy Holidays!


Posted via email from zenaweist's posterous

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dancing Badly all over Kansas City ...for a good cause.

Get your Merry on! The Ugly Christmas Sweater Party is 12/11 benefiting Operation Breakthrough. Lots of food, live music, drinks and Griswald Family-style fun. Have you snagged your tickets yet?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thankful and Grateful

As I sit here passing the night away with my sister, Annette, who is in ICU, I can't help but count my blessings.

I am so thankful that my oldest sister, Maresa, called me Saturday and suggested that I get my booty to St. Louis to see Annette before it was too late.
It was October 29 (just ten days prior) when Annette was admitted to Missouri Baptist (MOBap) in St. Louis for a lung biopsy. It was suppose to be "routine" to check out a breathing issue but her condition worsened dramatically.

A little history: Annette is a healthy, fun-loving genius of a 47 year old. She recently moved from Colorado to St. Louis for her dream job. She had been having issues with breathing at her job in Colorado starting this past spring (reason for the breathing issues in her work environment is for another post.) Suffice it to say, she got more and more sick with respiratory issues, was tired of that and had a fantastic opportunity with a pharma research firm in St. Louise back in August.

Her breathing got progressively worse from September to October. She was diagnosed with Sceloderma lung disease this past Friday. It attacked her lungs because they had been compromised. Her lung capacity went from 77% on 10/28 to 30% on 11/8 - 10 days...this disease is horrifying.

I am so thankful that I flew to St. Louis this Monday to see her. I flew to get here quickly (instead of driving from KC) and I was blessed to have my cousin's husband, Chris, on the same flight. He and his colleague, Tim, drove me to MOBap. Because I took the early flight and got a ride from Chris and Tim, I was able to spend a few hours with Annette before her health took a nose dive from this life-sucking disease.

If I had driven, I would have pulled in to MoBap when the ICU doctors were hooking her up to a ventilator and telling my oldest sister, Maresa, that Annette had no chance of getting off the vent. The man upstairs was looking out for my family - thank you, God!

Anyway, because I got to the hospital around 9a on Monday, we got to pay bills - this was extremely important to Annette - she needed that finished, she was too weak to write the checks, she was adament about me getting her bills caught up (if you know Annette, you know she gives assignments and loves to conduct and you're smiling right now.) I was helpful to her as we got those bills out of the way and I'm very thankful she found peace in that.

I watched her skin go from light blue to dark blue and purple very quickly with my sister, Maresa. Annette was struggling to breath when I got there and gasping for air in a matter of a few hours - even with 2 oxygen masks.

I experienced an amazing MOBap staff take incredible, loving care of Annette before they had to transfer her to ICU. Thank you Beth, Jackie, Tara and everyone on the Cardiovascular Recovery & Progressive Care floor at MOBap. I'm very thankful for all you do in such a passionate, loving way for not only Annette, but each of your patients every day. You are all angels!

Once in ICU, Annette made the decision to be on a ventilator and told the doctor not to put her on a trac (if it comes to that.) I am very thankful that I was here with her before the vent went in and that I know the vent was her decision.

I am amazed that the priest came so very quickly to give Annette the Anointing of the Sick Sacrament before she was vented. He was there in moments, not minutes, from the time of the request. His blessing has brought my family so much peace.

I am thankful that I was with my sister Maresa to take in the news from the ICU doctor that Annette had no chance of coming off the vent. We needed each other to get through that whopper of a newsflash.

It's as if Annette waited to go south until I walked in her hospital room. Annette wanted me to be with my sister, Maresa. Annette is that way, always thinking of others.

The ICU staff brought Annette up from sedation this morning so that her husband who flew in from Colorado could communicate with her this morning. Annette mouthed "I love you!" to Bob and they got to spend a few moments together and she stayed awake long enough to see my husband, John, and my brother, Pete, before the staff had to sedate her again to unconsciousness to keep her stable. I am grateful that this fantastic staff balanced that complicated act of keeping Annette as awake as possible without her being in any pain AND stable for the rest of her family to have some time with her.

There are so many friends and co-workers from all the pharma research firms that have reached out over the last few days with prayers, flowers, love and support and I'm thankful to see how many peoples' lives she touched and how many wonderful friends she has. How very comforting.

And all of my friends and family, those I know in person and my social web friends - I'm grateful for your love and support. You lift me up!

I am overflowing FULL of thankfulness and gratitude...your support, prayers and love are keeping me strong for my family and I am typically a wimp so I know this is all y'all. I can't express how appreciative I am.

Friday, October 16, 2009


I'm helping to raise funds to
#beatcancer, by blogging, tweeting
and posting Facebook status

Click here to join me!

Why this online charity event is very, very personal for me!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why The Social Fresh Cruise?

Ah, there are a few reasons I chose to pay to go on the Social Fresh Cruise. It's coming right up - November 12-16. Why am I going?

The Hook
Well I got an email back in May from a close friend that's going. He suggested I go. He knows my husband and thought it would nice for us to get away from our kiddos. He knows us very well :).

He explained that my husband could take in some much deserved R&R while I connect with industry friends, listen lots, share some and learn more. Also, he knew that by November I'd most likely be finishing up my online brand marketing role at Embarq and could use a clean break vacation. He was so right on that point!

Anyway, the initial hook for me was his very personal "here's why you specifically should go" (aka what's in it for me?!) cruise invitation.

Sunny without A Deep Pocket Hit
The cruise takes off from Miami on November 12. It's freaking freezing in Kansas City in mid-November. I'm a Middle Eastern girl trapped in the Midwest with chattering teeth and purple lips for about 3-5 months out of the year. Sunny and 90 is very appealing to me period. Sunny, 90 and inexpensive - well, I'm all over that!

The Back Channel is Dead
When you live, eat, breathe integrated marketing that is mostly done through social tools, sometimes you starve for face-to-face conversations with no back channel. An entire weekend unplugged...actually 4 and then some days - count 'em: leaving Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, returning Monday - completely unplugged. My mind needs no back channel for 4+ days. Connecting with friends and letting go of the three screen update impulse - this is the most appealing aspect of the cruise for me.

Interested in seeing who else is going? A few of the cruisers are listed here. I think there's still a few cabins available. If you want to go and need a code, let me know.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Enough Already! Listen and Respond, Remember You are Here for Me

As a consumer, when I am working through a product/service issue online (yes, it's me the customer working through it on my own time, while someone from the company better be listening. Listening = table stakes) - so anyway, I'm working through my product issue online, I definitely want to "speak" to an individual from the company...preferrably knowledgeable, but doesn't necessarily need to be an individual with her own online brand.

I just need someone from the company (that is capable of helping me resolve my product issue) actually listening and helping me. I can search on the person and the product, I can see what others have to say about their assistance. I want customer service from a human that will listen and is empowered to resolve - I don't want to talk to the man.

I'm not so concerned about the person's online brand.

Now I say that, but really their reputation really does matter to me, because I want to hear if others trust them. I'll ask people in my communities. The crowd will tell and I'll be listening. I figure, if they have helped others in my communities, they probably will be able to help me and I'm not going to waste my time or effort reaching out to a company that isn't listening and responding (yep, table stakes.)

I don't want someone focused on promoting their personal brand or cramming a corporate marketing message down my throat, I need help with my product NOW.

But's it complicated...I want someone that is cognizant that their actions actually speak louder than their words and that they realize the community sourced digital depictation of their online interactions matter more to me than any blog post they have keyed and most importantly, through that quick "online gut check" scan I do by asking Twitter, Googling, checking Get Satifaction, etc. that I consistently see their focus is me. So, is this company spokesperson "one of us"? Is he a trusted member of our community?

I'm looking for the company's Trust Agent. Because, Trust Agents* know it's all about me - the customer.

Done with my rant...

I'm just finishing up Chris Brogan(@chrisbrogan) and Julien Smith's (@julien) book: Trust Agents and it was the stimulus for this piece. I'll write a few posts on my thoughts about their insightful, timely book in the next few weeks. I definitely recommend it.

*Use Promo Code: BHB9149B for 30% off now through September 14.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Upcoming Events

Over the next couple of months, I'm fortunate enough to be attending several amazing social media events (some local to Kansas City, some not.) I hope I'm lucky enough to see you at a few of these shindigs, please let me (@zenaweist) know if you are going so we can definitely meet up.

The Quick-n-Dirty
This is the only virtual event slated. Aaron Strout asked me to talk about my day job as interactive brand strategy and marketing manager at Embarq on his (@aaronstrout) and Jennifer Leggio's (@mediaphyter) social media Quick-N-Dirty podcast (@quickndirty).
These two online marketing mavens discuss new social networks, social media case studies, new execs that are twittering/blogging and the hot topic of the week. Bryan Person (@bryanperson), one of my favorite social media practitioners, will be co-hosting with Jennifer.

Join the chat and listen in on Thursday, September 3 at 5pm CT. Every once in awhile, Jennifer will ask one of the listens to chime in, it would be great if it were you! If you miss it, you can listen to it shorty after it's live via Quick-n-Dirty's nifty On Demand Episodes.

Really "Way Too Early in The Morning" SMCKC Breakfast
On Friday, September 11 at 7:30am (I kid you not) if you dare, you will see mine and 60 of my closest cohorts yawning faces at our monthly Social Media Club of Kansas City's (@smckc) breakfast at the oh-so-yummy The Kansas City Cafe (@KansasCityCafe). Details on the "you will really want to wake up for this one" agenda will be posted on SMCKC's ning soon.

Kansas City Twestival 2009
In the evening of Friday, September 11, I'm definitely going to the KC Twestival (@kctwestival) at The Brooksider Bar & Grill. A plethora of my Kansas City friends are helping plan this incredible one night, one cause social web/IRL event for an amazing local, non-profit Wayside Waifs.

KC #Twestival 2009 from Judy-Anne Goldman on Vimeo.

Solis hashtag KC-style #solisinkc
woot! Thanks to The Greater Kansas City Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) (@kcprsa), Brian Solis (@briansolis) will be presenting The State of Social Media, an inside look at trends and ethics within the industry featuring current topics and statistics on Thursday, September 17 at AMC Mainstreet Theatre. Brian exhales the social web. If you haven't seen The Conversation Prism that he and Jesse Thomas (@jess3) developed, please take a look-see.

First Day of Autumn in NYC
Next up is OMMA Global New York on Tuesday, September 22. I just found out, I'm pinch hitting for my Embarq interactive brand partner in crime, Kevin Cobb (@kevinjcobb), on an online marketing panel with our strategic partners, Dax Hamman (@daxhamman), Vice President Display Media, iCrossing and Media6's CEO, Joe Doran (@doran_joe). When I can, I'll update this post with our OMMA topic details.

UPDATED OMMA Global NYC Panel details:
Our panel is on Tuesday, 9/22 at noon and the title is Leveraging the Power of Search Retargeting for Marketing Plans with Andrew Pancer, Founder and COO, Media6 Degrees; Dax Hamman, VP, Display Media, iCrossing;Ben Seslija, Senior Director, Acquisition and Analytics, Clickable; and Mitch Spolan, Yahoo! Inc.

IZEAFest 2009

Next stop is sunny Orlando at the beginning of October where I'll be experiencing my first IZEAFest (@izeafest). Here's my history on the how. I'll be speaking on the What Advertisers Want panel and I'm beyond excited about being part of this timely conversation. I can't wait to recap blog about the lively discussion around this topic.

And last but definitely not least, Kansas City's own IMS
On October 8, I will have the pleasure of walking through the Embarq social media case study with two of the company's key social web SMEs Kevin Cobb and Linda O'Neill (@lindaoneill) at The Kansas City Integrated Marketing Summit (@IMSummit. Unfortunately, Bryan Person is slated on an IMS panel at the same time as I'll be talking so we each are going to tape the other and we promise to share highlights. The great news is we both will be front and center live tweeting one of our favorite online savvy, witty Bostonians Doug Haslam's (@DougH) Effective PR in a Social World presentation later that afternoon. Do you have any fun ideas on a hashtag for Doug's preso?

Monday, August 24, 2009

H.O.R.S.E. Heart Story: Autism, Horse Therapy & Hope

I received the following must share, horse therapy story starring 9 year old, Sam via an e-mail from Susan O'Neal, an amazing volunteer for Helping Others Reach Success & Excellence (H.O.R.S.E.). We ran her email by Sam's mom to make sure all the facts are straight. Other than a few minor tweaks, the post below is the email I received from Susan. I found out that the H.O.R.S.E. foundation calls these personal testimonies H.O.R.S.E. Heart Stories. Thank you for letting me share Sam's H.O.R.S.E. Heart Story on my blog!

Grab a tissue and get ready for another inspiring horse therapy/autism miracle:

Sent: Wednesday, August 05, 2009 2:41 PM

I came across your blog about The Horse Boy. I was at the book signing event too with some people from H.O.R.S.E. an non-profit that provides equine assisted therapy to kids on the autism spectrum.

I have been volunteering for them for years but this summer I actually got to do some real hands on work. I volunteered at the week long Camp Round Up. It was an amazing experience.

I contacted Rupert Isaacson to follow up about the movie opening and to tell him about our camp. We are going to try to do some kind of a benefit if we can get the movie shown here in KC.

I took lots of pictures and really got to know the kids and the amazing volunteers. We had 10 kids but one boy, Sam, really stole my heart.

Sam’s mom called us about Camp Round Up. Sam is 9 years old and is on the autism spectrum. He is a very active kid but he is developmentally delayed. Sam communicates with single words that are forced out with great effort. He isn’t toilet trained, he has never asked to use a public bathroom.

She didn’t think we would take him but she was hoping. She didn’t have high expectations, she just wanted him to get to be in the fresh air and do a little riding. Sam did therapeutic riding weekly at another location. Brenda said we would give it a try. Zena's note: Brenda Wright is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of H.O.R.S.E.

I was checking in campers on Monday morning when Sam and his mom arrived. Sam spilled out of the car and took off running. I told two high school volunteers to chase after him while his assigned volunteer Mike, (the father of an autistic boy) and the staff talked with his mom. She looked apprehensive but mostly, she looked exhausted. She said Sam would be happy if he just ran around outside and chase bugs all day. She seemed a bit nervous about leaving but she saw we had lots of volunteers and we had her cell phone number. She planned on staying close by.

I have to admit, I was worried. So was Mike. Sam just ran and ran. It was scary to me. We were at a ranch with horses that belonged to other boarders, equipment around that could be dangerous if he fell on it and cornfields to get lost in. If we let him out of our sight for a moment, who knew what could happen.

It took all three volunteers assigned to him that first day. The girls got him figured out. They would play a kind of freeze tag if he got near a dangerous situation. They also played human wall. Luckily, Misty and Alexa are premiere soccer players and had the energy and stamina to keep up with him. We just couldn’t spend the week running after him though. I began to wonder… if he would chase bugs, would he chase bubbles? I went to my bag of tricks and gave Misty and Alexa some bubbles. Sam was captivated.

Once he calmed down and began to focus we were getting somewhere. Athena, the horse professional came over and started mirroring his behavior to get his attention. Eventually she made eye contact and invited him to ride. Once on the horse, everything changed.

The next day, we had a horse ready for Sam when he arrived. After a few minutes of trotting, Athena would lead him to the camp circle to participate in the morning song ritual.

Sam participated in the activities and even joined other kids in water play. He was giving us high fives and seemed to be enjoying the group. He would run through the sprinkler, then run to us for approval. And then it happened, he came up and said something to us. At first we weren’t sure what he was trying to tell us. Then we realized he needed to go to the bathroom. Any mom who has ever potty trained a child knows how exciting that is!

Sam’s mom was shocked when we told her that Sam used the bathroom. Although he has used a public toilet before, he has never asked to use the toilet, public or not. This was a huge breakthrough!

We were all having fun with Sam and Sam really seemed to be enjoying himself. He has a special connection with the horses though and that is where he was most at ease. The horses seemed to like Sam too, you can see it in the pictures.

Sam started weekly therapy after camp. His mom said that his communication is improving, he uses verbs now. I can’t help but think we have a little bit of a miracle unfolding here.

I bet you will be able to pick Sam out in the video showing our week:

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Susan O’Neal

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Brand Advocate Social Web Style

If you are needing a quick explanation of why word of mouth brand advocacy thrives on the social web, this video nails the concept simply.

Jeff Bezos on Amazon Acquisition of Zappos

There's been a lot of chatter about Amazon's acquisition of Zappos. This video is brilliant conversational marketing by Bezos. He brings us back to Amazon's grassroots start and their focus to obsess over customers versus obsessing over competition. He gives a quick short list of the things he knows including "It's Always Day 1." And most importantly, Bezos discusses the strength of the Zappos culture.

It's short and, I think, it is an excellent execution of YouTube's strengths. Bezos should listen in on the conversation happening on the video page and engage there as well. We'll see.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

IZEAFest 2009

Last year, I heard about the wonders of IZEAFest via my dear friend, Lucretia Pruitt (aka @Geekmommy) She is one of the WalMart 11 Moms and an amazing blogger advocate. When she says a conference is a "must attend" then my ears perk up! Lucretia suggested I connect with Ted Murphy, IZEA's founder. I did a little digging on IZEA and their take on sponsored conversations. IZEA is a governing member of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) and they require mandatory disclosures for bloggers associated with IZEA. Blogger outreach is a topic I wanted to learn more about for my own blog and for my corporate brand marketing role at EMBARQ. Then I dug into IZEAFest via bloggers' comments, the post that really whet my appetite is from Ben Spark, 10 Best Reasons to Go to IZEAFest. This looked like a must attend for me.

I made it a goal to meet Ted at SXSW and pitch my case on why I should be on an IZEAFest panel. With Lucretia's introduction, Ted, Ashley Edwards and I not only met, but we hung out for an evening with Lu and Rick Murray discussing social media trends and blog talk. Ted asked me to speak on an IZEAFest panel before I had the opportunity to plead my case. I'm thrilled!

Check out the amazing line up of speakers and the schedule is jam packed with relevant social media topics. And if that isn't enough to get you going, IZEAFest is listed in the Inventor's Spot Top 10 Meet & Tweet Gatherings.

IZEAFest is at SeaWorld Orlando on October 1-4, 2009. All the details are at the IZEAFest website. You can also follow the lastest IZEAFest news on Twitter via @IZEAFest.

Planning on Going?
Ben Spark has a great post to prepare you: 10 Essential Items for IZEAFest 2009. And let me know you're in so we can connect!

Photo credit: @eMom

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ford Flex Weekend

When Rachel Young from The Social Media Group asked if my family would like to test ride and me test drive the Ford Flex a few weekends ago, we jumped at the chance. My family loves the look of the Ford Flex and I am a Ford girl at heart as my very first car was a 1978 Ford Thunderbird. As a mom, my first van was a 1999 Windstar.

The Whats and The Weists
What we noticed immediately is, this cross-over is truly a head turner. The unique boxy design with the grooved door panels, 3-bar chrome grill with fun two-tone, vista roof makes ya look twice. Everywhere we went, we were getting double takes. What surprised us the most was how roomy the Flex is. Our family of six, with car seats and all, traveled down and back to my parents' home (almost a four hour round trip) very comfortably. In our Flex, we had bucket seats in all three rows. The Weists could get used to this roominess.

And as you see in the following videos, there's plenty of room in the cargo space for our weekly grocery store run (and also how easy it is for a younger child to get into the third row.)

The retro look of the dashboard appealed to me and my husband as well as the luxury interior including the tech-savvy, SYNC voice-activated system. The reverse camera option thrilled my kids and came in handy for Mom.

What we were extremely impressed with was how well the Flex handles the road. This cross-over drove like a luxury sedan and it was such a quiet ride (well, the road noise was nil the kids kept the chatter going inside.) The responsiveness was a night and day difference from my van. I actually enjoyed driving! I mean the experience of being behind the wheel. I was so glad we decided to visit my parents so I could drive on the highway for awhile. I never thought I'd say that about a cross-over!

Oh, and what was the kids' favorite feature? This was a toughy between the one button "pop and fold" second row, the "hidden" refrigerated console, and the absence of step bars (the little ones didn't need to step up on a running board or step bars, they could just slide right in.) After much debate, the frig in the second seat console won out!

The Ford Flex is a blend of comfort, safety and sleekness. For a girl that grew up on Ford Thunderbirds and has moved into the utility of vans with our young family, the Flex cross-over provided me a silver lining SUV. It was fun to get back behind the wheel and enjoy the drive again...all with plenty of room for my family of six.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Yanni Voices in Kansas City

More about the Music, Less about the Man

I have to say my husband and I are Yanni neophytes. We certainly know of Yanni and his new age instrumental compositions but can't recognize a Yanni song. Lucky for us, One2One Networks provided us with the opportunity to see the Yanni Voices concert at the Sprint Center in Kansas City last night.

We walked into the Sprint Center with an open mind...not really knowing what to expect. It was obvious to us from the first note, that this concert was a hand-crafted Yanni experience composed of talented artists. The best musicians, vocalists, composers, and producers were on stage in front of us. And like a fine art piece, the composition speaks more about the creator than anything else.

The orchestra was beyond phenomenal. The instrumental, virtuoso solos, including a unique Paraguayan harp by Victor Espinola pictured above and dueling violinists Anne Marie Calhoun and Samvel Yervinyan seen below) brought the house to a roar.

Yanni has assembled an amazing group of young vocal soloist. These artists are multi-talented and passionate performers. All are in their early twenties! Youth and Yanni, I know, you wouldn't put the two together but the well-known composer naturally melds with the young artists accentuating their strengths. Each artist has taken at least one of Yanni's instrumental compositions and created their own lyrics highlighted below.

Leslie Mills (@Leslie_Mills) has confident, gentle rain voice that is a sweet Colbie Caillat and Carly Simons blend. Leslie performed her amazing Before The Night Ends with Yanni's composition.

Nathan Pacheco is a powerful, operadic tenor whose voice aligns with the legendary Pavarotti in Viv il Tuo Sogno. This was a "Susan Boyle moment" for me in that I was blown away by this "unknown" young man's range and power. We'll be hearing a lot more of Nathan's rock solid vocals, hopefully in the operatic pop vein. And the dude hails from DC, ya got to love that!

Chloe Lowery, has a presence that took over the stage and amazingly an even stronger voice. She powerhoused Change (her poetic lyrics) with Yanni. She is truly a seasoned artist performing on stage since she was three.

Ender Thomas has a passion for entertaining with his voice as you can see with Ritual de Amor. He commands the salsa-style lyrics with rigor...and his eyes hold you in the palm of his hands. I've heard him likened to Fabio but this boy has one heck of a set of pipes so ya know, Fabio doesn't hold a candle to Ender in my book.

The orchestra and the singers have an incredible energy that kept the audience going. You could tell each performer was enjoying living in the moment. It was definitely a magical moment that we were thrilled to be a part of.

We left the Sprint Center blown away by the Yanni Voices experience. And we're craving more orchestra-style music because of it.

Photo credits: Anirudh Koul, taildragger46 and Yanni's Gallery.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The EMBARQ Social Story

As some of you know, I work for EMBARQ , a regional telecommunications provider, in the corporate brand team. A few of you have asked that I share our social story on my blog. I typically don't talk shop so this is new territory for me...

Over the last two plus years, a cross-functional EMBARQ team has developed and begun implementing a corporate-wide social media roadmap which we recently shared at the NewComm conference, sponsored by the Society of New Communications Research (SNCR).

Amber Nashlund, Radian6's Director of Community, interviewed our social media outreach team and created a comprehensive case study in handy PDF format of our social conversation endeavor.

We have several partners and internal teams that have helped us accomplish our key objectives. We wouldn't be where we are - helping our customers online daily as we do - without their efforts.

First and foremost, Dan Alcazar, EMBARQ Brand Vice President and Consumer Marketing Officer. Without Dan's executive support and advice, we wouldn't have passed go. Jerry Green, Brand Group Manager, helped lead the charge on our key online marketing initiative, the EMBARQ YouTube Brand Channel, with our customer-focused, Kevin Cobb masterminded "how-to" series. Our community manager Linda O'Neill championed the online customer outreach process under the direction of Mark Akason that Joey Harper (aka EMBARQ_Joey) leads fantastically everyday.

Also, much appreciation to Harry Campbell, EMBARQ Consumer President, who championed our roadmap through the enterprise and made it sync with his entire organization's vision. Our internal video team under the direction of Jerry Bova, y'all kicked serious bootie and continue to on the production of our "how-to" series! Our external communication team in partnership with their online communication agency, Metzger Associates, led an amazing online PR outreach campaign for our YouTube channel launch.

Our partners helped bring our social conversation vision to life. Google and YouTube provided us strategic guidance, best-in-channel direction, and key research findings while taking our feedback back to the engineers and getting vital changes made for our success. iCrossing developed our YouTube contest concept/creative and continue to lead the brand team's online creative, media, channel outreach strategy and search engine marketing. Metzger Associates continues to work in conjunction with Radian6 helping us keep on top of the social conversation.

I feel very fortunate to work with such passionate, knowledgeable individuals on evolving our social media story. Ok, that wasn't so tough of a post to write.

If you have written about your company's social story, please share the link in this post's comments.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Yanni Voices Tour in Kansas City

Yanni Voices 2009 Tour is heading to Kansas City in a few weeks on Tuesday, June 9th.

The Yanni Voices website is jam packed with more details including specific tour dates.

Thanks to One2One Network, my husband and I are going to Yanni Voices in KC. And I have wonderful news for one of you: One2One Network have offered me two Yanni Voices tickets for the Kansas City show to giveaway along with after show meet & greet passes!

Here's the quick and easy rules on the Nothin' but SocNET Yanni Voices giveaway:
1) Leave a "Why I Gotta Go to Yanni Voices" comment on this post spelling out why you should get the two tickets to Yanni Voices in Kansas City. Also, please include your preferred online way of me contacting you (email, twitter id, etc.) in your comment.

2) You must be available to pick up the two Yanni Voices tickets and meet & greet after show passes before 7:30p on Tuesday, June 9 at the Kansas City Sprint Center Will Call window.

3) The contest will close at 10am CDT on Saturday, May 30.

4) I'll pick the winner from the comments on Saturday, May 30 before noon. I'll notify the winner personally and post the winner via a comment on this post sometime Saturday afternoon pending my Saturday mommy to-dos.

Best of luck! I'm looking forward to reading your "Why I Gotta Go To Yanni Voices" comments and seeing at least one of you at the KC concert.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Horse Boy Moment

@MySpyderWeb, a powerhouse Kansas City blogger, sent me a Twitter direct message in mid-March about pre-ordering The Horse Boy book with a link to the documentary clip. I knew nothing about the book or documentary.

After watching the clip, I understood why @MySpyderWeb sent me the link. She had been experiencing little 140 character glimpses into our family's autism journey and our new joy with horseback riding therapy.

My husband and I began reading the book and nodding our heads with Isaacson's (@TheHorseBoy and yes, the tweets are from Isaacson, not a ghost twitterer) first few chapters on their family's experience with Rowan's tell-tale autism signs: the tantrums, the loss of focus, the loss of words - the feeling of losing your child more and more each day into the autism world of blank stares.

For us, the first part of The Horse Boy brought back a lot of raw emotions and an appreciation for the long, hard fought journey that got us where our family is today, but that story - our story - is another post.

A few Thursday ago, I was suppose to be flying to Chicago for the SOBCon kick off with the Chicago Social Media Club. For some nagging, mother's intuition reason I decided to book a Friday morning 6(gulp):15 a.m. flight instead.

So Thursday morning, I'm driving to meet my husband for lunch, listening to NPR and Isaacson was being interviewed by our local station, KCUR, about The Horse Boy. It just so happened he was in Kansas City promoting the book and speaking that evening at Unity Temple sponsored by a local bookstore, Rainy Day Books.

It was too late to get a sitter for the evening, so my husband and I decided I'd go alone to see Isaacson. As I was leaving, our 10 year old, autistic son "L" asked to join me. I'm not sure if my husband or I was more shocked by L's request. We explained that it was going to be an hour of the author telling the audience about his book and it would be all adults. We explained it might be boring. What we didn't know is our son had looked through The Horse Boy focusing on the pictures documenting the Isaacson family trip to Mongolia.

Our son, L, said, "I'm suppose to help Rowan. I need to go meet him."

We explained most likely it would only by Rowan's dad, Mr. Isaacson, and our son shrugged and said, "The dad will do."

So our 10 year old, high functioning autistic son and I headed to Unity. We talked on the way about autism as he flipped through the book. L told me he wasn't happy about all the "not nice" terms that some people have about autism and all the "stuff" that is associated with it, and that people think it needs to be cured.

I told him that our family felt so amazingly blessed with our autism journey and didn't see autism as needing to be cured. We just wanted to make sure he has every opportunity to live life to the fullest.

On one hand, I felt sad that he understand the label baggage but on the other I thought he's moving toward typical acknowledgment.

When we got to Unity, I said a little prayer that the evening would go ok. Ya just never know what L is going to say or do.

I was picking up our Rainy Day book before we walked into the Unity temple auditorium. Our son spotted Isaacson and walked right up to him and started talking and they conversed for quite a bit before I came over and introduced myself as L's mom and asked L to introduce himself.

"Hi, I'm L and I'm autism. I'm here to help your son."

Isaacson looked at me.

"L is high functioning and was diagnosed at 2 1/2. He's 10 now. Looks like L and Rowan have a lot of similarities. And L loves horses as well."

Isaacson talked with us, well actually he and L chatted about horseback riding, Mongolia and their family journey. Isaacson (looking at me) asked L if he'd like to bring his family to their family horse camp outside of Austin. I nodded.

L said something about it being too hot in Austin in the summer but absolutely in the fall. Isaacson agreed, with a smile, that the fall would be much better. It appeared that he had become just as smitten with L as we are. I just stood back and watched our son's magic and took in the moment.

We broke away so Isaacson could take the stage. L asked a few insightful questions during Isaacson's talk. Afterward, we went to stand in line to get Isaacson's autograph in the book. L asked why we needed another book and I said we would give it away. Then I realized I hadn't taken any pictures so I began looking in my bag for my camera not noticing that L was writing in our book.

L said, "He's giving away all his books, he needs a book."

Still digging through my purse, not looking up, "No, really, hon, he has plenty. This is what an author does...signs the book he wrote for his readers."

"Um, Mom, I'm giving him this one. I wrote him something."

I look up, "Let me see"

L had scribed (and I wish I had written it down so I could get this exactly right):

Trust in
your son
Trust in
your heart
your troubles
will be

The search for my camera went bye-bye and I just tried to keep my eyes from welling up, "Ok, son, I think that's a great idea."

When it was our turn, L very proudly handed the L inscribed book to Isaacson, "This is for you."

Isaacson, "Oh, L, will you sign it and I'll give this to Rowan."

"Good idea because I'm here to help Rowan."

Isaacson asked for contact information so we could stay in touch. He said he only knew me as L's mom. I handed him my business card, showed him my twitter handle and put my personal email on it.

L and I walked (or I should say floated) to our car as L was on cloud nine...I think I was on cloud eleven. He was talking a mile a minute about how he was the only one that gave the author a book and how cool that was and how much the author needed that book and how he was going to help Rowan. We called my husband and L went on and on about the amazing time we had. After about five minutes of chatting, L handed me the phone and the tears started coming, "Oh, hon, I wish you could have been here to see our son. I can't talk now or I'll start crying (and added for L's sake) happy tears."

L said, "Mom, I agree with Mr. Isaacson"

"On what, sweetie?"

"Autism is an adventure."

And that - those four words from my son's mouth - that's why I needed to stay in Kansas City that Thursday night.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

SOBCon 09 Recap - It's a wrap

I'm ending my SOBCon trilogy post with Ramsey Mohen's (@ramseym) video. The guy knows video storytelling and is as nice off camera as he is on.

SOBCon 09 Recap

Still working the listening angle, there are so many amazing SOBCon posts from the many bloggers that attended so I'm highlighting a few SOBCon attendees with this second of three recap posts.

A fantastic conference set up with a glimpse back at SOBCon '08 and highlights of '09 from Barbara Rozgonyi (@wiredprworks).

Steve Fisher (@stevenfisher)from Network Solutions provides a solid yet brief, day-by-day overview.

I related to Terry Starbucker's (@starbucker)Digilogger post because integrated marketing and communications is a passion of mine.

And finally, Glenda Watson Hyatt's (@GlendaWH) recap is the perfect one to end on and yes, folks her presentation did rock the SOBCon house.

And for even more SOBCon session coverage, see the SOBCon compilation link list.

We had plenty of fun at SOBCon, including the elevator pitch flash mob. Cheryl Smith (@cherylsmith999) jumped right in on cue.

Cheryl Smith's Elevator Pitch at SOBcon from David Murray on Vimeo.

And now you know where the SOBCon phrase "The ice man cometh..." originated.

Monday, May 4, 2009

SOBCon Recap

What did I learn from @lizstrauss's and @starbucker's Successful and Outstanding Bloggers School of Business Conference (SOBCon09)? To listen more and talk less.

In that vein, the next series of post are going to be from some of the outstanding bloggers I met over the weekend. Some will be pulled in from their blog, video post, etc. - some will be guest posts. Let me know what you think!

I chose @jenchicago's recap of Day 1 first because heck, we were in Chicago, it's Day 1 and Jen is an amazing videoblogging who lives social media. Jen made an immediate impression on me as someone who knows the ins and outs of promoting yourself and your cause online authentically.

With video you are always listening, you also have to know how to get the story out of the teller. Jen does both really well.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Upcoming Conferences

Here's the upcoming events I'll be attending. Please let me know if you're going to any of them so we can meet up. First up, is The Society For New Communication's (SNCR - pronounced "snicker") 5th annual NewComm Forum April 27th - 29th in San Francisco, CA

NewComm Forum was my favorite '08 conference. It brings together thought leaders and decision makers to discuss the impact of social media and new communications on PR, marketing, advertising, media, journalism, business, culture and society. This year, I'm looking forward to the opening keynote conversation with Charles Best, founder of

I'm thrilled that our EMBARQ online outreach team will be sharing our socmed story as well.

NewComm is co-located with Chris Brogan's SF Inbound Marketing Summit. I haven't attended a Brogan conference yet and I'm really looking forward to this line up. I'm especially chomping at the bit to see @aaronstrout's Start Talking With Your Customers
presentation and the Listening and Monitoring session with an amazing socmed panel including @ambercadabra, @justinlevy and @spiral16.

Next up is SOBCon (Biz School for Bloggers) in Chicago, May 1-3. If you don't know Liz Strauss, I highly recommend you take in her blog and if you are on twitter, follow her. She is a quiet, wise soul in this frenzied industry. SOBCon is one of Chris Brogan's all time favorite conferences. I'm thrilled to be on a social web panel with three fabulous power bloggers Chris Garrett, Lucretia Pruitt, and Jason Falls.

On May 16, I have the honor of moderating a social media tools panel at Chicks Who Click in Kansas City and sharing my geeky marketing chick life over lunch. The first #CWC09 in Boulder was a heck of a networking conference. I was surrounded by inspirational women and a few brave men from diverse backgrounds, ranging in all ages and various aspirations but all passionate about online!

As for the Kansas City Clicks Who Click, do not feel like you need to be a power blogger, a twitter diva or a digg junkie to long as you are wanting to learn more about the social web, you are going to love this conference!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Walking Away From The Children's Place

The Children's Place lost me as a brand advocate tonight. I know, I know - who am I, really? One of millions. But for me, it's very personal and I'm aggravated. And for the local store, they've lost a steady customer.

We have four kids ranging from three to ten. We are an extremely busy family with two parents working outside the home, kids involved in know our drill, it's yours with a Weist twist. Just like you, we don't have time to waste. If we do find a few moments to spare, we want to spend that blowing bubbles with the kids or reading one last bedtime story.

Well, tonight I'm wasting time...a lot of my time actually.

Sidebar - I'm wasting it because when you walk away from a brand you love, you are walking away from a relationship. And if you are me, you have to write about it, because well, because I'm upset! We have history, Children's Place, you listen to what I say (at least you appear to through surveys, feedback on your site, your in-store associates)and you reward me when I come to visit and bring you...well, cash...but you reward me with durable, well-priced clothing and discounts. Your in-store team is fantastic, your online shopping great.

Did I mention I'm a swarm shopper? I have to be, I don't have time to not be and your store is fantastic for that...but wow...tonight's customer service's brought me to a halt. I'm having to spend time thinking about and fixing a problem that's not mine and your processes to address it, well, I'm hoping you can resolve them quickly so you don't lose another brand advocate.
Back to the story...

It started with my Children's Place bill that came in the mail. The Children's Place charged me a late fee of $25 and a finance charge of $2.80 as they claimed I hadn't paid my March bill.

You know I had to think about it, but I knew I had paid the bill in-store and this was just The Children's Place oversight, so I called The Children's Place customer service. The CS rep assured me they had not received my payment. I informed them I did an in-store payment. The CS rep told me to contact the local store to clear up the issue.

Children's Place Statement on

This all unfolded within 5 minutes of getting home tonight. Four hungry kiddos, Dad working late...I started dinner, the younger kids played school with the older kids and I did some investigating.

I called The Children's Place local store. The manager said I would need to call the 800 customer service number on my bill to get the issue resolved because their in-store system did not allow them to go back a month.

I tracked down my in-store payment receipt (3/27) and March bill for The Children's Place.

Children's Place March bill on
Also, I validated my payment cleared our bank on 3/30, the date the March payment was due.

Children's Place Proofing I Paid on

We ate dinner and while the kids played I called customer service again.

After walking through my payment scenario with the next The Children's Place CS rep, my bill, the extra charges, my in-store receipt, and my bank validation of payment clearing. He informed me that I have to fax my receipt and my bank validation to a The Children's Place fax number: 866.533.8590.

He, very politely, told me it would take a few days for The Children's Place to review my paperwork and then I would need to call back to validate the issue had been resolved. He did, very kindly add, that I am a valued customer of The Children's Place and that they truly appreciate the business that I do with them and that if I wanted to pay my minimum April balance on the phone with him, he'd do me a favor and remove the late fee right then and there. Yeah, that went over well.

I, very politely, told The Children's Place rep that I would fax all of my paperwork tomorrow as was The Children's Place's policy and that I would be getting the late fee and finance charges removed as this unfortunate situation was not my fault and was The Children's Place's oversight. I had to keep reminding myself that this very polite CS rep was just following The Children's Place's policy. Very unfortunate policy.

So I'm sure you have had something like this happen to you - something that has driven you to break it off with a brand. Please share your story or link.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

World Autism Day - April 2

Bob and Suzanne Wright head up AutismSpeaks. Follow their whirlwind day of awareness here.

Also this is a great, quick video that explains autism to kids from NickJr's Wubbzy:

Friday, March 20, 2009

SXSW Recap - Friday and Saturday keynote

There's so many SXSW attendees that have written fantastic summaries of the keynotes, panels and parties. So, I'm going to share a few of my favorite moments from each day instead of trying to recap the entire whirlwind event.

At the end of my summary posts, I'll put a list of other's SXSW posts together that I've found insightful. Here goes Evening One (for me)- Friday and Day Two - Saturday's keynote:

I arrived in Austin just in time to get registered and meet up with a few friends in the @techset lounge.

I'm the one sitting with my back toward you at the front table, starting my first afternoon SXSW-style with beer next to my laptop as I was tracking down where my cohorts were within the Austin Convention Center.

The place is a freaking maze. And y'all know how directionally challenged I am. It was obviously by the late hour and well, because it's SXSW, the first day was going to be dedicated to hitting parties. I threw my party pacing plan out the window.

The TechSet Lounge was sponsored by Windows Mobile and hosted by amazing socmed dual Brian Solis (@briansolis) and Steph Gresta stephagresta.) They were truly amazing and appeared to be there 24/7 making sure each guest was taken care of. Even those of us that didn't blog a lick while we were there - well, I tweeted a lot though so technically I'm covered, right?! - were definitely made to feel right at home.

Friday Welcome Parties. Given this was my first year at SXSW, I had heard all the rumors about the Southby parties...but really nothing can prepare you for the mass amount of people, party vibe and all the 3D twitter avatars that you bump into - it was a bit overwhelming.

Our first stop was at the Social Media Group kick-off party at The Six Bar. Let me tell you, Maggie Fox knows how to throw a fantastic fling.
Here Maggie is with her husband, Ryan. They were welcoming the thousands of folks in one by one! I'm sure they were exhausted but you wouldn't have known it by their enthusiasm. Six is an amazing, multi-level bar in the heart of downtown with a rooftop view that is gorgeous. Even though Six's website needs a refresh, I'm glad our evening started at Six with Maggie.

We hit the tail end of the Blue Sky Factory's party hosted by Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan) for a bit, it was nice to see Chris without the SXSW swarm in tow. Then we headed to the TechStar RatPat-themed shindig at The Belmont. While there I ran into my twitter buddy Aaron Strout (@aaronstrout), and let me tell you that dude can give a good bear hug. Then finally ended the evening by having a quiet dinner with a few friends.

A huge thank you to Lionel Manchaca(@LionelatDELL) for escorting fellow SXSW noob, Mark Logan (@mlogan)and I around that first evening.

And the Saturday conference highlight for me, was Tony Hseih's (@Zappos) Keynote. Because customer advocacy is in my blood and Tony oozes it, his talk really resonated with me as I'm sure it did most. We are all connected and Tony gets that.

Kudos to the SXSW crew for having a brand keynote. The conversation starts when brands listen...not agencies on behalf of brands, but actual brands.

When brands listen to the buzz, it's their first step toward the less shout, more rev model. If you listen, show you are listening through actionable steps - your customers will reward you with brand favorability which bottom line equals more rev.

Listen and learn from Tony.

Delivering Happiness - Part 1:

Delivering Happiness - Part 2:

And here's Tony's slides:

More to come on the rest of SXSW soon.

Photos taken by: alexdesigns, and allowscriptaccess.