Monthly Inspiration, and a cause I can really get behind

Those of you who know me (or follow me in other incarnations) know that I am very concerned with the chemicals that we have surrounded ourselves with in our homes and in the environment. Our e-commerce business, SleepySheep Bedding, came into existence because of these values.

This YouTube video campaign by Healthy Child Healthy World not only harnesses social media for a very topical and important cause, it uses a form of video communication that was popularized by the folks at Giant Ant Media. I would be very interested in knowing who produced this video for Healthy Child Healthy World – the production values are top notch. The call to action is clear. The imagery is compelling. The message is shocking.

And so I find myself adding to the viral video’s hopeful success, by posting on my blog about it. And here’s the real secret – those who care, will share this video with their friends, and over time, this could become the next YouTube sensation – like the latest video from our favorite YouTube music story, OK GO.

Causes and Social Media

I had the opportunity to interview Willie Cromack and Grant Daisley about how social media has benefited their cause, Cyclebetes. Check it out.

You can find out more about Cyclebetes here.

Using social media to connect with the community about your cause is the single most important thing you can do to get word about your cause out. Social media platforms are uniquely suited to promoting causes, as you can see in the video above. Supporting a cause as a business, and becoming part of the network of that causes, is a very important statement about your business and the integrity of your organization.

Living In a Mobile World

“i think it is amazing concept. we will be at the forefront of mobile, rather than struggling with some other backend software” – Chris Rudden of Social Squared and The Drink Toque by instant message

Be on the look out for the latest and greatest in mobile technologies for businesses. Some of the recent additions to the mobile landscape are changing how we do business, improving both the business processes involved, and the customer experience. A few recent high quality examples that come to mind: the Shopify Mobile application,  the Eventbrite application,  the Tungle calendar sharing application, and the Swipe credit card processor iPhone application.

For those of you who don’t have an iPhone, I am afraid that these applications are not generally available on other platforms so far. Look for developments for Android phones in the near future too.

Shopify Mobile

This Shopify iPhone application requires that you have a Shopify ecommerce shop, and it ties in to multiple shops, allowing you to manage orders, capture payments, process shipment tracking information, and keep a closer eye on your online store. If you are a Shopify user, I highly recommend downloading this from iTunes. Added bonus: it’s free, and much more functional than other tie-in iPhone applications for Shopify.  There are a couple of usability issues in the first release, but over all it is a huge improvement over what else has been available, and is a huge winner from an order management perspective. Need to process an order? No problem. Want to update the shipping information on the go? With a couple of touches, you have access to all of the features you need to manage incoming orders, which in my opinion, knocks many other e-commerce platforms out of the park.

Eventbrite iPhone App

eventbrite check in screen on the iphoneIf you run a business with events that require sign-ups, guest check-ins, or e-tickets, Eventbrite is an excellent, professional solution for online sign ups. The feature that really makes me happy on the iPhone application is the check-in feature. It’s also great to see sign-ups on the go.

Although the application itself is free, Eventbrite does charge a percentage of the money that is collected through their service, but if an event is free, there is no charge at all. A very simple application that does exactly what I expected it to do, without too many extra features that you don’t need. In the case of this application, I have to say that less is more.

I’ve come to rely on my Blackberry more and more as I realize how easy it makes sharing the studio with my fans and followers online. Sometimes when I finish a design I can hardly wait to show somebody so I take a picture and post it to my Facebook page! I can then get feedback right away from the people who wear my jewelry.

It’s also been great having my email on the go. I feel much more in control of my day to day happenings, and am more easily able to stay in touch with my clients. While designing pieces of custom jewelry, sometimes I have to go back and forth with the customer a few times and having my emails come in on my Blackberry makes me that much more efficient.” – Jessica Reiss of eccocessories by email

Tungle Calendar Sharing

Tungle iPhone ApplicationThe Tungle Calendar Sharing application has to be one of my favorites, with both a web and iPhone version that are very functional. It has been a pet peeve of mine for numerous years that scheduling meetings using a calendar is so complicated. Tungle has solved my scheduling dilemmas by allowing me to suggest specific times, a range of times, or multiple possible times for a meeting, with as many invitees as I want. Tungle integrated with my Google Calendar, (yay!) and also supports multiple time zones.

Another feature that I like is the ability to show availability without showing any more information – this allows me to keep a modicum of privacy, while still allowing others access to my availability.

Swipe Credit Card Payment Processor

swipe credit card processorSwipe Credit Card Payment Processor puts a Point of Sale right on your iPhone. It integrates with your existing payment processor, and makes accepting payments on the fly using your iPhone (or iPod Touch) easy as pie, capturing everything including the customer’s signature. It also sends out invoices via email which includes a geo-locational map so that your purchaser knows what, when, and where the transaction took place.

Swipe costs $0.99 at the iTunes app store.

Each of these mobile applications take business to the next level, and allow you to take it out on the road without compromising your standards. By operating more efficiently using mobile applications, you can provide your customers with exceptional service.

Yo Mama, Have You Met yoyomama?

for moms on the goA few years ago I had the good fortune to meet Annemarie Tempelman-Kluit, and I was impressed with her commitment to her blossoming info for moms business, yoyomama. Since then, yoyomoma has grown from a little newsletter to a great informational resource for moms, expanding to a Toronto edition, and to for expectant parents. keeps mums in Vancouver and Toronto in the know with short hits of hip, helpful info sent to their inboxes daily. With an eye to the eco-friendly we cover products, events and places, anything to make mums lives with little ones easier.

1) Which social media platforms do you use most, and why have you chosen to use those platforms?

I like Twitter the best because it’s the most fun and interactive but I’ve realized I need to balance my time between Twitter and Facebook as the audiences can be quite different and I need to reach both of them.

2) Which social media utilities do you like to use, and why?

I’m very loyal to TweetDeck. Maybe because I don’t want to have to start making lists etc again elsewhere but I do love it. My second choice would be Hootsuite though – love the whole idea of scheduling your tweets if you’ll be away from your computer.

3) Do you consider Social Media to be an important part of your marketing efforts? Why or Why not?

I absolutely do and I think you ignore it at your peril. Social Media platforms drive more direct traffic to our site than any other source. I’ve made connections via Twitter in particular that I never could have made through more traditional terms. And for entrepreneurs it’s great to be able to feel connected/get advice from others no matter what time of day or night.

4) Have your social media interactions lead to sales or PR opportunities?

They’ve led to both. Once, shortly after they banned cough medicine for kids under six, my four-year-old had a rotten cough. I tweeted “What do you do for kids with nasty coughs now you can’t give them cough medicine? I haven’t slept in days.” Canadian Family magazine tweeted back that they’d just written an article on that and sent me the link. The next day I tweeted back to say it had helped and the following week they DMed me to ask if they could interview me for an article on mums and social media.

Now I would never have emailed the directly to ask about cough syrup. And if I had what would my chances of getting such a speedy reply been? Later they asked me to guest blog for them as well.

In addition we’ve found companies on Twitter in particular that have turned into sales clients and companies have also found us via Twitter wanting to buy from us.

The downside is how much of a time suck Social Media can be. But if you can learn to manage it – just as you need to manage email these days – I think it can really benefit your business. Even if you’re not listening to what people are saying about your brand via Social Media, they’re still saying it, so you might as well participate in the conversation.

yoyomama was founded by Annemarie Tempelman-Kluit in 2007 when she couldn’t easily find local info on products and services for mums and their babies. As a mother-of-two girls and busy entrepreneur, she taps into her own front-line experiences to provide readers relevant, useful information that will (hopefully) make their life less harried. She relies on social media like twitter and Facebook to help spread the word and stay connected. Annemarie is a sought after mom expert and considered one Canada’s leading digital moms.

Inspiration April 2010

I love design. I love the sauciness and audacity of new media artists. Keep watching these ones; it’s worth it.

The folks at Giant Ant Media develop some of the coolest advertising and informational design products I have had the pleasure to watch on TV, and their website does not disappoint. This website communicates the philosophy and production values of Giant Ant Media in such a design appropriate environment; a real pleasure to surf and navigate, and all of the videos are stellar. (Also, I love the little detail of the off-kilter electrical outlet at the bottom left.)

You can learn a lot from what cutting edge new media artists are doing these days. I learned that video can be concise and informative while still being entertaining, which is saying something. Thanks for the inspiration, Giant Ant!

Keeping Online Customer Interactions Customer Friendly

Understanding how your online interactions with customers appear from a customer point of view is integral to operating a business online. As a business grows, it is easy to get lost in the minutia of the daily operations of your business, and to seek solutions that make the delivery of goods to your customers easier for you. Often what this means is that processes become more automated, and the businesses become less connected with the day-to-day interactions with paying customers. This can lead to snafus like the one I experienced the other day.

I purchased an e-book the other day in the interest of having the book immediately, so that I would have the book to read over the weekend. Internet shopping has become a major part of how we purchase small consumer goods in our household, and I can confidently say that I can generally navigate various payment gateways and e-commerce platforms without batting an eye. Sadly, this interaction did not work out quite the way I had hoped.

The book was available in multiple formats on – I decided to order the book as a digital download. I have ordered e-books from various services including Amazon and Kobo in the past, and on the whole I would say I was pleased with how the purchase process went, and the ease of access to my downloaded materials. Not so with Peachpit. After being required to create an account to complete the transaction, I received and email confirmation from Peachpit Press, from a email address. So far so good. I processed my order using Paypal as my payment option, because of the buyers protection that they offer.

Now here’s where the transaction went off the rails. Upon being forwarded to Paypal, I was informed the I was about to process a transaction with Pearson Education, or ‘Huh’ I said to myself. ‘I guess PeachPit and Pearson are affiliated in some way. I better check that out to make sure I am not being scammed.’ I opened a new window in my browser, and went to the Peachpit website, and then to the about section. ‘Cool – it looks like Peachpit is owned by Pearson. Right-o. Carry on.’ So I continued with the transaction.

I received the payment confirmation from Paypal. And then I waited. I answered some emails. I ate some dinner. I emailed the email address on the payment confirmation for, and got no response from it.

I searched my email for the title of the the book, and low and behold, after my order was processed by using Paypal, another email had arrived from with the subject line: ‘Thank You For Your Order’, which I had not seen hidden among all of my other emails, as I was looking for an email from or

This email included a download link; I thought ‘Geez, well that was annoying. Interactions on a single order from 3 different websites. Glad to be downloading it now though.’ And then I went to open the downloaded file. Now before I had purchased the downloaded the file, I had read the information under About Adobe DRM Books, which you can read here:

Requires the free Adobe® Reader® software.

Download after purchase.

Information Before downloading this DRM-encrypted Adobe® Reader® PDF file, be sure to:

  • Install Adobe Reader 6.x, 7.x, or the free Adobe Digital Editions software on your machine. Adobe Reader and Adobe Digital Editions software only works for Macintosh and Windows. The Linux and Unix versions of Adobe Reader do not have the plug-ins required to decrypt the eBook.
  • Activate the DRM through the Adobe Reader software or at Adobe’s DRM Activator site.
  • Follow the procedures as specified by Adobe.
  • Visit our eBook FAQ page for more information.
  • I have Adobe Reader installed, so I thought ‘Great, I already have that sofware. And since the download is a PDF, I will be able to transfer it to my iPhone and use the PDF reader I have installed there.’  I was unpleasantly surprised by the following:
    • The format of the download was not a PDF, but rather an ACSM file, which I hadn’t come across before.
    • I could not open the file using Adobe Reader 7, in spite of what it said.

    I went back to the Peachpit site, and using the Contact Us form, I submitted an inquiry about the file. I waited. I found them on Twitter. I tweeted them, and they asked me to direct message them with my email address so that they could help me.

    It is not possible to direct message (DM) someone on twitter who is not following you; I let them know this and waited, and they did eventually follow me so that I could DM them my email address and get the matter resolved. All in all, it took 2 days to figure it all out, but what I did discover is:

    • Adobe DRM files require Adobe Digital Editions, a completely separate program from Adobe Reader.
    • Adobe DRM files are not currently usable on iPhones or any device other than your computer
    • I should have bought the hard copy. From someone else.

    I hope that Peachpit/Pearson/Informit/Whoever the heck they are clean up their customer experience for future users. They just lost a potential repeat customer, not because they didn’t respond, but because:

    • The product did not work as expected. I expected a PDF that I could read with Adobe Reader, and I didn’t get that.
    • Their messages to me were confused because they were coming from 3 different companies, rather than a single, recognizable brand.
    • I was given the chance to become frustrated, and was not able to immediately find an answer to my problem, as the information they provided before the purchase was incorrect.

    So how could this have been improved?

    • The content on the product page about how the product works should have been accurate.
    • The communications from the company I was purchasing from (Peachpit, originally,) could have been from URLs that I would recognize immediately as Peachpit.
    • The Paypal account that I interacted with should have been a Peachpit account, not a account.
    • The twitter manager could have been better trained to understand how twitter works.

    Any aspect of your business that requires your customers to interact with automated systems should be tested by you on a regular basis to make sure that the systems are working as intended, and that the process flow is both logical and intuitive, otherwise no matter how hard you fight to win your customers, you could be loosing them one transaction at a time.

    Twitter Ups Its Focus On Businesses

    I was going to write a step by step on twitter, and lo and behold, the social media powerhouse has released its own user friendly twitter guide for business, with a case study of a very major company that is using Twitter as a customer service and interaction tool. Thanks for that, Twitter; that lessens the amount of writing I have to do for the day!

    One thing to note is that they have not focused much on the small business aspects, and are in fact very general, (which they would need to be, their audience being so large). I am more interested in the small business success stories; the large brands already have a name out there, and there are things we can learn from them, but how do we grow our brands rather than support our existing successful brands?

    It comes down to personality for small businesses, in my opinion. Here is a quick list of tips for small business tweeters:


    • Be authentic – even if you are scheduling tweets, be sincere
    • Interact with others – thank people who retweet your links
    • Retweet content that supports your values – if you are a Vegetarian restaurant, follow vegan and veggie publications, and retweet pertinent info.
    • Follow those that interact with you – they will appreciate it
    • Syndicate your tweets to Facebook using Hootsuite or the Twitter application in Facebook
    • Direct Message people who follow you to thank them (you can use SocialOomph to set this up automatically)
    • Report spammers to Twitter
    • Customize your Twitter profile with a description and a picture, and even a custom background if you like
    • Search for things that interest you regularly on Twitter – things change fast


    • Ignore comments from customers, even negative ones
    • Forget to check your mentions (when someone mentions your twitter profile in your tweet)
    • Follow everyone that follows you – you are saying you are interested in what that profile has to say if you follow them, and there are many profiles out there that may not work with your values
    • Make nonconstructive negative tweets
    • Get defensive
    • Retweet the same content over and over again (boring!)
    • Tweet because you think you have to – that makes for some very dull, unenthusiastic tweets

    I would love to hear any advice that you have as small business users using twitter. How do you apply it to your business? What value does it bring to you? Have you found new ways to incorporate it into your business?

    More About Shrinking Violet

    shrink·ing violet
    n. Informal
    A shy or retiring person.

    n. Informal
    One who does not participate in the activity at a social event because of shyness or unpopularity.

    After 20 years working with software and internet technology doing a variety of different jobs, I have unwittingly become the go-to girl in my social circle for information and instruction on computers, software, and various internet technologies. I have always had a knack for finding alternate processes and solutions that made my jobs more streamlined, and that were repeatable by others.

    I started Shrinking Violet in an effort to help business users experiment, learn, and develop your own toolkit of internet skills by exploring my experiences in technology with you. Hopefully I can impart some of my enthusiasm about technology in general, and social media in particular, and ease the disparity between business users and their technical development people by helping business users to step away from the wall of misunderstanding and get on the internet dance floor.

    You have a lot to add to the conversation. You know your company, your products, and yourself infinitely better than billions of other people.  If your organization has been around for more than a few minutes, people may already be talking about you. Your thoughts, knowledge, opinions, and ideas are needed and wanted by your customers, your prospective customers, your community organizations, your government, and maybe even your kids.

    So put on your dancing shoes, and let’s boogie; it’s time for the wallflowers to join the party.

    Lifestyle Brand or Social Media Savant? A Drink with The Drink Toque

    Let me start by saying that I personally own 6 different Drink Toques. I use them to identify my drinks at BBQs, protect my iPhone while biking, as a Flip Video cozy, a coffee sleeve, and as mittens on cold camping trips (I kid you not.) Conversations abound around my Drink Toques when my friends see them, so I thought I would ask Chris Rudden at The Drink Toque about the conversations that he is creating in the social media arena.

    Chelsea (sipping a hot cup of joe, adorned in my favorite Drink Toque ):

    Hey Byron, how’s the beverage sleeve business treating you?

    Chris (enjoying a frosty canned beverage wearing a Stag Party Drink Toque ):

    Can’t complain. We have been having some good response to some of our promotions, and word is getting out there… Continue reading

    An Editorial Schedule Is a Good Thing To Have

    I keep an Editorial Calendar for Shrinking Violet, and I thought I would let you in on how and why I do that. For those of you who don’t know, an editorial calendar is a schedule of articles and content that need to be written and published. Without such a calendar, it can be very easy to let your blog posts and other content to die a slow and forgotten death, with no fellow posts to keep them company. It can also be very easy to let content generation slide until the next big product launch, or the next catastrophe.

    My preference is for a less stringent schedule that allows for some flexibility and creativity. When I am on a roll, a 600 word post could takes 20 minutes to write, but on the days when I am less inspired, or the topic requires research and feedback from outside sources, the process can take hours. This is part of why I create a schedule; if I know I am planning on writing a post on comparative technical resources for instance, I will generally ask for outside thoughts and assistance from my better half or some of my other tech friends at least a week in advance of writing the article. This means that the opinions that I will refer to are in my possession days, or sometimes even weeks before I begin composing a post. Continue reading