Responding to Facebook Birthday Posts

Growing up, my mom was notorious for making my two siblings and myself write thank you notes whenever we got something for our birthday, Christmas, or any other occasion where we received something from someone else. This practice started very young as I remember drawing pictures on a sheet of paper and scribbling out the words “thank you” before I could even dream of putting sentences together. On Christmas morning did we ever receive cool trinkets, candy, or toys in our stockings? NO! We received thank you notes.

Of course this proper form of acknowledgement that my mom taught me at a young age translated into a dutiful habit as I entered into my adult life. I have thank you notes stock piled both at home and in my office and I always try to write them the same day that I receive something or have something nice done for me. While back in my toddler years I may have gotten the pardon of my understanding relatives if I did not send them a thank you note (even though my mom would never let it happen) there is no such thing as a free pass in adulthood. It is expected to send thank you notes whenever someone goes out of their way for you, both personally and professionally.

And I couldn’t agree anymore with this standard. A thank you note shows gratitude, recognition, and appreciation towards the person or entity that did something nice for you. Not sending a thank you note shows laziness and ungratefulness. Now I know that not everyone had my mom and not everyone received the same strict teachings from her but if you can’t figure out the necessity of sending a thank you note by the time you turn twenty-one you need to have a crash course with Miss Manners herself.

So because of my strong upbringing with thank you notes, when it comes to other displays of gratitude I make sure to be on top of my game as well. Now people take completely different approaches to this situation, and I am not saying my approach is right, but there is always that question of how to respond with Facebook birthday wishes.

As I said, people respond to this conundrum very differently. Some will go through and like every single birthday wish post. Others will post an all-accompanying status update thanking everyone for the birthday wishes, saying how they had such a good day, talking about how loved they feel, etc . Still others will like certain posts, comment on others, and maybe even delete some. Some people will do absolutely nothing (why even have a Facebook if this is the case?). I like to take the more time consuming approach…

I make sure to respond to each and every person who posts a birthday wish on my wall. As has been my personal policy since I was twenty years old, I make it a priority to thank everyone. My birthday fell on a Monday this year and because of the high volume of traffic social media sites receive at the beginning of the week combined with the large push I got from Sunday night, by the end of my birthday I had around 140 posts on my wall. After my birthday celebration died down and I got through the work day on Tuesday, I started to go to work.

Now back when I was a Facebook rookie, you could not reply to posts on the same page. Crazy, huh? Instead, if someone wished me a birthday on my wall I had to go to that person’s wall and leave my thank you. These days things are much more easier as I can just go down my wall and reply to each person without leaving my own profile. Man, we had it so hard back in the day!

Although it does take over two hours of my time, I actually enjoy individually responding to each person. Birthdays are a great excuse to reconnect with people you haven’t talked to in a long time. I did get some satisfaction out of viewing the posts from people I have not talked to since high school. It is just a little reminder that they still care a tiny bit about you to write a sentence or two on your wall. Responding to each birthday wish is also a great conversation starter. Some interesting, successful, and let’s be honest here, very good looking people post on my wall for my birthday. When thanking them for wishing me a happy date of birth I have no qualms asking them a question about how life is going or if they are going to be at a certain event. They will then reply and a little conversation has started. On my birthday my notifications jump about 12X for a normal day….each day thereafter for the next week I see about a 6X increase in notifications for a normal day. This is because of all the people “liking” and responding to my follow ups.

For each birthday post I get, I make sure to write at least two sentences in response. Depending on how much effort is put into the post will translate into how much I put into my thank you response. I would estimate that 40% of my birthday posts say no more than “Happy Birthday Brent.” Of that 40%, probably half of those responses just say “Happy Birthday.” The people who just say “happy birthday” and don’t even recognize me by my name will get the minimum two sentence response. I am not criticizing these people at all, I am just trying to explain my methodology. The people who wish me a happy birthday in ten different languages, write out the words to the birthday song, bring up an inside joke, or post a meaningful message will get longer and more thoughtful messages from me. Sometimes, the posts might even get a “like” from me as well.

I am not here to call out anyone’s Facebook practices on such a silly issue as this. However, I am saying that you can never go wrong with always trying to show gratitude no matter what the situation or no matter how much of a pain in the ass it might be. Unfortunately, birthdays will continue to come until we die. That means we all have many more birthdays to come. In one of these next birthdays, I challenge you to respond to everyone who wishes you a happy birthday and just see how cool the result really is. Now I know many of you have way more Facebook friends than I could ever dream of having so it will be much more time draining for you but I still recommend you give it a try. But most of all, if you never do respond to every birthday post you get on Facebook please make sure to still write thank you notes. Don’t Blink.

Hello Birthday #26!

Today I turned twenty-six years old. I must say that I am coping a little better with this birthday compared to the let down of last year. One year ago today I felt a sense of depression at passing out of the 18-24 age demographic and legitimately entering into my mid-twenties. Although twenty-six does sound worse than twenty-five I have a few reasons for not hating this October 8 as much as I did the last one.

First off, I feel that twenty-five and twenty-six are pretty much one and the same. I am still smack in my mid-twenties. I don’t have to change my Twitter bio as it still says that “I am a guy in my mid-twenties.” Besides renewing my driver’s license, there is no big change with this new year, no glaring reminder that I am getting old. Twenty-six is not the starting point or ending point for anything in life. Just saying the two ages aloud does not even bring about that much difference to my ear.

Secondly, most of the people I hang out with and deal with on a daily basis are older than me. This makes the pill of having a birthday a little easier to swallow. True, I do work on a college campus and I am constantly around young and vibrant student-athletes but besides that I roll with people who are my senior. So even if my friends give me a hard time about being old today, I can throw it right back in the faces of most of them.

Finally, I am just more accepting of life in general. Aging is a part of the human condition and I can’t stop Father Time. I think I pretty much just wasted all of my “age scorn” to last me a couple years after I turned twenty-five. I just don’t have it in me this year to get all worked up and bothered about something that I can’t control. Rather, instead of feeling sad about my age I feel thankful about my age. I have amazing people around me. At twenty-six years old I have a great job, superb health, and the best family anyone could ask for. Some people won’t ever have all three of those things in their lifetime. I am not in a bad spot.

Tonight I am celebrating my birthday at Buffalo Wild Wings with friends. Nothing like eating wings and watching some football with good company! Thank you all so much for all the birthday wishes, texts, Facebook posts, and Twitter mentions from today. I am ready to kick off this new birthday year with all of you and make it as positive as possible. Don’t Blink.

Destination: Colorado

This past evening I blogged about energy drinks and you can bet on it that at 4am in the morning, I am sipping on one right now. My travel partner, Jimmy, and I are moments away from going to the airport where we will hop on a 5:55am flight that will take us to Denver as we begin preparations for the Montana football team to arrive for its game against Northern Colorado on Saturday.

This will be the second consecutive week of travel as last week we were in the Spokane/Cheney area for a game against Eastern Washington. However, as I originally hail from Spokane and was obviously very familiar with my surroundings, the next few days will be a completely different experience for me. Beyond flying into the Denver airport a couple times, I have never actually truly been inside Colorado before. As with any new place for me, I am excited to see another different geographic region.

I will be in the Centennial State Thursday through Saturday as we get business done. During this time I will not be blogging or communicating through social media. Please be sure to watch the Montana vs. Northern Colorado football game this Saturday at 1:30pm MT on Root Sports. Have a great rest of your week and a safe start to your weekend and I will talk to you all on Sunday. Don’t Blink.

Energy Drinks

As someone who tries to sleep as little as possible, I surprisingly have never indulged that much in caffeine. I have never drank so much as a cup of coffee in my life and I am anti-soda. Mid-way through my college career I took No Doz (a caffeine pill) to stay awake during classes because at that point I maybe got three hours of sleep at most at night and after hitting the gym in the morning I needed a boost. However, the “strength” I got from No Doz made me jittery and irritated so I eventually stopped. Over the past year and a half, I became a huge proponent of Jack3d, a caffeine-loaded workout supplement that actually had a wondrous impact on my gym life. But the point came where I realized that putting that much caffeine into my body every single day was not such a good thing. Over the past couple of months, I have weaned my body from it.

Since going off of Jack3d I have started to feel a little drowsy in the same way that I felt during my college years. Especially working long weeks and long hours now that the fall sports season is in full swing, I was finding myself in need of a pick-me-up. To help keep me alert and, as Katy Perry would say, WIDE AWAKE, I have started to reach for energy drinks.

For most of my life, I would not touch an energy drink. I categorized them right with soda. If a product is anywhere similar to soda, in my opinion the ultimate poison for the body, I will not consider consuming it. But because of my desire to get something that would make me more alert, combined with the growing energy drink industry that now offers limitless options for anyone’s taste, I decided to test the market a little bit.

First requirement I made for the energy drink I would start to purchase every now and then: It must be sugar-free. Once upon a time I did try an energy drink and not only did I detest the taste, I also could not stand the filmy sugary texture that seemed to surround my teeth after I finished drinking it. It seemed like the exact same thing as drinking a pop. There was no way that I would ever pour something like that into my mouth again.

Secondly, it had to taste good. There are some nasty tasting energy drinks out there. Some people say that the more disgusting it tastes, the better it works. That’s hog wash. Unless it is medicine, I am not drinking anything that does not taste halfway decent going down my throat. You would be surprised, there are energy drinks out there that don’t even have a flavor on the can. But again, because of the large market for these types of drinks, there are certain ones out there that pass my taste test.

Thirdly, and most importantly, it had to work. And not only did it just have to work, it had to still make me feel sane as well. I have had energy drinks that definitely gave me a jolt but also made me feel paranoid and shaky. No thank you. I have also consumed energy drinks that might have well just been juice…I drank it and I noticed no improvement on my groggy state. I needed a drink that made me alert, focused, and, as an added bonus, feeling good.

My first love was Monster Absolutely Zero. It tasted great, contained no sugar or calories, kept me alert, and it came from a reputable player in the energy drink market. It was my go-to energy drink until I made myself try something else. My friend posted an Instagram picture of himself with an energy drink called Xenergy. He also posted a link to its website as well. Billed as the energy drink for active and fit people, it caught my eye. Throw in the facts that it was also zero sugar/calories and came in several intriguing flavors and I knew I had to try it. On a drive from Missoula to Spokane, I bought a melon mayhem flavored Xenergy. I tasted it and was immediately hooked.

While Xenergy delivered on everything that Monster Absolutely Zero did (tasted good, was sugar/calorie free, and kept me alert) it also managed to cover my “added bonus” item that I explained earlier: it made me feel good. Xenergy gives you a nice, positive buzz. To a smaller degree, I felt the same way that I felt after taking a dose of Jack3d. It not only improved my alertness, it improved my attitude.

Myself with Xenergy, my go-to energy drink.

Okay, I will stop there because this post is not an endorsement or review for Xenergy. I just wanted to shed light on a product in general (energy drinks) that I used to look down upon but now realize that they do have a purpose. I by no means consume energy drinks on a regular basis, rather, I might drink one or two a week. If I am driving a long distance or if I am running out of gas at the end of a busy week I will crack one open. I drink them out of necessity, not for the hell of it.

If you do want a boost and are not a coffee drinker, I recommend sampling the energy drink market. I have learned that not all of these drinks are sugary, jittery, weird-tasting cans of mystery liquid designed for teenage boys. The industry is much more sophisticated than that…and more helpful too. Give it a try. Don’t Blink.

The Presidential Debates: Competition at its Finest

Tomorrow night a spectacle will air on national television over several different channels that the whole country and many parts of the world will be watching. The stakes will be high, the moves will be scrutinized, and the developments will be unscripted. No, I am not talking about a sporting event. I am not talking about a reality TV show either. I am definitely not talking about some death defying stunt by David Blaine or Robbie Knievel. I am talking about the 2012 presidential debate.

I am not a political person. I have my beliefs and I do tend to vote a certain way but to be honest, I don’t think I would feel comfortable debating issues with anyone. I don’t follow local races and I am not someone who campaigns for candidates. For most of the year, I sadly could care less about politics. Scratch that, for most four year cycles, I could care less about politics…until the October and November months of the presidential election year of course. Go ahead, call me the biggest bandwagon political fan there is, it is the truth. Just as I don’t follow any of the traditional Summer Olympics sports until the sixteen days of the actual Olympics themselves, I don’t really start paying attention to politics until the leader of the free world is about to be decided.

These final two months are fun. I love watching the daily developments, the back-and-forth swings in the polls, and the frantic last minute campaigning. I enjoy the feeling of the whole country getting on fire for the ensuing significant decision. I get an adrenaline rush out of election night itself. But what I really crave, and what I get excited about, are the presidential debates, especially the first one.

I get goosebumps thinking about it. Two men are pushed out onto a small stage to battle it out in front of millions of people watching across the world. Years of hard work, risks, accomplishments, and undoubtedly luck lands them at this point. Each man has their family, supporters, and party hoping they will succeed. Likewise, each man has roughly the same amount of people hoping they will fail. I can’t imagine the unbelievable pressure that each candidate must feel. I can’t imagine what the drive from wherever they are staying in Denver to the campus must feel like or what it must feel like the moment the debate producer tells the candidates to move from the staging area to their respective podiums. At that point, although they both have millions of supporters, they are all alone. Talk about great TV!

When the cameras roll tomorrow night, it will be Barack Obama and Mitt Romney going back and forth trying to prove to America that they are the right person for the most important job on the planet. What possibly more could be at stake? School kids from coast-to-coast will tune in as a homework assignment. Sports bars will take a break from MLB and whatever college football game is on and switch to the drama. College Democrats and College Republicans will hold viewing parties. Millions of cocky know-it-alls will stay glued to their TV screens, constantly tweeting support to their candidate and snide remarks to the opposition. It just does not get much better.

Because I love sports so much, I naturally like these debates. At the root of sports is competition, and that is what tomorrow night is all about. Preparation, game plan, dealing with the unexpected, and execution are all aspects that both athletics and these debates hold in common. On Wednesday evening, Obama and Romney will take the hours of practice and time poured into mock debates and use it to help execute the game plan that their closest political advisors have ironed out for them. Of course nothing goes perfectly and I will watch with great interest and enjoyment when the candidates are forced to revert course and change their strategy around a little bit. Lately a hot topic on sports radio shows has centered on what NFL quarterbacks are best at improvising when a play blows up and they are left to produce something out of nothing. Well, what candidate will land on his feet better when an off the wall question is asked or if a train of thought is lost? In general, who is the better competitor?

Besides the competition aspect of the debates, I just truly enjoy the importance and scrutiny of it all. Tomorrow night is a part of history. Twelve years from now, CSPAN will be showing the rerun. SNL will hang on every little thing the candidates say and do so they can parody the hell out of it come Saturday night. There very well could be exchanges and sound bites said on Wednesday that will never be forgotten. Obama vs. Romney will be the number one water cooler discussion item on Thursday. The front page of all major newspapers is reserved for the recap/commentary of the duel. Twitter will explode, hash tags will be utilized, and social media will fight over who won the debate. No doubt about it, tomorrow is a big day for our nation.

If I could offer some general advice I would encourage all of the people who have not made up their minds yet on who they will vote for to first, obviously, watch the debate. Secondly, view it by yourself on CSPAN. If you watch it with friends, you risk having their slants rub off on you. If you watch the debate on CSPAN, you will get the most neutral viewing experience as possible. It goes without saying that if you watch Fox News you will get a conservative twist and if you watch any other cable news station you will get a liberal twist. Realize that many people and many television stations have already made up their mind on has won the debate…20 hours before opening statements are even set to begin.

Enjoy the debate tomorrow! If you hate politics, if you don’t care about the issues, and if you could care less about the awesome dynamic of competition on display, watch it for this reason: Two men representing two different ideologies can share a stage and civilly debate the issues facing this country. No machine guns, no kidnappings, or no intimidation tactics will be used to settle differences. Rather, it will be the power of persuasiveness, reason, and wit…just another little reminder that we are fortunate enough to live in the best damn country in the world. Don’t Blink.

Social Media: Be Creative

One of the reoccurring themes that always surface in this blog centers around the goodness that social media has brought society. As someone who gets paid for working with the fastest growing medium of communication in the world, I rightfully should be glorifying the innovative ways that social media has furthered dialogue and connectedness in this growing world. But if you have enough free time on your hands to click on my blog post links often, you also know that I am skeptical of social media as well. Not every byproduct of this modern day communication revolution has helped make us better.

When something so revolutionary and so hip emerges seemingly out of the blue, companies and organizations are going to do whatever they can to latch onto the bandwagon and make sure they don’t fall behind. This is definitely admirable as entities want to make sure they stay competitive and relevant. However, there is always that tendency to lose complete focus and engage in unhelpful, wasteful, and sometimes counterproductive practices.

I look around myself and I see intelligent people and smart companies shutting off their own brains and selling out to self-proclaimed social media “experts” and social media “consultant agencies” for help on their social media strategies and initiatives. First off, falling into a trap like this can be easy to do. When you have something as popular, as broad, and as boundless as SM, this definitely gives way to these types of “experts” to come in and offer a seemingly profitable and clear path to success. Many of these social media geniuses put up a good front. They like to make themselves sound like they are on the cutting edge of every single social development out there. They promise dramatically higher follower/like counts. They talk about how much time they are going to save you with their SM account software. They tell you how you will always know when someone mentions your company’s name. They will brag about how no one will ever be able to post anything negative to your wall…..and then they will drop a price for their service/strategy/convention that I would never dream of paying for.

The beauty about social media is that you shouldn’t need someone from outside your organization to come in and tell you how to connect with your followers or how to get your main marketing messages out. Rather, if you have young people working for you who are smart, passionate, and creative about BOTH your company AND social media in general, you should be well on your way.

On a daily basis I hear from groups who want to manage my workplace’s social media accounts. Um, isn’t that my job? Call me out if I am wrong but don’t you think a guy like me in my mid-twenties who has studied social media for the past four years and who eats, breathes, and sleeps maroon and silver could do a more effective job than some company in California who can’t even get the website of our department correct? But believe it or not, around the country companies are caving in and going with groups who “specialize” in social media.

What really gets me are the people (many of the same who want to run social media campaigns) who hold workshops/conventions/seminars on social media. If I accepted half of the invitations I get to these meetings, I would never see the light of day. While some of these workshops can be informative, many of them are a flat out waste of time. You will get people running them who are ego-driven, walking façades, and masters of the obvious. Sorry, but if you are going to take my time to tell me when the peak period for Facebook is or caution me against sending out the same message across various social media outlets, I might as well just better utilize my hours by counting sheep. What I have seen happen way too often with these workshops are the presenters just regurgitating the most general and basic facts of social media that even my dad knows but presenting it in a way that makes the people in the audience feel like they are actually learning something cool and new. But no matter how differently you try to tell me to “be engaging with my posts” I am still hearing the same thing everyone has known since the birth of social media.

Be creative.

That’s my advice to anyone dabbling in social media. Be wary of people who try to make something harder than what it is. Don’t let them waste your own/your employer’s time and money.

You have a brain, you have ideas, you have a vision…you also have the company or business that you work for. By doing some critical thinking and experimenting, you can come up with a strategy that will work specifically for your employer. And believe me, whatever you come up with will be 1,000x better than what some “social media agency” will tell you or what some clueless guy at some afternoon luncheon will post up during a lame powerpoint presentation. The power of social media is limitless, don’t let frauds constrain you. Don’t Blink.