2009 March

Writing Your Online Bio by Gini Dietrich

The following post was authored by our friend, PR professional, and social media guru Gini Dietrich, Chief Executive of Arment Dietrich Public Relations and the author of SpinSucks.com and the BFF’s Beauty Bag Blog:

Hey, geeky readers!  One of you asked the question, “are there tips for writing your online bio?” and Nancy and Meghan asked me if I’d give you tips for doing just that.

If you’re using social media to market yourself, your business, or your career online, it is pertinent your online bio be engaging and informative.  This is hard to do, especially on Twitter where your bio is limited to 160 characters, but it is possible.

This is my Twitter bio:
CEO of Arment Dietrich. Author of spinsucks.com. Creator of BFF Beauty Bag. Vistage member. Avid cyclist. A foodie. Lover of shoes and wine.

You’ll see I’ve included my career, the two blogs I write (both business and personal), my personal interests, and that I’m a Vistage member because I want to connect with other members across the globe. 

Think of it as if you’re introducing everything interesting about yourself in less than 10 seconds. What do you want people to know about you the first time you speak to them?  How can you engage with them about your profession, but also as a person?  What can you say about yourself in your online bio that intrigues a person to want to learn more?

If someone follows me on Twitter and I don’t follow them back, it’s usually one of three reasons: 1) They don’t have a photo as their avatar; 2) Their bio says something self-serving; or 3) They don’t have a bio at all.

When I say their bio is self-serving, an example is, “I’m looking for new friends; DM me!” or “I work at company X and I want to make new friends so I can leave my job.” You’d be surprised – these are real examples!  And, as a business owner, a reason someone would be fired if I found that second one as their bio.  Leave the negativity and derogatory statements at the door.  Think of this as your own personal billboard; what do you want people to know about you every time they drive past your billboard?

Go ahead. Write your bio.  See what works and change what doesn’t work.  You’ll find the right mix…and then you’ll change it up every once in a while to engage with different groups of people.

Gini Dietrich is the founder and chief executive officer of Arment Dietrich, Inc., a public relations firm she built on three key values: Client service, results, and entrepreneurial spirit.

Today’s Radio Interview

We had the pleasure of appearing on FM107.1’s Lori & Julia this afternoon to talk about this site, and our upcoming Social Media 101: A Beginner Bootcamp seminar.

If you missed the show, you can download it now!

Listen to the whole show on FM107.1’s web site

Or, listen to our segment only by using the link below to download the mp3.

On a Mac, hold down the control key and click and select “Save Link As…” and save the mp3 somewhere on your computer.
On a PC, right click and select Save Target As… (in IE) or Save Link As… (in Firefox) and save the mp3 somewhere on your computer.

When you open the file, it should launch your preferred audio player.

Download the mp3 >

or clicking the cute little button below to stream it in your browser window.

We’ll be posting more follow-up (links and more information on topics we discussed with them today) but I wanted to get those audio clips up for those who missed it live.

Lori & Julia were delightful; really nice, funny ladies. We’d love to be on the show again (hint, hint). Who knows, maybe someday we’ll even have our own show? A Geek Girl can dream…


We talked about a few things:

Did I miss anything? Let me know and we’ll post a follow-up.

Welcome Lori & Julia Show Listeners!

Hey, you found us!  Welcome to the Geek Girls Guide: a safe space for you to ask all the questions you’re afraid to ask in a crowd.  If you found us because you were listening to the Lori & Julia Show today – great! I wanted to give you an idea of some of the things we’re planning to feature on the blog in the very near future.  So stay tuned, here’s what’s coming up:

Have a geeky, or not so geeky question?  Want to suggest an issue or subject the Geek Girls should tackle on the blog?  Want to contribute a guest post?  Let us know. We’re always open to audience feedback.

Thanks for visiting the blog!  Come back soon and, in the meantime, follow us on Twitter (@nylons and @irishgirl) and join the Geek Girls on Facebook

Geek Girls on Lori & Julia Show

Hey Geeky Readers! 

We wanted to let you know that the Geek Girls, Nancy Lyons and Meghan Wilker, will be on FM 107.1’s Lori & Julia show at 3:30pm (Central) this Friday, March 27. If you’re not in Minneapolis, you can listen online at their web site (http://www.fm1071.com/listen.shtml).  And if you miss it at 3:30, because it’s part of the first hour of the show, it’s probably part of the “LoJ Replay” from 6pm-7pm (Central) on FM 107.1.

We have no idea what they’ll be talking about or what they want from us.  But we think Lori & Julia need a geeky resource to reach out to now and again, and that resource needs to really get their audience.  We think we’re perfect.  They have their theatre guy that they talk to regularly about local shows and events.  They have their regular fashionistas visiting the show.  They talk to beauty experts and shopping experts.  But so far, they don’t have any real geeks to talk to them about the occasional gadget or social networking question.  The audience Lori & Julia talks to every day is the audience we want to reach.  We don’t want to talk to other geeks about geekery.  Our mission is to make it accessible and appealing to those people who are a little resistant or have somehow convinced themselves that they just don’t ‘get’ it. 

So if you like us on Lori & Julia let them know.  And let us know.  If we touch on anything you want to hear more about, or you want to weigh in on, drop us a note.  Until then, see you on the radio!

In Honor of Ada Lovelace Day

In honor of Ada Lovelace Day women bloggers from all over the world have pledged to write a blog post about a woman in technology whom they admire.  When I considered the task I really wanted to impress my audience and identify some obscure academic that I don’t really know anything about. But that’s not the way this blog post is going to go.  Sometimes you find exactly what you’re looking for right under your nose. The woman in technology whom I most admire is my fellow Geek Girl, Meghan Wilker.  Ok ok.  It’s an obvious choice.  I’m ok with that.  It’s the truth.  Meghan inspires everyone around her on a daily basis and I honestly can’t think of anyone more deserving of some accolades.  Who better to serve them up than someone who actually knows her really well?

Meghan is one of the most intellectually curious, unafraid explorers of technology I have ever met.  She’s not just a gadget hound, she derives true joy from trying new things, hardware, software, networks and services.  Her genuine glee when she stumbles upon something that works is contagious.  But she doesn’t just play with technology, she finds real and practical ways to apply good technology and good thinking to the work she brings to clients every day.  Meghan refuses to stop learning.  She refuses to be still.  And she’s not just an early adopter for the sake of it.  She is thoughtful and prudent about the tools and tech she considers.  There has to be a legitimate value proposition.  Her judgement is sound and the experience against which she measures the value of technology is unparalleled. 

When Meghan is working with clients on their web strategy I often remind them that there really is nobody better in this industry.  One might think that’s a sales line.  But it’s the truth. Meghan is a true technology evangelist. Always advocating for the end-user.  She works diligently to make tech and the language around it accessible.  And she never misses a teaching opportunity.  But she’s so darned approachable and affable that people generally don’t even feel ‘taught’.  They feel included.  Which is a really big deal in this industry.  There’s something inately ‘exclusive’ about technology.  But Meghan effortlessly strips all the pretense away and validates every contribution. 

Meghan is wildly prolific.  She doesn’t just explore, she maps her exploration for anyone interested in trying new things.  She blogs.  She tweets.  She is an active Geek Girl, out in the community facilitating boot camps and workshops and panel discussions.  And she approaches all of these things with such zeal  – you believe her.  She makes you want to try.  And trying is really exploring.  Meghan makes other people explorers too.  Her victory is really in the incremental change she might influence.  Or when some resistant human admits that a little bit of tech was actually a welcomed addition in their life. 

I am privileged to work with Meg.  She is a powerful teacher and a constant source of inspiration for me.  I look forward to traveling down the trail she blazes.  And so, on this Ada Lovelace day, I’m happy to dedicate this blog post to Meggy.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include a few honorable mentions in this little missive.  

My mother, Barb Lyons.  She’s a physician who wanted to be an engineer.  She went to med school when most women weren’t really encouraged to pursue any kind of career.  She was a math and chemistry major in college.  And she constantly reminded me that there wasn’t a thing I couldn’t accomplish or have interest in.  She was a science and tech geek before it was cool.  Before I had any idea how forward-thinking she was.  I admire her.

My grandmother who raised a family of really strong, outspoken, unapologetic women.

My friend and coworker – Sharyn Morrow, who is like a true geek’s geek.  She codes and does network admin type stuff and takes killer pictures and is a flickr freak and just really devours technology for a living.  All under the guise of being a cool vegan, punker mama. 

My friend Patty Remes who quietly makes her mark in the user experience space.  She balances experience and her artistic sensibilities in a way that makes her a real expert in a space where many people claim to be experts, but few people really are. 

And finally, someone I don’t really know well, but know.  Courtney Remes.  I think she deserves mention because I think she’s one of those really gifted, true technologists.  A programmer with a strategist’s head and, considering how good she is, a surprising amount of humility.

Why Social Media Matters In a Down Economy

Whenever the Geek Girls are out and about talking to people about technology and tech tools that can enrich our lives, and maybe make them a little easier, we’re almost always asked about the amount of time investment required to jump on the social media bandwagon.  People are busy.  The economy is one bad news story after another.  Jobs are being lost.  We’re just trying to stay focused on caring for our families, keeping our jobs, keeping our houses and not getting panicked over our dwindling retirement accounts.  Who has time for social media?  Well, if you want to feel a little better, you do.

When we’re talking about Facebook, in workshops or panel discussions, I always suggest that Facebook can help you be a better friend.  I even wrote about it in a previous blog post.  When the economy is down we’re more disconnected from our social circles.  We socialize less, eat out less.  Leisure travel takes a hit.  The same sort of cuts are happening in our professional lives. Places of business cut back on spending and nix things like conferences, business travel, networking events. 

When I was a kid, my father belonged to a men’s club and a country club.  He was a lousy golfer, so the country club was always a mystery to me. But he was a man, so that club made more sense. But in retrospect, those two activities were my father’s way of keeping his fingers on the pulse of what was happening in town.  He even landed a pretty swank job because of a connection he made in the neighborhood, but really turned into something at the golf club.  This was back in the day when business people still made handshake deals over cocktails and 9 holes of golf.  Those people probably still exist.  But things are moving a hell of a lot faster.  There’s more to know.  And frankly, being on the golf course means you just might be missing critical information that matters to you.

Just yesterday I saw a number of folks I follow on Twitter tweeting about the power of positive thinking, and how businesses stay strong in tough economies by staying optimistic.  My friend and colleague, Gini Dietrich, the CEO of Arment Dietrich Public Relations in Chicago (@ginidietrich on Twitter), tweeted a link to a brilliant article about how positive thinking can actually boost your business.  It got me thinking about why all of this matters to our Geek Girls audience.  Certainly leaders need to stay strong in order to guide their teams through these uncertain times.  But who’s out there providing the encouragement that leaders need to boost their energies in that regard?  Other leaders.  How can we connect with them?  How do we tap into their advice and expertise?  How do we find out what they are doing, right now, to combat nagativity and defeatist attitudes in their work environments?  Social media! I always say, don’t give me lengthy dissertations — give me snapshots of information.  That’s the most valuable way for me to digest, and really use data.  Twitter is my dream resource.  Poo-poo it if you want.  But the people I’ve chosen to follow are (with a few exceptions) veritable fonts of professional wisdom and inspiration.  And, because I enjoy my work so much, and it plays such an integral role in my life, its a source for personal rejuvention as well. 

Facebook takes that a step further.  Yes, the information is still delivered in byte-sized packets.  But its more personal. Friends and contacts from a variety of areas of my life are connected and communicating on Facebook.  They are really investing in those relationships.  The investment is manageable.  We aren’t traveling to Tahiti together, or meeting up every Friday night, or heading to our home towns for slide shows of our recent family vacations.  But we’re still sharing things that really matter to us.  We’re still reaching out and engaging in a social way.  We’re still invested in each other.  And we’re all sort of in this together.  We’re sharing these moments with one another — the economy is precarious, there is real suffering out there, and yet, we have these moments of good to share, and hold onto.  They give us hope.  Whether they are personal or professional.  Your son scoring that winning goal in the recent hockey game.  Or landing that account you’ve worked so hard on.  They all matter and they all make a difference. 

It has been well documented that people need other peopleFriendships have a real impact on how people view the world, how supported they feel in it, and how they cope with the realities of it.  Articles are written every day about how human interaction eases anxiety and depression.  But everything is happening so fast.  This isn’t my father’s era.  He would have been stymied by how much information there is to keep up with and manage.  His way of keeping up was a couple of beers after work, or 9 holes of golf.  Now things move at the speed of light.  We have these tools at our disposal and they allow us to keep up with our little corner of this fast paced world.  Why wouldn’t we take advantage of that?  Are they the end-all?  Probably not.  Will there be something else that comes along next year to dwarf Twitter or Facebook?  Maybe.  Is that any reason to avoid the benefits of social media?  I’m saying no. Why would you avoid something that might keep you informed?  Tune you in to a job prospect?  Let you see a friend’s new baby on the day she was born? Hook you into the expertise of hundreds and hundreds of professionals FOR FREE?  The list of benefits goes on.  But my message stays the same.  The economy is in the tank.  But social media might just make you feel better.  It matters.  Really.



Twitter for Fun and Non-Profit

Geeky reader Justine from Chicago wrote in and said, “I’m not currently a tweeter and feel I am slowly grasping it’s potential and reach, but still don’t really know how I could best utilize this interest/stream?”

She was asking about Twitter specifically in relation to monitoring discussion about the non-profit that she works for, and their different products (for lack of a better word).

My answer? Twitter, Facebook and all the other tools that people collectively refer to as “social media” essentially make public the conversations that used to happen in people’s homes and over the phone. You can now listen in on a conversation that used to take place over a backyard fence.

So, you can use it in two ways: listening and/or participating. Listening is vital — just so you know what’s being said. Participating is optional, but can be a very powerful way to connect with your existing audience and build a new audience.

How you do that is up to you: you could tweet as yourself (which I would suggest) and/or as your company (which is less personal, but could also work). The key is to provide value either way. If you have a company account, make sure to not just tweet about what you are up to, but really engage with your industry as a community. (See also: my list of Twitter complaints from a few weeks ago. Specifically – Twitter should not be a replacement for your RSS feed. Give us something other than news releases!)


A selection of ways to monitor what’s being discussed in the Twitterverse:

  • search.twitter.com – Check the web interface anytime, or subscribe to an RSS feed of a given search. I monitor the words Geek Girls and Geek Girls Guide on Twitter via RSS, so I know almost instantly anytime someone tweets with those terms. If I choose, I can shoot those people a message saying hey, thanks how did you hear about us, etc.
  • BackTweets: Enter in a specific URL and get a list of tweets that link to it. What I love about this is that it also returns results from URL shorteners (tinyurl.com, is.gd, etc.). Twitter search doesn’t, so using RSS from Twitter search and BackTweets I monitor just about every Geek Girls-related tweet. (Or I feel like I do!)
  • Twitt(URL)y: Kind of like Digg for tweets. (Need a Digg overview? I did one here.) Monitor popular URLs that are being tweeted. What I don’t like about this one, is that there’s not an obvious way to search for a URL. Harrumph.


Here are a few resources to help you get started with using Twitter for yourself or your company:

Podcast #2: Social Media Haters

Our second podcast (running time: 18 minutes and 7 seconds) is on Social Media Haters. Subtitled, “Maybe the Problem is You”, or “STOP HITTING YOURSELF IN THE FACE WITH A HAMMER”.

Listen Online

Click the cute little button below to stream the audio in your browser window.

Overview & Links

No time to listen? Yeah, we got a little yappy and went over 15 minutes (we’re going to keep it under 15 whenever possible). Here are the highlights:

Lately, like there’s been a whole lot of hatin’ going on with Twitter, not to mention the total pop culture explosion. Now that Ellen, Demi, Ashton and Britney are tweeters (and Jon Stewart and Barbara Walters are talking about it), it’s undergoing an interesting new level of scrutiny.

What’s interesting is that most of the haters haven’t given these tools more than a cursory glance before dismissing them. We argue that there is value beyond these negative perceptions, and that if the tools seem useless it might be that the people using them are, well…tools.

That’s not to say there aren’t some boring people on Facebook or Twitter, but there are boring people everywhere. Choose your (Facebook) friends and (Twitter) followers carefully, and perhaps you’ll find something worthwhile.

The Haters

Joe Soucheray of the St. Paul Pioneer Press says Twitter is “nothing.”

Matt Labash of The Weekly Standard says Facebook is “mind-numbingly dull.” We think the problem might be him (or his wife).

MSNBC: Twitter Nation: Nobody cares what you’re doing. NOT TRUE! My mom totally follows me on Twitter.

Gawker rounds up a bunch of sources that say we’re all a bunch of insecure narcissists. (Duh.)

The Attempting-to-Explainers

Barbara Walters (tries to) define Twitter. Favorite quote: “Why do people want to be on MyFace?” I don’t know, Barbara. Why do people want to be on your face?

Old man Stewart shakes his fist at Twitter.

The Founders

Twitter founders, Ev and Biz, on last week’s Talk of the Nation on NPR.

The Nerdy Details

Our second podcast was recorded at Clockwork World Headquarters in a carpeted room (to try to keep the echoes to a minimum). Worked pretty well, but next time we need to be closer to the Snowflake. Edited by Meghan with GarageBand with a bit of post-production help from Michael Koppelman (@lolife). Tweaked the intro a bit this time around based on feedback from the last one. Your thoughts and feedback are welcome, either in the comments below or at info [at] geekgirlsguide [dot] com. Thanks for listening!

What To Do After You Do Something Dumb

Friday the 13th seems like an appropriate day to tell my bad luck story.

On Tuesday, I got a link from my cousin on gChat. It said something like, “Check out this funny video.” I clicked it, and then – like a dumbass – I entered my password to the site. Yeah. You heard me: I entered my password to a site I didn’t trust.

Smooth move, Meghan. Smooth move.

I’d like to blame the fact that it was my first day back from a 5-day trip to Mexico with two young children. I was tired. My inbox was packed with over 500 emails and stuff was blowing up at work. I was stressed. But whatever the excuse reason, it was an incredibly stupid thing to do. I was even thinking, “This is stupid,” as I did it. BUT I STILL DID IT.

Once I entered my password, I got to a site with a video on it. A video that wasn’t even funny. To the right was a list of all my gChat contacts. There were checkboxes next to the names and a button to forward this dumb video to them. A-ha! I immediately unchecked all their names. Smart me, right?

Nope. Still dumb.

As soon as I entered my password, the site immediately sent an instant message to all my gChat contacts inviting THEM to watch this stupid video. How do I know it did this? Because I got an email from a friend that went something like this:

“I got a chat from you with a link that I followed, and it prompted me to put in my chat password to view it.  I stupidly did it, and it was a video.  Anyway, it also sent the video to other people as well – which I did not request.  Looks like we’ve been hacked, my dear.  Time for a password change, I’m guessing.

I know – I can’t believe I fell for it, too.  It’s just that you never send me chats, so I figured it MUST have been something cool.  I can’t believe I re-entered my e-mail password…DUH.

Anyway, this might be a really good question for the Geek Girls:  What do I do now?”

Yes! Let’s make lemons from lemonade. What can you learn from my insane stupidity? Here’s what my friend and I did once we realized what had happened:

  • Immediately changed our Google passwords
  • Immediately changed the passwords on any other accounts we had that were using the same password. Security experts always say to use a different password for every site, but most of us in the real world end up using some more than once. Hackers know this, so don’t use the same password everywhere or you’ll be sorry someday. I think a happy (realistic) medium is to have 3-5 passwords that you use on different sites. Try to change them every so often and make them as nonsensical as possible. They’re harder to remember at first, but after you use the same jumble of numbers and letters a few times you’ll be amazed at how well you remember them.
  • Sent a note (she emailed, I put a note in my gChat status) to our contacts letting them know not to click the link (in case they hadn’t already) and telling them we didn’t mean to send it.
  • Felt dumb. And then we moved on. Everyone does stupid stuff once in a while, so don’t beat yourself up too hard.
  • Then I found an article about the dude who did it. This guy gives anarchist transsexuals a bad name.

And that’s it. Luckily, in my case, this was a fairly low-level mistake. It wasn’t my bank account. But, it could have been. Next time, I’ll remember these important lessons:

Lesson #1: Don’t ever give your password to a site you don’t trust, and especially when you got to the site from a link. When in doubt, go to the site directly (e.g. if you receive a link to a bank site, go type in your bank URL directly, don’t follow the link).

Lesson #2: Follow Lesson #1.

Lesson #3: Take quick action to minimize damage if you are too tired or stressed to remember the first two actions.

Good luck out there.


Social Media 101 – A Beginner Bootcamp

Damn, it’s hard to keep up with this blog with (more than) full time jobs and kids! But, we are planning to record Podcast #2 tomorrow (thanks for all the great feedback) and hope to have it posted by the weekend.

Having a blog is great — we love it — but the real magic happens when we can sit down with people in person and talk about technology. We love the questions, the discussion, the sharing of knowledge.

Over the past year, we’ve spoken at several events and have gotten many requests for hands-on training, especially on all of the social media tools everyone is buzzing about (and seriously, what’s with the fad words? Four years ago all our clients wanted “viral” and now they all want something “social.” Funny thing is, it’s all the same: it’s conversation. But more about that later.).

We Geek Girls are definitely talkers, but we don’t know anything about organizing an event. And there’s nothing worse than having (or attending) a poorly organized event! So, we partnered with the smart and sassy Jennifer Kane (the mastermind behind the annual MIMA Summit) to create Social Media 101 – A Beginner Bootcamp.

In true Geek Girls spirit, this event is aimed at those who want to learn, and need some guidance. It’s a “there are no stupid questions” environment. A blend of strategy (Why would I, or my business, bother with social media?) and tactics (Um, how do I use Twitter?). You’ll learn basic social media strategies and skills that you can immediately put to work for yourself, and your business. A perfect blend of personal and professional (and remember how hard it is to keep the two separate these days, anyway?).

So, grab your laptop and meet us over at aloft Minneapolis on April 24th. UPDATE: We also added another event on May 18, too! Parking is included, so you have no excuse. That’s right. Free parking downtown. Did we mention lunch, too? True story.

We’ll start the day discussing strategy: why social media is relevant, how it works and why it works. Then we’ll spend the rest of the day exploring different social media tools (blogging, Twitter, social communities and social media on mobile devices) and discussing how to use them. We’ll even have a Social Media SWAT team to help you out if you get stuck.

You’ll leave the workshop with:
•    A better understanding of the social media landscape and how you can fit into it;
•    A basic roadmap and skill set for navigating the tools of the trade;
•    Your own burgeoning social network of like-minded professionals, and
•    A tool kit of informational resources to take back to the office.

We’ll be joined by Jennifer Kane, Jennifer Bohmbach and Lisa Foote. A bunch of seriously smart ladies ready to drop some knowledge. So, come on. Join us.

Register Now >

We hope to see you (or your favorite tech newbie) there. Tell your mom!