Kathy Sipple: Social Media Tips For Business


My Blooming Love Affair with Social Media Took Root During a Challenging Family Health Crisis

A series of unusual life circumstances gave birth to my passion for social media marketing in July of 2008.

I am no stranger to technology. I knew DOS before Windows existed and put together my first resume on a Mac 2SE. I’m really showing my age here… I’ll admit to being a leading edge GenXer who looks young for her age (I think.)

I have always enjoyed writing and had begun to explore writing articles for pay back in June 2008. After some exploring online, I found a site called Hubpages.com. I posted a few articles there on topics that interested me, just for practice. It was a fun exercise and I got some positive feedback right away. It was convenient to be able to send links to articles as writing samples rather than sending files as attachments to potential employers. Plus, being able to use live links helped extend the content and resource value beyond my own written words.

I sent links to members of my family, asking for their feedback.  My youngest sister, Julie, had always been a big supporter of my creative endeavors and immediately “fanned” me. She is an excellent writer and also planned to write some posts of her own under her profile name, “Jules in the 313“, the “313” referencing her Detroit area code.

Just a few weeks after my first Hubpages post and Julie becoming my fan, things got crazy… On the morning of July 19, 2008 I received a call from our middle sister, Karen, saying that she was on her way to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit upon receiving an urgent call from Julie’s significant other, Norm. Evidently Julie had been taken via ambulance after losing consciousness. No one was sure what had happened at that point, but we found out several hours later that Julie had a cerebral hemorrhage. She had slipped into a coma due to the pressure on her brain stem.

Ironically, my husband, John, and I were already packed and ready to go for a weekend trip to Madison, Wisconsin to hear the Dalai Lama speak. We were just about out the door when we got the call from Karen. Instead of  heading for Madison, we took off for Detroit. The 4-hour drive seemed excruciatingly long and every good “Julie memory” that flooded my mind as we drove made me alternately laugh and weep. Julie is a rare breed of person–she is one of my favorite people in the world who also happens to be my sister. I really wanted (and needed) for her to be okay.

Julie has valiantly fought for a comeback ever since July 19th. As of today, she is at a rehab facility in Detroit, relearning to walk, talk, etc. Three brain surgeries later–the last of which was just last week, we are beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel for her.  Being a part of Julie’s journey toward recovery has had a huge influence on my current beliefs and priorities regarding love, life and work…

To keep the many friends, family members and coworkers apprised of Julie’s situation, we created a blog using CarePages. Necessity nudged us to seek out this option–it allowed us, Julie’s support team, to stay off our cell phones with constant updates and instead to spend more time with Julie. It also created an interactive space where Julie’s supporters left encouraging messages for Julie and her team. My almost daily posts were cathartic for me and gave me a place to channel my emotions. Knowing that I would need to summarize each day’s events encouraged me to view the day from a more objective perspective than I may have had if I had been experiencing the day for myself only. This was a tremendous gift, as it allowed me to uncover pearls of wisdom that may have otherwise been lost to me.

Julie’s CarePages blog had a photo gallery feature. I was anxious to upload some photos because I thought it would be a great place to capture the many sides of Julie and allow friends to contribute some of their favorite snapshots. Julie’s friend Kristen asked me, “Why don’t you use some of the photos from Julie’s Facebook page?” I had no idea at the time what a Facebook page was, so I needed a little coaching. Julie’s privacy settings didn’t allow me to search her page directly;  Kristen helped me get access since she was already Julie’s Facebook friend.

I was intrigued enough by what I saw to register on Facebook myself. After familiarizing myself with some of the features, I learned about “Groups” and “Friends.” I saw that Julie’s high school graduating class had formed a group and that information about Julie’s condition had already been shared there by Kristen and some of Julie’s other friends and classmates. The class also had their own blog. I was impressed by how well they were using available technology to stay in touch with one another and share newsworthy items. As a result of this, I am Facebook friends with several of Julie’s classmates today, a few of which I consider very good friends even though I have never met some of them in person. Julie’s 20 year class reunion was scheduled for the weekend following her admission into the hospital. The class officers did some fund raising and donated $1000 to Julie’s special needs trust fund to aid in her recovery.  (About a month ago, I created a group for my own high school graduating class on Facebook and have enjoyed reconnecting with many classmates I haven’t seen or talked to in a long time–no blog for our class yet, but maybe soon. So far, the response seems to be positive.)

Another friend of mine, Fran Kras, recommended I take a look at iGive.com to supplement our fund raising efforts. I created a Facebook group called “People using iGive.com to support Julie Legner Anderson” and attracted 100+ supporters very quickly. We just received the first quarterly check this week from these efforts. I definitely recommend iGive.com as an add-on to fund raising efforts. It doesn’t cost anything for the “givers” or the recipients–a portion of participants’ online shopping totals are donated to your choice of causes. It is very easy to implement and administer. Support for Julie’s fund are always welcome!

John and I have been back and forth between Detroit and Valparaiso over the past four and a half months, but mostly in Detroit. We’re still trying to understand what, if any, outside help Julie will need once she leaves the rehab facility. Doctors initially predicted she would need 24/7 care for the first 12-18 months, but her progress seems ahead of schedule to us. We are torn between seeking employment in Valparaiso where we live now or moving to Detroit and finding new jobs there. Unfortunately, Detroit is in worse economic condition than the rest of the country right now due to its dependence on the automotive industry–hopefully the bailout will help! If we move to Detroit, we will be competing with workers downsized from the automotive industry; unfortunately, it seems there will be quite a few. We’re just not sure relocating to Detroit makes sense for us economically, though our hearts tell us we need to be there.

Meanwhile, I have learned more and more each day and week about social media marketing.  I joined Twitter about a month ago and am now hooked. I don’t frequent Myspace very often, but have a profile there nevertheless. I have attended various webinars and business networking events dedicated to social media marketing and am amazed at the applications for business. I have decided to pursue a career as a social media marketing consultant. Hopefully this type of work can move with me wherever I go and allow enough flexibility for me to help Julie if she needs help.

If you or someone you know needs help with their social media marketing, please give me a call at 219-405-9482. I would be happy to offer a complimentary initial consultation.

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