Getting to Green

Last Friday, my good friend Gene invited me to speak on a panel at the Social Media Club of Kansas City to talk about wearable technology and how it has affected my life, specifically, my fitness.

Shane Adams at SMCKC Breakfast

Before you laugh (which is what I did at first), the truth is that I’m actually a pretty good candidate to talk about a topic like this rather than some tech blogger or gadget blogger or fitness guru. I’m exactly who wearable fitness technology should be designed for: I’m somewhat overweight, a little nerdy and in need of some motivation.

My FuelBand

Two birthdays ago, I asked Alli to get me a Nike+ FuelBand. There are lots of wearable fitness bands out there, but I’m a Nike loyalist so this seemed like a good choice. I liked that there was an app (iTunes) to monitor my progress on my iPhone and the design was pretty straightforward and cool. So in December, I began tracking my progress of how much activity I managed each day.

I set my goal at 2500 “Fuel Points” each day. “Fuel” is Nike’s proprietary way of tracking movement. While other fitness gadgets typically track steps (which the FuelBand does too), I liked the idea of tracking my overall activity. I didn’t have to know the science behind it, it just had to work.

So I started moving more.

At first, I would just move around the house. It was winter in Kansas when I got my FuelBand, so outdoor activities were out. I would get on our elliptical machine at home, or do a workout video…anything to get out of the sedentary rut that I was in. Over time, I became obsessed with watching my FuelBand get progressively more full and I would always feel a sense of accomplishment each day that I “got to green” (reached my daily Fuel goal).

Trying to “Be a Runner”

On a whim, I decided I would try running as one of my ways to get to green. I downloaded the Nike+ Running app (iTunes) because I wanted to see how far I could run and I just started running.

I quickly discovered that running is the worst.

BUT…I looked at my FuelBand after my run and I was already to green. I had run for about 15, maybe 20 minutes tops and I had reached my Fuel goal. This was a revelation to me. I could work out for a very short period of time and get to my daily fitness goal, which is all I really cared about at the time. If I could get to green faster by suffering through a couple of miles a few times per week, I guess I could try it.

So I started running a couple of times per week. I bought some new running shoes (Nikes, of course) and I even upped my daily goal from 2500 to 3000, feeling like I needed to push myself a little more. I entered into last summer and went on a streak of over two months in a row where I reached my Fuel. I was feeling good, so when Gene said to me, “Hey man, I see you’ve been running lately. Do you want to run a 5K together?” I agreed. It would give me something to aim at, even though I wasn’t running more than 2.5 miles at a time. (Adding another half-mile or so couldn’t be that hard, could it?)

“Training” for My First 5K

We put a race last fall on the calendar that was (thankfully) rained out. It was a busy time of year. I got out of the habit of running quite as regularly as I’d hoped. And then winter came again. There would be no 5K in 2013.

Fortunately, Kansas City has a bunch of 5Ks, including one that Gene was the race director for a few years ago. So we signed up for that one.

It was last Saturday.

It was cold and I still don’t feel like I am a runner, but I finished my first 5K, 16 months after I got my first Nike+ FuelBand (I say first, because I had to buy a new one last week when my old one stopped charging). Over that same period, I’ve lost about 20 pounds (I still have plenty more to lose) and I feel better about my health than I have at any time in my thirties.

What’s Next

The January before I got my first FuelBand, I hurt my back so badly that I couldn’t walk for a few days. I had herniated four discs in my lower spine. I went through rehab. I went to the chiropractor. Both told me I had to be stronger in my core. Now, running isn’t exactly good for your back, but it worked for me.

Fast-forward two years later: after I crossed the finish line on Saturday, I looked at my Nike+ Running app. I had run my first 5K at a pace that was almost 3 minutes faster than my original goal (don’t freak out, it was still really slow). I didn’t die. In fact, I thought to myself, “I could probably have run faster.” Which, if you know me at all, you’ll realize that these words coming out of my mouth is as unlikely as me buying season tickets to the Royals.

So I guess I have to find another race, keep training and keep improving. My friend Jake once told me not to focus on pace, but just worry about doing the miles. So I’ll keep running. Then maybe this fall, I’ll try a 10K. Making the jump to a half-marathon…don’t count on it.

And I’ll be tracking it all along the way.

InstaSCAM

This past year, Instagram reached a tipping point. Everyone now knows about it, thanks to a $1 billion purchase by Facebook and a strong, engaged community of photographers worldwide. Brands such as mine jumped on the bandwagon…quickly creating accounts and evaluating their visual storytelling style in order to connect with this broad, engaged community, despite the CEO’s admission that there was no revenue model on the horizon.

This weekend, I saw a couple of posts on Instagram that looked like this:

 

And were accompanied by something along the lines of:

It looks like [insert brand name here] is buying up Instagram followers…not sure if this is legit, but I’ll do it anyway!

First off, this is not an unrealistic behavior. People on the internet don’t just like their freebies. THEY LOVE THEM. But, let’s do the math. Let’s say that the example on the left is true. Retailer H&M promises their first 20,000 followers on Instagram a $75 gift card, just for following them on Instagram. That means that H&M has decided that each Instagram follower is worth not $75, but more than that. Otherwise, there is no way that their fraud/loss team agrees to that deal.

But let’s, for the sake of argument, say that they write that off as “acquisition fees” and somehow get their analysts to agree this is a great idea. The next part of that equation is getting someone to agree to writing a $1.5 million check for all those gift cards. To some people, that’s small potatoes…their media budget doesn’t even get dented by that number. But for most, that’s not a small amount.

And let’s not forget…Instagram offers absolutely ZERO way to track engagement for brands. You can’t click a link from the app unless it is in your profile and you have absolutely NO IDEA how many impressions any individual image receives. All of these things are a no go for marketers.

I think Colin may have said it best:

 

This may seem a bit judgmental, but a little common sense goes a long way here. And just in case you were wondering, H&M already has a gorgeous Instagram account.

Now, there are some viable solutions to how to keep people from falling for stuff like this besides common sense. Unfortunately, those all fall on Instagram actually adding some pieces of functionality to their popular application with their small team under Facebook’s direction. I doubt these are new ideas, but I believe that if Instagram were to add them to their roadmap, they’d see even more popularity and (gasp!) possible profitability.

Verified Accounts

This is something that was HUGE for Twitter. That blue checkmark next to someone’s name, especially for celebrities, became the new American Express Black Card for a while.

Sponsored Posts and Accounts

This is something that I think brands would actually pay for. It works really well for Twitter and it’s working extremely well for Facebook (despite how annoying it is to brands).

Algorithmic Tweaks for Popular Posts

If you’ve ever looked at the “Popular” tab on Instagram, the majority of posts are nonsensical madness that somehow have several thousand likes. Usually they are from overseas and rarely are they photos that were originally taken inside of the app. Maybe I’m out of touch with what is interesting and engaging to the Instagram community, but some big improvements could be made for discovering new content.

So those are my quick thoughts on ways to improve Instagram. What are yours?

Why You SHOULD Sweat the Small Stuff

Richard Carlson, Ph.D. became a famous author and motivational speaker behind the strength of his book: Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff…And It’s All Small Stuff.

This phrase has to be one of the most overused pieces of advice that we share with one another. When it comes to worrying about tiny wrongs that people do to each other — in relationships, at work, etc. — it makes sense.

However, when you start to add up these small things, they tend to pile up into huge issues, especially when you consider there are 7 billion people in the world with “small stuff” bogging them down.

But what if we treated the small stuff like big stuff? Especially when it comes to the problems facing the world today. Issues that may seem small to us can have a massive impact when solved on a macro scale.

Take the example of Blake Mycoskie and TOMS Shoes. Several people don’t like what TOMS has come to represent or maybe they just don’t like their shoes, but Mycoskie saw a small (to us) need that he wanted to do something about — getting access to shes for people in need, particularly in third world countries.

The results can be astounding. Scott Harrison, the founder of charity: water had a similar experience. He saw something small (OK, access to clean water isn’t exactly small…maybe specific is a better term) and he created a charity solely focused on solving this specific problem. Once again, we saw remarkable results

Back in May, Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg decided to use his amazing influence to solve another very specific problem: organ donation. And by enabling Facebook users to easily register as an organ donor within the confines of Facebook, he saw staggering results overnight. The state of California saw an over 5000% spike in their organ donor registry in less than one week.

This small-issue problem solving can be applied to business. I work in the retail industry and I know the massive effect that something as simple as a clean bathroom or new seats can impact a business.

Oftentimes, we hear our leaders talk about “solving big problems.” We look for the next “game changer.” The phrase “Go Big or Go Home” gets bandied about. The problem with that kind of thinking is that it is like trying to eat an elephant. Now the common answer to the joke is that you do it “one bite at a time.”

But what you’re left with is a belly stuffed full of elephant and it can take an awful long time to choke down those tusks.

Perhaps we should try to solve smaller problems first. Smaller problems are more digestible and not nearly as overwhelming (and they don’t make you fat like eating a full elephant does).

See, unfortunately, when all we do is focus on the big problems, the small problems can get worse. Have you ever been in a movie theater with someone who is texting or talking really loudly? In the scheme of things, it’s a small thing. But anyone who has experienced that knows that it can have such a detrimental effect to your movie-going that it has the potential to become a “big problem.”

I’m not saying we should ignore the big stuff entirely. I am saying, however, that small, specific problems like texting in a theater are much easier to solve than something bigger like: “less people are going to the movies.”

Take a moment to look at your life or your business or your relationships with others. Are there small specific problems that you can solve? I truly believe that if you would actually sweat the small stuff a little, you might actually start to find some solutions to the bigger problems.

So what is your small stuff?

Originally posted on the BrandSocialites Blog.

Life with a Verizon iPhone

I’ve been a Sprint customer for a long time. I have good friends who work there and I try to support them and my hometown company just as I hope they prefer AMC Theatres when they can.

However, for the past month or so, I’ve been testing out the Verizon iPhone (DISCLOSURE) thanks to the Verizon Midwest office. Sure, it’s a bit ridiculous that I’m carrying 3 phones right now (work Blackberry, personal Sprint HTC Hero, iPhone), but it actually gives me a nice opportunity to compare and contrast the various benefits and drawbacks of each phone. I also tested a Sprint EVO Shift when I was at SXSW and I’ll be using that as a comparison as well.

Let’s start with the bottom line: I love the iPhone. This should come as no big shocker to people who follow my blog. It isn’t without faults (and I’ll share those here), but overall, my experience with the phone has been great. (In fact, I’ve been delaying writing this post for a while now with the hope that I won’t have to give back the demo device until it is done.)

Network

The advertising for Verizon is all about “the network” and I’ll say, it’s solid. I never really had connection issues for the phone, although there were times when I found the 3G service affected inside of buildings. However, the 3G service was pretty fast, particularly loading web pages, although I’m not sure I can attribute that to the network or to Mobile Safari.

Mobile Hotspot

One nice feature that I was able to use was the Mobile Hotspot. As we were driving to my in-laws’ house in Iowa, I switched it on and Alli was able to connect via WiFi and check her Facebook account while we drove. This is an extra charge on every phone it is available on, including the iPhone on any network. It’s kind of a bogus charge, because it still counts against the data that you are already using. I don’t understand why they should be able to double-charge you for a feature that is built-in.

Applications

It’s simply the best App Store on the planet. Higher quality applications, easy payment, easy purchase on your computer or on your device. There are so many great applications that have been handcrafted with an eye for user experience and design. In comparison to the applications I’ve used on Android devices, the best ones have been applications that were first built for iOS devices. Despite how rigid Apple’s App Store requirements are, there’s something to keeping developers to a standard. Android’s “openness” in their Market just leads to lots and lots of crapplications (trademark pending).

My favorites have been some that were favorites on my iPad. I love the official Twitter application (formerly Tweetie). I love Reeder for reading RSS. I love Instagram, Beluga, Dropbox and especially Gowalla. I love the Weight Watchers Mobile application for tracking my food and activity as a part of my weight loss program. I love that U-Verse has an application that allows me to manage my DVR remotely.

Honestly, two of my favorite discoveries have been games. One I knew about: QRANK Social Trivia and another that I discovered as a more addictive version of Angry Birds called Tiny Wings. I also absolutely love Facebook’s official iPhone application. While on the iPad, I tend to use the full site, but on the iPhone, the application is so efficient and well designed that there’s no reason to go to the full site.

Size and Weight

Another thing that I absolutely love about the iPhone is the form factor. It is well designed and an appropriate weight in my hand. It just feels right. It’s bigger and heavier than my HTC Hero, but thinner. It’s slightly smaller than the HTC EVO Shift, which is thicker on account of the slide out keyboard. The device that the iPhone gets compared to most is probably the HTC EVO 4G, which I’ve seen but never used. The EVO feels massive to me…too large to put in a pocket. The profile of the iPhone is almost unrecognizable when I stow it.

Camera

The iPhone is now the most popular camera in the world. More photos are uploaded now to Flickr via the iPhone than any other camera on the planet. It just goes to show you that “the best camera is the one you have with you.”

And the iPhone camera isn’t just a serviceable portable camera. It’s a good, 5MP point-and-shoot camera (rumor is the iPhone 5 will have an 8MP camera) that also has the ability to shoot video just as effectively as the point-and-shoot equivalent (and now Cisco-murdered) Flip. If you need proof, check out this video that I posted to YouTube from when we went to see The Civil Wars at Lawrence in the Bottleneck. I didn’t edit it at all.

Computer Management

I know a few people who don’t like the iPhone almost solely because it requires Apple’s iTunes to manage. Since I’m in an all-Apple household, that doesn’t bother me even a little bit. In fact, when it comes to using other phones (Blackberry, Android, or Palm-based devices), the fact that they don’t integrate with iTunes is annoying. I love my iTunes library. I don’t want to move it entirely to another library and application. Also, since so many applications on the Mac now integrate with their mobile counterparts, moving documents, photos and files is so easy through the iTunes interface. Sure, it’s bloated, but a lot of software is these days (just open Firefox).

Music

The iPhone was originally presented as an extension of the iPod line of devices. But as anyone knows, it has become an industry unto itself. Still, that iPod application is still one of the ones I use just as much as anything else. Not having to carry a separate iPod for all my music is brilliant and I can carry a ton of music on my iPhone and iTunes allows me to switch it easily. This is one benefit to the phone that gets discounted a lot, but having to carry one less device is a huge benefit for a gadget hoarder like myself.

Pricing

Here’s the rub. When it comes to pricing, I’m in a bit of a pickle. See, I have friends who work for Sprint and I can be a part of their plan for a reduced price. Even Sprint’s unlimited plan at $69.99/month is lower by about $30 than a comparable iPhone plan, either on Verizon or AT&T. The most frustrating aspect of the up charges when it comes to iPhone plans is unlimited texting runs an additional $20 per month on top of your normal monthly fee. Texting costs these phone companies virtually nothing. Charging $20 a month is akin to highway robbery. One benefit of Verizon is they have a Nationwide Talk & Text plan that runs $60/month for 450 minutes and unlimited texting, but it doesn’t include data. That runs you another $30/month and doesn’t include the nice ability to share your connection as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 5 devices for another $20/mo. By my calculations, that would cost somewhere in the range of $110 per phone. The 450 minute limit on talk time and the additional up charges for data are the real killers here.

Despite the significant increase in cost, I’m coming to the point where the iPhone is becoming an extension of me. Alli no longer calls me on my normal phone because she knows that I leave it in my bag now. If I was picking up the bill, I am not sure if I could bite that bullet, especially with the Nexus S coming to Sprint this weekend.

But the bottom line is this: as predicted, I have loved the Verizon iPhone. In fact, I’d probably love it even more with more time spent using it because I would further customize it to my liking. I’ve been hesitant to do so with a device that I knew at some point I’d have to return back to the good people at Verizon. It’s been a little ridiculous carrying 3 phones around for the past month, but getting an extended period of time with a fully-functional non-AT&T iPhone has been totally worth it. I’m looking forward to seeing what the iPhone 5 brings in the fall.

So what phone do you carry and what do you love about it?

My First SXSW

I’ve been working on the web for the better part of a decade now. I’ve been an interactive designer, a writer, a marketing generalist, a community manager and a digital marketing strategist.

But until this year, I’d never been to the granddaddy of all interactive/digital conferences: South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas.

I was supposed to go last year, but then I left the team at Cerner and one of my former teammates took my spot (which he never properly thanked me for, but whatever). So when I joined AMC’s digital marketing team, I got my travel and conference expenses approved several months ago. Despite several people telling me to book early, I waited until the last minute to reserve my travel and ended up staying a few miles North of downtown Austin. I had a car, which was helpful, but was more of a pain than anything having to get back and forth to the convention center every day.

My first SXSW was insane. Over 25,000 attendees descend upon what is essentially a college town for a week of sessions, parties and networking with some of the industry’s best and brightest.

It being my first SXSW, I tried to experience as much as possible and I am only now starting to recover (as evidenced by the fact that I’m writing this a week after returning home).

Trying to get all the highlights into one post might be tough…maybe it will be better as a bulleted list:

  • Getting to meet several other brand online representatives for the first time – amazing folks from Famous Dave’s, Southwest Airlines, Match.com, State Farm Insurance, McDonald’s, Dell, Frito-Lay and many others. Having a group of peers who also know what it’s like to represent a brand online…that alone was worth the trip.
  • The pure spectacle of a bunch of nerdy internet folks all in one city…it was insane.
  • Using Gowalla in its city of origin and getting all the cool custom stamps.
  • Meeting Andy from Gowalla and hearing all the great things they have planned. They may not have the users that Foursquare does, but they are going about their business in the right way…with professionals.
  • Nate Bolt and Mark Trammell’s session: “Stop Listening to Your Customers” about rapid user testing and how they do it at Twitter. There was not a more valuable session to me through the entire conference. More on this session at: StopLing.com
  • Dinner with the good folks from Twitter. Yeah, that Twitter. Really great people. During the dinner, I managed to help Southwest Airlines get the little blue verified checkmark next to their name, which was funny, since they have 1.5 million followers.
  • Sitting by an outdoor firepit with @trammell at the “Twitter house” and talking not only about his brilliant session, but also having him give me tips and ideas about how we might begin to address our guests’ website needs. 40 dedicated minutes with a guy that smart...I cannot put a price on that.
  • Discovering the awesomeness of breakfast tacos
  • Discovering the awesomeness of street food for that matter. I’ve never been in a place that offered so many different options. But I’m truly obsessed with street tacos.
  • Kevin Hoffman’s session on “Why Your Meetings Suck”. Extremely interesting stuff.
  • Sitting with my friend Greg from Happy Cog and plotting to take over the world. Also, getting to chill with all of the people from Happy Cog that were there for the Happy Cog Hosting launch party.
  • The Gowalla party with Matt & Kim. So much fun.
  • Getting to attend two tapings of my absolute favorite, never-miss podcast, Doug Benson’s Doug Loves Movies podcast, one with Dave Foley, Kevin Pollak and Anthony Jeselnik; the other with Simon Pegg, Rainn Wilson and director James Gunn. It was as hilarious as I expected it to be, if not moreso.
  • The day I spent my morning working at Thunderbird Coffee, one of the coolest coffee shops I’ve seen.
  • I’m going to punch myself for saying this, but the energy that permeated the streets of Austin. People with hustle and drive. Loved it.

It was a lot of awesomeness to consume in the 6 days I was there. On my final day of travel, I put out this tweet:

Twitter / @ShaneAdams: So so ready to be home...

Whenever I travel, the worst part about it is being away from Alli. I know that can be sickening to some, but it’s the truth. My wife is awesome and she was so supportive of my going to SXSW for my professional development. Considering that I haven’t shut up about it since I got back…maybe she’ll reconsider. There’s only so much nerdery that one woman can handle.

But when it comes to ideas an inspiration, I came away from SXSW with too many to count. That’s what conferences like this are great for: sending people back to their jobs more equipped and motivated to be better. Sure, the quality of speakers at some of the sessions could have been a lot better. I’m particularly disappointed in how agencies believe they know how to represent brands online. (But that’s a whole other post entirely.)

Will I return next year? It’s possible. I’m putting together a couple of panel and session proposals with some of my friends that I made this year. I’m glad I finally got to experience SXSW at least once, though.

I just wish that I could have had more breakfast tacos.