Instagram 101We’re looking back on the Instagram month for members of our “A-Ha!” Tribe, when we kicked things off with an intro-level webinar, Instagram 101: Your Hot ‘n Happenin’ Primer (Diving Into the Leading Social Network of the Mobile Movement). One of the things that we think is particularly powerful about Instagram is its take on hashtagging.


Brief Hashtagging Primer

For those who need the quick update, a hashtag – aka #, the pound sign – when attached to the front of a word, phrase, or acronym (like #AhaTribe) turns that “hashtag” into a clickable link. And when you click on it, you’ll see a list of all the other posts using that same hashtag. It works on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest as well as on Instagram.


Hashtagging on Instagram

Hashtags can be added on Instagram posts in both the description of the photo or video you post, and in the comments on those posts. You’re limited to 30 hashtags per post, and as you might expect, you should only use ones that are relevant to your business and your individual posts. Because you get so many hashtags to spend, people take advantage of it, and hashtag liberally!

This is good news for you, because it allows you to see how people are thinking about your business, your industry, the products and services you and your competitors deliver, and so much more.


The New Wave of Search

Instagram Keyword Research Instagram is also the new way to do keyword research! For example, if you went to Google’s Keyword Planner Tool, and looked up “Star Wars,” the phrase “Star Wars Day” would not show up.

Yet on Instagram, “#starwarsday” is the #2 most popular hashtag used (after #starwars itself). 137,000 posts and counting. This screenshot from our Instagram 101 presentation elaborates a bit one on the keywords to explore.

Note that the ONLY way to do keyword research on Instagram is to do it via hashtags. As with Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, you can make up any hashtag you like and use it at will (you don’t have to set it up or register it anywhere).

Before you use a new one, however, definitely do a search on it to make sure it’s not being used, or that it’s being used the way you want it to.

A personal hashtag story: Our state’s American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” Luncheon was happening (this was a couple years ago), and they wanted to use #GoRedNH as the hashtag. We checked it first (like we always do!), and discovered that #GoRedNH was already being used as a rallying cry by the state’s Republican Party. (Then, as now, NH is a “blue” democratic state.) No go!

So do your hashtag homework, since this is how more and more people are communicating with each other and how the gigantic masses of Instagram users are self-organizing the content they share, for your research and for the effective tagging of your own pics to get them in front of the right audiences at the right times!


Want to get successful with Instagram? You can get access to the full 101 Webinar AND a second Instagram Webinar plus a bonus interview with Instagram expert Sue Zimmerman in our Instagram Biz Breakthrough Program. Or you can get on-demand access to more than two dozen training webinars PLUS interviews, Q&A sessions, and a fantastic private networking group in the “A-Ha!” Tribe. Either way, you’ll be taking a great step in the direction of your Instagram success!

email-marketing-mavensLast week, we had the pleasure of again working with Heather Jackson, New England Regional Development Director for Constant Contact, for a half-day workshop entitled “Digital Marketing 2015: Learn, Have Fun, Make It Work.” (That’s us with Heather and other “A-Ha!” Tribe members who attended the workshop.)

Since my phone was running the Meerkat feed, and there was no WiFi available, I got to take notes instead of tweet them! So here are the pearls of wisdom I pulled from Heather’s presentation, “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Email Marketing But Were Afraid to Ask!”

Heather was also part of the latest product in our “A-Ha!” Shop, the Email Marketing Biz Breakthrough Program. To celebrate its debut, you can pick it up from now through April 10th for just $20 (normally $67) when you use promo code BLOGEMAIL at checkout!


Entrepreneurs want to email, but they’re afraid to overwhelm people because of all the email they get themselves, and they empathize!

Why email? 99% at least see your name and subject line. (Compare that to social!)

What to email? Well…

  • What’s valuable to you? What’s an email you always open?
  • What do YOU know that they don’t?
  • Help them avoid mistakes.
  • Tips and tricks of the trade.
  • Favorite things about your industry.
  • Help people know you better. Insurance company example – after they added the Red Sox schedule and a local minors schedule, and a recipe, those became the most clicked-on things.
  • Give away the farm. Show people you’re the expert. People won’t decide to become as good as you are and take business away from you!
  • From Pat Flynn – can you give people at least a tiny little win?
  • What you have access to that they don’t.
  • Original isn’t required – just interesting, relevant, helpful.

60% of email is read on a mobile phone. That has implications for what to send and when to send it – and busts the idea that there’s an ideal time/day each week to send it.

Less is more. Don’t put your whole blog post on there! In fact, not only will it not all get read, you won’t know whether it was or wasn’t. You’d rather drive people off the email and onto your website to check out your whole content.

You gotta look good! And you must have it through a service provider – best reasons why include: better management of a contact database, better measurement data, and regulatory 1-click unsubscribe compliance.

Make it clear what you want people to do. Images are going to get more clicks. Also, image must link out to some place on your website. (Even the homepage!)

Don’t let your image descriptions be blank or “IMG2387.jpg” – message! And if the image has all the info, you need it in text in the email, too.

***Make your call to action be on the first scroll for mobile!***

“Now, Later, Never.” That’s how you weed through your inbox. You want to get people to “Now.” And since less is more, then you train people to know that your stuff won’t take long, so they’re more inclined to “Now.”

Who’s it from, what’s the subject line – two critical items to get the open.

2 seconds to get someone’s attention with a name/email, 2 words in the subject line to get them to even read the rest of the subject line!

Magazine cover teasers – still the art of perfection!

***What is the mindset of your customer in the moment you’re sending the email? How can you help them best at 2pm on a Thursday? 8pm on a Saturday? Be relevant to your ideal customer in the moment they need to hear from you.***

Subject Line (and Headline) Formula: Number or ?  + adjective + keyword + promise

Funny makes money!

80/20 rule for value versus promotion. 80% tangible (free!) value for the reader, 20% promotional material.

Monthly is most common for regular email sending, but… Ask yourself: “When are my readers likely to take the action I want?” THAT’S when to send it. Mobile has changed the game about when to send, because people aren’t at a desk 9a-5p.

Start with when’s NOT a good time, then what’s the right mindset, then survey your audience about their preferences, to get at a good time to send.

How to split test: Split your list, send the exact same email to different people on different days. Which is the best day? Then, which is the best time on that day? If it doesn’t matter, then use the subject line and the content to focus on the value you deliver. Try different value propositions.

Repurpose and reuse the same content across multiple platforms – it’s totally cool to do it!

Content curation helps you mix up what you put out, present yourself as a well-rounded expert who’s willing to freely share resources. Also creates goodwill with the people whose content you’re sharing.

Where to get ideas for email content, and how to handle it:

  • Feedly – RSS reader to pull in your feeds for content sharing. (Flipboard, too!)
  • Google Alerts, Email Newsletters, Social Media also for content discovery. Retweet a follower once a day (or more!) to fill out your content.
  • Scheduler: HootSuite, Buffer
  • Engagement: MarketMe Suite (like Nutshell Mail)
  • Events are great sources for curated content.

Be curious! Be you! Be fun! Don’t overthink your content strategy. If something helped you, feel free to share it.

***Your social media voice should be your voice after a glass of wine!***


Now, don’t forget: The Email Marketing Biz Breakthrough Program is just $20 (normally $67) when you use promo code BLOGEMAIL at checkout from now through April 10th. Get yours today!

email-marketing-mistakes-aha-tribeIn the “A-Ha!” Tribe, February is the month for Email Marketing Mastery, and the first of two private webinars for Tribe members is “Email Marketing Reloaded: The Top 9 Mistakes People Make With Their Email Marketing – And, of Course, How to Fix, Avoid, and Stop Making Those Mistakes Anymore!”

We ran this one countdown style, and to give you a taste of the Tribe, I’m going to share #9, #8, and #7 with you here.

#9: Ignoring Transactional Emails

What’s a transactional email, you ask? It’s any email triggered by someone action. Order confirmation emails (triggered by order placement, welcome emails to subscribers (triggered by email sign up), notifications of comments (triggered by, well, making a comment!) – these are all examples of transactional emails.

Many folks fail to pay attention to these emails, and thus send out missives like this:

Dear Allen Voivod,

Thank you for purchasing [Thing] version 1.21.25.

The product license number is: ########

The product download links are:

Macintosh Universal Binary (required for 10.6, 10.7, 10.8 and 10.9): [link]

Macintosh PowerPC only: [link]

Windows: [link]

Windows x64: [link]

Please note: the links are only valid for 7 days. If you require another link, please contact quoting the order reference number.

Dry as a bone, right? No personality, no emotion, no brand connection. It’s also an opportunity to solicit testimonials and promote cross-sells, just to give you two other ideas. These are set-it-and-forget-it things. Make a list of all your transactional emails, and you practically never have to worry about it again. Meanwhile, those emails go to work for you, not against you, on a daily basis.

#8: No Autoresponders

If people sign up to receive email from you, do you just leave them hanging?

According a Marketing Land review of MarketingSherpa data, about 3 out of 4 online businesses are not taking advantage of the opportunity to attract more email subscribers with a series of automated, value-packed emails.

Autoresponders aren’t just for lead generation, either. They can also be used to drive a sales process, automate support follow-ups, prepare attendees for events, or segment an audience.

Check with your email service provider and find out what kind of autoresponder options are available to you. Major services like Constant Contact, MailChimp, and Aweber all offer them as part of their subscription packages, and larger systems like Infusionsoft and Ontraport bundle them as part of a larger package of services.

#7: Not Including Social Sharing Options

We’ve heard the argument before, and it sounds something like this: “If I’m trying to get people to subscribe to my email by offering exclusive content, why would I want that email to be shared on social media?”

Here’s the answer: Because sharing your emails via social channels encourages faster list growth (14.4% growth versus 8.9%), correlates with a larger average list size (53% larger!), and results in higher clickthrough rates on your emails (5.7% greater). (Stats via Constant Contact.)

Don’t worry about who’s seeing your email content on social. If you must, change your language from “exclusive” to “sneak peek” or “first look,” but whatever you do, let the people who want to share your best work with the world do it with ease.

We go deeper into these topics, as well as Mistakes #1-6, in the “A-Ha!” Tribe. All webinars are available for you on-demand, along with Expert Interviews and an active international Facebook mastermind group. Learn more about the #AhaTribe and join today!

The 6th ‘A-Ha!’ Summit has been unleashed upon the world! This tweet from Dyn’s Tyler Gutierrez sums up NH’s biggest social media, marketing, and success conference quite nicely for you:

Tyler Gutierrez on the 'A-Ha!' Summit

Well, after that, what else is there to say?

Quite a lot, actually. If you missed it, what follows will let you experience it from a bunch of different angles. You can also order a “Video on Demand” Pass to get full access to the Summit Sessions and Online Domination Panel Discussion, too.

The Battle Cry of the #AhaSummit

We ARE the Breakthrough is the powerful video manifesto for Owners, Creators, and Leaders that kicked off the day. It could just as easily apply to YOU reading this, too.

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Itty Bitty Vibe Reel

If you want to get a sense of the scene at the event in under 90 seconds, the “Itty Bitty Vibe Reel of the 2014 #AhaSummit” should be right up your alley.

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The #AhaSummit Twitter Impact

The social media impact of the #AhaSummit is nothing short of amazing! If you’re looking to quantify your social media outreach efforts, TweetReach is a great tool to consider. We pulled the report for the #AhaSummit hashtag and were blown away. 323,000 Twitter accounts reached, and more than 3.7 million impressions. And that isn’t even all of it! The report cut off at 1,500 tweets, and when we called TweetReach to dig deeper, we got a second report that STILL didn’t capture all the tweets!

We recorded a video to geek out over the TweetReach reporting, which also happens to serve as a good example of what TweetReach can offer to event planners.

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Tagboard Hashtag Tracking Across Multiple Platforms

This is especially for you if you if like to scan the surface of a large volume of social interactions, yet have the option for the deep dive right there in front of you. Have you ever heard of Tagboard? Fantastic resource that tracks hashtag usage across multiple platforms. We’ve got a tagboard reserved for #AhaSummit, and you can scan through photos, videos, and hundreds of tips, tricks, and insights shared by live and virtual attendees, as well as the speakers and panelists themselves.

Storify: Curated Social Media Stories

If you’d rather explore the #AhaSummit in a more structured and curated way, Lani has exhaustively reviewed both the Instagram and Twitter feeds from the event, and created stories of both via Storify (another fabulous tool). Remember what we said about 1,500+ tweets above? There were more than 300 Instagram photos posted, too, and every time Lani looked, new tweets and Instagram posts were popping up.


Thanks very much to JL Stevens, who shared her take on the #AhaSummit in an awesome blog post for her company, Boldwerks, based out of Portsmouth, NH.

Big Thank Yous…

Thanks to the Summiteers for your overwhelming support and feedback on social media! We’re especially psyched for the people who joined Twitter and Instagram before and during the event. You’ve taken your first steps into a larger, even more awesome world.

Thank you to our Partners, Sponsors, and Allies, without whom the conference simply wouldn’t be possible.

And WELCOME, WELCOME, WELCOME to the newest Members of the ‘A-Ha!’ Tribe! Mike Gagnon of JG Realty, David Dougher of Pariah Games, Kendra Strickler of CommonPlaces, Marc McNamara of The Value Shift, Michelle Gaudet of Lamprey Health Care, Tim Taber of the Mount Washington Observatory, Elizabeth Duhamel and Penny Raby of Malone, Dirubbo & Company, P.C., and a stellar representative from the City of Keene have all become players in the creative and collaborative social media, marketing, and success mastermind community. We can’t wait to introduce you to the rest of the #AhaTribe!

Speaking of that, we’re thrilled to announce that we have an ‘A-Ha!’ Tribe Twitter account. You can connect with all our tweeting Tribe members in one convenient place.

And Finally…

Stay tuned. :-) Yes, stay tuned, because the ‘A-Ha!’ Summit expands into the realm of podcasting soon…

[Behind the Scenes] For our signature social media, marketing, and success conference, the ‘A-Ha!’ Summit, we decided to write two different press releases and send them through two different PR services, to see which one would perform better. The release below was sent through, and a longer version was sent through Online PR Media. We’ll share the pickup results to help you as you think about updating your own press release tools and tactics!


#AhaSummitGilford, NH, October 03, 2014 –(– To help entrepreneurs, business owners, marketing professionals, and leaders in mission-driven organizations achieve breakthrough results, Epiphanies, Inc. will host the 6th annual “A-Ha!” Summit on Thursday, November 13th, 2014 at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, NH, and online via Digital Pass. Produced with Platinum Partners SNHU, Constant Contact, and Flock Marketing, the theme of this award-winning social media, marketing, and success conference is “Dare. Play. Breakthrough.”

Designed and delivered by Lani and Allen Voivod, Allies in Possibility at Epiphanies Inc. and co-founders of the “A-Ha!” Summit, the full-day digital marketing conference will showcase top experts in email and mobile marketing, Instagram for business, content creation, integrated marketing campaigns, results-driven success coaching, community building, online visibility, and energetic technology.

Roderick RussellRoderick Russell, professional sword swallower, mentalist, hypnotist, and author and host of Remarkably Human: The Art and Science of Being Remarkable, will keynote the event. The high-energy day also includes an “Online Domination Panel,” featuring experts on branding, responsive design, Internet performance, inbound marketing, SEO, as well as some future-casting and trend-watching in business for 2015 and beyond.

Gold Sponsors for the event include Dyn, NH Business Review, and the New Hampshire Today Show With Jack Heath.

Continental breakfast, lunch, refreshments, a post-event Networking and Happy Hour, and live music are included for in-person attendees. Digital Pass holders can attend via livestream, and get video-on-demand access through September, 2015. To see the full lineup and register, go to


About Epiphanies, Inc.
Hailed as “visionary” and “two of the most creative thinkers in the industry,” Lani and Allen Voivod are the owners of Epiphanies, Inc., founders of the “A-Ha!” Summit, and leaders of the “A-Ha!” Tribe, an international social media, marketing, and success mastermind community. As sought-after speakers, trainers, and consultants, the married duo engages leaders, inspires entrepreneurs, and helps redefine what’s possible for passionate professionals in the Digital Age. Connect with them at,, and


Thanks to Our Partners, Sponsors, and Allies, who make the #AhaSummit possible! And a special shout-out to Michelle Goodearl of Michelle Goodearl Photography, who has been by our side for so many years it’s ridiculous to start counting. Thank you for making the Summit look just as good in the pics as it is in real life!

Platinum Partners Epiphanies Inc., SNHU, Constant Contact, and Flock Marketing

Platinum Partners Epiphanies Inc., SNHU, Constant Contact, and Flock Marketing

Gold Sponsors Dyn, NHBR, and WGIR - NH Today With Jack Heath

Gold Sponsors Dyn, NHBR, and WGIR – NH Today With Jack Heath

Silver Allies Art, CommonPlaces, Women Inspiring Women, Perk at Work, Veggie Art Girl, Jim Tyrrell, The Common Man, and Bank of New Hampshire

Silver Allies Art, CommonPlaces, Women Inspiring Women, Perk at Work, Veggie Art Girl, Jim Tyrrell, The Common Man, and Bank of New Hampshire

Instagram MarketingIn researching and bolstering our knowledge for the “A-Ha!” Tribe‘s Private Webinar on Instagram Marketing, we kept coming across one consistent piece of advice for Instagram users:

“Take Better Pictures.”

This, frankly, isn’t very helpful advice by itself. And it’s not often accompanied by actual helpful info – instead, it’s usually paired with something along the lines of, “Find out what your audience likes, and do that.”

We’re not professional photographers ourselves, and neither is 95% of the general population. So how are we supposed to suddenly take better pictures?!

That’s just one of the topics we tackled in the private webinar, “Instagram Marketing: Putting Your Visual Content Strategy Into Overdrive With 23 Savvy Tips, Tricks, Tools, and More.” In fact, it was tip #10. :-)

You may have this challenge, too, so we thought we’d share this example from the webinar with you!

The Rule of Thirds

Take Better Instagram Pictures


So, check out the two photos in the slide from our presentation. The one on the right looks a lot better, doesn’t it? That’s because it’s following the Rule of Thirds.

Imagine your pictures divided into three rows and three columns, like you see with these examples. See the four intersections, where the red dots are? Those are visual areas of interest that we as humans seem naturally drawn to. Also, anything visually interesting that can run along one of those lines through the photo is supposed to be very pleasing to your eyes and ours, too.

If you’re using the camera in your smartphone, chances are it has a setting where you can layer Rule of Thirds lines on your camera’s screen, so that way you can line up the perfect shot!

Some other things to keep in mind:

Background. No photo bombers! Be conscious of what the scene looks like behind the person, place, or thing you want to capture. Does it support the feeling of the image you want to convey? If so, great! If not, start moving around to create a better look.

Filters. Did you know? Mayfair is the native Instagram filter that gets the best engagement? And, you’re not limited to Instagram’s filters. Use another app like Snapseed, Litely, or VSCO Cam to play with different filters, and import THAT into Instagram with none of IG’s filters applied!

Lighting. Some things you can fix with filters, and some you can’t. Make sure you’ve got enough light to clearly capture your moment. Not staring-into-the-sun harsh! (Unless that’s an effect you’re trying to achieve.) For shooting people, it’s enough light to give their faces a bit of definition and depth, but not enough to create big shadows.

Now, we turn it over to you! What are some of your favorite tips for taking better pictures – on Instagram or elsewhere? Let us know in the comments!

Full Instagram Marketing Webinar Access

And, if you want to get access to the full Instagram Marketing webinar on demand, plus all 14 of the social media, marketing, and success webinars that came before it, check out (and join!) join the “A-Ha!” Tribe right now.


We started Epiphanies, Inc. more than 10 years ago, and I must say, I’d forgotten what it was like to start from the beginning. Oh sure, you get a sense of it when, for example, you set up new social media profiles and have to build from zero. That’s one thing. Kicking off a whole brand and content empire from zero? Whole new ballgame entirely.

The Combustion of the Idea

Here’s how the combustion happened:

1. I’ve been nursing a deep desire to do something creative for some time now.

2. We (Lani and I) spent a good part of May and June at Epiphanies, Inc. talking about content leverage and amplification to workshop audiences in New Hampshire and Vermont.

3. We joined John Lee DumasPodcasters Paradise late last year, and had been talking about launching a podcast since January of last year. As in 2013!

When we tell people we know what it’s like to have an idea you love and not have the time to pursue it, we really mean it. :-) Oh, and there’s one other (big) thing:

4. Disney and Lucasfilm are working on a new Star Wars trilogy, with additional stand-alone films in between the trilogy releases.

Allen Voivod, your Star Wars 7x7 host I’m a HUGE fan of the movies, though I’d given up hope that there’d be more after Revenge of the Sith. Lucas had long said there were nine movies in his story cycle, but in recent years had backed away from that, and claimed that six were all he had in him. So with those four things slammed together in my head, and with a lot of insight and support from Lani, Star Wars 7×7 began to take shape.

The Star Wars 7×7 Podcast

In one month, here’s what we did together, with branded visuals from the inestimable Kevin Skarritt of Flock Marketing:

* Launched a new website

* Opened channels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

* Set up accounts on Libsyn (to store and syndicate the podcast MP3 files), iTunes and Stitcher (to make the podcast easily available to the world)

* Chose sound clips and music to use within the podcast

* Scripted 3 intros and outros for the podcast

* Scripted three versions of advertisements for the :15 and :30 ad placement spots

* Ordered up 3 different professional voiceover intros to give some variety to the opening of the podcast

* Designed a template for the content of the podcast

* Built a profile on Patreon, with customized rewards for people who choose to support the podcast

Those last two items are particularly important. When we were thinking about the content, one thing kept popping up. A lot of the podcasts I enjoy (in the Star Wars world, and outside of it) run for 1-2 hours, and lots of them come out weekly at best. We thought there was a market and a need to do something shorter, and to do it more often. That’s when the sevens started coming together.

The 7s

I can’t remember whether it was Lani’s idea or mine (probably hers), but we came up with the idea of doing a 7-minute podcast, 7 days a week. We targeted a launch date of 7/7/14 at the suggestion of our good friend the artist Kate Lemay, who happens to paint stunning works based on the 7 chakras. And the fact that I first saw Star Wars in ’77, the year I turned 7…well, by that point it all seemed like destiny. (Heck, in what’s possibly the one crazy impulsive thing I’ve done in my life, I got a tattoo on my upper arm while on a business trip in Florida many years ago. The tattoo? A playing card… the 7 of Hearts.)

The one trick: As I started to talk publicly about 7/7 being the launch, I had to contend with the fact that 7/7 was the Monday after Independence Day (on the previous Friday), and I had submitted the podcast for approval by iTunes on July 4th. Would they review it in time and make it available by the 7th?

Yes. Yes they did. And so did Stitcher, which was the recommended solution for Android podcast listeners. So that took care of the podcast itself. And then there was that other important item.


Seems like people have become generally familiar with the idea of crowdfunding, via services like Kickstarter, GoFundMe, IndieGoGo and the like. Well, Patreon is a little different. It’s definitely focused on creative types, and it’s meant to fund ongoing creations. You can support people per creation (like a new short video release, or a new podcast episode), or you can support the creators on a per-month basis. You can set up entirely customized levels of support as well. This is what I did for #SW7X7.

Some levels for Star Wars 7×7 on Patreon may get you a shoutout on the podcast itself, or reward you with a Vine video or a personalized haiku. Others grant behind-the-scenes access, exclusive Google+ Hangouts, and more options that let supporters get closer to the creative process.

My hope is that the daily content I share is appreciated by other fun-loving Star Wars fans like me. My goal is to give a daily dose of intergalactic joy to everyone who tunes in. Also, I’ve made the podcast kid-friendly, so other dads (like me) can listen to the podcast with their own children, and share their passion for the films with a new generation of fans.

Star Wars 7x7

Yes, I’m definitely hoping for benevolent patrons who don’t mind throwing a few bucks in the busker’s case, so to speak, every month.

Counting on the fiscal kindness of strangers is something new for me, and I’ll be honest: I’m not the kind of guy who’s wildly comfortable putting myself out there like this!

But I truly hope that this podcast will matter to lightsaber- and blaster-carrying kindred. Considering the millions of Star Wars fans around the world – ranging from maniacal to casual and everything in between – even a small fraction of supportive listeners would mean the world to me. After all, “I’m nice men.” :-)

I did mention the fact that there are advertisement spots within the podcast, too. We’re welcoming Founding Sponsors to get involved for three-month stints. The cool thing is, the rate gets locked in, and the podcast keeps growing consistently. In other words, the sooner sponsors get in the game, the sooner they get to take advantage of the rapidly increasing audience explosion.

On the Air!

So that’s it – it’s alive! The Star Wars 7×7 Podcast: Rebel-rousing fun for everyday Jedi, 7 minutes a day, 7 days a week. Destiny unleashed! I’m coming up on my 50th episode already, and the podcast has been downloaded thousands of times in 27 countries. Our active Facebook page is nearing 600 Likers, and our breaking news Twitter feed is about to cross the 1,000-tweet threshold. We’ve hit #1 in iTunes’ “New and Noteworthy” list for Performing Arts, #1 in Hobbies, #9 in TV & Film, and in the Top 50 overall (#49).

And it’s just me! (With support from Lani, of course. :-) ) No podcast network to support it. No brand established on another channel that could catapult it, the way the Daily Show’s podcast launched from zero to #1 in no time. Yes, I’m a little jealous of that, and more so, I’m super grateful for the fact that I’m just one guy with passion, and an idea that’s catching on in greater numbers, day after day.

We’ll be sharing updates about this new entrepreneurial adventure as we go and grow. In the meantime, please check out the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and the website itself. We’d love to hear what you think!

YMCA Overnight CampsIt sounded like the best gig ever.

My 11-year-old son, Joe, would go to the YMCA‘s exceptional North Woods Camp for Boys for two whole weeks, while I would live with my bestie, Kate Lemay, who happens to be the Director of Programs for the Camp…as well as for the other three amazing Camps – Pleasant Valley Camp for Girls, Sandy Island Family Camp, and Laughing Loon Day Camp – that coexist on the nearly 300-acre property in Mirror Lake, NH, right on magnificent Lake Winnipesaukee.


Joe would play, learn, discover, make friends, try new things, and GROW in a safe and supportive environment, and I would soak it all in, take pictures and short videos, play with digital storytelling, and see how my content marketing and social media skills and experience might best serve the camps and their online visibility efforts.

My son would be away from home for the first time on his own, and I – I would be around. You know, just in case…because I’ve never let my child out of my sights for so long, and baby, it ain’t easy.

I’ve been here a week now, so I’ve got some tales to tell.

Grab a cup of bug juice and a s’more, and I’ll give you the dirt, as seen from the Mommy-lurking fringes of the first week of overnight camp.

First, I’d like to give a shout out to Mother Nature for setting the scene so divinely. Check-in was idyllic! Blue skies dotted with puffy clouds served as the backdrop as young men greeted their new campers and the parents and families who love them with warmth and ease. Within minutes, Joe was off playing ping pong, chatting away with a crew of other campers, and I lingered awkwardly for a few minutes until I finally acknowledged I was no longer needed (or wanted) there. Reluctantly, I left.

It was at this point that Kate told me I was to have as little contact with Joe as possible, to ensure he had the best camp experience. Hmmmm – I thought I was going to be able to cheat that system under the guise of Mommy Blogging? Alas, after a few lame attempts to shift her thinking on this, I agreed to behave “to the best of my ability.” (Ha! Notice how I built in the opportunity to cheat the system with that qualifier!)

Everything was great, though, and I was more than a little relieved.

YMCA Summer CampsEven though Joe is a picky eater, and he occasionally has trouble sleeping at new places, and he’s about as self-sufficient as a mollusk at a disco, every time I caught glimpses of him in the midst of his camp adventures, he looked like he was having a blast. And, MAN, this camp is all about bringin’ the FUN to lucky kids! Joe has been playing tennis, doing archery and riflery, hiking, and diving into the world of Magic: The Gathering, and other card games, with new friends. He’s also been playing epic games of full-field dodgeball, capture the flag, and countless other team challenges and feats of awesomeness. Other kids have been showing off their skills on the many basketball courts, going through the rigors of the YMCA lifeguard training and certification programs, horseback riding, waterskiing, building things, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, and just being FREE, without the confines of parent supervision.

Then there’s this surprising element: The built-in mentorship part!

Every time I had the chance to talk to one of the teenagers – the LITs (Leaders-in-Training) and the CITs (Counselors-in-Training), they’ve blown me away with their presence and maturity. Four years, five years, eight years – these kids have been coming here since they were little lads, and now they’re psyched to show off their hard-won chops with the newbies and up-and-comers.

All of these seasoned gents had stories about how camp has helped them become stronger, smarter, and better human beings. What’s more, they really care about the younger boys, and they understand what a big influence they are on the campers, because they themselves are just a few years out of being one themselves. These sweet souls are here to help, guide, and support my son, and I love it! More than a few times I’ve felt my Mommy blood swirl with pride, whenever I see the teenagers taking campers aside to offer advice, listen to issues, and share their own experiences. It’s a beautiful thing to behold. Truly.

And then last night happened…

I was walking by the dining hall, and the boys were coming out. My Mommy senses perked up, and I found myself frantically scanning the landscape to find my son. Sure enough, there he was! He came running over to me – and I noticed his lower lip was trembling.

“Mom, I wanna go home.”

“What’s the matter? Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, I’m just really, REALLY homesick. I wanna go home.”

“Are you having fun?”

“Yes, I’m having fun – it’s not that. I just miss my bed. I’m having trouble sleeping. I miss you and Dad. I miss the house. I just wanna go home.”

Crap. His beautiful blue eyes were pleading with me behind a suspended sheet of tears.

“Let’s head to your cabin, Joe.”

As we walked, my efforts to reframe this situation for him sounded as useless and unconvincing to me as they surely did to him. No matter what I said – “You’re halfway through! Only a week left! You’re doing so many cool things! You’re meeting great friends! You’re living it up!” – he wanted none of it. I couldn’t hug him or press pause and let him just cry it out. He fought back the emotion with every bit of his being, but the more he talked, the worse it got.

Ultimately, I told him to talk to his counselors.

“No! I’m embarrassed. I don’t want them to know I’m feeling like this.”

“Go through the proper channels,” I said, forcing myself to keep a safe distance and show as little emotion as possible. “If your counselors think it best for you to leave, then I’ll be right up the road, and I’ll get the call.”

It’s now 24 hours since that conversation. No one has called. I have no idea what happened, who said what, or how anything was handled. I’m sitting in a restaurant with wifi, five miles away from camp, doing my best to stay away from Joe’s sights.

“Camp is fun, but camp is HARD, too, and no one talks about that.”

That’s what Kate said last night, as she was trying to console me. Kate’s been immersed in the YMCA’s philosophies, trainings, and passionate missions for 15 years. She went to overnight camp as a kid. She’s watched campers become beautiful and happy adults, and families return year after year to bond and play and grow together.

“Camp is where you grow, and growing isn’t always easy. You’re forced to figure things out on your own. You’re forced to ask for help from relative strangers, to get out of your comfort zone, to feel insanely uncomfortable and work through it. These kids are go-go-going all day long. They’re having a blast, and they’re mentally and physically exhausted. Many – if not most! – of them are missing home immensely. And yet, years later, they’ll credit camp as the place where they discovered their own strengths and mettle. This is where kids learn they’re much, MUCH stronger than they think they are. Once they realize they can – and do! – survive this time in one piece, they build confidence muscles that serve them their whole lives. They become incredible human beings, and camp is part of that evolution.”


Okay, Kate. I see it. I believe you. I get how this could be a wonderful thing AND horrible at the same time. Wonderful because my amazing first-born child needs an environment where he can spread his wings AND toughen up, amaze himself AND work through the chunks of fear and anxiety that chip away at his self-confidence.

And it’s horrible because growing IS hard. Parents know this – I know this! – and sending our beloved and trusting babies into the wolf den of tough love feels like taking a dive into a 12-foot deep pool of cow manure. Yes, this is hard for the kids, because two weeks can feel like 20 years when you’re feeling homesick and lonely and ready to call it quits.

Thing is, camp is hard for parents, too.

My husband and I miss our son. Now, it’s a little different in our situation because I’m living on camp property, and seeing me was the catalyst for Joe’s cracking. If I wasn’t at camp, I may have had an easier time choosing obliviousness over heart-wrenching worry, self-doubt, and cellular maternal aching.

But Kate tells me Joe is definitely not alone with his feelings. She’s had many phone calls with anxiety-ridden parents who received letters from their kids, saying they’re uncontrollably homesick, begging their parents to come pick them up.

Our only choice is to trust what the counselors and Directors and staff are telling us:

Our children are FINE. More than fine. They WILL get through this. And when they do, they’ll be better humans for it.

YMCA Camp Mission

In fact, it all comes down to one of my least favorite truths about life: The only way out is through. 

So my job as a parent is to allow my child to figure it out. The counselors are working their pitooties off to distract all the kids, keep them engaged and amused, active and busy. The setting is glorious, filled with fun and adventure and freedom.

I asked one of the 16-year-old counselors what he did or said to help first-time campers overcome their intense desire to quit camp early.

“I take a deck of cards, and ask the kid how many cards are in a deck. ‘Easy, 52!’ they’ll say to me. Then I take two of the cards and place them down next to rest of the deck. ‘See these cards? These represent weeks in a year. These two are the only two you have here at camp. The rest belong to school and your family and all the responsibilities of your life at home. These two camp weeks are the only time you get to be YOU, in a place designed exclusively for your maximum FUN. Can you see how little time you have here? Make the most of it! It’ll be over before you know it, and believe it or not, you’ll be wishing for what you’ve got here.’”

I’ve got one more card-week left.

Go Confidently in the Direction of Your DreamsThen I’ll be able to nurture and spoil and laugh with the 11-year-old kid in my life who’s becoming more of a man every day, whether I like it or not. As much as I’d like to think his family is all he needs to thrive in this life, I know this isn’t the case.

It’s a big world out there, and Joe needs a great toolbox of experiences and resources to draw upon to be successful – to be happy, healthy, confident, creative, centered, brave, positive, helpful, and connected to the power, magic, and mysteries of being a spiritual being having a human experience.

Luckily, this is exactly what the YMCA is famous for, worldwide. 

I didn’t get the call yet. I think he’s going to make it.

If he can make it, so can I.

(Though I sure do wish I had  a few camp songs and counselors in my arsenal to distract me!)

The State of New Hampshire on Facebook, 2014 EditionYes, “The State of New Hampshire on Facebook.” This is the workshop based on the upcoming 2nd annual report, created with a not-so-secret agenda! You’ll find the presentation embedded below, as well as the live recording of the Google Hangout on Air. Thanks so much to the  Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce for inviting us back for the third year in a row to be part of their Summer Social Media Series. It’s always a joy, and everyone there is wonderful.

But back to the story. Sure, the presentation and workshop provide a lot of insight into the people in New Hampshire who use Facebook. (About 3 out of 4 age-eligible folks, growing 15% over the last three years to 740,000 people!) Age and gender, mobile use, interests, sociographics, and more, it’s all in there. Not to mention a discussion of “Behaviors” and the info inside “Partner Categories” – no way we could cover all that in an hour workshop, because that data goes deep AND wide.

So that’ll give you a hint about the not-so-secret agenda. Even though it says it’s about the state of New Hampshire on Facebook, what it REALLY does is give a glimpse into what’s possible for you and your business or organization. As one of your Allies in Possibility here at Epiphanies, Inc., how could I resist!?

What Non-Granite-Staters Get From It

Now, if you don’t live in New Hampshire, you can still glean some very powerful things from these resources:

1. Knowledge of the kind of insights you can discover about your own target market inside Facebook, wherever they may reside

2. Internal and external trends powering change inside Facebook, and their implications for your marketing strategy

3. Important resources for finding, learning about, and targeting ads more effectively to your Ideal Audience on Facebook

If that doesn’t float your boat, well, heck, buoyancy may not be your only challenge!  ;)

The State of NH on Facebook Presentation and Workshop Video

If for any reason you can’t see the embedded items below, click here to see the presentation on Slideshare, and click here to watch the Hangout on Air recording on YouTube!


Scrambled Eggs and Social Media | #GMCOCIt was a cold and wet May morning on the outside, but inside at the newly renovated Manchester Country Club, things were piping hot! What a treat it was to be invited by the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce to kick off their Summer Social Media Series.

Sponsored by Bellwether Community Credit Union, the event brought biz professionals and non-profit leaders together for networking, a yummy breakfast, and presentations from yours truly. (Side note: Lani won a bet for the second time in a row that most of the audience hadn’t heard of a “gravity well,” which is what Allen used as a visual to illustrate influence in social media. Congrats, Lani!)

In addition to sharing the presentations, we’ve also recorded a webinar version of “Relationship Marketing on Fire!” which is embedded below, along with the “You x 100″ presentation from Slideshare. You can catch the scene and the social action through our wrap-up video and curated Storify, too.

They’re all here for you, and if for some reason you can’t see them, here are the old school links:

You x 100: Amplify Your Marketing and Leverage Your Content With Social Media (slides)

Relationship Marketing on Fire! Igniting Sales, Loyalty, and Customer Service in the Social Realm (webinar)

Scrambled Eggs and Social Media: The Social Scene Video (YouTube)

Scrambled Eggs and Social Media on Storify