Communicating in the New Millennium

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Strauss and Howe’s categorization of the Millennial puts the birth range from 1982-2004.

As the world spins faster and faster into the digital age, companies need to know that they are communicating with two distinctly different consumers and workers. Baby Boomers and Millennials find themselves trapped in lockdown of miscommunication. They may speak the same language, but a translator is needed to bridge the gap of understanding. Particularly in marketing to these consumers and in hiring boomers and millennials, businesses must approach each group with the care and uniqueness that sets them apart.

I’ve made it easier for you to find the distinctions that drive each generation and then how to communicate, motivate, and cooperate with these two groups of people.

baby boomers-6Baby Boomers

Born approximately between the years 1946-1964, these 52-70 year olds came into the world during a time of conflict. World WarII was barely in the rear view mirror, and many of their parents, those of our Greatest Generation, fought in that war so it was never far from conversation. The Vietnam War — a highly contested and volatile war —trailed closely behind, while the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King, Jr. dominated the news. These boomers experienced social changes in women’s rights, birth control, and abortion. During their formative years, the Berlin Wall was built and the Cuban missile crisis kept them practicing drills at school.

They were also born during a time of expansion. The world saw the 1st man on the moon,
Televisions became more widespread and available to the masses, and
suburbs were created. Boomers lived during the time where the adage of work hard and reap the benefits was never more true. The economy was booming and people were living well after the war, up until the early 70’s. This set of kids saw their parents going to college and working in ‘traditional roles’ in traditional fields, for them it was unlikely their parents were entrepreneurs.

This is a generation that:

Is patient and not at all entitled – They saw their parents work for all they got, and they had those same expectations instilled in them. They were raised by the Greatest Generation who lived as though at any moment the bottom may fall out again. They were conscientious spenders and hard workers.

Had a voice – This is the generation of marchers/protesters and flower children. They saw great conflicts in their life times, and the pump was primed for them to jump in and lend a voice and a hand.

Are collaborative workers – They learned when you join forces through their marches and protests that there is more strength in numbers and that followed them into the workforce. They were happy to work as a team and leave their own interests at the door for the greater good.

Put themselves last – this generation was far from coddled as their parents were busy re-establishing their families, getting educations and making a new life for themselves. These kids were independent and were expected to step up and help the family as a whole. These kids are also the ‘sandwich generation’ – carrying for both their kids as well as their parents, this, in and of itself, left little place for ‘me’ time.

Experienced death differently and less ‘intimately’ than generations past:  Aging in America became a business during this time. While the process started in the mid-50’s to establish elderly homes it was really in the 60’s – 70’s that this business model burgeoned and started to take in great numbers of our older population. Baby Boomers watched their parents…their heros…die in homes and institutions unlike any generation prior. For example when Boomers were children they likely saw their parents tend to their grand-parents through the end-of-life in their own homes. It was not unusual to see Grandpa take up residence in what used to be the family living room. Therefore this new ‘outsourcing’ of end-of life put both an emotional stressor on their shoulders, as they felt as though they were abandoning their parents, and a fiscal stressor on their pocketbooks. Now, with life extended they had to cover costs for nursing homes and/or they had to build in travel expenses to visit their continually aging parents possibly across many states. This was far from an intimate was to die, this was death in the age of commercialism and capitalism.

Are fiscally aware but not necessarily prepared – this generation saw great growth in the economy and for some time tremendous strength in a growing middle class but if they didn’t, or weren’t able to, prepare accordingly for a rainy day, this generation also saw the dramatic shrinking of that very middle class with the passing years. Boomers also experienced a significant shift in power and the reality of our dependence on other countries for things so important to our everyday lives as oil. This generation remembers quite vividly the gas shortages and the lines at the pumps with their babies in tow, during the 70’s. They also had the aforementioned hardships of carrying for multiple generations which often depleted their savings and the likelihood that they would over commit to savings such as 401Ks, according to The Fiscal Times (October 2015), ‘the average retirement portfolio… has just $136,200 in it.’ This severe shortfall has led this strong and capable generation to rely heavily on the promise of social security.

How they need to be reached and communicated to:

  • They still read newspapers and rely on the TV for their news.
  • They prefer face-to-face interactions over being buffered by forms of technology
  • They are happy to make due and while they have proven themselves to have a voice; they also believe in the greater good and tend to not want to make waves.
    • This tends to keep this generation a bit quieter than the millennial and more likely to ‘do as they’re told’.
  • They tend to have have more scattered families therefore are more likely to feel the need to maintain their independence and not have to rely on others for their well-being.
  • They tend to choose quality over quantity of life as they saw the harm done to their own psyche as well as the well-being of their parents due to the options and institutionalization of the end of life (noted above).
  • They are not quite as adept at researching their options and tend to lean on others who are ‘at the helm’ be it in commerce or healthcare. They want to be involved in decisions which keep them healthy and capable but are overwhelmed by the vast amount of information available to them.
  • Offer a support team to help in major healthcare decisions and the ability to decide how they’d like to proceed.

Millennials

Born approximately between the years of 1982-2004, Millenials are between the ages of 12-34 years. There is a great discrepancy on the range for this generation but for the sake of defining the borders of the generation we’ll ascribe to the categorization as set by Strauss and Howe. They were born during a time of connectivity. The internet was growing…exponentially. The Berlin Wall came down, unifying Germany and offering hope to the world.

While born into a time of unification it was also one of great uncertainty and lack of control of ‘others.’ There were bombings (Olympic Park, Unibomber, 911), and the OJ Simpson’s highly televised ‘chase’ and trial brought a new level of ‘reality TV’ into our homes. Drama was everywhere and now instantly accessible 24 hours a day. AIDS was an epidemic, and school shootings began, starting with the Columbine High Shooting, and continued.

This generation of Americans are technologically versed and fragmented. This was truly the MTV Generation; they never knew a world without music on TV.
The internet was accessible – AOL (1985) and email became a part of their world. Many were never aware of a ‘before the internet’ timeframe. News came predominately from TV and the Web, with Newspapers taking a back seat.

This is a generation that is:
Connected – Millenials are always connected to others and by various devices. “Smart” devices (phones, watches, cars, appliances, etc.) are responsive—or work across platforms or other devices at once— and support the use of multiple use as they thirst for a connection to the world.

Multi-taskers – Due to the multitude of devices at their disposal along with managing their ‘off-line’ existence, they’ve become amazingly adept multi-taskers.

Involved and wanting to give feedback – This generation relies heavily on others who came before and also, a type of a trickle down effect, are more willing to give feedback to those who may follow. They feel their voice has value, and they want to share opinions. This generation was likely raised in a household where things often revolved around them unlike the generations prior which were not nearly as child-centric. The generation proceeding them, Generation X,  was full of ‘latch-key’ kids so the parents for this generation tended to over compensated for this one. I believe the benefit of this is a stronger more confident voice for this generation which is in direct dispute with the other option and misnomer, the ‘Me Generation’.

Community oriented and ones who wish to effect change – As per the reasons above, they have a level of self-confidence not seen in past generations and with that a belief that they truly can change things. Consequently, there is a willingness to try to find opportunities to succeed often in niche ways (entrepreneurial) not seen possibly since our Greatest Generation (Those who grew up during the depression, fought in WWII and went on to build what is ‘modern-day’ America).

Comfortable with self-expression – Again their level of self-confidence leads to their ability and willingness to express themselves how they see fit —whether it be body adornments such as tattoos or piercings or freer expressions of themselves sexually. This freedom extends to other behaviors and groups as well and affords them a higher level of acceptance for people of other faiths, ethnicities and race.  For them, all is permissible within the realm of being true to themselves.

How they need to be reached/communicated with:

  • Meet them on their terms, where and when they want and bring them into the discussion and decisions – Don’t talk to, or sell them.
  • Utilize many avenues of communication from internet/social media, tv and lastly print.
  • Prove how working with, buying from or partnering with you affords them the opportunity to effect change and make a better world.
  • It’s not aways about the bottom line financially for them as much as it is about where the rubber meets the road and what it means for the greater good.
  • Lead them through their options and allow them to mix and match things as they see best suits their needs be it on a purchase or their own well-being/healthcare.
  •  Incentivize them to give positive feedback so others, like them, will follow suit.

 

If you still aren’t sure how to cross the generational divide, the magazine Gold Digest offers some more specific advice on how to play golf with a boomer versus a millennial.

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http://www.golfdigest.com/story/a-baby-boomers-9-step-guide-to-millennial-golfers

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Beyond The Buzz

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Disruption, gamification, synergy, showrooming, pivot. It seems as though hot new buzzwords surface and saturate our vocabulary and twitter accounts every time we turn around. But beyond the buzz, what are these words and phrases really all about? Let’s take a deeper look.

From the assembly line to the boardroom, buzzwords have been circulating the workplace for generations. Throughout the years, academics, marketers and consultants have invented countless buzzwords to accommodate the changing times and given entirely new meaning to old words. According to a recent article in The Atlantic, British psychologist Raymond Cattell repurposed the popular buzzword word synergy, which was originally a Protestant term for cooperation between the human will and divine grace. Today it’s one of the most memorable and frequently used buzzwords in the business world.

Unlike regular everyday speech, buzzwords present a sort of love-hate scenario. It’s important to know what they are and how to use them intelligibly in your industry, but overusing them can create a sense of insincerity or pretending. We have to think about buzzwords like a dash of salt – just a little bit can take a dish from good to great, but when you use too much it can ruin the entire meal. As a general rule of thumb – use your buzzwords wisely and remember that a little dash can go a long way.

As a sociologist, the use and deeper meaning of buzzwords in today’s corporate culture continually fascinate me. While many may view corporate jargon and buzzwords as meaningless, trivial speech, it actually reveals a great deal about individuals and how they view their work and profession. Buzzwords can help workers feel more emotionally connected to their “tribe”, and can also provide a sense of ownership and pride. In a world where our lives have become so inextricably connected to the internet, buzzwords can also help marketers and individuals shape their personal brand. By identifying and utilizing strategic buzzwords through the use of hashtags and social media, we now have the ability to self-identify and align ourselves with other thought leaders and experts in our industry. But before you go on a hashtag craze, first determine which buzzwords matter most and why you want to use them in the first place. Just like any fad or trend, when overused they risk the danger of becoming trite and losing their true meaning.

Beyond all the buzzwords and noise, sometimes it’s simply a matter of going back to the basics. According to marketing expert Tom Fishburne, “Sometimes the most powerful way to talk about a new product or business is Plain English. The more innovative your product actually is, the less you’ll need to use buzzwords to justify it.”

Whether you’re launching a product, re-branding or building a new business, be real, be unique and let your true voice do the talking. Buzzwords will come and go but quality, authenticity, and character will stand the test of time.

 

 

 

Guest Blog Post: Sandals Resorts – LOVE Social Media

Sandals Resorts L.O.V.E.s Its Guests

Sandals Resorts believes in providing guests with the very best Luxury-Included® amenities and making good on their motto, “Love Is All You Need”. Being a Caribbean family-run company and a couples-only luxury all inclusive, it only seems natural that “love” has become the mantra for its Social Media and Online Customer Service team. Sandals Resorts L.O.V.E. their guests and aim to show this adoration in every aspect of their service from offline to online.

L – Listening

As with all healthy and successful relationships, you have to take the time to listen. Online review sites like TripAdvisor are popular forums for guests to share their experiences, give other travellers advice and express what they’d like to see in the future. As a result, Sandals Resorts have actually dedicated full-time team members of their Social Media team whose sole function is to engage with and listen to guests on online review sites. These team members treat each review, whether positive or negative, as a chance listen and learn from guests. They personally reach out to guests and gets at the heart of each concern in an effort to share this feedback with leadership and operations teams. They show return guests that they’ve listened and, since it’s a public forum, show potential guests that they are continually evolving to meet guests’ needs and wants…but we’ll get to that part later!

O – Opportunity

A part of why Sandals Resorts has been so wildly successful and voted world’s best 18 years in a row by consumers is that they are committed to innovation. The story of how Beaches Resorts was created is one of listening to feedback and an spotting opportunity. The Beaches Resorts brand has the same Luxury-Included® concept as Sandals Resorts, but are open for everyone to book (not just couples.) After visiting some of the world’s most romantic resorts at Sandals, many couples found themselves with a need for a resort that is open to kids too…usually 9 months later. Sandals Resorts listened to this feedback and spotted an undeniable opportunity, and in 1997, they opened the doors to its first luxury all-inclusive brand that welcomed families: Beaches Resorts.

Taking the daily practice of spotting opportunities through listening a step further, the brand developed the Culinary Concierge Program. Travelling with kids can be challenging and if you add in a few food allergies, finding an accommodating place to vacation with your family can be even more taxing. The development of the Culinary Concierge Program stemmed from the growing need for safe yet tasty food options for kids and adults with allergies and special dietary requests. Now, anyone can call in advance and speak with a personal on-resort Culinary Concierge to help plan out meals at any restaurant. Sandals Resorts doesn’t shy away from special requests, they embrace them and that’s what sets a truly luxurious experience apart from the rest.

On resort, they keep their eyes and ears open to observe what guests are saying. They often share the story of a butler guest who wanted to propose to his girlfriend on the beach. The butler immediately began to set up a romantic candlelight dinner on the beautiful white-sand beach. Unfortunately, it rained that evening and the guest was forced to change his plans…or so he thought. The butler sent the guest and his girlfriend out for dinner and spent the evening creating a beach experience on the couple’s private balcony! With a few well-placed umbrellas, seashells, flowers, sand and beach balls, this butler was able to give this couple an experience they will surely never forget…not to mention, an engagement story for the books! It’s all about recognizing an opportunity to “wow” guests.

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V – Vocalize

Sandals Resorts breaks down its vocalizing opportunities into two parts: internally and externally.

  • Internally – Their Social Media “Listening” Team reports weekly to a central leadership team. This means each resort is able to learn from an experience that occurred at another resort. If there is a reoccurring challenge, it is resolved for all properties from just one property’s experience. All guest feedback finds its way back to our key decision makers and from this, they’re able to grow together.
  • Externally – As mentioned before, Sandals Resorts doesn’t shy away from issues or suggestions; they embrace them, so naturally responding to guests is extremely important. They frequently engage one-on-one with guests to see that their needs and desires are met while on resort. Online, they interact with guests across all social channels, whether it is a response to a question or just sharing in their vacation excitement. They’ve even been know to take polls on social media to make operational decisions. For example, what kind of premium rum they should serve (by the way, that’s included, too!)

In a lot of cases, the internal and external vocalization comes together seamlessly. One of their dedicated Online Review Coordinators, Lauren, noticed a review from a bride-to-be who was having some pre-travel concerns. Lauren reached out to the bride, got all of her information and then internally vocalized with the wedding and resort teams who immediately got together to resolve any outstanding issues and ensure that from that moment onward, she had a great experience. The team worked together, the bride had a fantastic wedding (which she raved about online with a follow-up review) and is currently planning a romantic getaway to another one of their resorts. True story! Listening and identifying opportunities means nothing if there is no communication.

E – Evolve

Sandals Resorts CEO Adam Stewart preaches the gospel of innovation every day of life. He believes that innovation has always been and will always be the way forward for Sandals and Beaches Resorts – it’s what sets them apart. They continuously invest in their properties located in Jamaica, Bahamas, Antigua, St. Lucia, Grenada and Barbados every year. This tradition is a way of practicing what they preach because they must invest to evolve. He challenges each team, “It’s good but how can we make it better?”

Take a look at their newest property: Sandals LaSource Grenada. This resort was the brand’s opportunity to take all of the feedback they had listened to, all of the opportunities spotted and get together as a team to discuss the evolution of the brand. Sandals LaSource Grenada takes innovation beyond the ream of their guests imagination with pools in the sky, Japanese soaking tubs on the balcony, swim-up suites, living rooms in the pool, and so much more. It was created by taking feedback from guests and reimagining it to meet every expectation they never knew they had.

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Sandals Resorts were built for love so it’s not surprise that they L.O.V.E their guests on social media and customer service as well through Listening, Opportunities, Vocalizing and Evolving.

You can find Sandals Resorts on social at:

www.facebook.com/SandalsResorts

www.twitter.com/SandalsResorts

www.instagram.com/Sandalsresorts

 

4 Keys to Excellent Customer Service

Customer service. We’ve all had our fair share of positive and negative experiences, and more often than not the worst experiences are the ones that stand out in our memories for years to come. When I started my company, Advocate Market Research, more than 15 years ago my goal was to help businesses gain a truer picture of their consumers by becoming the ‘voice’ of their consumer, and ultimately their ‘advocate.’ And when it comes to customer service, isn’t that what we all want, an advocate? Someone that will support our stance and empathize with our experience whether good or bad. So before you respond to your next customer service issue, here are 4 Key Tips to help ensure that your customer’s experience is a positive one.

1.) Listen, Listen, Listen: I’ve seen it all too often – a customer shares a frustration or complaint about a product or service and the company responds immediately by talking, explaining and trying to rationalize the issue. So what’s the problem? Consumers want to be heard and understood. Before jumping to a quick solution, take the time to truly listen, empathize and acknowledge the customer’s situation. By acting as a listening board, you will provide a safe place for your customers to share their frustrations and suggestions.

2.) Unpack the Baggage: While your customers might be disappointed with your service or product for a various number of reasons, we can’t forget they are also bringing their own baggage to that experience. Maybe they’ve had multiple bad experiences with your company or perhaps it’s something deeper? No matter what the situation, context is always key. Unless you understand the baggage, you won’t understand why they are responding in a certain way. Know your customers, know their baggage and you will excel at customer service.

3.) Make it Personal: In a world filled with technology and automation, never lose sight of the fact that it’s people in the end that we are really trying to relate to and understand. It’s our job to listen and act as a customer advocate, so try to understand and speak at their level. Whether it’s a face-to-face experience, a phone call or a personal message, taking the time to relate to your customers on a personal level speaks volumes. And vice versa – nothing aggravates a frustrating customer service experience like a lack of sincerity or genuine concern.

4.) Don’t Just React, Respond: How you respond to your customers and the way you extend the olive branch matters. When I think of the word react I think of a quick action, or an impulse, something with little thought or reflection. Do not simply react to your consumers, instead take the time to listen and respond with a sincere solution. Oftentimes companies will spot a negative comment about their service or product on social media and quickly react by deleting the comment or blocking the user. May this never be! Instead – we should see these types of interactions as opportunities to let our customer service skills shine! By showing your followers how you respond to a negative complaint you are letting your customers know that you truly care and will do whatever it takes to make the situation right.

At the end of the day there isn’t a secret formula for excelling at customer service. Simply listen, make it personal, and take the time to truly understand what your customer wants and needs. Invest in your customer and they will invest in you.

 

Beauty is in the Eye of Beholder…or is it?

‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, a phrase coined in 1878 by Margaret Wolfe Hungerford.  It’s an innocuous quote, as it stands, however, I dare say we have bastardized it to the point that we are hurting ourselves, and our morals; the very fiber of who we are a society.

This is not my typical blog post, and for that I seek your forgiveness, however, as of late, things have really touched me to the deepest core of my ‘sociological’ self.  The news, and our everyday media, is laden with stories and images that portray ‘beauty’ and I simply ask the next time you view something as beautiful consider not only ‘the why’, but ‘the how’.

It is ‘the how’ that most concerns me.  ‘The how’ is the process that folks knowingly forge ahead, and act upon, as they seek ‘beauty’.  A tiny waist, a tan visage, a most perfect tomato, a horse with a winning gait; all beautiful, right?  Sure, on the surface all those things are coveted by our culture, they have become our very definition of ‘beauty.  However, I ask you to take a step back and consider ‘the how’; how did that woman, or man, achieve that most ‘perfect’ size body?  What lengths did one go through to tan their ‘hide’?  Why does that tomato look as though painted by Rembrandt not by nature’s paintbrush?  How is it that the beautiful Tennessee Walking Horse, with those most trusting eyes and strong stature, presents with a gait that may well never have be seen had it not have been ‘trained’?

‘The why’ is so engrained in us as a culture, we’ve worked centuries to get to our most refined, narrow definition of beauty.  Yes…consider that a tiny waist is a sign of malnourishment and weakness in many a culture (as it was ours not too long ago), and a tan face is seen as weathered and worn…a perfect tomato is seen as suspect because everyone knows that fruit borne of natural means, just like people, suffer some blemish and a horses gait, oh, those beautiful and kind creatures, they were not meant to walk, work or be treated as they are simply for us to look upon them and judge them within the scope of what we define as beautiful.  Now, mind you, there are those that present and uphold our standard of ‘beauty’, naturally, and for that I give no condemnation, it is for the others, those that have to work too hard, do things unnatural, inhumane, or simply amoral, that I beg the questions of, ‘why?’

Rethink beauty, redefine your standards, reset your internal compass and consider beauty in a more natural form.  Allow for blemishes, allow of deviation from our current set of norms, give each other, yourself, all creatures and nature a break and consider ‘the how’ when you assign your stamp of beauty.  For this, you will not only find life a bit easier, but in fact, a lot more beautiful.

 

It’s not just about getting them in the door…

Foot traffic is good.  No, foot traffic is GREAT!  Who wouldn’t agree with this?  You’ve probably said these very words: My business couldn’t exist without it.  I need people through my doors.   Ah…all absolutely valid comments, but if that’s the end of our business plan, then I disagree. Now, don’t get mad – I propose further discussion before we both can agree.  Let’s do a little “they say/she says” and see if we can’t sort this out.

They say (yep, you might likely include yourself in ‘they’) that traffic is vital.  Here’s what I hear:  My business would perish without it.  Warm bodies circulating throughout my establishment make it all work.  I will do anything, absolutely anything I can in order to make this happen.  I tweet, I post, I bargain, I grovel, I beg, I pray, I wait.  I’ve done everything I can do, right?

SHE says:  great thinking and superb effort.  Kudos!  But, now let’s talk about what you’re not doing and see if that disconnect is forcing you to continue to have to tweet, post, bargain, grovel, beg, pray, and wait.

Here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself.  Now be honest!

  • Are you focusing on your customer?
  • Are you focusing attention on what you sell, how you sell it, and if your customers even want it?
  • Have you asked your customers if they value you; if they would choose you over another, even if the other was lower priced, or closer?
  • Have you built a relationship with your customer?  Do you have their loyalty?  Or, are you a magnet for the bargain shopper who just spotted you on their last check of their e-mail inbox or social media wall?

Oh, wait a minute; before you get upset let me continue with the social media discussion.  Truth is I’m really not that insensitive.  Heck, I like a tasty daily offer presented to me via my e-mail or my social media network as much as the next.  Yep, gotta admit it … I love a deal!  Who doesn’t?  Offering opportunities via social media is a GREAT idea.  Really, it is, even though every other article out there tells you it isn’t.  Seriously, just google it.  You’ll find A LOAD of naysayers absolutely, resolutely, undeniably against working social media which discounts their product/services to drive foot traffic.  But (now here’s where you listen carefully to what SHE says), if done right, with reasonable limits and a follow-up plan (while never losing sight of your current customers) you’re good to go.  Sure, continue to tweet, post, bargain, grovel (it never hurts), beg, pray, and wait … but be proactive at the same time.  Think through your campaign and take it to the next level.  You know, that’s the one where you ask – What do we do once our customer arrives?

Social Media – Content Architecture (aka THE PLAN)

As I begin this discussion let me set the stage with this: Social media IS media. Just like the old traditional forms (TV, news and radio…remember those?) these (twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, etc.) are YOUR avenues to getting YOUR message out. Even though the medium is now electronic in nature the base and philosophy for dispersement is the same. For example while the random approach works, and is better than nothing (meaning you post because something ‘moved’ you, or caught your eye), setting up a content architecture for your social media will afford you the opportunity to have a plan in place and properly manage (and massage) your social media network and distribution. Map out which social outlets you utilize (and yes, the more…the merrier!), take a look at where you draw content (don’t forget all your existing sources such as your website, white papers, press releases, etc. – these are GREAT places to start) and start the process of building a plan. Then, of course…stick to your plan!

Don’t forget at the end of your posts, blogs, tweets, etc. link the reader back to a place you’d like them to land such as your website, or link bringing them to a special offer, polls, etc.

The key is to leverage the appropriate messages and syndicate those messages in a way which creates a loyal (current) following but also brings you new followers, through pass ons, retweets (RT) or other forms of electronic sharing.

Be sweet and tweet! If for nothing less than a gateway to a followup conversation – over and above the 140 character limit.
You can find me at:  www.twitter.com/kalindafisher