• Viral Marketing Videos & the Ethics of Disclosure

    I'm sure many of you have seen the First Kiss video that has been circling around the web over the past three days. It's garnered almost 36 million views on YouTube (in the two hours since I first drafted this post its increased by more than two million). Judging by the amount of times you've seen it in your social media feeds -- Lord knows I've seen it everyday -- you can probably guess that its gone viral.

    I didn't share it, and I didn't watch it until this evening, and only then so I could make sure I knew what I was talking about when I wrote this blog post. I want to clarify why I chose to give it a miss initially. I skipped it for different reasons than why I'm writing this blog post. I passed it over because I assumed the group of people in it didn't represent me, or speak to me. After seeing it tonight, I realize I was right in my assumptions. However, that my friends, is a whole other blog post in and of itself.

    What I really wanted to talk about is something that has started to trouble me around viral marketing videos.

    When the First Kiss video began to pick up speed online, I started to get dubious. Honestly, I've come to second guess any viral video that's making the rounds, especially if it screams some sort of AMAZINGNESS. I'd like to believe it's not because I am in fact getting jaded as I get older, but instead just being more and more wary about being sold to without my knowing it.

    I think many of us who work online have started to feel this way. Of course, it wasn't always that way. My first lesson (and I've needed a few, I'll have you know) around believing something at face value, came when I tweeted out that Jeff Goldblum had died in the summer of 2009. I'm not going to go down the rabbit hole of things I've fallen for. I do still have some sense of wonder around things, and I'd like to keep it that way, instead of shaming and outing myself here.

    My point with the above is, I think we're all learning our lessons along the way around falling for glossy, irresistible, too good to be true videos. We're getting wiser, and perhaps a little quicker around what we take at face value online. How can we not when we're bombarded by videos almost everyday that show us IRL hoverboards, or that your phone can indeed pop popcorn (I shared that!). I could go on and on.

    When we're constantly duped like this it's hard to take anything seriously in a world where everyone is vying for their slick, marketing campaign to go viral.

    In some ways I think it's these types of videos that attribute to killing our childlike wonder and playful beliefs, and making many people very jaded. Again, perhaps another blog post.

    I make my living from helping small, creative businesses utilze social media and content creation around their brand. It literally thrills me to connect people to tools and technology that will make their world bigger, and help them achieve their professional goals and dreams. Especially women like myself. It is literally why I get out of bed in the morning (I also have a very vocal puppy who helps). Although I am reluctant to always say it, I work in marketing. This is because there is a side of marketing that has never agreed with me and always rubbed me the wrong way. But I have worked very hard to shed that snake oil salesman feel around social media -- yet every now and then it knocks at my conscience.

    It happened while reading Amanda Hess' piece in Slate regarding that the strangers in this viral video were in fact models and professional performers, and that the video was actually for a line of clothing. It had me really thinking about that rub again, and the ethics of disclosing when a product is being pushed unknowingly to those who are sharing it at a rapid fire pace.

    My own personal feelings, around cash in any area is, that if money is changing hands, everything needs to be on the up and up. It keeps everyone honest. Why can't that be clear around viral videos that are out to make a profit? Aren't these ads we're sharing, ultimately?

    If your video's bottom line is about pushing a product -- meaning your end goal is to make money -- I want that signified somehow, in someway through branding, or some sort of indicator. I want to know about it before I share your content with my communities, so I can decide if I want to promote a product. I don't want to come to find out later that I was sharing in earnest around something I believed to be genuinely true, when in fact it was a marketing campaign.

    You may ask, but what about other social media that is for a product or brand? Should every piece of content be branded? Should every image have a disclaimer? No. There are other visual signifiers that cue us into when we're interacting with a brand's content. There are cues somewhere where the original piece of content was first shared. You see it in their bio, or a link, or the website its hosted on. It's visually signified by their avatar, etc. Many of these viral videos are planted online, and there's normally very little or no info to accompany them.

    With First Kiss, the video is published under the director Tatia PIlieva's YouTube account. There is no information about her and there is only one video. In the About section it says under the video:

                   Published on Mar 10, 2014

                  We asked twenty strangers to kiss for the first time....

                  Film presented by WREN

                  Music by Soko "We Might be Dead Tomorrow"

                  Category: People & Blogs

    To give WREN the benefit of the doubt, the clothing line is listed. But it's not clear at all that this video is in fact for the clothing line when you watch it. First Kiss starts off as being presented by Wren and introduced as "a film" by Tatia PIlieva.

    Oy vey, semantics.

    There are videos that go viral all of the time that are very clearly ads. So why with some videos is there this need to hide what the video is really about from the audience? To me, that feels dishonest by omission. 

    Many of my friends loved this video, many of them shared it. When I posted the Slate piece they spoke up on Facebook and Twitter and stated regardless, they still found it lovely. In many ways, I think that is awesome. Really. I fully believe we should all be looking for more beauty in this world every where. But please, if we're helping you to line your pockets give us the full story behind your video. Let us make an informed decision about its beauty or merit. Give us the opportunity to decide if we want to use our online reputations to push your product. Otherwise, we're shills, and regardless of what I do for a living or how beautiful your video is, I want no part of it.

  • How I Became a Living Donor

    ****It's been 5 years today since I donated my kidney to my mother in 2009. I wrote this post originally on Medium last summer but it feels important to share it here today. I'm also reposting it in the hopes that it will help someone, somewhere make a tough decision, what ever that decision turns out to be. I also made the decision to move back to Boston days after I wrote this. ;) xo.meighan

    Obviously, I’m excited to write on Medium. I got my invite earlier today, and my first thought was: what will I write? What should I write? So far everything I have read on Medium, I’ve passed on to others, and shared across my social accounts. It’s good stuff. The bar has been set. And it’s been set high.

    It only seems appropriate, and obvious to share something really special as my first post (and exactly what Medium seems to want). Something that I can’t really write elsewhere, and something that might help others.

    So why not go big? And share something that really truly does have meaning, so much that I rarely ever tell anyone about it because it’s that deep. That important.

    My first post here on Medium seems like a good place to crack that wide open.

    Growing up, I was never super close to my mom. She was a single parent trying to make ends meet. Working hard to keep us off the welfare that kept us a float after my dad kicked rocks when we were barely, no longer babies.

    Being the oldest of three, I was trying to make my own way growing up in Boston. Spending misguided summer nights in Copley Square, and looking for meaning at all ages hardcore shows at T.T. the Bears in Central Square on the weekends.

    I was always looking for any way out of the town I grew up in.

    I tried three times to get out of Boston when I had the chance(s). Once for college in ‘91, second for a 3 month trip to London that spanned a year and a bit in ‘95/’96, and finally (pheww!) to San Francisco in 2001. I finally got out.

    But not so fast. In 2007, home came calling. I was trying to make a career change out of retail, and move into the art world (I had originally been relocated to SF by retailer Kate Spade). It was proving difficult. I was broke, and I couldn’t find a job where I wasn’t considered ‘overqualified.’ But truth be told, SF had burned me out, hard — I just wanted to sleep.

    Previously that spring, I had learned from my mom that she wasn’t doing well. Her kidneys were failing her. She had gotten nephritus as a child, and it had ravaged her kidneys. Her doctors told her she was on the fast track to the very, slow moving kidney donation list. My sister, brother, and I all knew this moment would come, eventually. We just didn’t expect it so soon.

    Being in SF had seriously lost its charm. Things at home seemed so much more…I don’t know, meaningful? So I did the right thing. I packed my things up, and moved back to the house I grew up in Jamaica Plain.

    Little did I know due to that move, two major things would change my life in ways I could never imagine. One: I would breathe every free minute I had into a blog that would later change my career so abruptly it would take me almost 3 years to get my head back on straight. And two: I would become a living donor for my mom’s kidney transplant surgery.

    To date, there are over 90,000 people waiting for a kidney donation in the US. The waiting list has doubled in size in the past 10 years. 4,500 people die every year waiting for a kidney transplant.¹ Many of the people that do die were once healthy individuals when first placed on the waiting list.²

    When my mom asked me to get tested to be a living donor, I just did it. I didn’t think about what it meant, or what would happen. I just did it. I didn’t really think about the end result of that test.

    By the end of 2008, my mom was on hemodialysis and it was taking a toll. She looked sick. She was tired. It was clear she was fading. A patient had what we think was a heart attack while my mom was having dialysis one day, and that seemed like the last straw for all of us. The doctors started to prepare to move forward for living donation.

    One thing rarely heard; is that dialysis is absolutely no way to live. It’s barely maintenance. Quality of life for dialysis patients is almost nonexistent. You are at the dialysis center 3 or 4 times a week (sometimes 5, depending on how sick you are) for 4 to 6 hour intervals. Your body takes a beating. Your blood pressure drops. You’re cold. You’re tired. And you’re scared. And what’s worse, dialysis machines do about 10% of what a real kidney can do. Not to mention it can cause a whole host of serious illneses such as anemia, bone disease, heart disease, and death. Let me reiterate that last one for you: DEATH. The average life expectancy of a patient on dialysis is 5 years.³ Those are the awful truths.

    In February of 2009, I donated my left kidney to my mother.

    Simply put, my mom would have died if she didn’t get a kidney. Yes, there were other donor matches in my family, but I had the least to lose. I was healthy, somewhat young (I was 36), and had no kids. It just felt like the right thing to do. It was a no brainer.

    That experience was like nothing I can explain. Even as I write this, I know I’l l never be able to fully describe how it felt. It was spirtual in a sense (although that could have been the oxycotin I was on after the surgery). But it also felt so incredibly private, and honestly bizarre. Leading up to the surgery, I learned to stop telling people about the upcoming surgery. People tend to bug the hell out when you tell them you’re donating a kidney. Then you add the parent factor in, and forget it — it can get really intense. It’s clearly not the best cocktail story.

    I’ve never been able to find the best way to put it into words. I have never written about it (til now), or talked about it in depth. One thing’s for sure though, it made my life and the world around me so tangible, and so very crystal clear.

    Over the past five years, living donations have decreased, and the effectiveness of increasing living donations has not been improved, regardless of the numerous programs in place to encourage it. This astounds me considering it’s 2013.

    I wish I could say, go donate a kidney. Go save a life. But I would be doing most people a disservice. It’s a painful, painful recovery process (at least it was for me). It can put you out of work for 6 weeks. And you’re losing a vital organ (just in case that fact wasn’t abundantly clear). So that’s kind of nuts. But in some cases, like mine — it’s the right thing to do. There is no other option.

    It’s obviously something that should not be taken lightly. You’ll be put through rigorous psychiatric tests, so you’ll get weeded out if you seriously can’t commit. (I was amazed at how grueling this aspect of the whole situation was. I literally had to ask the psych if he was trying to change my mind.) However, for me? It was the right choice. And I would make the same one again. Yes, I have some gnarly scars, and I still have weird phantom pain. But you know what? I’m lucky I was unable to find a job in 2007. I am so grateful I was pushed back towards the city I had so desperately been trying to escape my entire youth. It gave me such an incredible opportunity to help my mom. To truly be there for her. And it gave us a bond we didn’t have before, it made us closer.

    So if you asked me if you should consider donating to a loved one who needs it — I would encourage you to think long and hard, and look deep into your heart. The answer might come a lot quicker than you expected. It did for me.

    I live back in the Bay Area again — I moved back in 2010 — and now I come home to Boston at least three times a year. I just so happen to be visiting Boston as I write this. In fact, I wrote this entire post in the bedroom I spent much of my youth in (which is now my 15 year old niece’s room.) It’s funny how life works, isn’t it? It sure is good to be home.

    As I mentioned above, I keep this experience mainly to myself but I’m sharing it here, in the hopes that maybe it can help someone make the tough decision to be a living donor, and save a life. It’s worth it. If you have questions about being a living donor, or have a family member who is on the transplant list, I’d be happy to answer any questions to the best of my ability. You can find me on Twitter.

  • Giving Back & Getting More: Office Hours

    In the summer of 2012, I lost my job rather abruptly. I knew it was coming, but I didn't think it would happen RIGHT THEN, ON THAT DAY.

    Losing a job, whatever the circumstances are, can be excruciating for many reasons. For me, in this instance it was debilitating. It crushed me. I had been on this whirlwind ride for two years in the tech industry, and it never felt quite right. A lot of this had to do with systemic issues within the tech industry for sure -- but it also had to do with my attitude and not having enough faith that I belonged.

    I believe a large part of growing up and getting older (the two don't necessarily go hand in hand BTW) is constantly working on yourself, and continuing to develop one's self-esteem. At least that has been my experience.

    After I lost my job, I was gutted and very unsure of myself all of a sudden. Like boom. I woke up and just felt so unsure. It was an awful feeling. But luckily, I was surrounded by lots of very supportive and nuturing people -- the Bay Area is magic like that -- and had many people encouraging me to start my own business.

    During this time I had started to spend time with my friend Rena Tom. One day after a harrowing day at work, where it became very apparent to me my days were numebered, I met up with Rena. She was just about to launch Makeshift Society in San Francisco, and was really urging me to offer workshops there. Rena had also been offering free office hours herself -- which I had signed up for. This concept really appealed to me; offering knowledge to those who need it for free for a brief amount of time. A sort of à la carte networking. I liked that. But it never occurred to me to offer my own.

    Once Makeshift opened Rena encouraged many of the members to offer free office hours. I honestly would have never done it without Rena's encouragment. Looking back now I realize it was one of the best things I could have done for my state of mind at the time. It was such a great feeling to meet with other women (for whatever reason Makeshift skews to the female population) and offer my own experience around social media, blogging, and content creation. It made me really see that regardless of losing my job -- it just wasn't a good fit -- I did indeed belong in my industry and the tech world. It was just going to look different then I first thought (and big thank you to Rena for the encouragment!).

    Here are a few of the important reasons and experiences I recieve through my own office hours, and why I continue to offer them*:

    • I get to give back to my community and offer help, resources, and perspective to a project or individual that maybe can't afford to hire someone for social media. Perhaps they're just getting going so they don't have the marketing cash to use. This fills me with a great feeling of camaraderie, and connection to help other like minded small businesses out. It really is important to give back and this is a great way to do it.
    • It’s also given me fresh perspective on what people need within my business. I get to hear questions and concerns that help me refine my business and tailor my work.
    • It has also helped me discover new resources or uncover new research if an attendee has a new, and unexpected question.
    • Office hours also continually reinforce my self-esteem around my expertise. I constantly leave these twenty minute meetings with a super, warm fuzzie feeling of gratitude and a “hey I can do this” attitude.
    • On a more personal note, growing up my mom always networked with people. She was a single parent with very little means so it was imperative that she be as resourceful as she could. This rubbed off on me and made me see that it’s so important to help people out. Office hours allow me to do that, open up my time to network and connect with people I may not have the opportunity to meet otherwise.

    I use the online site, Ohours, to publicize and schedule my office hours (ntroduced to me, by yep, Rena!). It's a pretty easy site, allowing you to choose your date, length, and much more. I can hold my office hours online via skype, on the phone, or in person. It makes it very easy, and seems pretty straightforward for those who sign up.

    Holding monthly office hours, has been hands down, one of the best things I have done for my business. If you have a service that you can share your knowledge around, I really encourage you to offer your own office hours.

    Oh speaking of which, I've just added a handful of slots over the next few weeks -- come hang out with me!


    *Some of this text originally appeared on Makeshift Society's blog

    Image via Unsplash/Alejandro Escamilla

  • Hello.


    Hi. Hi. Hi. Here I am again. Starting a new blog. 

    Some of you may know me from my old blog My Love for You, an art blog I started in 2007 (and since 2010 have sort of jump started here and there). Others may know me from my social media consultancy business, O'Toole. But since I don't really have any interest in blogging about ART ART ART anymore, it seemed weird to keep trying to blog on ML4U. (I think, I have finally realized that that space no longer has the energy I'm looking for.) And blogging about the things I want to share here, just doesn't fit or belong on the business blog. So hence a new space. A new blog. A new place for me to share things I want you to know about. 

    What can you expect here? I'm thinking that things will most likely remind you of my old haunt on ML4U, but with a slightly different edge. For instance, you'll find me blogging about things I think you should know about, mainly tech and interesting, creative related stuff -- you'll also find me writing about my personal life (that's my pitbull puppy, Stella, above btw. You'll probably see her here too). I'll also be kicking off two new series in March that I am so excied about, mainly because there has been such a void in my life since letting ML4U to fade into oblivion. The first is a Q&A with artists, shop owners, and people who are activley working doing what they love. The second, is my new podcast series. Both of these series will be very similar to what I have done in the past, but they'll have more of a working, creative slant.

    Anyway, for those of you I've known since my old blog, thank you for tagging along. And those of you just getting to know me, hello! I'm so excited you're here.