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Fall Dog Photos

The other day when I got home from work I wasn't feeling very motivated to take Z on an hour-long walk. I figured we'd just stick to the parkway so she could be off-leash and feel like a country dog.

I hadn't walked that way in the daylight for weeks – it's part of our everyday morning walk but these days it's  dark out until 7am – so I wasn't prepared for how beautiful it was. It seems almost everywhere else the leaves that still remain on the trees are sparse and everything is past its fall prime...but not where we walked that day!

The birches were in their full yellow glory, and while the sumac plants had all lost their leaves, the berries were a rich, deep red. It had been a cloudy, somewhat gloomy day, but of course on our walk the sunshine peeked through the slate-blue clouds and lit up those yellow birches.

Immediately I mentally kicked myself for not bringing my camera. Of course, I can't let conditions like that slip past me so we headed back home and I got my big camera. Back I went up the parkway – again – with Zada bounding ahead, joyous, as if it were the first time that day :)

She always likes to carry a stick with her so after she pulled a good candidate out of the woods I proceeded to use that as my "carrot" – she's a dog that prefers play over treats anyway – to get her ears up. I'm sure we made quite the picture to the passing cars: me on my stomach, camera held to my face in readiness with one hand while the other waved a stick about over my head, trying to get the perfect angle on her ears (and then rewarding her by throwing it, of course – which is NOT easy when one is lying down).

I realize dog photography isn't all about getting the dog looking perfectly cute in every shot – life isn't about posing so why would we want every picture "posed"? – but I know my dog and she gets bored quickly and looks I worked on the "posing" a bit more than I normally would with a dog portrait session.

Plus, her ears have ever been one of my favorite features on this dog (I call it her "Zadar") and she just looks so damn good with them standing at attention. Maybe it all stems from the German shepherd I had growing up who grew too big, too quickly and his ears never stood up (unless he happened to be facing into a strong wind).

While I hadn't planned on being out for a long dog walk originally, once it was all said and done we were out for almost 2½ hours. Miss Z is ever so patient with me, doggedly doing what I request of her: stay here, come this way, down...she just does what she's asked with nary a complaint until I release her. Well, almost no complaining – at one point she looked up at me imploringly, stick hopefully quivering in her mouth, with a look that clearly said, "can't we just play fetch now?"

When it was all said and done I realized what a fun little impromptu photography shoot it was – just me and my dog enjoying a beautiful fall evening. I'm glad I went back for my camera!

Self Promotion in Social Media: To Do or Not To Do?

I'm not a social media expert. Although, in this day and age, who IS? Has social media even been around long enough for a chosen few to have distanced themselves from the peloton and humbly declare themselves "experts"?

I think not.

The point is, EVERYONE these days is using at least some form of social media (except my sister, who contents herself with having virtually no online footprint), be it Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Google+, Tumblr, Blogger, YouTube, Wordpress, LinkedIn, Pinterest...the list goes on and on.

Most individuals use these platforms to keep in touch with friends, post pictures, write journal entries (ahem...guilty), learn about what's new, build new relationships or any combination of those. No biggie...but then businesses started getting involved in the online conversation.

Are Businesses Using Social Media Correctly?

Okay, so with social media venues your business can reach out to your potential customers, current clients, industry experts, etc. I've interacted with several businesses via Twitter – whether to inquire about a product, offer up a thanks-for-a-job-well-done or to ask advice – and have been extremely pleased that these businesses had a quick response time, were very helpful and I even got a free product from one of them.

So what's the big deal with businesses using social media? Well, in those instances, the experience was positive and I felt even stronger about the company/product than I did before our behind-the-screen exchanges.

And then I see businesses misusing social media – namely, Twitter – to shamelessly self-plug their products and services.

Over...and over...and over...and over.

When did it become "okay" to blab ceaselessly on about oneself? Isn't the social media-verse all about relationships – finding like-minded souls, connecting with them, building relationships, sharing information, and LISTENING as much as (or less than) you talk?

Evidently some businesses – and, let's be honest, some individuals – think it's a perfectly acceptable practice to yak on and on about themselves without a care in the world for anyone else. Instead of an online conversation, they're rolling out their own red carpet with a long-winded diatribe.

That, my friends, isn't the way to use social media to advance your business. Trust me, no one wants to listen to a braggart. At best, no one will engage with your content and all you'll hear on the other side of your Tweet/post/share is silence; at worst, you'll be un-followed, de-friended, deleted and utterly ignored.

This Isn't My Opinion; It's What Others are Saying

But why listen to me? I'm no expert, as I alluded to at the beginning of this blog post...but I would like to share what other people on the Internet are saying about the very same topic:

There are a myriad of "do this; don't do that" opinions out there when it comes to using social media, but it seems the general consensus regarding business self-promotion is "that's not the point of social media!" I.e., don't do it. 

Should you not do it at all? No, that's not what we're – sorry, THEY'RE – saying. The point is: engage with other users; build relationships; share OTHERS' content; join in conversations (don't launch into manifestos); and then, when/where appropriate, offer up your expertise/content. But, like any other relationships you have, it's need to listen to others as much – or more – than you talk.

Again, no one likes someone who ceaselessly self-promotes. I was reading an article that came through my Twitfeed just this morning about senseless SEO mistakes, and there it was again – the admonition NOT to build a self-centered social media strategy:

I think my favorite quote is "Only sleazy salesmen promote their own stuff without considering others."