Five Tips for Being Socially Aware

We all know it. It doesn’t really need to be said, but I’m going to say it anyway. These days if you want to be seen and heard you have to be online.  And in a day and age when being online is no longer an option, being socially aware is more important than ever.

What do I mean by socially aware?

In this context being socially aware means being conscious of what information is available about you online and how people find and access that information. It might not be the best part of your business, but it is a very important one.

So what can you do to be more socially aware? Where do you start? Below are five tips on how to stay aware and protect yourself.

1. Google yourself.

Go on. Type your name or your business’s name in the search bar and see what Google has to say about you. A few years ago I would Google myself and find all of my race results from forever. Well, I haven’t been running much over the past decade, and have certainly been active online in a plethora of other ways.

Google Yourself

Recently, I found out their are more people out there that spell my name the same way (Nickole). Who knew?! Google did. And that picture I posted of me on my Facebook page where I was sitting at the cafe in San Francisco? Yep, Google likes that one a lot.

What do you find when you Google yourself?

2. Manage your privacy settings.

Doug’s dad’s uncle’s mother should not be able to see your Facebook profile unless you guys are actually friends. It’s pretty easy to manage who sees your content on Facebook, as long as you take the time to manage it. For me, only approved friends and family can see my personal page. Which brings us to #3.

3. Decide who your friends should be.

accept-rejectYes, you can be picky about who gets to view your profile. You do not have to accept Doug’s dad’s uncle’s mother as your friend unless you really want to. And there is NO GUILT there. I receive 3-4 friend requests each week. Sometimes I know the person, trust them, and accept their request immediately. Other times I have no idea who the person is, so I go check out their profile, see how many friends we have in common, and figure out if I do actually know them or if it is a totally random request before making a decision.

Here’s the deal. Whomever I accept to be my friend on Facebook gets access to all my posts, gets to see all my pictures, gets to like and comment and interact. I have pics of me, my husband, my kids, my pets, my hikes…. they get access to all of that.

You get to choose who gets access. You have ever right to be picky about who gets access. There is no obligation to accept. There is no guilt not to accept.

Same goes for all of your other social accounts as well. Monitor and be choosy about who gets access to your information.

4. Review, Purge, Protect

It is a good idea to sit down and have a heart to heart with your social network accounts from time to time. Think of it as spring cleaning, but for your online accounts instead of your house.

Review your privacy settings for each account and a make adjustments accordingly. The networks will make updates to their policies periodically, so be sure to go in and make sure your settings are still to your liking.

Purge your list. I know it sounds anti-social and icky and you don’t want people to hate you. I know that for me, there are a few people on my list that I accepted because we were friends in high school or because they were coworkers at a corporate job I had three jobs ago. Turns out that we have nothing in common now. And they are still seeing pictures of my kids and pets. No bueno. Take a look at your list of connections across your social networks and make sure you still want everyone on that list to continue to have access to your online accounts. Again, there is no guilt in removing someone from your social network if it is not longer a mutually beneficial relationship.

Protect your personal/professional image. By taking the time to review who you let have access and periodically purging people from your list you will be taking a big step toward protecting your personal and professional image – both online and off.

5. Accept that the Internet is forever.

imsorry-memeMy racing scores from ten years ago are still online. Today, I found a picture of myself running (mostly walking) the Seattle half-marathon from two years ago. The first thing I ever posted to Google Plus is on the first page of Google. That crazy picture of you drunk at the lake with your friends that you posted three years ago. Yep, your new boss can go online and search and find it. Embarrassing!

What you put out into the interwebs stays on the interwebs!

All this to say, be picky about what you put out there. Think before you post. I’m not saying everything you put out into the world has to be sunshine and rainbows. We all know nobody is always sunshine and rainbows. Yes, you can post that you are having a shitty day or that you are partying at the lake or that you are at the basecamp at Mt. Everest (they have wifi, right?). But when you post or comment or like or share make sure you take the time to think, “Is this a true reflection of me and how I feel or what I believe? Is this part of the image I want to project to the world?” And if the answer is yes, then go for it!

Using Visuals to Engage Your Audience

Five Ways to Engage Your Audience with Visuals

You’ve heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” I’m going to go out on a limb here and update this old adage for our modern times:

A visual is worth more clicks, shares and tweets.

We recently asked our Facebook peeps, “What is your favorite communication vehicle to use that you feel gives you more connection + engagement with your audience?”

Overwhelmingly, the answer was visuals: images, video, and the new kid on the block – Periscope.

People engage better with visual content. Period. It’s easier to understand. It tells a story. It evokes emotions. Our busy lives, our modern brains – for better or worse – like to skim over words and go right for the juicy stuff – the images.

So here are a few ways you can use visuals to engage your audience, increase engagement and ramp up social sharing.


#1: Use Videos

How many times have you stopped to watch that cat video just because it is already rolling as your scroll through your feed? Facebook peeps love video. Eight of the top 10 most shared posts in 2014 were videos. And Facebook (the company) loves videos, too. Their algorithms seem to favor them over text and link only posts. So if you haven’t considered using video to engage your audience, I encourage you to rethink your choice. There are several options out there to help you out. And they don’t have to be professional quality (remember those cat videos?). They just need to be engaging and informative.

Use video to engage your audience

#2: Create Quote or Testimonial Graphics

I love sharing inspiring quotes. And by turning them into an image they have the potential to reach a larger audience. And people are more likely to share your quote or testimonials if it is an image instead of just text or a link. Also, try to add your logo or website address to the graphic. It it blows up and is shared worldwide, you want to make sure people know where it came from originally.


#3: Use Personal Photos

Engage your audience with a personal photo of you, your employees, your office…. Whether you are attending an event or showing off your new, cute office space, let your followers know there is a real person behind everything that you do. Remember, people do business with people. Make sure you take the time to show the face, space, activities behind the magical work you do for the world.


#4: Add Captions

Don’t leave your visuals to tell the story all by themselves. Tie your image or video to your brand by adding a one or two line caption. It gives your audience a hint of what to expect and helps you tell the story.Go a step further and follow the caption with a link or a hashtag to further encourage them to engage with your brand.


Use a caption to help engage your audience

#5: Say Thank You to Your Followers

Never forget that your audience is taking time out of their busy day to engage with you, to provide feedback, to share what it is you’re sharing. My mama always said, “You catch more flies with honey.” A simple expression of gratitude when you hit milestones in your journey makes you and your brand more accessible. It will also encourage people to leave comments about their personal experiences.

These types of posts tend to attract high engagement, so be sure to add your logo and use your fonts to brand the image. Let make sure everyone knows who is saying Thank You.


How do you use visuals to engage your audience? Share in the comments below and let us know!


Completely Burned Out

Have you ever heard those stories of people at the turn of the century being hospitalized for exhaustion? They were either admitted to the hospital for several days or weeks to rest, or sent to a retreat resort in an idealistic mountain setting and are told to rest and recover.

Exhaustion. It has happened to me for the past two years at the same time of the year. I hit a wall. Hard. I have nothing left to give. I’m done. And my business screams to a halt. But the year isn’t over. I still have clients. I still have projects. And the to-do list keeps getting longer and longer. So now I’m exhausted and anxious.

I am sick. It hurts to move. I feel nauseous. No amount of rest seems to help. I am completely and totally burned out. I want to be sent to the resort in the mountains to recover. What exactly is the insurance billing code for “Exhaustion?” Does Blue Cross Blue Shield cover this?

Has this ever happened to you?

This year instead of just suffering through it alone and feeling sorry for myself, I reached out to my community of friends to get their advice. I just want to say that my peeps are amazing. Sure, my Facebook friends and Instagram followers Like and love the pics of my kids, the silly cat memes, pictures of my dog and some of the other fluff I put on my social media outlets. But when it comes to the really serious stuff – you know, when you really need help and advice – these people come out of the woodwork to offer support and advise. I feel truly blessed to have such amazing people in my life.

Here are a few of the tips they shared for recharging your soul:

  1. icon-hikeGo take a hike. As in literally get up, put on your walking shoes, and head outside to take a walk. Exercise helps work off loads of stress and negativity. I swear sometimes I can feel the stress flowing out of my fingertips. And stepping away from your work, even just for 30 minutes to an hour – can help you refocus and get clear.
  2. Check what you’re eating. Healthy foods recharge your mind and body. I know when I get really busy, I start eating out more which means bigger portions, more queso and chips, and dessert with every meal – things I wouldn’t normally make myself for dinner if I cooked at home. When I take the time to cook healthy meals at home I have better control over what goes in to my body. (Sadly, that means less queso.)
  3. Go green. Green juice helps clear out the toxins that have been building up due to stress.
  4. Take time for yourself. If all you do is give, you never have a chance to take care of your self. This could include a walk (see #1 above), a pedicure, going to the movies by yourself in the middle of the day, visiting an art show or museum. Do something that you like to do, just for you. And make it part of your regular routine.
  5. icon-meditateMeditate. I’ll admit I’m not good at this one. But even if you’re not a Buddist meditation master, you can set aside time each day to just sit and breath. Clear your mind, concentrate on breathing in and then breath out the stress.
  6. Wine and dine. Catching up with your friends can be a great way to recharge, and what better way than over dinner and a glass of something yummy. I know when I am at my busiest, I tend to isolate myself because I’m trying to get it all done. Look up, pick up the phone, and arrange a night out.
  7. Stretch yourself. Do something outside of your comfort zone. Maybe it’s something you’ve been meaning to do but haven’t yet. Maybe it’s something that scares you, but you know it wouldn’t hurt you. We have an indoor skydiving company here in ATX. I sat by and watched my kids do it. Scares the hell out of me, but I think me and the hubbster are going to take it on for our next date night.
  8. icon-strawberryChocolate and music. I love both. And together they are even better. Both help soothe and satisfy an aching soul. Crank up the tunes, bust out the extra dark organic chocolate and savor the moments. Ahhhh, that feels good.


Thanks to advise and input from friends and the support of my family, I’m almost back to 100% full steam ahead. But this time I’ve tried to put some safety nets in place to try to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I’m learning to ask for help instead of just doing everything myself. I’m learning to watch for the signs that lead to my becoming exhausted, so that I can take action before I hit the wall. Only time will tell if these things will help. Guess we’ll know about this time next year.

Have you ever burned out? What steps did you take to recover? Please share your thoughts below in the comments.

Oatmeal Choclate Chip Cookies

Cooking Up Something Good in the Kitchen

I have a nine year old son that likes to cook.

I find this very exciting as I’m a bit of a cook myself. I’ve been know to whip up something from nothing and blow away the boys when they come to the table. I have a list of “go-to” recipes that will bring a smile each and every time. And sometimes I just show up at the grocery store, throw some things that sound good into the basket, then head home to make a yummy something or other.

Don’t get me wrong. Not all of my creations are winners. Trust me. Don’t believe me? Ask about Tandoori Tofu over drinks some day. It’s actually worse than it sounds!

Chefs HatNot many people know this, but I actually attended culinary school for a while. I never had aspirations of becoming a world famous chef that owns a world famous restaurant. Actually, just the thought of that career path makes my stomach turn. Don’t get me wrong – I love good food and love when other people make it, and am so happy that other people went to school to become amazing chefs.

No, my reasons for going to culinary school were a little different. My desire was to learn what the different ingredients did. If you add an egg, what does it do? Do you need to add salt to all baked goods? When should I use oil vs. butter? How do different spices effect the flavors of different foods? When do you add this or that? For me, it was more about the science of the ingredients and being able to predict what happens to a recipe if I add/subtract/double this or that. And during my semester of culinary education, I learned how to craft, revise, embellish, and otherwise overhaul recipes in a whole new way.

So, back to my nine year old son that likes to cook. He also has the “taste” for wanting to know what different ingredients do, how the combine them to create different tastes and textures. From time to time I’ll go downstairs into the kitchen to find him making cookies or muffins. One day he even decided to make dinner for the whole family. He’s always so excited about what he is making! I absolutely love his enthusiasm.

Except he never follows a recipe.

Think about that for just a minute. He’s making cookies without a recipe. He’s making muffins without a recipe. He’s making a “dinner casserole” (his name for it) without a recipe. He carefully gets out all of the ingredients he would like to use. He throws some of this in a bowl along with a scoop of that. Adds a pinch of something and a dash of another. Sticks his finger in, tastes it, then decides if it needs more of one thing or another. Then he’ll get the baking pan or the muffin tin out, measure out his concoction, and asks me to put it in the oven for him.

Let’s just say there was one batch of muffins would could actually chew and swallow, although we felt the effects for a couple of days. There have been at least two batches of cookies that were completely inedible. I don’t know what they tasted like because they were so stuck to the pan that we couldn’t get any of them off. We had to soak the pan for two days before the “cookies” came off the pan. Dinner casserole was edible-ish, but very salty.

So why am I sharing this story? Not to embarrass him, I promise. (Although this will be a good post to share with his fiance one day!) But while watching his enthusiasm in the kitchen, creating what he hoped were the best cookies and muffins ever made, putting in great efforts (and sometimes a licked spoon) to batters that looked and smelled perfect, it occurred to me that he’s using the same strategies for baking that some business owners use when creating their marketing plan. He’s throwing a bunch of ingredients together to see if it’s going to work.

After each of these cooking experiments, I explained to him that it is best to start with a recipe. Since man first discovered fire, people have been creating and documenting how to prepare certain dishes – what ingredients to use, how to combine them together, what temperature to cook them at and for how long. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, or in this case, the recipe, each time you step into the kitchen.

It’s the same thing when you are trying to market your business. You can throw some stuff together. It may look okay. And then you put it out to the world. But no one is biting (pun intended). Maybe your message was a little flat or left a bad taste in your ideal client’s mouth. You could keep mixing different marketing strategies together trying to get the right amounts of each ingredient. Or, you can use a “marketing recipe” by learning from what people have done in the past and emulating the best parts of it.

There are plenty of marketing strategies out there. You can think of these are your business’s marketing cookbook. You can thumb through the cookbook, pick out two or three recipes that you want to give a try. Be sure to take the time to read through the whole recipe to make sure you don’t leave out any key ingredients.

And, just as there are different recipes for different eating types (gluten free, vegetarian, nothing but bacon), different marketing types will gel with you and your business in different ways. Speaking engagements may give you indigestion, while networking events will send you into a marketing “food” coma. Learn to listen to yourself and figure out the marketing recipes that you are going to feel the best about. We call this marketing alignment.

What the best part of starting with a recipe? In both the kitchen and your marketing strategies, if you start with something you know works, THEN you can experiment. Add a pinch of nutmeg to your oatmeal cookies. Throw in a dash of live workshops to your marketing mix. If you don’t like how it turns out, you fall back to what you know already works.

Not sure what marketing strategies are in alignment with you and your business? Let’s chat. We can help you figure out what recipe is best for you and your business and help you design an marketing action plan.

My Favorite Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 cup unsifted flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
3 cups uncooked oatmeal
12oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 375.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip CookiesIn large bowl, beat butter with sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and lightened in color (about 4 minutes). Add vanilla and egg, mix on low sped until incorporated. In seperate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Add to creamed mixture, mixing well. Stir in oats. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts (optional).

Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake 8-9 minutes for chewy cookies, 10-11 minutes for a crisp cookie. Cool for 1 minute on baking sheet then remove to wire rack. Store in a tightly covered container.

Make it your own!
Add a pinch of cloves or a little more nutmeg. Leave out the walnuts. Use dark chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet. Swap out dried cherries for chocolate chips.

Now it’s your turn! Let us know what your favorite marketing mix is. Or just let us know if you liked the cookies. We’d love to hear from you!

Confessions of a Serial Killer

I am a serial killer.

I go out and try to kill it in my business every single day. I pride myself on being available for my clients. I provide them when high quality designs, quality programming. I use my 20 years of marketing experience to find ways to help clients grow their business through their websites and social media. I create engaging print materials to help my clients express themselves with a consistent message and brand across all their marketing platforms. I’ve even been known to spend 1.5 hours on the phone doing email tech support. I am not an email tech support person. But I do it because I want my clients to have the best possible customer service that I can provide to them. I kill it at customer service!

I am a serial killer.

MinecraftI try show up and be present every day for my family. I rouse kids out of bed. I make breakfast. I clean the kitchen, straighten up the living room, and sort through school papers too numerous to count. I make lunch. I shuttle kids to swimming, soccer, baseball, golf, lacrosse practice …. whatever is the sport du jour. I drive kids to piano lessons amid complaints of how this is such a waste of their time! And each time I tell them they will thank me some day. I listen to endless stories about MineCraft and Five Nights at Freddy’s with interest and enthusiasm – even though sometimes I think they are speaking a different language. I counsel and guide them on how to better communicate with the neighborhood kids. “You shouldn’t slam the door in the younger kid’s face. Just politely decline his invitation to come outside to play.” I play mediator between brothers who both want to play games on the Xbox at the same time. I take out the trash. I play nurse to scrapes, bruises, growing pains, bloody noses. I make dinner. I clean the kitchen. I grump and growl to get them to take a shower and brush their teeth. I tuck kids into bed.

I am a serial killer.

I try to bring my very best to everything I do and kill it!

But there are some days when I just can’t bring 100% to my work and family. There are some days when you’ve worked a 14 hour day staring at little tiny pieces of code on a computer monitor and all you want to do is curl up on the couch with a glass of wine and decompress. There are days when you wake up and it’s cold outside and you just don’t have the energy – the spark – that you know the day is going to require. There are days when all you want to do is not do anything.

It has taken me a long time to realize and acknowledge that there are days when my best self just isn’t going to be the person that shows up. And, that it is okay to have these days from time to time.

I’ve learned there is a pattern to when these days show up. They show up when work has been particularly busy and stressful – like when I’ve been working nose-to-the-grindstone to get a big project launched. I put all my effort into making sure these projects launch as smoothly as possible, whether that means extra hours behind the computer or on the phone with tech support, or emailing clients at midnight to let them know that the last items have been checked off the list. The project is completed. The project is finished. The stress level is reduced. And the body and mind shut down.

In the past I’ve tried to push through these days. I’ve tried to force myself to work through it knowing there is another project ready for me to work on, another load of laundry to do, more housecleaning that needs to be done, more errands that need to be run, more phone calls to make, new clients to win over. There is never not a to-do list. Ever.

But trying to push through these days is like trying to swim in mud. I takes a lot of effort and you don’t get very far.



Instead, I embrace them. I celebrate these days. I acknowledge that I am feeling run down and exhausted because I gave my best to my work and my family and know it is time to take care of ME. I know that I need to rest to recover so that I can get back to killing it at full strength in less time that if I just “worked through it.”


Moscow Mule

Recently, one such recovery day presented itself. I woke up exhausted mentally and physically. In a five day time span I launched a big website, launched a new business (Soulful Mompreneur), took a short road trip, nursed a sick kid back to health, and celebrated a friend’s birthday with a river party cookout. I rolled over in bed that glorious Sunday morning, looked at my husband and said, “I’m not doing anything today.”  I celebrated by staying in my PJs all day long. I didn’t even put on a bra. I never left the house. I binge watched a show on Netflix. I made & drank Moscow Mules. I relaxed. Every so often my husband would ask, “Hey you wanna go do ______?” And my answer each time was, “No, thank you. I’m taking a day off today.”

My friend Katie celebrates these days a little differently than me. She leaves the family behind and goes on a hike in a remote area or on a little known trail. She takes water and some nibbles. She goes into the woods and takes the time to look, feel and listen. She notices the pattern in the bark. She watches the squirrels play in the tree tops. She stops by a stream and listens to music of the water as is flows past her. She reconnects to nature as a way to reconnect and recharge herself.

Here is my challenge to you. The next time you find yourself run down, disconnected, over tired, over stressed, or whatever state of being you find yourself when you can no longer give your best to your work and your family, take some time just for you. It doesn’t have to be a whole day. Maybe a few hours are enough for you to recharge and take charge again. Always remember that you have to take time to take care of your self. Otherwise, you can’t be there to take care of the other important things in your life.

What do you do to recharge? We invite you to share in the comments below.

Working Moms

Two Moms on a Mission

What started out as a day-long conference for moms turned into a passion to educate women entrepreneurs on how to not only succeed at their business, but create a family-work life balance that they love.

Cristy, Nicki and Johanna attended a conference in January 2014 that promoted itself as a Mom entrepreneur centered day of talks, discussions and workshops. They left feeling like they had spent a day listening to women talk about how they had created fabulous, successful careers. And then they had kids. They were left wondering, “Well, what happened to their careers after they had kids? Are there any stories of women who started and managed successful careers AFTER having kids?”

They sat down over a bottle of wine, some margaritas and a bowl of queso (to fuel creativity!) and hatched out what would become Soulful Aligned Entrepreneur – a coaching and mentoring program for women who want to create a thriving business, but still have the time and energy for a loving and supportive family life.


Spiral notebook pages were filled with ideas and sketches, drawings and notes. Workshops, retreats, websites and blogs ideas were all discussed and jotted down. They would educate women entrepreneurs on basic business know-how, but also marketing, messaging, how to take care of themselves when we tend to loose ourselves between work and family. They would provide tools and resources on how to set up and manage money, home, work and fun.

Work, life, community

They came up with the core components that they felt were needed to facilitate a great work-life balance. Education and support are the main themes throughout their programs. They start with a self-discovery sesseion (Alignment Strategy Session) to help clients find the passion and purpose within their business. Clients walk away with an action plan for making their business a success while leaving time and energy for the lif they want and love.

A key component of their system is support. No women is an island. And no women should feel like one. Soulful Aligned Entrepreneur creates a support system for their clients with interactive forums, private Facebook groups, one-on-one coaching and mastermind calls. Everything is designed to provide women business owners with the tools and support that they need for success.

What started out as three moms eventually became two. With Soulful Aligned Entrepreneur, both Cristy and Nicki are dedicated to lifting up and supporting soulful women entrepreneurs through education, coaching and mentoring. They strongly believe that women are here to change the world. And, they plan to do their part to help make that happen.