Social Media Stuff

Meet your fitness goals faster with these sites, apps and gadgets

Meeting a fitness goal

Recently, a study reported in Wired Magazine found that tweeting and retweeting may help you lose weight. But, really, what they found is that the *support and accountability* provided by the social networking site made a difference in how much people lost.

Speaking from personal experience, there are a plethora (or two) of great web tools, apps, devices, gadgets, etcetera that can provide ways for you to hold yourself accountable and get support from (and give support to!) friends – or even like-minded strangers. They range from general social media posting to a whole crop of fancy schmancy tracking gadgets.

General Social Media Posting

Some people may just post on their Facebook page or their Twitter feed about their fitness progress (a great workout, a weight loss, a healthy meal), and in doing so, reinforce the behavior, and maybe even get positive feedback from their friends and followers. True, some people find this *annoying* if it’s done excessively; other find it motivational and inspiring. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to balance it out with other types of posts. Ultimately, of course, it’s your choice, and if you’re fine with the fact that some people may choose to unfriend or unfollow you, then go nuts. More often than not, people use one of the other tools discussed below, and then share that entry to their Facebook, Twitter, etcetera; these tools generally make it very easy to do so.

The “Check In”

Foursquare is a ‘geolocation’-based social loyalty platform (app, mainly) on which people check in, earn points, get special offers, and are named “Mayor” of a place if they check in more often than anyone else. I was surprised how many people I talked to about what tools they use for fitness support said that they feel Foursquare check-ins – and sometimes, mayorships – at the gym keep them on track. There’s a strong element of personal accountability and commitment with that, as well as sometimes encouragement in comments on the check ins.

Exercise Tracking Tools

There are numerous websites/apps that enable you track your exercise – what workout you did, miles run/walked/biked, how you felt, even how many doughnuts and cheeseburgers you burned off (Daily Mile)!

Many people use the Nike + app, which works with GPS to track your distance, posts easily to your Facebook or other social networks, and lets you compare your efforts to your friends.

Other sites/apps have developed strong sport-specific communities (not sport-exclusive; they cover multiple activities), such as Daily Mile, Runkeeper and Runtastic with runners and Strava with cyclists.

I absolutely LOVE Daily Mile, as a runner…there is always inspiration to be found in the amazing community there. And I adore seeing the data – it’s so satisfying and encouraging to know that I’ve run 515 miles, burned 19 pounds off (exactly how much I have actually lost) and burned 363 doughnuts. And there’s more to it than that; users give each other encouragement via comments and attached “motivations.” They see how they stack up on the leaderboard, share routes, discuss questions in forums and create specific fitness challenges.

Fitocracy (called “Fito” by its users) is another such online support community. User Maddie Grant (author of Humanize, my favorite social media book of all time) tells me that this site was conceived for “geeks who like fitness.” So it relies even more on gamification techniques like giving “props” to other users, or even using the “prop bomb” to like everything they’ve ever done. Unlike Daily Mile, here members get points for workouts and level up when they reach point milestones. There are tons of group-specific (such as swimming) challenges and quests, and the site is constantly figuring out new ways to encourage competition against yourself and others. Maddie says, “Fitocracy has connected me to so many people who don’t even know how much they encourage me, especially on those days when a workout is the last thing you want to do and at those times when the plateau hits. It’s an integral and essential part of my quest to get ripped.” :]

Another great option here is to motivate yourself by running or biking for a cause. Charity Miles lets you easily earn funds for your chosen cause; walkers and runners earn 25¢ a mile, and bikers earn 10¢ a mile, up to the initial $1,000,000 sponsorship pool.

Nutrition Tracking Tools

Since some of us, unfortunately, can’t just eat whatever we want no matter how much we exercise (*heavy sigh*), there are also great tools for tracking your diet, calorie intake and nutrition.

Some people I spoke with swear by the Weight Watchers app; I haven’t used that one in a while but found the content in the nutrition database to be lacking, meaning I often couldn’t easily find the healthy, whole foods I was looking to track.

My favorite app/site in this category is MyFitnessPal. Though the interface is lacking visually (someone, please design a nutrition tracking app that looks fun and friendly!), the food database is extremely complete, including even the most obscure healthy foods. This tool has been absolutely integral to my weight loss progress, and I highly recommend it. I put it in the nutrition tracking category because that’s what it’s best at, though it does also allow you to enter your exercise. It then adds the calories burned in exercise to your budgeted calories for the day. The benefit of this is that it helps focus you on thinking of the food you eat relative to the exercise it will take to burn it off, or vice versa, thinking of what you can eat IF you go for that run, walk or bike ride.

Fancy Shmancy Wearable Tracking Gadgets

This is the hottest category of them all…things you wear on various body parts that track your movement, your calories burned, even your sleep patterns.

Nike kicked off the craze with its launch of FuelBand this time last year. It’s a sexy beast, indeed, using an accelerometer to measure your movement in NikeFuel, a “universal metric of activity” (copywriter speak for “we own this category.”). You wear it on your wrist and can sync it with the FuelBand app to track your progress and connect with your friends.

My friend Shelly Kramer (named one of the 200 most fearless women online, how cool is that?!) is a FuelBand devotee, and eloquently says “I use my FuelBand and work hard to reach my Fuel goal daily; I am often doing jumping jacks at 11pm so I can get to that goal because I’m so competitive (even against myself) that I can’t stand it when I don’t. I also like that Facebook lets you “compete” against other friends you’re connected to. I love seeing my friends who use the running app and it shows me that they just did a 7.1 mile run or something like that, because then if I had slacking in mind I’ll feel like a loser and get off my butt and go for a walk.”

An alternative that’s getting some traction of late is Jawbone’s UP wristband, pulled from shelves in late 2011 due to functionality issues (as in, it didn’t work) and relaunched in 2012. An Engadget review describes it as “downright subtle, compared to the LED-riddled and overpriced Nike + FuelBand” and details issues with the lack of wireless syncing.

FitBit, on the other hand (pun intended) can go on your pants, in your pocket, on your bra, wherever, if you’re not into wearing a band on your wrist, and syncs wirelessly and easily. It even has a WiFi smart scale that syncs with your online profile and wireless gadget to keep you honest. The scale is quite cool and tempting (though not wholly necessary I must admit…it’s not really *that* much work to just enter your weight).

Linda Neff (another fearless friend, and a chapter author of the Women on Fire Book 2 being published this fall) is in love with her new FitBit, and says “It’s like a pedometer, only better…a quirky little friend who cheers on your healthy lifestyle with badges and messages reminiscent of your favorite grade school teacher.”

Biggest Loser NBC (with which I am obsessed, as is my 7 year old) has been using Body Media tracking armbands for years now. The difference here is BodyMedia uses multiple sensors – an accelerometer plus skin temperature, heat flux and galvanic skin response  - which is supposed to make it the most accurate. As tempting as the increased accuracy is, I just can’t quite bring myself to wear an armband on my bicep all day.

I’ve been considering buying one of these gadgets for the past year, and it’s a tough decision as there are elements I like of each. I have a “thing” for Nike, so the FuelBand appeals from a brand standpoint. I want accuracy, so BodyMedia appeals from a geeking-out-on-data standpoint. After doing more research for this story, I think FitBit is a good combination of form and function; it also integrates with MyFitnessPal so I can still track my nutrition in MyFitnessPal and FitBit will use that data…huge bonus. Maybe the best solution is to get one of each. ;]

The Bet

Some folks use these tools just for personal tracking and some use them for a little friendly competition. Now there’s a popular site called DietBet where you can set up that friendly wager. DietBet is a four-week social dieting game, in which you create your game or join one and watch the pot grow as new players join. At the end of the game, everyone who loses 4% of their body weight splits the pot. If you’re the kind of person that needs a lot of external motivation, this might be a good solution for you in the short term…then use some of the other tools to maintain your loss.

Social Music Sharing

Just for fun, you might want to check out a social music sharing app/site like Spotify. This is a great way to keep your workout playlists fresh and motivating. People build and share their playlists for others to check out and use. Here is my current one-hour run playlist.

So, whether you are self-motivated and need something to help you hold yourself accountable or externally motivated and want to share encouragement with your communities and maybe even set up a little healthy competition…there’s a tool or three out there for you.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments on what tools you’ve tried, and how they have (or haven’t) helped you meet your goals!

photo credit: Vethod via photopin cc

How having Klout turned a really good movie into a really poor experience

Yes, I’m bitching about having gotten free stuff.

So, let’s just say right off the bat, it’s a bit ridiculous to bitch about having gotten free tickets to a movie preview (received because of online “influence” as measured by Klout) and the questionable experience that ensued; clearly, there are bigger problems in the world that we should be discussing. But I’m gonna do it anyway. And here’s why: if you think about it, it’s interestingly convoluted from a brand management/community management standpoint.

On the off chance that you’re reading this and not familiar with Klout, it’s a measurement of online influence; there’s been enough written about it to choke a million social media “experts”. Google it. My first post about Klout is here, Why I still don’t care what your Klout score is. But, it’s over six months old, and I have a different take now, and while I’m honestly sick of talking about Klout, Klout, Klout, did I mention Klout, I think it warrants saying, and besides, the topic tends to get people worked up a bit.

Klout User Persona A: lives and dies by his or her Klout score, checking it multiple times a day. Becomes despondent if it declines by a point. Has personal Klout score in a badge on personal blog (blargh). Religiously gives five people a day +K (fine), and tweets it every single time (blargh). May tweet asking people to +K him or her on a certain topic (in a word: blaaaaargh). Klout User Persona B: members of KSWA (Klout Schwag Whores Anonymous). I’m a charter member and the tagline I propose is: Mock the tool. Love the schwag. (There are other personas, clearly but you get the idea.)

If Klout fails to execute well, that brings the brand down, instead of lifting it up.

I realized last night the degree to which Klout’s ability to successfully execute it’s KloutPerks programs impacts the brands being promoted. Case in point: Disney Winnie the Pooh movie preview.

I was invited by Klout, I signed up, I got a message from Klout saying “You’re All Set! Just show up”. I got my kid all pumped about the movie, I rushed home from work to get there on time, and we showed up. And exactly what I was afraid would happen did happen: Blank stare from ticket booth staff, followed by: “You’re not on the list.” These are five words you never want to hear, right? Especially when you’re standing there with your now-vibrating-with-excitement kid, visions of dragging him out of the theatre in a puddle of tears running through your head. Long story short, after having to explain what Klout is, and the theatre personnel looking for the nonexistent Klout list, they let us in anyway. It took long enough, though, that by the time we got in, there were few decent seats left. So, we sat in a nearly-empty row of press seats, at which point I was accosted by a woman with a clipboard. After clearly communicating that I wasn’t having a delightful experience thus far, and that I wasn’t going anywhere easily, and that I really like to write, she left us alone, too. By that point, the movie was starting, and I had serious acid indigestion. Which (in spite of it being a really good movie, visually lovely with tons of LOL-ing from G and all the kids in the theatre) is now pretty much the feeling I associate most with the preview of the Winnie the Pooh film.

Nutshell: If the Klout experience sucks, the BRAND experience sucks.

In other words, in some cases, Klout actually creates a bit of a brand management/community management problem. I’m not the only one this happened to, because I talked to others who were there last night. It could still be an isolated incident, but I doubt it as it is not the only glitch I’ve had with KloutPerks. I’ll spare you the details of the Subway gift card I still have not received despite repeated emails from Klout asking if I got it yet. Seriously, I appreciate the offer, but, KEEP IT. It’s not worth the trouble.

Yeah, it’s still pretty new. Yeah, yeah, I’m being difficult. But, yeah, if you’re a brand or community manager and thinking about a KloutPerks or similar influencer promotion, you need to think about it. It can backfire. Frankly, I would have been a better influencer for the Winnie the Pooh movie had I been left to my own devices, paid to see the movie, and not had any stress around it.

P.S. I love KloutPerks.

Dear Klout,

If you are reading this, no offense, OK? Keep the schwag coming. For serious. Really, I love you. You wanted to hear about my experience, and this was it. You need feedback to get better, right?

Sue Spaight
President, KSWA

What say you? Am I being unreasonable (moi!??!)? Are my standards too high? Is this type of influencer marketing a smart move? What do you think of Klout in general?

Welcome to the Twitterhood

Twitter – and to an extent Facebook and other online social networking – has become the primary neighborhood, for me, and I suspect for many of you. “Right” or “wrong” (and it’s really neither, it just is) I know my friends that I have met through Twitter – who live in other parts of the city, country, world – better than I know most of the people who live on my street.

Why? Because I see their lives streaming before me in real time, day in and day out. And they see mine. And no, not just the mundane details, like what they are having for breakfast (though yes, you have to self-filter that to get to the good stuff), but also their challenges and struggles (job searches, illnesses, family problems) – and their triumphs (new jobs, weddings, babies being born). It’s really quite the reality show…much more interesting than anything on TV, on a “good Twitter day”. (Other times, yes, it can be like watching paint dry.)

Ask for help when you need it. Help when you can.

Much has been written documenting the social good being instigated online. And I firmly believe we each have a responsibility to “pay it forward” when we can. In my little microcosmic world, recently, I had surgery. Who came to my aid afterwards with books, wonderful home cooked meals, and offers to help? It wasn’t the couple next door or the couple down the street. It wasn’t even family members, who, granted, live a fair distance away. It was friends I met and built relationships with via Twitter, and, subsequently, at offline events. A huge thank you, again, to those who helped or offered help.

There’s always the Twitterhood. And it’s a blessing.

So, should I make more of an effort to get to know the couples next door and down the street? Absolutely. Our suburban lifestyle isn’t super-conducive to that, though, as I’m just not home that much, and when I am, I’m not usually shooting the breeze over the back fence. (Not to mention that where I live, it’s decent outside about one third of the year.) Maybe it would be different if I lived in a town as small as the one in which I was raised? Or maybe not. Maybe things are just…different now. You could argue that I’m being lazy. And maybe at times I am. There needs to be a balance between online neighbors and physical neighbors.

Let me participate in the way that I can be most effective.

If you’re a marketer or fundraiser, you need to understand this dynamic. For example, the American Cancer Society runs a neighborhood fundraising campaign, in which they ask volunteers such as me to send a letter – yes, a paper, old school letter, with, like a stamp and stuff – to everyone on their block asking them to donate money. Nice idea, and maybe once upon a time it was effective, or maybe in some communities, it still is. For me, it was a complete waste of time and generated exactly zero return, as I predicted it would. Why? Because my geographic neighbors don’t know me as well as my online, on-Twitter neighbors do. (Well, that and the fact that half of the addresses were out of date.) ACS gives their volunteer neighborhood fundraisers the option of also creating a fundraising web page, but, after doing all the letters, well, I couldn’t find the time that day to get it done. A great way around this problem would be for ACS and like organizations to give its volunteers choices from several different paths to participation. Don’t assume that how you define my neighborhood is how I define my neighborhood.

We’re creating online communities the way our grandparents did in small towns.

Related, here’s a brilliant post from the inimitable Sara Santiago: A Guy For That. In it, Sara points out how “social media is really just helping us find (and be) “a guy for that” in a much larger online community.” Our “guys” used to be in our town, whereas now, our “guys” maybe be across the country or across the world. And, Sara says, “social media has allowed us to create a powerful online community, in much the same way our grandparents did within a small town.” Yes. THAT. That is what we are talking about.

The assertion here is that, for many of us, the notion, the definition, the expression of “neighborhood” has fundamentally changed.

What’s up in your ‘hood?

My family, particularly my eldest brother, thinks Twitter is ridiculous. I think it’s just an extended neighborhood. So now, when, in the mornings, you see me tweet “Good morning, Twitterhood” you’ll know what the heck I am talking about.

Is this what’s happening for you, too? Or is your experience different?

Is the fact that we’re spending more of our time networking online weakening our physical neighborhoods? Or just making them bigger, maybe even closer-knit?

What do you think?

Does Alice give a rat’s ass about being a trending topic?

If you’ve been on Twitter for more than three seconds in the past two days, you’ve seen #AliceBucketList. And if you haven’t, check out the Alice’s Bucket List, the blog of a 15-year-old girl with terminal cancer, asking people, primarily, to sign up for their national marrow donor registry. It’s powerful stuff, and has taken the Twitter world by storm, the fastest moving search stream I have ever seen.

Yesterday, I was feeling pretty pissed off by the millions (?) of people on Twitter sharing this message and variations thereof:

Here’s the thing, people. LISTEN to Alice. She didn’t say she wants to be a trending topic on Twitter. It is in fact NOT on her bucket list. Some probably well-intentioned person on Twitter decided that for her, and, in my opinion, deflected attention from the REAL ISSUE. Which is the national marrow donor registry. I’ve seen a few other voices in the wilderness attempt to focus on that, God bless them.

Is it cool that she is a trending topic? HELL YES.

Will it do some good, driving more eyeballs to her story? HELL YES.

But will there be many people who – in the absence of focus on the marrow issue – just hit the RT button and feel like they have done their part? HELL YES.

Should people, as was suggested to me by a friend on Twitter, just do whatever they can? HELL YES.

But I, for one, often wish that we could, as a collective, focus less on shallow social media douchebaggery like “Alice wants to trend!”, which is bullshit, and more on DOING SOMETHING REAL. By all means, give the girl an RT, but know that this alone does not make you a person of real action.

Solely IMHO. Different strokes rule the world, as the TV theme song goes.

Bottom line, the marrow registry is waaaaay more important than any of this social media blahblahblah, so, if you’re already on the marrow registry, tell us why. And if you’re not, please learn more and considering signing up. I did when I found out that a good friend’s nephew was fighting leukemia. He’s 15 now and still fighting like hell, so, do it for him, and for Alice, and for all the other people who need it.

Here is some more information about why to donate marrow and the steps to register. Register with Be The Match here.

Super happy news this morning, though. Alice reported in the wee hours of the morning that a lot of money is being donated to cancer research through her sister’s race page. So, that’s fantastic. People have also helped arranged great experiences for her, the things that ARE on her bucket list, which is amazing. A ton of great people are taking real action and doing their part, whatever they can.

That’s all I’m asking.

Are you doing your part, whether for this, or another cause? Tell us. Inspire us. And thank you.

P.S. I’m not attempting to speak for Alice. I wouldn’t do that. She probably really does think it’s cool to be a trending topic, now that she is on Twitter. You can follow her here.

Hitting the lazy button

Aided by social communication tools, are we becoming lazy communicators with lazy friendships?

Yesterday I posed this question on Twitter: do you ever feel that your use of social media is resulting in more, but SHALLOWER relationships? Even perhaps making long-term friendships shallower? A few people responded with a hearty AMEN and few people said NO WAY. How about you?

It’s not “social media’s fault”; the word choice of “your use of social media” was very intentional. The tools are what we make of them, just like the tools that came before. And you know I love them as much as the next addict enthusiast. Through them, I have met all of you amazing people and I don’t take that for granted.

Here’s the thing, though, peeps. We must not lose sight of the fact that these *newfangled* communication tools will only take us so far in our relationships. They are better, IMHO, for forging new relationships – making initial connections – than at strengthening existing relationships. At least personal, individual relationships. Brand relationships, different story for a different day. I’m talking about human to human connection here. Mano a mano…Hermano a hermano.

A couple of examples. Last week, I had surgery. A close friend promised me a phone call to see how I was doing. Now, like many of you, I am not a huge fan of the telephone. Except, perhaps, with her and a couple of other *old* friends. Well the phone call instead became a comment on my Facebook. Seriously? ITS. NOT. THE. SAME. Not everything in life can be accomplished with a tweet or a Facebook comment. And sadly, I’m sure I’ve done this, too. In fact, I know I’ve done it. Yesterday. A close relative posted something on her Facebook about having a bad week and being in a wheelchair. Wheelchair? Really? I’ve owed her a phone call for months, but did I do it? Nah. Instead, reply to Facebook post: “Dude what up?” Man, that’s some deep stuff right there…I’m sure THAT will make her feel better and show her that I care.

I’m not saying that social communication tools can’t be used in a way that deepens relationships. Often, they can. But I am suggesting that our tendency oftentimes has been to take the lazy way out, using them as a poor substitute for communication that really needs to be happening in a deeper way, one that actually requires a little effort.

Your turn. Agree or disagree? See yourself in this post at all? Or are we all just a bunch of dynamic rock stars using social media beautifully to change the world one deep meaningful relationship at a time?

Come talk with me this Friday at First Edge

This Friday, May 20, I’m doing a lunch-and-learn-thingie at First Edge. I’d rather not be talking to myself, so I hope if you’re local you’ll come down and talk; registration is here.

So, here’s the thing. I was asked to talk about Social Media 101, and we can do that if that’s what the people who care enough to show up want to do. But what I basically plan to do, in the true spirit of social, is to tell a few stories, answer questions, help however I can and ask others in the room to help too.

I don’t consider or call myself a social media “expert”. Yeah, I know some stuff. I’ve done a lot over the past couple-three years, and learned some lessons, both professional and personal, that I can share. Hell, I might even get a little verklempt at times, as some of these stories are powerful, emotional shit. You can see the softer side of Sue Spaight. Heh.

I know for a fact that other people in the room are as much “experts” as I am, meaning they too have done a lot, and learned some lessons. Come prepared to share, ask questions, help each other out. There’s social media 101 right there, in a nutshell.

If you have thoughts on what you’d like to talk about, leave ‘em here, K? See you Friday.

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