On Being Verified

Interesting how a tiny blue check mark can make people take you more seriously.

I'm Verfied
That tiny blue checkmark means I’m really who I say I am. (The helicopter is an emoji and appears in red everywhere except my profile page when I’m logged in on my Mac. Go figure, huh?)

About a month ago, I requested that my Twitter account be “verified.” It was the second time I’d made the request — the first time was at least five years ago, not long after verification began — and although I’d been turned down the first time, I was verified the second. I got the coveted blue checkmark beside my name.

The skinny on verification

Verified Twitter accounts are those accounts that Twitter has verified as belonging to the person whose name appears on the account. This is so that people looking for the real account in question know they’ve found it.

To get verified status, you need to be somewhat “famous” or at least publicly known for something. I’m known for a few things: I wrote computer how-to books for more than 20 years, I’ve owned a helicopter charter business for more than 15 years, I’ve been blogging for more than 13 years, I’ve been recording video training courses for more than 10 years (including several about Twitter), and I currently write articles for a variety of aviation publications. When I filled in the forms online and submitted the documents to prove that I really was who I said I was and that I was worthy of verification, the folks at Twitter apparently agreed. Without any fanfare, the blue checkmark appeared on my Profile page.

I actually noticed a side effect to verification before I noticed the checkmark: literally overnight, I gained about 100 followers. That was weird.

The benefits of the blue checkmark

Being verified gives you some additional benefits the average Twitter user just doesn’t have.

Twitter Stats
As amazing as it seems to me, during this particular 24-hour period, my tweets were displayed 123,514 times.

First of all, you get a bit more respect. Is it possible that I’m seeing fewer trolls? It sure seems that way. (Of course, I do block all the trolls I encounter, so I don’t see repeat offenders.)

Next, it gets your tweets more attention. People are more likely to read a tweet when the account it came from is verified. I’m seeing that in my stats. My tweets are getting seen, retweeted, and liked more than ever.

My most popular tweet
This tweet, which I shot out in response to Donald Trump’s whining about protesters (see below for embedded tweet), has become immensely popular.

Of course, I like to think that this particular tweet has become so popular because it’s so witty. Honestly who knows? (And who cares?)

Twitter also gives verified users additional tools for monitoring notifications. An additional tab appears on my notifications page so I can view a list of All, Mentions, and Verified. The Verified option shows me only notifications from other verified accounts. I can imagine this being extremely useful for truly famous people who want to weed out the mere mortals. Personally, I don’t use it much, although a surprising number of other verified users do interact with my tweets. I have to wonder if that’s because I’m verified, too.

Behavioral changes

Has being verified changed the way I use Twitter? Possibly.

First of all, I don’t think I tweet any more or less than I have during the more than nine years I’ve been using Twitter. I currently average 10 to 20 tweets a day, with a total of about 61,600 total tweets since March 2007.

That said, I’m definitely more cognizant that the things I tweet may be seen by far more people. Although I’m usually very careful about what I post online — I’m not an idiot, like a certain small-handed, thin orange skinned president-elect who can’t seem to keep his tweet hole shut, thus exposing his fragile narcissistic ego to the world — I do think twice about how what I tweet might affect my brand.

Yes, I did say “brand.” That’s because being a verified Twitter user helps establish your name (or account name) as a brand. I already had a brand that was relatively strong in the early 2000s. Who knows? It might become strong again. I don’t want to tweet anything that can hurt it.

What do you think?

Does the verified badge on a Twitter account affect the way you follow or interact with that account?

Are you a verified Twitter user? Have you noticed a difference in the way Twitter works for you?

I’m curious. Use the comment link form to share your thoughts about this.

And please — let’s not go off on tangents about the election. Haven’t you had enough of that in the news? I sure have.

“Incredibly Sad”

Putting things in perspective.

Arnold Palmer died yesterday. He was 87.

Palmer was one of golf’s greats. Although I don’t follow golf and certainly don’t know as much about his career as the folks that do, I do know that he was a real class act who could certainly teach today’s professional athletes a thing or two about behaving in public. You can find a tribute to him here and some more general information on Wikipedia.

One of the people I follow on Twitter posted the following tweet with a photo of a young Palmer:

Incredibly sad … Golf legend Arnold Palmer has died. The 62-time PGA Tour and 7-time major winner was 87. #RIP

It’s sad when any good person dies, but “incredibly sad” when an 87-year-old man dies of natural causes?

I’m not trying to sully the memory of Arnold Palmer. He led a full life, achieving many great goals and doing many good things. But he was 87 with a heart condition. His life came to a logical, inevitable conclusion.

Do you know who else died yesterday? José Fernández. He was 24, and just a few years into what would likely be an amazing career as a baseball pitcher. Indeed, he had already won the National League Year Rookie of the year and played in an All-Star Game. A Cuban immigrant who saved his mother’s life when she fell overboard during their fourth (successful) defection attempt, he died in a boating accident yesterday morning with virtually his whole life ahead of him.

Now that is incredibly sad.

Do you see the difference?

I’m not trying to say that Fernández’s life is more valuable than Palmer’s. I’m just saying that when a man dies of natural causes at an age generally considered to be beyond that of an average life span, it’s sad. But when a young man who hasn’t even reached the prime of his life dies in a tragic accident, it’s sadder.

You know this boy.

Do you want to take that a step further? Think about Alan Kurdi. Don’t know who that is? Sure you do. He was the three-year-old boy who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea when his family fled Syria as refugees just a year ago. His lifeless body was photographed on the beach, lying face down, still wearing his little shorts and shoes. His family was trying to get to Canada so they could live in a safe, peaceful world. I’d share the photo here — you can find a copy on Wikipedia — but it’s too heartbreaking to see over and over in my blog. So I’ll share this one, provided to the media by his aunt, to give you an idea of the smiling, happy child whose life was snuffed out by tragic circumstances.

Alan Kurdi’s death is incredibly sad.

And what about the thousands of civilians killed in terrorist attacks, wars, and “ethnic cleansing” (AKA genocide)? Thousands of people losing their lives long before completing their natural lives? Sometimes before they even reach adulthood? Isn’t that sadder than the natural death of an 87-year-old man?

I guess my Twitter friend’s tweet just got under my skin. I’m so tired of people expressing extreme sadness when a celebrity dies yet barely acknowledging the death of a “lesser” or unknown person. Or people.

Let’s put things into perspective. People die every day. Some die more tragically than others. Shouldn’t the level of our sadness be tied into the circumstances of their lives and deaths?

Online Advertising Blues

Or how to lose half a day in front of a computer.

I am the owner of a small business, Flying M Air, LLC. I do just about everything for the company except maintain the aircraft: schedule flights, preflight the aircraft, fly, take payment from passengers, manage the drug testing program, work with the FAA, meet with clients, negotiate contracts, arrange for special events, hire contract workers, record transactions, handle invoicing and receivables, pay bills, create print marketing materials like business cards and rack cards, etc. I also handle the online presence for the company, including the company website, Facebook, and Twitter.

(You might wonder how I have the skills to do all this stuff. The truth is, I have a BBA in Accounting and lots of business training from college. I also wrote books about computers for 20+ years, including several about building websites and using Twitter. Sadly I never studied helicopter repair.)

Today, I lost half a day to marketing and related online chores that were mind-bogglingly time consuming.

You see, I scheduled an event with a local resort, Cave B Estate Winery & Resort in Quincy, WA. Cave B is one of the destinations I take people on winery tours, although I admit I don’t go there very often. For the same price, folks can go to Tsillan Cellars in Chelan, which they seem to prefer. Cave B has a better restaurant and a more interesting atmosphere in a beautiful place. Tsillan Cellars is also in a beautiful place, but it’s a bit touristy for my taste. I actually don’t care which one I fly to since I can’t drink wine at either one. I just like to fly people to wineries.

But the new manager at Cave B Resort is very eager to get the helicopter onsite as an interesting activity for guests. So we set up a 6-hour event there for Saturday, July 2. I’d land in the field as I usually do and offer 15-minute helicopter tours of the area for $75/person. While that might seem kind of steep, it’s pretty much in line with my usual rates. Besides, the folks who stay at Cave B aren’t exactly cheapskates. (I just looked into booking a room for my upcoming birthday and decided that it was a bit too rich for my blood, at least this year. I think I’ll settle for a spa day.)

Setting up this event required me to complete a bunch of tasks on my computer:

  • Tour Flyer
    I threw together this flyer based on a template in Microsoft Word.

    Create a flyer in PDF format that could be used at the resort to let guests know that tours were available that day. I cheated: I used one of the Templates that came with Word 2011 (which I’m still using on my Mac). I already had pictures; I just had to put in the text and make it fit. It took about 30 minutes to complete and I had to make one change after sending it to Cave B’s manager. They’ll print it out on a color printer and, hopefully, put one in each room on Friday.

  • Use Square‘s item feature to set up an item for the tours so I could easily charge passengers for the flights and sell them online. I’ve been experimenting with online sales lately as a tool to get impulse buyers to buy in advance in certain predetermined time slots. So setting up the item also required me to set up the time slots and then create an inventory feature to prevent me from overselling a time slot. This took another 30 minutes or so. This had to be done before I finished the flyer so I could include the URL in the flyer.
  • Use bit.ly to create a custom short URL for Flying M Air’s online store. No one could remember the regular URL; maybe they can remember bitly.com/FlyingMAir. This took about 5 minutes. Of course, this also had to be done before the flyer was done so the URL could be included.
  • Tour Announcement
    Here’s the top part of the web page I created to announce the special event.

    Create a “blog post” on Flying M Air’s website (which was built with the WordPress CMS) to announce the event, provide details, and include the link for buying tickets. Once the post was published, I had to go back and add a featured image so it would appear in the slideshow of items at the top of the Home page. I also had to add an expiration date so that it would stop appearing as a “special” on the site after July 2 at 5 PM. Doing all this took at least another 30 minutes. My WordPress site is designed to automatically post a link to new items on Twitter for both Flying M Air and my own personal account, so at least I didn’t have to fiddle with Twitter.

  • Create a new event on Facebook for the Cave B Tours. That meant using pretty much the same photo, description, and link I’d put in the flyer in a Facebook form. Because Facebook requires a “Category” for each event and they’re not very creative with the category names, there’s now a “Festival” at Cave B that day. (Sheesh.) This took at least another 20 minutes.
  • Share the event with my friends on Facebook. Why not, right? Five minutes.
  • Post details on Cave B’s Facebook page for the event. I got lazy and put in a screen shot of the flyer. 5 minutes.
  • When I realized that I could probably sell the flight to and from Cave B that I’d have to deadhead for the event, I created a “Be Spontaneous” special offer on Flying M Air’s website, offering up the roundtrip flight for half price: $272.50. That’s less than my cost and a real smoking deal for anyone who wants two great helicopter flights and six hours at Cave B. (I’m thinking lunch, tasting, and a hike.) This took about 30 minutes.
  • I also had to set up an item in Square for this offer so I could make it easy to charge for or sell it online. No special URL was required, but I did have to put the link to the item in Flying M Air’s online store in the special offer post. Twenty minutes.
  • While I was fiddling with my website, I checked the Special Offers category and discovered a whole bunch of expired offers. So I recategorized them as Expired Offers. Then I spent some time adding a subscription form to the Special Offers page and made sure that page appeared in the slider at the top of the Home page. Anyone who subscribes automatically gets new posts by email; this is a great way to learn about special offers as they become available. I know I spent at least an hour on this.

Of course, while I was working on this, I was also taking calls from a potential client (in the U.K., of all places), texting back and forth with photographers that could help me close a deal with her, and writing reminders for the other things I needed to do at my desk: order wall mount display cabinets from Ikea, choose a garage door opener option (after researching the three options), and send out invitations for a outing on my boat the next day. So I wasn’t 100% focused on the tasks at hand.

I was only mildly surprised when I looked up after that last task and saw that it was after 1 PM.

The whole morning was shot. (No wonder I was hungry.)

But this is typical when I sit in front of my computer — and is why I spend a lot less time in front of my computer these days. Business tasks need to be done and I’m the one that has to do them. It’s a fact of life and I’m not complaining. Just trying to point out that marketing a business isn’t as easy as putting up a website and waiting for the phone to ring — especially with so much social media to deal with.