#Hashtag of the Week 3

Now that I’m back from a holiday and my house hasn’t been broken into, I can confess that a trip has been the reason for my silence.  I had fully planned to blog while away (at least one article), but WordPress doesn’t work too well on the iPad.  Besides, I was in Florida to enjoy the sunshine, not to sit in the hotel blogging!  But now I’m back and it’s time to look at the #hashtag of the week.

Screen Shot 2013-02-11 at 7.23.55 PMLast week, #beattheflu was trending in Canada, and I thought it would be interesting to see what public health-related Twitter feeds were saying about it.  It turned out not to be anything to do with public health, but a clever Twitter marketing cooperation between @naturallysavvy and @AVogel_ca. NaturallySavvy.com bills itself as a “guide to natural, organic and green living.” They have 8,615 followers on Twitter, and they use their website to promote organic and/or natural products and brands.  A. Vogel is a producer of natural, plant-based remedies for stress, insomnia, flu, weight loss, etc.  Judging from their relatively short Twitter feed, A. Vogel has been on Twitter only since the end of last year.

The #beattheflu conversation, hosted by Naturally Savvy, invited followers to ask questions about flu prevention or dealing with the flu.  Naturopath and biochemist Josée Fortin, tweeting on behalf of A. Vogel, followed the conversation and would recommend A. Vogel products to help answer followers’ questions.  Naturally Savvy would then retweet or quote A. Vogel’s suggestions.  Two lucky tweeters were selected (I’m not sure how) to win an A. Vogel flu and cold buster kit, and the Twitter event was billed as informative and fun.  Simples!  All of Naturally Savvy’s followers were then made aware of A. Vogel’s wonderful new products.

I have to admit that I am skeptical about many products that are billed as “natural”.  Having learned much about the practice of greenwashing in a corporate social responsibility class (thanks, Dr. Leonidou!), I know that words like “natural” and “organic” have very different meanings in different countries and to different companies.  Brands liberally splash these words on their products, and in truth they actually mean very little.  Be that as it may, this is a clever strategy on A. Vogel’s part to use a perceived expert as a brand advocate.  These Twitter parties are a great form of word-of-mouth marketing, and A. Vogel is using Naturally Savvy’s power as an opinion leader quite cleverly.

Not only that, but they selected a hashtag that attracts attention.  North America is experiencing a particularly nasty flu season, and tweeting parents who are concerned about keeping their families flu-free are a large and lucrative market.  They are using a kind of fear appeal – that is, appealing to people’s anxiety about the flu and presenting their products as the “natural” solution.  The hashtag was well conceived and I would be curious to know how much A. Vogel’s sales have increased as a result, if at all.


I am having some technical difficulties with my devices and have limited access to the interwebs, which is why I have been FORCED into silence on this blog. However, I will soon be back and posting again.

This imposed hiatus has made me realize just how addicted to social media I am. Seriously, I’m a junkie and this cannot possibly be healthy. But rest assured that like a true addict as soon as my drug of choice is available again, I’ll be right back at it! (This is not to make light of addiction, which is a serious condition.)

See you soon, Internet! I love you!

Ice Skating and Failure

Yesterday was a beautiful, cold, typical Montreal winter day.  The sky was perfectly blue and the temperatures hit -12°C.  Chico and I decided to break out the ice skates we bought last year (and used maybe twice) and head to a nearby park to skate.

Park Lafontaine
Our Nearby Park

We laced ourselves into our skates and tentatively stood up and inched forward.  As always when first putting on skates, I am really, really, REALLY nervous.  It takes a while for me to get into the rhythm, and I skate with my eyes peeled on the ice in front of me, evaluating its state of smoothness and likelihood to trap me into a painful fall.

After a while, and feeling more adventurous, I picked up speed and got into a good gliding motion.  But then, I hit a rough patch.  The blades of my skates got caught in the choppy ice, and a law of inertia came into play: my upper body stayed in motion while an external force acted upon my feet.  My skates slowed and my torso kept moving and WHAM!  I ended up flat on my stomach, arms sprawled ahead and looking extremely undignified.

As soon as I stopped moving and was able to ascertain I wasn’t injured, I broke into a peal of giggles.  “So that’s what falling feels like?” I asked myself.  “Is that as bad as it gets??  Man, that was NOTHING!”  And I got up, dusted myself off and skated off, my whole body much more relaxed, less tense and more ready to enjoy the skating.

A friend once said that if you don’t fall over on a ski outing, you don’t learn anything.  That was certainly true of my ice skating excursion.  And it got me thinking about the value of failure.  We are often so terrified of failure.  But we fail (ha, get it?) to consider just how useful failure can be.  Rare are the cases when our failure will result in something horribly disastrous, physically painful or hurtful to someone else.  Most of the time, if we make a mistake or mess up, we will at worst embarrass ourselves, be humbled and perhaps a little humiliated.  But hey, that’s all a healthy, learning opportunity.

Falling flat on my stomach on the ice yesterday reminded me that I needn’t be afraid of failure.  That doesn’t mean I won’t try to avoid it, but I won’t be afraid of it.  I’ll probably mess some things up in the future, but hopefully I’ll be able to dust myself off and keep skating.