I recently spoke at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA about the “grey areas” of gender and sexuality. The event was sponsored by the school’s FMLA student organization (a feminist leadership group), and we called the presentation, “Sex, Queers, and Finding Home.”

I mixed up the talk by telling my own story, talking about Genderfork, performing some spoken word pieces about queer identity, and answering questions. Thanks to Sheik (one of my Genderfork volunteers), I have some pretty decent footage from the event, which I’m excited to share.  (This is also one of my first ever attempts at video editing, so forgive the amount of time it took me to get it to you.)

Here’s me answering some questions about where Genderfork came from and how it’s working…

More telling stories and answering questions…

And here’s a spoken word poem that (sort of) clarifies my sexual orientation:

More spoken word…

The last two pieces on the list are marked “not safe for work” because they talk about sex.  This means you probably shouldn’t play them loudly at your office.  It ALSO means that if you would rather I didn’t tell you about my sex life, you probably don’t want to watch them at all.  Family members and professional colleagues: I’ll let you make your own call here. I’m including them because they were relevant to the talk.

The night was a LOT of fun with a great audience that was so wonderfully engaged it was humbling. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

And speaking of which… if anyone else would like to lure me out to a microphone somewhere, please send me an email: info at sarahdopp dot com.

(note: if you don’t see two youtube videos embedded in this post, try reloading the page. thanks.)

I’ve been quietly rolling an interesting comparison around in my head for a few months now, and lately it’s been dribbling out onto my work and my conversations. I take this to mean it’s probably time to blog about it, and to ask you to help me dissect it. Wanna have a go at it? Here’s my theory:

Social media consultants are a lot like therapists. Or at least, they should be. Or they are if they’re doing their jobs well.

Or, put differently: when someone is looking for a social media consultant, what they really need is a social media therapist.

Here’s what I’m looking at so far…

1) Since having a social media presence is about reputation and relationships, it needs to be personal to the individual.  A consultant can’t just prescribe an approach and walk away.  The approach needs to be custom-tailored to fit the client’s personality and worldview, and the client needs to have a lot of say in the development of this fit.  Thus, one of the consultant’s biggest jobs is to ask the right questions, shut up and listen, and let the client find their own answers.

2) Having an effective social media presence is different from traditional marketing, and it’s also different from the ways we’ve been using the internet in the past.  So clients need to adjust to a new way of approaching things, and this adjustment takes time.  One of the most effective things a social media consultant can do is be available for regular, hour-long, therapy-like sessions in which the client talks about what they’re experiencing (feelings and all), and the consultant helps them separate out the useful thinking from the off-base stuff…. over and over again, until the client gets it.

3) Developing a social media presence has to be done gradually.  A client has to pay attention to what’s working and what’s not, listen to feedback from the community, and constantly refine their approach with little changes.  If a consultant plans on being around for regular sessions, the client has a regular schedule for examining the feedback they’re receiving and incrementally improving their approach.

4) The social media consulting model is in contrast to the web development consulting model, where you just build something and walk away until it needs to be updated.  It’s also in contrast to the idea that social media consultants exist to give expert advice — if clients think of them that way, they’ll only go to them with the big questions, and try to answer the little questions on their own.  But social media success is in the details, and it’s the little questions that will make or break an online presence. 

Working conclusion: Get over yourselves, consultants. You’re therapists. Deal with it. And do it right.

I’ll be speaking at Mountain Social, a gathering in the mountains of Georgia next fall where we’ll be discussing better uses of internet technologies (you should come!), and I’ve already proposed this as a topic I want to dig into further while I’m there. So I figure that gives me 5 months to figure out just how deep this rabbit hole goes.

What does it bring up for you?

On April 1st, I sent my whole extended family this letter:

Hey Everybody, Family I love,

I wanted to wait until it was totally official. I don't know why... It just seemed like if I told you in advance everyone would want to get on a plane, and things are rough in the economy right now so we don't need to be doing that... so maybe we can just celebrate this summer at the reunion, okay?

I got married.

OMIGOD I'M MARRIED!!!!!

AHHHHHH!!!!!!

Okay, I'm still running on the high. So sorry if this email isn't making much sense. It happened so fast. I met her in the garden store about a month ago (I know, so domestic, right?) and she's perfect, and she fixes all the part of me that are weird, and we're amazing together, and you're totally going to love her. We moved in together almost immediately... and I'm sorry I didn't tell you about it... i don't know, it's dumb, but part of me was afraid you'd judge me.

Anyway, we had to go to Canada to get married because it's not legal in California. Thank god Canadians understand that who we choose to love is as unique as our personalities. They treated us really well, and we got questioned a little at the border, but we only had to fill out one form, so that was cool.

Oh! Pictures! Here's one of us together:

http://sarahdopp.com/images/weddingphoto.jpg

Everyone says we're really cute together.

About her... she's young, ambitious (has been growing a lot lately), bright, cheerful, a little fresh sometimes. Gorgeous. Uhh.... I guess you'll have to meet her. This summer!

Anyway, love you all, and thank you so much for being the most supportive family in the world.

xoxo,
Sarah

My mother wrote back first with…

what a great wedding photo! I love it. Congratulations. and ..and and...don't DO THIS TO ME SARAH!!!!!

Love you,
Mom

My cousin followed generously with…

Would pruning sheers be considered a practical or an S&M-style wedding gift?

My uncle expressed his concerns:

Sarah,

Although I want you to know that I am very, very happy for you I have seen so many partnerships like this end with one partner complaining in tears that the other partner just sits there looking out the window and never talks, never wants to go anyplace, doesn’t share tastes in music, movies or even food. I know that your generation doesn’t want to hear my generation’s skepticism about “unconventional” relationships, but it’s just that we have seen so much heartbreak through the years.

I’m sure I speak for all your aunts and uncles when I say that we will support you now and always . . . no matter what happens.

But my aunt smoothed it over…

Sarah, Sarah, SARAH!! You look so happy together! As an energy practitioner, I just hope that she is well grounded and well rooted. I'm sending you one of those "food of the month" gifts to you and your beloved so be looking for Jobe's plant spikes coming in the mail soon. And yes, don't do that to your mother (and vicariously your AUNTS) again!

Excited about the fun responses, I passed the email around to several friends, including the man I’d been seeing lately. His response:

Sarah,

I always knew that you'd move on one day.

And I had heard about being cast aside via email.

This was so abrupt.

sadly...

He’ll move on. He’ll be okay. …right?