Sep 24, 2009

Social Media, More Specifically

A few weeks ago, I posted some thoughts about social media. We're all told social media is popular, useful, and important, but how do we actually use it??

Each morning, and multiple times a day when I'm not checking email or managing our website, I check my Twitter and Google Reader. These are essential tools in participating in the social media conversation happening all over the world, plus they make it easy for me to connect with topics and people that are related to what I do at Kar-Ben.

Google Reader is a lifesaver and time saver. Ever wonder how avid blog-readers keep track of all their favorite blogs? They subscribe to the blogs' RSS feeds, meaning they are notified whenever the blog is updated.

Here's a brilliant video about RSS feeds and what they do:

Google Reader is a tool to create your own "digest" of blogs. Go to and start your free account. Then add subscriptions to your favorite blogs. For example, if you'd like to be automatically notified every time we update the Kar-Ben blog, click the pull-down menu at the top right corner under "Subscribe To." Or copy and paste this URL to your Google Reader: That's a link to our RSS feed. Now you can easily bookmark your favorite blogs and be notified of when they're updated. (If you're feeling confident with your Google Reader skills, consider reading this post from Chris Brogan, who is a pro at social media communications.)

Check out the links over there in the right column for blogs we like, including the Lerner Books Blog. Here's an informative post for social media users (aimed at authors but useful for people outside of the industry.)

I'm least familiar with Twitter, but I'm slowly learning how useful it can be. Users tweet short messages, updates, and links. You might think it's a waste of time, but using only 140 characters per tweet forces users to get to the point pretty fast. Links are easy to pass on from one user to another. By glimpsing at what users are talking about, I can quickly connect with organizations and people related to my main interests, including books (specifically children's), education, and Jewish organizations and people. If you're looking to see if Twitter is right for you, check out their search page. Enter in the last book you read, the city you live in, or keywords relating to a question or subject you're curious about. If you find yourself clicking user's profiles and wanting to see more of what they have to say, I'd tell you to start your own account. Especially since tomorrow is Follow Friday, a day when users traditionally recommend other users to follow. Twitter's own, "if you follow me, you might enjoy following these other users."

But you don't have to take my word for it. Also check out Jewish Publication Society's The Jewish Non-Profit Guide to Social Media Marketing and the Book of Life's Why Be Social podcast.

Sep 16, 2009

Happy New Year 5770

To all our authors and illustrators, customers and friends around the world, best wishes for a sweet, happy, healthy and peaceful new year. In Minnesota the leaves have begun to turn. When we build our sukkah in two weeks, it will have cornstalks on the roof. We buy our cornstalks from a local farmer who comes to the farmer's market every year with his load of cornstalks, gourds and other sukkah-friendly material. The trouble was that he could never quite figure out why when he shlepped a few cornstalks one week he would have customers wanting to by dozens, so he'd then bring dozens the next week and nobody would want any.

The year he mentioned this to me, I explained to him that there was indeed a method to the madness, and I gave him a little Kar-Ben Mini Jewish Calendar and circled the following year's pre-Sukkot weekend so he'd know exactly which weekend the Jews would be wanting their cornstalks -- that weekend and no other. I also invited him to our sukkah party so he could see what-the-heck (his words) we were using all those cornstalks for.

And so a friendship was born. He comes to our sukkah party every year bringing gifts of honey or eggs or broomcorn from his farm, and we provide him with a mini calendar every year so he knows when Sukkot is. So now my plug for Kar-Ben calendars -- buy them and give them to your non-Jewish neighbors, teachers and others. They're great, they promote cultural understanding, and you may make a new friend.

Shanah tovah!

Sep 9, 2009

Back to School!

I'm sure I'm not the only adult who misses going back to school. On my way to work, I pass busses full of chatty kids on their way to school; I'm tempted to add new pencils and folders to my cart at Target; and my teacher friends are saying goodbye to summer and gearing up for a new year.

Luckily, things are cyclical for me here at Kar-Ben. As the seasons change, I have new books to promote and with Rosh Hashanah less than two weeks away, a whole new year of holidays begin.

So, what's new at Kar-Ben? I'm so glad you asked!

For those heading back to school, check out the latest Sammy Spider adventure, Sammy Spider's First Day of School, which marks many firsts for Sammy. It's his first time in a classroom and the first time he's acknowledged by Josh Shapiro, the little boy he's been living near all these years. This book also teaches youngsters about the importance of kindness to animals (an important lesson even for those out of school!)

I've heard that some schools start as early as 7:15 (which I imagine isn't easy for a lot of parents and kids). If your family has trouble getting up and motivated in the morning, I recommend Rabbi Joe Black's new book Boker Tov! Good Morning! It's based on his original song about starting the day off right. It's full of energy and great to play when you're getting ready or in the car to school or day care.

I'm also excited about our word books for kids and grown-ups. My First Hebrew Word Book and the new My First Yiddish Word Book each include over 150 words with English translations and transliterations. You're never too old to learn a new language! Here's a preview of My First Yiddish Word Book to get you started: