Sunday, January 20, 2013

7 Social Media Trends for Consumers

I recently came across an article on the trends in social media. Little surprise to most of us small business owners - the research shows social media is becoming more and more important to business. As a way to reach customers and potential customers where they are, social media may be the new customer service and research hotlines!

I’ve summarized the research findings in this blog – if you’re interested in the details, click to access the complete article.

7 Social Media Trends for Consumers: New Research

#1: More Time Invested in Mobile

Consumers are increasingly looking to their smart phones and tablets to access social media. 2012 saw a 63% increase over to 2011 activity.

#2: Pinterest Usage Continues to Rise

Pinterest is the most visited social media site. More importantly to businesses though is that 1 in 5 Pinterest users has pinned an item that they later purchased. In the social world, this is a high conversion rate.

#3: Social Networking = Positive Sentiments

76% of participants said they experienced positive feelings after engaging in social networking. Some of the words used to describe how they felt were: informed, energized, excited, connected and amused.

#4: Twitter Drives Social TV

A third of active Twitter users tweeted about TV-related content. TV advertisers benefit from incorporating hashtags or tweetable sound bites in their TV commercials. Encouraging Twitter activity prolongs the conversation about brands beyond the TV and generates word-of-mouth marketing.

#5: Social Care is the New Customer Care

The study revealed that one in three social media users prefers social care to contacting a company by phone. Gives businesses a reason to be active on our social media sites!

#6: Mixed Feelings about Social Ads

33% of people surveyed find ads on social networks to be annoying. However, 26% are likely to pay attention to an ad posted by a friend so if you can get someone to like, share or comment, you have a better in.

#7: Social Listening a Key Consumer Activity

Consumers are using social media to listen and learn about other consumers’ experiences (70%); find more information about brands, products and services (65%); and compliment brands (53%). No question that we trust our friends opinions more than traditional ads. In person and online.

Monday, January 14, 2013

My Gym - Great Classes, Instructors, Facility

We have a great group of moms who review all things family for us - this month our mom reviewer and her kids tried out My Gym.  Check out their fun findings on our FAMILY Magazine website!

My Gym:  a Great Time with the Kids !

Winter is the busiest season at My Gym because it is a great indoor location for children to get exercise when the weather outside is often frightful. Recently, my three children and I previewed two of the many different classes My Gym offers at their Potomac, MD location.

When selecting classes, I appreciated the wide variety and times available. I wanted one for my three year old who hasn’t done any type of preschool or class before and one where we could all attend, and I was pleased to find that there were classes just right for those requirements.

The day we went to the class for my three year old there were several other families having a preview class as well, so there were 16 children between the ages of three and four in the class! It was noisy and busy, but an extra instructor was on the floor with the children to keep the teacher/student ration down.

I liked that the class included whole group instruction and activity, times when the kids could choose what they wanted to do in the room full of fun equipment, and small group instruction where one teacher was working with five or six students (this ratio would normally be a little smaller, but we were there on an unusually busy day.)

My three year old loved the activities, especially standing on a low trapeze and swinging. When the children had free play I noticed that the ball pit was a popular area, as was the trampoline. I loved watching my daughter’s face as she raced around and played.

The one thing I would change was the amount of sitting time the children had while the teachers worked with one child at a time, although I imagine on a normal class day with a smaller class this sitting time would be shorter.

The My Gym facilities are not huge, but full of great equipment. A back room stores more equipment and hands-on items which the teachers brought out, used with the children and rotated several times with the students.

There are two bathrooms (and the one we entered had a changing table too). The lobby where students remove their shoes is separated from the gym floor by a short wall so parents can stay and watch their older children. Classes for younger children are designed for parents and children to participate together.

One big draw for me as a parent of multiple children whose ages cover several years was the sibling/multi-age class. This class is designed with two teachers who do whole group activities and also activities for the older kids and ones for the younger children. In the class we attended there were two crawling babies, so the instructors brought out walking and baby toys.

Some activities were perfect for everyone, a favorite being swing time. My Gym has many ropes securely attached to the ceiling where the instructors can hang equipment like a trapeze, rings, and swings. For our class they had baby swings for the little ones, flat swings and ones with seatbelts for the older kids and even a doughnut swing.

The instructors did a good job of keeping things moving, changing activities frequently and having fun with the children. One thing I loved was that there are male and female instructors. This was important to me because I want my son to have positive male role models outside of our family, and I could tell that he immediately connected with the male instructor who made my son laugh and feel comfortable in class.

I would definitely recommend My Gym to friends, and may sign my own children up for classes in the future. My Gym offers sibling discounts and does birthday parties (starting from $89 - a great deal!). I know my kids would love a party at My Gym…they keep talking about all of the fun things they did there.

Go for locations and details.


 Updated Facility/Equipment 5 
 Cleanliness 5
 Instructor 5
 Appropriate Safety Procedures 5
 Appropriate Class Size/Ratio 4
 Convenient Parking 5
 Affordable 4
 I would take another class yes
 I would recommend to a friend yes
 Overall Rating 5

All ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest.

Meet the Reviewer!

Janice Richardson is an elementary
school teacher turned stay-at-home
mom of three energetic little ones,
ages 4, 3 and 10 months. She enjoys
playing with her family, being outdoors,
and eating chocolate. Janice runs an etsy
where she makes and sells preschool
activities made from felt. One of her
goals is to someday visit each of the
50 states and each continent.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Must Know Vaccine Tips for our Pets

We thank Dr. Jan Castro of the Banfield Pet Hospital in Falls Church, VA for these great tips on keeping our furry family members healthy!

We keep close track of our kids' vaccinations at those yearly visits to the pediatrician. Following vaccination schedules for our pets is just as important to keep our furry friends healthy. Veterinarians have schedules similar to those we're used to for the kids - with shots at certain ages, "core" vaccines for most dogs and cats, along with additional care for issues specific to individual animals.

We know vaccines help the immune system fight infection and protect against certain diseases. As with kid vaccines, many highly contagious and potentially deadly diseases can be avoided with a proper pet vaccination plan. Widespread use of vaccines within the last century has played a significant role in enabling our pets to live longer and healthier lives.

We need to be sure to set up appointments with the vet just like we do with the pediatrician. Based on a pet's lifestyle, age and health status, our veterinarian will help us make the best decisions regarding vaccine choices and timing.

Typically, a veterinarian will recommend a core group of vaccines for just about all pets. Puppies and kittens are subject to different diseases and have different protocols. Here's what to expect at the vet visit for core immunizations:

DOG Vaccines:

DAPP (Distemper/Parvo/Parainfluenza and Hepatitis): 6-8 weeks, repeated every 2-4 weeks for a total of 4 doses. Revaccinate in a year, and then every 3 years.

Leptospirosis: 10-12 weeks, booster in 2-4 weeks. Revaccinate yearly.

Bordetella: 6-8 weeks, booster in 2-4 weeks. Revaccinate yearly (every 6 months in high exposure risk dogs).

Rabies: 14-16 weeks. Revaccinate in a year, and then every 3 years.

CAT Vaccines:

Feline Distemper (Calicivirus/Panleukopenia/Rhinothracheitis): 8 weeks, repeated every 2-4 weeks for a total of 3 doses. Revaccinate in a year, then every 3 years.

Rabies: 14-16 weeks. Revaccinate in a year, then every 3 years.

Feline Leukemia (for outdoor cats): 10-12 weeks, booster in 2-4 weeks. Revaccinate yearly.

Both dogs and cats may also need some specific vaccines based on their history or environment. The veterinarian may recommend our dogs be vaccinated against Lyme Disease, Influenza, Corona, and Porphyromonas. Our cats may need vaccines for FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) and indoor cats may benefit from protection from Feline Leukemia.

As with our kids, these recommendations may not fit all pets' needs. The types of vaccines, a pet's age, and the shots already given can affect a pet's immunity. We need to follow our veterinarians' recommendations to help ensure our special pets live long, healthy lives.

Dr. Jan Castro is a veterinarian with Banfield PetHospital located in Falls Church. You can reach him at 703-237-5610 or by email at


To find a Banfield Pet Hospital in the DC Region:

For recommendations, requirements, and side effects:

Some great resources for those healthy pet questions:

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Times are a-Changin'. FAMILY Magazine's welcome to 2013!

Each month, I write a Mom Blog for our FAMILY Magazine. You can find our magazine in print all over the DC area - and online! Just click here to enjoy this month's issue.

My Mom Blog for January I've shared below. We're proud of what we're doing with the Magazine in 2013!

Good Times, Bad Times…

The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Bob Dylan

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

When I learned the late Steve Jobs was a big fan of Bob Dylan, I wasn’t surprised. When Jobs was fired from Apple, he was devastated. He went home and played the second verse of The Times They Are A-Changin’ over and over again. We’ll never know if the song inspired his comeback, but the lyrics seem a prediction of his future. If ever a “loser”, Jobs certainly had one of the greatest business comebacks of all time - “later to win.”

It’s been almost fifty years since Dylan wrote about social change, politics, civil rights, rebellious kids, music, and new waves of thought and expression. No matter what generation we belong to, Dylan’s observations fit. As the saying goes, the more things change the more they stay the same….

For better AND worse, our world is always changing and growing. So in the tradition of New Year’s resolutions, January is the perfect time to evaluate what’s changed in 2012 and how we want to grow in 2013.

The 2013 world for FAMILY Magazine is all about embracing technology and enhancing our readers’ experience with our content. We’ll still be there for you as the trusty print magazine you find around town, but you can also find us on the web, via smart phone or tablet, on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, email news. We expect Internet television to be the next breakthrough in media – and we’ll be sure to represent there as well. Many say the advances over the coming decade will dwarf what is available now. We’re doing what we can to be ready for whatever the “next big thing” is.

FAMILY Magazine is off to a great start for 2013. Our three Camp FAIRS are almost sold out and are always GREAT resources (and a lot of fun!) for kids and their parents. See page 47 to read about the FAIRS at Tysons Corner Center, downtown Bethesda, and Montgomery Mall. Along with our Camp FAIRS, we will be holding several more family focused events throughout the year. Even with all the technology that claims to bring us closer, our favorite way to meet our readers is face to face!

Things are a-changin’ here at FAMILY Magazine. Some of the things to watch for in 2013…
  • We’ve improved our Website to make it easier and faster to find us on the Internet. 
  • We have a video about FAMILY Magazine airing on WASN TV. 
  • We’re sponsoring network events produced by the great Redskin Doc Walker
  • We’re developing a series of seminars for small business that take advantage of our power team of advertising professionals. 
  • Our “Moms’ Reviews &Tips” are growing by leaps and bounds with over 90 reviews about books, products, restaurants, and more. 
  • We hired a fellow mom to conduct a continual delivery audit to ensure our magazine makes it into your hands every month. 
Along with our change and growth, FAMILY will also remain the same. For over twenty years, no matter how we reach our readers, we operate with the simple goal of helping parents raise their kids in this crazy DC area. We’re here to help you find the resources you need to make your job just a bit easier.

Finding those resources is easier today than ever. We love being able to connect with our readers on Facebook and Twitter in addition to face-to-face events. Even with our strong digital presence, our print magazine has never been picked up faster than it is right now, and our distribution is very strong.

So keep in touch however it best works for you! We’d love to meet you at a Camp Fair. I promise not to bore you too much with stories about my four kids and their camp experiences. I would love it if you’d take a picture with me so we can put it up on Facebook so we can share with other moms.

It seems 2013 may be “a-year a-changin’” for all of us. One thing will never change for us though. We’re here for you as a trusted resource to support you in the most important job ever - parent.

To a prosperous new year!