Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How To Use Social Media to Become a Better Parent

A few years ago, I got a new Blackberry phone. I’m a big fan of those smart phones! My previous Blackberry had breathed its last breath and it was time to get a new one.  As the new phone arrived and I was getting used to it, I saw the Facebook application pre-installed on it. I was so upset!

I got on the phone and called the service provider to complain that they pre-installed this social network application on my phone. “I don’t do social networking,” I said, “Tell me how to get rid of it!” The representative told me that it comes with the device so I couldn’t uninstall it. But I could just ignore it and use only the applications I find useful. I got off the phone annoyed that they were trying to get me into social networking.
Fast-forward the clock to today and here’s the life of Rodrick Walters – as I write this, I have over 1,400 Facebook friends, over 300 fans of the Upbeat Dad Facebook page, over 600 followers on Twitter and we’re rapidly approaching 10,000 pageviews on this blog. I mean, I only launched the Upbeat Dad just under 4 months ago. Not bad for a guy who hates social networking huh?
So what happened between these two extremes? How can a guy who hated social networking become such a dedicated professional at it now? Well, here’s what happened:
I always heard others talk about social networking and how they got in touch with people from high school and other points in their lives. My view was that the people I need to be in touch with, I am already in touch with by email or phone. My sister joined Facebook and was trying to convince me of the rewards of that kind of networking. I wasn’t interested at all. At the time I was a small business owner trying to grow an accounting practice. The last thing I needed was a new time-consuming tool to waste my time – or so I thought.

But here’s the thing – anyone who knows me well can attest to the fact that my greatest passion is making a difference in the lives of others through the mediums of speaking and writing. Since 1995, I have had a vision to impact the lives of other around the world in a profound and meaningful way.
Accounting, to me, is good and it has afforded me the opportunity to earn a living since I graduated from the University of Texas in 1993. But, even though I still do practice accounting and do tax returns, I have never been convinced that it is what I was born to do. I have been professionally trained to do it and I think I do it well. But my passions really lie elsewhere – in seeing and meeting people and touching their lives through inspiration and motivation. I do touch people’s lives through accounting and it has opened many doors for me but though I get a thrill from helping people to reduce their tax liability, I get a greater thrill from helping others to realize their purpose in life.

A friend and mentor of mine was visiting South Florida from the Cayman Islands. We had a conversation over lunch about where I am on my path to success. I told of my continued dreams and aspirations and he said to me, “Rodrick, why aren’t you on Facebook? That’s the wave of the future. And especially since you want to do motivational speaking and writing, what better place is there to develop an audience? There are millions of people all over the world on it every day.”

Those words got me thinking. I thought about how I had another blog that I had started. It was about general motivational topics. And to me, the content was pretty good. But guess what? I had no vehicle in place to drive traffic to it. So each day, I consistently had 3 readers – yes 3. And I was one of them!
I decided that I’d bite the bullet and go the social networking route but I really didn’t have time to waste - remember I was trying to grow a business.  What’s transpired over the past 2-3 years has been simply magical and amazing! I’ve developed the audience that I’’ve been seeking since the mid ‘90s. I pretty much became transparent and shared who I am – listening to others, sharing my thoughts on subjects and engaging in productive dialogue.
This was great – and before long, I shut down my other blog because to me, I was sharing the same information but now on Facebook. And that social network is a dominant force on a global scale! A client of mine now even calls me, “Mr. Facebook!”
Then came The Upbeat Dad – and oh, what a ride it’s been so far! With the blog, the Facebook page and the Twitter account, the Upbeat Dad is really making an impact on a global level. One of the greatest thrills for me is that I get to connect with others who are like-minded. We share experiences on a daily basis through our blogs, tweets and other such messages. I have gotten innumerable ideas from simply interacting with others dads and moms.
I have on-going dialogue each day with people across the world – on practically every continent. I get ideas on parenting that I haven’t thought of previously. And I share my perspective on different matters. And it’s all productive and life-enhancing. To me, as long as we are breathing, there’s always the opportunity to learn something new. And with the speed of the internet, messages as far away as Australia literally come to me in seconds. The world has really become a small place thanks to the internet and the power of social media!
Chris Singer and Rodrick Walters
Just last week, I had the awesome privilege of having face to face meetings with two different colleagues from the social media world who visited the Miami area. One was Chris Singer, owner of Book Dads. He was here from Michigan with his family. He will be featured this Friday as our Upbeat Dad of the Week. His is an awesome story as he helps both authors and parents through the books reviewed on his website. I'm also a contributor on that project. Make sure you catch his inspiring story this Friday!

Dr. Barbara Greenberg and Rodrick's wife and kids
The other was Dr.Barbara Greenberg, a clinical pyschologist from New York. Co-author of Teenage as a Second Language, she was here for a book-signing. Her organization is Talking Teenage. Hers is also an awesome story as she travels, making a difference by helping parents communicate better with their teens. My daughter is a pre-teen (12) so the message is certainly relevant to me!

I took my wife and kids to meet them both and we really had a wonderful time. They were even more impressive in person than online. But without the online interaction, there is absolutely no way we would have established a connection.
One of the more beautiful aspects of social media is that, for the most part, it’s free. Yes, F-R-E-E - at least for the consumers. Advertisers take care of the costs. So everybody wins – the social media company gets paid advertising dollars, advertisers reach their target audience and consumers use the tools that they need and have the opportunity to get the products made available by advertisers. How powerful a concept is this?
I can really say that social media has opened my previously closed mind to great possibilities. Now I can see a clear path for me to share this message on a larger scale than ever. I’m a dreamer – and I dream big dreams! Will I end up on the Oprah Winfrey Show? At the White House? Buckingham Palace? Who knows. I only know that I’m loving every minute of this ride! And the beautiful thing is that the cause is way bigger than me – it’s about sharing the positive message that kids deserve to have loving, caring fathers who are active in their lives.
As we’re getting ready to launch the public event part of our vision with the Upbeat Dad Community Forum in two weeks, I’m excited that finally I can begin making some headway into establishing and contributing to charitable causes around the world. I have made contributions before but not to the extent that I’m about to embark on. The earthquake in Haiti, for instance, has uprooted the lives of so many. And there are orphans left to wonder if there is any hope. Single mothers all over the world find it hard to make ends meet. Fathers die in war and families are left shattered. And the list goes on.
Some of the tenets that guide my life are “to whom much is given, much is required” and “with great power comes great responsibility.” I do not take lightly the privilege that I have been given to have this platform. Lives all over the world are hanging in the balance. Mine was such a life several years ago as I was in turmoil going through a divorce. I wish I found an organization such as this to encourage me through that difficult period.
Remember the song, “It’s a small world afterall?”Well, with social media leading the way, ours has indeed become a very small world. We can stand back and let the train move without us. Or we can get on the train and make the most of the ride. We have the opportunity to learn from others as well as to share with others the lessons that have guided us as we all seek to become better parents.

I encourage you to join our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter. There’s always something fresh, exciting and new. And believe me when I say that this is only the beginning – in the grand scheme of things, we really haven’t started anything yet. The best is yet to come! And as I always say, it’s not about me in any way – it’s about our children and being the very best we can be for them.

I also encourage you to utilize the different social media tools or other tools to share your own unique message with others. My view is that if only one person is impacted by something that we share, then the effort was worth every moment. Think about this and consider how you may share your gifts with the world.
Have an exceptional day!
The Upbeat Dad


  1. Hi Rodrick,

    Great article. You're making great strides with Upbeat Dad. Keep up the great work :-)

  2. really interesting read. thanks so much