Bigger, Better Things

I’ve been a little busy lately, but I have a good excuse: I’m moving. Not moving like two-doors-down kind of moving, but I’m picking up and moving from Washington, DC to Chattanooga, TN.

If you’re wondering why a digital media professional would leave a big city like DC for a southern mountain town like Chattanooga (population: 167,674 as of the 2010 census), here are a few reasons:

  • Bigger is not always better. This is something that I’ve heard come up a number of times in interviews lately, both referring to the market and to the size of their business. Smaller markets can be untapped gold mines of opportunity. Small businesses in these markets still need good people to help them grow and navigate these digital media waters.
  • Chattanooga is positioning itself brilliantly to attract smart young talent. Not only does it have naturally gorgeous scenery and outdoor activities, but it has the fastest internet in the country. Check out this initiative to attract entrepreneurs.
  • Chattanooga is bringing in some of the coolest parts of DC, like food trucks and a bikeshare program that even uses the same bikes DC’s Capital Bikeshare does.

So even though my move is technically to a smaller place, it’s on to bigger, better things for me. I’m excited to become a part of such an exciting growing city. (And maybe get a dog.)



January’s Ridiculous Prize Goes to…Wedding Media

Wedding media (also called “bridal,” because you know it’s geared toward women) is a particular niche of media, both digital and print, that I’ve gotten a large dose of lately. Out of all the things out there that could have crossed the line (a silver bubble wand from Barneys as a bridesmaid favor! A “budget” post with a sentence that starts with “If your heart is set on serving caviar,”!) the one that did it for me was an ad that came on Pandora. I can’t remember which jewelry company it was for, but it ended with the phrase, “Because you shouldn’t have to compromise when it comes to your engagement ring.”

It’s hard for me to put into words the way that makes me feel, but it is some combination of blind rage, sadness at the state of our culture, and insane laughter at how ridiculous that is. But this is where it all starts: marketing aimed toward women and girls before they even get engaged that makes no bones about telling them that they should have everything they ever wanted, cost be damned. That kind of message carries on throughout all wedding media, whether it’s directly from a company trying to sell you a ring/dress/venue/cake or not.

For the record: YOU MAY HAVE TO COMPROMISE. ON A LOT OF THINGS. When you’re planning a wedding, but also just in your relationship in general. That’s life, ladies.

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Social Media: More Than Tweeting About What’s For Dinner

I just had a really fascinating conversation with Patrick Pho, local social media guru and We Love DC author, and one of the many topics we covered was the perception that working with social media for your job means that you get paid to play around on Facebook and tweet about whatever. Which I already do, so why not get paid for it, right?

Unfortunately, no. What using social media in a professional setting requires is some understanding of traditional PR tactics, because social media is really just a tool. You need some content and strategy behind it in addition to understanding how it works. Both elements are equally important, as many old school PR pros are finding when they bring the ideas but their tweets come off as wooden and robotic.

What’s happening here is that communications/marketing is changing. Smart companies are using it to their advantage, and slow companies are still thinking social media is a fad, but they should probably have a Facebook account. Just because. But they’ll come around once they see that their traditional press release blasts aren’t getting the traction they used to, and the publicity value attached to newspaper articles is steadily declining.

In any case, whether you’re a personal social media user or doing it professionally, the bottom line is: under no circumstances should anyone be tweeting about their dinner.


Lions and Tigers and SOPA, Oh My!

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, SOPA (The Stop Online Piracy Act) is the internet’s favorite bad guy. Everyone is really freaking out about this bill–it was designed to combat digital piracy, but people are worried that it’ll do everything from kill the internet to censor free speech.

The latest news is that some really popular sites (Wikipedia and even CHEEZBURGER NETWORK! Gasp. Although good riddance to reddit, the feyonce’s favorite distraction) are going dark on Wednesday to protest the bill. If everyone didn’t know about the bill before, they will now, which makes it a brilliant publicity tactic. Kids who never cared about what was going on in Congress suddenly are twisting their hands over their favorite sites going down, and those sites are quick to point a finger at SOPA.

I just don’t get what everyone is so worked up about. Yes, SOPA hasn’t quite gotten it right. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be the end of everything we know and love, unless those things we love voluntarily remove themselves. At the end of the day, piracy is still a problem for content-producing industries, and the laws haven’t caught up to the technology. Congress should try again, and the internet needs to calm down already.

A Demand for Web Content…Without Paying for It

I’m visiting my friend Kristin in Miami this week, and last night we were at the Recycle IT happy hour chatting about social media and the copywriting services The Found Gen offers. Kristin and I found ourselves talking to people who realized they had a need for better websites/web copy/social media presence, but they cringed at the idea of paying for those services.

There is a certain democracy to the internet that is both a good thing and a bad thing. Anyone can sign up for their very own blog/Twitter/Facebook account, but then they have a problem: what do I say? Does anyone care about what I had for dinner? How do I find time to populate all these content streams?

If you’re running a business (or running for office), there’s much more pressure to have a successful online presence. If you’re not a naturally talented writer or quick to pick up new technology, or if you’re just short on time, that’s when you need to hire someone who has those skills you lack. It’s no different from any other skill, besides that it’s relatively new. It’s tempting to think your IT guy can write successful copy, because why not? But at a certain point, you need to look at what’s working and what’s not and make some tough decisions to succeed in the digital world.

The Power of Strangers on the Internet

While it is possible to only interact with people you know on social media, the reality is that there are a lot of strangers on the internet. There are bad strangers (like stalkers and chatroom bad guys) but every once in a while, you hear about some great things happening on the internet (or thanks to the internet) that kind of feel like magic.

What got me thinking about this was The Bloggess, who recently posted about her struggles with depression and self-harm. It was a super brave thing to do, and she acknowledged being scared, but she got such a huge outpouring of support that it sparked a silver ribbon movement and re-launched the traveling red dress (in which she sends a red dress to someone who needs a little fabulousness in their life, and they pass it on) phenomenon. That all happened basically by accident–one brave thing/blog post turned into strangers organizing and doing nice things for each other.

#bestof2010mix tracklist

I participated in the mixtape exchange (ooh, it’s happening again this year–deadline is tonight, so sign up if you’re into that!) last year, which was one little blogger’s brilliant brainchild: she has everyone send her their mailing address and she matches you up with a stranger for you to send a mix cd of your favorite tracks of the year to. I never got a cd from anyone (boo), but it was so fun making one for a girl in Chicago and later tweeting about it to the blogger and even the recipient of my cd!

On a more commercial level, Meg from A Practical Wedding turned blog followers into book consumers with a brilliant publicity campaign. She knew she had a ton of loyal readers and fans, but it’s often a challenge to get people who enjoy free, regularly updated content to buy the print, static version. Meg sent contributors advance copies and had them blog about the book, she blogged about writing the book, she organized a book buy on December 7 to make the book shoot up on the Amazon charts, she asked people to leave good reviews on the Amazon listing, and she launched a book tour after commenters promised they’d come see her. As someone who used to be a book publicist, this girl is a dream author. Talk about someone who makes your life easier.

Anyway, the point is that while the internet can be a big, anonymous place where jerks feel free to be comment trolls, it can also be a place full of awesomeness and a way to spread joy. I kind of love that.

The Very Public Nature of the Digital World

After a little break from blogging and tweeting, it’s surprising how much I’ve been feeling like my life is on display now. I feel kind of…naked.

I recently switched to Facebook Timeline, which put my whole life (since 2003, anyway) in convenient scrollable form. It wasn’t like there was anything new on there, but it was a nice reminder that not only have I voluntarily put all these photos and details on the internet, they don’t go away.

I’ve always been open to digital and social media trends–why not, right? And it’s pretty fun to see what your friends and frenemies are up to. However, I’m marrying a guy who is much less comfortable with putting himself and details of what he’s doing out on the internet. Kinda sucks for him though, because he’s such a big part of my life, he’s bound to be in pictures, tagged in posts, and mentioned on my blog.

The flip side of this is while it can seem like everyone’s looking at your personal stuff, when you’re doing social media for an organization, the goal is to get more people looking at you.  However, it often stops there. Yeah, your company has Twitter and Facebook accounts, but is your audience there? Who are you trying to reach, and what are your goals? How can you tell when you’ve reached your goals? Quantifying the impact of social media has always been tricky, but it helps to know from the outset what you’re trying to accomplish.

I actually prefer doing social media professionally, because there’s usually a steady stream of content that’s more concrete (and hopefully, interesting!). I also like that I can be a little more casual and funny than most other writing for work. But let’s be real, no organization is really ever going to make a real impact until they embrace catvertising.