Zoom the Quarantine Lizard

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in my living room here in the suburbs of Charlotte, N.C. when I saw something move quickly out of the corner of my eye as I reached for my glass of water on my coffee table. My boyfriend, who was sitting next to me, didn’t notice whatever blur I saw. I asked him if he saw something and he said I probably have already been quarantined too long at a couple weeks in.

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A couple days later I found myself working from the very same couch and coffee table combo. This time, just a foot or so beyond the coffee table, I saw a brown lizard move scurry quickly from our rug to under our couch.

I screamed.

Not because I’m afraid of lizards (because I love them) but because I had no idea how to get the lizard back outside. Being from the suburbs of Chicago, lizard break-ins were not something I grew up knowing how to handle. So I screamed to my boyfriend. But, he did not hear me from his office upstairs.

I spent the next 20 minutes or so looking under our large sectional couch with the light from the back of my iPhone trying to locate our reptilian, unwanted houseguest. My boyfriend appeared behind me in the kitchen laughing asking what was I doing. After telling him:

  1. There’s a lizard in the house.
  2. I have no idea how to get it out.
  3. I told you so.

He took a few minutes to help me hunt the lizard taking up residence under our couch before having to go back upstairs since his work break was done.

I tried to go back to working as normal but I could not shake the idea of sitting innocently on the couch and a lizard just popping up on my shoulder like some strange quarantine comedy movie. Also, again, I love lizards so I was curious how it go in and if it was poisonous or not – with the latter being my MUCH larger concern.

I wondered to myself if poisonous lizards were a thing out here? I know snakes certainly are but lizards?

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I started to do research to identify what I saw. I identified my friend as a possibly five-lined skink but wasn’t entirely sure since I saw him zoom by so fast.

It was in that moment I decided to name it. Zoom. Appropriate because he moves fast and Zoom being such a hot new tool for quarantine for video conferences. What could possibly be more fitting?

Later that night we began our quest to capture and release our tiny intruder. As we ate dinner and watched TV, I noticed a suspicious little head poke out of the vents of the fireplace. We now knew where he was calling home. Every so often, this brave little reptile would put more and more of his body outside the vents to begin his escape. However, whenever one of us got up, he squeezed himself back in but still enough to give him a good view of the room.

This went on for hours. But he kept hiding faster than we could catch him. We went to bed and decided we would look for him again in the morning.

The next day, we found him still lurking just outside the fireplace in full view but he scurried back in. At one point, I scooted our large plotted plant near the fireplace to see if he would try and jump on it to get out. It almost worked as he would occasionally get out and inch himself ever closer to the plant but again. Every time we got up, he scurried back in.

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We eventually gave up thinking we would never catch him and settled with the idea that he would just live here.

About 20 minutes later, I got up to grab water from the kitchen and alas, that little sucker was hiding by the counter. We grabbed a box that we had placed nearby to catch him, scooped him up and let him outside to his freedom.

We thought we would never see him again. We grew attached to that obviously a little-too-smart lizard so his freedom was bittersweet.

But there is a happy ending for everyone for this story.

In the past week, we have discovered he has taken up residence under our sunroom. We often see him basking in the sun on the top step, just feet from where he broke in like Santa.

Now we hope for the day he just splits the difference and calls our sunroom home.

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Work in a Time of Quarantine

It’s been awhile since I last wrote in my blog. My address has changed. My job has changed. My experiences have changed. My whole life has changed.

Now throw in quarantine to mix things up.

I haven’t written in my blog since 2016. Now I find myself under a blanket, bored on my couch deciding it was time to start writing again. Oh yeah, and we’re in the middle of a national quarantine.

If you would have told me in the middle of February that we were just weeks away from the United States and most of the world being kept at home due to a life-threatening virus, I would have laughed and returned to my laptop to prepare for the first race of the INDYCAR season at St. Petersburg.

But the season never even started. The team traveled to Florida with excitement and months of preparation and game plans ready to go – all to pack it up and go home without ever going on-track.

It’s been more than a month since I’ve been in quarantine – along with most of the country.

My new normal is waking up in the morning and heading downstairs sleepy-eyed to brew a cup of coffee, followed by a pit stop to open up my computer. While I log in and finish checking my first batch of emails for the day, I hear the coffee finish brewing with Dolly Parton in my head singing about her “cup of ambition” as I take my first swig of my favorite vanilla macadamia coffee with a dash of sugar and good pour of vanilla almond milk creamer. Yes, I love vanilla flavoring in case you haven’t guessed.

From there, I begin my long day of working from my couch. I field email after email about interview requests, social media content ideas, updates on the series’ iRacing plan headed into the weekend, and whatever else the day brings.

I’ve traded my four-walled cube heavily lit by a wall of large windows for a giant couch with a more-than-I’m-comfortable-with dent from sitting in the same spot for so many hours. I still have a lot of light from windows at my house but instead of occasionally seeing fans, guests and other employees walking in and out of the building outside the window, I now have a parade of animal guests for my yard including a rather judgmental-looking rabbit that my boyfriend and I have dubbed, “Judgy Bunny.”

Ever seen a rabbit stand on its hind legs and stare back at you through your window? Well, that’s where the bunny’s name came from. It’s almost an adopted pet from our impeding and increasing quarantine-madness as we often watch and comment on the comings and goings of our odd furry friend.JudgyBunny

Remembering my list of tasks for the day, I proceed to knock out email after email. Instead of my daily chats with co-workers in person stopping by their cube or office, or them stopping by my cube, our primary forms of communication are replaced by an instant messenger messages, texts, emails and the occasional Zoom call to remind each other we all exist.

For hours, I type away and strain my eyes on my computer – because I’m stubborn and don’t want to wear my blue light blocking glasses. Occasionally I trade my eyes’ focus on my computer for my phone. I do quite a bit of research to see what other brands, teams, celebrities, etc. are doing on social media in hopes of inspiration to continue to keep our social media channels full of content that engages fans.

At the day’s end, my boyfriend comes down from his makeshift office upstairs and we plan our evening. We find ourselves beginning most evenings by cooking dinner and then deciding to watch something. We have been on a “Game of Thrones” kick as we have been knocking out episode by episode. While I have seen every episode, he is just seeing them all for the first time so it’s been fun to watch his reactions to the show’s craziest and most surprising moments.

Our weekends include watching iRacing for some of the series the team competes in with INDYCAR’s broadcast taking center stage on Saturday’s.

We have tried to make it a habit to take a daily walk when we have the time and try and stay active. We’ve completed a number of projects around the house that would have taken months to had we not been gifted this time of me not traveling. So that has been certainly a blessing in disguise.

For someone who has spent much of their career traveling here and there, with my current role including more travel than ever before until the past month, we have looked at our time as a gift. I have a friend who is a mommy blogger who wrote about that concept and I truly believe that is the best way to look at time under this crisis.

We are blessed to be healthy. Our families far away in other states but are also healthy. We are blessed to both be employed and be able to work at home. We are blessed to have a number of family and friends who check in on us, and we are happy to check on those friends and more in the same way. We’re blessed to afford our rent, bills, food and everything else we need right now. We are blessed to be in a nice, quiet and safe neighborhood that we love. We’re blessed to be in a relatively warm climate so when we do brave the crowds for groceries and other supplies, we don’t have to wear a jacket (although I insist covering up as much as possible). At the end of each day, we are blessed to be where we are in this moment and I try my best not to worry beyond today at a time where that is so difficult to do. There is no way of knowing what will happen next so I am learning to live in the moment like never before.

At some point, the quarantine will end. At some point sports will resume. Life will never be our former definition of normal but life will go on with whatever our new normal looks like.

Work is not what it used to be but my couch is quite comfy and I can wear literally anything I want to work (which now consists of yoga pants, an old t-shirt and a hoodie). I’d rather be in the rhythm of the season by now having spent a number of weekends at a racetrack with so many great people I am lucky to work with, friends in the industry and crowds of fans too large to count supporting our sport, but here I am excitedly waiting for the all-clear to return to the track and get back to racing.

While quarantine isn’t the most fun way to spend a month (so far), there have been some truly great things to appreciate and I am learning to do just that.

 

Top 5 Favorite Tools as a Social Media Marketer

You’ve probably been asked the following question at some point in your life:

“If you were going to be stuck on a desert island for a year and could only bring five things with you, what would they be?”

Well, I’m not planning on being stuck on a desert island any time soon but I have been asked, “What are five things you could not live without to do your job?”

That’s a much more simple answer.

Social media marketers might answer this one a few different ways. Whether they mean literally tools like a laptop, cell phone, camera, etc., social media engagement or analytics platforms or favorite social channel.

I decided to go with a hybrid. This is my list.

  1. Laptop with internet, email and Photoshop. This is a pretty obvious one. I like to be prepared and often have my laptop on me. I rarely leave it at my desk at work because working an industry that moves 200mph (not that much of an exaggeration), you have to be prepared for breaking news at any time so it’s good to keep it handy. Also, I love being able to check in what fans and followers are saying at all times on accounts I manage for work. We have set a precedent with fans where they expect us to respond ASAP and engage with them in a fun and creative way. This is easily my favorite part of my job and I am happy to always be ready with a quick, quirky tweet or response to a comment that makes a social media user smile and feel more connected to the brand.
  2. Access to Mashable. I can’t truly express myself for Mashable enough. They are not my only source for social media news but they are my favorite.
  3. Music. Some people like to work in total silence. Some people like to chat with others while working. Some people, like myself, enjoy listening to music while they work. Just like one of Snow White’s Seven Dwarves, I feel like music helps me work better (even though I don’t whistle while I work). Sometimes it’s just a great distraction from office noise. Then there are other times where I lean on music to help me be more creative. For me, listening to a lot of Broadway show tunes when I find myself in a rut with writer’s block seems to do the trick. Country and pop tend to be my go-to otherwise.
  4. Tea. I find myself taking more of a liking to yoga in the past six months or so. I love how it’s all about focusing on your own mind and body to gain a better perspective in life. A key tool for many yogis is tea. Drinking tea is not only great for you but for me, it allows me to have a few moments of zen and relax even when there’s a lot going on at one time.
  5. Evernote. I love being able to jot down my ideas quickly and easily with Evernote whenever I’m on the go. Although I am guilty of sending myself reminders via one-off emails to my work account, I feel I can better organize my thoughts with Evernote and am really getting into the habit of doing so.

So fellow social media marketers, what’s on your list? Respond with your comments below.

What to Look for in an Internship

It’s that time of year again! If you’re in college or a recent grad, you may be considering an internship. If you haven’t, then you really should.

At my college, an internship was all but required. One internship.

I found myself outside of that norm. By the time I crossed the stage with my diploma, I completed six internships. Yes, six internships.

Some of those overlapped where I was doing two part-time internships at one time but all the while I completed full-time coursework and graduated in four years.

I’m often asked as to why I felt it was necessary to go so far above and beyond. The reason is pretty simple; I wanted to try out as many different things as possible before graduating.

When I first applied to my college, I applied as a screenwriting major (because I wanted to be the next Tina Fey). After being accepted and spending the summer thinking about it, I wondered if that was the best decision for me. Over that summer, I selected coursework that was nothing but public relations, marketing, advertising, etc. thinking promoting or selling entertainment could one day be the right area for me.

I was extremely fortunate that after about a month into my Introduction to Public Relations class that we were asked to interview someone in PR to get an idea of what the real world was like. One thing led to another and after an unexpected shadow day, I found myself with my first internship locked in only two months into my college career.

What followed was the first of my six internships. It was a road I put myself on and never turned back.

I completed internships at three boutique agencies (one in motorsports), one mid-size agency, a television production company and a racetrack (which I would later return to in a full-time role).

Even before graduating I became a big advocate for internships and even held a position on my college’s PRSSA chapter’s board to assist other students in finding internships.

If you’re looking for an internship, here is my advice on some things to look for:

  1. Intern somewhere you would want to work at. This is key. Is there an agency or business you’d love to work for some day? This is your chance to show them what you got. Research to see if your dream internship is out there. If it is, go for it! If not, try and find a company that you could intern at that could be beneficial if another internship opened up at your dream company, or would allow you to gain the necessary experience to apply for your first job after college at that dream company.
  2. A place where you can achieve a variety of experience. Don’t allow yourself to just be a coffee fetcher. When you first apply and get that interview, let the hiring manager know you’re ready to learn and want to get as much out of the experience as possible. By being exposed to a variety of tasks and areas of the business, you can really learn a lot.
  3. Look for a mentor. When you apply, look at the size of the company and culture. Do they seem to advance the careers of their own employees? Do they have a mentorship program? Even if not, when you get to the internship process, discuss with the hiring manager that you are looking for a professional mentor. You might even find your first volunteer! A mentor can be a great resource to have following an internship. He or she can be your go-to for professional advice and who knows – maybe you’ll work together again in some capacity. I have had the luck to have found such a mentor I still lean on occasionally for advice to this day.
  4. Focus on portfolio pieces. Ask what kind of work you would be doing when you make it to the interview. Yes, this is an obvious question but really approach the question and answer following thinking what can you get out of the internship beyond college credit and a few bucks. Strong work examples can be critical for future interviews (internships and jobs) to really set you apart from your competition.
  5. Find somewhere you will enjoy spending your time for most likely little pay. Let’s be honest. There’s no “I Love Lucy” get famous/rich quick schemes that can really pan out with most internships. You will have days that are unbelievably rewarding that make you feel you found the right path. You’ll have days that are just ok. Then, you’ll have days that just really make you question everything and are just plain difficult. Keep all of that in mind. Don’t intern somewhere you want to brag to your friends and family about. Don’t intern somewhere you think will make you look amazing on a resume but actually hate. You are putting in YOUR time for that internship so make sure it is somewhere YOU want to spend your time. College goes by way too quickly (you’ll believe me later) so don’t waste your time or anyone else’s. Do something you enjoy. Find a place to intern that makes you want to wake up in the morning and get to work. After all, part of interning to testing the waters in your career so get ready to jump right in – head first.

Wherever the road to your internship search takes you, keep these five items in mind.

Happy searching!

Career Day

When I was sixteen years old, I had no idea what I really wanted to do with my life.

I dreamed of being the next Tina Fey (my hero at the time) since I was a lifelong “Saturday Night Live” fan and had done a few student written shows. I loved comedy and really enjoyed writing so it almost made sense to me.

But then I realized how that’s a million in one shot of actually happening. I needed a new life plan.

One day, my dad (a motorsports journalist) asked me if I wanted to accompany he and my mom to the NASCAR awards banquet in New York and work backstage. As a sixteen year old kid who was obsessed with all things theatre, this seemed like a golden opportunity.

I knew little about NASCAR by then. I mean, I went to my first race in July of that same year and could name a few drivers but other than that, I was still very much learning.

About a month later, I found myself helping out the NASCAR public relations staff by assisting on the red carpet backstage at the Waldorf=Astoria. I helped escort drivers down camera row to do interviews, was a runner for microphones and other supplies and pretty much just did whatever was asked of me. I was ready, willing to learn and wanted to soak up all that I could.

In a nutshell, that day changed my life. I went from wanting to be a comedy writer to a public relations professional in motorsports overnight. At least one of those dreams came true.

Just a year after graduating high school, I found myself working in my first internship (which later helped me eventually do five more). That ultimately led to the career I have now but that would have never happened had I had that first experience while still in high school.

So for the past three years, I have been a speaker at my high school’s Career Day discussing careers in sports and social media marketing. Having had the opportunity that changed my life while still in high school, I hope to inspire kids to figure out their path by letting them know I was able to do so at their age and that they can do anything they put their minds to.

Over the past three years, I have learned a lot just by presenting.

During the first year I spoke, I learned that all of my research that says high school students don’t really use Facebook is quite true.

I began the presentation by simply asking students by show of hands who used various social media platforms. First was Twitter. About half the room raised their hands. Then I asked about Instagram. Almost the whole room raised their hands. Then I made the mistake of asking about Facebook.

No hands were raised. Instead, one girl deadpans, looks right at me and says, “Um, no one uses Facebook. It’s for old people.”

And with that, I discovered it’s absolutely true that high school students are anti-Facebook.

The second year, I decided to change up my presentation slightly. I changed jobs from the previous year and realized most students not only were not race fans but knew very little about motorsports. Who was the one driver they all seemed to be familiar with?

Ricky Bobby.

So as an ice breaker, I included a quick scene from “Talladega Nights” in which Ricky Bobby tells a reporter he doesn’t know what to do with his hands. That was a hit and from there, I had their attention at least for a bit.

The third year (just a few days ago), I brought some swag which was a handful of items from a program from the year before. I asked students to answer questions at the end of the presentation for a chance to win. Suddenly, I had their attention more than ever.

With each year, I learn a little bit more about how high school has changed since I was a student there. I also learn how much I have changed in the nearly ten years that has passed since I roamed the halls daily.

Ten years ago, I was just getting over being painfully shy. I had an all-star team of theater directors, choir leaders, vocal coaches and so on who helped me go from a quiet kid to a slightly less quiet lifelong theater kid. I may have graduated years ago but I will never forget all of the great memories I have had on the stages there.Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 11.57.51 PM

It was great that I was even able to stop by and say hello to some of those teachers this last time by and thank them for everything they have done for me. I would have never imagined that being involved with theater would have helped so much but I can see in the long-run that it did.

So while my life might be going more than hundred miles an hour sometimes nowadays, I’ll never forget that the road that put me here began when I was in high school.

** Featured image from my most recent experience as a Career Day speaker

The Necessary Evil of Keeping Up with the Kardashians as a Social Media Marketer

Kardashian. One word that can invoke polar opposite reactions from anyone who has ever heard of at least one of the members of this famous family.

* Photo from Page Six

* Photo from Page Six

Kim, Kylie, Kendall, Khloe, Kourtney and Kris are just some of the members of the Kardashian “klub” (because it’s all k’s with these folks).

I love celebrity gossip. I’ll admit it. I have always been an avid consumer of film and television and it’s just one of those things I like to keep up on.

The Kardashians, not so much.

Not long after the show premiered, I was fan. I enjoyed it for about a year or so before each of their careers really took off. Since then, I find myself not as interested.

So why do I feel this overwhelming urge to still keep up with the Kardashians? Simple. I’m a social media marketer.

Whether you love them or hate them, these ladies know (or least their people know) how to use social media not just effectively but well. Really well.

Let’s take a look at just the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram following of Kim Kardashian-West, Kourtney Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian, Kendall Jenner and Kylie Jenner.

 Name Facebook Twitter Instagram  Total Network
Kim Kardashian-West 26,533, 280 36,600,000 50,200,000 86,800,000
Kylie Jenner 8,707,150 12,000,000 40,500,000 61,207,150
Kendall Jenner 9,691,071 13,100,000 39,600,000 62,391,071
Khloe Kardashian 14,737,309 16,700,000 34,600,000 66,037,309
Kourtney Kardashian 12,555,676 16,400,000 27,500,000 56,455,676
 * As of 10/26/15 Total 332,891,206

In other words, these ladies can reach a lot of people separately but even more combined – and on a global scale. It’s no wonder that so many brands want to work with them.

From fashion lines to nail polish to mobile apps, they have their names adorning so many different categories of products, it’s enough to make your head spin – and that’s just their products. Additionally, major brands spend millions on for just a few social media posts of them enjoying a given product.

They’re usually some of the first celebrities to be given access to beta features for Twitter and Instagram because their following could provide a given social platform a great test to see whether or not their new feature would be great for the general consumer or at least celebrities and brands depending on the feature.

Their strategy folks are some of the best in the business because it seems they are always intriguing to their adoring fans and they have taken their personas from their various television shows to 24-hour, year-round access to these women.

So to keep up with the biggest emerging social media features and trends, the ladies Kardashian can be some of the best folks to follow.

** Featured image from Page Six

I Got 99 Problems and an (Idea) Pitch Ain’t One

At some point in the career of a marketing professional, we find ourselves finding that confidence to suggest the impossible – sometimes even if it seems a bit crazy.

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What’s important is to educate yourself as much as you can in your field and learn all of the variables as to why and why not something might work. As one of the employees with the least amount of experience at my current marketing agency due to my age, I try and to prepare any idea pitch for a social media program or marketing idea with all of the parts and pieces of the puzzle in mind.

Honestly, it has taken me awhile to get here. I completed six internships in college, worked at a midsize agency and major corporation prior to this position. It has take quite a bit of research and understanding to really get ahold of what can and can’t work. These are just some of those things that come naturally with experience but sometimes thinking outside of the box and believing in your wacky idea can get you there faster.

Once, I had what I thought was an insane idea for a theatrical motorsports press conference. It involved drivers dressing up as good and bad cowboys. We’d even have the track owner as the Sheriff and have the reporters sit on bales of hay. As it turned out, the track owner LOVED the idea and was a big fan of western films. It turned into a full ad campaign with print ads, billboards,commercials (I even was an extra in one), and more all about one of the track’s biggest races of the year. This campaign has now been used for two years.  And I thought my idea was crazy…

So, for all of my fellow recent college grads out there, and current college students looking for ways to stand out in their internship, I give you my tips as listed below.

Tips to Getting Your Pitch Heard:

  1. Be fearless. If you’ve ever been a part of a brainstorm, 9 times out of 10 someone at some point will say, “No idea is too crazy so share anything you have.” Don’t limit yourself to this view on ideas just in a brainstorm setting. Sometimes the craziest ideas change our world for forever.
  2. RESEARCH! While you’re busy “dancing in a storm in your best dress, fearless” like Taylor Swift, remember not to present anything without having some knowledge to back it up. If you’re new to a company, see if they’ve tried a similar idea, campaign, etc. before so you’re not wasting anyone’s time – and don’t wind up discouraged. Know your industry and read case studies. You’ll thank me later.
  3. Creativity is key. Don’t try and reinvent the wheel for there’s obvious reasons for that expression. Come with an idea no one has thought of before and you won’t just shine, young padawan – you’ll impress.
  4. Take a deep breath, and let the idea flow. It may sound silly now but if this is the first big idea you’ve pitched, take a deep breath before speaking. It will help you calm your mind, ease your thoughts and communicate in the best way possible.
  5. Don’t forget – you’re awesome. Why are you in your internship or job? Because you’ve already proved you’re a valuable asset to the team. They saw a spark in you based on your experience, knowledge, attitude and drive. So give them what they paid for. Be confident and realize second guessing yourself is unnecessary because you know what you’re doing.

Same Stage, Different Platform

I have a confession. In junior high and high school, I was a HUGE theater nerd. I was one of those kids from “Glee” before it was cool. It was not uncommon for my friends and I to sing Broadway tunes down the halls on the way to class, or opt to improvise a scene about a subject in class rather than pulling together a poster board. In a nutshell, I was consumed by theater.

From a curtain call dress rehearsal of “42nd Street” from my junior year of high school. I’m on the left.

I performed in plays, musicals, and improv troupes. I also was dedicated to choir and even won a few medals from ensemble competitions.

So here I am now as a social media marketer. A month or so ago, I found myself looking for inspiration while working on a client’s posts for the next month. I kept thinking about the customers who typically would go to the restaurant. I thought about what they sounded like, what they looked like, and how the spoke. I thought further and thought what would they expect a person who manages the Facebook/Twitter/Foursquare of the location to sound like. Then it hit me.

I needed to change the way I was writing by creating a “character” for the restaurant.

When I was cast in a play in the past, a common exercise would be to develop the character’s story from inside and out. Everything from how old the character was, to where they were from, and even down to what food they liked. This would all help build the character for the performer. So I did the same for the restaurant’s character.

And it worked! It helped the words flow with a quirky edge that this restaurant fits. Since writing in this way, the page’s interaction has gone up on Facebook in particular, and more customers are commenting.

I guess it goes to show you, you can take the girl out of the theater, but you can’t take the theater out of the girl.

Pinterest Approach to Facebook

It’s no surprise when I say Pinterest is slowly taking over the social media world. Why? It’s simple: people love pictures.

*Photo from MindJumpers.com

Think about your home or office. It’s strewn with photos of your favorite vacation, family members, friends, pets, etc. It’s those images that keep those memories and moments close even though they’re in the past and those favorite people might be far away.

The old adage says, “An image is worth a thousand words.” As with the images you surround your spaces with, this rings true for social media. An image can convey any emotion a photographer might have in mind but through a viewer’s perception, it can mean so much more.

In the past few years, more social platforms have been changing their formats and content to make photos more prominent. Why? Because as I said before, people love photos. Pinterest is the best example of this.

The fast-growing digital high school locker, as I like to call it (and I love it), is nothing but photos. Granted, the photos have captions and comments and ultimately link to something else but at first glance, it’s all photos.

As a woman, I couldn’t love Pinterest more. With photos of my favorite fashion brands newest items, new tasty recipes I can try, cute quotes, fitness tips…the list goes on and on. Ultimately though, when I’m on Pinterest, I have the idea of buying new products, services, ingredients, etc. constantly on my mind.

Now take Facebook. As Facebook’s powers-that-be notice the meteoric rise of Pinterest, it got them thinking-and maybe shaking in their boots a bit. Facebook has changed the way we look at photos in just the past year, taking images from thumbnails to photo galleries with a black background when looking at albums. The photos pop and images seem stronger, even if you’re just looking at that kid you used to remember from high school’s pictures. Regardless of who or what you’re looking at, the photos have more power on Facebook than ever before.

Now on to my marketing point. As a social marketer, I strive to keep my clients’ Facebook pages on the cutting edge and always changing. I spend several hours a week researching-reading articles/books, comparing case studies, examining my favorite brands pages-all to bring the most engagement to their pages.

Social media should never be about the most likes, followers or what have you. It’s about building brand loyalty and ultimately brand advocates who can be blessings from God for marketers who make our jobs easier.

With photos on Facebook, once again, regardless of who or what you are, there’s almost a guaranteed spike in interest. With brands, that could ultimately turn into dollar signs.

Many of my clients are within the food industry. Customers comment on our latest specials, offers, and their favorite menu items day in and day out. We ask them questions, post quirky sayings or poems, tell them about upcoming events, etc. But what causes the most engagement? You guessed it – photos.

Guests of the restaurants naturally seem to find themselves more hungry just by seeing the images of the food they love. This will many times result in comments on the photo a few hours after it has been posted (when posted before lunch or before dinner) with thank you’s for a great meal. All because of one little photo.

Not all of my clients are within the food industry but this information has become a key takeaway. It essentially can be applied to any consumer product or service. Just remember this math: photos +  engagement = brand loyalty. Now that’s the kind of math you can literally take to the bank.

If you photograph it, they will come.

Tips for Social Media Research

As an avid social media fan for years, I have been teaching myself about the medium for some time. Recently, I started my dream job. To say I feel blessed is an understatement; I am humbled and honored. I am now working as a social media manager at a small marketing firm.

As I adjust to my new position, I have found myself diving in with enthusiasm as I research what we can do to enhance our social media reach and truly engage our friends and followers.

To do this, I have discovered a few ways to help myself more effectively research social media trends.

  1. Create a Twitter account solely for research: I started a new Twitter handle, @SocMediaSiren, so I can follow only social media news, entrepreneurs, and social media superstars.
  2. Subscribe to Fast Company. No explanation here. Just do it.
  3. Read Mashable.com every day. Don’t check it just once. Check it several times a day for breaking news. Don’t stop there. Look for every media outlet you can that features social media.
  4. Research on the various aspects of social media/mobile marketing. Just because you manage your clients’ Twitter and Facebook accounts doesn’t mean that at some point mobile marketing won’t be an option.
  5. Create a separate Facebook account solely to manage your clients’ accounts. It keeps you from having to tell your friends you can’t talk when they enthusiastically instant message you.
  6. Master Hootsuite ASAP. Not only is it probably a requirement, but understanding it will help you learn how to do handy things like schedule posts for certain times.
  7. Research who the leaders in social media are and read their blogs. Follow them. Learn everything you can about what they’re doing right. Do you work with consumer brands? Which consumer brands have been the most successful with social media? Work in sports? Which teams/athletes/brands have been the most successful with social media? And so on. Savvy?
  8. Teach yourself social media ROI backwards and forward. Don’t just learn it so you understand. It’s even more important to learn how to explain social media ROI to your client. This is constantly changing so it’s important to stay abreast of.
  9. Create a Facebook page just for research and for managing brand Facebook accounts. I’ve liked a lot of pages on Facebook strictly for to study their engagement which might be a tad embarrassing if friends thought I was a hardcore fan of. Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian’s pages are great examples of this. By creating a “work” Facebook account, you can separate your work and personal lives on Facebook. It’s almost the same as putting on a suit for a video conference when you’re at home. You might not be going anywhere but just dressing yourself right puts you in the right mindset.
  10. “Never lose your beginner’s spirit.” – Lance Armstrong. In other words, never lose your passion for social media. Stay engaged by blogging, retweeting, tweeting — whatever you need to do to keep learning and keep growing to be the best social media expert you can be.

These are some tips that have worked for me. Do you have any you would add to this list? Let me know. Comment below or shoot me a mention on Twitter @SarahBonkowski. Or just follow me and I’ll follow you back. 🙂

Spotify = Love

I have to admit. I was a little late to board the Spotify train but now I can’t live without it.

For those who are unfamiliar, Spotify is a music sharing service. What’s especially interesting is you can link it to your Facebook page to see what your friends are listening to.

As a creative professional in the social media marketing industry, I strive to be inspired to come up with the most interesting copy to engage my clients’ customers. For me, I get a lot of inspiration from listening to music. If I tailor a playlist to music that my target demo. would probably listen to, the words just seem to come to me.

I’m a huge fan of just about every genre of music. It’s not odd for me to go from listening to a song by Barbra Streisand to Usher and then to Carly Rae Jepsen. I’m a little all over the place.

So as a fan of so many genres, Spotify allows me to create as many playlists as I choose, and even subscribe to playlists created by other users. For example, I subscribed to a playlist of songs about Chicago, my hometown.

Basically, if you’re a professional who finds work easier when you’re listening to the right tunes, or a person who loves being able to listen to all the music they love for free via their computer – Spotify is absolutely for you.

#NASCAR

I began my public relations career working primarily with a variety of internships. In a number of these positions, I worked with NASCAR brands and racetracks.

Having worked around motorsports for about four years, it was interesting to watch the sport change as the popularity of social media grew. I can remember in 2008 when Twitter really started to take off with many brands, journalists and drivers trying to utilize this new way of engaging race fans.

Now, four years later, NASCAR has become dominated by social media, especially Twitter. One of the best examples of this was when Brad Keselowski garnered over 100,000 new followers on Twitter while the Daytona 500 was under red flag conditions.

With that single event, NASCAR was forever changed showing other sports that NASCAR was not stuffy and behind-the-times. NASCAR was on the brink of something big.

Last weekend was the racing world was forever changed with the Pocono 400 presented by #NASCAR. This was the first time in the history of sports in which a major sporting event incorporated their title with a hashtag into an event. Furthermore, they set up a special Twitter page which aggregates all #NASCAR related posts.

This is tremendous for a sport that has battled the “good ‘ole boys” perception for several years as they try to stay current and on-trend in terms of marketing and social media.

As someone who worked in racing for a period of time, I’m proud to see how the sport has been one of the first sports to relate to fans in this new way, and allow them to be as updated as possible with all of the happenings, as well as reach out to their favorite brands, drivers, journalists and other personalities in this new way.

It will be interesting to watch as more sports take from this concept and further social media within the industry.

The Big Payoff: A New Job!

After months of pushing and working my butt off, I finally found a new position. Not just a new position but a dream job!

I started a position three weeks ago with a small marketing firm in Charlotte, where I am now a Social Media Manager/Social Media Siren. Yes, we have fun titles.

In addition to that, my first week was at the beach. No joke. My now boss called me the Monday after I interviewed and asked if I would be interested in joining the team during a team building week at North Myrtle Beach. So, I packed up my bag and drove to the beach. I guess you can say I really dove into it.

I’m debating how to continue this blog but once I figure it out, you’ll be the first to know.

Sometimes, dreams do come true.

Sing for the Moment

Like most people, I consider myself a fan of music. I’m one of those people that always has music playing be it in my car, apartment, or a friend’s house; I can’t go long without listening to something.

Every time I prepare myself in the morning before an interview, the routine is pretty much the same. Wake up and take a shower while listening to the radio. Put on a suit and jacket, and grab my portfolio. Then, I drive or take public transportation to said interview while listening to a playlist of songs I find inspiring.

Yes, it may be a bit cheesy but it seems to do the trick to get me into the right mindset of not only interviewing well but knowing I will do all I can to impress the interviewer. What’s my song of choice? Well, “Lose Yourself” by Eminem of course.

I know it’s a bit odd. I’m not B-Rabbit trying to rap my way into a better life but the principles of the song are pretty relatable for any job seeker. Knowing that “success is the only option and failure is not,” is a pretty powerful statement to get me pumped.

Another line in the song I love is the introduction: “If you had one shot. One moment. Would you capture it, or just let it slip?”

This song became my go-to interview song not long after it came out. However, then it was my go-to song to help me get ready for an audition for a play or a casting call.

Remember that playlist of inspiring songs I mentioned? Well, here’s just a few more of the songs I find helpful to get me pumped before an interview. If you’re a fellow job seeker, I hope these can help you get ready to hit the ball out of the park for your next interview.

In no particular order:

“Don’t Rain On My Parade” by Barbra Streisand from “Funny Girl”

“Shadow Days” by John Mayer

“I Have Confidence” by Julie Andrews from “The Sound of Music”

“Lose Yourself” by Eminem

“The Voice Within” by Christina Aguilera

“Believer” by Christina Milian

“Hold On, I’m Coming” by Sam & Dave

“Sing for the Moment” by Aerosmith

“Soar” by Christina Aguilera

“Best of You” by The Foo Fighters

“Keep Your Head Up” by Andy Grammer

“Dog Days Are Over” by Florence + the Machine

“Baby, Dream Your Dream” from “Sweet Charity”

“Back In Black” by AC/DC

“Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who

“Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen

“Lemon Drop” by Pistol Annies

“Oh Sherrie” by Steve Perry

“The Show Goes On” by Lupe Fiasco

“Fly” by Nicki Minaj and Rihanna

“Moment 4 Life” by Nicki Minaj

“Power” by Kanye West

Waiting for My Turn

About a year or so ago, I was watching “Piers Morgan Tonight” when the guest was the legendary star, Carol Burnett. She spoke about her career and her life but what stood out to me was the following quote,

“When I was young and auditioning at cattle calls in New York, I got close to getting a few jobs but didn’t. Then I realized it wasn’t my turn. It was that girl’s turn. My time would come so I never got discouraged. You never should. Just wait for your turn.”

Immediately after hearing this, I posted it as one of my favorite quotes on my Facebook page; a sign of my status as a proud millennial. But I just had to. Why? The quote just resonated with me.

It made me think of every time I didn’t get a job I applied for, or every time I didn’t get the part I wanted in a school play. It’s a great philosophy on why some things work out and some things don’t.

Last night, I went with my mom to a show at the Rialto Theater in Joliet, Ill. It was a Q & A session with Carol Burnett. It was basically the live version of that interview I saw a year ago.

A person from the audience asked for advice about how to succeed in comedy. Ms. Burnett once again told the story of the cattle call, and once again, I could relate.

There’s been a number of jobs in the past several months I felt I would be perfect for. I was not only confident that I was everything they needed but I had stellar interviews. I followed up how one should. I did everything I possibly could to get that perfect job. And then I didn’t get it.

Again and again this has happened.

Hearing Carol’s cattle call story again made me realize one simple fact: it was not my turn.

Each of these jobs I thought I would be perfect for were not meant for me. As a big believer of everything happens for a reason, I realized, these did not work out because they were not supposed to.

Wherever I get my next job, I know one thing; it will happen because it’s my turn.