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!

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

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.

What A Beautiful World With Instagram

Launched in October 2010, it’s interesting how Instagram has changed the way people look at their daily life. Instagram users seem to share a desire to spread the beauty of the world that comes into their daily lives. Be it the flowers they pass on their way to work, their new favorite shoes, or some of their best friends, Instagram seems to be helping the average person look at their world in a new way.

I personally love Instagram for that reason. After moving to Charlotte from Chicago, my entire outlook of how I perceive home has changed. I never really realized how beautiful Chicago was until I moved away from it. I even found myself loving being at an “L” stop in the middle of the winter with the cold wind freezing my body.

As I continue to visit home, I’ve found myself shooting photo after photo on my iPhone for new backgrounds for my phone. I have since posted many of these on my Instagram account: sarahbonk (check it out!). Such as the photo featured in this post.

For marketers, I think this use of Instagram in which users seem to find beauty in their everyday life critical. For brands, users may just snap pictures of their favorite products all on their own. Marketers can find clever uses for their Instagram accounts.

I’ve noticed various sports teams tapping into their fans love of the game to take photos. For example, some baseball teams are taking photos of their ballparks at different angles showing how marvelous a field can be. Some teams are also taking photos of their key players doing everything from interviews, to autograph signings and in-game play. I think this gives fans an artsy, fun way to get a new insider’s perspective of what it’s like to be on a baseball team.

The possibilities are endless. Fashion brands can find clever ways to shoot their new items. Food brands can shoot their newest products to draw more attention to their launch. In short, I am a fan of Instagram and plan on looking for ways to use the application in future positions as it grows.

Instagram makes me think of one of my favorite songs which I think is a pretty good way to sum up this post:

“I see trees of green. Red roses, too. I see them blue for me and you. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.” – Louis Armstrong

My, My… How Technology Has Changed Since I Was In High School

Now that I have been spending more and more time at my parents’ house in a southwest suburb of Chicago, I find myself more and more reminded of my high school years.

While living in North Carolina, I occasionally had the opportunity to come home and visit my friends. Many of these friends I have known for 10 years or close to having met them during high school. I also seem to keep running into other former classmates through my outings with friends that I haven’t seen since 2006.

Again and again, as I would exchange stories with former classmates, I am reminded of how technology has completely changed since my freshman year of high school in 2002-2003 to my senior year of 2005-2006.

Those were the days were MySpace was a social experiment and Twitter was just a sound a bird made as it flapped its wings. I even remember when I purchased my first iPod for my fifteenth birthday.

After going to an Apple Store with my parents, I returned to my classes the next day with my cool new gadget in hand. What I will have to one day tell my kids and grandkids is that in March of 2003, iPods were something very new and almost seemed odd.

“So this is an iPod,” I said as I showed a friend the device and scrolled with the wheel. “I can keep EVERY song I own on it. I have somewhere around 1,500 songs or so on it already but I have a lot more CDs to add to my computer. It’s just a pain because you have convert all of the audio to mp3 files.”

I was pleased to be able to jam to my favorite songs from Kelly Osbourne, Good Charlotte, Simple Plan, the Backstreet Boys, and Lilix. Yeah. It was that long ago.

My friend looked at my little white jukebox brick with a puzzled look as she scrolled through the songs. “I have a Walkman CD Player,” she said almost insulted that such a device existed. “Why would I ever want to carry all of my music on me?”

Funny enough, in April 2003, Apple unleashed the iPod Color onto the world. This smaller, more colorful device was much more affordable than the $400 or so I shelled out for a 15GB device. They ended up becoming a hot new trend. A year later, just about everyone I knew either had an iPod or had plans of buying one in the future.

My mom now works at the high school I attended as a teacher’s aide. She regularly tells me how she has to stop kids from texting, tweeting and posting on Facebook on their cell phones.

Once again, I remember being considered overprotected for having a cell phone so I could call my parents when I would stay after school for theater, taught swim lessons or to work on a class project. I had a few friends that also had cell phones for the same reason but not many.

About a year later, almost everyone I knew had a cell phone. This was still long before the days of song ringtones, affordable internet access and the ability to play mp3s on your phone, and the only games you had resembled an updated version of Tetris.

MySpace was new but few people used it. Unfortunately, my high school ended up being one of the first in the area to crack down on students (especially athletes) who foolishly posted photos of them drinking or partying as if no one would see it. Some of those kids even got expelled.

It’s funny to think how different things would have been if I was in high school right now. I could easily exchange artsy Instagram photos with friends from our trips to downtown Chicago. I could tweet about how bummed I am to have to study all night on Twitter. I could exchange photos of my celebrity crushes with friends on Pinterest, and they could repin the photos on their boards.

My, my… How the world has changed in less than 10 years.

Holy Pinterest!

While visiting a friend who had a work engagement pop up, I found myself in northern Illinois with nothing to do. I was five minutes from the Wisconsin border and two hours away from most people I know. In a word, I was trapped. 

Then, I decided to finally see what Pinterest was all about.

Why did I wait almost a year since I first heard of the site to check it out?

Pinterest, is a website full of images. It reminds me of a digital locker – or in my case, it reminds me of the back of my closet door. Growing up, I was a big fan of magazines. I’d pull quotes, photos, stories, images and more and tape them to the back of my closet door. Images of Tina Fey, Marilyn Monroe, Britney Spears, The Spice Girls, and the Backstreet Boys still hang there today. Mostly due to the fact it would be sad to see so many years of work go to waste.

The website appears to be much more female friendly than anything. With Pinterest, a woman could like images and post them to her own board (a way to sort your favorite images). Topics of images range from food recipes, to hairstyle ideas, to outfit ideas, and just plain, old, adorable pictures of animals.

It’s a great place to share images with friends and give each other ideas.

Personally, one of the things I love the most about the website are the images of positive quotes. These uplifting images of quotes by celebrities, philosophers, musicians, personalities, or the unknown. After reading and collecting a variety of quotes for my own board, I felt uplifted and better even at a time when I feel as if I’m waiting for my life to start again with a new job.

As a woman, I feel this website could be used for so much but especially sharing ideas with other women and provide each other with support. It’s as if the Spice Girls’ mantra of “Girl Power!” became a website. Their image on my closet door would be so proud.

Then, I started to think as a marketer. Marketing, PR and advertising professionals commonly have what some call their idea box. The Idea Box contains a variety of items which can help inspire creative ideas to help them get their next great event, press release, etc.

I believe Pinterest could be a digital version of the Idea Box but kicked up a notch. Imagine a world where PR pros could share their boxes digitally with the co-workers and trusted friends to inspire each other?

I guess for me, I feel the greatest unintended use for Pinterest is to inspire. So many of the images on the website are art. In this way, art can breathe life into our creative abilities in new ways.

In short, I’ve already liked Pinterest on Facebook.

Check out my Pinterest page by clicking here.