I started the “What’s Your Social Dialect” series last year to feature companies that work with bloggers and learn some of the secrets to their successes. This year, I’ve shifted the focus to women who are active and thriving in social media. Many of them ventured into social media as a result of their blogging but where they’ve gone from there is so wide and varied. Clearly, success in social media is not a clearly defined path but most of these women would probably prefer it that way.
Kicking off the series is my friend, Kate Canterbury, commonly known by her Twitter handle @guavalicious (it just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?). Kate and I have crossed paths at many conferences but really connected at last year’s Type-A Parent Conference. I’m thrilled with where she’s going in social media and more thrilled that she chose to share it here.
Social Dialect: Let me start with the obvious. How did you get involved in social media? Was it through blogging? If so, how did that evolve?
Kate: When I moved to Columbia, Missouri for my husband’s job I was, frankly, bored. I didn’t know anyone and my girls were too wild for the moms at the playground. I had been on Twitter for awhile but hadn’t really used it. So I started playing around on it just to have someone to talk to during the day. Soon after I won a trip to Hawaii via Marriott’s Tweet Yourself to Hawaii and became a Twitter evangelist.
In the next couple of months I found a few other people in Columbia and started talking with them. Soon I met up with several local tweeters at Twestival. The more I became part of the local community the more I noticed that there wasn’t a central group so I started Social Media Club Mid-Missouri. Through the group, we’ve been able to do free social media classes for small businesses, raise money for local charities, and generally have a good time online and off.
SD: As you started to realize that blogging and social media let to possible career options, what direction did you originally think you might head in?
Kate: I took an unusual path to working in social media. I actually started blogging as a result of being active in social media instead of the other way around. As I spent more time in the local social media scene I noticed a void in hyper-local blogging. There was a site for kids activities but not a general site. I started a personal blog about living in a college town when you don’t have any association with the college.
As I became better known in my city, I started getting asked for advice on blogging and social media. I knew becoming a consultant would be an easy way to make some extra income but it was important to me that Social Media Club remain a truly impartial resource so I made a vow not to monetize social media locally for the first year. I co-founded a group blog about Columbia, Missouri called The COMO Collective with a view towards monetizing it but I have found that the independent voice I value in hyper-local blogging doesn’t lend itself to advertising.
So I decided to go back to my first love, interactive media, and started reaching out to contacts I had made through Twitter, etc. and letting them now I was available for consulting and business coaching. I was recruited by a local company through a contact I had made through SMCMidMo, and though that job didn’t work out, the contact moved on and brought me on at his new company.
My success in new media is due to the communities I have built on social media platforms. Those connections are the reason I have a job. The piece of advice I offer is to play to your strengths. My professional background is project management, analysis, and customer service so working directly with companies as a consultant was a natural fit for me than being something like a brand ambassador. And it allows me to keep my blogging irreverant which is more “me.”
SD: What are your roles in social media today (blogger, corporate job, consultant, etc.)?
Kate: Currently I co-own an interactive marketing firm called Penguin Spark. It’s a collaboration with Scott Wendling who was instrumental in starting Social Media Club with me. Scott and I met on Twitter and have spoken together at two 140 conferences about using social media to build micro-communities and then taking those communities offline. Scott is an expert in the mechanics of interactive media so it’s the perfect marriage to my expertise in the social side. We wanted there to be a smarter social media firm that was about integrating new platforms into business strategy, not just starting a Facebook page for a business.
I also just signed on as a brand manager with a new printing company called Print Ninja. The owner lives in China for his job and he was impressed by how they were able to print high quality items for his company. So he had the idea of starting a company that would bring the low cost, high quality printing to graphic design firms and agencies in the United States. Unlike a company like say Vistaprint that is able to provide low costs by offering set designs, Print Ninja allows people to print their custom projects for an even lower price. It makes it possible for anyone to have a “in-house” printing department like large companies do. I am especially excited about their press kits which can cost as little as $2. It’s just another example of how the web continues to change the face of business.
SD: What do you like best about working in social media and what advice would you give to those seeking to making a career out of it?
Kate: Working in social media is fantastic because there is always something new to explore. Nothing gets my juices flowing like a new platform. Plus I love that I am able to help small businesses utilize the power of social media to market themselves. I really feel like interactive marketing is the secret weapon of small businesses.
One of the biggest benefits is that I am able to integrate my passions into my work. For example, this year I am speaking at SXSW Interactive about uniting the special needs community through technology (both of my twins have special needs.) I also write a personal blog about life as working mom called The Guavalicious Life. The tagline is Doing it All, Some of it Well and I use it as a platform to talk about everything from a cool new app to a five minute recipe that goes well with craft beer.
And of course, having my own business allows me to set my own hours and work from anyone. I often work with clients while my daughters are receiving therapy. And I have been know to Skype to China from bed.
SD: What’s your favorite website (personal, professional, ridiculously hilarious, WHATEVER)?
Kate: I have to admit that Pinterest is still an obsession. Honestly I spend most of my time online on sites that I use in my work: LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. For fun, I like to vlog and upload my videos to my YouTube Channel. I also like to read the parenting site Babble.com and would love to write for them.
Want more Kate? She makes it easy to connect.