Chatting apps, social media and Prince with Nina Garcia

Nina Garcia and Katie SchutropCreative Director for Marie Claire, judge on Project Runway and now celebrity representative for Verizon Wireless, Nina Garcia is a busy woman. The mogul was the last of three female celebrities to stop by the first-ever Verizon Wireless Destination Store in the Mall of America on Saturday and I was one of the media peeps who got to tag along as she experienced the different interactive areas of the store.

Dressed in all black with a Kenzo lion sweater, Givenchy trousers and boots fit to stomp through the streets of NYC, Nina perused the walls of gadgets with the same intrigue one would the shoe department at Nordstrom.

Which isn’t a surprise, really. Nina is an avid Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook user with millions and millions of followers. She’s a techie. And an example of why fashion designers are increasingly creating products to appeal to people like her and her followers (see Rebecca Minkoff, Marc Jacobs for their trendy iPhone cases.) It’s no secret fashion and tech are overlapping more and more these days and Nina is a perfect example of that.

Nina GarciaSo why was she in town? To scope out the space and be a spokesperson for the Customize It section of the store. We watched her get her photo taken in front of a green screen which was then printed onto an iPhone case by the time she was ready to leave.

Props to Verizon for setting up the coolest electronic store I’ve ever been to (sorry, Apple.) Check out my Vine I made in one of their stop motion scenes set up in the center of the store.

Afterwards, Nina answered questions from the group about her favorite apps, social media and advice for emerging designers.

So what does Nina Garcia use on her phone? To name a few: Lyst, Uber, Trendable and SnapSwitch for Instagram.

Also, Moda Operandi for “if I want to shop before anybody else,” she said. “And I also think that they have things that are early in the season so you can reserve them. And you can have them before anybody else.” Gotta check this one out.

And while I usually use Shazam while I’m sitting on the couch watching TV, Nina says she uses it “when I’m at the shows and I can’t figure [the song] out, I love that.” Of course.

I thought it was also cool how she talked about that, yes, social media and technology can be distracting and tiresome, but it has an integrated role in sparking creativity for her many roles.

“You can lose yourself in that process, I think it’s also very inspirational,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like I’m working, it feels like I’m feeding my imagination.”

If you follow her Pinterest boards, you can tell she’s always “feeding her imagination.” She’s constantly updating and pinning the latest runway looks and trends pretty much on a daily basis (which, by the way, she says she manages herself with little help from an assistant.)

With the ever-evolving world of social media and the state of the fashion industry being so hard to break into, it can be hard for emerging designers to really find their voice artistically and also make a living. Nina gave some good food for thought for any designers who struggle to find that balance.

“There’s a marriage of art and commerce. Yes, you want to have to have art, but at the same time it’s got to sell. But I think that the most important part is really understanding what kind of designer you want to be. What is your message? What is your look?” she said.  “And it takes time. It doesn’t happen instantly. I think it’s a question of maturity. It’s a question of working and gaining experience and finding your own voice. It’s like growing up in a way. At 15 or 16 you’re a certain way and at 20 you’re another way. So it’s the same way a designer matures. Maybe you start here and in 5-10 years you’re there. So it’s about keeping a consistency to your image.”

Well said.

She really could not have been more nice and genuine during this whole time. Not that I was surprised, but she definitely has been pegged on Project Runway as the hard ass judge. But we didn’t see any of that as she chatted up everyone, even us media types and some kids who had special passes to meet her, while we followed her around like little ducklings.

Maybe what really jazzed me about her was after taking our picture she giddily asked, “So do you ever have any Prince sightings?” Why yes, Nina, we do! Tara and I filled her in on our own personal run-in’s with The Purple One and I didn’t forget to mention the gold, light-up heels he wore at the Dakota in January. She seemed to approve.

On my radar: MN Blogger Conference and YPCTC

Apparently it is now September. I’m not sure how it took me so long to realize this. Oh, probably because my past two weeks have been nutso with with work, weddings, coffee dates, Gaga, the State Fair, etc. I’m certainly not complaining. I wouldn’t mind having cheese on a stick and dancing the Cha-Cha Slide every week.

And now that I have a second, I want to share some details on a couple upcoming events that I’ve been helping coordinate.

The first is the Minnesota Blogger Conference which is taking place this Saturday at CoCo in St. Paul. Tickets have long been sold out, but you can still join us for a blogger meetup happening at Clubhouse Jager on Friday night from 7 – 10 p.m. And you should. It’ll be a fun opportunity to meet other bloggers face-to-face you’ve probably been following in your reader for months. Besides, don’t you want to find out what a Twittertini tastes like? Me too.

The second event is for YPCTC and is taking place on September 22nd hosted by Padilla Speer Beardsley. Before I give out more details, just take a peek at the flyer PSB created:

Sounds fun, doesn’t it? If you want to attend, make sure to RSVP on the Facebook event. Space is limited so please plan accordingly. Big thanks so PSB for hosting this event. Trivia and ice cream will be a first for YPCTC :)

If you’re planning on attending either of these events, give me a heads up. It’s always nice to know who I can look forward to chatting with ahead of time.

Happy Wednesday!

High Risk, High Reward

It’s that old saying: everything will work itself out. Sometimes when you’re in a moment of anxiety and distress that’s the last thing you want to hear from someone. But when it’s all said and done, it’s funny how things usually do just fall into place.

Two weeks ago I gave my notice at my employer, Scarletta Press. No, I did not have a Steven Slater moment. I wasn’t looking forward to it at all. In fact, I didn’t sleep the night before. The thing that made it so hard was that I’ve had a great experience working there. The people I worked with were smart and fun. The responsibilities I had taught me so much about project management, self-discipline, and not being afraid to bring new ideas to the floor. I had the opportunity to take on a lot as my first real job out of college and I’m so grateful for my time there. And after two years of finding my groove and taking on my position, it hit me that it was time to move on.

It’s crazy what you can learn about yourself in two years. The people I’ve met, the projects I’ve worked on — they’ve all played a part in helping me figure out where want to go. And after two years, I realized my direction had changed a bit from when I first moved back to Minneapolis from Milwaukee. Reasonable thinking led me to believe that leaving a job before I had something else lined up was not smart, especially in this economy. But based on my new outlook, I decided to take the risk.

And that’s where that old saying came into play. I barely had a chance to tell the people around me of my decision to leave when an opportunity popped up in my inbox for a social media position at a health and wellness organization. It sounded perfect, I sent in my resume, I interviewed, and I was hired.

Umm, what? I’m kind of in shock. But more excited than anything. It just goes to show that sometimes you need to do what doesn’t look good on paper to make something happen.

Starting this week, I will be working for iMobileWellness as their social media manager. iMobileWellness is a community based site launching next month focused on providing helpful information for physicians, patients, and their families.

While I’m sad to leave Scarletta, I’m excited to get started in this new role and put to use what I know about the social sphere and building a community online. Not to mention experience a completely new industry.

Also, I’m looking forward to being able to add my two cents to the conversation when I get together with all my Marquette girls next. Hey, it’s rough being the only PR girl at the dinner table with a bunch of nurses, speech pathologists, and audiologists ;)

To those who have offered their advice and support the past couple weeks (you know who you are), thank you. Really.

Now on to the next!

A movie about Facebook

Yep, a movie about the social networking site is on its way. When I heard that this was in production I really was not too intrigued. Probably because I couldn’t imagine a story about social media translating well in movie theaters. But the trailer for The Social Network, which tells the story of Mark Zuckerberg and the birth of Facebook, has just been released and, to my surprise, it looks pretty good. Check it out:

As you can see, the story is focusing on Zuckerberg’s not so pretty road to success with dramatic fights, board room scenes, and a player-type Justin Timberlake as Napster founder, Sean Parker.  It looks like it has the potential to be pretty good. But that’s what trailers are supposed to do. As a member of the Facebook generation and all around advocate of the social sphere, I plan on seeing this flick when it comes out in October. Also, I’m pretty much sold on anything involving Justin Timberlake (I can’t help it. I’m a product of the N’Sync era).

What do you think of the trailer? Do you plan on seeing the movie when it comes out?

Social media siesta


daydreamer 3

Originally uploaded by little_olenka

You may or may not have noticed that I’ve been a bit M.I.A. from the online social scene lately. There have been some corners where I’ve been intentionally absent (like Twitter) and others where I just have no excuse (ahem, this blog).

While I don’t have a reason for my negligence of this blog, I can explain (or at least try to explain) my holding back on Twitter and other sites.

For the past year and a half I’ve made a strong effort to be very present in the social media scene for means of connecting, learning, and building my personal brand. The time spent doing this has been a great experience. But it hasn’t been easy. In fact, it’s taken a lot of time and energy trying to figure out how I could make social media really work for me professionally.

When I started this blog, I think that was my initial goal: to create a space for myself that helped me fit in the Twin Cities communications and social media communities. And since my first post, I’ve started to develop a focus, a (small) readership, and a better understanding of who I am as a professional as well as brand. I’ve started to find my groove.

So what do you do when you realize you don’t fit with the brand you created for yourself anymore?

I’m certainly not a changed woman, but like any other 20-something, I’m continually figuring out who I am and what my interests are. Which means I have to somehow figure out how to make my brand able to evolve with me.

This does not sit well with my uber Capricorn-like tendencies to plan everything out in advance. And I think that has strongly contributed to my step back from social media lately.

A lot has gone on personally and professionally for me in the past few months. I’ve made new friendships, developed new career interests, and rediscovered some passions I’ve put on hold for some time. All good things.

After being so active online for a while, and with all the things going on in real time, it got to be a little much. Being constantly submersed in all that chatter can be exhausting sometimes. I needed to take a short rest from it all.

Social media is great and can be a powerful tool. My stance on that has not changed. And I have no plans to walk away from it. (If I had any plans of advancing career-wise, that’d be a bad choice). But, I think like anything you become so immersed in and passionate about so quickly, it’s sometimes best to distance yourself from it a bit and reevaluate how it’s working with your overall plan.

So, as of now, I’m making an effort to be more of an observer of social media while exploring new avenues and opportunities for myself. You might start to see some changes around here, too. Hopefully it will just be another part of this constant learning experience.

Kapeesh? See ya out there!

Social media pre-plunge checklist

Whether it’s been through my job or talking with people outside of work, I’ve met a number of individuals looking to get their name, brand, or company into the social media world. This is always exciting for me to see people recognize the power social media can have and become eager to jump right in.

I was recently asked what advice I would give someone new to social media and what to expect when trying out different social media strategies. Of course, there are a ton of little bits of advice I’d want to offer up. But if I had to list three that are especially important, I would urge companies/brands to be prepared to:

Have patience – Just like building any brand, establishing a social media and online presence takes time. Those that are really great at it (see @SouthwestAir or @Zappos) have gotten to where they are over time. When a brand enters the social media space, building a sense of trust with their audience does not happen overnight. But once that trust is there, brands have the opportunity to broadcast their message to ready listeners.

Listen and observe – Especially for brands that are new to the concept of social media, I would advise sitting back and observing the conversations your audience is partaking in. What are they really talking about? How do they respond to other brands online (especially competitors)? What do they like? Don’t like? Once you have a sense for who your audience is, then jump in on the conversation. I think a lot of brands become very eager to shout their message as soon as they set up their account. But that might not be the best way to connect with the people you want to reach. So, listen first and speak second.

Commit – In order to have a successful social media program, it takes a lot of dedication. Having a commitment to experimenting, learning, and even making mistakes is necessary to getting the most out of building an online presence. It’s not enough to give an update once a week. (Unless, of course, you’re @ConanObrien). The whole idea behind social media is to be social. Committing to responding to followers and participating in conversations on a consistent basis will help any brand get the most of their online experience.

Agree? Disagree? What initial advice would you give brands just starting out in social media?

In defense of the press release (the paper kind)

I love social media just as much as everyone else. And as someone who works in public relations, having the ability to connect and listen to people in your market with a few clicks has really changed they way I and many professionals approach PR.

But it’s easy to get caught up in all things social media. There are so many tools to work with, the scene is ever evolving, and people are constantly coming up with new ways to make use of it. But social media is not the end all be all. It’s not the only way to broadcast your message or connect with an audience. I’d like to think of it as an extension of what we already know.

I have been guilty of forgetting this at times. I think because this is all so new and exciting to be a part of. But traditional PR strategies are not something of the past.

I’ve been to a couple conferences and panel discussions recently that have had people question traditional PR practices –  like creating hard copy press releases. Many were to surprised to hear they still exist. While in an ever growing digital world, paper press releases still serve a purpose. For example, in the publishing industry, many publishers, distributers, and media outlets require them. There’s something to be said about having a tangible copy of a document. Believe it or not, I’ve dealt with many editors and store owners that still prefer them.

Of course, this isn’t the case across the board. But trying to dismiss “old school” PR would be to ignore a large sector of the industry. I often struggle with the fact that the community I am a part of is not the norm when it comes to embracing the digital scene. While it’s certainly the direction marketing communications is headed, not everyone is there yet. And that is why I believe it’s still important to make use of the foundation traditional PR has set up for us moving forward.

Work in PR? What have you noticed about the integration of new media with traditional strategies? Do you still place an emphasis on the basics?

SMBMSP #24: Social media and retail

The 24th Social Media Breakfast was held this morning at Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy in the Mall of America and discussed social media and retail. Heck yes. Two things I can certainly appreciate.

I’ve been to a good handful of these breakfasts so far and I have to say that this one definitely stood out to me. Not just because of the topic, but because the panelists were very diverse, solid questions were asked, and it was at a great location.

The discussion was facilitated by Lisa Grimm (who did a fantastic job) and included the following panelists:

A couple of things I took away from this morning’s discussion:

Allow conversations to happen.

When someone complains about your brand or store, sit back and let the conversation happen. David made a great point when he said, “People are generally reasonable, and unreasonable people will usually give themselves away.” Not everyone is going to agree with what you’re doing and that’s okay. Social media is about creating discussions and allowing people to share different viewpoints. When someone decides to post something negative about your brand, fight the urge to immediately defend yourself and see what happens. Those who believe in your brand will likely come to your defense without your help which is extremely valuable in and of itself.

ROI methods are still foggy.

The question of ROI was brought up, which in the past, has always led to some unsure answers. Many of the panelists discussed the value of tracking the number of followers and mentions to gauge how social media efforts are making an impact on a campaign. But the most valuable method brought up is probably the hardest to track which is measuring engagement. How well have companies responded to consumers, answered questions, and resolved customer service issues through social media channels? It’s certainly important to look at, but how can you translate that into metrics? Most of the panelists said they are still figuring that out which I think is in line with the majority of companies out there right now. Many can see that their efforts are working but struggle to provide the hard evidence to prove it.

Know your brand. Know your message.

Not every social media strategy works across the board. Jeff pointed out that while Punch Pizza likes to give away free pizza, that doesn’t really work for their brand. He made a great point that it’s great to watch your competitors to spark ideas, but it’s even more important to recognize what methods and messages align best with your brand. Giving away free stuff is fun (who doesn’t like free stuff), but it’s not the only way you can to engage followers. And it might not always work with your message.

Overall, I thought the discussion was really well-rounded and brought up some great ideas. Plus, it’s always good to be in a room with this group of people. And to negate my last point, all attendees this morning got a coupon for a free Punch Pizza. Looks like I know what I’m doing for dinner.

Facebook way back when…

After having a Facebook account since it’s birth back in 2004, I’ve experienced first hand it’s evolution and integration into our everyday lives. And it’s kind of funny to think back to when people were just starting to hear about what it was.

I was visiting a friend in Chicago over break who’s friend from the University of Iowa introduced us to the site. She showed us how you could look people up at your school, see who their friends were, what classes they were taking, etc. Fascinating! It was like a more exclusive, mature, and less spammy looking version of MySpace.

It was an exciting day when Marquette was included in the network. (Because back then, your school had to get approved by the Facebook team which left many schools out for a while.)

The layout of the site has had too many makeovers to keep count. Remember the days when you had the ability to edit a friend’s entire wall? It was more like a whiteboard. If you wanted, you could erase and put anything you wanted in that space. And how annoying would it be when someone actually did that? You would get e-mails saying something like, “Someone has updated your wall.”

Or how about when status updates were introduced? I remember resisting them because I thought the idea of letting people know what I was doing was “too stalkerish.” That didn’t last long.

It wasn’t until the photo sharing tool, in my opinion, totally changed the game of Facebook. I was excited I could get rid of all my Web Shots albums and be able to upload my pictures into one place. And when “tagging” photos was integrated, I think that was when Facebook really grew on the social end. It was exciting to share photos and experiences with friends back home in Minnesota.

For all of you who have been on Facebook as long as I have, how weird was it to start seeing your professors with accounts? I think that was the first time I started to realize that I whatever I posted could have a real influence – in a good or bad way. I couldn’t help but think, “Okay, is this something I’d want my professor to read?”

And talk about the social dilemmas that started to form. Suddenly there was proof online of what people did on the weekends. You could visually see who people hung out with and what they did on their own time. The effects were positive and negative for some. I remember hearing about friends breaking up or getting into fights with one another because of something posted on Facebook and thinking that was just ridiculous. How could you let some online procrastination tool get into the way of a relationship?

My how far Facebook has come. It has now evolved to a point where it’s weird for someone not to have a Facebook account. And now there’s chat, business fan pages, applications, real time updates, and extreme privacy settings. You can basically make Facebook whatever you want it to be.

What are your memories of Facebook from way back when? Can you remember instances when it first started to impact your social or online activity?

Getting social with your job search

Who isn’t looking for a job these days? I’m sure just about everyone knows of someone who has been laid off or is trying to find their first job out of college in this economic climate. Even people who are employed are cautiously looking elsewhere just in case things don’t work out at their current place of work.

Kate-Madonna Hindes - girlmeetsgeek.com

With that said, looking for a job has evolved into somewhat of an art. Crafting the perfect resume and cover letter could be the difference between whether an employer calls you for questioning or tosses your list of achievements into a bottomless pit of resume rejects. Basically, the competition is fierce.

There’s no doubt that social media has started to change the game of job hunting. Today, you can find just about anything on anyone using a variety of social sites. We’ve all heard the horror stories about employers finding questionable photos of applicants on Facebook or tweets about how they aren’t working on the job. If you’re currently job hunting and haven’t cleaned up all your profiles – do it now.

On the other hand, social media can actually work in the favor of job seekers. Kate-Madonna Hindes (or @girlmeetsgeek) is a writer, speaker, and resource professional for the Workforce Center of Minnesota. She’s a social media enthusiast and knows a thing or two about helping job seekers stand out to employers. Not to mention, she’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

So I decided to ask her if she’d be willing to provide some ideas and tips that I could share with all of you. I’m so grateful she agreed to help out. She’s passionate about what she does and is someone that people in any stage of their career can learn a lot from.

Here’s what she had to say:

Why should job seekers embrace social media?

I understand the questions of “why,” but instead I think we should all be asking “why not”? According to Mashable, 81% of employers are already screening their candidates online. The big word for companies right now is “innovation.” Innovation to me, means being fluid with new ideas and technology- a faster runner in a race. Don’t jeopardize your potential employment by not being willing to become fluent in change or innovation.

How can you make your social media profiles more attractive to employers? What are they looking for in an online presence?

They’re looking for a well-rounded candidate. It’s more than simply just filling in the blanks. Recruiters WANT recommendations. They want your strengths to shine out from others’ words. It makes you more believable as a candidate and one that doesn’t seem like such a risk. We’re coming out of a huge period of financial risk. Companies are hiring contract employees more than full-time employees. Make yourself worth their risk.

What are some common mistakes job seekers make on social sites? (Beyond avoiding posting inappropriate pictures of yourself or tweeting about how you don’t like your boss)

Biggest mistake? Not being on LinkedIn or Twitter. Both have recently partnered with Google and Microsoft Bing to offer profiles near the very top. You want to be found: Because you want the job.

LinkedIn is the major professional social site. Many people have an account but don’t do anything with it. Any tips for how to get more out of a job search using LinkedIn?

LinkedIn isn’t for getting the job, it’s for getting the connection. Jobs come and go- connections stay. To be successful at online networking, especially LinkedIn, you need to bring something to it’s table. Simply filling out a profile and expecting someone to hire you will never happen. Go under the Answers tab, answer the questions and set yourself apart by proving you know your content. Recommendations are especially important. Upload your resume using Box.net. Never mistake online networking as more important than in person actual networking. A face is much more important than a profile. LinkedIn helps you get yourself in the networking circle.

Are there any strategies or sites you would recommend for reaching out to potential employers? Is acceptable to contact them through social media?

Hiring managers and recruiters are busy. Any job posting could generate thousands of resumes. What better way to make a statement than to connect with them through social media  first? Value their time: bring something to their table and give them a reason to give you a second look. When you use social media you broadcast what you know and what you bring. It’s almost a no-brainer that they’ll want to connect with a fluid innovator, such as yourself. Remember: content and connection win the meeting while your personality and knowledge land the job.