June 2010 – Interview with Trevor Turnbull from Social Connect Blueprint

Laura Gainor is a Social Media Strategist for Comet Branding + PR. Gainor has an extensive background in client services management, personal and business branding strategies. In addition to these areas, she excels in creative talents through photography and graphic design.

Gainor is an expert on how to create a successful personal and business brand through social media after landing a job by showcasing her expertiseusing various social media tools.

Social Media Interview

1. You have an interesting story about how you used social media to land your dream job.  Can you share that story with us?

I was living in Charlotte, NC, had recently got married and was actually working in online marketing for Yodle managing Google Adwords campaigns.  After I got married, I decided I wanted to venture back into photography and my creative background.  So, I launched a photography company where I used social media to help promote my new company on a limited budget.  So, that’s how I first got started in social media. I got involved with Twitter and Facebook Fan Pages and really enjoyed it.  I guess you can say that’s when I became “addicted” to social media.

When my husband, Brian Gainor (http://partnershipactivation.com), found out he was being transferred to Milwaukee, WI, I had to leave my business behind and find a job within 3 weeks.  So, I started networking with people in Milwaukee while still in Charlotte.  I first hit Twitter and started to identify people in Milwaukee that were involved in advertising, social media, design and photography.  Two of those people were Al Krueger and Sara Meaney, the partners at Comet Branding.  So, I started following Comet just to see what was going on there daily.

So, two days before we left for Milwaukee to find a place to live, I had really been getting involved in Foursquare and had mentioned on Twitter that everyday when you do your “check-ins”, it would be nice to have a way to post a photo with each “check-in”.  Of course, a day later, the applicationSquarePik came out.  So, I was excited to use this new technology on our trip.  Two days later, Comet Branding tweeted that they were hiring a social media strategist.  So, I had a short period of time to think out how I could get the attention of Comet Branding.

So, in my Slideshare presentation, you see the Comet Branding poster that I used along my travels to express my interest in the position they were hiring for.  I didn’t want to do the traditional resume application, I wanted to have them realize via Twitter that I was applying for the job.

Trevor: So, just to be clear, you had never met the people at Comet Branding before and didn’t know anything about them prior to your move?

I had never heard of Comet Branding before knowing that I was moving to Milwaukee, so I did my research on them to make sure it was a fit for me.  I wanted to find a company I can grow in, that I enjoy working with and a place where I can utilize the skills I had developed in my background.  I researched the owners to see if they were active in social media and they were.  I checked to see what other people were saying about Al and Sara to get to know them. On Twitter, you can really get to know people.  You get to know their personality just by reading their tweets everyday. So, when I realized that Comet Branding was a company that I’d like to work for, I had to find a way to tell them that I was interested in the position.

Trevor: So, essentially you put together your own personal campaign to show them your creative side and showcase the skill set you had built up over the years as you were making your way on the road to Milwaukee with the hope to talk with them about working for Comet?

Yes, I like to find ways to incorporate my background in photography and graphic design. Especially after launching Blue Wheel Photography (my photography business in Charlotte).  I wanted to use my unique background to show this company that I had a diverse skill set. I did approximately 12 “check-ins” on Foursquare around Milwaukee the day we arrived at different locations around the city where I took a picture and tweeted to @CometBranding.  That Sunday, when I returned to Charlotte, I had compiled all of the content I had built over the previous few days and had to figure out how to put it all together to explain why I want to work for Comet Branding.

So, on Monday morning I started putting together the Slideshare presentation, as opposed to a traditional resume, to showcase how I could utilize social media to creatively promote myself for the position they were hiring for.

Trevor: You have a very inspiring story and that was why I wanted to chat with you about this.  You have a background in design and have been in the social media world for a while now, but the beautiful part about it is that you are using tools that are essentially free to use.  Slideshows are fairly easy to put together now even if you don’t have a graphic design background and I think that is the most inspiring part about your story.  Anyone can really do this.  A lot of times people hesitate because of the fear around using software, but I think your story really shows that anybody can do this, you just have to be willing to put yourself out there and learn to use the tools properly.

Yes, I think with social media, there are a lot of tools that are constantly coming out and people get scared of it.  But, the reality is it is making things so much easier for people. For example, you can now embed your Slideshare presentations into your Linkedin profile which makes it so much easier to share your content with future employers and colleagues.

2. Which social media tools do you use the most on a daily basis?

Personally, I am on Twitter everyday.  That is where I go to find all my news and information.  When I first get to the office, I open up Hootsuite to see what is going on and what people are talking about. I also check Mashable to stay up to date on events.  I’m also on Linkedin everyday.  I like to spend at least 10 minutes every morning to find new connections. It’s important to me to continue building my connections on Linkedin.

As for Facebook, I am starting to lean toward using Facebook in a more professional way. But, for the most part, I like to keep it personal where I can stay in touch with family and friends.

And, of course, after launching my first slideshow presentation on Slideshare, which received over 38,000 views, I am wanting to find time to upload more personal content onto my Slideshare account.

3. Are there any particular online and offline information resources that you use to keep up with social media trends?

Our blog at CometBranding.com/Blog I personally like to read to keep up with what we are doing at work.  The employees, including myself, are responsible for writing on the blog, so I need to keep up with trends.  I use TechCrunch and Mashable.  But, for the most part, I really just hit Twitter to see what people I admire are talking about. Roy Morejon in Charlotte has a great blog.  Jason Keath withSocialFresh.com has great content that I like to check out.  Jason Kintzler from PitchEngine.com has lots of great content.  I try to find a mix of content from PR, Social Media, Creative and Photography websites. You definitely have to pick your topics of interest and don’t overwhelm yourself.

4. Do you have a “WOW” moment with your experience in social media?

Of course, the experience with my Slideshare presentation and Comet Branding was a “WOW” moment for me (See below)

5. Do you have any advice to give to other people and/or businesses that are just getting started in social media?

The first step is the hardest, so the first thing to do is to secure your brand across all of the social accounts you plan to use.  Figure out what name you want to brand your company with and make sure you can secure the same name across multiple platforms for brand consistency. The biggest thing is to brand yourself.

The first thing to start with for personal use is to create a blog where you can create content that shows people who you are and try to be consistent with it.  Frequent and engaging content is important.