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Melissa Mauldin
Melissa Mauldin, Senior Marketing Specialist

It seems like only yesterday we heard the call of summer, which always began (for me) with The Fresh Prince’s “Summertime,” for others maybe it was Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” or The Drifters’ “Under the Boardwalk.” Well, just as it seems summer began, it’s time for all of those summer anthems to come to an end.  Although some of us are looking forward to cool off from this “Cruel Summer,” I think most of us can agree we’ve had enough “Hot Fun in the Summertime” to last three summers! Okay, enough of the songs, it’s time for the books.

Getting ready for school is an exciting time. As a child I’d go every year to buy a new pair of Stride-Rite shoes with my grandma and we’d shop for new school clothes until we literally dropped. Of course, school wasn’t all about new clothes, but new friends, new classes, new experiences and new lessons. It was exhilarating to delve further and further each year into the areas I was interested in – English, art and social studies. Conversely, I dreaded the not so interesting classes for me – chemistry, geometry and yes, gym class! As I got older I couldn’t wait to be finished with school – I’d have so much more time then (yeah, right).

Now as an adult I know there is no such thing as more time, unless someone invents the 30-hour day. But I also learned my education did not end with graduation or receiving my degree.  As many of us know, in order to stay ahead, or be considered a knowledgeable expert in our field, we must continually educate ourselves, learning new trends, new practices and new studies, whether it be in a classroom setting, online, attending seminars, joining professional organizations, etc.

The benefit of continual education has many folds. Not only does it grow your own depth of knowledge, but it also impacts those around you – colleagues, clients, customers, peers, competitors and so on. Not to mention it serves the American dream. It’s our endless hunger for knowledge, to think of the next big thing and spurn on innovation.

So as we get ready to send the kids off to school, take a moment and reminisce about your own school days. Remember the excitement and the challenge, and find a new way to enhance your skill set with the many programs and educational opportunities around you.

Below are some of the recent seminars team members at ABI have attended:

  • American Marketing Association (AMA) Baltimore/Baltimore Public Relations Council (BPRC), Marketing Adventures with Dan Cathy, President of Chick-Fil-A
  • Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Maryland Chesapeake Conference
  • Baltimore Public Relations Council Annual Conference
  • PRSA Maryland Accredited in Public Relations (APR) Bootcamp
  • Social Media Bookmarking and Tagging and PR
  • U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) training
  • Pixibility Webinar, Social Media Video Secrets with Peter Shankman
  • AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts), Design Army Graphics presentation
  • AIGA, Lecture with Steven Heller
  • PaperSpecs, Direct Mail and Postage seminar
  • PaperSpecs, FSC Certification and Labels

Upcoming events of interest:

  • Advertising Week, Washington, D.C. (9/20-9/24/10)
  • AMA Virtual Event: Getting to the Core of Social Media and Mobile Marketing for Higher Ed Institutions (9/22/10)
  • PRSA Maryland, Writing Series for the Public Relations Professional, a three part series (beginning 9/23/10)
  • AIGA, Lecture with Debbie Millman (9/23/10)
  • AMA, Social Media seminar, Washington, D.C. (10/12/10)
  • Annual government security training
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Social Media Today
www.socialmediatoday.com

I remember wondering early in my career, as blogs emerged, how many people would really undertake the responsibility of writing and maintaining a website devoted to their own musings or watchdog tactics, and how many blogs would keep readers’ interest. Of course, anonymity was a plus, but could bloggers really develop a loyal following?

More than 12 years after the introduction of the blogosphere, blogs are alive and well as bloggers create niches and everyone from corporate executives to mom and pop at the shop on Main Street begin to grasp the value of starting a dialogue and engaging multiple viewpoints.

Technorati tracked more than 112 million blogs in 2008, which provides a pretty succinct answer to my one-time question about who would carry the blog flame throughout cyberspace. And of course, blogs have loyal followers as evidenced by commenters and repeat commenters. It’s still difficult to track the exact demographic of loyal blog readers, yet highly targeted topics and analytic software can track hits and impressions.

Now, other technology makes it increasingly easy for us to share blogs that we read regularly and even those that we stumble upon and want to share. Sure, we can subscribe to a blog’s RSS feed to catch up on our RSS Reader or sign up for email notifications when a new post is made. But with the integration of more than one million websites on the Facebook Platform – including two-thirds of comScore’s U.S. Top 100 websites and half of comScore’s Global Top 100 websites according to Facebook – receiving updates on new blog posts as part of your news feed or sharing via the Like button nails the “touch it once” rule suitable for both organizing your desk and managing a busy social media network.

Around the agency, we value blogs on industry news and cutting-edge trends. We’re inspired by art techniques and the clever integration of the verbal and visual because it’s what we do! We also appreciate the quirky and downright creative. Enjoy a few of our favorites and look forward to exploring a few of yours.

Social Media Todaysocialmediatoday.com

Useful nuggets of info on social media that we can implement immediately plus valuable resources too

Message With A Bottlemessagewithabottle.tumblr.com

A freelance writer turned stay-at-home dad armed with a pen, post-it notes and hysterical observations about “the kid.”

Beast Pieces, Blog of Studio on Fire – www.beastpieces.com

Hybrid design and letterpress concepts from the Studio on Fire workspace in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Dralin Design Co. – www.draplin.com

Satirical approach to the daily life of designers who love what they do

Stuff No-One Told Me –  stuffnoonetoldme.blogspot.com

Comic strip-style blog with new lesson or saying for each day

All Businesswww.allbusiness.com

Compilation of bloggers on business intelligence, small business, finance, operations, sales and technology

Catalogue Livingcatalogliving.tumblr.com

“A look into the exciting lives of the people who live in your catalogs.”

Daily Hellerwww.printmag.com/dailyheller

Commentary on graphic design pieces from industry expert, Steven Heller

Designwww.design.org

A blog about anything and everything design

Woot! The Blog –  www.woot.com/blog

Information on technology and technology based products

Designer Dailywww.designer-daily.com

Design inspiration and resources for industry professionals

Think Designthinkdesignblog.com

Designer blog with freebies, resources and inspiration

The Daily Reckoningdailyreckoning.com

A veteran blog, giving advice for how to live well in uncertain times

Felt & Wirewww.feltandwire.com

Impressions from the paper-obsessed

Lifehackerwww.lifehacker.com

Better living through technology

A List Apartwww.alistapart.com

Critical thinking, industry trends and fantastic tutorials for designing on the web

DC Radio and Televisiondcrtv.com

Information/gossip on the media scene

Simply Recipessimplyrecipes.com

Food blog for easy meals–beautiful pics too!

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TJ Brightman
TJ Brightman is the VP of Client Services at A. Bright Idea

I just found out my daughter is “in a relationship” and her anniversary is 11 months from now.

My wife just gave one of our friends a “birthday gift” yet she never bought or wrapped a thing.

Someone just “tagged me.”

That girl I knew in high school just announced that she wants to “connect with me and be friends.”

Someone just “tagged me” again.

My wife just told the world she has walked into a restaurant to sit down and eat.

Someone just “wrote on my wall.”

All of this is so strangely familiar because it seems social media takes over our lives a little more each day.  Twitter this, Facebook that.  Don’t forget about Skype or Bing, or the latest Zang.  Ok, I made the last one up.  But, I bet you were about to reach for your computer to google the latest and greatest social media network just to stay in the loop.

I have a confession to make.  I just joined Facebook!  I apologize to my friends who along with me swore we would never give in to the establishment and found the whole idea kind of silly.  Don’t get me wrong.  Someone who lives, sleeps and breathes the world of advertising and marketing everyday certainly can recognize the power of social media and the benefits it can provide to one’s business.  I have been a communicator my entire adult life.   However, the idea of sending someone an electronic birthday gift never crossed by mind, maybe because I thought the whole idea about giving a gift was watching someone open it in front of you.

In many ways, I guess I’m still part of a generation that grew up getting their information from traditional media and stayed in touch with friends the old fashion way.  This way there are less casualties along the way and no need to “reconnect” with that guy in high school or the old girlfriend who you really don’t want to get to know better.  I am not too old to remember when the days of staying connected with friends meant finding the best deal from the telephone company on your long distance service.  Today, my daughter doesn’t know what long distance means and can stay in touch with her friends or upload a photo in seconds via her Facebook account.

My decision to join Facebook had nothing to do with the fact that I just turned 40 this year and I somehow felt the need to stay more in touch and savvy in front of my kids.  Really, I am being honest:)) (Did I really just put a smiley face at the end of the last sentence?  I don’t remember that form of punctuation in my AP Style Book from college.) My decision to join Facebook was largely due to the recent book I read titled, “The Accidental Billionaires.”  This national best seller by Ben Mezrich is the story of the 20-something  genius Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook.  Soon to be made into a movie, “The Accidental Billionaires” is a great read and not only captures the entrepreneurial spirit of this young company, but the idea behind the birth of social media in general.

So, I have taken the leap.  I have dipped my toes, (maybe just one toe) into the sea of social media that is Facebook.  Don’t expect a transformation overnight.  I am still the same old-fashioned guy who believes in staying in touch with friends by way of a phone call and building business relationships through a face-to-face meeting and handshake.  Maybe this only means that I am becoming a little more open to new ways of communicating in my next 40 years.    We will see how this works out.  I gotta go.  Someone just said something about me in my news feed……

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Melissa serves as Senior Marketing Specialist for A. Bright Idea

Social media – it’s a virtual wonderland to some, but a scary or incomprehensible place for others, including business owners. Many wonder, is social media really a tool that can benefit MY business? To that I’d say, well it depends.

Social media is not for everyone. Social media is not for those that can’t devote the time or manpower to it because it’s only beneficial for what you put into it. However, gaining real presence and traction for your business is not something that is unachievable even for those where manpower is limited. There are methods to keep your content current, active and interesting while increasing your site visitors and presence in this online world – that very frequently affects the real life world. Businesses need to determine how they want to be positioned in this realm because the medium is “social” in nature, its participants can see through gimmicks or when they are being “sold” on something. It’s important to be honest and upfront about your position and in the messaging for your company. Whether you determine your goal is to offer advice, commentary on current trends in your industry, promote events of your business or in the community, etc. you can gain “followers” or “fans” and build loyalty among your audience as long as you maintain your position and keep your message on point.

Whether we like it or not, the online world has made it accessible to put a whole host of information out there instantaneously and just waiting to be gobbled up by the masses. Those masses use that information to make decisions, buy products and seek service providers.

One of the first things most of us probably do when searching for a product or service is “Google it.” For businesses, it’s now not only important to have a web presence, but  an active blog and social media presence will help you appear more frequently for those web searchers. Building in a social media strategy as part of your overall marketing and communications plan can help build additional impressions in the market.

Your appearance in the online world of social media has everything to do with your appearance in the real world and affects it just the same. Word of mouth/grassroots types of advertising now has a far-reaching and fast moving vehicle. Individuals are connected with family, friends, colleagues and coworkers spreading messages about likes, dislikes, joining groups and fan pages. How can your business get involved?

The key for a business owner is to monitor your presence in social media and not avoid it. Social media is a viable resource that can be used for your benefit. Find out if people are talking about you, and if so what are they saying. The fantastic thing about social media is that it exists in an online world that is tracked and monitored by web crawlers and data functions that provide incredible metrics. This data provides you with the basis to direct your messages, topics and can shape your remaining advertising and marketing direction with key audiences.

While some skeptics may have thought it a trend and fad, the longevity of this medium is no longer in question – it IS here to stay. The conversation about your business IS happening–are you going to let it happen without you?