Thursday, October 22, 2009

Social Media Me

Every morning they beg to be freed from their prison in my closet. Purses. Pumps. Presentation suits. My business clothes. Put us on, they whisper. You'll feel good. You'll look good. You'll sound good. Shave your legs. Spray on some French cologne. How about a little lipstick? You remember lipstick, don't you?

I read an article once about the huge market for American used clothing in Africa. It would take a village to wear my closet: I've been the same size for about fifteen years, which is how long I've had some of my clothes. Now that I work at home, I'm rarely out of my pajamas before noon. Let's face it: my well-appointed wardrobe is going to remain as closeted as Kevin Spacey. I'm north of forty, I moved to what just might be the most insular advertising market on the planet and the real unemployment rate, once you factor in the underemployed and the folks who've stopped looking, is around 18%.

These days, I work part-time and freelance, or rather, "consult", which is supposed to sound more glamorous. Once in a while, I land something conceptual and maybe even fun. Mostly, I write table tents, emails about prostate cancer and brochures on electro-convulsive therapy (Yes, McMurphy, that's the politically correct term for electroshock). I can't really mourn my salad days, because many of my friends' situations are way more dire. Besides, I'm the moron who walked away from a VP/ACD title when she was on track for a promotion to Creative Director. (If I had kept that job, I'd probably be unemployed by now, like many of my homies).

Bottom line, I have a business to build. I'm doing as much old school networking as I can but in these lean times, the classic "your friend so and so gave me your name" tactic is ineffective. People tell you to call back in two weeks when they're done with their focus groups, huge pitch, vacation, company retreat, hernia operation... you get the picture. You write yourself a note, wait the requisite two weeks, call and leave a message, and after unreturned phone call#3, scratch another name off your call list. Not that I blame these people. They're probably getting ten of these calls a day and they'd rather help a friend than a friend of a friend.

What do you do in an anti-social business climate? Make like everybody else and turn to social media. I started with the most logical choice for business purposes, linked in. It's turned out to be an invaluable forum. You pick up interesting information, communicate with people from all over the world, discover kindred spirits, read interesting links about trends in your industry. The etiquette is simple and the discussion groups are a great place to get feedback or advice from peers. I've even gotten work off of linked in, from people who read my profile or snarky wall posts.

Twitter, I have not had much use for. I'm sure I would, were I an oppressed Iranian, tweeting about the street protests and subsequent government crackdowns. But I'm just an underemployed yankee ad wench. I get annoyed looking at Twitter's too-cute retro design and ugly colors. I don't feel like checking in with the tweetosphere multiple times a day to see who's being pithy now. I am not going to follow the Mexi-Korean fusion food truck around town. I don't care when the krispy kreme donuts are coming out of the oven and I have no desire to cyber-stalk Ashton Kutcher. Once or twice a month, I get a notice that somebody I've never heard of is following me on Twitter. Good luck with that. Following me on Twitter is like chasing a parked car.

Facebook is the SM I resisted the longest. I just couldn't see how to walk that line between the personal and the professional. Even if stay resolutely away from topics like God and country, how is the fact that I like pilates and putrid French cheeses relevant to a potential client? But FB has become a terrific 5 minute diversion when I'm in the middle of some particularly dreary assignment. Not only can I stay in touch with old friends, I've gotten to know many of my acquaintances a lot better. The fun facts you pick up! Who knew that October 24th was Zambia's 45th birthday. Or that Thai people punctuate everything they say with "na". I just found out Richard Thompson's 1952 Vincent Black Lightening totally rocks, and that an African American congregation in Georgia is learning the meaning of namaste. I even got introduced to the axolotl, a Mexican salamander that looks like it crawled off one of my son's old pokey man cards.

So here I am, sitting in my home office. The business clothes remain incarcerated: It's 3:00 p.m. and I'm still in my pajamas, blogging and cranking out radio spots. I'm afraid I haven't provided much insight into social media, but if you want a free, detailed upload, take a peek at this art director's blog. He's a nice guy, and judging by his facebook page, he cooks a mean Irish breakfast.

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