Jennifer MacDonald was born and raised in the Kennebec Valley and spent most of her childhood outside; skiing, camping, fishing, canoeing, you name it. Not surprisingly, her love of the outdoors lead her to a college in the heart of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. After receiving a degree in Graphic Design, she moved to Portland, ME and started working in production for L.L. Bean catalogs. Three years later and after having a chance to dabble in social media at Maine Home + Design Magazine, she was ready to try something new. She packed her car and moved 3,000 miles away to Seattle, WA where she began her career in digital marketing.The years that followed she spent making amazing business connections with professionals from all over the country, and started speaking at social media conferences/seminars on the topics of social media, video marketing, and digital marketing for the franchise industry.
When she was offered a job with a New York-based marketing and social media management software company, she couldn’t turn down the chance to be back on the east coast. Here she built her expertise in user experience while designing user friendly and visually engaging software. Wanting to be back in Maine, she’s now the director of digital media at TideSmart Global, an experiential marketing and media agency in Falmouth. Today you can find her online connecting with local residents, venturing out to networking events or planning her own (Social Media Day Maine), enjoying the great outdoors, and trying not to eat too many wasabi peas.
Spammers and trolls, Social Media Day Maine, and the heaven of unplugging
What was your first experience with social media?
My first ever experience with social media was back in 2004, while enrolled in college, I watched my friends use Facebook to connect with other students. In other words, I watched them look at inappropriate photos of fellow students from college parties. Back then Facebook was still cool because only college kids were able to use the social network.
My first professional experience with social media was in 2008 when I worked at Maine Home + DesignMagazine, I created and managed the social accounts for the magazine to help us grow our subscription base and build connections with Maine business owners.
What do you like about social media?
Personally, I love the fact that social media makes it possible for me to connect with CEOs, CMOs, and other highly influential people that I may never have had the chance to meet. In fact, this is why I pushed for TideSmart Global to host Social Media Day Maine on June 30th this year. Social Media Day is a global event started by Mashable five years ago and after experiencing the event in other cities around the country I saw how it can really bring people together both globally and locally and break down those communication barriers.
Professionally, I love being able to get raw data that shows the results of my efforts from using social media to market a product or service. I can easily know the reach of my campaign, how many impressions I received, clicks and other demographic information. Additionally, being able to track links helps me to report leads, which in conclusion I can report on the dollar amount I brought in for the company.
What do you dislike about social media?
I share the same dislike about social media personally as I do professionally, and that is spammers and trolls. I often experience both of these dislikes on my own personal accounts as I do on the business accounts that I manage. Spammers make my job harder, they infiltrate the feed that I’m using for marketing purposes and cloud my message, which in result drives people away. Online trolls really just p*** me off, they are cowards in real-life but when they’re behind the computer screen they suddenly become the most ego-centric people you’ve ever encountered.
What would it be like for you to disconnect from social media for six months?
Heaven? Seriously, it would be amazing, I have been an online community manager for almost seven years, that means being ‘plugged in’ seven days a week, and monitoring a brand every hour of the day, unless I’m sleeping, for 365 days a year. Although, I have within the last two years made myself ‘unplug’ two weeks each year, and after that time away from technology I have felt more refreshed than spending a week at a spa. However, after that six months I would be going through withdrawals and would need to plug back in. Social media has helped me keep in touch with my friends from afar who live in different time zones, and it’s also how I stay knowledgeable and relevant in my career. Without it I would be unemployed, and not know anything that was going on in the world.
If you could only use three words to describe social media, what would they be?
Relationships. Real-Time. FUN.
Is there a person or brand that you think uses social media effectively?
There is a person who has been my role model in social media ever since I got started and that is my good friend Gini Dietrich, she is the CEO of a PR firm in Chicago. Gini bridges the gap between professionalism and transparency better than anyone else I know. She always puts a goal, and strategy in front of any social media efforts, and she is extremely creative at using technology and social media to create campaigns for her clients.
From a brand perspective I think that Whole Foods kills it. They take their brand experience from the store and put it in the hands of their followers online, both at a corporate level and at the local level. They are also extremely good at building relationships with their customers online. I actually built a relationship with the person who managed the corporate Twitter account for Whole Foods last year, which was awesome! They were always responsive, engaging and fun to tweet with. They are exactly the same brand in the store as they are online, they are consistent with their messaging, branding and personality. To me Whole Foods isn’t a brand, they are a person, and to me that’s success in digital marketing when your followers think of you as human, not a logo.
I want to thank Jennifer for taking the time to talk with me about her opinions on, and experience with, social media.
You can find Jennifer on Tumblr at: jennifermacdonald.tumblr.com
You can find Jennifer on Twitter at: @jennimacdonald
You can find Social Media Day Maine 2014 on Facebook at: Social Media Day Maine 2014
You can find Social Media Day Maine 2014 on Twitter at: @SMDayME