Amy Vernon a.k.a. The Bacon Queen a.k.a. fellow New Jerseian and IRL pal is just about as genuine as they come. With over 20k Twitter followers and the title of “top 15 submitters of all time on Digg.com (and the highest-ranked female ever),” she’s also a powerful social media maven worth paying mind to. VP of Strategy and Alliances at Hasai, Amy’s a familiar face at an array of digital marketing conferences, whether she’s on stage speaking or in the crowd pumping out lightning-fast tweet coverage.
I met Amy at last year’s #140Conf in NYC, and as we “chewed the fat,” so to speak, over U Café grub on the upper East Side, it became apparent why her cult-like following across various social media circles, from Tumblr to Facebook, flocks to her consistently. She works a seriously smooth combo of calculating community manager and super-cool social-savvy friend.
On the advent of #SMX East, I had the pleasure of sharing a candid Q&A with Amy. Topics ranged from “Who are ya, howdidja get here?” to favorite social sharing services, advice for social marketing n00bz and the battle between newsprint & online media. Read on for the full scoop.
| aimClear: Thanks for your time today, Amy! According to your bio, you were pretty deep in the trenches, professionally, at a traditional newspaper just a couple years ago. Now, you’re a widely-known social media authority on all-things awesome. Care to share a bit on how that transition came about?
Amy Vernon: Well, as happened to many people in newspapers, I was laid off. The next day, I had my first contract for consulting and friends reached out to their contacts to help me get freelance writing jobs. What made that transition so seamless, however, was that I’d spent the previous year-plus at my job blogging and figuring out how to get people to our website using Digg, StumbleUpon, Blog Catalog and other sites and communities. (In addition to being a metro editor.) Without setting out to, I had set up my new career while still at my old one.
| aC: How very efficient of you . On a scale of “Get the defibrillator! This ain’t over yet!” to “Good riddance to inky, outdated rubbish,” how do you feel about the battle between newsprint and digital media?
AV: It’s basically the Doctor, before he begins regeneration. Very vulnerable, but just has to change form and it’ll be OK.
OK, for the non-Doctor Who geeks, what I mean is this: The news organizations behind newsprint will survive. Not all, but some. And they will evolve into this new form, as the best have begun to do already. The role of newspapers is not gone – it’s just the format itself that’s dying. And, frankly, it’s forcing news organizations to adapt and change for the first time in decades. I watched for 20 years as newspapers tried to figure out how to get young readers, and then ignored any substantial advice and suggestions that could have helped. Then the Internet came along and newspapers ignored it until it was too late. Now, it’s adapt or die. The best will adapt.
| aC: Darwin would be proud. Because we’d all like to know the daily routine of a “social media maven,” describe a typical… Thursday… to us. Please
AV: I have two little boys, so I’m generally up by 7 a.m. (Eastern) or so on most weekdays. During breakfast/getting ready for school time, I usually check my email, Facebook and Twitter to see what happened overnight, to get a sense of how much catchup I have ahead of me before I can start anything new. I generally sit down at the computer sometime between 8 and 9 a.m. After I respond to email, Facebook and Twitter, I start working. That can involve working with clients to find articles they have with viral potential or updating Facebook pages or talking strategy with clients or co-workers.
In the background, I have several Tumblrs open and check in on my EmpireAvenue account throughout the day. I’m on Digg, Tumblr, Reddit, StumbleUpon and other sites and whenever I see anything that amuses me, I post it somewhere – whether on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter or a combination thereof. I feel as if it’s my duty to share the funniest and coolest stuff I see – I’m on these sites that really aggregate the best of what’s out there, so why not spread it around?
I’m a little bit ADD, I think, so it suits me to have to hop from tab to tab, looking at different things. I also contribute to several blogs and squeeze in posts for them, though I’ve let that lapse a bit too much, I think.
That’s basically what I do all day long. If I’m going into Manhattan at night for a seminar or networking event or party, I hop on a train with both my smartphones (iPhone and Droid X2) and focus mainly on Foursquare, Instagram and Twitter for the evening, though I’ll continue to check on my email. (Who said email was dead? Really, it’s not even close.) And I wouldn’t be able to keep track of the events I attend without Plancast and Meetup (and their mobile apps).
On Thursdays, in particular, however, I try to spend some time with the hubby, watching our sitcoms. Big Bang Theory is teh awesome.
| aC: And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen! Okay. Now. Your top 3 go-to sources for finding super-cool content and/or top 3 tools for streamlining social sharing, ready, go!
AV: Content: Tumblr, Reddit, StumbleUpon. Sharing: Dlvr.it, TweetDeck, HootSuite.
| aC: Two words: Bacon Queen. Enlighten us.
AV: Once upon a time, I submitted a photo of bacon to Digg. It hit the front page. I laughed as hard at the comments wondering why it was on the front page, as it was nothing more than a photo of bacon, as I did at the comments from Diggers who were bemoaning they had to put on pants so they could go cook some bacon. Apparently, a lot of people use Digg while pantsless.
Anyway, I started seeking out the coolest bacon-related submissions (there are multiple groups on Flickr dedicated to bacon, for one), and a lot hit the front page. Let it be known that not every bacon-related submission hits the front page. It just seems that way. So people started pinging me when they saw a bacon-related submission on Digg that I hadn’t commented on. People started calling me the Bacon Queen. So, doing what any web geek does, I bought the domain, BaconQueen.com. I wasn’t sure what to do with it at first, because there are a LOT of bacon blogs out there. So I decided to become the bacon news aggregator. A Drudge Report for bacon/pork news, if you will.
| aC: Rounding out Day 3 of #SMX East, you’ll be participating on the Social Media Site Clinic. Imagine a deranged audience member stands up and shouts, “But I just don’t get what social media can do for my company! What’s the point? Why should we try?!” What would you say to get him/her down off the ledge?
AV: I’d ask this person if they understand why marketing/advertising/pr is useful for a company. Social media has become the new form of that triumverate. The main difference is that it’s real-time and has to be both proactive and reactive. Social media can be whatever you want it to be. It can be a customer service tool; it can be a venue for advertising your sales; it can be a lead generator. It’s all in how you use it. And if you haven’t found it useful yet, you’re either doing it wrong or you’re not using the right platforms for your needs.
| aC: Looking to the future, what social networks are you paying attention to, or feel are worth paying attention to? What platforms have the most potential that the masses aren’t on yet?
AV: I think the next big play is the business-level network. I think LinkedIn will continue to dominate as the Facebook of sorts for business, but other platforms that focus on different aspects of business and networking will be the next to explode, I think. Those include Hashable, for acquaintance curation; Commonred, for finding connections to and commonalities with new people; or EmpireAvenue, as a gamified cross between Twitter and LinkedIn (that doesn’t really explain it well, but it’s the best I can come up with right now). And Empire Avenue is, by the way, a great tool for keeping you aware of your activity levels across various networks.
Also worth paying attention to: Posterous, to see if it makes a play to be regarded as the more grown-up, business-focused version of Tumblr. Though it operates in much the same way as Tumblr, it has an extremely different feel and a very different user base.
| aC: Awesome stuff all around. Thanks for the time, Amy. See you in the Big Apple