Category Archives: Online Presence

the art of cultivating a unique voice

I first met the Shermika and Tamika Dunner, the lovely ladies behind the blog ArtBLT, in June when they sent a tweet to one of the accounts I manage at work. I was instantly smitten with their blog (and with them–they’re so sweet)!  In addition to a consistent supply of cool content (say that five times fast), one of the things I like most about ArtBLT is its voice.  If there were five different posts by five different bloggers in a lineup, I’d spot them easily because of the things they’ve done to make their writing uniquely theirs. These things include:

Unique terminology: Just like Barack Obama owned the word “change” in 2008, so do the Dunner sisters own the word “belle,” identifying themselves as TamikaBelle and ShermikaBelle and peppering their sentences with the word (For example : “Well, a belle sure likes to watch some dance–especially if it doesn’t bore.”)

Tone: The tone of the blog is friendly and conversational, totally matching their personalities. Which brings me to the next point…

Authenticity: The ArtBelles are witty, Southern, artsy women. Their blog posts sound like the work of witty,  Southern artsy women. Their blog feels like a natural extension of them.

[Sidenote: Learn more about ArtBLT in this week’s 9 Questions!]

Most of my favorite blogs and microblogs have these a lot of these traits (check out the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s twitter feed and Very Smart Brothas’ blog to see what I’m talking about). As I’ve experimented with blogging, voice is one thing I’ve had to work on. My main problem was that I wasn’t being authentic–worrying too much about who my potential audience was and changing the way I’d say something. That resulted in writing that bored even me.

So, this iteration of my blog will see a little more slang, culture references and other Tatiana quirkiness. What about you–what kind of things make your voice unique?


southern style: 9 questions with ArtBLT

1. Who are you, and what do you do?
We’re Tamika and Shermika Dunner.  Shermika has a traditional gig analyzing data and is a freelance writer.  Tamika interns for a local non-profit.  We run ArtBLT, a blog that focuses on all things art.  We assault the world with art and seek to enlighten everyone that crosses our path.

2. How did you end up doing this?

Hmm…Shermika kept talking about doing an artsy site.  She does freelance work whenever someone will hire her, so ArtBLT provided a creative outlet for her true interests. Tamika got tired of hearing her annoying voice and used some tech savvy and gumption to get it off the ground.  Tamika was the mastermind behind the name and as they say, the rest is history. Being lovers of the art, we wanted to expose all people to the arts. When we say art, we don’t just mean traditional visual art. Art is more than paint on a canvas.  Art is the way a book makes you feel, the attention to detail a chef has, a film that made you question your beliefs, etc.

Our blog includes food, fashion, music, film, and travel because we believe they are all forms of artistic expression.  ArtBLT sandwiches different types of art together in an effort to entertain and enlighten–and of course, we don’t want to bore. We place an emphasis on all things indie or unknown as we roll our eyes at regurgitated information and consider ourselves to be trailblazers–not trend chasers.

Since we are women of color, we like to educate our people on the arts.  In the midst of celebrity idolization (if that’s a word), arts appreciation is severely lacking in the world. That’s where the ArtBelles (as we’ve so coined ourselves) come in.  Our goal is to have a darn good time doing what we do best–chitty chatting with folks about what you don’t see on the idiot box (tv) or the magazines. We’re readers, museum hoppers, travelers, fashion lovers (and Shermika is the heel diva).  We position our love of art–via the blog –to promote a lively discourse about various types of art and to shed light on artists we love. We do this because we love different forms of artistic expression, and we are all about promoting someone the world might be sleeping on.

3. What social media platforms are you active on ?

ArtBLT is on Twitter and Facebook. Individually, we are on LinkedIn in case traditional employers with great health benefits come knocking. Shermika has a writing portfolio on Blogger.

4. Which has been the most useful for you, and how?

Hands down, Twitter has been the most useful. It allows you to connect with people that you want and NEED to know. Twitter is imperative for building and cultivating relationships. Not only that, but Twitter is timely and relevant; practically anyone can read your timeline–especially if it’s retweeted. We can instantly connect with people locally and from all over, which is a cool thing. Twitter allowed us to meet you, Tat! In one moment, we can use Twitter to be silly belles, and in the next we’re tweeting out PSA’s on health issues, reading about politics/current events, or commenting about foolishness.

5. Can you describe a specific instance where social media was instrumental in helping you achieve a certain goal?

Social media is always instrumental–so many good things have happened to us because of social media. It allows us to build organic relationships. A lot of people we’ve met via Twitter have given a tremendous amount of support to ArtBLT. Anytime we make a new contact and it’s mutually beneficial, that’s always a plus. Social media is allowing ArtBLT to be known by more people and we’re always grateful for that.

6. What’s next for you/your brand?

For ArtBLT, we hope to host some events in Birmingham and team up with everyone that’s willing to help us make that happen.  We want to make Birmingham better. Our goal is to connect with social media mavens/marketing gurus in the area that can help us take our brand to the next level.  We’re definitely into brand strengthening.  We’re two chicks and can’t do it alone, so we hope to align ourselves with people that are visionaries, and are willing to share information while forging a bond with us.  Our plan is to put professional pictures of ourselves on the site and do a whole site overhaul when we rub enough nickels together. We just want to keep broadening horizons and have fun.  We want to continue to elevate the ArtBLT brand and build/cultivate relationships (I say it a million times, but its true…relationships are imperative to success). And if we’re fortunate, we’ll garner new ArtBLT stalkers/wine tasting buddies.

7. What’s your dream project?
There are so many! Having a photographer call us to take our pictures.  Working with a company on a signature event or product that coincides with the ArtBLT brand. Being invited to an artsy soiree or indie film festival.  And of course, being invited to the studio of a visual artist and watching them work…and then getting the art as a gift LOL. We’re always dreaming big with our eyes wide open. And we’d like to be invited to speak on a panel one day-everyone has a story and the Dunner girls have one!

8. Tell me about someone who’s social media presence you admire–an entrepreneur, a blogger, a brand, etc.–and what makes them great. 
I admire the hustle of anyone that’s willing to share information via social media. Since starting ArtBLT we’ve encountered GREAT people that have been willing to help us grow.  On the downside, we’ve met others who snub us because we don’t have 1,000+ followers. It’s a shame, but it’s a given in this world. We really admire  Kali Simba of New York Accents.  Kali is an entrepreneur with her own jewelry line.  Her work is unique and has a creative twist that beckons you to purchase it.

Kali uses her blog  to give an inside look at the fashion industry, and what it takes to be in it. It’s so imperative to share knowledge and prepare a path for those that are interested in a certain field. Kali does a wondrous job of letting one know the ins and outs of being a fashion designer. I admire that because someone of color may look to Kali’s site for inspiration.  It’s very important to see someone that looks like you excel in a field that is dominated by others.  We’re big on helping people prosper, and Kali does that–she takes time out of her day to school budding fashion designers. She doesn’t have to do that, but the point is that she does. And a plus is that she is sweet as pie!

9. Where can we find you on these Internets? all day every day. Get your stalk on and subscribe, like, and follow us there.

some advice on setting up a facebook page

My friend B is a model/entertainer in New York City. Recently, he decided he needed a Facebook fan page instead of a profile for his professional career. Now that he’s got his fan page set up, he’s trying to attract more fans. Here’s the advice I gave him.


B: How do you get more people to your fan page?

Me: Hmm…there are a few ways.

1. Regular Postings
B has a very cool “motivational but i don’t take things TOO seriously” vibe going on. His posts from his personal account are always interesting, varying from what he’s doing for the day (like appearing on the Wendy Williams show) to inspiring messages about how fun life is when you follow your dreams. I suggested he come up with a daily series-type post, something that people would look forward to in order to help him build an audience. This can work for any kind of audience.

2. Content
Interesting content is another element that draws people to Facebook pages. One of the reasons I “liked” Toby Lightman’s page is all of the music she has available. This part is pretty easy for him.  Being a model means B has tons of pics available to create albums with.

3. Promote and Support Other People’s Pages
Facebook recently made a change where you can sign in as your page. I suggested to B that he “like” the pages of other models and musicians–people he knows  and people he’d like to connect with. Making comments on other people’s pages while you’re signed in as your page helps you build mutually relationships.

4. Consider Using a Landing Page

I’ve found that using a landing page increases the likelihood of a person “liking” your page. Here’s a post that features some cool landing pages; it’s targeted toward musicians, but will work for most anybody.


So, was my advice on point or was it lacking? What would you add to it? AND–do me a favor and like his page, will ya? 🙂