Category Archives: Social Media

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.

it’s me! 9 questions for tatiana richards

It's me!

Hi! This is the first post in what will be a fairly regular series, “9 Questions.”  I’ll be talking to my favorite people on the web about the way they way they use social networking. Hopefully, you’ll get new ideas about the way YOU can interact on these here Internets and discover some cool new folks in the process. I’ll kick it off, but next week you’ll hear from a pair of Southern sisters who are sweet as iced tea, a characteristic that clearly comes through in the tone of their blog. But enough rambling; here’s 9 Questions with me.

1.Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Tatiana Richards, a journalist/social media community manager in Birmingham, AL.

2.How did you end up doing this?

Once upon a time, I wanted to be a journalist. Then, I got a job as a reporter: few holidays, stressed newsroom, a front row seat to other people’s misery. And the pay! The (in)famously meagre restitution!
So I changed things—my job, my career, my address. I moved from Alabama to Los Angeles and worked as an editorial assistant at a publishing company. It was a great environment, but it wasn’t work that I enjoyed. So when I was laid off in a round of cuts, I was honestly relieved. I spent three blissful months soaking up Southern California sun, travelling and writing fiction.
Just as my severance pay was running out, I stumbled into a great opportunity as an associate editor at a city magazine that happens to be owned by a chamber of commerce. I’ve been able to get experience in editorial and advertising; now, I do a blend of both managing social media for the magazine and the chamber.

3. What social media platforms are you active on (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)?
I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I have two blogs–Tatiana Richards, which focuses mainly on communication and media, and Muzed, which focuses on storytelling and creative processes. It’s just a little fun project for me, so it’s only updated sporadically, but it’s pretty fun for me.
4. Which has/have been the most useful for you?
I’d definitely have to say Twitter. It’s invaluable for building and maintaining relationships, especially with people you may not otherwise meet in your daily comings and goings. Plus, I’m a knowledge junkie, and I’m always discovering new information via a tweet.
5. Can you describe a specific instance where social media was instrumental in helping you achieve a certain goal?
Well, social media is the focus of my job, so any work-related goal I have is accomplished using social networking. For example, my company hosted a mayoral candidate forum to ascertain the candidates’ positions on economic development. Of course, the entire city couldn’t be there, but by live-tweeting the forum, we were able to keep people informed in real time as well as interact with them and see their reactions. It’s one of the best ways to get a feel for what people are thinking.
6. What’s next for you/your brand?
I’m definitely looking to take on PR/branding projects outside of my 9 to 5 work. I have a ton of varied interests, from natural hair to literature to education, and I’d love to take on small projects that require me to focus intently on one thing for a few weeks/months at a time. I’m also learning German, so it’ll be interesting to se what that leads to.

7. What’s your dream project?
Id love to take someting that’s cool but under the radar–like this boutique I shop at frequently–and come up with a PR/marketing strategy that gets it lots of press (and customers!). 

8. Tell me about someone whose social media presence you admire–an entrepreneur, a blogger, a brand, etc.–and what makes them great.
I love the way my friend Deontee Gordon uses Twitter. His very organic technique is a blend of cultivating relationships, expounding on culture and politics, and being a cheerleader for the city of Birmingham. Through it all, his personality shines through–definitely a model for those looking to use Twitter to brand themselves and have fun at the same time.
9. Where can we find you on these Internets?
You can find links to everything at

when you think of garbage, think of akeem: why personal branding matters

If you’ve never seen Eddie Murphy’s cult classic, Coming to America, you have done yourself a disservice that needs to be corrected immediately. If you have seen it, though, you know that it’s one of the funniest movies OF ALL TIME. It’s about an African prince who slums it up in New York as he searches for his true love, and it’s full of quotables (two words for ya:  Sexual. Chocolate.). One of the most popular one-liners is delivered when Eddie’s character, Prince Akeem, is trying (too hard) to impress a coworker he has a crush on. After extolling his janitorial skills to her, he says, “When you think of garbage, think of Akeem!

And that, ladies and gentleman, is personal branding in a nutshell: When you think of ______, think of [Your Name Here].

"When you think of garbage, think of Akeem!"

When my friends think of anything related to communications, from writing and media to literature and storytelling, they think of me. As manager of my personal brand, it’s my job to make sure that colleagues, employers and potential collaborators are thinking the same thing.

Most folks agree that the idea of personal branding was introduced in Tom Peters’ 1997 Fast Company article “The Brand Called You.” According to Peters:

Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.

It’s that simple — and that hard. And that inescapable.

Fast forward to today, where Dan Schawbel has taken the concept of personal branding and applied it to the Information age. His book Me 2.0 (which I’m currently reading) teaches you how to discover and market your personal brand. If you can’t drill it down to just one thing, I highly recommend checking out  this post on Puttylike, a website for “multipotentialites”, i.e. Renaissance men and women.

Once you’ve decided on what your brand is, you should definitely start using the Internet to grow it, because that’s where people will be looking for you (and don’t act like you’ve never Googled somebody to find out what they’re all about. Please believe your employers do it too.). Who you talk with, what you talk about, even the way you talk–it all paints a picture of who you are.

So what does this mean? Well–it means that when people Google you, whatever comes up should be exactly what you want them to find. At the very least, you need to have a fully completed, up-to-date LinkedIn account; if you want to be really good, you need to have an active blog or an updated website.

But to get started, take a lesson from Prince Akeem and decide what you want to represent. Then Google yourself and see if it lines up.

facebook for economic development

Here’s a quick link after a hiatus! If you use facebook for economic development, particularly for chambers of commerce, then you’ll find this video from Development Councillors International very helpful. If you’re just getting started with social media, this will help. If social media is already a part of your strategy, you may pick up good ideas from it. Check it out here.