Environmental Graffiti’s Movers and Shakers: Amy Vernon, the Queen of Social Media

Bacon Shoes Image: Zazzle

Calling Amy Vernon a connoisseur of social media is putting it mildly: she is among Digg’s top 50 submitters of all time, is active on Twitter, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Propeller, Mixx, Facebook, LinkedIn – you name it. Oh, and did we mention that this new media maven is also one of the reasons why bacon has achieved near legendary status on social media? Amy took the time to talk with us about how she got started with social media sites, her background, the many sites she’s working on and her take on the future of social media.

Amy Vernon on imommytalkPhoto:
Image via iMommyTalk

EG: You’re something of a connoisseur of social media sites – and that’s probably an understatement. Can you explain a bit about what this means, and how you got started in this area?

Amy Vernon: I got started in social media because I blogged about one of my favorite TV shows, “Jericho.” The fanbase was extremely web-savvy and used many social media tools, among other things, to help get a second season for the show, which had been canceled. Digg was my entree into social media and once I got hooked on that, there was no going back.

Image: Rubber Poultry

Now, I’m heavy into Digg, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and StumbleUpon, and am active to varying degrees on other sites, including Mixx and Blip.

What this means is that I spend a tremendous amount of time online and I’ve gotten to meet tons of great people. I help people find interesting content and help others figure out how best to make their content visible.

EG: Tell us about any particular experiences that have shaped the way you interact with social media?

Amy Vernon: In my early days on Digg, I submitted stuff from my own blogs and didn’t interact much with other people on the site. Not surprisingly, I got nowhere. It was only once I started finding interesting content from other sites and commenting on other people’s submissions and digging interesting content I found on Digg that I started understanding how it all worked.

It’s called social media for a reason: It’s social. It doesn’t have to be, “I digg yours so you digg mine,” but it also can’t be, “You digg mine and I never digg yours.” Louie Baur (@louiebaur & @louiebaurdigg on Twitter and LouieBaur on Digg) was one of my first friends in social media and really helped me out tremendously. I can honestly say he’s the reason I got into social media as much as I have.

Being followed by Henry David Thoreau:
HD Thoreau on TwitterPhoto:
Image via burbia

But probably what’s shaped me the most is how my newfound social media friends helped me out after I was laid off from my job as a newspaper editor after nearly 20 years as a professional journalist. That very first day, I was hooked up with my first freelance contract and I had multiple freelance offers for both writing and social media consulting within the first week – all due to my friends in social media.

They reached out to me and did the work on my behalf, knowing that I was the family breadwinner. I couldn’t believe that these people who had never met me were spending their social capital to help me.

I’ve become a very big believer in pay it forward, and now whenever I come across a job opportunity that might work well for someone I know in social media – whether it’s writing or consulting or web design or anything else – I pass it along. I’m always on the lookout for jobs that might be good for my friends and I feel as if I’ve only just begun to karmically pay back my friends who helped me out in my time of need.

Makin’ Bacon? Is Amy reponsible for the whole bacon thing on social media?
Image: bkusler

EG: You’re also involved in Burbia.com. What can visitors to the site expect to experience?

Amy Vernon: Burbia.com is a fun site and I love writing for it. I describe it as a humor site, though it’s more than that. I write what I consider to be personal essays with bite. Some might call it snark. The essence of the site is that the suburbs are just as wacky and diverse and strange as any city. The tagline is “Life on the edge … of the patio.” We don’t emphasize that we live in the ‘burbs, but it kind of informs everything we do.

My favorite part of Burbia, besides my essays, of course, are the photos. They’re so random. And they’re all real. Photos of strange notes or signs people have put on their houses or lawns, strange lawn art, that kind of thing. I know a lot of people assume a lot of it’s been made up, but it’s not.

When I was in Rome, I saw this hysterical sign on a teahouse that basically said, “Shaddap when you’re standing outside otherwise the people who live upstairs are gonna throw stuff at you.” After I stopped laughing, the first thing I said was, “I’ve gotta take a photo of this for Burbia.”

The original sign in Italian:
Funny sign in ItalyPhoto:
Image: Amy Vernon

EG: Can you run us through what your daily routine is like?

Amy Vernon: As early as 6 a.m. or as late as 8 a.m., we’re woken up by our two boys. And by “woken up,” I mean, they crawl all over us and generally make us laugh.

Once we get them fed and watered and dressed, my husband gets them out of the house for a couple of hours. During the school year, that’s a bit easier with our older boy. :-)

But I don’t think that’s really exactly what you’re asking about. Once I power up my computer, I launch Firefox with my dozen or so tabs I save and almost always have open (including Digg, BiggBoard and SocialBlade) and fire up TweetDeck. I don’t open any IM, though, until I check all my e-mail. I have about four e-mail addresses that are forwarded to one of my gmail addresses, so that makes it a little easier. I catch up on all that and then launch Adium, my IM client, and Skype.

From there, I’m looking for interesting stuff to submit to Digg, Mixx, StumbleUpon and other sites, looking for something interesting to write up for Hot Hardware, one of the sites I write for regularly, and trying to figure out what to write for my TV blog, which is just a labor of love.

Amy with her two boys:
Amy Vernon with her two boysPhoto:
Image: Amy Vernon

This is also the time of the day that I’ll record a video for my new venture, iMommyTalk.com. My friend, Donna (@BeShirtHappy), founded the site and invited me on as a founding partner. It’s a mom vlogging site, and the three of us who are founding members each post at least one or two videos each week, and that will increase as time goes on. It’s impossible to do when the kids are around, so I sometimes will record two or three videos in one go, changing my shirt each time so no one knows. (Dammit! I shouldn’t have said that!)

I’m online basically all day. I administer some Facebook pages and help some folks out with building their Twitter accounts (I target followers who might be interested in what the clients are tweeting about). I work with a large variety of clients, both for writing and social media consulting.

For rent, for real?
Cemetary spot for rentPhoto:
Image: burbia

In the afternoon, however, I always try to take a couple of hours off to spend time with my children. I call it going radio silent. I don’t check my e-mail or Digg or Twitter. I was kind of unsuccessful at doing this regularly toward the end of the school year, but for quite some time I picked my son up from school and we’d go out and have fun. I’ve vowed to do this once the new school year starts this fall. I can work after they’ve gone to sleep. What’s the point of working from home if I don’t take advantage of the flexibility and spend more time with my guys?

Once the kidlets are in bed, I power up my computer again and Digg, Stumble, Tweet, blog and otherwise do my thing. I generally don’t go on IM at night, though. I’m more low-key after 8 p.m.

EG: What do you think the future of social media is, and what’s coming up for you as to future plans?

Amy Vernon: Well, if I really knew what the future of social media was, I’d be rich. Hmm. I’ve gotta get on that.

Seriously, though, I think the next step is to combine content sites with social media. I think whoever does that is going to really be onto something. In other words, providing original and vetted content with Web 2.0. Think of it as CNN.com meets Digg.

And I think Digg’s idea of having ads that Diggers can vote on is interesting, as well. Mixx already is doing something of the sort in its Sifter, where users go and rank five “creatives” for the chance to win an iTunes gift card. People are far more willing to put up with advertising and marketing if they can have their say on it.

Got Bacon?
Image: trixieskips

EG: We’ve heard rumours that you’re responsible for the whole bacon thing on social media. Can you tell us more?

I cannot even begin to take responsibility for the popularity of bacon in social media. In fact, it already was its own subreddit on Reddit when I was really getting started on social media.

However, I have become known as the queen of bacon on Digg and Twitter and even friends I’ve known my entire life have begun sending me links to stories or photos about or of bacon. One vegan friend even brought vegan bacon to my house when we had her over for dinner.

I love bacon. And I’m not afraid to express that love. Somehow, it snowballed and people started commenting, “Why hasn’t AmyVernon commented on this yet?” on bacon submissions on Digg that I hadn’t even seen yet.

I used to submit something bacon-related four to five times a week, but I’m much more discriminating now. I don’t want those who are only mildly interested in bacon to become tired of reading about it.

Here’s a couple of my favorite Amy Vernon citations on bacon submissions:
Amy Vernonize all your links and You win bacon.

You can see here that a good number of the most-dugg bacon-related submissions have been from me. And this was my very first bacon submission ever (it hit the front page). Reading the comments had me laughing for hours.

Thank you, Amy, for being part of EG’s Movers and Shakers!

Apart from Twitter and Digg, Amy can be found on her website, the TV tyrant and Blogs4Bauer.

We’ll even throw in a free album.