Being a Student of the Internet

Growing up, I was the pedantic and studious nerd. My Asian mother raised me to get good grades, and the modern school system trained me to use textbooks. When I got to college, I continued to strive for those grades on paper, but I knew I was an applied learner. I always valued hands-on or out-of-classroom experiences like internships.

I used to argue with Jonathan about the importance of school. He was always in the camp that school was useless, but I defended it with my honor, arguing that it taught students good work ethic, social skills, and laid a foundation for future learning. As I have progressed farther along in my career, however, I'm starting to see his philosophy. I still don't agree with him completely, but I can't say I’ve used much (or remember much) from my college stats course...

When I started my current marketing role, I had no prior experience developing a marketing program from scratch. I understood what I needed to accomplish and the strategy, but I was unsure of the right tools and tactics. Questions like how many characters are recommended in a subject line or simply how do I do “x” in this application came up all the time. So what did I do?

I Googled it.

Before the internet, I probably wouldn’t have been able to answer many of my questions without taking a class or talking to an expert. It's hard to imagine that age, but these days, so much free information is at our finger tips, and anyone can share an opinion! Yes, it does take time and experience to weed out bad information, but once you develop hound dog senses, the sky’s the limit.

My recent foray into video really got me thinking about how much I learned just by using the internet. With little to no professional video experience (besides operating a DSLR), I decided to take on producing a 24-video series instead of hiring a videographer, whose fees would have blown my budget. I turned to Google and the blogosphere for all the recommended equipment, setups, and techniques. I watched YouTube videos instructing me how to build a cheap DIY teleprompter; I read reviews on the best DSLR lenses for video; I continued to read and watch tons more videos, reviews, and tips for a whole week.

And then it was go time. After purchasing my equipment, I knew there was no turning back. I applied everything I learned (from the internet). And despite my consternation, it’s going really well!

My DIY iPad teleprompter! Made with black foam board, glue gun, a tripod, and geometry. Guess school did come in handy for the measurements...

My DIY iPad teleprompter! Made with black foam board, glue gun, a tripod, and geometry. Guess school did come in handy for the measurements...

Here's my DIY Down and Dirty Lighting Kit setup thanks to Wistia.

Here's my DIY Down and Dirty Lighting Kit setup thanks to Wistia.

I’m currently in the thick of the project – filming every opportunity I have and editing when I have desk time. It’s definitely an iterative learning process, but it’s hands on learning every day. This process has made me realize that unless I was a film major or took a paid course, I probably would not have had the knowledge or confidence to take on this project.

I will be forever grateful for school because there are still many intangible skills the internet can’t teach. I also appreciate and need the accountability that comes with taking a class. But the next time I get an email to attend a seminar I have to pay for, I’m sorry, it’s going straight to the trash.

Pick the Right Blogging Platform From the Start

Everyone expects everyone to have an online presence these days, whether it's on social media, a personal website, or at the bare minimum, a LinkedIn account. It's even more true for a marketer who can't escape the basic expectation that he or she should be internet-marketing-literate, especially if the person's under 35. I'm 25.

As a millennial marketer, I get the expectation. I grew up blogging... Remember Xanga in middle/high school where you would post all your angsty "What I'm reading" or "What I'm listening" to updates? (My Xanga probably still exists somewhere on the interweb with my embarrassing username.) Or remember Friendster, the more tactful version of Tinder waaay before Facebook's time? Many social and blogging platforms have come and gone within the span of my formative years, and those basic internet skills have inherently stuck.

When I was in college, I decided to start this blog as a way to document all the interesting foods I encountered or cooked. Over the years, it has transformed from a food blog into more of an "everything-about-Connie" blog (woops). At the time when I started it, micro-blogging was all the rage. This was only five years ago in 2010. Tumblr, the most popular micro-blogging platform, was home to many food bloggers I followed; it was (and still is) super simple to use; and there was no way to resist a sexy syrup meme reblog. I did consider the more traditional blogging platforms like WordPress and Blogger, but I was young and hip, so I opted for Tumblr, the cool, trendy-sounding one.

Fast forward five years... blogging on Tumblr was a huge mistake. As a professional marketer now, I finally understand the value of blogging on traditional platforms like WordPress and Blogger. Tumblr was so easy to use because it never required anything more than adding a photo or writing a few words. On the back end, however, that meant no headers or tags were being generated with my posts. Unfortunately, SEO wasn't an important topic in school yet, so I continued blogging that way for four more years.

Once I got out into the real world, I built my own online portfolio to assist with my job search. I wanted to feature my blog to show off some of my internet skills, but pulling/embedding it from Tumblr was such a headache. I ended up using Tint, which embeds almost anything with a RSS feed, but still, my blog wasn't native to my site. After landing a job, I decided to give up on the personal portfolio blog and returned to blogging ignorantly on Tumblr.

I knew I couldn't continue to be a professional marketer without a formal online presence, so I bit the bullet and tried to build my website again. This time, I tried Squarespace and WordPress. Again, migrating my Tumblr blog was the hardest part. When migrating into Squarespace, none of the tags came through. WordPress impressively grabbed all the content from Tumblr, but my god, was it hard to customize the look and feel of my site. I then tried migrating the new WordPress blog to Squarespace, but none of my photos came through. With 5 years of content, there was no way I was going to upload each picture again. When you're someone who can't code like me, you're at the mercy of templates or boyfriends, and both seem like bad options.

In the end, my best-case way was to migrate my blog from Tumblr to Squarespace, and then go back to each post and re-tag/re-categorize everything. I'm not even close to done with this task, don't know if I will ever finish, but I was tired of working on the back end stuff and wanted to get back to my favorite part, blogging.

Why not just start a new blog altogether? Well, having history and keywords in posts help with SEO, so it's not something I want to give up entirely. I'm going to give this Squarespace blog every bit of effort I've got to get it where I want it to be. So what's the lesson after a 7-paragraph rant?

If you're starting a blog, think about how it will fit into your online portfolio or website. It might dictate or help you choose which web platform to use if you cannot code. Get it right from the start and you'll avoid all the future headaches.