:: shine online ::
Gregory Han | @typefiend

Ok Sweetline friends, today is the launch of the Shine Online interview series, featuring digitally savvy folks. In Sweetline's eyes, each person or brand that you will see here has truly created an authentic, appealing and interesting online presence. They are great examples + resources to inspire you as you get your own fabulous brand up and running online.

For our first interview, we have the seriously on the pulse and quite hilarious (that would be comedy with an edge, people), Gergory Han. Helming Apartment Therapy's resourceful tech site, Unplggd, and former rainmaker for Apartment Therapy's LA team, Gregory is super thoughtful about the online world and believes in connecting and keeping it real. He's a passionate blogger and expresses himself on his equally popular personal blog and twitter page @typefiend. Let's hear Gregory's candid + interesting thoughts about jumping into the blogosphere, the quality of one's community, the importance of design and the creative outlet that blogging can be.

1) You are one of our fave online + savvy people! You really thrive online as a Managing Editor at Apartment Therapy (Unplggd) and your own persona, Typefiend (with multiple social media platforms in use). How do you feel about the online space and what would you say to people that are hesitant to jump in?

Go back! Stay away! It's like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from going under. I jest, of course. I feel like the online experience, both professionally and personally, is what you make of it. So if you go in with self-defeating preconceptions, you’ll likely come away feeling under or overwhelmed. Just like anything else, whether it be a new job, a relationship, a new home, we get what we bring into these opportunities, and working online is no different.

An interesting observation I’ve noted recently is the transition between the distinct states of being “scared to be online” and “doing it”. I’m of the age now that a lot my friends/peers are having children. Many of these people once avoided the idea of blogging, interacting online regularly, or even emailing with the same effort I normally put into avoiding folding my laundry. But recently I’ve watched as once leery luddites become passionate online participants once they had their child. Now many of these mothers and fathers find themselves writing daily, fuelled by their newfound love and pride of their lives. Where there was once fear, they now see opportunity to share with others and connect, and the switch went from fear to fun. Historically, the internet’s best success stories have the shared characteristic of once sane people people sharing something they’re particularly passionate about, whether it is Craigslist, eBay or ihazcheezburger.

2) How has blogging been a creative outlet for you? What do you do for other sources of inspiration - both on and offline?

Blogging has been an outlet in a myriad of ways, both planned and unexpected. My first blog was created after my father passed away, an emotional outlet for me to share a slice of life at a time when I was at a deep emotional low, bored out of my gourd living back at home while taking care of my mom as she got herself back onto her feet, with plenty of time on my hands to be painfully introspective in only a way a 20-something kid can be. In many ways I can attribute transitioning from a very shy person into a much more confident person, thanks to those first few wonderful forays writing and chatting online with people from around the world; the experiences gave me the confidence to be who I am now. It was also with that first blog where my partner for life, Emily, and I met (she left both the first comment ever on my site and also the first criticism after I reduced the font size!). That blog was like a nerd incubator. I may have only hatched into a turkey, but damn if I’m not one gloriously plumed turkey now!

In regards to offline outlets, I can’t recommend enough unplugging yourself from anything that requires a USB cable or battery at least once a week. And when I mean unplugging, I don’t mean carrying your cell phone on mute and checking your email just once an hour. One day a week, be alone with your thoughts or completely in the moment with your friends, significant others, bowl of Sea Monkeys, whomever. Creativity springs forth when you eliminate the static, and there’s plenty of static in most everyone’s lives these days that we won’t admit we bring to ourselves. If there is anyone to blame about life’s difficulties, one only has to look in the reflective screen of our iPhones to see who is most at fault.

My personal creative salvation is getting out to our State and National Parks. No website, magazine or TV show has inspired me more than a single glance out onto a glacial lake or a moment of quiet solitude in a springtime glen. Creativity invites itself over quite amazingly when you’re not looking out to existing cultural references. I think of it as a creative palate cleanser. And a little exercise never hurts either.

3) You were a BOL 4 panelist and you talked about twitter communities and the importance of quality vs. quantity. For social media newbies who see people with 1000s+ followers (how do they know/reach so many people??), what advice would you give on the meaning of quality people your community?

Those follower numbers...they’re the great big lie of Twitter. Certain types online like to use whatever means to fluff up their numbers, adding people en masse for the sake of showcasing 4 or 5 figures. They’re the equivalent of silicone implants: impressive at first glance, but totally fake. Don’t worry about followers. If you have something genuinely interesting worth sharing, and you do it regularly enough, people will find you.

But the results are not immediate, and that is why people take those short cuts. The problem for many new participants to social networking, besides impatience and forgetting to turn of CAP LOCK, is they forget the social aspect of it; being successful online requires regular two way participation. So if you’re on Facebook or Twitter, participate by not only sharing your favourite personal content or idea, but the ideas and content of your best friends, your colleagues in your industry and the occasional Cute Overload link. People dig cute animal pics like nothing else.

There is admittedly an elite category of Twitter personalities with huge followings. They’re mostly celebrities of one sort or another. Trying to compete with these people is a waste of time and actually counterproductive to the average person trying to promote their own business/service, since once you reach a certain tipping point, your ability to actually connect with others is marginalized. Measuring online quality for me is best interpreted as the ability to connect effectively with those you most have common ground with and interacting through these open avenues. Visualize the difference between talking at an intimate roundtable and having to shout at a busy street corner; it’s not hard to imagine which opportunity rewards more effectively. If you can do that via social networking/blogging, you’re doing a good job, whether it’s 75 followers or 7500.

4) Since many people opt to initially check out a client or person "online" (i.e their site or blog), site and blog design has become more important. What are your thoughts on the "look" of sites and/or blogs and would you encourage people to be pretty thoughtful about their design?

Visually enunciate. People often mistake style over substance, but a site can look stylishly arresting one moment and quickly fade into a frustrating experience if navigation isn’t considered. Use what I call a “5 Second Rule” when designing your site: a visitor should need no more than 5 seconds to understand what your site is about. Any more, and your site design is likely under or over-designed. Finding that middle ground requires planning and sometimes the aid of a professional graphic designer (everyone thinks themselves not only as a blogger, but also a designer, these days). Branding isn’t just about promotion, nor is design really about aesthetics. A well designed site address the challenge of communicating clearly, with an element of style as a careful embellishment. Hit that sweet spot, and your site will be characterized with unique personality while having enough universal appeal to welcome strangers and keep others coming back for more.

{Thanks, Gregory! Follow Gregory @typefiend}

Check back every Friday for a new Shine Online interview that will inspire your online presence.
Up next | Seasoned publicist, Ali Paul, shares her thoughts on brand evolution + the modern press release and more.

1 comment:

  1. What a great series! I love this. And I love all the advice Gregory shared. Especially about the blog design/branding at the end :).


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