Discussing Women in Social Media with Christina Warren

by Steve Fisher on August 14, 2008



Christina is a woman of many talents. She created her first web page in 1996 when she was 14 and volunteered with Geocities to get some great experience with HTML and web design. Over the years she has been finishing her degree, working for Warner Brothers and TNT and blogging on a personal level. Recently, she was on the “Coaches” panel for USA Today’s American Idol coverage and wrote about the show weekly online and for the print edition of the paper. She also is a blogger for TUAW.com, DownloadSquad.com and as of March 2008, Styledash.com. Never to be thought of as lazy, she co-hosts a video podcast – the Squadcast, for Download Squad. I was able to spend some time with her recently and here is a transcript of our interview:

Steve: You write for TUAW, DownloadSquad and StyleDash for Weblogs, Inc. How did you get started working for them?
Christina: Well, if you read my bio you will quickly discover I am a Mac Junkie. The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) was looking for writers so I submitted a few samples. After about a month they came back to me and asked me to write for them. Since then I have expanded my writing duties to Download Squad and StyleDash that are also a part of the Weblogs, Inc. Network.

Steve: What is unique about each of these blogs?
Christina: DownloadSquad, which covers software, web 2.0, Internet culture, etc. is unique because every program/service that we write about, we try out and we write up our opinions honestly. I think our readers appreciate this because they know we aren’t just writing up some press release, we actually used the service or ran the program, for better or for worse. We also love to expose hidden gems or quirky programs and services.

TUAW has become one of the defacto resources for Apple news, rumors, tips/tricks on the web. If it Apple-related, we’re interested in covering it. Apple users are passionate people, and we’re no different. TUAW hosts a weekly Talkcast where we discuss the latest news and happenings and interact directly with our readers (via chat and they can call in).

StyleDash isn’t about technology – unless it is fashion related, so that’s unique for me. StyleDash covers stuff like celebrity styles, trends in fashion, hair care/skin care/bikini-line best practices, and we love to highlight absurd or absurdly awesome pieces of clothing.

Steve: Your gig with USA Today is interesting because of how they hired you. Could you elaborate?
Christina: Where Weblogs was a more traditional submission and review process, I got my gig with USA Today through being a great commenter. That’s right, comments actually mean something and get read. They really liked my commentary and perspective on the music and media blogs and asked me be on the “Coaches” panel for the American Idol coverage. It did a tremendous amount for promoting my personal brand and got me connected with lots of new people that I never would have met otherwise.

Steve: What is your philosophy on using social media in marketing?
Christina: Be genuine and get involved for reasons other than just promotion or marketing. If you are genuinely interested in communicating and interacting with other people — about the minutiae of everyday life, about current events or what is happening in the world, etc. – you can actually build an audience of people that are willing to listen to your pitch and will be interested in what you have to say. It isn’t enough to just be passionate about your product or service (though that helps), you have to be passionate about communicating with other people and listening.

Steve: You coined the term “Geek Chic”. Can you explain that for our readers?
Christina: Well, for women especially (though men definitely are victim of this too), there is a stereotype about what a person who is interested in computers and technology and the Internet looks like and how they dress. My personal philosophy is that just because you are interested in “geek” topics doesn’t mean that you have to look like one. I love makeup and clothing and popular culture just as much as I love technology and film and media. I also think that aspects of geek-culture are really awesome for fashion accessories or to enhance personal style.

Steve: In the past, the technology industry has been a male dominated industry, why do you think that has been the case?
Christina: Without opining too much on sociology and nature v. nurture and whatnot, I still think that for whatever reason, many women are convinced or are pressured as teenage girls (usually in their early teens, middle school) that technology and programming and computer-related areas are not things that girls do.

What makes it worse, is that because technology especially has been such a male-dominated field, women have a hard time breaking in and “fitting in”. I’ve almost always been one of the only females at any job where the focus was technology, and that can be a difficult situation because you feel like you have to prove yourself as competent immediately. That’s not an easy situation to be in and it further deters women from getting involved. Which only perpetuates the idea that girls aren’t good at technology, thus reinforcing the whole cycle all over again,

At DownloadSquad, I’m really proud that we have a pretty large number of female bloggers – because while there are TONS of women who blog (which is awesome), there aren’t as many female tech bloggers.

Steve: Social Media however has seen tremendous growth with women making significant impact and contributions to this field, why do think that is the case?
Christina: Many people involved in social media are marketers which is an area were women are very talented. There is also not high barrier to entry that many of the traditional technology fields have keeping many people away.

Steve: So you say that you are a full fledged “gadget junkie”. We all want to know how many gadgets do you carry with you and do you have to have something when it first comes out regardless of how niche it might be?
Christina: I am definitely a “gadget junkie” and have bought many products knowing that they might not succeed long term. Mini-disk and HD-DVD are good examples of where I dove in to the pool and they hit the concrete bottom. Those are the risks you take but in the long run you learn more about technology is not just about the features and functions but how market acceptance and delivery channels are critical for something to succeed.

Steve: For those women out there running small businesses, how can they best utilize social media in their businesses? Are there some lessons learned that you could impart?
Christina: Social media is a fantastic way to reach people and promote your brand and your business, but to do it well, you need to not always be “on message.” If you come across like someone just trying to promote something, you probably won’t see any results. However, if you actually take the time to engage and connect with the people around you (even if you don’t think of those people as your core audience), you can develop a much more real relationship that not only makes people more receptive, and interested, in hearing about what you do or your message, but by being involved, your audience will grow. I think the key is to find an aspect of a service or a tool that you genuinely like, and would find yourself enjoying even if it had nothing to do with promoting your brand or reaching out to customers and embrace that aspect. Latch onto something you genuinely enjoy and from there, you can build up a network of people who are interested in hearing what you have to say.

Steve: If people want to check out your writing or the wonderful musings of Christina Warren, how do they do that?
Christina: Well, they can of course start at my site, ChristinaWarren.com, where I blog about what is important to me. You can also check out TUAW.com, DownloadSquad.com and StyleDash.com were I am regular contributor, and you can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/film_girl.

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    • Urp

      I think I threw up a little just now. “Coined the term ‘Geek Chic’”? Um, Okay. Might wanna tell them, then.

      Had to stop reading shortly after that. Ego much?

    • http://www.jantd.com Jan Tallent

      Excellent post, you sound wise beyond your years! I applaud your success and am glad this post was tweeted!

    • sfisher

      Sorry you threw up a little. I know the term has been floating around and thanks for the correction. I should have written that she “promotes” the concept of being geek chic.

      You shouldn’t have stopped reading because it was a mistake on my part. Christina is a very influential blogger and a great example of a woman in the social media scene.