I2I: MaTweeps

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Welcome to the Interviews to Inspire (I2I) series on MamaHeartsBaby. I, like so many social media mommies, have a vision of the personal and professional life I want for myself.  It includes being a WAHM and using social media to make that happen.  I’ve got a whole lot to learn so I’ll be approaching women in social media that inspire me.  I’ll be sharing my interviews with them here because that’s what social media is all about – connecting people and sharing knowledge.  Hope this inspires you!

I first discovered Sarah J. Bray via Startup Princess where Sarah was interviewed about the company she and her husband founded, S. Joy Studios.  Together, Sarah and her husband, John, offer web, graphic and print design services, as well as, marketing options.  They offer clean, modern designs for businesses.

As if being a mom of two and a business owner aren’t enough, Sarah started off 2009 by launching MaTweeps where she interviews the “tweeps who make Twitter awesome”.  Just over two months old, MaTweeps has already featured some of the top names in social media – Guy Kawasaki, Gwen Bell and Kelly Anderson.  But MaTweeps isn’t just about social media heroes; Sarah is talking to folks in all fields who are pursuing their dreams and who truly inspire.

For updates on her design and marketing work and new interviews for MaTweeps, follow @sarahjbray on Twitter.  Now read on to find out more about MaTweeps and why Sarah would love to cruise around in an Audi with George Clooney.

In addition to your design and marketing company, you recently launched MaTweeps where you interview folks that make Twitter worthwhile.  How do you balance your different projects?

I won’t pretend it’s easy! I am sometimes on the computer for more hours a day than I would like to admit. But on the practical side, I use a lot of lists. I am a big fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done system, and I try to focus on the question “What is the most important thing for me to be doing right now?” Nothing else matters in that moment.

I also make sure that I only do things that are a priority for me. S.Joy Studios is a priority because it pays the bills. MaTweeps is a priority because I see so much potential there, and it is a manageable outlet for my writing. And of course, my family is my biggest priority.

You’ve connected with some pretty famous Tweeps.  What advice do you have for folks who are looking to connect with some of the bigger names in social media?  How do you maintain that relationship?

Just be real and be nice. Don’t ask for anything without giving something of yourself. People know when you’re genuine, and they know when you are trying to use them. Famous or not, people hate being used.

As far as maintaining relationships, it comes naturally when you honestly like a person. It happens spontaneously. For that reason, I don’t build relationships with people that I don’t actually like, in business or in my personal life.

I’ve read your interviews and they’re always fun and engaging.  Do you have any interview tips for bloggers?

A good interview requires an intimate knowledge of your subject. That means you need to have a history with that person, or you need to do a lot of research. Or both. Ask questions that only that person could answer well. Be curious and be human. Find the story behind the person and start from there.

Some people have the idea that interviews are easy — the interviewee does most of the work, right? Let me just blast that idea out of the water. Each interview on MaTweeps takes me between 3 and 5 hours from start to finish. For me, it takes almost as much creativity as a web design project. That’s why (for now) I only post twice a week.

What advice would you give to a new mom starting out in social media?  What resources would you say are essential?

Start with one outlet (twitter, for instance), and completely rock it out. Don’t move on to anything else until you feel like you’ve established yourself in that community. Community is not synonymous with huge numbers. Are people responding when you ask questions? Do people find what you are saying valuable (do they retweet you regularly)? Are you collaborating/sharing on a regular basis? When you can answer yes to all three of those questions, then you can confidently move forward to something else (facebook, for instance).

And no one says that you HAVE to be on every platform. Some will work better for you than others. And social media is always evolving, so be on the lookout for where everyone else is headed and join the party.

In your design business, you help translate a person’s brand or idea into an actual website.  What do you think bloggers need to think about when designing their site?  What are your top 3 no-nos for blog design?

Just be unique. Everyone has a blog these days, and if you can’t be different, then there really is no point for your blog. Define what makes you different and make that the focal point of your design.

As far as things I’d like to see banned from blog design, they would be:

1. Too much on the screen. If a visitor has to wonder where in the world they should click, then you’re not doing them any favors. Make it clear.
2. Bad navigation. At the very least, have links to the previous and next entries at the bottom of each entry. If it’s too difficult to find older articles, they might as well not even exist.
3. Incorrectly aligned images. Such a simple thing can make the difference between professional and unprofessional. Learn how to float your pictures to the left or right of your text. If you can’t figure it out, put each image in its own paragraph.

Where do you find inspiration for your design work?

Everything. Except other websites. There is so much sameness going on online, and I really want our work to be different. I find inspiration from the way products are aligned on a grocery store shelf. The way my toddlers mix their finger paints. It doesn’t matter. Everything contributes to the way I see the world.

When you started your business, did you have a concept of what you were getting yourself in for?  What has surprised you most about your journey?

I definitely knew what I was doing, which is why I was so hesitant to go into business in the first place. Design is so personal, and you want to do your best work. But you also have to work within specified budgets, so it’s actually rare that you get an opportunity to design something that you can say is your absolute best. I’ve learned this year that “best” means fulfilling my client’s needs…not necessarily my own.

You work with your husband in your design firm.  What is your best advice for husbands and wives considering working together?

Do different things. My husband is big into animation and art. I am big into design and coding (which is actually a pretty strange combination.) I give perspective based on my background, and he gives perspective based on his. Combined, our work is much more dimensional than if we were going at it alone.

Brad or George?

Hmmm…probably George because he seems more real to me. I can’t even imagine what Brad is like in real life.

What’s your dream car?

Those Audi’s that they were driving in Mission Impossible 2. I’ve never quite gotten over them.

Thanks, Sarah, for sharing!

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