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Tweet dreams are made of this Carla rides crest of social networking wave

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Carla Zuill was a little sceptical the first time she heard about Facebook.

That was back in 2007, long before many of us starting harvesting virtual tomatoes in Farmville or posting pictures of our beloved pets in tutus on the popular social networking website.

Despite her reluctance to do so, Ms Zuill decided to give it a whirl. Today she is approaching “entity” status on Facebook with almost 5,000 friends.

And she is building up her own social networking business showing Bermudians how to harness the power of the Internet to meet their business or personal goals. She also writes a blog that is followed by thousands of people worldwide

“Since I was little I have always been inquisitive,” said Ms Zuill. “Growing up people said I was going to be a lawyer or a reporter, because I am a talker.”

At first she wanted to be a social worker, but a Bermuda College professor convinced her to consider the communications field. She went on to receive a bachelor of science degree in radio and television production from the University of Georgia, Grady College of Journalism. She had dreams of coming back to Bermuda and working in this field, but quickly discovered gender barriers.

“At that point there weren’t any female camera people working in Bermuda,” she said. “I was told that girls don’t shoot camera, they stand in front of the mic.”

Over the years she worked as a news reporter for the electronic media, she taught high school English, and then went to work at

The Royal Gazette in 2002. She started out in the newsroom and then moved over to special sections, becoming special sections editor. She is currently a Government public affairs officer.

“It has always come back to writing,” she said. “Over the last couple of years I have realised that communications is my passion. I have accepted that that is who I am. I have done a lot of freelance writing, but I took a break because I started my masters degree in marketing and that takes a lot of time. In the last couple of months, I have started doing freelancing again. I love the creative side of things, and now I am moving on to social networking.”

She wants to advise businesses on how best to utilise social networking sites; not just Facebook, but also other sites such as Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest.

“Facebook gives people a good gauge of how others are thinking,” she said. “There are 70 million people on Facebook. It is not just a fly-by-night entity. There are also millions of people on Twitter and Tumblr. Tumblr is more visual. If a restaurant had lunch specials, they might post pictures on Tumblr. Facebook is a way for people to have really open long drawn out conversations. Twitter has short succinct hits. My newest addiction is Pinterest. It is like virtual scrapbooking.”

She has taken many webinars and courses about utilising social networking sites, including an online Facebook summit last year that had over 10,000 participants.

Ms Zuill said she has seen some clumsy attempts by local businesses to harness social networking sites. She gave one example where a business had posted on someone’s Facebook page, “Happy birthday, come party with us”. They hadn’t bothered to read the previous post on the Facebook page that stated: “Happy birthday in heaven, may you rest in peace.”

“If you search the Internet there are many businesses in Bermuda that are on social media sites, but they don’t use them in the way that can optimise their opportunities,” she said.

She said that social networking sites have brought about new etiquette questions there are instances where people post condolence messages on Facebook pages minutes after someone has died, often before family members have been officially informed.

“People need to learn boundaries,” she said. “Before people post, send or broadcast, they need to think about who they could be potentially hurting or what damage they might cause. We also have to remember that in these technological times there is no such thing as delete. What you post on the Internet can always come back to haunt you or even your children. Social media sites have their advantages and disadvantages but we are living in instantaneous times.”

She is the single mother of three children ages 11, five and two years old. She said she took away her oldest child’s BlackBerry because she felt it was too distracting for her. It was not a popular decision in her household.

“She has a Facebook page,” said Ms Zuill. “I did not have anything to do with the creation. One of my nieces set it up for her. I allowed her to keep it with conditions. I told her if she had a page then I needed to have the password, and I needed to be one of her Facebook friends. I regularly monitor it, look at her comments and look in her inbox.

“People can call me whatever, but I know there are some dangers. I even school her about sexual predators on the Internet. I tell her that just because the site says it is a 12-year-old girl talking to her, it doesn’t mean it is. I don’t think there is anything wrong with a child having a page as long as it is properly managed.”

Ms Zuill said the same is true for businesses. Their web pages have to be properly monitored. They have to be checked to make sure negative or damaging content is quickly removed or dealt with. Otherwise, she believes social media is an excellent communications, marketing and advertising tool.

“Google any major company in the United Kingdom or the United States and they have a Facebook page,” she said. “That should speak for itself.”

She is also making a name for herself as a blogger. She started doing it last October at a friend’s urging. Again, she was a little reluctant at first. Then one day she got up at 1am and just started blogging.

“I started to write and write,” she said. “I have two rules about writing, I write when it is coming from my heart. I do not write when I am angry. If I write when I am angry I will be saying some stuff I shouldn’t be saying in public. With writers you have to write when you are feeling it. I could feel it at 10am or 3pm, but most times I feel it around 1am. I probably average four or five hours a night of sleep. I am very nocturnal. Once I get the children settled I like to have ‘me’ time. The only time I can have it is late at night.”

Her blog started to do well almost immediately, and within five weeks she had 5,000 hits from people around the world.

“With the blog I get nervous because I know that not everyone is going to like what I write,” she said. “I try my best to write from a perspective on a situation, not harping on who or what caused the situation. My blog does make some people uncomfortable because they are worried about what I may say about them. Through my blog, I have had several e-mails from people who have thanked me. Many people say they thought they were the only one until they saw something that was posted on my Facebook page or something written on my blog.”

She has been criticised for what she has written, been shouted at and defriended in the virtual world and in the real world. She is unfazed by this.

“If you don’t like what I am saying, delete me,” she said. “The only one I am forcing to be my friend on Facebook is my child. I do stand behind the strength of my page. This past Christmas I used it to do a lot of charity work, helping to link up people who didn’t have resources with people who did. I use my page in whatever way is beneficial to help others, and I stand by that.”

For more information go to www.carlazuill.com, see her on Facebook under Carla Saunders Zuill, and on Twitter [AT]carlazuill.

Social Media:Carla Zuill (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Social Media:Carla Zuill (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published March 05, 2012 at 6:00 am (Updated March 04, 2012 at 6:49 pm)

Tweet dreams are made of this Carla rides crest of social networking wave

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