Interview with Amy Guth (social media manager, speaker, writer and radio host)

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Amy Guth is fun to follow on Twitter. She is full of great info. She likes to help people. She actually converses with followers on Twitter. No wonder she’s the social media manager for The Tribune Group. Not only that, Amy is an amazing radio host and a brilliant writer.

Amy Guth, social media manager of the Tribune Group

Amy Guth, social media manager of the Tribune Group

She’s had one novel published and next year, number two will hit the shelves. Amy is also a talented speaker. Well, enough from me about Amy. Now it’s time for Amy to tell about Amy. I hope you enjoy this interview.

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When I listen to you on the radio or in a video, you sound like you’re from Chicago, but the Windy City is not your hometown is it?

Nope. I moved here in 2001 from New York City. I have lived in lots of places including Atlanta, Asheville, and, briefly, Boston-area and Santa Fe, but Ft. Worth, Texas is where I lived longest and where I feel my roots. On a related note, good cowgirl boots and Mexican food never fail to make me feel great.

What were some early social networks in which you were quite active? Anything other than Twitter and Facebook?

When I started in social media, MySpace was queen! For me, after MySace came Twitter. Like most people, I jumped into Twitter and it didn’t click right away. I stepped away and watched and contemplated its potential, didn’t feel particularly connected to it and ignored it a while. But then one day, I came back and it clicked in a big way.

Which are your favorites now?

Twitter. And Pinterest.

What kind of jobs did you have before landing your job as social media manager at the Tribune?

I was a chef (garde-manger and exec. pastry, in the end, though I held just about every other job one can hold in a restaurant leading up to that), wrote freelance and played around with film sets for years. I served as managing editor of a now-defunct literary magazine, freelanced here and there online and in print, and, in time, wrote my first novel. The novel, or the promoting of it anyway, cued the transition into the speaking realm, which I still do now, though now on many more topics besides just writing and book promotion. That period also kickstarted my entrance into the tech world. I clearly recall thinking, “This (digital media) is coming at us (writers) whether we like it or not. I better get out in front of it.” I decided to try everything and learn as much as I could about technology and digital media. In 2006, with a tiny budget to promote my book, I persuaded the publisher to let me take the reigns and use social media to promote it. I couldn’t be happier with how that turned out. I learned a lot through trial and error, and I feel like I had a front row seat to the early sprouts of what social media is now.

When I initially arrived at the Tribune in 2009, I was helping with the launch of ChicagoNow, the Tribune’s blog network before transitioning over to bring a digital element to the Tribune’s books section. After a couple of years in the books section, the opportunity to manage social media for Tribune Media Group was created and I went for it.

Are there certain steps you would suggest high school or college students take to get where you are today? Great job in social media, amazing author….and a radio host too.

Say “yes” to everything that excites you. Keep your eye on the ball. Fail fast. Pay attention to where your mind goes when it wanders, because that’s probably what you should be doing. Work hard. Strive to use impeccable manners at all times, even if the people around you do not. Don’t be afraid to speak up, ever. Jot down every idea when brainstorming, even if it seems like a dumb idea the minute you think of it. Spend time editing; it will make you a better writer. Learn the difference between writing an article and reporting. Don’t worry about what you think you “should” do and do what is interesting to you, instead. Trust your gut, really and truly and completely, because it will never you steer you wrong about a person, a situation or an opportunity.

(Never has it ever failed me to follow these things. For example, when it came to finding a publisher for my first novel, I knew in my bones I wanted a smaller, more hands-on press to do it. But, I got caught up in thinking about what I “should” do and spent almost a year trying to pursue the wrong agents, the wrong editors, the wrong publishing houses, etc. In the end, I kicked everything to the curb, looked up the publishers of the books that I really liked and loved, and went from there. My top choice won out in the end, despite insisting they were “not currently accepting submissions.” I emailed the publisher, explained that despite the submission window being closed, I thought the novel would be an excellent fit and offered to send him a sample. About three weeks later, it was a done deal. While I don’t think ignoring submissions guidelines is a great rule to follow, I knew it was the right home for my novel, and acted accordingly.)

What is a typical day in the life like for the social media manager of the Tribune Media Group?

I don’t think I have a typical day. My social media partner in crime, @ScottKleinberg, and I check in a lot and adjust and adapt all day. We try hard to balance the breaking news that requires swift action, with the steps in our other projects that aren’t so time-sensitive, meetings, training sessions and that sort of thing.

I first discovered you just before I wrote a blog post on the purpose of Twitter. You actually helped inspire the article because you were tweeting at the time about a robbery that had taken place in NYC, asking if anyone had seen the incident.

That wasn’t just any robbery! An old friend from way back was attacked in broad daylight, and (initially) nobody came forward.

That was just another example of social media’s usefulness, in my mind. I’ve found sources for stories through social media, I’ve done all sorts of things through Twitter and other social sites.

Do you see Twitter as a tool to help and inform others or do you think spammers and online marketers with auto-tweets are taking over?

It’s both. Stupidity and narcissism are everywhere. I chose not to waste life on nonsense, so I tune out the misguided. It’s interesting though; most of the things that are annoying about online marketing fails and spammers are really just the result of someone with good intentions, but who refuses to evolve and adapt and realize the business model has changed.

Personally, I use Twitter for news, I use Twitter to connect, I use Twitter to find information.

Are there any particular tweeps you look forward to reading each day?

There are so many: @ScottKleinberg, @Bill80, @jcgreenx. Also, my mom, who is fearless about social media.

Your writing has been included in anthologies such as What Happened to Us These Last Couple Years? and Six Sentences, Volume 2 and you’ve written a novel titled, Three Fallen Women. Next year your second novel is coming out. I’ve read it is s a semi-post-apocalyptic novel. Can you tell our readers more about it?

The semi-post-apocalyptic novel, due out next summer from the Chicago Center of Literature and Photography is really the sixth one I’ve written, but the second one to be published. The others? They’ll be ready when I stop tinkering with them, adding chapters and when they feel good and finished. I’m good about separating myself from the work once it’s finished and being detached during the editing process and from critical discussion of the work. The hard part is writing to”done;” sometimes I think I have a long road ahead on a project, but then one day write a paragraph that makes me realize it is completely finished.

I digress. The semi-post-apocalyptic novel out next year is not at all what that genre usually conjures up. It’s rather about a more gradual type of apocalypse and how a group of characters adjust and adjust before having to make big decisions and go bold.

Okay, rapid fire here:

Favorite green veggie?

Kale! It’s not only my favorite vegetable, but one of my favorite foods. It’s a superfood, loaded with nutrients and delicious. I try to whip up kale salad with lemon aioli as often as I can.

Favorite: Stooge?Iggy and the…

Favorite 80s sitcom?

“Taxi” is one of my favorite TV shows ever. After that, probably “M.A.S.H.” I wasn’t as gung-ho about a TV show after those two until “Twin Peaks” in the early 90s.

Favorite John Hughes movie?

Man, that’s the toughest questions you’ve asked yet! “The Breakfast Club” is always a good one, but I’m going to have to go with “Sixteen Candles.” I mean, when is “Doooooong! Where is my… automobile??” not funny?

Favorite ever late night infomercial?

The first thing that popped into my head was the DVD series of Christian rock concerts and crowd shots. But, I say that only because a friend once told me at a Morrissey concert that I look like one of the audience members. To be fair, I’m a big Smiths/Morrissey fan. My friend was probably right.

Finally, something I’ve never asked an interviewee…If you could host Saturday Night Live, who would be your musical guest and which cast member would you most want to bring back to the show?

Easy! I imagine Tina Fey and I could have fun with dueling Sarah Palin impersonations! Seriously though, I can’t think of a bigger honor than hosting Saturday Night Live, Nobel Peace Prize be damned! My dream show? Morrissey is the musical guest, and for one night, the world would not have lost Phil Hartman and Gilda Radner. I can’t imagine a better night of television.

Thanks Amy. This was so fun to read. Have fun in my hometown and grab a hot dog at Johnny’s Wee Nee Wagon in Markham for me. I love that place.

To learn more about Amy, check out her website. Lots of info there.

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