Dallas developer devotes staffer full time to blog and tweet
By SHERYL JEAN / The Dallas Morning News
It’s her job as social media maven for Lower Oak Lawn, a new residential and retail development in Dallas’ Design District between the Trinity River and Interstate 35 East.
Through a blog, loweroaklawn.com, and other social media, Shiffler has quickly become the voice of the Design District. By focusing on what’s going on among the area’s many design showrooms, art galleries and denizens, she hopes to attract people to Lower Oak Lawn, which has 1,000 apartments and plans for five restaurants (the first one opens Wednesday), a boutique hotel and trails.
Developer Mike Ablon’s research showed the target resident was a
tech-savvy, 20-something urbanite. So he shortened Lower Oak Lawn to LOL, which means laughing out loud in the social networking world. He also added built-in flat-screen televisions and iPod docks and speakers to the apartments at Alta 1900 Lofts, one of three apartment complexes there.
It’s unusual for large companies and even rarer for small businesses to have a marketing person devoted to social media. Ablon’s company, PegasusAblon Properties, has 20 employees.
“There isn’t anything like this in the industry, so we had to invent it, and to do that you have to be committed,” Ablon said. “We hired Kendall on LinkedIn. You want someone who lives in that world.”
Shiffler, 25, worked in the city of Dallas’ international economic development office for two years before joining PegasusAblon in September. For the job, she had to write a blog post about why she loved social media, submit how many social networking friends and followers she had, and post a blog item about LOL.
Small businesses have lagged in using social media because they don’t have the staff or time, said Janet Wagner, director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Excellence in Service. That’s changing: A study by the center found the use of social media by small firms doubled to 24 percent last year in the U.S.
Here’s what Shiffler’s job entailed on a recent typical day:
Shiffler wakes up and immediately checks e-mails and the weather on two iPhones that sleep with her.
“The benefit of social media is it levels the playing field – the only investment is time because the majority of the tools are free,” said Mike D. Merrill, owner of Bacon Marketing in Dallas and president of the Social Media Club of Dallas. “It becomes an unbelievable customer service opportunity.”
Shiffler walks on a gym treadmill, plugging in her two iPhones – one to record her performance on Nike.com and one to check e-mail – and watches the Today show on TV.
Takes out Chica, a chihuahua she’s baby-sitting; texts her boyfriend; showers after plugging her iPhone into a dock; and checks Twitter and Facebook work and personal accounts while drying her hair.
“I’m pretty geeky,” Shiffler said.
She built her first website at 11 to share cheers with fellow cheerleaders, created her first blog in college about studying in Argentina and has built websites for others as a hobby.
Arrives at work, a few blocks away from her apartment; logs on to her laptop; answers e-mails; checks Google Reader and news sites.
She moved to an LOL apartment after being hired because she said in her interview that living there would be “more authentic.”
Downloads photographs from her camera from an event the night before, edits them, uploads them to Flickr, writes blurbs about them; writes a short story about the event and posts it and photos on the LOL blog.
Shiffler tries to post up to seven blog items a week, from business openings to cooking classes to apartment tours. The most popular posts have been job openings.
Shiffler separates the blog into five parts – apartments, art, dining, showroom and spotlight – to use different voices and tactics to reach different audiences. Design District businesses now send her content to post.
Shiffler uses bit.ly to track blog hits and shorten Web addresses; writes and schedules Tweets about upcoming events or updates events for the week on socialoomph.com; sends her first e-mail blast to subscribers of a weekly LOL events listing; talks to a couple of reporters; answers Tweets; checks the LOL page on Facebook.
Shiffler recently reached a milestone of posting 100 blog items and 1,000 photos on Flickr. The LOL blog gets more than 3,000 hits a month. It also has more than 600 Twitter followers and more than 300 Facebook friends.
Merrill of Bacon Marketing said LOL seems to be doing all the right things. Small firms should spend 80 percent of their time promoting the area and what to do there and 20 percent on their brand or business. They should also drive a blog visitor to take action: sign up for e-mails or buy something.
Eats lunch at her desk.
Walks to the soon-to-open Meddlesome Moth restaurant on Oak Lawn Avenue to photograph a new sculpture above the doorway; takes a tour with one of the partners.
She’ll blog about it later.
Returns to the office; works on photos of a new bridal shop on Dragon Street and writes part of a story; answers e-mail; adds events to the calendar.
Obaid Khan, leasing manager of Alta 1900 Lofts, said about half of his tenants first found out about the property through the LOL blog. He said the blog also helped drive 65 people to a fiesta party he hosted last month.
Shiffler downloads and edits photos on the LOL blog and Facebook and Tweets about it; responds to more e-mail and Facebook comments; checks Google Reader again and reposts appropriate items to the blog.
Leaves work. Attends a yoga class, checks e-mail, goes home.
Checks the LOL blog stats for the day while eating dinner (a bowl of Cap’N Crunch cereal).
Watches TV with girlfriends, checking Facebook and e-mail on her iPhones.
Goes to bed.
“I can’t believe they pay me to do this,” Shiffler said, with a dreamy look in her eyes.