Category: Fascinating People

Influencer Insights with Pam Wattenbarger of Simply Southern Mom

Influencers don’t always get started with stars in their eye or seeking a financial reward. Oftentimes, social media provides a way for people to stay connected with the rest of the world, and through those connections, the bonds that are formed and the new ideas that are generated, a social media influencer is born.

Here is Pam’s story:


What inspired you to start participating in social media?

When I began my first blog, I had recently quit my full-time job to be a stay at home parent. I found I missed the companionship and camaraderie of my co-workers and decided to connect with others online. Since that time I’ve connected with so many wonderful people and met amazing friends.  I’m thrilled whenever I am able to travel and meet my online friends.

What is the best opportunity that you have received since you started participating in social media?

I’ve had lots of great opportunities working with companies since I began blogging, but my favorite are the travel opps. Visiting the Riviera Maya last year and working on a Charlottesville Girlfriend’s Getaway with three of my best blogger friends this year have been the most fun.

What is the biggest challenge of having a voice on social media and how do you handle it?

I feel the biggest challenge is being authentic and gaining and keeping the trust of our followers. I try to share complete experiences, including the pros and cons, and work with companies I know and love or that would be a good fit for my family. When possible, because I know opinions can differ from one person to another, I like to add experiences from other family members and friends.

Any suggestions about what tech or social trends we need to be watching?

One trend I’ve been watching is live video streaming. I think this helps our fans get to know us and makes a personal connection. I also think it helps attract new viewers from all age ranges, but especially millennials and teens.

Social media is always changing, allowing me the opportunity to grow and change with the different stages of my life.

You can follow Pam at:

Simply Southern Mom



Influencer Insights with Jonathan Looi from Travel Gear Reviews

There are many opportunities that are possible because of the social web that continues to fascinate me. Such as how the social web has democratized information distribution and jonathanlooiinfluence for people of all ages. Today I would like to introduce you to one of the youngest influencers we have worked with, Jonathan Looi.

Jonathan is a teen traveler and entrepreneur specializing in travel gear.

What inspired you to start participating in social media?

A few months prior to traveling around the world with my parents and sister, I decided to start a Twitter account to tweet about my travels and also connect with other travelers. At the time, my sister and mom already had Twitter accounts, so I was jumping in on the trend.

What is the best opportunity that you have received since you started participating in social media?

Ever since I’ve been on social media, I’ve been able to works with several brands. My first real experience was when I was 15. While in Ecuador, I was able to work with a tour company which I connected with on Twitter who helped us with some tours. It a really big eye opener for someone who was relatively new at the time and since then, I’ve been doing similar things and with brands on gear reviews.

What is the biggest challenge of having a voice on social media and how do you handle it?

Right now, there’s a lot of voices on social media and it’s always a challenge to stand out from the crowd and not get drowned out in the noise. I’ve been using a lot of photos and graphics recently, and it’s always important to post high quality, relevant content.

Any suggestions about what tech or social trends we need to be watching?

Video has always been huge in social media and I think that’s going to continue and grow, especially with Periscope, live streaming, etc. I think it’s super important for anyone who wants to become an influencer on social media to get good with video and learn some basic videography skills.

So what is in the future for you?

I’m heading to college this fall!
You can follow Jonathan at:

Influencer Insights with Tonya Prater of The Traveling Praters

Sometimes it takes financial hardships to realize you can make a decent living following your passion.

Here is Tonya’s story.

Me: What inspired you to start participating in social media?

Tonya: My motive was purely financial. My husband had lost his job, we were faced with extreme financial hardship and I had read article after article of bloggers who were turning their passions into profit. I jumped into the world of blogging and social media, with the misconception that money would come rolling in simply for sharing my love of travel. That was 8 years ago. Through trial and error, I’ve learned that it is possible to make an income from social media, but it’s not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of work, determination, and passion.

Me: What is the best opportunity that you have received since you started participating in social media?

Tonya: Where do I begin? It’s pretty hard to top the first opportunity I had as a result of social media. I was invited to a Star Tours Tweet-up at Disney World in Florida. I took my oldest son as a guest. Disney bussed us into a back-lot of Disney’s Hollywood Studios and we exited the bus and walked the red carpet as Star Wars characters flanked the sides. We rode the newly reopened Star Tours ride before the general public, had numerous photo ops with characters and met the illustrators of the ride. I’ve had many equally amazing opportunities since, but that first trip is hard to top.

Me: What is the biggest challenge of having a voice on social media and how do you handle it?

Tonya: As an influencer in the travel sphere, it’s hard for me to get away with my family and truly disconnect. I want to post photos to Instagram (my favorite social media channel) and share updates on Facebook or Twitter each time I find a destination or attraction that I know will resonate with my readers and followers.

Last summer, my husband and I drove from our home in Ohio to the Oregon Coast. I limited my social media presence by scheduling posts prior to our trip and posting live to Instagram only. It was an incredible struggle but influencers need a vacation too.

Me: Any suggestions about what tech or social trends we need to be watching?

Our society is increasingly visual and attention spans are getting shorter. People want useful information in bite-size pieces as quickly as possible. I think Instagram will continue to grow in popularity and offers a great platform for influencers to share amazing photos and tips- especially in the travel realm. I also believe video is more important than ever. Not only does YouTube continue to be a front runner in social media, but Periscope and Blab are also networks that today’s influencer should not ignore.

tonya_prater-_bio_photoTonya is the driving force behind The Traveling Praters. She’s a travel writer, influencer and new empty nester, who dreams of living a nomadic life in a vintage camper. For now, she’ll settle for frequent road trips throughout the U.S. and North America.

You can follow Tonya at:

Influencer Insights with Stefanie Michaels of Adventure Girl

Some people think social media is new. I have been working in Social Media since October of 2005 – for over 10 years. But compare to people like Stefanie, I was late to the game. buzukcdl

Here is Stefanie’s story.

Me: What inspired you to start participating in social media?

Stefanie: I was communicating online before it was called “social media”, you know, that nerd in school, who used CompuServe to chat with friends and then moved onto AOL’s chat boards— yeah, I was that kid. I preferred gaming to prom, although I begrudgingly agreed to go to it. The good news was that AOL brought communicating online to the masses. I used to sell things like my dolls to girls in other states and it was so much fun. So, I just kept riding the nerd wave all the way through to its current application. People think of me for travel, but I also have a foot in the tech world. My first website on the “world wide web” was one of the first 1500 commercial online websites, which also incorporated my fans into it.


Me: What is the best opportunity that you have received since you started participating in social media?

Stefanie: Well, for one thing, it pivoted my business and has taken it into a whole new direction, opening me up to people I would never have met otherwise. I’ve had too many opportunities to count, but one of my favorites was working with the White House last year on the President’s initiative for education and the other being for young entrepreneurs, which is a total fit for what I do. I love that I can connect with these young minds and share advice, and see where I can lend my support. There are just so many great ideas out there!


Me: What is the biggest challenge of having a voice on social media and how do you handle it?

Stefanie: One of the biggest challenges was learning that people became my friends, and used me for their own agendas to elevate themselves. I was so naïve about it. I definitely learned who my friends really are. I also have had to learn to say “no”, which is really hard for me, but I can only promote things that work in line with the voice of my brand. Thankfully, I have a team that helps navigate yes and no conversations, so I don’t have to anymore.
I also know my own content limitations, so when people come to me to push an event, tweet a political agenda, or comment on religion, for example, that’s just not what I do or who my branded personality is. I am also very guarded with what I put out on what platform, so my snapchat/adventuregirl and my vine/adventuregirl are more personal life snapshots where people get to see a little more of who I am offline. I use my Instagram/adventuregirl for a more personal extension of Twitter, which is extremely branded, with little personal info there. Different demographics, different content.


Me: Any suggestions about what tech or social trends we need to be watching?

Stefanie: Yes! And I got to speak about this at Atlanta Sitsum ’15. I love Flipagram. It’s a drag and drop app on your phone that allows you to create mini-movies, using songs from artists that are playing on XM right now, or you can delve into their music library and come up with an oldie tune. It’s incredible to see a huge artist launch one of their songs on Flipagram and then you get to use 30-seconds of it for free for one of your Flips. I also admire the app, because it allows the musical artists to have another revenue stream who are on the platform. If you want to use their song longer than the free 30-second snip, you can actually purchase their song through the app and make your Flip longer than 30-seconds. So, you can find a lot of independent artists out there making names for themselves like one of my favorites, Dawin. He went from independent to now having a record label behind him.


Me: Anything else you would like to add you to your story?

Stefanie: I am just so grateful and humbled to have met such amazing people out there because of this “thing” called Social Media. It’s really mind-blowing how it has connected all of us and how we have all found our niches and like-minded people that we can support and share ideas with. People we might not never have met otherwise.

Influencer Insights With Bryanna Royal from Crazy Family Adventure

When you have a story to tell the world, social media provides you with the platform to tell bryannaroyalprofilepictureyour story.

Here is Bryanna’s story.

Me: What inspired you to start participating in social media?

Bryanna: We really want to spread our story and encourage other families to get out and travel more. Travel is such a great way to deepen your family bond! We figured there was no better way then Social Media to do that! When they see our daily posts it helps people feel like they are right along with us on our adventures. And helps them plan their family trips.

Me: What is the best opportunity that you have received since you started participating in social media?

The best opportunities have been the people that we have met through social media. Social media really makes the world feel so small since it is so easy to “meet” and stay in touch with people all over the world.

Our family has also been fortunate enough to do activities for “free” which has been amazing! We have been able to pet and feed dolphins, snorkel in the Gulf of Mexico, Parasail, and so much more!

Me: What is the biggest challenge of having a voice on social media and how do you handle it?

Bryanna: The biggest challenge has been making sure we are providing our followers all of the information that they want. It is a day to day job and having relevant and good content takes time and focus.

Me: Any suggestions about what tech or social trends we need to be watching?

Bryanna: Social trends are always changing. The best thing to do is to stay consistent on the platforms that are working for you. And to stay aware of new trends but know that not everything will be the next Facebook so don’t drop what is working for you. Instead feel out the new ones and if one feels right for you and your followers then give it a go.

Me: How has being on Social Media changed your life?

Bryanna: Social Media is an amazing way to reach people all over the world. Following other social media accounts has encouraged us to make big life changes! In May 2014 we sold our house and everything in it so that we could live and travel in our RV full-time with our 4 kids and 2 dogs. Social Media has allowed us to stay in touch with friends from home and new friends we have made on the road. While also allowing us to encourage and show other families how awesome travel is and how it can be used to deepen your family bond!

Influencer Insights with Dr. Cacinda Maloney of Points and Travel

Some people dream of traveling one day in their life. Dr. Cacinda spends her life traveling.

She has traveled every six weeks of her life for over 23 years. She has hiked to Machu dr_cacinda_maloney_1Picchu, galloped on camels at sunrise in Jordan, zip-lined through a rainforest in Mexico, rappelled a 100 foot waterfall in Costa Rica, kayaked in the Galapagos, sailed through Greece, marveled at the markets of Guatemala, danced with natives in Fiji, swam with sting rays in the Cayman Islands, dived with Sharks in Roatan, walked the streets of Jerusalem, Israel—just to name a few. She was recently chosen by Travelocity (an Expedia-owned company) to be one of their six travel ambassadors known as Travelocity Gnome to travel the world and write about her experiences.

Dr. Cacinda blogs at is a travel writer, blogger, photographer and social media influencer who also writes freelance articles.

Me: What inspired you to start participating in social media?
Dr. Cacinda: Social Media seemed like a natural progression of getting the word out about my extensive travel history and engaging with like-minded individuals around the world. I love interacting with others who also enjoy traveling the world and are inspired by its diversity, culture and the experiences it brings to their lives.
Me: What is the best opportunity that you have received since you started participating in social media?

Dr. Cacinda:  Oh wow!  There are so many.  I enjoyed meeting the power social media influencer Glen Gilmore, who is considered one of the top 50 influencers in the world by Forbes Magazine. By meeting him, I was able to be invited on one unforgettable trips thru the deserts of Jordan. Another would be meeting Senior VP David Brodie of Citizen PR by chance on an excursion in Mexico, which has also let to many other opportunities.

Me: What is the biggest challenge of having a voice on social media and how do you handle it?

The biggest challenge is getting your voice heard among the millions of voices out there.  I think the key for me is to just do my thing. Not worrying or paying attention to the other voices and just speaking naturally in social media like I would telling a best friend or my mother about the exciting things going on in my life regarding travel.

Dr. Cacinda: Any suggestions about what tech or social trends we need to be watching?

Instagram is huge and many people are jumping on the bandwagon. It is an easy social media platform to use and entices engagement through visual means. Since I am a visual learner and love images, for me it is perfect. So follow me on Instagram.

As far as social trends, people want their travel-related articles and information delivered to them fast and when they want it via the Internet. They will no long plunk down $5-10 for travel magazines to flip through, when they can get exactly what they want online via a Google search, so the trend for travelers is to search online for the travel information they need, with everything from booking a trip, to making room reservations, finding things to do and see, as well as where to eat.

Influencer Insights with Renee Blodgett from We Blog the World

When Renee says “We Blog the World” she means it!


Having lived in 11 countries and traveled to nearly 90, she specializes in working with international companies and launching them into the U.S. market.  As one of the first bloggers in the industry, she does more than just dabble in content and has authored more than 25,000 articles on the web and is prolific on social media.  She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes for two years in a row, #6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes, selected as a top 70 Digital Leader by the United Nations, named a Top 10 Social Media Mentor by Women Online Magazine, chosen as one of the Most Powerful Women in social media by CEO World Magazine, was a Shorty Awards Business Influencer Finalist and served as a Smitty Awards Judge for Travel & Leisure Magazine. She is also listed as an AlwaysOn Top 150 Business & Tech Journalist and her magazine We Blog the World was selected as an official media partner of this year’s New York Times Travel Show.

Renee Blodgett is the founder of Magic Sauce Media, a global communications consultancy whose goal is to help brands, companies, products and individuals succeed through smart and creative marketing strategies that elevate them above the noise and co-founder of We Blog the World, an online magazine, and network dedicated to luxury, adventure and wellness travel.


Me: What inspired you to start participating in social media?

Renee: I was participating in “social media” before it was officially referred to as social media, so was an early innovator and adopter of social media tools largely because of the value it provided in its earliest of days. At the time, I represented companies who were at the forefront of the industry such as RSS tool developer Newsgator, the first mainstream news aggregator on the market and collaborated with its partners at the time, which included vendors like FeedBurner, Typepad, WordPress, and others.

Me: What is the best opportunity that you have received since you started participating in social media?

Renee: I think about social media more as of a way of life rather than something I DO for a specific opportunity; it’s rather a combination of things which have come together at important crossroads over more than a decade. Perhaps a more relevant way of answering the question in the world where I play is that because of social media, I have garnered some of the most powerful relationships across a variety of disciplines from nearly every continent. Because of social media, experiences are dramatically enhanced, whether it be representing a client in Ireland, France, England or Eastern Europe or leading a blogging tour to places like Israel or South Africa. Because of social media, one random speaking opportunity in Iceland led to an extended five-week stay which transformed how I look at nature, business and the world. Because of social media, I have attended global events in places like Paris, Tel Aviv, Sydney, London, Berlin, Munich, Hungary, Prague, Tallin, Cape Town, Barcelona, Rome, Vienna, and others. Because of social media, I’ve collaborated and/or partnered with major tourism boards around the world, airlines, hotels and resorts, and the New York Times Travel Show. Because of social media, I been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post and Entertainment Weekly and others and served as a judge for the Travel & Leisure Awards. Because of social media, I am a more effective curator of places, people, and things. Because of social media, I’m less fearful of speaking the truth, my truth or any other important truth that can help causes or issues that need a face lift or a megaphone. Because of social media, I have a voice and can help others who don’t.

Me: What is the biggest challenge of having a voice on social media and how do you handle it?

Renee: When you have numbers or are not fearful of speaking out, people often ask me to send out an announcement or news about their company or product on a regular basis. The challenge is saying no when it’s not right for my audience or getting them to understand that this is one of the things under the corporate communications umbrella that I do for a living. It’s like asking a lawyer for advice or to make calls on your behalf without paying them for their time and expertise. While I love helping friends out and communities that are important to me, time, our vast networks we have built over 20+ years and our voice hold inherent valuable. Getting corporations and organizations to value that time and expertise is often a challenge in the millennial economy where everything is expected to be free or there’s a way to get it for free. In the old world, you wouldn’t think twice of paying handsomely for distribution to a targeted and valuable network but today, because there are so many platforms and so many voices, the value of extending the voice of a brand, has diminished.

Me: Any suggestions about what tech or social trends we need to be watching?

I am a huge believer that highly targeted and unique curation will increasingly be a critical value proposition in the always on noisy economy. We have tons of content across a myriad of disciplines and in many cases, the numbers are even there, but industries are also becoming more fragmented than ever. We will need to look to smart curators to lead the way so we can more effectively identify the most compelling ideas that can help accelerate our business or shed important light on our personal lives in a way that matters. This could be content related to a health issue of a family member, financial insights that help a business proposal we’re working on or marketing data that is both factually sound and respected by the same tribe our clients care about. Those uniquely defined micro data sets will rise above the noise as we get better “human” aggregators to lead the way.  The best and most creative curators, editors, producers and visual artists will need to funnel that data in a way that makes sense and hold intrinsic value within and across each industry sector.