So, many people know that in between my various public relations and marketing roles and positions recently I went Green and launched a start-up that I hoped would become the for Green consumers – The experience was wild – and filled with lots of ups and downs. And even though the site and company didn’t do as well as I hoped, I learned a ton in the process – from sustainability to technology. And in the process, I also happened to meet a ton of very interesting and cool people. I was still working heavily on when I first got into Social Media so many of the first people I followed and connected with were connected to the Green Community. One such person is Derek Markham (@DerekMarkham on Twitter).

What I remember about Derek initially was his crazy avatar (see below) – and the fact that he was in New Mexico. But he quickly became one of my favorites for sharing articles and information related to Green/Sustainability – and he also was really funny (and smart). I’ve since become Facebook friends with Derek as well and have been able to learn more about him and his life over time and have grown to appreciate his personality and knowledge even more. I was really glad when he agreed to be one of my feature profiles and his interview and answers definitely do not disappoint! I hope you enjoy this week’s feature profile!

Twitter Name(s):

My main account is @derekmarkham, but I also have one for my fatherhood/parenting site, which is @naturalpapa (I am much less active with that account).

Which social media networks do you use consistently?

Here is the "real" Derek Markham - you can follow him on Twitter (@DerekMarkham) or Facebook

Twitter and Facebook for networking and sharing, and digg, reddit, and StumbleUpon for bookmarking.

What was your “Aha” moment regarding social media (when/why did you decide to become engaged)?

I believe it was the first time that I wrote something with a really good hook for a title, tweeted it out at the right time of the day, and saw it get retweeted over and over again. That was pivotal. And then seeing the resulting rise in blog traffic and subscribers and a jump in my own followers. I think before that I was still filling my streams with comments about what I had for lunch…

What do you do for a living?

A little of this and a little of that… ha ha. I’m a writer and new media guy, I help people build and customize and learn to use their WordPress sites. Lately I’ve been focusing on the intersection of small towns and small business with social media.

Does Social Media play a big role in your job? Do you have any interesting success stories you can share?

Yeah, it’s huge. Integrating social with content, and giving people the space to interact with the author or company has been critical. If there weren’t these other channels for people to share information, hardly anyone would know I exist, much less be able to read my work or hire me.

How has social media changed your life in general? Personally and professionally?

It has vastly increased the depth and breadth of both my personal and professional networks, which has led to more (and better) work for me. I’ve made real connections with people across the globe that I’ve never met in real life, people living their lives in a good way and trying to make the world a better place, and I’ve regained some of my faith in humanity because of it.

Here is the famous crazy double headed avatar that Derek used when first on Twitter

You had one of the most creative avatars in Twitter history. What happened to that crazy-ass mirror image?

Aah, the old double-headed avatar with a cowboy hat. It’s still around – I pull it out for special occasions… Seriously, though, I had just bought a Mac and was fooling around with the PhotoBooth effects, and since I wanted a distinctive avatar, that image just seemed perfect. But when I started meeting some of my social media connections in real life, I realized that I needed another avatar to make me more recognizable, and switched to a more realistic one.

OK, on a more serious note, how do you think innovative organizations using social media? How do you see that changing or evolving over time?

I think the most innovative organizations in SM aren’t afraid to try new things, and lots of them, in the social media space. Nobody really knows exactly what will work before they begin, so instead of just focusing on ‘creating a viral video’, or hitting the front page of, the more effective campaigns seem to be the ones which are continually working on engagement and building up their fans. They’re not betting everything on one shot at a homerun.

What is the Domino Project?

The Domino Project is a new publishing venture from Seth Godin, powered by Amazon. It’s the story of a bestselling author walking away from traditional publishing in order to use new media to spread ideas. It’s about serving the readers and the authors instead of the bookstores, and decreasing the time to market down to just months, not years. It’s about increasing the connection to readers, and making high quality ideas easily available. The first title is Poke the Box, by the inimitable Godin, and is being released on March 1st (and if you pre-order it, the Kindle edition is just $1!). After reading it through the first time, I knew this book was going to cause a ruckus, and after the second time, I am highly recommending it to just about everybody I know.

Has social media impacted the green movement?

It’s definitely had an impact – both positive and negative. On the positive side, it’s a powerful way to share news and views. On the negative side, it’s too easy to believe that clicking the ‘Like’ button, or retweeting something, is going to make enough of a difference. All of this activism needs to also come offline and be made manifest in our neighborhoods and in our companies, and it’s easy to overlook that sometimes.

How long have you been involved in the Green/Sustainable movement?

On a personal level, about 14 years, and on a professional level, maybe 10 years. Up until the last couple of years, it’s all been on a local level, and mostly surrounding food and sustainable business and discussions about building a ‘living’ local economy.

Where do you see the Green/Sustainable movement going? Has it become such a part of our daily lives so it’s harder to separate?

I think we have some hard questions to answer for people – so many companies proclaim that they are ‘green’ or ‘environmentally friendly’ that it’s hard to separate the truly sustainable from the greenwashing, and people get jaded or just stop trying. And it will always be sexier to sell a new ‘green’ product than to convince people to use less resources, so in a culture that thrives on consumerism, to talk about living more simply is to bring up some deep issues for people. They might walk away from us feeling as if going green means being deprived of things, and that’s not a good place to start.

You have more than 1000 friends on Facebook – do you mix business with pleasure?

Yikes. I’m busted. Yup, I definitely mix them quite a bit. I initially kept FB for just personal use, but have opened it up quite a bit over the last year or so. I also tend to purge people quite regularly from my network if they abuse the friendship by constantly spamming me, or those who just want to argue with me. Other than that, I like having another channel that people can reach me on.

How do you use Twitter? How about Facebook? Do they serve similar or different roles for you?

Twitter is like the water cooler, and Facebook is like the corner coffee shop. Or something like that… ha ha. They are definitely different – I wouldn’t think to post 40 updates a day to FB, but I can easily do so with Twitter. Facebook enables longer conversations and deeper connections, and it’s more visually oriented – images and videos get a lot of attention there.

How do you decide who you’re going to follow or become friends with on Facebook?

If we have mutual friends and some common interests, I generally become FB friends. With Twitter, it’s the quality of the stream – either you’re hilarious, or you share interesting links, or you engage in conversations with me, or you have a unique perspective on things, or you’re a leader in your field and I can learn from you. I used to follow everyone back, but that got out of control with spammers and bots, so now I’m more selective. I think I still follow too many people, and generally only interact with a fairly small number on a regular basis. But if someone talks to me, I almost always follow back.

You’ve been very open about some of the challenges you face in your personal life – some people think that its dangerous to share too much personal information online. How do you manage this?

There are some things that I don’t, and won’t share, like really personal details about my family, or naming them and posting lots of pictures of them publicly. And I used to keep it all on a very boring, professional level until I realized that the relationships I built up online weren’t just professional, and that I didn’t have to pretend that every day was the best day ever. And by being more open about the challenges I face, I have learned that authenticity and human-ness matter much more to my community than always putting on my game face and faking it.

How do you decide who you’re going to engage with and who you’ll simple “lurk”?

I almost always just lurk with the ‘rockstars’, as many of them won’t (and don’t have the time to) reply to me. I try to engage with those who are more interested in making connections than making sales, and with those who value deeper connections instead of the number of followers they have.

Do you think people should be thinking about using social media to help build a “personal brand?”  If so, what kind of people should really be making this kind of effort?

Yes. No doubt about it. Anyone who wants to build a portfolio, get exposure for their work, get a better job, start a new business, get clients, build a reputation or authority in their field – in short, just about everyone could benefit from it. You don’t have to spend all of your time on it, but I don’t think anyone can afford to ignore it anymore.

What is your most memorable social media experience?

Two things stand out – one was being named by Treehugger as a finalist for their Best of Green awards (for ‘Green Tweeter’ or something like that) and having that double-headed avatar displayed on their site at about 700px wide. The other was last year, after taking a big climbing fall and shattering my ankle, when a couple of green blogger friends of mine raised a bunch of money through social media to help me with medical costs. That was really touching for me.

Are a fan of any sport? If so, who are your favorite teams?

Hmm. I like to play sports more than watch them, but I do enjoy watching soccer occasionally. No favorite team. I just love the game. I also really enjoy watching climbing videos, as I’ve been off the rock for more than a year now, and it’s another thing I love to do.

Have you met any fun/famous celebs?

Not one single one. I’m still open to it, though…  haha

Have you tweeted with many? Which is more fun?

I haven’t really experienced any celebrity tweeting yet – but tomorrow’s another day, right?

Funniest Social Media moment?

Hmm. There are so many witty people on Twitter that there’s generally several times every day where I literally do LOL.  And sometimes snort coffee out of my nose.

Biggest Social Media pet peeve?

Auto DMs on Twitter, and people who only talk about themselves (people other than me, obviously…). And when people take it personally when you don’t follow back.

Where is the one “Must go” place to visit in New Mexico?

The Gila National Forest  – and the Gila Wilderness area – are amazing.

Any parting shots?

Thanks for including me, and kudos for some great questions! Oh yeah, and I’m headed to Austin for SXSWi soon, so if anyone wants to meet up while I’m there, don’t hesitate to hit me up on Twitter. I’d love to meet more virtual friends in real life.

Thanks for participating!

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