I have been following ThinkGeek’s Twitter for a long time now. Suddenly, I came up with a diabolical plan – invite her to Intervention! So I did, and much to everyone’s surprise and delight, she said yes! Just in case you aren’t familiar with the magic of the Twitters and Facebookz, here are 5 questions I asked Carrie Gouldin, Web Community Manager for ThinkGeek.com.
Carrie: That’s like asking a parent which is their favorite child! I will answer sideways: I have two.
My favorite item to own is the Blue Canary Nightlight. I was the kind of kid that kept They Might Be Giants ticket stubs in a safe place and dug through bins for early singles before eBay existed, so the fact that the nightlight even exists makes me smile. That I have it plugged in at home in the outlet by the light switch and that I was allowed to actually write the copy for the product page… there are no words.
The second item is the Tauntaun Sleeping Bag, and I love it because it completely explains ThinkGeek. It started when our designer Christian Baldo said it as a joke at a meeting: Ha ha Tauntaun Sleeping Bag ha. Then it was proposed as an April Fool’s day project, so of course it had to be made for real. I got to see the tiling of the intestines for the lining (one was “too patterny”) and the iterations of the head (“It looks like a cow”) and then finally staff trying it on for size. It was a team effort, and the best part was watching the rest of the world discover it. And then threaten to kill us all if we didn’t make it for real. But that’s another story.
Onezumi: Ha! I think the Tauntaun sleeping bag is everyone’s favorite. :D What advice do you have to people who may be interested in trying to join the ThinkGeek team?
Carrie: Watch Firefly again. Read Tolkien. Prepare for the zombie apocalypse.
We’re extraordinarily picky and hire when we find the right personality; we’re very protective of the geek flame. Skills can even come second for certain positions. The bottom line is if you’re not passionate enough to clearly answer “Star Wars or Star Trek?” during your interview, you’re probably not a good fit.
All our jobs are posted at thinkgeek.com/jobs, and if you know a good Perl programmer, please share that link!
Onezumi: You guys seem to have transcended the concept of “online retailer” to more of a “retailer that is also a community resource”. What quick tips can you give a n00b indie creator who is trying to start marketing their art or blog?
Carrie: Besides the whole “work really hard” thing, it’s pretty basic: be entertaining, share timely and interesting content that followers can’t get anywhere else, be friendly and funny and honest, help when there’s a problem, and connect others.
Of course you should be using networks like Twitter to “market” yourself and make “strategic relationships” to increase “synergy,” but all those things come naturally if you’re good at what you do and aren’t a total jerk. And it’s okay to ask favors of your fans or try to bend the ear of someone up higher in the social food chain, but you better make it worth their while.
Above all else, be positive. That may sound really obvious, but if your flight wasn’t delayed by line-dancing stormtroopers or the waitress who gave you poor service wasn’t singing the Nyan song, nobody cares.
To summarize, DBAD and DFTBA.
Onezumi: What should an aspiring social media manager be studying to get into a field similar to yours?
Carrie: I fell into social media when it was growing into an Actual Thing way back in aught four. There are marketing majors out there for this, but honestly, doing it is what will set you apart. Look for small companies willing to take risks and wheedle your way in, but don’t expect to only be tweeting or blogging right away–it’s still only part of what I do. And unless you’re an accomplished liar with chainmail skin, make sure you like what the company does–my job would be a chore if ThinkGeek wasn’t so magical and our fans weren’t so entertaining.
Onezumi: What is the funniest thing that has ever happened in the office?
Carrie: Things get pretty funny when Hans Fex, one of our GeekLabs geniuses, spray paints prototypes inside the office, but that’s probably the chemicals talking. Generally our meetings are very funny–like when we’re pitching t-shirt ideas and trying to out-clever each other–and testing prototypes is funny, especially when it involves someone being flung into the walls or a wildly incongruous sound effect. But I don’t think I can talk about those.
The funniest thing that happened to me lately was after our recent Marian Call show and our codemonkey project manager Seth Spergel decided that when I said “put the 15-foot outdoor tent away in my office” meant “open the 15-foot outdoor tent in my office until it pokes at the ceiling tiles.” It stayed up for a week. Still doesn’t top filling t-shirt designer Matt Tarpley’s office with shrieking tribbles, though. (Yeah, Seth, you heard that right. Bring it.)
Carrie will be speaking at Intervention in MD this September 16-18 and bringing ThinkGeek swag with her. Register now to partake in the organized geekery! :D