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Shai Coggins – Social Media Maven, Blogger, Mother And Therapist!

Posted by on Feb 1, 2012

I’m really glad to get this interview, and y’all need to pay attention to it. I first came across Shai Coggins many years ago on Ryze, and she was a big deal even then. She was traveling all over the world speaking at blogging and social media conferences, being interviewed in newspapers, and showing up on TV shows. She worked with B5Media and was one of the earliest contributors to About.com, where she had her own column. At the same time she was starting motherhood and studying for a masters in Applied Psychology (Singapore) and Teaching (Special Education). She’s also an artist, photographer and model. I know you’ll enjoy this interview and will learn a lot from it:


Shai Coggins

1. Tell us something about yourself.

It’s always interesting to figure out the best way to introduce oneself in these situations. A life summary is always different, depending on who you’re talking to.

In this case, I think I’ll go this route:

I’ve been a web professional for over a decade now. And I love the online world. But, I do have a life outside of that, including being a mum to two young kids, a wife to an Englishman, a postgrad student, and a manager of content and community at a nonprofit organisation. But that last bit also has a lot of online stuff involved, so maybe that doesn’t count as an offline life.

Oh, and I love travel, reading, movies, writing, art making, food, baking, the beach… Wait, hang on. That’s another life summary for a different purpose. πŸ™‚ If you’re keen to find out more, I Tweet (http://twitter.com/shaicoggins) a bit, I FB (http://facebook.com/shaicoggins), and I’m in just about every other social media platform you can think of. And, just between us (and your wonderful readers!), I’m about to launch my new professional blog, http://enkindlers.com (currently at http://enkindlers.wordpress.com/). Still a bit sparse in there, but at the moment, I’m hoping to put all my blogging, social media, and other content and community-related tips in that one central location, primarily for the community sector.

2. How did you get into blogging?

I’ve always loved writing. I kept journals from a young age. And, I’ve loved the idea of travel and other cultures all my life. That’s why I enjoyed having pen pals, especially from overseas.

So, when I heard about this thing called the Internet, where I can connect and talk to several people from anywhere in the globe, I knew immediately that I had to go on it. Never mind that I was no techie and I hated my computer classes in high school and college.

When I finally got online around 1997/1998, I started a website shortly after I got the hang of using email and IRC. There was a section in that Geocities website that I allocated a journal-type area, which looked very much like the blog we know today. Except it was hand-coded using the built-in web editor and FrontPage. And a lot uglier, with those horrid graphics and blinkies.

3. What was it like writing for About.com and many of the other organizations you wrote for and participated with?

I had two rounds of being an About.com Guide. First, I became the Language Arts for Kids Guide, back when they had a children’s channel. I loved the creativity that was involved in building that site from the ground up. Plus, I really enjoyed learning from and working with my fellow kids channel guides. They were a wonderfully smart and creative bunch. Unfortunately, that came to an end shortly after 9/11 and the dot com bust.

The second time I became a Guide was in 2004, as one of the first blogging guides around. I enjoyed the challenge of staying up to date with technology and writing for a different demographic. Particularly, ones who were pretty much the pioneers of the world that we now know as the social media universe. It was great, experimenting with the latest blogging software and being one of the first to get in to podcasting and video blogging.

Writing for About.com in particular was a really great time for me because I did learn a lot from them. Many of the things I know about SEO, web architecture, and content strategy, I learned first in that place. So, I will always be grateful that I’ve had that experience.

About.com also helped me to launch my own blogging network, which later merged with b5media, which then became a VC-funded online venture that brought a lot of interesting experiences too.

4. You added video early into blogging; how did that come about?

It was primarily through my work at About.com, as I said. I learned about video blogging and decided to give it a go. And later on, About.com encouraged its Guides by launching this video making competition, where I won 2nd place and $1,000 cash prize for making a video on video blogging. Yes, very meta, I know. Fun times.

5. At one time about 5 years ago you were known as one of the most powerful women in blogging, and you’ve had so many accolades and awards; how does that make you feel?

Uhmm… thinking that it was all 5 years ago make me feel old and out of touch. Was it really that long ago? πŸ™‚

Okay, seriously… Of course, the accolades and awards were great because they acknowledged the work I did. But, I also know that they weren’t the end all and be all of things. I’m grateful for those things because I know a lot of people work really hard and they don’t always get the recognition that they deserve.

I think I’m just lucky that I got in to blogging quite early and so I was part of the excitement at the beginning. It was incredible to think that once upon a time, I was able to say, “Hey, have you heard of Google?” and the answer back then was “No, what is it?” many times. I really should have bought shares then!

And yeah, in the early days, whenever I talked about blogging, podcasting, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, people’s eyes glazed over. Now, it’s all mainstream. So, it’s much, much harder to stand out. Now that many people have discovered these tools, we’re seeing an influx of great talent all over the world. It’s great.

6. For a short time you weren’t blogging much, working on some other endeavors. Did you find it hard getting back into blogging?

Having a break from blogging was something I needed at the time. With everything that went on, I felt burnt out from my online life.

And yes, every time I do stop blogging for a while, I find it harder to get back in to the groove of things. In fact, I have to admit that I think I’m still not blogging as much as I would like. Definitely nowhere near like I used to. I keep hoping to change that eventually.

7. You’ve spoken at social media conferences and at blogging events. Is that exciting, and do you love meeting people?

At first, I found it terrifying. I really don’t consider myself a public speaker, even though I do enjoy teaching and meeting people. It’s weird, but when I started presenting again, I was freaking out so much, it literally hurt. However, people’s response to what I have to say had been incredible. And, it became easier as time went by.

I love visiting new places and sharing ideas, especially with people who enjoy learning and discussing their own views about social media, blogging, and all these other things that I care about so much.

To me, the best part about speaking and attending conferences and other events is the ability to meet the many wonderful people that I’ve met, which I never would’ve come across otherwise. Even though I love the web, being able to make real life connections is just wonderful.

8. I remember when your son started his blog; is he still blogging, and has your daughter picked up the bug yet?

Wow. Great memory! Yes, my son who just turned 8, still blogs occasionally. He has had his own blog for almost two years and even started setting up other blogs by himself. I think he still would like to keep blogging, but he has new obsessions at the moment, so we’ll see how he goes.

And no, my daughter is only 4 (about to turn 5), so she’s a bit away off from blogging still, I think. Although she has already started learning how to read, write, and make her own video movie clips using an iPod Touch, I think she probably wouldn’t ask for a blog for another year or two at least. Maybe.

9. This might not be a fair question but hey, let’s ask it anyway. Do you think the fact that you’re attractive helps people feel a connection to you as a blogger?

Haha. I have no idea, to be honest. Maybe that’s a question best answered by my readers and subscribers?

Actually, I never really considered looks as the best way to “hook” people. I know that may sound really lame, especially since I’ve been looking like a real narcissistic flake, ever since I discovered the concept behind self portraiture and the 365 days project back in 2008. But, I have to say that I never went around thinking I was pretty all my life, believe me. I even recall thinking, as I was growing up, that even though I wasn’t particularly attractive, at least I looked “okay”. So yeah, when compliments started coming in, I was really taken aback. Had I known I was considered attractive, I may have had a completely different view in life! Maybe I would’ve tried to do something more glamorous than blogging. Or not. Heh.

10. What’s left for you to accomplish, both in and outside of blogging?

I’m an INFJ – so apparently, it’s my curse to want something more, something better, always. πŸ™‚

Plus, I have a long Dream List and an even longer To Do List, both of which will probably outlive me, as I don’t think I can ever check off all the boxes in my lifetime.

Right now, I’m going just trying to make the most of the blessings I’ve been given both personally and professionally. I’m doing some work on my “what’s next” plan, which hopefully includes finishing my 2nd post-grad degree, taking more time to write and blog, and indulging some of my other passions and dreams.
 

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29 Comments »

Mitchell Allen:

Shai and Mitch, this is a fun conversation to have sat in on. Getting to know a bit more about an online rock-star is always a treat.

And before you start demurring your celebrity status, let me just say that there probably aren’t many of us who even remember Geocites, let alone FrontPage. To have risen through the rough and tumble growth of the web makes you a bona fide!

Your About.com experience is very enlightening. You learned so much, and we readers discovered a bit more of the culture of that portal.

Thanks for sharing!

Cheers,

Mitch

February 1st, 2012 | 11:16 AM

Mitch, she’s quality people and I’m glad to have the opportunity to highlight her here.

February 1st, 2012 | 11:48 AM

Aw, thanks, Mitch! You’ve always been a great friend online. I can’t believe we go as far back as Ryze. That’s incredible. πŸ™‚
Shai Coggins recently posted…#npau TweetChat – Online Marketing for NonprofitsMy Profile

February 1st, 2012 | 6:28 PM

It is incredible; you still look so young and I feel like I’m 70! lol

February 2nd, 2012 | 12:32 AM

Aw, thanks, Mitchell! *blush* I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. Mitch has been a wonderful friend and supporter for many years online. And, it’s great to finally touch base with his network. You guys are fantastic!
Shai Coggins recently posted…Social Media 101 Guides: Twitter, Facebook and PinterestMy Profile

February 1st, 2012 | 6:24 PM
John Cooper:

Hi Mitch,
Its a great opportunity to have a celebrity like her on your blog. Thanks for sharing the wonderful conversation. Do share what are her secrets to be such a successful blogger. Becoming a blogger like is kind a dream and talking a women like her is dream come true. Thanks for sharing. Waiting for more.
Regards.
John Cooper recently posted…snow socksMy Profile

February 1st, 2012 | 3:55 PM

Wow, thanks, John! You guys are really wonderful here. Should hang out in Mitch’s blog more often. πŸ™‚ Would be happy to answer any questions you might have with blogging, etc.
Shai Coggins recently posted…POSSIBILITY – My 2012 Word of the YearMy Profile

February 1st, 2012 | 6:34 PM

Oh, BTW, I have to say, I’m not quite a “therapist” anymore, as I’ve left that life a few years back. Funny to be talked about as a “model” too. πŸ™‚ Anyway, thanks again for this wonderful interview, Mitch. Amazing to look back on my web history with someone who goes way back with me.
Shai Coggins recently posted…POSSIBILITY – My 2012 Word of the YearMy Profile

February 1st, 2012 | 6:38 PM

Well, after all I’m the guy who voted you as a fresh face for Dove. πŸ˜‰ This was a great interview and I can’t thank you enough for doing it.

February 2nd, 2012 | 12:33 AM
Mary Emma Allen:

Nice interview, Shai and Mitch. It has been such fun to be with you in many of these ventures, Shai. It’s through you that I was pulled into the blogging world. And we go back even further than that!

February 1st, 2012 | 7:13 PM

Thanks Mary Emma, and it’s good to see you here on this blog. Shai was great in doing this interview.

February 2nd, 2012 | 12:37 AM
Shai Coggins:

Indeed, Mary Emma! We definitely go way way back. And so pleased to still have you around. I consider myself lucky to have met people like you through my work online. Life’s definitely been a lot more interesting, thanks to our web adventures! πŸ™‚ Thanks for being part of it.

February 2nd, 2012 | 5:56 AM

It is nice to know Shai Coggins and as I have read the information about her I actually appreciate her. She is certainly unstoppable woman as social media maven blogger, a mother and a therapist. Thanks Mitch for letting us know about Shai.

February 2nd, 2012 | 1:08 AM
Shai Coggins:

Thanks, Danyelle! Much appreciated kind words. πŸ™‚

February 2nd, 2012 | 5:57 AM

No problem Danyelle; I’m glad you enjoyed the interview.

February 2nd, 2012 | 10:26 AM

Hey Mitch, you know how much I respect you as a blogger as its one of the many reasons I come back to read your posts. But Mitch, I have to say you have outdone yourself and not just because you interviewed one heck of a grouse looking Sheila. πŸ˜‰

Shai, I have read many interviews in my time but none as informing and entertaining as this one. I have to be entirely honest with you by saying this is the first time I’ve ever heard of you and that is definitely my loss.
Sire recently posted…Andy’s IM Graphics Plugin ReviewMy Profile

February 2nd, 2012 | 7:02 AM

Sire, I’m going to bet Shai’s going to understand your compliment way better than me. lol I’m glad you liked the interview though.

February 2nd, 2012 | 10:41 AM
Geraldine E. Reale:

Hi Mitch,

This is a great example of fun and great interview! I enjoy reading your post. Shai Coggins really have a good sense of humor. Mitch can you ask her if her 2 children already have an account in facebook? lol!
Geraldine E. Reale recently posted…SEO CompanyMy Profile

February 2nd, 2012 | 7:03 AM

Geraldine, I’ll let her answer the one about her children, but I’m glad you enjoyed the interview overall.

February 2nd, 2012 | 10:58 AM

Not just another great interview, Mitch! As usual excellent information not only for experienced bloggers, but also for newbies. I am sure that all loyal visitors at your blog really appreciate the interview ith Shai Coggins.

February 2nd, 2012 | 7:47 AM

Thanks Carl; Shai’s definitely someone a lot of people should have already known about, but I’m glad to reintroduce her here.

February 2nd, 2012 | 10:42 AM
Peter Davies:

As with Sire I found this interview a breath of fresh air. Ive only ever known wordpress, I know what Front Page is but no idea how to use it properly.

I have to confess Shai – Ive only been doing this for a couple of years so won’t have come across you.

Shai

Ive added a comment on your blog but it hasn’t shown up yet.
Peter Davies recently posted…Who Won The Idol Tan Fake Tan Lotion?My Profile

February 2nd, 2012 | 7:49 AM

Glad you enjoyed the interview Peter; there’s a lot people can learn from Shai.

February 2nd, 2012 | 10:43 AM
Akishya:

This is a great article Mitch! and i really enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing this wonderful interview and i’m looking forward on your next post. Job well done.
Akishya recently posted…Happy New Year To All Of You And Hope You Like The Aquarium Fish Photos Here …My Profile

February 2nd, 2012 | 9:09 PM

Mitch,

You are very blessed to have met her. It’s good to hear the perspective of a pro. You did an excellent interview. You probably got starstruck seeing her. Thanks for doing this, I hope to hear more of her on your post someday.

February 3rd, 2012 | 2:17 AM

Thanks Pat. Starstruck? No, I wouldn’t say that. But I will say she’s easy on the eyes and that wasn’t depressing at all. πŸ™‚ It’s nice meeting accomplished people who end up being nice as well.

February 3rd, 2012 | 10:36 AM
Amanda@BuySellWordPress:

That is so great that you don’t stop and continue developing further. You are very many-sided person, Shai!
Amanda recently posted…Business WordPress ThemesMy Profile

February 3rd, 2012 | 6:01 AM

Excellent interview Mitch. Shai gave an insightful look into the genesis of blogging, even though it passed me by at the time. I’m glad to see that I am not the only one with a rabid fear of public speaking :). That’s an interesting question about whether the physical appearance of the blog owner helps attract and keep viewers.

February 3rd, 2012 | 8:06 AM

Thanks Richard. I actually touched upon the visuals of people in advertising either last year or the year before when writing about what attracts some people to follow those on Twitter whose profiles seem dodgy at best. Shai was easy to interview; those are the nice ones. πŸ™‚

February 3rd, 2012 | 10:33 AM