Thursday March 07, 2013 | 09:05 AM
Posted by Rob Gould

Chris is the founder and creative director of LiveME.

He's also a proud new dad and a competitive snowboarder.

Instagram, LiveME fans and craving the weekend at Sugarloaf

I worked with Chris for several years when I was at The VIA Agency. I had the great pleasure of working with him on many projects, most notably VIA's award-winning pro bono campaign for The Salvation Army, This Campaign Cost Nothing.

It has also been exciting to watch Chris grow his company, LiveME - Maine Inspired Apparel and Accessories, from a single sub-brand, BeerME, to now include numerous sub-brands including, SurfME, SailME, HikeME, RockME, RunME, RideME, BikeME, FarmME and LoveME.

As with most of my interviews, what you'll read here is a greatly condensed version of our conversation.

What was your first experience with social media?

"Wow. Well, I guess, does instant messenger count? I guess instant messenger in high school. I wasn't into chat rooms or anything like that. Your away message was a pretty big deal—you know, it would be, 'I'm listening to the Beastie Boys,' or something like that. I didn't like any of the 'deep' messages, it was all about, you know, what I was doing at the moment. And, no one thought of it as social media. No one called it that. It was just iChat or AOL Instant Messenger or something. It was really just an alternative to talking on the phone."

"My first experience after instant messaging was Facebook. I was in college. I think it was my second year of college. It was right after it opened up a little bit, but I think at that point it was still just in college phase. I jumped on it then because I noticed that a lot of friends were on it. Back then it was really just connecting with people through schools, it wasn't anyone outside, like family or community or anything like that. It was pretty interesting. It felt way smaller and you were automatically connected to everyone in your network so it was really interesting to see all of these people you went to school with but you weren't all that connected to. You could see their profiles and everything. I really just signed onto it to connect with friends at other schools and see what they were up to. Facebook was my first experience with social media as we know it today. I didn't get on Twitter until way later and I still don't use it nearly as often. And, I use it much more for LiveME than for personal stuff."

"When I first got on Facebook, it was very cool and it was different, but it was really a way to keep in touch with people. For me, right away it was a way to share photos of my adventures and stuff. At that point I was living in Colorado and traveling a lot. So I was sharing a lot of snowboarding adventures and albums of the winter. It was just a cool way for people to be able to keep up with me and for me to catch up with other people too. I felt comfortable sharing photos right away because it was nothing super-personal. It was more like me jumping off a cliff or something."

What do you like about social media?

"I didn't have strong opinions about social media right away. I think everyone was still trying to figure out Facebook. I had a roommate who started using Twitter and I didn't understand it. But everyone was starting to get on Facebook and mess around with it and it was really a social community at that point. It was a lot of college party photos."

"I like Instagram a lot lately. It can be really inspiring, but it can also be a clutter of crap too sometimes when the people using it aren't using it creatively. Especially after it became public, it lost some of its integrity. Opening it up to that many more people diluted it a bit. When it first came out, it was great. You still see a lot of creative people on it. The people who know how to use it, and do it well, have strong followings and it's just cool to see that kind of stuff coming through your feed. And, you don't have to constantly check in on it. They were also really smart to integrate it in with Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook in one place. And Flickr. Sometimes, Instagram can be a real bore, but I really love it for people that use it well. It's definitely my favorite thing. Locally @seawallshop and @nick_lavecchia do a great job."

What do you dislike about social media?

"In general, and I think this is probably a pretty common dislike, people tend to overshare and it can be annoying. There's so much really personal stuff that people put out there and I don't really need to know that. It's hard for me to understand why people put that stuff out there. A lot of complaining can also be a real drag. You need to have a filter. That's one thing I really don't like is when people are being bitchy and complaining about things. I think that a lot of people have that complaint, when people aren't putting the filter on. They can come off as whiny. It's boring. The great thing on Facebook is you can silence people. Like, all of a sudden, you're not seeing any of their posts. That's always funny."

"I think social media has made us all ADD. Everyone wants it now. It's this sense of immediacy that we've all become accustomed to and we've become impatient. It's also definitely made people feel a lot more connected to their phones. It's kind of scary how much you use your phone now. You just pull it out whenever you're bored."

What would it be like for you to disconnect from social media for six months?

"It would actually be a good test. I think I'd probably read more. It would be hard with LiveME because that's a constant, and really great way, to stay connected to our fans and our audience. It would be hard in that context, for the business, for any business. It's hard to imagine a business going silent for six months. But personally, I'd miss the photos on Instagram because there's lots of inspiration in there. I'd probably also feel slightly less connected with my friends."

"I tell you what, if Sugarloaf went silent for six months they'd have a lot fewer people sitting in their offices really craving the weekend."

Is there a person or brand that you think uses social media effectively?

@sugarloafmaine

@gopro

@nick_lavecchia

@seawallshop

I want to thank Chris for taking the time to talk with me about his opinions on, and experience with, social media.

You can find Chris on Twitter at: @avantagg

You can find LiveME on Twitter at: @LiveMaine

You can find LiveME on Instagram at: @LiveMaine

You can find LiveME on Facebook at: LiveMEmaine

You can find LiveME on Tumblr at: LiveMaine

Chris Avantaggio

The VIA Agency

LiveME

 

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Social media has changed the way that many of us learn, purchase, interact and explore the world around us. And, things are just getting started. Social, Social is a place to discuss social media with people from all walks of life. No experts allowed.

About the Author

Rob works as a digital marketing & public relations consultant to agencies, brands, and individuals. He has 20 years of marketing experience. He also currently serves in a volunteer capacity as director of pr/communications for TEDxDirigo. From 2005-2011, Rob served as director of social media & agency communications at The VIA Agency (Portland). Prior to VIA, Rob worked with several PR & advertising agencies in London & Boston. He is a graduate of The University of Vermont (UVM) and a Maine transplant (2002).

Follow Rob on Twitter at @bobbbyg

His real-life interests include art, travel, writing, design, psychology, the beach, & exercise (grudgingly at times).

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