Google Pauline Stockhausen and it immediately becomes clear that here is a person with a big online profile as a mind blowing array of links appear bearing her name. Pauline herself sees it simply as being connected – a way of life that she has turned into a successful business, run from her Gulf Harbour home, a café, or anywhere in the world that she happens to be at the time. Pauline, who is Local Matters’ Digital World columnist, talks with Terry Moore about the up and downsides of the online life.
It’s hard to remember a time when I wasn’t online, but the start was probably the Atari video game that my parents bought me when I was six or seven. I was an early adopter of social media: before Facebook there was ICQ and Forum for messaging, and I hopped on Facebook right at the beginning – years ago. I’ve always been attracted to online stuff – I like the fact that you can connect communities online and engage with people from all over the world. It’s become my life and my business, and that grew out of finding things that I’m passionate about and getting people together who are interested in those same things.
I grew up in West Auckland with my sister and brother in a pretty hardcore area. My mother was very community minded. She was involved with getting Kindergartens started out there, and my parents were both active in Civil Defence and Scouts and charity work – something I’ve carried on with. My parents divorced when I was eight and as the eldest I had to grow up quite fast and take on a mother role, cooking and cleaning and keeping dad organised. I was getting into trouble and going down the wrong path, so it got to the point where I decided to make a change and moved to the North Shore to live with mum. It took a while to get back on track, but I had some amazing friends and that helped. When I was 18 I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and was a bit lost so my mum sent me overseas. I went to New York and Greece and the UK, meeting up with friends and travelling around together. I came home and travelled around NZ, which is when I met my daughter’s father and Bree was born. I was a single mum for a long time and that’s when I really started to embrace the online life. I began sharing my experiences in a blog about being a single mum and that’s where I fell in love with expressing myself and having a voice online. I got a big following from that.
I’ve always loved creating art and made the decision to go to Wintec in Hamilton. I started by majoring in painting with the idea of being an artist but soon realised there was no money in it so changed to graphic design and graduated three and a half years later with a Bachelor of Media Arts in graphic design and photography. That set me up for life – learning how to set your mind to something and do it. I moved to Hamilton so I could study and because it was a good place to be a single mum – we lived close to the Tech and I could afford the rent. But I missed Auckland and the beaches, so after graduation I moved to the Hibiscus Coast. As a new arrival in the community, a single mum who didn’t know anyone, I immersed myself in online groups. I found being online was the fastest way to get to know people in the community and make friends. When I started my various Facebook groups, including the Hibiscus Coast page, I thought it was a way to get the community talking, let them know what was happening and get them involved. I love the Coast and wanted to promote it as a great place to live and empower the people and businesses here. Some people think that retail is dying, but I think it’s about adapting to enhance what you have with online options. Young people in particular buy online, but it’s also a social and recreational thing to go shopping together and I can’t see that changing. People don’t realise what great things we have in this area – I think there’s nowhere better to live. I started lots of other Facebook groups too – women’s groups, business groups, and I run the NZ photography group. Online communities work because it’s hard to get people together physically because they’re so busy, but with things like Skype events and Live Video chats you can talk to a large group of people wherever you are in the world. The whole time I’ve continued the blog which recently celebrated achieving a total of 11,000 email subscribers. Ninety percent of them are women. I just talk about everyday life, social media and whatever I’m doing and it never fails to surprise me how interested everyone is in all that stuff.
A few years ago a friend suggested I try kickboxing and I was one of Dynamic Martial Arts’ original Fight Girls. It’s great for fitness and the camaraderie with the other women is better than you can get anywhere else. I’m not a fighter so it was difficult for me but I was up for a challenge. I don’t like hitting or being hit but on the night I really enjoyed it; it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’ve also taught children art and now I do a lot of teaching, mainly about how to use social media. Teaching seems to come naturally. People invite me to do workshops and seminars and that’s growing all the time. Having thousands of followers can be a bit weird like on my last birthday when people that I don’t know stopped me on the street and said ‘happy birthday’ because they’d seen it on Facebook. When I was overseas I met some Twitter people who asked about my kickboxing, though I’d never met them, so it’s always strange to see that people are paying attention. A lot of my close friends, including people all over the world, I’ve met online. You have a deeper relationship with people online because you’ve shared a lot before you even meet them. When you meet them for the first time it’s always easy. Some of my friends I don’t see that often, even if they live down the road, but we catch up online. When I married Jason five years ago we had the first wedding all organised through Twitter, which was exciting. To have a private life, and spend time together when I need to be online 24/7 to run my business, we set family hours and rules about when to shut off our phones or switch off the Wifi. I used to be on my cellphone all the time but now I try to limit the times I go online. I had to make a conscious effort, which is hard because I’m big on Twitter. It was about setting priorities so I don’t tweet all the time, and I make sure when I do it’s valuable and engaging. I engage with people who I already know rather than randomly scrolling. The difficulty of working this way is you have to constantly be there and be positive and if you’re sick or exhausted you can’t let that get in the way, you have to continue. There’s no such thing as a sick day – you can reduce your capacity if you’re tired or ill and trying to rest, but you still have to do the bare minimum. It gets exhausting. Last year I pretty much worked seven days and only had a couple of weekends off. Just as well I love being busy.
In the last two years I’ve done a lot of travelling with my social media company, helping businesses grow online. I am also doing a lot more public speaking and interviews for podcasts and was just booked for some jobs in Sydney and in the States next year, which came from the Social Media Marketing World conference in San Diego that I went to earlier this year. The networking and contacts you make are everything – whether it’s online or in real life, it’s the people you know who can help you. Recently I’ve started writing e-books on social media and developing a task management diary, which is about to get printed. Everything I’ve done I’ve had to do on my own, and that includes my work and being a mum. But I didn’t need anyone to help me because I wanted to see if I could do it on my own and it turned out that I could.