Return on Influence

This is my final blog post for the social media class I’m enrolled in at the University of Tennessee.  Recently, we read a book, Return on Influence by Mark Schaefer, which is basically an instruction manual for how to become a social media influencer.  Previously, we read The Tao of Twitter, an amazing book which is helping me overcome my fear of Twitter.


Schaefer was kind enough to come to the class and speak about his experiences using social media as a way to influence others.  Schaeffer is all about content, and that is the key to building an online presence.  I browsed his Twitter account and found this meme which I thought was hilariously appropriate.


Someone can post stuff all day long, but unless it follows Schaefer’s BADASS strategy, it’s a taco.





Social proof


ROI also focused heavily on Klout.  Klout is a tool that measures your social media influence.  Schaefer goes on to give an example of how Klout can make or break your career.  One stat that I found sad was that Justin Bieber has the second highest score.  I think that says all you need to know about Klout…

Cades Cove

Cades Cove is located in a valley in the Great Smoky Mountains.  Before the park was established, it was inhabited by settlers .  Now it is the most visited spot in the park with more than 2 million people visiting every year.  So why do people flock to this place?


Many of the original structures remain in Cades Cove, most of which the public can access.  Cabins, churches, barns and mills dot the landscape, and each one tells a unique story.  Cemeteries are also located on the land, and the first settlers of the valley are buried in the park.


Hiking is the only reason I travel to Cades Cove.  As a local, I’ve been to dozens of field trips to the park.  Visiting during tourist season is equivalent to torture–unless I’m going hiking.  Jake and I have hiked Abrams Falls every year around the date of our anniversary. It is one of my favorite hikes in the Smokies.  Several gains in elevation give way to amazing views, and the trail ends at one of the most voluminous falls in the national park. Here is a list of all the trails in Cades Cove.

The Loop Tour

Cades Cove is 100% free to drive through.  Eleven miles of wildlife and adventure await, or you can see it all from the comfort of your car.  On several occasions, I’ve seen bears off the edge of the road, and I’ve never been to the cove without seeing dozens of deer.  Just remember to respect the wildlife!

Downtown Knoxville

On Thursday night, Jake and I went to downtown Knoxville and met an old friend for dinner.  I love downtown Knoxville, and here is a list of the best stuff to do while you’re there.


Several restaurants call downtown home.  The Downtown Grill and Brewery offers up craft beer and excellent food.  If you want something healthier, Tomato Head on Market Square serves local and organic meals.  Stock and Barrel is another downtown favorite, serving handmade burgers and whiskey.

See a movie

Until a few years ago, there was no movie theater on this side of town.  South Knoxvillians had to travel east or west to see a movie.  Regal operates the Riviera on Gay Street.

Check out music

Everyday at noon, WDVX hosts the Blue Plate Special.  The concert, which takes place in the Visit Knoxville visitors center is open to the public and completely free.


Mast General is by far one of my favorite retailers.  It offers up great outdoor wear, camping gear, and home decor. Go here if you have a lot of time to kill, because it could take a couple of hours to browse through everything in the store.

Go in the Tennessee Theater

The Tennessee Theater is the official theater of the state.  It hosts a variety of events throughout the year.  If you ever have the chance to see a concert there, I highly recommend it.  Jake and I went to a show there the first year we were dating and the sound was amazing.  The inside of the theater is beautiful, and there is always a friendly usher to help you find your seat.

So head downtown and check out some of the most popular sites.  And remember, most parking garages are free after 6 P.M.



So this past week and the upcoming week are the two most important weeks of my college career.  Deadlines and exams have taken their toll on me.  I also have what my doctor called the “worst ear infection” he’d ever seen.  OUCH.  On top of the stress from school, some big changes in my house have literally turned my life upside down.  But we won’t talk about that now…

So how do I decompress?

I spend time with my family.  Saturday I went to a little league softball game to watch Molly kick the other team’s rear. I had seen this video (warning, there is some foul language) on Facebook by Darren Knight the night before the game, and if you’ve ever been to a little league game, chances are you’ve seen this person. Luckily I didn’t see this person at the field.

I go for drives.  Spring is here and I love to drive the curvy backroads around South Knoxville and take in all of the greenery.  Driving around Brown mountain has become my favorite spot, and now that I can drive a five-speed, it’s even better.

I get caffeinated.  I have become slightly obsessed with the nitro coffee from SoKno Market.  I was there three times this week.  This has also helped me stay up late on Friday nights to write blog posts.

I binge watch.  I’ve seen every episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia at least seven times.

An accurate portrayal of my life.

I rewatched The Office for the fourth time during the past couple of weeks.  I cringe at the Scott’s Tots episode every time, and I won’t torture you with the cringe-inducing scene.

Hopefully in the next few weeks my life will calm down.  I hope to be able to update everyone about my crazy life once my plans are solidified.



The 5 Best Things About Dollywood

When I was a child, I got a Dollywood season pass for Christmas almost every year, as did most of my cousins.  Some of the best memories of my childhood come from when my grandmother would turn us kids loose in the park, and we pretty much wreaked havoc for several hours.

When you’re 13 and let loose in a place like Dollywood, you get a sense of freedom.  Maybe that’s why I’m kind of obsessed with Dollywood now that I’m an adult.  I can’t help but associate it with the carefree days of my childhood.  If you have never been, I suggest getting a season pass you, because you will be going back!

1.) The Blazing Fury

The Blazing Fury is one of the oldest rides in the park; it operated back when the park was still Silver Dollar City.  It’s an indoor roller coaster that takes riders through a mining town that has caught on fire, hence the name.  Until a few years ago, the final drop of the coaster also sprayed water on riders.

2.) The Crafts

From hand-dipped candles to debutante dresses, Dollywood has something everyone would like.  The best hand-crafted gifts at Dollywood are the hand blown glass items.  Even when I was a rambunctious teenager, I would still be mesmerized by watching the glass blowers.   Take a look for yourself.

 3.) The River Rampage

This was always the ride we rode last.  Its like Russian roulette but with freezing cold water.  The reason this ride is so risky: You can get completely drenched from head to toe, or you can come off the ride bone dry.  Riders sit in a huge round inflated tube and are launched into the water.  The ride consists of waterfalls the riders pass underneath, drops, and white caps.  Oh, and spectators can stand on the sidelines and spray water on riders.

4.) Food

There is an abundance of food to be found in Dollywood.  Too much for me to list here.  So I linked this list.  (My favorite is the first one on the list!)

5.) Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton has done wonderful things for Sevierville . Besides jump-starting the tourist industry in the area, she has brought hundreds of well-paying jobs to an area that would otherwise be impoverished.  Dolly also provides a free book to children every month until their fifth birthday through the Imagination Library.  Dollywood is also home to several bald eagles and other birds of prey that have been injured and can no longer live in the wild.  Of all the celebrities from East Tennessee, Dolly is by far the best in my opinion.


This past week was Social Media Week at the University of Tennessee. For four days, social media professionals stopped by Scripps Convergence Lab to offer advice and tips.  Although the event was held at UT, all panels were open to the public.

I  attended a crisis simulation panel where crisis professionals gave some great tips on how to handle crises.  After their presentation, a simulation exercise took place which gave guests an opportunity to create a plan of action and receive tips from people who deal with crisis on a daily basis.

On Tuesday I attended a session called Music, Murder, and Entertainment: How to Kill It in Social Media.  This was a great session led by a panel of experts who have created insanely successful social media campaigns.  I found Mike Mcloud to be especially interesting.  He is part of the team that hosts the World Food Championships.   In the four years the competition has been held, it has generated more than 5 billion media impressions.

Eric Baker also was a member of this panel, and in addition to amazing advice, he also shared a song.  Baker is the host of Tennessee Uncharted, an outdoor television show on PBS.

The full session can be watched below.

On Thursday, the College of Communications unveiled the Adam Brown Social Media Command Center.  Students will have access to Social Studio, a program that streamlines the entire social marketing experience.


I love spring in East Tennessee.  Its almost like I woke up one morning this past week and noticed how green my world was becoming.  I feel like the past several months, I have been living in a black and white version of Knoxville, where all of the trees are dead, the grass is dead, and the skeletal remains of kudzu remind me that winter in Knoxville sucks.

One of my all-time favorite trees, the  Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), is in full bloom, as are dogwoods.  Forsynthia is that bright yellow bush that is blooming right now; it’s another of my favorites.

From left: Dogwood, forsynthia, and redbud

At my work, I see so many people buying annuals and perennials to plant outside, and that’s fine if they are willing to replace them when it gets cold again in next week.  This happens every year.  For two or three weeks, the landscape is beautifully decorated with bright bursts of red, pink, white, yellow and purple.  Then we get Dogwood winter, or Blackberry winter, or some other  cold snap that freezes and kills most of this beautiful color.  I’ve lived here for thirty years, and I can’t remember a year when this hasn’t happened.

I recommend following UT Gardens on Facebook; they offer lots of tips about plants.  So read up, but wait until May to put anything in the ground!

Spring Break: Part Two

So besides hanging out with my brother’s kids for three days, I also did some grown up stuff while I was on break.  While most of my friends from school were sending me Snaps of their awesome adventures, I was busy at work.  I work for The Home Depot where we are busy gearing up for spring.  It wasn’t the most exciting week at work, but that’s what I did on Spring Break.

I started about 12 different projects around my house, but two days into the week, I chucked my to-do list in the garbage in favor of having some fun.  A week later and I still have a few things to finish up.  Which reminds me–I have 2-dozen stepping stones in the trunk of the Civic that I’ve been hauling around for a week.

I did find time to head over to SoKno Market.  I had heard so much about it, and I had been wanting to swing by there.  I picked up Donna on the way and we easily found the market.  They offer a wide selection of coffee, custom sodas, ice cream, baked goods, and a different lunch item everyday. I don’t even like coffee, but the “Grumpy Grandpa” was amazing.  The owner recommended it to us and explained it was cold brewed with nitrogen then put in a keg.  The owner was really welcoming and told us that on Saturdays they stock Richie Cream Donuts.  SPOILER ALERT: I was there first thing Saturday to get coffee and donuts. SoKno Market will definitely be a staple for me; I can’t function without some caffeine.


Spring Break: Part One

So last week was spring break for UTK.  But what do you do to celebrate Spring Break when you’re 30?  Well, you work, and if you’re lucky you are able to squeeze in a couple of days of fun.

My two nieces were also on spring break from Blount County schools, so I planned two days just for them and my 2-year old nephew.  I also made a list of everything I wanted to do around my house, but two days into spring break I tossed it out.  I don’t get to see my nieces as much as I’d like, so I added a third day to our itinerary.

Day One

Macy is nine, and she loves to bake.  She is a girl after my own heart.  I had promised her that if she made good grades on her spelling tests, we would bake her favorite cupcakes. We spent time in the kitchen mixing batter and decorating cupcakes (when it was time for clean-up, Macy magically disappeared).  We also went to Ijams and had a picnic.  I know I’ve mentioned Ijams before, but if you’ve never been you have to check it out.  There really is something for everyone there.

Day Two

Molly is five, and she loves going to the movies.  Zootopia had just come out so we decided to go see it.  Macy and Molly were seemingly mesmerized by the film and they thought it was great.  Conway was the most excited to see the movie, and he promptly fell asleep.  He didn’t even make it past the previews, and he was snoozing.  After the movie, on the ride home, he woke up and asked about going to see the movie.  I couldn’t help but feel bad for the kid.  By the way, the movie was great!

Day Three

Day three was something I was really looking forward to doing with the kids.  The Knoxville Zoo recently went through a re-branding creating a new website, logo, and overall image.  Zoo Knoxville is known as the red panda capital of the world.  The endangered species didn’t disappoint as they romped and played in their enclosure.  Of course, I was most excited about the otters, which played and swam as if they were performing for an audience.  Conway wanted to see the animals, but most of all he wanted to see the “big bad wolf”, but guess what–the kid fell asleep.  Luckily for him, he has two thoughtful big sisters who woke him up when we go to the wolves.  By the time we finally got home, the kids were really tired-but not too tired to get ice cream!

So Spring Break wasn’t a total bust for me.  I got to hang out with my favorite kiddos and we had a really great few days.  Look for my next blog post when I talk about things I did over Spring Break that didn’t involve kids!



The Best Spaghetti in Town

So despite having lived in east Tennessee for her whole life, my friend Donna had never heard of Louis’.  So we took a trip back out to Fountain City so she could experience one of the most famous eateries in Knoxville.

It says it right there on the sign!

Louis’ has been a Knoxville staple since 1958.  Several years ago, Louis’ moved to a larger building to make way for an exit ramp from interstate 640.

We went during the lunch rush, but that’s no big deal at Louis’.  The large building can accommodate dozens of diners, and the experienced staff are used to the business.

I recommended that we split the spaghetti, because the serving size is HUGE.  The staff at Louis’ make all of the sauces and dressings in-house.  I’ve eaten nearly everything on the menu at Louis’, and I’ve never been disappointed.  This time was no different.  The food was great and the service was on point.  Another great thing about Louis’ is how inexpensive most of the menu items are.  Unless you’re ordering filet mignon or rib eye, you can eat there relatively cheap.   The eatery also caters and has a banquet room for events.  Louis’ even offers the option of a drive-in, which stays packed during the dinner rush.

You can check out the menu here.  The next time you’re hungry and want great Italian food, check out Louis’!