I’m not sure I can tell you how I met Ken Mueller except that it wasn’t face to face. Somehow, someone connected us through Facebook or Twitter, and we’ve been friends ever since. He is the savviest man I know about social media, and he is truly a kind and caring person. Occasionally, I can even get him out to coffee without a laptop in his hand. Enjoy this interview.

What got you into social media?

I’m a rather social person, and I’ve always been interested in interacting with people online. My first foray into Social Media was back in the 90s when I joined a music listserv which was dedicated to discussing the music of a particular band, and anything peripheral to that. I quickly became very active in the group and made many great friends who are still very important to me. Add to that that I’ve worked about 30 years in a variety of media (mostly radio) and marketing. It was natural for me to bring them all together as I began to use Social Media as a marketing tool for a number of my jobs. When I suddenly found myself headed toward the unemployment line, it made sense to try to strike out on my own. I started my own company, Inkling Media, about 3 years ago, and it has evolved quite a bit.

What are the best things about your work? The worst?

I think the best thing is that while I’m working with local businesses and non-profits to help them build and maintain social communities that exist both on and off-line, I’m building my own social community. This may sound crazy for someone my age, but i would guess that a very high percentage of the people that I consider my closest friends, are people that I have met, via social media, within the past 3 years. I say this a lot, but I think Lancaster has a pretty amazing online community.

I think the worst thing about my job is more the logistics of it. I’m self-employed and I work from home. That means no regular paychecks, no health insurance, etc. Also, because I work at home, and due to the nature of what I do, there are no distinct 9-5ish hours. There are pluses to that, but also it often means that I’m always working. But then again, that’s often the case for anyone who owns their own business.

If you were a spice, what would you be?

Wow. Not something I’ve thought about. But if I were to pick what spice I would LIKE to be, I would say salt; at least in terms of how I want to be present in the work I do. Salt is a spice that you use for the purpose of enhancing and bringing out the natural flavors of food, not to alter the flavor. You need just enough to enhance, but too much is harmful. As a participant in various online communities, and as someone who helps businesses grow communities, I like to be behind the scenes. I think some marketers are too “present”. I want to be able to bring out the best of the community without my presence necessarily being detectable. As we all know, too much salt can be bad, both in terms of flavoring, and our health. I love connecting people that I know so that both of them benefit, without necessarily getting any credit myself.

What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever experienced?

This is probably cliche, but probably the births of my children, particularly my first child, Elizabeth, more than 21 years ago. It is truly a humbling experience to be part of bringing a new life into the world, and the entire process of nurturing and raising your children. I have to say, my wife and I have 3 truly great kids. They give us hardly any trouble (so far!) and they really make me proud. I think they’ve turned out pretty darn well, in spite of me.

If you could work with any client in the world, who would you want to work with and why?

I really love working with non-profits, and particularly people of passion. So putting all that together, with my love of music, I’d say something like working on the One Campaign with Bono. Yeah, that’s right, I dream big. In a day and age when people are using politics and ideology to polarize, Bono seems to want to break down walls. Perhaps it comes from growing up as the child of Protestant and Catholic parents in heavily divided Ireland, but I love how he is more concerned with being a voice of unity for the purpose of making change happen than he is about being politically correct and being allied with the “right” people. And of course I love what the One Campaign stands for.

If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

I love dogs, so perhaps a dog? Hard to say. Dogs are incredibly loyal and loving, without condition. I think I’m extremely loyal to my friends.

What is social media great at? What does it not do so well?

Social media is great at connecting. That’s the social part of it. It allows us to build and maintain relationships across time and space. I mean, you and I met as the result of Social Media. We’ve hardly spent much time together, and yet I think we’ve developed a pretty cool friendship. When we do see each other, there are no “awkwards”.

As to what it doesn’t do well, I think it’s all a matter of perspective. I think Social Media can harm relationships for those who are one dimensional and use it as a substitute for face to face. Social media can be an integral part of our relationships as long as we recognize that it is just a part, not the whole. We have to be very careful how we communicate online, because it is done without the benefit of the subtleties inflection, or non-verbal clues.

Many of my readers love books, so what five titles would you recommend they get their hands on?

This is one of those questions that would elicit different answers from me on different days, but I’ll give it a shot and just go all over the place here.

Socialnomics – by Erik Qualman – one of my favorite Social Media books

Glove Affairs – by Noah Liberman – a socialogical history/biography of the baseball glove

Wheelin’ on Beale – by Louis Cantor – I’m a big fan of radio, and this is the history of WDIA, the nation’s first all-black radio station

Shoeless Joe – by W. P. Kinsella. This is the book on which the film Field of Dreams is based

Winter’s Tale – by Mark Helprin – just a beautiful novel. period.

And, I’ll go over the limit and say anything by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Dorothy Sayers, G.K Chesterton, and Charles Williams. (There. I cheated.)

Where do you see social media going in the future?
It’s going to be less “obvious” in our lives, but ever present and increasingly important. The entire web is becoming more social. Plus it is also becoming increasingly mobile and local.

You have quite a history with music, so if you had to put together a mixtape for my readers based on your mood today, what songs would you include?

Man, I hate these questions. so I’m gonna just start firing off titles of some favorites, without any explanation. If you’re curious about them…find them…download them…and enjoy them!

U2 – “One”
T-Bone Burnett – “The Strange Case of Frank Cash and the Morning Paper”
16 Horsepower – “For Heaven’s Sake”
Bruce Cockburn – “You Get Bigger as You Go”
Mark Heard – “Nod Over Coffee”
Brown Feather Sparrow – “Try to Float”
The Spirit That Guides Us – “Real Life Motion Picture”
Johnny Cash – “Hurt”
The Clash – “London Calling”
The Fire Theft – “Heaven”
Fleming & John – “Sssh!”
Kelly Wingate – “Photograph”
Van Morrison – “In the Garden”

Ken Mueller is the owner of Inkling Media, a small Social Media and Inbound Marketing company. He has more than 30 years of media and marketing experience, primarily in radio. Ken is passionate about baseball (the Phillies) and music (though he can’t play a lick or sing even one note). He lives in Lancaster with his wife and 3 kids (all of whom are extremely intelligent and good looking).

Ken Mueller