Liza Pierce was working as an office manager when she started a "mommy blog" for fun in 2005. She didn't consider herself especially computer savvy but saw it as an opportunity to share her thoughts about family life and connect with other mothers online.
"After work and after all the mommy responsibilities, it was the 'me time,' " she says. "I like writing, so it's a creative outlet."
Almost a decade later, Pierce has grown into one of Maui's best-known online personalities, with around 300 daily readers of her blog, more than 10,700 followers on Twitter, and 70,000 followers across her various Facebook pages. Named one of Hawaii's "Top 20 Social Media Geeks" by the blog Bytemarks in 2009, Pierce is also a regular contributor to the Hawaii Tourism Authority's blog, "So Much More Hawaii."
Blogger and social media maven Liza Pierce says her open, informal voice and her positivity are some of the reasons she’s succeeded in building an audience online.
PETER LIU photo
Her online expansion also led to a career change; Pierce now teaches social media strategy and Internet marketing to agents at Keller Williams.
"I did not have any formal training," she says. "It all resulted from the 10 years' experience I have just doing it."
Originally from the Philippines, Pierce moved to Maui in 1994 after marrying Bradley Pierce, who works for Maui County.
She says she got hooked on blogging after her first foray online, "Liza's Eyeview," led to close relationships with other working moms.
"I discovered how there are really friendships that develop among bloggers," she says. "It starts as an online friendship and carries outside and becomes real friendships."
Pierce also noticed that, although she had intended to write about family life, work and parenting, most of the questions she was getting from readers were about living on Maui. That led her to launch "A Maui Blog" in 2006, and the site took off.
"It's just talking story, a very casual and informal way of writing," she says. "Sometimes it's a little bit more personal. I don't talk the way other travel writers talk about the place, and I think the audience likes that."
She says many of her readers are people who are interested in visiting Maui and have already read the guidebooks. "Now they want the local perspective," she says.
"I did a blog about ziplining," she says. "There are tons of articles about ziplining online, but they see this one where it's just a mommy who brought her kids, and she's talking about the experience."
Some of the most common searches that bring readers to her blog are about where to eat on Maui and what activities and events to do. "In 2012, I started seeing searches for food trucks on Maui," she says. "I thought, 'Oh, this is interesting.' "
Realizing that the food-truck mania that had been trending on the Mainland and Honolulu was migrating to the Valley Isle, Pierce started posting reviews, then added a special section to her blog devoted to food trucks, along with a dedicated Facebook page. Favorite lunch wagons around town include the Big Beach BBQ, Slightly Salty, Donut Dynamite and the Maui Fresh Streatery, which she says is "really gourmet, locally sourced. It's really good."
Some of Pierce's most popular posts are just about what life is like on Maui.
"I went to Minit Stop to get chicken one morning," she says, "and the people in there were just so friendly, a lot of aloha." Pierce blogged about it, and the post received a lot of hits. "For some reason, it just resonated with people."
In addition to her job and online activities, Pierce works as a consultant with a small number of clients, teaching them to navigate the world of social media.
She says online marketing can be a powerful tool, but it's something many business owners don't understand.
"Businesses, they think it's an answer to everything," she says. "They say, 'It's free.' Well, it is free in a way, but you also have to spend time on it, and time is money."
To maintain her online presence, Pierce spends about an hour each morning and another hour each night updating her social media profiles, checking in periodically throughout the day. She spends longer chunks of time on weekends working on her blog - including participating in an activity or event, and then writing about it.
She said her biggest piece of advice for people who want to improve their use of social media is to keep things positive and use online engagement as a tool for building up their community.
"Social media is a platform to promote what you're passionate about, so use it positively that way," she says. "The ranting and raving, I would reserve that for somewhere else."
She says social media has impacted her life in unexpected ways.
"What surprised me was how it has improved my personality," she says. "I'm really an introverted person, but through interacting in social media online, I'm less shy, more extroverted offline. That's because when I go somewhere, I'm familiar with a lot of people already because I've interacted with them online. So it gave me more confidence."
* Ilima Loomis is a Maui-based writer and editor. Do you have an interesting neighbor? Tell us about them at email@example.com. Neighbors and "The State of Aloha," written by Ben Lowenthal, alternate Fridays.