Say what you will about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like, social media is here to stay. Busy professionals can either embrace it and use it as a tool, or continue to resist and risk getting left behind.

Local public relations professional Natalie Ghidotti has more than embraced social media -- she seems to effortlessly control it to her advantage. Promoting an event for a client? There's an app for that. Sharing the Ghidotti family's road-trip adventures? There's an app for that too!

And with a little skill, busy parents can put all sorts of social media technologies and applications to work for them in order to better balance work and life.

Family First

A graduate of Benton High School, Natalie pursued a degree in advertising & public relations at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. After graduation, she combined her passion for journalism with her degree, serving as a reporter and eventually special sections editor for The Business Press in Fort Worth. From 1999–2002 she worked as editor of Little Rock Family and Arkansas Business Publishing Group's other consumer publications.

Natalie spent four years at Mangan Holcomb Partners as a public relations account executive, branching out on her own in 2006. Since then, she's grown Ghidotti Communications and formed a strategic partnership with Eric Rob & Isaac, a Little Rock full-service marketing firm. She and husband Jason have two children, Nathan (6) and Corinne (3).

“Balancing my career and family is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Natalie wrote in a recent e-mail interview. “I am by nature a planner and multitasker, which is probably why I’ve succeeded in my industry, where planning and attention to detail will make or break you. But those planning skills have also helped me balance my work, family and volunteer lives. I write a lot of to-do lists, and I have mastered the art of taking as many calls as possible in the car (thank you to my husband for installing Bluetooth in my car!).”

Natalie was quick to divulge that the biggest key to her balancing act is her husband. “He is amazing with our kids, is our household’s best chef, and can fix anything and everything. I’m pretty sure that if you look at any successful working mom, they probably have their own version of Jason (though I think mine’s the best!).”

Social Media – Good, Bad & Ugly

Over the years, Natalie has been at the forefront of the social media wave. She's a founding member of the Little Rock TweetUps -- gatherings of local professionals who use Twitter regularly to communicate and promote their businesses -- and regularly blogs and delivers presentations on incorporating the various social-media technologies into public relations campaigns.

“There is no doubt that social media has completely changed -- and continues to change -- how we communicate with each other,” she explained. “Who would have ever thought that we would be reconnecting with so many friends and families by going online and reading their status updates and viewing pictures of them while they’re vacationing?! I know [that] for me, it has absolutely changed my profession and the way that we do business.

“But for all its good, I do think there are some landmines in social media,” she continued. “Keeping up with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and every other social media site can be exhausting and take you away from what truly matters in life. There’s a fine balance to connecting through these portals, yet not losing sight of the real, in-person connections in your life.”

Natalie also points out that amidst the rapid growth of social media, the lines have been blurred between professional and personal brands.

“I honestly don’t see a difference in them now; there is no doubt that what you do personally online (and offline for that matter) affects your professional side,” she said. “Employers and potential clients want to know that you have a positive brand because they know that brand will affect their brand. It’s imperative that working parents take a good look at their social media footprint, clean it up if necessary, and engage in those arenas knowing that every word you tweet and every picture you post will affect you in the professional world, good or bad.”

Tools of the Trade

Like most mothers who work outside the home, Natalie relies on her smartphone to help her manage the daily schedules and tasks at hand.

“Finding apps that are easy to use and help me stay organized are key,” she said. Here's a list of her current favorites:

  • Spotify – We love listening to music in the car, and Spotify allows me to play the 3-year-old’s favorite princess song, Justin Bieber for the 6-year-old and Glee for me easily and affordably.
  • Trip Cubby – For those working parents who have to keep up with mileage, this app is so simple and makes it super easy to download to the CPA at the end of the year.
  • Grocery IQ – We love this because it keeps our grocery list (you can scan items you’re running low on), and it syncs with your spouse’s app, so whoever is making the grocery stop on the way home always knows exactly what to get.
  • Fruit Ninja – I’m not advocating handing over your phone to entertain the kids, but let’s face it, you got to do it sometimes. This game is fun and keeps their attention (aka not bugging you).

“One other tool we can’t live without is, a dinner menu service that outlines dinners for each night and provides you the grocery list adapted to the store you frequent,” she said. “We just started using it for 2012 and love it.”