Louise DiCarlo said she fell in love with social media before there was really a term for it: the self-described social butterfly said she'd spend hours chatting via AOL back in the days when you still got charged by the hour.
Today, DiCarlo is among Long Island's social media elite, with 16,500 Twitter followers (as of Monday, that is) and a company – Communications Journey Inc. – through which she builds social media presence for an international roster of clients. She's been mentioned in Newsday articles on social media, is a former Patch , and has conversed via Twitter with celebrities like John Stamos, Alex Guarnecelli, and Anderson Cooper.
"I titled myself a virtual assistant," she said. "Then I started working for all these people who are social media gurus. The next thing I knew, I was doing what they were doing for other people."
According to John Doyle, director of technology and communications for Alure Home Improvment, DiCarlo really gets the point and the practice of social media and quickly adapts to its ever-changing forms.
"She has a wealth of knowledge and she shares it freely," said Doyle, who followed her online before he ever met her in person. "I consider her one of the the most influential people I'm connected to online. ... She realizes that there's more power in people collaborating."
But DiCarlo's influence isn't limited to the social media realm: IRL (in real life) she's a mom of four, former PTA president in the Three Village Central School District, and religious education director at St. James Roman Catholic Church. She and husband Jim have lived with their family in Stony Brook for 29 years.
While working with the PTA council, DiCarlo was instrumental in developing the district's school safety and violence prevention plan, according to deputy superintendent Cheryl Pedisich.
"She was a real dynamo, very dedicated to the district. I think she balances things very well," Pedisich said. "She is one of those people who walks through life with such diplomacy."
At St. James, DiCarlo said, her colleagues sometimes make fun of her for being so intertwined in social media. But St. James is now on Facebook; some students use Skype to partake in the church's religious education program; and people have tweeted her to inquire about Mass times on Christmas Day.
For those who aspire to have such a wide social media reach, DiCarlo advises people to listen first and see how people interact with each other.
"The first opportunity to jump into a conversation where you can offer valuable information, just do it," she said. "It’s like a cocktail party. If you don't talk to people, people aren’t going to talk to you."