How do you use social media as a business tool, instead of a forum for empty chatter?
Mari Smith was called one of the Top 10 Social Media Influencers by Forbes Magazine. She’s the author of The New Relationship Marketing: How to Build a Large, Loyal, Profitable Network Using the Social Web. So I invited her to talk about how entrepreneurs can use social media profitably.
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Here’s the program.
Hey, everyone. My name is Andrew Warner. I am the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart and the place where proven people come to teach you how they did it so that you can go out there, build your own success story and hopefully do what today’s guest is doing, come back here and teach others. The big question for this interview is how do you use social media as a business tool instead of a forum for empty chatter? Mari Smith was called one of the top 10 social media influencers by Forbes Magazine. She’s the author of, “The New Relationship Marketing”. Let me read that book title again clearly, “The New Relationship Marketing: How to Build a Large, Loyal, Profitable Network Using the Social Web”. I invited her here to talk about how entrepreneurs like you can you social media profitably. Mari, thanks for coming here and teaching.
Mari: My pleasure. Hi, Andrew, good to be here.
Andrew: Good to talk to you. You know, I’ve seen your videos online so much and I feel like I’ve gotten to know you online, and it’s great to actually have this conversation with you, a real, interactive conversation.
Andrew: So, I know the person who’s listening to us is thinking, “All right. What really can be done here? If it’s not empty chatter, which Andrew put down in the top of the interview, then what really is the possibility?” Can you give us an example of who’s done social media well?
Mari: You know, yeah, there’s a lot of good examples. The one that first springs to my mind and one of my personal favorites is Old Spice and they first, I want to say it was probably 2009, when they had Mustafa, you know, the handsome actor come along and start to do some very, very personalized videos on YouTube and then they’d go viral and go on Facebook and then they get the audience, they get their fan base to interact and respond and to send requests through Twitter, through Facebook, through YouTube and then they’re responding with these personalized videos. So the awareness of the product of Old Spice spikes dramatically, and I just recently was reading a statistic that they could absolutely track these various campaigns to an increase in sales, which ultimately, of course, is what we’re all looking for.
Andrew: All right, I want to come back since you talked about tracking. I want to come back and talk about measuring results. With a lot of people I feel that if you talk about social media and measurement, it’s almost like saying, “How do you measure the return on investment on a friend?” But it’s important. If we’re real business people, we have to care about that and I’ll ask you about measurements in a moment.
I’ll also find out about the steps that we can take to use social media well, social media versus social business, as you and I talked about before the interview started, what I can delegate, because I know I can delegate some and I want to delegate as much as possible. But I’m also picturing in my audience’s minds, they’re hearing this Old Spice example and they’re thinking, “That’s big business. These guys have a lot of money and a lot of power behind them. I can’t duplicate that because I can’t get the Old Spice guy on TV to establish a relationship with the audience remotely and then online to connect with them one-on-one.” Do you have something that’s more approachable, maybe something a little bit smaller but will feel more approachable to the audience?
Mari: Well, you know, it’s funny because another example I was thinking has some similarities but it’s just as doable and my friend and client at John Ashcroft. He’s a known name in many circles. He’s written books. He’s a coach, speaker, he was on The Secret, but he’s extremely personable and one of the things he did to build up his Facebook fan base and Twitter and he has a whole membership community is a lot of really personal videos. He’d just pop out his flip camera, iPhone and he’s really connecting with the audience and he asks great, great questions. He’s very inclusive and he listens well and responds well so I think some of the primary approaches to social media are applicable regardless of the size of your business.
So if some of your listeners can take a leaf out of John Ashcroft’s book, would be to put themselves on camera a little bit more and just starting small maybe once a week, shoot a little video on an iPhone or a small camera to be able to connect with your audience. John has exponentially increased his audience and his business and sales as a result.
Andrew: You know I’ve seen people do that including this guy, Darren LaCroix who I’ve been watching for years. Ever since I did Toastmasters and he won Toastmasters that one year, the big competition. He put out CDs, which I bought to learn how to become a better speaker because I wanted to know how to do this. When he got on YouTube, he started to do the kinds of videos that you’re talking about. Just him on camera saying, “I’m about to go and give this speech” and “Look at the view outside my hotel window” and “What you should expect the night before,” etc. and I felt really connected to him until I saw that number underneath his YouTube video, which said something like 800 views and maybe one of them had a hundred views. I thought, that seems so small, a hundred views is nothing. A thousand views online, especially on You Tube is nothing and then I felt bad for him. That’s what kept me from flipping off my — not my flip cam but my iPhone camera and shooting video. What about these small numbers you get from doing something like that?
Mari: Here’s the secret. You can’t just use YouTube. For example, for a little while last year I was shooting a show with my dear friend Mike Stelzner for the social media, Examiner. We called it an Internet TV Show and they’re about seven minutes long. They’re professionally produced in a studio and I was basically hosting the show and teaching some social media skills, you can still find them on the site. Now what Mike and I would do, we gave it a certain number of, we agreed that we were going to do six episodes and they were coming out about twice a month. Then they go on to You Tube and he’d do a blog post and they’d get embedded in the blog post. Then they go on Facebook, they go on Twitter and he’d keep coming back.
So the secret, it’s fascinating to me, Andrew, how people think, “Oh, I’m going to make a viral video” they make this video and they put it on You Tube and they sit back and wait. You have to be extremely proactive in promoting and driving the traffic to You Tube in other creative ways because you have the embed element of it. I don’t profess to be a video marketing expert, but there’s a lot of elements, really good content, good lighting, good audio all of those kinds of things and hot topics that people will want to share and being proactive and not being afraid to come back thinking, well, three days have passed and not many people have come so then you move on to the next thing. It should be fairly evergreen content that you can keep driving people to.
Andrew: You did that very well with Fast Companies Influence Project. This was, in fact, can you describe to people what the project was and how you got picked the top influencer by Fast Company?
Mari: I thought that was an awesome project. It had a little bit of a negative downturn when it first launched because I think people saw that ultimately what Fast Company were looking to do is to see out there could get the greatest number of clicks on your unique URL and from those clicks people also sign up to the influence project. When I saw that the contest — it wasn’t even a contest it was a campaign, an initiative, an experiment you could even call it. So I made a You Tube video, a screen capture and showed people how to use the system because it wasn’t fully intuitive or obvious at first.
Andrew: You mean how to use the Influence Project’s website to, okay. To vote and get people to vote for them.
Mari: Correct. Yeah, a little small tutorial. I sent an email out to my list. I schedule a bunch of DMs, sent private and direct messages on my Twitter to influencers, friends of mine to help spread the word. I put it out on Twitter, on Facebook, I think I did a blog post about it. Just like the exact same advice I was saying with what Mike and I were doing with the Social Media Examiner TV, I just came at this promotion from all different angles and got a head start. I really was one of the first people out of the gate and it was fun, it was a lot of fun and I saw it as an absolute win because regardless of where you’re “positioning” was, everybody got their picture in the Fast Company magazine, of course, it was something like 30,000 entrants, many of the pictures are very, very small and they appeared in the physical Fast Company Magazine. It was really a lot of fun, harmless I think, harmless. Some people took it pretty seriously but I really enjoyed it.
Andrew: The skepticism around it was that basically what [??] company was trying to do was get people to send the their social networks f=over to fast company and to get registration which I understand if you’re looking for the ultimate influence or this may not be the most scientific way to do it. But as a marketer I have to not be a critic but say, what can I learn from this? What did they do right, and what they did right was get action, a lot of conversations around this influence project and a lot of people like you to send links out to their site. So, as I was saying earlier, you did more than just hope people would come on. You did that video where you showed people how to use it, which was cleaver. You also emailed it out to your list. How big was your list at the time?
Mari: Oh, about 25,000.
Andrew: 25,000. Twitter, what did you do on Twitter that other people might not have done?
Mari: I used Socialumph.com…
Andrew: What’s that?
Mari: It’s a suite of tools for Twitter and one of features that I used is where you can pre-schedule private direct messages. So I wanted them to go out like earlier the next morning and I was doing a lot of this in the evening and so I made sure that messages were going out like 7:00 a.m. in the eastern time zone the next morning. And I hand picked probably about 20 different influencers, you know people like Eric [??] or JVR, Mike Stelzner, Jason Falls. People that are…
Andrew: [??] I heard you say.
Mari: Yes, and I was completely like if they sent the link out great, if they didn’t, no big deal, and I think that people, can do that. I get asked a lot from people to say you know can you re-Tweet this or would you mind doing me a favor. Because my passion is this whole element of relationships, nurturing and building the and using them in a way that for marketing purposes but it has to be mutually beneficial, it has to be like agenda free or detached if you will. So there’s a way to ask people in a way that they feel free to say no.
Andrew: I’m writing notes here to come back and follow up on this, to say no, and I want to come back and ask how you do that. What I got from watching you do that and hearing you tell Fastcompany how you dominated list was, all the different ways that you’re promoting it. And when I as an outsider, often when I watch someone like you work, I think she just probably needs to Tweet it out everything is done. No, what I notice is you’re Tweeting, but behind the scenes you’re also DM-ing people, sending them direct messages, and asking them to Tweet.
And you’re doing it in a way that makes them feel not bothered that you’re asking them and imposing on them, but feel that they want to help you out. You’re also creating a tool that basically helps Fastcompany, and anyone who wants to be a part of this project but in a sense, but in a way directly helps you too because you’re getting people to click on your link. That’s what I’m learning from this, and that’s why maybe Darren, as much as I love him as a presenter, maybe he has a lot to learn from you about how you put the stuff out there but you have to work the whole system to promote it. How do you make some request like that neutrally beneficial? If you’re going to Gary Vaynerchuk and saying, please can you Tweet this out, how do you do it in a way that helps Gary?
Mari: Well, the secret is you never start there. These would be relationships that you in between times you’ve asked for a favor, you’ve called in a favor. You are focusing on nurturing that relationship, you’re replying to [??] mentions, you’re re-Tweeting their content and you’re just connecting with them. Some of these people more than likely, certainly for me, all people that I’ve met in person. And I think it’s a massive element to nurturing relationships when you have that in person element.
Gary V and I we were actually in Norway in April of last year, Chris Brogan was there, as well an a few other friends or ours. And Gary said from the stage, over five years he and said have spent all of nine minutes together physically in person. But, he said this from the stage, he was like, I would do anything for Mari. Mari don’t you feel the same, And I’m like, yeah, I would. Because there’s this wonderful connection and I have that and many of us have that with a lot of different people.
So the secret is to go to those people whom already have this nice sense of connection, that you that their intent is pure. They’re not going to lead you astray and say, hey will you Tweet this link and it’s a bunch of junk. So I’m more than happy to return the favor for anybody as well. And that’s really the secret. Initially, for people that are starting out. Say they’re brand new and they’re like Mari you’re you, and I don’t know influencers, they’re not going to listen to me.
Start to really actually, make a list of maybe 10, 15, 20 people that you would really like to have a deeper relation with. Start reading their blogs, comment on their blogs regularly. Re-Tweet their stuff, interact with them on Facebook or Google Plus, or wherever their platform of choice is. And really start to get on their radar, but not in way that’s like bugging and hanging on their coattails, in a way that’s really lifting them up and adding value. Bringing your people more eyeballs to their content, if you will.
Andrew: I have to say, to me, that’s a little bit tough. First of all you’re saying, well, all the things that you’re saying take a lot of time. I have to get somewhere today, you know. To comment, and I always think, “They’re not looking at all their comments.” Especially guys who are big influences right now. I think Gary has 200 comments on his latest post. I think. I could be wrong about that. But, that’s how many comments he tends to get.
He’s not going to see my comment. He’s not going to see my tweet. He’s not going to see my Facebook compliment. So that’s a problem. It takes a while to do it. The other thing that I think is, prop him up? I’m like trying to figure out my business here, trying to figure out I get customers to me. Now, I have to go prop him up so that one day I get him?
What do you say to someone like me, who is kind of antsy and kind of needy at this point? I need customers right now. I’m not at a place where I could sit back and say, “I have so many customers, I’m like Wal-mart. I could send some down the road.”
Mari: Yes. I hear you. I like where you’re going with this. You’re saying the questions that no doubt many of your listeners are having. If you are in a place where you are starting out, like you say. There’s absolutely so many hours in the day and you want to be really prudent with where you spend that time. If there is not sufficient time to be able to go in and nurture or begin to nurture a relationship with influencers…
First of all, you have to recognize that getting tangible results from social media can take time. You might get lucky. You might get lucky and have a result pretty quickly but for most people, you’re going to have a window of time. Possibly 90 days, even on up to 4, 5, or 6 months before you begin to see some traction. It’s not like that should be your only form of marketing.
Ideally, you should already have your email list or your building your email list. If you have a small budget, you might look at Facebook ads. You’re going to pick, maybe one or two, excuse me, two or three, not just one but two or three. Whether it’s Facebook and Twitter or Facebook and Google+ or LinkedIn and Google+, whatever, pick two of the big four. Maybe YouTube as well, we threw in there.
Five. Pick two of the five and really work those, knowing you’re not going to see overnight success. Now, in addition, let me come back to this piece about getting on the radar of influencers. There’s something else that you can add into the mix, is someone like Gary. He’s extremely active on Twitter, when he is. When he’s not, he’s not.
You can begin to watch and notice times when he’s online. You can get on his radar. This is somebody who doesn’t know him. He doesn’t know you yet and begin to interact with him, knowing that he is right at that moment in time. Rather than if you saw his last tweet was four hours ago, good chance he’s going to have a gazillion more, right? Before he sees yours.
Find times. Look for the windows. Google+, too. See if you see someone like, Michael Dowel [sp] is hanging out and you want to get on the radar of Michael Dowel, you click that button as soon as you see he’s hanging out. You begin. You know, that’s unprecedented, one thing I just love about Google+.
Andrew: Hanging out meaning you can actually see and talk to him in this video conference that Google has. All right. I used to actually go to, as research, not because I was necessarily interested in joining those groups. The Kiwanis’ Club, the Rotary Club, the Toastmasters, too, a lot of these old school networking groups, to see how they work offline.
One of the things I kept noticing over and over was, the big lesson they would have for their people was don’t try to get results now. Don’t try to get results tomorrow. Just give and trust over time. If it’s true for them, it’s just as true for us. I have to keep reminding myself that Twitter’s not the place I go to get big results tomorrow. That might be, as you said, “Go buy ads somewhere. Go pay for your results, if you want them to happen that quickly.”
If you want to build relationships, it takes time and to have patience is something I need to learn. The other thing I need to learn is how do you let somebody off the hook? Or like, how do you ask in a way that says, “I need this.” Without being wishy-washy and unclear about what you want? At the same time, hey, if it’s not right for you don’t do it.
How do you give people the way out but still be clear about your goal?
Mari: Well, I have a mantra. I ask myself before I hit that send or publish or email or tweet button and it’s simply this, “What is my deepest intent?” That’s before I send out any communication. “What’s my deepest intent?” The intent can often come through, even if you’re choice of words isn’t the most eloquent. However, if you say something like, “Would you mind re-tweeting this?” Or, “Please, would you consider or any chance you could do me favor?” Or something like that. Or even you can add, more than happy to return the favor or something like that. Quite frankly, I rarely ask for favors.
I’m such a fiercely, independent Scottish woman that I don’t very often ask for help, but people who often offer it to me, which I think is really wonderful and I am out there always giving and helping people anyway, but if I were to call in favors that’s how I would do it. There’s only a small core of people that I would go to and ask for favors. I get asked them a lot and I notice, I’m really very clear and I can feel it like cellularly in my body when somebody’s going, the way that they ask, it compels me to go, “Oh, what a nice person, I think I’ll check this link out, I think I feel like sending this out.” Whereas other people are like, “Oh my gosh, are you kidding, I don’t know you from Adam, why would I [??] your stuff.” There’s a real difference in energy.
Andrew: What do you do when people ask — first of all, giving them a way out is important. A lot of times people say, “Andrew, please Tweet this out.” That’s not, I feel like it’s an imposition because I get a lot of those requests. So saying, “Would you mind,” and I see [??] will say, “Would you mind Tweeting this out or blogging about it or whatever but if it’s not a good fit, no problem at all.” Giving me that clear way out is just as important as giving me that clear request.
What about all the people who are good people who do ask in a way that seems a little bit burdensome? How do you deal with that? I don’t want to push them away they’re good people. If they haven’t learned yet how to ask today, next year they will. Tomorrow they will. In some way they’re going to be great connections for me. So I don’t want to say, “Hey, don’t be rude, don’t be a jerk, I’ve got a lot of things going on,” but I do want to say no to all these people who are asking for Tweets and all those people who are asking for social media favors, how do you do it properly?
Mari: The good news, fortunately with Twitter, I like to Tweet about once every 75 minutes. On any given day I might be sending out 10 or 15 Tweets, maybe a little less it depends. I’m going to start — I live in the San Diego, west coast time and interestingly enough 80% of the population in the U.S. lives in Central and Eastern and only about a year ago I learned that fact. So I started to back up my Tweets and go early. Now most of my Tweets start as early as 5:00 a.m. our time, which is 8:00 a.m. Eastern. I actually have a lot of room and flexibility in my Tweeting schedule if you will, to do favors for people and add in an extra Tweet here and there and I’m watching, I know when my peak times are and I’m quite happy to Tweet out later in the evening and then you’ve kept your word, you’ve sent something out for someone.
The thing is to, it’s important, overall as your growing out any of your social channels that you stay true to your message. You deviate too much, one day you’re talking about this subject over here, SEO and the next minute you’re talking about green houses and growing tomatoes or something like. Unless it’s a real personal interest, I’m trying to think of radical examples. One time somebody asked me, “Will you retweet this” something to do with hormone replacement therapy, well that happens to be a subject I’m quite interested in, but I don’t think, maybe a small percent of my followers would be interested in that and it would dilute my messaging to much to put something like that out.
Andrew: How do you do that? How do you say no, that’s just not a good fit?
Mari: Quite often I would not reply. There are not enough hours in the day. I get absolutely inundated with Facebook messages, DMs, e-mails, Google add requests, it’s too much. I can’t physically reply to everybody. I have a couple of different assistants and we have — they don’t tend to do a lot of the social media monitoring or replying, but on my emails I get a lot of Facebook questions for example. We have a standard answer, I’m not able to reply to all emails and I send them to a blog post I wrote awhile ago that has like 120 contact forms for Facebook. I do my best to be of service to the community and there are times if I’m not able to retweet something for someone, I just don’t even respond.
Andrew: You have a Facebook auto-responder?
Mari: No. I meant e-mails. I wish I did. As soon as I find one I’ll let you know.
Andrew: I’d love that. What’s the tool that you use to space out your tweets?
Mari: Hoot Tweet.
Andrew: Hoot Tweet, okay, I use that, too.
Mari: Oh, let me give a plug for Buffer App because I really like that too, it’s a pretty cool app.
Andrew: Buffer App allows you to say, I want my tweets to go out at this time, these times of the day and then you use it to queue up your tweets and it knows when to send it out.
Mari: Correct. Yeah, and more and more blogs are adding the little buffer button so it’s super easy as you’re doing your morning or afternoon reading of the news and what not and consuming these different technology sites, click your little buffer button and . . .
Andrew: It goes out when you think it’s the right time not when you happen to be reading it. So if you happen to read an article at one in the morning and you’re hitting the tweet button, it’s going to tweet out right away, but if you use the buffer button, you know it’s going to go out ahead of time when it’s a better time for it to go out.
Mari: Exactly. Yeah.
Andrew: What else. You talked about how Old Spice measured its success. I’m so into measurement. I go into my Spring Metrics to see where my orders came from, to see what process my customers took to buy from me. I don’t think more than two people a week come in from Twitter, according to Spring Metrics, not directly click and then go and buy. I don’t think that’s the right measurement, though. Because I believe that what’s happening is, the person who bought, might of seen me on Twitter a couple of times and trust that I’m a real person, responds to people if there’s and issue and then that built up a credibility.
And then when it was time to buy, they might not have directly come from Twitter, but they bought with all that stuff in mind. So that’s the issue with measuring results and that’s why we focus more on more measurable actions like hits, and orders and not on Twitter and social media which is less easy to measure. Can you give me an idea of how I can do a good job of measuring it and then value it more?
Mari: Absolutely, absolutely. ‘Cuz social media ROI has been, like, one of the hottest conversations for several years now and there’s a lot of different schools of thoughts out there. And you’ll get some experts who say, “Oh, yeah, you know, it’s a return on influence and a return on time and whatever.” But try telling that to the CEO or the CFO and they’re like, “Show me the money. I don’t care what’s this return on influence thing. Show me the money.” So one of the hands down best ROI, social media ROI models that I’ve been out there is by Jeremiah Owyang. He works for the Altimeter Group, former Forrester analyst, brilliant mind, futurist, I call him. He’s like a Brian Solis with a future thinking mind. And he has this model called the social media ROI pyramid. And it’s actually. . .There’s three levels and I remember two of them off the top of my head. But basically what it is, is that you take different sets of stats to report to different people.
So what often happens, you’ll get your social media consultants will go into a company or you’ll get community managers or social media strategist experts, etc. And they’ll be reporting things like increase in Twitter following, number of re-tweets, number of blog comments. Even like you were saying, hits. . .increase in traffic, etc. They’ll report those to the CEO and his eyes are twirling in his head going, “Well, how does that translate to dollars?”
So those numbers are all relevant and important but you’re going to report those more to the CMO, you know, who’s in charge of the marketing. And the PR, the social media, the community managers, they need to know those numbers. Go the next level up and those are decrease in, you know, cost, customer service cost and increase in sales. It’s really absolutely simple, “Did money come in or did we save money?” Those are the stats we’re going to be reporting to the CEO. He or she doesn’t even need to know all the little. . .
Andrew: How do you connect it back to that? How do you connect it back to the activity you had on Twitter?
Mari: Yeah, you know, I think like if we used . . .These are big companies[??]. But if we look at somebody like HubSpot. I think they’re just brilliant marketers. Clearly, that’s they’re position, they’re marketers, a marketing firm. So they’ll put out these wonderful reports. They create these awesome e-books or white papers, reports. They’ll use tracking links. They’ll drive people to an [??] form [??]. Now they got people on their list and then they do a webinar and maybe make an offer etc., etc. And that is a model that regardless of the size or your company, you can be doing that similar kind of model. So tracking links is absolutely one way to measure that.
Obviously, putting out the link through Twitter, Facebook and, you know, actually if you’re doing a webinar registration having people write on there, like, where did they come from. And where to track the sources, etc. So, I mean, they’re only some many ways that you can absolutely directly track where did the lead originally come from. You made a really valid point earlier about how somebody might see you. They might be following you on all different platforms.
And they saw you on Google+ and then they see you again on Facebook and then they happen to see a YouTube video and they’re also on your email list. Because they saw you several times they’re like, “You know what, I think I’m going to sign up for this.” You can’t necessarily always track what compelled them, at which point did they make that decision. It might just be compounded but with all the visibility.
Andrew: Let me divert from the main focus for a moment just to talk about HubSpot. I want to be clear about what you just said there. Hub Spot is a phenomenal marketing company. So what they’ll do is they’ll have some kind of system that grades your website, for example. And you’ll plug in your URL, you’ll get a grade with detailed information and then they’ll say, “Do you want to tweet this out?” And when you tweet it out, I imagine, what they do is, they track the tweet that goes out. So the next person gets that tweet and does an analysis, and also gets the opportunity to tweet, but is given an option of signing up for a report. Signing up for a report, a white paper, a course, a commercial webinar or whatever, to learn how to improve the website that you just had evaluated, that means that you give them your contact information. You give them your contact information, and if I understand this right, and some of this stuff is secretive so I can’t get all the details on it and other people in the audience, I’m sure, know better than I do.
But basically, they’ll contact you and then they’ll sell you on this big content package. And often the contact means by phone, and their connected back to where you came from, because it’s track-able URLs and that’s what you’re saying.
Andrew: So that stuff is easy to track, and you just have to accept that being engaged in the community gives you more customers and better reputation and more trust and revenue.
Mari: Exactly. Precisely.
Andrew: OK. We’ll come back to delegate in a moment, let’s go through the seven step process. What is the seven step process to do, and why?
Mari: OK. Well interestingly enough, I started this many years ago. It started with four, and then I said well we better add five and six, and then seven came on a little bit later, as often is with models. I developed this model specifically for Facebook marketing and really discovered that it was applicable to whatever social channels you use.
The first step is design, and that’s super simple. You’re going to make sure you have a good avatar, color scheme, branding, seamless across all your social channels.
Andrew: This is the seven step process to using any social media platform, whether it’s Facebook, [??] Twitter, or whatever it is. By the way, your design on your Facebook page is beautiful. You have the landing page that’s not whatever the default landing page that they give you is. It looks good, I believe it has your video, or at least I know the first time I saw you on Facebook I saw your video and got to know you that way. Everything that you do, right down to the people watching us on video, can tell, your backdrop right now, looks beautiful, well cared for, your mike. Can you show people what you’re using, or do you want to keep it private?
There it is, the blue snowball professional, blogger microphone, it sounds great here. So, you’re saying that whatever system you’re in, just look at the design, see what kind of design you can add to it and help make it look a little better, maybe more like you. Then the next is?
Mari: Color, I take my color to extremes, I always do turquoise and bling, but you could have a theme or a color.
Andrew: That’s right, even the top that you’re wearing now has the same color as the landing page that you have on Facebook. That is your color, you picked it the way the cell company named Orange, picked orange as their company almost.
Mari: That’s right. So now you’ve got the basics, next up is content. I think that probably one of the best ways to establish yourself, as a guru, as an expert, as a go-to person, as a number one expert in your field. And whatever you want to do or aspire to, one of the key secrets is to become known as a brilliant producer of content. But the good news is it doesn’t always have to be 100% your own, as you well know.
In fact, it’s absolutely expected that you will share some of your own along with others that I call OPC, other peoples content. And I think, like on Twitter, you can be an absolute breath of fresh air, you can be this voice that really stands out from the crowd, when you have really carefully curated and cherry picked a certain type and quality caliber content. Such that it builds up trust, what’s happening here is that over time, it builds up trust and people know, well if Mari tweeted it, she must have checked it out and it’s good stuff.
So that’s content. And you actually want to have a content strategy, you’re brilliant at it too Andrew. I always see you’ve got an editorial calendar, you’re planning out your tweets, your blog posts, your themes and different things like that. That’s content.
The next is promotion, and I think a lot of people get this the wrong way around, they start promoting, hey like my fan page, like my fan page, and there’s nothing there. They still have the standard avatar on there. So design the content, and then start promoting and this is where you have to really start thinking outside the box, and I just love marketing. I love online and offline, both, and I mentioned earlier about some of these offline networking groups. I’m a big fan of Toastmasters, I used to go and talk about it many years ago, and I dedicated a whole chapter of my new relationship marketing book to the importance of networking offline. Whether it’s at events or groups etc., the back of your business card, the bottom of your email signature file, on all your different branding.
Think about cross promoting, if you find a post on Facebook is getting a lot of traction, take that permalink, shorten it and tweet it out. Or pull it over onto Google Plus and have people go over there, because you never know what platform people are sitting at the moment. You might be having a really hot discussion on a different platform, so promotion is everything you can think of online and offline to get the eyeballs and traffic flowing to where you want it to flow. Now is engagement, a lot of people stop there. They got the promotion and people are building their community and their reach.
Andrew: I’m sorry, before we go into engagement, let me ask you about promotion.
Andrew: Sometimes, I learn better through examples. Do you have a few examples of people who promoted well online? I guess we talked about some of the ways you promoted your Fast Company Influence project link, but do you have some other ways that other people have done promotion well? I want to be inspired and learn from them.
Mari: Well, let’s take our friend, Guy Kawasaki, who happens to have written the foreword to my book. He did a contest. He’s done contests for his book “Enchantment”. In his signature slide deck he uses different examples, I’m actually one of his slides. I frequently get people saying to me, hey Mari, you’re in Guy’s slides that he talking about here.
I think that’s a brilliant way, a real win that you can think of that’s a creative way to promote if you’re going around giving a signature talk. But contests work really well. You can use an app like Wildfire or Strata. My friend, Mike Stelzner, another example, with the Social Media Examiner, his book is called Launch and that came out June of last year, May or June of last year. He did a brilliant contest where he had this simple photo contest where people took pictures and uploaded them.
He had them create a sign that said, help me launch. He had for example a gal that wanted to open a bakery, so she takes some dried fruit and wrote on the kitchen counter top help me launch, or a mechanic wrote on a tire, help me launch. Really creative things. He got several hundred entries to his contest.
Andrew: I see. So all these people are asking for help for their launch, but also promoting the fact that he is the guy and his book is the one that helps launch and that’s brilliant, except here’s what I think when I think of doing something like that. I think, what if no one does it? What if I’m embarrassed publicly by only one person who happens to be my wife or worse, her friend, who comes to help her out by holding up whatever sign I suggest? Then everyone sees that it failed.
They think, look, this is the guy who says he knows social media. This is the guy who says he knows business because he talks to hundreds of people. He doesn’t do it, and I know to some degree that people in my audience feel the exact same insecurity about testing and putting themselves out there like that. What do you say to people like that? What do you say to that kind of fear?
Mari: Well, it’s interesting because it’s a little bit of a theme in our discussion here today of where it’s like a holistic approach. It’s never like one isolated program or one isolated campaign, and this is where a concept that I came up with many years ago comes into play. I call it radical strategic visibility. It’s not just visibility, it has to be strategic so you’re seen in the right places by the right people.
It’s radical. You’re seen everywhere. So let’s say you’re doing this contest. I wouldn’t do it if you have 5 Facebook fans, but if you have maybe a couple of hundred, so you’ve started to build your fan page and you’ve got, actually I typically always say it’s between 500 and 1000 friends, fans, followers, likes, you name it, contacts, that’s going to be your tipping point. So your goal initially with that promotion and that building of that social channel, get yourself to that first 500 as quickly as you can.
Quality ones, I don’t recommend buying fans and followers, they’re not necessarily the right people. Then, when you are doing an initiative, a launch, a campaign, a promotion, really cross-promoting it, using your email list for sure, using video, using your blog, other people’s blogs, doing interviews, calling in favors, going offline and doing speaking. You don’t have to speak, but if people want to they can do that.
Really thinking outside the box. Who else? Where are the eyeballs and the ears of my potential clients, my prospects? How can I reach them? What are some creative ways I can reach them? Maybe some mobile text marketing and things like that.
Andrew: You know what? That goes back to what I see in the world and what I’m missing in the world. What I see is someone does a blog post like Ramit Sethi does a blog post about his new contest and then people enter the contest. What I don’t see is he sends out emails behind the scenes saying to influencers, to friends.
Hey I need a little bit of promotion on this if you wouldn’t mind, send this out. If it’s not a good fit I understand. He is pushing it and getting people involved behind the scenes and that’s why there’s so much engagement. I don’t know specifically for him, but that’s why there’s often engagement when other people do this.
Mari: You’re absolutely right. Mike Stelzner calls them fire starters. He grew Social Media Examiner starting in 2009 with the help of only three of what he calls fire starters. I happened to be one of them, the top one. He had us produce contents, and we agreed to do one blog post a month, we already had our audiences so when the contents went out, we were more than happy to have our people there and check out this new site, and here’s a post I just wrote for it. And it literally, fire-starters literally grew, Mikes business just began to explode. Before long, he had like a waiting list of guest bloggers, and he talked about it in his book Launch.
I keep coming back to him because I think he’s just a tremendous success story, and there’s very few people I can think of that can emulate what he has done, even a fraction of what Mike has been able to create. He’s one of the top ten business blogs now, his email list is something like 120,000 and he got there in about 18 months, so.
Andrew: So why did you promote him with a bog post on your site? You had an influence and an audience, he didn’t have it with this new project. Why were you willing to give so much of yourself to his project?
Mari: You know, it’s funny you should ask. I mean it really does boil down to relationships. Mike is right here in San Diego. Once he built up the Social Media Examiner platform, and then to monetize it he does these summits. So I had a financial arrangement with him, with the summit, so then I was happy to continue to promote. I went above and beyond, I just took on the summits as if they were my own and just really put them out there in a lot of creative ways. So then I benefited financially, ultimately, but initially I didn’t. Just because I really enjoy my friendship with Mike, I was more than happy to help him and it’s very mutual. He’s helped me in a lot of ways too.
Andrew: All right, I interrupted earlier when you started talking about engagement. I had to dig in for more information on that.
Mari: Well, you’re right, because promotion is critical, I mean it’s probably one of the most important steps of all seven. Because if you don’t build that audience, then you’re not going to get results. So then the engagement part is where you’re replying to your app mentions, you have somebody in charge of your fan page, if you’re growing rapidly and you have the resources, you can do that. But initially you want to have systems in place, where you’re doing your best to respond to as many blog comments, Facebook mentions, Google Plus, whatever sites that you are on, so engagement.
Then, not just replying, but looking to join proactively join or start conversations on Twitter, or Google Plus, or LinkedIn. I don’t talk about LinkedIn a whole lot, it’s a different genre. I love it, it’s not a site that I use extensively right now, I will be though.
Once you’ve got that, so you got your design, content, promotion, engagement, and next up is conversion. This is where, and we’ve talked about this a little through our discussion today. Conversion is where you’re going to be strategic, and deliberate about asking for the sale, making it really obvious on how do people do business with you. Where can they go to click a buy button? And interspersing your content, Tweets and Facebook updates, with absolute promotional content and giving people links to buy from.
But the secret, here’s the thing. Back in ’07, when I first got into Facebook, was a saying that started to bubble up within the industry, and it was that when it comes to social networking, when the marketers move in, the members move out. That’s kind of what happened to Myspace, they were kind of spammy and whatnot, and the secret therefore is to behave like a member.
So, the way everyone has a voice and a style, so then the way that you share your personal or professional updates, and then your promotional content, needs to be seamless. People don’t feel OK, they’re just sharing some content, to oop, they’re promoting now, they’re pushing or they’re pitching. There’s a seamless feeling, so that’s one thing. And having these different custom tabs on your fan page, an F-commerce in 2012. I think we’re going to see a huge spike in F-commerce, Facebook commerce.
We see a lot of apps where you can actually go and make purchases on a Facebook fan page, without ever leaving Facebook. I think that’s going to become popular, and ultimately because of Facebook’s phenomenal API, I think that we’re going to be able to go to regular websites and purchase through Facebook credits and our Facebook log-in and whatnot. So, conversion is critical, and a lot of people are just like Social media [??] Oh, you can’t sell, or you can’t market. Well, of course you can and you must, because otherwise, it’s like you said in the beginning, you’re just having idle chit chat. So that’s conversion.
Next up, we’ve spoken a little bit about this and that’s track and measure. It’s good to have systems that track and measure your results, like the click throughs and where the different leads are coming from. Then the final one, step 7 is scalability. You’re probably not going to need that initially, but depending on the size of your company you’re going to get to a point where you bump up against a ceiling. There are only so many hours in a day, and you really can’t be the one that’s doing everything.
For example, right now I’m training a new member of the staff to help me with my content, curation and just really fine tuning the stuff that she finds and how I would present it and however I’m still never going to delegate my voice that’s something that I really pride myself on, it’s always me speaking.
Andrew: How do you scale something like this, I mean, I feel like at some point I want to be able to take a break from everything that I do and I can’t take a break from the interviews, I’ve got to do the interviews myself, I can’t take a break apparently from Twitter because the tweets need to come out from me and the Facebook needs to come out from me, the emails need to be in my name. It feels a little overwhelming, it’s no longer a business it’s now a job that you are the face of and the everything of, how do you scale something like that and then how do you delegate some of it?
Mari: Well I think that there, you can delegate a vast amount of the social media marketing and the, but the remaining piece that you don’t want to delegate is your conversations and your relationship, nurturing and maintaining like we were speaking earlier about Gary Veer [SP] or Chris [??], Guy Kawasaki, Mike [??], whomever, I wouldn’t ever want someone speaking to them, my VIP rolodex if you will, as if that were me, that’s not going to happen.
That’s critical to keep that, even like, 10% or 20% and all the rest, like this one key role, you could call it like Chief of Content or Content Curator, over time you could have somebody really skilled at spending many hours a week, it could save you, you’re going to tell them where all your favorite sources are for finding content.
For me much of it is a Facebook, excuse me a Twitter list, called Facebook and Social Media, it’s a public Twitter list that I made that it has several accounts and that’s where I get all my Facebook news from and then some Google Plus circles, different blogs subscriptions, etc. So directing someone over there on your team to go, ‘These are the kinds of content I want to tweet.’ , and then nothing goes out without my approval. I’m going to check, I’m going to read it, I’m going to craft in my own voice.
Blog posts absolutely have guests, you could ghost write, you could have a ghost writer but guest bloggers I think is really awesome way as a real win, win because they get elevated and visibility and you get content for your blog.
Ultimately depending on the size and scalability of your company you might want to bring in a Community Manager and have someone actually physically moderating your fan page. I actually run several Facebook groups, secret Facebook groups. There’s something in the vast and often over looked features in Facebook and so I have a continuity program and part of the benefits is membership in this secret group but I have a, I pay a moderator to make sure there’s, people are getting responded to, they’re getting their needs met, their questions are getting answered promptly because what’s really, really cool was helping to dramatically increase my member retention.
Andrew: So I see, if you’re writing a blog post or I’m sorry a tweet in response to me or in response to someone else it’s you but all those different links that you’re tweeting out, somebody else has gone through your favorite sources and has pulled them out and has given them to you so that you can say yes or no to but you don’t have to go hunting for it so it’s not you, I see so there’s some things like that that you can pass onto others.
I’ve also seen, tell me what your feeling is on this, I won’t name any names but I know that a lot of people who seem to blog everyday are really using ghost writers who basically do the whole article for them and they put their finishing touches on it and they take the credit for it?
I know writers, well known writers, who clearly have not written their books and do not even acknowledge they’re ghost writers so everyone seems OK with it, is that a problem? What do you think about that?
Mari: I’m kind of, I probably have a foot in both camps, you know, I wrote my own book. I did use a collaborator editor for about half the book which means she interviewed me, I dictated some of it, she tweaked it a bit and it came back and I was like, ‘Whoa, OK, that doesn’t … what a lot of gibberish.’ The way that you speak, the stream of consciousness is very different to how you would write a book, so if you find someone that really does well at writing in your voice then, and you put your finishing touches, I could see that. I don’t know, I’m kind of on the fence right now Andrew and I think that different strokes for different folks. I think where, what bothers me and it’s more of like an integrity issue or values issue, if someone were to say, ‘Hey did you write your own book?’, and that person, ‘absolutely [??] the book.’
I’ll give you an example, here’s an example, [??] a pretty well known person, a very successful, bumped into him, I’ve known him many, many years and we were chit chatting at a event about a year ago and I said to him, ‘You know you’re did a really good job on Twitter. I just really love engaging with you and interacting with you. You really get social media if you’re engaging and his face kind of fell and he’s like, “Mari, I don’t even know how to log in to Twitter. That’s not me. That’s a girl in my office.” and my stomach just kind of turned and I was like, “Oh, OK, all right.” I was reserving judgment. I was like, “OK. He’s clearly very busy.”, and he’s like, “She does a good job of being me, doesn’t she?” And I was like, “Well, she kind of does.”, but from the point foreword, I’ve been really reticent to do much engaging with this account because I know it’s not him. So, yeah, it’s different strokes for different folks, I guess.
Andrew: Your membership, and I know we only have a few more minutes together, the membership program that you have, part of the benefits of it is that they get to chat in a Facebook group, but what happens when they leave the membership program? You can’t kick them out of the group, can you? Or do you even know . . .
Mari: Oh, yes.
Andrew: You do?
Mari: We just leave the group.
Andrew: Do you get an alert with the e-mail address of the person who left and then you remove them from the group so you keep the group pure just for people who are members?
Mari: Absolutely, yeah. Well at some point, if people are like it just doesn’t work for them to continue, they can write us and we’ll just cancel their membership and we delete their account from the member log in because we have a whole materials access area. I use Customer Hub. And then, yeah, we just . . .
Andrew: That’s how you do it – Customer Hub allows you to have control over who’s in your Facebook groups?
Mari: No, no, Customer Hub’s for the materials like for the webinar replays and the downloads and everything and so then I have two assistants and they just monitor like who is in the Facebook group. But I have to say, I’ve got to tell you, it’s so exciting as a marketer the retention rate has absolutely, dramatically increased. I’ll have to do some number crunching and see what kind of increase on that, but we had a big flurry of new members, probably about six months ago and everybody stayed in. It’s amazing.
Andrew: Because of the Facebook group, do you think?
Mari: Yeah. They’re so bonded, they’re in there active everyday, everyday, and the moment someone posts a request for help or a question on any social site and they’re very knowledgeable people. They’re not all in social media. You have some that are small business owners. There are several other social media people in there but they’re really from all walks of life and from all over the world. There’s probably right now, I think, 250 active members in there.
Andrew: And they’re all helping each other and the reason why they want to stay a part of your continuity program is that they have access to this group where they can chat?
Andrew: Interesting. And why do you do that instead of your own message board?
Mari: Well, they get two webinars a month to the main value. They’re getting myself and plus a guest expert a month. I just found that because people are on Facebook a lot and I love the way that the new groups function, that when you put a post and it goes out as a e-mail where people can choose to have their notifications on. They can follow or unfollow a specific post. It also has great archives, you can put pictures, you can collaborate on a document. They now have the search feature and I just find that there’s only so many places that people want to log in to. They’re already logged in to Facebook, so may as well use the platform.
Andrew: Wow. All right. Two more questions. What’s the difference between social media and social business? And then I’ve got to find out what you’re going to do in 2012.
Mari: Okey-dokey. Well, social business is definitely where the company is integrating social into every element, every department, everything that they do and, in fact, there’s a great article on Forbes recently and they used IBM as an example. So they would have like an intranet, a company intranet where you could actually be friending your different colleagues and interacting and communicating so it’s like an internal Facebook, if you will, for the staff. They’re socializing the business, making them much more communicative rather than kind of “them’ and “us” with the different departments.
In addition, I’ve always felt that every company, regardless of your size, should train from the janitor to the CEO, should know, “What are you doing here? What is the company’s Twitter ID? What is their social media policy? What kinds of campaigns and initiatives have they got going on?”, so that every employee and asset and every staff if you have subcontractors, everybody on your team knows what you’re doing in the social space and can become an advocate for your company. They’re going to tell their friends and family.
Zappos is a great example too where you’ve got hundreds, I don’t know, 400 or 500 different Twitter accounts for each of the members of the team of the staff and they have a very, very loose company policy. It’s this, you know, “use your best judgment” and “be courteous, be kind” and of course their, really, the whole culture really is driven from the 10 core values. So that works well there.
But I think companies could really do well to emulate that where you really, instead of shutting down and restricting and banning, a lot of companies will ban the use of social media, it’s like, open it up and actually go the opposite way. If people are really crazy about Facebook, get them into the boardroom and talk to them about, “How do you use it? How do you use it with your friends?” You could actually learn some amazing marketing techniques from some of your raving Facebook fans in the office.
Andrew: All right. What about 2012? I’m so aware of the time.
Andrew: I hope you don’t mind, we’ve gone over a little bit, but.
Mari: No problem, we’ve got to wrap things up yet. 2012 I [??].
Andrew: Take your time, I’ll take if you have five more hours, I’ll take five more hours. I know people pay good money to have some time with you and here I am just getting to chat with you here freely and I appreciate it. So what are you planning to do for 2012?
Mari: I’m actually, well, I’m continuing on with servicing this small business and entrepreneurs in my continuity program. I’m going to be launching a Facebook training course in the first quarter here. And then as the year progresses I’m building out an agency that will service the corporate sector. And many, many of my friends have been sending, ‘Morgan, why don’t you do more with corporate?’ And so now I’ve invested in an awesome, awesome high end business coach and she’s really helping me to build that out. So, going to be really, 20 tells has been some really amazing, amazing years. So, I get to continue servicing that small business world that I’m very passionate about and make an even bigger difference by working with corporations.
Andrew: All right. And where can people connect with you if they want to find out more?
Mari: MariSmith.com and then twitter.com/MariSmith, basement.com/MariSmith, and I’m Google plus, too.
Andrew: And you’re totally Googlable, I mean, I love when a guess is easy to Google. I Google you and boom, it’s like my research is done.
Mari: Thank you. Thank you.
Andrew: All right. Mari Smith, thank you for doing this interview. I hope people go and connect with you beyond this. I think it’s interesting to see what happens behind the scenes but as much as people have seen here, if they don’t go to your web site, if they don’t go check out your Facebook page and see it all in action I feel like I did them a disservice. And really I was kicking myself throughout this interview for not having a way to show your site as you were talking about it so the people can see, yeah it’s not just a Facebook page. Yeah, it’s not just a home page of MariSmith.com that a lot of people have. But I don’t have that instead what I’m going to do is suggest that if they want to get the most out of this, if they listened this far they should want to get the most out of this and the way to do that is just go check out your web sites and see how you do it. And then, pick out some great ideas from you and implement it in their business. And of course the book is, oh, you’ve got it right there. The New Relationship Marketing, beautiful cover. And there’s a little color on it, too.
Mari: Added bling. It doesn’t come with bling, but I added some.
Andrew: Oh, I see. The foreword is Guy Kawasaki, right?
Mari: Yeah. Yeah, mm-hmm. Yeah.
Andrew: That guy, I don’t know, he really likes you. I kept hearing every time I told people I was going to interviewing Mari Smith, I’d hear about all the different people who recommended you or who talked you up, the guy’s name kept coming up.
Mari: He’s adorable.
Andrew: Big forward but also he’s been a big supporter of yours.
Mari: Yeah, yeah. We’re good friends.
Andrew: I can see why. OK. Thank you, Mari, for doing this interview. Thank you all for watching.