PerkettPR’s “Persuasive Women” Series Continues with Aliza Sherman

Aliza Sherman is a Web pioneer and has worked as a digital strategist since 1992. She speaks around the world and writes about the Internet, social media, mobile marketing and new technologies, platforms, and apps. She is also known for her focus on women’s technology and business issues. Aliza specializes in making tech more accessible to humans.  And yes, she has been known to wear a pink tiara and boa at conferences! Aliza’s books include “The Everything Blogging Book,” “Streetwise Ecommerce,” and “PowerTools for Women in Business.” Her 8th book is “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Crowdsourcing” published in July 2011. Her 9th book is “Mom, Incorporated” and was co-written with Danielle Smith. She lives and works in Alaska.

You can read more about Aliza here or here.

You have done so much in your career. What role have you enjoyed the most?

I enjoy being an entrepreneur. I love the freedom, the creativity, and especially the variety. I also enjoy being a writer and public speaker because they provide opportunities to share knowledge, motivate, and inspire. For many years, my LinkedIn account has said “I am the wearer of many colorful hats.” This is my way of explaining that I can – and do – play multiple roles in business. I hate feeling trapped or limited. I fully subscribe to the idea that you’re “only limited by your imagination.” Too many of us try to crowbar ourselves into a single role or very distinct and immutable roles, and then wonder why we are frustrated or dissatisfied. I say break out of predefined roles. Create your own.

You have spoken before about empowering women to be public speakers. What words of wisdom can you share that can help a woman struggling with public speaking?

My efforts to support women as public speakers – and to be a resource to companies, organizations and conferences to help them find and book more female speakers – culminated into a group called Chain of Daisies. Every week, we share speaking opportunities, encourage each other to submit proposals to speak, and are sounding boards when we hit obstacles. From this group, I’ve learned that we all need mentors as we pursue new things – business mentors are common, but speaking mentors are valuable, too.

Find a mentor, someone whom you’ve seen speak and whose style you admire. You can also turn to a speaking coach to help you hone your presentation. If you are just starting out, speak often in front of audiences, and start charging right off the bat. Many women tend to speak for free, thinking that is the way to get their foot in the door. I’ve learned the hard way that each time I agreed to speak for free, the same event organizer was paying my male counterparts. Why? Because they asked to be paid.

And get video. I’ve been speaking professionally for over 16 years, however, there is very little video available of me speaking, and the footage that is available has poor lighting and sound. My goal for 2012 as a speaker is to make sure I get usable footage of several of my presentations so I can put it up on my website to better demonstrate what I can do. This might mean investing in a professional videographer, but that’s something that should pay off enormously.

As a mobile app pioneer, what do you envision for the mobile app market in 2012?

I’m not really a mobile apps pioneer, but I have been called a Web pioneer for my early work on the Web in the 90s. I tend to find myself at the forefront of where new media is going because I’m curious and totally enamored with technology. Maybe it’s my longtime love of science fiction, something that has driven my imagination since I was a little girl.

In 2006, I started providing social media marketing consulting. I began looking toward mobile a couple of years ago while everyone else was all aflutter about social media. I’m still interested in location-based social networks, QR codes and mobile apps for marketing, and am keeping an eye on the developments in augmented reality.

Folks in my industry tend to think something is “over” and the media will hype the “end of apps,” and yet the rest of the general public is just catching on. There is plenty of room for adoption growth, plenty of opportunity to participate – although if you’re an apps developer, you need to be thinking about an overall business model and not just “build a couple of cool apps.” As consumers, our expectation is high, but we also experience a lot of frustration because it is hard to find great apps that become ubiquitous for us.

I think mobile apps are still going to be huge in 2012, as well as hybrid blends of sites and apps, apps and the cloud. With the tremendous growth in the tablet computer market, the demand for great apps will increase as well.  Ultimately, techies and the marketers need to be careful about being too enamored with the next “big thing,” and understand the huge shift in the way all of us are consuming information, using products, and purchasing things.

We always have to make sure we take our blinders off and really look around. It is never really about the technology. It is about people.

In your book, Mom Incorporated, you focus on giving advice to women on how to take charge of their work/life balance by starting their own businesses. What are some tips you offer women who are eager to start their own business but are hesitant to do so, due to the shaky economy?

The first tip is “Stop using the word ‘balance.’” My co-author Danielle Smith and I like to say that “balance is a mythical bar that we hold over our own heads, and just when we think we’re getting close, someone moves the bar.” There are people who make a living trying to “teach” you how to be balanced but the truth is that everything is in flux, and you will always be striving for it yet never obtaining it.

So we use “juggle.” As moms with businesses, we juggle. We can’t be at 100% as a mom or as a business owner at the same time. We have to give ourselves a break, forgive ourselves for not being “perfect.” It isn’t about balance, it isn’t about perfection, it is about doing our best and having the conversations at home to create the system that works for us. We shouldn’t judge others, and we shouldn’t let it bother us when other people judge us.

Regarding the economy, Danielle and I haven’t encountered many women who are hesitant to start businesses in this economy. In fact, more than ever women are starting businesses from home because of financial motivations. Maybe their husband’s job was down-sized, maybe they need the extra income. There is no guaranteed job out there, and childcare can be even more challenging when you have smaller children at home.

So I’d encourage women to reach for business opportunities where they have experience or established leads, to more readily generate revenues that can help support their household. That means if you’ve been a publicist before and have the skills, start there, then build out your skill set over time to incorporate other services such as copywriting or social media marketing.

What are your favorite apps?

I’m an apps fanatic. I’d divide my apps into utility – the ones that are useful; social – the ones that help me publish and share; and entertainment – the ones that are my little “escapes.”

For utility, I use Google Apps a lot, including the iPhone app to access my email, calendar and shared documents. I am using Evernote more and more for everything from taking photos of receipts or whiteboards to voice memos to web clippings. I am also using the Cohuman app to build task lists for each of my projects that I can assign to others and manage from my laptop, iPad or iPhone.

For social, I love Instagram, Twitter and Foursquare. I also like GLMPS, Pinterest, Foodspotting and Trover. And I access Facebook and Google+ through their respective iPhone apps.

For entertainment, I’m hooked on Words With Friends, and usually have 15 to 20 games going at once. I also enjoy Drop7, Muddled, Bookworm, and Bejeweled.

Who or what inspires you each day?

I’m inspired by so many things every day. Being pretty isolated where I live in rural Alaska, I rely heavily on the Internet and NPR for my connection to the world, to the voices of interesting people, to stories, and to ideas.

As a mom who struggled to have a baby, and then struggled after pregnancy for several years, I feel like I’m finally coming into that place of being inspired by my own child. My daughter is 5-years-old now, and the stuff that she thinks about and talks about astounds me. I love her perspective on life, and hope to encourage her creativity, individuality, curiosity. I don’t want her to ever feel there are limits.

Being able to create and share what I create and to be able to connect with other people is inspiring to me. The Internet opened my eyes in 1987, and literally changed my life in 1992. I am inspired by the world, really. By people all around the world.

What do you have planned next for 2012?

The next part of the line in my LinkedIn profile after ”I am the wearer of many colorful hats” is: “I love reinvention.” Every end-of-year, I go through a personal inventory of what I’ve done, and what else I hope to do. Then I shift gears, move in new directions, choose different paths. I will still bring some of what I’ve been doing – writing, speaking, consulting – into the New Year, but I’m really interested in finding new ways to share my knowledge with others in ways that are useful and valuable to them.

As a Sagittarius, I see more travel in my future but will also be more mindful of not being apart from my family as much as I was in 2011. So I’ll have to be more selective about where I go and why. I’m definitely going to take more advantage of video conferencing and video in general.

And I’ve been getting hired more and more to create and lead educational webinars about new media, social media, online marketing, and technology – so that fits perfectly into my vision of sharing information in new ways. I used to say in the early days of the Web, “Have modem, will travel.” Of course, the 2012 version of that is probably “Have iPhone, iPad, and wifi….can travel or work anywhere.”

 

Looking back on 2011: A (virtual) walk down memory lane

As 2011 comes to a close, we’ve officially entered the “list” time of year. No, we’re not talking about the one being made and checked twice by the jolly fellow in the red suit for later this month; we’re talking about the flood of media coverage recounting the top memories of the past 12 months.

Chances are you’ve been moved by the 45 Most Powerful Images of 2011, or you’ve smiled in recognition (or shaken your head in disbelief) while reviewing Google’s 2011 Zeitgeist site, the 11th annual look back at the searches that compose the “spirit of the time.”

But as fascinating as those lists are, the one I’ve found most compelling, to-date, is Mashable’s 19 Biggest Social Media Moments of 2011. Why? Because at the beginning of each year everyone speculates on which trends will take off in the following 365 days, but it isn’t until we look back that we realize the true impact that some have had on the world. And social media has been a common thread throughout many of the moments we’ll remember from 2011.

Ask one generation where they were when Kennedy was assassinated, when Reagan was shot, when the OJ Simpson verdict was announced and when the twin towers were struck, and you’ll get one answer. Ask this generation where they were when Osama Bin Laden was declared dead, when the earthquake shook Japan, when the Casey Anthony verdict was read and when Steve Jobs passed, and you’ll get quite another.

But social media’s ability to allow us to relay and receive information instantaneously around the world isn’t the only legacy here; it’s also fueled revolutions, riots and reform. This newfound, organic means of communication among leaderless protesters allowed them to mobilize in Cairo, London and even on our own soil with the ongoing Occupy Wall Street movement. Need more evidence of this impact? Look no further than TIME magazine’s recent choice of “The Protester” as its 2011 Person of the Year, which MarketWatch writer Jon Friedman cited for having reshaped the world, showing how individuals could make a major difference once united.

Many have criticized TIME’s choice, calling it a copout, but the magazine’s reasoning is that “leadership has come up from the bottom of the pyramid, not the top.” Social media has given a voice to the masses, allowing them to voice frustrations with government, the economy and social inequality by tweeting, commenting on Facebook, writing blog posts and uploading photos and videos to the web. And according to TIME, this combination of “the oldest of techniques with the newest of technologies” has allowed us to “shine a light on human dignity [and steer] the planet on a more democratic though sometimes more dangerous path for the 21st century.”

So as 2012 draws nearer, we’re once again in that awkward limbo where the past is being recounted and the future is being predicted. How many of Mashable’s top social media moments do you remember from 2011? And are you willing to hazard a guess as to what’s ahead in the year to come?

We would love to hear your predictions in the comments below.

 

5 strategic social media tips for PR pros

Fellow PR pros: Sure, you’ve got a Twitter account, a Facebook page and now a G+ account. You’re following key influencers and engaging with relevant media. But with time and attention at a premium these days, unless you’re using social media strategically, being active on such networks can sometimes do more harm than good. Below are five tips for better managing this increasingly-important facet of PR:

  1. Get organized. Yes, we’ve got to stay on top of the action, but it’s time-consuming to constantly troll the Internet in search of relevant news for Facebook and Twitter feeds. Instead, bring the news to you with an aggregation service such as Netvibes, which offers a personalized, real-time dashboard that syncs with multiple devices for easy access anytime, anywhere.
  2. Get acquainted. You wouldn’t make it a habit to walk up to strangers asking for favors (or maybe you do, but that’s an entirely different blog post…), and the same goes for journalists. Develop a rapport with reporters before you need anything from them – read their articles (c’mon, people, this should be a given), follow people with similar hobbies, start conversations, etc. – and there’s a better chance they’ll be open to reading that next pitch.
  3. Get creative. More publications are using freelancers, although many of them aren’t listed in media databases, so it can be difficult to track down these elusive writers. But thanks to the popularity of personal branding, there’s a good chance you can do a quick Google search and find out which social networks they’re using, along with other helpful information on how to best contact and pitch them.
  4. Get inquisitive. As much as PR is known for being a communications-heavy profession, sometimes it can feel like a one-sided pursuit (does anyone answer the phone anymore?). But by developing – and nurturing – a network of trusted colleagues in your social sphere, you’ve always got a trusted resource with which to crowdsource research, pose questions and get a flood of feedback. Veterans are often more than happy to share wisdom, knowledge, and even war stories, with those who will listen.
  5. Get real. Finally, as much as we operate almost entirely online nowadays, at our very core, humans are social creatures – and we crave face-to-face interaction. Social media allows us to expand our reach like never before, but there’s still nothing like a firm handshake and a genuine smile - be it with colleagues, mentors or members of the media. Leverage networks initially to expand your circle, but don’t forget to carry over those new connections into real-world interactions (try meeting up at industry events, local meet-ups, etc.), which can translate into offline working relationships that are both rewarding and enduring.

What are other ways that you’ve seen PR pros effectively utilize social media? Feel free to share examples and suggestions in the comments below.

PerkettPR’s “Persuasive Women” Continues with Mari Smith

PerkettPR is excited to share another captivating interview in our “Persuasive Women” series. This week we are featuring an interview with Mari Smith.
Mari is a passionate social media leader, specializing in relationship marketing and Facebook mastery. She is author of The New Relationship Marketing: How To Build A Large, Loyal, Profitable Network Using the Social Web and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. She travels the United States and internationally to deliver keynotes and lead training events. Fast Company describes Mari as “a veritable engine of personal branding, a relationship marketing whiz and the Pied Piper of the Online World.” Dun & Bradstreet Credibility named Mari one of the Top Ten Most Influential Small Business People on Twitter.  Connect with Mari at www.marismith.com.

You have quickly become the go-to expert on Facebook, but how do you handle the constant stream of questions and requests from your audience?
On my Facebook fan page, I do my best to reply to as many questions as I can. Then, periodically, I host a free webinar just to answer questions and add value. Plus, I implemented a strategy of identifying and incentivizing “superfans.” Those are the fellow professionals in my community who are knowledgeable about Facebook and who willingly and regularly jump in to answer questions on my page. I have a special tab with “MVP: Mari’s Valuable Peeps,” as well as using a really cool app called Bashooka. The app generates a leader board of fans based on the number of likes, comments and wall posts made. In exchange for helping to answer questions, I happily promote the services of these active fans.
On Twitter and Google+, I simply do my best to respond to as many questions as possible. Often, I’m not able to get to everyone and I think that most people see I’m doing my best to answer as many folks as possible in any given day. If someone doesn’t reach me on one network, they can always try to contact me through another social channel.
I do get inundated with Facebook tech support issues and am not able to respond to any of them. My assistants simply send a canned reply that directs these inquirers to possible sources of support online.

What key piece of advice would you offer a company who is having difficulty attracting people to their Facebook page?
To gain momentum with your Facebook page, you need a blend of quality content and regular engaging. Most businesses tend to put up a page, share great content, then wait for the stampede. But it never comes. There are two possible solutions: (1) focus on driving traffic to your fan page from inside Facebook, and/or (2) focus on driving traffic to your fan page from outside Facebook.
With #1, experiment with the best frequency of posts and types of updates. Also, check this blog post on how to increase the shares of your content: http://www.marismith.com/ways-craft-your-facebook-posts-for-maximum-shares/. Plus, if you have even a nominal budget, experiment with Facebook ads and sponsored stories.
With #2, promote your Facebook page literally everywhere! If you have an email list, periodically send an email broadcast specifically inviting your subscribers to join your fan page – consider offering them an incentive to do so (possibly with a “fan-gated” iFrame tab). Include your fan page URL in your email signature file, on your Twitter background and bio, on the back of your business cards and any other print materials. If you have a local business, consider signage in the window and at the reception desk, for example. If you’re a restaurant or bar, be sure to add your Facebook (and other social profile) full URLs with a call to action on your menus. Plus, for all local businesses, consider Facebook Deals and encourage your customers to check in on Facebook to claim the deals.
See this blog post for more ideas on increasing your Facebook page visibility: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/21-creative-ways-to-increase-your-facebook fanbase/

Is it a good idea for companies to hire interns to manage their social media efforts? Does where the company is in social media (just kicking off efforts vs. more established, etc.) impact the answer to this question?
There are many tasks interns can take on successfully and effectively. For example, following specific accounts on Twitter, finding quality content to source, monitoring the conversations about the business/brand, moderating comments on a blog or Facebook page, etc. Where I would recommend drawing the line, is to not allow interns to be the voice of your company (actually communicating via social profiles) unless and until they have been thoroughly trained on your company’s products, services, values and culture.

How much time do you spend on social media outlets each day? And how much of that time is devoted to Facebook vs. Twitter vs. LinkedIn vs. Google+, etc.?
Somewhere between 1-3 hours per day. The largest part of my time is spent identifying quality content to share with my networks, otherwise known as “curating.” I’m currently in process of training a new team member to take over this area for me. Otherwise, the remaining time is spent engaging – responding to mentions, comments, questions, etc. I never delegate my voice; any time you see me speaking in first person – I/me – it’s always me. On any given day, the breakdown of my social networking time is approximately 40% Facebook, 30% Twitter, 29% Google+ and 1% LinkedIn. I would love to do more with LinkedIn, but I just resonate with the other platforms more for now!

What is the minimal amount of time you feel someone whose job isn’t entirely devoted to social media should focus on SM efforts each day in order to be effective? And what should the top priorities be during that time?
I often advise those individuals who are just starting out with social media to dedicate an absolute minimum of 30 minutes per day. Break this into two 15 minute sessions; one early in the morning say 8:00 a.m. in your time zone and later in the day say 4:00 p.m.
During the first block of time, work through a pre-set checklist of tasks, e.g. go through your various sources of content, such as Facebook friend lists (which can include fan pages), Twitter lists, Google+ circles, your blog feed reader, Alltop.com, and others. Then, select a minimum of one piece of content to post on Facebook, one for Google+, and say three tweets for Twitter.
Then, later in the day, circle back to respond to any comments and @ mentions. That’s it.
Do this consistently five or six days a week (Saturdays are very active on social networks!), and you will soon begin to gain momentum, increase your following, and see higher click through rates.

If you had just one hour a day to focus on business, how would you spend that hour?
Hmm, this is an unrealistic scenario, but I’ll answer the question hypothetically! I would select the highest leverage activity that makes the best use of my time and talents, and yields the best revenue. Likely that would be speaking to a large audience–whether via an online webinar or an in-person event–and making an irresistible offer.

What is next for you?
Towards the end of each year, I choose a one-word theme that acts as a rudder for the entire following year. I’ve chosen my word for 2012 and it’s GROWTH. What’s next for me is serious growth — I will continue focusing on providing social media and relationship marketing training and consulting services… but at a whole new level. I will be expanding my team and expanding my reach. It’s an extremely exciting time for many leaders on the planet, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting 2012 for many years.

Persuasive Picks for week of 12/5/11

Twitter has introduced a whole new look that it hopes will simplify the user experience. Mashable‘s Tom Wasserman reports in Twitter Launches Major Redesign

15-year-old freshman blogger, Susannah Meyer ponders The Social Media Bubble via the Huffington Post

 

Think About Developing A Social Media Plan says Martin Bishop in his latest post on MediaPost – which provides 10 tips on planning social media programs.

As the social business meme is very much on the rise, Forbes contributor Hadyn Shaughnessy asks readers, Is Social Business the Same as Social Media?