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.

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