Perkett’s “Persuasive Women” Series Continues with Ann Handley

PerkettPR is very excited to enter 2012 with a great new interview in our “Persuasive Women” series. This new interview is with someone we truly admire, Ann Handley. Ann is a 12-year veteran of creating and managing digital content.

Ann is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, which provides marketing know-how for business people through a full range of online media, and the co-author of the best-selling Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts,Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business (Wiley, 2011) (www.contentrulesbook.com).

Previously, she co-founded ClickZ.com and was a journalist for the Boston Globe as well as a writer and editor for a host of other publications, including those magazines in the back pockets of airline seats.

Currently, she writes for MarketingProfs as well as its blog, the MarketingProfs Daily Fix , a blog in the top 20 of the Advertising Age Power150. She can also be found at the Huffington Post , American Express OPEN Forum, and her personal blog, Annarchy.  She also writes a monthly column for Entrepreneur magazine. On Twitter, she has more than 100,000 followers @marketingprofs.

What motivates you to get out of bed every day?

Actually, Instagram motivates me BEFORE I get out of bed. I typically check the photo-sharing social network while I’m still lying prostrate — I love the network’s visual storytelling capabilities, which only reminds me how awesome content is, which only reminds me how awesome relationships with content creators are, which only reminds me how amazing the rest of my job is, which only reminds me that I need coffee….

What keeps you up at night?

Pretty much anything. I don’t sleep well.

But here goes….

What keeps me up at night professionally: My sincere regret that more companies don’t see the full, robust, incredible, awesome potential of content! That more companies don’t see their content and online publishing efforts as the cornerstone of their marketing, but instead bolt it onto existing efforts in a freakish, unattractive way.

Also professionally: When I have a big speech coming up — like I do now next month in Kansas City  — I’m fretting about that in the middle of the night. In a healthy way, probably (the nerves motivate me to do my best). But it’s fretting, nonetheless. (Oh and by the way, you should come.)

What keeps me up at night personally: I admit I’m a worrier. I worry about my college-aged kid, who lives in an iffy neighborhood near his school. I worry about my daughter, just because I’m a mother. I worry about global warming and the polar bears. I occasionally regret having the second burrito at dinner. How much room do we have….?

I’m kidding.

Sort of.

What’s one sentence or phrase you find yourself using all the time?

“Solve or share, don’t shill.” It’s the mantra I repeat ALL. THE. TIME. to companies looking for a bottom-line guide to their content strategy. And I like it because it sums up — in five simple, alliterative words — what should guide the content you produce. Another way of saying that, is: “Put the needs and wants and perspective of your customers first.” But that’s not nearly as memorable.

Secondly, I find myself quoting Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” liberally these days, just because I’ve had the song stuck in my head for weeks now. (This is what happens when you carpool teens around.) But that can get awkward in certain circles. So I don’t think I’ll mention that here.

How has your life changed from five years ago to today? Where do you hope to be five years from now?

I’m five years older. So there’s that. Also, as Content moved center stage with marketers, I found I actually had something to say! So I wrote a book, “Content Rules” with C.C. Chapman. That has been a rewarding, rich experience in so many ways: It has opened up new and interesting doors, and in it I found a great friend (and “wubby” [work hubby]) in C.C.

More generally, I also like the perspective I have now, which I didn’t have a few years ago. Despite what I said above about worrying — I don’t take things as seriously as I once did. I have more fun in my life and work, and I’m grateful for my awesome kids, my wonderful man, my rewarding social relationships, and my work at MarketingProfs for creating the path to that.

Where do I hope to be? Sheesh. I always have trouble with prognostications. But if I’m as happy as I am now… I’m good. If content is front and center for Marketing, then I’m really good. If everyone here reading this is still caring about what I have to say in five years — if I feel more connected to people and not less, so — well, that would be something, wouldn’t it? (I told you I’m terrible at crystal-ball gazing.)

When was the last time someone inspired you?

I’m inspired every day by the people around me creating and curating content via Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and the like. I’m inspired by my colleagues at MarketingProfs to do more things, to push harder, to be more. I’m inspired by people who take chances, who try new things, who leap into the unknown — like friends who start companies and make changes and do other things than I can’t list here.

But generally, I’m inspired by honesty: People who do things that they are driven to do, that rings true for them, that they are compelled into. Relationships that are real. Companies that create stuff which is truly a mirror of the soul of who they are, or who they want to be. I love that. And I find it incredibly rewarding and inspirational. I want to steep in it. I want to fill some social hot tub with it and sit in it for a good, long time.

When was the last time you got pissed off?

(LOL — this is only time I’ve ever been asked this question — and I love it!)

I got really ticked a few hours ago at my (teenage) kids, who appear allergic to any sense of order in the family room. Seriously? That laundry basket of clothes has needed folding for a week. The bowl of grape stems on the entertainment center?!

Am I your housemaid? THAT. PISSES. ME. OFF.

I probably should come up with something more broadly appealing or more profound — certain candidates surging in the polls do not thrill me — but you asked “last time,” so parents out there: Can you relate?!?!?

What was the last thing that made you laugh so hard you cried?

Tina Fey’s Bossypants. If you haven’t read it, I can’t imagine why not. You will pee your pants. (If you’ve had kids. If you haven’t, you’ll just laugh.)

How does your personal brand influence your job? Or are they one and the same?

I can’t say I fully understand what the term “personal brand” means. Possibly I’m not sophisticated enough. Here’s how I see it: I am who I am online, and sometimes I represent the brand I work for (MarketingProfs). I don’t change who I am because of that, although I probably modify my behavior a bit (as in: I don’t swear, or I don’t get too personal). So I guess the short answer is that they are pretty closely aligned.

How do you manage your role at MarketingProfs, your personal brand and the rest of your life so smoothly? What’s your secret?

I don’t think there is a secret, really. I love my job. I love the rest of my life, too. I guess my secret is that I don’t fake it. But is that a secret? I can’t imagine so — it just is.

I think — as in most things in life — relationships are key to everything. I do well on social networks because I truly value the relationships I build there. I treasure my personal relationships. I value my friends. This isn’t groundbreaking, I’m sure. But it makes my life worth living.

Can you share your favorite work tools for collaboration, productivity, or organization?

MarketingProfs is a virtual organization. So Skype is a connectivity and productivity and collaboration tool. As is Basecamp. As is Dropbox.

I also like our Team ‘Profs private Facebook group, along with a handful of other private groups I belong to that allow me to check my sanity and deepen relationships. See above.

What’s next for you in 2012?

The paperback edition of Content Rules comes out in the spring. MarketingProfs continues to grow and morph. I’m celebrating my one-year anniversary as a columnist for Entrepreneur magazine (http://www.entrepreneur.com/author/1726). Otherwise? I think I said I was terrible at looking ahead….

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.