“Effective Executive” Series with Jamie Walker of Fit Approach and SweatGuru

JamieWalker_PhotoCreditVictoriaDavis

This week’s “Effective Executive” interview is with Jamie Walker, co-founder of Fit Approach and SweatGuru, fitness fiend and all-around energetic entrepreneur.

Jamie, along with business partner Alyse Mason Brill, launched Fit Approach, a health-centric community, blog and class booking service, back in 2009. Their initial cult following evolved into an impressive (and intensely-loyal) online and offline community, so the team spun off the class-booking portion of the site, creating SweatGuru – the “Open Table” of fitness – last year.

A self-proclaimed “professional hustler who thrives on forging strong partnerships,” Jamie leads vision, strategy and business development for both companies. We asked her about this role, along with some of her business best practices and what’s on deck for the remainder of 2013.

SweatGuru is winning accolades left and right for being one of the hottest San Francisco startups – have you found it difficult breaking into the Silicon Valley boys’ club?

I wouldn’t say that it has been difficult breaking into a male-dominated space, but it has been a challenge that we’ve come to love tackling on a daily basis. My co-founder, Alyse Mason-Brill has a great, short response to it all: “We won’t back down!”

And that’s really the truth. Every day, we work on something that we absolutely love, live and breathe – it makes building a product that will change the fitness industry so much easier. We’re winning awards, but it is only because our fitness community has come to know Alyse and me so well, so they support us and encourage us week after week.

We have had some memorable encounters, though. Like being called “little girls” or the infamous VC who remarked that he “didn’t make investments based on boobs.” Situations like those just add more fuel to our fire. We’re creating a product we believe in and confident that it will make some noise, and that’s why we keep running so hard.

Your professional background is in PR/Marketing. How does that help you in your gig now as an entrepreneur?

Everybody has great ideas and concepts in their minds that they think will be groundbreaking. But an idea without a vision, plan or goal is just that – an idea.

Having worked in marketing and PR for seven years, I was fortunate to learn from a lot of smart people. From building a brand to the art of networking and making personal connections, I can definitely rely on what I did as a marketing and PR geek. Now, we have an idea with a solid roadmap and marketing team behind it. Never underestimate the power of good PR and marketing.

You’ve built a really engaged, loyal community – both online and offline. Can you share your top three tips for engagement and community-building?

This has been one of my favorite parts of this journey so far. But that doesn’t mean it was easy. It takes a lot of hard and genuine work to build a real, engaged and authentic community. If I had to narrow it down into three tips, it’d be this:

  1. Dedicate yourself for the better good of the community – They’ll learn to trust you as a result of that.
  2. Embody the community – If you aren’t involved and making it a huge part of your life AND enjoying it, how can you expect others to?
  3. Be authentic and transparent – Believe in what the community represents, and don’t be afraid to show it. You can’t fake that; people will see right through you.

You’re one very active lady! Tell us about your own athletic pursuits – i.e. how the heck you manage to stay in shape, despite a super hectic schedule.

I follow one major rule of thumb: Staying in shape is not optional.

If I were a dog, I’d be the breed people would be hesitant to buy because I need a lot of space and exercise to stay sane. If I go a few days without a workout or yoga class, I start to feel sluggish, cranky and am not very fun to work with. (But don’t worry; I won’t pee on your carpets, ha!)

That being said, regardless of my schedule or late nights, fitness is essential to my day. The alarm typically goes off at 5:30am, and I’m up and running – literally.

Running and yoga are my two mainstays. I’ve been doing ultra-marathons for the past eight years – I love the 50-milers, but am aiming to conquer the 100 in the near future. Yoga is one of the main reasons I can stay on the daily grind and not feel a letdown. It really does help keep you grounded and focused on the bigger picture.

Tell us, what’s your favorite part of your job(s)?

The fact that it doesn’t feel like a job…I love what I do and love the people I work with.

Also, when it comes to being an entrepreneur, the trial and error of creativity is a fantastic experience. Whether I’m alone in the office or brainstorming with others, the power to create and do things that you want, and then DO them…it’s a really cool feeling. It’s so rewarding. I’ve grown a lot in the past couple years – learned so much – and am humbled by the experience.

Finally, what’s next for you for the second half of 2013?

This both excites and frightens me all at the same time: We’re launching SweatGuru, I’m running a 100 in September and planning my wedding. That’s all. :)

Persuasive Picks For Week Of 6/3/13

many-suited-businessmen-300x168Knowing how to convey tone in your online writing – including blogs, Tweets, Facebook posts, pins, etc. – is to know your business inside and out. SocialMediaToday’s Kylie Robertson asks readers “If your business were a person, what would it look like?”- stressing the importance of personality, because that’s what your company will be perceived as online: a person. Read more about writing with the right tone in mind in Who Does Your Company Sound Like? Finding Your Tone in Social Media Writing

Social media and blogging has gone from being an activity we started just for  fun and pleasure, to a more serious business. If you need to market and monetize your business, personal brand, website or blog to take advantage of the opportunities, then you need the right tools, resources and advice to guide you. But the explosion of websites, apps, tools and resources online is often confusing. Business2Community contributor Jeff Bullas narrows it down to 39 Awesome Tools and Resources for Blogging and Social Media Marketing.

emailA recent survey of more than 1,000 mobile device users found that for the first time ever, email is the primary reason people are using smartphones. What’s more, emails from brands are second only to personal recommendations when it comes to influencing purchasing decisions on mobile devices. What does that mean for marketers? Michael Truby at PRDaily explains Why Email Is A Key Element Of Mobile Marketing and notes a few key factors to keep in mind.

When marketers list the types of content they’re producing, many put a check next to the box titled “webinars.” These online presentations have been used effectively for many years, and the webinar’s popularity has surged with the decline of tradeshows during the recent recession. But Marketing Automation Evangelist Mathew Sweezey points out that Only 16 Percent of B2B Consumers Prefer Live Webinars, and suggests that implementing three essential techniques will help you earn more ROI out of each webinar and increase lead generation significantly. – via ClickZ

Persuasive Picks For Week Of 5/27/13

Screen shot 2013-05-31 at 11.10.35 AMA recent survey indicates that more than 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies use some form of social media marketing, but most companies still don’t fully understand the benefits of social media. So Marketing Consultant, and Business2Community contributor Phil Lauterjung takes a closer look at how Social Media Marketing Is Changing The Way We Do Business.

One of the most common issues plaguing social networks is that anyone can create an account and use whatever name they wish. In fact it’s common to recommend that a business owner stake their claim on their profile on every possible social network just to ensure that someone else doesn’t take your “name” first. That’s why networks like Twitter and Pinterest and Google+ have put verification measures in place to help users know that they’re engaging the person or company that they think they are. This week Facebook threw its hat in the ring and Mike Allton at SocialMediaToday ponders whether verification really matters on social media in his piece; Facebook Verification: Why Do We Need It?

social-media-chalkboardWant more retweets on Twitter? Sure, who doesn’t, right? So… have you tried asking for them? The truth is, calls to action may not be sexy, and they may not be good social etiquette, but they work, and they work on Twitter. And Facebook. And blogs. Find out Which Social Calls To Action Really Work on Facebook, Twitter And Blogs in this informative infographic posted by Shea Bennett on AllTwitter.

The rapid growth of social media platforms sometimes outpaces the ability of businesses to get their arms around how best to use it. Before you can use a new channel, you must create a strategy around it. But many marketers struggle with how to create strategies. MarketingProfs‘ Rachel DiCaro Metscher reminds readers to Ensure That Strategy, not Tactics, Drives Your Social Media and gives some helpful tips to help you begin to chart a successful social media route.

PerkettPR’s “Influencers Who Inspire” Series Continues with Jason Falls

This week’s “Influencer Who Inspires” is Jason Falls of Social Media Explorer.  We admire Jason for his honest approach to social media and we are avid readers of his very popular site, Social Media Explorer.  Jason, who resides in Louisville, KY,  is an author, keynote speaker and CEO of Social Media Explorer.  He continues to be a name that surfaces at or near the top of conversations and lists of thought leaders and top thinkers in the emerging world of social media marketing.

 

How would you describe what you do for a living?

I do one primary thing in about three different ways. SME Digital, my agency, helps companies develop digital and social marketing strategies, execute them and measure/optimize results to drive business (unit sales, revenue or costs). My information products add the other two components: Explore Events helps anyone who wants to attend a two-day, intensive digital marketing strategy event and The Conversation Report analyzes online conversations and reports insights around specific industries (or clients for custom reports) to help businesses make smarter decisions about their social marketing.  In a nutshell, – Agency – Events – Research – is what I do.

 

You recently tweeted to PR folks about how they approach you and that you are “one of them” – what prompted that and how do you handle being on both sides of the PR equation?

It was likely prompted by me being critical of public relations professionals, then having them attack me for it. Those that are easily put on the defensive about the PR craft tend to point fingers at me and infer that I don’t know PR, that I’m just a “social media consultant.” But I spent 20 years as a PR and journalism professional before social media marketing ever happened. So I was probably saying, “I am one. Thus, I’m qualified to point the finger a bit.” The way I handle it is by just trying to coach and teach and perhaps lead by example. ‘Lots of public relations professionals still assume that “spray and pray” and spamming people works best. I only hope to educate them that there might be a better way to approach outreach. Quality outreach is far better than quantity, and you can sleep at night knowing you’re not a spammer.

 

What’s next in PR now that social media is a given?

I think PR is the new journalism. With all the noise out there in the media world and declining numbers in usage and revenues in traditional mediums, public relations professionals (and current journalists who will become them) have the opportunity to become the media. Those that do so in compelling ways will have better public relations programs because they’ll become a direct conduit to their publics.

 

What’s the best social media campaign you’ve seen (besides your own) in 2012?

H&R Block’s Stache Act is by far the most compelling. To have a stoic, conservative brand like H&R Block get behind a silly tax incentive for mustached Americans and stage a Million Mustache March on Washington, etc., just gave the brand personality and showed that they could reach beyond the tried and true “Let us do your taxes” messaging, in order to reach a new audience.

That, and Charmin‘s Twitter account. Holy cripes, they’re funny.

 

How did you initially get your “feet wet” in social media?

I spent 8-10 years blogging and exploring social networks and forums for personal entertainment. My old humor blog actually gained a bit of traction when I moved it to MySpace in about 2003. I learned how to build an audience, promote my content and connect influencers to what I was doing. Then in 2006, I started from scratch with an arsenal of experience in the business segment rather than the one focused on telling dirty jokes and made up tales of drunken debauchery. Heh.

 

Can you tell us a bit about your book “No Bullshit Social Media” and why someone would want to purchase it?

Aside from the crafty title, the book’s real appeal is that it’s a blueprint for social media strategy. We walk you through the seven reasons (goals) your business might implement social media tactics and coach you through the process of developing a sound, strategic approach to using social that will drive measurable results.

 

As the Founder and CEO of Social Media Explorer, your approach with SME Digital involves Full Frontal ROI methodolgy, can you explain how this is unique to the industry?

The Full Frontal ROI methodology, which was developed by my partner, Nichole Kelly, essentially places social media marketing squarely in the crosshairs of business strategy. Everything we do is focused on real business metrics — unit sales, revenues and costs — rather than soft metrics. Sure, we can help you drive more fans and followers, but we know we’re ultimately judged on your bottom line and how social media and digital marketing contribute to it. So that’s what we focus on. It’s unique to the industry because most other social media agencies or digital marketing shops focus on the fluff metrics and Kumbaya of social media. We know it’s about business or it’s a hobby. And how many business owners out there consider what they spend time and money on to be a hobby?

 

What is next for you for the remainder of the year heading into 2013?

Two more Explore events (Orange County, Calif., this week; Portland (Ore.) in November), another The Conversation Report, this one on the restaurant industry, and continuing to help our clients kick ass. And I fully expect 2013 will be much of the same. That’s what we do.

 

Persuasive Picks for week of 11/5/12

MarketingProfs‘ Molly Glover Gallatin illustrates how to tie the kind of rich, actionable customer intelligence you can glean from social media into five overarching marketing decisions in Five Marketing Decisions Social Media Should Be Shaping.

The term “content marketing” includes two intimidating words that can be difficult to hear lately, due to the increased amount of content being shared on social networks by just about everyone. Viral Traffic Specialist and Content Creator Amanda Ryan posts 5 Content Marketing Tips That Will Give Your Business a Competitive Edge on Business2Community.

Just because online marketing is a digital medium does not mean it has to be cold and impersonal; rather, as marketing continues its rapid shift online, businesses must learn to personalize their digital assets in order to stay competitive. Strategic Marketing Consultant and SocialMediaToday contributor Chris Horton provides 3 Simple Ways to Connect with Your Target Audience.

An emerging social media trend is creating fresh ways for companies to engage with customers. With the rise of the visual, social web, clever brand ambassadors and marketers are breathing new life into contest marketing. Evan Vogel explains that the visual web is giving digital contests a major shot in the arm in How visuals are reviving digital contest on iMediaConnection.