Mari Smith is one of the world’s foremost relationship marketing experts and is coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Mari writes a blog, and her speaking engagements can be found here. She is also a popular guest blogger for Social Media Examiner and host of Social Media Examiner TV. Write your Facebook questions on Mari’s fan page wall and follow her on @MariSmith
1. After you moved to the US from the UK it sounds like you worked for a company for several years. What made you decide to go out on your own and become a consultant and speaker?
I’ve been an entrepreneur since I came to the US from Scotland in 1999. Up until then, I was always an employee. What’s fascinating though, is for the whole of 1998 prior to my move, I was putting together plans to venture out on my own as a personal and professional development trainer and speaker. I’d attended business start-up classes, did a ton of research, applied for a small business loan, began to market and get bookings, etc. Then, out of the blue, I got the invitation to come to San Diego by some long lost friends of mine. It was a defining moment. I just knew I had a whole new life waiting for me in California… and I sure did!
2. Once you hung out your shingle and started taking on clients…what did you find was the most effective approach for you to land new business?
I’m a natural networker and I was very active in my local community. I joined various associations and became a board member for many of them. I also accepted every opportunity to speak at events. Plus, I’m skilled with internet marketing and had begun to build an email list and offer valuable information along with special offers. In essence, what began my success as a consultant ten years ago continues to sustain my success now. I get consistent word of mouth referrals by being highly visible online and offline, and having a solid brand and reputation.
3. Your website says you really got into social media in 2007 and within one year Fast Company had called you the “Pied Piper of the Online World.” What steps did you take to get that kind of recognition so quickly?
I joke about being an overnight success ten years in the making. Prior to 2007, my career was somewhat split focus – I was doing relationship/success/life coaching as well as internet marketing/email marketing/copywriting for clients. So, when I was introduced to Facebook by a friend who had just had his app accepted by Facebook and invited me to join his beta testing team, it was as if every skill, talent, passion, experience and passion of mine fused into online social networking.
I had dabbled with sites like LinkedIn, MySpace, Plaxo, and Ecademy and never really got jazzed about them. But, when I first went to Facebook.com, I just knew something was magical and different with this site: the white space, clean design, easy symmetrical navigation, the wall, the feeds. And, most of all, how extremely easy it was to instantly be in dialogue with anyone in the world – many authors, speakers, celebrities and influencers I’d admired for years. Within a few short weeks, I simply became a raving evangelist for Facebook and within five months I was leading online classes teaching about Facebook marketing (which to me is basically relationship marketing with a language and etiquette unique to Facebook).
4. There are a lot of consultants around that don’t believe Facebook or Twitter are worth their time and will play any role in growing their business. What advice or stories can you share about the impact Facebook can have on a consultant or freelancer’s business?
The thing with social sites like Facebook and Twitter is it can take time. Sometimes real tangible results won’t show up for months – and many folks just don’t have the patience. However, for a consultant, it’s perfectly feasible to land a new client in a very short time. One of my clients landed a new contract within five hours of implementing some changes.
Here’s my six-point strategy:
First, before integrating the six strategies, it’s important to have a very clear objective. In fact, you’ll want several objectives in a hierarchy. For example, what is the purpose of your Facebook Page? Is it to increase your email list? Drive traffic to your blog? Get media attention? Establish yourself as the go-to person in your niche? Attract top-paying clients? All of the above?
1. Design Strategy – needs to reflect your objectives. For instance, if your top objective is to build your email list, you’ll want to be sure and have at least one email opt-in box on your Facebook Page.
2. Content Strategy – include a blend of your own content and “OPC” – other people’s content – by sharing helpful resources, links, etc.
3. Promotion Strategy – begin proactively building your community. Many consultants – and other solo service professionals – often fall down here. There’s not enough time spent on daily building and they get frustrated at the lack of results. I’ve found the tipping point for results to show is 500-1000 friends/fans/followers/subscribers. Building can often be delegated to a trusty VA (virtual assistant).
4. Engagement Strategy – decide how much time you’ll dedicate to connecting and replying to your community. This part is crucial.
5. Conversion Strategy – here’s where the sales come. By providing sufficient valuable and relevant content to your community, they’ll actually want you to share about your own offerings.
6. Scalability Strategy – if you’re a one-person business, there may come a point where you’re maxed out. You’ll need to think about how to scale and remain authentic and true to your brand.
5. You talk a lot about quality of life and passion on your blog. Do you feel you have a good work-life balance? And if so, what does that look like for you?
I do have good work-life balance, yes. And, I’m a work in progress… often daily! What I’ve found works well for my personality style is to surround myself with a team of experts. I have two fabulous local assistants who help run my business and my life. I have a personal trainer helping me sustain a healthy way of life. I have coaches, mentors and belong to two masterminds. Though I like to think I’m a night owl, I make myself shut down my computer much earlier these days. Quality sleep is vital to my high productivity and accessibility throughout each day. Mostly, having a very optimistic and carefree disposition helps me lead a balanced life!
6. Do you usually work in a fixed location or do you work on the road a lot (cafes, other cities, etc?) and why do you do so?
I work from my home office about 80% of the time; sometimes I’ll go out to a cafe to work. I also travel to speak at least once a month and have a totally mobile set up – I always carry my MacBook, iPad and mobile wifi device. Actually, just as I was getting into Facebook in 2007, I traveled the US in an RV for eighteen months and ran my entire consulting and training business from the road. I learned a vast amount about being truly mobile and what it’s like to be a “digital nomad!”
7. In 5 years from now do you believe Facebook will still be the dominant force in the industry? Do you plan to continue focusing on Facebook and social media speaking or do you have other plans for 5 years down the road?
I do believe Facebook will remain the absolute top social network in the world and a phenomenal company. They can only go from strength to strength from here. There’s a whole psychology that has happened with Facebook – it’s become an integral part of our daily lives just as we brush our teeth, take a shower, check Facebook! It would take an enormously powerful platform to entice users away from Facebook in droves. I just don’t see that happening.
As for my own five-year plan, yes I will continue focusing on Facebook and continue broadening out to include branding, relationship marketing, social change and leadership. An area that really lights me up is what I call “Conscious Social Media” – that is, using new media to share the essence of you and your passions with the world, to make a bigger difference, to inspire and uplift and contribute. Essentially, to be extremely mindful about how you use these social platforms, knowing that everything counts. And, that there are no limits to how big you can grow your dream.
8. What are your favourite gadgets or apps that help you stay productive and organized?
My team and I all use Google Calendar, Google Docs and Gmail. I like Gist and Rapportive to track data about my contacts. I use HootSuite every single day to help with social media publishing, management and pre-scheduling. I also like my “set-and-forget” apps such as Networked Blogs to import my blog feed into my Facebook Page and the RSS Graffiti Facebook app to import my Twitter favorites onto my Facebook Page wall. I like TwentyFeet for a quick assessment and monitoring of my social stats.