As part of our ongoing P1P Interview Series, we were able to get in touch with Boot Camp Digital‘s Krista Neher. An expert in social media, and company founder, Neher has spoken in front of the U.S., at the TED talks and has says she has been able to get thousands of social media followers for her clients. She’s such a busy person that we got a case of sympathy exhaustion after reading her biography. Thankfully for us, Neher has stepped out of the limelight for a few minutes to answer some of our social media questions.
P1P: Krista, I was looking through some of your online information and you’ve got a hefty web presence and a strong reputation for social media. There are a number of folks who have floundered where you have seemingly risen to the top. What do you think makes you stand out… makes you so successful at what you do
Krista: That is a great question, and a tough one to answer without sounding egotistical ;-).
I think that many people saw social media as an emerging trend and tried to cash in on it. Many of them understood social media tools well, but lacked experience and knowledge of brand marketing and brand building, making their knowledge of the social media tools challenging to translate to brands.
I’ve worked in marketing for over 10 years, so I really think that it is the combination of my knowledge of brand building and marketing fundamentals combined with digital passion and experience that has helped me stand out.
Also, early in my business (even before I was profitable) I invested in my knowledge and skill set. I traveled to conferences, invested in training programs and connected with mentors who helped me. This helped me to build my reputation and connect with the industry much quicker, and helped me build a support network.
P1P: You’re a professor in social media, you run a social media company, Boot Camp Digital, and you’ve been featured on a wide range of news outlets. You’ve been a speaker at some impressive venues… some huge corporations, and the U.S. Senate, for instance. Do you find that the audiences for the information that you share are craving that kind of information? Or are they reluctantly embracing something they’d prefer not to.
Krista: It really depends on the audience. In the earlier days back in 2008, most people really needed to be convinced of why social media was important.
Now I think that 90 percent of the people that I speak to understand why social media is important, but they struggle to understand how to leverage it for their business. The skepticism now lies with translating the audience in social media to a tangible business benefit, which isn’t always easy to do. So, as organizations have now begun to understand the importance of social media, they are struggle to figure out how to harness it to further the mission of their organization or business.
P1P: Why do you think utilizing social media is so intimidating to so many companies?
Krista: The real problem with social media is that it is free. What I mean by this is that most companies see it as a free tool, so they find someone in the company that knows a bit about social media and ask them to start posting. The problem is that there isn’t a clear strategy or defined objectives. I think that businesses are intimidated by social media because it is hard for them to understand the results and the business value. That being said, a clear plan is the best way to overcome the apprehension.
P1P: As I’m sure you are aware, the commercialization of the web has created new challenges for online marketers. For instance, Facebook recently changed its platform for companies with business pages and not all of the posts are shown, as well as the likely shift to a paid platform. As an expert in the field of social media, what do you make of these trends?
Krista: Facebook, and every other social network ultimately needs to make money. Nothing is really ever free in this world (including a free lunch). If you think of traditional media, advertising is often the tax that we pay for access to content. For example, we can get television for “free” but it comes with commercials. Even magazines that we buy are stuffed with ads. It makes sense that social networks like Facebook and Twitter need to balance providing free tools for businesses (like pages and profiles) with paid promotional opportunities.
Over time, I would expect to see more creative ways for businesses to pay-to-play to get in front of their audiences.
P1P: I’m curious about your recommendations for companies in terms of social media in light of the increasingly competitive online market… what is the best strategy tip you’d give to a company? (I realize this is your bread and butter, so answer if you don’t mind sharing, of course.)
Krista: The online space is VERY cluttered right now and people are overwhelmed with content –not just from companies, but even from their friends and families. This means that the bar is higher for companies trying to break through.
The key to success is relevancy, and this takes a lot of time, effort and creativity. What content is your audience really interested in? What are the passion points that surround your brand that you can leverage with social media? The name of the game today is to get in front of the right people at the right time with the right content. Don’t try to be everywhere. Pick a few channels and really invest in building relationships there.
P1P: You’re an expert at helping smaller companies develop a strong web presence, despite much of this requiring larger budgets. Things are getting increasingly competitive, especially for the small guys. You’ve said that you’ve been able to get 40,000 social media users for your companies in a relatively short amount of time. Is that still a possibility? In terms of social media marketing, do you believe the “heyday” where companies could achieve that kind of success is over? Do companies still have that winner-takes-all potential online, or is the market for that saturated?
[box] “Most businesses spend their time worrying about what they are broadcasting and posting. It is a little cliché to say that social media is a conversation, but it really is. Businesses have to make an effort to build real relationships with people—and posting content at them is not a relationship.
Know your customers (actually know them) and have conversations with them.
Be nice to them.
Make them feel special.
When I started in social media, I knew all of our first few hundred customers by name.
I knew the kinds of photos they posted on our site, and I talked to every single one of them personally. I didn’t send out mass emails, or have an entry level customer service person help them out. We wanted them to care about us, so we showed them that we cared about them.”
Krista: It used to be easier. When I got started in social media, people were just excited that companies were even participating because it validated the platforms to a certain extent. It is definitely more difficult now.
That being said, I think that most companies miss out on the real key to success. I can’ tell you what it is unless you sign up for my training program though… just joking.
Here it is: Most businesses spend their time worrying about what they are broadcasting and posting. It is a little cliché to say that social media is a conversation, but it really is. Businesses have to make an effort to build real relationships with people—and posting content at them is not a relationship. Know your customers (actually know them) and have conversations with them. Be nice to them. Make them feel special.
When I started in social media, I knew all of our first few hundred customers by name. I knew the kinds of photos they posted on our site, and I talked to every single one of them personally. I didn’t send out mass emails, or have an entry level customer service person help them out. We wanted them to care about us, so we showed them that we cared about them.
P1P: Lastly, if you do not mind sharing a strategy or two with our readers, we’d certainly appreciate it.
1) Have a plan. Know what you want to achieve.
2) Pick a few things and really try to do a good job with them. Don’t do everything at once.
3) Always be testing. Try things and see what sticks.
4) Social media augments real world interactions. Look for ways to connect them.
You can also watch her speaking in the video below, or visit her website.