Expert Interview on the Zen of Social Networking

Shama Kabani
Shama Kabani, CEO of Marketing Zen

Have you ever wondered how to get started in social media marketing for your business? With so many options from Facebook to Twitter, it may appear overwhelming at first and leave you baffled about where to start. LoveToKnow spoke with Shama Kabani, CEO of The Marketing Zen Group and author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing, about how to start and maintain a social media marketing plan and ensure that all the elements work together.

Getting Started in Social Media Marketing

LoveToKnow (LTK): How is social media marketing different from traditional marketing?

Shama Kabani (SK): Social media isn't a marketing platform. It's a consumer platform.

Marketing platforms such as advertising and telemarketing are one-way communication platforms. A company creates the message and delivers it creatively in the hopes that the consumer will respond. The company is in control of the message - and the only voice consumers have is to "vote with their wallets" by acting on the marketing message or not.

Social media is a consumer platform, where teenagers in Melbourne, customers in Minneapolis, and prospective buyers in Midlothian all have the same opportunity to voice their opinions, ask questions, and share experiences. Consumers are in control of the message, and they revel in their control. Marketers can join in the conversation, and help to shape the dialogue, but it is definitely not a place where traditional marketing methods work, and it is definitely not a one-way communication platform.

LTK: At what point should a new business start venturing out into social media marketing?

SK: A business should always keep social media marketing in mind because it is the ultimate amplifier. Your services and products, when good, are amplified into great. When they are mediocre, that gets amplified too. People are the media today. Every single person who comes into contact with your business is a potential champion or a critic. You get to decide which they will become.

Steps to Begin a Social Media Marketing Program

LTK: What are the keys to laying a foundation for a successful social media marketing plan?

SK: It is similar to building a house. You want to start with a strong foundation - which means a website that converts well, a strategy to drive traffic, and a social media plan. You should create a social media strategy that supports your business goals, not the other way around. And, always start by listening to your customers, clients, and audience. What do THEY want from you online?

LTK: What are some of the best ways for businesses to reach out to their customers (or potential customers) via social media marketing?

SK: The best way is to go where they are. Don't assume that they are on one social network over another. Do your research and then test.

LTK: What would business owners be most surprised about when it comes to social media marketing?

SK: Businesses don't realize that it isn't a tool for direct conversion. It is rare when someone sees a Facebook page, and decides to do business with someone. But, it is the start of a relationship.

The Zen of Social Media Marketing cover

Social Media Marketing Maintenance

LTK: What should an established business consider adding to their plan?

SK: Consistency is key to any social media plan. A business should have a plan to continuously provide value and build their community. It is easy for a business to be excited in the beginning, and then lose steam. You need a plan to keep going.

LTK: It seems like it could get overwhelming to try to keep up with all areas of marketing. Are there any shortcuts for driving traffic to your site, making sales, etc?

SK: There are no shortcuts that are worth taking. The best way to save time and money is to plan and implement correctly in the beginning. It may cost to have someone train your staff for example, but it will save a lot of money and wasted time in the long run.

Adding Social Media to an Integrated Marketing Plan

LTK: What are some tips for making sure that all facets of your social media marketing plan are working together as well as possible?

SK: Make sure that all "elements" of your marketing communicate. Often, we see that PR doesn't know what social media is doing, and SEO is disconnected with the latest campaign. This is why we stress the importance of having a comprehensive plan. When all the pieces work together and leverage what each is doing, then you have a great ROI.

LTK: After making changes to the marketing plan, how long does it usually take to see results?

SK: That depends on quite a few factors: your product or service, the competitive landscape, your target market. As a general rule, six months is a good time frame to evaluate strategies and impact.

LTK: What kinds of long term goals should businesses set for their social media marketing and how can they adhere to those goals over months or even years once they've found success? How do they maintain that success in the long run?

SK: You should always measure success quantitatively and qualitatively. There are a number of metrics you can measure on a chart (likes, subscribers to the blog, downloads of white paper, leads, etc.) But, social media's greatest value comes also from what is being said. This is how you create a proactive reputation before you need it.

For More Information

For more information, visit Marketing Zen, a virtual full-service marketing firm with employees around the world. You may also wish to read The Zen of Social Media Marketing: An Easier Way to Build Credibility, Generate Buzz, and Increase Revenue. LoveToKnow wishes to thank Shama Kabani for the interview.

Expert Interview on the Zen of Social Networking