All Xero Gravity episodes
Hosted by Elizabeth Ü and Gene Marks
Social media is huge. So how do you make sure you’re taking advantage of the right social channels to connect with customers?
For social media to deliver, creative thinking, a rock-solid strategy and dedicated time are first and foremost. A combination that’ll bring your audience to you and help you find them. Which is where Xero Gravity #38 comes in.
Special guests Mychelle Mollot, CMO at Klipfolio, and Raheela Nanji, director at Ree Consulting Inc., together with Elizabeth and Gene, get into the nitty gritty of social media for small business. Topics run the gamut from which social media platforms are right for you to the ever-evolving world of hashtags to vanity metrics.
Plus, Mychelle Mollot invokes the name Moz, who just happens to be led by Rand Fishkin, who just happens to be a very-near-future guest — 3/23!
Small Business Resources:
Hosts: Gene Marks [GM] & Elizabeth Ü [EÜ]
Guests: Mychelle Mollot [MM] and Raheela Nanji [RN]
XG Opening You’ve just tuned into Xero Gravity: a podcast for small business leaders and entrepreneurs across America. Now to your hosts, Gene Marks and Elizabeth Ü.
GM: So Elizabeth, what is your very first memory of using the Internet?
EÜ: Oh wow, that is a great question! Well, I remember sitting on the floor, and my friend’s dad, he was getting on the Internet but I didn’t realize what was happening at the time. And this was back in the days of Fetch. So really my most vivid memory of that is there was a little dog kind of running in place, and I didn’t know what the Internet was, and I thought this was some kind of really boring game. It wasn’t until much later that I understood that we were waiting for a really slow dial up connection to pull something on the screen. But I’ve completely forgotten what, if anything, ever appeared on the screen, other than that running fetch dog. And so what about you, Gene, what was your first Internet experience?
GM: You know, I met my wife back in 1984. These are the days pre-Internet, and she’s from London. I was only there for a year abroad as a junior. So we met in 1984. We did not get married until 1991, Elizabeth. So we carried on writing letters to each other for seven years!
GM: And talking on the phone!
EÜ: Wait, what are letters?!
GM: I know, what are these things? For all this time until we ultimately got married — this was before social media. It was before Facetime, it was before Skype.
EÜ: I love it!
GM: It was before anything. Isn’t that crazy? We had the whole long distance thing before we ultimately — we did get married. But look, I bet we’ve got some listeners out there who remember what it was like to run a business pre Internet and definitely pre social media as well. And you know, one thing is certain though, being on line, you know, today, definitely makes running your business a lot more effective. Social media can be — it’s a business owner’s most valuable online asset, don’t you think?
EÜ: Yeah, and today we’re talking about the ins and outs of social media marketing. And this is a space that’s constantly changing and yeah, with the right level of understanding and investment, it’s a platform that can deliver some real return on investment.
Guest Soundbite: “That is the million dollar question, and I think a lot of companies put way too much emphasis on vanity metrics like followers.”
EÜ: So today we have two fantastic social media gurus joining us. First up is Raheela Nanji. Raheela is the owner and director of her own social agency based out of Toronto, called Ree Consulting. Raheela works for some pretty big clients and has lots of insights to share with us today. As does our other guest, Mychelle Mollot, who happens to be the Chief Marketing Officer at Klipfolio, a company specializing in online business dashboards that deliver data to clients in real time. We’re going to hear more just after this.
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EÜ: Welcome back to Xero Gravity. We have Mychelle Mollot and Raheela Nanji on the line today.
GM: Well we’re glad that both of you guys are here and we certainly have a lot of questions to ask. Today we’re talking about social media marketing and, I mean, let’s define this right out of the box. Mychelle how would you define social media marketing?
MM: First I wouldn’t define it as social media marketing. I would just say it’s marketing done through social media. I think that’s actually an important distinction. Because when you think about it, as social media marketing, you tend to think of it as something that you’re doing outside of your marketing strategy. And I think that’s a really bad way to approach it. You really need to think about it as we have a marketing strategy and social is one of the vehicles we can execute our strategy through.
GM: So Raheela, tell me you know, you work with a lot of small businesses. Have you had any really good stories to share with us about some of your clients that have done a great job using social media, and how they did it?
RN: Okay, so in terms of best practices — if I talk about like clients within the food industry — it’s really knowing and learning from responses to posts that you put out there. And I guess that it’s the same whether they’re a small organization or a big organization. It’s listening to the feedback from the audience that you have, and seeing what is it that they’re responding to? So is it posts about food, or is it posts about the décor, or is it posts about an upcoming menu, or about a special offer? And really learning that, and refining your message according to who you’re trying to target.
So I think that those are, for me, very much with what my clients are listening to. Understanding exactly what’s happening and taking those learnings to make the marketing strategy much stronger.
EÜ: So Mychelle, given that Raheela has just said that for small businesses in particular, finding the proper audience is one of the key points of having a successful social media marketing campaign: what would you suggest as far as ways for people to actually find their core audience?
MM: That is definitely the hardest thing. I think the key thing is finding what your audience, the people you sell to, might be interested in. So if you’re an accountant, and you’re trying to sell to small businesses, then one great thing is to talk about things that small businesses need to know, that are financially related. So things like the balance sheet and understanding core principles — if you either blog about that or if you put it on YouTube, little videos, then you’re going to draw your audience in. So it’s a combination of bringing them to you and finding them. Finding them is going to places that they hang out, so if you’re a B2B organization like a consultancy — an accounting consultancy or some kind of a business that does a lot of work with small businesses — you can use LinkedIn and go to their groups and find out where they are.
But I think one of the best ways is to attract them, let them find you through your content being relevant. For example, finding them on Twitter through hashtags.
EÜ: So following up with finding your audience and attracting them through content, are there also some ways that you can listen to what they’re doing? And maybe discover what some of those popular hashtags or topics might be, so that you know that you’re resonating with them?
MM: Yeah, definitely. What we do is we try to segment our audience that we’re trying to go after. So for example marketing is a big audience for us, particularly, digital marketers. So we would look at what things digital marketers are tweeting about or going to Facebook to look at and then – then we use those hashtags or those topics frequently in our tweets, or in our images that we post. Another way we find them is through their influencers. The people who influence your customers, for example, if you’re trying to get a digital marketer, there’s a whole series of luminaries that write a lot about digital marketing.
So if you can find them, follow them, and start responding to what they are tweeting about, what they are writing about, then you get known to them, and you can start leveraging the influencer community to find your audience as well.
GM: You know, we talk about finding influencers and attracting them, and then of course we have to put in a bunch of time and effort into doing this. I mean, what would be your recommendation — and I’ll ask Raheela this— for a small business as far as investing in social media? How much time do you think somebody should spend?
RN: I think it’s really hard to put a figure on. Because it’s like how long is a piece of string. It really does depend on (a) the size of the company, (b) how much marketing budget they have overall, and also what they want their ROI of their social media to be? We all know that apparently social media, or people think social media is free, but you have to consider the man-hours that have to go into it as well. So from my perspective I can’t put a definitive figure on how much a company should spend without knowing exactly what it is that they’re trying to do. But there are so many tools out there that are free and can help small businesses, so going back to what Mychelle was saying about finding the audiences and, you know, investigating hashtags and things like that. If you look at tools like Tweet Archivist that actually show you the hashtags that are trending, how far they’ve gone, how far they’re going — I find that hugely useful to use with my clients because it just shows the way hashtags are spreading, how frequently they’re being used. So if you want to look at trends, that’s a really quick way that you can do it. So from a small business perspective you can look at tools like that, and things like Socialbro as well, to find influencers so you’re not paying to look for things. But obviously there’s the number of hours it takes you, there is a financial ramification for that, and that’s what you really have to bear in mind. So you know, you could put in an hour a day, you could put in a day a week, you could put in three days a week. It depends what you’re trying to get out of it. But the beginning is where it’s going to require more time, more thought and very much in line with the beginning of your company as well. Make that investigation, that upfront work, a big part of your beginning.
EÜ: Okay, so let’s say I’m at that point, I’m at the very beginning of my social media explorations — can you define some of the key terms that I should know, so that I know what I’m looking at around both paid and earned social?
RN: Yeah, absolutely. The first place that I’d tell everyone to start is to really understand the platforms that you want to use. There are several very significant platforms out there and it’s really about knowing what these platforms represent: the demographics that use those platforms, and understanding how those relate back to your customers as a whole. So you need to know who your customers are, who they actually are, not who you think they are. Make sure you’re taking time to use things like Google Analytics, so that you know the customers who are coming to your website, and can then marry up social media platforms with the demographic that you want to target, rather than the demographic that you may already have.
And with regards to paid and earned media. Earned media is basically that your message is getting out there by virtue of the fact that the word is spreading. That is essentially what earned media is. You’re not necessarily paying for it, it’s just gaining traction. And then paid for media paying to have presence. For example if you’re looking at Facebook and you’re sponsoring areas there, that’s paid.
EÜ: So Mychelle, Raheela mentioned analytics and I’m totally fascinated by analytics, and I suspect that many small businesses are throwing a lot social spaghetti at the wall and not necessarily having a good sense of what success actually looks like. So how do you measure success?
MM: Yeah, that is the million dollar question. I think a lot of companies put way too much emphasis on vanity metrics like followers — and you know, followers are important, the number of people following you on Facebook, the number of people following you on Twitter — but engagements are better metrics than that. More importantly: are these investments generating income and revenue for you? I mean, that’s really what it comes down to, that’s what you try to do with any marketing strategy, is improve your business.
So that’s what analytics can help you do. It can help you track it from the tweet through to a click-through, through to a visit to your website, through to some kind of lead creation (whether somebody downloads an offer) or in our case, goes and does a free trial through to purchase of product. Now, you know, it’s much easier for digital businesses to do that kind of tracking. But even brick and mortar businesses can do it as well, just through clever use of codes and use of reporting. For us, we track our lead volume every single day and it’s updated almost every five minutes...
MM: ...through all the different social channels. And the reason we track it so maniacally is because we expect a certain volume of leads to come through the various channels, both social and direct visitors to our site. And if we see something that’s not behaving as we expect or something that’s behaving much better than we expect, it gives us the opportunity to change our investment. So we can double down in areas that are performing well, and we can pull — if we’re doing paid advertising for example — money out of certain platforms that aren’t performing, or certain ad campaigns that aren’t performing, and put them in the ones that are. It allows us to be as optimized as we possibly can given the given human bandwidth.
EÜ: So every time you can get somebody to say yes, you’ve engaged them further on down that potential pipeline. Can you speak to some public examples of small businesses that you think are really doing a great job of engaging their audience, and whether you know this is potentially converting them to actual paying clients?
MM: Yeah, I do, and I think most of my examples will be from the B2B world. I really love Moz, and that’s M-o-z. Moz is very similar to what Raheela was talking about in that they’re very engaging, they’re funny, they’re passionate about what they do for consumers, and it comes across in all their social channels.
Another one is a consultancy called Orbit Media. They’re a web consultancy, and I love what they do with social media. Again, they really know how to have a conversation not just sort of broadcast. Because I think a lot of social media ends up being endless broadcast of promotions or marketing that is not necessarily engaging and these two companies do a really good job. And as does HubSpot. I think HubSpot also knows how to engage.
EÜ: So Mychelle, professionally in terms of everything that you’ve learned over your career in social media, what are some things that you really wish your clients knew?
MM: Our clients are not just using us exclusively for social media. I would say the thing I wish they knew most about social media is that they really have to get everybody involved from their company. It’s one thing to talk about investing in tools, and there’s so many tools that can help you, but it’s another thing to talk about spending money on ads. If you don’t have the company engaging, responding to people who are engaging with you, listening to the social channels, so that you can respond, writing blogs, engaging with people — you have to be all in to make this really work, and it doesn’t have to be 100% of one person’s time — it really only works when you do that. That would be my biggest piece of advice: make sure that you don’t go into it thinking that you can just outsource it, or that you can just do it by spending a lot of money. It really requires an investment of time and thought and strategy to do right.
EÜ: So Raheela, as far as your own entrepreneurial journey — and I know you have your own small business yourself that’s providing social media support to your clients — what were some of the lessons and challenges you faced? In particular, maybe you can discuss a certain turning point that you have overcome?
RN: So in terms of my journey it’s been fairly colorful. I didn’t start out with a plan. You know, I went to university, I got a degree, I started working. I come from generations of entrepreneurs, so my dad, when I graduated, he said to me, you know, “which of our businesses do you want”? And I was like, “I don’t want any of them,” and he was mortified. He said, “Why?” And I said, “Well, you know, I wanted to go outside and work first and bring that back to my family.”
In terms of one of the biggest turning points for me professionally was when I had my first business, which was actually a property business in Dubai, and my dad and I went into partnership together at that point. And for me I think that was a really big turning point, because it changed the dynamic within my family. And it also taught me so much about having my own business, running a business abroad as well, and the implications of that for me professionally and personally. And then I think the struggles that I experienced — and I experienced quite personal struggles at that time during that journey — I think they taught me a lot about myself, and particularly where my strengths and my weaknesses are. And that’s probably where I became, you know, quite reflective of me. It also taught me that it’s very important for me to follow my passions rather than the passions of those around me.
And I think that that was a hard lesson to learn because you’re faced with an opportunity that sounds amazing, but if it doesn’t inspire you and if it doesn’t make you want to get out of bed, like literally jump out of bed every day, then there’s something that’s not quite right. For me, I have to follow my excitement, I have to follow my dreams and they have to be mine, not the dreams of other people.
EÜ: Mychelle, were there any turning points that you faced as well, over the course of your career, that really inspired your passions in the way that Raheela’s describing?
MM: Yes, there was a turning point extremely early in my career that took me to marketing. I started out as an engineer. I was doing geophysics – so I was doing gold mining exploration in the Yukon, which couldn’t be…
EÜ: Oh wow! [Laughs]
MM: …any further removed from what I’m currently doing. But I loved it and I thought that would be my career. But I had an extraordinary knee injury that I needed to deal with. So I had to leave that job so that I could get a desk job that would allow me to have my surgery and recover. And the desk job that I got was in a software company in the marketing department writing marketing requirements — sort of a product management role. And that ended up starting a whole new career for me because I thought I would get my knee better and go back to my old career. Instead I fell in love with what I was doing in software and marketing, and then spent my whole career there. So very early turning point, but extremely pivotal.
EÜ: Wow, I can’t believe it. Gold mining is a bit of an obsession of mine as well. The California gold rush in particular, I’ve been reading up on that. So I love hearing that you’ve got a gold mining past. Wow!
MM: Well, you should read up the Yukon as well — it’s fascinating.
EÜ: Right, well thank you so much for joining us today,
We’ve had Mychelle Mollot and Raheela Nanji joining us talking about social media and all kinds of amazing personal twists and turns that led them to this journey. So thanks again for joining us.
GM: Thanks guys.
MM: Thank you.
RN: Thank you.
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EÜ: ...tweet us at Xero using the hashtag #XeroGravity. Or, text us your
questions, to 415-813-9878. We’ll answer them on next week’s show!
EÜ: There’s so much about social media that can really benefit small businesses, and again, it’s amazing that so many of these tools just never existed just a few years ago.
GM: Yeah, that’s really, really true. And what’s really scary now about social media is that it’s become so easy to use and so prevalent that, you know, your employees can get involved, but, you know, what should employees be doing, what should they be saying? How do you integrate your brand among all the messaging that’s going out. I think both Raheela and Mychelle had some really good comments on how to really make sure you’re giving the right kind of message out to your customers, at the same time engaging in a real consistent way. That was a really good conversation.
I got to tell you Elizabeth, the biggest issue that I hear among my clients as well is they’re just really scared to have other employees involved, that they’re going to tweet something out or send some message that, you know, is going to get them in trouble or be something wrong, or portray the company in a bad way. But both Raheela and Mychelle feel that it’s something that’s really important — to have a good presence on social media is to have as many people from your company involved. It’s just going to be a big barrier I think a lot of small business owners are going to have to get over.
EÜ: Right, right, and there’s nothing to say that you can’t come up with some lists of best practices and parameters that all of those employees abide by in order to get involved.
GM: I agree.
Ep. 39 tease
All right, well that is a wrap for this week. Be sure to tune in next Wednesday. We have a must listen show for all freelancers, contractors, sole proprietors, people that are doing side gigs — self-employed.
We’ll be chatting with not one, but two tax preparation experts about everything you need to know to file your Schedule C tax form, as part of your individual tax return this April. It’s a great conversation and we’ll even make some time for a few laughs (I know that taxes aren’t everyone’s favorite topic). So don’t miss this one, it’s going to be great!