Giraffe have a bit of chit chat with Jason Falls, one of the most in-demand public speakers on the subject of Social Media. His company Social Media Explorer is widely regarded as one of the best social media marketing companies in America. On top of all this, Jason is one of the industries nice guys, and was all too happy to speak with us about his passion, social media.
Jason, tell us a little about what it is you do?
I am responsible for Social Media Explorer, which has both a full-service digital agency under its umbrella, but also an information products division. My partner, Nichole Kelly, runs our agency division and brings me in where I’m most helpful — strategy and new business development — while I run our information products. Those include our conference series called Explore, a market research product and a learning community and small business resource.
Tell us about the journey you undertook to get you to where you are now? Where did you start?!
Life is a journey, not a destination. I think Aerosmith said that first. I started as a sports journalist, became a sports public relations professional, then a mainstream public relations professional, then started asking why we weren’t talking to clients about social media. The rest is history. It’s been a wild, fast and fun ride to be in the middle of this social media explosion. I just jumped on the wave and am holding on to the surfboard for dear life, I guess.
My start in social media dates back to 1997 and a newspaper column I also self-published online. I would ask the audience to email questions and comments, republish them online the next week and respond. So I was blogging, just in a very unsophisticated manner. Over the years, I continued to publish my writings online in hopes of building an audience for my weird sense of humour. All that trying led to me knowing a bit about how to navigate online communities to build audiences, consensus and the like. When I figured out that I could advise companies on how to use the channels, life changed dramatically.
How important would you say having a social media presence is for businesses these days?
I’m not one that says every business is required to have one. If you’re a small lawn care company and the best way to get new clients is to go cut someone’s grass in a new neighbourhood because three other families will see you and think, “I’d love for someone else to tend to my lawn,” then you don’t need social media. Maybe if you scaled to a large operation you would, but some businesses just have more efficient marketing channels. Still, it’s going to be important for most businesses because it’s how customers communicate with businesses these days. If you’re not online and don’t have a social presence, or are at least listening to social conversations about you or your brand, you’re eventually going to lose.
What three bits of advice would you give a business that is taking their first steps into the world of social media?
Wow. Great question! The first would be to ensure that you’re listening to your customers online. Respond to them as often as you can. It will build great karma round your brand if you do. The second piece of advice would be to measure everything you do and adjust accordingly. If you’re not connecting your time and attention in social media to bottom line metrics of sales (units), revenues and costs, you’re eventually not going to be happy with how unhappy your boss is. Measure to your business, not what the social media-rati say is important. Facebook Likes won’t pay your lease or make your payroll. Finally, I’d say to not be afraid. If your worst enemy pounds you on Twitter or Facebook each day, talking about how awful your company is, within a few hours, everyone who is seeing this person will likely think, “What an asshole. I hope that company starts ignoring him/her.” It’s never as bad as you think it is.
What do you think the future holds for social media?
I hope the future holds that every business will become skilled at using it. There’s far too much copy-cat behaviour and me-too-ism floating around there right now. I’d hope more and more businesses are getting smart about social media marketing rather than just going through the motions.
What is the coolest fact about Giraffes you know?
That they sleep standing up? I guess. I couldn’t give a crap about giraffes, so I’m not the right person to ask. Granted, if I had a giraffe, I would care. But I’m fairly certain there are laws that prohibit such ownership in Louisville, Ky., so I just don’t care much about them. Our local Zoo has a baby giraffe, though. That I know.
Jason has a book out which is a ‘take no prisoners’ style book about social media, and a must read for anyone interested in the subject.