Today, I spoke to Shama Kabani, who is the President of The Marketing Zen Group, and the author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing. In this interview, Shama talks about how she got started in social media, the obstacles she endured, when to hire people for your company, what issues companies have with social media, and how she’s built her personal brand.
What got you started with social media and how did you differentiate yourself from a billion people who use social media?
I created compelling content in various mediums and syndicated it heavily using social media. I wrote a blog, launched a web TV show, and created MP3s. When most people were using status updates to share what they had for lunch, I was using it to share tips and ideas. Since I’d studied social networking in graduate school, I think I had a more innate understanding of why people were using the tools. I definitely leveraged that knowledge. In most recent news, I’ve encapsulated that in my book – The Zen Of Social Media Marketing.
Oh my. = ) The beauty and challenge of entrepreneurship is that every day is a new lesson to be learned. When I started my business, the biggest obstacle was my own mindset. I thought – I am only 23! Who am I build a global business? I also wanted to be too many things to too many people. So, I did overall consulting and played small. When I embraced my passion – digital marketing and my age – everything changed. Clients came to us BECAUSE of our expertise and I often heard – “I wanted to hire someone who grew up with this stuff!” It meant a lot to me. Now, I have a staff of 20 and run one of the finest digital marketing agencies in the country. I am grateful for this, and the lessons keep coming!
How did you know how and when to start hiring people for your company?
Oh, when I didn’t sleep anymore. = ). I think every business hits a point where you realize you can either work ON the business or IN the business. It gets VERY hard to do both and to do them well. I find hiring to be the most difficult part of running a business. It is such a tricky thing – but I’ve been very lucky in finding a fabulous team. They are driven, smart, and love working with people as much as they enjoy technology.
The biggest issue is fear of the unknown. They don’t know what it can do for them or they haven’t really grasped the ROI behind it. It will take time. Most companies are busy running their business and here comes social media. There are so many elements in play here that I frankly think it overwhelms them. Social media as it relates to customer service. Social media as it relates to marketing. Social media as it relates to HR. This isn’t a technology change. It is a complete mindset change.
How have you built your own brand and what qualities have you shown when you participate in online communities?
My own brand is really built around sharing my experiences so it may serve others. In 2007, I was a graduate student with nothing in the bank. I bootstrapped a company and grew it to 20 folks and clients from NY to Australia by leveraging social media. I turn 25 this Saturday. If I can do it, others can too. I don’t have a crazy or loud personality. I don’t curse or throw things at the camera – I just try to remember that behind every “screen name” is a real person. And, I try my best to connect with that person. So far, it has paid off.
Shama Kabani is the President of The Marketing Zen Group, a full service online marketing firm that serves clients around the world. She has been dubbed the “master millennial of the universe” and “an online marketing shaman” by Fast Company. She has aptly been named one of the 10 Most Influential and Powerful Women in Social Media. Shama holds a Masters degree in Organizational Communication from the University of Texas at Austin, and prides herself in being a constant learner. Her website, MarketingZen.com, has turned into a high traffic destination for people looking for advice on how to market their businesses successfully online. And, and companies often turn to Shama to guide them when it comes to the vast world of social media marketing. She also hosts a popular web TV show on new media marketing at http://Shama.Tv, and the media regularly call on her to comment on marketing and technology trends. In 2009, Business Week honored Shama as one of the Top 25 under 25 entrepreneurs in North America. Her first book, The Zen of Social Media Marketing (BenBella Books), was just published.