How to Not Look Like a Fool Online: Tips from a Social Media Consultant

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In this week’s brown bag business chat, social media consultant Amy Donohue gives us all the tips needed to keep yourself from looking like a fool on social media (and if we’re not in the social media generation, sometimes it feels like all we do is look silly on those sites!). Take a peek at what she has to say, or check out the written version of the chat below!

We Have Social Media Consultant Amy Donohue Here With Us Today From The Fab Social. So Amy, Tell Us, What You Do And Who Do You Do It For?

I do social media (duh)! I have been involved in social media since 2004; I started with MySpace because I’m a standup comedian, and I found that by *actually* being social, the social media worked a lot better (who would have thought?)

Then, about 4 years ago, I lost my job, but a Twitter follower hired me the next day. That’s when I became a social media consultant for a living. My company then had a huge layoff 2½ years ago and my boss said, “You need to start your own business with this stuff.”

At that time I was 41. I figured, “I have no job, but I know what I’m doing, so I’ll start my own business.” And it worked. Today, I manage social media for small businesses, but I also coach, which is what I really love. I’ll go in to a small business that has someone with the time to do this stuff, and I’ll teach them how to do it.

I’m a social media junky, but it works! Social media is a really good thing.

A Lot Of People In Our Audience Are Business Owners Or Marketing Directors; Can You Give Them Your Definition Of What Social Media Is?

Let me start by saying that as soon as most people hear social media, they clench up; they’re scared because they don’t understand it. To me, social media is all about the first word–social. We’ve heard the phrase so much over the last few years, and if I ask someone what social means and they go and look up the word in the dictionary, then they start to get the picture. It’s what we’re doing right now!

So It’s About The People?

It’s about the people, it’s about talking with people and building relationships, which is especially important because you don’t know each other at first. But eventually you DO get to know each other. For instance, Heather and I have never met in person, but we do know each other–we’ve been on social media together for a while, and we know a lot about each other. Maybe too much!

Social media is about building relationships and your brand. You have to ask yourself: Who do you want to be online?

My sister is an editor, very prim and proper–she wants to freelance, but I told her she doesn’t need a professional headshot–you have to be real, you have to be a real person that people want to talk to, not a polished image of a person who doesn’t actually exist–if everything is crisp and clean and overly professional, then you’re not genuine. Who wants to talk to that person at a party? (Sorry Sis!)

Even Though You Are A Social Media Consultant, Social Media And Twitter Have A Very Special Meaning For You. Before We Move On, Let’s Talk About What Has Happened In Your Life Because Of Your Connections On Social Media; How Has That Taken You On The Roller Coaster Ride Of Your Life?

Roller coaster ride is the perfect word for me–about 5 years ago Kirti (@DiyaMarketing) and I started following each other and tweeting about random stuff like yoga and restaurants, but she also tweeted a lot about her mom’s kidney disease. Then 4½ years ago I saw a tweet that changed my life–Kirti was in a conversation with someone about how her mom (#TinyMom) finally agreed to be on the transplant list for kidneys–and I knew nothing about kidneys, absolutely nothing. I knew they’re in you’re back and in wrestling people punch each other in the kidneys and you pee blood–that’s all I knew!

I knew nothing about donating a kidney…but I volunteered to give her my kidney. And we ended up being a match, even though we are different races and cultures. I saw a tweet and I donated a kidney because of a tweet.

This changed my life in other ways as well. Because of my connections and because I actually interacted on Twitter, a restaurant in Scottsdale delivered me food after I left the hospital. That wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t done Twitter in the right way, which is *social* media. To me, Twitter is just a huge network of people.

Since then, I filmed a documentary about kidney disease. I went with a filmmaker across the country; we drove 8000 miles, from Phoenix to Vegas to LA to Boston and back, in 20 days, interviewing other kidney donors who I met through social media. We wanted to show people that kidney donors are happy, healthy, and live normal lives with one kidney so that, hopefully, more people will do that and help save a life.

Because of Twitter, I saved a life. And I have two Twitter followers who donated kidneys because of me. I have a big enough following to have a voice, and those people have been behind me since I said I would do this. They have donated money to the documentary, they email me to see how I’m doing, and these are people I haven’t met face to face. But, because I’m social, they care.

Facebook is everyone you know and Twitter is everyone you want to know. It’s like being at a real networking event. If you’re new to the event, you can’t just go in there and blast your business cards around the place and try to sell a car: you won’t get invited to the next event!

Back in the day, people you did business with were a close-knit family. Twitter let’s us do this in a whole new way. You don’t have to be in the same city or town to have meaningful relationships with people you may have business relationships with at some point. I think it scares people a little bit because they’re tweeting about their business, and they don’t want to get so personal and make it all about them.

How Do You Help Clients To Bridge The Gap Between “This Is Me And This Is My Brand?”

I have a client who is a lawyer, and law is one of the worst industries on Twitter because generally they don’t talk and are very automated: they’re not social at all. She was kinda scared, and she told me, “We are just starting out and I don’t want to scare people off.”

I started thinking about what she had that differentiated her from the crowd. She has a lot of mid-century furniture in her office, and she has a treadmill with a computer on it. That’s cool stuff! And it’s part of who she is, so she needs to put that out there because a follower could be a mid-century architecture fanatic who wants to do business with her.

You can’t be stiff. Remember, this is a party and we are all here to laugh and have a good time! No one wants to talk to a boring wallflower at a networking event who doesn’t do anything. Everyone’s like, “Who is that boring person and who invited them?” No one will follow or interact with you if you’re stiff. You have to bring your personality and be yourself.

I won’t edit myself, and all my clients are friends so no one seems to care that I swear and talk about whatever. It works for me because it’s transparent. I’m not trying too hard, and people appreciate that because there’s a lot of fake stuff out there. You need to take a breath and relax. Remember, you’re at a party, and you need to act like you’re there.

Twitter’s fun because you don’t have to wear pants! I’m not wearing pants right now! I don’t have to take a shower for this because no one can smell me. Twitter’s fun because no one wears pants!

(Heather laughs uncomfortably)

So… Getting Back To Bridging That Gap Between “I’m A Person But I’m Doing This To Help My Business,” How Can People Bridge The Gap Between Interacting And Having Casual Convo And Then At Some Point Direct Potential Clients Back To A Website–How Do You Do That Eloquently To Build Business For Yourself And Your Clients?

When you’re at an event and you’re talking to people, eventually they will say, “So, what do you do?” If you have your bio set up properly with your website, if you tweet out articles, then you can easily make the transition.

I think people worry too much about ROI with social media. Gary V says, “What’s the ROI of your mom?” You can’t put an ROI on your brand or your mom. Yeah, you can track traffic to your website and track follower growth, but when it comes to building relationships, you can’t put that on paper! You can write all your friends down on a piece of paper, but what does that mean? It means nothing unless you’re building relationships with people. People need to step back and not worry so much about making money because that will come.

My year last year was terrible. I had a lot going on as a new social media consultant and budding filmmaker, but this year, I sat back and didn’t tweet my website out so much; I just had more fun. And two months ago I had to hire an assistant because my business is booming! I’m not worried so much about the money because when you have that in the back of your mind, especially when it comes to friends and business relationships, it’s not going to happen.

Just let it go. What’s the ROI on your chamber membership? Nobody knows! It’s really hard to define that. I think because things like chamber memberships have been around for a while, we get them because we know they’re important, even though we can’t track them.

Social Media Activity Also Improves Search Engine Visibility, And Some Business Owners Like To Share Libraries Of Content And Resources. It’s Like Being At The Networking Event With Some Vendors There. That’s How Some See It; Do You?

Yes! In fact, the more activity you have on social media, the more your branding is out there, and the more people are aware of you. It also really helps your SEO, but the more people that talk about Amy Donohue, the more it helps my website.

Heather: A lot of people think that if you do stuff on the computer then you can do everything. We don’t all do everything, so if someone says they can do everything for you, chances are they aren’t going to do it all very well. For instance, Pam Aungst with Pam Ann marketing does great SEO work, but we focus on websites.

And you don’t have to be on every platform! I could learn all the basics of many things and offer that, or I could be great at one thing instead of being mediocre at a bunch of things. When I see people who do it all, I notice that their work is not that great because they’re spreading themselves too thin.

What’s The One Habit You See People Do All The Time That You Wish People Would Just Break?

Crossposting! Crossposting has got to be the most deadly thing any brand can do. So crossposting is when your Facebook posts go to Twitter, or your tweets go to Facebook. You can’t do that because they’re so different, and you can’t say the same thing over and over. If you’re posting to one that means you’re not on the other one interacting. It’s so 2008! if you want to be cool and build connections and make business and be social, then stop crossposting!

I’m very passionate about that! I want to stab someone right now!

(More nervous laughter from Heather)

OK… So We Have A Question From Jonathan Who Says, “I Have Never Really Been Able To See An Increase In Business From Social Media, I’ve Only Seen What You’ve Been Talking About.” Maybe You Can Make Some Suggestions?

Well, I know Jonathan (absolutely gorgeous by the way), and I think it’s the amount of time you put into it. You shouldn’t be targeting IT people when you’re in IT–you should be targeting me, you should be targeting Heather, you should be targeting everybody out there who has a business that needs IT help!

You have such a great personality! Pretend you’re at that table and you’re talking to everybody–get that personality out there! You do need to tweet more, you gotta do it more often, even if you spend 30 minutes in the morning and evening. I’m pretty sure you’ll see a spike in activity if you do that. Do hashtag searches for things you’re interested in and post with those hashtags. People will see you are on Twitter and follow you and tweet you a few weeks later or send you an email and say, “Hey, I met you at that event with the hashtag, then I saw your website, and I was wondering if you can do anything for me?”

Stop thinking about it as only a business! Start thinking about it as building relationships.

What Are Some Of The Worst Failures You’ve Seen, The Stuff That You Send Us That’s Just Horrible, That’s So Wrong Or Stupid That You Just Want To Put A Big FAIL Stamp On It? What’s The Worst That You Have Seen?

The worst I have seen is this–there is a company that owns a lot of restaurants in my neighborhood, and I go to them and promote them by checking in at Swarm, and they never tweet to me! BUT, they retweet my check-in like 2 weeks later, and they don’t say, “Hey, thanks for coming in!” Or, “What did you eat?” And these are restaurants that have a big Twitter following! They never interact–they’re not social on their Twitter. It’s frustrating because I see it a lot.

Heather: I think people don’t realize that, just because you don’t have 10,000 followers, if you ignore someone who says something positive about your business and you didn’t acknowledge it, it’s the same as if I went in to your restaurant and I said, “Hey, this meal was great,” and you didn’t turn around and acknowledge it. It’s not acceptable to ignore people. If someone’s out there recommending you, and you don’t send even a “thanks” message or like or favorite them, then it’s rude!

That’s why I use Sprout for social media. If you tweet to them with a problem, they will say, “Hey Amy, I’m not the expert, but here’s our help account,” and they tweet back within a minute. I pay them a lot of money each month and they earn it with me.

Having a social media account that’s basically abandoned, or having an account that’s only used to self promote, is rude. Now you’re rude, and if you’re not acknowledging anyone, Now you’re really rude. You’re being a mailbox head, and no one wants to be a mailbox head.

How Can People Find You And Get More Info About Your Services Or Classes And Coaching?

I’m Amy Donohue, social media consultant, and you can start by googling me. You can also find me all over social media (surprise!)

Follow me on twitter: @TheFabulousOne, @TheFabSocial

Email me:

Facebook me:

Google+ me: Amy TFab1 Donohue

What Kind Of Services Do You Offer?

As a social media consultant, I love doing the coaching and training. Training someone on how to do social media for themselves is amazing. I want people to have their eyes opened to the world of social media because it’s such a rich way to build your business and your brand.

Any Last Words Of Wisdom?

Be social or get off the pot! If you don’t use it, it just makes you look worse.

Heather Steele

After almost a decade of marketing in a corporate setting, she tired of being a corporate cog and decided to go it alone, bootstrapping a business based on one simple principle:   Partnership.   Follow her on Twitter @heathersteele03, LinkedIn, or our blog to learn how to turn your business into a beast. And read her blog posts about marketing and small business here.

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