Grilling the Gurus: 10 Q&A with Amber Osborne [SMToolbox]
I'm not entirely clear on what a "dynamo" is, but I'm 100% sure that Amber Osborne is one. You don't call yourself "Miss Destructo" and lead a merry band of "Firestarters" if you don't have a bit of personality. Amber has lots of personality.
Follow Amber on Twitter (@missdestructo) and it will quickly be clear what Jabez LeBret of Forbes was thinking when he called her the second most influential CMO on social media. All of the things you associate with the term "influencer" apply to Amber--plugged in, shaping conversations on the topics of her universe and consistently making an impact with her social activity. On top of all that, Amber is incredibly accessible; she never forgets the social part of social media activity.
She also happens to champion a great social media tool. As the Chief Marketing Officer at Meshfire, Amber generates buzz for one of today's most promising social media tools. Tomorrow I'll post a Rapid Fire Review that breaks down Meshfire in detail, but suffice it to say for now that Meshfire represents a new way of thinking, experiencing and managing Twitter. Tl;dr preview: I'm very high on it.
She might be a pyromaniac whom you should hide from whenever matches, kerosene and/or fireworks are involved, but Amber has a great mind for marketing and is (relatively) safe to follow when she's on the other side of a screen. So don't be shy, read on to get to know Amber, Meshfire and the future of social media...
1. How did you get your start in social media? What brought you to Meshfire?
I blame sweet potatoes. It all started with being unemployed and sweet potatoes. I started using Twitter in 2008 to network and look for a job after college. From this my first paid gig in social media was working for Bruce's Yams building up awareness for sweet potatoes and being a sarcastic can of yams on Twitter. If you were stuck in a can, you would be a jerk too.
Before that I dabbled in band marketing and promotions, back then "social media" was mostly in forums and Myspace. I am so glad I no longer have to look at glitter graphics every day. I ended up taking all I learned about building brands' (and bands') online presences and started an agency in Florida. After a few years of working with small businesses, I started getting frustrated with the offerings of social media tools that were currently out there for them; they needed something easy to use and low-cost. That's the beginning of how I ended up 3,000 miles away in Seattle to help build Meshfire.
2. What's Meshfire's origin story? How did the organization start and what problem was it trying to solve?
I randomly met the CEO of Meshfire Eli on Twitter in 2010 when I noticed he sent out a tweet about his frustration using social media tools. I had the same frustrations and we started what would be the first ideas of Meshfire. We further had a conversation about how if we built a social media tool, it would not only be informational, but actionable with the data provided and educational on best social media practices. There are so many of us who have started in social media that are like, "That's great you can show me all these Tweets you found, but what do I do next? How do I talk to people? How do I save time?" This sparked something in Eli and three months later he came to me with a very rough draft of what would be Meshfire today. I moved two years ago to Seattle from Florida and have never looked back. Mostly because Florida has lots of sun and I haven't seen much of that lately.
3. Tell us a bit about what makes Meshfire unique?
What makes Meshfire special is our AI Ember. Think of her like a virtual assistant for social media. She helps sort the incoming volume, finds conversations and people you might have missed and keeps you updated on what's happening in your community with our "trending" screen. Ember was built using hours of video of me yelling obscenities about social media tools. Eli will tell you it was my thoughts on best social media practices, but we all know that's not true.
Another thing that we think makes us unique in this space beyond our product is as a small team ourselves, we understand the needs of small businesses and community managers. It means our support for our customers (which we call Firestarters) comes first.
We've been known to personally help our customers not just through customer support but help them solve their social media challenges using Meshfire. Lots of times our customers will have feature requests and we'll develop them on the spot for the customer if we have the resources, if it's a popular enough request we'll launch it product-wide. We want everyone to feel listened to and if we can build something they need, we will. I've been there with products going, "If it just had this, I could do this." Our development team is small but we hope to further this with one of our next product feature launches.
4. Who should use Meshfire and how should they use your services?
Our Firestarters are across the board, we've got a surfboard wax company to government agencies monitoring traffic to video game community managers. We find the best customers for us are those working in social media that have limited resources, budget and time. Most of our customers are community managers that need to stay on top of not only the incoming volume but need to have an ear on what the community is talking about. A lot of us in social media also have trouble growing our community at a certain point. That dreaded "social media block"... you want to know who to follow, who will be valuable to talk to, what to talk to them about and what's good content to share. Ember helps point all of this out for you so you don't have to spend hours sitting monitoring tons of tweets flying by.
5. What's next for your organization? How are you innovating and evolving?
Custom rules, because... well... custom.... rules! *air guitar solo*
We've been working on a custom rules system so our users can create lessons for Ember. Think of IFTTT-like rules where you can teach Ember to do certain tasks for you. If I could only teach Ember to fetch me coffee, but we are working on that!
6. Take us inside your day-to-day--what's it like to be the Chief Marketing Officer at Meshfire?
Let's just say the activities of a startup CMO is "diverse." Every day I wear a different hat...product marketing, brand building, community managing, sales, content creator, product manager... you name it, I do it. Except cooking, don't ask me to do that unless you like carcinogens.
My first year was spent helping build the tool from scratch, learning to work alongside the developers. I'm a creative so learning the language and how to translate social media practices and habits into detailed descriptions so they could "teach" Ember was a bit like Gorillas in The Mist. I learned how to sign "Computer... sad." and it made all the difference.
This year I've spent my focus on growing the brand and being hands on with our customers and the community of Firestarters, I've never seen a community with so caring and passionate people before. Our customers are like a little family, sometimes we put the fun in dysfunctional but at the end of the day we all learn and grow with each other.
7. When you think about the future of social media, what gets you excited?
I think the future of social media is our future and a window to our past. As more and more people are using social media, we are getting this amazing amount of data and historical data. I can't wait to see how people will be using this data in the future to help others and to further connect us. I always wonder what is going to be the next big social network as well, I just hope it's not solely cat or .gif related.
8. Our readers are social media hobbyists and/or professionals--any advice for how they can grow their careers in this field?
Keep on creating and keep on connecting. Social media allows us opportunities like never before to share and connect. Also, get the heck out of the house, go to conferences and events and meet other professionals in the career you want. Find the people you really want to meet beforehand and connect with them on social prior. Meet up with them and see what happens, most will end up introducing you to other people too. Learn from them and build memories with them. There's a lot of things you can't do online. Most of my most valuable connections have started on Twitter but ended up flourishing after I met them in person. Oh the stories I have...
9. I know you meet and interact with so many different people in the social media space--who do you learn from? Who's take on things do you consistently find interesting?
Sir Mix-A-Lot. (@therealmix)
Seriously.... The guy with the song about the butts.
But no really... Anthony is one of the most fascinating people I know. Little known is he's a huge tech nerd and hardware buff. I've been lucky enough to have some amazing conversations with him about technology and social media. I have learned so much about business, music and how to maintain success while staying real. If there's anyone that needs a TV show it's him, the world could really benefit from his knowledge.
10. Anything else you want to say to entertain or educate us?
Be excellent to each other and party on dudes!!!
Follow Ross Richendrfer on Twitter