Here at SMT, we're always thinking about how to put the 'social' into Social Media Today. From our #SMTLive Twitter chats, social media groups, and other interactive social accounts (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) we get that social media is at its best when it brings people together.
Being that our influencers are one of our very favorite parts of our community, we decided that sharing their stories, tips of the trade, and advice with you would be a fun (and very social) task. They’re the leaders of our SMT contributors, and they’re excited to share their perspectives with you.
This is the sixth in our series of interviews with our Social Media Today influencers.
Today, we sat down with Randy Milanovic. Milanovic is the founder of KAYAK Online Marketing, an agency that, according to their website, "works to empower clients with knowledge and ethical business strategies to run their own sites."
Social Media Today: How (and when) did you get started in the social media marketing world?
Randy Milanovic: In 2010, I happened across an article written by Forrester Research discussing Owned (website), Earned (social), and Borrowed (advertising) media. I’d come from more than a decade in the ad world, so I knew all too well that it is a pay-to-play world. I also knew that the moment we stop paying, it stops. Our websites and social profiles, however, do not. So I focussed on those. More so, given my focus on B2B, I was determined to apply proven networking strategies to my social media efforts.
I recognized that when at a networking event whenever an individual would present his/her business card and wait for me to read it, I was immediately turned off, so I’d feign interest so as not to embarrass them or create an uncomfortable situation before walking away in search of a conversation where people would chat with me about anything besides their business. Much like discussing school or the weather or sports with friends when sitting down to lunch. Shared interests intrigued me.
SMT: What major impacts has social media had on your career and the marketing industry in general?
RM: [At] about the same time, Google+ was coming into its own. Over time, I managed to find a few private groups in there, fully based on shared interest. Cars, hiking, craft beer, entrepreneurship, travel, photography, kayaking, clouds, and more. Those and groups like them opened the door to authentic conversations with people who didn’t look at me as a marketing or sales target. I loved that. I made friends all over the world. To this day, any one of them could say they are visiting Calgary and I’d make a bed for them, plus I’d pick them up at the airport. Incredible how solid friendships can be when the connection is authentic.
I amply this unofficial rule of friendships and relationships first in social. The result has been that I’ve never pursued a client in social, instead, I found peers and incredible referral sources. Those referrals [were] based on my peers seeing the value in what I do and essentially endorsing me to their connections. In effect, that relationship building has resulted in the creation of advocates, both for me, and for them. In effect, no sales convincing needed. Significant seven figures in revenue from social without ever selling anything but my views on business and craft beer.
SMT: What do you believe is the most challenging part of working in social media?
RM: Intrusion over communication. Ads that aren’t well crafted deliver no value [and] interrupt my communications. People who pitch and do their best to shove their virtual cards in your face. The worst [are] industry people who continue to publish (spam) the web with posts for their clients in an effort to create "activity." The practice should be outlawed. In its place should be client coaching on how to engage and build a positive reputation. Stop canning replies, start creating authentic dialogue. Until industry insiders get this, it is my view that they are doing a massive disservice to their clients. I don’t doubt they are wanting to help, but the more pervasive their posting efforts, the more it starts to smell of being in it for the money.
SMT: What are the best parts of working in social media?
RM: Friendships made. Client growth. Insights shared and learned. The potential to open up new business growth opportunities and our minds. For example, back in 2011, I coached a client who was wary of LinkedIn to start or join discussions. It took two hours of coaching to show him how to initiate real conversations with his contacts. The outcome was one of several four million dollar months as he activated his network. I really should have asked [for] a commission on that one!
SMT: How do you expect social media to evolve in the business world over the next 10 to 20 years?
RM: Let’s hope we open more transparent and helpful discussions. But I think in reality that platforms will continue to monetize and shrink communication opportunities, and force paid engagements. Perhaps that will push legitimate communications back to the phone and pub? I wouldn’t mind that at all.
SMT: What’s your favorite social media platform today and how do you expect that platform to evolve over time?
RM: Google+ has been my favorite all along. I’m very saddened by it being closed in April. I made friends there. I grew as a human there. Facebook looks to be taking up the slack with private groups, so let’s hope the opportunity for authentic discussions matures there. LinkedIn is making groups a renewed priority, though I fear it’ll never catch on because the connections we have there are based on business connections or jobs, so it’s tough to convert the conversation into one of sharing interests. I have a love/hate relationship with Twitter. Because it is all public, people are often reserved so conversations don’t flow as smoothly as they might in a group. And the practice of “taking it offline” feels so inauthentic, secretive, that the hairs on my neck stand up when a support person requests a DM instead of simply answering questions publicly. It can feel shady.
SMT: What’s the best advice you would share with someone new to the field?
RM: For businesses and clients, please stop hiring social media managers to post for you. Sure, get help with content. But do the engagement yourself. For the majority of businesses, social media is a networking and communication activity. Elevate the conversation. Look to achieve instead of just checking boxes that you created a post. For those who say they don’t have time to post on Twitter, I say great, then don’t. To the new business person who poo-poos social media as a waste of time, I’d ask you to take a second look, because you could very well be negligent in your relationship building efforts. Hone your communication skills and make something grander of the platforms. Forget the platform, embrace the people. If you aren’t building relationships, who is?
For Social Media Managers, I challenge you to stop taking orders. You are the professionals. Clients are paying you for your knowledge - give it to them. Coach your clients to achieve bigger things than posting for the sake of activity - match efforts to business goals. Talk about reputation management instead of memes. Help them write better. Help them understand what’s good and what’s great. Be great. Elevate. Clients will see the value and pay you more to do so.
SMT: Follow up: What’s your favorite article that you’ve written for SMT and why?
RT: "3 Buckets." It’s a sales conversion strategy shared with me by Marty Tascona. The strategy has been revolutionary for my business. Definitely worth reading.