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Success #4: How a former graduate student with no job offered becomes the Social Media’s Master Millenial of the Universe – with Shama Kabani


When Shama Kabani graduated with her Master Degree at the University of Texas in Austin in social media, she couldn’t find a job of what she loves to do because social media was so new and companies did not understand what social media was all about. Today, Shama is the CEO of The Marketing Zen Group recently honored by the White House and named one of the Top 100 companies in the U.S. by Empact100.

I invited her to tell you her story and there are three topics you will be interested in:

1) The foundation of social media which Shama uses at her company.

2) Ways to leverage social media to your business

3) Mistakes business owners made with social media strategy.


Watch the FULL program

Audio Version Like audio? No problem! “Click” here for the MP3 format.


About Shama Kabani

Shama Kabani is an award-winning CEO, best selling author, TV Show host, and what’s more impressive is that FastCompany called her “the master millennial of the universe” and “an online marketing shaman”.  Last year ,her company the Marketing Zen Group was honored at the White House for being named the Empact100 List of the top US companies run by a young entrepreneur. Recently in 2013, she received the award recognition at the United Nation.

Raw transcript

Michael:         Hey guys! It’s Michael Nguyen, host of the Asian Success show where successful Asian entrepreneurs show you how they built their companies and achieve success.


Are you still trying to figure out the ABC’s of social media? Are you still trying to find a way to leverage social media to your business? Have you ever wondered what mistakes you’ve made with social media strategies?  Today, I have a very special guest for you.


She’s an award winning CEO, best-selling author, and TV show host, and what’s most impressive is that her first company’s call her the master milleneo of the universe and the online marketing shaman. I think last year, her company was honored at The White House for being named the impact hundred list of top US companies run by entrepreneurs, and what’s more impressive is recently she received the award at The United Nations.


Are you guys ready? Drum roll, please? That woman is Shama Kabani.  Shama, welcome. Glad to have you here today.


Shama:           Thank you so much for inviting me and thank you for that lovely introduction.


Michael:         No problem. So, how was it like when being recognized at the United Nations?


Shama:           A little surreal, and definitely very gratifying. It was just such an honor. There were so many amazing other… so many companies there, that were there. Amazing young entrepreneurs doing cool stuff, so it was very humbling to be in their midst.


Michael:         Perfect! Wow! I’m so happy for you.


Shama:           Thank you.


Michael:         Okay. So, will you share with the audience a little bit about, how Zen Marketing Group is doing this year as far as the revenue and the number of employees that you have?


Shama:           Yeah. We’ve had a very successful year and we’ve been very grateful. We’ve grown a lot.  We’ve actually grown on average, about 400% since we started in 2009. We have a team of 30 people now, and we work with clients across the board doing all types of web marketing campaigns from digital PR, to simple media campaigns, to creating content for them, websites, search and optimization – you name it.


So, definitely, we’ve increased our offerings. We’ve increased our scope, and our scale, and it’s been a very rewarding year – definitely being recognized at the UN as one of the top 100 companies in the US; to be run by a young entrepreneur was just the pinnacle of the year for us, so everyone is really excited.


Michael:         Absolutely. So you said your team, are they in the US, or you have a virtual team?


Shama:           Yeah, our team is in the US but they are virtual, so we don’t have a headquarters. Everybody works from wherever they want, so we’ve got employees from DC to San Diego.


Michael:         Awesome! And your clients are not only in the US but also some international clients as well?


Shama:           Correct, so we have clients in France, we have clients in South America. It’s pretty spread out.


Michael:         Wow, 400% growth since… it’s amazing.


Shama:           Yeah, thank you.


Michael:         So, why did you choose social media in the first place?


Shama:           When I got into social media, it really wasn’t a thing. There was no industry for it. I did my thesis on Twitter when it had 2000 users, so it seems like a very long time ago now. But now, Twitter has somewhere around 275 million users, and when I got out of school I knew that that was my passion; I knew that doing something in that realm was going to be very fulfilling, and it really was going to change the future of business and communication.


A lot of companies didn’t share my vision, so it was hard to get a job that doesn’t exist frankly. So, that’s really how I got my start and created my own company. From that, we’ve grown and I’ve just never looked back.


Michael:         That’s awesome. I know that you’re an Asian as well. So, did your parents influence you to follow the traditional path of being a lawyer, or a doctor, or you chose your own path?


Shama:           No, that’s so funny because I come from a… my family is very non-traditional in that sense. Being an Asian family, there was never a lot of pressure to be a doctor or a lawyer. My dad, I think, would have liked it if I was a doctor and when I was younger he’d be like, “Oh you’d make such a good doctor”, but I think they knew that that’s not where my passion was. They’ve been very supportive.


My younger sister is a yoga teacher, so it’s very non-traditional careers for Asian families. My parents were just very supportive. I think, for them, the happiness of their children was more important than anything else. The funny thing is, both of them are entrepreneurs, my parents are, which is very common, obviously, in Asian families but I never thought I would be one looking at them because all I saw was like they’re always stressed, they’re always running around. I was like “I don’t want to be an entrepreneur.” That sounds just terrible.


So that actually, oddly enough, that kind of pushed me away because I was like “Okay, I don’t want to live like my parents”. Everywhere they go, they’re looking for business ideas. Like, they’re always thinking in this way. I just thought I wanted a job and then, really, entrepreneurship kind of found me. It’s funny because growing up, I just thought “Oh my God, my parents rarely sleep, they’re always running around…”


Michael:         Wow, that’s cool. I saw some other interviews from you and you mentioned that you started your coaching business before you got into social media?


Shama:           Yeah. This was when I was still in school. I had a coaching business that I started as my first company.  I guess those entrepreneurial leanings were still evident in wanting to do something different, and just not finding a job that would allow me to do what I really wanted to do. So yeah, I had a coaching business that I built and sold. That was before I started this company.


Michael:         I see. Can you talk more about the transformation when you did your coaching business, then did your consulting in social media, and then fully grew your practice to a big company?


Shama:           Yeah. It’s funny in that way because I built up that coaching business and then when I sold it, I said goodbye to everybody and said “Hey guys, business is moving on. This is what I’m going to go do”. And then, the moment I said it, someone who was following my work immediately emailed me and said “ I want to work with you.”


So, it was funny. We’ve been profitable since day one. We were making revenue since day one. And then I started doing consulting. What we soon found out though, and this is really true for, I think, any business, is you have to listen to the marketplace. So one thing that we found is people said this is great, these are great ideas, like we would give them, you know like, for example, I would just be like “Oh, here’s everything you need to do. Like, here’s a book right, here’s…” “But these are great ideas, but who’s going do it?” or “We don’t have the resources” or “We don’t have the time, and so you guys do it” or we found that for social media to work a lot of other pieces have to work too. Your website you’re online like…


Michael:         That’s right.


Shama:           Everything has to be integrated for you to get results. If it’s not integrated, you’re not getting results, and I can guarantee it. Because there’s a reason you’re like “Why am I not getting results?” it’s because you’re not integrating your activities fully.


So because of that the client’s saying… looking at what it took for a client to be successful, and looking at what they were asking for, we became closer to it so we added developers, and designers, and content writers.  I would say for about 80% of our clients now, we are their web marketing department.


Michael:         Gotcha. So you offer the full package?


Shama:           Yeah, essentially a turn-key web marketing solution definitely.


Michael:         Was that how the Zen Marketing Group was born?


Shama:           Yes, we were known as quick to clients first. And then that’s how you know every good business is an iteration, like there’s no… If you look at Youtube , if you look at Facebook, Twitter, any really big successful company, none of them started out with where they are today.

With Facebook,  it was supposed to be a Network for students at Harvard. I think if you’d ask Zuckerberg “Oh, you imagined it would look like this today?” He’d say “no, I had no idea.”  So, I think you have to be able to evolve your business in time for sure.


Michael:         I see what you’re saying. So I’m trying to find out, like back in the early day of social media, when there were only several thousand users on Twitter, I tried to figure out the answers to “how do you chose  your target client?” and then you said one of your previous clients from your coaching business approached you and asked you to help, correct?


Shama:           Yeah exactly, and then a lot of it was also building up a… for me, I started the company at 23, so really I didn’t have a lot of connections. It’s not like people were lining up or I had a client base.


Michael:         That’s right.


Shama:           …but a lot of it was educating people and that’s still what we do today. So reading blog posts, doing webinars, speaking, writing a book, it was all just totally focused on educating our clients.


Michael:         So in other words, that was the content marketing that you’re trying to do?


Shama:           Absolutely. A 100 and 10% it was.


Michael:         So after that first client that came to you from the coaching business, what did you do to compel them to raise their hand and say, “Hey, I’m interested in your social media service?” How do you get the second and the first time clients?


Shama:           People were very interested. I think a lot of our success and, I’m not shy about this, and I don’t pretend that we had all the answers, is right time right place.


When we started the company, there was no other social media. There were just a handful of people who knew what they were talking about. Of course as the pool has grown there are so many more companies offering that now, but really it helps to be one of the early movers in the industry and being able to… people naturally kind of turn to you for something like that.


That demand was there, the supply was limited.


Michael:         Absolutely, and then you just grow from there – from that one client.


Shama:           And you grow from there and you build your reputation. Most all of our clients have come for us from other clients or someone finds us online in-down activities; newsletter, blogging, all of that stuff.


Michael:         So when you did that, did you graduate, or were you still working on your thesis, your master thesis?


Shama:           No, I graduated. I got my Master’s Degree in Organizational and Communication and Technology and then I started the business. So, it’s been an interesting journey.


Michael:         And at that time you decided to postpone your job searching and decided to do some consultations?


Shama:           Pretty much, because if I kept doing the job search all I heard was, “We don’t see a future for this. We don’t understand what you’re talking about.”


Michael:         Gotcha.


Shama:           I think what was happening was big companies were really scared. They didn’t want to… this is recession time, so 2008, 2009, recessions really hitting hard. Companies, big companies, what they do when things are really scary is they pull back, they stick to the tried and true; they don’t want to take risks. Most companies work in this MO.


Smaller businesses, on the other hand, were eager. They said, “How do we make the most of it? Like it helped us reached our customers, we are all for it.” So that was our first niche, was small businesses, and of course as we’ve grown we’ve attracted a lot of bigger clients.


Michael:         I find that interesting because for a lot of people, when they hit their first challenge, when lots of people say no to them, they go back to what is so familiar to them such as finding jobs or do something that they don’t really like. In your case, you defy, you take “no’s” very well, and you define your own path. How did you make that distinction? I think that is the leap of faith.


Shama:           It is a leap of faith. I think again, right time right place. I got a lot of good, positive, feedback very quickly on the idea, so it wasn’t like I was out there and no one was responding. It was like, anytime I spoke to someone, they just wanted to know more. They wanted to know how they could use it.


I think in that way, it’s about finding that right niche. And that was very helpful to us and I think given that positive feedback very quickly, it really propelled us forward. Anything is a leap of faith but in my case, I really didn’t have a lot of options. There weren’t  any jobs…


Michael:         Available at that time…


Shama:           That were a fit for me and I could have settled for a consulting position but I would see these companies and their brochures and they looked so cool and I then would interview with them and I was like, “man that’s not what I want.”


I think that the wonderful thing about being 23 and starting a business is, you really don’t have a lot to lose. I had a full ride to schools… [inaudible 13:44] abilities certainly makes life a lot easier.


Michael:         I’m sorry I missed that. There’s some disconnection that lasted “when you were 23” and then we missed…


Shama:           Oh, I’ll just repeat it. I just said that when I was 23, I realized that you really don’t have a lot to lose. Because what was the worst that could happen?  I already didn’t have a job, I didn’t have a mortgage. I was very lucky, I know a lot of people aren’t this way. I didn’t have any student loans.


Michael:         That’s awesome.


Shama:           This is why I think being smart and applying for scholarships when you’re in high school – things that you don’t think about would impact your life. So, I didn’t have any loans, I didn’t have a car payment, I didn’t owe anything.


In the Asian culture parents are always very happy to have you home. 18, 81, they don’t really care. They’re just glad to have you home. So for me, I had free shelter and free food. Those things are very helpful.


Michael:         How long did it take you to grow your clients from 1 to 10?


Shama:           That’s a good question. I’d say maybe 6 months, because it was a pretty quick progression. And then something happened that really turned the tide for us; Business Week named me one of their “Top 25 Under 25 Entrepreneurs in North America” and it was a nice article. It was very appreciative; it hung out on the business week site and then, eventually, one morning, it got picked up by Yahoo and ended up on the homepage of Yahoo and we never looked back.


The phone started ringing and it was one of those things where you’re like, “I don’t think this happens twice in a lifetime, but going to The UN and The White House have happened, so I just feel very blessed in that way.


Michael:         Okay, so I hear stories that your house calls you and says you have like, what, like 3,000 hits a minute, or something like that?


Shama:           Yeah, wow you did your research. You’re a good interviewer. I’m impressed. Yeah, so my phone rings at like 6:00 in the morning and this is when all of my calls go into my cell phone because it was still like late running show. It was the listing company and they said “You’re getting like 2,000 hits” and I’m so excited because the newsletter had gone out the day before, and it went out to 2,000 people. So I’m thinking “100% open rate” which never happens! So I’m like “Everybody [inaudible 16:35]  the newsletter! How cool is that?” Yeah, I’m like “Oh my god, it’s the best newsletter in the world.”


So here I am all cocky on the phone telling the hosting company, “Oh yes it’s just the newsletter, people are opening it.” And the guy goes silent for a second, and I was like, “You know it’s like 6am, I’m really sleepy.”  So he goes, “No… I mean 2,000 hits a minute” and I was like, “People are sharing their newsletters so much!” I still can’t wrap my brain around it. I was like yeah,  I had servers, like, whatever, you do what you have to do. And then I go back to sleep, I’m like, “I don’t know”. And then I get up, and I have breakfast, and I get on the computer, and I get on Twitter, and someone goes, you know, “Congrats on being on Yahoo Finance.” And I’m like, “Yahoo Finance?” And apparently they took this article and put it on there. Eventually as the day progressed, it got so many clicks that it wound up on the home page of yahoo and the phones would not stop ringing.


So, that was definitely a big turning point. We went very quickly from a few clients to a lot of clients, and just had to scale quickly.


Michael:         So in that time, did you get the 10x growth after that viral?


Shama:           I’d say that’s fair. I’d say something like that really propelled us forward. And you know, when that happens in business it’s really true that success breeds more success. The more successful we got, the more successful we got. It’s getting that initial success that I think is the hardest. But again, I don’t ever deny luck.


Some people say, “Luck is for people who are not prepared.” No. There is a lot of people who are smarter than me out there, that work harder than me out there. There are people out there who are probably more deserving for all of us, but I’ve really been lucky. For whatever reason, the powers that be have decided to bestow me with that, and I acknowledge that fully in business.


Michael:         Gotcha. So after Yahoo posted your newsletters and your content, and then apparently you got that tremendous amount of growth from them, how did that change your delivery of service from a very small shop to a bigger one?


Shama:           Yahoo actually posted the Business Week article “The Top 25 Under 25”, that’s what ended up on the homepage of Yahoo, and that’s what went absolutely viral. We had to scale very quickly. We had to hire employees quickly, we added services quickly.


I remember sitting with my employee and she’s like, “What should I charge for this?” and I’m like… “Oh no”.


Michael:         There were some numbers.


Shama:           We found a way to do it. We found a way to deliver. We found a way to keep the clients happy, and grow, and all this stuff.  I think, generally what you learn over like maybe 5 years we learned in like a span of like 5 weeks.


Michael:         5 weeks. That’s really interesting. I’d really want to know some of the tactics that you used to handle your business within that 5 week, that 5 growth week because somebody would have experienced that in 5 years or 10 years but for you, just 5 weeks.


Shama:           Yeah, I think… I mean again, one thing for us is that we know our stuff really well; it’s been a strength. So, it’s not like we were learning the service. What we’re selling is a professional service or expertise, and the good thing was, I had that down.


The team was really good at that, so we didn’t have to really… that’s what clients were coming to us for and we were already offering that. The 5 week thing I would say that was harder for like learning how to hire very quickly and determine if someone was a good fit. Organizational structures, and as we worked with bigger clients they would say, “oh, we need invoices with  invoice numbers and we were like, “how does that, how do we generate that?”


So, there was jut a lot of like organizational things we had to figure out very quickly. Like what kind of apps are we going to use how do we going to manage projects. We’ve got like base camp, before that it was all emails. And then it was like, “these are really big projects. We need a project management ticket system,” things like that.


That was really our toughest part. But The clients were willing to even put up with a lot of that. I think because they knew that we really knew what we were talking about.


Michael:         Let’s talk a little bit more about how you chose your team at that time, because it grew so fast, and how you found people to really fit into the company and just deliver the job.


Shama:           Yeah, I [inaudible: 21:15] rock stars that just did not work out, and we’ve hired people…


Michael:         Sorry, I think I missed that. Some disconnection has frozen up your images. I asked you the question how did you find your talents to help you with the job?


Shama:           The talent, so initially we were searching right on LinkedIn and we would like, put feelers out there, but now we get so many resumes. Like for each job, we get about 220 applicants, so that’s been pretty neat. We attract a lot of good talent.


It is challenging in the sense that I don’t feel that there is any interview that will really tell you how well a candidate does. I know there are all these programs, and different systems that people use. Maybe, I’m not the best interviewer in the world when it comes to hiring people. What we do that works really well for us now is testing people as interns and as contractors. Like, we will work with someone on a project before we bring them on full-time, so we get a good sense on who that individual is.


I’ve also built up really good relationships with professors around the country, and so anytime they have a really bright student they email me. It’s really nice to have those kinds of connections, too.


Michael:         How did you build up your… because I know that you’re from [inaudible: 22:19] Austin, and how did you build a relationship with other schools then?


Shama:           Other professors? So what’s funny is, my book, that’s called “Zen of Social Media Marketing”, which is now in its 3rd edition, uses a college textbook…


Michael:         Oh my gosh..


Shama:           …to teach social media.


Michael:         This one?


Shama:           Yeah, that’s the one. A lot of classrooms use it as their textbook for teaching the subject. What’s neat about that is, then these professors will email me and they’ll do, like Google hangouts with their classes and things. So we build a good relationship like that.


Michael:         That’s amazing.


Shama:           Yeah.


Michael:         That explains why I saw that you made several trips to university.


Shama:           Yeah, I do a lot of international speaking. I’ve done a lot of key notes and a lot of universities really want their students to understand this stuff. So, I’ve done a lot of that as well.


Michael:         Wow, interesting. What is the most expensive mistakes that you’ve made at the Marketing Zen Group when you’re doing business?


Shama:           I don’t know. Expensive mistakes would mean that we  like, didn’t learn from it. We’ve learned from all our mistakes. I would say things like finding right people. Like, for example, I never thought that people would lie on their resumes. What’s funny is you see the world… you think the world sees things as u see it, and I would never dream of doing that, so it never crossed my mind that someone else would, so it’s just things like that.


I think just being kind of naïve about the world, and learning things… or just things in the early days, like hiring the right people, trusting the right people, the types of companies we wanted to work with. Sometimes people would come to us and say, “I really want to market this, it’s a great idea” and it would be a terrible idea! Over time we’ve gotten good, and before I didn’t want to say no because I didn’t want to market it. I was like, who are we to say it’s a bad idea? You don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, and now I find myself being very, like, “Dude, this is a terrible idea, don’t spend marketing dollars on it.” Because it serves no one.


So, we are actually very picky about the projects we take on. We turn away more clients than we take on.


Michael:         That’s awesome. That brings a good point about the marketings. So we need to know, we need to define your client, your ideal client correct?


Shama:           Correct. So our ideal client is across industries. We work with everything from retail, to apparel, to BDB companies across the board, [inaudible 24:54] service, mobile  enterprise. What defines our clients is they’re all successful businesses, but they’re looking to go to the next level. Meaning, they kind of hit a certain point where they’re like “We’re doing great.” but they’re not leveraging the web fully.


Like, a lot of times what our clients say is, “You know, we have a blog, and we blog once in a while, and we tweet here and there” but there is no consistency. There’s no integration, and those are the things that really  cause those problems. So, when we come on board, and we are able to fix a lot of those things for our clients, that’s where they see the greatest benefit.


Michael:         I see. How do you orchestrate more referrals from your service?


Shama:           Honestly, so much of that has been organic. We have happy clients. As far as other people and friends and whatever, it’s definitely something we’ve been really grateful for.


Michael:         So, more like a passive referral when someone’s like, “Hey”…


Shama:           Totally.


Michael:         I gotcha.


Shama:           We’re not very good at, frankly, doing active like…”hey please tell your friends about us”, but that’s how we’ve grown – is a lot of word of mouth.


Michael:         One thing I’m curious is that, when before your article became a hit on Yahoo, and let’s say you have a set of services that you would perform to your client, and then with that growth, you grow so much and so fast, did you change that set of offerings, or did you add more, or reduce more?


Shama:           We certainly expanded. After the Business Week article hit Yahoo and went viral, we got feedback, but it was a lot faster. So, we would hear like… rather than hearing two people say something over the span of like 2 months, we were hearing 10 people tell us in the span of a week.


The other thing is we’ve also had to evolve to keep up with the web. If you look at SEO and how much that’s changed. Google now punishes before it rewards, that bar goes higher and higher. So, we’ve had to change how we chose things for our clients, how we structure their services, what getting links back to people looks like – just by the nature of the industry we’re always evolving.
Michael:         So, two key things: 1.) you got feedback from the client, 2.)  is the growth of the industry to see what’s going on.


Shama:           Yup, without industry… that’s a big chunk of it, is just keeping up with it.


Michael:         I see. How do you design the dream come true experience for your client?


Shama:           I think it starts with really looking at goals, and you have to be realistic. When a client or when someone comes and says, “We’re looking for a million visitors” and it’s a startup that just gotten off the ground. Or like, “Oh, I really want my…[inaudible 27:57] looking realistic about what their goals are and then…


Michael:         I’m sorry, we got disconnected.


Shama:           …so we’re more concerned with keeping our clients a good ROI.


Michael:         We got disconnected again; I think it’s from my end. Can you help me repeat after the point where you said a client comes in with the request of a million hits on their website?


Shama:           Yes, or someone will come and say, “I want to be the next” whatever it is, or the next Amazon, or I want to be acquired by Ashton Kutcher – which happens a lot.


We really have to set their expectations to be more realistic and say, “Look, what are your goals, what are the metrics that really matter?” and then that’s what we work towards. So it’s very important to educate our clients and make sure that we have clients that are aligned with their goals.


It’s really about making sure that they have their goals in check, that those are realistic goals, and then we work a very methodically with a lot of transparency and very deliverable methods to get our clients where they need to be


Michael:         How do you weed out those kinds of clients and make sure you don’t spend too much time on them?


Shama:           Very quickly. We’ve been doing this so long that we have a very good sense of it.  Generally, we won’t even work with startups that are not funded, that don’t have BC funding because they’re looking for massive growth very quickly, and unless you have those numbers and that budget to match, you can’t do that online.


There’s such a fallacy that people think, “Oh, because the internet’s free” or “The social is free” that we can do all these things very quickly, but that’s not how it works. You have to be very strategic in how you approach these things. To make a big splash you definitely need a big budget.


Michael:         Big budget, wow. Even though all the tools are free and platforms are free.


Shama:           Yeah but if you think about, like, a Facebook page, for example, yes, you can do a lot organically, but if you say, “Oh, we want 50,000 fans in 6 months” then yes. You’re really going to have to have an advertising budget that allows you to supplement those organic efforts, especially if no one has heard about you.


Michael:         Absolutely. How do you design your after sales services? Like there’s someone that trust you and say, “Hey Shama,  I did all my marketing campaign.” So after you preform the service, do you have any upsell service to keep relationship with them?


Shama:           That’s a good question. A lot of our clients we do ongoing work with, so there’s no disconnect. A lot of them come back for projects, that are project based through our newsletter, through our social. We just had one client who came back and left 2 years ago because their business partner wanted them to work with someone else. They were just thoroughly disappointed and they were like, “We really want to come back and work with you guys. You were the best that we worked with.”


They kept in touch just through social, and seeing all our success, and just keeping in touch that way. So we don’t force anything. We’re very much about providing the information and letting people make the decision for themselves.


Michael:         I have a friend who asked me, when I interview you, what are some tips that help you run your virtual team effectively?


Shama:           Okay, yeah good questions. So one, we are very deliverable based, meaning everything that’s deadline or ticket driven. There’s nothing that is hourly or, go do a little bit…we have very clear instructions, very clear directions. Even with our clients, it’s deliverables based. You get XYZ, that’s the value.


So, doing that and holding employees accountable to deliverables and meeting deadlines, it’s very easy. Tools like Skype, obviously, to stay connected. In fact earlier today, we had a whole team meeting on Google Plus; we did Google hangout together. So, that was neat. And then of course, things like base camp or project management, Google apps premier or email, storage, drives, all that stuff. So, technology today especially all the open source stuff you have makes it so much easier to run a virtual team.


Michael:         Absolutely. So besides the tools that you use is there any additional technology that you use? Maybe some check and balance…


Shama:           Yeah. The whole team is divided into teams; you have like search, social, content and design, and then each team has a team lead. So all the people on the team report directly to the team lead, and then the team lead upwards, things like that. So in that way, you do have checks and balances in the sense that each team has a lead, and that lead is responsible for making sure their team is doing what they need to do.


Michael:         Absolutely, that’s awesome. Thank you. Thank you for the tips. Okay, let’s talk more about these little things.


I had ordered your book last week and when I read it, it was really good. Can you help me tell the audience what brought you to write this book?


Shama:           Initially, I wrote this book as an e-book. This was like 4 years ago. I wrote it as an e-book because people were asking me questions, so many questions, and I didn’t have the time to answer them all individually, and there’s no resource. I couldn’t say go check this out it has all these answers.


There’s like one other book out on social and it was very theoretical. I like giving people practical stuff, I like giving… personally, I enjoy when I have things that I can do. Give me something tangible. So, I wrote this very practical primer for social media. It got picked up by a publisher, it’s now in its 3rd edition, it’s available on Amazon, and in bookstores. It’s definitely meant for the primer, and a really good starting guide.


If you’re advanced in social media, it’s probably not something that will be very usable for you.


Michael:         Cool. So I’ve picked up several chapters over here. Can you help the audience maybe understand more about your philosophy of ACT, which is Attract and Convert and Transform?


Shama:           Right. So the attract convert transform philosophy is what I think all of online marking really is, right? Attract is, how do you attract people to even know you exist; to get to visibility. And then “C” is convert. How to you convert them to customers? But also, there’s a different type of “c”, what I call lowercase “c”, consumers. How do you get someone to sign up for your newsletter, or subscribe to your blog, or follow you on Twitter, and over time become a customer. And then the “T” is for transform. How do you take the success you’ve already had (case studies, success stories, testimonials) and then use it to attract more? And then I look at social media and say, “it’s a great tool to attract, it’s a great tool to get people to be consumers, it’s a great tool for transformation”.


It’s not a great tool for direct conversion. It’s rarely someone going to see a Facebook page that says, “Oh, I want to hire you”. It’s really part of the process; it’s not the end all and be all.


Michael:         Let’s pick one more example. Let’s pick my website, Asian Success Magazine, and how does that apply to the ACT philosophy?


Shama:           Sure. So, for example, attract would be how do we even get people to know about the Success Magazine. So you might create a Facebook page around it, you might invite people to share it. You’re getting people to come to the site.  The “C” is for consumer. Meaning, businesses come on there, and say, “Hey, I’ll subscribe to the magazine” or “I will follow them on Twitter” or “I will connect with them”, whatever it could be.


And then over time, ideally someone says, “Hey this is a really good outlet, maybe I’ll advertise with these guys” So that’s like kind of your big “C”. And then your “T” would be your success stories. If someone says – yeah it depends on your goals, I’m just making this up – but if it’s advertisers. An advertiser says, “Ever since we’ve been advertising in Asian Success Magazine we’ve had,  these great results” you know, and “XYZ happened because of it.” That’s great. You take that story and you share it on social platforms, and on your blog, and distribute it, and more people are like, “Oh, what’s Asian Success Magazine?” so it kind of comes full circle.


Michael:         Perfect; I like your analysis. Okay, on Chapter 5, you talk about why most companies fail at social marketing. Can you talk more about that? Because, when I read that, I’m really thankful and apparently I saw my mistakes in there.


Will you share with the audience some of the common mistakes that are made?


Shama:           Yeah. I think the biggest mistake that people make with social is they think social is all there is, or they expect it to get them quick customers. It’s just not how it works; it’s part of a process.


For example, let’s take search. To rank on search for certain keywords. So, let’s say you sell watches online, and to rank for watches or for the brands and watches on the web, one of the factors that goes into how well you rank on Google and getting traffic is, how much of your content is shared, so, social factors. Things being shared, things being tweeted; all these things add up.


So, the reason most companies fail is that they don’t have an integrated approach to social. They have a very… “Let’s throw, see what sticks” doing a little bit here, a little bit there, but it’s not a full strategy that’s consistently executed.


Michael:         In the book, you used one example that I remember. Let’s say when Dallas real estate companies and if they would make mistakes, they would just keep posting with themselves. But according to you, the social media will give them best result when they create a page something like, “Why Dallas rocks?”


Shama:           This goes back to the idea that people need social media to showcase their identity. You’re much more likely to like a page that showcases something. Let’s say, even for Asian Success Magazine, you would have more of a successful time if you created a page that says, “Proud to be an Asian entrepreneur.” or something that’s around your audience that’s sponsored by Asian Success Magazine, or promoting Asian Success versus just the magazine.


So, you’re making it about the audience, and then of course, anything that is sponsored by, or powered by the company or platform behind it.


Michael:         That’s awesome. Let’s get more examples. So let’s say if I have a carpet cleaning company, what would be the things that people would connect to a lot?


Shama:           It depends. Let’s say that I am a carpet cleaning company, or if you have a client that does carpet cleaning that they’ll look at what’s their audience is, right? Maybe it’s women who love to keep their house clean,  and so a page around “tips for organization” or for home, like, “how do you keep your home spic and span?” like something that’s very “Martha Stewart-esque, that’s sponsored by the carpet company makes a lot more sense than just a page for the carpet company.


Michael:         Wow! Guys, this is a very resourceful book, and Shama to show me ways, and just showing you guys too, the tips and what my mistakes are, and what the basic building blocks of social media are.


I know that there are so many tools and so many actions to take from here. What are some of the, I guess  the takeaway, if I recommend this book to a friend of mine who has a restaurant? Where should she start?


Shama:           Start from the beginning.  So when you start with the book I always say the 1st chapter is pretty good which is the online marketing basics. Understand the attract, convert, transform and then figure out what are you doing well, and what are you not. And then, so much of it is just consistency.


People want short cuts, people want the overnight stuff, but really it’s the consistency that gets you where you want to be. I knew a colleague who was an entrepreneur. He was very successful.  The only thing he’s done regularly for the last 10 years is send out a newsletter every week. Every week he sends out a newsletter. That has been his thing for the last 10 years.


He’s not doing a lot of things, but the things that he is doing, he does consistently and he does them well. So, you really have to think about your audience. Think about what drives them. What are they looking for? How do you leverage that? Like for a restaurant, using things like Yelp and Google Reviews plays a much bigger role. So you really have to figure out what works for your business, what works for your audience, and then figure out the act [inaudible 41:40] and figure out which…like the a, c, and t, and what falls under each box, and do it consistently, and do it well.


Michael:         I heard the other entrepreneur say that every month, “if you don’t keep in touch with your client, you lose 10% of your relationship with them.” So, over the year, the next time that you call they’ll be like, “who are you?”


Shama:           Yeah,  you definitely have to stay in line of visibility. I think marketing plays a key role in that.





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