#SMPro Social Media Spotlight: Jennifer G. Hanford
As part of the #SMPro Expert Spotlight Blog Series, this blog post highlights Jennifer G. Hanford, social media and online marketing director of OnTarget Partners and founder of the soon-to-launch j+ Media Solutions.
j+ Media Solutions will provide data and social solutions for B2B companies. Service offerings include customized leads lists; 360 reports; social media platform setup and maintenance; and content creation.
Below, Jennifer discusses her background, provides some tips, and offers her opinions and insights into the landscape of the social media industry.
1. Where did your interest in social media marketing originate, how has it developed and what role does it play in your professional life now?
I will be honest in saying I really had *zero* interest in social media for quite some time. I always like to say I held out as long as I could! My original perception was the same as many people in my age bracket – it’s something great for teenagers, but a waste of time for someone like me.
My first venture into social media began with a LinkedIn account in 2007. I set up a profile when I started working for OnTarget Partners, a B2B firm in Frisco, Texas. It was something I used initially as a research tool and not for social media. I finally decided to tip my toe into the social media waters in 2009 by signing up for Facebook. It was the beginning of a whole new world and life for me – I was instantly hooked! From there, I got into Twitter and it was there I really discovered the true power of social networking and connecting.
I was tasked with heading up the online marketing division of OnTarget Partners in 2012. My division, B2B Inbound Online, has been successful for its parent company as a producer of quality inbound leads. As well, some of my blog posts have been recognized by Social Media Today and American Marketing Association, resulting in more exposure for OnTarget Partners.
With the experience and knowledge I gained working for a company, I feel the time has come to branch out with it. I have wanted to start my own company for years now and believe social media marketing is where I belong. I’m looking forward to launching j+ Media Solutions and have the freedom to work with and help customers who need the services I will be offering.
2. Who do you read, follow or pay attention to in order to stay ahead of the curve in social media?
Since I do a lot of content curation and creation, I read and follow a lot of different blogs. I like to be able to understand the ever-changing social world from a variety of viewpoints. One of my favorite people to follow and read is Heidi Cohen, who writes a lot about social media for business. I also really like Neal Schaffer and other authors on his Windmill Marketing blog.
3. What do you believe to be the biggest misconception some businesses still have with social media?
In my opinion, the biggest misconception some businesses have is that social media will make them successful overnight. Nothing could be further from the truth! It’s hard for many to accept that it takes time to build a quality following and develop an online presence when things like “Gangnam Style” and “Grumpy Cat” take off like crazy. Seriously. As I have learned, from my own experience, it takes time, consistency and a ton of patience to see results. Many business owners or executives just aren’t interested in waiting that long and lose the enthusiasm before things even get started.
4. A lot of businesses steer clear of social media due to the potential ramifications of making a mistake in such a public environment. What would your response be to that concern?
I agree it is a valid concern to have. Some large, well-known companies have experienced major customer service crises recently as a result of social media snafus. Nothing is private – or sacred – anymore in this digital age. Offline events can make it online in a heartbeat, thanks to YouTube and Instagram. It’s been great though to see how some companies have “turned it around,” turning a negative into a positive, like Oreo did recently during the Super Bowl.
My recommendation for businesses having concerns would be to go with their instincts. If they feel they don’t belong on social media, then they really may not, depending on their industry. Often, their fears may be unfounded and can be reined in with a good social media policy … or just the awareness that mistakes are going to happen, but the potential to fix them is also there.
5. With the rapid evolution of internet marketing, are offline marketing channels now a waste of time? Or is it all still valuable?
Call me old-fashioned, but I think direct marketing still has its place and value. People still respond to phone calls. Many still appreciate face-to-face meetings with the people they do business or want to do business. There may be a time when these and other “interruption” marketing techniques are phased out but it isn’t happening just yet.
6. How have you integrated social media effectively into your (or your clients) business strategies? How are you proving a return on investment?
As I mentioned earlier, I have been heading up the online division for my company, OnTarget Partners. OnTarget has been a direct marketing firm for 15 years, so it was a big leap of faith for them to even consider having an online presence. Luckily, the company’s CEO saw the potential, as well as the need, to have a website and social media accounts. As well as marketing, I became a community manager for the company by handling its social media accounts. ROI was proven in the form of bringing on new clients for the company.
7. What sort of marketing advice would you give to a person who said that their business simply does not fit with social media?
Unless it’s really true that their business doesn’t fit with social media, I would encourage them to reconsider. I personally think all businesses should be online, especially since more people are searching for everything there these days. Chances are their competition is online and proving this will be a key factor.
8. If you had to give up all but one social network, which one would you keep and why?
This is an easy one for me – I would keep Google+! I was an early adopter of the platform and have stayed the course. The platform really was a “ghost town” for a long time until more people started discovering its advantages. One of the main advantages over the other platforms is the potential for bloggers. Posts are indexed very quickly, for example, and the SEO potential is huge. Making it to the first page of Google is always a coveted place for businesses. Being on Google+ can make this happen!
I have more recently gotten involved in a few Communities, which has allowed for a higher level of engagement and conversation than is possible on Twitter. Facebook has some of the capabilities, but only G+ allows for a place to be without privacy concerns or “glitchiness.”
9. How do you deal with the 24/7 aspect of social media marketing? Do you ever step away from it all and recharge?
It is so very easy to get absorbed in social media! I have stayed up way past my “bedtime” on several occasions because of a great Twitter chat or because I’m in the middle of writing a blog post.
I have learned that social media *never* sleeps – but I do. I have a family that needs me – especially my 2 children – and that helps me to step away and recharge. I do as much as I can to balance my job with my family. I also tend to get some of my better blogging ideas after spending time away from the computer.
10. One of the most exciting aspects of social media is that it’s always changing, evolving and progressing. What changes do you expect to see in social media over the next 12 months?
Social media really does change all the time! Just last week, we saw an overnight change in the size of our Google+ cover photos. Then Facebook made an announcement about changing their newsfeeds. It is so important to be flexible when you work in the social media world … otherwise, you’ll pull your hair out on a daily basis!
I expect online images and video will continue to be very important to online and social media marketers within the next 12 months. Maybe we’ll see another Pinterest! I think content curation is going to gain more ground in the next year as well. A lot of writers are concerned with plagiarism and content theft, so curators may become vital for helping separate the wheat from the chaff. Who really knows though? Where’s my 8-ball?!
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