"Dear Facebook friends: Please make more hours in the day. I know you can do it. Yours truly," read a note on Facebook from Amber Mac to more than 10,000 people who "like" her on the social network. "Finding a margin of downtime in life is as important as the shoulder lane on the highway. Swerve a little," replied one of nearly two dozen who replied to her plea.
"Packing gadgets for upcoming roadtrip #rvr http://instagr.am/p/DTA-o/," she tweeted to her 57,000 followers on Twitter, referring them to Instgr.am, a photo website.
So goes a typical day in the online life of Amber Mac, a prolific writer, TV host, social media consultant, and author of the book, "Power Friending." Mac, who will be delivering the opening keynote speech at Toronto SES, participated in an email question and answer interview with Anna Maria Virzi, executive editor of ClickZ, which is part of the SES and SearchEngineWatch family of brands.
Anna Maria Virzi: You've worked in traditional and interactive media since the late 1990s. What are the two to three biggest changes you've seen since you've started your career – and how have they affected your approach to work?
Amber Mac: For me, the biggest challenge is finding time to pursue new opportunities. I've always loved having my hands in a few different projects. Every since my early days at Razorfish in San Francisco in 1999, I've always had a couple of jobs on the go at the same time.
AMV: How would you describe the interactive scene in Toronto? And how does the Toronto social media scene compare/contrast to San Francisco where you once worked?
AM: The Toronto social media scene is very active. There is a tight Twitter network here in the GTA, making local tweet-ups a success and late night tweets under the hashtag #sleeplessintoronto interesting indeed. When I was in San Francisco in the late 1990s, there was definitely a dot-com community there, but in some ways it was very insular. What I love about the social media scene here is that there is a broader group of people. In other words, there are accountants and actors, musicians and marketers, all part of the mix.
AMV: What are the biggest challenges for businesses on social networks – and what advice do you have for them to overcome those challenges?
AM: The biggest challenge for most companies when they enter the social media space is that they complain about not having enough time to manage these online efforts. In some ways, this is ridiculous. Would you ever tell someone you didn't have time to market your products or services? Probably not, so social media should not be an afterthought.
AMV: Some marketers say that traditional marketers – and not direct response marketers – have an easier time understanding the role of social media. Would you agree or disagree, and why?
AM: I think it really depends on the person. Some people are quite good at making connections online; they're just comfortable in the social media world. In other words, to be successful in this new arena it's a good idea to put someone in charge who enjoys making these connections.
AMV: Do you think it's possible to quantify an investment in social media?
AM: I think it's possible to quantify an investment in social media, but you need to base this measurement on things like online reputation and brand awareness.
AMV: Are there some businesses that should not participate on Facebook, Twitter, or other social networks?
AM: For most businesses, there is a social network that makes sense. For a B2B business, that might mean building your own community on Ning. For a pharmaceutical business, that might mean tweeting about topics that won't get you into legal trouble.
SES: What tool or tools do you use to monitor and track social conversations about you and your clients?
AM: At my company, MGImedia, we use Radian6 for many of our clients. This is a powerful platform to monitor social conversations and it's never let us down. However, if you want a free solution, HootSuite or even Google Alerts can work just great.
AMV: Inspirational speaker Tony Robbins is one of your clients. Why does someone like Tony Robbins – who already has a high profile and works in many channels – need a social media strategy?
AM: Tony Robbins entered the social media space a few years ago. I was lucky enough to work with him at the beginning of his foray into Twitter and other platforms. Basically, Tony is a marketer. When infomercials were all the rage, he was there. Today, he's embraced social media in a positive way to build his brand.
AMV: Have you always been a social person?
AM: I've always been a social person. I love meeting new people and making new connections. With social media, I'm now able to build relationships with people all over the world, and whether I'm on stage tweeting to the audience or at home at midnight friending on Facebook, I embrace working and living in this new borderless society.
This column was originally published in SES Magazine, May 2011.
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Anna Maria Virzi, ClickZ's executive editor from 2007 until 2012, covered Internet business and technology since 1996. She was on the launch team for Ziff Davis Media's Baseline and also worked at Forbes.com, Web Week, Internet World, and the Connecticut Post.
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