Social Media Strategist: Aliza Sherman

alizasepiaI recently had the good fortune to interview Aliza Sherman about social media and how it can help you drive traffic to your website. Here are a few details about Aliza so that you can get to know her better.

She started around 1987, building her social media community which is pre-web. Also, she has been using the Internet and Web to connect with others in all the ways that were possible based on available technologies since that time. Her consulting companies and nonprofit organizations have been operating on the Internet since 1992 and she added blog consulting around 2005. Aliza started using both Twitter and Second Life in March 2007 and set up her first client on Second Life and Facebook that year.

The Interview

What was it like being a pioneer on the Internet?

Being a pioneer is funny because you don't feel like you're pioneering something except that nobody else you know is doing what you are doing and they don't understand what you're doing and it isn't until 3-5 years later that they finally say “So THAT is what you were doing back then.” Also, where you are an early adopter even before the “firsts to market,” you end up spending a lot of time and money making all the mistakes that others will learn to avoid after you. But being out on the forefront of Web stuff really feeds my love of sci fi, I think – it suits my personality!

What is the importance of social media in regard to your website?

I think social media provides a set of tools for communications, connection, community and conversion that enhances any website. But I'm not a big fan of websites anymore and struggle just to get one up for my new company. I'm using a blog platform for its flexibility but find that the most interactions happen on Twitter and Facebook these days. The website for me is going to be a repository of content and product information and a gateway to purchase product (iPhone and iPad apps), but my real connections are made in social media channels that are connected to my blog and site.

What are some the creative ways that you an incorporate social media into your website?

I prefer using a website as a gateway to social media channels so trying to bring the tools into the site is not necessary. But I do like more than the Twitter, Facebook and YouTube icons you see on all the sites now. I prefer Twitter feeds and I still like Twitter badges. I like a more compact Facebook Fan Box. And love embedding YouTube players into sites and blog posts. I also like embedding Slideshare slide players. And the ShareThis or AddThis buttons are sure handy for getting people to distribute your content. These are all tools that didn't exist 10 years ago when we all struggled to make our websites more multimedia and interactive.

What challenges have you faced with social media and how did you overcome them?

I think the challenge is to build something from scratch so every time I work with a new client who doesn't yet have a presence in social media, it is an interesting challenge to build an attentive and caring following and to engage customers and potential customers in meaningful dialogue. Personally, I struggle to find the right balance for how and when I use social media. Sometimes, I get it right. It is all based on goals, priorities, and personal preferences, and having all these social channels is still such a new concept. We're all still learning.

What successes have you faced and how did they help you to improve?

The biggest success for me has been hearing people say “You're in Alaska? I never knew it. You seem to be…everywhere!” Social media has helped me to rebuild my profile after years away.

Is there a secret to staying on top of your social media efforts so that you don't get overwhelmed?

Pace yourself. Set up a routine or what I like to call a ritual.

  • 5 minutes of checking direct messages that need your attention and response.
  • 5 minutes of reading the stream, commenting, adding value.
  • 5 minutes of posting or tweeting, retweeting others, being you. And find a good tool like HootSuite or TweetDeck to manage multiple accounts.

How can you manage your social media so that you drive traffic to your website?

Where your website should be a gateway to your social media channels to foster engagement and participation, your social media channels should also be gateways to your website to perform specific actions such as hire you, purchase your product, submit a request, etc. If you cannot integrate mechanisms for those actions in your social media channels, you need to make sure you lead people to the best place to participate, and that might still be your website.

What resources would you suggest that can help someone learn more about social media?

I learn a lot from reading Mashable Blogs and forums for learning how to leverage social media are everywhere. There are also experts who specialize in a particular area such as @Problogger for blogging and @MariSmith for Facebook.

What social media tools would you suggest to manage your online efforts?

Hootsuite, TweetDeck and Seesmic are some of the most popular. I personally use Hootsuite but not all the time. I do have it and Tweetdeck on my iPhone as well.

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